Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For November 30th, 2007 Edition.

Now that the annual gun deer season is finished many local nimrods will begin organizing their ice fishing equipment for the upcoming hard water season. That's providing there is enough safe ice on our area lakes. Back in the good old days it was rare indeed to worry about ice conditions this late in the fall as Ma Nature and Old Man Winter generally had at least a good foot of solid, clear ice on the lakes.

When I was in my formative years it was normal for my pals and I to already have played a number of pond hockey games by the time deer season was completed. And as a reminder, back in those days deer season was a seven-day event, ending the day after Thanksgiving. Also, there were no "herd reduction seasons", as the locals did a pretty good job of reducing the herd whenever their supply of venison ran low, regardless of scheduled hunting seasons. There was no "muzzleloader season" and bow hunters were almost non-existent. My, my, how times have changed!

As soon as a lake had three or four inches of solid ice my parents would give me the go-ahead to start skating. The small, shallow lake where we lived generally was one of the first to freeze up and the call would go out to all the local kids to "come on over to Dollar Lake and bring your skates and hockey sticks." Many of our games were played at night under the stars or hopefully a full moon and I still can hear the ice moaning and groaning as the icy fingers of winter added yet another layer of ice beneath our skates.

Once the serious snows came we often spent more time cleaning off the rink than we did actually playing hockey. As winter deepened the skating surface got smaller and smaller as the snow banks grew larger and larger. Our goals were indentations in the snow banks at either end of the rink and our unwritten rules did not allow the puck to be raised when fired at the goaltender. The reason for this was because none of us had any pads to protect us from the frozen puck. It goes without saying that most of us sported numerous black and blue bruises, cuts and lacerations from late November to early April.

I can recall a few times when Big St. Germain Lake froze over completely with a solid layer of ice before the snows arrived. When this condition occurred dozens of kids and grownups would take this unique opportunity to spent hours on end on the vast surface of this major body of water on skates and sometimes skis.

When it was windy we'd start on the lee side of the lake, open our jackets and stretch them out to form a sail, then we'd yell, scream and holler as we picked up speed, being powered by the wind. Once we reached the windward side of the lake the fun ended, as we now had to skate two to three miles against the wind to repeat the experience. That sure put our legs and lungs in good shape!

The more inventive minds constructed a mini-sail out of cloth or cardboard. These simple contraptions really added extra miles per hour to ones speed across the lake. Others wisely made a deal with someone who owned a vehicle to meet them at the windward side of the lake. Then the skater or skier would be transported via highway back to the lee side of the lake allowing them to cut out the part about skating or skiing back against the wind!

I believe it was sometime during the early 1950s when we had the "mother of all ice storms" in late November or early December. Keeping in mind at that time salt was not used on our roadways and any accumulation of ice stayed on the roads until it melted off or was worn off by traffic. This particular storm plastered about three inches of solid ice on everything, including the highways. Ma Nature had created a skaters paradise.

I do not recall exactly who it was that got the brilliant idea, but it was a gem! A plan developed for all the local hockey nuts to skate to the skating rink at the Red Brick School for an evening of playing hockey. My closest buddy, Roger Stoeckmann and I laced up our skates, grabbed our hockey sticks and started south on highway C. Along the way we picked up Phil Franke, and eventually turned east on highway 70. Traffic was non-existent, as back then most folks wisely simply stayed at home during dangerously icy road conditions.

Along our route on highway 70 we picked up Willie and Wayne Weber, plus a couple of the Hessen boys, although my mind does not recall which ones. When we reached our destination we joined the five Dean siblings, Carol, Jim, Tom, Gary and Janice, plus a half-dozen or more other adventuresome souls. Charlie Paterka (sp?), the school custodian, had the rink in tip-top shape and we had the "mother of all hockey games."

One of the major problems we faced during that era of what is now called "pond hockey", was the frequent loss of a puck in the snow banks that surrounded our various rinks. Pucks cost a quarter back then and that was a whole weeks allowance, providing anyone was actually lucky enough to receive an allowance! Sometimes the game would be suspended for many minutes while we dug holes in the banks with our hockey sticks searching for a lost puck! When spring arrived and the snow melted around our rinks it was a free-for-all as kids grabbed up as many pucks as possible and stored them for the next hockey season!

There were times after we ran out of pucks when we would use a tin can or a chunk of wood for a puck. The tin can puck was not a good substitute, as it soon become dented and jagged making it a flying cutting device. I recall getting smacked in the face with a tin can puck during one nighttime game that put a pretty serious cut in my head. The Dean boys drove me home and on the way we made up a story that I had fallen on the ice and another skater had accidentally skated over my face. I don't think my folks bought the tale, but at least they didn't forbid me to play any more night games.

Yes sir, those years were the best of times and have provided me with a host of sweet childhood memories. I wonder if this old world wouldn't be a better place if our present generations of youngsters had the opportunity to kite sail on mirrored lakes, or skate seven miles down highways to play hockey or use tin cans for hockey pucks.

In this day and age, not a chance!

Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin.   Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean,  both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide.   Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email:  or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.

Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here

Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger

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