Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For September 19th, 2008 Edition.
How many of you have "smelled the arrival of fall?" My grandma Edna first alerted me to the fact it was possible to actually smell the time when seasonal changes were taking place. But, still being wet behind the ears I paid little attention to the wise old ladies pronouncement.
As I slowly left my formative years behind me, one September day I suddenly recalled grandma's attempt to educate her grandson concerning using your nose for things besides sticking it into other folks business. On that memorable day my sense of smell detected a "different" odor and feel to the air. It was then I knew what grandma Edna had attempted to tell me. Just recently I experienced that same sensation, one that I fondly look forward to with the change of each season.
Grandma Jorgensen's ethnic background was somewhat unusual. She was half Laplander and half Swede. For those of you who slept through your World Cultures class, Laplanders are the European equivalent to the original North American Native Americans. Grandma Edna frequently proclaimed it was her Laplander bloodline that provided her with a heighten sense of smell. And who am I to challenge that claim!
If one could somehow bottle the smell of fall or duplicate the odor in a laboratory, I'd buy a supply to use as air freshener in my truck as well as in our household fragrant dispensers. To duplicate the smell of fall I suppose one would have to grind up some dry leaves and ferns, toss in a few wild mushrooms and grab a handful of crisp Canadian air from the back side of a cold front. Add a dash of frost and maybe a pinch or two of sphagnum moss and I think you'd have it.
Just the smell of fall causes my gray box of recollections to release a host of cherished memories concerning fall experiences. Some of my favorites date back to the middle and late 1940s and early 50s after I was deemed old enough to join forces with the members of dad's annual fall grouse and woodcock hunt.
Back then the upland game bird season opened on a Saturday in late September. I vividly recall getting off the school bus on a Friday afternoon and find dad loading our '41 Chevy pickup with camping and hunting gear. That sight would start my heart pounding harder that it did on Christmas morning!
The gang of grouse and woodcock hunters generally consisted of Uncle Bud, Toby Andersen, Charlie Goodyear, dad and finally - his kid. Also included in the baggage were our black Cocker Spaniel, Pat, and Toby's Springer Spaniel, Freckles. Our destination was a familiar location deep within the Nicolet National Forest south of highway 70 and east of highway 55. It was here we would set up camp next to the home of the sixth member of the expedition, Uncle Art.
Uncle Art was one of dad's older brothers. Dad said he was the black sheep of the family, whatever that meant. Uncle Art's "home" was a twelve-x-twelve foot tarpaper shack situated in the middle of a dense stand of balsam trees smack dab in the middle of land owned by the Federal Government!
The shack was built of slabs dad hauled to the building site from our sawmill. Uncle Art dug a root cellar under the rough plank floor of his abode where he stored glass jars filled with wild berries, mushrooms and home made wine. A small wood-burning cook stove provided heat, and one small window allowed a bit of sunlight to enter the dim interior late in the afternoon. After dark a single kerosene lantern supplied a meager amount of light. A battery-powered radio provided a tad of entertainment plus news about the outside world. Art's nearest neighbors generously allowed Art to ride along to Crandon once a week to shop and have his radio battery charged. Art lived off a small pension check from his service in WW I and "off the land."
By the time we'd get dad's smelly canvas tent pitched next to Art's mansion I'd have enough wood secured for a rip-roaring campfire. The crackling blaze, with numerous sparks slowly rising with the smoke on crisp fall air into a star- studded sky is still bright in my memory. I'd sit spellbound listening as each of the veteran outdoorsmen took turns telling "huntin' and fishin' stories" until bedtime.
The eight-x-eight tent was a tight fit for five people and two dogs, but somehow we all squeezed in. Our ground pad/mattress consisted of about a foot of fragrant balsam boughs. Pillows were rolled up blankets and each camper tucked themselves in several padded quilts. For added warmth Pat would snuggle up inside my bedroll with me. What a wonderful friend he was!
By morning of "opening day" the ground was often coated with a thick layer of frost, which slowly retreated from the morning fire some brave soul ignited shortly after dawn began to paint the eastern horizon with yellow, pink and orange. I'd pretend to still be sleeping until the blaze was turned up to high. Then, as quickly as possible, I'd grab my pants, socks and boots and vacate the chill interior of the tent to bask in the warmth of the fire while I dressed.
Even though the taste of coffee was "ukk" back then, the hot liquid trickling into my innards felt real good. But the smell of frying bacon and eggs was even better, and breakfast out of doors is a genuine "oohhhhh it's soooo good" experience!
I also recall grouse and woodcock seemed to be everywhere. It was rare indeed when at days end the gang did not have a limit of what Toby called "woods chickens."
We actually didn't have a "hunting plan", everybody just headed in different directions and had little trouble locating birds. Of course finding birds and hitting them on the fly is another story.
My weapon was an old .410 single shot Stevens shotgun, which I still own and use. Pat, my best pal, always hunted with me, a situation dad found somewhat difficult to swallow, as Pat was "his dog." But Pat and I made a great team!
My favorite technique of bagging a few grouse was to ease myself into a balsam thicket, then lie flat on the ground and wait for a few minutes for the local residents to settle down. Then I'd tell Pat to "find the birds", and off he'd tear nose to the ground with his long black ears a floppin'.
Two things then generally happened rather quickly. Back then grouse were a lot dumber than they are today. No, I'm not kidding! When Pat caught up to a bird or a covey of birds they'd simply fly up on a limb of the nearest tree and sit there until I walked up and shot one. Or, - often the older and smarter grouse would run away from the dog, then double back towards where I hunkered down under the balsams. Same ending. What great memories!
The last time I visited this hallowed location was in the early 70s. I took our son, Chris, there on a grouse hunt to show him where Uncle Art had lived and where we had camped and hunted when I was a kid.
The Feds had long since torn down Art's tarpaper shack after he passed away in a nursing home. All that remained to signify something had once existed there was a depression in the earth where Uncle Art's root cellar had been, -- plus the memories!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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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