Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For October 3rd, 2008 Edition.
I'd like to begin my weekly banter by asking my faithful readers to allow me to wander away from my normal outdoor rambling, which this week is replaced by a very special tribute to a very special person, my mother.
Esther lived a full life, which spanned nearly ninety-four years. Her quiet passing on September 12th of this year, like most of her life went mostly un-noticed. But what she accomplished during those nine decades was quite remarkable, and her unique personality and outlook on life and living are in my opinion noteworthy.
Mom was born on September 24, 1914 in the quiet little farming community of Mountain, Wisconsin. Her folks, Chris and Edna Jorgensen were both Scandinavian immigrants that arrived in this country shortly after the Civil War. Esther, plus four older brothers, grew up on a small rocky farm along the banks of the Oconto River and received excellent educations in what my dad liked to label, "The School of Hard Knocks."
Along the path of her childhood she developed a strong work ethic, but also took time to graduate with honors from the Mountain High School in 1932.
In 1935 she married Roy "Andy" Anderson, whose family lived "just over the hill" on another rock infested farm, a union that would produce one son in 1937.
Roy lost his parent's family farm in 1932, just one of millions of victims of the Great Depression. By chance he wandered his way north and discovered Minocqua, - and the pristine beauty that surrounded it. He here found a job at Cully Bergman's Phillip 66 station and bar, where he worked for three years saving money towards purchasing land in his newfound heaven on earth.
After their marriage, it took Roy and Esther another three years to scrape up enough money to buy a forty-acre parcel in the township of St. Germain, which at the time cost $120.00! During the summer of 1938 a rustic log cabin took shape on the north shore of Dollar Lake. (Later changed to Kasomo Lake) At the time there was not another building on the lakeshore and our nearest neighbors lived over a mile away. That small, rustic cabin became my parent's equivalent to tens of thousands of other pioneer homes scattered across this great nation.
Our move to "the lake", and a one room 20 x 24 log cabin, took place on October 9, 1939. The entry in Esther and Roy's daily diary for that date proclaims, "Arrived at the lake today. Have $6.38 cents to our name and no job. Looks like a long winter ahead." That it was, along with the next twenty winters!
For the first eight years in our new environment we existed without electricity. Phone service was even slower in arriving, which occurred in 1950. The sandy soil plus a very short growing season allowed us to produce very little "garden products." Dad found a part time job with the WPA and also sold fireplace wood to wealthy summer homeowners. In 1941 be began guiding anglers for $6.00 a day! Mom worked during the short tourist season as a pastry chef at two different resorts. Between the two of them there was just enough capital to keep the wolf a short distance from our door.
As a family, we survived, and grew stronger because of the adversity. Mom and dad often told me, "Adversity is a good teacher. Everybody needs a good dose of it." How true!
Both parents were workaholics, but mom's energy seemed boundless! Among a long list of chores she made time to bake bread on her cast iron cook stove, where she also heated water for doing the laundry and providing hot water for our weekly baths in a washtub.
Doing laundry during the winter months was an unbelievable ordeal. Dirty clothing and bedding was washed using a scrub board and homemade lye soap in a washtub on the kitchen floor. The damp, freshly laundered items were hung outside on the clothesline where they promptly froze solid. Sometimes our wash stayed on the line for several days before it somehow dried fairly well despite the freezing conditions.
Back then nearly everything required ironing. Mom heated her irons on top of the kitchen stove and spent hours getting the creases and wrinkles out of our clothing and bed sheets.
Her other self appointed jobs included picking berries during the summer and making jars of jams and jellies, which were stored in a small root cellar under our small cabin dad dug by hand. Venison was likewise canned and stored for use later.
I can't recall ever going hungry, but often there was a steady diet during the winter months of wild game, boiled potatoes, "Johnnycake", (homemade cornbread) and berry-laden pastry. Breakfast was usually homemade bread and cornmeal mush.
Mom wasn't much of an "outdoor person", in the sense of enjoying the out-of-doors as we do today. But she spent a lot of time outdoors during spring, summer and fall. She raked leaves, painted and stained the ever-growing number of cabins dad and uncle Bud were constructing for our expanding resort. She picked blueberries, wild strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. I also recall she'd slosh through the muck and mire to reach the shores of a small bog lake in October to assist with the harvest of wild cranberries. She piled wood as dad split it, then hauled it to the house during dad's absence during the winter while he worked in the lumber camps near Hurley. For several years mom, our dog Pat, and I were prisoners in our cabin during the week as dad would arrive home for the weekend well after dark on Friday and would head back to the woods Sunday afternoon. Those were really tough years, but mom was stronger than the tough times!
By the late 1950s my folks had worked themselves into what might be called "modest financial security." The resort was filled to capacity from Memorial Day through Labor Day, dad had his own small sawmill, his summer guiding found him booked for a hundred or more days each summer and the two were spending winters in sunny Florida while their kid tried to get a bit smarter in college.
And then the bubble burst. Dad suddenly died of a severe heart attack just four days after Christmas in 1961!
Mom sold the small business they had been operating during the winter months in Florida, but continued to run the resort, cooking and cleaning cabins until 1965, when she sold it to Peggy and I. She bought a house trailer in Apopka, Fl where she continued to live alone until 1988.
During that period we sent our kids to visit their grandmother for short visits during the summer months and it was "grammy" who introduced them to Disney World. Mom also came north for a few weeks each summer to spend time with her son, daughter-in-law and our growing family, her four grandkids.
In 1988 she moved back to St. Germain. I flew down and drove her 1977 Chevy and U-Haul trailer back to God's Country. From that date until 2006 she lived in one of St. Germain's Senior Housing units, enjoying her retirement, her independence and visiting with friends and family. She produced beautiful embroidery, which she sold at numerous flea markets during the tourist season.
Her four grandchildren and four great grand children adored her and admired her independent nature and devotion to family. Esther never missed sending family members birthday cards and presents. Plus, she lavished each one of us with gifts at Christmas.
Her home made breads and pastries are legendary in our family as is her determination and personal values. "Grammy" always was the family patriarch who liked to share her wisdom of the ages, - but only if asked. She was not a "preacher."
To everyone's dismay, dementia reared its ugly head. Mom was forced to give up her independent life style for a room at the AGI Healthcare facility in Crandon, which in our opinion is a five star facility!
Here, my tough, strong, independent willed mom ended her earthly voyage on September 12th. She has now joined her faithful husband in a better place.
Thanks for being the World's Greatest Mother from an eternally grateful son, and a loving family.
Thanks for your outstanding guidance and tons of wonderful memories! I like to tell myself there is more than a small piece of you and dad within me! Rest in Peace!
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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