Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For December 26th, 2008 Edition.

As I begin pecking away on my keyboard putting this column together the date is December 15th. Winter is raging outside - the mercury rests at eight below zero and wind gusts of thirty mph are pushing the wind chill past forty below! Yep, Old Man Winter has arrived!

On my early morning drive to meet several other old retired guys for coffee in Sayner I noted the boys of winter had been out in near blizzard conditions the previous evening doing the first bit of grooming on our snowmobile trails. The heavy wet snow and misty drizzle that occurred on the 14th made perfect conditions for creating a firm base on the snow machine trails. These two bits of evidence set my mind to recalling my own memories of snowmobiles and snowmobiling back in the dark ages.

First of all let me confess I have never been a "snowmobiling nut." I bought our first motorized sled in 1967 partly because I wanted to keep up with the Jones' and partly because our two oldest kids, Chris and Cherie, kept begging Wifee Poo and I to buy one.

Our first iron monster was a white and blue Snow-Jet and cost about five hundred Washington's. It was a noisy beast, with no muffler and I remember spending more time making repairs on it than we did riding it. I tried my hand at being an inventor, and actually constructed a minimal effective muffler out of a tin Maxwell coffee can stuffed with fiberglass insulation.

At the time I was teaching at the Red Brick School in St. Germain and when I felt really brave I'd ride the smoke belching noisemaker to school over a zigzagging route of some seven miles! My students knew when I did this as my clothing reeked of stinky oily exhaust fumes all day long!

Our second sled was a Fox Track. This machine was a tad better, even though our then thirteen-year-old son smashed in the front end jumping over snow banks, -- after he was warned not to. The red pine he used as a brake was only slightly scarred, but Chris expected his backside would be. I let him off with a severe scolding after he promised never to do such a thing again. I'm not sure if the promise stuck.

It was the Fox Track that caused Peggy to retire from trail riding, or any other snowmobile riding for that matter. By begging her and promising her many lobster dinners, I was successful in coaxing her to ride with me to Leisure Lodge on Big St. Germain for a Friday night fish fry. Two of our good pals, Doug and Rene Dean also came along, each riding on their new Polaris sleds. Doug took the lead, followed by his wife while the Anderson's chugged behind in their wake.

All was going well until we hit the slush on Big Saint! Doug and Rene plowed on through to a slush free surface, but the overloaded Fox Track bogged down in the watery mixture. With much grunting and groaning we finally freed the metal monster from the slush and continued on to Leisure Lodge with very wet and cold feet!

Dinner went well, and then we ventured outside into the frigid night air to discover the slush-encrusted track on our Fox Track was frozen solid! Another half-hour evaporated while Doug and I chipped away at the frozen track until it finally would rotate. Once safely home I opted not to ask Wifee Poo if she had a good time.

Later that winter I once again was successful in convincing Peggy to go riding with me. It was a lovely warm sunny winter afternoon perfectly suited for a spin in the snow. We dressed fairly light and took our good-natured time traveling to Sayner where I planned to fill the Fox Track with gas at Olson's Mobil, which we did. However, it was here Fate dealt us a new hand of cards!

A group of our friends and neighbors were preparing to head north to Boulder Junction, have dinner at The Headwaters, and then head back towards Sayner. How could we refuse! We took a meandering route, which included the long haul across Trout Lake and arrived safe and sound at our destination just as Old Sol was kissing the snow covered north woods good evening.

A good time was had by all, the food and cocktails were excellent, as was the conversation with our neighbors. Then it was time to head home. The sunny afternoon sky that had been our companion on the northern leg of our trip was now dark and star-studded. The balmy temperature that had lured us out earlier that day had vanished and the thermometer nailed to a pine where our sleds were parked indicated we'd be riding home in sub-zero temperatures.

By the time we headed south out of Boulder Junction icy fingers of cold were already poking Peggy and I through our thinly lined snowmobile suits. Then Old Man Trouble reared his ugly head.

The second machine in a line of a dozen died. Our leader, whose name escapes me, unaware that trouble had arrived roared on down the trail and disappeared into the night. Peggy and I were third in line and I volunteered to catch our fearless leader and bring him back to the location of the breakdown.

Not too far south the trail forked, -- and as luck would have it, -- I took the wrong fork. After a mile or so slipped behind us I accepted the fact we were on the wrong trail. Returning to the location of the stalled machine we discovered it had been fixed and our group of friends had left!

We were unable to catch up with our pals, as they were trying to catch up with us. We had no other choice but to keep heading south, as my fingers in my gloves began to tingle along with the rest of my anatomy. Shortly after we crossed the Muskellunge Lake Road the bolt connecting the right ski to the steering mechanism broke. This of course caused the ski to wobble left and right as it saw fit.

I used "Yankee Ingenuity" along with a dose of "Necessity Is the Mother of Invention" to temporally solve the problem. I used the belt that holds my pants up as a restraint, attaching the non-functioning ski to the good one.

Eventually we arrived at the north shore of Plum Lake and stopped at the home of our friends, Hank and Marnie Maines, with the intent to ask for HELP! They were gone and the house was dark. But as with most homes back then the doors were unlocked and we let ourselves in and called another friend to "come and get us, we're frozen!"

Help arrived driving a large station wagon. The injured Fox Track was loaded in the back and the two frozen riders absorbed the warm air from the heater during the five-mile drive back to home sweet home. It was then Peggy announced her retirement as a passenger on a snowmobile.

I eventually owned two additional snow machines, a Sno-Jet and an Arctic Cat. Our son ran the Cat into one of our trout ponds and realized snowmobiles can't swim. So, after that nightmare I decided snowshoes and snowshoeing was a cheaper and healthier hobby.

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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