Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For February 6th, 2009 Edition.
During my fairly regular morning jaunts to Sayner where I exchange banter and sip coffee with several other semi-retired Senior Citizens, during my short journey home I frequently pass school age kids cowering in the cold waiting for a semi-warm bus to pick them up and deliver them to a warm local educational institution. Many times, as I sit behind the wheel in the warm interior of my truck, I shiver just looking at the huddled masses while silently wondering as to why so many are poorly insulated against the bitter cold.
I've come to the conclusion I'm viewing a genuine "generation gap." Well, maybe three or four generation gaps.
The obvious lack of protective garb could be attributed to several possible factors, lack of money, lack of good judgment or most likely - dressing to be in vogue. Another indication that I am viewing a genuine generation gap is that along my homeward route I see a couple of small "waiting for the bus warming huts" that resemble a well designed ice fishing shanty. Also, on really cold mornings, when the temperature is forty degrees or less, (not - 40) vehicles with frosted windows and billowing exhaust fumes swirling upward indicate mom or pops has driven Johnny or Susie out to the bus stop, even though it's only a couple of hundred feet from their home.
My, my, how times have changed!
I know what you're thinking! Now he's going to tell us how when he was a kid he had to walk six miles to school through snowdrifts up to his armpits in temperatures a hundred and ten below zero.
Well, during part of my first grade school year I was involved in a lesser degree of environmental hardship when going to and from school. Five of my cousins and I walked a mile and a half from uncle Dewey's farm over Silver Hill to the red brick school in Mountain, Wisconsin during the winter of 1943-44. But the snowdrifts never exceeded a couple of feet and I don't recall the temperature was ever colder than twenty-five or thirty below zero.
For eleven and a half years of my first twelve years in school my walk to the bus stop covered a distance of about three hundred yards. Once in a great while I was able to coax our dog to walk with me to the bus stop, but only if I bribed Fido with a chunk of leftover something or other.
I'm sure many folks vividly recall their very first day of school when they had to catch a ride on a bus. I had a knot the size of a watermelon in my innards, not knowing what to expect. But the driver of the tiny red, white and blue bus, Max McGregor, made me feel at ease and set me down on a wooden bench that extended full length along the passenger side of the bus. I also knew a few of the other eight or ten kids that shared the bus with me, and my apprehension soon evaporated.
How many of you recall the fact school busses used to be red, white and blue? I've been told and I've also read accounts of what supposedly caused the change to yellow. Back in the early to mid-40s a bus driver was struck by a deer hunter's bullet. It was reported the hunter saw a flash of white and mistook it for a deer's tail. I know not if that story is true or just a tale.
The winter garb of rural school aged kids during the depression and post-depression eras were fairly standard. Basically, pa and ma made you dress for the cold by layering just about every article of clothing you owned over your entire body.
The first layer on the male children was long underwear. I'm not entirely sure what the girl's first layer was but full- length cotton or wool stockings were normally visible after they removed their snow pants. Every school kid wore snow pants. Thick heavy snow pants, often second or third hand-me-downs covered with patches and stitches. Many of the coats worn by kids resembled the one Dolly Parton sang about, The Coat of Many Colors My Mother Made for Me. Hats or caps most frequently were home knit wool models that could be pulled down over your ears. A wool scarf wrapped around one's neck kept the cold wind from blowing down your torso and home knitted wool mittens protected the hands.
Wool was and is a wonderful insulator, as it will retain body heat, to some degree, even when it is wet. Uncle Art often praised the virtue of wearing wool in the winter with a little ditty he expounded, "when you wear wool no matter how wet and cold you are you'll always be warm and dry." There is an element of truth in that statement!
Most kids only had one pair of "winter shoes", which were made of leather and went on your feet over a pair of home knit woolen socks. Then your shoed feet were stuffed in a pair of rubber galoshes, better known today as "overshoes." Most brands of these winter boots were equipped with metal buckles that snapped shut to prevent your boots from falling off your feet or filling with snow. The rubber boots with buckles were referred to as "clodhoppers" as were the people who wore them. "Rich kids", which were few and far between, wore rubber overshoes equipped with zippers instead of buckles!
I have mostly fond memories of riding the bus to school and back home again. Lot's of good times were experienced and all of the drivers that delivered us safe and sound in both directions for so many years did a great job. And, their word was law! Serious hanky-panky soon came to an end and if someone was a repeat offender they were generally kicked off the bus, sometimes literally, and had to walk home. One time for me was enough of a lesson!
Today school is often cancelled or delayed due to "dangerous temperatures and/or wind chill." Nobody knew about wind chill years ago, or if they did paid little or no attention to it. Not smart, but what was, was!
During my twelve years riding a bus to school and back I can only recall two times school was cancelled due to "dangerous weather conditions." Once the school day was cut short and we were sent home early due to an approaching blizzard, which eventually dumped eighteen inches of snow on the landscape. The other cancellation was because of icy roads.
The "icy roads" cancellation gave some of my pals and I an idea. If we created enough ice on the hill and sharp curve on North Lost Lake Drive maybe we would cause our bus driver, Herman Hessen, to lose control and slide off the road into a snow bank. It was worth a try.
All one Sunday afternoon the three Dean boys, Jim, Tom, Gary and I carried buckets of water to our chosen location, (which was a quarter mile distance from the Dean's home) and "iced down the hill and curve."
Come Monday morning as Mr. Hessen eased down the steep incline and inched into the curve at the bottom of the hill, our expectations of a day off from school were cruelly dashed on the jagged rocks of disappointment. The St.Germain road crew had detected the dangerous ice and thoroughly covered it with sand!
Dress sensibly and stay warm!
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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