Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For May 29th, 2009 Edition.
My memory fails to recall exactly when we first met, but I know it was over six decades ago. Over time our relationship has bonded into a firm friendship, which has produced a mountain of memories that continue to accumulate for the both of us, with the most recent memory occurring on the afternoon of May 16th at Plum Lake's Community Center.
A celebration was held to honor two retiring civil servants, Town Chairman Vernon DeWitt Jr. and Town Secretary/Treasurer John Damos. The causal atmosphere within the hall found clusters of Plum Lake's citizens, seasonal visitors and friends of the two dignitaries enjoying each others gossip and gab as only can be found in typically rural communities. Donated snacks and tasty goodies in vast amounts lined several tables and non-alcoholic beverages were dispensed free of charge by a volunteer force in the kitchen.
I was highly honored when I was asked to be one of the speakers during the traditional roast that accompanies most similar events and I had over sixty years of fond memories from which to draw a few choice recollections of concerning my long time association with Mr. DeWitt - more commonly known simply as - "Junior"
JR' is a true native son of Sayner and the surrounding township known as Plum Lake, where he was born some 77 years ago. And it's no secret JR is rightly proud of the fact he's a genuine native. As with most present day "old timers" that grew up and survived the tough times, he and his family were well acquainted with economic hardship.
As a youngster JR received a rounded education of how to survive in a harsh, challenging environment by learning how to produce table fare from a garden, plus putting additional food on the table with fishing, hunting and trapping skills.
The Korean War interrupted his rural lifestyle when the army took the young man that possessed all the requirements of a crack rifle shot and turned him into a cook. But not all was wasted as JR is recognized by those who have tasted his cuisine as someone who is an excellent chef!
Upon his return to his beloved northwoods JR worked for the Town of Plum Lake as a member of the "road crew." A few years later he landed a job with the then Wisconsin Conservation Department, a position he held until 1997. During his tenure with the DNR he did it all! He worked in fire control, law enforcement, forestry, fish management and parks and recreation. An "on the go" tireless worker, he never had any trouble finding other employees willing to work with him.
During his spare time during the summer months he successfully guided vacationing anglers for many seasons and easily developed a steady, repeat clientele that was more than willing to spend a day in a boat with a genuine northwoods character. And I use the word "character" in its most positive connation!
For many years JR spent many summer evenings in a Plum Lake softball uniform patrolling the outfield for fly balls and terrorizing opposing pitchers when his turn at bat took place. As a relief pitcher for St. Germain's softball team, which was half of a fierce rivalry with neighboring Plum Lake, I often was a victim of JR's ash bat!
The two of us were teammates on a local all-star team selected to play against the world famous "King and His Court" four man softball team during the summers of 1953 and '54, JR in left field and I at 3rd base. The all-stars were crushed in both games, 8-0 and 16-1, but guess who scored our lone run! Yep - JR DeWitt! JR was hit smack dab in the middle of his back by one of Eddie Feighner's fastballs. Hank Maines, our shortstop and next batter, rapped a slow change-up into left field for a triple and JR scored from first base! What great memories!
The great game of "fast pitch 12 - inch softball" began a slow death beginning in the early 1960s. After St.Germain's team folded I was privileged to play with Plum Lake along with a number of my pals for several more seasons until its team and the era of fast pitch softball became but a footnote to Northwood's history.
JR's civil service to his community spanned forty-six years! He began his "political career" as town constable in 1963, a position he held for ten years. Next, he was elected to the town board as a supervisor from 1974 to '76. After that he was elected as town chairman, a position he held for 32 years - and rarely did he encounter political opposition!
Throughout his community -no, make that throughout the northwoods, it is highly difficult to find anyone who speaks unkindly of JR DeWitt. In fact - I can't recall ever finding such an individual! He's an honest, sincere, down-to-earth guy and a genuine joy to be around spending time hob-knobbing with him, something I've done quite frequently!
Anyone who regularly reads my weekly rambling has already met JR in print. We've spent quality time together in North Dakota annually for a decade having fun and making memories while shooting at ducks and geese. We've fished numerous bodies of water, played cards with friends on cold winter evenings, hunted snowshoe hares, deer, etc.- etc. The list goes on and on!
My turn at bat during the roast lasted but several minutes due to the fact many in attendance had something memorable to say about JR. My brief dialog covered but two main memories from the dozens and dozens I have stored.
Who can forget the time we were fishing blue gills and I loaned JR my old, and it turned out rotting, burlap bag to use as a means of confining a steadily growing number of chunky 'gills? After JR had slipped about a dozen "keepers" in the bag he decided twelve was enough for one day. However, when he hoisted the bag into the boat he discovered only two 'gills remained! The other ten had escaped to safety through a large hole in the bottom of the bag! What did he do? He laughed, then dumped the other two in the lake and said, "Heck, I didn't want to clean fish anyway!"
My all-time favorite "JR Story" took place one hot, bright, calm day on Ballard Lake in July of 1962. JR and I were guiding four musky anglers, and some older readers will recall pistols were once a common tool used to end an epic battle with a muskellunge.
Like most guides, I carried a .22 revolver, but JR opted for a more powerful and noisy handgun - a .45 colt! Once on the lake we went our separate ways and began beating the water with buckktails. The day was one most musky anglers would not select as prime musky weather. My two clients and I pounded for an hour without as much as a lazy follow. Then, about 9:00 a.m. from the far end of the lake a very loud pistol shot echoed across the water. JR's clients had evidently scored first blood!
Another hour passed. Still no action in the Anderson boat - but a second shot reverberated a half-mile down the lake. My spirits and reputation dipped considerably knowing our competition now most likely had two muskies in their boat! I silently imagined my clients were thinking they were paired up with the wrong guide!
The sound of a third shot reached our ears shortly after 11:00 a.m. JR and his clients had obviously "limited out" while the Anderson party was still looking for their first follow!
Shortly after noon my clients and I slowly motored to the lunch area on the north shore to meet our comrades, who were already ashore and waiting to show off their morning catch! I slowly exited the boat, pulled the bow up on the sand and turned to view three smiling faces. I had a question.
"Well - let's see your muskies - how big are they?
JR had an answer for his friend. "Hell, we didn't even raise one. I just shot three times to make you thing we had our limit!"
What are friends for anyway?
In closing - JR, thanks for your service to the community and likewise for our continuing friendship! Start packing for our 11th annual North Dakota Duck Trip!
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: email@example.com 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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