Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For September 4th, 2009 Edition.

Of all our National Holliday's, Labor Day may well be the most misunderstood. Funk & Wagnalis simply defines Labor Day as; "In most states of the United States, a legal holiday, usually the first Monday in September, originally set aside as a holiday to honor labor."

Labor Day means different things to different people. Many school age kids see Labor Day as being the end of their summer vacation. Owners of small businesses view Labor Day as the time when some of their part time help disappears. Serious anglers begin watching for their favorate lakes to begin their annual "fall turnover." Hunters begin organizing their equipment, take "scouting trips" to their favored hunting locations and hone their marksmanship skills. Housewives start their fall house cleaning, and personally - I put my boat to bed for the winter.

Five or six decades ago Labor Day in the northwoods also pretty much meant the end of tourism for the year. I still vividly recall a deep sad feeling in my innards the day after Labor Day when I'd note all our guests had departed, knowing full well we'd not rent any cabins until fishing season opened again in May. That also meant the kids I played with during the summer may or may not return ever again.

For full time residents of Northern Wisconsin during the first half of the 20th Century Labor Day marked the beginning of preparing for what dad called, "The eight months of economic winter." There seemed to be an endless list of jobs that needed to be completed before "the snow flew" and so little time to complete them.

Putting the cabins to bed for the winter was one of the first jobs on our list. The water needed to be drained from the water pumps that supplied water to our four cabins and numerous "drain cocks" had to be opened under the cabins to drain all the water lines and hot water heaters. Of course all the drains were under the cabin floors in what were called "crawl spaces." Those crawl spaces were hideous dungeon types dark places filled with spider webs, spiders, fat toads, mice, garter snakes and numerous imagined demons of darkness congered up by a kid's imagination.

The diving raft needed to be pulled ashore and elevated on logs or cement blocks. Likewise our fleet of small wooden rowboats was removed from the water, tipped upside down and elevated on saw horses.

Newspaper was tacked over the inside of all the cabin windows to prevent sunlight from fading anything inside the cabin. Plastic material was likewise placed over the exterior of the windows in our winter quarters, which took the place of actual glass storm windows.

Probably the least looked forward job for a kid was filling the woodshed. However, there was one positive aspect of the woodshed chore that I greatly enjoyed. Generally the actual act of sawing the logs into short sections, splitting them and then stacking the finished product in the woodshed took about three full days of hard labor. That meant I'd get three holidays off from school while those tasks were being completed!

The male adult(s) cut down the trees and hauled eight-foot sections to the "buzz saw" site in dad's '41 Chevy pickup. The mechanical monster that we used to saw the eight-foot sections into sixteen-inch sections was universally referred to as a "buzz saw." Simply stated this contraption supported a three-foot diameter circular saw mounted on a complicated steel framework. A wide rubber and fabric belt supplied power from dad's Chevy, which powered the saw. One rear wheel was jacked up and the tire and rim removed. Then a special "drive wheel" to turn the belt was attached to the hub with lug nuts The shift lever was placed in 2nd gear and a hand throttle on the dashboard regulated the power from the six-cylinder engine. Man oh man did that saw buzz!

Cutting winter wood was at the minimum a three-person job. Two husky individuals picked up an eight-foot log and placed it on the "saw table" that held the log and pivoted forward and back. The "sawyer" leaned forward on the saw-table and forced the logs against the rapidly whirling saw blade. His companion helped steady the log while the third person held the chunk being cut off the log and then tossed it into an ever-growing stack of what would eventually heat our home during the winter.

After the huge pile of logs was reduced to firewood length the splitting began. Axes and heavy "splitting mauls" did the job along with muscular arms and backs plus a keen eye for hitting the chunks of wood in "just the right spot." My job was to place the split pieces of wood in a wheelbarrow and transport them to the woodshed where I carefully piled the finished product in neat rows.

Heating with wood warms one's body five times, once when felling the trees, once when cutting with the buzz saw, once when splitting and piling, again when it hauled into the house and once when it's burned.

Other post-Labor Day jobs included picking mushrooms -which was lots of fun and not much work. Another fun job was harvesting wild cranberries from a small bog lake not too far removed from our property. But the most fun of all was attempting to fill our freezer and/or Mason and Ball jars with protein rich meat.

Hunting season took on a much different tone back in the good old days than it does now. Today most folks accept the fall hunting season as a "sport" where participants have a good time whether they bag something or not. Not so when I was a kid. Successful hunting trips were a necessity if a family was to survive the winter with meat on the table!

Dad turned me loose to hunt on our property with my single shot .410 shotgun when I was nine. I'd receive one shell and if I returned home with a squirrel, rabbit or grouse I'd get another shell. If I missed - well my hunt for that day was over!

Our dog during that era was a black cocker spaniel that was a genuine hunting machine. Old Pat and I rarely came home empty handed and even more rarely did I not get second and third shells!

Memories are made of this! Have a happy and safe Labor Day Weekend!

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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