Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For February 12th, 2010 Edition.

In last weeks column I penned an article paying tribute to a recently departed dear friend, Wesley D. Pavalon. What follows in a portion of my verbal tribute I delivered at his memorial service at the Milwaukee Athlethic Club on January 23rd of this year. Local residents who lived in the Lakeland area during the time the following incident took place may well recall hearing about it.

Buying a Coot

During the summer of 1968 the two of us began planning a fishing trip to Isle Royale, the most rare of all island jewels in Lake Superior, using the Mar-Lin-Sue (Wes' 68 foot yatch) as our transport ship and floating hotel. I volunteered to do all the research and we set our sights on August of 1969 for the adventure to take place.

During June of 1969 Wes decided we needed a special piece of equipment for not only our trip to Isle Royale, but also to make it easier for the two of us to reach bodies of water in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan's U. P, that had no roads leading to them. He bought a "Coot."

A Coot is a very unique all terrain vehicle, and I do mean all terrain. Coots somewhat resemble a downscaled army jeep. The body is comprised of two separate sections, capable of carrying four persons, two in front and two in back. It's a true four-wheel drive vehicle powered by a sixteen horse Briggs and Stratton air-cooled engine, which is situated under the driver's seat. The two passenger/cargo compartments are designed to "swivel" independently of each other, thus always allowing either the front or rear wheels to remain level when driving over large obstacles, such as boulders, downed tree trunks and stumps.

An added feature, which comes in handy for fisherman, is that Coots float and are propelled across the surface of the water by the rotation of the wheels!

I was invited along on the day Wes decided to check out a Coot. The dealership was in Minocqua, Wisconsin, just twelve miles from where I lived. One of the salesmen took us for a demonstration ride along the right-of-way of U.S. Highway 51 and then asked if we'd like to see how it operated on water. Of course we did! With that the driver made a left turn off the highway right-of-way, eased down the steep embankment and into Lake Minocqua! What a machine it was!

After the demonstration ride Wes asked if he could take it for a spin, ya know, just like buying a car or truck! The request was approved and with Wes at the wheel the two of us set out along highway 51's right-of-way following the route of our demonstration tour. When we reached the point where the salesman had entered Lake Minocqua, Wes asked me if I'd like another ride on the lake. Of course I did!

Within seconds we were back on the surface of Lake Minocqua, but something was very different! I noted a jet of lake water gushing up between my legs from an open drain hole! Unknown to us the salesman had removed the drain plugs in both front and rear compartments to let a small amount of water escape that had earlier splashed into the Coot from a wave made by a water ski boat!

I shouted an alarm and began a furious search for the missing drain plugs. Neither plug could be located and a quick look into the rear compartment indicated we were taking on water very fast! Wes shifted into reverse in an attempt to back out of the lake and up the steep incline, but we had already taken on too much water. The Coot was headed for the bottom of Davy Jones Locker!

Wes (six-foot four) used his long legs to leap out of the divers seat into the rear compartment and then jumped to dry land, which was only a few feet away. I was much slower to react and ended up wading to shore as the Coot slipped beneath the waves into fifteen feet of water!

By the time I began crawling up the steep, rocky incline a crowd was already gathering and cars along U.S. 51 were stopping along the right-of-way discharging curious additional onlookers. My pal, Wesley, was standing among the growing throng calmly smoking a cigarette with a grin on his face!

It was at this point a State Trooper pulled up and turned on his squad car's flashing lights! Being wet up to my thighs and not yet up on level land, the officer suspected I must be a person of interest in what he assumed had been some sort of vehicle related accident. With citation book in hand he asked if I had driven a car off the road and into the lake! Wesley continued to smoke his cigarette and by the expression on his face it was evident he was experiencing much humor in the situation! What are friends for anyway?

After I explained to the officer what had happened, without implicating the driver of the Coot, he folded his citation book and drove away after informing me he had no jurisdiction over accidents involving ATVs and/or watercraft.

It was about this time the salesman arrived on the scene. Needless to say, he was not in a good mood! Wes confessed he was the cause of the sinking, but then blamed the salesman for removing the drain plugs without informing us we could no longer use the Coot on water.

The dealership hired scuba divers to retrieve the Coot. The engine was taken apart, cleaned and put back together again, and Wes bought the beast!

The Coot received a number of "add-ons" prior to our departure for Isle Royale. Removable custom-made car-top carriers were installed to allow a canoe to be easily hauled to an inland lake or stream. A custom-made cargo box was welded to the rear of the Coot to haul fishing or camping equipment and also allow a small outboard motor to be attached for more maneuverability while traveling on water. A hand winch was added to the front compartment just in case the Coot should get mired in deep muck or hung up on some large obstacle.

The two of us did use the Coot numerous times fishing small, remote bodies of water having no roads leading to them. I can't recall any time we caught many fish! But the era of the coot did provide some memorable memories!

We did take our planned trip to Isle Royale in August of 1969, and a delightful week it was! We caught a few trout and whitefish, saw numerous moose and enjoyed the charm and beauty of what certainly is one of Earth's most beautiful islands! However, the Coot was not a passenger on the Mar-Lin-Sue during our trip to Isle Royale!

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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