Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 26th, 2010 Edition.
One very nice bonus that is a direct result of being a contributing writer to the Times are the emails, letters and phone calls I receive from folks who take the time to read my drivel. Many of the communications contain questions – some of which I can answer and some I freely admit I can’t. Often something I have written about strikes a memory cord with a reader who wishes to share his or her memory with me. I truly appreciate and look forward to interacting with my readers.
Recently I received an inquiry about a subject I frequently field questions about. The inquiry asked if I knew anything about “the guy who lived on Lost Creek years ago and flew a Bell-Jet Ranger helicopter?” Oh yes – I sure do!
For about a dozen years, spanning the late 1970s and into the early ‘90s many canoeists traveling the pristine, scenic Lost Creek in St. Germain would suddenly come upon an unlikely shore side sight! Nestled in a grove of balsam trees, seemingly in the middle of nowhere – they would spy a shinny Bell-Jet Ranger chopper! What was more difficult to see was a magnificent four-season home tucked into a heavily forested hillside about fifty yards from the chopper’s landing pad.
The owner and pilot of the whirlybird was a very unique gentleman named Wesley D. Pavalon. Wes and I first met in the summer of 1960 when he was vacationing at Ed Gabe’s Lost Lake Resort and was in need of a fishing guide. At the time Wes was struggling to build a new business in Milwaukee, one that would eventually make him a ton of money and launch him into national prominence!
Out of that chance meeting a warm, firm, sincere friendship developed between Wes and I, a relationship that continued unabated until his passing in December of 2009. Between 1960 and 1991 we spent nearly 200 days together, mainly in quest of trout, although Wes also spent time occasionally chasing other native finny species, plus spending time in a duck blind and combing the thickets for grouse. Unfortunately his health eventually began to fail and the “fishing and hunting together” aspect of our relationship was cancelled.
Wesley Pavalon was born into poverty in Chicago in 1933. His rise from being “born on the wrong side of the tracks” to a self-made entrepreneur is truly an “only in America” story! His fledging business I alluded to in a previous paragraph became “Career Academy”, a chain of sixteen trade schools scattered across the U.S. and Canada. The company’s stock was first listed on the American Stock Exchange in 1963 and Career Academy stock sold for $1.81 a share. By 1967 the stock had split three times and sold for $55.00 a share. Numerous stockholders that had gotten in on the ground floor made a fortune in a very short period of time!
Wes eventually sold the company and turned his attention and unlimited energy plus his innovative mind towards other goals.
His love of sports, especially basketball, prompted Wes to organized a select group of businessmen for the expressed purpose of bringing a National Basketball Association team to Milwaukee. In 1968 his dream was realized and three years later the expansion Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Championship!
Wes, the principal owner and CEO of the team, personally signed Lew Alcinder, (who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbbar) to his first contract with the Bucks.
During Wes’ ten years with the Bucks he used the team’s Lear Jet to travel to and from Bucks away games and as his vehicle of choice to fly from Milwaukee to Rhinelander for frequent fishing trips. His guide would then also act as a taxi driver and deliver Wes and his lovely wife, Patricia, to their secluded vacation location.
After the Bucks were sold, Wes got an itch to buy and fly a helicopter, which he did! I hacked out an area along the edge of Lost Creek for a landing pad, after which my taxi trips to Rhinelander came to an end. Wes would announce his arrival up north by making a very low altitude fly-over our home, which was but a quarter mile from Wes and Patty’s abode. Great memories.
On many occasions Wes and I would spend time flying all over northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s U.P. looking for promising looking trout streams or back in the boonies bass lakes. Yes sir, those were really tough days and he always paid my daily guiding fee for simply riding high in the sky acting as navigator.
Next, Wes purchased a square mile of wilderness north of Ironwood/Hurley that contained a natural spring system and a small lake. This property was developed as his personal piece of heaven and a second landing pad was constructed within a few yards of a large trailer house. Driving time from St. Germain to “Lost Lake” was an hour and a half, flying time was 30 minutes plus by flying we had more time to fish!
On one flight from St. Germain to Wes’ private trout pond in Da U.P. the two of us had a minor brush with the law. Having not packed a lunch for our all day fishing trip, Wes decided he’d land his chopper in the parking lot of Carlson’s Super Market in Ironwood where we would stock up on stuff for lunch.
The noisy arrival of the Bell-Jet Ranger brought numerous residents out of their homes and places of business wondering what or who was landing a chopper in downtown Ironwood! The unscheduled landing also drew the attention of the city police, the county sheriff’s department and the U.S. Air Force!
Within minutes of touchdown Wes’ chopper was surrounded by two squad cars and a blue Jeep, the Jeep emblazoned with a white star and “U.S. Air Force” on its side! The Jeep also contained a “bird colonel”, a driver and an enlisted man carrying an automatic weapon! The officer in the blue suit and the silver eagles on his shoulders was not happy!
The colonel loudly questioned Wesley, who was calmly smoking a cigarette with a smirk on his face, if the chopper was military and who had authorized us to land in an automobile parking lot? Innocent as a newborn baby Wes played on the irate officer’s sympathy concerning our desire for food as we were only stopping for a few minutes to stock up on lunch materials prior to heading out for a day of fishing.
With that the Air Force contingency drove off, the county deputy stopped giggling and drove away and the very polite Ironwood police officer asked us to please use the Ironwood airport for future landings. With that my personal fear of spending time in jail evaporated.
Space does not allow me list even a fraction of Wes’ accomplishments, of which a small sampling includes: The Jaycees nominated Wes as one of the nation’s ten outstanding young businessmen. He donated tens of thousands of dollars to charitable organizations, rural communities, volunteer fire departments etc., etc. His list of accomplishments and contributions to society go on and on.
To learn more about this uniquely amazing American visit the Sports Illustrated “SI Vault” at SI.com and pull up the February 24, 1969 article by Pat Putnam. It’s a very long and comprehensive read about a unique man I am very proud to have known and called a friend!
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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