Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 17th, 2010 Edition.
I’ve often heard it said that one should never look back but always focus on the future. Whoever came up with that philosophy must have had a boring or wretched childhood, formative years and life in general!
For me, looking back and recalling memorable memories is one of my favorite pastimes, which becomes more and more fashionable as Father Time pours more sand through my hourglass of life! But then again maybe I was simply lucky to have a memorable childhood, formative years and life in general.
I was taught at a very early age that when traveling into an unfamiliar forest it was not only wise but necessary to look back every so often to see what the landscape looks like when coming back out of the unfamiliar forest. My instructors were my dad and uncles, who all had master degrees in woodsmanship and using common sense.
Looking back is also a common occurrence at or near year’s end. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations generally run special news segments recounting all the “important” stuff that took place during the calendar year. Generally when that takes place I am amazed how rapidly the year slipped away into history!
One of the favorite pastimes enjoyed by folks who frequently partake in outdoor activities is engaging in rehashing and reminiscing about past outings, adventures and incidents. And what better way to spend a day on the water or sitting in a duck blind with friends and companions when the fish have lockjaw or the ducks are taking a nap?
Looking back also helps pass the boring time one often encounters out in the field, forest or water when they are spending time outdoors on a solo mission. An example of solo boring time includes the hundreds and hundreds of hours I’ve spent on or in a deer stand when all God’s critters were absent from the landscape and sky. The human ability to use ones mind as a movie or TV screen is a wonderful way to help eliminate boredom at any time and place!
Frequently, when I’m having a conversation with someone who does not spend much time in our outdoor world, I am asked to share some of my favorite outdoor memories. That’s not a tough assignment, but what I seem to remember most vividly are “sudden, unexpected surprises” that Ma Nature likes to spring on folks. And believe me, the old gal has surprised me with totally unexpected events many, many times.
One of my favorite unexpected memories experienced during my formative years took place on a cold winter night under a sky filled with a full moon. Two of my pals, Bob and Roger Stoeckmann, and I were out on one of our frequent nighttime cross-country sky adventures. We reached the crest of “Suicide Hill” and paused to decide which one of us would like to be the first one to zip down the treacherous incline and also be the first one to pile up in the snow after failing to navigate the jump we had constructed at the bottom.
But then Ma Nature decided to play a little trick on three high school guys by giving a pack of wolves the go-ahead to send a blood-chilling howl into the moonlit night!
Looking back on that memorable night, none of us knew for sure how close those wolves were to us, but at the time the chilling sound sounded extremely close! Let me advise anyone who experiences a similar situation – don’t attempt to climb a tree with your skis on! It doesn’t work too well. But once we shed our skis the climb to the upper braches of a nearby oak tree went fairly quickly!
Once safely out of reach of the deadly fangs we sat and listened as the howling became ever more distant. Our best guess was the pack was in the process of chasing a deer and had no thoughts of attacking three scared kids. After climbing back to earth we reattached our skis and headed for home at a record setting pace!
Another unexpected situation that took place during my teenage years also happened during the dead of winter. Another of my pals, Tom Dean, and I decided to spend a Saturday in January attempting to bag a few snowshoe hares. Tom walked the two miles from his home to mine early in the morning and when the two of us set out for our hunt the mercury in our thermometer was well below the zero mark.
I strapped on my snowshoes and Tom opted to hoof it through the snowy landscape without anything on his feet but his boots. By following me from swamp to swamp he was able to avoid having to “break trail” and saved all his extra energy for the actual hunts in the swampy areas that border Lost Creek.
We were able to bag several hares by the time Old Sol was beginning to kiss the tips of the spruce and tamaracks a fond farewell for another day. But, as luck would have it, our final afternoon hunt had taken place in a section of swamp nearly two miles from home.
To speed up our trip back to the Anderson residence we decided to follow the frozen surface of Lost Creek back to my folk’s property, then pick up the packed snowshoe trail for the final quarter mile to a warm living room. I took the lead and Tom fell in behind me. Little did we expect what lay ahead!
At the time I probably hit the scales at about 120 pounds, plus clothing, gun and snowshoes. Tom, a six-footer, probably outweighed me by 30 pounds. We were smart enough to stick close to the bank of the creek, knowing full well the water was only inches deep but the mud on the bottom seemed to be bottomless. Within minutes - fate intervened!
My first inkling of trouble was a slight crunching sound followed by a faint splash. Before I even turned my head Tom was loudly yelling for help as he floundered in the ice-cold mucky water attempting to reach shore.
As quickly as I could I climbed up on the brushy snow covered bank, removed one of my four-foot long snowshoes and extended it to Tom. His firm grip held and I managed to drag him out of the mud and water. He was in deep trouble besides being a candidate for freezing to death. His dad’s shotgun was somewhere on the muddy bottom of the creek!
His soaking wet, mud encrusted pants, boots and coat began freezing within moments. Our minds raced as to what we should do next. We considered starting a fire, but there was little dry wood or tinder present to do so. I suggested a different plan.
I removed my other snowshoe and told Tom to strap them on his feet and head for my house as fast as he could. We expected he’d stay warm enough to make it to safety as long as he kept moving. I would somehow attempt to retrieve the missing shotgun and then take an overland route through the swamp, intersect my snowshoe trail and follow it home. As Tom headed out I told him to tell my parents not to worry about me as I’d be careful and make it home sooner or later.
As daylight rapidly began to fade I fashioned a “shotgun retrieving stick” out of the trunk of a slender alder sapling. At the tip of the roughly eight foot long pole I left a short section of several of the branches attached to the trunk to act as a hook. And no doubt with the aid of divine intervention I hooked the trigger guard of Pop Dean’s shotgun on the second or third try!
My solo journey through the darkening swamp was memorable, but I knew the lay of the land well enough to intersect with the snowshoe trail I had created earlier that day, which by then was frozen almost as hard as a sidewalk.
Naturally, my folks were relieved when I arrived safe and sound back home. Tom was standing very close to our wood burning heater in the living room wearing loaner clothing and mom was standing at the kitchen sink washing mud out of Tom’s clothing.
Dad had already taken Pop’s shotgun apart and cleaned and oiled it. Later the evening dad drove.
Tom back to his home and dropped Tom off as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. My pal did fess up about almost losing his dad’s prize shotgun in Lost Creek, but not for several months after the fact.
So – what’s wrong with looking back? Try it, you’ll like it!
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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