Will Maines - Vilas County News-Review
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  • “THE BEAT GOES on.” Sonny and Cher had it right. America’s favorite couple, at least for a while, had a major hit in 1967 with that song. The beat does indeed go on.
    That could be said for
  • IN THESE DARK days and I don’t mean weather wise, it is difficult to maintain a sunny disposition. In a short time, true cabin fever begins to set in for people unable to do the things they like to do like going to a movie, eating at a restaurant or going shopping without worrying that they may come carrying a virus that may
  • SOMETIMES IT FEELS good just to touch bare ground. Those sometimes for me are usually when the first days of thawing in March open up some small patches of bare ground underneath pine trees and on south-facing hillsides.
    I know it isn’t much, but
  • AS BOB HOPE used to sing “Thanks for the memories.” No, I’m not thanking any humans this time around, though many have contributed to my memory bank over the years. And no, I’m not saying thanks for the memories because I’m going to quit writing a weekly column. I have no plans for that.
    This thank you for the memories is directed to
  • WISCONSIN’S RURAL SMALL towns are famous for the many festivals and events they put on each year — events that bring thousands of people to participate in bike, running, ski, snowmobile and other competitions along with street fairs and other such tourist attractions.
    The towns in our neck of the North Woods are
  • THE OLD BODY just ain’t what it used to be. After finishing my 20th 55-kilometer American Birkebeiner, I’m more than sure my 70-year-old body is not even close to what it used to be.
    Sun and blue skies shone down upon
  • THE WATER IS cold, icy cold, as the early-season trout fisherman, knee deep in the calm waters of a treasured spring pond, stands off the chill with insulated waders.
    Strands of misty fog rise lazily from the pond’s surface, giving
  • SOMETIMES, SURPRISES IN your life pop up when you least expect them. Reckon maybe that’s why they call them surprises?
    Last week, coming home from an afternoon of skiing, I found what turned out to be a very nice surprise waiting for me. It was a cardboard box propped up against my garage entrance door. Inside was a
  • WHO WOULD’VE thunk it? The fourth Saturday of February, in 1984, more than 6,500 skiers lined up in Duffy’s Field just outside of Hayward for the start of the American Birkebeiner. I was one of those skiers.
    Even before I started, the plan was for that Birkie to be my one and done. As it turned out, I
  • THE SPIRIT IS still strong and willing, but the flesh is getting a little weak. Normally, I might be saying that about myself, but after a Sunday afternoon 2-mile walk with my dogs, I’m sad to say it’s beginning to be a little evident that I have to say it about 11-year-old Molly, our faithful golden retriever.
    She has loved to go on long walks, runs and
  • PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO follow trails through the woods are much like a bear with a sniff of a honey tree. Unable to resist the lure of a footpath through the forest, hikers, much like the bear tracking the honey tree, follow their nose wherever it may take them.
    I am one of those people. I have been wandering the woods in our north Wisconsin country for a long, long time. By the age of
  • THE INKY BLACKNESS SWIRLS around you and the light predawn breeze swishes gently through the woods surrounding you.
    You see vague shapes and forms looming up in front of you, one looking like a deer standing still as a statue, another like a man stretching his arms high after just rolling out of a sleeping bag. In full light, those forms will turn out to be
  • THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN in earnest. In just six weeks, I will fit boots to bindings on cross-country skis before setting out to complete my 20th American Birkebeiner ski race.
    Looking back, I can’t help but think it’s ironic that a person who skied his first Birkie in 1984, with the intent of
  • DOES ANYONE HERE KNOW exactly what they will be doing come 5 a.m., Wednesday, April 22? I do.
    That morning will mark the opening day of my Wisconsin season for spring turkey hunting and at 5 a.m., I will be well into the woods heading for a place where I have killed
  • MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE Santa Claus only comes to visit once a year; that visit coming Christmas Eve. I know better and I have proof.
    I have seen Santa at many times of the year. Well, OK, maybe I didn’t actually see him; at least not in his red suit and black boots, with white beard flowing and accompanied by
  • NOT ALL STORIES ARE told with words put on paper. Not all stories are told with words spoken by humans.
    Some of the best, most compelling and awesome stories are told in silence, with marks in the snow and eerie sounds penetrating dark, nighttime air.
    Just recently, my wife and I listened to one of those stories being told. It was
  • THERE IS ENJOYING the outdoors and then, there is really enjoying the beauty of the outdoors wherever you might find it.
    Sometimes, the outdoors is simply looking out your window, watching chickadees and nuthatches go to work on the suet bag and sunflower seed feeder you have set out to satisfy their need for food, and
  • SNOW, SNOW, GO AWAY. Seems to me that has a familiar ring to it, except it’s usually during the summer when it’s rain and everyone wants sunshine.
    My gripes about the past several days of moving snow are just like those of everyone else, but the truth of the matter is this is not the first early December with snow like this and it 
  • IF A 12-YEAR-OLD BOY had been granted his one biggest wish of a lifetime the morning of November 18, 1961, he would have slayed his first whitetail buck opening morning.
    As he reasoned it, getting his first buck would have automatically elevated him into the coveted status of
  • SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO read the Sunday comics section of the newspaper. Last Sunday, in “Pickles,” Grampa, who was reading about dogs, remarked to his grandson that “Petting a dog for 15 minutes can lower blood pressure by 10%.”
    Truer words were never spoken. I
  • THERE MAY NOT BE any joy in Mudville, but all over north Wisconsin there is joy in the hearts of all ice fishermen.
    Thanks to winter deciding to settle in early in earnest, a fair number of area lakes already have ice thick enough to venture out on quite safely. Not to say a person should just go tramping out on any given lake without 
  • “THE ICEMAN COMETH.” This is the iceman that brings snow on the ground and early ice on north Wisconsin lakes. This also is the iceman that stirs hot-blooded whitetail bucks to action, chasing does around the woods in a frenzy during late October and well into November.
    Come to think of it, rutting whitetail bucks might be seen about the same as
  • DURING MY SOMETIMES misspent younger days, I firmly believed that the months of October and November were to be reserved solely for the purpose of hunting.
    I hunted nearly every day or at least as often as I could sneak out of the house before my
  • I THINK MOST PEOPLE would agree with me if I were to say that fall is the best season of all and also the most fleeting.
    Spring, summer and winter all bring something to the table that anyone or everyone can enjoy, but to sort of paraphrase a famous circus man “not only can you find some of the people who love fall all of the time or all of the people who love fall some of the time, but you
  • A LITTLE SNOWFALL never hurt anyone. True? People in North Dakota could give you the answer after 20 inches slammed part of that state last weekend.
    A video posted by a resort in
  • WHY IS IT THAT when a person is counting down the days to a much anticipated trip it seems to take about a week for 24 hours to pass by? But when the trip is finally in progress, it takes only an hour for an entire day to pass? That’s the way it was for me on my 10-day annual trip to paradise, otherwise known as the prairie country of
  • SEVERAL TIMES ALONG a path I have followed for more than 60 years of rambling around north Wisconsin, I have learned that you don’t want to mess with cold, near-freezing water.
    Some adventures I’ve been a part of were
  • SOMETIMES, YOU NEED a little craziness in your life. With friends, family and dogs like I have, you would think I would have plenty of craziness in my life. But last week, I actually welcomed, nay encouraged, a little more craziness to accompany me for a day.
    The occasion was an afternoon of
  • I SURVIVED; A JUG of Crown Royal did not. That would be a brief summation of the 50th annual reunion of the 1969 UW-Eau Claire Third East Bridgeman dorm floor inmates that I was a part of last week. Held in Door County for three days, the reunion not only included a few dollops of Crown, but also many other things for which
    When I decided to use the above line as an opener for this week’s column, I first checked on, ugh, the internet to see which music artists most successfully recorded the song with those words in
  • SOMETIMES IN ONE’S life, there are times when you need to find a place where you can be alone with your thoughts. I experienced one of those times last week, when a good friend who was only 68 years old was taken to a higher and better place.
    Born and raised in
  • IT HAD BEEN a while, so the idea of hitting the road for a three-day weekend of camping made great sense to me and my lovely wife.
    With dogs, fishing kayak, camper, and all the various and sundry things campers need for a successful outing loaded up including a carefully cushioned fresh jug of Crown, we turned the truck northwest for
  • WHEN YOU VENTURE outdoors, you never know what you might see.
    I’ve been roaming this north Wisconsin country of ours for two weeks shy of 70 years. Though during the very few first of those years I wasn’t actually doing the roaming, letting my mother’s or my dad’s feet do the walking while I
  • ONE OF THE best books I have ever read, one I treasure and place up there with every anthology of Gordon MacQuarrie stories ever printed is “Trout Madness,” by revered Michigan Upper Peninsula writer John Voelker who wrote under the pen name of Robert Traver.
    After writing the novel
  • “There are places I’ll remember all my life. Though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places had
  • I MAKE IT a practice to never offer advice to anyone except my children and they generally ignore it anyway. Today, I will offer a piece of advice; a piece of advice I would hope every fisherman would heed.
    Never take an
  • SIXTY-SIX DAYS may seem to be a relatively short period of time, but for me the next 66 days will seem like an eternity. That’s how far away the opening day of North Dakota’s duck and goose season is.
    As that opening day draws nearer and
  • IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO be a yooper, if only for a day. Last Saturday, my wife and I decided it was our day to be yoopers.
    Our original plan was to head for Black River Harbor in Michigan, hike to most or all of the beautiful waterfalls on the Black River in its final mile or so run to Lake Superior and then to
  • COME FEAST OR FAMINE; war or peace; snow, rain or sunshine, one thing remains for certain in this north Wisconsin country I call home. The beauty of the country, no matter what people or bad weather try to do it, has and always will be with us.
    I spend a good deal of time in the outdoors, whether
  • I SUPPOSE AT graduation parties one would expect conversation would mostly be directed toward heaping honor upon the college or high school graduate being fêted. Oh sure, additional commentary would drift acceptably to such topics as family, friends and pets perhaps, but when you live in north Wisconsin all such topics are usually dispensed with rather quickly in favor of
  • WHEN IT COMES to fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors, I have a million memories; probably more. I’ve had wonderful memories of the outdoors etched in my mind for decades and some of those moments, small as they may have been, have never left.
    I remember specifically my first
  • OLD FISHERMEN TELL a lot of stories. Old fishermen have a lot of sayings. Most of the things old fishermen say are fibs and some things they say are outright blatant lies. I know that for fact, for I am an old fisherman.
    There is one paragraph of old sayings, most likely made up by
  • THIS HAS BEEN perhaps the best first month of a fishing season I have enjoyed for many years. I’m finding out this being retired stuff isn’t bad at all. 
    Give me a nice spring afternoon with the choice of raking leaves or going fishing and guess which option I choose. Mow the grass or go fishing? Easy answer. Stay home and
  • I AM JEALOUS. I just got off the phone with a young couple, good friends of mine. I am jealous because they just got back from visiting in North Dakota where they spent time with family. I am jealous because they got to see some of the millions of wild ducks that nest and breed in the prairie pothole country of North Dakota and I
  • WHEN IT COMES to the outdoors we live and play in, it’s always a good feeling to harvest part of the bounty it provides: a couple of walleyes for the frying pan, venison for a roast, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other wild delights, mushrooms and the list goes on.
    It also feels good to put something back into the
  • THROUGHOUT MY ENTIRE LIFE, I have never considered myself to be anything other than an “average Joe.” 
    I have caught a lot of fish in a lifetime of fishing. I’ve killed my share of bucks, ducks, turkeys and such, but as many times as not, I come home empty-handed from an outing; sometimes as a result of
  • CATCHING FISH ISN’T the only thing that makes a fishing trip successful. That’s probably an overworn saying, but no matter how old or overworn, it is very much true.
    Since the first of May, I have been fishing six times. My first outing was in
  • WHILE SOME MIGHT argue it is possible that there is never an absolutely perfect day, I had a couple last week that would heartily dispute them.
    Finally looking like spring should look like in early May, I got the hankering to go catch a trout fish last Friday. The hankering was strong enough that I found I couldn’t wait for Wisconsin’s season to open Saturday so I did the next best thing, heeding the advice of Herbert Greeley, the unknown brother of
  • “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven.” — “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds

    FOR EVERYTHING THERE really is a season and that season right now, is spring. With snow falling a few days ago, one might have argued that we were still waiting for spring, but as happens virtually every April, snow will
  • WHEN IT COMES to a hunting story, the hunter never knows how it will begin, nor how it will end when all is said and done.
    Certainly, that was the case with my short, two-day turkey hunting expedition to Illinois last week. A beautiful Wednesday afternoon, I arrived in Jo Daviess County where I would stay with the
  • OPENING DAY HAS come and gone, and I was not there. The second day has come and gone, and I was not there. Today, Wednesday, is the third day and I am not quite there yet.
    Since I was a very young boy, opening days have been very important events in my life. They began with
  • THOUGH MOST FORECASTS say winter will return in force late this week, during the past seven days I was able to get in some great springtime walks. A day when a warm sun pushed temperatures into the 40s, my dogs and I took advantage with a long hike along a seldom-used side road that is nonetheless plowed all winter for the
  • APRIL 1 HAS COME and gone, and with it, all the corny jokes that people try to play on each other. I used to try and get in on that action, but in my old age have given it up as a lost cause. Mostly because the people I know have given my warped sense of humor up as a lost cause.
    People aren’t the only ones who can play an April Fools’ joke. Mother Nature has long been good at it. Take this year for instance. With 
  • THE SNOW IS still deep. The snow still keeps us from taking familiar and favorite walks through the woods. The snow looks like it may never go away. I’m as ready as anyone for snow and ice to go away, and believe it or not, there are tiny spots where already, there is evidence the sun and calendar will have their way with
  • SOME PEOPLE CALL it shack happy; some might call it stir crazy. I call it marking time. Whatever you call it, this is the time of year in north Wisconsin when people who have been cooped up all winter start thinking of bustin’ out.
    It’s not just people either. I am acquainted with
  • WHEN THE SUN finally sets on this winter and, believe it or not, it will, there will be no way of sugarcoating its severity. When you get dumped on to the tune of more than 70 inches of snow in February alone, not to mention enduring a January ice storm and cold spell of actual 20 to 30 below readings on the thermometer for days on end, you have had
  • IN 1970, A ROCK ‘n’ roll song entered the American charts, climbing all the way to No. 1 on the Cashbox list and to No. 5 on the Hot 100 list.
    The name of the song was “Indiana Wants Me” and the lyrics soon explained that the fellow being sung about was not wanted as a valued contributor to society. Instead, he was wanted for
  • THE 2019 AMERICAN BIRKEBEINER ski race is history. For me, there were three important takeaways from this year’s race: 1. I finished. 2. I finished.3. I finished!
    One down, one to go. This year gave me 19 completed 55K Birkies and next year, will be my
  • I LOVE OLD things. I love old duck decoys, old boats and canoes, old fishing rods, old hunting clothes, old guns and many other things old. Yes, I love old things.
    I have loved one old — nope, not gonna go there — rather, let’s go with a forever young of heart, woman for
  • ANOTHER PLUM LAKE ice fishing tournament has come and gone. Fishermen came, fishermen caught fish, prizes were given away and everyone went home happy.
    But not before they suffered a little first. With temperatures that dipped to the minus 25 neighborhood last Saturday morning, fishermen had to
  • IN ALL OF Wisconsin, I don’t believe there is anywhere in the state boasting more pure beauty than the woods and waters of Vilas County. Call me a homer if you will, but for me, this part of the country has it all.
    We have the
  • SO, HO-HUM, the thermometer reads below zero again today. Same old, same old.
    It definitely doesn’t exactly make me eager to get out and ski 10 or 15 miles today, but with the 34-mile American Birkebeiner awaiting me only three weeks away, ski I
  • LABELS — WE LIVE with them every day. They tell us how many grams of fat, protein and carbs are in the stuff we eat and drink. They tell us how many watts the light bulbs in the package are. They tell us something is U.S. Department of Agriculture approved. They tell us all kinds of things.
    My labels remind me of some of the best days of my life. My labels are
  • SOME PEOPLE MIGHT think it’s crazy early to think about it, but I believe it’s never too early to consider the world of camping.
    Last week, I took the first step toward kick-starting the 2019 camping season for my lovely wife and me. A little time on the computer, a few cuss words for the
  • TIME FLIES WHEN you are having fun. For some people who aren’t all that fond of snow, ice and cold temperatures, winter is not much fun and is a season when time slows to a crawl.
    For others, winter may not be the favorite season, but it is, if you should choose to make it that way, definitely a season for outdoor fun. The fun comes in
  • ONE YEAR ENDS, another begins. Thus, the march into the future begins to tells us the continuing story of life while the pages of history are filled with what we have left behind.
    Beginning at the beginning, where all good and true volumes of history begin, January and
  • AND SO IT begins. With a shade less than two months to go, the countdown to the American Birkebeiner has begun. With that beginning, my four-year retirement from the Birkie has ended.
    Finally surrendering to four years of badgering from my Birkie mates of the past 30 years, I
  • THE STORY YOU are about to read is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me . . . Ooh! Pow! Bam! That was close. Never saw lightning strike like that so near and out of a clear blue sky on a cold December morning. 
    OK, so maybe it’s not the whole truth and
  • NORMALLY, WHEN I set out on an outdoor adventure, it involves fishing rods, shotguns or deer rifles, cross-country skis, snowshoes or hiking boots.
    The adventure may be a simple walk with the dogs or by myself on a dirt road or it could be cross-country over hill and dale. It may be a partridge hunt, summer afternoon of panfish jigging or hours spent with my back against a tree listening for
  • ALL CREATURES, GREAT and small, leave tracks and trails behind as they move from the beginning to end of their life spans. Sometimes, it is tracks along the trail, other times, evidence left behind with only bones and fur to tell the story and still other times, merely by the pattern of their actions. It has been thus since the dawn of
  • I WAS SUCCESSFUL the opening morning of deer season this year. At 7:30, a buck, which carried the funkiest set of antlers of any buck I have ever killed, was hot on the heels of a doe when he crossed my path, not the first of his breed to let lust be his ultimate downfall.
    That opening morning, featuring a temperature reading in the low
  • EVERY DEER SEASON is different. No matter how many years you hunt, anywhere from two to 102, you never see it all. Sure, if you have hunted for decades you will have seen the same weather patterns, same temperatures, the same amount of snow or lack thereof as in other seasons, but there is always something
  • OLDIES SONGS FROM the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are my favorite songs. They are my kind of music, the music I grew up with.
    One of the favorite words to put in a song title back then was “love.” Sure, there are many songs still today that use love in the title, but the music is not the same, nor is the word used in its simplest, purest form. Last weekend, as I began a winter of work I love, I thought of
  • IT’S ALWAYS AMUSING to see the reaction people have to the first significant snowfall of the season. No, not that first skiff or two we get that usually melts within minutes or hours, but that first real snowfall that gets plows out on the road and cars in the ditch.
    We got to experience our first “significant” snowfall of the season Sunday. I got to experience part of it on the road on a drive home from
  • I AM A hunter. I am a meat eater. I hunt for much of the meat I eat during the course of a year, although the older I get, the less I worry about whether my meat comes from a deer feeding on an oak ridge or a cow raised on a farm.
    When I do hunt, I
  • FOR EVERY WINNER, there is a loser. Then again, sometimes the loser winds up being a winner and the winner ends up being a loser. And no, I am not talking about the Milwaukee Brewers being winners even though they lost game seven. The Brewers, even though they did lose that final game, are most definitely winners for their season-long body of work and
  • SOME PEOPLE HUNT partridges, some hunt turkeys and ducks, some hunt bear and deer. Me, come this time of year, I hunt Christmas trees. 
    You might say it’s way too early to be thinking about Christmas tree hunting, but don’t tell the folks at Walmart, Kohl’s, Menards, Ace Hardware and several other places I have been in or seen advertising for. They are all up and running full blast with
  • THOUGH THERE IS no place like a lifelong home, there also are places near and dear to your heart that you get to call home every year, even if for only a short time.
    My home away from home for 27 years has been 
  • SOMETIMES, THE BEST parts of a hunting trip have nothing to do with having a gun in your hands, the sounds of shots in the air, the excited commands to dogs or a full bag of game.
    Sometimes, the best parts of a hunting trip involve
  • IN EVERY PERSON’S life there is a time to say goodbye. For me, that time was last Friday.
    Don’t get your hopes up. You’re not getting rid of me that easy. I have most definitely not said goodbye to this gig, but Friday, I did pull the plug on
  • PARTRIDGES HAVE MY number. If you’d rather be scientifically correct, ruffed grouse have my number; always have. 
    Last weekend was no exception. With the start of another partridge season, I prefer the colloquial name, I was once again left with my mouth agape and no partridges with which to
  • THE OLD GUY walked slowly along an even older logging grade, remembering the days when the trace served as an entry point for some of the best partridge, duck and
  • “FOR EVERYTHING THERE is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
    You may associate this line with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds back in the ’60s or you might know it as Ecclesiastes 3:1 from the Bible, although there are slight differences in the words depending on whether you are listening to
  • TED AND BILL had their excellent adventure. I have had mine.
    Last week, my lovely wife and I, along with eight other former “inmates” of Third East Bridgeman Hall at what in the 1960s was still known as Wisconsin State University-Eau Claire, along with their wives, celebrated
  • IN CASE YOU haven’t noticed, the days are shortening and the first little signs of the best season of the year are starting to show up. That would be autumn, fall, if you will, and in case you haven’t noticed, fall is far and away my favorite season.
    I know some people will say
  • I HAVE LONG been of the opinion that California is home to 95% of the crazy people in this country, but Sunday, after driving Interstate 39/94 from Portage to Madison and later in the day back again, I am convinced that
  • FIFTY-TWO DAYS and counting. Down to less than two months and I will be in my happy place. Less than two months until the little white house on the prairie welcomes me once again.
    Though I could not imagine a better place than the woods of north Wisconsin to have lived in for my entire life, for nine days each year, my favorite place in the world is the prairie country of far northern North Dakota, where the sky is filled with the sounds and sights of hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese and other birds.
    I could not imagine a better place than the many square miles I