3/17/2017 7:26:00 AM traveling trails less traveled Angler's all, part two
"Buckshot" Anderson Columnist
To recap the introduction I used in last week's column, when I began this nine-part series, I'd like to remind my readers I plan on honoring not only the anglers I'll write about, but also give credit to all fishing guides, past and present that were/are responsible for helping promote fishing as a major part of the north's economy - tourism!
Last week I honored former Indiana Congressman Charlie Halleck, who vacationed in Vilas County for over 45 years! And this week, angler number two.
I first met Wesley D. Pavalon in June, 1960. He and a friend, both Chicago natives, were staying at Ed Gabe's Lost Lake Resort in St, Germain, up north for their first ever guided fishing trip. The resort manager, Robert "Snuffy" Smith, a former "Flying Tiger" pilot in World War II, called me and asked if I had June 27 through 30 available. I did, and I accepted the job. Thus began a close relationship with a very unique individual, that lasted 50 years!
I doubt if anyone could pick a more unlikely pair of young men, from such diverse environments and backgrounds, that would bond together into such a solid friendship. Wes, of Russian Jewish descent, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, as he put it, was a street-wise Chicago guy at six-foot-four. His guide, a Scandinavian Northwoods country bumpkin, was water and woods wise, at five-foot-six. If ever there was a Mutt and Jeff pair, we were it!
Despite our obvious differences, our strong friendship developed very rapidly and remained solid for five decades!
When we first met, Wes had just retired from a public teaching career in Chicago that spanned less than a year! What quickly cooled his interest in public education was due to the fact one of his high school male students has thrown a knife at him while in the classroom.
So, Wes decided to try adult education. He rented a small office in Chicago and advertised for students wishing to learn how to repair radios and TV sets. Wes bought a book, "how to repair radios and TVs" and admitted he kept one page ahead of his students.
Within five years Wes' one room business in Chicago had rapidly grown into 16 schools across the USA and Canada, called Career Academy. Stock in the company opened at $1.81 per share in 1963, and by 1967 the stock had split three times and was selling for $55 per share. What more unbelievable rags to riches story could ever be told?
During that time frame, Wes moved his corporate headquarters from Chicago to Milwaukee, due to a better business climate.
In 1967 Wes put together a small group of investors and lobbied the National Basketball Association to grant Milwaukee a franchise. The deal was completed for a mere $90,000! The team took the floor in 1968 as the Milwaukee Bucks, with Wes Pavalon as the CEO and principal owner. Wes personally signed Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) to the team and the Bucks won the World's Championship in 1971.
One of my entire family's annual perks was going to a Bucks game with free tickets and sitting just behind the Bucks bench.
1967 was also the date Wes and his wife, Patricia, purchased a secluded year-around vacation cottage adjacent to the resort my wife and I owned. Naturally, I became the caretaker of the cottage and the 80 lakeside acres on which it was located.
Wes continued to own the Bucks for eight seasons, prior to selling the team for many millions of dollars. During that era, rather than driving north to fish with his guide, Wes arrived at the Rhinelander airport in his corporate Lear Jet.
Wes quickly fell in love fishing bass on small, remote, pristine lakes, which was quite different from his normal life in the fast lane. He accepted the challenge of learning how to fish and catch all species, but eventually became totally infected with fishing native brook trout from a canoe on peaceful and quiet streams all across Northern Wisconsin and Michigan's U.P.
After Wes sold the Bucks, he began taking lessons on how to fly a helicopter. This he mastered in a short period of time and purchased his own Bell Jet Ranger, which he used to fly from his home in Milwaukee to a landing pad I constructed right next to his vacation cottage! There were many days when I was scheduled to guide Wes, that were spent flying around the Northwoods looking for access to small lakes and two-rut roads leading to trout streams and spring ponds. I almost felt guilty accepting my daily wage, plus a generous tip for spending a day in a whirly-bird, rather than rowing a boat or paddling a canoe!
Always seeking solitude to do his fishing, Wes decided to locate and purchase a private lake. Sell Reality in Winchester located such a parcel, which Wes purchased. The parcel included a square mile of wilderness a few miles north of Ironwood, Mich., that contained a natural spring system that fed a small, 20-acre lake. The rustic access road to the lake was widened and improved, and a 50-foot house trailer was brought in along with electric and phone lines. A landing pad was constructed next to the lake shore, and "Lost Lake" became Wes' destination for a few relaxing hours catching bass, trout and crappie with his short guide.
The trip to Lost Lake by vehicle took an hour and a half. The trip via Bell Jet Ranger, took 28 minutes!
I also introduced my friend to the fall sports of hunting grouse and ducks, which he also enjoyed, but trout fishing was his passion.
Wes was a very generous person. Most of the fish, other than trout, that we kept, were donated to needy families in the Milwaukee area. Wes presented a personal check to a Vilas County community for $60,000 so their fire department could purchase a new fire truck! There are many other examples I could cite concerning Wes' generosity, but I think I've made my point.
He also hired many local folks to work for him at his numerous businesses and developments in the Milwaukee area, citing the reason as being: "Those country folks know how to work!"
Sometimes Wes' busy work schedule caused him to call me a day or two prior to his scheduled fishing days and cancel the trip. Despite my protests, he always included those non-fishing days in the checks or cash when he paid me.
By the time the mid-1980s arrived, Wes was spending less and less time attending to business and more and more time living up-north with his wife. Naturally, that meant more and more days when the two of us fished together.
But, an ugly disease called cancer cut short our time together. Our last outing together took place Sept. 30, 1991.
We fished one of Wes' favorite trout streams, the South Branch of the Paint River. The stream was devoid of anglers and a leisurely four hours fishing from a canoe Wes landed three brook trout and three browns. Three were released.
Besides Wes' medical problems his wife had been battling MS since the late 1970s, and traveling long distances was not easy for either person. Wes and Patti made their last trip up north during the summer of 1993, and Peggy and I had lunch with our friends.
There was one additional get-together in 1999 at Wes' gated community complex he designed in southeastern Wisconsin, which was our final face-to-face experience. From then until his passing in December 2009, we chatted occasionally via phone.
Wes' family, Patti and his three daughters, Marcie, Lyndi, and Susan, held a memorial service at the Milwaukee Athletic Club in January 2011, where I was honored to be the first of many speakers to honor the life of Wesley D. Pavalon.
I entertained the assembled crowd with light hearted "fish tales," which livened up the atmosphere. I also mentioned the number of legal sized game fish the two of us caught during our 159 days on the water spanning 1960-91: 469 brook trout, 396 largemouth bass, 305 northern pike, 145 smallmouth bass, 92 brown trout, 38 rainbow trout, 21 walleye, four musky, one whitefish and 173 slab crappie.
In 2016 I published an entire book containing the complete story of our relationship. "Wesley and Me" can be found locally in area book stores and various retail outlets.
Buckshot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.