Nov 10, 2014

Me And Rog

By: Jim Pat Patterson

Rog has been my neighbor, friend, pal and hunting pard for some fifty odd years now. His full name is Roger Gasser.  He was born and raised in Blue River, Wisconsin, the Kickapoo River Valley country of southwest Wisconsin.

Some of you may remember a comic strip that appeared in the newspapers of the day called “Li’l Abner” with Daisy Mae, by Al Capp. The theme and story line of the strip was about a family and their friends who were a bunch of “hillbillies.” Rog has always said that Al Capp was from his Kickapoo Country and his “characters” were taken from real life.  Rog has never said which character he was though.

If you have never been to this part of Wisconsin, you are missing out on some beautiful country; especially in spring and fall. You can take in the little town of LaFarge, where Rog’s wife Sylvia is from, then take in Ontario and the Rockton Bar then move on to Boscobel or Muscada, Mount Zion or Gays Mills, Gotham (home of Batman) or DeSoto, Ferryville or Lone Rock, Richland Center where Frank Lloyd Wright was born and then on to Spring Green, home of his mother and eventually his part time residence and full time architectural studio named Taliesin East.  Then, if you are so inclined, you can rent, or bring your own, canoe and paddle down the Blue River, the Kickapoo River, or the Wisconsin River.

Rog and I both worked in hardware stores while growing up.  Rog always says his folks’ hardware store should have been called the “hardway store” because if there was ever a hard way to repair or deal with a problem, they seemed to find it.  I think Rog is being too hard on his folks.  You have to remember though that back in our day, the 1930s, 40s and 50s, these stores dealt with plumbing, heating, farm implement repair etcetera, etcetera and you had to be pretty handy to fix all these things—as well as sell the dog food, paint, nails, bolts, pots, pans and baling twine.

As a boy, Rog could and did just walk out his back door with his BB gun, 22, shotgun, bow and arrow, maybe his homemade sling shot, or his fishing gear and got about the business of being a hunter and/or fisherman.  He caught snakes and fish, trapped muskrats, shot ducks and other critters—and he and his family ate most of them.  As for me, I was born and raised in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, Sand Country U.S.A.  Lots of clear water lakes and sand burrs.  I, too, walked out my backdoor with my weapon of choice or fishing gear and headed for the Pine River, the Wild Rose mill pond or the nearby woods to pursue the “game” of the day, that being mostly suckers in the river and squirrels in the woods.  My family, too, ate most of what I brought home.   

As a decent shot myself, I would like you folks to know that Rog is one of the best shots I have ever known or seen, whether it is a shotgun, a rifle or a bow and arrow.

I don’t think he ever shot a feral cat in our neighborhood though, because, if that cat was within, say thirty yards, and it saw him come out his side door with his bow and arrow, it would head for and be under the nearest porch in about four or five good “cat” strides.  I always figured the cats had told the rabbits about Rog because they acted the same way when he came out his side door with his bow.

One early winter back in the late 60s or early 70s neither Rog nor I had killed a deer for our freezers.  I had a nice little spot in Waupaca County that down over the years had been very productive in the late deer-hunting season.  So, one day I said to Rog, “Are you interested in going over and seeing if we might connect on a nice doe?” and he said, “Let’s go.”

It was a little farm and the old fellow and his crippled wife had a tough time making a go of it, but he managed to put in a few crops and one was corn.  He planted the corn between pine tree windrows and most years he never got the corn harvested.  It was an ideal set-up for late season deer hunting.  There were times down through the years that my hunting friends and I would “help these folks” with some venison and also chop some wood for the wood stove that heated their home—the kitchen, living room and bedroom being a single space.

There had been practically no snow this particular winter, but the ground was frozen very hard, making for easy scouting.  After driving over from our homes in Oshkosh in the afternoon, we headed out to the cornfield to check things out.  As we were walking down a tractor path next to the corn, a nice doe stepped out from a windrow on our left and onto the path in front of us.  She was up wind from us, exhaling frosty breath, and she just stood there, about thirty to thirty-five yards out, broad side, just looking us over.  Rog whispered, “I’m going to take her.”

          “Go ahead,” I whispered back.

Now remember Rog is a super shot with anything and at any time and in any place—his backyard, a tree stand, a field.  Rog brings his bow up, takes aim, and “lets ‘er fly.”  Keep in mind we are both shooting Fred Bear Kodiak recurve bows instinctively, no sights, wood arrows, standard equipment for the time.  Not that that should be an excuse, but that arrow landed about ten feet short of that doe, skittered under her belly, and all she did was turn and watch that arrow keep on skittering past her into the wind row.  She turned back to us with a look something like, “Are you kidding me, is that the best you can do?” and serenely walked into the cornfield completely ignoring the two of us.  Rog and I looked at each other with disbelief. Rog exclaimed, “What the heck!” or some such thing, and then we both broke out laughing, there on the edge of a winter cornfield in the quiet afternoon.  Rog the sharpshooter couldn’t believe his eyes.

Later that evening we each killed a doe.  We didn’t “harvest” deer in our day.  The next day, we skinned the deer in our garages, butchered them in our basements, loaded the freezers, and took some of the venison to the sausage makers.

Me, I’ll never see 79 years old again and Rog is in his eighties.  We both have a reasonable amount of hair; most of our own teeth, and most of the time have most of our mental faculties.  However, Rog’s hearing is mostly, “What did you say?”  Rog and me are still huntin’ and fishin’ in our favorite spots though.