Life on Little Arbor Vitae Lake in the 1940's
Our Arrival By Bud Roberts
June of 1944 is significant for me because it was the time my parents, Glyn and Marie Roberts and I first arrived to purchase Blue Island Resort from its owner, Mrs. Elizabeth Dertz of Blue Island, Illinois. I was 16 years old.
In 1944 our country was deeply involved in World War II accompanied by material shortages and rationing. The word ‘primitive’ comes to mind when describing the condition and operation of the resort, its cottages and boats. This was not unique to this resort, alone, because many other resorts and related businesses were subject to the effects of gasoline and tire rationing, as well.
There were numerous signs of how World War II delayed the modernization of the rural North. As an example, Oneida County Trunk Highway “J” was extremely crooked and unpaved. Blue Island road’s surface remained unpaved, sand and gravel until 1958.
Telephone service arrived in 1954 just four years after the installation of electric lines installed by Wisconsin Public Service. It was all due to the lack of steel and copper that was consumed by wartime needs. Electric current, prior to 1950, was supplied to the resort nightly between 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM by a four-cylinder gasoline powered 1500 watt Kohler direct current light plant. Eight cottages and the main lodge depended upon kerosene lamps for light during the time that the light plant was dormant.
Rationed gasoline for the light plant limited its operation to four hours daily. Cooking in the lodge and eight cottages was done on three burner propane gas plates.
Each cottage and the lodge had an icebox to keep food cold. The ice source was the log ice and boathouse structure. The previous year, three hundred blocks of ice had been harvested on the frozen surface of Big Arbor Vitae Lake and stacked in the icehouse.
A two-foot-wide space surrounded the huge ice mass and was filled with sawdust to insulate the area between the ice and the outer wall.
Powdery snow was swept into any crevices remaining between the blocks. Additional sawdust from a back storage area was shoveled on to the top tier of ice for added insulation. The individual ice blocks made up a full icehouse that was intended to last from the opening day of fishing season until late October. In the late fall any remaining ice had to be removed and the dirt floor raked level in preparation for refilling in January.
My mother and I managed the resort the first summer. My dad, as a machinist doing critical naval contract work, returned to Kenosha and was only able to return to the resort a few times and again in the fall to close. In April of 1947 our family of three moved permanently to the resort. It would be three more years until highline electricity would reach us and seven more years before our party line telephone would be installed.
Adjusting to life in the Northwoods was not difficult for our family because we had done a lot of tent camping. As former city folks having all of the amenities of urban living, we adapted readily to the rustic lifestyle. The beauty and wonders of nature soon helped to overcome the loss of the conveniences and comforts of city life.
Becoming business owners of a resort held a variety of surprises and challenges including some that required learning how to do new tasks.
The guests were already occupying every cottage and most had been reserved as much as a year previously. The guests were an interesting lot. The guest registration book included small business owners, farmers, brewery workers, milk delivery drivers, pastors, and the list goes on.
Blue Island Resort had limited seasonal electricity supplied by the Kohler electric generating plant. Its total 1500 watt output was overtaxed supplying lights to the resort and powering one water pump.
From 1944 through 1947 our family relied upon Mr. Dewey Trapp to put 300 cakes of ice into the resort icehouse each January. He had been the previous resort owner’s supplier of ice. Our icehouse was extremely well built with a full roof, three foot high concrete lower wall with machine half logs forming the upper walls.
At the first sign of clearing snow from the surface of Big Arbor Vitae Lake, we inquired as to the time cutting would begin. The next day the cleared field area was scored with a circular blade power saw equipped with runners spaced to guide parallel cuts in the ice.
When first cleared and cut, the ice thickness was at sixteen inches. This was ideal because when “scored” or partially sawed through the standard size block was 16 inches wide, 32 inches long and 16 inches thick. With January night temperatures dipping into the minus 20’s and 30’s any uncovered surfaces quickly added thickness.
Once the field was scored, a channel of open water was formed by hand sawing through scored lines and pushing the floating row of blocks under the adjoining ice shelf. With an open channel of water, the next row of blocks was easily separated with a wedge shaped splitting bar. The freed floating blocks were directed by using pike poles toward the chain conveyor. The conveyor was a ruggedly constructed device of planks and a moving endless chain. The chain had short fingerlike bars welded in place with interval spaces to accommodate a 32 inch long block of ice. The lower submerged end of the endless chain lifted the floating blocks as they came into position. The slow moving blocks continued upward to the platform end of a waiting truck.
My first experience went well as I locked my ice tongs into the sides of each elevated cake. I had to quickly slide the blocks to the front of the truck platform and form rows. The chain conveyor was powered by a Ford Model “A” car which idled along turning a drive shaft attached to one rear wheel. A jack was employed to raise the rotating wheel from the ice. When the last block of the load came on to the truck I quickly hooked an end chain across the back row to secure the load. It was necessary to put tire chains on the rear duals because travel was on snow and ice. Upon reaching the resort ice house I backed up to the entry door and with my Dad’s help set the new chute in place by hooking it into the rear stake pockets.
Sliding off the first row of blocks went well down hill. However, the entire first layer needed to be carefully set in place. The two of us using tongs placed each block level. The sugary snow of winter was carefully shoveled and swept into any cracks and spaces between the blocks to exclude air.
Around the outside of layer one, we shoveled in dry sawdust from the rear bin and packed it down to hold the blocks form moving. The second through the fifth layers were easily slid into place with the help of gravity. Once the higher levels were reached it took a length of rope and some pushing to slide the heavy blocks uphill. After several days the remaining sawdust was filled around the entire column of ice and over the top, as well. Ice was ready for the spring and early fishermen guests!
Once ours was completed we hauled ice to fill Lloyd Stevenow’s Grandview Resort icehouse on Big Arbor Vitae Lake.
Peter Haslacher, who cut the lake ice, charged ten cents per block or cake loaded on our truck. He asked me to haul ice for him as he had a contract with Red Crown Lodge, Coon’s Franklin Lodge and McAllister’s Resort all on Trout Lake. Those were large ice houses and the ice was cut across Highway 51 on Sparkling Lake which had crystal clear ice. There were two other trucks hauling ice besides mine.
When I took the first load to McAllister’s resort, now named Marywood, I had been told to back in off of Highway 51. I did not realize that there was a driveway and road parallel to the highway. I put the rear tire chains on and slowly backed down the steep slope from Highway 51. Because of the sharp angle my load of blocks shifted rearward and was only kept in place by the tightly strung chain. There was no way I could pull back up the hill with or without tire chains. I pondered possible solutions to my serious situation that I had placed my new truck in for several minutes.
All of a sudden I heard a semi braking and as I looked up, there was the huge red Moland Truck Lines rig belching black diesel smoke rolling to a stop. The driver rolled his cab window down and leaned out. His first words were “Hey buddy, you gonna get out a there by yourself?” I replied, “I don’t think so.” He then said, “Hang on, I’ll be back.” He shifted gears and more puffs of black smoke rose out of the twin stacks. At the next crossroad to the south he turned the long trailer around. In those days there was little winter traffic on “51”. Shortly, he eased his rig past me and angled the trailer slowly backward well into the snow covered shoulder. He dropped out of the cab and proceeded to drag heavy tow chains from his under-bed storage compartment. It took two fourteen foot chains to reach my truck’s front end.
He climbed back up into his cab and revved the engine only slightly while slowly taking the slack out of the chains. I could feel the steady forward thrust as I steered my truck gradually to the right and level highway surface. We unhooked the tow chains, shook them free of snow before stowing them in their storage compartment.
Going through my mind was the question – “How can I pay this driver for his great help?” I had a single five dollar bill in my wallet to buy truck gasoline and that amount didn’t seem adequate, anyway. The time had come that I had to ask, “What do I owe you?” He smiled and replied, “Hey, next time you find someone in a fix like this, give ‘em a hand.” I thanked him and he climbed back into his cab and turned around again to travel southward. He waved and I waved back.
As his rig became fainter in the distance I vowed that I would never forget that driver and his kindness. It’s been 58 years now and I still remember. I hope that I have payed at least part of that debt.
In the spring of 1951 Len Shucha, Vilas County Highway Department Superintendent, brought Glyn and Marie Roberts an infant porcupine that he had found ambling along a road. The little creature was promptly named Porky and was caged in a large screened live box. It soon because evident to the Roberts’ couple that they had an unhappy wild creature that missed its freedom. By late afternoon, with many Blue Island Resort guests present, the live box was opened and Porky quickly emerged and climbed the nearest tree behind the lodge.
Assuming this was farewell and an appropriate send off for the lonesome little character, no one expected it to return. However, the next afternoon Porky appeared at the kitchen door of the lodge. As a welcome back reward Marie gave it several slices of bread.
The following day Porky returned in the evening to find the kitchen door closed. Glyn and Marie were busy with guests in the lodge store and barroom when Porky arrived at that entrance. After a series of grunts and scratching sounds Glyn opened the screen door allowing Porky to amble in brushing the tile floor with its quills. Standing upright and sniffing its surroundings signaled its strong interest in having more bread.
A Bunny brand bread rack held a variety of baked goods and held great attraction. Soon a whole loaf of white bread was opened and placed on the floor. Porky ate the entire loaf by holding each slice in its front paws. Flashing camera lights did not distract Porky from its nightly meal that occurred usually between nine and eleven each evening.
As the summer progressed it learned to open the screen door.
Porky had a strong preference for white bread over any other kind. At the close of the summer screen Porky quit coming out of the woods in October. Deer season arrived and Glyn advised the hunters about Porky and told them not to shoot any porcupines on resort lands. He was told by a state game manager that seven years was about maximum for a porcupine’s life span in the wild.
As the years went by Porky continued to return each spring and make the evening visit regularly. No one knew if Porky was a male or female until about the tenth year. One summer day in 1961 Marie found a baby porcupine resting under a balsam tree in front of the lodge. She assumed that it was Porky’s youngster but could not be sure until it arrived that night with Porky for a handout. The new visitor became known as Needles and quickly adapted to its mother’s routine in the presence of numerous resort guests and flash bulbs. Both mother and infant remained at ease in the store as Porky took time out to nurse her infant.
Marie was able to coax Needles on to a kitchen broom and tow it about the room for nightly rides. After that one summer together Needles did not return with Porky, although her mother completed thirteen years.
In 1954 the Roberts couple purchased a winter home north of the resort known as Knob O’ Pines. Porky arrived early each spring, thereafter, on the porch railing of that house nightly until they moved back to the resort lodge for the summer.
In 1964 Glyn and Marie sold the resort and retired. That same fall they discovered Porky had passed on when they found her under a cottage.
It was one of those rare privileges that some people get to experience the life of a wild creature, up close. Being able to interact with them in a manner similar to that of a household pet was a bit unusual. Porky was able to enjoy her freedom as a wild animal and yet maintained a non-hostile relationship with humans.
There was much to be learned in a short time as to what running a summer resort entailed for novice owners with all of the eight cottages fully occupied.
Getting the ice out for ten ice boxes every other day required climbing a ladder to enter the upper level of the icehouse to uncover the sawdust and loosen the large blocks of ice with a pry bar. Scoring suitable size cakes was done with multiple straight line jabs with an ice pick. Once separated, the cakes were moved with ice tongs to the door opening and dropped to the ground outside. When placed upon a wood rack each cake was rinsed with pails of lake water to remove the sawdust.
After a few times of delivering ice to the scattered cottages sites with a steel-wheeled wheelbarrow over sandy pathways, we brought the 1930 Model “A” Ford station wagon out of storage from a barn across the lake. The trusty old vehicle proved invaluable for not only ice delivery but for garbage can pick up and for hauling firewood for each cottage wood stove.
The resort’s fleet of a dozen boats had been sadly neglected and in need of paint removal, recaulking and other repairs. The several layers of paint that had been applied over the years had cracked or alligatored revealing several colors below. Two were flat bottom types, one was of smooth cedar strip planking and the remainder were the clinker-built or lap-strake construction over bent oak ribs. Two of the clinker-built boats had two pointed ends making them only suited for rowing. Two others had a wine glass shaped transom. They were not well suited for outboard motor use, but did work. That design reduced the forward thrust of a motor due to excessive bubbling or cavitation.
Few outboard motors were brought to the resort and they ranged in horsepower from 1 ½ hp Evinrudes to 6hp Mercurys. During the next few seasons much time was spent removing old paint with a blowtorch followed by sanding, applying cotton wicking, caulking compound and repainting. Before the fishermen arrived all boats were anchored out in the bay filled with water to swell the planking joints and ensure leak-free boats would be ready.
Each spring small groups of men would arrive without their families to fish for walleyes and musky. Their efforts were usually well rewarded with good catches to both eat and take home. Many of these same men would return for a week or two in summer after school was out. Again, in the fall many returned for more fishing.
One couple from Milwaukee rented the home cottage for the entire summer in 1944. Mr. Klug, the husband, fished for walleyes twice daily. Each morning and late afternoon he would row out to the prominent log in the middle of the bay. He had retired from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Pullman Railroad Shop. His fellow employees enhanced his fishing vacation with a new tackle box, fishing lures, a landing net and a new casting rod and reel. In addition, they made him a pair of shop-built boat cushions.
Mr. Klug used two bamboo cane poles and Junebug spinners trailing night crawlers or worms. When I was privileged to fish with him he stressed the importance of rowing slowly allowing the bobbers to lean slightly as we made circles around the old log. At the close of his vacation stay, Mr. Klug had caught 115 walleyes and one musky.
Rental rates for cottages and boats were reasonable if not a bit low for even then. At the south end of Blue Island Road where it merged with CTH-“J” a resort sign pointed northward with wording indicating house-keeping cottages and boats. The price was $15 and up.
A two bedroom cottage rented for twenty dollars and a three bedroom went for twenty five dollars. A boat was included with each cottage. An extra boat was priced at five dollars per week. By the second season my parents reluctantly raised the cottage rents by five dollars per week.
Blue Island Bay as it appears even today, has had an abundance of aquatic growth including a variety of weeds. That condition has varied yearly partially, at least, by the density of the lake ice and snow shielding the sunlight penetration which promotes and sustains early plant growth.
At one time in the past, according to the previous resort owner, an attempt was made to create a beach at the lakefront. One winter with a horse drawn slusher, a two handled scoop bucket was employed to scrape and deposit a large quantity of sand upon the frozen surface. The source of the sand was a hillside next to the boathouse. When the ice melted the following spring, the sand provided little change as it settled to the bottom and the lighter mud like material rose. The same slusher remained as evidence of the abandoned project as it leaned against the rear wall of the boathouse when my parents acquired the resort. Unfortunately, it disappeared the first winter when we returned to Kenosha.
Out in Blue Island Bay there were numerous partially submerged pine saw logs projecting from the lake bottom. Although, waterlogged from years of being submerged they would work free and with the aid of an ice tongs and rope they could be towed behind a boat and piled at the shore. The Model “A” Ford station wagon became very useful in towing the logs on to a pile. Some of the log ends still carried the markings identifying the lumber company ownership. The logs from the bay were imprinted with a series of C’s and O’s made with a stamping hammer and were still visible.
After we had gathered a truckload, we hauled them to a saw mill where they became dimensional lumber that was used about the resort. They had been originally cut from trees around 1900. A large old saw log protruded from the surface in Blue Island Bay for many years and posed a serious hazard to night time boaters. It was almost in line with the resort pier and the narrows and was rigidly anchored to the bottom. It needed some form of marker so I painted a two sided white signboard and lettered “Musky Crossing” on it in bold letters. After adding reflectors to each side I drove its steel support rod into the large log.
Some years later a picture of that sign appeared in a Sunday sports page column of the Milwaukee Journal.
Mrs. Dertz left us with an early photo of the bay looking westward toward the narrows and taken from the lakefront. It showed the bay to be totally covered with dense wild rice growth. The one exception was the narrow swath of open water extending from the pier to the main lake. She explained that she and her husband hired local young people each spring to pull enough rice plants to provide boat access to the lake.
That photo remained on the lodge wall at the time my parents sold the resort in 1964. Changing water levels may have contributed to the demise of wild rice in the bay.
In the 1950s an elderly lady drove in to our driveway and asked if she may walk around our property. She said her father had owned the property in the past and she remembered as a little girl how a group of Indians would camp where our home stands, each fall to harvest wild rice from the bay. Her story seemed to add credibility to the presence of wild rice in Blue Island Bay at one time.
There is not much history known about the land on which Blue Island Resort was developed. By way of letters exchanged and conversations between my parents and Mrs. Dertz we did learn that it was purchased from the estate settlement in 1924. Two veterans of WWI acquired the property which included several other descriptions with the intention of starting a sheep farm.
Area lands at that time were recovering from the logging industry that had ceased operations about twenty years earlier. The regrowth of brush and saplings may have been an attraction for someone considering sheep farming. That venture did not materialize. No evidence of fencing posts or wire were ever found.
Upon arriving to take ownership, Mr. and Mrs. Dertz found that all of the wood siding had been removed from the lone two story frame house on the property. The previous owners had used it for crating when moving on. It became known as the Lake View and was rented as cottage. It was razed by Mr. Leon Butler, a later owner.
The development of the resort by the Dertzs could be recognized quite easily by noticing the changes in the building materials and techniques used over the years. For an example, the availability of large diameter pine logs close to the building site made it feasible to construct the Home cottage first. Those large logs both in diameter and length could be used horizontally and were probably skidded and positioned in place with the aid of horses.
Only one other resort cottage was built of horizontally placed logs. It was the Hilltop. As the availability of large diameter logs diminished, shorter length logs were placed vertically to form walls of the original lodge which occupied the location of the current lodge.
As the supply of large diameter logs faded the construction techniques changed to using much smaller diameter pine trees vertically. Examples of that technique could be seen in the Honeymoon, View Point, Sunset and Roadside cottages. It was also used in the dining room attached to the original lodge.
The same construction employing small diameter posts placed vertically was used in the cabin located at the corner of Blue Island Road and the Winat Road. In an early postcard photo it was identified as a number six cabin. Long time resort guests remembered that it was built by a carpenter who had built cottages at the resort. The carpenter was provided the materials to build number six and given the use of it for a time in lieu of wages. In later years it was sold to the Semsh family of Bensenville, Illinois who spent summers there for many summers.
With the availability of machined dimensional lumber at area lumber yards the construction materials changed to frame construction. The Sunrise cottage was probably the first one to be built entirely of milled lumber although additions to the Roadside and Hilltop cottages were also of that type.
Another variation of earlier construction types was the tongue and groove half logs that were used to add two bedrooms to the north side of the original lodge.
Mr. Al Dertz was known to be a skilled cook and he provided noteworthy meals to his guests. From the lodge kitchen the food he prepared was passed through a sliding door in the wall. All meals were cooked on a wood range in the lodge kitchen and a hand pump at the sink supplied the water used in cooking. The icebox kept those foods requiring cool temperatures cold. Local girls were hired as waitresses to serve guests in a neatly furnished dining hall pictured on early postcard photos. Seating was provided on bentwood padded chairs.
Sometime after the passing of Mr. Dertz the dining hall was discontinued and was converted to a two bedroom apartment with cooking facilities.
The passenger trains that brought tourists to and from this area as well as the freight trains that brought goods and supplies northward and timber products southward have pretty much ceased to operate. Today, only memories are left of the network of tracks that extended throughout the region like some giant spider web and contributed greatly to the development of the north country as we know it today.
We can only imagine that the wilderness lands and waters of the north were viewed by lumber company and railroad executives who traveled the various routes. They were probably among the early few to experience the joys of camping, hiking, hunting and fishing activities.
The mainline railroads extended only to points central to the major saw mills with wide gauge track spacing of four feet eight and one half inches. That was to accommodate larger railroad cars. Narrow gauge lines radiated from the sawmills or central points to the locations where trees were harvested and stockpiled in the wooded sidings. Those rails were spaced as narrow as three feet apart.
After major logging operations diminished in the Northwoods, the narrow gauge lines were gradually removed. Heavy loads of logs previously conveyed by rail were moved from the woods landings to the mills by truck. This was possible because of the emphasis on new and improved county, state and federal roads that took place in the 1920’s and beyond.
Today, many of the former mainlines have been discontinued throughout the state and have been converted to recreational trails for hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding and more after rails and ties were removed.
There is existing evidence especially on state and county lands of narrow gauge rail routes threading through hills and across low lands that still remain. Those routes through the woods usually followed paths of least resistance due to the difficulty the terrain presented. They were cut and filled with horse or oxen tow slushers, a steel scoop bucket device guided by two handles. Moving earth and rock was slow and at times required blasting as well. Low and wet areas often were spanned with logs laid crossways in the roadbed. Tamarack logs were often chosen because of their tannin content that resisted rot and failure.
Visible examples of former narrow gauge rail lines can be seen along portions of the Winter Branch line that is located east of Blue Island Road where it kind of parallels it. It has been developed into a snowmobile trail on the state lands.
Before it was upgraded for current use I hiked it in 1945. I picked my way through the brush and tree growth and could quite easily follow the old right of way. The cuts through the high ground stood out with vertical banks and built up low areas beyond, all in a line. During one hike while exploring the Winter Branch further, I came to a drop off point where it was necessary for me to climb down a bank. At the bottom and for about fifty feet ahead I walked across moss covered rotting ties partially hidden by dense fern growth. The steep slope at the end was aligned with the trail ahead. I soon realized that a wooden trestle had spanned the space because it would have been too much to fill with slushers.
The following day while collecting our mail at the Arbor Vitae Post Office I asked Mr. Al Myklbey our postmaster about my discovery. He, being a long time resident, was able to tell me about the Winter Branch narrow gauge line that extended north from Sweeny Lake to well beyond Wis. Hwy 70 East.
Many years later our sons Garyn and Tom together with our grandson David drove the truck to the location of the trestle. When the Dept. of Natural Resources adapted the rail route to a snowmobile trail they bypassed the former trestle site. Our mission was to test a new metal detector that David had received as a gift. Our hope was to recover small size railroad spikes used to secure rails to wooden ties. After switching the device on, we made several passes until the tone changed radically indicating the presence of metal. I set the shovel’s blade at a point where the sound had changed and pressed downward while tipping the handle back. The prying action lifted a length of angle iron with a rolled edge and bolt holes spaced evenly. It was not a rail spike but a connecting member used to join two rails.
At other places I have found narrow gauge rail spikes since that event.
With improved highway systems and more reliable automobiles transportation tourism businesses began to develop and flourish. An often overlooked factor that promoted the tourism business was the paid vacation available to more of the working class. In 1943 the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, commonly called the Milwaukee Road abandoned its line that ran from Woodruff northward to Star Lake, Wisconsin. It had been built in 1895. That very line crossed the Chicago-Northwestern line that entered Woodruff from the southeast as well as Wis. Hwy 47. The snowmobile trail follows that abandoned line past Anthony’s Italian Restaurant which was the Milwaukee Road depot that included a waiting room, office and baggage room. Early maps indicate a railroad stop or siding called Velasco Junction between Woodruff and Arbor Vitae.
A local auto mechanic, Clarence Jorden, received the contract to cut loose the rails from the railroad bed between Woodruff and Star Lake. He mounted his cutting torch and tanks on a rail repair car and worked his way from Star Lake southward. Being wartime, the rails were melted elsewhere and remanufactured into military needs. After that, the Milwaukee Road trains came to the Woodruff station and followed a rail loop extending eastward through the Huber Estate area and returned to Minocqua.
Some years later, in 1973, the entire line closed and became the Bearskin State Trail into Minocqua.
It would have been back in the late 1950s that the creek emptying Little Arbor Vitae Lake became the site of a movie set.
One summer day a large panel truck equipped with ladder racks and ladders drove in to the Blue Island Resort grounds. Several young people entered the resort store for refreshments. Glyn Roberts, Sr., the resort proprietor, learned from the group that it was a filming crew assigned by a sub-contractor to Disney Films to work down at the creek.
In the weeks following their arrival, crew members would return to share their daily filming experiences over a cold drink and chips. The theme or storyline was centered around an otter who left the creek site for adventures elsewhere but eventually returned.
Considerable effort was devoted to developing the filming site. Mr. Long from the Sayner area was hired to dismantle a small log building, number its parts and reassemble it adjacent to the creek. A wooden waterwheel of weathered wood was added within the creek bed.
The crew worked alternatively between the creek mill site and Wiltsies’ Aqualand Wildlife place near Boulder Junction, WI.
The creek was an ideal location for photographing the various fish and animals featured in the story.
One of the crew’s unique filming strategies was an arrangement in which a water proofed camera placed in the creek would capture a blue heron spearing a yellow perch. The perch was held in a clear plastic box and the heron was secured in place until the filming had been completed. The contractor assigned to the project had rented various animals to be incorporated into the story. One rented animal was a red fox. A few years ago I wrote a story entitled “The Fox That Got Away” which is directly related.
The otter in the story begins its journey from the mill where the water wheel remains still, and the film follows the animals’ adventures forward until it returns. At that point the waterwheel once again begins to turn. During the filming process, the fox under a rental contract from a firm that supplied trained animals for special effects, had escaped. Meanwhile, over at the Semsch family cabin located less than a quarter mile from the mill site, Grandpa Semsch saw a fox in his garden. With advancing age and diminishing eyesight, Mr. Semsch felt the need to prove his marksmanship skills for his grandchildren. With careful aim and just one shot from his .22 rifle, Grandpa Semsch dropped the fox in its tracks.
Later in the afternoon, the panel truck arrived at the resort and a very frantic driver emerged asking, “Has anyone seen a fox around here?” He further explained to various guests and my dad that this was a very special and valuable fox for which he was responsible. The next day, grandson Carl came to the resort store for a quart of milk. He was anxious to tell Dad about his grandfather’s shooting skill. My Dad was never able to share that information with the cameraman and he never knew if it was that very special fox that Grandpa Semsch had shot.
©copyright 2015, 2016 Glyn (Bud) Roberts
see Bud Roberts bio here