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ROGER WILTZ: Ten Wagner anglers invade Canada

On Thursday morning, June 30, ten Wagner anglers headed for Canada. Our group included Francis Doom, Tom Studelska, Ron Masourek, Jay Wunder, Jordan Wunder, Whitey Tolliver, Branson Tolliver, Roger Schroeder, Austin Schroeder and myself. We took the old Doom van and Jay's Ford pickup. All went smoothly, including the border crossings both in and out.

Late Thursday night, we stopped at a Tim Horton's coffee and sandwich shop as it was the only place open for business in Dryden, Ontario. When one of the guys called the money he received in change "funny money," I told him the only funny money was ours. Thanks to our massive deficit spending, Canadian money is now significantly more valuable than ours.

Wake up, America, before it's too late.

Following our snack, the young guys then took over at the wheel of the van and delivered us safely to Pickle Lake after dodging a half dozen moose on the highway. Around 9 a.m., Pete Johnson flew us to the Doom lodge on Lake Kawinigans in his venerable De Haviland Otter. Once again, all went well.

Because none of us got any sleep Thursday night, our time frame got bent completely out of shape. I won't call this a bad thing because all of us enjoyed ourselves immensely.

On Friday, we organized our gear, did some fishing, ate supper and went to bed early and slept late. Saturday morning's breakfast was around 11:30 a.m. Because we were now well rested, Saturday night went well into Sunday morning. I went to bed at 3 a.m. while many of the guys were still playing liar's dice, the unofficial camp game.

If there was an ill effect of our unorthodox hours, it was fishing at the least productive hours of the day. We would get out sometime after noon, fish until after eight, fillet fish, fix supper and then not eat until after 10 p.m. We talked about the fishing being slow, but it was our own fault.

We flew back to Pickle Lake on Wednesday morning, July 6. Because we had to pack and straighten up camp for the visitors that followed, we actually went to bed early Tuesday night. This inspired a few of the guys to get up at 5:30 a.m. and go fishing. They hammered the walleyes, catching more than they had caught all week.

Our trip wasn't just about fishing. We were in paradise, far away from TV sets and telephones. Some of the guys savored a few cool ones in the solitude. I fished with Tom, a longtime friend and fellow teacher/wrestling coach. We rehashed old war stories. Could Mount Vernon's Bill Wieczorek, with good competition and coaching, have been an Olympic champion?

Our trip was also about food -- the best ribs I've ever eaten thanks to Whitey. I was among master chefs who plied their skills well. Homemade delicacies included canned asparagus, pickled pike, and goose jerky.

One of the greatest thrills in the outdoors, as far as I'm concerned, is taking a great northern pike on light tackle. For this reason I kept two rods at my side. One was used for jigging walleyes. I used the other for tossing a gold and red Pixie spoon.

At mid-afternoon on the Fourth of July, a 15-pound pike grabbed the gold spoon. Conquering her on 6-pound test line was the fishing highlight of my trip. Jordan took the biggest fish of the trip -- a 43-inch pike he took in an adjoining lake where both walleyes and pike ran bigger than the Kawinigans variety. Jay also took a large pike.

Some of the guys saw moose. Tom, Francis and I came within 25 yards of a woodland caribou. On the trip home, just after crossing the Winnipeg River in the late afternoon, a wolf came up on the road and stood on the shoulder as we drove by. As you can tell, we had a great adventure.

I was in awesome company. The thoughtfulness of the young guys -- Austin, Branson and Jordan, impressed me. While I don't perceive myself as being challenged by my neuropathy or tremor, perhaps I should.

There was always a hand helping me in and out of boats, the plane, etc., and I appreciated it.

With amateur baseball in full swing, I thought I'd stray from the fishing scene for a moment. While Dave, Matt and I were throwing a baseball around my yard the other night, Matt mentioned that he had seen my picture at the Parkston baseball field. It was on a photo of the 1969 Parkston squad that won the state title.

I don't recall many details from 42 years ago, but I can tell you we had two guys who could pound the ball -- Ken Neugebauer and Bill Ernster. They provided most of the offense.

If I remember correctly, we played Rapid City Macy's in the state championship game. These fastball hitters laughed at the slow junk Don Shields, our pitcher, threw at them, but they never figured it out.

The late Ken Liveris was our manager, and he picked up Shields, along with a Merkwan and a Terishinski, for the playoffs. They were valuable assets.

I was not a good ball player, and I remember few personal experiences, most of which were bad.

One night, I was the starting pitcher at Avon. With my slow fastball, I struck out the side in the first inning. The glory didn't last long. In the bottom of the second, John Westling hit a ball so hard it damaged the left field fence. After that, the wheels came off.

I did save a newspaper clipping from the Daily Republic. It was a playoff game against Mitchell.

Quoting the paper, "They added their final two runs of the game in the sixth as Wiltz blasted a towering home run over the right -- centerfield fence with the walking Liveris on base." Bill Fix, a volunteer senior announcer who showed up at all Parkston events with his microphone and amplifier, told me it was the longest homer ever hit in Parkston.

I don't know about that, but it did go over the lights, the road, and landed in the front yard of a house. On occasion, a blind hog can find an acorn.

Many stories were told on the trip chronicled above. Francis Doom, a witness, told a story about Dr. R.W. Honke or "Old Doc." Doc was a legend in his own time. I'll tell you about it next week.