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WILTZ: Remembering Andy Wayne Klein

(Submitted photo) Pictured is Andy Wayne Klein holding his first paddlefish, caught at the Big Bend tailwaters at Fort Thompson.

I'm quite certain that what I'm about to say is true of institutions and businesses other than schools, but for the moment I'm speaking of schools. My premise is this: The most valuable person in your school system isn't necessarily the highest paid.

When I moved to Burke, in 1971 as the new high school principal, Jerry Opbroek was about the only Burke resident I knew fairly well. Jerry had started the Burke High School wrestling program during the 1966-1967 school year, and I had done the same at Parkston. Together we faced the woes of competing against strong, already established conference programs like Scotland, Springfield, Tyndall and Wagner. I'll say this. By the end of that first season, those schools knew who Burke and Parkston were.

On the day we moved to Burke, Jerry gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. He told me to develop a close friendship with Andy Wayne Klein. Officially, Andy Wayne, or A.W., as many people called him, was the school custodian. He was also the bus driver for school trips. Andy became a personal adviser and confidant who would never second guess me. He was as good a friend as I have ever had, and every teacher and kid in that school felt the same way about A.W. Simply stated, Andy was the glue that made the Burke school great.

Have ever been around anyone whose ability to catch fish seemed to border the super natural? I'm talking about fishing right next to him/her with the same lure or bait, the same technique, even trading places, and this angler catches most of the fish. Even though you love this person, this talent of his/hers begins to get on your nerves. A.W. was such an angler.

I know what you're going to say. Even though conditions, gear, etc. appear to be equal, this seemingly gifted angler may have a certain twitch with the rod. Perhaps they have a sixth sense about where to place the lure. Maybe they know exactly how far to let a lure sink before making a retrieve. While these things may be true, I don't believe it applied to A.W. as he was a bait fisherman, not a finesse fisherman.

Andy loved to fish from shore at Ash Canyon where walleyes were his favorite target. (Ash Canyon is on the west bank of the Missouri north of the Platte-Winner Bridge.) Andy's rods and reels were a collection of 1950s Zebco spinning reels, obsolete bait casters and steel or fiberglass rods. They'd be bunched together in a hapless tangle. In short, they looked like some impatient auctioneer threw them together and laid them on a farm wagon. "Two dollars for lot 106!"

A.W.'s technique was quite simple. Bait the crappie rig with minnows, heave it out there, and prop the rod up with a forked stick. With Andy, that first rod tip was usually dancing before the second rig hit the water. After a fruitless half hour, I'd examine Andy's rig after he cranked in a fish. What about hook size, hook color, distance from hooks to sinker, weight of sinker. Maybe I should have spit on the minnows.

Ash canyon was one thing. Taking Andy out of his element was another. During the month of May, Art Jones and I would organize after school assaults on the Big Bend tailwaters at Fort Thompson. We had a regular routine. Get your paddlefish, dress it and put it on ice, and then go after a limit of eight walleyes while catching whitebass on every other cast. We finally talked Andy into going along on a Big Bend outing.

While A.W. had doubts about bagging a spoonbill, he put them to rest in about 10 minutes as you can see in the photo. Andy also learned another technique that evening -- jigging for walleyes. As the bottom along the tailrace bank was laden with boulders, bottom fishing with bait wouldn't cut it. Andy made the adjustment.

This very humble, simple man's trademark was rolling up his sleeves and getting the job done. He did common things (like bank fishing) uncommonly well, and complaining was not a part of his vocabulary. I wish I could be more like Andy Wayne Klein. A.W. is gone now, but certainly not forgotten.

Writing today's column has put me to thinking about humility, and it brought another man to mind. Some of you readers in the Bridgewater area knew the essence of humility. His name was Father Paul Offerman. It was my privilege to spend one of his last afternoons with him and a friend. His primary concern was having the strength to cross the street and make it to church one more time in order to serve his people. It doesn't get any better than that.


While paging through the May 2013 Outdoor Life magazine, I came across a blip called "Meet Mr. Meat" on Page 12. According to Pat LaFrieda, aka Mr. Meat, "Meat can be kept for 16 months if you vacuum-pack it and put it in the freezer while it's still fresh." I think LaFrieda is being a bit conservative.

Four months ago we finished eating an elk that I killed in the fall of 2010. That put some of that meat at three years. That meat was packaged in the cooler by workers wearing parkas. Once cooled, it stayed cooled. It was also wrapped in Saran-like plastic before being wrapped in freezer paper.

In discussing this with Betsy, she said it had begun to freezer burn, and that she trimmed off the burn areas prior to preparing it. It tasted fine to me, and I'm proud of her for not wasting it. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

*See you next week.