Columnist enjoys book, ‘Hunters, Loggers and Bootleggers’
By Roger Pitt
“What happens in deer camp, stays in deer camp,” to paraphrase a pledge in a Las Vegas ad.
Tom Hutchison’s second book may violate that rule, but it holds the attention of readers from cover to cover, as its venue is a deer camp, started in 1885 by his grandfather Robert who was logging in northern Wisconsin.
“Land of Milk and Money,” his first ‘docubiography,’ lost some of my attention in the money part, which covered the timeline after I met Tom in 1964, shortly after joining The Post-Crescent.
Tom was on a fast track upward over the ensuing decade with Post Corporation, opting for WLUK, TV 11, one of the broadcast ventures of our employer.
His second book is an easy read, with a number of short stories and chapters easily scanned in a few minutes.
The casts of characters are familiar to many long time area residents — covering bootleggers, logging and deer hunting — about family and friends crowded in a cabin at their hunting camp. Chapters are divided by generations, and the first four — 1885-1930, 1931-1970 and 1975-1990 — are more familiar to me than the two after 1991.
Tom’s inside look at the Hutchison family, in itself is good reading.
Borrowing a long-standing family oath, “It’s The Truth, By God,” he vows it being fact, as best he can recall.
My critique of “Land of Milk and Money” called for more of the early chapters recounting growing up on the farm near New London — his family, various hired men and visitors, an inside view of demographics and relationships in that era and the early years of his career as editor of the Manawa Advocate.
Although brief, his career in Manawa gave a perspective of that city’s history and prominent citizens — highlighted by several humorous anecdotes.
This latest book has a humorous story, page after page.
Tom McCormick was a modern day “bootlegger,” peddling the new book out of a plastic bag, rather than hauling booze in the false bottom of a cattle truck, that made trips from New London to Chicago during prohibition.
McCormick distributed about 60 copies, even giving away a few.
As a former news person, Hutchison was not surprised when I approached a table, where he sat with his brother Bill and three sisters, after Sunday mass, and asked for a copy of the book.
His sisters laughed as he went to retrieve the book; noting it was a trait of a newsman, because “Tom still goes to conventions to get pens and other freebies given away.”
Johnny Trambauer was a source for his stories about prohibition and bootlegging. I was fortunate to know two John Trambauers.
The original was about a foot shorter than his son, Big John, who was blessed with a good nature and disposition. Bean City, which they owned, was a short distance from the Hutchison farm in the Town of Mukwa, southwest of New London.
That farm was converted to Huckleberry Acres campsite and ponds by Alton Hutchison, Tom’s father. Alton was the second generation to keep tradition at the hunting hideaway near Florence.
Tom includes stories on three people — ‘Big Al’ Sampson, Sparky Meyer and Bob Schulze — not only important in his professional career at WLUK, but also personal friends. They were three of the most recognized people by the public in their day.
Tom paints an accurate picture of ‘Big Al,’ who was held in high esteem by hunters, anglers and others who love the outdoors. His overcoming throat cancer to continue his broadcast career 20 years is an example for others.
Al, from time to time, would go on a road trip, losing contact with his base. One day while in the New London Police Station, an alert seeking the whereabouts of ‘Big Al’ was broadcast.
Looking out the station’s window, overlooking Pearl and County S/North Water Street, we saw the WBAY station wagon at the stop sign – a common sight because of his numerous visits on the Wolf River.
Meyer, who made his fortune marketing snowmobiles, was friends with Jim Harp, who I spent 30 years working with at The Post-Crescent. It is a chapter about true love, and like the preceding chapter about Sampson, is a blue print on how to live and personal relationships — one Harp and his wife Barb lived, too.
An advantage of a career like Tom’s is the number of people you meet, that you wouldn’t have in a different job.
It is a priceless benefit, one that Tom shares in “Hunters, Loggers and Bootleggers.”