By K. Woodzick
Depending on who you talk to, Uncle Walter’s store was a junk shop, a gas station, a daycare or a combination of all of those things and more. When my grandfather Louis returned from serving in World War II, my father would spend afternoons with Uncle Walter at the L’il Log Cabin on Highway 51, near Hazelhurst.
Walter would encourage my dad to play in “the spot” behind the shop, where he boldly proclaimed that Rumplestilskin once danced. Sometimes they would go for a car ride to pass the time, or as Walter called it, “galivantin.’”
Walter would chat with truckers on his CB radio. His handle was “Guruman.” Customers would talk about his many manifestos on the different ways in which he believed things should be done. He built the cabin with horizontal logs and would sleep on the second floor above the shop. In his later years, he would sleep behind the counter.
In the corner was a wildcat that Walter had trapped, shot and mounted. He would take tourists trapping and fishing, but his biggest claim to fame was arguably his Walleye Wangler. Frustrated during a year when buying minnows was a challenge, Walter spent two years constructing this unique bait from stainless steel. He sold thousands of Walleye Wanglers and gave them a way to friends as well.
A 1966 article from the Green Bay Press Gazette depicts him working on his lures. He offered the following advice to his fellow fishermen: fish slowly, focus on smaller lakes, and wait 15 minutes for the fish to start biting again after motorboats pass.
Walter would fish on the lakes six months out of the year, in the months where they weren’t iced over. He kept a daily fishing dairy, which my family hopes to uncover as we organize the photographs and other memorabilia from my father’s side. Walter wanted to use his diary to write a book about fishing. Maybe we’ll get the chance to carry on his Northwoods legacy.
Did you ever stop by the L’il Log Cabin and meet Walter Woodzick? Ever go fishing with one of his Walleye Wanglers? We’d love to hear about it! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
K. Woodzick is a life-long theatre artist and has over a decade of experience as a non-profit marketing professional and writer. They live in Woodruff with their silver lab, River.