Memories of an Early Settler - Joe Novak
(story by Andy Duvall taken from the Forest Republican – August 3, 1972)
Joe Novak, who lives in Laona with his wife Alice, has been a northern Wisconsin lumberjack, hunter, trapper, and fisherman almost all of his life. He left Poland in 1911, when ten years old and moved to Laona after his father, who first came to the United States, had earned enough money working at Connors to pay for the passage of him and his mother from Poland to Laona.
When 16 years old he quit school, claimed he was 17, and got a job with the lumber mill where he earned ten cents an hour for a ten hour day.
About 1920, he and his friend Max Kaatz, started trapping and hunting with hounds and he soon discovered he could make more money hunting and trapping than he could make at the mill. He said he received a bounty of forty dollars for coyote and could get from seventeen to thirty dollars for fox. Good beaver skin sold for as high as fifty one dollars.
He now uses a snowmobile in the winter and still does a bit of trapping. For the past two years he has had a raw beaver skin in his refrigerator which he is saving to have cured for his son. He also has his secret spots where he can still catch trout.
In reminiscing, he spoke of logging camps where everyone worked from daylight to dark six days a week; of trudging through the snow on snow shoes, which he often still does in the winter; of more plentiful game; of beautiful trout everywhere and of making canoes which he sold for eighty dollars each.
He has fond memories of Indian friends, who
are now in the happy hunting place, who lived
in the woods in shacks with nothing but bear
skins, deer skins, and other furs on the ground
as flooring, of the more plentiful game and fish,
and of hunting lodges where a stranger would
go in, spend the night, clean the place up and
not damage or steal anything.
Speaking of changes he said everything
seems to be getting scarcer, trout especially.
He said people have changed a lot. He
doesn't know what’s the matter with them.
They steal, tear down shack and cottages
and do malicious damage. He can’t figure
what kind of people they are raising today.
He is proud of his son and daughter, his four
grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Over the years things have generally been good and he believes northern Wisconsin is God’s country.
~ End of Story ~