Coffee was cultivated in Africa as early as the ninth century but it did not reach Europe until the 17th century. However when it did, it was met with many varying opinions. It still caught on like wildfire, even with people who detested its existence. The 18th century London coffee house was the center of controversy in many ways, to the point of the king trying to ban coffee and close the establishments. Being the place for political discussion, some of the policies of our newly-formed United States of America might have originated in one of those questionable venues.
There is an organization in our little town that is very well known but few people know what tremendous good they do for our community. Many people in Walker might consider them as a group of fuddy-duddies who have nothing else to do but get together every morning for coffee and discuss the happenings of the town. However there is no doubt, this little coffee club determines the policy and politics of our town, just as did those early coffee houses in London. And let me tell you, these guys have given much toward our well-being and prosperity, not only with the generosity from their pocketbooks but also their labor and, most importantly, from their hearts.
They call themselves the Coots; and ever since 2006, about 25 members, including five female members, this little coffee club has contributed considerably to the success and peace of mind of our town. One of their very first projects 13 years ago was to raise $5,700 to provide hanging flower baskets that still adorn our main street. The Coots assist in selling buttons for community events and are responsible for helping pick up trash on the lake after winter events. Waffle Wednesdays in Whipholt is a popular project for the Coots, as they collaborate with Kay Huddle at Huddle’s Resort. Kay gives back to them the money from the sale of her delicious waffle breakfasts which they, in turn, give to the Boys and Girls Club in Walker.
Andy Bednarczyk was kind enough to provide the above information, and he also asked his buddies, Jim Dowson and Larry Anderson, to contribute to the story. Don’t you just love the photo of their mascots that they provided, which is found in the masthead?
However until Jim and Larry add to this story, permit me to tell you about the very first Coot Club in Walker. Back in the early 1930s, perhaps before many of today’s Coots were even born, a bunch of avid fishermen and duck hunters built a clubhouse on the bend of the Steamboat River, about halfway between Steamboat Lake and Steamboat Bay. They didn’t even own the land nor did they bother to find out who owned it. They simply went ahead and put up a little shack, which they affectionately called the Coot Club, named after the many coots that nested in front of their little shack and adorned the waters of Steamboat River.
There is an old duck hunter’s adage that states, “Where there are coots, there also are mallards.” The adage was correct, as it was a simple matter in an early morning’s outing to bag one’s limit not only of mallards but also rednecks, pintails, buffleheads, mergansers, goldeneyes, canvasbacks — you name it, they were out there.
Surprisingly the Coot Club didn’t cost its members one penny to build. Bill Bailey, who owned Bailey Lumber Company, provided the lumber and other building materials. Bill’s brother Hollis, who owned Walker Hardware, provided the hardware. And Butch Mankenberg, who owned Butch’s Pub, provided the beer — the most important and necessary commodity in the construction. When I was old enough to shoot my trusty .410 lever-action shotgun, I was lucky enough to join the guys. I say that tongue in cheek, as I had to do most of the work. It was my job to carry three and often four bags of heavy duck decoys and three and often four cases of beer down from the cabin to the boats. My job was much easier when the shoot was over, as we often had lost a few duck decoys; and, of course, all the beer cans were empty. So when you hear of the Coots, perhaps you might also remember the old Coot Club the 1930s and 1940s on the Steamboat River.