The unexpected thing was, he died young, Gordon MacQuarrie, at only 56.

He was known for having the occasional cocktail, and he didn't push away from the dinner table too quickly. Still, 56 was a young age to go, even in the middle of the last century.

Yet that's not the most unusual part of MacQuarrie's life, or his death.

What's extraordinary is that today, 67 years after a heart attack killed him in the faceless brick apartment building on the edge of downtown Milwaukee that he shared with his wife, Ellen, there remains a cult of sorts in northwest Wisconsin dedicated to MacQuarrie's memory, and to his writing.

Dave Evenson of Cumberland, Wis., about 90 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, is one of the faction's kingpins, qualifying for that designation in part because he just published a third book of MacQuarrie's stories, the first two of which Evenson typed himself.

"I typed them with my own two fingers and I'm sure there are some typos in the books that weren't in the stories originally,'' Evenson said. "This third book, I got some help with the typing.''

MacQuarrie grew up in Superior, Wis., a workingman's town that made pulp cutters and farmers out of many of its high school graduates. Wanting instead to be a writer, MacQuarrie studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin.

MacQuarrie's pull on members of the cult, which calls itself The Old Duck Hunters Association Circle (ODHA Circle), of which Evenson is a card-carrying member, is such that until Keith Crowley's engaging biography of MacQuarrie was published in 2003, Evenson had never heard of the famous scribe.

"Can't say I had,'' Evenson said. "I never read any of his stories, that's for sure, not until Keith (Crowley) published the biography. In fact, I blame Keith for my MacQuarrie addiction.''

Evenson's most recent book, "Found Stories of The Old Duck Hunters and Other MacQuarrie Adventures,'' along with the two previous MacQuarrie anthologies he edited, is available through the Barnes Area Historical Association in Barnes, Wis.

Barnes lies within what is referred to by members of the ODHA Circle as MacQuarrie Country, a region of northwest Wisconsin that was celebrated in thousands of stories written by MacQuarrie and published in the Milwaukee Journal and various national outdoors magazines.

After college, MacQuarrie returned to Superior to work at, and eventually edit, the Superior Evening Telegram (now the Superior Telegram), before being hired in 1936 as the Milwaukee Journal outdoors writer.

MacQuarrie's appointment was the nation's first of its kind at a newspaper, and the Journal spilled almost a full page of ink celebrating his arrival, complete with a nearly life-size head-and-shoulders drawing of the new hire.

MacQuarrie's debut at Wisconsin's flagship daily was well-timed. Americans' appetites for adventure tales had been whetted in books and magazines by, among others, Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark, true brothers of the outdoor cloth.

Additionally, arguments advanced by the University of Wisconsin's Aldo Leopold that science, not bar stool talk, should regulate wildlife management, were sparking debates among an ever-wider audience.

MacQuarrie reported about these and other day-to-day happenings that were part of his responsibilities.

But his more memorable stories, and there were reams of them, were spun in a style that by turns blended fact and fiction, or perhaps more accurately, fact and exaggeration. MacQuarrie seemed to produce these accounts almost effortlessly, as if they tapped themselves onto paper he cranked into his old Underwood.

Featured, regularly, in these yarns were the same characters, which made his weekly recitations seem like chapters in a serialized novel, with hilarity the connecting thread.

He called the ragtag bunch of northwest Wisconsin hunting and fishing buddies celebrated in these dispatches members of the Old Duck Hunters Association Inc. ("Inc.'' stood for "incorrigible.'')

Mr. President (a pseudonym for MacQuarrie's father-in-law, Allan Peck) was the ODHA boss.

"Just such a rain — only colder — was falling from northern Wisconsin skies at night in late October, many years ago,'' MacQuarrie wrote in a tale about the first time he went duck hunting, "when the President of the Old Duck Hunters Association Inc., rapped at my door. It was an impatient rap. I found him standing in the hall, quizzical, eager, in his old brown mackinaw that later was to become his badge of office. As always, only a top button of the mackinaw was fastened. His brown felt hat dripped rain. Below the sagging corners of the mackinaw were high tan rubber boots. He danced a brief jig, partly to shake off the rain and partly to celebrate an impending duck hunt. 'Hurry up!' he said."

Like Evenson, Larry Bergman of Barnes, Wis., is a member of the ODHA Circle.

"Every August we sponsor a three-day pilgrimage to MacQuarrie Country,'' Bergman said. "People come from all over. We have readings, campfires and we visit MacQuarrie's cabin on Middle Eau Claire Lake. We had one guy who kneeled in prayer at the foot of the cabin, like he had traveled to Mecca.''

MacQuarrie would have gotten a kick out of that — and a story, too.

When MacQuarrie's father-in-law, Mr. President, died in 1940, the Journal gave MacQuarrie three weeks off from writing to settle with the news.

Then MacQuarrie gave Mr. President a sendoff that is often read aloud on ODHA Circle pilgrimages.

Included are these words.

"He had fun doing anything. If it wasn't funny, he'd make it funny. His prowess as a storyteller was legend.''

MacQuarrie could have been writing about himself.

Editor's note: Evenson's books of MacQuarrie stories can be ordered from the Barnes Area Historical Association. Online go to