Wisconsin’s Culture --- A glimpse

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Stories

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Yellowstone Trail: Transcontinental Road through Wisconsin. Back in 1912, some businessmen in South Dakota decided they wanted to create an automobile route across the US. This was long before the advent of state or federal highways. Mark Mowbry described it as a "transcontinental automobile route that ran on a patchwork of public roads supported and maintained by local businesses and groups … organized in 1912 to attract tourists traveling through towns on their way to Yellowstone Park." I came upon a small portion of it quite by accident, and learned about it again quite by accident by bumping into a man I happened to know from having done another story on a different subject. This is a story of coincidences and discovery. This will be a short story. I hope to build on it as I explore more. June 29, 2017.

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The Green Barn on Pennington Road. Suzanne Laverdiere sent me a note in March 2015 which talked about her uncle's house on Pennington Road off Hwy 8 west of Prentice in Price County. She spent a lot of time there as a youngster during the summers. She said she had not seen many such green barns in her travels and then provided me some family background on this farm and two others that were all in one family. She asked if I could go out and find the barn and send her a photo. I finally did that in late June 2015. This story shows photos I took and provides some family background. This turned out to be a lot of fun, and there are some good lessons for us. June 30, 2015.

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That damn old bridge across the Plover River. The Plover River originates in Langlade County, flows through Marathon County at which point it becomes navigable. You can usually kayak-canoe throughout Portage County before entering the Wisconsin River at Whiting. I found a good put-in point for my kayak near the town of Bevent, in the southern part of Marathon County very close to Portage County. In paddling upstream, I approached an old bridge. The river on the other side was quite wide, but it became narrow on the side where I was. That in turn created a forceful current coming at me which I was unable to penetrate. It made me so angry I returned by ground a couple days later and had a devil of a time finding it. But I did find it, and this damned old bridge got me one last time, as I walked across it. June 8, 2015

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Tomahawk Fall Ride - A gallery from “Rumble at the River.” The year 2015 marks the 34th Anniversary of the Tomahawk Fall Ride for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that serves northern Wisconsin. As many or more than 40,000 motorcycle enthusiasts and others usually come to the event, held each September in Tomahawk, Lincoln County. There is entertainment, you get to see some of the newest motorcycles and accessories from Harley-Davidson Motor Co., and it raises money for the MDA. It is the largest local fund raiser for MDA in North Central Wisconsin. I attended the festivities named “Rumble on the River” and I have to tell you I loved it. May 23, 2015

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Elk Mound, once a lookout. “Elk Mound is one of the highest spots in Dunn County. Native Americans once used it as a look-out. In 1926, Paul Kreck erected a flagpole on the mound. Earl Hansen and Leon Cartwright, owners of farms north of the hill, built the first dirt road up the hill sometime after 1924. In 1934, rural letter carriers of Dunn County planted a tree on the top of the mound, and placed a plaque dedicated to the ‘deceased rural letter carriers of Dunn County.’ Soil taken from every carrier's route was placed around the tree. In 1937, the county, with Works Progress Administration aid, constructed an observation tower (the castle) about 25 feet in height. The stones came from the Downsville stone quarry, with additional stones and material from a dismantled livery stable in the Village. A dedication ceremony was held Friday, November 11, 1938 and a roll call of deceased Dunn County letter carriers was sealed in a granite marker.” April 30. 2014

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Door County --- Our “Cape Cod” and better. Often called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, Door Peninsula separates Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Two of my trips to this area, which is also Door County, took me along the shoreline past the many famous bays and villages and towns. For these visits, I did not get inland, something I will do later downstream. So this chronicle will reflect what I saw along the shore. Believe me, this is one great place to tour and visit --- I am a northeasterner, and it did remind me of Cape Cod, Masssachusetts, but better because not as crazy. March 16, 2014

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Susie the Duck, since 1948 in Lodi. Susie the Duck has been the mascot for Lodi, Wisconsin, Columbia County since 1948. Indeed Lodi is known near and far as the Home of Susie the Duck. She has a special spot and small park where she resides where Spring Creek crosses Main Street, downtown. Every year the town holds a “Susie the Duck Day” celebration which features a rubber duck race. It’s usually in August. July 4, 2013

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Larry the Logroller comes back to life in Wabeno. Larry the Logroller has stood in the park overlooking Wabeno in Forest County and its Logging Museum for many years.

Earlier this year, Larry was struck by a falling tree and broken into three pieces. The local residents were heartbroken, and committed to fixing Larry and getting him back to duty. They did that on May 25, 2013.

Larry’s unveiling drew a good crowd on a nice, sunny day in the northwoods. We were there, enjoyed talking with the residents and sharing in their joy at Larry’s return.

With Larry comes many stories. I just have a few. May 29, 2013

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“Roman ruins” of Cascade, Wisconsin. Let’s have a little fun. While traveling through Sheboygan County, I came across the intersection of CH V and High View Road. For no real reason at all, I turned north on High View, traveled a few hundred feet, and came upon a dilapidated old farm complex that made me feel like I was walking through “Roman ruins.” It was exciting, and I have returned with the photography to try to figure out exactly what I saw. February 1, 2013

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Ashland's Historical Museum. After I learned that the Ashland Ore Dock, a historic landmark in this northern Wisconsin city, was being demolished, I raced up to take pictures and then discovered the city’s Historical Museum, located at 509 Main Street. It is a small museum with a very small staff and volunteers, but these people are very gracious and proud, and the museum is interesting and informative. They’ve done a lot with a little. The museum describes itself this way: “The Ashland Historical Society, a non-profit volunteer organization promotes the appreciation of local history and pride of community through a visual connection to the past by collecting and preserving memorabilia and artifacts, stories and traditions and by functioning as an educational resource.” January 21, 2013

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Ashland's iron ore docks being destroyed. The Ashland Ore Dock, a historic landmark in this northern Wisconsin city, is being demolished. The Wisconsin Central Railroad constructed the ore dock in 1915 and completed it in 1916. It was the third such ore dock in Ashland. The Canadian National Rail (CNR) is the owner. It was the third such ore dock built in Ashland and the last one standing. She was 1,900 ft. long, had four rail tracks, 314 pockets, 6,800 piles driven to support it, and a timber trestle approach 1,000 ft. long. A structural inspection of the dock was conducted in 2006-2007 and determined the dock to be structurally unsafe and an imminent safety hazard. It is my understanding that this determination alarmed the CNR, worried about liability issues, and it decided to demolish the dock. However, Ashland citizens hoped to save and restore the dock and negotiated with the CNR to do that. Unfortunately, the citizens could not raise the required amount of money needed to pull this off so CNR felt it had no choice but to demolish it. December 8, 2012

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Walldogs of Plymouth, Wisconsin --- describing the town’s history through wall art. Plymouth boasts that it has been the cheese hub of Wisconsin’s dairy and cheese industry since the city was founded in 1877. As a result of a group known as the Walldog Movement painting murals describing the town's history, Plymouth now not only brags about being the Cheese Capital, but also “Your mural destination.” September 18, 2012.

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Langlade’s Kettlebowl Ski Area, perfect for kids. While on one of my get lost rides near Antigo in Langlade County, on Hwy 52, I happened across the Kettlebowl Langlade Ski Club on a bright and fairly warm day for late January. To be honest, Langlade can be a bit, well, ho-hum in the winter so I stopped here to see what this was all about. I am glad I did. It was about a wonderful little ski and snowboarding area especially great for kids and families, and everyone I saw there was having a lot of fun. February 23, 2012.

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Chase Barn, an old stone barn getting restored. Chase, Wisconsin is about 20 miles northwest of Green Bay in Oconto County. What has come to be known as the Chase Stone Barn was built in 1903 and is on the State and National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the last surviving all-fieldstone barns in the country. The town is currently in the process of raising funds to help restore the barn and develop the park. The stones were gathered from local farm fields over a century ago, however their origin was Canada. Massive glaciers pushed and tumbled the stone to the Wisconsin region during three known ice ages over the past 70,000 years. Some of the stones are over 2 billion years old! August 24, 2011

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Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial - in the line of duty. The Wisconsin State Firefighters Memorial is located on the Wisconsin River, on the south side of Wisconsin Rapids, between it and Port Edwards. It is located on the Wisconsin River, on the south side of Wisconsin Rapids, between it and Port Edwards. "The vision was to create a park with a natural and scenic setting to house a memorial to our firefighting heroes from across this great State of Wisconsin. The serenity of the setting allows park visitors to be alone with their thoughts and emotions and at the same time realize that their loves one will never be forgotten." Mission accomplished. July 24, 2011.

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The old time saw mill on Briarwood Rd., Marathon County. In June 2010 I was driving around the backsides of what is known as the "Three hills forming a sweeping crescent that encircles Ninemile Swamp," to wit, Rib Mountain, Mosinee Hill (Upper and Lower) and Hardwood Hill, located just outside Wausau to its west. As I was roaming around the area, I came upon what looked to me like a very old and small saw mill on Briarwood Road between CH S and Maple Leaf Road, in the area of Burns Creek. I went inside, took a bunch of photos, and then came to try to figure out what this was all about. December 11, 2010.

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Willow Springs Garden, a love to preserve our past and have fun. Ken Christian grew up in Wausau, left a long time ago, and has lived in London for some 19 years, but comes back to Wausau a couple times each year to visit his brother. He came across this web site and conveyed how he loves to roam the countryside here and take images as well. He alerted us to this round barn on 60th Ave., just off Hillcrest Drive in the town of Maine, outside Wausau in Marathon County. I went out to take a look, and it was fun, and educational. This round barn is fabulous, as you'll see, but Willow Springs Garden is much more, a tremendous reflection of our culture and heritage. By Ed Marek editor. October 25, 2010.

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North Central Rodeo Days, a blast in Medford. I attended the 22nd Annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Pro Rodeo in Medford, Taylor County, held from June 4-6, 2010. The events were held at the Brecke Rodeo Arena in Medford, which also serves as the Taylor County Rodeo Arena. I cannot remember when, or if, I have ever been at a professional rodeo. For me, this was great fun. I saw things I do not recall ever seeing before, live. They had different events scheduled each day. On June 6, I got to watch bareback riding, saddle bronco riding, Tie Down Roping, and Team Roping. This is mostly a photo portfolio presentation. September 26, 2010

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Jennifer Nery’s Antique Road Show. Earlier this year, in late May, when the Wisconsin spring was so spectacular, I went on a true "get lost ride" and ended up in Forest County east northeast of Rhinelander. While driving along Hwy 32, close to CH NN, I spotted something I had never seen before. As I'm singing along with my iPod, all windows open, sun shining, wind blowing in my face, what do I see but what at first looked like a junk yard. I passed it by, but as what I had seen started to lock in to my brain, I said to myself, "Self, that's no average junk yard. You'd better turn back and take another look." Boy am I glad I did. Wait ‘till you see this stuff. July 21, 2010

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The barn raising near Edgerton, "a celebration of wood on a massive scale." I don't know about the story-teller, but this is a great story. It is a story of love for the historic timber used in old Wisconsin barns and the marriage of one about to be destroyed with one being renovated. I met a fellow named Craig "The Rooster" Roost through Facebook. He introduced me to a barn-raising project he's leading near Edgerton on property owned by Dan and Connie Bussey. I would later learn that it was a timber-frame barn disassembly, relocation, reassembly, barn-joining and renovation project, a real handful to be sure. By Ed Marek, editor. December 1, 2009.

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That Red Covered Bridge built by "The Rooster" and Friends near Ft. Atkinson.A fellow named Craig "The Rooster" Roost introduced me to several of his delightful projects, one of which was a red covered bridge he and his colleagues built on the Glacial River Trail extending along Hwy 26 in Jefferson County from Ft. Atkinson to the Rock County line. he built the bridge using timber from a barn built in 1906. This story is about that bridge, and we insert some interesting science to the mix to make it all fun and motivating for more research. By Ed Marek, editor. October 6, 2009.

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Wausau Whitewater --- not the toughest or the longest, but great for training. It's not a long stretch of white water, only 0.35 miles, and it's not the roughest white water you can find, classified as Class II-III, the lower end of difficult, but it is in downtown Wausau in Marathon County, and it is a great place for training --- training essential to white water rafting, kayaking, or even canoeing at higher levels --- It's known as Wausau Whitewater Park. I watched a training session and have some great photography. July 1, 2009.

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Portage County Ice Wars, snowmobile races at Mach speeds! Snowmobiles are sleds with engines under their front hoods to drive them. Snowmobiles for racers have very powerful engines tweaked by expert mechanics and teams much like at the Indy 500. It is a motorsport. In Portage County, they call the races "Ice Wars." Ice racing was the original form of snowmobile racing. Other forms have come and gone, but Ice Racing is still here. It was certainly alive and well in Amherst on January 2-4, 2009. I attended the races on January 4 and brought home some neat photography. These racers surely had "the need for speed," some clocked at over 100 mph. January 8, 2009.

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Loading and landing logs in Fifield. Fifield, Wisconsin, in northern Price County, traces its culture and history to the logging industry. In 1877, a reporter from the Phillips Times, wrote: "I fail to discover anything nice about the place ...five frame buildings, one log ditto, and a good depot." The Times had to eat those words a half year later, noting that "settlers are pouring in almost everyday." The town remains small, but it also remains a logging hub, presently a loading and landing site for Stora Enso. I watched this effort. It was fun and informative. Logging remains in Fifield's blood. By Ed Marek, editor. January 29, 2008.

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Prairie du Chien's St. Feriole Island, an abundance of history. "St. Feriole Island, where the city began, has the greatest concentration of historic landmark properties in the country." So wrote Mary Bergin in 2004. "The Prairie du Chien terrace derives new interest not only because of the antiquity of its occupance and the variety of its cultural successions, but also because the historical geography of this site, for the two centuries following 1685, epitomizes that of the Upper Mississippi Country." So wrote Glenn T. Trewartha in 1932. "It is the uniqueness of historic buildings that make each place individual. The history and heritage of a city gives it a sense of place. Preservation of historic buildings is changing the face of and actually saving many towns." So wrote Mary Jane Hettinga in 2005. Amen, say we. Our state's dominant strengths reside in towns and places like this. November 18, 2007.

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The Peshtigo Fire Museum, unlike anything we've seen. On October 8, 1871, the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, in Marinette County, burned to the ground, the result of a terrible forest fire.

Some 800 people died, and the town was destroyed. We want to highlight the fire museum in town.

This editor normally is not fond of museums. The Peshtigo Fire Museum is different. July 13, 2007.

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Ashland's iron ore docks, a fascinating history. The iron ore trade became the dominant trade of the Great Lakes in 1888. Iron ore was discovered in the Upper Michigan Peninsula's Marquette Range in 1844. There were multiple transportation challenges to be faced if the iron ore industry here were to grow, prosper and be competitive. To make describing all this manageable, and to give it a Wisconsin flavor, we are going to concentrate on the Gogebic Iron Range, which reached into Wisconsin to Ashland, the introduction of railroads in the area, and the loading process for bulk freighters from ore docks built in Ashland. April 19, 2007.

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A "building watcher's" lazy drive down a short stretch of Wausau's 5th Street: You do not need to confine your "home watching" to the wealthy neighborhoods of your town, though there is a lot to see in those wonderful homes. We branched out, actually a bit by accident, and found a group of middle-class homes in Wausau that we found very intriguing, though at the time we did not know why. After photographing them and learning a little about architectural styles, we found out why. These homes, all century classics, have history and weaves of style in them that are typically midwestern, very American, and fun to study and dissect. By Ed Marek, editor. April 28, 2006, updated June 25, 2007, historic addendum added April 2, 2008.

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Northern Wisconsin's Bayfield Peninsula, what fun! We recently made our "rookie run" to Wisconsin's Lake Superior region, what's known as the southern shore. This was our first visit to this area of the state, and our first visual sighting of this gigantic lake. We traveled from Wausau and stayed overnight in Duluth, Minnesota. In between all we found was fascination. A lot of people have worked very hard to "bring new life to historical buildings." This is what made the visit fun. April 10, 2007

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Town of Dorchester honors the Four Chaplains of the USS Dorchester. While driving through Clark County, we drove into the town of Dorchester. Coming upon a small park, we could see an American flag flying, from atop what from a distance appeared to be a carefully arranged pile of stones.

After getting closer it became obvious that this was a memorial, one that looked like a naval memorial. Little did we know that we were about to learn a piece of history not widely known. November 16, 2005.

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Where creativity begins. Make no mistake about it, creativity is a centerpiece of the American culture, more specifically, American capitalism. Capitalism by definition means destroy that which does not work or no longer works, and create something that does work. One of the easiest and most effective ways to teach children to be creative is to teach them art. They know that in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Visit the city's "Art in the Park" to see what we mean. September 20, 2005.