I’m from Wisconsin! (Part 2)


I’ve been educating all of you non-Wisconsinites on the unique culture of our wonderful state.  Here are some more fun-filled facts:

It is not an urban legend (we mostly have rural ones here) that we all decorate our homes in white with irregular black spots.  We really do.  Those of us who are not well off get couches from China with the Holstein-skin look done in some synthetic fabric which has been soaked in something toxic.  But the rich folks get their furniture done in real Holstein hide.  (Leather is “in.”)

Most of Wisconsin’s population is pretty conservative, but we always get liberal politicians going to Congress, because we can’t outweigh their influence in Milwaukee and Madison.  You see, there are more of us rural folks than there are of them city slickers, but we have a tough time tearing ourselves away from the milking machines long enough to vote.  The cows come first.

Kaukauna and Little Chute people talk just like the Yoopers.  Don’t know what a Yooper is?  A Yooper lives in the U.P. (the upper peninsula of Michigan).  The Upper Peninsula is not really part of Michigan.  It is a territory of Wisconsin.  Everybody here knows that.  A few years ago, the U.P. threatened to secede from Michigan and become the State of Superior.  (But I digress.)  I grew up in Kaukauna, and I felt right at home when we vacationed in the U.P.  They talked just like we did.  We didn’t “go to the store,” we “went to da store.”  We didn’t say, “Look over there.”  It was, “Look over dere.”  And everybody went “up nort’,” not “up north.”  And EVERYBODY went up nort’!  — to hunt for da t’irty-point buck or to catch da muskie (see “state fish” in yesterday’s blog).

Which brings me to muskie fishing:  Four guys, all standing and casting in one little fourteen-foot fishing boat, all hoping to catch the big one, all hoping they won’t tip the boat over if somebody does reel one in.  The big one mostly gets away, but when the tale is told, it was always a whopper at least five feet long.  Some guys actually catch one from time to time.  They don’t eat the fish; they stuff it and hang it on the living room wall.

In late winter the big excitement is sturgeon fishing.  They drive their trucks out onto the ice, pulling fishing shanties.  Inside the fishing shanties, they cut a four-foot by three-foot hole in the ice  (or some such dimensions – don’t quote me on it) and stand over the hole all day, looking down bug-eyed into the water, big spear in hand, waiting for a huge shadow to pass by.  The shadow is a sturgeon (humongous ugly fish – does not get hung on the living room wall, gets smoked and eaten slathered in real Wisconsin butter).  Sometimes they go to sleep standing bug-eyed over the hole, and fall in.  This can be dangerous.  It happened to our neighbor lady.  She spread her arms wide over the hole edges, so as not to get sucked under, and hollered for help.  (Happy ending that time.)  A tad barbaric isn’t it?  Spearing dinner like a caveman and falling into holes in the ice.

So, in Wisconsin, we entertain ourselves by going to rummage sales (see state hobby), playing sheepshead and cribbage (see state sport) and going up nort’ to fish and hunt when we aren’t milking the cows.  (Truthfully, the farmers are too busy milking to go up nort’.  It’s the paper mill workers who get to go up nort’.  We have a lot of paper mills — to keep those of us who don’t milk cows occupied.)

And most of us live, breathe, and eat the Packers (not me, though).  If we can’t afford the tickets, we watch them on TV.  It’s all anybody talks about. If you don’t know how to talk about the Packers, you don’t have anything to talk about.  You are a social outcast.  We even have a polka song that goes, “Hey, dere, how ’bout dem dere Packers!”  I kid you not!  Some people don’t decorate in Holstein; they decorate in Packers — green and gold a-l-l over the house.  Green and gold furniture, green and gold doilies on the furniture, green and gold Christmas lights, cheesehead hats proudly displayed on the mantel.  Some people have Packer shrines in their basement … where they worship … icons of Bart Starr and Brett Favre … with candles burning in front of the icons.  Strange, but true.  And you thought Elvis shrines were weird!



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