Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Oh, Wisconsin, I do love thee April 27, 2011

I was expecting downtown Appleton to look like historic Faribault with a pedestrian-friendly two-lane central street. Instead I found big city bustle and a busy four-lane running through the heart of downtown.

My husband and I, along with our son, spent Easter weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin, with our second oldest daughter.

IF YOU READ my Monday blog post, you know about the “Guess that state” contest that offers no prize. The prize is knowing you could (maybe) figure out where I celebrated Easter.

That would be in Wisconsin.

Yes, my husband, son and I spent the Easter weekend just east of Minnesota, in the Dairyland state, the home of the Green Bay Packers.

Specifically, we were in Appleton, the birthplace of Harry Houdini and the current home of my second oldest daughter. It is a 5 – 5 ½- hour drive from Faribault depending on how fast you drive and how many bathroom breaks are taken.

It is interesting how, when you travel in another state, you feel kind of like a foreigner. My husband and I tend to notice the details that distinguish regions. Of course, in Wisconsin, cheese and Packers’ green and gold stand out above all else.

But we also noticed, in the central area of the state where we drove along Wisconsin Highway 21, all of the small-town taverns and unincorporated towns, the buggy tracks and horse poop along the shoulders of the highway, the deer stands, the areas for growing potatoes and cranberries, many “for sale” signs on wooded properties, and lots and lots and lots of deer carcasses in the ditches and along the roadway. Oh, and for one short section, the dead muskrat may have outnumbered the total dead deer count for 100 miles.

Aside from those observations, we saw some interesting signage. For example, in school zones, “when children are present,” the speed limit is 15 mph.

The Willow Creek Cheese Factory Outlet was shut, not closed, according to this sign.

One particular business was not “closed,” it was “shut.”

A parcel of rural real estate, what we would term a “hobby farm” in Minnesota, was dubbed a “Farmette for sale.”

Dead-end streets in Appleton were posted as “No outlet.” It took me awhile to figure out that meant dead-end.

Brat fries were the big weekend fundraiser at Appleton grocery stores. The term “brat fry” was new to us. It means grilling.

We were especially amused by this sign in a field: “Certified weed-free hay.” Now, I wonder what the farmer was smoking when he wrote that sign. Cheddar cheese?

Oh, Wisconsinites, I really do like your state so I hope you take this post in humor, as it’s meant. If you want to cross the border and poke some fun at us Minnesotans, feel free. You’re always welcome here. Just leave the green and gold attire at home.

If you’d like to bring some cheese, do. I love Wisconsin cheese.

A small sampling of the cheeses available at Simon's Specialty Cheese in Little Chute. I'll take you inside this can't miss store in a future post.

NOW FOR THOSE READERS who are wondering where I shot the images in my “Guess that state” post published on Monday, here are the answers:

1.  HELICOPTER:  On the outskirts of Tomah just off I-94

2.  SHIP ROCK:  Near Coloma in Adams County

3.  BRAU HOUSE:  Downtown Appleton

4.  WE SALUTE OUR DAIRY FARMERS:  Simon’s Specialty Cheese Retail Store, Little Chute

5.  NEON ORANGE BUILDING:  A Mexican restaurant (sorry, didn’t get the name) in Wautoma

6.  STONE BUILDING:  The History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton. Magician Harry Houdini claims Appleton as his birthplace.

7.  AMISH FARM:  Near Coloma

8.  BRAT FRY SIGN:  Along an Appleton street

9.  GOLD FIRE HYDRANT:  Appleton

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

6 Responses to “Oh, Wisconsin, I do love thee”

  1. Bernie Says:

    What a nice picture of the hubby, your son and daughter. Your son is just a little thing, isn’t he? Hope you had fun in WI. I always pick up some cheese curds when I’m in Wi. Yummers!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, my 17-year-old is “just a little thing” at over six feet something. He doesn’t weigh much, but he’s tall and likes to make sure we (especially his sisters) know he is way taller than us.

      Those Wisconsin cheese curds are the best!

  2. bevalker Says:

    I will have to introduce you to Mattie’s Bakery, homemade bread and pastries by a Mennonite woman and her family and friends by Spring Lake, about 5 miles from Wautoma. Spring Lake also has a store called Spring Lake Store that sells food in bulk like pastas, baking supplies, etc. and also run by a Mennonite family. You would love it!!

  3. -dweej Says:

    I’ve never been to Wisconsin (that I can recall) but it sounds a lot like Michigan. Except the “shut” thing. Now that is just weird!

    So glad you enjoyed my new Psalm 🙂 It was inspired by a woman whose husband announced that his brand new truck that they didn’t need which she knew nothing about would be arriving any day….yikes!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, I’ve never been to Michigan…

      Readers, be sure to check out dweej’s Psalm on her Houseunseen blog. Her posts are must-reads for their humor, honesty and creativity.


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