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Posts Tagged / Wisconsin

  • Nov 28 / 2009
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Dear Crossing

bambi

My wife came home upset one night in the fall of 1989.

“What’s wrong, dear?” I asked her.

It seems it was the beginning of hunting season and she’d seen a slain deer on top of someone’s car for the first time. I have to admit it startled me, too, the first time I saw one, but I had the sense to keep my tender feelings to myself. We’d both grown up in New Orleans, where the wildlife is strictly human, and our move to the Wisconsin countryside that spring had introduced us to many new things.

A few weeks later, I came home one night visibly shaken.

“What’s wrong, dear?” Evann asked me.

I told her I’d seen a murdered tree on top of someone’s car.

“A Christmas tree?” she asked.

“Uh huh.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“Uh huh.”

I’m lucky I didn’t wind up on top of her car.

Deer Crossing

  • Aug 27 / 2009
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Hurray for Van Hollen!

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued the following statement about his refusal to defend domestic partnerships in Wisconsin:

In November 2006, Wisconsin voters amended our State Constitution to declare that marriage was between one man and one woman. The amendment prohibits our government from recognizing any other legal status substantially similar to marriage. But the general domestic partnership provisions contained in Act 28 do just that: recognize a legal status that is substantially similar to the legal status of marriage.

That is why I cannot represent the state in this case.

Hurray for Van Hollen! It’s about time somebody said no to the radical homosexual lobby. The people make their voices heard, but the perverts get their way anyway. If this isn’t tyranny, what is?

  • Dec 20 / 2008
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Wide Awake in Weyauwega

My brush with death on the Wolf River was the inspiration for a country song I wrote once. It’s the story of a guy whose wife leaves him just as the river is starting to freeze up, and the question he fears to ask: Did she even make it to the other side? The compulsion of Wisconsonites to start place names with Ws — Weyauwega, Waupaca, Wauwatosa, Winnebago, Winneconne, etc. — dictated the alliteration in the refrain.

WIDE AWAKE IN WEYAUWEGA
© 1991, F.R. Duplantier

It was early in December
When the ice was still quite thin
That my love lit out and left me
And never came back again.

That’s why I’m wide awake
In Weyauwega,
Wondering what went wrong.
Yes, I’m wide awake
in Weyauwega,
Wishing you’d come home.

Cold snap hit right after she left
And the river froze good and hard,
So I’d cross each day to check the box,
But she never sent a card.

That’s why, ETC.

The days are getting longer
And the ice is breaking free.
Still no word from the one I love –
Will she ever come back to me?

That’s why, ETC.

  • Dec 18 / 2008
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One Big Snowman

snowmanThis is the largest snowman my wife and I ever built, on the ice-covered Wolf River in front of our house in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. “Frenchie the Snowman” was 8-10 feet tall. I have no idea how much he weighed, but it must have been several hundred pounds. The top two sections were too heavy to lift, so we rolled them down our hanging dock and dropped them into place. This will give you some idea of his size: what looks like a tiny little “beret” on his head is actually the lid to a large cast-iron pot, and the scarf that barely circles his neck is a queen-size bedsheet. The snowmobilers  whizzing up and down the river in front of our house did double takes when they saw our supersized French Frosty. Then Spring came, the river thawed, and Frenchie crashed through the ice, never to be seen again.

  • Dec 16 / 2008
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Falling Through the Ice

There is a thin layer of ice that supports all of us in our daily lives — made up of myths, half-truths, and misconceptions. We walk about on it oblivious to the precariousness of our situation, and to the cold, deadly reality that lurks beneath. — “Falling Through the Ice,” F.R. Duplantier

boat

Winter on the Wolf River: The two minutes of perfect serenity I enjoyed during my summer passages became a forty-minute ordeal.

It was this time of year, maybe even this day, 19 years ago, when I took that last step — and boy was it a doozy! I published an account of my brush with death in a January issue of The New American, the magazine I edited at the time. The following spring, it was republished in The Weyauwega Chronicle, our local weekly. That’s when I discovered that I had committed a macho faux pas.

According to the “Code of the Norsemen,” it’s okay to fall through the ice, but not to acknowledge publicly that one has done so. Most Wisconsin outdoorsmen have had this experience at least once, and with prodding will privately admit to it — but, in public, never! Evidently, it’s considered quite stupid to fall through the ice.

I, however, had at least two legitimate excuses. First, I was from New Orleans and didn’t know the first thing about winter hazards — aside from the folly of licking frozen flagpoles, of course, though I did get my fingers stuck to the inside of my mailbox once, and only once. Second (and this was something I discovered months later), it turned out that there was a dam, and hydroelectric plant, upriver from where I fell through. It was the opening of the dam the night before that had undermined the ice in a relatively shallow section of the river and made it precariously thin where it had been rock solid just the day before. The following year, I knew better than to cross there.

  • Nov 30 / 2008
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Weather Indicated

Bob at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass., 1986

St. Louis had its first snowfall of the season last night — just an inch or so, enough to make the yard look nice and cover up all the leaves I never got around to raking.

My wife and I still get a big kick out of snow. Of course, we grew up in New Orleans and didn’t have a whole lot of experience with it until we moved to Boston in 1986. Evann, a graphic artist, remembers how Christmas cards never made any sense to us Southerners — what with their snowy landscapes, barren trees, and horse-drawn sleighs, smoke curling up from chimneys, and everybody bundled in strange garments and head coverings. Where were the scenes of barefoot, bareheaded kids in shorts and tee shirts playing with their Christmas presents under leaf-filled live oak trees, while parents sipped juleps on the veranda, cooled themselves with palmetto fans, and swatted mosquitoes as big as pelicans? That was Christmas for us, more or less.

It only snowed twice in New Orleans when I was a kid — once on New Year’s Day in 1961, and again in the spring of 1974. I remember exactly where I was both times: at a Sugar Bowl game in ’61 (the slushy ramps were treacherous on the way out), in a political science class at Tulane (on the Newcomb campus) in ’74.

But we had plenty of snow in Massachusetts, and way too much in Wisconsin. St. Louis is just about right.

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