October 17, 2008

On the Road in Wisconsin

Monte drove northeast Wisconsin today to do some muskie fishing with some cousins he didn't know (knows but doesn't know, cuz never spent time with). Since we're on our way to Green Bay, I was in tow. I stayed in their cabin knitting, watching the one existing channel: Martha Stewart was ok; Days of Our Lives - wasn't that on 30 some years ago?; People's Court, and some news. When a skin care program came on, I shut the thing off and read one of the books I brought on this trip. How do people watch TV?! and all those commercials, campaign adds ...

So we're on the road to Green Bay right now. Internet is slow, but I'm going to try and post what I wrote yesterday -

We’re in Ogema (name of an Indian chief)(Monte was born in Tomahawk) Wisconsin visiting Monte’s parents, Em and Betty. I often feel we live out in the country, but whenever we come here, I realize what real country is. Years ago when Monte needed to get some things for doing his geology or even mail something Federal Express, we’d have to drive for a couple hours. And now with cell phones and internet, we’re really feeling out of it. We are on vacation, but we still want to check emails, Monte still needs to do some editing from attachments, and me write my blog….

My iPhone is AT&T and it’s working here, but who wants to type much on a phone! Monte has to go to a high hill (in the Swan family it’s called Lawrence’s Hill) to get his phone messages and make calls and take my Apple laptop to email his editings and check his emails. I took a picture of him last Sunday talking on his phone sitting in his dad’s John Deere ‘Gator’. We rode all over in that thing, lots of logging roads and back-roads; lots of fallen leaves blanketing everywhere – so beautiful and peaceful.


All of Monte’s great grandparents homesteaded here and much of the land is still in the Swan family. It used to be Ogema was filled with Swan’s (they had 13 kids, so lots of grandkids) (Swan was Swanson in Sweden), Bergesons, and Blombergs, and Monte’s mom’s family were Kranz and Halstrands. Her parents owned the Ogema hotel. (Betty had to make 5 pies in a woodstove oven every morning before going to school. My competition when 1st married?! ☺) So many married amongst these families that it feels as if everyone is a relative when you go to church or anywhere.


Geologist Monte will tell the story of the days of the glacier, moving down from Canada and stopping in Ogema, dumping, and leaving behind lots of rocks - northern Wisconsin is pretty flat, whereas the southern part of the state is hilly. Ogema does have the highest point in Wisconsin – Tim’s Hill, and tourists come to climb the tower (it’s not quite 2000 ft! I put an exclamation mark because we live at 8000ft, so it’s like a mound to us). Ogema’s homesteaders could not farm, and with lots of trials, the Swan family name is known as producing the best christmas trees in the country. They did ginsing as one of their trials. Logging and pulp for paper products is another industry here. Their woods recover almost overnight, which amazes me!


When homesteading, the main sweetener they had was maple syrup, so Em got sick of it, but is using it again now. We’ve come and helped him make maple syrup in the past, tapping the trees, riding around on a 4-wheeler, and cooking the 40 gallons of sap down to one gallon of syrup outside over a wood fire. Berries are abundant around here, but that means you could connect with a bear eating berries too (and then there’s the mosquitoes all summer! (another exclamation mark since I didn’t grow up with mosquitoes, black flies, or ticks - and my scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes don’t count since you hardly ever saw them!) I can’t get over how they hardly have to water with so much moisture in the ground (and it rains more). They get more sun here than Milwaukee, where Monte was raised.

Monte was going to do a lot of fishing – like in Albert’s lake. (I asked if these were the names on maps, “No, that’s just what they’ve been called for years and locals use these names”.) Instead, Monte helped his dad make a ‘tree’ stand for the next deer-hunting season. Because of his age, all the brothers were adamant about him having a safer place on the ground, so they’re calling it his ‘lemonade’ stand.


Monte’s mom had a project ready for us to do – we washed the walls and painted the kitchen – from a light blue to a cream color. So now they’ve got a clean kitchen. His parents took us to see a log home being built by a distant relative. I took 48 pictures! It’s a Scandinavian building style that Monte’s always wanted to do. The impressiveness with this one is the size of the logs – mainly white and red pine. Think about it … 6 logs are the entire one-story level height, and then there’s the length!


In hearing of local news, I was reminded of how years ago Monte and me were a part of the local news: the Ogema bank had been robbed and the get-away vehicle was said to look like a white blazer. Monte and me were stopped in Tomahawk for some said little something (in our white blazer), but the officer was back and forth to his car a lot, and we found out in the end he was checking us out as to possibilities with being the bank robbers. So when returning to his parents, they were anxious to tell us of the exciting local news and we were able to add to the gossip-line, of being the suspects for a bit!

We leave here tomorrow, Friday, and head to Green Bay and visit Monte’s brother Mike’s family (we fly out Sunday). I’m typing this in Word since the time to write on my blog site would take too long. We did take my laptop along – Monte's parents ‘day on the town’ Tuesday. Sitting in parking lots and Monte on a bench at the grocer, Monte was able to catch up on business. (Monte hurt his back out in the woods with his dad, so a day of rest was good.) While on the road tomorrow I’ll try and post this.


Remember me posting about being in the mood to make a scarecrow? I did get a couple books from the library I’ll look at more when home. But there’s been a lot as we’ve driven all over. I had to take a picture of the three we saw when we went for ice cream.


We’ve passed Columbus Day, and Sukkot is happening now. Click on the links to read what I wrote a year ago. If you’ve not seen the movie Ushpizin, it’s a great movie showing current Jerusalem celebrating Sukkot and what it means to truly take in the ‘stranger’, and being gracious.
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