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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Mud Season Begins

The vernal equinox arrived last week, and we've already encountered another sure sign of spring -- mud season. It's nice to see bare ground poking through the snow (and for the first time in three months), but the consequence of melting snow is rising tides of muck. Here's an early resident's memory of the main street in Fond du Lac during times like these:

"It was a poor excuse for a road according to present day standards and could be used only in the winter when the ground was frozen or when the weather was dry in the summer. Downpours submerged great sections of it and made other portions, as one writer expressed it, 'as slippery as noodles on a spoon.'"

After a spring rain, it "looked like a vat of blacking. The mud held like an octopus and when a wheel or foot ventured into the mass something seemed to grasp it with tenacious power, never to let go. In 1850, James Ewen, proprietor of the Lewis House at Fond du Lac, waded out into the street early in the morning before the guests had arisen and placed a pair of boots and a hat in the sticky mass in such a way that at a glance one would think an individual was disappearing in the earthy mucilage. Those passing thought a man had drowned on land.

"When a Vermonter came to Fond du Lac early in the history of the city, he sent a rhyme to his friends in the New England state in order to discourage emigration. His opening lines were:

"Great western waste of bottom land / Flat as pancake, rich as grease / Where gnats are full as big as toads / And skeeters are as big as geese."

Ah yes - the skeeters yet to come. As Henry Thoreau said, "Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." Of course, he wasn't from Wisconsin.

:: Posted in Curiosities on March 27, 2014
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