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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Pioneer Hospitality


These days, we try to guard our privacy and security quite closely. But in the early days of Wisconsin, settlers had looser boundaries about such things.

Helpful neighbors were an important part of establishing not only a home, but also a community. And this wasn't limited to lending a cup of sugar. Hospitality was key to forming close bonds, and complete strangers were often welcomed into a conversation, a meal, or sleeping quarters. Good manners even included the occasional burglary, as one W.P.A. fieldworker was told in the 1930s.

One day, the Wisconsin Folklore Project learned, a man traveling on foot some miles from his home came upon a distant neighbor's cabin and knocked on the door, hoping to get a meal. Unfortunately no one was home and the door was blocked. He reasoned that if the door had been secured from the inside, then the neighbor must have had another exit. With an empty stomach spurring him on, the man searched for another way in.

Eventually he found the secret entrance, a hole under several loose shingles on the roof. Pleased at his success, the traveler climbed inside and made himself a meal, using the owner's supplies and some eggs he gathered in the barnyard. When he was finished, he climbed back out and, replacing the shingles, resumed his journey home.

Whom should he meet on the return trip but the owner of the cabin. The traveler thanked his neighbor for the hospitality and neither man considered it unusual.


:: Posted in Curiosities on January 1, 2014
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