March 2008 Odd Wisconsin
Printing presses were not something that pioneer settlers wanted to carry west. They were made of cast iron and weighed as much a winter's worth of provisions. To be useful, they had to be accompanied by an equally heavy load of lead type. Hauling them overland was impossible and shipping them down the Great Lakes was problematic. So it...
Posted in Curiosities on March 25, 2008
This weekend marks the birthday of Wisconsin's most famous practical joker, Eugene Shepard (1854-1923). Shepard began cruising Wisconsin forests for lumber companies as a teenager in 1870. Over the next four decades, he mapped and assessed the market value of vast holdings of forest lands for lumber companies, making and losing more than one fortune. He was equally at home...
Posted in Odd Lives on March 20, 2008
Driving from Madison into Dodge Co. yesterday, we saw open water for the first time in months, as well as a foolish turkey walking in Hwy 73 and three majestic sandhill cranes overhead. That part of the state is known for its wildlife, thanks in large part to the preservation of Horicon Marsh. On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt...
Posted in Animals on March 15, 2008
The vernal equinox doesn't arrive until next week, but 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...
Posted in Curiosities on March 13, 2008
"I will always be true to the working class," promised mayor of Milwaukee Daniel Hoan, who was born on this day in 1881. If that remark sounds odd today, how about this matter-of-fact one from press coverage of a party in his honor: "In February, the Socialist aldermen..." Plural? Not just a single socialist, considered a crack-pot utopian by the...
Posted in Odd Lives on March 12, 2008
This winter's record snowfall and vicious temperature swings have left our roads looking like a pock-marked lunar landscape. This points out how much we take for granted a universal system of smooth and reliable roads – a utopian ideal that would have made our forebears laugh out loud. They'd have been downright grateful to drive their horse-drawn wagons along concrete...
Posted in Curiosities on March 5, 2008
Last week the U.S. Senate apologized for the federal government's treatment of Native Americans over the last two centuries. In its apology, the Senate said it "recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes." It officially apologized "on behalf of the people of the United...
Posted in on March 2, 2008