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August 2013 Odd Wisconsin

Oxen Long Enough

Today, Labor Day is coupled in all our minds with the phrase, "three-day weekend." It's become a symbol of the last leisurely break before kids have to hit the books again and parents begin the long work-a-day grind that stretches from late-August to late-November, when the long Thanksgiving weekend rolls around. But it wasn't always like this. A Day to...
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Posted in on August 29, 2013

The Amazing Curative Power of Rattlesnakes

At the battle of Wisconsin Heights in 1832, Sgt. John McNair took a bullet in the behind. Although it was just a flesh wound, he complained loudly about it and insisted he could no longer ride his horse. His comrades thought he was milking a minor injury for all it was worth and teased him mercilessly, as young men will...
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Posted in Animals on August 22, 2013

Madison -- "Not Fit for Any Civilized Nation"

The first visitor to leave a written account of the isthmus that would become Madison was Ebenezer Brigham, who crossed it in May of 1829 while returning from Portage to Blue Mounds. He later told an acquaintance that "The site was at the time an open prairie, on which grew dwarf oaks, while thickets covered the lower grounds." Struck with...
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Posted in Madison on August 11, 2013

The First Book in 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 was...
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Posted in Curiosities on August 7, 2013

He's A Lumberjack
And He's OK

After a long weekend up north recently, we hunted down some memoirs by Wisconsin loggers. Everyone knows the stereotype -- flannel shirt, heavy boots, cheap tobacco, hearty appetite, maybe a blue ox -- but what was the reality? Among the best recollections was one by James Holden, who started his career in the Chippewa Valley in the winter of 1862....
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Posted in Curiosities on August 1, 2013

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