Tuesday, May 26, 2009

discovering Wisconsin (or, a New Englander on the Prairie)

Back to blogging after a lovely couple days canoeing the Kickapoo River. I have a newfound respect for Wisconsin--it's really beautiful. We finally got off I-94 and got to drive through hilly farm country. It had what I adore about the Midwest--big sky, huge sense of space even when you're surrouonded by trees, small towns with huge amounts of space between them--but unlike where I lived in Minnesota this area was hilly and well-treed. If you check out the map, you can pretty clearly see the change topography in the SE corner where we live and visited: the glaciers never hit there. You can basically see the line where they stopped.

Everything is lush and green now. The Kickapoo gets its name from an Algonquin word meaning essentially "goes this way and that." In some places, this river was 200 feet from being ox-boxed. Hugely serpentine, which was a great challenge on the canoe. Plus, we saw bald eagles, red tailed hawks, redwing blackbirds, swallows working in a tandem to building their mud-nests against the joints of bridges. There is no end to the list of things I want to learn about. Birds is now on that list.

We drove home through towns of less than 1000 each with lots of farmland and cows in between. Nearly every house we passed as we left Ontario, WI had a sign announcing the sale of quilts, braided rugs, eggs, custom-built barns, leather tooling, baked goods, fireword. Everyone doing a little business on the side.

And, after only 5 years of living in the wide, beautiful Midwest, I can now say I've been to the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of them, anyway. This is the Little House in the Big Woods in Pepin, WI.

Pa Ingalls worked hard to find remote locations for his family to farm in peace, and those this one is in now surrounded by fields and has a road near by--the "big woods" were cut down and are now in the process of being regrown--it is still very remote. 7 miles outside of a small town. While we were there on Memorial day, two other cars and 3 motorcycles drove up to see the fun. It is indeed a little house for 5 people. The doors are just over 6' high, if that helps your perspective.

Caddie Woodlawn lived only about a half hour away, by car, though in comparitively much nicer conditions. Saw her home, too.

Thumbs up, Wisconsin.

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