Every summer when I was a kid we would leave Washington State for a few weeks to visit either my dad's family in South Carolina or my mom's family in Wisconsin. The routine became less regular as my sister and I grew up and moved out. Also, my parents retired to the Carolinas, which biased our family visits in that direction. The upshot is that I don't get to Wisconsin much anymore... but when I do it's extra special. This year I went over 4th of July week for a little Enge family reunion and for the traditional "Witwen Parade" near the farm that my mom grew up on.
We stayed the first few nights at a rental house on Lake Wisconsin, near the town of Sauk City / Prairie du Sac. The lake sometimes had good wind but there was nowhere to rent a windsurf. Primitive as can be.
Most days we would pick up my Grandma Dorothy from the retirement home and bring her to hang out with us. Grandma is nearly deaf now but she can play cards better than anyone in the younger generations.
The Witwen parade is one of those "slice of Americana" things that Norman Rockwell would have loved to paint. There's a procession of little floats and marches by small town civic organizations, followed by a big chicken barbeque. "The Living Flag" has apparently been a staple of the parade since its inception.
My favorite float advertised the state cow chip (dried manure) throwing contest. It was a fake cow, but they had it rigged up to dispense real cow chips onto the roadway. Nice touch.
Some of the Enges are still real farmers, like cousin Delorman's sons Tim and Greg (pictured). I should have posted this blog earlier, because now I can't remember if this was Tim or Greg. Delorman told a funny story about one of the harvesters (silos) in the background. Farmers have mostly stopped using silos, because they have discovered that it is easier to just pile the feed on the ground and shrink wrap it in giant sheets of white plastic. So Delorman's silo sat for several years with just a few tons of old feed rotting in the bottom. Then one day smoke started coming out the top. They opened the valve at the top and ran a water hose into it for a couple hours to try to drown out the fire. It seemed to work, so they went to bed. Then in the middle of the night... KABOOM! The top of the silo exploded into the air with a concussion that knocked knick knacks off shelves of farmhouses miles away. The silo lid shredded into jagged chunks of metal that perilously scattered all over the farm. Fortunately, no one was injured.
At the family reunion at Delorman's house I felt like I needed a laminated reference chart to keep track everyone and how we were all related. All I could remember for sure was that we had the same great grandparents. The picture below is my cousin Chuck who came up from Nebraska. He could have been in the living flag, too.
Wisconsin isn't all flat land and corn fields. It's actually very hilly and scenic, with a mosaic of forests, fields, lakes, and rivers, and a scattering of tall rocky outcroppings where you can view the landscape. Here I am with my folks and some cousins on the top of "Gibraltar Rock."
My Wisconsin relatives are mostly politically liberal "gentleman farmer" types, but Wisconsin has all types, including beer and gun loving hunter fisherman types. I got to see a bit of the other side of Wisconsin on this visit when we went to "Sprecher's Tavern" in Leland, Wisconsin. Junior Sprecher, who is 81 years old, still tends bar in this place, as he has for most of his life. In addition to pickled eggs and pigs feet, Junior sells guns to go along with his alcohol.