Recently in conversation with one of my
acquaintances I made reference to “cow tipping”. Shockingly she had never heard of this rural
American pastime and inquired as to whether it was a real thing or not. Actually, it happens to be the rural equivalent
of an Urban Legend, but the simple fact that my ‘cross the pond pals were
unaware of it made me wonder how many other aspects of life in rustic Wisconsin
were alien to them.
So on the basis of my decades long study of this distinctive culture I present:
STUDIES AMONG THE CLAN OF THE CHEESEHEADS
I should probably start with the basic subject of self-identifying names.
Wisconsinites can be referred to as Badgers. This dates back to the earliest settlement of the state at a time when lead mining was a huge industry in the southwest corner of the state. Folks came from all over. They dug holes. Some used their excavations as crude shelters to winter over. They were called Badgers. Other folks, mostly from
Illinois, would come up the river in the spring and go
back down in the fall. As this mimicked
the behavior of a similarly named fish they were referred to as Suckers. The term has since evolved to specifically
refer to any citizens of Illinois
who still trust their State Government.
The Badger is also the mascot of the
. His nick name is “Bucky” but it has no special
significance. They held a contest to
name him. University of Wisconsin
There are heated rivalries between
in both college and professional sports.
fans – not a gentle bunch – used the derisive term “Cheeseheads” to refer to fans of the
Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. It
became a badge of honor and fans started wearing home made foam rubber hats
shaped like a wedge of cheese. The
prototype is said to have come from a discarded sofa.
The Cheeseheads gained additional attention when a private pilot on his way home from a game had to make a crash landing. Alertly donning his foam rubber hat he averted serious injury.
The Cheesehead is one of three Ceremonial Attires found in
Wisconsin. The second is blaze orange hunting garb. It has become somewhat less common in recent
years but traditionally schools were let out of session and factories shut down
for the duration of the fall deer hunting season. The odds of the local newspaper displaying on
their front page pictures of large defunct deer exceeds the probability of the
sun rising in the east.
The Third Ceremonial Attire is team merchandise of The Green Bay Packers. This is an American style football team that is the subject of adulation seldom accorded to mortal man. Confusingly to the scientific observer, Packers football games can involve the wearing of all three styles of ritual garb….or if beer intake has been sufficient, of almost no clothing whatsoever regardless of the winter conditions.
Traditional foods in
trend towards the carnivorous. In the
far southwest a hint of Cornwall
is recalled in the ongoing popularity of the pasty. In the northwest areas a Friday night “fish
fry” is a grease laden carry over from the days when Catholic citizens were
expected to skip meat that day. The
large German population has made the bratwurst a staple food item. Larger meat markets sometimes have dozens of
variations. And if while traveling in
the back country of the state you encounter a “hot beef” don’t be concerned
that you are becoming enmeshed in a local disagreement. The term refers to a sandwich prepared with
sliced roast beef and onions. It seems
to be a requirement that they be served at all graduation parties.
Of course modern times have changed
Wisconsin a little. Now when you drive through the small farming
communities that typify the state you find some of them much reduced in size as
smaller farms are being replaced by larger operations. Some of the little hamlets have in fact
contracted down to the smallest possible unit of Wisconsin
society: A post office. A park
with a war memorial cannon. Two
churches, one Catholic, one Protestant. And a tavern, where both faiths join hands to worship the Green Bay Packers.