Focal Point

Many small towns have one, or perhaps two, features which are “must see” for visitors and residents alike.

It might be a town square. A historic building. A park or bandstand within a park. Or a sculpture of a founding father.

In the particular small town I called home — this place was “THE DUCK POND”

From the time I was a child until now — it has both transformed and stayed the same.

Location is the same. Visible from Main Street if you don’t drive too fast or blink at the wrong time.

Spring fed is the same. The spring (or springs) are strong enough to keep the water open year round. (Not common in Wisconsin.) Yes, some ice forms. But don’t venture on it — it’s thin and fragile.

Cement curbing is part of transformed. Years ago one end had a stone wall and the other banks were grass and dirt. Now, the shape is fixed.

The center fountain is part of transformed. And notable enough that it was incorporated into the Sesquicentennial logo.

And the name? I’m glad you asked.

Yes, most years there is a duck population. And the fish — the descendants of a time when the pond was stocked with trout have thrived. Fishing? Only on special occasions — such as a children’s fishing contest during the Summer Festival.



Welcoming Committee

We are so glad to see you! Welcome! Look at me!

Imagine a committee of three. That should be a manageable size. No tie votes. And you give them one task — welcome the visitors.

Now imagine that each of these committee members has the attention span and manners of a toddler. Or perhaps a shorter attention span and fewer manners than a toddler.

Do you see a problem?

A sculptor saw a solution.

A trio of well-mannered, watchful, Meerkats combine security patrol with welcome committee duties.

Precious as Gold

Small towns are not the only gems scattered across the upper Midwest.

Minnesota claims 10,000 of them on tourist information and auto license plates.

Wisconsin and Michigan are not far behind on the numbers.

The resort areas of these states are rich with “summer homes”. Some are simple. Others, often over the course of decades in the same family, have all the modern comforts. Most offer a quiet change of pace and a good view. Many families have added fishing and/or boat docks. Rules vary — some lakes are motor free. Others welcome fast boats and water skiers.

Nugget Lake –a park nestled in the hills of Northwestern Wisconsin, welcomes you to fish and picnic.


Run, Children, Run

Parents protect. That’s one of the primary job descriptions.

Protection can take many forms. There’s the verbal confrontation, often with another adult, when the child is accused of an infraction of social norms. Providing shelter gives physical protection. Food is basic. Clothing for humans.

And when danger threatens. Sometimes it’s best to flee the scene.

I remember once dashing with my parents and brothers from the baseball stands to the car. We’d stayed for the fireworks. And the rain came down in sheets as the last explosion faded from the sky.

I’m not sure what this family is fleeing. But it looks like one adult is acting as “rear guard” while the other guides the children to safety.

Quick! The in-laws are coming!


Lively Basement

There is a series of light-hearted plays popular in the Midwest featuring “The Church Basement Ladies.”

Have you ever wondered about the settting? Remember the brick schoolhouse/church from a recent post?

The basement was dug in the late 1940’s or early 50’s. Two entrances like required in every public building — one was a door direct to the outside, the other a narrow set of steps up to the building’s front narthex/coatroom/entrance. The main features when I was a child included: a large furnace (wood burning, then later oil), a kitchen with a propane stove, tables, wooden folding chairs, and (a requirement for all church basements) a support post a perfect diameter to grasp while twirling until you were dizzy.

A few remodels and updates later — the space hosts Sunday school classes, regular pot-luck suppers, and funeral lunches.

Socializing after a funeral early this century.

Hunting by Hearing

My, what big ears you have.

No, I’m not repeating a portion of a popular fairy tale. And the animal is not a wolf – large, evil, or otherwise. And certainly not talking.

Today’s zoo statue features a much smaller hunter. A native of the African savanna, this fellow uses his acute hearing to locate his insect prey. This adaptation gives rise to his name — Bat Eared Fox.

Imagine if you will — a trio of these listening intently, then dashing off to dine on a colony of termites. Yum, yum. Food and water both in one tasty bite. They will hear you coming — and likely hide in a convenient den.

Well Built

More than 125 years ago, the village faced a problem.

Their log school building burned down every few years. So they made a decision and built a brick, one-room schoolhouse. They gave it six generous windows for light. A door on one end. And a bell in a short, square tower.

Several years later, the village faced a different problem. The brick schoolhouse was too small. This time, they found some land a couple blocks away and built a larger brick schoolhouse. But what to do with the empty building?

We’ll buy it. A group of people who had been holding church services in home replied. And they did. In 1894.

The small town congregation will be celebrating this year. With a service in the same building. Yes — it’s changed. They added electricity. Dug a basement. Put in central heat and plumbing. Stained glass windows replaced the clear ones. Plaster. Paint. Remodel times 3 or 4 or more.

The bell and bricks are the same.

Our ancestors did a different sort of recycle/repurpose.


Reach for the Top

It’s time tested advice. Set your sights high. Aim for the stars. Do your best…then a little more.

A little extra effort can make the difference between ordinary, average, or dull and bright, superior, or excellent.

And give yourself time to practice. The musical instrument you want to master? Plan on hours and hours of practice for months, even years. The same for any sports skill — even the most excellent of NBA players practice the basics. Over and over and over.

As we walk from the parking lot to one of the zoo entrances, this is illustrated.

It takes practice to balance and stretch for the top, tasty leaves.


Parading in Style

I’m not sure how the date was selected. But every year, the third weekend in July, my hometown celebrates. Baseball games. Fire department displays of strength. A dance.

And every 25 years they do it up big and special with a parade.

I remember the one when I was a child and it was part of the town’s centennial. We had lots of preliminary events for that. Men grew beards (my dad purchased a “shaving permit” button). Women bought fabric and patterns and sewed costumes of 1850’s design. I remember a fashion show, a carnival, fireworks. And of course — a parade.

Fast forward half a century. A few of the same people are in the parade. Riding this time instead of walking.

Every parade needs a look into the past.

Artful Sign

At times a sign can be more than a sign.

A few of them become landmarks. (Think the HOLLYWOOD sign.)

Signs at tourist attractions are at times clever and eye-catching more than informative.

The sign for the St. Louis Zoo says a lot in a simple manner.

Come along with me while we explore some of the other sculpture in this public space for the next several Fridays.