Sunday, April 25, 2010

Now That's What I'm Talkin' About!!!

Cub Fans and Brewer Fans will understand.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wisconsin Hystory #754

As promised, here is the real story behind the Platteville "M". As told by the "experts". Platteville has the world's largest M. The M is a monogram for the former Wisconsin Mining School (now the University of Wisconsin, Platteville). The first M was first constructed in 1936 when two men, Raymond Medley and Alvin Knoerr climbed the Platte Mound and trudged through 2 feet of snow to form a huge letter M. Actual construction of the stone M began in the spring of 1937 and was completed in the fall of the same year. The M is composed of rocks laid on Platte Mound and is whitewashed every year. The M is 241 feet tall, 214 feet wide, and legs that are 25 feet wide.
Okay that's their side of the story. Now, here's the real poop. A couple of guys got lost on their way home from the New Year's Eve Carp Drop in Prairie Du Chein. They climbed to the top of a large mound on the outskirts of Platteville to get their bearings. No landmarks were visible to them. (after all the college, being a mining school, was completely underground.) In an effort to get help they started creating a message on the side of the mound. Their intention was to spell out "WHERE ARE WE?", but they made the first "W" so large that they not only ran out of space but they also ran out of white stones. To further complicate things, the only stones they had to use were white and blended in with the snow-covered mound. Needless to say their message went unseen until the following Spring when the snow melted and a giant "M" was visible for miles around. The bodies of the courageous young men were found, one at either tip of what bypassers viewed as a "M" while in reality the boys original intention was to create a message starting with a "W". You see they were working from the top of the mound so from their vantage point they saw . . .

In following years residents, city and college officials decided that it was easier to promote a "M" from the ground level than to induce tourists to climb to the top to view a "W". A number of attempts were made to change the "M" to other letters, like "A" "A" or "V" but they couldn't come up with a feasible meaning for the abreviation. So they settled for the "Mining College" story and to this day, still hold hopes that sometime in the future Michigan and Minnesota will combine with Wisconsin to form a new Northern Territory, Michconsota. The mound with its giant "M" would be a perfect setting for the territorial capital and people from around the world (or a least from Dickeyville) would dance around the base of the mound and miners, who have been underground for centuries, would emerge to cheering, drunken crowds of "Eminites".
As I revisited the "M" mound last week, I made another really interesting discovery. There, scaling the "M" itself, was a figure in a long black overcoat, a black derby hat and small round spectacles. I drove by then I performed a famous "Blume Uturn" and snuck back to a spot where I could photograph the "mystery man". Pretending to be photographing the entire mound, when I zoomed in on the person, I realized that he drew a striking resemblance to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec only taller. Could it be that this, until now, unknown tall twin of Henri, suffering from a huge overdose of absinthe, had been lured into this area by the giant "M" believing it to be a sign for the infamous Moulin Rouge. That could be another entirely different story. But, for now, I feel that I've my best to clear up the origin of the big "M".

Monsieur Latrec musing on the mound!

Self portrait - I think not!
Notice the similarity of the pose to that of our Mystery Guy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Too Much, Too Fast...

Over the past week I've been overloaded with material for blogging. At least three things are more than blogworthy. One is exciting from a personal standpoint, one whimsical from a hystorical standpoint and one is just something that struck my brain the other night during a sleepless period.
Exciting - After almost sixty years I have been contacted by my best high school buddies. For four years the four of us would meet every morning on the bus for school. Now this wasn't one of those Big Yellow school buses that you see packed with kids wearing Nikis and IPod earbugs. No this was a standard CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) commuter bus. We all lived more than an hour from school and were fortunate enough (in spite of what we tell our kids and grandkids) that we didn't have to walk barefoot in the snow for twenty miles, each way. Although we did have to walk a fair distance to the bus stop. The journey involved a long bus ride followed by either a Streetcar or El ride to the hallowed halls of Dumbach Hall, Loyola Academy. The great percentage of students at LA were from the wealthier North Shore section of Chicagoland. Our little gang haled from much humbler stock on the far western area of the city. After graduation our little crew split off to various parts of the country. Rich became a lifetime Navy man (a dentist I believe) a resides with his wife of over fifty years, Sylvia (his high school sweetheart) in Maryland. George, another military lifer, (I understand that he was wounded in Vietnam) is with wife, Anne in Florida. Jerry and his wife, who I did actually cross paths with back in the early sixties when I produced some materials for him at IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology) lives on the lake front in downtown Chicago writing, as he puts it, fiction and poetry. Ken rounds out the group. A retired Northern Trust VP lives with his wife, in of all places, Palatine Illinois. For those of you who don't know. Palatine was our last Illinois residence. I'm sure that this isn't very exciting to the rest of you but it has been just another one of those thrills that has been made possible by these little computing machines. So far in the past year or two I have renewed friendships with no less than dozen people. Being back in contact with them kind of gives me the opportunity to experience things that were happening in other places while I was living in my little world. All in all it's been a wonderful week of reminiscing about those days of DA haircuts and engineer boots, pegged pants and one button roll suit coats. Having malts for breakfast at the corner drugstore and pitching pennies on neighborhood sidewalk at lunchtime. We got a little rowdy on the bus from time to time and had our own renegade intramural basketball team. We didn't win much but we did provide some laughs for the audience (faculty members not included). We were Happy Days. I'm sure a lot of "remember when" stories are going to be filling cyberspace for quite a while and I'm going to enjoy every word.
Hopefully, in the future, I'll have a few pictures of the old "PP" (to the Jesuits that was "the Prowling Panthers" to us it meant something else) to share. Thanks for listening. I'll be back tomorrow with a real Hystorical Wisconsin story.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

AMs Gone Wild

One of the main signs of Winter's end is a rite called "Spring Break". Cities in Florida, Mexico and any number of exotic destinations teem with jubilant high school and college kids. On Monday I discovered an entirely different twist to this phenomenon. On a mercy mission to Platteville, in search of discounted Easter chocolate, I encountered something that you won't see on the evening news. As I was driving along the highway something caught my eye. There was a bunch of cute little asses frolicking in a nearby field. Determined to investigate a little closer I zigged and zagged until I found a road that led to that field. As I came over the crest of a hill I found myself in the midst of a scene that would have made teenagers around the world shudder. I had run across, what seemed to be, an Amish Spring Break. On the right side of the road there were groups of boys, fully attired in their blue shirts, black trousers and vests and, naturally, their flat brimmed straw hats. They were engaged in what looked like a completely unorganized game of volleyball. Meanwhile, across the road, sitting on bank of the ditch were their female counterparts. The girls, dressed their black, ankle length frocks, watched admiringly. The astonishing thing about this scene was, there were forty or fifty teenaged kids and not one cel phone, IPod or laptop anywhere in sight. How do they communicate? I really wanted photos of this (probably would have been worth thousands on Ebay) but I live around these people and do respect their "I don't want my picture taken" policy. So with due respect I drove until I was out of sight then I swung a uturn and found a vantage point on a nearby hilltop where I could sneak a shot or two without being detected. I don't think the kids mind but them bearded parents (mainly the Amish men) are a tough bunch armed with pitchforks and biblical curses. I also managed to get a shot or two of those cute little asses that caught my attention initially. A short distance from the main party scene, as I approached the Big "M" (Explanatory story at a later date. This will be a subject for another Wisconsin Hystery Blog) I noticed a small splinter group of Amish kids climbing to the moundtop (like a hilltop only on the top of a mound) I popped off a shot or two pretending that I was shooting the "M".
All in all Monday was a pretty successful day, I experienced a ritual seldom seen by us Englishers and I scored big on leftover Easter candy at Walgreens. Can life get any better?

Amish Volleyball rules -
Thou shalt have no more than ten on a team, Thy buggy is out of bounds,
Thy ball in "Cow Pie" is still in playeth.

A chance meeting in the neutral zone. I think that's about as hot as it gets.

The girl's vantage point on the edge of the parking lot.
Notice, all those are the flashy sport model buggies.

A couple of those cute little "Spring Break" asses.
(And horses and cows.)

The Platteville "M".

A few kids viewing, probably, the only part of the world they've ever seen!

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Stand Corrected

Last week I posted a Blog titled "Way Up Nort". Upon my arrival in Minnesoda I was advised that, not only did I mispronounce Nord wrong, but I also misspelled it doncha know. Now since I bin up here a while ya know, I've brushed up on proper talkin'. We bin seein' the little kid, Eddie and his ma and pa. Dey're all prutty well too anyways. On a hot tip from da TV guy I went a ways up Nord ta see where a bunch of eagles bin hangin' out on some lake with lots of dead fish. When I got up der da froze up lake was all full of water and, I guess dem eagles musta ate up all dem dead fishes, cuz they were gone ya know. (Probably the same bunch we seen last week by La Crosse heading further Nord.) So I bin jus spending time any how eatin' watchin' the T and V and diddlin' with the computing machine while Eddie's ma and grandma run around doin' what ever he asks. His dad, Uncas, takes off in the mornin' for someplace he calls work while I study the lifestyles of the Nordwegian and the rest of dose blond folks at malls and liqueur stores. Tomorrow, if I manage to drag Grandma away, we head back down Soud to da Fennimore town. It'll be good to get home and start talking good old Wisconsin lingo again a na hey? I had planned on a lot of great eagle pictures but I found a better subject right here.

Here's Fast Eddie da new kid dat lives up Nord!

I got the feelin' this kid's going to be an orator.
Or an opera singer.

Maybe a politician. He's already trying to pat himself on the back.

Time to quit. I think he's getting bored.