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.