my husband and i are having a debate as we drive across the vast plains of iowa…”what, technically, is the midwest?”. i say, no way does it include the plains of iowa and nebraska, he says it absolutely does. thank goodness for the iphone. we quickly discover the man from the midwest actually knows the midwest (damn). in my defense, when i think of the midwest i think of i love lucy in milwaukee or one of my best friends driving her car across a frozen lake in minnesota. but…it’s true, the midwest is technically defined from nebraska to ohio and all the way up to north dakota. huh? ok ok, fine go ahead and include the plains of nebraska in the technical definition of the midwest but for the sake of this entry; the midwest equals the frozen tundra of up nort (as my father in law used to say). . .
the midwest (as i define it) is a funny place. small town midwesterners love friday night fish fry, camouflage, brats, and of course beer, beer and more beer. they love fishing, hunting and my favorite. . .taxidermy. they still smoke in way too many places and it is true that as a whole, they need some nutritional counseling.
but, what really defines small town midwest people, is the attitude. they hang out on fishing boats and in bars asking about each others lives. everybody knows everybody. if they don’t know you, they will get to know you over a beer at places called hillside, sunrise and edgewater. they will care about where you came from and they will remember you too. they will most likely have lived in that small town all their lives or have travelled there for as long as they can remember and they will talk a lot about how it once was.
fourteen years ago i went “home” with my boyfriend to a small town straddling the border between wisconsin and the upper peninsula of michigan called land o’ lakes. nope, it’s not where they make the butter. i fell in love with my boyfriend on that trip. i already knew i liked him but seeing where he was from sealed the deal. the people…the place. there were probably one hundred shades of green out on that lake and only a few visible houses scattered the shoreline. sea planes docked nearby and the view from the cessna 180 his father flew me in was magnificent, the land was literally littered with lakes. the resorts on the shoreline were small cabins that had a dirty dancing 50’s feel. out on the lake you could only feel the presence of a few fisherman and the numerous bald eagles that call lac vieux desert home. it was serene, casual and breathtakingly beautiful, it still is.
fourteen years later, every summer, we still make the trek (via road trip) to wisconsin, land o’ lakes and specifically lac vieux desert. So much has stayed the same and so much has changed. my husband and i have begun to fall into the trap of “how it used to be”. my father in law passed away last year and the sea plane sits lonely in the hanger, the willys (one of the original restored military jeeps) has been sold and my favorite drinking spot is now a condominium complex. i miss stealing away, while everyone else was doing the dishes, to dance to a waylon jennings song on the jukebox with the man who made the “nort” come alive.
but so much has also changed for the better. our car has become full over years; where there use to be two, now there are five and we have started to make our own memories with the kids. we hunker down in the log cabin and sleep to the singing of the loons. everyday we busy ourselves with fishing, shopping for fishing gear or making our way to the local hangouts to find out where the fish are hiding. we stay up late fishing rather than closing down the watering holes, we play games, and the boys are actually old enough to sleep in the loft. they don’t squeal when they catch a fish (like their mom) and they actually like seeing all the animals their great-grandfather killed on the walls of the local hangouts. we do as the locals do: we drink beer, catch up on the gossip, eat at vicky’s hot dog stand, drink shakes and eat cheese curds at the dairy maid, have breakfast at sunrise and of course…eat friday night fish fry. we relax as a family. someday our kids will tell their kids how great it once was based on their memories, i will love hearing that.
enjoying himself after his northern catch
taking in the view
so maybe the midwest isn’t such a funny place after all. neighbors grow old together and their children’s children come to the same place long after they are gone. the hunting, fishing, and taxidermy is just their way of life and my boys eat it up. the beer is pretty tasty on a cool wisconsin evening and camouflage does look good on some people??
the midwest just has an allure.