From My WindowIssue Date: August 23, 2017
The Return Of The Native
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
My husband and I, who have resided in Oklahoma for 17 l/2 years, are getting very close to moving back "home" to Wisconsin. Last week we signed a contract for our pole shed, met with the excavator who will put in the driveway, and got the permit for our sanitation system. It is really happening, and we couldn't be more excited.
We will be living fairly close to one of my husband's brothers, and one evening during our visit we took him, his wife and adult son out to a local bar for dinner. It was a totally "Wisconsin" kind of night.
This local bar, which I will call "Joe's," is a ramshackle wooden building on a rural crossroads. It's no supper club, but it has pretty good food at an extremely reasonable price for a bar. We usually stop in any time we are in the area for a meal and to enjoy the atmosphere. The night we were there the staff consisted of a "cook" and the "bartender/waiter" at the front of the house. Both of them were both pretty busy with four full tables and a few people sitting at the bar, but the service was still jovial. The food was, as usual, good, and the portions were huge. The walls are decorated with dead animal heads, and you can tell the women's bathroom has been remodeled many times over the decades but not recently. It features a 1960's era pink Formica counter sporting an arrangement of very dusty silk and plastic flowers.
One of our family's fondest memories of this classic Wisconsin bar was a visit with both our kids and our daughter's Oklahoma boyfriend some years back. He'd never been to the Midwest and grew up with the convoluted liquor laws of this Bible-Belt state. We arrived around noon for giant hamburgers and he took in the crowd of blue collar workers and delivery drivers at the bar, watching impassively as a hunting video showed the stalking and shooting of a deer. That was followed by some sort of deer-gutting tutorial. Really great stuff to watch while you are eating. Then two little boys walked in with a pail and fish poles, no doubt just off the bank of the nearby river. They hopped confidently up on bar stools and the bartender greeted them and took their order.
The boyfriend was astonished. "Where are their parents?" he asked. "Probably home or at work," I shrugged. "They let them come to bars?" he marveled. I explained the parents almost certainly knew it, they probably lived close by and were no doubt known by the local people in the bar. He was absolutely floored by the entire spectacle, and it was fun for me to see what I think of as "normal" through the eyes of someone who did not grow up in Wisconsin.
To help you understand the boyfriend's astonishment, the community we live closest to in Oklahoma has a current population of 25,000. When we first moved here it was smaller " but it did not have a single bar. There was no restaurant in the city at that time that served alcohol. You had to drive to Tulsa or one of the other, larger communities near us to get a drink with dinner. After we were here about 10 years, someone opened a bar (not a food service place, just a watering hole) in an old building very near the church we attend. It appeared to be struggling for business. One day when we left our church, they had a large, lit sign by the bar driveway advertising "Negligee Show Featuring Local Talent." My husband and I were silent as we drove by but my son, in the backseat and about 12 at the time, said "I think I just threw up." I must admit I struggled to maintain my composure when he said it since I did not feel laughing would set a very Christian example. In another attempt to drum up business they acquired an old bus that was parked near the bar, with the painted title on the side "Drunk Bus." Apparently the point was that if you had too much to drink they'd drive you home.
We have been saying for more than a decade that we needed to visit this establishment before we moved, just to see it and say we'd been. But we missed our chance, since it's closed down now.
No regrets, though. I'll take the deer gutting video over the local talent negligee show any time.
Last week while I was in Marinette, I took my Mother to the cemetery in Peshtigo to visit my father's grave on what would have been their 62nd wedding invitation. What was on my mind as I looked at his WWII veteran prisoner of war grave plaque was the TV coverage of white men, self-identifying as Nazis or Neo-Nazis, openly marching on the streets of an American city. I defend anyone's right to free speech, but it is abhorrent to me to see such demonstrations. It is appalling that this country sacrificed hundreds of thousands of American men and women fighting on foreign soil in World War II to defeat such cruel philosophies. Nazis were accountable for the suffering and death of millions of men, women and children because of their religious beliefs or ethnic heritages. We ALL need to stand up and loudly and clearly denounce Nazi, Neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups " our veterans deserve nothing less. My father would have been shocked and horrified at what occurred in Charlottesville.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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