and quiet streets.
rants, raves, and riffs
and quiet streets.
For a town of less than 2000 residents, Weyauwega has a lot going on. It probably helps that the Waupaca County Fairgrounds are located here, since the fairgrounds are where a lot of the bigger events take place.
Like the Fox Valley Rabbit Club’s Spring Fling, the 4-H Dog Show, the 4-H Horse Project, the District 7 Holstein Show, and the FFA’s Breakfast on the Farm. And that’s just the month of June!
The Waupaca County 4-H club sponsors most of the events taking place at the fairgrounds, and they have quite the full calendar. To see what they’re up to, visit their website at:
The fairgrounds are also host to such things as tractor pulls, Beef Workshops, tree sales, hunters safety courses, a bow fishing tournament and Weyauwega’s annual fireworks extravaganza. You can even book the fairgrounds for your next graduation party, birthday party, family reunion, or quinceañera! And in the winter, you can reserve a spot to store your boat or RV for the winter. For a list of 2018 rental rates, click on the link below.
The most notable event taking place at the Waupaca County Fairgrounds, of course, is the Waupaca County Fair. Running from August 21st through the 26th, this year’s fair offers typical fair fare. These include agricultural exhibits, livestock competitions, craft, canning and other homemaking contests, plus food, drink, and live entertainment.
This year’s entertainment includes a performance by Craig Morgan. I’m unfamiliar with the guy myself, but according to the Waupaca County Fair website (https://waupacacountyfair.org/grandstand-entertainment/) he is a multi-faceted entertainer, country music icon, a TV Host, a celebrated outdoorsman, a patriotic Army veteran, and one of country music’s best loved artists who “thrills massive crowds with his signature hits.” I won’t be there to see if he lives up to all that hype, but I sure hope he gives that audience their money’s worth.
Also performing at the fair this year is Sister Hazel. In case you haven’t heard of them either, Sister Hazel is from Gainesville, Florida, and “is comprised of five gifted, seasoned musicians whose well-spring of natural talent has been called “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years” by Performing Songwriter Magazine.”
If I’m going to attend any of the musical performances, it will be the Friday night show featuring Hairball! In their nearly 20 years of performing, Hairball has been providing “2+ hour, mind-blowing, and drop-dead accurate homage to some of the biggest arena acts in the world. Van Halen, KISS, Motley Crue, Queen, Journey, and Aerosmith are but a few of the acts fans will see brought to life.” According, again, to the fair’s website, their show includes “more characters, more pyrotechnics, more lights, more sound, more props, and more surprises…more everything,” If I can get the Jarhead to stay up that late, we will definitely check them out. Probably.
If all that sounds too hot or too much for you, don’t despair. September brings cooler temps and our annual Horse &Buggy Days!
According to local historians Elmer and Florence Oehlke, Horse and Buggy Days is the brainchild of local businessman Robert Hofferber who, in 1960, decided to put the little town of Weyauwega (population 1300) on the map. In the spirit of the event, townspeople gathered up all their old timey things and put them on display.
The event was received so well that it became an annual event. Consequently, every fall, the town drifts back into the 19th century for 2 days. In honor of the occasion, a Horse & Buggy Days King and Queen are chosen, and a breakfast is held in which the former kings and queens of Horse & Buggy days assemble and “reminisce.” During this time, the kings and queens also visit the local schools and share the town’s traditions with the youngsters.
This year’s Horse & Buggy Days (sponsored now, appropriately, by the Weyauwega Chamber of Commerce) kicks off at 6pm on Friday, September 14th. Enjoy a screening of a family friendly movie sponsored by the Wega PD, or head over to the beer tent and enjoy live music provided by the band, Cowboy. Or, take part in a pool tournament.
On Saturday, September 15th, your options include a pancake breakfast hosted by the American Legion and the VFW. There will also be a polka band, and a vendor fair, as well as a parade, another pool tournament, a wrist wrestling competition at 3pm!
For more information about Horse & Buggy Days—including how to become an event sponsor—visit http://www.weyauwegachamber.com/horse-buggy-days
Meanwhile, you may recall several posts ago when I mentioned a certain pony who was suddenly missing in action at the corner of Pine and Main streets. Well, he’s back—and just in time for Horse & Buggy Days. His name is Whirling Wind and I know you’ll find him as handsome as I do!
When the average person hears the phrase “international film festival,” a handful of cities spring to mind: Cannes. Venice. Paris. London.
For hardcore film buffs (and just to be clear, that’s hardcore film buffs not hardcore film buffs) a few more names and places come to the fore. Like Chicago. Buffalo. Boston. Weyauwega.
Yes. You read that correctly. Weyauwega.
Founded in 2011, the Weyauwega International Film Festival (aka WIFF) celebrates and supports film and filmmaking, and aims to “bring together” filmmakers from around the world. The festivities take place over four days and include screenings of internationally released films, including documentary films, foreign language films, dramas, comedies, and short films. Conceived and nurtured by Wega Arts, WIFF honors films and their makers with cash prizes and awards known as Gerolds—so named for the Gerold Opera House where WIFF takes place.
Perhaps the most enticing part of the WIFF is Psycho Fest! Inspired by the work of author Robert Bloch, who wrote (among many, many other things) the novel upon which the movie Psycho was based, Psycho Fest is the portion of the WIFF that features screenings of films in the horror and thriller genres.
You may have heard that the character Norman Bates was loosely based on a man by the name of Ed Gein, who murdered and cannibalized at least two people in Plainfield, Wisconsin back in the late 1950’s. What you may not know is that the gifted and prolific Mr. Bloch was living in Weyauwega at the time the Plainfield crimes were coming to light, or that his fictional Bates Motel was inspired by Weyauwega’s very own Lakeshore Motel.
Kinda sends shivers up your spine. Doesn’t it?
The motel is long gone, but the sign still stands not far from the highway–an eerie reminder of Weyauwega’s connection to Hollywood and Alfred Hitchock.
For another view of the sign, visit https://www.facebook.com/WegaFilmFest/photos/the-lakeshore-motel-in-weyauwega/1589877247730926/
The next WIFF starts November 7th and runs through the 10th. That means Psycho Fest is just a few weeks away. So mark your calendars, and get your tickets now if you don’t want to miss it!
In addition to WIFF, the creative minds at Wega Arts—and their valued sponsors in the community—do a lot of fun and fantastic stuff for the folks Weyauwega. Like free theatre and music workshops for area teens. And Swing Dance and Mardi Gras parties for adults. In 2016, the organization partnered with Helios Addiction Recovery Services to produce a short film entitled Heroes Rising, which aims to address the opioid epidemic and to spur “meaningful and constructive dialog about substance abuse.”
Meanwhile, up the road at the Weyauwega Public Library, you can catch presentations by writers, musicians, historians, and even the occasional Elvis impersonator! If you don’t believe me, check out these links:
Meanwhile, for more about Robert Bloch, go to http://milwaukeerecord.com/city-life/bloch-buster-milwaukees-connection-to-psycho-h-p-lovecraft-and-robert-bloch/ or visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bloch
And if Bloch’s Psycho is too scary or too racy for you, remember, there’s always Psycho Babble!
Many small towns have swimming pools. Although some prefer to call them Aquatic Centers these days. But both terms are a bit high-falutin for Weyauwega. So instead, we have a swim lake.
It’s basically the same thing as a swimming pool, in that it has locker rooms, showers, life guards, and a concession stand, and is surrounded by tall chain-link fences to keep children and the inebriated from wandering in and drowning. But instead of a rectangular structure with vertical walls, a concrete floor, and a bright blue vinyl liner, Weyauwega’s swimming hole is an irregularly shaped structure with gently sloping sides, a gravel floor, and a concrete shoreline. In short, it’s exactly like a real lake but without the mucky bottom and the fishy smell.
In other words, it’s nothing like a real lake. But I’m new here, and I’m not one to make waves. Even at the pool. Or the swim lake.
The Weyauwega Swim Lake (or Swimming Lake, depending on which sign you’re reading) is located within Weyauwega Community Park.
Established in 1972 (according to the sign at the High Street entrance) the park sits on 12 acres, and is host to ball fields, tennis courts, picnic tables, covered pavilions, a playground, and a handful of buildings operated by various local civic organizations.
A few blocks from Community Park is Mill Street Park. Located at the intersection of Mill and Sumner streets, Mill Street Park features a half-court basketball area, a swing set, and a couple of benches. Across the street and kitty-corner from Mill Street Park are the Sumner Street tennis courts. The park and the tennis courts flank the Weyauwega Public Library which is located at the same intersection, which means one can exercise both one’s body and one’s mind in one trip if one were so inclined.
Incidentally, kitty-corner from the library at the intersection of Mill and Sumner Streets is ThedaCare Physicians Weyauwega. Which means, if you happen to skin your knees jumping off the swing at its forward apex, or pull a hammy while chasing your opponent’s killer serve, or slice your finger open while paging through a copy of Weyauwega Remembers, medical treatment is not far away. Unless it happens after 5pm or on a weekend, in which case you’re probably going to die.
I’m kidding. We have paramedics in town who will happily patch you up if you can’t walk it off. Just limp or crawl four blocks north and take a right onto Wisconsin Street. The firehouse will be down two blocks on the left.
If you reach to the post office you’ve gone too far.
In that case, just turn around and go back a half block. The firehouse will now be on your right.
A few blocks north of Mill Street Park sits Petersen Park.
Straddling both Mill Street and the Waupaca River, Petersen Park boasts a small playground, a few picnic areas, and a boat launch. Here you will also find the famous rye mill silo.
Of course, famous is a relative term. They don’t know about it as far away as, say, China, Europe, or possibly even Milwaukee. It’s famous because it’s where the old Weyauwega rye mill used to operate and because you can’t look up Weyauwega on Google without a picture of the structure coming up in your search results. Built in 1855, according the Weyauwega Chamber of Commerce (www.weyauwegachamber.com/) the mill was the largest in the world at the time and was considered a state of the art facility in the field of flour manufacturing.
A few steps away from the rye mill silo puts you on the Yellowstone Trail.
Established on May 23 of 1912 (with thanks to Wikipedia) the Yellowstone Trail was the “first transcontinental automobile highway through the upper tier of states in the United States.” As you can see by the map below the trail will take you all the way from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington by way of Yellowstone National Park.
Of course, you’d have to walk many a mile to get from Petersen Park to Yellowstone National Park. I suppose you’ll just have to pace yourself.
And speaking of pace: in Weyauwega the pace is fairly slow. Not slow as in ploddingly or painfully slow. More like slow as in smooth, or gentle. Like a light breeze, or trickling stream. Here, the words hustle and bustle are rarely used, and then only to refer to 1970’s disco-era dances and 1870’s ladies’ undergarments.
If you think I’m kidding, check out the city’s very own slogan, which appears at the bottom of their very own homepage.
That sorta says it all, I think.
And it may not be for everyone, but it suits the Jarhead and me just fine.
We’re talking about Wisconsin, so you probably figured cheese would come up sooner or later; you just didn’t know when.
Well, here it is.
Weyauwega is famous for its cheese. So much so that there is a company called Weyauwega Cheese that isn’t even located in Weyauwega. Misleading? Yes. Savvy marketing? Definitely.
To be fair, the family that founded Weyauwega Cheese also owns Weyauwega Star Dairy, which IS located in Weyauwega, and Weyauwega Star Dairy has a store front in Weyauwega that sells—drumroll please—Weyauwega Cheese. They also sell their own cheeses, processed meats, and frozen custard.
I’ll bet you’ll never guess what else they sell? Besides cheeses, processed meats, and frozen custard, I mean. Check out this photo and see for yourself. I’ll wait.
Isn’t that awesome?
Now some of you may have a hard time believing that Bud Light is available for purchase at a place called Weyauwega Star Dairy. Especially if you haven’t spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, you may doubt that this ad for Bud Light is in any way affiliated with the Weyauwega Star Dairy. But if you zoom in on the red and black logo to the left of that beer can, you’ll see not only that there is an ad for Bud Light on the side of the Weyauwega Star Dairy, but also that the Bud Light ad on the side of the Weyauwega Star Dairy was created specifically FOR the Weyauwega Star Dairy. Here is a close-up shot of that red and black logo, just so you know what you’re looking at:
According to its website, Weyauwega Star Dairy “has been in the cheese business for over 30 years, and specializes in a variety of Italian cheeses.” If that logo looks familiar, that’s not just because you saw it on the Bud Light sign a few paragraphs ago. Rather, it may be because it closely resembles the logo for Weyauwega Cheese, which is sold under this eerily similar label, which you may have seen in your local grocery store.
The company that makes this cheese has been around since 1912, so it’s a fair bet that you’ve seen it before. Even if you have seen it before, you may not have paid much attention to the name and, like my friend Mary, never realized until she found out we were moving here, that the word ‘Weyauwega’ refers to a place and not to any person, persons, or things.
According to the company’s website, the most important ingredient in their cheese is family pride. I’m not sure what sort of flavor that imparts, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Besides, it’s much more fun to contemplate the 1.5 mile-long string of cheese that was made by the President of Weyauwega Star Dairy and which reportedly earned him a spot in the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records. You can find these and other fun facts at stardairy.com and weyauwegacheese.com.
Another Weyauwega cheese maker is Agropur Inc. Previously known as Trega Foods, Agropur claims to be a “worldwide supplier of award winning cheese & whey products. With more than 300 employees & 3 facilities located in Weyauwega, Little Chute, & Luxemburg, WI, Agropur’s rich cheesemaking tradition is the gold standard by which so many other cheesemakers measure their product.” Their Weyauwega facility, founded by Jacob H. Wagner, partnered with Kraft Foods to pioneer “the development of the ‘640 Square Barrel’ to hold and store natural cheese for cutting.” I’m not sure what that means, but I imagine it’s a pretty big deal among cheesemakers or they wouldn’t be bragging about it on their website. Find out more about their cheese and ingredients division at http://www.agropuringredients.com/about-us/agropur-family/cheese-ingredients-division/
Taylor Cheese Corp, meanwhile, is a small cheese operation in Weyauwega that has been “cutting and wrapping quality natural and process cheese for more than 40 years. “ Founded by Lowell “Abe” Taylor in the late 1950’s to service “the largest grocery store chain in the USA,” Taylor Cheese Corp employees 23 people. They can process and custom cut, wrap, grind, shred and package cheese to order, and pride themselves on “the use of only natural cheese manufactured in Wisconsin and using a high quality Wisconsin-based manufacturer of Pasteurized Process Cheese.” Read all about them and other Wisconsin cheesemakers at http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wi-cheese-companies/215/taylor-cheese-corp
So it seems you don’t have to visit Weyauwega in order to get a taste of Weyauwega cheese. But if you ever do make it out to Weyauwega and you want to sample the cheese and see where it is made, let me know. I’ll happily bring the crackers.
France has the Eiffel Tower. Italy has Vesuvio. And Weyauwega has its ponies. It has a lot of other things, too, but today we’re going to talk about the ponies.
To be clear: I don’t mean ponies in the technical sense of the word, which (according to our old pal Wikipedia) in the singular–pony–officially refers to smaller, compact breed of horse with a slightly thicker mane than the average equine. Nor do I mean ponies in the fantastical sense of the word, which (according to my formerly five-year-old daughter and a significant number of her peers) lovingly refers to a smaller, highly prized breed of plastic one-toed ungulate with resplendent, multi-color manes and tails, symbols called “cutie marks” stamped on their butts (which are simultaneously the most adorably deceptive and politically correct synonym for livestock branding you’ll ever read here or anywhere) and a diverse and devoted following of obsessed fans.
Rather, I’m using the word ponies in the diminutive sense, as one does when saying kitties to refer to cats, puppies to refer to dogs, or bunnies to refer to rabbits. Or like when someone uses the phrase ‘playing the ponies’ to make off-track betting sound less like gambling or to jokingly convey to the detectives on Law & Order that someone else’s harmless pastime may be in fact a serious problem.
You may be surprised to find horses included on a list of reasons to love Weyauwega. Especially since Weyauwega is geographically part of the Midwest (as opposed to the Old West or the Wild West) and doesn’t have a significant number of living, breathing horses within its borders, the town has a relatively high number of non-living, non-breathing horses adorning its streets, signs, and other fixtures. The perhaps unsurprising explanation for the ubiquitous equines is that the city leaders—past and present—wanted to recognize the importance of horses to the history of the community by adorning the place with images of them at work and play.
Incidentally, a similar phenomenon occurred with respect to the Native Americans who originally lived and traded in the area. Although the city leaders chose to recognize the importance of Native Americans to the history of the community by giving it a Native American name and, later, by designating the Indian as its high school’s mascot, there are proportionally fewer living, breathing Native Americans residing here (.2% of the population, to be exact) than there are images or likeness of them around the community. I’m not suggesting that the disappearance of the horses or the Native Americans are in any way connected, but I won’t be seeking recognition from my newly adopted city any time soon, lest I disappear and/or wind up replaced by signs, statues, or swizzle sticks bearing my likeness.
The first ponies I’d like to present are these four lovelies.
Resembling hitching posts, they stand, two by two, on the north and south ends of the central crosswalk on Main Street. Their metal bases are cast in the same shape as many of the lamp posts lining Main and Mill Streets, and are maintained thanks to the generosity of Weyauwega citizens, businesses and civic groups.
Speaking of lamp posts, if you ever get the chance to see Weyauwega for yourself, you’ll want to be on the lookout for these beauties.
As you can see, these ponies can be found, accompanied by a buggy and driver, atop many of the lamp posts along the main drag as well.
While you’re in town, you may as well drive around enough to see this pair of ponies.
They appear on the west side of the old mill silo on the north end of town. In addition to this team of ponies and its carriage, the tower also bears several images that are of cultural significance to the city, just as totem poles of the Native Americans bear carved images that are/were of cultural significance to their communities. For the Wikipedia photo of the tower, click here.
If you can spare the time, head east on Main Street and hang a right onto Lincoln Street. From there it’s just a few blocks before you reach the entrance to the Weyauwega Senior Village (aka my future home) where stands the sign bearing another pretty pony.
If instead you head north from Main on Mill Street, you will find the city’s largest pony.
He or she is part of the Taggart Civil War Cavalry Monument donated by George W. Taggart. According to the Weyauwega Historical Society, Taggart was a veteran of the American Civil War and the First Wisconsin Cavalry, who presented this statue to the City of Weyauwega in 1931.
The final photo in this post WAS going to be of a gorgeous, life-size bronze statue of a horse rearing back on its hind legs. Unfortunately, after spending more than 9 years at the corner of Main and Pine Streets, the statue is suddenly and inexplicably gone.
That’s right. Hoping to provide a photo of the amazing and detailed creation for this blog, the Jarhead and I drove over to the corner of Pine and Main streets only to discover the sad, sawed off remains of its wood and metal mount sticking out of a berm beside the sidewalk.
I seriously could not believe my eyes. Or my luck. For more than 9 years, folks driving through downtown Weyauwega couldn’t miss the blooming thing and then days—perhaps even hours—before I’m scheduled to capture it for posterity—boom! It’s gone.
Disappointed, the Jarhead and I drove all over town—arousing the suspicions of untold numbers of residents, visitors, and local law enforcement officials—as we searched every yard, driveway, street, parking lot and alleyway in hopes of discovering it standing with its front legs raised high in at its new home. But alas our efforts proved fruitless.
I’m hoping it was taken down for maintenance and due to be back on display later this summer. If so, you can count on me to provide a photo of it all spiffed up and clean. But for now, we’ll both have to settle for this street view image captured by Google Earth in 2009.
It doesn’t begin to do the subject any justice, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.
Meanwhile, thanks for tuning in again for 10 Reasons to Love Weyauwega! With any luck, the items I plan to discuss in the next post won’t disappear before I can photograph any of them!
I don’t want to leave anyone out of the conversation, so let’s assume for now that we’re all unfamiliar with the phrase “sweet spot.” In baseball terms, it’s the place on the bat where a player aims to connect with the leather and laces. In tennis it’s the space on the racquet with which Venus and Serena seek to smack the neon nylon and nap. It’s basically the area of any object with which you strike a sphere of some sort where the transfer of energy feels and sounds just right. Thwack. Snap. Pop.
In meteorological or economic terms, it’s when all features and factors of a given situation converge to create the optimum conditions for a specific outcome. Like when an entertainer is famous enough to command a high fee to put on a good show but not so famous that he or she can’t walk the streets without getting mobbed. Or when the weather is warm enough to be outside without a parka yet not so warm that one must disrobe completely to avoid drowning in one’s own sweat.
Which brings us to another point about sweet spots: some are bigger than others. In fact, thanks to the advent of wide-head racquets it’s easier than ever to hit the sweet spot these days. At least in tennis. And certain close-combat scenarios where the only available weapon is a Prince Textreme Beast O3 104.
In geographic terms, Weyauwega is our sweet spot. Despite having never heard of the place before 2011 when I started taking the newly-upgraded-to-a-four-lane US Highway 10 (with no annoying small towns or pesky traffic lights to slow you down) to visit my Auntie Chachi every week, I soon began to view the town’s exit ramps as welcome landmarks telling me how much time I had left in my journey.
Even then I had no idea of all Weyauwega has to offer. Situated on the other side of the hill that separates the town (population 1900) from Highway 10, it isn’t even visible to folks approaching from the east except for the steeples of its highest churches. It isn’t until you’ve already missed both exits that you can see a smidge of Main Street where sits the Wega Drive-In and the new Citgo station. As the saying goes: Blink and you’ll missed it
Still, it rapidly became our sweet spot in early 2016 when we started contemplating moving closer to Chachi. Positioning imaginary compass needles over key points on the map and then drawing imaginary circles around those points to see where they overlapped, we found only one town that fit comfortably between the town where the Jarhead worked, the town where the Princess worked, and the town where Auntie Chachi lived: Weyauwega. Thwack. Snap. Pop.
Although we bought our house a bit too late to do Chachi any good, since moving here we still consider Weyauwega our sweet spot. Situated between Stevens Point and Appleton, it is less than 35 miles from an array of grocery and discount stores, home improvement centers, convenience stores, our favorite realtor and our favorite daughter-in-law.
Even more important than Weyauwega’s proximity to all those things, however, is the proximity of our house to other key places in Weyauwega. Like the library (6 blocks) or the firehouse (4.5 blocks) or the tennis courts (4 blocks.)
Impressive, I know. Even more exciting, however, is our proximity to the county fairgrounds. At a mere 3 blocks from said venue, every August we can see the lights of the Midway and smell the scents of the 4H barns from our own front yard. If we want to, we can also watch the 4th of July fireworks from our own back yard. The view is better from the middle of the street of course (at least it will be until the Jarhead gets a good enough handle on the neighbors’ schedules and/or figures out how to trim or poison their trees without getting caught) but I, for one, am not complaining.
Even more important to me than our home’s proximity to the fairgrounds, however, is its proximity to the Weyauwega Senior Village. At a mere 7 blocks from said community I can already see the lights shining on my future front door and the covered porch from where I’ll smell the scents of the 4H barns every August after the Jarhead predeceases me (as the actuarial tables suggest he will) and watch the fireworks every 4th of July. It’s going to be grand. (Not the Jarhead predeceasing me part, of course; the part where I rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of my loss and go on to find the will to live one just 7 blocks from my current home.)
Perhaps the best part is knowing how much money I’ll save on moving expenses when I emerge from the fog of my grief. Oh, I’ll probably have to hire a couple guys to move the big things, but I won’t have to hire packers or haunt the grocery store loading docks begging for banana boxes. I’ll just toss all my worldly possessions into every suitcase, cooler, duffle and dumpster I own, and roll them down the street to my nice neutral-colored, one-story, two-bedroom, handicap-accessible flat. It may take several trips but I’m up for the challenge. And I’ll need things like that to keep me from wallowing in my sorrow.
So there you have it folks: yet another reason to love Weyauwega. I guess what they say about success in real estate is true for happiness and geography. It’s all about location, location, location.
It must be said that among all the moves we have made, the welcome we’ve received from our new Weyauwega neighbors has been one of the warmest. That’s not to say we haven’t been greeted warmly in the past. It’s just that when you move as many times as we have, you’re bound to run across some folks whose attitudes and actions make you wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong place to live.
Case in point: The first public official to greet us when we moved to our last house was a member of the Oshkosh Police Department, who drew his gun, commanded the Jarhead to freeze, and subsequently handcuffed, detained, and interrogated him right in the middle of our own driveway (for more on that story, check out Mistaken Identities posted 10/27/14.) Compare that example with the actions of the first public official to greet us in Weyauwega, who walked over from his place two doors down, told us we had quite a project on our hands, handed me a business card that identified him as the mayor, and invited us to come over for a beer any time we like. Talk about neighborly.
“Well of course he’s going to be nice to you,” you might be thinking. “He’s just hoping you’ll vote for him in the next election.”
But it’s not just the mayor. Last winter, the guy who lives just across the street from us plowed our driveway after almost every snowfall without our having ever asked. We would show up at the property planning to clear the driveway before the contractors arrived and work commenced, only to find it already cleared and ready to go. It took some investigation to figure out who was doing us this tremendous favor, and when we finally discovered who it was, we were even more grateful because this guy and his wife not only have lives and jobs of their own, they also have a toddler with a rare form of cancer. Again, talk about neighborly. I mean above and beyond neighborly.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have neighbors like ours. I recall a former colleague of mine once telling me that when she moved into her home, one of the neighbors welcomed her not with a smile or a wave but with legal action demanding that she trim and/or remove a tree that had been growing on the property for years before she ever bought it. And what’s even more shocking is this: not long after our son and daughter-in-law bought their first home, their neighbors came into their yard and literally tore out a 20 foot-long retaining wall while the ink was still drying on the closing documents. So not cool. So NOT neighborly.
Now, some may assume we’ve been greeted so warmly because Weyauwega is a small town. But having lived in my share of small towns—and in case you haven’t—I can tell you they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be. One can hope the folks there are all sweet and sunny like the Mayberry-ians on The Andy Griffith Show, or crazy and charmingly kooky like the Cicely-ians from Northern Exposure.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Because for every calm, reasonable Andy Taylor there’s a paranoid pain in the ass Barney Fife, and for every philosophical piano-flinging Chris Stevens there’s at least one Ed Gein (for more on THAT guy, check out Turnabout and Fair Play posted 3/21/16.) Besides, to suggest that these folks are neighborly because they live in a small town implies that folks who live in larger towns and cities less neighborly, which simply is not true.
But our new neighbors are top notch, and one of the best reasons to love Weyauwega!
According to industry experts, the average person moves about every 5 years or so, for an average total of about 12 times over the course of a lifetime. Like most military families, the Jarhead and I have far exceeded those averages, having relocated from one locale to another a whopping 12 times between 1985 and 2015, and having changed addresses within an individual locale 7 more times on top of that.
Impressive, I know. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Okay. That was a lie. I’m actually exhausted from doing the math.
You may recall reading some of these statistics in a post I published many moons ago that included other figures of an equally arresting and fascinating nature. Essentially I boasted that the Jarhead and I had just set a record for the longest time spent living in a single residence. At the time, I had expected to occupy that home for quite a while, and was looking forward to seeing just how high we would be setting the bar for that record if and when the time came to pick up and move again.
Well, if-and-when came a lot sooner than I expected. It arrived on September 6, 2017 to be exact. Although we had bought another home more than a year before that, it needed a lot of work and we weren’t entirely sure what we would do with it once the repairs and improvements were completed. Eventually, however, we decided it made sense to downsize and so, after 8 years, 10 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we officially became residents of (drumroll, please) Weyauwega, Wisconsin. In case you’re wondering and/or are not of the Cheesehead persuasion, it’s pronounced “why-oh-WEE-guh.
Since we began the process of moving to our newly adopted city, we’ve been asked the same question by many people: why Weyauwega?
Oddly enough, the majority of the people asking this question are themselves of the Cheesehead persuasion. In fact, 90% of those asking, “why Weyauwega?” are current or former residents of Weyauwega, with another 9.9% being residents of Oshkosh and other parts of the Fox Valley. The remaining .1% are from out of state and I mention them only to prove that I understand percentages and can add to 100.
At first I didn’t know what to make of such inquiries. Given the derisive laughter that accompanied some—okay, most—of them, it seemed as if the people asking the question weren’t seeking our perspective as much as offering their own. But having passed hardly any time there apart from the handful of hours we’d spent house-hunting up to that point, we had no clue as to what they might be trying to say.
So I would tell them the truth: We chose Weyauwega because it’s 30 miles closer to my dear Auntie Chachi (who was in failing health and who, sadly, has since died) without being further away from our son and daughter-in-law. In short we chose Weyauwega because of geography. Pure and simple.
It wasn’t a particularly sexy answer, but what was I going to say? That we were looking to cash in on the hot real estate market? That we wanted to pay more money for less variety at the local grocery and convenience stores?
I wasn’t about to say any of that to anyone–least of all a potential neighbor. Nor could I cite climate as the basis for our decision. Oshkosh and Weyauwega are only 30 miles apart, after all, and while I’m no meteorologist, I suspect they share an atmosphere. So I stuck with geography.
The reactions to our explanation were mixed. Most people nodded in amusement or smiled in a way that suggested we were naïve. Or maybe stupid. Or even crazy.
A few, however, appeared mildly offended. I imagine they were expecting us to wax romantic about the many virtues of their fair city, like the views, the lake, the boating, and the fishing. But unlike my brothers, we don’t fish or own a boat, and the only views to be seen from our place were the backyards of the homes behind and beside ours, and the feral cats who routinely hunted, mated, and defecated outside the condemned house across street.
A few others posed follow up questions, such as, “What are you going to do there?” and, “Make meth?” Which, I suppose, is an option. But unlike my brothers, we don’t know how to…
I’m just kidding. My brothers are hard-working, upstanding, law abiding citizens. Besides, if one of us were going to wind up making meth, it is far more likely to be me. Everyone knows I’m the bad seed.
Again, I wouldn’t know how to respond. Like the previous questions, I suspected these were less about our personal employment goals than a comment on the economy and/or job prospects in and around our adopted community.
Combine that with the fact that we didn’t really KNOW what we were going to do. As the proud owners of a beige 1950’s ranch with urine soaked hardwoods, bad plumbing and rotten subfloors, which we’d only bought after forcing our realtor (aka El Noble) to show us every single 3-bedroom fixer-upper and/or foreclosure that came on the market within the city limits, we didn’t have a firm plan other than to fix it up and sell our current home.
We briefly considered selling the new one instead. Especially after my Auntie died two weeks after we’d bought it and I no longer needed to live closer to her. But the new house was smaller and had fewer stairs, and the Jarhead and I aren’t getting any younger.
So we decided to forge ahead with our plan to move to Weyauwega. The Jarhead would keep working. He’d just have a longer commute. Unless he decided to retire.
After that, who knows? Maybe we’ll start a business flipping houses. Maybe we’ll get an agent, buy some musical instruments and a big bus, and go on tour like the Partridge Family. Suffice it to say: we’ve got options.
And now—eighteen months and thousands of gallons of plaster, primer, and paint later—we know exactly what we got into, and have a far clearer picture of what Weyauwega has to offer.
Take the name, Weyauwega, for example. It doesn’t look to me like it should be hard to pronounce, but for some folks apparently it is. So much so that there are articles and videos all over the internet that include it as one of the Wisconsin towns that out-of-staters most often mispronounce. Check out one of my favorites by clicking HERE! Stick with it til the end, and ye shall be richly rewarded!
Although the folks in the video are Texans, the difficulty isn’t necessarily related to proximity. The men in my family were all born and raised in a state with towns and streets with names like Hiawatha, Minnehaha, Winona and Shakopee, but they still have to say “Weyauwega” three or four times before they get it right.
Hard to pronounce or not, it’s still a cool name. According to Wikipedia, Weyauwega means ‘here we rest’ because “the town’s origin was a stopping/resting point between two rivers when Indians had to portage their canoes.”
Seems appropriate to me. Although I don’t foresee myself and the Jarhead doing a lot of portaging in the future, once he’s retired, we do expect to get our canoe on, and to do a lot of resting.
Well, that’s it for this episode. Be sure to tune in next time when I present—
The Top 10 Reasons to Love Weyauwega!
See you then!