Written for November 28, 2008, National Day of Listening…Story Corps
Hey Der! For the last 30 years or so, I’ve lived all over the USA and Europe … but when I come “home”, it’s always ta Wisconsin!
Da furst ting ya notice when ya gets der, or when youse goes anywhere in Wisconsin, is dat people are genuinely glad ta see ya, even if dey don’t know ya! But if dey KNOW ya, denn it’s “Hey! How come you don’t hello me when you know me so good!?!” Everybody’s smiling atcha, ‘specially if yer wearin’ da Badgers or da Packers or da Brewers gear or a cheesehead –even if yer not in Wisconsin — dey stop ya on da streets and say “Hey, how’s by you!?!” and you talk for a bit about how yer uncle is in Fonjalac on Lake Winnebago, just down from der Uncle in Oshkosh, or how you was once up on da Lac da Flambeau, up nort der where her grandma lived once. And when you leaves side by each, an’ you sez to each udder, “take ‘er easy”, you really mean it!
Dere’s sometin about struggling together to survive da cold winter and da humid summer mit da carrier mosquites, sometin about how snowmobile suits and swimming suits all makes us equal, (sometimes worn at day same time at da Polar Bear Dip!). And how a beer ‘n brat at just da right moment, wedder it’s at a tree day Polish wedding, or on da breakwater at Sheboygan, maybe while yer dipnetting for Schmelt, or if you’re out tailgating at Lambeau Field, Camp Randall, or out on your dock… well, it just makes us all equal. Like in Milwaukee, where you can go from Germany to Poland to Mexico to Greece to Ireland to Asia to Israel … an’ never leave da city, and where O’Neil-Josephski is an accepted married name and Gustav Olaf Garcia makes perfect sense! We all get along, because we always have. We came here from different places, we don’t forget where we came from, but we’re together because we want to be here!
And we’re not ashamed of nuttin! If we wanna dress up in Blaze orange or camouflage and go ta church in Hartford, and on da way der we hear da “Amazing Grace Polka”, on maybe da country’s only dedicated Polka radio station (proven by da cows to help dem produce better milk, doncha know!), denn dats okay! And if we wear herringbone polyester jackets wit plaid trousers and a white belt because da jacket an da pants are both brown, dats okay, too, yet.
We like to get together, whether it’s a Lutheran Potluck, a Lions Club Lefse / potato pancake breakfast, a Catholic Bingo or Polka mass, a slurry store dedication polka dance, a Rotary Club salmon boil up on da Door County peninsula, a snowmobile rally out in Rhinelander or Monroe, a Glendale neighborhood brat fry, a BBQ and kegger out in LaCrosse or Eau Claire, or a walleye fry up in Washburn, we wanna be der mit each udder!!
And if da Town of Winneconne secedes from da Union because dey was playing games in Madison and da government screwed up and kept dem off da official tourist map, and becomes recognized by da USSR, Canada, and a host of udder countries as being sovereign and independent, we’re likely to take our boat wit our Merc motor on it and head over der on da Wolf, just up from Lake Winnebago, to help ’em celebrate and eat some sheepshead! Because we know on da way home we can probably find a local dairy in Zittau or Theresa where we can buy some cheese curds so fresh dey still squeak! or some venison summer sausage mit little flecks of garlic in it in Mayville. Or maybe get da greatest dessert on earth, frozen custard maybe by Kopp’s! And den we’ll maybe get some more water fun in at da Dells or up by Hayward muskie fishin’ an so.
Yeah, in Wisconsin we got all dis stuff dat ties us togetter. We drink water from a bubbler. We know da answer to “how dey bitin’?” We wave at da farmer out picking stones. We stop to help people when der car broke down, because we know some day it’s gonna be 20 below and someone will stop and help us. And when we go ice fishin and da guy next doors auger runs outta gas, we let him borrow ours while we set up our wind tipups dat we designed ourselves. Because we know he’s gonna pull out a cold one from Steven’s Point for us from his ice fishing shanty, and let us come in and watch da Packer game on his big screen color TV in der if da perch aren’t bitin’ so good, and maybe play some cribbage or sheepshead wit us later.
Ya, On, Wisconsin! “We like it here!” Der’s a ton to see an do, doncha know. Dat’s why da folks from Chicago always head up nort. But denn dey head home, takin der fancy/schmansy, artsy/fartsy ways wit em… and we stay here, talking mit a funny accent to each udder and we don’t care… because we like each udder! So we smile and wave and say “How’s it?” and answer – and really mean it — :
“Good, how’s by you?!?”
On, Wisconsin! Come good home.
Here’s the video on YouTube if you wanna watch how it sounds!