This weekend Minocqua, Wisconsin held its annual winter fest in which folks from all over Wisconsin gathered to ski, skate, and fish through the ice. Regretting that lack of planning prevented my family from participating, but desperate for a Wisconsin get-away, my husband and I rallied our couch-potato children and drove north to the Wisconsin River. Our specific destination was the hydro-electric dam in Prairie du Sac. We parked in the Alliant Energy parking lot and watched our northern neighbors fish – some stood in boats, others stood on the ice next to small holes. (So which is stranger? – fishing through the ice or watching fishing through the ice?) These patiently stoic men, impervious to the cold beneath their layers of insulation, resembled the bald eagles and numerous duck species nearby on the river which were similarly engaged in fishing. The thrill/necessity of catching food is a winter sport here and attracts its own devoted, spectator fans.
The residents of Prairie du Sac understand that the majestic eagles draw visitors to their town. Every form of local commerce, from the beauty parlor to the hardware store, has inserted ‘eagle’ into its name. Beside a small strip-mall parking lot, a permanent spotting scope over-looks the river. Thus, on a frigid day, enthusiastic naturalists can pop out of their cars, point the scope at the birds, say “Yep, there they are,” dive back into the cars, blast the heaters, and drive to a local “eagle” restaurant to catch their own bites of food. (In this respect, the tourist and diving ducks resemble each other.)
We too wanted to taste the local cuisine which friends had recommended highly. But our children mutinied and we acquiesced to their demand that we return to the Roxbury Tavern, just south down the road in a blink-of-an-eye town called Roxbury. We ordered our favorites, Roxbury burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Dave found the dominoes on the side shelf and made trails of them on the carpeted floor. And everyone seated within viewing range turned to watch when he’d announce he was ready to trip the lead domino. (I haven’t met the human being able to resist watching dominoes fall.) Meanwhile Lauren read from The Dangerous Book for Boys she had found and described the preferred technique for constructing backyard explosives. When the waitress used an industrial blow torch to melt the cheese on the onion soups at the table next to us, I knew we were having a quintessential Wisconsin experience.