We’re officially back from vacation!
The bags are unpacked, the laundry has been done, the ‘fridge has been decontaminated and refilled, the dietary freedom has been curtailed, my GoogleReader has been Feedlied—what’s up with that?—the passive-aggressive cat has been somewhat mollified, I’ve caught up on most of my
soaps blogs and webcomics, and the kids have both had their traditional post-vacation bouts of what Terry Pratchett calls “the dire rear.”
Aaand I’ve manage to organize most of the rest of our vacation photos, most of which came out beautifully, because I didn’t take many of them.
You know what that means: we may be home, but y’all aren’t out of the woods, yet.
So to speak.
In fact—she says, in one of the clumsiest segues of her career—Watson and Jane and I, who left home a day early in our scouting vehicle, hadn’t quite reached what would become our end of those woods, when we encountered the town of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, which is not only populated with very nice people and superlative librarians,* but with creatures like this:
This is a Hodag. Or at least an artist’s rendition of one. These things—by which I mean the renditions, thank heavens—are everywhere up there.
One of them guards the City Hall, and one guards the public library.** Others are painted pink and purple. It’s the high school mascot and emblazoned on the local water tower. There’s a Hodag Country Music Festival with an impressive line-up.
But from the POV of a weary traveler passing through lands unknown for the first time, seeing these as-yet-unidentified smiling creatures appearing at random in a relatively small town had me thinking Stephen Kingly thoughts until we knew the story behind them.
There’s a whole spiel on the tourist-oriented website, but according to the people I asked, the Hodag was originally a hoax by Eugene Shepard, who claimed to have found a dead one in 1893. When that went over well, he told everyone he’d trapped a live one, which he displayed in dark rooms for pure profit—until he heard that actual scientists were planning to examine the creature. He immediately confessed, but the Rhinelanders came to embrace Hodags as their own local legend.
Or that’s what they said.
Maybe they just want to keep the remaining Hodag pack safe from hunters and biologists?
I knew those weren’t loons we heard . . .
Ahem. Sorry. Moving on.
Eagle River, the nearest town to where we stayed, has its own local attractions, including this place:
This isn’t false advertising, by the way. They have bison jerky and alligator jerky, antelope jerky and maple duck and ostrich and every kind of game I cared to think of, including kangaroo—which may not seem exotic to those of you who are reading this tomorrow from the other side of the
cow world, but is plenty odd to those of us over here in yesterday, who still think of ‘roos as animated welter-weight boxing experts who put Sylvester Cat off mice for life.
The place even has Larvet Worm Snacks, which I thought topped the weird list*** until Mom showed me what she bought:
Leave it to my mother to come out of a place that features a “Mug o’ Meat” gift pack with vegan jerky.
Of course, her daughter came out of a high-end jewelry store with a stone duck she visited twice before daring to ask the price,*** and so has little room to talk.
But he’s a lovely little stone duck, with cowrie-shell wings, who deserves an owner who will dust surfaces before taking photos of it, but we can’t always get what we want.
Unless we want a stone duck from a lovely little shop in Eagle River. Which we absolutely did.
There are other things for sale up there, like homemade multiferous comestibles:^
And even homemade wizards:^^
This particular gentleman stands in front of our Cabin in the Woods, and was a clear sign that we’d made the right choice.
But the real local attraction is the natural landscape, which is gorgeous by day or by night—or by the 4am light of the Supermoon:^^^
There. You’re off the hook.
For now . . .
*I didn’t get to find out first hand, but several residents and summer people told us how cool that library is and how friendly and helpful the librarians are. So if a Rhinelander stumbles onto this post, go give those people kudos and a tax levy, ’cause by all reports, they deserve it.
**Oddly enough, the Visitor’s Center is guarded by a cow painted like a globe. In the Midwest, I’d consider this a commentary of the international importance of agriculture. But up there, the first thing I thought was Hodag bait.
***I have no idea what the going rate for little stone ducks might be, so I might have been rooked instead (see what I did there?), but by that time I was in love and had enough cash, which is pretty much the definition of tourist, so I was only fulfilling my complicit economic responsibility. Right? Right.
^Which are not, as you might guess, chocolate-covered iron rations—try the jerky place for those—but are instead a vast array of pure, old-fashioned, hand-crafted yumminess. If you escape with a single pound of fudge . . . and maybe a truffle assortment . . . and arrive back at your Cabin in the Woods with more than a half-empty box to show for it, you’re a stronger person than I.
^^But not an audio copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which Watson and I wanted to play for Janie on the drive back in the hopes she might
become as addicted as we are try reading the books, and which could not be found on CD—under the circumstances, digital was problematic—for love or money in either Eagle River or Rhinelander. I’m thinking the Hodags are involved somehow . . .
^^^My husband gets credit for this photo, and for not waking me up when he went out to take it. Talented man.