Herscher’s annual migration is about to begin.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this local phenomenon, it goes something like this…
Every summer, sometime after the Fourth of July and prior to Labor Day, it seems like the entire town of Herscher packs its bags and migrates north, mostly to Cass Lake, Minnesota. A “non-native” resident of this area offers this definition of a Herscher person: Someone who travels over 600 miles to be with his neighbors.
Being one of the few Herscher residents who has never been to Cass Lake, I feel a bit deprived. As a consolation, I traveled to another neck of the woods last week to get my own north woods fix. This personal sacrifice was made to reassure you soon-to-be migrants that all is well in the Great North.
The North remains its same old refreshing constant in this world of change. There just isn’t enough manpower up there to screw up this vast wilderness area. A few days in the north is truly relaxing, and the trip en route is truly entertaining.
As you prepare for your yearly trek, here’s a capsulized summary of what to expect, as if you didn’t already know…
About an hour after the “Are we almost there yet?” cliché has been work out, you’ll hit a clump of gaudy roadside signs promoting Lotto tickets to the southbound traffic, and cheese to the northbound traffic. This means you are entering Wisconsin. This also means you’re about one-nineteenth of the way to being “almost there”.
Your favorite radio station starts fading away, so you won’t hear any vital baseball scores until you reach this point on the way home. The only sports you’ll hear from now on will be Milwaukee Brewer updates, and reminders that Packer coverage begins in August. Your car radio will continually gauge your northward venture.
For the next two hours, you’ll be doing some extensive reading on a man-made paradise known as the Wisconsin Dells. And once you think you’ve escaped those billboards’ hypnotic effects, a few more pop up to inform you that the next exit is a back way shortcut to the Dells. Push the pedal to the floor, for you’ll need all the horsepower you can get to break through the final magnetic field. The Dells billboards are few and far between on the return trip - they know you’ll be out of money by then.
An hour later, the local radio station features songs filled with twang and commercials filled with corn. Roadside signs contain only concise information the northbound traveler needs to know: “Gas-Brats-Cheese-Pop-Cones-Next Exit.”
The hills start getting bigger, and the trees finally outnumber the billboards. The local radio station airs no local news because there is no local news. You are now officially in the North. Here are a few facts about the North:
A huge wooded area as large as our state is called a forest.
A huge body of water about the size of our state is called a lake.
A large wooded area about the size of our county is called a state park.
A large body of water about the size of our county is called a pond.
A wooded area about the size of one of our state parks is called a wayside.
A body of water about the size of one of our farm ponds is called a puddle.
One recent change in the North is the gradual replacement of “souvenirs” by “gifts”. It is important that the northbound traveler know the difference.
Gift shop signs are made of wood; souvenir shops are neon.
A T-shirt in a gift shop will cost $18. The same T-shirt will cost only $8 at a souvenir shop.
Souvenir shops sell local agates and driftwood which are easy pickings at a nearby wayside. Gift shops sell geodes from Brazil.
Gift shops have criminally incorporated the majestic image of the Canadian goose into frilly country-style heart motifs. Souvenir stands still sell rubber tomahawks, plastic squirt guns, onion-flavored chewing gum, and pint-sized cedar chests.
Gift shops, souvenir stands, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and bait shops all sell moccasins. And the name of every other highway restaurant is “EAT”.
A typical Wisconsin town has a Catholic church at one end, a Lutheran church at the other end, and eight taverns plus two supper clubs in between.
Delaware, Michigan, is the self-proclaimed snow capital of the Midwest. It is a town of six houses - all abandoned.
Now for absolute, indisputable proof that you are truly in the North, engage the seeking device on your car radio. If it runs the entire cycle without stopping, it’s time to pull over.
The weather will be miserable and the fishing will be lousy. The natives will assure you that the sky was crystal clear and the lunkers were jumping into the boat the very day before you arrived.
Relax, forget your troubles, and on your way home, please pick up some smoked chubs and a bag of curds.