So after one more year of perspective-gathering in
Wow, it’s a fact. I am from
…one of the big highlights of this summer here
I happened to arrive at the library just as the four gentlemen were beginning to assemble for the interview. Here’s a general version of the conversation I (and everybody else currently in the library) couldn’t help but overhear:
[Names have been changed]
Mr. Everet "Muddy" Waters [enters library complaining at the volume any 90+ year-old is entitled to complain at] : I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be here for but it’s 11 o’clock and they told me to be here at 11 o’clock. Where’s Mike Malager? They called and told me that Mike Malager was going to be here from the paper at 11 o’clock and I was supposed to come talk to Mike Malager at 11 o’clock at the library. Something about an interview from the paper. I don’t see Mike Malager, but he’s from the newspaper and he told me to meet him here at 11 o’clock.
A younger man sitting at the computers stands up at this initial barrage and hesitates slightly, trying to decide how to approach this.
Muddy: Has anybody here seen Mike Malager? Somebody called to tell me to bet at the library at 11 o’clock to meet Mike Malager from the paper. Notices man standing by computers. Who are you? Do you know where Mike Malager is? He told me to be here at 11 o’clock and here I am but I don’t see Mike Malager.
Younger man: Sir, are you one of the men we’d like to interview about the early days in
Muddy: I don’t know what I was supposed to come for – all I know is that Mike Malager is supposed to be here and I’m supposed to talk to him about something. Who are you? Where’s Mike Malager.
Younger man: Mike couldn’t make it in today, so I’m going to be doing the interview with you.
Muddy: Who are you? What’s your name? I was told I was going to meet with Mike Malager – and I’ve got Harry Devonski here along with me – he’s supposed to meet with Mike Malager too at 11 o’clock. Where’s Mike Malager?
Younger man: I’m Matt Figgoli and I’m here to interview four gentlemen about the early days in
Muddy: Who are you? What’s your family name?
Figoli: My name's Matt Figoli ---
Muddy: That’s not a local
Figoli: No, I’m not from
Muddy: But where were you born? I’m here with Harry Devonski – he served 44 years on
Figoli: I live in -- [a small town about 30 miles away
Muddy: No, son, where were you born? Figoli...that’s not a
Figoli: I was born in
Muddy muttering as he wanders off into the room of the library where the interview is supposed to take place, followed by a silent Harry Devonski: Figoli? that ain’t a local name. Where’s Mike Malager. I was supposed to meet Mike Malager from the paper here at 11 o’clock….
At this point I went back to greet Muddy who is a very old family friend and who was janitor at the local school (there’s only one building housing the elementary, jr. high and high schools) for something like 40 years (or forever depending on which sources you reference). I also speak with Mr. Devonski until Ed Tret and “Bud” Pulaski, the other two “pioneers” to be interviewed arrive. I know them both because Mr. Tret and I played in the community band together – he still plays clarinet there at the age of 94 (although some might debate his fine tuning skills on the high range) and Bud drove school bus for years, and although I never rode in the school bus, his wife, Beth, was librarian at the school library for as long as I can remember and she and my mom have a close-knit bond as fellow small-town librarians.
Mr. Figoli from the paper wandered back into the room as the four men assembled themselves and briefly assessed the situation. He spied the full coffee pot at the far wall, breathed a sigh of relief and began filling a cup before asking if that was community coffee. I said it was and laughed that he would probably need some. He looked quizzically at me for a moment, glanced at the four men I was greeting, then asked if I was from
As I was on a quick errand for my mother, I didn’t stick around to see how the interview turned out, but since the article appeared in the paper a few weeks later, I assume Mr. Figoli survived his experience. As to whether I will survive mine, only time will tell.
The Cemetery Walk.
My mother is president of our Genealogical Society. Now, apparently this cemetery walk thing is not exactly a new idea, but it was new to me, so it caught me a little off-guard.
See, the concept here is that you find gravestones of interesting/important people in your local cemetery, then track down some of the (preferably living) ancestors of those people. You ask those people about the people in the graves – learn a little of their life story, whatever, and then, you get all those people together, ask them to dress up as if they were the given ancestor and, one day, all together, have them stand on their ancestors’ graves and pretend to be them as an audience of cemetery walkers troop by and pause to hear what the re-enactors have to say. Kind of a small-time Old World Wisconsin, except that these people are trying to be real people.
Now, in the end, this cemetery walk was a big hit. It attracted more than 500 people during 2 hours on a single Saturday morning, and there may have been more had it not started pouring (the one good summer rain we got all summer until my brass quintet concert in the park almost a month later). I will also say that my father, a generally shy man with no acting training who stood on the grave of and pretended to be his grumpy
[My father standing on his grandfather's grave, as he said, trying to avoid being thrown off as Del tossed about beneath him...]
But I will also say, the concept weirded me out. It still sort of does.
I’m all about preserving history and remember family stories, and I will also say as I made the tour myself (as a fully costumed 1800s pioneer woman tour-guide – yes, I willingly got roped into this one) that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories and seeing all the fun authentic props people brought for it. Still, the idea of doing it in a graveyard while standing on your ancestors’ graves seems to me like something better reserved for Halloween or at least some kind of twisted murder mystery plot. I’m not one to be squeamish about cemeteries, but this just seems to be asking for its own plot twist. But I’ll leave it up to you all to make your own judgments. Chalk it up to Small-Town America.
The Fourth of July and a barn dance that wasn’t.
These were actually both earlier in the week before the cemetery walk, but they’re worth a short note. First a general comment about the 4th of July here. Our town is known in the area for its old-fashioned, small-town celebration on the 4th. The day begins with a parade – one so big that it takes nearly every resident of the town just to be in the parade. Who watches? Only about a 1000+ tourists who come up for a taste of small-town 4th of July. There’s always a theme and always judging of the floats and it’s usually a divisive battle to see who wins the most extreme float prize each year. Either that or the bank always wins with the only commercially purchased float that hasn’t changed (except in color) through several bank corporation name changes.
Then there’s the flea market and beer tent and brat stand in the park with live music that goes until dusk when it’s time for…
FIREWORKS! This town is also legendary in the area for putting on one heck of a fireworks display. I haven’t seen much to rival it, and certainly not at the small-town level. If you don’t believe me, you come on up next year and the most you’ll lose it the price of gas to get you there and at least you’ll gain a couple of good brats.
Then there’s the barn dance.
Now, this is a first time sort of thing for our town – and in concept I’m all for it. There’s a local community-minded family that has a large “barn” that is used for storing large equipment that they offered for community use for a 4th of July week celebration. They filled the barn with stands advertising local businesses/charity groups/special interests, recruited refreshment sellers, and hired two bands for entertainment. And for a first time thing, my impression was that it was a roaring success. Lots and lots of people showed up to park on the ample lawn space, spread out lawn chairs and blankets and play Frisbee and catch in the field, wander through the exhibition hall, eat lots of food and – or so they all hoped – dance. Unfortunately,
One other cultural note: I noticed one Black man wandering around with his (I would guess) son there. I didn’t get to talk to him, so I can only conjecture about what brought him here, but I did briefly wonder if he felt as out of place wandering around in my own back yard as I often do here in
Home sweet home
So in the end, it was amazing how quickly I slipped back into my old life, where everybody knows my name and I feel like I should know all of theirs. Going home is a lot like putting on a favorite pair of comfortable shoes that might be a little worn around the edges and not necessarily so sexy – but they’ll get you there, and only trip you up once or twice. It’s also nice know that (at least for now) it’s there waiting for me, and that changes occur at a reasonably slow pace in the meantime.