The Wisconsin Tavern

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The author longs for a beer at the Wisconsin tavern.

Submitted: July 06, 2017

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Submitted: July 06, 2017

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The Wisconsin tavern is a special place.  Whether you’re in Menomonie or Menomonee Falls—or somewhere in between—it is a place where friends gather to hang out and where newcomers are always welcome.  Come on in, have a seat on one of those wobbly vinyl covered stools, and the bartender will offer you a tall, cool, inexpensive glass of beer. “Don’t mind Earl at the end of the bar. He’s harmless.”

If you feel like a snack, you might be interested in a cup of warm, heavily salted peanuts and cashews from the Nut Hut. Or, if you prefer, you might go for a Blind Robin (smoked herring) or a picked egg. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can ask for a pickled pig’s foot from that big jar behind the bar. You will notice the bartender taking a big breath before opening the jar and fetching it out with long tongs. To my amazement, my friends Scott and Chuck were able to eat those things!

You might hear the sound of someone violently slamming a cup of dice down on the bar.  This is a popular drinking game called Bar Dice. The game is usually accompanied with lots of hoots and hollers from its participants.  From elsewhere in the bar comes the familiar “Da Dee Da Dee” sound as someone scores a bullseye on the electronic dart machine (more hoots and hollers here too).

The Wisconsin tavern fosters a unique comradery among its patrons and owners.  Here are few examples I have witnessed myself.

Some thirty years ago, on a hot summer afternoon in Madison, a few friends and I stopped by the Oakcrest Tavern. As we approached the front door, we found a man’s wallet on the ground.  We picked it up and checked its contents: three 1$ bills and one $100 bill! We stepped inside, held up the wallet, and loudly asked, “Anyone lose a wallet?”  The men in the bar briefly patted their rear pockets, and then relaxed and returned to their conversations. No one was missing a wallet.  “Oh well, whoever it is will come looking for it.”  We settled down with some beers and enjoyed our cool, dark escape from the hot sun.  Eventually, an exasperated young man stumbled into the tavern.  One of my friends held up the wallet and snickered, “Looking for this?”  The young man snatched the wallet, verified its contents, and dashed out the door. The patrons were outraged. “That’s crazy!”  “He didn’t even say thanks!” “That guy’s an asshole!” Promptly, multiple wallets were retrieved from back pockets, bills were tossed on the bar, and a couple pictures of beer were delivered to our table.  Our stay lasted longer than planned, but we enjoyed our newfound friends.

A few years later, my friend Ken and I found ourselves sipping beer at a tavern in Hortonville.  It was Christmas time, and it was snowing. The regulars were in a good mood, teasing each other about whatever they could. Looking out the front window, a man saw a car drive by with a Christmas tree on the roof.  Then a couple more Christmas trees went by.  “Hey, there sure are a lot of people buying Christmas trees today.” In no time at all, the gang had devised a wager: guess how many Christmas trees would go by in the next fifteen minutes.  Ken and I decided not to participate in the wager, but we were eager to see who would win.  A woman sitting by the back door spoke up and added her bet. Over the next several minutes, everyone focused their attention on the front window and kept track of the tally.  With each passing tree, everyone got more excited.  “There’s one!”  “There’s another one.” “And another one!”  The total quickly rose, and then one of the men spoke up.  “Wait a minute!  That red station wagon has gone by several times!”  After a brief silence, then men turned to the woman in the back.  “Hey, where’s your friend?”  The woman innocently asked, “What friend?”  The men responded aggressively, “YOUR friend! You were with a friend!  That’s her drink right there!!” The woman tried to be coy, but the men were on to her.  The bet was called off, and the men eagerly awaited the return of the red station wagon.  Sure enough, it pulled behind the bar a few minutes later.  As the friend came in the back door, the men confronted her. “You’re busted! All bets are off!”  The women giggled and then confessed that they had to give it try, given that they had a Christmas tree on top of their car. After a good laugh, there was only one thing left to do: drink more beer and look for other ways to spread the holiday spirit.

About ten years ago, several friends and I did a weeklong bicycle ride called GRABAAWR (GReat Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River), which starts in Eagle River near the Michigan border and ends in Prairie du Chien, where the Wisconsin feeds into the Mississippi. Each day, hundreds of cyclists pedal from one town to another.  One afternoon, several of my friends and I stopped at tavern near Evergreen.  Things were quiet when we got there, but in a short time, more and more cyclists piled into the bar.  The staff of two were quickly overwhelmed, and they got behind on orders.  Without hesitation, my friend Jeff leapt to his feet and started flipping burgers. “I was a short-order cook years ago.” Then Jody, who happens to be an accountant (like that matters!), began to work the cash register! I was a bit astonished that the owner was willing to accept the help, but I guess two men in spandex shorts don’t look like trouble.  With Jeff at the grill, Jody on the register, the owner making drinks, and her waitress taking food orders, the crew kept the place afloat until the rush had passed. Once things were calm, the owner warmly thanked the guys for their help and wished them safe travels for the rest of the week.

I invite you to visit the Wisconsin tavern.  Kind and friendly people are ready to make your day just a little bit brighter.

 

Kzam lived in Madison from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s.


© Copyright 2017 Kzam. All rights reserved.

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