CORRESPONDENCErnLetter Fromrnthe Northwoodsrnby JoAn MelchildrnJust East of the Indian’s NosernEleen years ago, I moved to NortliwestrnWisconsin, a region called the WisconsinrnIndianhead because it is shaped like thernprofile of an hidian chief I live jnst eastrnof the nose.rnAfter a career of publishing magazinesrnand editing newspapers in the TwinrnCities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, I decidedrnto take a rehrement job editing arnnewspaper in a small Wisconsin town ofrnfewer tlian 2,000 people. How pleasant itrnwould be to leave the hustie, bustle, andrnhigh crime of the cit)! No more dailyrnstruggles with traffic. A place where Irncould rerire in the quiet beauty of rollingrnwoods and lakes. I even rented a cabinrnnear a lovely little lake eight miles fromrntown, where my young collie and I couldrncommune with nature.rnBut it didn’t take long to discover thatrnNorthwest Wisconsin was a foreignrncoimtrv, totally unlike anyplace I hadrnbeen before. And my idyllic surroundingsrnsoon reealed some problems.rnThere were wood ticks, not the regularrnkind, but tiny little deer ticks that passedrnon Lvme disease if you weren’t vigilant inrngetting them off The collie got Lymerndisease and could barely walk until I tookrnhim to a vet for treatment. The dog alsorntangled with a porcupine and got quillsrnin his nose, got sprayed by a skunk, andrnraccoons kept swiping his dog food afterrncarefully wa.shing each piece in his waterrndish. A sturdy, determined, and largernfamily of mice who had been making therncabin their home for a couple of vears defiedrneerv attempt to get rid of them. Arngentle doe and her two fawns came to isitrnfrequenriy.rnThe next thing I discovered was thatrnediting a newspaper in a highly volatilerncommunity wasn’t exactly a piece ofrncake. If I printed anything that peoplerndisagreed with, I received an angryrnphone call. Some letters to the editorrnwould have been the basis for a libel suitrnif I had printed them, and w hen I didn’trnprint them, 1 received more angn’ phonerncalls. I had half of the town mad at mernone week and the other half the next.rnFortunately, the previous owner of thernpaper, who had been the editor for manyrnvears, stopped by daily for coffee andrnhelped me avoid many pitfalls. I also discornered I did not have a nine to five job.rnI started receiving calls at my residence asrnearlv as 7:00 A.M. on Sunday.rnMan- people assume that if ou arernhere, you have always been here, andrntherefore you don’t need addresses or direchonsrn—other than “turn where the oldrncheese factory used to be, you can’t missrnit.” For most of its lengthy lifetime, thernpaper had run ads without addresses, andrnI met some resistance from the staff whenrnI insisted on an address for each ad. ^^fterrnall, I explained, some dumb out-of-townerrnlike myself might want to find the business,rnand the area could use the tourismrndollars.rnMy first deer-hunting season wasrnmemorable. Close-sha’en men suddenlyrnturned into bearded characters sportingrnflannel shirts and boots. As I was livingrnin a densely wooded area, I wasrnwarned by tiie natives to wear orange andrntie an orange scarf around my collie’srnneck. Or, better yet, stay indoors. Whenrndie season started, I felt like I was in a warrnzone. Bearded men wearing camouflagernsuits and blaze orange hats and carryingrnguns passed through my yard. Gunsrnwent off in flie distance, and a few werernentirely too close. I wore a bright orangernsweatshirt to travel the 20 feet from therncabin to the garage. The dog was scaredrnto death. Hunters who had shot theirrndeer draped the animal on the fender orrnput it in the back of the pickup truck andrnstopped by a saloon in town to do a littlerncelebrating and show off their troph’.rnThen winter settled upon the Northwoods.rnI had only moved 90 miles northeastrnof the Twin Cities, but that short distancernadded hvo months to winter, tt wasrnsnowing by the end of September, andrndie ice was still on the lakes at the first ofrnMay. The first day that the temperahirernwas way below zero, the bathtub in myrnrented cabin spouted a gusher of ice andrndead leaves from the drain. Wlien I triedrnto call the owners, tiieir sou told me theyrnwere on a sailboat trip off the southernrncoast of Florida. It seems the bathhib andrnlaundry hibs drained through a pipe ontornthe ground alongside the cabin. A littlernheat tape fixed the sitiiation. The electricrnheat was a bit iffy, too, and I often camernhome to a very cold house. I spent a lotrnof that first winter on the couch coveredrnwith a heavy quilt. Sweatsuits, long underwear,rnwool socks, and a pair ofrnAlaskan reindeer slippers were standardrnat-home apparel.rnBut native northwestern Wisconsinitesrnwho are snowmobilers love the snow.rnSnowmobile trails, all carefully groomedrnand marked with miniature highwayrnsigns, crisscross the area and connectrnwith other trails in northern Wisconsin.rnOne hearty group of men made an annualrn200-mile snowmobile trip to the UpperrnPeninsula of Michigan. The restaurantsrnand bars near the snowmobile trails do arnland-office business during the snowmobilernseason. Rural dances bring thernsnowmobilers out, and I have watchedrnthem dancing the polka in their snowmobilernboots, their snowmobile suits unzippedrnto the waist to allow ventilation,rntheir empty sleees hvirling to the music.rnWhen the ice thickens, ice-fishingrnshacks appear on the numerous lakes inrnthe Wisconsin Indianhead region. Arnlarge lake near where I live hosts the Wisconsinrnstate ice-fishing tournament,rnwhich attracts 1,200 fishermen. Eachrnperson is allowed to drill three holes inrnthe ice; they may bring sleds and portablernicehouses as well as their vehicles. A beerrngarden, weighing station, and bratwurstrnstand are also set up on the ice. I was extremelyrnnervous that first winter andrnwouldn’t drive my car out on the ice. Irnreally expected to see the entire entouragernsink into 90 feet of water, but itrnhasn’t happened yet.rn1 lived through that first winter, bitt therncabin was sold in the spring, so I bought arn100-year-old house in town and rehabbedrnit. Then the newspaper was sold,rnso I found other work, but I staved inrnNorthwest Wisconsin. There are toornmany things going on that I would miss.rnThere are still bears up here, and while Irnhave only seen one (from the safety of myrncar), I had empath for the man inrnCameron, Wisconsin, w ho let his poodlernout early in the morning and had a bearrngrab the dog from the deck. The ownerrntried to defend the poodle but gotrnmauled himself The bear took the poodlerninto the woods, and the dog hasn’trnbeen seen since. Another man had hisrnNOVEMBER 1999/37rnrnrn