PERSPECTIVErnMiddle American Gothicrnby Thomas FlemingrnThe bad weather of 1993 eliminated my usual fishing tripsrnto northern Wisconsin, but the other day in Madison,rnwhere I go to use the library and relive the 60’s, I saw a sign forrnan instant oil change and lube: “Faster than an Illinois tourist.”rnMost people in Wisconsin are happy for the dollars the pot-belliedrnChicagoans bring with them, but some of them cannotrnhelp sneering at the softness and helplessness of their suburbanrnneighbors to the south.rnNowhere is the contempt so evident as in the northernmostrncounties of the state, where the people generally lookrndown upon the farmers of southern Wisconsin as soft and easvliving.rnUp there, where the trees are twisted by the winds thatrnblow cold “off the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee” andrnstarved in the thin soil left behind by the glacier, only thernberries are sweeter for adversity. There is nothing sweet in thernmanners of the people—Norwegians and Finns mostly. Theyrnare friendly enough, once you know them, and even kind tornstrangers, but many of them act as if the frontier still ranrnthrough Douglas Gounty.rnA year ago I took a friend from South Garolina up to thernBrule River for a few days of fishing. The “wodd-famous BrulernRiver,” as a local guide continues to call it, even though therntrout-fishing is less than spectacular. For many years the mainrnculprits were the lamprey eels that made their way through thernSt. Lawrence Seaway, and—if you can believe Ron—anotherrnSeaway tourist, the salmon, disturbs the spawning of the brownrntrout. Ron, sometime guide and proprietor of the only fly shop,rntold me the Hrst time I stopped in: “Put back the big browns,rnbut keep the salmon; they’re nothing but parasites and foreigners.”rnAnother immigration problem.rnOne cannot imagine two types more opposite than Ronrnand my friend Bill from South Carolina. The dialect differencesrnalone could keep a linguist busy for years, but for all thatrnseparates Hell Hole Swamp from the Brule River, Ron hasrnmore in common with Bill than with “them Yuppie fishermenrnfrom the Twins” who buy out the Orvis catalogue and fly off forrnweek-long fishing seminars in Montana or New Zealand. Yournmeet them everywhere. One December, I was fishing with arnfriend on the White River in Arkansas, when the guide told usrnhis next party was a doctor from my friend’s hometown inrnLouisiana. “Well, if he’s from . . . he’s probably an —hole,” myrnfriend opined, and within minutes of being introduced to us,rnthe fly-fishing medic was bragging about his trip to New-rnZealand and giving the guide a few tips on casting. Nextrnmorning at breakfast, the guide came over to say, “You’re right,rnbut it only takes a guide about five minutes to put one ofrnthese guys in his place.”rnThe guide, it seems, did not regard himself as a servantrnsimply because he was taking a man’s money and did not hesitaternto tell anyone what he thought of him. Wisconsin fishermenrnare, if anything, even less restrained, and a pretentiousrnreference to “the last time I fished Henry’s Fork” will elicit morernscorn than envy. This—for want of a more accurate word—thisrnredneck mentality is about all that is left of the character of thernold American Republic, and it can make South Garolina orrnWisconsin dangerous places for people who refuse to understandrnthe rules. I was once told the story of a salesman drivingrnthrough Jamestown, South Garolina (at the edge of Hell HolernSwamp). The salesman stopped for a dog sleeping in the roadrnand honked his horn. An old man on his porch lifted up hisrnshotgun and told him: “Don’t you be bothering him. That’srnwhere he sleeps—you wait till he gets up.”rnThe United States is leavened by a sprinkling of armed andrndangerous Americans. Not far from the Brule is a bar andrnrestaurant, where 1 have eaten many times. About a year ago,rnthe proprietor—a friendly, unaggressive sort of man—returnedrnafter midnight to check on his place and surprised a group ofrnyoung men boosting cases of liquor. He pulled out a gun andrntold them to stop, and when one of them ran, the proprietorrnshot him in the leg. The young fool crawled off into thernwoods to hide and bled to death before he was found. Whenrnthe proprietor was put on trial, local sentiment was fairiy strongrn8/CHRONICLESrnrnrn