Curtis Dahlgren
Man I love the U.P.! It's really cool, part 3
By Curtis Dahlgren
July 5, 2012

"Why would anyone live in the Upper Peninsula?" — friend from Wisconsin

ORIGINALLY I WAS GOING TO RETIRE OUT WEST. I really liked Wyoming and had climbed the Grande Teton when I turned 60. Then I got an offer I couldn't refuse on U.P. real estate, and now I wonder what I was thinking when I wanted to go west (colder winters and hotter summers?). And — what were you seniors ever thinking when you moved south? I can remember pruning trees in central Illinois in 1963 (when science was predicting a new Ice Age). Every day was at least 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity. That was way too far south for me.

The other day it was 100 degrees in Milwaukee while in town here it was in the 80s; at my house by the river it was in the 70s. And, under my canopy of shade, it was in the 60s all day inside the house. Nights get downright blanket-cool, and this is the southern U.P. (what's an air conditioner?). Whatever way the wind blows, it's either coming off one of the Great Lakes or through the cool North Woods (did you know that our conifer needles also help filter dirt out of the air?). By the way, when I lived in Wisconsin I had a farm neighbor whose wife kept bugging him to take her to northern Wisconsin. He finally did that, and when he got home he says to me, "Man, I'm never going up there again; all they got up there is trees!" They're no longer married. I have a book, "Things Trees Know" (Adventure Publishing), and here are a couple of quotes:
    - "I have learned a lot from trees; sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit." — Walking Buffalo

    - "Of all the teachers I have known, I've found none greater than trees . . . Reach down as well as up. No roots, no branches." — Douglas Wood
AN ATTACK ON YOUR ROOTS IS AN ATTACK ON YOU! Any ol' tree surgeon could tell you that one, and I'm an old tree surgeon. I'm writing this on the 4th of July, which is still a Big Bleeping Deal in this neck of the woods. The Fourth is about History, Tradition, and even Religion. ROOTS, in other words.

Besides the trees and wildlife, there are three other reasons to love the U.P.: the people, the people, the people. Do not underestimate us. Liberty and character have not yet vanished from the earth. We're not a homogenized population, but Yoopers are the kind of people who will pull over for a funeral procession or an ambulance with its lights flashing. Things like that. Traffic cops are so bored that they have to work hard to find violaters. Most Yoopers are stuck forever in the 1950s, like Andy Griffith (R.I.P.).

One of the neatest traditions is the local July 3rd Oldtimers Softball game up here. One year we even had a flyover at the start of the game — by a pair of American eagles. In four games, my batting average is over .500 but I was surprised to go 4-for-4 last night. Must have been the full moon rising, and if you've never seen a U.P. full moon rise, you ain't seen nothin'.

Anyway, last but not least, the thing that makes this such a special place is that people have maintained their sense of humor in the face of political correctness. I'm sending along some photos of mailboxes and lawn ornaments that illustrate Yooper humor.

BTW, I was recently helping a friend cut some trees near Marquette and three little kids in the yard next door were amusing themselves trying to imitate the yip-yip-yipping of a pack of coyotes. I had to laugh out loud, they were doing such a good job. Only in the U.P. — a typical weekend, with the sweet sound of chain saws mingling with the sound of coyote impersonators! WATTA COUNTRY.

P.S. The photo of me here was taken 8 years ago. My age is going to change to 70 this month, but I'm not going to change the picture (if Ann Landers never had to change her picture). Not that I would ever give anyone "advice," but:

"If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, go north!"

BTW, the thumb of Michigan is not the "lower" peninsula, and the mitten is not the "upper peninsula," contrary to the impression some people have in the (much) Lower 48. You might look it up on a map (as long as it's not one of those maps that cut us out completely).

But we love this place, and you can get here from there!

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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