Monday, October 17, 2016

Early MornIng Surprise

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On Sunday, a little before 5:00 a.m., Ruth arrived at my house so we could head out for a day of fall photography in Juneau and Monroe Counties. Ruth pulled her car into the garage, opened the kitchen door, and said, “Just so you know, it’s froggy out this morning,” which is what we jokingly say when it’s foggy out. Then she asked me if I could fill her water bottle. I filled the bottle and took it out to the car.

When I came back in, I noticed a small brown leaf in the middle of the kitchen floor, so I reached down to pick it up. To my surprise, the “leaf” jumped across the kitchen floor.

Needless to say, it startled me when the “leaf” came alive unexpectedly. Now all I had to figure out was how to catch the tiny frog so I could take him back outside. This proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Every time I approached the frog and started to reach for him, he “boinged” halfway across the kitchen floor. And I had to keep chasing him back towards the sink so he wouldn’t go under the refrigerator or stove.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and it was already past the time we had planned to leave. So I grabbed a paper towel and lunged at him, successfully trapping him in the paper towel.

I took the little brown frog outside and let him go. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the frog, but he was too jumpy for me to do that. And I wish I knew what kind of frog it was. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a tree frog, which I often see and hear around my house. And I knew for sure it wasn’t a bullfrog! (Grin)

When we had finished loading the car, I went outside to make sure my little guest wasn’t sitting in the driveway behind my car. And then I heard something I’ve never heard outside my house in the thirteen years I’ve been here….a Spring Peeper. I didn’t know Spring Peepers sang in the fall, but I heard several again today. And then I read that they sometimes sing in the fall, especially when it’s warmer than normal, which it certainly was yesterday and today.

As we drove out into the country, I commented that it was indeed "froggy" that day, inside and out! I hope everyone is enjoying autumn. Just watch out for leaves that go “boing!”

Happy Shunpiking!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn at Last

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Let me start this blog post with an apology. We try to release a new post about every 7-10 days, with two weeks as the maximum amount of time between posts. It’s now been three weeks since my last story about the Little White Church on the Hill. I had hoped to get something posted before leaving on a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but trip preparations and dealing with hail damage totally consumed me.

It’s been an unusual fall season so far in Wisconsin – unusually warm temperatures and an unusual amount of rainfall (not to mention the hailstorm that damaged so many homes and cars throughout Wisconsin).

The days since the official start of autumn have seemed more like the end of summer than the start of fall. Tomorrow, however, the first autumn-like day has been forecast, with a high temperature of 59 degrees, followed by morning temperatures in the 30’s.

Ruth and I always wait (impatiently I might add) for the all-too-short fall season to begin so that we can capture some of our typical rural scenes with the added benefit of fall color.

And now that our Michigan trip is complete, we are taking some day trips along the colorful backroads of Wisconsin. In the near future, we will have photos to share and stories to tell about our adventures in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Until then, be sure to get outside to enjoy autumn in all its glory.

Happy Shunpiking!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Little White Church on the Hill

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

When I first moved to Middleton, Wisconsin, which is now over 40 years ago, I had friends who lived west of Madison on Old Sauk Road. Whenever I went to visit them, I passed an old white country church that sat on a hill at the corner of Old Sauk and Pleasant View Roads.

I remember heading home from my friends’ house one evening in a storm, and as I passed the church, the wind blew so hard that I thought the car would lift off the ground. I was scared out of my wits, so I pulled over to the side of the road. As I sat there by the little country church, I asked God to spare me from harm and the storm finally waned.

The history of the First Lutheran Church began with German immigrants who came to the United States in large numbers between 1840 and 1850. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean and then taking trains to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they discovered that there was neither a place to stay nor a job to be had there. So they procured wagons and teams of oxen, and then bounced their way across the rough terrain to Madison, which was only a small village of around 600 people in 1846.

For the first few years, these early settlers took turns holding worship meetings in their one-room log cabins. In 1854, they decided to join together to contribute materials and labor to build a simple log church. The foundation of this first church still exists in the old original cemetery down the hill from the current church.

As new families joined the congregation, the log church became too small, so they decided to build a new church up on the hill, which was completed in 1866. In 1884, an additional 40 feet was added to the church, along with a new tall and majestic steeple.

In 1907, the congregation purchased a beautiful pipe organ that was built by the William Schuelke firm of Milwaukee. Schuelke organs were known for their high quality, distinctly Germanic sound. Unfortunately, the organ no longer works and it would take an exorbitant amount of money to restore. It does, however, hold a special place in the history of this beautiful church.

In 1947, due to dwindling membership, services were discontinued and the church sat empty and in danger of vandalism and eventual demolition. Fortunately, in the 1980s, a group of community members decided that the church was worth saving and they began to work tirelessly on the restoration and preservation of this historical church.

Two years ago, through this blog, I had the distinct privilege of meeting two wonderful people who are on the current board of trustees for the First Lutheran Church. And on September 11 of this year, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Rev. Ken Michaelis, twice great grandson of church founder Johann (John) Voss, presided over the service. When it was time to give the sermon, he said that he usually likes to stand close to the congregation when he speaks. On that day, however, he felt it was important to preach from the beautiful historical pulpit.

Music was provided by the Madison Maennerchor, the oldest German singing organization in Wisconsin, and the second oldest in the United States. It was founded in 1852, which is the same year that the congregation of the First Lutheran Church was founded. And one of the hymns sung by those attending the service was “Little White Church on the Hill” (with the same melody as “The Little Brown Church in the Vale”).

This historic service was attended by over 250 people, many of whom were descendants of the original founders and ministers of the church.

At the closing of the service, the children attending were allowed to help ring the church bell. As you can see by their faces, this was a wonderful experience for them.

I wish I had taken a picture of the First Lutheran Church in the 1970s, during a time when it seemed beautiful in its abandonment out in the rolling countryside. As the city of Madison expanded its boundaries over the years, the church became surrounded by development and a great increase in traffic. Still, it remains one of the most stunning “country” churches and is now undergoing some much-needed repairs due to the efforts of the dedicated board of trustees and the generosity of many donors.

Although the First Lutheran Church is no longer an active church, it is open to the public for weddings, baptisms, renewal of wedding vows, memorial services, concerts, and other community events. If you’d like more information, visit the First Lutheran Church website.

Happy Shunpiking!