Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

As 2013 draws to a close, Ruth suggested that we do a monthly review of our photographing adventures. Here are just a few of the many subjects we photographed throughout the year.

In January, after intending for several years to photograph a barn that always had a wreath displayed at Christmas, I finally found the time to visit it at dusk and was delighted to discover a second wreath on the gate near the barn.

February treated us to good snow cover and a narrow road plowed well enough for us to visit the Old Rock Church and Cemetery in Iowa County, Wisconsin.

In March, on a sunny winter day, we drove the backroads of Sauk County. Although we’ve driven almost every road in that county, we still manage to find things we hadn’t seen before. On that day, we discovered an interesting sketch on the side of a milkhouse, on a farm we assume was at one time a pig farm. We also assume the sketch is a reference to a 1977 film entitled, “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

In April, on our way to Ohio, we drove in the early morning darkness towards an old roller mill in Wabash County, Indiana. However, our plans to be at the mill at first light were foiled by flooding in the area. After trying several roads that were under water, we finally found a route that allowed us to reach the mill. By that time, however, the sun was above the horizon. Only by crossing the river and finding a different angle did we capture a nice photo of this mill.

On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had a marathon day in Ozaukee and Washington Counties. We left home in the dark and were still near Milwaukee at nightfall. I worked my tail off that day and came back with 600 great photos, including this one of the foot bridge by the last remaining original covered bridge in Wisconsin.

Early June always finds us on the backroads of Green County completing the annual breeding bird survey. We leave home around 2:30 am and attempt to finish the survey by 10:00 am. This year, after finishing the survey, we spent some time photographing flowers before returning home.

The heat of the summer often makes us reluctant to go out photographing, but we found acceptable temperatures toward the end of July. So we took a trip to Walworth County – our first trip there since getting my first digital camera in 2006.

For years, I’ve been meaning to get over to Pope Farm Conservancy to photograph the field of sunflowers that is always planted there. Finally, this August, I left for work very early one day and stopped at the conservancy to photograph the sunflowers before starting my work day.

In September, we traveled to Iowa to photograph on the backroads, along with taking in a couple of barns on the Iowa Barn Foundation Tour. Often on these tours, the barn owners greet the visitors and talk about their barns. In this case, we didn’t see the owners, but we were greeted by a friendly (and tired) old dog.

Autumn is our favorite time of year and Vernon County is one of our favorite counties, especially in the fall. Much of this county is inhabited by Amish families and this year we found some great fall color and some very friendly Amish folks.

After all the leaves fall in October, we have our annual calendars to design and get printed. And it’s a good time to catch up on our backlog of back office duties before the first snowfall. Then December arrives and we head out again. This year, we visited downtown Madison and captured the beautiful Capitol building, with a Christmas tree on every corner of the Capitol Square.

We hope you and your family are having the best holiday season ever. And we wish you a Happy New Year’s and a wonderful 2014.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Behold, I Bring You Tidings of Great Joy

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men."

Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2; Verses 8-14

Ruth and I wish everyone a blessed, peaceful Christmas. And, as always Happy Shunpiking!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fall Creek Massacre

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In early May of this year, on our last day of vacation, we were heading home through Indiana. Like on every trip, I tried to plan a different route to and from our destination. This trip took us near the town of Pendleton, Indiana.

Sometimes I hunt things up through my research and make note of them, but I’m not certain we’ll want to visit them. When I mentioned the site of the Fall Creek Massacre to Joann, she said we should see if we could find it.

It was the hanging site of the men convicted of the massacre of several Native Americans at Fall Creek. Now it is marked with a stone inscribed with the words “Three white men were hung here in 1825 for killing Indians.”

Madison County, Indiana was founded in 1823 and was sparsely populated. Sometime during the winter of 1823-1824, a small band of Indians of unknown tribal origin, came to the area to hunt and collect maple syrup. The townspeople were friendly with the Indians.

Thomas Harper was not a local man, and had drifted into the area in early 1824. He had a hatred of Indians and was vocal around town about finding some Indians to kill.

On March 22, 1824, a group of white men led by Thomas Harper and including two of his relatives, the 18 year-old-son of one of the relatives and another teenage boy, approached the small band of Indians. Using lost horses as a ruse, they asked the Indians to help them track their horses. Two of the Indians agreed and went with the men to look for the horses.

Once they were in the woods, Harper and Hudson fell behind and shot the Indians in the back. Then they returned to camp and murdered the women and children. One male Indian was injured and survived.

The next day, the massacre was discovered by a local farmer. At the same time, the men were bragging around town about murdering the Indians. All except Thomas Harper were soon captured. He had taken the loot stolen from the Indian camp and fled.

The first trial was held and Thomas Hudson was found guilty. He was sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out on January 12, 1825. The teenage boy who had accompanied the men was a major witness in the trials. The trial of the other three took place and they also were sentenced to death by hanging.

On June 3, 1825, the last three were scheduled to be hung. A large crowd including some Indians had gathered to watch. The men were hung first, and then the 18-year-old boy was led to the gallows. As he stood there with a noose around his neck and a hood over his head, the governor of Indiana stepped forward and announced his pardon. The petition for his pardon stated his age, ignorance, and the manner in which he had been led into the murders.

Even though this was a sad situation, it did set a precedent for recognizing the civil rights of Native Americans. As Joann and I visit many historic sites, we often comment that it would have been nice to live in that time and see the buildings and sites in their heyday. But then we come across things such as this, and we know that we wouldn’t want to have been around for this sort of occurrence.

We are grateful to a local couple who jogged across the above bridge that morning and were kind enough to help us figure out where to find the Fall Creek Massacre memorial stone.

Happy Shunpiking!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving - 2013!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Somehow the year has flown by and we are already at Thanksgiving. Is it the same for you? Does the holiday season sneak up on you, too?

We love to see the fall displays, but all too soon, fall is over and the winter cold and snow arrive.

Earlier this fall, Joann and I were driving down a country road in western Wisconsin. As we drove past a house, we both noticed the turkey sculpture in the yard. One glance at each other, and Joann started looking for a place to turn around.

It makes you wonder what people were doing when they had this sort of idea. We knew he would be our Happy Thanksgiving turkey this year.

Whatever you do for the day, whether it is hosting family or friends, or travelling over the river and through the woods to someone else’s house, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Portland Prairie Methodist Episcopal Church

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Two years ago, on an autumn trip to Minnesota, Ruth and I visited the Portland Prairie Methodist Episcopal Church in Houston County.

In 1855, six years after Minnesota became a territory, Methodist settlers from the states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, organized the church. At first, services were held in homes and then in the McNelly schoolhouse until the church was built in 1876 at a cost of $1,540.

The church was built in the Eastlake architectural style, which is part of the Queen Anne style of Victorian architecture. This style is known for its attention to detail and decorative wood trim.

The oldest known photo of the church shows a prairie-like setting with few trees. Now there are several large trees near the church, but it is still surrounded by farm fields, a reminder of the original agricultural community of Portland Prairie.

Behind the church is a simple, well-kept cemetery that is the final resting place of some of the original pioneer settlers. Many of them had traveled by train from Chicago to Rockford, Illinois; by stagecoach to Galena, Illinois; by riverboat to Lansing, Iowa; and then by ox team or on foot the last 20 miles to Portland Prairie. The oldest person buried in this cemetery was born in 1770 and died in 1857.

If you’re a faithful reader of these blog posts, you know that I always check the doors of old churches and schools to see if they are open. In this case, to my absolute delight, the doors were open and welcoming. Just inside the doors was a vestibule with a church bell rope hanging down from the bell tower and attached to the wall. It beckoned to be pulled, but Ruth and I resisted the temptation.

Beyond the vestibule, the doors led to rows of old wooden pews, with worn-out hymnals in every pew. An old-fashioned pump organ sat in the corner at the front of the church.

Instead of an altar in the front center of the church, a simple podium stood in front of an antique Victorian sofa.

In the early days of this church, Portland Prairie was a thriving community with 35 families belonging to the congregation. Services were provided by circuit riders who ministered to several rural churches. In the 1880s, pioneer families were devastated by crop failures and many moved on to the Dakotas and Nebraska.

Over the years, a total of 39 ministers have served in this simple, pioneer church. In 1932, regular services ended and the remaining families began transferring to the nearby Caledonia Methodist Church. Special services, such as weddings and baptisms are still held occasionally in the church. Also, there are two annual worship services – one on the last Sunday of July with a hymn sing prior to the service, and one on Christmas Eve.

The setting for the Christmas Eve service is rustic, with no heat or electricity and the church is dimly lit with candles and a few kerosene lamps. People say it reminds them of a cold stable and a lowly manger scene from a long, long time ago.

Happy Shunpiking!

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Brief Encounters - Fall Harvest

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Last Sunday, Ruth posted a Quick Pic of the Grim Reaper waiting, which I captured in Filmore County, Minnesota. After that grim encounter (smile), we then headed for the backroads. As we came around a corner, we saw a farmer harvesting corn with a combine.

The combine was moving away from us at a quick pace, stirring up dust as it gobbled up the rows of corn. I pulled the car to the side of the road, jumped out, grabbed my camera, and snapped a photo. The combine continued to move quickly and started to disappear over a small hill. So I snapped another photo.

I love the look of fields of golden corn and am always disappointed when corn is chopped early in the fall before it has a chance to reach the golden stage. But I also like to see the harvest in action and this action was gone all too soon. As the combine totally disappeared over the hill, I wondered for a second if we should hang around and wait for the combine to come back. But it was a very large field and there was much for us to do that day.

And now, as most of the autumn leaves have fallen to the ground and the harvest season is nearing an end, I am saddened by the lack of photo opportunities. But soon the snow will make its appearance and we will once again hit the backroads in search of winter’s peace.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quick Pic - Been Waiting Long?

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

We were just looking for a parking place so Joann could take a picture. It was October of 2011 and we were in Southwestern Minnesota. As Joann got out of the car to get her equipment, she glanced toward an open door of a building and saw the Grim Reaper waiting in the lobby. She stepped inside to ask if she could take a picture of the display. She called out “Hello?”, but no one answered. She called again and still got no answer.

She took a couple of photos and then went out the door and on to what we had really stopped for. I wonder if he’s still waiting.

Hope your Halloween was a great end to the fall season.

Happy Shunpiking!

Monday, October 28, 2013

RIP Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In April of this year during our trip to Ohio, Joann and I visited the Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge.

It was built in 1874 and was one of two remaining humpback bridges in the United States. Humpback refers to a distinct “hump” in the middle of the bridge. It was the longest and most visited covered bridge in Vinton County.

As we approached the bridge, we were dismayed to see all of the painted graffiti and wondered out loud why people can’t find something constructive to do with their time.

The bridge had been bypassed by an old pony truss iron bridge and was no longer open to automobile traffic, but was still open to foot traffic.

We found ourselves nowhere near a park and since it was past lunchtime, we decided to just stand by the cooler at the back of the car and eat our quick picnic lunch.

Sadly, in the overnight hours of June 5, 2013, the historic Ponn Humpback covered bridge was destroyed by fire. The bridge was a total loss.

Covered bridges have a long history. Just like the answer to the question, “Why are most barns painted red?” there are multiple explanations for why bridges were covered. One is that the cover was to protect the wood from the elements while another was to shield the horse’s eyes from the water passing underneath. It was also a place where, in the old days, a boy could steal a kiss from his girl without others seeing them.

We are always saddened when a piece of history is lost, and especially so in this case, since the fire was deliberately started. We will never understand how someone can destroy a piece of history in which so many people have taken such pleasure.

So, rest in peace Humpback Bridge, we’re so glad we got to know you! Whenever you’re near an old covered bridge, check it out. You never know what might happen tomorrow.

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Burmester Grocery, Loganville, Wisconsin

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On April 24, 2010, Dave Burmester, owner of Burmester's Grocery in Loganville, Wisconsin, since 1963, celebrated 90 years since his father first opened the store. The event drew a large crowd of people, many of whom spent their childhoods stopping at the store for an ice cream cone or some penny candy.

To celebrate the occasion, ice cream was only five cents a scoop – the price his father set when he first bought the ice cream parlor business in 1920, which he soon turned into a grocery store. On that day, friends scooped the ice cream while Dave took a much-needed break from working six days a week.

Two years ago, in early October, Ruth and I passed through Loganville on our way to spending three days on the backroads of our neighboring state of Minnesota. As we passed Burmester's Grocery, we discussed the fact that we had been through Loganville many times over the years, but had never stopped to photograph the old store. So we decided we should take the time to capture a few images that morning.

As I began to photograph, Dave Burmester opened the door to get his Sunday newspaper. I introduced myself and asked him what he could tell me about the building. He told me that the building was built around 1895 and he was pretty sure that there was originally a hardware store on the left side of the building and a butcher shop and shoe repair shop on the right side. Note the two separate doors in the picture below.

Dave said that the building housed an ice cream parlor in 1920, which his father, Albert Burmester, purchased that year. Soon, however, his father realized that he couldn’t make a living selling only ice cream, so he began adding groceries.

When I asked Dave if he minded telling his age, he said he was 27, with 50 years of experience. Then I asked him if I could take his picture and he said with a grin, “Go ahead, it’s YOUR camera,” as if taking his picture might break the camera. He then invited me inside the store to chat for a few minutes.

On the wall inside the store hung an old framed photograph of the inside of the store around 1925. The photo showed Dave’s father Albert standing at the counter. A small typewritten paragraph at the bottom of the frame said, “In 1920, Albert Burmester purchased an ice cream parlor from John Williams. Albert soon began adding groceries, and in about a year’s time, the ice cream parlor became Burmester’s Grocery.”

In that photo, the free-standing glass cases and shelves lining the walls of the store are stacked full of goods and there is a huge free-standing display of cans of Snider Pork & Beans in the middle of the wooden floor.

That day, the sparsely stocked shelves told a different story. Dave said he was trying to keep the store going, but suppliers didn’t want to deal with him because his store was too small. Although Dave’s father couldn’t make a living selling ice cream, Dave said selling hand-dipped ice cream cones was probably what was still keeping him in business.

Last Saturday, after photographing in the beautiful countryside of Sauk County, Ruth and I came through Loganville and were saddened to see that the sign for Burmester’s Grocery had been replaced by a sign for a realty office. So I spoke to the owner of Aunt Ozie’s CafĂ©, which is across the street from the former Burmester’s Grocery store, and she told me that Dave had finally closed the store due to health reasons. And so, another old-fashioned hometown business is no more, except fondly in the memories of the townspeople who frequented the store when it was in its glory.

If you’re ever in the Loganville, Wisconsin area, be sure to stop in at Aunt Ozie’s Cafe to enjoy delicious food in an old store building with a weathered wooden floor and a warm, inviting atmosphere. It’s located at 200 Main Street in downtown Loganville.

Happy Shunpiking!