Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Halloween Ride

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Several years ago I found a picture of an old red truck with the back stacked with glowing jack-o-’lanterns. The picture had been taken on Halloween night and the only location mentioned was the name of a town in southern Wisconsin. I sent the photo to Joann but told her I didn’t really know where it was. Then I stumbled on a second photo. That one named a different town as the location. Same county, but different town. I tried to find out the real location, and even asked our brother-in-law who lives down that way. He couldn’t remember ever seeing it.

Last year, on the day before Halloween, I was home and began wondering about the truck. I took out the gazetteer and started to study the roads between the two towns that had been mentioned as locations. There didn’t seem to be that many roads, and I thought that I could drive down and see if I could find the truck. Wouldn’t Joann be surprise if I found it!

I took the gazetteer along and drove south. When I got to the first town mentioned, I turned onto the first road that would take me between the two towns. Imagine my surprise when I had only travelled a short distance and came upon the truck. I drove far enough to get turned around, and returned to the truck. I parked across from it and snapped a photo with my phone. Then I attached it to an email and sent it to Joann at work.

She replied almost immediately and asked me how I had figured out the location. I replied that I was sitting in front of it and the photo was from my phone. I told her about my dumb luck of picking the right starting point for my search. She was very excited and we immediately made plans to go the following night to take photos.

The next night, Halloween night, I met Joann right after work and we drove south. We wanted to look at the truck in the daylight so she could check out the background for the truck images before dusk. Then we drove around town taking a few other photos.

The trick or treaters were out and we saw princesses, a dinosaur and other creatures along the sidewalks. We also spent some time in the town cemetery, but made sure to be done and back at the truck before dusk.

When we got back to the truck, we were happy to see that the pumpkins were already lit for the evening. Joann knew she had a short period of time to get as many shots as possible, so she worked quickly moving around the truck taking as many angles as she could.

When it was too dark to continue photographing, the owner came down the driveway and chatted with Joann for a bit. He said that he had been doing the truck for a few years but didn’t know how much longer he would continue. It’s a lot of pumpkins to carve, and he needs to find family help each year for all of the carving.

Now that we’ve found the truck, we’re hoping to make a return trip this Halloween. We hope the owner can continue his tradition for many years to come!

Happy Halloween and Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Update: First Estonian Church in America

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Four years ago, at the end of September, Ruth and I made an unforgettable visit to the Estonian Ev. Martin Luther Church in Lincoln County, Wisconsin. In November of that year, I posted a story about this church – the First Estonian Church in America.

Two years later, Bill Rebane, owner and great nephew of the founding pastor of this church, discovered our blog story and sent us an email saying, “Absolutely wonderful photography. With these, there may be new hope for the Estonian Ev. Martin Luther Church. What must we do to use them to promote the restoration? Some devoted Estonians from Chicago have joined in the effort to begin restoration in the coming spring. Would love to communicate with you.”

We responded with this: “Thank you so much for contacting us about using these photos for the purpose of promoting the restoration of your wonderfully historic church. Our main purpose in photographing old structures is to make people aware of the historical value in the hopes that some of them can and will be saved.” We then gave him permission to use the photos in his fund-raising efforts.

A short time later, Mr. Rebane set up a GoFundMe website with a goal of raising $40,000 and he used a couple of our photos on that site. He explained that the most pressing need at that time was for electric service and water for the restoration efforts. It stated: “Our hopes and wishes are relatively small: To restore the structure to its original state and to maintain the cemetery with 11 resting places.”

In June of 2014, a group of Estonians from Chicago volunteered their time to begin the restoration efforts. They stabilized the church foundation and began working on clearing brush from the cemetery to expose the gravestones. And in July of this year, volunteers worked to adjust the frame of the church and install windows and doors. The volunteer weekend ended with a benefit concert on the grounds of the church to raise money for construction materials. It featured two well-known Estonian musicians.

The concert website stated that “the first Estonian church is a monument to early Estonian immigration to America and the liberty and freedom they were seeking.” And the Facebook page for this historic church states that “the Estonian Embassy in Washington D.C. through its cultural attaché has expressed interest in making the church property a cultural information site of Estonian life, history and the arts.”

We are grateful that this historic structure will be saved from the ravages of time and we wish the Estonians good luck in their continued restoration efforts.

Happy Shunpiking!

Friday, October 9, 2015

2015 Farm/Art DTour

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On Monday, Ruth and I drove the 50-mile self-guided Farm/Art DTour in Sauk County, Wisconsin. We had such an enjoyable day, so I thought I would share some of our photos right away.

We left home very early so that we would be at the first stop, just outside Reedsburg, at first light. This first artwork is called “Lucky 13: Elephant in the Room” and it was created by Erika Nelson of Lucas, Kansas. It celebrates Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s announcement that they are retiring the last 13 performing elephants by 2018.

Our next stop was an amazing piece of art called “Monday is Wash Day” and it was created by Brenda Baker of Madison, Wisconsin.

When we first pulled up to the beginning of the clothesline, I thought it was just a short display of clothes hanging on the line. But as I walked down the road, I realized that the clothesline went on and on. Later, a local farmer told me he had heard that it was three-quarters of a mile long.

One of the fun things along the route is discovering farm art that isn’t on the tour map, like these Minions whose message is: “There’s nothing wrong with growing up country.”

And if you pay attention, you will stumble on what’s known as “rogue installations.” Early in the morning, we saw this sign urging us to take a little “detour from the DTour.”

Well, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see this rogue spider, especially since it was only “1 mile…ish” off the main route.

We also saw eight installations of some intriguing artwork called “A Mutual Curiosity” by artist Thomas Ferrella of Madison, Wisconsin. None of these were marked on the map, so it was fun to discover them along the route. All of them were eyes of people or animals. One of our favorites was this dog peering out from an old corn crib.

And, speaking of dogs, we also saw this unexpected sculpture of a person walking their dog.

And we were entertained by the sight of an antique red upright piano sitting on a tiny stage at the edge of the woods. It was called the “Red Piano Project.” Upright pianos used to be an important part of family entertainment. We had one in our farmhouse when we were kids and we used to play it all the time. It made for some great duets and some hysterical sessions of musical chairs.

There was also a very large alfalfa field that had been turned into “Field Billiards” by the Wilkinson and Ramsey Families.

This billiards scene included a monstrous pool cue made from a utility pole.

There were also some cute calves at the edge of the “pool table” that were getting their share of petting and pictures that day.

In addition to being an entertaining day, it was also very educational. There are signs along the route called “Field Notes” and they teach you about the land, the soil, wetlands, the dairy industry, etc. Here’s one about corn.

And I also learned quite a bit about antique tractors and other farm equipment.

One of my most favorite creations from the day was at the entrance to a FarmForm called Farmhenge, which was created by Harlan Ferstl and the McCluskey Brothers. It was a parody of the famous Grant Wood painting called “American Gothic.” But this artwork was made of gourds and it was called “American Gourdthic.” The farm couple was named Gourdon and Gourdenia and they made me smile.

The 2015 Farm/Art DTour runs through Sunday, October 11, so if you’re in the area and don’t already have your weekend booked, give the Farm/Art DTour a try. You’re guaranteed to have a good time and learn something in the process.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Quick Pic – Doggie Daddy

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

When we were young, we watched a cartoon hour called The Quick Draw McGraw Show which debuted a segment called Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy. They then went on to have their own segment of the show. The show was on for three seasons from 1959 to 1962.

We hadn’t thought about them for years, but just this spring on our way home from our Missouri photography trip, we came through a small town in Illinois. I had marked a restored advertising mural and a historic library. We pulled up and parked on the street next to the advertising mural, but glancing across the street, there in front of a gas station was a statue, and I told Joann it looked like Augie Doggie.

Actually, it looks like Doggie Daddy, which we found out when we got home and looked it up. It might be a repurposed Doggie Daddy statue, or maybe it never was and just has a strong resemblance. All we know is, he was very cute, and he reminded us of fond childhood memories.

So when you’re out and about, keep your eyes open because, “Augie, my son, my son” (as Doggie Daddy used to say), you never know what you’ll find when you look around.

Happy Shunpiking!