Thursday, July 3, 2014


The destination was a little town in Waupaca County, about an hour and twenty minutes north of the Madison. Rick had found it through a book he had bought at the half-price bookstore in a little mall, a stone's throw from the larger Barnes & Noble. The book had called the town an antique mecca. On this particular day we needed to find mecca. It had been a hard week. A road trip provides a certain focus on monotony. The broken yellow line at sixty-five miles an hour rolls down the road hypnotizing your worries turning them into vistas of green fields and brilliant North woods forests. Emmy had her own agenda that day. It was just the two of us on the road on our way to Rural. Rural, Wisconsin couldn't sound more idyllic. The sky was the bright clear blue you can only find miles away from big city pollution. It has been a wet spring turning farmland that lush patchwork ranging from chartreuse to emerald with crops growing way beyond their normal height. Somewhere around Coloma the illusory leather strap gripping our collective neurosis began to loosen its grip. From there all the way to Wautoma it was the sound of early hay swishing in a soft swaying breeze that soothed our racing minds.
Wautoma, the home of newly drafted Jared Abbrederis from the Wisconsin Badgers to the Green Bay Packers, is one of those central Wisconsin towns that thrive summer through fall and then closes its doors in the winter against a harsh northern wind. As you roll into town from the south on your left is a one-story red tin roofed building with some metal sculptures of farmyard animals standing sentinel outside. At first it's hard to imagine all that might be hidden in the warren of shops inside. The kitschiness of the roosters almost made us continue on but hunger took the front seat and steered us right into the parking lot. There was a sign outside that said antiques and that's a red stop light for us.
Once inside the kitschiness burnt off exposing a fresh locally grown produce counter laden with asparagus, rhubarb and ripe red tomatoes.
To our right was a series of rooms with everything from striped dresses to outdoor lanterns to antique tableware.
To our left was a dining room stocked with clientele dressed in costumes ranging from denim to Chicago chic. Not bad for a weekday crowd when the summer bell had yet to be rung.
As we started to do a quick check on the menu out from behind the counter came our hostess, owner, chef and new best friend, Holly. Spitfire and bon vivant rolled into one tight package stuffed to bursting with questions, suggestions and chatter that drew us through the maze of tables to our seats even before we had made up our minds that we were going to have lunch at Heath Farm Market.
There was no turning back. Holly had our lunch planned for us and we went with it.
She started out with a tasting of her current soups: a fresh vegetable and chicken spring medley and an asparagus and cream sensation.
She followed that with a pair of sandwiches: a Ruben made with her delicious slaw set on marbled rye
and a magnificent open-faced asparagus, morel and parmesan on a sour dough baguette bathed in a lite asparagus sauce. Morel season is short and holy in Wisconsin. This was a treat not to be repeated until the next spring when the morel caps pop up in fields kept secret and only divulged from generation to generation within a family.
We real didn't need anything else until Holly twisted our tongues into trying her rhubarb crisp served warm with vanilla ice cream. I popped another pants button with that one. We rolled out of Wautoma but not without having purchased a pair of battery operated lanterns for our front yard posts.
We drove on to Rural our seatbelts a little tighter around our waists. Rural is a beautiful little hamlet and it did have an antique store, a bit run down and certainly not mecca worthy. The point of the trip hadn't really been an antiquing expedition but a journey who's purpose was resting our minds and soaking in some of central Wisconsin's most beautiful landscapes.

We took the back roads back to Madison and somewhere outside of nowhere we crossed into the twilight zone. A purple shack with cutout silhouettes of knurled and pear-shaped men and one lonely moose nailed to the outside batons giving them an eerily dimensional quality appeared out of nowhere.
Over the door was a sign, "Home of Darrin Miller 1982".
Outside was an enchanted forest of wooden Pinocchios and childhood characters tied bondage style to trees.
The looming figures towered ten to twelve feel high built of painted plywood with oversized hands large enough to scoop up any five-year-old. It was a playground for nightmares.
In this fairytale the Little Red Riding Hood's wolf had disguised himself, as Robin Hood
and the sheriff looked way more villain than kind.
Scooby-Doo wore a king's robes
and even a bunny became more serial killer than deliverer of Easter candies. The tin roosters of Wautoma couldn't hold a candle to these nursery characters gone horror flick.

Loser at Diaper Derby, 1967
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Hasted Kraeutler, NYC

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