Ferocious Rodents

We now live in the land of ferocious rodents, at least judging from the Midwestern mascots that surround us: groundhogs, raccoons, gophers, wolverines, badgers.  Our home is in the Badger State, mostly referring to the University of Wisconsin football team, an association that is now so engrained that on the occasions when I have asked locals if they have ever seen a badger they assume I mean a Badger, and reply that they’ve been to a few games (if you would like to see a badger then look closely at the coat of arms on our state flag, http://www.wisconsin.gov/state/core/colorcoat.html).  Among these rodents, the general consensus is that the wolverine is the most ferocious (go Blue), however this has been perpetuated largely by Michigan fans who have never met the Wisconsin hodag (see photo above).  This is an animal that was originally captured by settlers over 100 years ago.  It has the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.  It has been described as the “fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth” and is the mascot for Rhinelander High School in northern Wisconsin.  It was first described by Native Americans, who have shaped Wisconsin culture in many other ways as well, particularly the city names.  Milwaukee has its origins in a Native American name, as those of you who saw Wayne’s World learned from Alice Cooper, as do Oconomowoc, Mukwonago and many other towns nearby.  One sure sign that you live here is that you can pronounce these names without hesitating.  Another sign is that you know that the last workday of every week is fish fry Friday, a tradition that is attributed to the large Catholic population and that spilled over from Lent into the rest of the year.  Or that you know how to polka (our official dance); if you want to square dance then you will have to travel south to Illinois.  Lastly, you know our state motto, “Forward”, which could be an attempt to differentiate us from our Midwestern neighbors.  For example, in past blog entries I mentioned that our official state beverage is milk, which has been true since the 1980s.  About 20 years later our neighbors in Minnesota chose the same official state beverage.  I’m sure they were considering this long before we ever thought of it, but being the careful and measured people that they are (except when elections are involved), didn’t want to rush into anything.  With all of the local emphasis on dairy I am surprised that no one, to my knowledge, has adopted the cow as their team mascot.  They aren’t as ferocious as rodents but they certainly have a more imposing presence.  If anyone knows of a team with a ruminant mascot then please let me know.

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