9/19/17 – 9/24/17: We next travelled to the “Home of the Hodag” – Rhinelander, WI. It’s where Pat was born and lived most of his life. His mom was also born there and is where she still lives today. We stopped in to visit for a few days.
Rhinelander is a small town in northern Wisconsin which started in the late 1800’s as a logging town. It’s the home of the Hodag, a mythological creature that arose from a hoax. In the 1890’s, a local surveyor and timber cruiser (and well-known prankster) claimed he captured a ferocious beast he called a hodag. The local newspapers reported the story, stating this fearsome creature had “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”. He fabricated the charred remains of the creature and submitted photos to the local newspaper as proof of his discovery. He claimed that he and a group of friends killed it with a stick of dynamite. Later, he created a lifelike hodag (complete with wires to move it) and displayed it at the local county fair, claiming he had captured a second beast. When people would stop and look, he’d pull the wires, and the people would run away screaming. A legend was born and lives on to this day.
The Hodag is an integral part of Rhinelander. The high school mascot is the Hodag and the sports teams are The Hodags. Hodag Park in town hosts the Hodag Waterski Show each summer. There’s a Hodag Farmer’s market held every Saturday. The Hodag Country Music Festival is held every summer just outside town. Dozens of businesses have the name “Hodag” in them. The Chamber of Commerce has a huge statue of the Hodag out front, and smaller statues can be found all over town.
While we were there, we went to the farmer’s market, which was across the street from his mom’s house in Pioneer Park. It was our second visit to the market and we’ve been disappointed both times. There were about 10 tents there, but only two sold fresh fruits and vegetables. The rest sold prepared things like honey and jam, or non-food things like bird houses or yard ornaments.
In the same park is the Pioneer Park Logging Museum, so we decided to make a visit. It’s dedicated to the history of logging in Rhinelander, and has several buildings with displays from that era. There’s the main building that displays the various tools used during that time, as well as antiques displaying the life within the logging camps of the time. There’s an original steam engine train and wood skidder on display outside the main building. An original schoolhouse of the period was moved there rather than being torn down, and is complete with desks, books, and other educational items from that time. The original train station in Rhinelander was also moved there and has displays from that part of the industry. There are a few other buildings hosting an old sawmill, original fire trucks from the era, and an outboard motor museum (which seemed oddly out of place for this type of museum).
We had a nice visit with Pat’s mom, and told her about our trip across the Erie Canal. She had a chart of our entire journey in a spare bedroom, complete with dots and lines from all the places we visited. We stayed several days before moving on to Scandia, MN, to visit with Kate’s parents and aunt.