Life in a Northern Town

An April Afternoon In Mineral Point

Jack's campus tour was in April and we decided a good old-fashioned family road-trip was in order. We packed everyone, and all their stuff, in the car and drove six hours south to Madison. Friday morning, Ted and Jack headed into Madison and Kelly, the kids and I headed to Mineral Point, an old mining town and the birthplace of the Badger State nickname. The 'driftless' region of Southwestern Wisconsin was untouched by the glaciers that rolled through millions of years ago and that glacial detour left the minerals close to the surface and easily accessible. Some of the early miners lived in holes they burrowed in the ground that resembled badger holes and the name stuck. In the 1820's, the Cornish arrived and built the beautiful stone buildings that line the streets today— more picturesque than holes in the hills.

Most of the town was closed the day we visited, it was still early in the season, but the first shop we visited, Longbranch Gallery, was a treasure trove of beautiful and interesting artwork. The oil painting of Onions and Leeks by Lois Eakin caught my eye when we walked in the gallery— the warmth of the painting appealed to my color starved eyes.

The artist in residence at Longbranch Gallery, Tom Kelly, welcomed us into his studio to take photos and ask questions about his extraordinary collections. It was literally a feast for the eyes and I could have spent hours exploring the shelves, corners and cabinets. He was so gracious to the kids and they walked away from our 20 minute encounter with a new appreciation for the creative and artistic process. I can't wait to go back and visit this summer.

The stone buildings were beautifully preserved— it looked like a Cornish village (the grey skies added a special authentic touch).

Our last stop on our way to lunch was de la Pear, a textile and architectural salvage shop. Will and I just about fell over when we walked through the door into the salvage shop— it was a photographer's dream.

There was something about a room full of forgotten, although once useful or treasured, items that resonated with me. It was such a contrast to Tom's thoughtfully gathered collection but equally as beautiful.

I can add Mineral Point to my list of 'food firsts'— I ordered a pasty for lunch, when in Rome, right? We sat at the lunch counter of the Rooster Café, drank malts made with Schoep's ice cream and planned the next leg of our journey.

On our way to Hook's Cheese Company (they had fresh curds advertised— another 'food first' for us), we stopped at Shake Rag Alley, a non-profit school of arts and crafts.

According to the Shake Rag Alley website, 'there’s a local legend that miners’ wives used to shake a rag outside their doors to call their husbands mining the hillsides home for dinner, but that’s a bit fanciful. Truth is, in several mining towns, “Shake Rag” was the name of a poor residential area'. What was once a poor residential area is now a picturesque little campus for the arts, how cool is that?