Always Capture "The Highground" - Stevens Point WI

Published: August 22nd 2015
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The drive from City of Hancock Recreational Area in Hancock MI to Rivers Edge Campground in Stevens Point WI would be, according to MapQuest, about 225 miles and would take just over four hours. I got a relatively early start in case I happened upon something unusual that I had missed in my research. It was a good thing I didn’t dally over a couple more cups of coffee. After retracting the slide-out, I saw that I had a very low tire. The attendant on duty directed me to the maintenance shed and a small air compressor. Three cycles of filling the small compressor tank and emptying the contents into the tire got me on the road and to a tire store in Hancock where the mechanic pulled a screw from the tire. There goes an hour off my early start!

I passed through Watersmeet MI. Watersmeet was the closest town to the Northwoods Boys Scout Camp I had attended for a week-long adventure with my Scout Troop/Explorer Post for five or six consecutive summers. There was nothing in the town that looked familiar, but the name alone resurrected some great memories. Crossing the state line into Wisconsin was an abrupt awakening. Gone were the “Pure Michigan” signs touting nearby tourist destinations. The pleasantly “groomed” roads were replaced by thumps as I drove over uneven road joints and haphazard patches. Driving in Michigan was a joy. In Wisconsin, not so much! Actually, I felt like I had arrived in Illinois!

About ten miles north of Antigo WI, I heard a muffled “boom” kind of noise and felt a shimmy. There was barely enough room to get the rig off the pavement before descending into a significant bar ditch. As I was surveying my parking options, “boom.” There was no mistaking this noise – I had had at least one blowout. Getting out of the Ram to investigate, I discovered two blowouts, and there was ABSOLUTELY no room to jack up the Pilgrim and change the tires. I decided to back up about 200 feet and pull into a farm driveway. Partially because I was trying to stay out of the travel lanes as much as possible and partially because the deflated tires had a shorter turning radius than normal (a logical result that occurred to me after the fact), I cut the corner into the farm too short and ended up with the Pilgrim partially in the bar ditch. The retractable steps were halting forward progress and the rear bumper was preventing backwards movement.

Fortunately, the farmer was tending to an adjacent field and came over to assist. He gave me the name of a reputable tow truck owner, and Google got me the phone number (sure glad for the smart phone). He spoke to the driver and offered the directions to get to his farm. While I was awaiting the tow truck, I called Rivers Edge Campground and told them I would be arriving V-E-R-Y late. The attendant told me my site number and said we could take care of business in the morning.

The tow truck arrived. I was happy to see a middle aged driver who looked to have a lot of experience. He said, “I thought I had seen it all!” After musing his new challenge for a few minutes, he and I agreed the only logical course of action would be to lift the left side of the Pilgrim to get as much weight off the left tires as possible (without flopping it over onto its right side) and then to drag it laterally from the ditch onto the driveway. The plan worked perfectly, and I then “dragged” the trailer forward and on into the farmyard with the Ram. I paid the tow truck driver, and he recommended a tire store that should have my tire in stock.

Then, the work began. I jacked up one axle, removed the tire and rim, placed it in my trusty Ram and drove to town. With a new tire installed, I drove back to the Pilgrim and returned it to its majestic place on the trailer. Then, I had to repeat the entire process one more time before 5 PM when the tire store closed! The extravaganza took between three and four hours. My cousin had said regarding some other mechanical curve balls, “You’ve had some bad things happen in very good ways.” This is another example of good fortune landing in my pocket, for I could have been without a nearby farmer, without cell service, with a two hour wait for a tow truck and a four hour round trip drive to a tire store in one of the Dakotas or some other desolate locale on this year’s agenda. It, obviously, could have
Ever VigilantEver VigilantEver Vigilant

The Highground - Neillsville WI
been much, much worse.

By the time I reached the RV park, it was almost dark. I had been assigned a long drive-through, so I connected the electric, deployed the slide-out and readied the interior for beddy-bye. The other exterior set-up would have to wait for tomorrow! In the morning, I walked to the office, paid the fiddler and got a couple of good suggestions for local eateries. Nothing great, but good.

There was only one reason for me to stop in Stevens Point. Well, actually, there were two – the stop broke up the L-O-N-G drive from Hancock MI to Rockford IL. I chose Stevens Point 1) because it’s on the “as the crow flies” path to Rockford, and 2) for it’s proximity to The Highground veterans’ memorial in Neillsville WI. The memorial project actually began in Vietnam in 1964 after Tom Miller had found himself holding his mortally wounded friend in his arms. As his dying brother took his last breath, Miller vowed that his friend's death would not be forgotten. In 1984, Miller, and others who had made similar vows, explored the possibility of creating a Wisconsin State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Neillsville was selected from ten site possibilities because of its centralized location where veterans from any place in Wisconsin could get to and from the memorial in one day.

The memorial was built on a 148-acre parcel of “high ground” not only to revere those who were killed but also to honor surviving military personnel for their service and sacrifice. In addition, the memorial offers a tribute to the people who supported the troops while they were away and after their return. Located on, ta-dah, Ridge Road, approximately 500,000 acres of central Wisconsin’s rolling hills is visible from the memorial park. In 1985, the first bicycle tour to raise money for The Highground took place, and a 70-foot flagpole, flag and light became the fist permanent fixtures in 1986. The Vietnam Veterans' Tribute, "Fragments," was dedicated in 1988, followed by a modern Earthen Dove Effigy Mound and the Gold Star Tribute in 1989 and 1990, respectively. The Nurse and Doughboy tributes were dedicated in 1992; the World War II Veterans' Tribute and Pow Wow Arena, where the first "Warrior" traditional pow wow ceremony was held, were dedicated in 1993; the National Native American Vietnam Veterans' Tribute was dedicated in 1995; and the building housing the Tiberframe Information Center and Gift Shop was dedicated in 1996.

The park is staffed year-round and volunteers keep the Tiberframe Information Center and Gift Shop open daily. Visitors are encouraged, during business hours, to pick up a free audio tour before walking the plaza. Guided tours are also available. The park offers 4 miles of walking trails, bridges, and a handicap accessible treehouse. Visitors are welcome in the park 24/7, and The Plaza, the Effigy Mound Peace Dove, the Gold Star and all tributes are lighted in the evening. The Highground is a grassroots, non-profit organization which receives no ongoing federal or state funding and is run by volunteers. The project raises funds by selling blocks which line the memorial grounds.

Dedication of the Tiberframe Information Center and Gift Shop in 1996 did not end the work. On July 4, 2002, the Liberty Bell Shelter was dedicated. In 2004, the trail system was extended and a long-range forest management plan (including a developmental forest) was established. In 2005, the handicap accessible Treehouse was completed and the first Meditation Stones were placed in the Meditation Garden which was dedicated in 2006 along with the Ascension of Doves, Fountain of Tears, and WASP Tribute. In 2007, the Korean War Tribute was dedicated and the first Korean Tribute Stones were placed on the rice paddies. In 2009, the statuary within the Fountain of Tears tribute was dedicated, and the Hero Tribute Ride recreated the first bike tour from 1985. The Learning Center (which houses a library, media center, and gallery) was dedicated in 2010. In 2012, the ground was broken for a Gulf War "boot print" memorial for veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

Some of the memorials are plain while others are more ornate. Some of the memorials are straightforward whereas others require contemplation and analysis. All of the memorials are well done and thought provoking. Of course, the Vietnam Veterans' Tribute, "Fragments," aroused my interest most acutely. Since art has never been my strong suit and because I’d flunk any art appreciation class more complex than Norman Rockwell, I have decided to make liberal use of quotations from the inscriptions on the plaques. Actually, I might have been able to fashion the first sentence of the "Fragments" plaque, "We left pieces of ourselves in Vietnam, we brought parts of Vietnam
Note The Chimes Hanging From The Rod ClustersNote The Chimes Hanging From The Rod ClustersNote The Chimes Hanging From The Rod Clusters

The Highground - Neillsville WI

Beyond that, I’ll yield to the artist by continuing with "Fragments,” “Each fragmented figure supports the others. A close inspection of the figure with the helmet reveals the long hair of a woman - the first depicted on a U.S. veterans memorial. Her poncho supports 1244 rods engraved with the names of those who didn't return. Their chimes hang among the rod clusters allowing them to speak to us. The rifle is broken, showing the war is over. It is held in a position which would signal a medivac to land, indicating help is still needed. The rifle stands on a replica of a Native American burial mound and includes a flash of orange glass reminding us of the effects of Agent Orange and the war on ourselves, our children and grandchildren.”

The inscription on the Mourning Dove Effigy Mound is, "This effigy mound is a spiritual place where you can come and let your mother, the Earth, hold you. Let the children play on it. Dance on it. Use it to unload your grief and pain. Let it renew and strengthen you. Lay back in the soft folds of its wings and let Mother Earth unburden
A Boot On The Ground In The Middle EastA Boot On The Ground In The Middle EastA Boot On The Ground In The Middle East

The Highground - Neillsville WI
you. Then get up and leave your troubles and cares on the mound, as you walk away renewed and refreshed." John A. Beaudin, "Biidanakwad/Wa Kanja Hoohega" 1948-1993

The inscription at the National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 'The Forgotten Warrior,' reads, “This memorial statue was envisioned to serve as a touchstone where the quiet tears of unresolved grief from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends could be shed in an honorific setting and be strengthened by the groundswell of pride that their departed loved ones stand in an elite company of Native American warriors who fought in America's longest and costliest undeclared war. 'The Forgotten Warrior' stands forth symbolically to uphold and memorialize the honor of those Native American warrior casualties as a lasting tribute to their sacrifices made in the scrip of commitment commingled with uncertainty and strength empowered by purity. Dedicated September 16, 1995."

I cannot begin to replicate the poignancy nor the power of those words, and, therefore, will not try. I hope my readers who have experienced turmoil, in whatever form, as a result of America’s Vietnam experience can find some small measure of solace in my photographs. The Highground is, quite obviously,
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Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
highly recommended.

I had only one other attraction on my Stevens Point list – the Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum in Wisconsin Rapids WI. It’s hard to find a starting point for this atypical, perplexing, multifaceted attraction. First, the attraction has no web site, and I’m not even sure how I learned of the attraction – perhaps the Wisconsin state tourism book or its web site, perhaps Wikipedia’s “List of Museums in Wisconsin.” Second, the attraction is open only Tuesday and Thursday from 1 PM TO 4 PM. Third, I found no mention of guided tours anywhere. In fact, I’m not sure if unaccompanied tours are even an option. If they are, it would be unwise to embark on such a visit, because the narrative provided by our docent (as is frequently the case) was the heart and soul of the tour. Last, I arrived fashionably late (a few minutes after 1 PM) and found our docent already engaged in conversation with other visitors. I’m sure I missed the introduction.

Now, let’s visit the attraction itself. One facet of the attraction is that it is housed in what was a mansion that was built by Thomas E. Nash in
The Brass Rails Were Added To Comply With Modern Building CodesThe Brass Rails Were Added To Comply With Modern Building CodesThe Brass Rails Were Added To Comply With Modern Building Codes

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
1901 and then was home to the Stanton Mead family for 60 years. After the Meads left the home, it was sold to a private enterprise (a law firm if my memory is correct). Numerous changes were made to the former dwelling to satisfy the current building codes as well as the needs of the new occupants; however, much of the splendor of the historic mansion has been preserved.

The second facet of the attraction is about the history of papermaking in Wisconsin Rapids and, therefore, is about the Consolidated Water Power Company, which was run by the Mead family for almost the entirety of its 100+ year history. Consolidated supplied the power which ran the machinery which made the paper which powered the economy – ‹singing to Sonny and Cher› “… and the beat goes on! La de da de de, la de da de da.”

The third aspect of the museum is a collection of very interesting artifacts, some amassed and some created by William Joseph "Dard" Hunter (1883-1966). Hunter was an American authority on printing, paper and papermaking – especially papermaking by hand as it had been done with the tools and techniques of the
Seating Alcoves Flank The FireplaceSeating Alcoves Flank The FireplaceSeating Alcoves Flank The Fireplace

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
previous four centuries. Hunter produced two hundred copies of his book Old Papermaking by preparing every aspect of the book himself – he wrote the text, designed and cast the type, performed the typesetting, handmade the paper and, lastly, printed and bound the book. Wikipedia reports that a placard at the Smithsonian Institution which appears with his work reads, "In the entire history of printing, these are the first books to have been made in their entirety by the labors of one man."

Hunter was born and raised in Steubenville OH, where his father published a gazette and ran a printery, but his education and his early career took him, literally, around the world. In 1912, the Hunter family returned to the United States where Hunter built a small paper mill near Marlboro NY where he crafted his first books on papermaking. Since handmade paper was not being produced in America at the time; it had to be purchased from Europe. Hunter acquired English papermaking equipment that was three centuries old and was powered by a wooden water wheel. In 1919, the Hunter’s returned to Ohio and purchased the 1852 "Mountain House" in Chillicothe. Hunter used a wing joined
Well Done, Informative Placards Provide Background Information About Dard HunterWell Done, Informative Placards Provide Background Information About Dard HunterWell Done, Informative Placards Provide Background Information About Dard Hunter

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
to the house for his letterpress printing studio – Mountain House Press.

His first exposition was a display of his type font at the Smithsonian. Thereafter, he was offered museum space by the likes of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and the Mead Pulp and Paper Corporation in Chillicothe OH. On June 5, 1939, Hunter realized what he considered his greatest accomplishment, the opening of the Dard Hunter Paper Museum at MIT. The museum was subsequently moved to the Institute of Paper Chemistry (IPC) in Appleton WI in 1954. When IPC moved to Atlanta in 1996, an endowment gift from the James River Corporation led to the renaming of the museum in honor of the company’s cofounder Robert C. Williams. The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum is located on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Over forty-six years, Hunter wrote twenty books about papermaking, eight of which were hand-printed; and, in 1958, completed his autobiography, My Life with Paper. Hunter died in 1966 at Chillicothe, but members of his family maintain Dard Hunter Studios at the historic Mountain House.

Since the Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum has
This Paper Mill Model Made By Dard Hunter Depicts Papermaking In SiamThis Paper Mill Model Made By Dard Hunter Depicts Papermaking In SiamThis Paper Mill Model Made By Dard Hunter Depicts Papermaking In Siam

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
no web site, I had to do some digging to develop facts to accompany my opinion and conjecture. Some web sites you might find of interest include Visit Wisconsin Rapids which provides a cursory overview of the attraction. Wikipedia hosts a biography of Dard Hunter, the staff of the Forest History Society maintains a blog which has an informative article about Consolidated Water Power Company and the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune published an interesting article, “Biron Employee Completes History of Papermaking.” That article is about the efforts of the man I believe to be our docent, Tim Bassett, to update the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill’s 100-year history. Finally, the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum has some interesting information as well.

The Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum is well worth a stop if it fits into your agenda, but, truthfully, the limited hours of operation remove it from my “must see” list. Our docent was knowledgeable, engaging and entertaining; the mansion has some features that are unique in my travels; and the story of the life of Dard Hunter, the story of the creation and operation of Consolidated Power and the story of the history of papermaking IS the story of Wisconsin Rapids. The story of Wisconsin Rapids, in turn, is but one page in a saga
Accompanying Placards Provide Insight Into The Models On DisplayAccompanying Placards Provide Insight Into The Models On DisplayAccompanying Placards Provide Insight Into The Models On Display

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI
I call, The Great Adventure.

I had a nice time in the Stevens Point area – getting to Stevens Point, not so much – and had a couple of other activities that didn’t work out as initially planned. I have an address for a cousin in Appleton but no working phone number (more and more, people are foregoing a land line). I have friends in Menomonie WI that I plan to see this summer. After a telephone conversation with them, I have decided to visit them from my stop in Minneapolis/Saint Paul MN a few weeks down the road. The week-long stop in Stevens Point provided relief from what would have been a very long drive from Hancock MI to Rockford IL and gave me some time to more definitively plan my itinerary after departing Rockford. As a matter of fact, I had spent so much time inside the Pilgrim performing my planning tasks that one of the campground hierarchy stopped to conduct a welfare check. Very nice!

Additional photos below
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The Seating Alcove With The Adjacent Bookcases Is An Exceptional AppointmentThe Seating Alcove With The Adjacent Bookcases Is An Exceptional Appointment
The Seating Alcove With The Adjacent Bookcases Is An Exceptional Appointment

Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum - Wisconsin Rapids WI

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