Bob and Karyn Schauf welcome visitors to their Indianhead Holsteins spread in northwest Wisconsin, 1659 101/2 St. in Barron, where they breed and milk some 250 head of dairy cattle. The barn entrance is a shrine to the original Blackrose. More info at 715-537-9376 or www.indianheadholsteins.com.
Every day Indianhead’s milk–except for the clones’–is trucked nearly 80 miles southwest to the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery, just north of U.S. 10 in the “cheese-curd capital of Wisconsin.” There milk from 500 or so farms is made into ten kinds of cheese that are sold in the salesroom. Call 715-273-4311.
Barron is best known for its Turkey Store, a sprawling, belching turkey-processing plan at 34 N. Seventh St. that dominates the tiny downtown. Hormel bought the factory two years ago and redubbed it the Jennie-O Turkey Store; an outlet shop offers discount processed turkey. The plant is also at the center of an interesting cultural experiment: it employs a few hundred Somali immigrants, who’ve settled in the Barron area.
Don’t look for any Somalis in Jeff’s Bar, 56 S. Third St., Barron’s place to “Back the Pack” (715-537-5379). Jeff says he refuses them admittance, offering, among other explanations, the idea that they “don’t know how to drive.” He says most of them hang out in nearby Rice Lake.
The area around Barron is home to several bison farms. Gary Workman has about 50 head of grass-fed, hormone-free bison on his Snow Bound Bison farm, 1482 17th St.; he butchers them into burgers, steaks, roasts, brats, hot dogs, and ribs. The meat is lean and should be cooked at a lower temperature than beef; Workman says bison has a richer flavor, most apparent in the roasts. Call 715-537-3386.
Wisconsin is a giant Ice Age geology museum. For a good lesson, take U.S. 8 about 24 miles west, then U.S. 35 about 3 miles south to Wisconsin’s first state park, Interstate Park, which hangs over the Saint Croix River near the Mississippi. Glacial meltwater carved weird bluffs and potholes into the bedrock, and the state subsequently carved 12 trails through the Tolkien-esque landscape. Daily admission is $10; 715-483-3747.
A half mile northwest of Shell Lake on Route 63 is Joe Barta’s Museum of Woodcarving, which contains more than 500 of the founder’s sculptures. They’re made of laminated two-by-fours, and many depict New Testament scenes. Barta, a onetime Art Institute student who died in 1972, claimed to do a sort of method sculpting, communing with the spirit of the character he was chiseling. Open May through October: 715-468-7100.
Six miles north of Shell Lake in Spooner is the world’s most productive muskellunge hatchery. Every year the Governor Tommy G. Thompson State Fish Hatchery watches over 1.8 million eggs of the pugnacious, predaceous state fish, along with eggs from walleye, northern pike, and suckers. Once they’re fingerlings, the fish are trucked all over northern Wisconsin to hundreds of lakes. The visitor center, 122 N. River St., is open 8 to 4 Monday through Friday, and admission is free; 715-635-4147.
Due east of Spooner and six miles north of Couderay, deep in the woods off County Road CC, is the lodge where Scarface was known to lam it. The Hideout, on the Oreilles Indian Reservation, is a restored Roaring 20s tourist trap with a museum, bar, and restaurant–and a re-creation of the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre; info at www.alcaponehideout.com or 715-945-2746.
Seventeen miles northwest as the blackfly flies is the party town of Hayward, where the local waters have given up no less than five world-record muskies. The four-and-a-half story walk-through muskie at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, 10360 Hall of Fame Dr., and the giant leaping fish that surround it shrink visitors to bait. The museum’s open seven days a week from April 15 to November 1; hours vary. Admission is $6 for adults, $2.50 to $3.50 for kids; 715-634-4440.
Two doors down in Hayward is the Lumberjack Bowl, site of the annual Lumberjack World Championships, where 200 lumberjacks and -jills chop blocks, roll and saw logs, and run booms for more than 50 grand in prizes. This year the competition is July 23 through 25. General admission tickets are $10 to $14; www.logboy.com or call 715-634-2484.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustrations/Laura Park.