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WXPR Local Features
5 minutes | 2 days ago
Kwik Trip Craze: the Wisconsin Company’s Rapid Northwoods Expansion
On Tuesday afternoon, Matt Ellingson walked out of the Kwik Trip on Rhinelander’s east side with a few bottles of water and a snack from the store’s roller grill. Yet again, he’s intentionally bypassed a restaurant or fast food joint to get something to eat at Kwik Trip. “That’s exactly what I did today,” he said with a laugh. “I got a Tornado.” Ellingson feels he knows what to expect at every Kwik Trip location. “They’ve got good food, good prices, and the people are very friendly,” he said. Rhinelander’s Kathyrn Knutson had chicken, potato rounds, and a few molasses cookies in her bag. She admits she’s a Kwik Trip regular. “I love their food. I love the convenience. For a gas station, you wouldn’t believe the things that you find in there. Everything you need is here. It’s like a one stop shop,” she said. “Get your food. Get your fuel. Treats. Ice cream. Everything. Off you go.” Knutson may feel like she’s a frequent customer. But she’s nothing compared to some of the people store
4 minutes | 3 days ago
When Telephones Arrived in the Northwoods
Modern telecommunication systems provide the means to contact friends, relatives, and businesses whenever and wherever we want, but historically this is a recent development. New electronic communication systems often had a dramatic impact on communities, and this can be seen in the Northwoods. The modern cellphone was invented in 1973 but was not commercially available before the 1980s, and not widespread until new cell tower construction made service generally accessible to rural areas. Before that, people relied on landlines for means of communication. The telephone itself was invented in 1876, and the Bell Telephone Company the year after. The Wisconsin Telephone Company was founded in Milwaukee in 1882, and telephone service quickly extended across the southern part of the state but not to the largely unsettled Northwoods. Telegraph service, which was the more proven technology, arrived as soon as towns and lumber camps were established, but telephone service had to wait a couple
6 minutes | 4 days ago
Who Knew Porcupines Climb Trees?
I spent most of my life not knowing that porcupines could climb trees. While I am a little embarrassed to admit this fact, I am also not sure I spent a ton of time in my younger years thinking about it. Now that I know, I have become obsessed with staring toward the tops of trees trying to find a bound-up ball of quills, nested in the highest branches. Early spring, before the trees fully leaf out, is an ideal time for spotting tree-dwelling porcupines who often move into the upper canopy of trees to eat and rest during the daytime. They commonly venture to the outermost or highest branch tips to break off newly budding twigs to eat. Trembling aspen and young hemlock bark are favorite foods for porcupines, but they will consume bark from a wide range of tree types and supplement their diet with fruits and ground dwelling plants and shrubs. While slow moving and lumbering on the ground, porcupines are adept climbers, alternately using their front and back claws to grasp the wood as they
5 minutes | 5 days ago
An Otter Encounter
A strange otter encounter, not once but twice, resulted in a Curious North question for the Masked Biologist, who talks about the North American river otter in this week’s Wildlife Matters. Today I have the pleasure of responding to an interesting inquiry that came in through Curious North here on WXPR. The listener wrote: “Twice this week I've heard really loud strident calls that sound almost but not quite like a raptor. Best described as chirping, but loud. Once near the Davenport street Wisconsin river bridge, the other by the Boyce drive bridge over the Pelican. The calls were echoing, as if under the bridge. I followed the sound with my binocular and eventually discovered River Otters! 2 each time. They seemed to enjoy the amplification and reverberation provided by the bridge. Here's my question. What are otters up to in mid-late March? What's the chirping all about? What type of den do otters use? What's their typical life cycle?“ What a great topic this is! I find river otters
6 minutes | 9 days ago
Crazy Home Markets. New Direct Flights. Everyone, It Seems, Wants to Come North.
Realtor Lisa Alsteen shows off the features of a century-old four-bedroom house near the courthouse in Rhinelander. Painted blue on the outside, it has wood floors, a sunny living room, and an inviting porch in front. Alsteen listed the home, located at 133 North Oneida Avenue, on Monday. By midday Tuesday, several potential buyers had already been though for showings. She expected an offer wouldn’t take long. That’s typical these days. Last spring, the demand for Northwoods homes shot skyward, like nothing Alsteen has seen in her 18 years in realty. “All of a sudden, it was just like, everyone wanted to be up here. That’s when our market started to really take off,” she said. Demand for Northwoods homes has only increased from there. Without a doubt, she said, the pandemic has been a driving motivator for people looking to move north. “They don’t have the hustle and bustle of their town, whether it’s Milwaukee or Illinois or Madison,” Alsteen said. “Here you can go out on the lakes.
3 minutes | 10 days ago
The Unsolved Mystery of a Rhinelander Robbery
Train robberies are part of the lore of the American West and the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. But what was far more common than robbing a moving train was robbing the train depot, and that happened in the Northwoods back in the heyday of railroading. In the early twentieth century, Gilligan’s Hall was a popular place to go in Rhinelander for entertainment and social activities. Located on the corner of Anderson and Pelham Streets, Gilligan’s Hall at that time was the city’s oldest amusement
6 minutes | 12 days ago
A Herald of Spring: Canada Geese
One of the surest signs of spring here in the Northwoods is the arrival of flocks of Canada geese. You may not have given it much thought, this year or any year, but Aldo Leopold did. I thought I heard geese honking recently. Above the din of the noisy road outside, and the noisy family inside, I strained my ears to make sure. One of my boys saw me concentrating, appearing puzzled. “I think I hear geese” I told him. He replied that he had heard geese the day before. He attends Rhinelander High school, and last semester he had Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac as assigned reading for part of his virtual learning. I always make myself available to discuss any of his learning that he wished, but he had never really talked about the book. Until that day. He said “geese must have meant something important to Aldo Leopold. He mentions them a lot in his book.” I smiled and nodded. “Aldo Leopold focused intently on geese, in fact. He considered them the heralds of true spring.” Then my son
5 minutes | 16 days ago
Inspire Rhinelander Seeks to Connect Students to Careers in Local Workforce
Population projections show our area is rapidly aging. In 20 years, about a third of the population in the Northwoods will be age 65 or older. That promises to put even more strain on employers seeking people to fill jobs, and many of those employers are already struggling to find enough workers. But despite those trends, a new program in the School District of Rhinelander might help fill the gap for employers and their future workers. “It’s clear that there is a tremendous need for staff and skilled employees in almost all business areas, not only Rhinelander, but really everywhere,” said Rhinelander Superintendent Eric Burke. A new initiative including Grow North, the School District of Rhinelander, and Rhinelander Partners in Education hopes to boost the local workforce while introducing students to what could be a future career. It’s called Inspire, and it helps streamline the process for students to connect with employers as mentors and for job shadows, internships, and employment
4 minutes | 17 days ago
A Northwoods Hollywood Star
Many talented people have lived in the Northwoods, and every now and again one of them achieves national fame. One such person was Stanley Morner from the town of Prentice in Price County. Although few people today recognize his name, in the 1940s under the stage name of Dennis Morgan, Stanley Morner was considered an A-list star and one of Hollywood’s leading men. Stanley Morner was born in December 1908 in Prentice. His father was employed at the Roddis Lumber Company, and when Stanley was old enough, he learned the lumber business from the bottom up. His father had him sawing trees and blowing out stumps. He liked to fish, got into frequent fights,and earned the nickname “Toughy.” Morner was more than a tough kid fighting in the lumber yard. He had a natural singing voice, and his parents made certain he took piano and singing lessons with Mrs. Nellie Kelley in Prentice. He attended grade school in Prentice and three years at Prentice High before his parents moved to Marshfield.
5 minutes | 23 days ago
School-Sponsored eSports Boom as Place for Involvement, Teamwork, Even Scholarships
On Wednesday afternoon, Zach Suchomel strategized with his four teammates in advance of a match of Smite, an online battle arena game. He suggested characters to use and to block as part of the game, each calculation aimed to give Tomahawk High School a better chance to beat Two Rivers High School . Suchomel is a junior at Tomahawk and one of the leaders of the school’s eSports team. With their hands on controllers, eyes on the screen of a gaming computer, and mouths constantly communicating with teammates, the opening round of combat went well for Tomahawk. It defeated Two Rivers in just 18 minutes. For some area colleges and high schools, sports aren’t limited to competitions on the field or court. Like at Tomahawk, school-sponsored eSports are exploding in popularity, giving students a chance to use skills from the video game world against virtual opponents. But the gameplay is more than leisure time. Those skills can translate to academic scholarships or even careers. Suchomel
4 minutes | 24 days ago
Sacrificing Scrap Metal: Rhinelander's WWII Response
During the Second World War, raw materials were in high demand and difficult to obtain. This made recycling of metal, rubber, and paper more important than ever. Oneida County met its scrap collection goal but had to sacrifice an historic treasure to do it. When Congress declared war in December 1941, the nation had to mobilize industry quickly for full-time military production. The U.S. needed raw material to manufacture the steel and rubber necessary to construct ships, tanks, guns, and other equipment. Without enough stockpiles of raw materials, the nation turned to recycling. Americans were asked to scour their towns and farms for spare rubber, paper, and metal. Nearly any object was considered valuable to the war effort, including old pots, metal toys, tires, and wrought iron fences, to name just a few. Drives for rubber, paper, and metal took place throughout the summer, but the Northwoods became heavily involved in drives that took place in the fall of 1942. Not all the metal
6 minutes | a month ago
The Pandemic Forced Farms, Restaurants to Offer Online Ordering. They Don’t Regret It.
On Tuesday morning, Brendan Tuckey was putting the finishing touches on a germination incubator he built at his farm in Sugar Camp. The chamber, about the size of a large locker, is heated to help vegetable seeds begin to sprout in the spring. It will get its first use in the coming weeks. Tuckey and his wife Jenny own EverGood Farm, an organic vegetable farm serving the Northwoods. Most years, they sell much of what they grow at local farmer’s markets. But as the pandemic spread last spring, they pulled the plug on that plan. “The farmer’s markets, we weren’t confident that we’d have any control over [them],” Tuckey said. “One, they might get shut down anyway. Two, how are we going to really control how people are behaving at a farmer’s market?” A business pivot seemed obvious: Tuckey, who has an IT background, would help set up an online ordering system. Customers would order the in-season veggies they wanted, and each week, he would drop the orders at one of several pickup locations
4 minutes | a month ago
A Bumpy History of Northwoods Buses
Today, travel in and out of the Northwoods can be accomplished by private automobile or airline. In prior decades, people had multiple options for traveling, including that most mundane of all modes, the bus. Buses are often ignored in the history of transportation because they have an image problem. While they are the cheapest form of public transportation, they are also the slowest. They are not as glamorous or romanticized as passenger rail or airlines and are often associated with underprivileged groups. Yet buses were essential to the development of the tourist industry in the Northwoods. Early roads and vehicle limitations in the first decades of the twentieth century made bus travel to the Northwoods an impossibility. After the First World War, however, things began to change. The first charter bus service giving Chicago residents a tour through the exotic Northwoods of Wisconsin began in the early 1920s. Vehicles of the Gray Bus Line each carried 18 passengers and gave
5 minutes | a month ago
Botanizing by Bike
As we move from winter toward spring, (a little sooner than I would have liked) I am getting excited to start biking around the Northwoods. I spend quite a bit of time road biking, which is not always compatible with one of my other favorite pastimes, looking for flowering plants. By early summer, my bike group and I will be logging 50 or more miles at a time, and there is plenty of Northwoods plant life to appreciate from a bike. We mostly ride on county and town roads out of town, so we aren’t likely to see the showy Forsythia, lilac or crab apples favored by homeowners. But there is still plenty to see and enjoy. The first shrub to catch my eye is leatherwood, or Dirca palustris . This short, branchy shrub has a distinctive shape as well as yellow-brown bark that makes it easy to identify. It only grows in rich woods and is not very common but is one of the first plants to flower in the Northwoods. It has clusters of two or three small lemon-yellow flowers, and though they are not
5 minutes | a month ago
How Do Turtles Survive a Frozen Winter?
Different animals use different strategies to get through the winter. Some are more obvious than others. What about turtles? The Masked Biologist gives us a glimpse into their lives in this week’s Wildlife Matters. Recently a large snapping turtle garnered some attention on social media by doing what turtles do—swimming around slowly under water. What was a little unusual, at least for the photographer, is that the turtle swam right under where they were standing—there were a couple of inches of clear ice between them. Every once in a while, it occurs to us to wonder what different animals do to survive the winter. I always tell people that animals have three options at their disposal, that they can use alone or in combination: migrate, hibernate, or mitigate. We probably know numerous animals that employ each strategy. It is well known that birds and some insects (like butterflies) migrate to warmer climes in the winter. Some make huge migrations, like arctic shorebirds that travel
5 minutes | a month ago
Chainsaw Carver, Coffee Bar Offer Template for Innovation Success at The GRID
Nathan Nuszkiewicz’s paintbrush is a chainsaw. His canvas is a tree or a massive wood slab. On Monday, he was outside his Rhinelander home and shop, working on a woodcarving to go on a roof peak at a customer’s home. “It’s going to be a whole scene, where we’ve got the trees and the sky and the clouds and the sunset in the middle, and then, through that, there’s going to be an actual six- to six-and-a-half foot eagle flying out over the trees,” he explained. Nathan’s wife and business partner, Erica, watched nearby. She takes care of the organization, the books, and the social media for Potlicker Chainsaw Sculptures. He takes care of the carving. “It’s a blessing. To be able to watch him create every single day, it blows my mind still,” Erica said. “I’ve been with him 12 years doing it.” Nathan achieves impressive detail using a chainsaw, a skill he mostly taught himself 25 years ago. He’s been doing it full-time ever since. “I did a couple of them, and [I said,] ‘Wow, people will
5 minutes | a month ago
Cloning Endangered Species
News is just coming to light about a momentous wildlife management event from last December. It involves a little black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann, who along with a horse named Kurt, inspired this week’s Wildlife Matters. Black-footed ferrets have had a long, slow road back from the brink of total extinction. They are victims of their prey; prairie dogs were the target of farmers and ranchers on the prairie shot them, poisoned them, and destroyed their colonies early in the last century. To make matters worse, an exotic disease plague suppressed their numbers even more. By some estimates, the populations of prairie dogs were reduced from their original levels by as much as 95%. Sadly, the loss of the prey resulted in the loss of their primary predator, which didn’t have a suitable alternate prey species, and their numbers crashed. The ferret has the unfortunate distinction of being on the very first list of endangered species under the 1966 Endangered Species Preservation Act.
4 minutes | a month ago
The Antarctic Explorer from the Northwoods
People interested in polar geography may know about the Eklund Islands in King George the Sixth Sound southwest of the Antarctic Peninsula. What might be less commonly known is that the Eklund Islands in Antarctica are named for a Northwoods native. The southernmost continent of Antarctica is cold, inhospitable, and not the sort of place that most Northwoods residents think about when looking for adventure. But for one Northwoods native, the chance to live and work in Antarctica was a dream come true. Carl Robert Eklund was born to Swedish immigrants in Tomahawk in January 1909. He grew up in the Northwoods and during his high school years was a standout football player for Tomahawk High School. Like many young people from the area, Eklund loved the outdoors, was an ardent camper, and was active in scouting. He was a member of Troop 1 at Tomahawk from 1922 to 1925, after which he served as an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 21. He was active every summer as athletic director at Camp
5 minutes | 2 months ago
DNR Forestry’s Fresh Look: a Rhinelander Headquarters and a New Chief State Forester
Heather Berklund never envisioned herself as the Chief State Forester. She had worked for the DNR forestry division for two decades in the Northwoods, but didn’t have her mind set on the top job. “I would say it was never on my radar that I would ever be talking to you in this role or be in this position,” Berklund said on a recent interview, conducted while snowshoeing through the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest near Woodruff. But hard work and dedication paid off, and the DNR put her on top of the Rhinelander-based state division of forestry last October. If she had gotten the job just a few years ago, Berklund’s DNR division would have been like every other one: based in downtown Madison, a few blocks from the capitol. But in 2017, the state government moved the forestry headquarters north after an idea hatched by politicians gained favor. Gov. Scott Walker actually included the mandate in his budget. “In this budget, we require the head of the state forestry
4 minutes | 2 months ago
Trout Lake Nursery and Reforestation
In the nineteenth century, people believed Wisconsin’s forests to be inexhaustible. Lumber production proceeded at an unsustainable pace, but few cared as it was assumed that farming would naturally follow. Successful farming never came on a large scale, and the damaged land needed repairing. This is where the Trout Lake Nursery comes in. Frederick G. Wilson was born in October 1887 in Red Oak, Iowa. At the age of two, Wilson’s family moved to Milwaukee, and then to Sheboygan. Wilson loved the outdoors and wanted to learn as much as he could about the natural environment. Unfortunately, at the turn of the century the University of Wisconsin had no program in forestry, so Wilson went to Michigan to obtain a forestry degree. He graduated from the Michigan Agricultural College in 1911. In March 1911, Wilson was hired as a Forest Ranger for the State Board of Forestry under Edward Merriam Griffith, Wisconsin’s first State Forester. He was assigned to the new Trout Lake Forestry
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