Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back in Eleva

Hopefully my traveling for the year is done as I am writing this while on a flight from San Jose, California back to Minneapolis.  San Jose is an interesting town where you have a mix of palm trees, evergreens, and trees that have started to lose their leaves.  Although nice, I prefer the diversity of our weather back home and last weekend was no exception.  While my wife attended a cookie baking event my brother Steve picked me up in Fountain City, Wisconsin with the intent on heading to Eleva and help my mom.  Our first stop was the Seven Hawks Winery, downtown Fountain City. Wisconsin is known more for their cheese than it's ability to grow good wine grapes however there is an increasing interest in new hardy wine grape varieties suited for our climate.  An example of this is in Pepin, WI where one could not miss the large castle like building being constructed to house a new winery along the river.  Fountain City's Seven Hawks Vineyard has been there for a number of years now and is located just upriver from town, nestled into the hillside, it kind of looks like those pictures of vineyards in Italy.  Steve and I stopped to taste their wares and admittedly it was pretty good.  One of the nicer wines was a drier white apple wine.  Being near many commercial apple orchards it only makes sense.  Unlike many fruit wines made in the Midwest this was not post sweetened.  It provides a benchmark for the apple wine Lory and I are making and hopefully it will turn out as good.  Here's a link to their website to learn more about the wines they offer:

While in Eleva it had snowed a good 4 inches.  It was one of those times where the snow was sticky enough to stick to everything it landed on.  With no wind the effect was stunning.  As I passed over the Buffalo Bridge, just out of town, I could not help but stop and take a picture of the Buffalo River as it passed under the gorgeous winter scene.  Standing there on the bridge brought back many good memories of my time growing up in Eleva.  The bridge was our favorite stop to try our luck at catfishing using the chicken livers we had gathered earlier from the chicken plant.  The hot, humid part of August was the best time as catfish would move up river to spawn and were very active.  Sometimes you could even stand on the bridge and see their ghost like forms crossing the shallow areas to the next deep hole.  Armed with a coffee can of livers and a generous coating of Off repellent, you could always count of seeing Vic Wenaas or Art Kelly fishing on the bank with the pole set in a forked branch harvested from a nearby alder tree.  The bite was always the best right at dusk and on a good night you could get 2 or 3 nice fish.  Unfortunately there are no longer any well used paths from the bridge to the river as I suspect people have better things to do these days (that's debatable!). 

The other nice surprise was running into an old friend, Tommy Austin and his wife Kathy.  Steve and I took my mother down to the bar where my brother Blake's wife Jo was having a little birthday celebration and there he was.  Tom is still running Austin's Body Shop in the same building he's been since I can remember.  That building was actually the old blacksmith shop that my grandpa Roy owned and Tom had bought it from him.  The shop was a great hangout for my friends and I when we were teenagers.  Tom would often put us to work wet sanding cars that needed to be painted, running errands, and probably the most exciting aspect, riding on his homemade hard tail chopped motorcycles to Eau Claire picking up paint at Sam's Auto(someone had to hold it).  At the age of 15 I am not sure my dad would have appreciated me riding on the back of these contraptions so I never told him.  Eau Claire was a good 18 miles away remembering getting off the bike and my back muscles would just be parted by the vibrating sissy bar one leaned back on.  Either way it was quite an adventure.  Tom is still into the motorcycles and has many articles attributed to his custom designed Harley's and association with Klock Werks out of South Dakota.   Word is he may be working on a Victory, something I can't wait to see.  Tom worked with his dad, Herman Austin.  Herman's story is tragic when in 1955 a drunk driver crossed into his wife's lane hitting the car head on and killing her and 3 of their children.  For a small town like Eleva and the Austin family, this was a horrific event. When I worked at the gas station Herman would always stop by on his way home and fill up a 5 gallon can of fuel oil to heat the house for the next day.  I still remember it as if it was yesterday, Herman would give me a dollar as the price per gallon was $0.20.   It was fun to run into them for sure. 

I am pretty sure I will be walking on some ice this weekend, trying my luck on the early crappie and sunfish bite.  It's been around 10 each night with highs less than freezing.  Here's hoping something doesn't screw that up.

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