Big Things Up Nort, Hey!

We recently spent a few days in northern Wisconsin. Rhinelander, Eagle River and a lot of towns to and back, and in between. The main destination was Rhinelander because a friend of ours had a piece in the Nicolet College 25th Northern National Art Competition and we were attending the opening reception. We decided to add a few days to our trip and do some birding. But a lot of rain and a lot of heat changed our plans. Sure, we saw four eagles and a couple of osprey but the airways and the woods were generally pretty quiet, so on to our fallback activity: large, unusual….art? advertising? sculpture?  Hard to say but we stop, turn around and go back, take pictures and smile. There is actually a company  (F.A.S.T. Corp) in Sparta,Wisconsin that makes many of those big fiberglass critters you see all over the country. I can’t confirm that they made the ones we saw on this trip but the likely one might be Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox.

This Paul and Babe is in front of Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua, Wisconsin, known for its Logging Camp Breakfast which lasts from 7am till noon. That’s probably why Babe has a twinkle in his eye, unlimited donuts. We ate at a much more sedate coffee shop down the road.

Fiberglass Paul and Babe

Earlier in Rhinelander, Home of the Hodag, we found a hodag in front of the visitor’s center.

In 1893 newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”. I think the fibergalss sculpture is a great likeness of the “real” animal here in a photograph just before its capture, grinning like an elephant? Eat your heart out Bigfoot.

Hodag in Rhinelander, WI,1893

In Eagle River we were driving down a road heading for our hotel when I noticed a big head off on a frontage road sitting in a yard. I said to Curt, “I just saw a big head”, he asked if it was worth going back for, I said yes, and I was glad I did. Later I googled “Chief Sitting Bull – sculpture” and this guy does not appear anywhere. The plaque reads Chief Sitting Bull sculpted by Charles Reed 1931-1932. I couldn’t find anything on Charles either.

Chief Sitting Bull

Sorry we didn’t put something for scale in here but he’s about four feet high and looks a little like Ed Asner.

Ed Asner as Sitting Bull

Our last “big” find was in St Germain, WI, named after Chief St. Germain who does not exist. Huh? Well the original St. Germaine was a soldier, Jean Francois St. Germaine, who married a Chippewa woman and settled with her tribe. There were a lot of little St. Germaines from that union and when the town sprung up they named it St. Germain (dropping the “e”) to honor all the Indians  who used the area as a favorite hunting and fishing haunt. Makes no sense at all.

I particularly like the lichen on his pecs, arms and nipples though it makes me a little itchy.

Hey, the woods are full of these up Nort! Come and visit.

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13 thoughts on “Big Things Up Nort, Hey!

  1. I just happened to run into your blog while searching for a photo of the Sitting Bull sculpture in Eagle River. Charles Reed was my grandfather and early settler of Conover. I spent many summers on his homestead, even though he died before my mother and dad married. He also did wood carvings which are held privately in the family. The Sitting Bull sculpture was published as a photo in Anton Rajer’s book, Public Sculpture in Wisconsin: An Atlas of Outdoor Monuments, Memorials and Masterpieces in the Badger State (1999). It was carved from a granite boulder pulled out of the ground on the homestead while clearing for farmland.

    • Thanks for the background information. I knew Tony (Anton) and his book (although, ashamedly, I don’t own a copy) but didn’t realize that Sitting Bull was in it. That sculpture made our day!

      • I knew Tony also, did travel for him when I was a travel agent at a little place off the capitol square on State Street (now a tobacco and etc shop) in Madison. He gave me a copy of that book which I gave to my mother. She was so proud to have her father’s “Indian head”, as we called it, published. So glad you enjoyed it. The family donated it when the farmstead was sold, was in the lobby of Bonson’s grocery for a while, then at Trees for Tomorrow until they moved it where you saw it. We are hoping to have a better home for it, something a bit more protected.

  2. Jeanne- We just got back from visiting friends in Rhinelander. They took us to that art display yesterday. Great work! We saw one from Allouez and one from DePere. Either one your friend?

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