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The Mississippi Corpse - CyberCorpse 12

From: "Lipman, Joel" <JLipman@UTNet.UToledo.Edu>

Being a Wisconsin native and living portions of several years in the Driftless Area of SW Wisconsin, essentially the quadrant of the state between the Wisconsin River and its mouth where it enters the Mississippi at Prairie du Chein, I am familiar with the Mississippi in its more northern watercourse. Though I return occasionally, it's been some years since I've returned to the area with close and local attention. The following might be of documentary interest:

1. There's (I hope its still there) a fish smokehouse along the river in Dubuque, if memory serves me, just south of the Wisconsin-Iowa bridge. It's an unusual, grubbily-wonderful place in that one can get all kinds of smoked trash fish--buffalo, gar, sturgeon, carp & probably steel-belted radials--and the food is surprisingly tasty.

2. That area, on the Wisconsin side particularly, was home to a 19th century mining boom and still reflects the Cornish and Welsh settlers. Though some 30 miles east of the River, the town of Mineral Point is a place where the original Badger identity of the state was shaped, named after the low sheds, burrow-homes and lead mining digs of the immigrant populations. There are interesting reconstructions, historical collections and folk culture elements (bakeries offering pasties come to mind) in and around Mineral Point.

3. From La Crosse south the culture is Scandinavian, and the little river towns are notable for Norwegian festivals and tschatkies(?).

4. The mouths of the major Wisconsin rivers (St Croix, Chippewa, Black & Wisconsin), where they flow into the Mississippi are spots of beauty and history, often of towering cliffs. I'd have your researcher check with local newspapers, libraries and historical societies for times & places of scheduled events. You'll get good footage and goofy stories.

5. Galena (Illinois) just a few miles south of the Wisconsin border was the home of General U.S. Grant. In the lead mining area mentioned above [2], it's a hotbed of Victorian homes and antique culture, and is just a couple miles east of the Mississippi on a smaller river I can't recall the name of. Check it out--it’s an eerie bottomland with too many cemeteries.

6. Eagles and paddlefish are a couple of notable species in this area. The 50 pound+ prehistoric paddlefish swim up the tributary rivers to the first dam where they leap and congregate.

7. Old line German breweries. Leinenkuegel in La Crosse & others, though Anheiser-Busch has for years been Budweisering the originals.

8. I suspect you know Wisconsin Death Trip, Michael Lesey's incredible book about Black River Falls in the 1890's, made into a documentary film by James Marsh. BRFalls is just up the Black River from its mouth at the Mississippi. There are still very strange, isolate areas in this part of the northern Mississippi Valley and the unglaciated landscape creates many narrow runs and dead-end roads, with all the cultural cut-offs they suggest.

9. If you film in the summer, go to the local softball and baseball games in the evenings. The parks and ambiance, damp air rising in mist above the light pylons, and ease of it all is quite wonderful. First read Richard Hugo's poem on Missoula Softball Tournaments with its refrain something like, "the wives, wives, the beautiful wives."

10. Because the bluffs are so sharp and high in this upper midwestern river valley, there are several different recreational & transport systems squeezed along or within the river--trains, roads, barge traffic, migratory routes, hang gliding (where the currents blow up the bluffs), lots of bikers, kayakers and canoeists. I'm not sure it qualifies as art, but you'll make it that if it's of interest.

11. mIEKAL aND lives about 40 miles east near the small town of LaFarge. He's part of Dreamtime Village, an anarcho-eco community in the Kickapoo River Valley. He publishes Xexoxial Editions [10375 Cty Highway A; LaFarge WI 54639; http://cla.umn.edu/joglars/xe; dtv@nwt.net]. When I saw him last summer he spoke of traveling anarchist circuses & other madness--check the site. He's an engaged and fascinating eccentric.

12. A little off the track is the Dickeyville Grotto, in the town of Dickeyville.

The more I ramble on the more that comes to mind, so stay in touch if I can be of some help.

Best regards,

Joel Lipman

One other Mississippi River thought: I've long held in mind doing a book on rope swings that hang from trees & bridges over swimming holes and for years would seek them out, try them out and take a few snapshots. The book's never materialized, but it might be a motif to follow in your documentary.

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