Put together locally made wine Friday, pork and adult beverages Saturday, and ice cream Sunday, and you get …
A personal first, if you want to call it that: You may notice there is no photo within the pages of your favorite weekly newspaper of the Hometown Hog Roast’s Pig Out Challenge Saturday. I can’t really shoot a photo of an activity if I am one of the participants. (I have not mastered, nor do I want to master, the selfie thing.)
It wasn’t my idea, and I didn’t win, but I achieved my lone goal, which was to not embarrass myself to the extent that I would be remembered years later for embarrassing myself. (Think the movie “The Exorcist” and pea soup, or, for Monty Python fans, Mr. Creosote. If you’re unfamiliar with either and want to look them up, this is your content warning.) And hey, it was free food, including really good bacon-wrapped cream cheese-filled jalapeño poppers.
It was (not that) hot: One of our sons asked at the end of last week if we had reached a record high for the day. Without looking, I said no, because I knew the temperature had not reached 100 degrees, and there are only three days in July where the record high is not 100 or hotter.
Indeed, the temperature never got above 89 last week, which is delightfully cool compared with the all-time high temperature for Platteville, 110 on July 14, 1936. That was one hot summer because of the 31 days in July, 11 record highs were set during 1936, from 102 July 6 to 107 July 26. That even made the 1940 headline you can read on page 10B this week not entirely accurate, since by July 24, 1940, it had not gotten hotter than 97. (One day after that Journal reached subscribers, the high was a record 102.)
That is not to say it wasn’t relatively hot late last week. If you combine the high temperature and dewpoint (which as you know from watching TV weather is the temperature at which the air is at 100 percent humidity), the heat index reached 103 Friday and 101 Saturday, the latter just in time for the Hometown Hog Roast. My cellphone includes an app by AccuWeather, which uses a formula that combines temperature, humidity, wind and sunlight to determine RealFeel. I stopped looking at that after it hit 104.
Note that these are observations about the hot weather, not complaints about the hot weather. (And it hasn’t been as hot this summer as it was in 2012.) I do not complain about heat or humidity, because I know what it will be like far too soon enough here in America’s Winterland.
Pearl was a pearl: The saddest news last week was the death of longtime newspaper columnist Pearl Swiggum of Stump Ridge Farm, on Friday at 101, 11 years after she retired after 46 years writing a column for several Wisconsin newspapers, including The Journal. (See page 5A for more.)
I had to read her work every week for my job at the Grant County Herald Independent (now owned by this company). The college graduate from Madison wasn’t in her target reader demographic, but her observations about her adventures on and off said Stump Ridge Farm before and after her husband’s death were worth reading even for someone whose farm background (until I married into a farm family) consisted solely of eating the products of farming in general. (See the headline.)
Pearl started working for the Crawford County Independent in Gays Mills (also now owned by this company) in 1958. I interviewed her on the farm in, I believe, 1989. She fed me chicken for lunch. She did not give me lefse to go, as she apparently did to a Wisconsin State Journal reporter who interviewed her upon her retirement, but I am not taking that personally. Nor, despite her being half-Norwegian and my being one-fourth Norwegian, did she feed me lutefisk, which she described as “‘dried cod tenderized by soaking in lye.’ And here I thought the lye was just for flavor.” And I’m fine with that omission too.
Pearl told me she was given advice to not write about religion or politics because she “didn’t have the brain for it.” She was not a controversy magnet, unless such subjects as neighboring eccentric Norwegian bachelor farmers, her dogs, her cows, her occasional getting lost, or the best ways to ward off biting or stinging flying pests generated disagreement. (They must have, since she once wrote, “There’s nothing like writing a column for advancing one’s education.”)
Pearl wrote Stump Ridge Farm for 46 years. I have been writing opinions on and off for a little more than half that. As you know, I am the second column writer in the family; the first was my great-aunt Vangie, who wrote a cooking column for the Morrison County Record in Little Falls, Minn. Pearl and Vangie probably have in common that they didn’t write their columns accompanied by unprintable words and phrases due to their slower-than-molasses-in-January computer and Internet service.