Friday, July 21, 2006

The World's Largest (Partially Buried) Badger

The badger. Wisconsin's state animal. (Historically, because much like the noble badger, early Wisconsin settlers lived in holes in the ground/hillsides until adequte above-ground dwellings could be built.) "Loyal." "Gentle." "Have an extraordinarily dangerous bite, which they are willing to use recklessly when threatened." "Short-legged and heavyset." The more I read, the more apt the nickname becomes. ;+)

(Brief sidebar: I love this quote from the link above: "There is also a proverb, 'Don't call a badger a bishop.' This is a warning not to confuse an obstinate underdog [such as a badger in badger-baiting] with a saint [e.g. bishop]. Resistance to a larger foe does not in and of itself constitute moral virtue -- 'rebels' can be just as nasty as the 'establishment.'")

Until this past weekend, the only place I'd ever seen a badger in the flesh was the time I visited Nick Anich at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Montana, of all places! A Sconny girl born & raised, seeing her first badger in Montana--I know badgers are elusive & all, but still, this was unacceptable. How everyone from Wilderness Walk to the Lake Superior Zoo failed in schooling me on badgers as a wee lass, I'll never understand.

But in Birnamwood, Wisconsin, the badgers are anything but elusive.

Glorious, no?

Yet still, he's a mere shadow of his former self.

(Old-school giant badger picture courtesy of World's Largest Roadside Attractions, which is chock-full of fiberglass treasures nationwide.)

You see, the World's Largest Badger used to be even MORE ferocious. (I know, hard to imagine!) Tall and menacing, he loomed over a gas station shaped like a log (with a not-so-menacing giant squirrel on top of it) until 1998, when the cruel winds of fate blew into town and turned the log from a gas station/tourist trap into...

The storage shed for a strip club.
The badger was cut down in size (I'm not sure how much of him is buried in the ground, exactly) and buried in a spot overlooking the highway. Then, at some point, the entrepreneurial spirit of the exotic dance club operators told them to build a fence in front of him. (?) Now, when one drives by "Northern EXposure" on Hwy 45, all they get is a mere glimpse of the badger from the road...

This is what happens when you pave paradise and put up a strip club.

But still, I am thankful that the proprietors of "Northern EXposure" kept our ol' buddy the badger at all--and hey, at least they haven't hung bras & g-strings off his claws or anything like that.

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