Baboon Redux – One of a Kind

All eyes are on our neighbor to the east on this political primary day. In honor of all the stubborn, sensible and surprisingly progressive Wisconsinites going to the polls, I bring back part of a post written by gentle baboon Steve Grooms several years ago.

US Highway 2 cuts across northern Wisconsin, running east and west. It’s a famous road. Not famous is the tiny town of Oulu, which lies just north of US 2. If you want to go to Oulu, you drive a bit east of Brule to Oulu Rock and follow the big blue arrow on it to Oulu.
Oulu was created and is mostly inhabited by folks of Finnish ancestry. They have names like Aho, Lampinen, Kohlemeinen, Reinikainen and so forth. The town doesn’t have much going for it. Its one unusual feature is a glass-blowing gallery. Other than that, Oulu is another tiny unincorporated Wisconsin town just like a thousand other such tiny towns.

And yet there is one other distinctive thing, something in which Oulu’s residents take great pride: the Oulu Rock.

A very long time ago, people needed a way to spot that little road that runs north from Highway 2 to Oulu. Citizens of Oulu placed a large rock at the intersection and painted the rock white and blue, the colors of the Finnish flag. And they painted “Oulu” in large letters, with an arrow to point the way.

Not long ago, the Wisconsin Highway Department informed the folks of Oulu that their rock had to go. Highway design specifications require the erection of a standard highway sign to point the way to Oulu.

The highway bureaucrats were unprepared for the ferocity of Oulu’s response. They didn’t want no frickin’ highway sign and they didn’t need one because they already had a frickin’ rock. Almost nobody ever wants to go to Oulu, to tell the truth, and if they do want to go they probably know the way already! The Finns of Oulu told the highway department folks just where they could stick their standard highway sign.

The highway department countered with all the predictable arguments. They argued for the virtues of standardization. They said a reflective sign would be easier to read than a rock. They said they operated under mandates from the legislature and didn’t have the power to make an exception like this. They said The Law demanded that Oulu accept a highway sign. End of argument.

Cynics say you can’t beat city hall, but Oulu beat the Wisconsin Highway Department. Civic pride and Finnish obstinacy crushed the bureaucrats and their boring laws. When Highway 2 was widened recently, the Wisconsin Highway Department even helped move the rock a few feet north. And it is there today, proudly pointing the way to Oulu.

No other town in Wisconsin has what Oulu has. There are a thousand unincorporated villages in the state, but only Oulu has a highway rock. It is one of a kind.

What is YOUR “Oulu Rock”?

28 thoughts on “Baboon Redux – One of a Kind”

  1. Missed this one first time around.

    Good for Oulu. I love Wisconsin dearly, but their current government is a big scary NO.

    The UW has one of the top math departments in the country, but the s&h does not even have the school both his parents have degrees from on his list. I toss the alumni magazine before it gets in the door.

    I pay my property taxes there, and hope for better days.

    Just heard Madison described as “the Berkeley of the Midwest” on NPR, so now I am smiling. Stay strong, Badgers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Morning all. I remember this one but don’t remember what I said that day – most likely some cheesy, maudlin thing about Young Adult being my one and only treasure.

    You’d think that with a name like sherrilee that would give me a one-of-a-kind moniker, but no, a quick internet and facebook search shows a good handful of us, and there’s apparently even a street called Sherrilee Way in California. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to fall back on my cheesy, maudlin response. Nobody had a Young Adult like mine!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Whatever else I have that might be similar to other people’s, I know that my name and my tattoos are unique. My tattoos are by the talented Kore Grate of Tatus by Kore, who only does original work, so they’re guaranteed one of a kind. My name I made up for myself, out of the Norwegian tradition of patronymics (or in this case, matronymics), and a bit of Esperanto (mainly for obscurity, and because I liked it better than the Latin). When I was training on the current temp position, I checked my new surname in Accurint, and indeed, there is only one of me!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. My current legal name. I kept my original first name, created a matronymic for my middle name, and turned an Esperanto noun into my last name. It was fun, I recommend it.

        Come to think of it, I have another name that may well be unique. When one is initiated as a Wiccan (or most other flavors of Pagan or magical practice) one usually chooses a name of spiritual significance–this is how you’re referred to in circle, and the name you use with the gods/spirits (it seems like, and may partly be, a ripoff of supposed Native American practices, but it’s also true that the Golden Dawn chose magickal mottos to be used as names, cf Dion Fortune). Most are not terribly innovative, and in fact there are a number of “magickal name generators” online–some considerably less serious than others, like this one: Mine was inspired by the title of an obscure fantasy novel, but I have yet to run across another person with the same magickal moniker, at least online.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The big box elder tree out back. It’s one of the reasons we were attracted to this place – well, and the huge yard in which it’s centered. It’s lost so many limbs that it now looks like something from outer space, but it’s held a tree fort, a tall tall swing, and countless nests. When this one finally goes, there’s no replacing it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This made me think of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” When Buddy and his aunt are returning from cutting their Christmas tree, the mill owner’s wife offers them two bits for the tree. The following is the exchange that came to mind: “The mill owner’s wife persist. ‘A dollar, my foot! Fifty cents. That’s my last offer. Goodness, woman, you can get another one.’ In answer, my friend gently reflects: ‘I doubt it. There’s never two of anything.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I have no memory of what I wrote about when this blog originally appeared. I could look it up, but that’s too easy and logical. Today I’ll say that the most unique thing in my life is the characters I have encountered along the way.

    John, my employer in those years I sold fly fishing tackle in Brule, Wisconsin, was an absolutely fascinating character, full of contradictions. He lived in poverty in a cabin so dilapidated no insurance company would cover it, but he had a vast fortune in inherited stocks.

    One of my friends, Don, made a living riding bucking broncos in rodeos, although he made most of his money through petty crime and once was sent to prison for cattle rustling. When I knew him Don made his living poaching deer, although he had rigid ethical principles for how and when he would poach.

    Another friend, Jim, had spent too much time in Korea and Vietnam. He was infinitely kind to me and my partners, but I was afraid of him, for beneath the surface he was a seething mass of anger. He was a poacher, too.

    Then there was a dear but odd friend, Bob, whose great passion was reading books of philosophy (that he didn’t understand, I always thought).

    A huge Dutchman named Tom was so obsessed with outdoor pursuits that he made a little speech to his bride the day he got married: “It is all simple. I love three things. Fishing is number one. Hunting is number two. You are number three. If you just keep that straight, we’re gonna have a great time.”

    My dear friend Larry, the Montana rancher, lives in the 21st century but embraces values that are straight from the 19th century. Larry sometimes gets the blues. His cure was to step in a bar and provoke the sort of fight that involves breaking stools over his opponents’ heads.

    There are more, many more. Each is (or was) as unique as the Oulu Rock.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. My Oulu Rock is the rock all over our little pie shaped paradise on this little lake. Rock inhabits this ground continuing into the lake. Our cabin is built upon the rock. A big Oak…Birch, Aspen, White Pine, Tamerac, dogwood, Wilow, Mosses……..they all live around and with rock. The shallow reeds reach out to rock jutting from the lake. One can carefully swim our little cove to at least six large rocks just beneath with water surface. We marked them for several years only to have people take the markers so we quit.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. I don’t know if there’s any one thing I can point to as my Oulu Rock. I’m lucky enough to own a lot of arts and crafts created by friends and other artisans. It gives me such pleasure to be drinking my morning coffee in ceramic cups made by my friend Martye Allen; arranging flowers in vases created by Chuck Halling; slurping soup out of bowls made by Mike Mikkelsen, or having afternoon tea from cups thrown by Ken Olson. Chuck, Ken, and Mike are all dead now, but I think of them often because of their constant presence in our home. And Martye and I commune five days a week, at least.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Martyle Allen is a treasure. His work has a unique feel that seems exactly right for his subject matter. And beneath his art lies a sound understanding of how things work in nature. For example, he alone (in my experience) has captured the remarkable relationship between ravens and wolves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All true, Steve, except for the fact that Martye is a woman. Oddly enough, we met her through her partner who is a woodworker.


        1. Thanks for correcting my error. i thought she was a she, but I took the extra precaution before responding to your post to look her up on the internet. Doh! The reference I landed on said she was a he.

          Martye’s work has a stylized look that reminds me of cave art. She depicts the essential nature of critters, not surface appearances.


  9. I have a book that someone gave me just a few days ago. It’s not a common book (Brave Quakers by Elizabeth Howard, I bet you haven’t heard of that one), and it’s not in good shape, but what makes this book unique is that my grandmother (for whom I’m named) gave it to Rosalie Wahl (first woman justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court). Now it comes down to me and I’ll hang onto it for a while because of its personal meaning to me.

    Liked by 4 people

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