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In July 2004, we flew a rented Grumman Tiger to the American Yankee Association's 2004 convention in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We stayed in Wisconsin Dells, which we had visited in 2002 on the way to another AYA convention in Cody, Wyoming.

We visited these airports and places:

Niagara Falls, N.Y. — fuel
Sault Ste Marie, Mich. / Ont. — overnight
Sturgeon Bay, Wis. — overnight
Wisconsin Dells, Wis. — the convention site
International Crane Foundation
Fish Creek, Wis. — overnight
Bad Axe, Mich. — fuel
Dansville, N.Y. — fuel
Milford, Conn. — home

Our first stop was at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. The tent pavilion is named for Roberta Bondar. Dr. Bondar, a Sault Ste Marie native, flew on the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992.

The bears by the railing aren't interested in Dr. Bondar or her pavilion. The muskie on the other side has their attention.

There are other animals decorating the waterfront, too.

The city is named for the rapids in the St Marys River, where most of the 23-foot drop from Lake Superior to Lake Huron is experienced. Completion of the first canal in 1895 was crucial to opening up Lake Superior through the St. Lawrence waterway system to the Atlantic Ocean.

The original Administration Building now houses a museum.

A popular pastime is to watch boats as they are "locked through."

This one is approaching from under the bridge between Michigan and Ontario (first photo), toward the Ontario half of the city (last photo).

We were in Sault Ste Marie during the first week of July. So we also got to enjoy the local Canada Day celebration on the St. Marys River.
There are two buildings on the Michigan (far) side of the river that are interesting in their own right. This is the Edison Sault Electric Building. From a sign nearby,

In 1887, Edison Sault Light and Power Company developed the first hydroelectric generation in the American waters of the St. Marys River. In 1891, Edison Sault Electric Company bought out Edison Sault Light and Power, and started the utility that still serves the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The Hydroelectric Plant and Power Canal as it exists today began construction in 1898 and was completed in 1902. The powerhouse is 400 metres long and contains 78 horizontal AC generators, making it the longest horizontal shaft hydro facility in the world. Under the most favorable operating conditions, this plant has the capability to generate 36 MW of power to Edison Sault Electric Company's customers.

The Tower of History is in the distance. From the tower's web site,

Rising on the Sault waterfront where Michigan's permanent history began in 1668 is a 21-story concrete structure in the form of a triple observation tower. The 210-foot Tower of History was built in 1968 as a lasting memorial to early missionary-explorers. Located near the spot where Father Marquette built his first mission, it is in the form of three vertical, rectangular-shaped concrete columns topped by viewing platforms placed at different levels so they may face all points of the compass. The express elevator will whisk passengers for a view of 15 to 25 miles — over historic ground where Indians camped and fought, where fur traders haggled, missionaries preached, and men labored two years to build the first Sault Lock.

Some of the 18th century missionaries whom the shrine commemorates are Jesuit Fathers Isaac Jogues, Charles Raymbault, Rene Menard, Claude Allouez, Jacques Marquette, Claude Dablon and Frederic Baraga, who was consecrated Bishop in 1853 and ministered his Diocese from the Sault until 1866. His residence can be seen from the Tower of History, standing on Water Street along with other historical homes.

Our main reason to be in the area was the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. Although this train runs 296 miles to the hunting lodges at Hearst, we only rode the first 114 miles to Agawa Canyon. This is a lovely, scenic ride through re-forested logging country to a canyon that has been preserved as a national heritage park. We got some stunning views of Lake Superior along the way.

© Harvey Henkelman

We took advantage of an option on this trip, the Dome Car. These cars have two levels, with the passengers splitting the time out- and inbound. The upper level is enclosed by a transparent bubble, giving an incomparable view from horizon to horizon. By riding there, we were able to view most of these scenes from near treetop level.

The ride starts out fairly level, roughly following Route 556 and the Goulais River eastward to Searchmont.

Now and then we got a view of the engines from our car near the tail end of the train.

Achigan, and another view of the engines.

Spruce Lake.

Climbing to the dam at …

… Montreal Falls, where the train stopped for a few minutes. We got a good look at the hydroelectric plant on one side of the train, and the Montreal River on the other.

We watched the train climb to the highest point on the railway (Mile 94, 1600 feet above sea level).

It was about here that we got our first view of Lake Superior (the lake is 601 feet above sea level).

The route then leads through the bluffs that signal the approach to Agawa Canyon. Lake Superior is at the left edge of the first photo.

A brief, distant look at Bridal Veil Falls.

We stopped in Agawa Canyon for a couple of hours. Some just stayed near the train and picnicked, but there was a lot to see in the park there.

Looking northward, it's another 182 miles to the end of the line at Hearst.

One path leads along the Agawa River to the Bridal Veil Falls. Like many rivers in the North, this river is cedar water.

Bridal Veil Falls.

Upper and Lower South Black Beaver Falls.

North Black Beaver Falls.

These trees are along the path to Otter Creek Falls. We didn't walk all the way to the falls because we had a train to catch.

The train got us back to Sault Ste Marie in plenty of time to have supper before we watched the sun set. At this time of year, sunset is just after 9:30 PM EDT in Sault Ste Marie. Even the paper mill looks good at this time of day.

The bridge to Michigan.

We had hoped to visit Mackinac Island next, but the weather didn't cooperate. After waiting until early afternoon for some improvement there, we changed our plans and went to Sturgeon Bay for the Fourth of July.

It would have been nice to see the fireworks display on Mackinac, but the clouds were so low that the fireworks there were postponed anyway.

This is the view from our room in Sturgeon Bay, which was a lucky find. The fireworks were launched from the bridge over the canal, so all we had to do was walk outside for the show.

Mackinac Island doesn't allow cars, so many people there get around in horse carriages.

That service is available in Sturgeon Bay, too.

The Door County Maritime Museum is just across the bridge. If you get there before it opens, there are a few exhibits outdoors for your enjoyment.

The Chicago fireboat Fred A. Busse has been restored, and operates as a tour boat.

The Selvick tug, Susan L.

This window is above the museum's main entrance.

86.5' L × 23' B × 10.4' Dr
One 650 HP diesel engine

Built by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. April 1945
This Army tugboat had a steel hull. It was classified as an 85 ft. work boat, although the actual length was longer.

Lucia A. Simpson
127' L × 28' B ×'7' Dr
Builder: Rand & Burger, Manitowoc, 1875

This oak-hulled schooner was originally named Denham. She was a cargo ship capable of carrying up to 350,000 ft. of lumber.

In Winter 1929, the Simpson was refitted in the dry docks. The following spring, the boat hit a storm and had trouble with her spars, and wrecked off Algoma. Simpson was hauled into Sturgeon Bay where she stayed until 1934. At that time, the city of Manitowoc wanted to buy the schooner for a museum, but repair costs prohibited the purchase.

Around midnight on December 3, 1936, the Lucia A. Simpson burned. She was the last working cargo schooner to sail the Great Lakes.

Sturgeon Bay Boat Works, 1900–1940.

The business was originally called the Sturgeon Bay Boat Manufacturing Company until it closed in 1907. Around 1910, two skilled boat builders began the new company in the original building. This company manufactured fish tugs, small passenger boats, and sailing boats. The building in which both companies were run can still be seen at the foot of Michigan Street.

The boat is one of the early boats built by the Sturgeon Bay Boat Works. It was built for William Toft around 1900, possibly as late as 1910. This old, but sturdy, boat was used by William Toft for many years, while he served as a crew member of the Baileys Harbor US Lifesaving Station. About the mid 1920s, Ernest Anclam, a Baileys Harbor boat builder, replaced the rotted oak ribs on this boat. The boat was stored at the Toft home until it was donated to the Maritime Museum in 1981.


This 18-foot pleasure launch was built in 1902 by the Sunflower Boat Company of Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Fabian Woodricks was the boat company owner. The Wanda is made of highly varnished white oak from North America.

The World's First Shipping Container

This is an historic shipping container, as it is the very first shipping container ever invented, built, and patented by Leathem D. Smith Shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

The original shipping container was built in 1945 by the late Carl Raymond Christianson, a Sturgeon Bay resident who later owned the Christy Corporation.

This shipping container was the forerunner of all package containers used in the world today. It was designed and detailed by Richard A. Stearn, a local naval architect. The official name of the patent was "Safeway Container."

Leathem Smith also had a ship specially designed just to carry containers such as this. Unfortunately, he drowned in a sailing accident in 1946, before the ship was built. A total of 100 or more shipping containers were built before Mr. Smith's untimely death. Insurance rates for package freight were greatly lowered when shipping containers were introduced. Also, if the container ship's cargo is going to various locations once the destination port is reached, it makes sorting and handling many times more efficient. Each container can be marked individually for its final delivery location. Today, containers for package goods are also widely used by the railroads.

Sentinels of the Shore: Lighthouses of Door County

Lighthouses have been an important aspect of Door County's history since the building of the Pottawatomie Light on Rock Island in 1836. Pottawatomie was Wisconsin's first lighthouse. Door County boasts having more lighthouses than any other United States county, without exception.

Door County's 270-mile rugged shoreline required the building of lighthouses in the late 1800s to help provide safe passage for the numerous sailing vessels traveling the waters of Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

This exhibit tells the story of the lights and their keepers.

There is an exhibit where the visitor can launch his own ship. Signs nearby explain how it's done.

Guillotines & Champagne
The Science and Celebration of Ship Launching

It has been said, "It's easy to build a ship, but then you have to figure out how to get it into the water." This exhibit is the story of how Great Lakes shipbuilders solved the dilemma of getting their products into the water in a safe and efficient manner, and of the festivities and jubilation associated with the launchings.

In Sturgeon Bay, as in most lake cities, a ship launching was a time of community pride and celebration. Bands played, the champagne bottle was broken, people cried, and workers congratulated each other as the ship entered the water.

Although the exhibit features the traditional "side" launch, other methods of launching ships on the great lakes are also described.

The sturgeons of Sturgeon Bay.

Michigan Street Bridge.
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

We were in town as one of the new Staten Island ferries was being completed at Marinette Marine. It's the large orange structure in the photo here. About a week after our visit, the ferry began its journey through the St. Lawrence Seaway to its new home in New York.

Our next stop was the convention site, Wisconsin's Baraboo-Dells airport. The weather was still less than optimal; ours was an IFR arrival. The airport has a nice sign to welcome visitors, but the other side of the sign tells it like it really is.

The first two convention days were grey and dreary, so we were glad for the off-airport activities we had planned. While we were at the airport, we spent most of our time in the large tent by the ramp.

This is the only AYA convention to boast three Cougars.

The convention hotel was the Ho Chunk Casino, right next to the airport.

The spear head is a wall hanging about twelve feet high.

Bob Steward didn't really bicycle all the way from Alabama.

About 140 Grummans made it to the convention despite the poor weather at the outset — including Ni Thomas and his (un)feathered friend.

This Cozy has a distinctive paint job. Although the owner's attempt couldn't be qualified for the spot landing contest (not a Grumman, not an AYA member), he was the only one to touch down exactly on the line.

Because of the poor weather on the first two convention days, we made the best of lunch and announcements.

Geoff Hickey and Chris Jones.

Logan Fifer. The Fifer family won several awards at this meeting.

Cliff Daugherty, one of the convention co-chairmen.

Walt Porter.

Sarah Barber.

The Star Squad is a volunteer group that finds things to keep the younger set interested and occupied.

Margaret Peach tries her hand at the map-folding contest. This is a simulation. Contestants sit in front of a very large fan. Monitors shake the chair to simulate turbulence in flight, and other tormentors do things like throw water into the fan, shout into the contestants' ears, etc.

Some of the events didn't need good weather, so the convention's aircraft events were re-scheduled. Here Roscoe is demonstrating his skill at the Broken Towbar contest.

We volunteered to lead the judges for the Spot Landing contest, which had to wait for reasonable (not necessarily excellent) weather. The break finally came on the last convention day. We spent quite a bit of time watching contestants take off, and mostly just waiting.

The Spot Landing event is combined with Flour Bombing. Most contestants participate in both, so they make two runs at the bomb site before trying to land on The Spot.

The Flour Bombing judges can be seen in the distance. They're standing on the target, which is usually the safest place to be for this event.

Ron Levy landed close to the mark, but nobody got closer than that Cozy.

On the last night of the convention, we were "called to order" by Eric Peach's piping.

There is much more information about convention activities at the archived daily coverage.

The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes, and the wetlands and grasslands where they live. It is best known in the U.S. for Operation Migration, a program to rehabilitate the whooping crane from near extinction.

They support research by making their facility and bird collection available to scientists, by sponsoring workshops and publications, and by nurturing a network of conservationists around the world. They foster education at three levels:

ICF maintains a collection of captive cranes, used for breeding and reintroduction into the wild. They also demonstrate management of endangered species both at home and internationally. Their programs stress the interdependence between the birds and their habitats.

There are fifteen known species of cranes in the world. At Baraboo, the ICF has at least one pair of each species. Not all of them were outside on the day we visited (and some didn't feel like posing), but we did get to see quite a few. The descriptions for the ones we saw are adapted from the ICF web site and signs at the Baraboo facility. Besides the ICF site, more information is also available in the definitive text Cranes of the World, by Paul Johnsgard. This book is out of print, but is available online with the author's permission.

In 2010, a DNA study revealed that taxonomic classification of cranes had errors. A full explanation is well outside the scope of this story, but it's included in a separate article for completeness. The Latin names here are the modern classification, not the ones from our 2004 visit. Some of them have more than one name in English, too.

Cages are a sad fact of life at any zoo. This one is no exception.


Siberian crane, Leucogeranus leucogeranus
Snow crane

Height: 5 ft.
Weight: 13 lbs.
Population: ~2,900–3,000
Status: Critically endangered
Trend: Rapid decline

This critically endangered crane lives in two distinct groups. Almost all of them breed in northeast Siberia near the Arctic Ocean and migrate to the Yangtse River for the winter. The smaller group breeds just east of the Urals by the Arctic Ocean, and winters in Iran along the south shore of the Caspian Sea. Some of this group once migrated through Afghanistan to winter in northern India, but they have not been seen there since 2002. ICF is working with the Russian government to track their migration routes by GPS telemetry.

Siberian cranes nest in wetlands, favoring wide areas of shallow fresh water with good visibility.


Eurasian crane, Grus grus
Common crane

Height: ~4 ft.
Weight: ~12 lbs.
Wingspan: ~7 ft.
Population: 250,00–275,000
Status: Least concern
Trend: Declining

The Eurasian crane is found in over 80 countries. There are seven main breeding populations, ranging from northern and western Europe to Mongolia and eastern Siberia. They build their nests from mounds of wetland vegetation, preferring large isolated wetlands.

Eurasian cranes were once common in Britain and Ireland. They were driven out following the Vermin Acts in Henry VIII's time, when they were considered a threat to agriculture. Partly through the efforts of the Great Crane Project, they are making a comeback. Volunteers use disguises like we'll see at ICF to prepare captive-bred cranes for life in the wild. It's working. Natural migratory flocks have recently been spotted in the British Isles for the first time in four hundred years.


Grey-crowned crane, Balearica regulorum

Height: ~3 ft.
Weight: ~8 lbs.
Population: ~58,000–77,000
Status: Endangered
Trend: B.r. gibbericeps (East African) Declining
B.r. regulorum (South African) Stable

This non-migratory crane uses a mixed habitat of wetland and grassland, mainly in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. It is the national bird of Uganda, featured on the national flag and coat of arms. They build nests where the grass is tall enough to hide a crane on the nest. Both parents share the duties of incubation. Adults will sometimes hide fledglings in the evening, and then fly to roost in trees.

Grey- and Black-crowned cranes don't have the coiled tracheal structure of the other species. Rather than the loud bugling calls, these cranes make a honking sound like a goose. They also make a distinctive booming call by inflating a sac beneath the chin.


Brolga, Antigone rubicunda
Australian crane

Height: ~5 ft.
Weight: ~13 lbs.
Wingspan: ~6 ft
Population: ~20,000–100,000
Status: Least concern
Trend: stable

Brolga are found mainly in northern and eastern Australia, with a few in New Guinea. They don't migrate, but they do move around to follow seasonal rainfall. They breed in wetlands and flock in dry grass. Nests are large mounds of grass and sedge stems.

In Australia, the Brolga's dance has inspired aboriginal dances for thousands of years.


Wattled crane, Grus carunculatus

Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 14 lbs.
Population: ~8,000
Status: Vulnerable
Trend: Declining

These birds live in eleven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in Zambia and Botswana. There is an isolated flock in the Ethiopian highlands. They are called "resident" populations because they don't migrate. For different reasons, these and the whoopers are allowed to roam free on the ICF grounds.


Red-crowned crane, Grus japonensis
Japanese crane

Height: ~5 ft.
Weight: ~17–22 lbs.
Population: ~1700–2000
Status: Endangered
Trend: Declining

There are two main breeding populations, a resident flock in Hokkaido (northern Japan) and a migratory group that uses a larger part of eastern Asia, wintering in Japan, China, and Korea. Their population was at minimum just after World War II. There has been some recovery, although much habitat has been lost to human activity including agriculture. They are extremely aquatic, feeding in deeper water than other cranes. They prefer to nest in relatively deep water with standing dead vegetation, and are well adapted to the cold.

The oldest known musical instrument that can still be played is an 8000-year-old flute from China made from the wing bone of a red-crowned crane. This crane has been proposed as the national bird of China, where it is a symbol of immortality. The choice is still pending because of the bird's Latin name.

The crane is prized in Japan for its dedication and long life. They say that a person who folds a thousand paper cranes will get his greatest wish. Sadako Sasaki started on this venture when she fell sick from the effects of the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima. Her family saved some of Sadako's cranes, giving them to people who wanted to hear her story. Two of her last cranes are at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center in New York, and at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.


Blue crane, Anthropoides paradisea
Stanley crane

Height: 4 ft.
Weight: 11 lbs.
Population: 20,000–21,000 South Africa and 60 in Namibia
Status: Vulnerable
Trend: Declining

The blue crane is the national bird of South Africa, where 99% of the population live. It is revered by several tribes: among Zulu, only royalty were allowed to wear blue crane feathers; and Xhosa warriors were only allowed to wear them into battle. They prefer dry grassland and other upland habitats, laying their eggs in grass or on bare ground. They will nest in pastures and fallow fields, or among the stubble that remains in other fields after harvest.


White-naped crane, Antigone vipio

Height: ~4 ft.
Weight: ~12 lbs.
Population: ~4900–5300
Status: Vulnerable
Trend: Declining

These cranes live mainly in northeastern Mongolia and Manchuria. They migrate south through China and Korea to Japan, where they rely on artificial feeding stations outside the city of Izumi on the southernmost island, Kyushu. During their migrations in both directions, several hundred birds will spend a month or so in or near the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. Some believe that establishing the DMZ may have helped to preserve this species, as it provides a fairly wide band with little human activity. They breed in shallow wetlands and wet meadows, building nests of dried sedges and grasses. They are often found with other species, including red-crowned, Demoiselle, and Eurasian cranes.


Whooping crane, Grus americana

Height: ~5 ft.
Weight: ~14–17 lbs.
Wingspan: ~7–8 ft.
Population: ~400 (2004), ~757 (2018)
Status: Endangered
Trend: Increasing

The whooping crane once ranged from central Canada to Mexico, and from Utah to the Atlantic Ocean. Except for a small resident population in Louisiana, breeding birds were wiped out from the U.S. portion of their historic range by the late 19th century. The Louisiana population disappeared by 1950. The only remaining natural flock migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories, and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on Texas' Gulf Coast. The migration path is quite narrow, about 50–180 miles wide. The breeding ground in Canada is almost completely inaccessible to man (nests were not found until 1955), which probably helped save the birds from complete extinction.

This flock had dwindled to sixteen birds in the winter of 1941–1942. They remained less than 35 birds for the next two decades, then slowly increased to about 200 by 2003. The story of some efforts to restore the whooper population — with mixed success — is told on an old version of the ICF web site (archived here):

In 1975 experimental efforts to establish a second migratory wild flock began at Gray's Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Idaho. Eggs were transferred from the nests of whooping cranes at Wood Buffalo to nests of greater sandhill cranes in Idaho. The sandhill crane "foster parents" raised the whooping cranes and taught them a traditional migration route of sandhill cranes to wintering grounds at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. These cross-fostered whooping cranes, however, failed to form pair bonds with each other and suffered high mortality rates. The program was discontinued in 1989 and no whooping cranes survive in this population.

In the 1980s other options for establishing additional flocks were explored by the U.S. & Canadian Whooping Crane Recovery Team. The joint team decided that it was still critical to establish a second flock of Whooping cranes in case disaster struck the natural flock. In 1993, thirty-three captive reared cranes were released at the Kissimmee Prairie of central Florida in an effort to establish a non-migratory population such as existed once in Louisiana. After multiple releases, this flock numbered 87 in 2003 and now has several nesting pairs of which at least two have successfully fledged a chick.

In 2000, governmental, non-profit, and private organizations united to form the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) to establish a new, migratory flock of whooping cranes to the core part of their historical breeding range. This flock will initially migrate between Wisconsin and coastal Florida. To re-establish a migration route that was completely lost, the chicks are conditioned to follow an ultralight aircraft at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin. The aircraft will guide them on their first migration south. In the fall, the young whooping cranes and a team of pilots and biologists begin the 1600 mile journey to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge/Saint Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve in Florida. The birds spend the winter in Florida and return unassisted to Wisconsin in the spring. As of 2004, 36 birds populate this flock.


photo by
Joseph C. Boone

Sandhill crane, Antigone canadensis

Height: 3–5 ft.
Weight: 6.5–14 lbs.
Population: ~700,000
Status: Least concern
Trend: Increasing

We didn't see an exhibit for the sandhill crane, which is not threatened. It's included here because this bird has been very useful in the rehabilitation of the whoopers. The two species have compatible range and behavior. They mingle so well that they can be persuaded to rear each other's chicks. This preserves parenting instincts in the whoopers for the years when they don't produce any offspring of their own.

The whooping cranes were our main reason to visit the International Crane Foundation. The ICF started working with one of the last twelve pairs of cranes remaining in the world, getting them to breed on the property. Then the birds had to be reared by humans, and taught how to migrate.

It was important that the birds should not imprint on humans during this process, so the Foundation workers devised costumes to trick the babies into thinking that people were birds.

Modified ultralight aircraft were used to lead the migration. Even the pilots wore crane costumes.

ICF has worked with the Oka Breeding Center in Russia to use similar aircraft with Siberian cranes that have been bred in captivity. President Vladimir Putin even took a turn as pilot.

Our lecturer, Elise, kept our attention for over an hour as she talked about cranes in general and whoopers in particular. Here she's demonstrating the special costumes the Foundation workers use when they work with the cranes.

The glove in the second photo is used for feeding.

Because the young birds imprint on sounds as well as images, their human custodians must maintain absolute silence while they wear the costumes. There was some fear about the noise of the ultralight — maybe the birds would not be able to migrate unless they heard that noise. Those fears appear to be unfounded, as some cranes have begun to migrate on their own.

Paradise Lost: Victor Bakhtin, 1994.

One building in the ICF is devoted to the whooping crane project. It contains this mural, which shows several endangered American species: whooping cranes, buffalo, and the passenger pigeon. It's too late for the passenger pigeon, but the other two animals are on the rebound.

There is a larger version of this photo here.

Just as the baby cranes need human help, so do the parents need a little education in parenting. Not every pair of cranes produces offspring each year. For the childless, the ICF provides them with "adopted children" — baby sandhill cranes.

They have found that the birds learn to be good parents, and they are not disturbed by the subterfuge.

In the first photo above, there is a baby sandhill crane next to the adult crane on the left.

more about cranes

We went to see the Tommy Bartlett Thrill Show on Lake Delton. This is a spectacle of speed and acrobatics on water. Their ads proclaim, "the greatest show on H2O."

Most of the action was much too fast for my point-and-shoot camera — even the clown act (last picture).

The show goes on, rain or shine. It rained a little that evening, so the operators provided ponchos for all. It looked like a Friendly Ghost convention for a while.

By the time these people were done, there were two motorcycles roaring around inside the cage, with a girl standing in the middle of it all. It didn't look like it should all fit inside there.

Instead of fireworks, the evening's entertainment ended with spectacular waterworks.

We took the Duck Tour in 2002 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so we were delighted to find it on the convention's list of off-site activities.

Our guide was very personable, narrating nonstop for an hour and a half. He told us all about the history of the ducks, the history and geology of the region, cracked several jokes that made everybody groan — and he didn't always look where he was going.

The tour begins on a road where a railroad ran in the 19th century. Before long, we were floating on Lake Delton.

Lake Delton was made by a man who dammed the Wisconsin River to provide his sons with a place to swim when they were on summer vacation. It's big enough for everyone, though — regular boats, Army Ducks, parasailers, … you name it.

We drove out of the lake, …

… through some streets in town, …

(there's that parasailer again)

… and into the Wisconsin River, where we toured several of the rock formations that give Wisconsin Dells its name.

The tour ends with a short drive through shallow rapids.

About ten miles south of the convention airport, the Badger Army Ammunition Plant is an unmistakable landmark. During World War II, this was the largest munitions factory in the world. Although it's been closed for years and demolition is underway, its bunkers and buildings are still prominent on the landscape, and are marked on the sectional chart. Our interest is in a very unusual sculpture garden across the highway behind Delaney's Surplus, where it might be mistaken for a scrap yard if the visitor doesn't miss it altogether.

Tom Every was also in the scrap business. He quit that in 1983, renamed himself Dr. Evermor, and began a second career as a sculptor specializing in — what else? — discarded industrial equipment.

The fictional Dr. Evermor was an inventor from Victorian England who meant to build a spaceship that for exploring galaxies — in his own words, "highballing it to Heaven." The launch would be such a monumental event that even the Queen and Prince of Wales would want to attend, so he built a gazebo just for them.

Every piece in the collection has a story. If you're lucky enough to visit when Dr. Evermor or his wife are there, they'll be happy to fill you in.

Well, how can you learn about something like that and not go see it? These pieces are among the few that are visible from the highway. They alert the visitor that the main entrance is coming up soon. The entrance is shared with Delaney's Surplus; the Art Park is also closed when Delaney's closes.

The description is apt: "beyond bizarre."

The works are all built from unmodified industrial scrap. The artist has simply assembled them in a way that requires his unique vision. Many of them are balanced on their mounts. If you tip them over, they'll spring back upright.

The entrance gate leaves no doubt about what lies ahead.

Just inside the gate, a reminder that artists need to eat, too.

Heart of Hearts


This is the world's largest sculpture made of scrap metal, and the largest made by one person working alone. It weighs about 300 tons. It's 108 × 72 feet by 65 feet high. It's made almost entirely of metal, constructed in sections so it could be moved if the need arose. It includes carburetors, X-ray machines, hamburger signs, two Edison dynamos from 1890-era power plants, scrap from the munitions plant across the road, and the autoclaves that sterilized Apollo 11's moon rocks. Tyco's Telescope is in there somewhere, "for Doubting Thomases" to watch Forevertron in its travels.

The autoclaves brought out a story when Roadside America interviewed Dr. Evermor several years ago. He found them among three trailer-loads of NASA cast-offs that the University of Wisconsin had but didn't want. When the artist realized what he had on his hands, he found out how bureaucrats react when they learn they've discarded something valuable. To put it politely, they were less than helpful. "We contacted NASA to try to get papers authenticating it, and boy — they're very touchy about what happened to that stuff."

Celestial Listening Ears

This instrument is to listen for the voices from Heaven that will inform Dr. Evermor when the time is right for his journey to begin. It will also let observers follow his progress. Seats two.


Near Forevertron, a Gryphon guards this gazebo for important guests to attend the launch. At left in the first Forevertron photo above, you can see the second-story royal gazebo for Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales.


For tailgaters, this special vehicle sports a six-foot-wide barbecue pit and an enormous bellows to keep it going. It's a working unit; a lot of steaks and burgers have been grilled on the Epicurean. Parts are from factories, railroad cars, breweries and old water towers This was one of Tom Every's earlier projects, from before his rebirth as Dr. Evermor. He built it in the 1970s, while he was also helping Alex Jordan design and build the famous House on the Rock and its featured "world's largest indoor carousel." That was a hint of things to come. The carousel features 269 animals, 182 chandeliers, and 20,000 lights. None of the animals are horses.

Bird Band

A momentous event like the launch of Forevertron would naturally need good music. Tom Every's Dr. Evermor's wife Eleanor and their son Troy assembled a 46-piece orchestra using brass bed posts, old tools, survey markers, gasoline nozzles, and slightly damaged musical instruments.

There is a much larger version of this photo here.

The birds' feathers are rejected shear blades from the Fiskars Company.

The Fiddle Birds are almost forty feet tall. Their bodies are Hubbard tanks, used for hydrotherapy to treat burn victims. We have also seen Hubbard tanks at The Fordyce in Hot Springs.

Some of the other musicians have names too, like Banjo Birds and Ukulele Birds. There is also a Speaker Bird, if it turns out the band needs amplification.

The conductor, across the road from Bird Band, is the only portrait in the art park: Dan Woolpert, conductor of the 1st Brigade Band. They play music from the Civil War era on authentic instruments, wearing period clothing.

The bugs are not far away, like an audience. Between the orchestra and its fans, there are about 70 pieces here.

While we were there, we met the artist and his wife, Lady Eleanor. She's an artist too, but on a smaller scale. About two months previous, Tom Every had suffered a stroke, so he was not able to get out of the car unaided, and could not talk to us. Eleanor walked around with us for a while, explaining this and that about the sculpture garden.

Eagle's Head

Formerly an excavator bucket.

Komodo Dragons

Near the Bird Band, these pieces are also musical instruments. They're played by striking the cups — oxygen tanks, tuned by their length.


This is one of only a few political pieces. Interest rates were very high in the 1980s. Based on inflated estimates of land values and profits, banks and the state government encouraged farmers to borrow more money than they could afford to repay. The bubble burst and a lot of farmers lost their land to foreclosure. About the same time, Tom Every was disgruntled about the state's energetic tax collection efforts. So he mounted a manure spreader on a W for Wisconsin. Forward is the state's motto. As Tom told his biographer,

[This] was in the time frame when farmers were getting crapped on, so what I did was I did that 'W' and I stuck a manure spreader on there when the government was pulling off that crap.

In that Roadside America interview, Dr. Evermor had this to say about his work:

Tom doesn't use blueprints or drawings, and has no traditional art schooling. "No sketches, no models, no nothing — I just go for it." This is pretty amazing, since sculptures like the Juicer Bug are fifteen tons, and will be hoisted up on spindly insect legs. "Everything here is free floating. I got these bug toenails up in the air, but I don't want a toenail falling off on somebody." He develops his own construction solutions, so far without mishap. "No engineering firm could compute the compression on these legs."

Not all of Tom Every's work is here. Besides his work at House of the Rock, you can also find two of his smaller birds at the Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan; and one of his Fiddle Birds is now at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The Dreamkeepers, a pair of birds about 25 feet high, stand in front of an office building in Madison.

We learned many years later that Tom Every's stroke was the beginning of a long decline. He can no longer get to the sculpture park by himself, but he's still designing new projects (2018). He's lost the use of his left side, but the right side apparently works just fine. My copy of Tom Kupsh's A Mythic Obsession: the World of Dr. Evermor is signed on the flyleaf by the artist and Lady Eleanor. That circle was drawn freehand.

"Power On" is part of the launch script for Forevertron.

Tom Every died quietly, 30 March 2020. R.I.P.

We had time for a short visit to Devil's Lake State Park. There is a Bird Mound at the lake's south shore visitor center, overlooked by many. It was built by the Indians who lived in the area, probably about a thousand years ago.

In the photo, the head is near the large tree in the center; the tail is 115 feet away, near the picnic bench at left. The wingspan is about 240 feet,

Plaques nearby explain the purpose of this and similar mounds, to the best extent known to modern scholars.

It was also in this part of the park that we found swifts nesting in a reception building.

Balanced Rock Trail. We didn't have time to walk all the way up to the top, but the view that we did see was well worth the trouble.

Devil's Lake, viewed from Balanced Rock Trail (from the East).

South Shore Beach looking east.

Oak forest along the Grottos Trail.

We stayed at the Riverwalk Inn, on the site where the first Wisconsin Dells riverboat tours were launched in 1873. Kilbourn was the original name of the town. It was changed in 1931 to help promote tourism.

One evening we strolled past this chained-up totem to dine on a patio overlooking the Wisconsin River.

We also walked around town a bit, and popped into the Showboat for peanuts and beer. They throw the shells on the floor in the Showboat.

Then we re-traced the Riverwalk back to the hotel, but not without waiting for sunset.