Call of the Wild – An Up-North Saga

If I begin with the end, I will have to tell you about the killing. But I suppose that is how it’s meant to be, and so that is where we’ll start.


In northern Wisconsin, also known as Michicanada, when you order a sandwich called “Pulled Beef and Brie,” what you have actually just requested is an entire pot roast on bread.

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Chapter Six – The Killing

We were on our way to a neighboring town to grab a hearty northern Wisconsin lunch to fuel us for the five-hour drive home that lay ahead. Natasha was in the back seat, reading The Economist. I was in the passenger seat, scrolling through my photos from our weekend at the cabin. Dee-Dee was driving a 4-ton Suburban at 65 miles an hour, singing along to the 70’s station.

“Aaaaamy… whatchoo wanna do? I think I could stay with you, for a while, maybe longer…“

“Longer if I do!” Nat chimed in, without lifting her head from the magazine.

We all continued, “Amy, whatchoo wanna do-“


I looked up. “What the hell was that?”

“Oh god, oh god. I told it to pull up! It didn’t pull up!”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know… it looked like a rubber chicken. It just came flying out of the trees. It was flying so low…”

“You hit a rubber chicken?”

“No… I don’t know. It looked like that other bird we saw earlier. Why was it flying so low? I told it to pull up but it didn’t pull up!”

“Okay, first of all, maybe in your head you told it to pull up, but you certainly didn’t say anything out loud. And second of all, it’s a bird and we’re in a car. Did you think he would understand?”

“What did it look like?”

“I told you – a rubber chicken. But its head was red. It flew right in front of your window, Jenny – how could you not see it?”

“I was looking at pictures! Oh, Dee. You killed a woodpecker?”

“No – it was big. Really big. Woodpeckers are little.”

“Not if it was a Pileated Woodpecker. Oh my god – you totally demolished a Pileated Woodpecker! I think those are endangered!”

Still not looking up from her magazine, Nat said, “Sounds like natural selection if you asked me. What’s a bird doing flying across the highway that low anyway? Not very smart… if you asked me.”

“I need to stop somewhere.”

“Dee, we’re almost to the restaurant – let’s just keep driving until we get there. I’ll check the car for guts when I get out, I promise.”

We pulled into the restaurant and Dee stayed in the car while I hopped out and looked for anything resembling a beak. Fortunately, there was no visible sign of the death. I flashed the “all clear” sign to Dee-Dee, and we all filed into the local eatery.

We sat down and quickly realized that we had chosen the old person restaurant, which meant that the menu consisted almost entirely of cheese-covered meat. Nat and Dee both ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwich topped with smoked Gouda, and I pushed my boundaries by ordering something called “Pulled Beef and Brie.”

While we were waiting for our lunches to arrive, Dee-Dee could not stop talking about the bird. “I really don’t think it was a woodpecker. It was enormous – I think it was like, a duck. A red-billed duck, or something. Give me some paper – I can draw exactly what it looked like.”

We handed her a pen and paper, and she began to draw.

“Okay, so its head was red, and kind of spiky like this… and then this part was all black… and then its legs were skinny and hanging straight back like that.”

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[click to enlarge]

“You’re just drawing a rubber chicken.”

“No – that’s what it looked like! I told you! Okay, but then let me show you what it looked like on the side of the road after I hit it.”


“No, just wait… so it was kind of like in a circle like this… and then the head was sticking out there… and the feet were kind of curled up in a ball.”

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“Dee, we’re about to have lunch, you know.”

“I just wanted you to see it.”

“Okay, Dee, I’m telling you – that’s a Pileated Woodpecker. You know – just like Woody Woodpecker? You killed Woody Woodpecker.”

“Ugh, I feel sick. Are they really endangered?”

“I’m serious – I think they are*. I feel like I remember reading something about how they thought they were extinct, but then found a pair of them somewhere… something like that. You may have just killed off the species.”

Natasha stirred some Equal into her iced tea and shook her head, “And I say again – it’s nature’s way of weeding out the dumb ones. Why do you think they’re almost extinct?”

“Nat! When did you become such a hard-ass?”

“Look – this weekend taught me a lot about survival. I’m not the same person I was two days ago. I don’t think any of us are.”

“You make a good point. Ooh look! Here comes our food!”

“Oh my god… is that mine? Who let me order the pulled beef sandwich?”

*They are not endangered. I was thinking of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Dee-Dee would have to make a few thousand trips up north to put the Pileated Woodpecker on the endangered list.

Up next: Chapter Five – The Woods

17 Responses to “Call of the Wild – An Up-North Saga”

  1. teahouseblossom Says:

    Ok, I think I just had a mini-heart attack, just LOOKING at that photo of the sandwich.

  2. asia Says:

    where is the ‘after’ picture of the sandwich? everything gruesome has to have a before and after, right? you even posted a b/a for the poor woodpecker.

  3. v Says:

    I love the foreshadowing in this: Look – this weekend taught me a lot about survival.
    I’m eagerly awaiting the other installments of this series. I can only imagine the kind of adventures you all were up to.

  4. sizzle Says:

    that sandwich is a ginormous feast of meat. woo!
    i can’t wait for chapter 5.

  5. Dave2 Says:

    I must say, I am totally relieved here. When I started this entry, I was envisioning “Deliverance” with girls or something. :-)
    Alas, not a good day to be a Pileated Woodpecker though…

  6. Strode Says:

    I just wish you would quickly write a book so I have something to keep me occupied while I wait for your next post.

  7. jenny Says:

    thb: believe me – i needed an angioplasty after eating it!
    asia: see… this is why i need you to travel with me as my art director. what do you charge?
    v: if we’d had a few more days up there, i can only imagine the trouble we could’ve gotten into!
    sizzle: have you ever seen a bigger pile of meat on a sandwich? it’s obscene.
    dave2: indeed – but i take comfort in knowing that he went quickly…
    strode: if only i moved up north, i think i’d be able to crank out a book a month. :)

  8. dee-dee Says:

    I can’t believe you kept those drawings … I need to travel with a shredder! And, don’t forget how you re-wrote every major rap song on the way home to include the words “She-killed-a-woodpecker”. Still laughing about that…

  9. Dustin Says:

    Somewhere, Brandon Rogers is crying.

  10. Tracy Lynn Says:

    At first I thought that the sandwich was made of whatever you had killed, which, if it were the woodpecker, might have been a bit gamey. And not so ginormous.
    Glad it was only most of a cow.

  11. jenny Says:

    dee: are you kidding? those drawings were some of your finest work! and i really can’t remember the last time i laughed that hard.
    dustin: oh, come on now. brandon doesn’t really care about nature. do you have any idea how many agave plants he has killed this year alone? greenpeace should be all over his ass.
    tracy lynn: well, it was a pretty big woodpecker…

  12. churlita Says:

    Poor woodpecker. I too am waiting for the next post that may or may not read like Deliverance from the foreshadowing.

  13. nathan Says:

    Michicanada? I grew up in Ashland County, went to school in Green Bay, and now live in Bayfield County… can’t get much more ‘northern Wisconsin’ than this. Somehow, I’ve never heard the Northwoods referred to as Michicanada. Nor actually have I ever seen a “Pulled Beef and Brie”, not in actuality, not on a menu — that seems more like a Yooper thing. While I just stumbled upon this blog, I’d be curious to know where you are referring to.

  14. jenny Says:

    churlita: neer nee neer neer neer neer neer neer neer… (deliverance banjo music)
    nathan: people don’t call it michicanada? ok… so i just made that up myself then. we were in some tiny town north of minocqua – almost in michigan. and i think you might need to introduce pulled beef and brie onto more menus – it was deadly but delicious!

  15. nathan Says:

    Next time I’m in the Presque Isle, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters area, I’ll be looking for the Pulled Beef and Brie – it does look good. Thanks for the response!

  16. Ariana Says:

    That drawing of the woodpecker rocks.

  17. 6Truck Says:

    Ha! What a great story! I love your rubber chicken, it would look great hanging on your white board..

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