Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
A Newcomer's Guide to Northwoods
Becca Colebank © 2005
all, never tell anyone "I'm not from here." Never admit that you have
no kin in the North woods, or you will remain "that there girl from
Use "that there" to modify all nouns and as a pronoun for
everything, such as 'That there was an Alberta Clipper' and 'Pack that
there license plate with snow so you can't see that there tag is expired.'
You must also tack the word "then" on to the end of every
sentence, as in 'I blew that there porcupine out of the tree then.'
A common expression is "uff-da", which has a myriad of
meanings, including 'It sucks to be you.'
If you wish to add emphasis to your uff-da, add "my-ah" as in
"uff-da my-ah!' which means 'Unbelievable!' or 'Hogwash!' . If
you wish to convey empathy, say "ta heck", drawing out the heck
slightly, as in 'Ta he-e-e-eck you say.'
It is well to learn which words are relatively unknown in the area and
avoid them lest someone label you as 'not from here'. These words include
"HIV Positive", "consensus' and 'suburbia.'
Familiarize yourself with the terms lefse, lutefisk, hotdish, wild rice,
and potato klub. Potato klub is
served only on a certain day of the week, and is at its tastiest when a
Norwegian name is placed in front of it in the café's ad such as 'Wednesday:
Oscar's Potato Klub, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.'
Lutefisk comes to the local store in a wooden barrel directly from
is the number one conversational lead-off.
It's a sign of machismo to have a lower temperature than your neighbor.
Start with boasting how cold you had it at your place last night, and
your chit-chat partner will parry with a temperature that is at least ten
degrees lower. This is a good place
to try out your first 'Uff-da'. Always
curse the radio stations for giving the milder airport temperature and not the
'real' temperature or
It's in good taste to bring 'hotdish' to church suppers and potlucks. Hotdish is the
If you want to find a logger, don't look in the woods. Look down at the local cafe where they'll all be sitting in oil-stained Carhartts at the big round table drinking coffee, chewing snoose and bandying about words like 'stumpage' and 'skidder'. If you sit with them, never say anything pleasant about the County, Environmental Services or the Land Commissioner. 'Popple' means aspen, which is logger's gold, and 'bombagillyard' refers to popple's cousin 'Balm of Gilead,' a weedy, no-good tree. Logger's wives run for skidder and loader parts and vigilantly watch for the check from Potlatch to come so they can distribute it (See 'Learning to Live With the Economy'). Logger's kids are mechanically inclined and wear caps to school with 'Husqvarna' logos. Some loggers log to support their farming habit. By the way, don't refer to them as loggers. They 'work in the woods'.
If you must drive down Highway Two on Saturday morning, never look right or left because it is a big nuisance to have to wave at all your relatives on the way to
/she turns out the lights and locks the door.
If you want rid yourself of all obvious "outsider" traits, avoid ordering wine or fancy drinks. The bartenders can't make them anyway. It is well to remember that no respectable bar patron dances until at least the band's second set. The first set is reserved for surreptitiously noting who is there with whom. If you absolutely don't want to dance, avoid eye contact with anyone in the room. If, God forbid, someone should still start toward you with dancing in mind, hurriedly get up and head for the bathroom. It is mandatory that you yell for one more song and refuse to leave the floor after the last song or the band will be hurt. When the bartender yells 'Last Call', quickly order five drinks. When the bartender yells 'Let's go!' he or she doesn't really mean it until he
/she turns out the lights and locks the door.
There are good and bad aspects to living in the North woods. The good news is that recessions and depressions virtually have no effect on this permanently depressed economy and land is still cheap compared to urban areas. The bad news is that if you want to live here, you will probably have to work somewhere else. If you find yourself unable to pay a bill on time, it is customary and proper to lie and cheat. Tell the telephone company "I sent it last Thursday" and curse the post office roundly; send the check but forget to sign it, or send it made out to the wrong company. All methods work equally well to delay payment for a few days until your check from Potlatch comes. Farming is an expensive hobby here and if you intend to farm, find a real job first to support your farming.
are three types of bait: night
crawlers, leeches and minnows. There
are two fancy types of fish: walleye
and northern. Jackpine Savages
spear suckers in the local streams in the spring and can them, then serve them
to unsuspecting company as 'salmon'. If
you accidentally spear a fancy fish when sucker spearing, stick it in the bottom
of the gunny sack and stall the game warden with Ole and
'Deer hunting' is a traditional holiday in
sympathy card is a must; the bigger and the more flowery, the better. There is a
certain rule of thumb to follow in giving money memorials. If you don't know the
person well but are attending out of a sense of duty, give $5. (Fixed
Income--$2). If you know the person well but didn't particularly like him or
her, give $10 . (Fixed Income--$7) If you wish to impress the bereaved
family with your generosity, give $20 . (Fixed Income--$15). When you walk
up to look at the deceased (who has invariably been stowed at the very front of
the church so that everyone can watch your reaction to the gnat flying in and
out of the deceased's nose) just before the funeral begins, you must remain in
place for at least 10 seconds. It
is customary to comment on "how nice she looked" or "what a good
job they did on him" to the family. The
singer must be a middle-aged plump church lady, perhaps giving credence to the
belief that "it's not over 'til the fat lady sings".
Most funerals have an 'after party' for family members which takes
place at the local bar. These "after parties" are great places to
settle family quarrels.
knows that the decision of the referee or the umpire is never correct unless it
goes your team's way. If your team is losing, start cursing the biased refs. If
your son or daughter's team is losing badly, the best thing for him or her to do
is to feign injury, thus deflecting any of the blame from themselves. A common
rule of thumb to follow concerning playing time is that your child will
invariably be allowed to play only half as much time as the coach's son or the
principal's daughter. It is perfectly permissible to grouse loudly about this to
There are four meals in the Northland: breakfast, dinner, supper, and 'a little lunch'. 'A little lunch' is the stealth meal served to unsuspecting coffee guests from out of town. Be warned that if a local invites you to 'a little lunch' you should fast for several days first. You will be lavished with lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, cakes, sandwiches, and a 'dab' of every single thing in your host's refrigerator.
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