A Thousand Pieces of Paradise
Landscape and Property in the Kickapoo Valley
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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I began this study with the ambition of bridging two areas of inquiry, one national in scope and public attention, the other decidedly local (and locally idiosyncratic). I planned to examine the historical roots of modern property debates in the United States. The prism of property has become a powerful lens in the American political consciousness. It...
Prologue: Weekend Drive, Summer 2002
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Driving due west of Madison, Wisconsin, on U.S. Route 14, you soon leave behind a glaciated landscape of lakes and rolling terrain. You enter a different kind of land, hillier and surely more dramatic if you prefer topographic relief. Unbroken acres of corn and soybeans give way to small fields or pasture on ridges and valley bottoms...
Part I: Landscape Succession
1. Intended Consequences: Soil Conservation
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Sometimes research data confirm a story that many people know well. The GIS maps in figures 2 and 3 look like just such a case. The maps themselves come out of a quantitative study of the Kickapoo Valley’s history, which my colleagues and I carried out in the late 1990s. Based on data for six dates at intervals of roughly ten to fifteen years, they show...
2. A Midwestern Ranch
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In their 1961 study of the Soil Bank, economists R. C. Buse and R. N. Brown Jr. did not foresee that absentee ownership would accompany land concentration. They saw probable patterns emerging when the Soil Bank ended, but not particular kinds of new owners from particular places. In Liberty, the pattern assumed the form of out-of-state family corporations that specialized in beef production. In other places the details...
3. What the Real Estate Ads Don’t Tell You
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Turn the kaleidoscope of Liberty once more and its historical mosaic changes completely. Onto this new stage two entirely different characters move forward. For them, neither Hugh Bennett, Aldo Leopold, farmers, ranchers, foresters, nor the Soil Bank would hold any meaning; their concerns were far too different. These two were intensely...
Part 2: A Community on the Land
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In 1965, when ranchers began buying land in the township of Liberty, another group of people had its eyes on the Kickapoo Valley. On first arriving in the Vernon County seat of Viroqua, Gideon Miller remembered making quite a stir as he and his colleagues descended the steps of their Greyhound bus. Two ladies saw them, he recalled. “They asked the driver to inquire where we were to perform that evening.” One of the...
5. An Amish Environment
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Cultural conflict and accommodation were two dimensions of Amish land ownership, yet culture was by no means the whole story. The land itself had an intimate place in the history of twentieth-century Amish settlements. The Amish never settled a new area by chance. They called themselves plain people, but before making a move they would perform spatial analyses so sophisticated that any geographer would be...
Part 3: Negotiating the Past and Future Landscape
6. A Dam for New Times
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Throughout the twentieth century, farmers along the Kickapoo River found their situation both a blessing and a curse. Catastrophic floods marked the years 1907, 1912, and 1917.1 In 1935, after a respite of nearly twenty years, one of the most destructive floods on record raged the length of the Kickapoo Valley.2 At that time, stretches of riparian forest ran sporadically along the river’s edge, but for most of the way...
7. Deer Unlimited
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In 1979, an editor for the La Farge Epitaph made verbal war on deer hunters. “The deer season has come and gone,” he stated flatly. “The red shirts, the four wheel drives, the vans, no longer creep by my farm with rifles ready and eyeballs staring at the hillsides. Strangers, people from God knows where, keeping me pinned down beneath my rock as the boom-boom-boom of high powered rifles blast all around for nine tedious...
8. (Re)Enter the Ho-Chunk
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The reserve languished in administrative limbo throughout the 1980s. No one could agree on its purpose, its management, or its future. Many people continued to deplore the passing of the La Farge dam. At times their rhetoric sounded like a midwestern replay of old western land wars between the federal government and local people...
Conclusion: Claims on Paradise
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In writing this book my hope is that people concerned with rural places—especially those who live in them—will be empowered by their own complicated histories. The historical tension between individual and community prerogatives on the land is the central problem this book has explored. Making sense of this tension is crucial to understanding rural transformation in the twentieth century...
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Further Reading, Back Cover
Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012
Edition: 1st paperback
Series Title: Wisconsin Land and Life
Series Editor Byline: Arnold Alanen, Series Editor