When you first arrive at Minocqua, Wisconsin, and step out of your car, the thing that strikes you most is the silence. Everywhere you look there are towering pine trees overlooking water.
There is a soft whisper of breeze in the trees, the almost inaudible slap of water reaching the shore, and somewhere in the distance, the rustling scamper of a squirrel in the limbs above. All else is quiet.
The town itself, a quaint village of 5,000 residents, sits on an island surrounded by the serpentine waters of Lake Minocqua. In the early 1800s when the place was founded by a man named Clawson, the only way to get to the village was by boat.
In those early days the area was dominated by fur trappers and lumbermen. When those enterprises dwindled, Clawson and his followers turned their focus to tourism. There it remains to this day.
In the winter skiers swoosh along the trails and down the gentle hills. Snowmobilers race across the frozen lake. In the summer, fishermen troll the coves for pike, bass and muskie. Deer hunters show up with the first frost and set up stands at the edges of open marsh.
Minocqua has long attracted visitors from all over the country. It was a favorite vacation spot for Dwight Eisenhower and a man named Taylor who was the father of actress Elizabeth Taylor.
I was born in these north woods and lived for a year in a one-room government-owned log cabin just a few miles from here. I rode the bus 12 miles to school every day and listened under the covers at night to wolves howling in the forest.
We moved away when World War II started, but I’ve carried that deep silence with me ever since. I am pleased to learn it is still here.