En route to the Burnett County Dairy Cooperative to peruse their selection of fine cheeses, I felt an overwhelming curiosity to explore more of Siren, having passed through it's modest downtown area lined with Hamm's signs while driving to Minneapolis a few weeks prior. I decided to stop at the Pheasant Inn for lunch, where I was immediately welcomed by a very, very, very, very intoxicated Native American woman whose name I shall refrain from mentioning. She offered to buy me a beer and was excited to chat, showing off photos of her pink and camouflage colored fishing spear, which measured eight feet in length, as she enlightened me about the spear fishing boat she owned at the nearby reservation populated by the St. Croix tribe, of which she was a member.
Exactly one Schmidt later, I made the quick jaunt over to the aforementioned dairy cooperative, which brandished the largest, and most thorough collection of cheese products I had ever seen, in addition to their exceedingly popular selection of ice cream and other assorted dairy-based goods. After consuming an obligatory order of fried cheese curds while reflecting on how easy it is to get fat up north, I headed back to the Pheasant Inn to drop off two scoops of Superman ice cream to the cute girl dressed in flannel, having mentioned during our earlier conversation that it was her favorite.
Shortly thereafter, I traveled along highway 70 towards Hayward, a small town to the east of Spooner, where I was told tales of a bar that housed a surreal collection of stuffed and mounted animal dioramas. Before arriving at this most majestic of watering holes, I found it impossible to resist stopping first at the Lumberjack Bowl, an open air arena which hosts the annual World Lumberjack Championships every July. Closed during the off-season, I hopped over the gate to wander around the stadium, consisting of a pair of wooden grandstands bisected by a river (for log rolling), which was lined with a handful of log chopping stations and flaked by several ninety foot wooden poles for climbing.
After exploring the deserted arena, I ventured down the street to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, which boasts a four and a half story tall sculpture of a leaping Muskie. Fuckin' a. Though the museum was closed until May, I luckily arrived to find a small section of the electric fence parted while a pair of men re-shingled the roof, affording me the opportunity to sneak in and explore the courtyard laced with enormous sculptures of various fish, alongside the legendary two hundred foot long Muskie.
Just two blocks away from the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame lies the Moccasin Bar and Wildlife Museum. I mean, just wow. I decided to chat up some of the regulars inside to avoid being perceived as another asshole tourist toting around a large camera to capture photos of their bizarre yet beloved hangout. The bartender, Jo, who moonlighted as a graphic designer, was eager to show me the infamous Trivial Pursuit card, it's text worn away from years of continued showmanship, which featured a question regarding one of the animal dioramas on display at the Moccasin. She happily recounted the history of the bar as the oldest structure in Hayward, being sure to point out that while they no longer serve it, the bar had been previously owned by Hamm's beer. Thank you Based God. I talked to Jo and Brian, an avid fisherman who encouraged me to experiment with his dry-rub only jerky recipe, as we watched Wisconsin defeat Kentucky in the Final Four, advancing to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.
In addition to the three world record holding muskies mounted on the wall, each weighing in at over sixty-five pounds, the inside of the Moccasin was lined with illuminated glass cases containing scenes of stuffed and posed albino deer, foxes, fish, badgers, pheasants, owls, and of course, a giant walrus penis. On top of that, the bar was also home to several meticulously crafted and intricately absurd dioramas of various taxidermied animals in strange situations. There was a scene of two raccoons boxing one another inside of a miniature ring, and another of a bear cub drinking, smoking, and swindling an opposing bear cub in a game of cards all while an otter, enjoying the mythological Hamm's Preferred Stock, looks on with a holstered gun. The centerpiece, as made famous by Trivial Pursuit, was a display of chipmunks fishing, singing, drinking whiskey and rolling dice, entitled "In The Good Old Summertime", should you ever find yourself in the position to procure that final pie slice on the path to board game victory.
As I departed the Moccasin, headed back to the cabin for the night, I questioned the possibility of any place being more awesome than Wisconsin.