Although it was Sunday morning, Mom didn’t have chicken roasting in the oven. That was my first clue the day was going to be different. The second clue came by eavesdropping on my teen aged sisters in their bedroom.
Betty said, “I heard Mom ask Rosie if she and Glenn were going to come with us to Rib Mountain on Sunday. Rosie said they would come, and so would Agnes and Jim. Have we ever been there before?”
Mary answered, “I don’t think so. Some of my friends have. They said it was a nice park and they had fun climbing around on the rocks.”
Racing downstairs into the kitchen, I found Mom cutting slices of bread. She had already cut at least two loaves. I excitedly questioned, “Mom! Are we really going to have a picnic on Ribbon Mountain?”
“That’s Rib Mountain,” Mom laughed, “not Ribbon. Yes, we’re having a picnic at the Rib Mountain park.”
I frowned. “Rib?” I had sincerely thought it was Ribbon Mountain! Once in a while when the weather was right and we were on high enough ground, my brother had pointed out the small mountain to me. It appeared to as a faraway mist-covered hill.
I watched as Mom put large chunks of bologna into the meat grinder and began to turn the crank. She opened a jar of dill pickles and put several of them into the grinder, too. When she added mayonnaise to the mixture, I realized what she was doing! Mom was making bologna sandwiches, just like she did last summer when we had a picnic at the Eau Pleine Park. My mouth watered. Ground bologna sandwiches were delicious!
Mom began to spread the bologna on slices of bread. I wistfully asked, “May I have a taste?”
As I expected, her answer was, “You can wait.” I glanced at a box of cookies. Mom had baked yesterday. Opening the lid, I snatched one and happily skipped out the backdoor of the farmhouse.
The Sunday morning sunshine was blinding. Stopping in the shade of a tree, I saw the car belonging to my sister Rosie and her husband, Glenn. Daddy and my brothers were leaning against our family car, talking to them. As I walked towards them, another car pulled into the yard. It was Agnes and Jim, my other married sister and her husband.
Glenn called out, “Hey Jim, it’s going to be a good picnic. Jake’s sprung for a case of beer!” I chuckled along with the grown-ups. It wasn’t very often that Daddy bought beer.
Wanting to leave for our picnic right away, I raced back into the kitchen to see how the food preparations were going. I found Mom lifting a huge watermelon out of the refrigerator and knew it would be a while yet before the food was ready, so I went back outside.
When Mom finally signaled that she was ready, everyone helped carry the food out to the cars. Our drive to Rib Mountain seemed to take forever. I was used to our daily three-mile drive into Stratford for school and Church. Twelve mile trips into Marshfield were very infrequent.
I asked twice during our long drive, “Are we almost there yet?” Finally, our car began to drive up a steep road lined with a thick stand of trees.
Getting out of our car, I saw several picnic tables under tall shade trees. Some were filled with other families having picnics. Sunshine dappled the ground. Birds sang from the tree tops and a gentle, cool wind tempered the heat of the day.
Finding a table for ourselves, we ate the heavenly bologna sandwiches with potato chips, slices of watermelon, cookies and lemonade. Then, several of us climbed on the rocks and to the top of the lookout tower. Mom and I went up together. She didn’t seem to like the height, but I loved it.
As an adult I wondered how Rib Mountain had been named. A little research revealed it once was called Rib Hill by the Chippewa Indians. When saw the gently curved, four-mile-long mount jutting up from the surrounding flat land, they named it, ‘Opigeganama’. The first part of the word meant rib.
Although Rib Mountain is not in the same league as the Rocky Mountains, it is called a ‘mountain’ because its elevation raises quickly (670 feet) from the flat Central Wisconsin landscape.
I loved calling it Ribbon Mountain as a child. I felt bad having to start calling it by its rightful name. The word ribbon brought beauty to my mind, while the word rib was plain, bony and common. After my first picnic visit to Rib Mountain, I knew there wasn’t anything plain, bony or common about the place.