Friday, July 8, 2016

The World's Largest Badger Soldiers On

As I sat down to the keyboard to chronicle the tale of The World's Largest Badger I realized that you could make a case for this being either a Golden or a Dark age for ridiculous roadside advertising statues.  On the one hand there are certainly more of them than ever before.  The advent of fiber glass construction techniques and the mass marketing culture we live in has resulted in boom times for assorted mascots, shills and critters.  

But so many of them are uninspired.  A mouse in front of a cheese shop is cool.  But when you have seen a dozen identical mice in front of such places you are less impressed.  I am not so far gone yet that I can quote the catalog numbers but no doubt such cultists are out there.

But the Classics, the Originals, the True Greats....they were often idiosyncratic projects that were the handiwork of some imaginative small businessman or perhaps a local civic group. These mostly older and certainly not from a catalog artifacts are becoming rare in our times. Many have suffered indignities of age and of, well, read on.

The World's Largest Badger can be found about five miles north of a little Wisconsin town named Birnamwood.  The village website thanks the Girl Scouts for keeping the down town planters watered and reminds all that local ordinance does require you to keep you lawn nicely mowed.

There seem to have been no famous humans from this fine little hamlet, their one famous citizen being...The Badger.

Well, that's the Big Guy in July of 2016.  But to do him justice please take a look at this YouTube clip of him in better, so much better, times.


Yes from his creation in the (?) late 1960s or early 70's Badger watched benevolently over a kingdom of wonders.  Gifts, Cheese, Taxidermy. A fishin' pond.  A petting zoo.  A giant hollow log contained the gas pumps.  The Great Squirrel on the roof was a nice whimsical touch.  Alas, how the mighty have fallen.  No doubt you saw some glimpses of the hard times that have come..

The Badger is no longer 40 feet tall.  His body was cut off when the Badger Country Store went out of business in the late 1990s.  What is left of him is buried in a mound and peers out over a wooden fence.  He now welcomes, or perhaps warns off, potential customers for a strip club.

The current, er, establishment does not seem to be doing well.  It has changed names and ownership several times.  I am by no means an expert in such matters but an isolated spot five miles north of a hamlet of 800 mostly rather conservative souls does not seem like a great business plan.  I suppose they are busy during deer hunting season but most cars going by are vacation bound families on their way north to the lakes.

The Squirrel, who seems to have something wrong with his right front paw, is of course censorious as their kind tends to be.  Angry chirps and chatters for a usurper threatening to scale his log home.

But The Badger had nothing to say.  He stands his lonely vigil with as much dignity as he can muster.  His paint is peeling.  One of his fangs has become dislodged.  But still he endures, an Ozymandius of a lost Kitsch Empire.

"Look upon my works, Oh ye Mighty, and Despair!"

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