Berrypickers

April 24, 1990

If you're a berrypicker, and you're overly sensitive about it, don't read any further.

I guess that's not a fair warning. Many berrypickers don't even realize their berrypicking status. Let me make it clear for you. Berrypicker is a northern Wisconsin term for Minnesotans.

Not all Minnesotans are berrypickers, mind you. Some Minnesotans, and you yourself may be among them (don't feel too smug about it, though; you're still a Minnesotan), are decent, hard-working human beings who just happen to be state residents. But any Minnesotan who's ever driven over to Wisconsin, picked its berries and left trash in its bushes, is a berrypicker. No doubt about it. A berrypicker to a T.

Not all berrypickers have actually picked Wisconsin's berries, though. The term applies as well to Minnesotans who clog Wisconsin's majestic highway system. We knew of them back in Putzville, Wis. We didn't have to look for the cutsey license plates. We knew them by their slow, swerving beelines to our cheese shops and -- in the good old days -- liquor stores.

Hence the familiar cry, "Get your berry-picking ass off the road!"

They'd reply with something a berrypicker would think up. Cheesehead or something like that. Never mind that they were on their way to Miller's Cheese Shop. Never mind that they still wiping the berry juice off their fingers, faces and steering wheels, and, hence, swerving all over the road.

Cheesehead, indeed.

We like cheese. We eat cheese. We make cheese. We sell cheese to people who should be content with their own dairy products. We're not ashamed.

But call a berrypicker a berrypicker, and they'll holler. They'll try to deny it, but they're caught red-handed.

You'll never hear a berrypicker say, "Yeah, I pick berries. What of it?"

Ashamed, I tell you, ashamed.

The roads of Wisconsin may be paved with my brain cells, but at least they're paved. For the life of me, I can't figure out why people would stand for a state government that taxes its citizens more than just about any other place in the country, but doesn't pave its country roads. As soon as you get out of the cities -- nothing but dirt roads. Maybe a little gravel here and there, but not a brain cell in sight.

© 1990 Randel Shard. First published in The Minnesota Daily on April 24, 1990