March 2, 2014

We look at some interesting history of the Driftless and the people that made it happen.

Kickapoo Review March 2014 – Driftless History by WDRT News & Culture

On today’s edition of the Kickapoo Review, we’ll be taking a look at some very interesting regional history and at a few of the fascinating people that were a part of the diverse human landscape that left a lasting legacy in the area. So, join with us as we take a trip back through time in the hills and valleys of the Ocooch Mountains region.

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African-American Settlers
The round barns of Vernon County are a delightful sight to behold in our area, and, nearly 100 years after they were built, 22 of them are still standing, more than anywhere else in the United States. Virtually all of those round barns were erected by an enigmatic African-American builder and his crew, who lived in an unusual social context for the times, a unique mixed-race community in the Cheyenne Valley near Hillsboro. The Kickapoo Review’s Charlie Knower tracked down that story.

Col. Rueben May
There have been plenty of outsized historical figures that have been a part of the Driftless region’s past. One of those you’ve likely never heard of. Way back in the mid-1800s, a larger-than-life Southern gentleman emigrated to the area and made his mark in a big way in Vernon County and beyond. The Kickapoo Review’s Ed Holahan talked with local history buff John Sime about Col. Rueben May.

Back-to-the-Land Movement
In the Vernon-Crawford-Richland County area, the make-up of the human landscape has had some rather intriguing changes over the past forty to fifty years. Part of the reason for that was the so-called back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and 70s. Scores of people were drawn to the area, with Whole Earth Catalogs in hand, brimming with idealistic intentions, and ready to live simply off the land.  The tale of those nouveau homesteaders has been the subject of a formal academic study by someone who grew up here during that time.  The Kickapoo Review’s Tamara Dean has the full story.

Musician Freddie Slack
Just as is the case today, the Driftless region has always had its share of fine musicians. Back nearly a 100 years ago, a musical prodigy from a prominent Viroqua family wound up in the entertainment industry on the West coast and made a major mark on the pop musical world of the mid-20th Century. In an interview on the WDRT radio program Life: on the Radio, hosts Ed Holahan and Genie Nordscog talked with Eddy Nix about the life and times of Freddie Slack.

How Viroqua Got Its Name
Ever wonder how a particular place got its name?  Well, we did. We wanted to know   where in the world the name Viroqua came from?  So we sent the Kickapoo Review’s top investigative team of Rena Medow and Jacob van Blarcom to find the origins of the city’s unusual name. Here’s what they came up with.

Straightening the Kickapoo

And, finally today, we turn to something from the lighter side of the Driftless.

For the past several years Kickapoo Review writer and humorist Ed Holahan has been conjuring up a character named John Johnson.

Mr. Johnson’s ersatz histories are of dubious veracity and considerable amplitude, and he says that he’s 84 or 95 or 111 years old, depending on his mood at the moment. He claims to reside in The Admiral’s Suite, atop Shady Rest Home and Casino, at the southern tip of Rainbow Ridge.

Mr. Johnson, however, was kind enough to record one of his tales for The Kickapoo Review: his recollection of the time they tried to straighten the Kickapoo River.

Well, that’s it for today’s Kickapoo Review. Next month the Review team will be taking the month off in order to warm up, and in this time slot WDRT will broadcast Round Two of the local storytelling event Truth Be Told, held this past November at the Ark. Be sure to tune in at 1 p.m. on April 6 to hear more of the area’s finest storytellers.

We would like to remind you that, for those of you who like to time-shift your listening, each downloadable recorded edition of the Kickapoo Review can be found on the very popular WDRT Website.

Our thanks to the contributors to today’s broadcast of the Review: Tamara Dean, Ed Holahan, Genie Nordscog, Rena Medow, Jacob van Blarcom and Charlie Knower.  Thanks, too, to David Klann and Dave Wennlund for their production assistance.  I’m Bill Motlong. Charlie Knower and I produced today’s edition of the Review.

From all of us on the Kickapoo Review team, thanks for tuning in.

Individual tracks from the March 2014 show.

Individual stories for Kickapoo Review March 2014 Driftless History by WDRT News & Culture

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February 2, 2014

Kickapoo Review for Feb 2 2014 by WDRT News & Culture

Welcome to the February, 2014 edition of the Kickapoo Review, WDRT’s monthly radio news magazine.
The use of drugs in our country has ebbed and flowed over the years, but a sharp increase in drug activity, particularly with prescription medications and heroin, has recently created a national health crisis. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and national addictions experts agree that there is what amounts to an epidemic of drug overdose deaths in America.
Deaths from drugs have more than tripled in the United States since 1990. According to the CDC, over 100 Americans die from drug overdoses every day. The governor of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State address to discussing that state’s rampant heroin drug problem.  Well more than half of the deaths are from opioid prescription drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin and Percoset or from heroin, all drugs with similar chemical make-up and similar effects. The opiates appear to be the current popular drug of choice, and use and abuse has skyrocketed in the past two to three years.
Wisconsin has not escaped being touched by this burgeoning problem.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the numbers reveal a growing epidemic here as well. The number of heroin cases processed by the state crime lab has steadily increased in almost every Wisconsin county throughout the last three years. So, too, have the number of heroin-related deaths, more than doubling in the past two years to 199. By comparison, Wisconsin averaged 29 such deaths each year from 2000 to 2007. Four nearby counties–LaCrosse, Monroe, Sauk and Juneau–accounted for ten of those deaths last year.
No part of Wisconsin–big cities or small towns–appears to be immune from this problem, so Charlie Knower and I set out to find out what is happening in our Southwest Corner of the state.  We spoke with a member of law enforcement, a county prosecutor, a mental health professional who treats addictions, and an individual who is in recovery from his addiction to get each of their perspectives on the issue.
First, we talked with John Spears, Sheriff of Vernon County, and got the take on the drug problem from someone with over three decades of experience in law enforcement.
Tim Gaskill is Vernon County District Attorney and has the responsibility for determining how to pursue drug-related cases referred by law enforcement. Charlie Knower talked with Gaskill about his perspective on the current drug situation in the region.
Dr. William Bucknam is a psychiatrist in the Behavioral Health Department of Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse. One of Bucknam’s specialties is the treatment of Addictions. We asked him about what it he currently sees happening in the region, and what can be done about it from a treatment point of view.
John is a recovering addict. His primary addiction was alcohol, although he also added benzodiazapines–tranquilizers–to the mix. Charlie Knower spoke with him about the lens through which he views addiction.
We end today’s exploration with a commentary. Anne O’Connor is a writer who has had close encounters with addictive processes, and and who made choices to abandon them in favor of more healthy ways of being. She shares what extremely valuable lessons she has learned on that journey.
Our thanks to our guests today: Vernon County Sheriff John Spears, Vernon County District Attorney Tim Gaskill, Psychiatrist Dr. William Bucknam and the recovering alcoholic known as John. Thanks, too, to Anne O’Connor for her contribution to today’s program.  Bill Motlong and Charlie Knower produced today’s edition of the Review.


Kickapoo Review Feb 2 individual interviews by WDRT News & Culture

January 5, 2014

Each month The Kickapoo Review brings you a variety of stories centered on one theme. As the year begins, many people are vowing to take better care of their bodies, so we thought it appropriate to focus on health for the first show of 2014. In its myriad options for attending to health and wellbeing—from midwives and doulas who bring healthy babies into the world to a new hospice center for end-of-life care—the Driftless area rivals many cities. Join the Kickapoo Review news team as they explore healthcare in the Driftless Region with stories on Lyme Disease, alternative healthcare views, fitness, hospice care, The Options Clinic and opposition to The Options Clinic.

December 1, 2013

Our theme is “Making a Living in the Driftless.” We talk to two farmers about the economic challenges of agriculture, hear about a highly successful, socially-conscious entrepreneurial start-up hitting its stride, listen to a roundtable discussion about the economic reality of working multiple jobs, and hear from graduating high school students about their views about career choice entering into our current world. And we hear from one of the gifted poets in our area, Mokasiya, about “Makin’ a Livin’ in the Driftless.”

Individual tracks available here:


November 10, 2013

On this extra edition of Kickapoo Review, Prudence Tippins interviews Parker Palmer about education and a functional democracy.

November 3, 2013

Today on the Review, we’re going to take a look at our educational system, both from a broad national and statewide perspective, and up close and personal at some interesting things happening locally. It’s a big topic, so, let’s get started with a look at the broad picture.

Author, Educator and Activist Parker Palmer is a nationally recognized leader in the field of education. His Courage to Teach seminars have assisted over 30,000 teachers to re-energize and revitalize their creativity and their commitment to the profession. Palmer spoke with the Kickapoo Review’s Rena Medow about the purpose of education and about the issues with and potential solutions to the challenges our educational system faces today.

A particular interest of the Kickapoo Review’s Prudence Tippins has been to collect perspectives on education from the point of view of the direct consumers of education, the students. In connection with today’s edition of the Review, she spoke with two local high school students, Corin Humphrey and Kevin Whited-Ford. The interview touched on some of the same issues that Parker Palmer spoke to: first, Kevin and Corin talk about the purpose of education and of the role of the teacher.

Corin also expressed significant doubts about the current emphasis on testing.

Corin and Kevin emphasized that some of the most valuable things in their educational experience have not been subject matter.

Assisting a student to become a “whole person” during his or her schooling takes more than learning just the basic skills. Exposure to the arts is a crucial part of expanding creativity, and of fully understanding the human experience. The Kickapoo Review’s Charlie Knower talked with someone who is intimately familiar with that fact, and is working to make certain that the arts remain an integral part of our educational systems.

Educationally, Viroqua is unusual for a rural area. In apparent recognition of the fact that one size does not fit all, there are multiple educational approaches available for students. Rena Medow set out to find out more about several of those options at the high school level.

One of the things that is usually missing in rural education is a wide cultural diversity of students. One local high school is working to change that equation with an outreach program that spans the globe. The Kickapoo Review’s Jim Hallberg has that story.

The notion that the best things in life are free generally does not apply to higher education. But one local entrepreneur, who measures profits not in money, but in learning, has figured out a way to buck that trend in the enterprise called Viroqua Free University.

The issue of funding for education in Wisconsin, and the future impact that may have on our public school system, has been a prominent story in the news this past year. Charlie Knower talked with one expert in the state who clarified what has been happening and shared her view of what the future might hold.

Well, that almost wraps it up for this month’s Kickapoo Review. But before we do, a program note for next week in this time slot. While we had Educator and Activist Parker Palmer’s ear, Prudence Tippins took the opportunity to talk to him about his latest initiative, outlined in his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, which describes a process for restoring civil discussion about difficult issues in our society. So, next week, in a special extra edition of the Kickapoo Review, Prudence explores what might be done within our educational system to help bridge the divide about subjects that have become polarized. So tune in again next Sunday at 1 p.m. to hear that very timely discussion.

And an additional note of comment on today’s Kickapoo Review: fully half of today’s broadcast was produced by or featured ideas of local high school students. Judging from their thoughtful and incisive commentary and, indeed, the kinds of questions they ask, and despite the many problems of the world facing today’s youth, the future looks like it’s in very good hands.

Our thanks for the content and production contributors to today’s program: Rena Medow, Charlie Knower, Jim Hallberg, Prudence Tippins, Terry O’Connor, Hank Deutsch and, yours truly, Bill Motlong.

Charlie Knower and I put together today’s edition of the Review.

Individual interviews available here:

October 6, 2013

Today on the Review, we’re going to take a look at the agricultural scene in the region, including examining the likely impact of climate change on Wisconsin farmers, learning about an innovative gleaning initiative, hearing about a very successful multi-generational local farming enterprise and following a young 4-Her as he heads to the sheep competition at the Vernon County Fair. And, while we were exploring the County Fair we have a couple of intriguing things we learned about what goes on behind the scenes.

Entire show can be streamed or downloaded here:

Stream or download individual stories here:

Links to Tamara Dean story:

WICCI (Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts)

WICCI’s Report On Wisconsin’s Changing Climate, Impacts and Adaptations

Results of J. Arbuckle’s Survey on Climate Change Beliefs Among Cornbelt Farmers


September 1, 2013

WDRT’s news team presents the very first Kickapoo Review. This show features stories revolving around environmental issues and includes stories from Tamara Dean, Rena Medow, Prudence Tippins and Charlie Knower with narration by Bill Motlong. Produced by Bill Motlong and Charlie Knower.