Downing: Staying with Peggy

My valley!

Peggy was an incredible host. She works nights and spends her days catching up on sleep and packing up her house. I honestly did not see her sit down the whole time we were there, except for half an hour when we first arrived.

She’s a busy bee. She’s a traveling nurse – working everywhere from Boston to Sacramento for a few months at a time – and has decided to rent out her house while she’s gone. The renters move in July 1 and she has years and years of life to pack up. We helped her out some with weeding and moving a big pile of rotting wood.

Me and Casper adopted a midnight to 9 or 10am sleep schedule – particularly nice since we’d been on a stretch of four and five hour nights. Peggy made sure we knew we could eat any of her food, go through her humungous garage sale pile, and generally make ourselves at home. It’s been such a huge relief for us to be able to settle in for a good week. I even brought my suitcase inside! I’ve never done that! We never stayed with anyone long enough to make it worth it.

Casper doing his morning stretches in our room at Peggy's.

Notable moments from our stay here:

  • Seeing four deer play in Peggy’s front yard. They were chasing each other around and having a grand old time!
  • Salem appearing after hours of absence with spider webs in his whiskers, ear whiskers, and eyebrows. Peggy thanked him for helping her clean up.
  • Visiting the Mabel Tainter. It’s where I went to church (Unitarian Universalist) growing up. I used to take the small path through the woods between our house and Peggy’s every Sunday and go to church with her and her kids. It’s a historic building and they’ve renovated it in the past few years. Casper was awe-struck.
  • Chess. In Madison, we found a $7 chess board on Craigslist and we’ve played four or five games since then. Casper is better than me, but it’s never a slaughter and I’m getting better. Our games – played on couches, in the car, in parks or in cafés – last about 45 minutes. I’ve always enjoyed chess but never had the attention span to really focus. I do now, though, and am so grateful that I can spend an hour with my brain locked in on the little wooden pieces.
  • Playing guitar on Peggy’s porch. My free Nashville guitar is staying in better tune these days and my mom sent me my music book! So much guitar playing. My fingers are getting calloused and I love it. My voice is getting better, too.
  • Visiting neighbors I grew up with. Our last evening, we went walking at dusk, when it was no longer 99 degrees out, and stopped in at Vicky and Terry’s. Only Terry was home and she gave us popsicles and then joined us on our walk down to Stephanie and Carol’s. They had visitors over – Craig and Lucy, who were part of our community out here and whose farm we used to milk cows at – and we all sat in their front yard and chatted. Their 7 year old kept us entertained with impossible riddles.

Standing in the middle of the street outside the Boyceville library.

During the day, me and Casper traveled to Menomonie, Downing, Boyceville, or Glenwood City to get wifi, grocery shop and see the significant places from my childhood. Menomonie has about 14,000 people and was our “town” growing up. It’s where we went to our homeschooling group, did our grocery and other shopping, went to soccer practice, went to the doctor, etc. My mom used to work at UW Stout. Rowen, our best friend from childhood, also lived in Menomonie.

Downing is the town that was in our address. It has lost 50 people in the past three years, bringing it to a total population of 347. It looks…exactly the same. Rumor has it the government is trying to shut down the post office there, though. Downing pretty much only has the post office, the Downing Café, a quick stop and an antique store (though I’m not sure if it’s still going). I think they might have a bar, too. While I really spent very little time on the few streets that make up Downing while growing up, the name represents the surrounding areas, too, and so it means home to me.

Boyceville is a town of a little over 1000. It’s the school district that encompasses the valley I grew up in. It has a library, several bars, auto shops, a post office, a feed store, a gas station, etc. There is plenty of room here in Wisconsin. Boyceville looks smaller than it is when you’re driving through because other parts of town are tucked behind that stand of trees or down that seemingly obsolete road.

Glenwood City is outside of Dunn County and therefore never really felt like part of my home, even though it’s closer to where I grew up than Menomonie. They do have the only grocery store in the area, though, and a neighbor and friend works at the library there.


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