Meeting Some “Extraordinary Ordinary” People in Dairylandia

Born and raised on the east coast, Steve Hannah (right) fell in love with the Midwest years ago when a planned cross-country trip was detoured then cut short in Wisconsin. At our meeting this week, Brady Williamson (left) interviewed Steve about his new book, Dairylandia: Dispatches from a State of Mind, that captures the charming, extraordinary “ordinary” people of Wisconsin. Dairylandia features 30 of Hannah’s profiles he collected from around the state during his career as a journalist.

Hannah describes Wisconsinites as modest, humble and seldom “get too big for their skis.” He gave an example of a New Jersey lottery winner who spoke loudly of his “huge luck” and long list of expensive purchases he planned to make. By contrast, when he interviewed lottery winners on Fond du Lac’s “Miracle Mile,” a $1 million winner decided he’d purchase a Kitchen Aide mixer because he “liked to cook” and a teacher who won $100 million remarked quietly “it’s not too bad” to win such a sum after years of working hard for a teacher’s salary.

Hannah was struck by the open, candid, unfiltered stories people told him, especially elderly people who had lived extraordinary lives that seemed completely uninteresting to themselves. Hannah entertained us with a taste of these stories: words of wisdom from an elderly woman (try not to be boring, don’t tell others if your friends or neighbors are going out of town or you’re inviting a robbery), philosophies of a rattlesnake hunter and a woman who froze her pet robin because she just couldn’t bear to part with him. These were some of his favorite assignments that drew him closer to his adopted state and the people who quietly make it a wonderful, interesting place to live.

While we couldn’t offer Steve’s book for sale at the meeting as we normally would, it is available for sale on Amazon.

Our thanks to Steve Hannah and Brady Williamson for their presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

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