UW Election Eye had high hopes for a brief respite from the fiery Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race, enjoying a Sunday afternoon drive across the border into Ironwood, Michigan. Instead, the welcome we got along old Highway 2 was business as usual: Wisconsin politics.
MARENISCO, Mich. — The sight of a cemetery near a children’s playground and Little League diamond is a common scene in small towns across America, including this tiny Michigan town 10 miles north of the Wisconsin border.
The sight of a shooting range running parallel to the first base line of a baseball park — separated by only a narrow blacktop road — is not at all common. And the sight of a restored Flintlock rifle is rarer still.
Welcome to Wisconsin North, not a bad nickname for this stretch of land not far from the western shores of Lake Superior. This, as expert rifleman John Pera put it, is “Walker Country.”
Scott Walker is the GOP’s Tea Party darling who won the 2010 Wisconsin governor race against Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic recall challenger Tom Barrett, who has cut his seven-point deficit in last week’s Marquette University poll to just three points in an equally respected poll.
“If you ask anybody who knows anything about politics around here — which is everybody,” Pera said, “they’ll tell you it’s time to stop wasting [taxpayer dollars]. A few folks may not talk much about it, but everybody’s following this election.”
Pera applauded Walker taking just six months to make Wisconsin the 49th state to legalize the carrying of concealed firearms.
“We’ve had concealed carry in Michigan for many years,” said Pera, who often drives to Hurley, Wisconsin to work in a wood shop with disabled adults.
Pera painstakingly prepares his gun between every shot, “greasing” silver pellets in his mouth to make them easier to push down the gun’s barrel toward the powder. Sometimes the resulting spark fails to ignite the rifle in a section known as the pan, which is where we get the expression: Flash in the pan.
“A lot like this Barrett fellow,” he said with a smile.