A Brief History of the Great Border War - Chap. 2By Jay C. Lorenz - November 1, 2003
For those of you who are too young to know, The Great Border War involves the cultural divide that centers itself over the arbitrary borderline drawn between the States of Illinois and Wisconsin. Some ignorant individuals may claim that there are other conflicts of greater importance. I have even heard rumors of a squabble between New York and New Jersey. However, more careful research has led to the following observations. New York is a long ways away, and who cares about New Jersey anyway? If we were to waste our time wondering over a boring state, we would wonder over Indiana which is at least as boring and a whole lot closer. Also, it is an indisputable fact that both are "New," so obviously our war is older, more important, better, and in a word "Great."
James A. Michener was a famous amateur historian in his own right. He would start a rendition of this dispute by reciting detailed accounts of the geological formation of the area, the faunas, the flowing waters, the placid lakes, the fishes and animals, and the meteorological symmetry of the passing seasons over eons and eons. I myself am not that ambitious and will spare us all maybe two or three hundred pages of real crap by jumping right to the crux of the Great Border War.
Click here to read Chapter 3 of "A Brief History of the Great Border War"
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An enterprising Italian European American from Illinois named Al Capone knew an opportunity when he saw one and this was definitely a big one. All he needed to do was figure out how to get beer to the Native American casinos in Wisconsin so that Mr. Blackhawk could continue selling it to 18 year olds from Illinois. So he invented the "micro-brewery," an idea later expanded upon by Bill Gates and his firm "MicroSoft." The Southern States, led by a man named Huey Long, weren't about to tolerate this insult to their revenge and voted out casinos as well. Mr. Blackhawk's son, this last activity having forced poor Mr. Blackhawk senior into retirement in Florida, responded by opening church bingo games and inventing the pull-tab. Back in Chicago, the Irish European Americans were fully depressed over the sober state of affairs, the taste of boiled cabbage and corned beef, and the sad Irish European American songs that were accompanied by bad fiddle playing and really bad tap dancing. They were having none of this prohibition stuff either. Al Capone was a well-known South Chicagoan and led a band of gangsters known as the White Sox. The Irish European Americans were jealous and formed their own band of gangsters in North Chicago known as the Cubs and were led by a guy named "Buggs." These guys liked to make cheap beer and sell it to each other at inflated prices for consumption at hockey games, delivering it around town in Ford Model T SUVs. Since their gangs were never likely to meet in the World Series, disputes were many and rules of conduct few. All came to a head when several members of each gang met in a classic pitching duel known as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre." Mr. Capone, who was in Florida waiting for spring training to begin, was quite upset until he read the box score and found out he won 7-0. Mr. Blackhawk senior, who was sitting next to Mr. Capone on a beach lounger, was quite disgusted since he had told Mr. Blackhawk junior to offer a field goal and take 11 as the over/under (remember this was in the days of leather helmets). Mr. Capone was a joy filled man until he had to celebrate with a milk shake because there was no beer in Florida. Somewhat perturbed, he immediately announced to the press that "the Yankees were next" and hopped an express train back to Chicago to see if he could remedy the situation. It improved his temper considerably when he was able to sleep the entire length of Indiana on the way back. To this day, lousy beer costs $4.50 a cup at hockey games, and until recently Florida only allowed 3.2% beer.
Well, Wisconsin was quite jealous at all this fun being had south of the border, and was determined to do something about it. They started by inviting every notable gangster to come visit during off-season rates. Many, including John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and even Al Capone took them up on the offer. These polite criminals showed their appreciation for the invitation by naming a critical piece of sporting equipment the "Tommy" gun after a future governor of the dairy state. These gangsters would come on up for a visit, engage in a little sporting affair, and leave while the leaving was good. The best known game took place at a resort called "Little Switzerland," which was of course owned and operated by Elmer Switzer, and ended in a draw. All was cheer and good tidings amongst the border inhabitants and Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Blackhawk's dispute appeared to be a forgotten bygone. Or so it seemed.
What happened next is open to wide debate and speculation. Some theorize that Wisconsin began the Second Battle of the Great Border War by quadrupling the cost of a deer-hunting license for non-residents. Others trace the root cause of the Second Battle to Illinois residents purchasing every available piece of Wisconsin lakefront property and motor trolling for walleye. For their part, the French European American trappers were accused of price fixing at their fireworks stands, the savings not really being 60% off. Mr. Blackhawk junior invented the slot machine. The "one armed bandit" allowed the casinos to be fully staffed by fairly stupid college kids named Elmer, and Mr. Blackhawk junior moved to Florida to be with his father and await the outcome of the second battle. The Irish European Americans were still upset at the taste of cabbage and corned beef, and said they weren't participating in any battle that required they take lousy fiddling and even lousier tap dancing any further north than Lake Geneva. They were still mad at the British, and there being no British around since the Magna Carta, decided to sit at Wrigley field and phone in odds to Mr. Blackhawk junior in Florida who was deep sea fishing with Earnest Hemingway and working on his suntan. Mr. Blackhawk junior could afford to go to Cuba when he wanted a drink, and enjoyed bringing Ernie along cause he shook a mean dice cup.
What we do know is that the first recorded shot occurred when the Wisconsin City of Milwaukee brought in a band of gangsters for their very own and named them the Braves. "Milwaukee" is an ancient Native American term that translated means "I peed in the river," and the inhabitants of Milwaukee were itching to even the score. So the Braves, in actuality named after Elmer Brave, were considered a huge insult amongst the Native Americans of Wisconsin. This somewhat domestic dispute would have remained that, except that it all came to a head over the Fourth of July weekend when a good portion of Illinois was in Wisconsin anyway and well armed by the French European American fur trappers' fireworks stands.
Pay close attention, because the next part is complicated.
In Wisconsin, a Norwegian European American dairy farmer named Elmer, a German European American dairy farmer named Elmer, and a Swiss European American dairy farmer named Elmer were sitting around a tavern one day. One of them said "Elmer, by god, ve ought to open von of them fireverks stands. Vy let dem French European American trappers make off vith all dis boodle, ven der is too much of dem Illinois money packed (something about legitimate heritage) anyvays?" Well, it was just dumb luck that down the bar from these gentlemen sat Mr. Blackhawk junior's nephew reading the Las Vegas line, and in the only noteworthy action of his whole life, he called down to Mr. Blackhawk junior and repeated what he had overheard. Mr. Blackhawk junior conference called a Chicago banker named Buggs, and a New York stockbroker named Irving, and a Korean Asian American named Kim Ho, put together a consortium and telegraphed north to the casinos. The message was short and to the point. "Clear out the teepee (stop) Bring in the fireworks (stop) Kim Ho first shipment to arrive this PM (stop)." The reservation firework was born.
It was a hot dry summer and everyone, having parted with two dollars for a "class C fireworks possession permit," was armed to the teeth. Illinois raised the tolls in a desperate attempt to seal off the border. Wisconsin developed the AMC Matador, and sent them south like scud missiles to disrupt the tollways. The place was quite literally a powder keg.
In one of those strange twists of fate, it was the activities of a non-participant that culminated the whole affair. Amateur historians love strange twists of fate, they offer the potential for full time employment. This strange twist involved a 9-year-old non-participant from Iowa named Johnny. Johnny was crappie fishing with his auntie on the Wisconsin River when he hooked up and successfully landed what was thought to be a huge northern pike, believed to be the largest ever taken at the time on a Wal-Mart, Snoopy and Woodstock, Zebco 202. Joy turned to anguish, dismay, shock, disgust, and anger when the "northern" was casually identified as a slightly undersize muskie. Johnny and his auntie returned to Iowa with the fish and fed it to the hogs, forever forgotten by every historian but this one. But the battle had begun. Someone said something about the ancestry of Illinois residents, and another cursed the AMC Pacer. Well that was that. Out came the sparklers, black cat firecrackers, bottle rockets, M-80s, buzz bombs, cardboard mortar rounds, and roman candles. For two days and a night the whole of Wisconsin and most of northern Illinois was ablaze in an artillery duel that is studied even today by West Point Cadets. Although casualties were many, no clear record exists as to numbers, and the eventual outcome of the battle is likewise cloudy. What we do know is that in the aftermath of the Second Battle of the Great Border War, Illinois began a statewide lottery and Wisconsin developed the Jeep. Both were obvious attempts to exact financial retribution from the other for crimes against the state. The French European American fur trappers sold all their fireworks stands to Korean Asian Americans, and moved south to Florida and opened DisneyWorld where they could entertain their extended families from Canada who come south in slow moving caravans of SUVs pulling overloaded recreational vehicles. If you were to visit Florida, you will find Mr. Blackhawk junior entertaining a French European American fur trapper in his private box at the dog races. To this day if someone mentions fireworks both will grin and begin to laugh so hard they cry.
Perhaps the best description of the Second Battle of the Great Border War comes from Johnny. A full-grown man now, still in Iowa, he will put down his manure shovel, whistle softly, and state, "THAT was cool!"
Jay C. Lorenz