The Kickapoo’s answer to Flannery…

UPDATE: If you’re at all piqued by this rural Mona Lisa, you might like this.

From the March 24, 2004 Globe Gazette out of Iowa somewhars….
By Dick Johnson
VIROQUA, Wis. — An old bachelor from Viroqua once offered Pearl Swiggum advice about her weekly newspaper column, “Stump Ridge Farm.”
“Nobody will ever read your stuff but women,” the bachelor said.
He took another look at the stories, most of which detailed a lifetime of farming adventures in the hills of southwest Wisconsin.
“Then he read it himself,” Pearl said, “every week.”
Since 1989, Pearl has hooked Globe Gazette readers with those tales of curious farm animals, sunny and not-so-sunny childhood memories, making do in the country and surviving in the city.
She has written the folksy column for 46 years overall.
Now she’s ready to relax. Her final “Stump Ridge” columns is published today (it also appears in the Wisconsin State Journal and in four weekly papers in the La Crosse area).
Pearl has a perfect right to retire. She turned 90 — a very young 90 — this past Wednesday. A birthday party is set for today.
“I guess it means not having to meet deadlines,” she said. “And I don’t want to travel. I would like to see Norway — but if they bring it here.”
Pearl was born in the unincorporated village of Towerville, about 12 miles from Viroqua. Her family subscribed to the La Crosse Tribune and Pearl liked to read features about interesting people.
“So I just started taking pictures,” she said. “This first editor (Glenn Hagar, of the Crawford County Independent in Gays Mills) told me I like long words. He said, ‘Keep it plain.’ Pretty soon I was selling.”
Pearl’s weekly column, ever humorous, had different names until Pearl and her husband, Tillman (“Punk”) Swiggum, purchased Stump Ridge Farm from Pearl’s uncle, Carl Stevenson.
The farm near Towerville was named for a stretch of land between two highways, on which a horse-drawn sleigh once rammed a tree stump and deposited its passengers in the snow.
“I wanted to live on the farm all the time when I was a kid,” Pearl said. “I would beg to go stay overnight with a friend on the farm, and she wanted to play with dolls and I wanted to be in the barn. I would give in, but gee, I wanted to be in the barn.”
Pearl moved to Viroqua in 2001. But she often returns to mow the grass at Stump Ridge. The farm is now owned by her son, Jim.
Retirement means ditching her nemesis — new-fangled technology.
“That’s at least half the reason that I’m going to quit writing, is that computer,” Pearl said. “Last week, whatever my little finger did, everything moved halfway off, to the right. I don’t touch it for the column, unless she’s (an “office girl” at her apartment complex) here.
“But I do think that once I quit, I’m going to get a game on there. Then it wouldn’t matter if I goofed.”


  1. Matthew Lickona says

    Early blogger.

    Great stuff. Thanks.

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Yes, encouraging. We'll all be doing first-rate things into our nineties.

  3. Rufus McCain says

    I like the bit about her nemesis, new-fangled technology. But she's going to try a game to make friends with it.

    That gives me an idea. Korrektiv, the interactive game for existentialists of all ages. Despair, malaise, rotation, repetition, Being, nothingness — it's all there.

  4. Jonathan Webb says

    Yes, and lots of zombie violence.

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