The Weekly Ups and Downs: Storks and Dorks

We celebrated 414 Day, for better and for worse, and stared into the all-seeing eyes of the shoebill stork this week in Milwaukee.

Wautoma Lightning

Lightning destroyed a tree in Wautoma. The video’s pretty cool. One split second strike, and that tree’s toast. The footage made the viral rounds this week, and I think that’s great because Wautoma’s a nice little city. 2,218 people, about an hour and a half outside Madison, been around since 1851, got a charming Main Street, and the funnest fact of all, it’s the “Christmas tree capital of the world.” The Kirk Company owns 10,000 acres of Christmas trees out there, so if you celebrated with a real tree last year, you may have Wautoma to thank for it. And that’s that, a dumb lightning story turns into a celebration of one of Wisconsin’s many beautiful little towns. The heart is warmed.

Shoebill Storks

Listen, ok, just listen. I know this isn’t news. I know it’s not about Milwaukee. I’m sorry. But I don’t care. I saw a picture of a shoebill stork for the first time ever this week, and it’s all that matters anymore. Have you seen these things? Click on these links right now. Oh my God. This is the most amazing creature to ever walk the earth. Look into its eyes. Drink deep of its wisdom. See the face of God.

414 Day

The day was April 14, 2009. Toby Silverman hopped inside the internet and posted that the date was 4/14 and that Milwaukee’s area code was 414 – ain’t that something? Twelve years later, it’s a holiday. Seriously, that was how it started. Now, April 14 is Milwaukee Day, and there’s a bunch of local events celebrating Miltown, Cream City, Big M, The Lollygagging Potato, Brew City. The most important event, obviously, is our $4.14 subscription offer, which is valid for a limited time only, and you can take advantage of it right now by clicking on this giant sentence to get high-quality local journalism sent right to your door every month. The other stuff’s cool too, I guess. Milwaukee’s kinda like a shoebill stork, perennially underappreciated, and we’re always happy when it gets its due.  



414 Day

An Up that is also a Down?!?! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a gray era, where nothing is as it seems, all is nothing and nothing is all, and meaning is a forgotten dream. While 414 Day is a nice thing, and we certainly appreciate celebrating our city, it also continues the somewhat irritating trend of largely hollow “holidays” with no connection to an actual event or moment that exist primarily to give people an excuse to share a photo on Instagram, or even worse, give some idiot “journalist” something to write about, when he’s run out of content for the week. This grates. 

Traffic Trends

AAAs Foundation for Traffic Safety released some bad stats for Wisconsin. Between 2015 and 2018, Wisconsin’s average number of deaths from wrong-way crashes on divided highways jumped 230%. A lot of it has to do with older drivers, who are over-represented in wrong-way crashes, and with drunk drivers. That study hits after the Wisconsin Policy Forum revealed a rise in fatal car crashes during the beginning of the pandemic last year, fueled by drunk driving, speeding and recklessness. Milwaukee announced this week that it will distribute a $102,000 grant to 18 community groups to address reckless driving through social media campaigns, murals, community events, etc. I’m extremely skeptical about the efficacy of those kind of campaigns (Just Say No, anybody?) but hey, it worked with smoking, and hopefully the MPD’s new Traffic Safety Unit can help prevent a bad trend from getting worse.



Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.