Sometimes I grow concerned about Wisconsin’s gene pool. Especially when a mother straps her son and a pool to the top of her minivan and hits the road.
The woman faces a felony charge for tying her 9-year-old to the roof so he could help hold down a plastic pool she’d just purchased in Saukville. It was the latest embarrassing misstep for a state that would prefer not to be regarded as a haven for weirdos, but can’t stay out of its own way.
This is a place where the law states livestock have the right of way in traffic. It’s a place that built a statue of the Fonz. It’s a state that’s involved in a court battle over whether imported butter should be allowed. We even have a town called Embarrass.
And now we’re strapping kids to the roofs of minivans to ensure our wading pools make it home safely. Even in a breeding ground for serial killers, this is an unsettling development.
Prosecutors allege Amber Schmunk, 28, had her son hold down the molded pool they’d just purchased because it wouldn’t fit inside the van. A witness called police after seeing the incident. Police documents allege Schmunk, whose name I swear I am not making up, told an officer she thought it was OK because her father allowed her to do similar things when she was young.
We love our family traditions here in Wisconsin. Going to a fish fry on Friday night, drinking a brandy old fashioned before dinner, lashing our children to moving vehicles.
Schmunk has a point. At 28 she’s too young to remember this, but families used to pile into the backs of station wagons for cross-country trips. Nobody used seatbelts or car seats. If there was an accident, kids’ only hope was to tuck and roll after they were ejected from the back hatch. In a warning-label world, many of us long for a more adventurous time when daily life was a dance with death, and you just might lose a foot during a family game of lawn darts.
These are different times, and Schmunk was charged with recklessly endangering safety. She was due in Ozaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday, facing 10 years behind bars.
In her defense, Schmunk thought better of her plan after a couple blocks, taking the boy and the pool off the roof. She then managed to fit the pool inside the minivan. But police already were on their way, subjecting Schmunk to a criminal charge and statewide ridicule.
It takes some doing to have one’s weirdness rise to the level of newsworthiness in Wisconsin. We’ve seen teens busted for trying to dig up the corpse of a crash victim in hopes of committing necrophilia. We’ve seen a district attorney disgraced for sexting crime victims, inviting one on a date to the morgue. We’ve seen Screech arrested for stabbing a guy in a Christmas Day bar fight.
Our threshold for strange occurrences is high. But every now and then something happens that’s odd enough to grab our attention. Such as kids riding atop vans like they’re Teen Wolf.
We like to think our quirkiness is charming, but stories like this only foster the perception that Wisconsinites are weirdos. We’d like the rest of the country to think of Wisconsin as the birthplace of Earth Day and recycling. As the home of ground-breaking stem cell research, not to mention an undefeated college football team.
But all that gets forgotten when news breaks of a Wisconsin mother tying her son and a pool to the top of her minivan. The baby gets thrown out with the pool water.