Jim Skibo

We Live Up Here Contributor

James M. Skibo is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University. He is the author of five books, including two written for the general audience, Ants for Breakfast, and Bear Cave Hill.

He specializes in the archaeology of the Great Lakes Region and he is currently the Director of the Grand Island Archaeological Program.

He and his wife, Becky, are junior high basketball coaches and they live in White Lake, Wisconsin with their dog, Lucky.

Crafty Couple

Apr 23, 2021
Image Courtesy of Jim Skibo

Bill and Donna Kallner from eastern Langlade County are what you might call a “crafty couple.” Bill constructs fish landing nets and Donna makes textiles with natural wool and dyes. For the last 20 years this has been their primary source of income.

Bill Kallner talks as he works in his small shop kept warm this cool morning by the wood steamer.

“I bend white ash, walnut, and cherry. All those seem to bend really nicely.”

For Duluth, Minnesota resident, Emily Ford, a “hike” isn’t a leisurely stroll through the woods in a t-shirt and shorts. This winter, it’s a trudge through snow, ice, and cold across Wisconsin. Ford is hiking the entire twelve hundred miles of the Ice Age Trail in the state, setting a lot of “firsts” as she does it.

Image Courtesy of Josh Swan


Have you ever stopped and admired an old wooden canoe or an early motorboat on a lake? If you have, you are not alone as the beauty and craftsmanship of these early watercraft captivates many including boat builder Josh Swan who is keeping the tradition alive.

Image by Vlanka on Pixabay.com

If you live in the Northwoods, you know there are still many family-run funeral homes. Funeral home directors, along with the entire funeral industry, have made changes as a result of the pandemic. But small community funeral directors often have an extra burden.

Forest Archaeology

Nov 20, 2020
Photo courtesy of Mark Bruhy

If you live up here, you are familiar with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. What you may not know is that these forests were inhabited for thousands of years and that there is a team of archaeologists who protect and manage these cultural resources.

image courtesy of Phyl Wickham

The Northwoods is known for an active music scene. Local singer/songwriters, however, depend on live performances to earn a living. Jim Skibo visited with two musicians and discussed how the pandemic has changed their lives and music.

Image by Jim Skibo

The Northwoods has long been known for its active art community. Jim Skibo visited two local artists to learn how the COVID-19 restrictions have changed their art and the way it is sold.

image by paulbr75 on pixabay.com

A logical result of the pandemic and a weakened economy would be a sluggish real estate market in the Northwoods and elsewhere. Instead, real estate purchases are booming in many parts of the country including the Northwoods. Ironically, the pandemic and stay at home orders may be behind a recent surge in local real estate purchases.

Jim Skibo

When the Wolf River reached record levels late in July, the raft and tube rental concessions closed because of concerns for rider safety. But for experienced canoe and kayak paddlers, like Brian Heikenen and Martin Dawson, this was, perhaps, a once in a lifetime experience. Heikenen checks the USGS gauge in Langlade almost daily.

“Early on Monday morning this was the highest flow that gauge had ever recorded. It topped out at about 2950 CFS.”

Jim Skibo

When Joseph and Myrtle Kretz established Kretz Lumber in 1929, it was just a small sawmill. Today the company just south of Antigo is an employee-owned global company that has expanded into other areas including forest management, education, and now a fine craftsman line, which sells directly to small commercial woodworkers along with hobbyists.

Langlade County Health Officer Meghan Williams’ guidance to people in the Northwoods might sound familiar. It is like the guidance you may have heard from many county health officers.

“We are continuing to follow CDC guidelines. So that includes staying at home as much as possible, physical distancing of six feet between people who are not in your household, wearing a mask when in public, washing hands frequently and disinfecting those high touch surfaces,” she says.

Some people in the area are following those guidelines closely. Plenty of other people are not.

Min-Aqua Bats

There are many things that make the Northwoods unique, like supper clubs, the Old Fashioned, and summers on the lake. To that list you can add waterski shows. There are more waterski teams in Wisconsin than in any other state.   The Minocqua ski team has been in existence for over 70 years.

Eileen Persike/Star Journal

The death of George Floyd and the resulting protests have brought scrutiny to all police forces with many people calling for radical change in their practices. This is true in the large metropolitan police forces, but it also is at the forefront of the rural police forces in our Northwoods.

Northland Pines School District

For graduating seniors in Northwoods high schools, things have not gone as planned. Besides having to do online learning, missing out on the prom and spring sports, the school year is ending with virtual graduations. And for those students planning to go to college this fall, there is still uncertainty how that will go.

Humane Society of Marathon County

Across the county, pet adoptions have seen a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic. In areas where the virus is more prevalent, some shelters have even run out of dogs and cats for adoption. Although local Northwoods shelters still do have animals available, there has been a notable increase in the number of adoptions. Jim and Debbie Boman, of Merrill, recently adopted Delilah, a Labrador-Pitbull mix from the Humane Society of Marathon County.