In which I reveal the secret to Midwestern kindness


Saints get all the credit. I should know: I live with one. My husband is a saint, and no, his name is not Bernard. I need milk for my coffee; he’ll go to the store for me. It’s during a blizzard? That’s okay; he’ll drive. The car won’t work? He’ll take the bike. The bike has a flat tire? He’ll walk. His shoes are missing? He’ll go barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways. You get the idea. And I get my milk.


Could you hurry. My coffee's getting cold.


But I would like a little credit for myself, folks. He may be a saint, but I am the saint maker. Where would he be today if I didn’t cry, moan, yell, slam cupboards, pout, and stop talking to him because he once again failed to read my mind. My thoughts (as you know) are very simple, so it shouldn’t be that hard.


No one realizes how creative a woman has to be to come up with new ways to try his patience. If I didn’t do this, he would get flabby and all the other saints would laugh at him and throw sand in his face. I am like a heavy weight he has to lift up everyday,  the barbell that keeps him strong. You can call me Barbella, AKA the Saint Maker.


As much as I would like to take full credit for his saintliness, I won’t. Midwesterners are famous for their kindness and humility. My husband proved that by marrying someone from Texas, where even our anti-littering slogan is belligerent: Don’t mess with Texas. (Note to readers from Texas: Bless yer pea-picking hearts; y’all rock!)


It took me four years of living in Wisconsin to discover the source of their kindness. As sure as fish will fry on Fridays in every restaurant in the state, bratwurst will cook on barbecues throughout the summer. These are a cow’s or a pig’s “wurst” nightmare: German sausages made of chopped meat, usually grilled but sometimes pan-fried, and often poached in beer before the grilling. (Note to non-German speaking readers: “wurst” means sausage.)


Yes, all that kindness comes from German sausage, or brats, as they are affectionately called. You need to drop your jaw and make the vowel sound “ah” as in “father.” Otherwise, you’ll mistake them for those other people’s children that keep corrupting yours.


Here’s how it works. The small Midwestern child sits in the back of the car looking out the window. All school year he has been learning to read; now it is summer and his parents are taking him and his sisters to the park. He likes to read the signs, and the one-syllable words are the easiest. At the stoplight, he turns and looks at the familiar restaurant. They’ve put up tables and chairs outside, along with a large grill. A freshly painted sign hangs over it all: Brat Fry. The child’s jaw drops, but he is too afraid to say “Father, what does it mean?” He learned in school that “a” has the sound of “apple.” He is a little Newton, and the apple drops on his head, knocking some sense into it.  No one needs to tell him again to be kind and stop acting like a brat.


Now you know.

30 thoughts on “In which I reveal the secret to Midwestern kindness

    • Maybe we’re twins separated at birth in different years. It could happen, but only if you agree to appear more humble and not take all the credit for making your husband a saint. False humility is the first rule of saint makers.

  1. riatarded

    I have never been to Wisconsin but it surely seems like a place to be at!

    This was hilarious!
    I completely agree with you that you are the saint maker! I always tell my boyfriend, people think he is nice because I have made him that way 😛

  2. My Hoosier husband is also a saint. I have not been taking credit for making him the man/saint he is. Although sometimes it is difficult to be married to someone so perfect. I am certain if we ever were to divorce there would be legions of people saying “I wondered how long he could put up with her crap…”

  3. ‘Preciate the Texas holler! Even though I’m a transplant (still, showing no signs of rejection after 2-1/2 years).

    I also appreciate the insight into How Saints are Made, because now I realize how thoroughly I have been doing my part, lo, all these years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, seems to me that Brats come in all sizes and age categories, and I can think of a few big ‘uns that oughta be fried too. I shall mention no names, lest anyone I nominate be reading this comment column, but I’ll bet you know a few such oversized-toddler cretins too! 😉

  4. I think it must just be the Badgers who are the kind ones then, because alas, we do not celebrate the mighty brat here.
    I absolutely LOVE the title of this piece – my favorite of the year!!!!

  5. I lacked the proper saint-training skills as my Ex was anything but. He decribed himself as a German blockhead which I didn’t understand until it was too late.
    Bratwurst is highly appreciated here in Michigan, too. Thanks for a good laugh to start the day!!

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