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Not the pizza purveyor! I mean the metaphor. The image of domino soldiers at attention—attentivewaiting in the long afternoon sun to pass out and be knocked over by the PFC standing next to you, so that you too can fall and displace the next in line.


We, every one of us, have crafted these chain reactions. I did it as a kid, and you did too. We wasted (invested?) a tedious hour or more standing the dominos on end, careful mechanical spacing, in perfect patterns that spiral and fork and criss-cross, hoping that none go awry and foil the ultimate tile’s last task. Lately, however, I see that I’m not the puppet master. The pattern isn’t mine. In fact, any patterns are imperceptible from where I stand, because I’m just one of those dominos, going about my business, unaware of that imminent whop up the side of the head. Oddly, the feeling is relief, not dread.

A domino hit me yesterday.


I’ve blogged earlier about the village of Grou, colonized about 1890 by Dutch settlers from Friesland in northern Holland. I had imagined a centralized, planned community, rather than one that was dispersed and agricultural. North Dakota had a concentration of Dutch in the southeast, as did Manitoba. But other than town names, there is practically no physical evidence of their presence. Cultural geographers have documented evidence for various ethnic farming communities in Wisconsin—some of whom have left signs of cultural spoor. So what might we expect in rural Fennimore county?

During the last third of the 19th century, the Netherlands began to divide along socio-political and religious lines: the rural Protestants were conservative politically, while the urban (and southern) Catholics were liberal; some of the latter group even drifted toward socialism.

But now comes our friend Mr Jonathan Rutter—the domino who struck me Saturday afternoon, though I’m certain Jonathan didn’t see it that way.


He had seen the introduction to Grou and wanted to become part of the story. Apparently, on his mom’s side of the family there was a Huguenot relative who had emigrated to the Netherlands, avoiding religious persecution in France, which I find both fascinating and a confirmation that the Nativists among us—those who imagine ourselves privileged over more recent immigrants to the U.S. I’m a byproduct of emigration to avoid Prussian military conscription. And I may also be a byproduct of emigration caused by the Highland Clearances. How do you account for your own family’s arrival on America’s shores? Irish potato famine? Building a transcontinental railway? Religious persecution? Ethnic cleansing? Civil war?  Every one of us is an emigrant of one sort or another and poorly positioned to fiercely defend these borders from the onslaught on more recent immigrant groups.

Quite aside from those issues, however, Mr Rutter has joined me in the sandbox of history, and I wonder where this Huguenot connection will take us.

Oh, and the windmill above is at Golden, Illinois, beautifully restored evidence of a Dutch colony in the vicinity.

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