Rodeoing in Madison


Wiki says George Strait is one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time. His authentic cowboy image and back-to-roots sound earned him the title, King of Country Music.

One of Strait’s best known songs is Amarillo by Morning. It’s a tale of a rodeo cowboy and his life on the road. The song goes, “Amarillo by mornin’, up from San Antone. Everything that I got is just what I’ve got on. I ain’t got a dime, but what I’ve got is mine; I ain’t rich, but Lord, I’m free. Amarillo by Morning, Amarillo’s where I’ll be.”

There is no evidence, however, that Strait ever spent any time inside the state capitol in Madison. Maybe his entourage passed through Madison’s belt line in the middle of the night, but the tour bus was not sighted inside Capitol Square, framed by the capitol and a series of one-way streets.

Meanwhile, about four hours northwest of downtown Madison is the St. Croix Valley. Residents and businesses in St. Croix, Polk, and Pierce counties enjoy an exceptional quality of life and pro-business advantages. Two of the three counties, St. Croix and Pierce, are included in the federal definition of the 15-county Twin Cities Metro Area. Polk County may be added to the metro area in the near future. The 3.75 million residents of the Twin Cities include a few rodeo cowboys, trailers, bucking stock, and wannabe urban cowboys.

A metro area encompassing two states is not without confusion. Does Minnesota claim St. Croix and Pierce? St. Croix and Pierce claim nothing west of the pristine St. Croix River. Wisconsinites have long said, “Nice place to visit, but (fill-in-the-blank with a metro punchline).” The late Kitty Rhoades of Hudson proudly called her legislative district Winnesota. Former State Rep. Dean Knudson, also from Hudson, reminded capitol colleagues he represented the most populated area of the state, in reference to the Twin Cities metro area. Take that Milwaukee. You too, Madison.

Growing regions like the St. Croix Valley invariably have long lists of wants and needs. Many require assistance beyond the hometown legislators. The wish-list includes funding for transportation projects, broadband, health and human services, and even modernizing how state aid is distributed to units of local government in the form of shared revenue.

About this time each year, civic-led advocacy groups begin their respective treks to Madison. Examples include Superior Days and the Chippewa Valley Rally. In the fall, La Crosse promotes Oktoberfest in the Capitol. All pound their drums and this includes folks with the St. Croix Valley Legislative Day effort, whether individually or as a group. The St. Croix Valley has great senators and representatives. Several have earned leadership roles in key committees, but they cannot do it alone. They need civic groups to spread the word and pound the drum.

One long-time participant of the St. Croix Valley’s advocacy effort insists he’s working on a tune even the King of Country Music would admire. It has the working title, Madison in My Rear View Mirror. If Strait’s rodeo character can make it to Amarillo, then Winnesota’s brave souls can safely return to the St. Croix Valley’s twinkling lights after six hours in the capitol. Wish them luck.

Good news for Strait fans. He’ll be playing at American Family Field in Milwaukee this June after a two decade absence. No word if his playlist includes Madison in My Rear View Mirror.