Snipe Hunting in Wisconsin (Followed by Jell-O)

A few days ago, the TobacCo office manager stopped by my desk to announce that there would be a company ‘bags tournament’ on Thursday and asked if I was interested in participating.

I had no idea what a bags tournament was and nearly responded with something witty, ala “paper or plastic?”, but she recognized the puzzled look on my face and filled in the blanks first.

“You know, bags,” she said. “Some people call it corn hole.”

Ahh, corn hole! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?! That is a game I’m very familiar with. I even own a corn hole set, and every time my dad comes out to visit, we spend hours playing. (In reality, I spend hours losing. Whatever.) I’m not sure where that “some people” comment came from, because every single person I’ve ever known has called it corn hole.

“We call it bags out here,” she explained.

What fresh madness was this? A joke on the Wisconsin newbie? A modern-day snipe hunt where poor ol’ Mark would sign up for a fake sport and, ha-ha, everybody would have a good laugh at my expense? Nice try, bub. I wasn’t having any of that.

Only, it turns out, she wasn’t trying to pull a fast one over on me.

Much like “soda” versus “pop,” what you call it varies by region. Most of the country calls it corn hole. But there’s a small contingent in the Upper Midwest — right around Chicago and points north (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota) — who do, indeed, call it bags. Other names include beans, sacks, doghouse, and dummy boards.


I still didn’t completely trust Google, so I brought it up at work this morning. Two of the guys I questioned said they’ve always called it corn hole, but one native Sconnie was particularly vocal in her disdain for that name and insisted it’s bags. Always has been, always will be, end of discussion.

I’ve already learned several things in the brief time I’ve lived in Wisconsin. To wit:

  • Ranch dressing is served with everything. Including tortilla chips.
  • Midwest Jell-O culture is legitimate. You’ll find it in the deli case of your corner grocer.
  • The more vowels they can cram into city names, the better. Like Okonomowoc and Kaukauna and Wauwatosa.
  • Practically every restaurant has a Friday fish fry, even if it clashes with the rest of the menu. We tried an Italian place and a barbecue joint last weekend and they both have ‘em.
  • That obsession with the Packers ain’t no joke. Not exactly a revelation, but the extent of their hometown pride is. Green and yellow might as well be the official state colors.

Between the supper clubs and cheese curds and Brandy Old Fashioneds, it sometimes feels like Wisconsin is a foreign country. Things everyone takes for granted here would be met with confusion elsewhere.

Which is really all part of the charm.

In the end, I had to decline the bags tournament invite. I’ll be there to cheer on the competitors; TobacCo is bringing in lunch for everyone that day, and it looks to be a rollicking good time. But, I injured my right elbow during the move, and it’s been giving me so much grief I’m now icing it and wearing a compression wrap. Things I should have been doing from the start, but I’m your classic stubborn Taurus.

I don’t even remember it happening, but by the time we rolled into Fort Atkinson two weeks ago tomorrow, I was in pain. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing it had something to do with the million and one heavy boxes I spent two days loading into the U-Haul. Sprained muscle or not, all those boxes then had to be unloaded, so I soldiered through as best I could.

I’ll survive, I’m sure. I’ve pulled various muscles in the past, and they always heal on their own after a little while. Good thing, because I’m between health insurance plans at the moment.

No more loading and unloading boxes ever again, I promise.

I did consider signing up for the bags tournament anyway and using my left hand to throw, but with my luck, the beanbag would smash my boss’s window or something.

Not the impression I’d like to make barely a week into my new job, so sidelines it is!

58 thoughts on “Snipe Hunting in Wisconsin (Followed by Jell-O)

  1. “No more loading and unloading boxes ever again, I promise.” That seems like a “famous last words” kind of statement right there. Interesting about bags and all the oddities of WI. My hubby is from MN, so there’s no way he could live in Packer country. I’m all for a good fish fry, however, so I might have to cross the border next visit to Hubby’s homeland on a Friday.
    Hope your elbow gets better soon. I’ve never suffered the slightest bruise, bump, or, bang, so I don’t have the foggiest idea what you must be feeling.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh my goodness – that’s exactly what I thought about “no more loading and unloading boxes ever again, I promise.” Right!

      Ice and advil, right Betsy? 🙂

      I’m a little fascinated by the regionalism of corn hole. Funny! Can’t wait to see if you really sit it out, Mark!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Bwahaha! You have more black and blue on your body than I’d ever believed was possible.

      I know we’ll be moving again…we certainly didn’t come all this way and give up so much just to live forever in a ground floor apartment…but I swear, next time we’re hiring movers. Let them injure their elbows!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d like to see that box loading statement printed, signed and notarized please. Someone has to be responsible here and hold you to your word. Here’s my thing with corn hole: I have never understood that name- the hole part yes, but why Corn? Did the game start out in Iowa? And now all your chums are using a term that can really go in so many different directions depending on how someone’s mind works… plus I just find it sort of uninteresting. Remain a rebel Mark and stick with corn hole when you speak of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I just learned today that it’s called corn hole because the bags were originally filled with corn and then tossed through a hole. An explanation so simple it seems obvious in retrospect, but I never knew that, either.

      And of course it sounds dirty. Is it any wonder I prefer calling it that?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like ranch dressing but not jello. (food for when I was sick as a child and hospitals seem to serve it a lot too) My daughter’s in-laws live in Iowa and we visited her family there; I’ve never seen (or eaten) that many casseroles. I’m not familiar with corn hole or whatever it’s called. We played croquet or bocce at our BBQ get togethers. Hope your elbow gets better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was interesting to hear about the cornhole vs. bags “controversy.” Never heard it known as anything but cornhole. I also did not know of the Jell-O culture, but that one picture certainly highlights that phenomenon, doesn’t it? Ranch dressing on everything…that one I can’t get on board with. Jell-O on everything…maybe I could live with that…there’s always room for Jell-O…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I always associate Jell-O with being sick. It’s either served to you in the hospital or by mom when you’re suffering from the flu. Don’t get me wrong: I like it just fine. But I haven’t had it in ages (which means I’ve been in good health, I guess!).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m with you with the sequestering of the ranch dressing, but you had me with fried fish (doesn’t have to be just on Fridays 😁). I can’t wait to hear what your first visit to a sushi place on a Friday in Wisconsin will be like… Hopefully there’ll be lots of photos. Will everything be tempuraed? I’m curious! There’s (almost always) room for sushi! 🍣 🥢

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There actually is a sushi place in town, and we have it on good authority that the food is excellent. I’m assuming they’re one of the few establishments that won’t do a Friday fish fry, but then again, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My admiration for your new state’s obsession with cheese is fading when I learn about their ranch and Jello obsession. Bags? Just, no.
    Sorry to hear of your injury and hope it heals quickly. But I’m with Parenting on famous last words.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It was called bean bag toss where I grew up, but I now live among those who call it corn hole. I’m not entirely comfortable with that, fwiw. I don’t like brandy old-fashioned, but I like knowing that there is somewhere in the country where they are popular. Reminds me of being a kid, as does Jell-O… which I like. There I said it, an admission that usually gets a frown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you like Jell-O. You’re not even the first person to say so on this post!

      Bean bag toss, at least, is more descriptive than just “bags.” If you’re not from around these parts, that’s way too generic and open to interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m with Ally here. When I moved to TN I also had no idea what they were talking about when they said corn hole. IDK much about brandy old-fashioneds but enjoy sampling the specialty cocktails served around here, especially now that I have totally given up on trying to develop a taste for beer of any kind. I am a major Jell-o fan. Always have been. I would eat it served as depicted. That display is so colorful.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m a life-long resident of Georgia and I’ve always called it Bean Bag Toss. I had never heard it called Corn Hole until the past couple of years. IMO “bean bag toss” is perfectly descriptive; I don’t understand where “corn hole” came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m really enjoying your blog, especially the Midwest content.

    So, I’ve spent my entire life in the Midwest. Born and raised in Ohio, relocated to the Chicago suburbs in 1989. I had never heard of baggo (as we call it in the Chicago suburbs) until I moved here. I’m not saying it was never played in Ohio, but the term “cornhole” was never used to describe a bean bag toss game when I lived there. 🙂

    That rainbow Jell-o display is spectacular. We don’t like Jell-o as much as Wisconsinites, but we enjoy it more than Indiana and Ohio. I love it and don’t associate it with illness, despite the fact that it feels like I ate it the most when I was sick.

    If you haven’t gone to a Fish Boil yet, you must go just for the experience. Not at all like a fish fry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why, thank you! I’m glad you found me. And I appreciate the insight into baggo. Sounds like something you’d spread cream cheese on, but I like it better than bags.

      I’ve heard there are some great fish boils up in Door County. Haven’t been to one yet, but that’s on my Wisconsin bucket list!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Corn hole? Bags? This Brit is totally confused 😀

    Take care of that elbow, these things can turn into something nasty if you don’t (says this stubborn Taurean with the knee needing replacing after a little fall!)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bags? Could they make it sound any more uneventful?
    I can’t get past the Jello thing. Really? I mean, is everyone prepping for a colonoscopy? I suppose not with the fish fry and cheese curds…
    It does sound like a fun kind of culture shock. I hope your elbow heals sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. From a genuine, bonafide Wiscosotan/Minnesconsinite:
    It’s cornhole, not bags.
    It’s pop, not soda.
    It’s duck, duck, GOOSE, not duck, duck, grey duck
    It’s bubbler, not water fountain.
    It’s casserole, not hotdish (native Minnesotans would disagree with this).
    “I hope your elbow gets better soon” works in both states.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Funny stuff! Like Ally Bean, we played Bean Bag Toss games growing up. Remember Toss Across? I was confused by the term Corn Hole when it grew in popularity here about 15 years ago. It seemed like a hillbilly name and game to me! Lol!


  13. I think I first encountered it as bean bag toss, probably back in Minnesota, and was at a bit of a loss when I first heard corn hole. I still keep thinking there should be a corn field nearby, or at least a couple of stalks to flag the perimeters.

    Liked by 1 person

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