Whither Zither
by Peter Berryman

February 2001

A Limburger Ballad

Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (SHSW) recently formed a partnership for the purpose of creating a series of programs called Wisconsin Stories. In my opinion they are doing a GREAT job with this program, which tells some of the more interesting stories of Wisconsin history. I may be a little biased, because my musical partner Lou and I are involved with one of the episodes. But I urge you to have a gander at what these folks are doing and see for yourself. Info about the series, which airs Thursdays at 7PM on WPT, is found at:


Our involvement with the show consisted of the writing and singing, at the request of SHSW's Local History Specialist and program co-host Debbie Kmetz and WPT Senior Producer Steve Jandacek, a ballad about a true incident in the odoriferous history of Limburger Cheese, which I brazenly have reproduced here, with permission.

The whole goofy sound file of us singing it will eventually be downloadable from the site mentioned above. Here are the lyrics:

Come gather round people and turn up the tube and we'll tell you a marvelous tale 
Of medical hunches, restorative lunches and rural deliveries of mail
Romantically comic, heartbreakingly tragic, it's really not either of these
But thoroughly true and a pinnacle too in the hist'ry of limburger cheese

In the Iowa village they call Independence a farmer named Kaiser took sick
The year 35 had been slow to arrive and the snow fell unusually thick
The rare diagnosis by Dr. McGready was chronic dyspeptic unease
Prognosis was fine if the farmer would dine on a smidgen of Limburger cheese

Now Limburger cheese was the jewel of Wisconsin the pride of the town of Monroe
And poor Mr. Kaiser lived over in Iowa, too far to ski through the snow
He posted a plea to the cheesemakers urgently begging them gentlemen please
Here's one and a quarter, express me an order of curative Limburger cheese

When Mr. Ralph Wenger, the company manager, heard of the farmer's travail
He made sure a block of their strongest concoction went out in the afternoon mail
(But) a sensitive Iowa mailman declared as he sniffed it and fell to his knees
I never delivers what gives me the shivers especially Limburger cheese

And when independence's postmaster W. Miller was brought up to date
He said though my sense is olfact'ry offenses are reas'nably ripe for debate
It seems this particular fragrance is sidelining one of my best employees
Although I've smelled worse, my employees come first.  I'm returning this Limburger cheese.

Now little Monroe had a postmaster too who'd step into the fray now and then
J. Burkhard felt strongly the cheese had been wrongly returned and he mailed it again
But first he took pains to rewrap it in foil and in cardboard too sturdy to squeeze
And passing appraisal, both postal and nasal, away went the Limburger cheese

But when it came home to Monroe once again and took Postmaster Burkhard aback
Instead of completely accepting defeat he developed a two pronged attack
He mumbled  I'll send it to Washington then if the Postmaster General agrees
With approval attached we'll rewrap and dispatch for the third time the Limburger cheese

And Meanwhile post haste he composed an epistle to Postmaster Miller that read:
Yours truly proposes a contest of noses to bring this whole thing to a head
I'll sublet a centrally located hall and I'll personally pay all the fees
I'll spring for the brew and the bakery too and I'll pop for the Limburger cheese

I'm confident, Postmaster Burkhard went on, though you shrink at our product's bouquet
I know you will savor its bountiful flavor and fling your embargo away
For once you do try it you'll never deny it a passage to your addressees
And came the reply, I'm a reasonable guy, I will sample your Limburger cheese

Two thirty PM on the ninth day of March in Dubuque at the Julien Hotel 
If you couldn't see you could find parlor B on the mezzanine level by smell
Where cameras were raised and reporters were poised for a test of their best journalese
Expecting a thriller as Burkhard served miller a sandwich of Limburger cheese

Most ev'ryone present was holding their breath watching Miller prepare to consume
Including the guests who'd been holding their breaths ever since they'd come into the room
He managed a nibble and then took a bite and as crumbs tumbled down his chemise
The whole room went wild when the Postmaster smiled & requested more Limburger cheese

When word of this great vindication arrived in Monroe on the following day
And then the day after to cheering and laughter the Postmaster General's okay
The village went mad and demanded a plan to revive one of those jamborees
So popular here full of bratwurst and beer and a float for Miss Limburger Cheese

And so ends our tale but though sagas like this are the stuff of a newspaper's dreams
Assuming it's true the cheese finally went through there is more to the story it seems
For if there's an ironic twist at the end of this tale that began with disease
It's a postman made ill and a farmer made well by the same piece of limburger cheese

--©2000 L& P Berryman

Whither Zither #40 ©2001 PBerryman
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