ERIN, WISCONSIN | As much as anything else, travel introduces new things in a person’s life. It may be a style of architecture, a type of cuisine or a mode of music.
It might even reveal a different meaning for a word you have used all your life. Which is what happened to me during a trip to Wisconsin last summer.
I had the pleasure of playing Erin Hills for the first time, and as I commented on a deep and wide depression on one of the golf holes, my caddie remarked: “Oh, that’s a kettle.”
Now, he had been giving good reads and great yardages all day. And the lad had been looping at this place for a while. So, I had no reason to question his comment. But I did need a little more information.
“What do you mean by a kettle?”
No way he was talking about a kettle used to heat water on a stove top for tea. And I was pretty sure he was not referring to kettle drums, which are also called timpani and have been a favorite instrument of mine ever since I first heard the late Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers lead the band into its epic version of Mountain Jam on their “Eat a Peach” album by banging his.
I also doubted that my caddie was referring to the piece of workout equipment known as a kettlebell, because I had yet to see anything on this golf course resembling one.
And I did not believe he was talking about Ketel One vodka, though given the heat of the day and the fact our round was nearly over, I had no trouble imagining how good an ice-filled high-ball glass with some of that elixir and a bit of lime juice and ginger beer would taste.
So what was it?
Glaciers covered this part of North America thousands of years ago, he told me, and as they receded, they left behind blocks of ice that became surrounded – and in some cases buried – by sediment. As air temperatures kept increasing and the ice eventually melted, it left depressions in the ground called kettle holes. And if those depressions were filled by rainwater or fed by underground rivers or streams, they became kettle lakes.
Apparently, those blocks of buried ice – and the kettles they created – are part of what give the land at Erin Hills its character.
If only I had taken geology in high school.