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Remembering President Kennedy in the NorthwoodsSubmitted: 11/22/2013
Story By Lauren Stephenson


RHINELANDER - We will all experience at least one moment in life we'll never forget.

For many people, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of those moments.

"Everybody couldn't imagine...What happened?" remembers Shirley Swearingen.

"I was confused and shocked. And watched it on TV," adds Susan Piazza.

Fred Kauzrich loved politics growing up. The news of President Kennedy's assassination came as a shock: "It's something that doesn't happen usually in most people's lifetimes."

Walter Meyer remembers where he was when he heard the news.

"I was working at the Rhinelander Paper Company and one of the supervisors came out and told me that President Kennedy had just been assassinated," he recalls.

"It was parent-teacher conferences that day," says Susan Piazza. "My parents went to my teachers to find out how I was doing and they came out after the conference and they were crying. And I thought, 'Oh my goodness, I didn't realize I had done that badly.' But that was not the case at all."

Sam Metoyier was serving a tour of duty in Schweinfurt, West Germany.

"I was with the Third Division. And I was out in the field and everybody in our forces would tell us that, 'Hey, you know Kennedy just got shot?' And we all said a prayer for him at the time," he recalls. "It was very hard on the military forces because we knew we could expect anything from our enemies. We knew that we had to stand our ground and just keep on going."

When asked how he thinks the day changed our country, Walter Meyer responds, "I often wonder what it would have been like if he wouldn't have been assassinated, how much of a change he'd have made in the country."

Though 50 years ago, the anniversary "brings back emotion and a whole lot of thought about what happened that day, and the fact that it happened shortly after, a few years after, to his brother. That it is real. It did happen. And it's a sad day for everyone," says Piazza.

Walter Meyer sums up why it's important to commemorate the anniversary.

"You have to remember history. If you don't remember history, you tend to repeat it."

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Unless you travel to a ranch in Florence County, where the Rock family thinks they've tapped into a special and healthy food source.

Raising bison has always seemed normal to Michael Rock. His favorite is Badaxe, who is 25 years old.
"He became my baby and I feed him maple syrup and apples all the time, that's his favorite treat," said Michael.

But the Rock family knows their livestock are rare for these parts.

"We got into it for the health issues because now we know what we're eating," said David.
David started the business about 10 years ago. These days, the Rocks have around 130 bison on their Florence County ranch.

"For me this is enjoyment because I'm outside and I'm with my family. And I like to be outside and work with them on that," said David.

Two of the Rocks' four children live and work on the ranch.

"Being able to tell them what to do. I'm still the dad, so I rule the roost. They are a big help and they do have good ideas. You do have to watch the younger generation," said David.

Their daughter, Josie, and son, Michael, help with feeding and maintaining the herd.

"My favorite are the babies. The babies when they're younger, they like fighting and playing. And they'll just be running around and playing," said Josie.

But raising these animals isn't just about entertainment. In the 1800's, bison were almost killed off. Now, the Rocks hope to promote the animal's health benefits be carefully managing which ones go to be processed.

"Bison is about the only other meat out there that they can eat. It's healthier than chicken, it's healthier than salmon, pig, beef, anything. It's the top of the line," said Karen.

Raising an animal is a large project, one that Michael would like to do for a long time.

"I like bailing hay with the tractors, I like taking care of the animals. I have a future goal, to have big barns full of them," said Michael.

All of their meat is sent to the U. P. to a USDA approved facility and most of it stays local to the Midwest.

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