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Yesterday in La Crosse

Riding to court like it’s 1899, in 1999

Brad Williams



In the summer of 1999, government protester Kurt Machholz climbed to the top of the Cass Street bridge in La Crosse, halting afternoon traffic as he objected to having to show a Social Security number to get a fishing license. Machholz was charged with disorderly conduct, and rode a horse 20 miles to make his first appearance in La Crosse County court. Four years earlier, Machholz was charged with riding his horse into the middle of a gay rights rally in Rochester, as a protest.

Rock musician and outdoorsman Ted Nugent also disliked the idea of being forced to show a government card to get a license. Nugent appeared as a guest on a WKTY Radio outdoors program in ’99, and told the government to leave gun owners alone. He accused President Bill Clinton of wanting to disarm people, and said talk show hosts Larry King and Bill Maher had anti-gun agendas.

The bridge standoff in La Crosse inspired a satire by the Heart of La Crosse comedy group in its fall 1999 show at Logan High School, called “Fiddler on the Bridge.” Also on local stages 20 years ago, UW-L performed “Guys and Dolls” as its summer show, and the La Crosse Community Theatre opened its season with the musical “State Fair.”

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