“From 1895 through October, 1914, I traveled thousands of miles in Wisconsin by stage, sleigh, buggy, wagon, passenger coach, and caboose, wearing out five fur coats in succession in my efforts to reach all parts of the state. In taking traveling libraries to the rural districts of Dunn and Wood Counties during the winter I would secure a black bearskin to wear over my fur-lined muskrat coat, which was inadequate for the frequent below zero weather. I would get a three-seated sleigh, remove the last two seats, and fill the space with books which I would locate in farmers’ homes, rural post offices, schools, and other available stations. On reaching what was then Grand Rapids–now Wisconsin Rapids–late one evening after a forty-mile drive, a long day’s drive in those times, my black bearskin attracted the attention of Mrs. Anna W. Evans, Librarian, who wrote the following poem concerning my appearance:
There is a woman named Stearns;
Her living she easily earns,
By driving ’round,
When the snow’s on the ground.
Though the dangers she never discerns.
She dons a coat of black hair;
A cap is next put on with care;
She looks like a man,
But to tell you ne’er can
If the product be woman, or bear.
Now if in her drives through the brush,
A Bruin should come out with a rush,
Would the woman hug the bear,
Or the bear hug the hair?
Or which would be lost in the crush?
Would the bear barely hug the bold jade?
Or the bearskin propelled by the maid
Hug the bear? or the hair
Of the bear would she tear
Or her own, as the price to be paid?”
The image of Lutie Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection, Image ID: 29372.