Driving along Interstate 43 in southern Wisconsin near Clinton, the shiny, classic Chevy truck in the sky rises above the concrete and asphalt horizon like an absurd vision. You look once at the Chevy wedged between two tall trees. You look a second time. You gawk at it a third and fourth time. You still cannot comprehend what you are seeing. It’s a spectacle unlike any other: a truck in a tree.
The Truck in the Tree began as an ordinary request to a father from his son for a tree house. A creation of the “Mad Man of Wisconsin”, a play on Clinton resident Mark Madson’s last name, the turquoise and white 1959 half-ton Chevy Fleetside pickup truck has been wedged between two basswood trees since 1994, It stands as a sentinel to Madson’s maniacal, motley collection of reworked vehicles, statues, and sculptures made of old scraps, parts and components.
Madson has long been an ardent thinker, recreating new from old and looking at things from a uniquely keen perspective; in fact, he describes himself an “upside-down and backwards guru.”
One of Madson’s more recent vehicular-based creations is the Packer Mobile, a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz that he debuted in 2008 when the Pack was headed toward a 13-3 season. He drove nearly 400 miles roundtrip to Green Bay to watch his beloved Packers annihilate the lowly Lions. Four hundred miles isn’t too demanding of a pilgrimage. Except for when it is late December, and you are driving the northern section of Wisconsin in an exposed convertible, top down, with the wind whipping front to back, and sideways. During the drive, it was a bitter 13 degrees, with a wind chill dynamic of about 40 below. The Packer Mobile featured a six-foot flagpole bearing the Packers flag, as well as an 11-foot flame-painted surfboard, a blue shark fin, and bullhorns. The Packer Mobile is in fact Madson’s sixth conversion of this Cadillac-turned-convertible, the last of which was dedicated to the saucily insolent Jimmy Buffett.
The Truck in the Tree stands testament to one Wisconsinite’s bold attempt to change or enhance the state’s built landscape. In fact, Madson’s experience and imagination has garnered him appearances on television shows such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Junkyard Wars, and the Discovery Channel’s Monster Nation. On Monster Nation, he morphed a car into a small package – the ultimate act of inventive recycling and mashing.
Brian D’Ambrosio is the author of Madison For Dads: 101 Dad-Related Adventures.