Life above the Bridge: Some Observations, Part 2

I recently heard a tourist mumble at someone at her table about all the “white trash up here.” I later saw that the speaker’s vehiclel It had  an Indiana license plate.

According to Nancy Isenberg (LSU) in her 2016 book WHITE TRASH: THE 400-YEAR UNTOLD HISTORY OF CLASS IN AMERICA, the term “white trash” originated in the colonies as “waste people.”

Eisenberg contends that there is  lot of ignorance about class in the country and a lot of anger. She says this all tends to grow out of British attitudes about the poverty. She writes, “In many ways, our class system has hinged on the evolving political rationales used to dismiss or demonize (or occasionally reclaim) those white rural outcasts seemingly incapable of  becoming part of mainstream society.” She tell how the original ‘waste people’ (later ‘white trash) were marginalized Americans stigmatized by their inability to be productive, to own property, and/or to produce healthy and upwardly mobile children – the sense of uplift on which the American dream is predicated. America’s solution to poverty and social backwardness was not what we might expect. Well into the 20c, expulsion and even sterilization sounded rational to those wished to reduce the burden of “loser” people on the larger economy.”

The attitude that nails the poor as a burden, persists, and not a few people believe that the poor are in their state because they are lazy, or mentally lacking, or genetically inferior.  Back in the mid -19c, language attached to  attitudes about the poor gravitated  toward referring to poor rural whites as  somehow less than white, their yellowish skin cast and diseased and decrepit  children marking them as a strange breed apart.” Writes Eisenberg, “Throughout its history the U.S. has always had a class system. It is directed by the top one percent and supported by a contented middle class.” The lowest class is largely ignored, vilified and seen as stagnant, hopeless, and expendable, which is not thought of as part of the collective American national self-identity.

“The poor, the waste, the rubbish, as they are variously labelled have stood front and center during America’s  most formative political contests. During Colonial settlement, they were useful pawns as well as rebellious troublemakers, a pattern that persisted amid mass migrations of landless squatters westward across the continent.” Remember, [This note from me, not Eisenberg, the American Revolution was not bottom-up, but directed top-down.]

Eisenberg continues, “The southern poor whites figured prominently in the rise of Abraham Lincoln’s  Republican Party, and in the atmosphere of distrust that caused bad blood to percolate among the poorer classes with the Confederacy during the Civil War. White trash were dangerous  outliers in efforts to rebuild the union during Reconstruction; and in the first two decades of the 20c, when the eugenics movement flourished, they were the class of degenerates targeted for sterilization. On the flip side, poor whites were the beneficiaries of rehabilitative efforts during the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society. “

Writes the historian, “At all times, white trash remind us of one of the American nation’s most uncomfortable truths: the poor are always with us. A preoccupation with penalizing poor whites reveals an uneasy tension between what Americans are taught to think about the country’s promise – the dream of upward mobility – and the less appealing truth that class borders almost invariably make that dream unobtainable. Of course , the intersection of race and class remains an undeniable part of the story.”

She continues, “…rationalizing economic inequality has been an unconscious  part of the national credo; poverty has been naturalized, often seen as something beyond human control. By that measure, poor whites had to be classified as a distinct breed. In other words, “breeding was not about the cultivation of special manners or skills, but something far more sinister, an imposed inheritance. The language that class that America embraced played off English attitudes toward vagrancy, and marked a transatlantic fixation with animal husbandry, demography and pedigree. The poor were not only described as waste, but inferior animal stocks.”

The result, Eisenberg contends,  is that,  “Over the years populist themes have emerged alongside more familiar derogatory  images, but never  with enough force to diminish the hostility projected on to impoverished  rural whites.”  She then points out an irony. “We have seen in recent decades the rise of tribal passions through the rediscovery of “redneck”  roots, a proud movement that coursed through the late 1980s and 1990s (My note, not the authors — and continues in certain places today.. Eisenberg points out,  “More than a reaction to progressive changes in race relations, this shift was spurred by a larger fascination with identity politics. Roots implied that the class took on traits (and allure)  of an ethnic heritage, which in turn reflected the modern desire to measure class as merely a cultural phenomenon. But as evidenced in the popularity of the “reality TV” shows DUCK DYNASTY, and HERE COMES HONEY BOO-BOO in recent years, white trash in the 21c remains fraught with the older baggage of stereotypes of the hopelessly ill bred. A host of well-known and lesser known figures contributed to the long sage of America’s embattled lowly breed. These include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Davy Crockett, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jefferson Davis, Andrew Johnson, W.W.B Du Bois, Theodore Roosevelt, Erskine Caldwell, James Agee, Elvis Presley, Lyndon Baines Johnson, James Dickey, Billy Carter, Dolly Parton, William Jefferson Clinton, and Sarah Palin – to name  a few.”

The Book WHITE TRASH, the author says, “Tells many stories. One is the importance of America’s rural past. Another, and arguably the most important, is the one we as a people have trouble embracing, the pervasiveness of a class hierarchy in the U.S., (which) she contends, “begins and ends with the concepts of land and property ownership.  Class identity and the material and metaphoric meaning of land are closely connected. For much of American history, the worst classes were seen as an extension of the worst land: scrubby, barren, and swampy wasteland. House ownership remains to today the measure of social mobility.”

This may be changing among certain groups, I suspect, but Eisenberg’s point remains valid for the time being. Here we depart from Ms. Eisenberg and vault over into that scrubby,  swampy wasteland that is the Upper Peninsula, what the late Jim Harrison once quipped is “Wilderness by default.” There is, of course, agriculture up here, but unless you are in one of the southernmost UP, counties your growing season is shorter than the NHL playoffs, and compared to just about anywhere from the middle of the Lower Peninsula southward, it is mahk mahk meager. The population up here is aging visibly, and shrinking, and there are not  surplus of jobs of any kind beyond basic minimum wage. Now follows some observations and opinions of things seen and experienced up in these parts:

(1)  Up in our neck of the U.P. we buy fresh brown eggs, bird seed and suet, and plant seeds, at the auto parts store. [FYI: Eggs are available only when the chickens are “in the mood,” which thus far this spring and summer, they have decidedly not been.]

(2) If we need new hiking or work boots,  we shop for them at a pet store in Marquette or at the surprise – the local auto parts store– which carries Irish Setter and Muck Boots.

(3) 60-80 percent of the males up here sport facial hair and long hair. I can’t cite an estimate for women with facial hair; I can only opine that it is somewhere north of zero.

(4) There’s high probability that if you are 50 or younger up here, you will be copiously, densely, and visibly tatted.

(5) A huge proportion of men 70 and younger tend to eat meals with their ball caps on. Those under 30 wear them bills-backward and those 60 and more wear them at a farmerly tilt to the right, which might have political implications but no carefully controlled study has yet been done to look at this phenomenon.

(6) People travel to the U.P. to run their dirt bikes, motor-cyles, boats, ATVs, wave runners, snowmobiles and other toys and many come here under the impression that restrictions an laws which exist BTB don’t exist up here. They are somewhat peeved tolearn this isn’t so.

(7) Many people over 70 move about with canes or walkers and many over 80 carry portable oxygen. Some of the equipment is in questionable repair as you can hear the devices mechanically hissing and sighing.

(8) Like elsewhere in the country, fewer and fewer people over 50 here  smoke, but the young seem to embrace the habit as staunchly as younger generations have. Male and female. Interestingly those who do not smoke (especially those who’ve never smoked) see smoking as a public issue but they huff and puff at offenders as if it were a moral issue, equivalent to flashing your package in public.

(9)  People who move here from other parts of the state and world seem to be truly in love with the U.P, which is great, but it is also pretty standard for the more ambitious among new arrivals to be eager to teach locals “how to do it.” This sometimes aggravates folks, but mostly the locals just smile, knowing that the local way will prevail. There is a presumption of instructing the  bumpkinry in such efforts from new arrivals, and extension of the white trash thing Eisenberg talks about.

(10) Table manners, a class marker, show themselves here with a large percentage of shovelers. As many of these are tourists as locals.

(11) We do not have “food servers” in most of the restaurants. We have waiters and waitresses and they are not offended by the terms and we tip at 20 percent, which is far more than most pass-throughs do.

(12) Outside of Marquette, Escanaba, and perhaps a few others, most rural community hospitals here are small and live on the precipice of financial insolvency. Without the boosted Medicaid funds that came with the American Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) many of these facilities will close, leaving patients in this area with the choice of 45 minutes to Houghton or 80 minutes to Marquette – in summer. In winter the times vary with road conditions and weather. The situation ahead reminds me of words from Lewis Carroll’s, “The Jabberwocky.”


One, two! One, Two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead and with its head

He went galumphing back.

(13) Most restaurants where have salad bars – circa 1970s.  Friday fish fries are popular and there is huge competition, not just among restaurants but among organizations like odd fellows, eagles, American Legion, and VFWs.

(14) The winters are not as tough and the summers are different and people who’ve been here for 60-70 years say it’s not anything like the past, but the change is just cyclical and climate change is a hoax be environmentalists and foreign governments to put an economic strain on US-based businesses by forn competitors to make them less competitive. Ask the difference between climate and weather and the answer you most hear is: “There isn’t any difference.”

(15) A great number of people up here, of all ages, wear sneakers during winter and only don winter boots when the new snowfall gets “serious,” which is approximately a foot or so.

(16) Thirty below zero, Fahrenheit? You will not hear a word about it.  80 degrees F and muggy as a sauna? The world is ending, eh?

(17) Many here heat with oil but augment it with wood and wood pellet gizmos. Many here chop and split and stack and store their own wood during summer. They call this “making wood.”  Up here weather has to be a consideration  at all times.

(18) Snow scoops, not snow shovels here.

(19) Many Yoopers born and raised here seem to be genetically immune to troublesome insects. They rarely use bug  juice or even comment on the bugs.  They even take their babies to the beach when biting stable flies are out and the kids have them crawling on them and never whimper or cry. We have seen this numerous times. Meanwhile, I’m in shorts and I can last 10 minutes max. Wimp. Or perhaps culture and environment create a higher pain threshold in folks up here?

(20) Sign: SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK is for tourists and visitors. Locals know we always live at our own risk,  that it’s on our shoulders, not some cosmic lifeguard’s or a government agency.

(21) When ambient temps climb over 45 degrees, the uniform-of-the day is flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts.

(22) Ask for bakery up here and you’ll be asked, “Holes or no holes?”

(23) The local vocabulary is a tad different than other parts of the state. Binoculars are far-lookers, toast is “hot bread,” and sitting next to each other is “side by each.”

(24)  Native Americans are Indians, not Native Americans. EG the local tribe is the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Indians often refer to themselves as “tribals.” Indian is not an insult.

(25) Guns are everywhere in these parts. I don’t know what percentage of people up here have concealed carry permits, but most people I know claim to have them and sometimes pack. Guns seen by local folk as tools with no inherent evil or good in them. They are seen as solutions to practical life problems, like acquiring food. Most people lock them up,  but many do not and we have been in many homes and camps with loaded weapons all over the place. Frequently-seen sign on shops: THESE PREMISES PROTECTED BY HIGH-SPEED WIRELESS DEVICE (GUN). (See No. 20.)

(26) Locals will stop vehicles side by  each in narrow two lane roads, and chitchat.  And if you’re in a hurry, well…just be patient. What’s your hurry?  This is the U.P. eh?

(27) We can’t garden safely until after the first full moon in June. In June 2016 we had two full moons and the plants couldn’t go in until almost July. Lousy results last fall. Our growing season is 80-110 days, but we are right on the edge of the 60-80-day line so our real season is closer to 80 than the higher number. Rocks grow great of their own volition. Not much else. I believe August may be the only month that has never seen snow.

(28) Daily coffee klatches in the local towns around us are either all men or all women, no mixing.  The relationship between male and female remind me of the first hour of high school sock hops in the late 50s and early 60s.

(29) DEET keeps bugs off most of us. When it fails, we mix a paste of Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer and water, and put it on bites until it is thick and dry like a scab. This will take away the itching immediately, but you will wake up with powder in your bed. Allow this poltice to dry.

(30) The pasty (PASS-Tee, not PAY-stee) came here with Cornish miners, not with the Finns. You never-ever use gravy. The real thing is made with lard. There are many claiming to make the best.  Come on up and decide for yourself.

(31) There is a local homemade sausage call cudaghy (KOO-da-ghee). Many people love this stuff. I am not one of that lot.

(32) Newspapers carry ads inviting the public to attend wedding receptions, birthday and anniversary parties at VFWs, and American Legion Halls.  It’s not necessary for you to know the celebrants.

(33) Pork pies are the real pies with crusts, not hats. The Catholic Church in L’Anse makes great ones and has fund-raising sales every few months. They are made with lard and minced pork and they are fatty and tasty and rich.

(34) This is a place where one sees strange out-of-context sights. We call it randomland. For example there is a parking lot at the intersection of US-28 and US-41. This lot is 12 miles from L’Anse and 15 miles from Michigammee. It is never full, yet there are two slots saved for handicapped parking. This is either the epitome of inclusion and putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes – or bureaucracy run amok. This lot is in  Ultima Thule (Nowhereland).

(35) You see six-foot-high fire hydrants and mail boxes. These are not jokes. This is snow country, folks. Think BIG SNOWPACK.

(36) The air up here is really, truly genuinely, categorically clean and pure.

(37) Many of the two tracks and gravel roads up here are superior to any paved roads BTB. This is a statement of fact, not an exaggeration.

(38) Sauna (SOW-na, not SAW-na) is a steam bath without which no hunting camp is complete.

(39) People around here have camps, not cottages.

(40) Baraga County is beset by loose dogs that chase vehicles in packs.

(41) There is weak to no cell phone coverage in many areas of the county. (If you have an emergency, see No. 20)

(42) If you have a roadside emergency, Yoopers will stop to offer help and not excpect payment in return. They do  hope you will  to pay it back, but won’t be surprised if you don’t.

(43) The local golf course parking lot is filled with pickup trucks and few automobiles.

(44) If you go into the clubhouse  you will see are wall ads for sandwiches and such, but the people on duty will swear it is not a restaurant.

(45) We pack down snow with our boots (pank).Then we walk on the panked surface. We only get out the snow blower when the snow is serious (over a foot is the minimum to qualify for serious).

(46) Many hunting camps from the EUP to the WUP mark hunting camp roads with bicycles on pedestals. Nobody can explain the history of this practice.

(47) You will see a lot of people waving vigorously  on the side of the road as you drive by. They are not waving at you. They are swatting insects. This is called the Yooper wave.

(48) There are no signs for LSD on Lake Superior beaches, but there should be. (LSD means Lake Superior Dick. Think about it.)

(49) There is a sign in front of an old copper mine shaft: YOU ARE FREE TO ENTER AND EXPLORE MINE SHAFTS. MOST WHO DO SO ARE EVENTUALLY RECOVERED. The parking lot is invariably full. (See No. 20.)

(50)  Many people up here love trees but do not hug them. They cut them down, use them to build things, or chop them up and burn them for heat in winter.

(51) Many here trap fur-bearing animals and have been trapping as long as their families have been here.

(52) First there were Ron Paul signs. These were replaced by Donald Trump signs. Next?

(53)There are more than a few Vietnam vets up here who have never worn a uniform and have never seen Vietnam. They couldn’t find Vietnam on a map if offered a fiver.

(54) Lots of “old hippies” up here. Drug use is high among many age groups and this includes opioids, weed, heroin, meth, coke, various pills, LSD, roofies, angel’s dust, and the full assortment of headed-for Dutch recreational drugs. There are drugs all over up here, all races, all ethnic backgrounds, all age groups, all socioeconomic categories.

(55) People still drive with road beers. Some habits are impossible to break.


(56) Tourists are identified by racks with expensive bikes, kayaks, Thule and Yakima carriers and driving foreign vehicles. Locals smile at these people and graciously accept their money.

(57) A surprising number of Yoopers are discerning foodies.  In our experience, many U.P. restaurants are far ahead of Kalamazoo establishments in gluten free choices.

(58) The teams of choice up here are Packers,  Tigers and Red Wings. Few pay attention to the Pistons. Nobody roots for the Lions.

(59) Couple of weeks ago I was in a restaurant and an old man asked the waitress if the cheese on his cheeseburger was American or foreign cheese,  because he didn’t  “want no foreign stuff.”

(60) By the way, I went to high school up here (Rudyard, Class of 1961) I never heard the term Yooper then.  After college I served for four years at K.I.Sawyer AFB (south of Marquette). Again, never heard the term Yooper. Not sure when it was born, where or why, it came into vogue.

(61) To those who’ve lived here most of their lives, Detroit & Surrounds are considered foreign and somewhat hostile territory.

(62) There is animus between White and Indian. Hard feelings and prejudices emanate from both camps. The comments may be made in half-joking tones, but make no mistake there is a problem here . The cause from the white side goes a bit like this: all our tax dollars go to supporting the Indians who insist they are a sovereign nation. If they’re sovereign why don’t they take care of themselves? The last figure I saw for  aggregated federal fiscal support of Native Americans was just under $20 billion. And if Indians are citizens of a different sovereign nation, how come they can vote in U.S. elections and serve in the U.S military? The Indians put casinos on their reservations where there were no casinos when treaties were signed, and how is that possible?  Indians are allowed by their rules, guaranteed by treaty to hunt and fish in certain ways and at certain times and THIS probably bugs people more than anything else, even those locals who don’t hunt and fish. Well, you get the picture.

(63) It is assumed that one can “find one’s way” in the woods, fish, hunt with rifle or bow, operate a boat, four-wheeler, motorcycle, snowmobile, cross-country ski, snowshoes. It’s also assumed you can fix things that are broken and run a log-splitter.

(64) Many (not all) Yoopers insist they hate their government but love their country – yet they will be first in line to make sure they get their share of government funds from various programs. Welfare seems to be a coded word for black. When it’s pointed out that far more  whites area on various forms of welfare and assistance one is usually given a derisive snort and two words, “white trash.” But white trash in the U.P. said by a Yooper doesn’t apply to white people up here. It applies to white trash elsewhere, as in Indiana or Tennessee.

(65) So-called Picnic Rock in Marquette is a place some people go to watch folks drown (See No. 20)

(66) As part-time residents of this hard-scrabble place we carry four-season weight clothes and gear in the vehicles at all times.

(67) Children here rarely wear helmets when riding bicycles or skateboards. (See No. 20)

(68) Summer is the time for motorcycles, which travel in costumed packs. They are driven largely by older-than-middle-age white men and women.

(69) Yoopers will tell you they like tourist money and they want it, but they don’t like tourists. They’re joking, sort of. Some businesses place out-of-order signs on their rest rooms so they don’t have to clean them. Since most summer tourists are older, this is not in the visitors’ interest.

(70) This year is the first one in 10 where we have seen a fair amount of young people. Prior to this, travelers were white- or silver-haired and over 60. They, of course, are the ones who have money from a time when people worked for organizations that paid pensions. Those times are gone.

(71) This is still a place where lots of locals have nicknames, some given by family, some given by neighbors and friends. The nicknames can stem from physical traits, occupations, behaviors and life events. One fella who ran a local sewage treatment plant for years is called “Ca Ca.”

(73) If you ask a Yooper for directions, you’ll get them, even if they have no idea where it is you’re trying to get to. Some folks do this as a practical joke, some because they can’t admit to not knowing. In some ways this behavior grows out of Nos. 20 and 64.

(74) Any mainstream (fake news) report about gun disasters is greeted here with whining, whinging and derision. Why don reporters report all the times guns save people and  help save lives?

(75) Liberalism is considered by many to be a mental disorder. A liberal is someone with no calluses, too much education, believes all the wrong things, and gives ribbons and medals to kids and people just for participation.

(76) If you flip through your AM or FM radio stations who will find a heap of religious programs, all of them looking for donations, 24-7.

(77) Mackinac Island is not in or part of the U.P. (See No. 60).

Let me close with an anecdote. A week or  ago  we were walking in the morning and came upon   three old gents, one fishing in Lake Superior, two nearby kibitzers. They all spoke  with heavy accents. I saw from a distance the fisherman drop a fish from a hand-net onto the ground. Nobody moved to give whack it with  a priest and give it a fast exit. It  was flopping. I looked at the fish, said to one of the on-lookers, “Sucker.”

He said, “Good fish.”

“Good to smoke,” I  told him.

“Bones, bones, bones,” he said , grinning.

He  could sense I was curious about his accent, declared with the back of his hand to his chest, “Iraqi. We like here. Fish.”

“How long in the U.S.?” I asked him.

“One year,” he said.

So it is this newcomer from a foreign land and I speak an international and very  ancient language: fish. The creature continues to lie on the grass flopping with decreasing energy, and presumably suffering. It seems so strange to think that the only thing that warrants a short quick response about the new country is fish.

There are some days I read the papers or hear the new and that’s just the smell I think I can detect in the air.

I love this place. Over. What follow are photos from last weekend’s 39th Annual Keweenaw
Bay Maawanjii’iding. Enjoy the color. Over.


Life above the Bridge: Some Observations

Back in my business-suit days I subscribed to a publication called INTELLIGENCE DIGEST (Ed, J.K.C. De Courcy). The publication looked all around the world and paid special attention to emerging hotspots and a wide range of issues. The newsletter dealt with international matters with the specificity and depth that only major newspapers could mount. De Courcy and his people were often ahead of the rest of the media and often ahead of the government too. Here’s a story from 2 August 1996, almost 21 years ago. This is after the Atlanta bombing and after Oklahoma City.

Headline: Taming the Terrorists

Once it became clear that the Atlanta bombing was not the work of international terrorists, the finger of suspicion turned automatically to American right-wing malcontents. Even if proved innocent of this particular incident, there is little doubt that significant parts of white conservative America are now sufficiently resentful of central government as to be capable of throwing up occasional individuals prepared to resort to violence as an expression of their resentments. Given that America is the world’s most advanced democracy this needs some explaining to non-Americans.

The first thing to point out when considering what motivates such extreme action is that it is not the least bit relevant whether the fears and resentments are justified. People are motivated by what they believe to be true, not by what is actually true, and in backwoods America there is a widespread resentment against a central government system that is seen to be overbearing, particularly through the actions of such agencies as the IRS, BATF, and the FBI.

This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups that are considered less-deserving are seen to be pampered by the system.

The resentment of the conservative outsiders is further fueled by the proliferation of conspiracy theories (at the heart of which there is always more than a germ of truth) about the manipulation of American foreign and domestic policy by powerful but shadowy groups of Establishment insiders.

It is felt that administrators of all colours, certainly since Ronald Reagan gave way to George Bush, are manipulated by these interests and that the normal political process is no longer able to rectify what is wrong with America.

The Clinton Record

To all this is added the widely circulated reports about the misconduct — and  worse — of President Clinton.

It is generally believed in conservative circles  in the United States that President Clinton and his entourage are up to everything from drug-running to murder, including killing White House aide Vicne Foster (who is officially said to have committed suicide) and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (whose plane crashed in Croatia) in order to prevent the exposure of past crimes.

Against such a background it is not difficult to see how the outsider or misfit is able to justify himself the taking of unlawful action – even to the extent of shedding innocent blood.

The Wider Issues

But motive is not everything. Opportunity plays its part and never have the opportunities for terrorism been better. Importantly, this point applies throughout the industrial world and not just in the United States.

Provided the target is a soft one, terrorism requires neither a great deal of money nor great expertise – and the returns in terms of damage created and publicity received can be enormous.  (The last IRA bomb in London caused more than $150m worth of damage – and it would be almost impossible to calculate how much a commercial operation would have had to spend in advertising to get the amount of media coverage that the Atlanta bomb received.)

Furthermore the downside risk is seen to be outweighed by the potential rewards. Anyone misguided enough to believe their cause justifies the indiscriminate taking of innocent lives would not have trouble  in persuading themselves that  one day they might join the long list of former terrorists now  feted in the White House and Buckingham Palace.
The ambivalence of successive American administrations to the outrages of the IRA has played its part.

So what can be done? Our security sources admit that there is little that the U.S. or any other state can do to make terrorism a less easy option to follow. The access to the necessary materials and knowledge cannot be reversed. And, it is admitted, even increasing security has its downside.

As with football hooliganism in the U.K. where the suppression of violence in football grounds has simply moved the fighting to surrounding areas, so the thwarted terrorist can always move on to a less-well protected target.

Nor, say our security contacts, would draconian new anti-terrorist laws in the United
States do much to solve the problem of domestic malcontents taking violent action in the first place.

The Real Threat

However, taking hard action against the sophisticated international terror groups is an entirely different matter.

The security experts we have consulted say that not only is such action urgent but it would also in all probability have the added benefit of frightening into quiescence the sort of amateur terrorist who is thought to have been behind the Atlanta bomb.

The need to  move against the sophisticated international terror groups ahs considerable urgency because these are the groups that within a very short period will have the motivation, skills and materials (over 10 of the former USSR nuclear inventory is unaccounted for) to detonate a nuclear device.

In other words, our security contacts say, a concerted Western effort to destroy the major international terror groups is a matter of survival.

With the political will and modern methods, this can be done, but not without reversing current appeasement policy toward such supporters of terrorism as President Assad of Syria, and Gerry Adams of the Sinn Fein/IRA. (JdeC)

This was two decades ago. Now consider the observations on rural America in light of our most recent election. The U.P. is decidedly rural, and once upon a time a Democratic stronghold it has (except for Marquette County) become solid Republican and this time around vociferous Trump country. When Lonnie and I drove south to Portage to spend last winter, we saw a grand total of two Clinton signs over 500 miles. The rest were for Trump and many of them were in places previously occupied by Ron Paul signs.

People up here are great. Doors don’t have to be locked. If you have a roadside problem the chances are those who stop will be locals, not downstate  or outstate tourists. Trust here is given until shown otherwise and this is clearly not Mayberry (nothing ever was), it is  a place where things are slower paced. It is also a place with a dark underbelly.

I’ll continue this and examine life up here in the next blog installment later this week. Meanwhile, Over.

Upcoming Appearance: June 23, L’Anse, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College


My part in this will be a 20-30 minute talk on some of the technical aspects of fiction writing.  

(Not too technical or I wouldn't be able to figure it out...)


You are invited to Minwaajimo--Telling a Good Story, A Gathering of
Creative Writers from 2-9 pm on Friday, June 23, 2017.

The event is free and open to the public, hosted by Keweenaw Bay
Ojibwa Community College with the support from the Michigan Council
for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Copper Country Community Arts

Our keynote speaker, Kimberly M. Blaeser (UWM Professor, Anishinaabe
Poet, and 2015-2016 Wisconsin Poet Laureate) will present on "Humor
and Disobediance in Writing."

This event also features Michigan authors: Chat Faries, Denise Sweet,
Janeen Pergein Rastall, Joseph Heywood, Rebecca Frost, Russell
Thorburn, and Sally Brunk.

Other events include a public open mic; genre-specific workshops; book
sales and signing; author Q and A; food and mingling; Ojibwa culture;
and tours of Michigan collections.

For more information, see the Facebook event page: Click the going or interested button to follow
the event and to get updates. Browse the postings for more info about
the authors, events, and times.

Or call 906-524-8307 or email Jesse Koenig at

And, of course, we are always accepting donations to the Michigan
Authors' and the S.R. Covieo Michigan Poets' Collections. Donations
can be dropped off or mailed to MI Authors or MI poets Donations,
KBOCC, 770 N. Main St., L'Anse, MI, 49946.

When The Manuscript is Finished, Life Happens

Alberta Village, Baragastan – There is always a somewhat peculiar mix of emotions when a new manuscript is finished. Late last night I e-mailed A SPORTING OF SKELETONS to my agent in NYC, the ms. being the 11th in the Woods Cop series. I began writing this story 15-16 months ago but hit it heavily over the past five months. A SPORTING OF SKELETONS comes out at 96 000 words, a hair shorter than most Woods Cop stories. There’s a reason for this. Usually we see Service enmeshed in full CO work, which means a paripatetic life of many cases and distractions,  with him being pulled in multiple directions at one time. But at the end of BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY, which immediately procedes this story, Service is “on the beach,” suspended for reasons that don’t seem all that clear to him. Result: He has only one case to pursue in the new story – his own and this allows the story to develop  in a tighter vein. With each book I always hope I’m getting tighter and tighter in my use of words, my goal always being to tell the story in as few words as possible, which is usually something in the neighborhood of 100,000 words.

By the time the draft goes to my agent I usually have read a manuscript 10-12 times or more and quite frankly by this time, one is sick of it and glad to send it away. Simply put, relieved. This is the first of a mélange of post-writing emotions which is followed closely by the feeling of having “done it again.” There is an element of satisfaction in this as well, this being my 20th title since 1985.

Next in the cascade comes minor disgust. This is different than being sick of the ms. but related to it in a qualitative way. Having just reread the ms. for the umpteenth time and revised  the  draft and having just finished typing in those mostly small revisions, one is flooded with revulsion for the whole thing,  because the creator sees its blemishes and weaknesses more than any other reader. This reaction comes with every completion. And the revision process of the original ms is an exhausting exercise in detailed scut work, which is hard on  one’s eyes and one’s patience.

As for style and such matters, I try to write in the shadow of Aristotle’s counsel, to think like a wise man but express myself like the common people. Being the commonest of commoners, this bit comes quite naturally to me. I do not seek to write beautiful words; I seek to write stories that move through a variety of terrains.

Manuscript done, I ship it to my agent in NYC and she reads it and then she sends it to my editor, whose employer, the publisher, holds contractual right of first refusal on the new manuscript.  Here a delay ensues, and we wait for the publisher to decide if they want the book. If they do,  the editor will come back to my agent with a number, and she will be in contact with me and we will say straight up  yes or no or, make a counterproposal.  An agreement reached, a contract is drawn up and my agent receives it first and blue-pencils the draft for me, suggesting changes, etc. Eventually the final contract comes to me and I sign it and send it back and at that point my editor gets in touch and we then begin to work on the ms, and once this process begins (the clock starts running with the signed contract), the ms  usually will become a book in 9 to 12 months.

Here three is often another great surge of relief, because now I can move on to something else. Usually I have another book already underway before I finish one; in this case  I have three manuscripts begun, though my plan is to take off a few months to paint and draw and simply read for enjoyment.

You may wonder when I celebrate and you may not like the answer because I don’t, and never have. If there is any celebration it is the strong inner satisfaction at having successfully completed another journey. But party and cheer and having a shot and a beer, those things don’t happen, even when new book  hits bookstore shelves. It’s just not me. I feel writing as a calling, but I also see it as a very specific and difficult job and find no romance in that concept. I think many people may get a little confused by the books on the shelves and sort of life and process they perceive  to produce these. I can’t speak for all writers and wouldn’t, even if I could.  But I’ve always been taken with the words of legendary screenwriter Robert McKee, who wrote to aspiring writers in 1997: “Are you in love with the art in yourself, or with yourself in the art?” This seems to hit the nail on the head. Many people aspire to be considered by and thought of by others as writers and artists. This sort of person is more interested in perceive effects of having written, than in the process of making a story and book.

And then there are others of my ilk whose sole concern is the actual work coming out of my heart and head and all the rest of the chores that have to do with the public hold little to no interest for me. My contract is with you the reader through the book I write. My standing up dancing and entertaining you should have no damn effect on your reception of the book if I’ve done my job right. Don’t buy this? How many people believe in the Bible and how many of them have ever met the authors? Get the point?

To repeat:  the book she has gone away and I stood ready to return my attention to the rest of our life. Let me say here that this has been a bit of a peculiar year for Lonnie (Jambe Longue) and me. It began when the university asked us to change rental houses, a physical move on perhaps 200 yards, which everyone who has ever moved knows is no different or less taxing than moving  200 miles. This move and the downstream reorganization took a solid three weeks out of our annual six-month creative sojourn up here in the North Woods.

By the time we got re-settled and functional, the rains set in – and unlike most years they continued all summer. In fact as of today we have had 52.7 inches of rain in 2016 (vs 16.15 in 2015, and 13.73 in 2014). This unprecedented rain summer kept rivers high and many of them unsafe to wade for much of the season.

As I was bringing the manuscript to close and had an estimated two days of work left, Lonnie and I declared we would fish every day in the last week of the season.

Fate then intervened: had a gall bladder attack. I had experienced the same thing 30 years ago and my doctors and I then decided to let it sit and cook and see if I had further attacks, which I didn’t. But here it was 2016 and I knew immediately from the pain what was going on and knew likewise it was not good. Lonnie had to meet a friend for breakfast at the Nite Owl in L’Anse on the morning of the September 22nd, and when she came home she took one look at me, and said, “We’re headed for the ER, Bub.” Which we did.

There various tests showed pancreatitis and gall stones.

Thence a72-minute meat wagon ride to Marquette General Hospital, where we would remain for the next 9 days. Meanwhile our dear friends Dave and Diana Stimac were taking care of the old boy Shaksper, who couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on, but since he adores Diana, it was no biggie except that he took to sleeping on our bed at night.

Time in hospital was bizarre. I have never had surgery before, but have been in hospital, once for pneumonia (I was in high school) once for mononucleosis  (I was in college) and in 1999 once in the wake of a series of strokes.

Stretched out in the bed for nine days I left me no dreams I  could remember, and few creative thoughts of any kind. I did manage to scratch out a small poem at one point, but that was the extent of it. And I read nothing for nine days, which must be a new record. There’s was a poor soul on the floor, a retarded fellow, who had no idea why he was in the hospital and spent a lot of time screaming and crying and this was the stimulus for the poem I named Man Down. Here it is:

Man Down

Down the hall, a man-boy

Squalls Hulupppuh muh-ee! Hulapp, Mu-hee!

A snarl of pain at a place

With no context,

Arrough-UH! Arrough-UH!

On and on, a wolf excluded

From its pack,

Soul cast somewhere between

Purgatory and Hello

[Marquette General Hospital, 8-25-16]
I checked unceremoniously into the hospital on September 22, the first day of fall. I read  the words and thoughts of a world class musician (was it Itzhak Perlman perhaps?)   He said, perhaps in an interview, that the successful  career artist requires: talent, persistence, hard work, luck, good health, and a supportive spouse. My great spouse proved herself over the 9 days, never leaving my side. On Saturday morning I was scoped to remove a gall stone stuck in the bile duct and a stent placed in the duct to prevent a repeat of the process. Then I had to wait a few days until my thin blood could be thickened adequately for the general surgeon, who did a laparoscopic procedure on me on Tuesday, Sept 27. and another period after that to re-thin my blood (I have had  A Fib for 8-9 years), and we were  finally discharged on Friday,  September 30, the last day of the trout season, which we missed.

I had a re-check with  my surgeon in Marquette last week and he said I had been filled with stones, many just under 2 cm. Said he’s done 120 gall bladders a year and thought he’s seen it all, “until you.” [FYI, there is no prize for this, even bragging rights. You don’t even get a participation ribbon. Just a bill].

Back in the world at large, the final two days of manuscript Work ended up taking me 10 days. Couldn’t’ work more than two hours at a time, and finally, last night it was finished.

Once we are back in our home in Southern Michigan I have to undergo another procedure to have the stent in my bile duct removed.  Naturally, this will most likely take place right around the opening of deer season, which means I will miss a couple weeks in trucks with officers and pals for the first time in 16 years, but it is what it is. I might be able to jump in with one of my partners downstate after Thanksgiving. Working that area is always instructive and fun.

To summarize, we lost three weeks on the front end of our UP work summer, and 10 days on the tail-end, which pretty much quashed a full month of our six up here, but trivialities aside, it was a fine summer for work and we are happy to know that we will be back here on the Michigan Tech Forestry Campus in Alberta again next year.

And that’s it from Alberta. Will post some photos from the summer and fall when we get BTB. Over.

Thinking About Water

The website and blog have been off the air for awhile. The lads whose gizmos carry my website were swarmed by asshole hackers and thus we all had to be “cleaned.” Now we are back up and I will post things that didn’t get posted previously.  Lonnie and I are now back in SW Michigan for the White Dirt Season, though we caught three inches of pure white slop on the way south. So it goes when one travels in this state in late autumn. That said:

I recently told someone that I see the importance of rivers for far greater reasons than angling. The facts are self-evident.  Although water covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface,  it is  actually a rare substance that represents just 0.05 percent of the Earth’s total mass. Water has nevertheless played a crucial role in the emergence of life on Earth. Without it, Earth would in all likelihood be a dead planet.

Think about it: we’re all  made of water, which may account for an almost universal human attraction to oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers. Some people are attracted to still water, or tidal waters, some to large bodies, some to puddles and still others to moving water, which I think of as a gift-bringer.

We drink water, clean our bodies with it, absolve our sins with it, hide out mistakes in it, heat it to keep warm and make power, freeze it to conserve food, use it as a buffer against invasion and as our  avenue to the enemy when we are on the move.

Each generation of humans seems to grow more distant from the outdoors, and from moving wild water. Wife Lonnie and I not so long ago were confronted by a young woman with two children who had not only never seen a deer, but had never heard the word. It was as if we were speaking Martian – or Klingon.

It’s remarkable to me how many people never learn to swim and I am certain that this alone accounts for a great deal of fear some people may hold for water. Of course, even in the heyday of the British Navy, most sailors couldn’t swim, which is one of those odd historical facts you can’t get out of your mind.

Our Indians settled along watery  edges, especially rivers because that’s where the food was.  This is no less true in Michigan as in Equatorial Africa. Over time we learned to travel on water and use its movement to convert energy to power. In storms, water can become   the enemy,  bring flash floods, seiches, storm surges and tidal waves. Water kills with impunity. Shakespeare has his character Gloucester proclaim in King Lear, Act 4 scene 1, 36-37:  “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods/They kill us for their sport. King Lear Act 4, scene 1, 32–37

Think storms and draught and mass starvation and disease vectors, and ubstitute water for gods and it for they and you get the idea.

 It’s fascinating that salmon can find their natal rivers with clues no stronger than a few scant  parts per billion scent in water thousands of miles distant.   And, I can show you everywhere in a river where I have caught or encountered fish. How can I do this? I have no idea, but I can, and it is perhaps knowing that a certain place AOTBE, that once held a fish, will still hold them in the future.

We can seldom see into the river in the way things in the river can see out and therefore we must accept the kind clues the river provides to help us understand what is happening in front of us, to guide us in “reading” a river, a term many use for a skill few possesses Some may argue there is a metaphor for religion here, but that’s the choice of others.

What we know for certain is that Water refreshes, sustains life and  also can take life either actively or because of its absence, and  in this vague manner teaches us to respect something real,  with more power than we can imagine,  not to mention the moods of a living creature or gods as Shakespeare put it.

I’ve always found it odd how most European religions tend to look upward at the sky for god and heaven, when scientists tell us that  all life crawled from the precious watery sea and all water that evaporates back up  into the sky,  to fall back to earth in cycles  that govern our lives.

Water and rives sometimes invoke memories of history, things that can inspire us, things that can terrify us —  but all of which can motivate us in some way or another.

We humans can go a long time without food, but not without water. Humankind for most of recorded history  has been exploiting all things natural, including water, and doing so  under the mistaken assumption that all that is here is limitless, or renewable, when some of us know differently.  A substance that accounts for 1 20th of the earth should never be taken for granted.

I have always insisted rhetorically that we are all Africans, and it’s fact that  all of humanity emerged from fairly arid parts of Africa to spread around the world, traveling on water and depending on it to secure life and health and safety along the way.  I wonder if this genetic fact  and the rarety of water may account for the unspoken power it holds for almost all people. Take someone to a river and  watch how they will stop, pause, and look on in virtual silence, as if they are looking at their own souls. I take this pause as a form of prayer and have no doubt that if and when a soul is finally scientifically discovered and identified and mapped, it will show water at its center.

Angling is fun, even important, but more important is the water that sustains that activity and all human life. We can’t ever allow ourselves to forget this – or our children.

Happy Humpday

Happy Humpday, All!  BTW, my “handle” in my AF days was “The Hump,”  the derivations ow which shall go unexplained here. My writer and artist friends know how sweet the feeling when the juice spigot is full on and the pushing pressure more than enough for placer mining. Last week a friend regaled me with a surreal story of working for a standardized testing company in Texas grading 7th grade essays, this after his entire 300-person training outfit had been dumped by his employer of 20 years — in the interests of “shoring-up” profits. Said company was private and owned by one man and thus the explanation in the mythical  plain talk  many Texans allegedly pride themselves  in using was that the owner wanted more for himself —  so 300 had to go. Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim  would no doubt opine: So It Goes. But the riffing, down-sizing, dumping is secondary to the testing company gig. I’d mulled this for a week and wrote an opening sentence last week and Monday morning the whole first draft tumbled out, just over 6,000 words, and it’s even typed (oh my!). Has a working title of STANDARDIZED TESTING, which shall now sit for a while. Two summers ago I wrote approximately 50 short stories in the six months we had up here, but they remain hand-written, untyped, and stacked in a bin for the next short story collection I intend to call  UNCHARTED GROUND. Yesterday I knocked off another short story draft, a mere 1,750 words, this with the rough title of  THE LAST ANNUAL. Next in my head is a story I call BUGOO HOLLOPA’S PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY. It’s a dandy story, based on true events from the copper country, and concerns a unique (peculiar?) reason for murdering a pal. When will I write that? After it  simmers long enough in the upstairs oven. And, I got a new chapter done on A SPORTING OF SKELETONS, the next Grady Service installment (No. 11). The word count there now stands just short of 65,000 words against a rough goal of 100,000, hoping to have first cut done before Labor Day for publication next year.   No intent to brag in this report: I offer it only to answer those who ask what it is we “do” up here in the woods for six months. Answer: Work. And you can’t even think about bragging until stuff is in print in the physical world. Until then it’s no more than idle thoughts in one’s head. But there are diversions here as well. This afternoon we shall venture up to the Quincy Mine for the annual rock swap atop the hill at Hancock. The meteorologists have projected zero chance of precipitation here in Alberta today, and yet, it is raining as I write this. Ah the beauty of computer models.  Finally, after all this prose, Lonnie and I were drinking morning coffee and  watching the birds outside our window this morning, and I picked up a pen and this  spewed forth. I am not a poet, but writing poetry forces one into thinking in images and writing tightly, skills the prose needs as well. And it’s fun. When the juice is on, it is truly on:

Airfield in Our Yard

Crack-voiced grackles and barky-barky blackbird formations glider-land on our grass.

Dozens of hovering hummers hoover our sweetshugahwatah,

Their motors buzzing like secondhand outboards.

Baby hairies careen and carom off the suet like random ricochets.

Nuthatches march rigidly straight up and down in their tuxedos.

Goldfinch canaries swarm among razzies and sissies.

Rosies mix with evening grosbeaks, who, for some odd reason, come here to eat only breakfast.

I would loathe to be the air traffic controller for this mob,

Who follow no rules but their own (and perhap’s God’s).

[Alberta, Aug 10, 2016]

Over, but not out. Yet.

Wolves as Poetry

Our neighbor Dick and his dogs Wally and Chester (chockie labs) have seen six wolves within 200 or so yards of our house over the past 10 days. We think the Alberta pack  has pups back in their rendevous area in the swamp west of here– teaching  their newbies to hunt beavers. Wish they’d ask me. I’d show them two beaves  that need to disappear because they keep jamming up the little trout stream. In any event it is nice to have them around, especially since they were here long before man was.  The following poems (pomes/ Poyms/ PO-Ems) reflect wolves and creative life away from cities and a lot of people.

Life, the  Shadow Journey

The wolf walks just inside the

Tree line and does not talk out.

It knows I know it knows that

When I enter there, the rules

Of out here slough away, melt

Like ice under sun. Within

The forest there are unwritten

Unsaid, life rules. You must

Die before you understand

They are there, much less adapt,

To talk wolf to the wolf as a wolf,

To climb up to the light you seek

You must first fall down

Into dark like death so thick

There only to talk wolf to wolf

A journey few undertake

And even fewer complete.

(Alberta,  Ford Village, June 18, 2016)


Wolf, Watching

I see him walking out there

In here, his mind makes

Its own path, leaves his pack

To be alone to explore

Shadows that leave no mark,

Pass like clouds, change shape,

Confuse the man’s mind, leave

Him asking am I this or that?

For which no answer exits

Thoughts travel like shadows

Pulling up tracks as they go.

I know he knows the answer

Is here, waiting as the owl waits

To swoop earthward when light comes right.

[Alberta, Ford Village, June 18, 2016]

Woodticking on Joe Roads

Past few days, batting about (woodticking) in the boonies. Some random photos follow.

Cecropia Moth on  birdeye maple back scratcher.
Cecropia Moth on birdeye maple back scratcher.
Too much trick or treating.
March Brown spinners
Power Line Sunset
Michigammee Rock Ledges
Forget-Me-Not beaver pond, the best of all worlds.
Beaver stump.
brook trout water — cover…
Beavers sometimes do not kill trees. Second growth.
FMNs and Columbine (and too much sun for photographs)
Beaving Leavings
Moose Marsh in the Hurons
Painted Turtle Deposting Eggs in the Hurons.
A Pond With No Name
Shakspere On The Run
Poor Rock Pile, Mohawk
Jambe Longue and Rootie, Mining Women
Mining Ruins
Smelling the Lilacs on Bumbletown Hill
On the site of Lute Babcat’s cabin — Bumbletown Hill
Razzie (Purple Finch)
Rosie (Rosebreasted Grosbeak)
Writer’s Desk Overlooking Hummingbird Farm
Syl’s Cafe, Ontonagon, great breakfast spot.
Hairy Woodpecker
Home Camo Bruce Crossing
Menges Creek Road
Needs to come out of the closet.
Jacob’s Buck

Perusing Files and Cleaning House

 ALBERTA VILLAGE:  BARAGASTAN, Saturday, May 28, 2015 — Back in my suit and loose-tie days ( ended  May Day, 18 years ago) one of my many tasks involved gathering intel on social and political developments in all the 150 or so countries where we operated. Much good info was fed to the Home Office  by our employees, but we also relied on consultants and other means of keeping up with goings-on and focusing  intel concerns for the future. One of my primary sources was INTELLIGENCE DIGEST: A REVIEW OF WORLD AFFAIRS, edited by Joseph de Courcy, some of whose relatives created the Intelligence group in 1934 with the aim of helping American and British business interests look at current and future risks. It was pricy when I subscribed, $500 a year, if I remember correctly, but well worth the expense, which was a fly drop in the corporate budget. The fact that the pub had such a long life was a pretty damn good indicator of its intrinsic value.

 Jump now, today to be precise, and I found a pile of the old journals and was perusing them, and decided to share some of the observations that were being circulated way back in 1995 and 1996. The first of the two pieces makes me think immediately about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters and all that surrounds those unexpected movements – think fruits of  mass frustration.

“Taming the Terrorists” — (2 Aug 1996) — Once it became clear that the Atlanta bombing was the work of international terrorists, the finger of suspicion turned automatically to American right-wing malcontents. Even if proved innocent of this particular incident, there is little doubt that significant parts of white conservative America are now sufficiently  resentful of central government as to be capable of throwing up occasional individuals prepared to resort to violence as an expression of their resentments. Given that America is the world’s most advanced democracy this needs some explaining to non-Americans.

The first thing to point out when considering what motivates such extreme action is that it is not in the least bit relevant whether the fears and resentments are justified. People are motivated by what they believe to be true not by what is actually true, and in backwoods America there is widespread resentment against a governmental system that is seen to be overbearing, particularly through the actions of such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups that are considered less-deserving are seen to be pampered by the system.

The resentment of the conservative outsiders is further fueled by the proliferation of conspiracy theories (at the heart of which there is often more than a germ of truth) about the manipulation of American foreign and domestic policy by powerful and shadowy groups of Establishment insiders.

It is felt that administrations of all colours, certainly since Ronald Reagan gave way to George Bush, are manipulated by these interests and that the normal political process is no longer able to rectify what is wrong with America.

The Clinton Record

To all this is added the widely circulated reports about the misconduct – and worse – of President Clinton.

It is generally believed in conservative circles in the United States that President Clinton and his entourage are up to everything from drug running to murder, including killing White House aide Vince Foster (who is officially said to have committed suicide) and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (whose plane crashed in Croatia) in order to prevent the exposure of past crimes.

Against such a background it is not difficult to see how the outsider is able to justify to himself the taking of unlawful action – even to the extent of shedding innocent blood.

The wider issues

But motive is not everything. Opportunity plays its part, and never have the opportunities for terrorism been better. Importantly, this point applies throughout the industrial world and not just in the United States.

Provided the target is a soft one, terrorism requires neither a great deal of money nor great expertise – and returns in terms of damage and created publicity received can be enormous.(The last IRA bomb in London caused $150M worth of damage – and it would be almost impossible to calculate how much a commercial operation would have to spend on advertising to get the amount of media coverage that the Atlanta bomb received.)

Furthermore, the downside risk is seen to be outweighed by the potential rewards. Anyone misguided enough to believe that their cause justifies the indiscriminate taking of innocent lives would not have trouble in persuading themselves that one day they might join the long list of terrorists now feted in the White House and Buckingham Palace.

Second article:

“Peace Treaties Do Not Mean Peace.” – 6 Oct 1995)

The lesson of history is that peace treaties are just so much paper. Peace is kept by the balance of power, not fine words. The latest accord with the PLO and Israel will be no exception and needs to be judged by the measures of realpolitik not romantic idealism.

…The romantics should re-read the history of the Locarno pact, the series of diplomatic documents that were initialized in Locarno Switzerland on 16 Oct 1925 and formally signed in London on 1 Dec 1925. There has never been a more handsome treaty. Germany, Belgium, and France bound themselves to recognize as inviolable their existing mutual frontiers and the demilitarization of the Rhineland. The three countries further pledged that in no case would they attack, invade, or resort to war against one another. All these obligations were guaranteed by Italy and England.

An in case that was not enough, by the Kellogg Pact of 1928 the world’s nations renounced war as an instrument of policy. Neither document prevented the most- destructive war in history.

Pretty damn good thinking and reporting for two decades ago. Why do I post this? Because I love among and write about the “Backwoods America De Courcy writes about and because all the sorts of things he is reporting two decades ago are common topics of discussion — not domestic terrorism – but massive social discontent and an integral part of the fabric of the people and stories I write about. Think about it.



FORD VILLAGE, ALBERTA, BARAGASTAN: Sunday, May 22, 2016 –Yesterday in Marquette to sign books and browse. Greeted in the store by Owliver the Discerning Owl. And humans too. Photos follow the blog. Today was  pretty laid back, reading, etc. We Met Randy and Sally Clarke for dinner at the Hilltop. They are headed BTB after three days up on Brockway Mountain. Yesterday they saw 200 migrating hawks, today, driven on a south wind, 2,000 more, mostly broadwings, but a real mix of raptors. Got some great photos, which I’ll share when Randy sends them along.

With millions of living things (viruses,bacteria, etc) and species in so many habitats, we haven’t identified all on “our” earth and given this mass amount of pure biological mass, whey would there not be living things elsewhere in the universe? (Think Other Planets)

We look backward to Shakespeare’s time (he died 400 years ago this past April) and wonder how people then could have been so “ignorant.” Naturally we wonder how ignorant the facts of life from 2016 will appear in 2416. Far worse than the look-back from here, I suspect.

How many birds come to our feeders when we’re not there, or not paying attention? Some kind of corollary to “if a tree falls in a forest and there’s nobody there to hear it….”

Randy Clarke, while working at a nature center (Bay City I think, but might be wrong on this) remembers the sight of bird watchers, usually old women in sneakers and trench coats and he told himself then he never wanted anything to do with them.  Now he and wife Sally are two of them (absent  trenchcoats), ,but armed with donkey-dick sized cameras with telephotos that take shots that reach nearly to god and frames per second capabilities rivaling the canons on an A-7 in attack mode.

Dave Stimac and I took a buzz down to Kingsley North in Norway this week to replenish polish and grit and some other rock supplies for Daves bird’s-eye wood and rock gift shop here on campus. We noted on our return journey that Evelyn’s Curve Inn had burned down. Dave related how in the 1970s the joint had trailers “out back” staffed by prostitutes – real life bagnios in Cheeseheadland. Those days appear to be long gone from the far north.

Heard word of an interesting homicide case underway in Iron County and it seems to have some very Coen Brothers elements to it so will give this some professional attention and see what comes of it. Stay tuned.

Blackflies are out with a vengeance here. I got six in one day under my shirt. Awful. We hauled out the Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer and began making slurries to rub onto the bites and alleviate the itching. Until two or three years ago blackflies rarely bit me and when they did had not a lot of effect. Now I puff up almost instantly. Nasty. Adolph’s works effectively and quickly. Only drawback: messy when it dries and falls off your skin.

Hummer males are here and being sighted at about 100 a day. Females should be along soon and counts will jump way up immediately. All the migrations seem to be running late this year. Warblers are just arriving – about 3 weeks later than normal.

Think of anger as a tool – say a hammer—especially when you punch the cause of the anger in the snoot.

Folklore and farmers sometimes fall way short. Rule of thumb here is no planting until after the first full moon in June. But that moon this June isn’t until the 20th and the frost-free planting season hereabout is only in the range of 70-100 days with our location on the lower end. So we will plant and cover and keep an eye on night-time shenanigans. The unpredictability of weather is only one reason small farmers contemplate suicide. As Napoleon once said, “On se degage, et puis on voit,” which translates roughly to “It clears up, and then you see.”

Photos follow: Over.



Jen, at Snowbound Books.
Jen, at Snowbound Books.
Signing for Jan Sabin.
Signing for Jan Sabin.
My pal Marvin Roberson.
My pal Marvin Roberson.