Jambe Longue and I drove over to Holland on the 28th, negotiating a pesky and messy little sleet storm to meet the Ploegstra brothers, one-time members of the north Rudyard Dutch community and offspring of the city of Holland’s second family of settlers in the waybackwhin. (The Finns were to the south and east of Rudyard, the French to the west (in the swamps), and Air Force brats on the air base to the northeast.] Dr. Henry (middle) has taught for two and a half decades at St. Mark’s School of Texas in North Dallas. Henry got his BA from Calvin, taught for a year at his alma mater, Rudyard, went into the army for two years, taught two more years at the Yard, then went on to grad school, earning his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. He is a truly erudite man who has traveled the world, and is a gifted teacher. Joel (left) retired as a math teacher from Zeeland High School eight years ago. He is a master wood craftsman Joel’s wife, Angie, also joined us for lunch at Curragh Pub. Through their church, Angie and Joel travel all over providing disaster relief construction services. It was great to catch up. Henry was one of the three teachers who encouraged my creativity (the only one in high school) and I had not seen him in almost fifty years. Joel was a freshman when I was a senior and we played basketball together. His teams did what mine couldn’t: Win the school’s first regional basketball titles. He went on to play at Calvin College. Nice time, catching up, laughing, and remembering. Yours truly is the right-side bookend in the photo.
An executive order signed by President Clinton in 1994 makes in unlawful for anyone to possess an eagle, an eagle feather, or eagle parts without a permit. Only Native Americans are given permits. Eagle feathers play an historic role in all Native American belief systems and religious practices. When a conservation officer recovers an injured raptor it is taken to a licensed rehab facility. If the bird recovers, it is released back into the wild. Only recently have native Americans begun to participated in the releases, blessing the birds as they are set free.
What follows are photos from a recent blessing ceremony at the UP Raptor Rehab and Wildlife Center in Gladstone, in Delta County in the Upper Peninsula.
When one holds the eagle feather one must speak truth in as positive way as possible because the ear of the creator is that much closer to the feather of an eagle than to us. To be given an eagle feather is the highest honor that can be awarded within aboriginal cultures.
Speak truth? Huh, sort of like being sworn in at court.
Elegy for The Gator
Calvin H. “Rusty”Gates Jr. 1955-2009
Long ago a decision made
As my comrades fell
Along the way
I’d shed words not tears when good men die
Take on all the pain but never cry
Instead to do my best to try
To emulate Shakespeare
Praising what is lost making remembrance dear
And thus the day comes once again,
Here and now I sit to write at dawn, stanching tears.
Death, this magic rune in our code of genes,
This privilege we call living brings
Us eternal debt of now for here, then there,
Where unlike life we must go alone
To that place our red brothers call the Road of Souls,
The route to which can’t be marked with GPS
Each map to get there decided by god
And held within us, to be opened only
At that instant it is finally needed
This journey to a place, which bears different names.
It is said among followers of Buddha
The universe contains multiple heavens
Where those who accumulate good karma
Are to be reborn in a heaven, not named,
This fact of our passing non-negotiable,
Some of us leaving like small ripples that fade,
Others like slow undulating soft waves,
And those rarest of us, quietly relentless,
still pounding shores long after they are gone,
Their souls touching us, and what we love from beyond the grave.
For those of us who share un-jealous love of a river,
We know the heaven wherein Rusty Gates dwells:
It is a river of sand, meandering, pure and icy cold,
Teeming with the life of its history,
Of moments and ages here and gone,
And all the people who waded through.
To sit by the water’s edge at nightfall,
nighthawks burring, coyotes barking,
Droves of hex roaring overhead
Like legions of bar-bound bikers.
Listen, we whisper, small fish are rising upstream
Daring to test the first of the spinners,
Harbingers of the rain of bugs soon to follow,
The musk of rich black earth redolent,
Fumes of bug dope rising from our flesh and lucky shirts,
The promise of the music of our life’s reel at work
We sit or stand in prayer,
“Please god, let it happen and don’t let me mess this up.”
Life rolling all around us, and within us
Merged into the one thing: Moment of Rising Magic.
I would slide into the shop unannounced,
Catch a nod, a wink, and a grin for greeting.
When others moved away, he would slide
A map onto the glass and tap a finger surreptitiously
Mumble, “Hatchers at eight, spinners at ten. Don’t be in a hurry.
Respect the struggle and relish the fight.”
Talk about words prophetic. If ever a man enjoyed the fight
There he stood by his beloved river, quick to rise
In her defense, unrelenting day and night.
He asked no quarter and gave none. How many of us
Will have such said of us when we are gone and done?
Sometimes god gives us giants with frail bodies and quiet voices;
It’s up to us to see the gift for what it is
And how fleeting… god how fleeting.
With apologies to Will, “The private wound is deepest.
Tis good to be sad and say nothing.”
Why can I hear Rusty’s voice reciting
Shakespeare’s lines? “What is best, that best I wish in thee.”
And there you have it, his own elegy,
Who steppeth forward now to “imitate the action of the tiger,
Stiffen the sinews, disguise fair nature with hard favored rage?”
I hear Rusty. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For those that have shed their blood with me are my brothers
And those not here will think themselves
Accursed, and hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks.
Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once.
To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, were nothing but to waste night, day and time.”
Rusty Gates is once dead, and wasted nothing in his life.
Our river lives on, oh how it lives, oh my
We can not, must not, allow this precious thing to die.
Today we say goodbye to the body of Rusty Gates.
For his friendship and decades of support I can no other answer make
But thanks, and thanks. Please God, rest his soul and show him the best water.
(Because trust me: He’ll find it anyway.)
His body is gone. His memory and gift to us remain.
What we do with both are matters of our collective fate.
Amen and tight lines.
[Winter Solstace, 2009]
A sad Christmas Eve: We drove up to Grayling yesterday to say goodbye to Rusty Gates, who passed away December 19. I wrote an elegy for Rusty, which I’ll put in another blog entry today.
Snow on the ground, bluebird sky, air frigid, church filled with Rusty’s friends and family, sunlight coming through the colored windows, it was billed by the priest as a victory celebration, but I think the real celebration will come later in a memorial service, which is now in the works. After the service Jambe Longue and I drove over to the lodge to say goodbye by moving water and ran into a fellow from Grand Rapids named Steketee, who was doing the same thing. Water was what brought so many people into Rusty’s life, and water will keep his memory there. After walking the banks of Gates Au Sable Lodge we drove north to the North Branch of the Au Sable River and on our way down Dam Four Road booted a half dozen eagles, including this juvenile who paused long enough and close enough to allow a shot. The eagles remind us that things in the process of being lost, can be saved. And having been saved they serve as a welcom beacon for future efforts. Rusty Gates understood all this better than most of us and he walked the talk. Ain’t many of us that can be said of when our trip is over.
Jambe Longue stood by the river and said, “It’s still making music.”
Amen and Over. Merry Christmas Eve.
Very very sad news this morning. I got a note telling me my pal Rusty Gates passed away at home on the banks of his river Saturday night after a fight with cancer. I last saw Rusty in August and he seemed more emotional than normal and I sensed he was in his way saying good bye. I worked with CO John Huspen in Crawford County during this past deer season and wish now I had stopped by the shop to see what was happening, though I rationalized and hoped Rusty was at deer camp, making chili. We most regret those things we do not do.
If you want to know who Rusty is, just look at the Au Sable River and what it is an represents — because for a long time Rusty Gates has been the primary keeper of the river, one of our state and national jewels. Someone can step up behind him, but he can’t be replaced.
Back when I was still in the suit-and-shiny shoe world I had little time to fish, but I would sometimes manage to take a day of vake and hammer my way north, leaving here at oh dark thirty, arriving up there around seven when Rusty opened the shop. If others were in the shop he would wink and nod and smirk, and when human traffic cleared, he’d point to the map on the counter surreptitiously and whisper, “Hatchers at eight, spinners at ten. Don’t be in a hurry. Respect the struggle and the fight.” I would then fish all day and that night and round about midnight get back in the truck and hammer my way home, five hours south, stop at the house, shower, and arrive at the office with bags under my eyes, but rewnewed by the river.
“Respect the struggle and the fight”: Talk about prophetic words.
Sometimes god gives us giants in frail bodies and quiet voices and it’s up to us to see the gift for what they are .
Once I told Rusty my publisher was talking about no longer publishing fiction and he laughed out loud and said, “What will they publish? It’s all fiction!” Blunt, candid, spot-on, a piece of work, one of a kind, what we called in my Air Force days, Sierra Hotel. He will be missed by countless folks.
Our prayers are with Rusty’s wife Julie and their family.
There will be two visitations on Tuesday, December 22, 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm. Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home, 1106 W. North Down River Rd. Grayling, MI 49738. The telephone is 989-348-2951. There will be a third visitation 11 am – 1 pm on Wednesday, December 23.
The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 708 Peninsular Avenue, Grayling MI, with a luncheon to follow. A news release, instructions for memorial donations, and other news can be found on the Anglers of the Au Sable website:www.ausableanglers.org
Now god has someone to fish with.
Ho ho ho, here we are with fresh new snow and not a place to think to go.
Saw the movie Blindside last night. Worth your time. I offer today’s photo to help everyone get in Christmas moods (starting with me).
The DNR visit to St. Martin’s Island reported earlier resulted in 11 tagging violations. Specifics of the violations have not been released. The officers were at the 2 and 1/4- by 1 and 1 /4- mile privately owned island on a routine patrol. I initially reported the story as “shenaningans ” defined as, reckless behavior that causes discomfort or annoyance in others.
Rat poison blood check earlier this morning. Sat for one hour. Only two patients went in an out while I waited with the herd. Sign-in procedure had been changed, “to speed things up.” On the way out I said to the receptionist, “It ain’t working.”
It took a while, but winter’s finally here and there’s a good likelihood there will be a white Christmas for the kids? Talk about baloney. Kids are all tucked in their houses with MP-3s and X-Box 360s and ad infinitum. What would they care about snow? Sheesh.
In my neighborhood it is rare to see kids playing outside in the snow. I mean really rare.
And while I loathe snow, the Shan loves it. (It might have something to do with him wearing a thick black fur coat year-round). When snow settles in, or after a fresh snowfall we head for our paths and woods to practice tracking and mapping the movement of our dozen neighborhood deer. This week I was able to use the wind to my advantage, by moving to them from upwind and guessing where they would go. I kept back about 100 yards and kept pushing them, the way I learned in still-hunting days, and they surprised me by moving into an area I’d never seen them in before, suggesting I’d spooked them, so I backed off and let them get on with their daily business. There were six in the group, perhaps seven, and neither of the big bucks. Shanahan was busy hunting rabbits and other small critters and paid them no mind, even though I took him right over their fresh tracks.
When sun shows (rarely) it melts the surface of the snow, which then crusts, which in turn makes silent tracking pretty tough. We have a crust now and the woods are loud. Shanahan sounds like a Mack Truck twenty yards out. Even the deer can’t move silently when there is a crust; under such conditions the tracker’s ears are as useful as his eyes.
Couple of days ago with a fresh dusting I was looking at various tracks and it dawned on me that I’ve probably never talked about how most conservation officers can recognize boot brands by the pattern of the soles. It’s pretty impressive to watch them interpret a bunch of tracks and find a small glitch in one sole and start looking for that when we make contact with various potential suspects. The first time I saw this my CO partner told me the suspect was wearing X brand of boots and when we bumped the guy an hour later, he was indeed. Very cool to see professionals at work.
The photos here are simply to show the distinctive pattern of boot tracks. And I admit it: the small things in life are plenty good to entertain me.
Photographer Ted Swoboda and I are related through Michigan State lacrosse. Ted’s dad was a well-known and much respected portrait photographer in the Detroit area, and Ted — until lacrosse intervened in his life– worked for his dad, photographing weddings and other events.
Ted played at State as an undergraduate, and became the Spartan’s second varsity lacrosse coach. He subsequently moved to Florida where he coached the University of Miami and started Ft. Lauderdale’s first lacrosse club.
Summers Ted returns to Saugatuck and focuses his camera on local landscapes. He is a huge talent. His photos are displayed in Kubiak Gallery in Douglas, and Alexandria Winslow’s in Saugatuck. His website: www.swobodaimages.com. I include some recent ice shots from the South Haven Pier. Naturally only a former Michigan State lacrosse player would be stupid enough to be out on an icy pier taking photographs. Enjoy, check out his stuff.
Greetings from the place where all weather tends to smush together. I’m preparing for visit to Texas in early 2010, and starting to laugh about the prospects of the 46th Air Refueling Squadron reunion next September in Marquette! I’m sharing a collection of photos I find interesting, perhaps the most interesting that of my former aircraft commander Tom “The Boss” Davey. He earned the title long before Bruce Springsteen and earned it by putting his ass on the line. He’s retired now but has always been driven by nomadic blood. Won’t be surprised if he shows up in Marquette with a hog under his butt.