Catching Up

DAY 106, Deer Park, August 31, 2013 – Consider this a catch-up report.

It took all day Friday to learn the score of the Newberry-Rudyard High School football game played Thursday night. 32-zipdog, Newberry Indians over the Bulldogs. Not a surprise, given Rudyard’s meltdown last season.  But nobody in Trout Lake knew or seemed to care, and nobody in Newberry knew, until, finally a  fellow in line behind me at the grocery store told me. High school football used to be a very big deal up here, but it seems in most places to have gone the way of MTV, Gameboys and whatever other kinds of malarkey and folderol  the young now piddle with.

In truth, there are fewer and fewer kids up here, and school censuses are shrinking. What you see mostly and almost always are legions of old grayheads shuffling through towns, some of them local, but many from downstate or out of state, and on vacation, or they are long-time summer people, and while they may grow roots to their camps and cottages and landscapes,  and so forth, they have no real sense of attachment to neighboring towns.

Because of the drops in school enrollments, a lot of Yoop schools are turning their football programs to the eight-man game, which is a lot of fun. I played eight-man and six-man in Michigan, and eleven-man in Oklahoma and Texas. Eight-man doesn’t require the team numbers the full game does, and it puts emphasis on all sorts of open field tackling and blocking skills, and speed over brawn, though muscle still opens the doors and avenues.  

We stopped to visit Bob Bernhardt at B.J’s Rocks in Trout Lake and afterwards had lunch and there was even an orange-and-black eighteen-wheeler parked across the street with the Bulldog emblem on it, but still, the score was a mystery (or perhaps a tightly held secret?)

            Backing out of B.J.’s I bumped a VW that had pulled up to me ,so close to my rear end I never saw it until I heard it. No harm, no damage done, we went to lunch.

            After lunch it was off too Fiborn Quarry to show God and Laurie the old town site on the karst and we pulled up to find two vehicles with 8 people. There are all sorts of bulletin boards that tell the history of the place, but the people looked at me and asked,  “Have you been here before?

“Many times,” I told them.

“What’s this place all about?” they asked.

            “Did you read the information on those boards?”

            “What boards?”

            “Over there.” I pointed.

            “Um, not everything.

            What this translates to is no we didn’t see the boards, no we didn’t reading anything, and we would prefer to have you tell us something right now so that you do the work, not us.  And don’t tell us too much because our real attention is on scatting around in our 4WD vehicles.

            It is, of course, raining. And just outside Rexton our wipers go kerflummoxooey and actually cross like swords, sending the wiper from the driver’s side into the ditch. The rest of the way to Newberry I have to force myself not to hit the wipers, but of course, my mind fails me and I do several times like the class dolt. As usual the folks at Rahilly Ford are helpful, prompt and friendly, tell me they can order the part and install it this morning, so back to Noobs I shall be going.

We had two more inches of rain here yesterday, which now brings us up to 14.9 accumulated inches since we arrived here May 23. Last year at this same time we had collected  a whopping 6.4 inches. A cool, wet summer this year and the only drawback a second wave of skeets that some are saying are a different breed or variety. They are smaller and browner than our spring-summer monsters.  But much more aggressive, so we are enjoying our second skeet season of summer.

For six weeks we had the smell of death hanging shroud-like on the camp, assuming some beast crawled underneath and expired. But two days ago we pulled up some deck boards and discovered a cache of stinkhorn mushrooms in various stages of life from alive-and well to dead and decaying.  Very strange, and very stinky. We hope to be shed of this now, but time will tell.

Godfrey and Laurie are next door or two weeks. She has agate-disease, and he is pounding the lake for fish. Got  10 pike (several around 25 in), 10 rockies and a 17-in smallie his first night, 10 rockies his second night, and ten more pike last night, some as small as 12 inches. The fish have been biting only in one small part of the lake, but he has only been fishing three evenings, so they may be elsewhere at other hours. He’s going trout fishing today, while I head to the Ford dealer for windshield wiper repairs.

We’re down to one vehicle right now, Lonnie’s having been totaled in a bad windstorm six weeks or so ago. We haven’t even looked at  replacing her wheels  yet. All of her focus is on the Muskallonge State Park “” Show Sept 14 and 15 where she will display and sell her agate, datolite and other Mich stone jewelry. Very beautiful things, most of them made from stones we found on the beaches on in mine dumps up here.

Couple of weeks ago we had the honor of visiting Camp Grayling to receive an award from the DNR Law Enforcement Division for contributions to their 125th Anniversary celebrations (which is this year). Very nice. And great to see all the COs together in one place, though there was little chance to vistit with all of them. By my calculations I’ve now done solo rides with approximately 50 officers around the state  (from downtown Detroit and Lansing) to Downtown Gaastra and Alpha. And I’ve worked with more than 150 officers over 12 years in various group patrols on rivers and in night efforts under airplanes. A nice surprise and a nice moment and even an overnight at one of our favorite places in the world, Gates Au Sable Lodge.  No time to fish with Lonnie’s deadline looming for the rock show.

Meanwhile, KILLING A COLD ONE, Grady’s Service’s 9th adventure is now showing up in stores, and Lute Bapat’s second installment, MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, is at 70,000 words, about three-quarters finite.

Newberry’s horseshoe league has ended its 2013 season and we will miss the weekly horseshoe reports which are charming and sometimes downright funny. All from here for now. I hear the sun rising as I type. Will add some photos and close up.

One final thought and quandary. Last summer, same time period as this we saw almost 500 bald eagles. So far this summer we are way under 200. Any notion why such a change? Others have similar experience?


God headed out to sea to give some aerobic exercise to the local pike.
God headed out to sea to give some aerobic exercise to the local pike.
Da dashboard of da Green Streamer.
Da dashboard of da Green Streamer.
More stenchmakers.
More stenchmakers.
Dictyophora duplicate, or Skirted Stinkhorn, from under the porch. It smell like Jimmy Hoffa was buried there.
Dictyophora duplicate, or Skirted Stinkhorn, from under the porch. It smell like Jimmy Hoffa was buried there.
Ramdu Clarke's carved Pat feathers. He uses tupelo wood because it hold detail better than basswood. Hard to distinguish real from not-so-much.
Ramdu Clarke’s carved Pat feathers. He uses tupelo wood because it hold detail better than basswood. Hard to distinguish real from not-so-much.
Randy Clarke and Jambe Longue at Cambp Grayling.
Randy Clarke and Jambe Longue at Cambp Grayling.
The other side of the aisle.
The other side of the aisle.
Fun seeing all the state's CO's together, men and women in gray and green.
Fun seeing all the state’s CO’s together, men and women in gray and green.
From left: Capt. DanHopkins, Asst Chief Dean Molnar, Ishkabibble, Randy Clarke, and Chief Gary Hagler. Fellow awardee Randy Clarke is historian, naturalist, world class decoy carver, and has been working with the DNR since 1970s teaching all recruits waterfowl ID.
From left: Capt. DanHopkins, Asst Chief Dean Molnar, Ishkabibble, Randy Clarke, and Chief Gary Hagler. Fellow awardee Randy Clarke is historian, naturalist, world class decoy carver, and has been working with the DNR since 1970s teaching all recruits waterfowl ID.
What we escape by Coming Over Da Britch for half the year.
What we escape by Coming Over Da Britch for half the year.



Failed wipers, inspection by God.

Reading On A Rainy Day

August 25, 2013, DAY 100 in Deer Park — One of the stellar draws
of three seasons in a small cabin is the time and peace to read and think. Yes,
to write, of course, and draw, and all that, but first and foremost to read
what others have written and to let their writings stimulate new thoughts at
they percolate through your mind.  I am,
as is known by some, an incorrigible list keeper, and each year publish on my
blog all the titles I’ve plowed through over the year, but now and then I hit
one that really sticks in my mind and strikes my fancy and GODS OF TIN by James
Salter is one of them. A West Pointer, Salter resigned halfway through his Air
Force career to write. He is as fine a stylist as one can imagine, or is likely
to encounter, and he will put you right in the cockpit with pilots, and perhaps
you will come to understand the compulsion that drives some people to want to
cheat gravity beyond the speeds of sound and reason. Salter seems to find just
the right word for the right moment, as in describing his arrival at West Point
as a 17-year-old with older upper classmen going bonkers all around sweating
trembling neophyte plebes. Salter writes, “The air was rabid.” And when asked
why he abandoned his military career, he says only, “It was in me like a pathogen
– the idea of being a writer.” As an F-86 jock in Korea he had to be a very
smooth and direct customer, and his writing reflects this. Now I have turned to
Clive James and his CULTURAL AMNESIA, which came out in 2007. My friend Phil
Carra pointed me at James and his UNRELIABLE MEMORIES, which is on my shelf and
next in line, but I wanted to start with something larger, to get a better feel
for the writer’s breadth. Carra never points me at a disappointing read, and
long ago directed me to Louis de Berniere’s’s CORELLI’S MANDOLIN, which
astounded me. I gave it to Lonnie and told her the first 100 pages or so might
be a little  slow, but to stay the
course. She did and loved it. Now she is reading the author’s  BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS, and reading passages to
me and laughing out loud or frowning with some of the historic violence she is
encountering. If you’ve not read de Benieres, do treat yourself. Lonnie loved
the line, “…Leonidas did not know how to cook and was too miserly to pay anyone
else to do it, so he lived off bread an olives. They said he was such a miser
that he regretted having to shit.” Wow. As I write the thunderstorms have moved
in and are pounding the tin roof. (Quick check shows half-inch in 20 minutes;
turned out to be 2 ½ inches for the day and lots of lightning. Internet out all
day, and power this morning.)  The dog
mule-dogged (balked) Lonnie on his walk, refusing to advance, either fearing
the storms of catching the scent of an animal he preferred not to make
acquaintance with and brought his lady home most ricky-tick. God and His Lovely
Laurie arrived today for two weeks in which he will provide aerobic exercise to
trout and a dinner or two of brookies. 
But as the rain falls, there is no better use of time than to sit back
and read. Here’s a slice from early in CULTURAL AMNESIA. “The future of
science, Renan’s cherished avenir de la
, can be assessed from our past, in which it flattened cities and

gassed innocent children: whatever we don’t yet know about it, one thing he
already know is that it is not necessarily benevolent.  And, “For that, science is one of the
culprits: not the actual achievement of science, but the language of science,
which clumsily imitated by the proponents of Cultural Studies, has helped to
make real culture unapproachable for exactly those students who might otherwise
have been attracted to it, and has simultaneously furthered the emergence and
consolidation of an international cargo cult whose witch doctors have nothing
in mind beyond their own advancement.” James tells us he loved popular music,
“but one look at Johnny Rotten was enough to show you why even the SS
occasionally court-martialed a few of its personnel for nihilistic behavior
beyond the call of duty, and more recently there have been rap lyrics
distinguishable from the “Horst Wessel Song” only in being less well written.”
Six chapters written since Wednesday, I’ll tackle another later today after
gorging myself of fine writing. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. Over.

Friday Morning Thoughts: Removed.

The air here is clean (not counting pine pollens, or random bird feces floating earthward), few motor vehicles, no traffic lights or jams, (other than occasional houndsmen tracking their dogs running and singing a swamp bear), No sirens, no low-flying aircraft or mindless teenagers shaking the house with Rapscallion Thunder from their mobile sounds systems (heavy on the bass, not like heavy as in serious, but as in really , terribly loud and onerous), No Mormons or Jehovian Witnesses knuckling our doors, only the occasional temporarily disoriented traveler who has done no planning and driven Up North to the UP like it was an amusement park, think of it as Yooperland, acrosst Da Britch, probably not an angle Pure Michigan will play, but ought to consider. No news junkies either, except that a neighbor got a pinched nerve in his back yesterday, and then I hear Linda Ronstedt’s Parksinsons has taken her voice; and, two black kids beat a WW Deux hero to death, taking the 90 year-old’s voice too, though assailants being black is in the story lead and Hed has no news logic, only racist spume, and makes no sense by standards I was taught long ago, and now feel at such a long remove from. No TV, no radio, and we don’t check news on the internet, though Facebook friends sometimes touch on news pseudo and real. We read only the Newberry News, a weekly, almost exclusively local in content, this week a story of a plaque dedicated to Ernie Hem at the Fox River Campground  north of Seney though it’s not known where he fished; and a flashback to 1888, “A fight between the dogs of Robert Whistle, Newberry, and Alex Murphy, Dollarvlle, attracted a large crowd Monday. Whistle’s Dog got the best of the fight.” Whistle’s Dog, great title for a fiction piece, this is how I think In my state of removal,  (another great title for a  memoir, State of Removal) 300 yards from Lake Superior’s shore.  It’s not at all clear if the dog fight was serendipitous  or formal  blood sport, or why Whistle’s names listed first when alphabetically it’s second, perhaps the editor had a wager on the outcome? Or was partial to Noobysites over Dollarvillians? There was once a national policy called removal, which took Indians off their traditional lands and put them elsewhere, always a worse place on all counts, this the extension of Manifest Destiny, a policy whereby all white Americans were “destined” to have all land of people of other colors, or cultures; and two black kids kill an elderly war hero? Have we changed at all, since 1776? But then I think, white folks will soon not be in majority, and perforce reverse Manifest Destiny will arise like reverse mortgages have popped up? Ah Friday morning thoughts. Good to clear the mind for real work. One chapter done at 0500, time to tackle another one. Had great time with COs this week at Camp Grayling. Will post photos when I catch my breath and run out of new chapter flow.

On The Ground in Alaska

Alan Marble is the retired chief of DNR law enforcement (top cop CO), who now works as a cook-chef in a hunting fishing camp in the summer in the Alaskan bush. He chronicles his adventures (blogs?) and here’s the latest. Started his distinguished career as a CO in the Western Yoop.

scat wash

Opening Day                                                   August 21, 2013

The alarm was set this morning for 7:15 but I was awake before 6:30 and try as I might I could not conjure up another half-hour of sleep.  I have a daily goal that no one precedes me into the little lodge before the first pump pot of coffee is filled and CB has already indicated that he is an early riser.  Daylight was already brightening the sky as I slid out of my sleeping bag, into my shorts, fleece top and sandals and flip-flopped my way down the gravel towards the kitchen. 

Yesterday was opening day of brown bear season.  When dishes were done and everyone fed I finally straggled to my tent at 1 am under a stunning full moon, struggling in and out of clouds.  I heard Pat mention that he was going to go find his camera but was too tired, and I remember feeling the same.  The sight was enough….a full moon, or nearly anyway, its reflection shimmering on the current of the Peace as it flows into the lake. 

Our transition from anglers to hunters is complete, or nearly so….a couple of diehard fly anglers will come in September and fish all alone on these swift waters.  That change provides an entirely different feeling to camp, an anticipation felt even by the cook.  The hunting guides all stand a little straighter, speak a little louder….gesture more flamboyantly, and play a subtle but steady game of one-upsmanship with each other.  Each of the guides in camp have stories to tell….some are better at the retelling than others….some are perhaps more factual in the retelling than others…but the do form a loose fraternity that, push comes to shove, binds them all together.  I have to be content to sit and listen quietly, which never has been my forte’. 

Last season one of these fellows guided a bow hunter on a combination brown bear and moose hunt.  The hunter was from New York, apparently one of the richest folks to ever grace Fishing Bear Lodge….his family had amassed a huge fortune in art.  This hunter brought his bodyguard, a first for camp. The bodyguard proved to be a pleasant amiable fellow who tagged along every day on the hunt.  The guide succeeded in calling in a huge bull moose, grunting and bellowing and busting branches as he came to the seductive cow calls issuing from the guide’s horn.  The bull appeared and showed his stuff, a rack of antlers 6 feet wide, close to 2,000 pounds all told on the hoof, but would not close to anything close to bow and arrow range.  Try as he might, the guide could not budge that bull…a bull that size had survived wolves, brown bears and winters for 8 or 10 seasons by being instinctively cautious, despite the reproductive pulse in its veins….and this September day was no different.  He expected to see a cow when he came out in the open, and she plainly was not there. 

After a few moments drawn out to a fine wire, waiting for the bull to commit, it shook its head and seemed about to withdraw.  Troy whispered to his client…”do you want my rifle?”

The animal was easily within a safe and certain rifle shot.  Nothing in the licensing or tag purchase process does a hunter have to commit to a choice between bow or gun….it is the hunter’s choice. 

“No,” the client whispered.  I have taken some fine bulls with a rifle before.”

A few minutes later the bull turned broadside as if to go.  “You sure?”

“Yes,” the client replied. “I’m sure.”  And as quickly as that ton of black fur and antlers had appeared, it was gone.

At dinner much later that night, the client told Troy that he wish he had accepted the offer.  He left camp a few days later, sans bear or moose, had not even drawn back his bow, but by all indication had had the hunt of a lifetime. 

So Monday our five hunters flew in….they came in late, as Rick had experienced the nightmare of back-to-back aircraft problems that had left him with his 185 out in the Togiak National Wildlife refuge, awaiting a part, and his workhorse Beaver on the ground with different engine problems.  Another lodge owner picked up the slack and brought in two flights with a father and three sons from Kansas and a judge from Montana, along with their rifles and baggage.  That brought the number in camp to 14, which begins to fill up our dining room.  We settled our hunters in their cabins, gave them the tour of the bathrooms and hot shower and filled them up with some terrific clam chowder (if I don’t mind saying so myself) and sandwiches.  Justin held a council of war and began to provide assignments to the assemblage of guides….

Joe, a fixture in camp for 15 or more years, in his early 30s, short in stature….he knows how everything in camp runs and what to do when it does not, and was critical to my breaking in when I arrived as a greenhorn in 2009.  He has guided fishermen for years and is very popular with his clients….and began guiding hunters in 2011. 

Lars, whom I like to introduce when he enters the room as, “Lars, the Tall and Red-headed” was born and raised in Germany and moved to the US many years ago and is an American citizen, and proud of it.  He is perhaps 6’2” with short cropped red hair…..he is young, also in his mid-30s….when he smiles his boyish grin I am put in mind of a very tall Opie from Andy Griffith, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.  His Engish is impeccable, however.  He has guiding here since before my time.

Troy hails from Wisconsin but recently moved to Iowa in search of the biggest white-tailed deer antlers in the country.  He is an interesting amalgam of characters….short and stocky, he is a rodeo rider and calf-roper…..a fanatical archery hunter who lives for the hunt and is willing to travel far and wide.  I put Troy in his late 30s.  He uses the “f” word in every sentence he speaks, and it quickly fits in and is overlooked as he uses it with precision as a noun, verb, adjective….adverb….even as a gerund in a pinch.  He is one of the most animated storytellers of all, and sometimes succumbs to his own stories and has to take a break to stop laughing.  Troy travels the world to practice his passion for hunting….in pursuit of tahr in the lung-popping altitudes of the mountains of New Zealand to Admiralty Island of Alaska for brown bear.  He invites us all to visit him on his new land in Iowa to share a pheasant hunt or hook up with him in New Zealand on a hunt down under….and he means it when he offers. 

As you are reading this you are probably drawing a mental image of an Alaskan hunting guide.  You need go no further than Larry.  Larry is a retired firefighter from Spokane, he is 65 years old and has been married to the same woman for 45 years and has lived in the same town longer than that.  He is tall with a shock of white hair, a lean clear jaw line and piercing blue eyes.  He probably could have made money in Hollywood as a western sheriff but he would never, ever have suffered the fawning fools that attend the film industry.  He knows exactly what he wants me to pack in his perishables box for camp and he brings exactly what he needs to set up a spare but comfortable camp with tents, folding chairs to sit in and the gear to prepare hot grub at the end of the day.  Larry specializes in a specialized version of the spike camp….he runs a boat from here up the system to a remote corner of Lake Kulik and sets up tent camp there.  In a pinch, or in the case of a successful hunt, he can bring hunters back to the lodge, or make the trip if need be for additional food or fuel.  Joe is guiding with him, and they left yesterday for camp with two of the three tall, lean boys from Kansas.  Larry ran the jet prop boat with the gear and food, and Joe led the way with the two young men. 

Four more guides are out in the spike camps in the national wildlife refuge and I will probably, unhappily, share very little if any time with them.  Johnny from Iowa rolled into Dilly late yesterday and Justin flew his directly out to camp to join his packer and a client.  Johnny is a dead ringer for Bret Favre and I suspect has had a little bit of fun with the likeness over the year.

Big Joe (as compared to little Joe, camping with Larry up on Kulik) is from Montana and also guides there and runs his landscaping business.  He is generous, fun, a terrific storyteller in his own right and has apparently mastered the art of remote camp guiding.  Jill and I have a standing offer to come and stay and hunt (or not) in western Montana in Anaconda if we ever wander that way.  His dad, Fred, a renowned wildlife sculptor, lives nearby.  Fred was here with Joe in 2011 when Jill and worked together, his goofy sense of humor and willingness to pitch in made each day in camp a delight.  Joe comes honestly by his pleasant nature –  that apple did not fall far from that tree.

Ken is a tall, loud taxidermist from the UP…he likes to play cards and likes to stay one up on the others.  He snores and for that reason alone I am glad he is out in spike camp….he pitches in and helps and, beneath that loud exterior a very compassionate heart beats. 

Ben also hails from Montana and guides lion and elk hunts there.  His first season here he was guiding a bear hunter from Pennsylvania when a sow with two cubs appeared, walking steadily in their direction, unaware of the hunters’ presence.  When they stood up and announced themselves the sow charged, without warning or preamble.  The hunter and guide got twisted up in their feet and fell in shallow water and Ben was first on his feet to fire a warning shot.  The sow turned and stopped practically in top of them, and then gathered her cubs and left.  Ben is very short in stature….Richard clearly remembered seeing the sow’s head over Ben’s shoulder when he touched off a shot.  The pupils in Richard’s eyes took 24 hours to return to normal.

Pat is new in camp but a familiar face in the circles of hunting guides in western Alaska.  Justin has known him for years and asked him on short notice when another of his guides could not make it due to a court appearance.  Pat is affable and outgoing and another great storyteller and loves strong black French roast coffee as much as I do.  I am glad he is guiding hunters out of Fishing Bear rather than out in the spike camps, as I will get a chance to know him better.  One of his earlier Alaskan gigs was as winter caretaker of the Goldenhorn Lodge, ten miles up river, and he has the stories to go with it.

That is the guide line-up.  Along with the jostling for position and bragging rights is a fierce passion for hunting, for seeing a shadow that slowly transform into 900 pounds of brown bear hulking its way down the strand in the gloom….for answering the grunt and bellow of a distant moose and coaxing it closer.  They don’t mind the real work, hell, I think it is their way of putting the final personal touches on the hunt and as they sit in the fleshing tent and work the bear hide, inch by inch in their hands, removing every scrap of fat and tissue….or working like ants crawling over the impossibly huge carcass of a moose, just as it begins to cool, harvesting the loins and tenderloins, all the ribs….the legs taken off as 200 pound quarters and precariously lugged to the boat.  It is making the meat of the kill and of taking the remembrance of the trophy that is far more than a head or hide gathering dust on a wall.  It is not for everyone, granted….but I, for one, am thrilled to my core to be a small part of it all. 

Monday the hunters arrived, and Tuesday…yesterday….was opening day. It is unlawful for a person to fly and hunt within the same 24 hour day, for obvious reason.  Monday afternoon after the hunters unpacked and settled in their guides took them for a boat ride to fish and see some of the countryside.  The hunters’ excitement was beginning to bubble up and they needed an outlet, and it provides some quiet time for the guides and hunters to get to know one another. 

Tuesday morning was a pretty dawn and I was up at 6:30 to get the coffee on and breakfast around.  Fifty or sixty pancakes and three pounds of bacon later, the hunters were ready to go.  They had to wait, however.  As I prepared box lunches, the guides moved slowly and methodically putting together the tools of the hunt trade, loading and fueling the boats….Joe and Larry took additional time to get their camp together and loaded.  They were the first to head out.  The guides thinking is sound….they do not want to spook bears at first light that have been out feeding all night and are just headed for sleep.  They do, however, want to be in place and settled and quiet when prime time begins to come on, towards evening. 

I asked the guides the question I did not want answered….”what time will you be back in for dinner?”

They all responded with different voices but the same message.  “Probably not till 11. Maybe even later.”

So be it.  As the last boat roared off down the lake I sat on the little deck in the sun and pulled ot my notebook.  Looked over the menu I had planned and made some changes and added to my grocery list for Justin.  He was gone in the plane and would be flying to the camps all day.

Alone for the remains of the day.  Dinner prep would take about three hours and I could delay that until 6 or so.  I had 8 pounds of chicken thighs to roast and some wonderful jarred Alfredo sauce to warm up and cover the chicken with at serving time.  I had slaw to chop in my new Cuisinart and slaw dressing to make.  Three loaves of bread to cast and then bake, one hour before 11 so it would still be warm in their cores.  I needed to bake a batch of brownies for dessert and make a big sausage and egg casserole for Wednesday’s breakfast. 

I grabbed my binocs and shotgun and ambled off to walk the gravel to get a touch of exercise and stretch my legs.  Reggie and Boone leapt to their feet and away we went, splashing across the tiny creek that, two weeks ago, was too fast, deep and wide to cross in waders.  One hundred yards down was very fresh bear scat, purple and blue and studded with undigested crowberries and blueberries, and, alongside it, the telltale wash of water on the gravel from the belly fur of a bear that I must have surprised as my boots crunched on the gravel and it lumbered from the lake up into the concealment of the alders.  I took a quick photo and we walked on.

Alaska.  It gets deep under your skin

Woods Cop No. 9, KILLING A COLD ONE, Now In Some Bookstores.

KILLING A COLD ONE, the ninth Woods Cop mystery is already in some stores. Someone brought a copy to me a couple of days ago. Here’s a review by from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, and a photo of the book jacket.


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula provides the rugged setting for Heywood’s series featuring conservation officer Grady Service of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its bewilderingly diverse population of Native Americans, long-established families, several waves of immigrants, and enough oddball characters for a freak show. Service’s ninth case (after 2011’s Force of Blood) may be his strangest and most dangerous yet. Murder doesn’t fall in Service’s purview, but Governor Lori Timms orders him to take charge of investigating a gruesome series of killings leading to rumors of, as Service puts it, “a dogman, Sasquatch, skinwalker, vampire, werewolf, windigo, zombie, whatever.” Service assembles his own team, including ancient scofflaw Limpy Allerdyce and former Detroit detectives Luticious Treebone and Glenn Noonan to help with the hunt. Heywood knows his geography, history, flora, fauna, and mythology as well as he does the region’s colorful, sometimes deadly inhabitants, and guides readers on an exotic and challenging journey. Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates. (Sept.)

Enjoy the ride.



HARD GROUND Reviewed in International Game Warden.

Review forwarded to me today by book editor Gerry Lister, himself a CO in British Columbia.

I have been remiss in sending you a copy of my review of Hard Ground which was printed in the Summer 2013 issue of International Game Warden magazine.  I did three reviews in this issue, so although not a long review, I did find the book the magazine has been out for about a month now.

So now let’s switch gears and look at a fictional work from Michigan author Joseph Heywood, best known for his Woods Cop series and his recent Lute Bapcat historically-based novel.   This time out Heywood offers us something completely different – a collection of twenty-nine short stories of fictional Michigan Conservation Officers, all of which take place in Heywood’s beloved Upper Peninsula (U.P.).  “Hard Ground” is published by Heywood’s long-term publisher Lyon’s Press and was released in May of 2013.

Heywood wanted to tell these stories, which he implies are based on actual events, but there was no way to weave them into the Woods Cop or Lute Bapcat series.   While one story does feature Woods Cop hero Grady Service, and another involves Lute Bapcat, the remainder each feature a unique fictional character in some very interesting and often amusing situations.  Despite some of them being a little “out there” I could certainly relate to many of them, as truth is often stranger than fiction.

I have been a bit hard on my old friend Joe on occasion, but I have to hand it to him this time.  I did not know what to expect from this new direction he was taking, but because of his exceptional skill at developing colorful and engaging characters, his top-notch writing abilities, and his amazing  imagination (what he refers to as his internal cedar swamp), he was able to put together a highly enjoyable collection of short stories.  This soft cover book is 218 pages long, and I tore through it in one afternoon and was spellbound and entertained the entire time.

The book begins with a story about an officer on his second day on the job who locates a missing hunter, dead from an accidental gunshot wound.  That story is contrasted by the next one that involves two veteran officers, one of whom may have become a bit too complacent and almost learns a lesson the hard way.  The next story is about a female officer, still fairly new on the job and full of piss and vinegar, who in her zeal to kick ass makes a dumb mistake.   The stories continue, each with its own quirky hero and often eccentric foil, masterfully created in Heywood’s inimitable style.

There’s a tale about a pilot CO who, facing the loss of his wings, decides to have one last hurrah, and one about a female officer who decides to make it very clear that the usual rumors about why she got transferred to her new post are not true.  The Grady Service entry is a straightforward tale of an animal attack on a human from early in his career, but ends in typical cynical Woods Cop style.   I could go on and on, giving you a little hint at each story, but suffice to say that this book is downright fun and a real departure from both the usual fictional fare, and non-fiction as well.

You’ve read in the past how I can get a little bit bored with non-fiction memoirs, as they can tend to get repetitive from book to book.  “Hard Ground”, although technically a work of fiction, is as if someone took a whole bunch of chapters from 29 different memoirs, shook them up, added some U.P. seasoning blend, a pinch of eccentricity, renamed everyone with goofy fictional U.P. names, and then re-strung it all back together. 

I have read a couple hundred game warden books in the last ten years, and have yet to read one this unique, yet so familiar.  This one is one of the quirkiest and most unconventional, yet it provided me with more smiles, “aha” moments, and sheer pleasure than any book in a long time. 

It is clear that Heywood recognizes that the conservation officer’s job is dangerous, stressful, entertaining, rewarding and sometimes just downright bizarre, yet his respect and admiration for the officers he has spent time with over the past twelve years is highly apparent.  The only thing that really struck me odd was that he makes mention of almost every one of his heroes smoking at some point.  Being a non-smoker, and not even knowing many other officers who smoke, it really jumped out at me.  Must be a U.P. thing…


Dear Gerry: as a former smoker and knowing the old boys were almost all smokers, I chose to be politically insensitive.

Hard Ground Cover phodto

Travellers’ Trivial Trevails in the U.P.


We are in Copper Harbor, unloaded gear into room of our cabin, plugged in computers (this is a work trip) and there is a message saying the  router needs to be adjusted. So I hoof it up  to the office and tell the receptionist, where I hear her tell a man checking in that the WiFi might be intermittent and iff so he can use the bar.  Knowing this, I step to the plate and tell her, “The WiFi in our room doesn’t work, and the troubleshooter says the router needs adjustment.”

She says, “It works great in the bar or here in the office.”

“But I paid to have it work in my room, which is what you advertise.”

“It works fine here.”

“Do you represent the hotel?”


“Why then are you working the cash register and working with guests. Are you an employee of the hotel?”

“Yes I am.”

“Then you represent the hotel. What are you going to do about this?”

“I guess I could talk to somebody,” but clearly she is befuddled by whom this some body might be. “But,” she says, I’ll be right back.” And she is. “He’s checking on it right now.”

“Who is he?”

“You know,” she says.

“No, I don’t. Is he your computer guy.”

She says again, “Just a minute.”  She disappears once again, and returns. “He says it should work now.”

Back to the room. It does not work, and never will. To be expected. The building is like modern America, looking good from outside, but with a lot of problems.

There are two bedrooms, and one bathroom. Fair enough. But, the one bathroom is down 30 stairs, which  is an acceptable set-up if your clients are not of an older stroke with regular night-long potty parades.

The room has a microwave, but no hotpads.

Toilet paper is 2-ply, the lowest industrial sandpaper grade.

One of the downstairs windows will not stay up and must be held up with rock or stick.

And the screens all bow out ¼ to ½ inch, inviting insects to enter between the screen and window, carrying their suitcases.

The bedroom has a table light, but the switch doesn’t work and you have to turn light on and off by twisting the bulb, which can be a little hot?

The microwave stinks of burned popcorn.

The trashcan in the kitchen is the size of a brown paper bag, and this is a long-term stay place.

Back to the office in the morning, same girl staffing the officed.

“The WiFi in our cabin doesn’t work.”

“That can’t be, we’ve had no complaints.”

“Really? I complained yesterday,” I said, “And we are the only guests in Cabin 3.”

“You did?”

“Yes, I surely did. To you.”

“Well it works great here in the office and in the bar.”

“I paid to have it work in our room.”

“Oh, I guess I can have someone check.”

At which point I departed. It never worked and they never really cared.

The next place we went to was in Ontonagon. Same problem, same responses, “never had a complaint before, but you can bring it up to the office.”

“We paid for WiFi in the room.”

No response.

This all somehow reminds us of the establishments who have a public restroom which is “out of order.” Which I can surely understand, but when I hear the same thing from six different establishments in one day, I begin to wonder if this is a way to save on cleaning expenses, or if such facilities exist at all.

And all around us on he roads I see the olderly and not many young folks, so bathrooms are not a trivial  thing (in town).

Finally, there is throughout the state a push on tourism and a great advertising campaign. But come to the Yoop and you will see some very strange hours posted, like 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. These are tourist hours? Or gas stations not open on Sundays?

This place is forever an interesting place. In Marquette you have signs calling for the banning of all mining in the U.P. In Ontonagon the signs all say SUPPORT U.P. MINING. A little history is in order here. Marquette is the U.P.’s major town, a university town, and one with a pretty good business base. Ontonagon County is the opposite and it is dying and was I belive the last place to have a working mine (in White Pine). Thus views differ.

But it’s also true that there was a time when some influential Onty locals wanted a road built through the middle of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to increase commerce and traffic from the west. Then governor  George Romney came to see for himself.  This report from Sports Illustrated tells us “George wanted to find out for himself whether a highway should be built into Michigan‘s largest remaining wilderness region. Governor George Romney went for a 7?-mile hike in Porcupine Mountains State Park. Actually, to say hike is incorrect. It was more like a sprint, as other members of a party of two dozen could attest. The first hill in the park, a vast Upper Peninsula stand of virgin birch, maple and bass-wood on the shore of Lake Superior, wasn’t so bad—mostly because the group was walking down it. When they started uphill, however, the attrition began. Jerry Chiappetta, outdoors editor of The Detroit Free Press, sprained an ankle. Ronmey’s press secretary (Chuck Harmon)  began to wilt under the weight of his knapsack and Romney had to carry it. The Detroit News political reporter Bob Popa, who had brought his own knapsack containing two six-packs of beer, kept suggesting a stop for a picnic. At the 4?-mile mark, the 58-year-old Romney, who also plays three balls per hole of golf, remarked that this was about as far as he ran and walked each morning. At the end of the scramble Popa observed, “It wasn’t exactly like going home from the office. Big George kept pouring on the coal.” Big George just smiled. “They don’t need a highway here,” continued Popa. who finished the hike with 12 unopened beer cans and bunions, “they need a chairlift.” George declared that they didn’t need either, a courageous decision for a man whose public and private livelihoods have always depended on the sale of automobiles.”

So, you see, attitudes sometimes have histories.

This and shall be forever an interesting and challenging place.


Dan’s Cabin houses artists in residence for 2-week soujourns. Lonnie and I were there five years ago and loved it. Have to lug in your own water and ice. But perfect silence of nature alone.
Kaug Wudjoo, the Ojibwe allegedly called it, “The Land of the Crouching Porcupine.
Attitudes and opinions vary across the U.P. Think about it: The place is the size of Vermont and New Hampshire COMBINED.

Debut Novel

My friend Dave Wagner’s first novel will come out in September. It’s the first in a series of mysteries set in Italy in modern times. Dave and I played lacrosse together at MSU in the Dark Ages, and were on the same forward line. He joined the Foreign Services and had several tours outside the US, including three in Italy (Milano and Roma). Cold Tuscan Stone is great read and we will all look forward to the next installment. Back from 37th Annual Bullshido Camp last night, said goodbye to Ruthie DiSilvestro, who heads back to Kansas City tomorrow early. Teachers report on Tuesday. Yech. More on fish camp later, but  do look for David P Wagner’s book. Wags is a great man and terrific  scrivener. Over.


Wags Picture.
Author David P. Wagner, MSU, 1965.


Cold-Tuscan-Stone-med-res-front-cover-178x276 Wags Book