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24 Aug

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.

22 Aug

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

15 Aug

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.



15 Aug

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

13 Aug

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.

03 Aug

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

31 Jul

Must Read

Linsenman Snowblood's Journal COVER 6x9 (1) (1)


Bob Linsenman’s novel, SNOWBLOOD’S JOURNAL will be published in September. It’s an unforgettable story of soldiers and their dogs in Vietnam. Get it. Learn from it. Enjoy. Over

22 Jul

Bonds Formed in Hard Times Tend to Persist

Earlier this month saw my friend, fraternity brother and former USAF copilot Mike Vairo  (Lt.Col, USAF, Ret, and native of St. Ignace)  and I got an email note from our aircraft commander, Tom Davey (Lt. Col, USAF, Ret). We called him Boss Davey and Zorro.

 “Hi Joe. Glad to hear you and Mike got together. Its great to get together and rehash old remember-when’s. Miss you guys. If I could do anything in the world I would like to crew up with the Goose, Hump, and Nick and fly either a month of F-105 fighter support, or a month of aero delivery between Honolulu and Saigon. Take care Hump. Say hello to your lovely wife. As Always, Davey.

Those who’ve never served in the military are unlikely to forge these kinds of bonds. Nick Carter, our boom operator passed away earlier this year and he’s missed. Just thought I’d share. I’ve had a lucky life with lots of interesting people and experiences. What more can one ask of a once-through ride? Boss, Goose, Hump and Nick: we were prepared to die for each other every day we went out to fly. How much more can you ask of,  or give to other human beings?



22 Jul

Day to Day

DAY 66 – Monday, July 22, 2013, DEER PARK Not halfway through our stay yet, which is great. My pal Bonnie Jo Campbell is going to be up here on a book tour with a whole heap of UP writers, including Sue Harrison and Ellen Airgood. Don’t miss them. They are all nice, smart and personable folks, and great crafters with words.

Last week we got hit with 4.1 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and 75- 100 mph winds, resulting in a lot of downed trees (mostly maples) and $7,650 in damages to Jambe Longe’s Malibu. A new ride may be forthcoming.

She takes the dog on his work walk every day, which means he wears his red pack and thinks this is his job. Later in the day (fly populations permitting) we go to the Lake Superior beach and let him run free while we look for agates. Those nights the flies are too thick, we head into the blueberry fields and jackpines to collect early berries, which are starting to flow. Once in a while we socialize. Last night we had dinner at the Pinestump Eatery with Ruth DeSilvestro and Don Madorski. Pizzas all around at Da Stump.

Day are spent working, her on jewelry, me on manuscript or an occasional poem and when I am not writing, I am reading, at a pace of about a book a day. I read fiction much faster than nonfiction, in which I often take notes, which I later transfer in pieces to various notebooks for future reference and use. My memory isn’t what it used to be, except for fish and how to get to rivers and their fishing spots.

This week I’ll spend a day on patrol with a CO and on Sunday head for Bullshido fishing camp for a week. Jambe Longue’s sis will drive up to stay here while I’m gone. When I get back well be off for a couple of days of rock-hunting in Copper Harbor, and then three days of historical research out of Ontonagon (Rockland, Greenland, Mass City, Bergland, White Pine, Silver City, etc.). Today I hit 46,000 words in MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, so I am about half way. My target for a novel is usually 100,000 words, but my publisher is seldom finicky, so if the story takes 110, 000 so be it.

I get a lot of ideas from various rooting in history and just this week learned from the Newberry News that the equiv of our DNR had in 1913 asked deputy game wardens all around the state to count animals, which gave me an unexpected and perfect hook for the new Lute Bapcat story I’m pounding out. See, when you’re writing a novel, or at least when I’m writing, I rarely have a plot in mind. I start with characters, put them in a time and place and let them show me a story, meaning the story takes on its own life in my head. Probably true with all serious writers, and always a marvel to witness because your characters and the events in a story can surprise you.

My goal is to be invisible in the stories and to let the reader live them with the characters. Like most authors, I sometimes fall short of my goal of staying out of view, but I am always striving for total invisibility.

How authors turn this trick is just part of what makes novels so fascinating, at least to me. As the late Bernard DeVoto put it, “The novelist must forfeit something even more important than actors and mimicry of events: immediacy. In all drama, the event occurs in present time with the spectator on the scene. But the novel is imprisoned in past time. The event has already happened when the reader hears about it.”

It’s the writers craft that allows readers to buy into a story, understanding that most readers are most forgiving in the early going, but more critical and analytical as time moves on. Devoto again: The medium of the novel… “There are no limitations whatever on space; the novelist may and usually does use hundreds of different scenes and settings. Hwe may transport us anywhere with a word,or two, and may use a half-dozen locales ina  chapter, a page, or even a paragraph: This is a tremendously important freedom, but his freedom from time-limitations is even more important…and he can achieve an effect of time that no other medium can even suggest: he can work simultaneously , in the same context, with two or several different periods of time and the reader will be present in them all.”

Devoto adds, “Finally, the novel does directly what the drama can do only indirectly and only in small part: it works within the mind of a character as naturally as outside it. More than that, it works with the minds of as many characters as the novelist may choose to enter; In all forms of drama thought an feeling are objectified by behavior and, in order to be experienced, must be inferred. The theater’s devices for escaping this limitation are literal and clumsy; they can succeed only to a slight degree, rarely, and with a rigorously limited effect. But the mind and the emotions are wholly open to a novelist, who at pleasure can give us either the effect of emotion, or emotion itself as it is experienced. Fiction hold the interior world in fee simple.”

FYI, fee simple is a legal term, meaning, “The greatest possible estate in land, wherein the owner has the right to use it, exclusively possess it, commit waste upon it, dispose of it by deed or will, and take its fruits. A fee simple represents absolute ownership of land, and therefore the owner may do whatever he or she chooses with the land. If an owner of a fee simple dies intestate, the land will descend to the heirs.” Great use of the term in relating it to a novelist’s freedom.

Why novels? In part because as Devoto puts it, “They increase the circumference of our experience. They telescope lifetimes into reading times and so open more lives to us than the span of our days.

“The novelist,” Devoto tells us,” is participating in a magical operation. He has entered a world governed by its own laws under the strictest construction. He has joined hands with its inhabitants and is walking deathward with them as if friends.”

Let me conclude with more Devoto: “The period of thinking the novel into being is an effort to discover the true emotions, the true motives, and the behavior and action and change that will occur from them – of search, tentative experiment, error, criticism, rejection, renewed search, to the end that imaginary people may feel and act truly.”

We live up here in what writer Mike Jan once called, “the Buddhist ideal of living…that is, in the now, freed from regrets about the past or anxieties for the future.” Every day is its own discrete lifetime and we try to life  each of them fully.

Remember what’s thought correct changes over time. 1600s, the second singular took a singular conjunction. “You Is.”

If language wasn’t alive and changing, David Wallace reminds us pointedly, “We’d all be talking like Chaucer.”

As a salute to another century, I hope you is having a fine day. Ave a noyce wan, mites.


17 Jul

Publishers Weekly Review of Killing A Cold One.

KILLING A COLD ONE will be out in September, but reviews will trickle in between then and now. Here’s the first , and it’s a good one from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY:

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.)


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