My Dot on the Map: Schoolhouse

Less then a mile down the road from where I live is an old one-room school house made into a home.

Hutchinson School

Lydia Hutchinson’s School

I go by it several times a day and each time I think I should stop and take some pictures. At the end of last week’s photo shoot with Julie, we decided to stop. The owner was pulling out of the drive as we were parking so we asked if we could take some pictures. She excitedly said yes and explained that it was Lydia Hutchinson’s school and it had been part of the farm up the road on the corner of Maple Dale. We could tell that she is in love with this building.

It seemed like a no-brainer that we needed to stop at the farmhouse. It was our day because the owner, a man who looked about 70ish was standing up by the house. He also was more than happy to let us take photos and followed me around giving me tidbits of history as I snapped.

Two front doors - one each for the political right & left?

Two front doors – one each for the political right & left?

_DSC0779This man is the son of Lydia’s sister and he and his wife will be the last family members to live on the farm. All but 120 acres have been sold off.

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He explained that there are four doors going into the parlor because it was bad luck to bring dead bodies through the front doors when they had showings and visitations.

There were several outbuildings – some he was able to keep up and use for storage. Right behind these are others that haven’t been maintained and he seems quite troubled by this. Keeping up the property is a lot of work.

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Behind these outbuildings Julie found a path that was mowed and went to another path that ran between fields.

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His wife had walked this path back to the woods the other morning. There, at the end, was a new spotted fawn waiting for mother to return. It is the kind of path that would make a morning walk very enjoyable.

All this interesting history within a mile of my house. I wonder what else I don’t know about my neighbors?

Upper Peninsula

Friend Natalie needed to go back to Escanaba where she grew up and wanted someone to go with her to help with the driving. I jumped at the chance. Escanaba is in Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula, on the far north shore of Lake Michigan, almost to Wisconsin. How nice that my trip was just in time for Frizz’s weekly alphabet challenge that is all the way up to “U”. I don’t think there is anywhere on earth that is like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

View of bridge from the Lower Peninsula.

View of bridge from the Lower Peninsula.

I had two goals for this trip. The first was to capture Natalie’s growing up places in photographs because she was going to the memorial service for a couple who were killed in a car accident. These were people she had known forever and were her last ties to Escanaba. I couldn’t accomplish this because the pieces of her old life – her home, her school – had all changed too much. It had been well over half a century. Natalie drove around and showed me places as she was remembering them fondly in her minds eye. “This was where…” Going back and remembering sometimes is an important part of moving on. So is realizing that things aren’t the same any more. That can hurt a little.

My second goal was to capture the personality of the U.P. We took many summer camping vacations to the upper peninsula when the kids were young so this wasn’t my first trip. Even though I’ve been this way before, I still feel an excitement deep within, experience a sense of wonder when I go across the Mackinac (pronounced Machinaw) bridge. Natalie and I agreed that it feels like a different world. It has a special personality created by its geography.

It is almost an island, but not. Along the south are Lake Huron and Lake Michigan with just a small wet border with Canada on the east. The Sault (pronounced Sue) Lockes between Sault Ste. Marie Canada and Sault Ste. Marie Michigan provide passage for ships between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, important because it then allows shipping of natural resources to Chicago and the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean. The northern border of the UP is the shore of Lake Superior. The only land connection is the western border with Wisconsin.

I think most Yoopers (people who live in the UP or moved away after growing up there) feel a stronger connection with Wisconsin than with Michigan. There is a political, social, and economic disconnect between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. A part of that disconnect is the Straits of Machinac. This strait has strong, turbulent currents but it can freeze over if not kept open by the Coast Guard for shipping. The only way to cross was by car ferry until 1957 when the bridge was opened – it is the only physical connection between the two peninsulas. The 5-mile long bridge is frequently closed because of high winds, making it frightening for some people to drive. The bridge authority provides a driver service for those too anxious to drive themselves. On both days we drove the bridge there were calm winds. Even so, when I drove on the inside grated lane I could feel the car move because of the updraft.

Mackinac Bridge from Highway 2

Mackinac Bridge from Highway 2

The personality of the UP is defined, in large part for me, by Lake Superior. It is deep, it is big, it is clear, it is really cold all year, and it can be wild. Sink ships kind of wild. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald? – a ballad was written about it. Maybe it is a Michigan phenomenon but we look on Lake Superior with awe. Lake Superior produces a lot of snow – measured in feet kind of snow. And spring comes late – the trees were just starting to leaf out in the middle of May.

A stop at the Cut River Bridge on US 2

A stop at the Cut River Bridge on US 2

I don’t have photos of our many trips to Lake Superior where we scouted fire trails and lost roads for ghost towns – towns that flourished at the height of the copper mining era but then died. Sometimes these ghost towns were just foundations overgrown with weeds, sometimes the company towns looked like the people had recently left. There are lots of signs of past prosperity from logging and mining. Now people work hard to make a living from logging, fishing, farming and tourism. Last week-end the area was just waking up from the long hibernation of winter.

Here are photographs that seem to capture some of the personality of the UP. The slide show can be viewed by clicking on any photo that will also provide captions and information.

Natalie and I laughed because there seems to be Michigan time and Upper Peninsula time.  No one seemed to be in a hurry. Of course the marinas were empty and many of the business weren’t open yet because tourist season doesn’t start until after school is out for the summer. I hope the tourists will feel the difference, will take a deep breath of the air that smells so much fresher, and will let go of the stress that builds up “below the bridge.” Maybe they can open the car windows and let the wind blow it away as they are crossing.

Anther way you can unwind is to wander over to Frizz’s place and check out other entries. Here’s the spot:

http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/tagged-u/

Beauty Thru my Lens: Farming

_DSC0092This post is for all you city-slickers out there. All of you who get great joy out of living where the action is, where you can walk the busy city streets and get wonderful cityscape shots. Of course, the other half (you know there are always two kinds of people) will be drawn into my post just because you feel it; you feel the pure joy of driving in the country in the spring past all those wonderful working farms.

Mike, over at Mike’s Look at Life told me he can never pass up a good barn. I too have had a long-time fascination with barns. Maybe it was because I spent so much time with my grandparents who were small-time farmers. Grandpa taught me how to drive on a Farmall Cub when I was 13. He let me drive it all by myself, on the road, from his plot at Ready’s farm on Portage Lake, to their cottage about a mile away. I still remember, at a younger age, feeling the warm, fine, black muck between my toes as I put the potatoes in holes grandpa dug. It was important work and we were a good team. Grandma sat in the shade of the big oak tree cutting the potatoes so there was an eye on each piece.

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My very favorite memory is swaying on a swing hung from that very big oak tree, teaching the rows of vegetable plants how to sing. I don’t sing (they didn’t do so good either) but I am a teacher at heart – and an introvert and love the quiet solitude of the country. It makes me wonder if these early experiences formed where I found joy throughout my life or whether there is a genetic predisposition that pulls me to these things.

I grew up in small towns and then moved to the suburbs when I was just entering my teens. The school I started in 7th grade was a new district formed by consolidating a large number of one-room schools. It was called Northwest Agricultural School. They didn’t teach agriculture but they did have a Future Farmers Association. The odds were pretty great that I would marry a farmer – but I didn’t. As a teen, I have very fond memories of visiting my friend Sally and playing in their barn. I learned to love the smell of cows when I visited the dairy farm of my friend Phyllis.

Now I live in a suburban neighborhood, but surrounded by fields. I can hear the tractors plowing the fields close by. In the evening I can hear cows baying (I think that is what it would be called). One of my greatest joys is driving down my country roads and seeing the softly rolling hills of farmland, with the crops changing through the seasons.

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I’ve done a couple of other posts on barns here and here. Friend Julie and I have spent a couple mornings wandering around some barns. She has a very interesting image of a barn window that you can see by clicking on this link. Julie is just entering the blogging community so give her a warm welcome! I also suggest you follow her because her photos will be worth seeing and she has the soul of a philosopher.