Camp, 2018, Episode 1

In late June I did a ghost town tour of the U.P. First up was Shelldrake, a few short miles north of Paradise. I couldn’t find it on my own, but my GPS did. Of course I always take anything my GPS says with a grain of salt. When she says, “In one-hundred-and-fifty feet, turn right,” it’s only after I’m practically stopped, and already turning. She’s pretty good with the Big Picture, but when she bores down into the details, her sense of distance leaves a lot to be desired. Shelldrake was not right on Whitefish Point Road, but a little to the east at the end of a dirt road, facing Whitefish Bay. Which is how I managed to drive right past it three times before the GPS convinced me to keep looking. (“No, you idiot–Turn. Left. NOW!“)

Truly, I woke up in Paradise that day. (Disclaimer: it’s not quite like they describe it in the Bible, although there were about as many people as I might expect to see there… I won’t suggest a (low) number. Then I visited the Tahquamenon Falls, had lunch in Newberry, thoroughly enjoyed one luxurious night at the historic Landmark Inn in Marquette, then two more nights at my cousins’ camp, Wayne’s World on beautiful Lake Arfelin (see new header photo above), before heading out to a buddy’s camp a little closer to the next group of ghost towns.

That night was my most interesting. I visited my Yooper buddy—let’s call him D.—and claimed possession of his camp. I stayed there last year for nearly a week. It was, shall we say, modest. Barely livable, but acceptable and convenient. Better this year. Then D. and I did the usual that evening: rode around in his truck, hitting several dive bars, had a late supper, then….

He dropped me off back at the camp, I spread out my sleeping bag, put in my earplugs and went to bed. (I use earplugs even in the silent nights of the deep and dark U.P. Any little noise, like, oh, say, a bear tearing into the trash, will likely wake me out of a sound sleep. I’m not really timid, honest! but strange sounds in an unfamiliar, dead silent place in the dark of night do tend to get my inner cave dweller’s attention.)

I don’t know what time I woke up, but the moon was bright, and I could see an amber light flashing somewhere in the living room beyond the bedroom doorway. What the hey? Worried it might be my car alarm—or someone else’s… or maybe emergency lights going off (fire trucks? police raid? ICE?)—I popped out the earplugs. Dead silence. Got up to investigate. Okay, not a car, it was the clock on the coffee maker. Blinking 12:00, of course. Went back to bed. Woke up again later on, could hear something through the earplugs. Popped them out, hoping it was rain on the roof. Nope, clear sky and bright stars overhead. Listened, determined it was an animal somewhere, likely in the ceiling. I had one, probably a tree squirrel, scratching around above the bathroom ceiling on my last day there last summer. Not a big deal. Earplugs back in, went back to sleep.

But the scrabbling got too loud to ignore. Popped the earplugs out again to assess the situation. In the ceiling? Maybe. In the wall right next to my ear? Possible. I banged on the wall with my fist, without noticeable results. Oh well. I dozed for a while, but eventually I had to get up and figure this out. I found the noise was somewhere in or near the closet by the patio door. I hoped it was something outside that couldn’t get in.

Until I saw a furry tail scramble up and down the curtain. Crap.

So I got dressed—jeans, heavy shirt and boots in case we had to resort to hand to paw combat. Now, there was a very impressive deer hunting rifle right there in the closet, but I figured D. and the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate me using it. (It might be an elephant gun, for all I know. I imagine it would make loud noises and leave large holes in the cabin, probably compromising what little structural integrity it still has.)

As I was getting dressed I saw the tail shoot across the floor just outside the bedroom door.

Understand that I was a Boy Scout, even achieving the rank of Eagle Scout half a century ago, but I’m not a Yooper, and I’m not a truly competent or experienced outdoorsman, but I do know that furry tails are usually attached to furry bodies, and those bodies always have teeth at the other end, and generally in between are four legs and feet equipped with claws.

This was just a small squirrel. He dove behind the stove, which meant at least I could get to the patio, open the door, and give him an escape route. There’s a piece loose fireboard behind the stove that used to protect the paneling when there had been a wood stove there instead of a four-burner range. Squirrel was behind that, scrabbling around and up and down, and peeking out over the top at me.

I tried to pantomime directions to the door for him, be he just wasn’t getting it. I guess neither of us is very good at Charades. I probably looked like one of those guys waving an airliner into the loading gate. In this instance, I blame the pilot. Not having a carrot, I found a stick. (Once again after considering and rejecting the rifle.) The second or third time he popped out the top and tried to crawl across the ceiling I scared him enough that he dropped to the floor. Behind the stove again, of course. But a few more pokes and he shot across the floor and out the door. I closed it and locked it and went back to bed. The sun comes up at 6:01, and it starts getting bright a whole lot earlier than that, so it was a pretty short night. I determined not to actually get up until 7:00, however.

And I do now finally understand why my buddy drinks Busch Lite, which hardly seems worthy of human consumption. You don’t get very looped, there are no undesirable side effects, like hangovers, wretching, or even fuzzy-headedness when you’re evicting squirrels at 4:20am. I was calm and competent throughout, and clear-headed in the morning.

I was dressed, packed, breakfasted, caffeinated and gone by 9:00, heading west to find the ghost towns of Donken and Toivola.

[UPDATE] D. has chided me for my inhospitable actions during this event: “That is just typical, I go to a lot of extra effort to make sure you have a warm cuddly room mate and what thanks do I get? In the future you can be assured that I will inform all the local fauna to refrain from trying to make friends with you. D.”

 

Random Musings

So I was trying to mow the lawn between monsoons today, and the mower wasn’t even up to its usual level of incompetence, so after fixing the first issue and still suffering the slings and arrows of disappointment, I decided I should go to the store and get some parts, and by “parts” I mean “beer.”

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First World Problems

After nearly getting my fingers squashed by the trunk lid on my car, I decided I need new lift supports. I’m a DIYer, and I’ve BTDT a few times in the past, so I checked my local preferred auto parts store and found they cost $30. Each. I need two. Ouch. I do prefer to Shop Locally, but really, is Advance Auto or Auto Zone or NAPA, or even our Midwest everything discount department chain store Meijer really “local”? I think not. So I went to everybody’s usual fallback option, Amazon, and found I can buy a pair for less than $25 ($30 with shipping). Good deal. I placed an order on Saturday and started tracking it. Come Wednesday they hadn’t even been shipped yet. Still sitting in the warehouse? What the hey?

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Coming Soon, Starting Now

The time is nigh for doing more regular updates to my blog. What follows is some fictionalized non-fiction reminiscences from my past lives. I’ve divided these things into the categories of Rants and Memoir. Most can be both.

Also, check my SHORTS (page) now for entirely new short stories of Tales of Life in Deathe.

Adventures in H.R. (in four parts)

One

In the early days, Cavendish Junior College was a big, happy family. Everyone was local, friendly, easygoing. Enthusiastic. Your basic Yoopers. At contract negotiation time, the leader of our little maintenance field group would be summoned into the Personnel Director’s office. (Yes, they used to call that department “Personnel” in those unenlightened days. Forgive them, they didn’t know any better. Now, in these more enlightened days, we call it Human Resources, to better distinguish the responsibilities from Energy Resources, Land Resources, Animal Resources, whatever. Apparently “personnel” was a vague word without meaning.)

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Communication Breakdown

So. Many, many years ago, we the field crew of the maintenance department of Cavendish Junior College (not its real name) were promised cell phones. We’d been carrying pagers for many years, which no one liked, so we were all looking forward to carrying cell phones. After all, when a pager goes off twenty times a day and you’re in the middle of five jobs and two calls and all you can do is scream impotently to the heavens, then you have to drop everything and search for a phone so you can call the office back– and by then you might have cooled off and been civil.

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