Friday, September 19, 2008

Superior Reading

It seems like I have been reading Nevada Barr's Winter Study for a long time now. This is the second book she's set in Isle Royal National Park. I picked it up because it incorporates information about Rolf Peterson's ongoing study of the wolves on the island and as a Yooper, I've read many newspaper accounts of the wolf study in the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette over the years. While the book is as good a story as her others, I guess I'm not really wanting to be reminded of the winter conditions at the end of summer. It's all too soon that the landscape will resemble frozen tundra and we'll all be exhausted just getting bundled up in our winter wear before we can head outside. I have strong recollections of reading another of her books during an outbreak of temperatures ranging down to forty below zero. Her all to vivid descriptions of spelunking in narrow passageways below ground gripped me with a panicky claustrophobia. The tiny house where we stay in Minnesota suddenly seemed the size of a matchbox and I needed space and air. I don't recommend standing outdoors in pj's and robe at midnight when it's forty below..but I had to gulp in huge breaths of fresh cold air and not feel so confined. Now that's GOOD writing!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Labor Day 2008 in Ontonagon

The 51st annual Labor Day celebration in Ontonagon will not soon be forgotten. Early Sunday morning a fire of yet undetermined origin broke out taking with it almost an entire block of buildings. Strong south winds carried embers across the street, gutting another business, and damaging several others. The embers carried for blocks, raining down on tinder dry grass in yards of homes east of the river from River Street back as far as Amygdaloid Street. (It brought back to me disquieting memories of the blaze which burned the Elk Hotel in the sixties where the old jail in which we resided two blocks from that fire was cascaded with large chunks of pine embers still blazing as they landed on the roof.)

In a strange twist of fate, author Henry Kisor had only several days earlier taken some striking photographs of the block which burned, showing the false fronts of the buildings, popular when they were built. You can view the before the fire pictures on one of his blogs, The Whodunit Photographer. His other blog, The Reluctant Blogger, has some wonderful photos and commentary on the aftermath of the fire.

My father tells me that Joan Volek Gersten, coloratura soprano, lived upstairs in the pink building on the left growing up. My great-grandfather, Ira Dowd, had his shop in the Connie's Place building (ice cream shop), and Uncle Walter Scott's barbershop was next door (video store) according to local genealogist (and cousin) Andy Lockhart.