Sunday, November 23, 2008

Deer season

Chuck's post of Friday, where he described his little group of hikers having to go all the way to Plan E because three other of their favorite hiking spots were "Closed for deer season" - Plan C was a breakfast stop - first made me laugh, but then I got to thinking about deer season as it was when I lived way up there on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

This was in the 40's and 50's, long before the Mackinac Bridge finally became a reality - opening in 1957.

Hunters from the Lower Peninsula would start lining up by the hundreds for a ferry to take them across the Straits as much as two days, sometimes, before the season actually started. Waits as long as 24 hours - particularly as the season's official beginning date grew closer - were not a bit unusual, and none of them wanted to miss the first hour of opening day.

[There's a really good shot of all the cars waiting for the ribbon to be cut so they can exit on the St. Ignace - Upper Peninsula - side of the bridge. I'll see if I can find it. Here it is!]

One year when I was in high school (early 50's) our basketball team qualified to go to the next level in Michigan's state competitions. A huge caravan of cars and buses carrying practically a whole town's worth of fans (I was on one of the buses) traveled to Petoskey in high hopes. A game later, we all returned back home with our tails between our legs. Lots of jubilant singing and shouts on the way down ... sadness and silence all the way back home.

I can distinctly remember how loud, joyful, and eager we were on the first leg of our trip. I have no memory whatsoever of taking the ferry across, altho we must have! It was the only way to get across the Straits at that time.

I don't know how many of you are even vaguely familiar with the configuration of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It extends approximately 300 miles from east to west, with a great percentage of the western side directly north of and abutting Wisconsin.

[There's an old story - don't know how much truth is in it - that Michigan and Wisconsin flipped a coin to decide which state would claim the peninsula. Michigan lost the toss.]

Before the Mackinac Bridge was built, the only way for folks to travel south by car from the UP - if they didn't want to wait for a ferry to take them across the Straits - was to go through either Wisconsin or Ontario.

I remember going through Sudbury, Ontario, more than once - what a bleak area! - on our way to New York. I remember thinking, as we got on the "King's Highway" for the very first time, that this would be a really neat thing. My imagination had it all tree-lined and filled with flowering bushes and shrubs. Ha! Nothing could have been further from the truth. It was pock-marked from years of heavy truck traffic with not a whole lot of regular maintenance, apparently, and only two lanes - one each direction.

We were driving a vehicle that could be best described as 'serviceable', and every once in a while I think of a truck on this one particular trip that we always seemed to easily pass going up a hill but then - coming back down, he'd be right on our rear end, pushing us to go faster. (Think our absolute top speed was around 80mph.) This went on for miles and miles and more miles, until - finally - we were able, inch by inch, to elude the monster.

I don't want to end this post without mentioning Mackinaw Island. You'll notice, if you investigate any of these links, that the spelling differs. That's because the 'c' in Mackinac is usually silent, except for the Straits of Mackinac and Fort Michilimackinac. There doesn't seem to be any uniform spelling code. Doesn't matter, really. Whichever way you want to try and Google more information about the area, it'll come up for you.

I was fortunate enough, as a member of Munising High School's marching band, to visit Mackinaw Island many times. Mr. Howlett was our instructor then. We were always invited to the island, where we stayed at the Grand Hotel, every June. Sweet, sweet memories!

[Did you know that the Grand Hotel's swimming pool was built specifically for Esther Williams' use in a movie? It was!]

Getting back to the main subject of this post, however - "Deer season" -, I spent an hour or so yesterday going back through many of my earlier posts trying to find one where I had written about Chuck Jensen. I couldn't find it. Thought sure I had already told you this story! (?) At the risk of repeating myself and boring you to death, here it is - hopefully not 'again'.

It was the first day of deer season. We never expected Chuck to be in class that first day. He lived out from town a few miles, and his folks always allowed him to miss the first day so he could try and get his buck. He was only given the one day. Then he had to go to school.

Well, it was the first day of deer season and there Chuck was, in class. He looked kind of embarrassed to be there, and we all wanted to know what happened! Why wasn't he out hunting?

It turned out that earlier than morning, Chuck had gone out into his backyard - armed with his license, deer-hunting clothes, and gun - and guess what he saw? A 10- or 12-point buck (I forget which) right in his back yard! Chuck shot him and his folks made him go to school.

No comments: