It rained all day yesterday.
All day. My tent gave up trying to keep the water out. I slept in the car last night.
Tom Nordstrom, caretaker of the L'Anse Township Park and Campground, stopped at my site and I gave him my key. I'd packed up my tent and everything else by that point, and had showered. I'm ready to go. I'll interview Phil Latendresse in Tapiola at noon, then I'll head west for Redfield - I'll go as far as I get in an afternoon's drive, however much afternoon I have left at that point.
Tom Nordstrom said it was 44 degrees when he got up this morning. The high yesterday was 55 degrees. The waitress at Shabee's said it didn't feel like it was 55 degrees until you were out in it for a couple hours - then you got cold.
I had breakfast at Shabee's, yes. There was a car with Missouri plates parked in front of the cafe as I went in. I sat drinking my coffee. The radio was playing country music, as it usually does. Just over the wall, a white-haired woman was at a table with a man one assumes is her husband; she said, "I can't believe it - they play the exact same songs here as they do in Missouri."
The great leveling continues. More and more the nation becomes as generic as white bread, bland and uniform from place to place. When we are all the same, only those people who like the store-bought white bread will be happy. Those of us who like the home-made wheat will not be so happy. These regional differences are to be cherished; and so are the little differences within a region. I suppose there is comfort in knowing exactly what you are going to get anywhere in the country. Yet what adventure is there in that?
I'm sitting in the car overlooking Keweenaw Bay at the park in downtown L'Anse. Last night as I returned from Da Yoopers' show, you couldn't see across the bay from Baraga to L'Anse - the mist and rain was too heavy. No mist, no rain, no fog this morning. A grey and cloudy sky, grey and cloudy water in the bay.
I interview Phil Latendresse formally, with tape recorder, in his home at the end of a county road outside Tapiloa. It is 1:40 p.m. when I finish.
Now I am leaving the lush green and blue of the Upper Peninsula; and am leaving the lovely lilt of their talk behind. The day has warmed. The sky is still pretty much overcast, but like a good omen the sun shows through occasionally.
There are some open, grassy fields along Pelkie Road north of M-38. A farmyard with a big barn. Nothing gets harvested here now, I think, but trees, and sometimes, marshgrass. Birch, pines, hardwoods.
Here in the margin, where they know how to make do, this is where life evolves.
I am going to drive as far as I can towards Redfield this afternoon. I do not know how far that will be.
M-38. 2:00 p.m. Cows in a pasture. A hayfield. Farm tractors. A chopper for cutting hay.
A mother raccoon and six little ones cross M-38 in front of me. Actually, the adult stops, turns to face me, and glares. Then it moves the rest of the way across the road and into the tall grass. I have had to slow considerably to accommodate the raccoons' slow traipse. The turn to glare at me when I've slowed nearly to a stop - is it any wonder that people sometimes go bowling for raccoons? Cars far off behind me and on-coming pose no danger once the raccoons have gotten moving again.
2:10 p.m. The cloud cover has broken up. The sky shows its blue underpanties. I enter Ontonagon County. Oh, those Ontonagon Hills of Michigan....
I'm headed south on US 45 now, towards M-28. A lot of up and down wild scrubland. You wouldn't call it wilderness. There may have been big trees here once, where I cross the Ontonagon River, but they are not big trees now.
Ha, slack-jawed crow-boy, blue and black in the sun, you stand there at the edge of the road wondering what is going on. Go ahead - wonder! Are you quick enough a crow to catch on? You cannot stand off to the side, you have to leap in, commit yourself, give yourself to your obsessions.
This can't be the end of the world. There is traffic here. There are semis hauling loads other than timber.
Two deer at the edge of the road. They turn back. Just beyond them, an old house falling in on itself. Then a farmstead with small barn. I see only one tilled field. Oh, then there is another.
Fewer trees and more fields. A farmstead with silos. A golf course, for Chrissakes. A car dealership closed down at the edge of Bruce Crossing.
Along M-28 west of Bruce Crossing - you wouldn't call any of this farming. It's not farming for an Iowa farm boy until he sees the corn.
A couple of hayfields. A big farmstead with three silos, including a blue Harverstore, always a sign of success in my day. I don't understand the economics of farming up here. I know you have to take in more than you spend, but how do they do that farming up here? Cows? Do they feed them pasture in the summer and haylage the rest of the year?
Another small farmstead, cattle in a pasture. It has to be like ranching here, doesn't it? You turn the cows out to take care of themselves. You'd call that pine-fed beef....
To be continued....