This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
August 28th, 2006

Yes, You Can

Go home that is.

My husband JC and I took two weeks off and actually had a life. There is a lot to tell about our trip, and I'll hit bits and pieces over a while, but I did want to dispel an old myth. You can go back. And you know what? It was great!

The first week of our vacation was spent in Quebec, three days fishing with our friend Chris Chin, who worked his butt off trying to find cooperative fish for us on the Ste. Marguerite. Beautiful places, memorable waters and the fun of making new friends.

Chris Chin and Brookie

We spent a day with Faruk Ekich (Ekich Bobbins) who shanghaied two of his English-speaking fishing buddies to make up a proper fishing party. We fished two different pieces of the saltwater Fjord, the latter being right in front of Faruk's summer cottage. Charlie and Lucien were charming and great to be around. It was a fine time in a beautiful place.

Lucien, LF, Faruk and Charlie

I'll give more details on the Quebec trip later, but wanted this time to concentrate on how it felt to literally 'go home.' I grew up spending summers with my grandparents in Rogers City, Michigan. Rogers was a company town in that most of the men worked for Calcite, the largest limestone quarry in the world. Those who didn't work at the quarry itself worked on the boats, large steamships which carried the limestone to the various steel mills located around the great lakes. My dad was a pilot on one of the boats.

I had not been back for over thirty-five years. My grandparents are buried there, their house is still there, and my favorite great aunt and uncle had a lovely home which is still there too. All passed many years ago. It was a trip my heart wanted to make.

Thursday morning, after a nice breakfast at Gates Au Sable Lodge, we drove the 80 miles to Rogers City in our rental car. Sure things have changed over the years, but most everything I remembered was still there. Grandma's house has been added on to, the cemetery has perpetual care so the plots are well tended and neat. The bandstand I've written about has been moved to another park, but it still lives! Aunt Martha's house looked like it had just been created from a Victorian book. Lovely.

The new marina is outstanding, although I learned from the North Woods Call the salmon fishery has declined due to the invasion of 160 invasive species which have come in on ships via the St. Laurence Seaway. More on that another time too.

Standing on the beach near the fence closing off the Calcite property I stuck a toe in the water and commented to JC the water was warmer than I remembered. But then we live on the salt which rarely gets above 52 degrees here.

We were able to find the place where the Grange had their annual stream-side summer picnic. It had been a country park, and now is a state park. Lots of folks around, kids swimming in the pool below the falls, (which has been artificially enhanced to make the pool deeper), and while I didn't look for fish, I expect they are still there in quiet pockets. The Ocqueoc is now a salmon stream as well, but probably not this far upstream. Even the old green hand pump is still there, but a plug in the spout signals it no longer functions. Water quality likely not up to today's regulations, was dandy coming through limestone 50 years ago though.

We had a dinner appointment, and left to get back in time. It was enough to reassure me that my roots are still there, and have survived very well. The economy of the area has declined with the loss of American steel mills. The trickle down dealing a blow to a rather remote little town. But even with that, the houses are painted, yards kept, well tended with pride. Old traditions do survive.

I got a little teary at the cemetery, I had not been able to attend my grandmother's funeral, and she had been a very special person in my life. Even that is good, if we can't feel or are afraid to express our sadness or joy we've lost a great deal.

Then there was the big one.

JC and I were married 33 years ago at Keystone Landing on the mainstream of the Au Sable. On our Anniversary last Saturday, we sat on the steps next to the river, held hands and listened to the river's serenade. Amazing how little the river has changed over the years. It was a lovely, warm, quiet evening. We could hear the birds and an occasional rise. Tiny trout rocketed totally out of the water in their enthusiasm. Upstream, just above an old stump, a good rise appeared. We could have fished, but chose not to. We didn't need to. And besides the fish were having a lovely evening too, it wouldn't be right to spoil it for them. Lots of wonderful memories.

We all have ghosts in our past. Sometimes we can hear and speak to them. It was good to go home. ~ DLB

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