Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chicken pecking, and scratching, and dropping... Oh my!

Considering that it's still a quite beautiful Summertime in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea, every quaint and bucolic village and town is still hosting our Northern Michigan variety of Arts & Crafts Shows, or Farts & Craps depending on the subjective level of quality of the items.

This weekend past was no exception, and being the loyal Michiganders that we are, Barb and I obligingly set off to wander thru a couple of them. It was a hot July mid Summer's late afternoon when we hooked up the team of gerbils to our wagon and set out. Tally Ho! ...and off to Frankfort, for a lovely time of looking at all the various styles of "Beach Jewelry" each piece different, yet all alike. As we promenade along the concourse, dripping sweat and wishing for a breeze, we happily run into friends and acquaintances. Dear Phyllis from Church wastes no time as she buries her nose in Barb's bags of goodies, and happily squeals "I just hafta see what's in there!". After passing inspection of our purchases, and the requisite chit chat, we amble along. We did manage to get some fun stocking stuffers for the kids, and even a birthday gift or two. That, combined with a nice, cold, ice cream treat pretty much made our time there worthwhile.

Thus we head our wagon home to drop off the goodies, and refresh ourselves (and the team of gerbils) before our next adventure.  Earlier in the day, Barb and I were at Krista LeAnn's in Bear Lake to get our hair trimmed (in my case) or cut and styled (in her case) and dear Krista filled our ears with stories of tonight's festivities in Kaleva. In most small villages, the local Hair Stylist is not only the best source of information, but usually is to be regarded as a type of rock star, for all her misadventures in life. And Krista is certainly the rock star of Bear Lake! The fact that she is as beautiful as she is friendly only helps to make her more so.  So, she simply insists that we go to Kaleva Days tonight, to hear her boyfriend's band.

Well, who are we to decline the offer of a rock star? So it's evening and off we go to Kaleva! Woot! Woot! Upon arrival, I decide that since it's my date, we would dine in the splendor of the local Lion's Club trailer. And gnosh well we did. I feasted upon a Sloppy Joe Dog (with chips!) while my bride made little work of a hot dog with sauerkraut. Yes, I pull out all the stops for my lovely wife. Then, into the Beer Garden we happily go... I offer to support the local Fire Department and purchase some wonderfully colf beer, and a non beer but had alcohol drink thingy for Barb.

We run into our dear rock star, and my goodness me, she certainly has been supporting the Fire Department as well! I am truly impressed with her level of devotion to civic duty, and her ability to form words without slurring. *chuckle* Hey, it's a Saturday night, and she can kick up her heels a bit if she wants too. Her boyfriend's band is playing, and so far no one has thrown anything at them, so Life is good. And then we turn around... and see the caged board. And the chicken coop next to it. And then the fun really begins!

I've seen a lot of things in my life, but this one refines my experience of living in Northern Michigan! Oh sure at every Festival is some way to win a Raffle, and the proceeds go to a local not-for-profit organization. sure the Fire Dept sells beer, or the local Lions Club raffles off a kayak. Sure those are nice ways for a group to raise money to continue to serve the community. But this, this my friends truly was the amazement of the night. The head of the Kaleva Beautification Team (which takes run down houses and renovates them) has a 3ft by 3ft board, and divided into squares. In each square is a number. You can bet on what number the chicken is gonna crap on! Oh. My. Gawd! Really! If the chicken craps on your number, then you win. Oh. My. Gawd. This was just too incredible! So imagine about 20 or so people standing around a cage, telling the chicken which number to drop it on, and other various remarks.  And of course, most of the aforementioned good folks were also verdant supporters of the Fire Department, so that just added a bit more, should we say colorful, commentary to the scratchings. I don't think we've ever enjoyed an evening quite like that in our lives! How long before it comes back?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Too Much Or Too Many?

Ahhh Summertime, and the living is easy, or so goes the old song. And for the most part, life in Northern Michigan is a breeze in the Summer. Any day without snow is a bonus! We live on the Big Waters of Lake Michigan, the clime this year has been flat lakes and warm temps... and then the family all gathers together. At the same time... Into one house.. That no otherwise sane person would attempt to pack that so people, and animals, under one roof, even at the Zoo!

We are very lucky and indeed fortunate, to live where we do. And we endure a very long Winter (usually snow on the ground for  5 months or so) to live for that brief phenomenon  known as Summer.  Which means we treasure when our friends, and family come to spend time with us in the warmer months.

Point of fact, we hold an annual July 4th BeachFire Bonanza and Fireworks Festival, that has been going on since 1976! It really has become something of a tradition here, and this year was no different.  This year, in fact, we had an amazing turnout of people. Boy howdy did we ever! In our modest home of two bedrooms (plus my small office) and two bathrooms, we housed nine adults, one baby and four dogs! Oh. My. Gawd. And we had various incarnations of family and friends for two weeks! Oh. My. Gawd.

Let's just say that my dear wife and I are not quite used to being so close to everyone. *chuckle* Usually we can spread everyone out into three homes here; ours, and a Beach Cottage, and a Farmhouse. The latter two we rent to vacationers by the week, but keep open on the week of 4th July for family. This year, however, people ended up coming up the week before the forth (when said domiciles were filled aforementioned renters, and yes more dogs), and therefore camped out with us.

Having to go around, under, over and through eight other people, plus four dogs, to take ten steps from the living room to the kitchen truly added some dimensions to the value of family closeness! Never mind my two kitties that were having psychological fits of terror at every turn. Then, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, a walloping huge Suburban pulls up, and I quip, "Gee, I hope they have a dog too!". Be careful what you ask for... yup more family, and with a 95 pound Chocolate Lab! Woo hoo! Let's get this party started! They were just passing thru, but did want to stop in say 'Howdy to everyone.

But just as every party has to end, even this adventure did as well. People started drifting back towards their various homes, and the renters (one set had five Cavaliers Spaniels), all departed as well. So then we could spread out again, desquishify, and breathe easier. Believe me, when we all had to synchronize our exhalations it got a bit tight at the shoulders. I did once remark that I was going to put up a Used Car Lot sign, and offer a free dog with every purchase, but was somehow turned down by the rest of the family. Apparently they didn't see the value of my economic indicators, but that was probably just as well. I would have missed those cars.

So now back to the rest of Summer, the usual chores and jobs of carrying on. We truly love hosting our family here, but even when over run, we still have three homes to maintain, and all our usual activities to perform. They get to go to the beach and play, and we wouldn't ever have it any other way! So as masochistic as it sounds, yup, we miss them all!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's a Parade!

There are few times in my memory when an entire community has gathered together to say "Thank you, and well done!" to somebody that truly deserves it. This evening was a sterling example of why I choose to live in this community.
Life in Bear Lake, Michigan is an experience to savor, and has a charm that touches all who journey thru here. This is a very small (well, ok, it's teeny tiny) village and township in the upper left hand corner of the lower peninsula of our state. To call it Americana would only trivialize the beauty of our area, and our many varied neighbors and friends. One of those neighbors, and personal friends, is a truly great man, that goes by the name of Fred Alkire.
Fred may only reach a few inches over five feet in height, but his stature is that of a gentle giant. He has held many titles in his life, but would be quick to point out that husband and father are the most important ones. He held many jobs, each one to serve his community, and family, rather than chase after the almighty dollar. He is the kind of man that makes you feel good about yourself, while you try to improve who you are. His easy smile, and unassuming ways belie the true warrior that he is. You don't bullshit Fred Alkire, and he doesn't give any. He is as honest as the day is long, and will be there for you till the cows come home.
This weekend is a celebration of our bucolic village. Oh sure every little village and town throws itself a party in the Summer, but that's part of why we love it so much. During Bear Lake Days, on Saturday evening, we have a parade. Our local Boy Scout Troop is always in the parade, and we have a lot of fun. For many years, Barb and I (as Assistant Scout Leaders) would trod along with our little troop, and watch as these young boys would magically become sterling examples of young men. And all the while, our Scout Leader, year in, and year out, for five decades, was that same man; Fred Alkire! He has an astonishing record in Scouting, having sponsored 44 Eagle Scouts, and also having been at Scout Camp for some 38 years in a row! This man first guided young boys into Eagle Scouts the same year that Neil Armstrong trod upon the Moon. Along the way he also been instrumental in guiding the local government of our Township and Village, and has guided the community in much the same way as he has guided our boys. Fred never accepts anything less than your best, because that is just what he always gives back.
And tonight, our community did indeed give back! Fred, and his long time Assistant Scout Leader, Red (Yes, Fred and Red, it was quite a show) were the Grand Marshalls of the parade. And just behind that float were 22 of the 44 Eagle Scouts that graduated in his tenure! These young, and not so young, men came from all over America just to honor this one man. Fred truly stands as a giant. My life, and so many more, have been made better by his leadership, his devotion, and his love. God bless you Fred, I will always look up to you!