austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I'm gonna tell everyone I know

There's this party store just south of the Red Lion motor lodge, which looks a bit fancy --- it's got hardwood decoration all throughout the interior --- and which has a sign out front showing a rabbit mid-leap. We knew we'd have to stop there at some point, but hadn't found good reason to, at least until that Wednesday when we were looking to go to the Old Mission Peninsula. This is ... if you accept Michigan's lower peninsula as looking like a hand, then the Leelenau Peninsula is roughly the tip of the pinky, with the Traverse Bay the space between pinky and ring finger, and the Old Mission Peninsula goes up ... in that space in-between. There's not a tasteful way to extend the metaphor here.

But. We wanted to go up that peninsula, as there was a letterbox to be found, and a lighthouse to see, and we could eat our second picnic there sensibly, and we needed ice. There were still some cubes left over from two days ago in the cooler. (Our mini-fridge didn't have a more-mini-freezer.) That's an incredible cooler. Thus, our excuse to stop there was picking up ice.

We drove up along roughly the middle-west end of the Old Mission Peninsula, passing a lot of wineries. The whole area's got quite a few, and they're particularly thick on the peninsula, including one that roiled the wine-tasting community a couple years ago when they started charging for tastings. That doesn't seem to have spread, but as bunny_hugger and I aren't wine-tasters by nature we also were only really abstractly bothered by the efforts to turn yet another traditionally free thing into an upcharge.

Along the way we stopped in the ghost town of Archie, which is where the letterbox we had to find was. I'd like to tell you why it was named Archie, but nobody has any clear idea, and a plaque marking the former town's location bills it as, ``MYSTERY NAME''. It had a post office, a Methodist church, and an Odd Fellows hall for about a generation, but according to the historical marker, when automobiles came in the town just sort of drifted away. Anyway, the letterbox we found after not too much scouting about, and we saw our chipmunk for this day in the vicinity.

We pulled up to the lighthouse's park and wondered where we might eat; it turned out there was a good-sized picnic area and that setled that. The Mission Peninsula lighthouse is just about exactly on the 45th parallel, and there's a marker explaining that and pointing out other things in the world that are at the 45th parallel. (We passed the 45th parallel regularly when going to Northport or the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, and that's marked with a highway sign, but we didn't stop for photos at that because it's on the M-22 highway.)

The lighthouse is one not very tall, but it's built into an actual house, and for a long while the lighthouse was a little closed, private area in the midst of the park. That's changed since bunny_hugger last visited --- apparently it was closed to the public while renovators lived in and repaired it, for decades, which seems odd but is what they say --- and now there's a new museum and examples of Fresnel lenses and slightly confusing displays about the history of lighthouse keepers there. The particular point: the lighthouse's history mentions how it had its first female lighthouse-keeper in 1906 (Lasnerian), who was wife and former assistant keeper of the previous incumbent. We could easily see in that time the keeper's wife being named the assistant, and being an acting lighthouse keeper until a permanent replacement could be found, but, was she actually the officially-designated assistant, and was she actually the designated lighthouse-keeper, either as an interim appointment or until her regular term of duty expired?

The more we prodded into this the more ambiguous the information got. We could find references, some in the gift shop, about female lighthouse-keepers, but whether any of them had the responsibility in their own right, or were simply hired on as cheaper than hiring a fresh assistant, we couldn't get straight. Possibly there's confusion in the official records about these points; all we can say is that popularizations of lighthouse-keeping history really need to tighten up their scholarly standards. Provide citations, people, and be precise about what you are claiming.

(Another point which left us confused is that there was apparently some evidence that the first keeper here had killed himself, but maybe not, and I suppose it would be rather easy for a lighthouse-keeper to kill himself in a way that looked accidental, or to have a fatal accident in a way that would look plausibly suicidal.)

Other notes and I'm pretty sure it was at this lighthouse mentioned the wonderful craggly bits of humanity that crept into even things like the log-keeping, such as the one who slipped in stories about the owls nesting in the lighthouse (it was unclear to us whether these were fictional or not, and whether they were naturalistic or presented the owls as talking-animal characters or whatnot), or the notes exchanged between the lighthouse-keeper's daughter and one of the assistants, culminating in his proposal of marriage (and there's not a word what happened after that, at least not turned over to us).

It's got a tiny tower, and a precariously narrow and steep stairway that would actually be more convenient if it were just a ladder up to the viewing room. Another wave of kids came and went while we were looking out and I was futzing around with taking panoramic-view photos, of course. And it's a great view, with not just the beautiful expanses of water but also the Leelenau Peninsula and whatever the rest of Michigan in that area is called on some of the horizons, with water to the horizon north in the view to the north.

We overheard what might sound like a ridiculous question: someone asking a docent if the lighthouse had moved. (Well, it is possible for lighthouses to move, if they're endangered by erosion or other factors and beloved enough by a wealthy enough preservation society.) It hadn't, but the waterline had receded in the past couple decades rather strikingly. The lighthouse had a chart showing measured and time-averaged water levels over the past century-plus and, indeed, right now it's at the lowest it's ever been recorded. So we started telling jokes to one another about how Chicago was just drinking all of Lake Michigan.

In the gift shop bunny_hugger noticed a Lighthouse Passport. This was almost perfectly designed to captivate her. The Passport, from the Lighthouse Society, can be stamped at participating lighthouses. The Old Mission Peninsula Lighthouse, for example, has a stamp that renders the lighthouse itself and shows the 45th parallel, surely its most interesting geographical feature. The similarity in theme to letterboxing stamps was sure to get our interest, and that it's designed to preserve historically important and attractive structures (and ones that Michigan has a lot of --- the most of the 50 states, if I have this right --- for reasons that are obvious once you think of them) helps too. And that we were learning just enough to want to have a more complete understanding, well.

So she was hooked, and sorry that we hadn't gotten the Grand Traverse Lighthouse stamp a couple days earlier (we resolved to go back up there), and learned a bit about the society she was joining by buying the passport and gathering stamps. For example, a couple weeks later it'd deliver to her a bumper sticker, ``I Break For Lighthouses'', which I'd certainly hope she would. (This quip of mine made us particularly laugh when we finally caught that episode of Disappointing Futurama where the Galaxy Express fails to brake for a lighthouse.)

The rules for filling out the passport --- there's rewards for getting books full --- include some fascinating wrinkles, mostly meant to address the problem of what do you do if you get out to see a lighthouse but the gift shop or visitor's center is closed, or the staff doesn't know where the stamp is, or if it's a lighthouse that hasn't got a stamp? It's not fair to lose credit for visiting a lighthouse, but, then what to do? The society suggests some options, like mailing the staff of the lighthouse, if it was closed, to ask them to stamp a sheet for you and pasting it into the book; or taking photographs of the lighthouse and pasting them in, if the lighthouse hasn't got a stamp, or so on. bunny_hugger of course noted that this assumes a certain level of honor among participants, since someone could just write to lighthouses they were never even near and ask for stamps and achieve a fraudulent renown for lighthouse-visiting. ``You could,'' I admitted, ``if that's the world you want to live in.''

And I think I'll continue, tomorrow, with the rest of the day's events, as I've been flooding folks with extremely long entries lately.

Trivia: The earliest recorded use of ``rounders'' for the baseball-like game dates to 1828, in The Boy's Own Book, which includes a description of the rules. This is well after ``base-ball'' (and similar constructions) are recorded. Source: Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search For The Roots Of The Game, David Block.

Currently Reading: Hitler's Secret War In South America, 1939 - 1945, Stanley E Hilton.

Tags: traverse bay
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