#1 Old Time Rock and Roll #2 Summertime In Northern Michigan
AN EXCERPT FROM THE FREE E-BOOK: BOOK FOUR OF THE PARADISE SERIES
According to Grandpa Middleton’s diary, in July of 1968, Northern Michigan lost its innocence, and everyone, but him, started locking doors. “I’ve never been afraid of anything,” he wrote, and I’m not about to start now.”
By the time his granddaughter Kate was born and had grown up enough for a visit, he still hadn’t changed his mind. But despite his daughter’s half-hearted attempts to get her father to install locks on his cabin’s doors, plans went ahead for the summer. In June, his one and only granddaughter would leave Grand Rapids, and come up north fresh out of third grade.
The plan was to spend time at his cabin near Cross Village and then a week camping with the Girl Scouts on Waugoshance Point in Wilderness State Park. All went accordingly, except for Kate returning from camp with an irresistible urge to find the site where Northern Michigan’s most infamous crime occurred twenty-five years ago.
When Kate was at camp she went through an entire range of emotions, On cold and cloudy nights she’d wake up afraid and adjust her blankets in an attempt to get warm. Her sense of wonder and fears were fueled by the pitch-black sky overhead and what she imagined were the howls of hungry wolves. On warm and clear nights the leaders let the girls stay up late––sit around the campfire laughing and gazing up at the stars while they shared spooky stories. It was fun until the last night. That’s when one of the older girls told a tale that was supposedly true, and what made it worse, it sounded as if it happened almost next door to her Grandpa’s.
Once camp let out, she was more than ready to be back at her Grandpa’s cabin, up in the loft, and in her own bed. Happy she had escaped the wilds, she did nothing but eat, read, and stay warm. The next day, however, she went looking for Mr. Belmar, a part-time caretaker for her grandpa’s cabin. Finding him along side the road in front of the mailboxes, she told him about Miss Dessie, her art teacher. The mere mention of her name caused his voice to rise and set him off on a rambling rant.
“I met that highfalutin woman. She’s a direct descendent of John and Dessie Nyman. He put my grandparents best friends, Otto and Hilda to work, him as a Stone Crusher, and her as a Bag Maker. John could do things like that cause he was a big shot––Secretary Treasurer at the Portland Cement Company––right hand man to Mr. Galster. His son Art owned Nyman’s Coal Company. The younger one, Emery was elected mayor twice.”
Kate shuffled her feet and raised her voice in protest. “Miss Dessie is not highfalutin! Grandpa says she’s down to earth. Helps everybody!”
“Well, actually, I’m not surprised. She’s a Swede. Doing good is in their blood. The Nymans were like that, always taking an interest in educating the workers, even taught me to read. Miss Shepard did the same for my granddaddy in Alanson. That was before she got to be the grade school principal at Central, and started being friends with Judge Pailthorp’s daughter, Frances. She was that art teacher who used to talk about how the Indians peered in her bedroom windows to see her cause she was the first red-headed baby in town. Yep, I knew ‘em all, anybody that was a somebody. Helped me get a job with Mr. Galster. I took care of that stone mansion up on Mitchell Street, where the elite meet. That was long before it was a church––though it didn’t surprise me. Follow the money and you’ll find the Episcopalians.”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” Kate said, “You being so familiar with the past. Do you remember, that it was Miss Pailthorp and her students, who created the 1950s mural that used to hang in Petoskey High School?”
“I sure enough do. Spent a lot of hours filling in for the janitor. If memory serves me right, it covered the entire wall facing toward town. It glowed at sundown with the light shining through those towering windows along Howard Street. Hey, why you’ getting me to gab about all this? You don’t talk like no kid I ever knew. You sound like you’re growed-up . . . ”
“Grandpa says it’s from me being around grown-ups so much. Anyway, what I wanted to discuss, is Miss Pailthorps’s mural with you . . . ”
“What about it?”
“Miss Dessie got the idea to do the same as Miss Pailthrop did for Petoskey’s Centennial––create another one with historical significance. I’m wondering if maybe you’d consider letting her and the kids put it on your property––that long piece along the highway that peeks out over the water. Once it’s up, we could plant flowers around it, and keep it looking real pretty.”
“Whoah! Slow down little girl. I’m not rich. Nobody’s getting my property.”
“Mr. Belmar . . . please . . . look at the flyer I made. Last night I ran into Miss Dessie at dinner and told her about a dream I had. She liked it and helped me write it up, might circulate it.”
“I can’t see good without my glasses. You’ll have to read it to me”
“No problem,” replied Kate jumping up on the fence,”here it comes!”
Kate Middleton has a dream. She wants our students to create a mural––one with historical significance.. Once it is completed, the mural would be placed in a four by 24 foot wall framed by log, birch bark, and fieldstone. On the backside would be a virtual guest book where people could leave messages. Native American Children, Caucasian Children, and African American Children––any child regardless of race or ethnicity––would be memorialized. Kate’s inspiration came from tales she heard told around the campfire at Girl Scout Camp. Here are her recommendations for you to consider:
1. Native American Children: Families from L’Arbe Croche Mission were invited to the La Croix Mission for a big Corpus Christi Ceremony in 1765. A quarrel broke out over a girl and sides were taken resulting in a massacre. In the morning Father Du Jaunay gazed in horror on the dead bodies and left. The missions were abandoned until 1825.
2. Caucasian Children: The fate of Ritchie, Gary, Randy, and Susan Robison––played out in a similar fashion to the Native American children––two centuries later in 1968. The Robison family was vacationing at their cottage near the La Croix Mission. It is assumed a quarrel got out of hand between the father and a business associate over money and how to run the company.
3. African American Children: Marion Mays, a popular student at Petoskey High School known to his friends as “Willie,” lost his life in 1960. He drowned in the Lime Kiln Pond, on the Shores of Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey.
“Do you like it Mr. Belmar?” Kate asked holding her breath.
“Sounds like it’d be a piece of art nobody would ever forget––soothe old wounds.”
“Thank you! I envision a surreal mural––happy children playing together among the birches, cedars, and colorful wild flowers––all of them protected by guardian angels.”
“I hate to admit it, but it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.”
“Do think about it, Mr. Belmar. It would be so wonderful if you could help us. Now how can I tell Miss Dessie to find the spot?”
Mr. Belmar looked at the stack of bills in his mail and wondered why he was listening to her and even considering giving directions.
“Kate,” he said with a heavy sigh, “you’re talking ancient history. Just the same, I’ll draw you a map, but it’s simple. She needs to go down over the bluff, and then take the path along the water. She’ll have to watch for a bunch of pine trees and a fireplace sticking up all by itself. Nothing more to it–– but don’t you take a notion to go traipsing off alone––do you hear?”
Kate nodded her head and crossed her fingers behind her back. Once Mr. Belmar was out of sight, she took off down the tangled path with a basket holding pencils and a sketchpad, peanut butter sandwich, a jar of lemonade, and her favorite doll, Angel. She was along for the ride––went wherever Kate did since her parent’s banished her imaginary friends.
Finding the place was easy. The map the caretaker had drawn on the back of one of his envelopes got her there in fifteen minutes. After looking around she sat down on the hearth and sketched the fireplace. She had heard it was all that remained of the family’s cabin. Now she believed it. After lunch she propped Angel up against the chimney and gave her instructions. “You sit right here until I come back. I’m going to go find us some pretty flowers.”
She wrapped her sweater around Angel and kissed her goodbye. Twenty minutes later she saw Mr. Belmar stomping through the woods.
Looming over her, with his hands on his hips, he insisted she leave. “Come with me now!”
“I can’t. I have to find flowers for the family and my dolly is all alone . . .”
“Forget it child. I gotta tell you, if you were my kin, I’d tan you little hide.”
Down the path she saw Grandpa running towards her. Seeing him, she broke loose from Mr. Belmar and ran into his arm bawling like a baby. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you!”
He couldn’t punish her, instead he took her shopping into Mackinaw City, and later for dinner at the Dam Site Inn.
“Grandpa,” Kate asked over dessert, “you’re not mad at me, are you?”
“I should be, but it’s impossible to stay angry with you. On one hand you’re so grown up, and on the other, you are an unpredictable and precocious child. I insist you start using common sense and do as you are told. I have to be able to trust you or I can’t have you up here again until you become trustworthy.”
Kate nodded as tears ran into her cherry cheesecake. “I understand. I’m sorry, Grandpa, I really am. I promise to do better and never worry you again.”
Nothing more was said, except for his assurances that in the morning, they’d return to plant flowers, and pick-up Angel. The following day they left home carrying trowels and a willow baskets of Forget-me-nots and Trilliums. Planting them among the leaves, white birches, cedars, and pine trees, they harmonized on old hymns and songs they’d learned at Village Inn Pizza in Grand Rapids. When the flowers were all planted, Grandpa took Kate’s hand. Bowing their heads, they sang Amazing Grace for the family.
That night up in the loft with her dolly, she heard familiar voices talking about the still unsolved crime.
Peeking through the railing she could see the men downstairs playing cards..
Taking a slug of whiskey, and throwing down two aces, her grandpa asked, “Do you think they’ll ever pin the deed on the business partner?”
“Don’t know,” Karson grumbled, “I hear people talk, but back then I was Kate’s age––don’t remember much––except for being scared.”
Copyright: 2014 G. G. Galt