Franklin Township Hall sits on Quincy hill among extensive ruins of an abandoned Keweenaw Copper mine. The No. 2 Shaft Hoist House built in 1916 still stands with its engineering marvel intact — the largest mine hoist in the world. An entire company town with houses, feedlots, and gardens once sat above shafts dug to over a mile deep. Today, it’s a historic tourist attraction, and the town hall still functions as it always has.
Concerned citizens from across the Keweenaw have crashed the multi-township fire department meeting.
First, let me explain the geography and geology of the landscape pocked with copper. My fellow Michigander and writer, Annette Rochelle Aben, gives a great visual of Michigan split into two land masses by the Great Lakes: picture two mittens. I like to add that the mittens are backward (kinda like some of us Michiganders, eh). If you flip the right mitten backward, the thumb points outward toward NYC. Set the second mitten top and perpendicular to the first and flip it back so the thumb points to Canada.
Here’s a visual from Michigan Mittens (great hand warmers, by the way):
So, when I say I live on the thumb of land that juts up into the belly of Lake Superior, I’m talking about the Upper Mitten (or the UP as downstaters call it). Lake Michigan separates the two landmasses, which is connected by the Mackinac (or Mighty Mac) Bridge at St. Ignace. Yoopers (UP-ers) like to joke that the bottom mitten is below the bridge and therefore all downstaters are trolls. Further, the Mighty Mac exists so trolls can get to heaven (the UP), too. Michigan is its own kind of special! I suppose we can grin and say that about the idiosyncrasies of any place.
And before I forget (again!), I had a blast connecting the mittens with Annette Rochelle Aben on her standout podcast, “Tell Me a Story.” We share more in common than living in the same state, but you’ll have to listen to find out: The Magic Happens Magazine. She lists her guests’ stories alphabetically scroll down to my name (and check out other familiar names, too).
Water surrounds this thumb called the Keweenaw Peninsula — Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Waterway which is a dredged portage canal linking the greatest of the Great Lakes. Early settlers, among them Finns and French Canadians, called this geographical region Kuparisaari. Copper Island. I like the name Copper Island, but I’ve yet to hear anyone use it. Often, this region is called Copper Country, but locals prefer the Keweenaw. It’s only taken me 18 months to sort out where I live.
As the winter raven flies, Franklin Township Hall is less than two miles from my Roberts Street home (among the “Swiss Alps” of snow piles). I’m close to ruins of old mining communities, and when spring arrives, I plan to hike up to Swedetown to watch the progression of flowers from long-gone homes emerge. If I looped around from Swedetown, I’d walk past the millhouse ruins of Quincy Mine, cross the road and arrive at the town hall. If I passed the meeting place, I’d go down a steep slope and end up in Ripley, which is a remnant of a village where the stamp mill workers and their families lived along the portage canal.
Basically, this thumb has a bone made of copper-infused basalt and little flesh. Soil on the peninsula is sandy and shallow. We might experience deep snows, but we don’t typically get heavy rains. Last June, a 1,000-year flood struck our ridge, washing away the sand from basalt and the land and trees slid. My friend Cynthia who has a retreat where I’ll be working with local authors lives below Franklin Township Hall, Ripley Falls, and Michigan Tech’s ski hill. Part of the ski hill slammed into her home, burying her yard and first floor in mud and rubble.
An old dump from a ravine higher up also purged its treasures in Cynthia’s back yard. Among the kale that reseeded itself on the heap, we picked up old machinery bits, broken glass and pipe stems. Before the snow fell, we managed to get a meeting of all the agencies and citizens — stakeholders — to discuss mitigation. Within a week, equipment dug out more of the rubble, built a barrier of sorts in the back yard and stretched silt netting at the site of the landslide. Then winter came.
Like a little mouse with sensitive ears, we heard through the grapevine that an emergency planning meeting was to be held at the Franklin Township Hall. So, we concerned citizens gathered. The topic was spring thaw. To the dismay of the county emergency planner, we packed the hall like Keweenaw snow. He announced that the meeting was intended for township fire departments. No one moved. He then said it wasn’t really public and he didn’t have enough handouts. No one moved. It’s a civic meeting at a public place and citizens have the right to sit in on these meetings. We exercised our civic power and stayed.
Everyone knows all this snow is going to melt. It always does.
At the town hall, I can’t see out the windows. Curving layers of snow pack up against the window pains blocking the last of the early evening light. I hold the moment in memory and store it for later recall. We listen to fire chiefs respond in grunts and jokes. One details his station’s emergency plan as “high boots.” Yes, the snow will create water runoff. The question is, how do we know if it’s too high?
You see, snow melts from underneath. Even if we employ Civil Air Patrol or enlist volunteers with drones to check on vulnerable water flows, the snow will block the view. Another problem could be ice jams. As larger chunks break away, they can also congregate in bottlenecks and back up water. Following an unprecedented event last summer we enter new territory this spring. Snow sits above average and has an equivalent of 6-8 inches of water. That actually sounds small compared to 300 plus inches of snow over the winter. But that’s what the meteorologists are reporting. And the rest of us wait.
After the meeting, Cynthia and I approached the emergency planner with an idea we concocted — instead of getting frustrated with us concerned citizens, why not put us to good use and appoint a Citizen Advisory Board? He liked the idea and encouraged us to present a proposal to the townships and get the county supervisors to appoint us. We can even count our work toward matching funds needed to secure grants to clean up last year’s landslides and floods. This is how democracy works.
And it began here in the town hall where miners gathered to discuss how to take care of their villages and families. It seems they were better than we are at civic duty. Many of their efforts are now abandoned like the mines. I think of families like Jules’ and others who still volunteer as firefighters or serve in the public sector. How did we stray from that in America? Busy modern lives? Less connectivity? Maybe it is a key to unification. Maybe if we find common ground, we’ll stop bickering over politics and roll up our sleeves and make our towns the kind of places that are welcoming to all.
I like living on this mitten thumb.
This week, I’m wrapping up on my loaner just because I finally figured out where all my settings are and need more time to get my new laptop ready to work. Kind of like getting a new horse settled into the herd. Takes patience. I’m loving my new Mac Air 13, though. I plan to have this laptop for a long time. On Saturday, I get a session with the Apple Techs, and over the weekend my techie friend will transfer my dead laptop’s data. May Acer rest in peace. I need a name for my Mac. Any suggestions? Especially from you punsters out there.
MacApple came with a Magic Mouse. Oo-la-la! It’s sleek and shiny and feels good beneath my palm. So we are going to chitter stories like mice this week.
March 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse. It can be real, imagined, electronic or whiskered. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by March 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
The Night of Forgotten Chores (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Snow crunched beneath Ike’s boots. Danni hastily stepped into them with her slippers, throwing a jacket over flannel pajamas. She grimaced against the blast of cold air. How did she forget her chores? The animals relied on her, especially when the weather turned. She pushed open the barn door, flicking on lights. Three mournful dogs glanced up from the cocoon of their cedar houses. Blackjack nickered his discontent, and the chukar fluttered in their cage. Sluggish with guilt Danni slid her hand into the grain bag to find the scoop. She yelped when instead she grabbed a live mouse.