When writers come from many locations, it can be interesting to ask for their perspective on the history of a single place — an unfamiliar place. History can be a way to combine different experiences and share what it means to understand a place through the events and people who came before.
Writers at Carrot Ranch were asked to use the micro-histories collected by the Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP) to write 99-word stories. This is where history meets literary art.
The following are based on the July 4, 2019, prompt that uses real historical events or people from the KNHP.
The Old Ramona (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“Big Annie wrapped the American flag around her shoulders like a shawl to march with striking copper miners,” Danni explained.
Ramona frowned at the old photo. It was part of Danni’s Keweenaw collection where she had earned her master’s in industrial archeology. Before she met Ike in Idaho. Ramona used to relish stories about Big Annie who rallied the miners and spent time in jail in 1913. Now, Ike’s grandmother glared.
“Shouldn’t disgrace the flag that way,” she said.
Ramona left the room and Danni sagged. She missed Ike in Iraq more than ever. She missed the old Ramona.
Is she? by Bill Engleson
So, I’m scrolling through the microhistory, eh. Its chock full of a ton of ordinary folk, living, loving, divorcing, and dying.
Anyways, a couple of them strike my fancy.
The first is John Petermann. I give his profile a boo thinking there might be a link to Seinfeld’s Mr. Peterman. Straight arrow guy, eh. Different spelling but what the hey. TV Character; historical character.
Topping my list though is Big Annie.
Now I see right away that Charli has glommed onto her.
Her tales got punch.
All I got is the Amy/Annie Klobuchar notion.
That ain’t going anywhere fast!
Bears and Bikes by Annette Rochelle Aben
Michigan Bicycle Touring was escorting us through the Keweenaw that year. Filled with breath taking scenery and the peace one longs for.
Oh, and bears!
I was in the “sag wagon” being hauled to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in style, my husband was on his bike climbing Brockway Mountain.
That’s when we saw the cubs.
Cubs to the right of us, mamma to the left and Danny behind, unknowingly heading for disaster.
Quickly, we placed ourselves between the bears, opened the sliding door of the van, slowed down and pulled Dan in, bike and all. Bearly averting a crisis.
The Judge by Ann Edall-Robson
The box of old pictures and newspaper clippings lay sprawled across Hanna’s bed. Everything made sense until the name Judge William Pettit Raley surfaced. What was the significance of this man who kept appearing in the oddest places among the family archives she had been gifted? Her grandmother had been adamant she not falter when it came to finding the truth about their families history. Staring at the Judge’s obituary, the light came on. He wasn’t the important one! Hanna jotted down her fleeting thoughts. She would have to pursue them later. Now it was time to do chores.
John Kohtala and the Barsotti Kids by TN Kerr
John Kohtala would wake every day before sunrise, do his chores on the farm near Chassell at the south end of Portage Lake. He’d then walk twenty-one miles (uphill, both ways) to attend Calumet Middle School on Fifth Street in what is now the Ace Hardware Store. It was there, he became fast friends with the Barsotti children; Peter, Arthur, and Gemma and became interested in theatre.
One day, after school, the kids were hanging out at the Barsotti’s Candy store when Gemma suggested that they put on a play.
“Hey,” piped in John, “My dad has a barn…”
Dusala Banettini by JulesPaige
Dusala Banettini was not like her beautiful cousin the dancer and poet Teressa. Dusala, though was a smart business woman and at twenty five left Italy to start fresh in America. It would be good to be independent from her family. While she loved them they were always loud and boisterous. And everyone was in your face wanting to give you advice.
In 1903, it was good to have the confectionery close to the Calumet Theatre. Now in her early forties, Dusala could take part in the community theatre productions. To her that was a good connection to Teressa.
Location, Location by Susan Sleggs
William Butterfield sat across from his wife Phebe. “This is the best chicken and biscuits I’ve ever eaten.”
Phebe laughed, “You didn’t know you married the best cook on the peninsula, did you.”
“I didn’t. In my travels here I ate bad meals and stayed in flea ridden rooms. What say you to the notion of us building a new hotel and you cookin’ for the guests?”
“We won’t be able to surpass the Douglass House.”
“No, but with our location we’ll have a better veranda view.”
“I’ll do it if we have our own private sitting and bedroom.”
Anselm Studer by D. Avery
When I was in New York I felt like I was still aboard ship on the churning sea. The buildings there towered tall but they were hollow rustling hives.
I came to the Keweenaw. Here there are no towering buildings. There are no great mountains like the Alps of my homeland, but this place, these people, possess their indomitable strength. The miners call it sisu. I think of this Finnish word that defines my America as I build foundations for the new buildings.
This is something I know: the tallest mountains, the strongest communities, are built on solid foundations.
Escaping the Famine by Sally Cronin
Michael placed a clod of barren earth in a pouch before joining Maggie, waiting with their meagre possessions by the side of the road. Carrying their bundles and what food was left, they walked eighty miles through desolate lands to Cork. With their last few pounds, they bought passage on a ‘Coffin’ ship. Surviving storms and disease aboard the crowded vessel, they made their way to Michigan. Michael toiled in a copper mine, until the growing family settled on a farm near Hurontown, where they mixed the earth from the old country with the rich soil of the new.
Captain Jack by Susan Zutautas
In 1813, many years ago Captain Jack Angus was born
He sailed the lakes and seas
Never passed up a good breeze
Schooners he did sail
I’m sure he must have seen a few whales
The captain felt safer on the salty sea
Then in the lakes you see
Married a Metis woman from Sault Ste. Marie
At LaPoint he was a lighthouse keeper
This was probably cheaper
Then living in a house
Having to watch out for a mouse
In 1894 he passed away one day
A sailor at heart from the start is all I can say
In Search of History by Norah Colvin
Sorting through her father’s papers, Nette discovered secrets never revealed in life. “Mum” wasn’t mum. Her birth mother died when she was two. Although obviously named Antonette Mary after her maternal grandparents, their stories had never been told. Now, she needed to know. In the old schoolhouse, she traced her mother’s name—Agnes—so long ago carved into the wooden desktop. She’d felt no connection at the cemetery, nor reading the family’s Census record. But when the school bell rang, she shivered as the spirits of children past, her mother, aunts and uncles, joined her for Keweenaw history lessons.
Jessie and James by Kay Kingsley
Loving in secret, a porter and a waitress, he fashioned her a copper ring as a placeholder and reminder of their future together in Red Jacket once the ban was lifted.
And finally, in 1883 it was, and they sealed their vows as the first interracial married couple with a kiss in the middle of 5th Street.
But discrimination would eventually wear their future into dust, and with a broken heart, James watched from a distance as Jessie disappeared on a train headed for Chicago where her new life awaited.
He retreated into darkness and was never seen again.
Cora Reynolds Anderson by Joanne Fisher
“You’ve done everything you can. It’s in the hands of the voters now.” Charles told her.
Cora knew this. Many people had said they were voting, but you were never sure how it was going to go. She had fought for a public health service for Baraga County as she had seen the effects that alcoholism and tuberculosis had had on her own people, and it was this and fighting for education that made her well-known in the area. If she won she would be the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.
Tomorrow she would know.
The Tale of Michael Finnegan by Ritu Bhathal
“There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He grew whiskers on his chinnegan
Along came the wind and blew them inegan
Poor old Michael Finnegan, beginegan!”
The strains of the rhyme reached Michael’s ears, and he smiled, rubbing his hairless chin.
It had been no secret that he’d never been able to grow a beard.
At first, it frustrated him. No one took him seriously.
This fresh-faced whippersnapper, arriving from Ireland, wanting to do business.
And the kids made up this silly rhyme that used to annoy him.
Beard or no beard, he’d made his fortune!
Jay Hubbell by Geoff Le Pard
Jay Hubbell was famous: congressman, judge, mining advocate. He was well-liked, a considerate family man and generous benefactor. But Jay carried a terrible secret. His beard was possessed by a malignant spirt, Orifice the Odiferous who would release odours so unutterably foul that Jay often despaired. If Jay ever attempted so much as a trim the gases realised rendered him unconscious.
Finally the mines did for them both. While on a visit to watch the testing of a new safety lamp, Odiferous released a maleficent miasma. The ensuing explosion set back the development of safety lamps by years.
Horace Caulkins by H.R.R. Gorman
Horace Caulkins, owner of the local kiln, harrumphed when he saw her paint. “That’s a pretty pattern, but what an ugly color.”
Mary Chase Perry dipped the brush in the delicate glaze and swept the liquid over the plate. She formed a delicate circle, close enough to perfect that few would notice any off-center bits. “You own the kilns. You should know this olive-green will become the loveliest blue when it’s fired.”
“I make teeth, ma’am. I use only white glaze, not this frilly stuff.”
Mary dipped her brush back in the pot. “Would you like to change that?”
Mary Chase Perry Stratton by Miriam Hurdle
“Welcome to Pewabic Pottery. How can I help you?”
“I want to take a pottery class.”
“That’s wonderful. Let me show you around.”
“Great. Who is in the picture on the wall?”
“She is Mary Chase Perry Stratton, our co-founder who started Pewabic Pottery in 1903.”
“Wow, a woman who did it 116 years ago.”
“Yes, when she was 36 years old. She studied art with the sculptor Louis Rebisso when she was 20.”
“Do you have anything she made?”
“We do, and pictures too. She lived to 91 years old and did many projects.”
“She is my inspiration.”
Cora Mae, Renowned Ojibwe Anthropologist by Saifun Hassam
Cora Mae was a popular art teacher at the L’Anse Academy. She was a Chippewa, and her paintings of the Upper Peninsula Ojibwe soon led to an art scholarship at the Huron Art Institute.
To her great surprise, she was invited by the Midewiwin Society to participate in an artistic recreation of the Ojibwe sacred pictorial scrolls, their stories, beliefs, history, astronomical and mathematical information.
Cora made a life-changing decision. She enrolled at the Suomi University and majored in anthropology. Her landmark field studies of the Ojibwe, her artwork and interpretation of the scrolls have left a lasting influence.
Where Once Were Mines by Anne Goodwin
“Does anyone recognise these flowers?”
Buzzing bees, chirping crickets and a strange tapping fill the pause. Cogs in young brains turning? A meadow pipit or a stonechat? No point asking these kids. The only bird they know is the robin on a Christmas card. The only flower a hot-house Valentine’s rose.
“They’re not flowers, they’re weeds!”
When he was their age this was slag. Industrial waste.
“Sir, sir, can we see the mineshafts?”
Soon, he’ll have them making daisy chains. Holding buttercups beneath each other’s chins. Will they hear the tapping sound? The ghosts of his forebears toiling underground.
Entombed by Kerry E.B. Black
They hibernate in the winter, nestled deep within abandoned Keweenah mine shafts, a contented cauldron of Brown Bats until spring’s hunger provides an irresistible awakening. They’ve lost much of their body weight during their slumber and the need to devour insects growls urgency. As one, the colony flies along rocky tunnels stripped of copper. The mass of leathery wings and furry bodies eager for fresh air find cement blocks their escape. With frantic urgency, they search for escape. Hearts pound. Nails scratch. Some throw themselves at their captor, the man-made seal to their man-made tomb. None escape or survive.
Ellen Dickens by D. Avery
Mama was Lewis’ wet nurse. We called him Lil’ Dickens, me and Mama, and his granddad did too, ‘cause he was always gettin’ into mischief.
His granddad, Old Mr. Dickens, he trusted me, put me in charge of keepin’ Lil’ Dickens out of trouble. Showed us both where to fish. It wasn’t so bad then.
Lil’ Dicken’s own daddy, couldn’t no one stay out of trouble with him. No one.
After Old Mr. Dickens passed I ran. Caught up with Lil’ Dickens, who’d run first. Lewis took me in like his sister. His own children call me Auntie Ellen.
The New Doctor by Allison Maruska
“Isn’t it wonderful?” My wife leans against me on the sofa. “Starting over in a new town, surrounded by new people.”
“Indeed it is.” I brush a few of her stray hairs that tickle my cheek.
“When will you open your shop?”
I pull at my sleeve, pondering my boring, old life as a tailor. “I decided to do something different.”
“Oh?” She sits up, looking into my eyes. “Like what?”
I smile. “How would you like to be married to a doctor?”
“But you’ve no training.”
“Well, it’s like you said. We’re surrounded by new people.” I wink.
Unattended Baggage (Part I) by D. Avery
“Our writer gittin’ dragged west. Hmmph.”
“Don’t think she’s gittin’ dragged. Heard she offered ta drive.”
“Jist gonna keep hmmphin’?”
“What’s the word count? I’ll hmmph 60 more times.”
“It’s no skin off yer teeth Kid. An’ it’s good fer the Ranch.”
“Hmmph. I don’t trust our writer. She don’t git out much ya know. We’d best pack our saddle bags, Pal.”
“Heard she’s plannin’ on packin’ her sourdough starter.”
“Why hmmph with /ph/, Kid?”
“’Cause I’m sofisticated. We’ll tuck down in the back a the truck.”
Unattended Baggage (Part II) by D. Avery
“Kid, we should stay put right here.”
“Really, Pal? An’ where’s ‘here’, exactly? Anyway, that’s a ways off. Look it her squirm now with this prompt. Whinin’ ‘bout not knowin’ Copper Country so she cain’t be writin’ ‘bout its folks. But she’ll have ta come up with somethin’. Shorty’s got her committed, seems.”
“Prob’ly should have her committed. Ya know, Kid, we will go out there. We’s kinda like thet sourdough she totes ever’where. She feeds us an’ we feed her.”
“Yep. She needs and kneads.”
“Reckon the whole Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s comin’ along fer the ride.”