Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Past in the Present

Jack and I recently visited an old mine shaft just over a mile's hike from our house. Slightly spooky, and picturesque, I wondered if bears use it in winter, or if it poses a hazard to kids in town. Mainly it is a reminder of what life used to be like around here. The hard, rocky landscape that rolls and tapers into Lake Superior, and that I love to ramble over, allowed the hardiest souls to literally scrape a living from the rich veins of copper that run through it. A handful of wealthy men, often from the east coast, got even wealthier from this land and its laborers in the first half of the twentieth century. But the laborers themselves created an enduring culture shaped by the realities of landscape, location, very hard work, and severe weather.

Today our walk took us only as far as the town park, playground, and war memorial--all in need of some tender loving care. Jack waited impatiently while a few neighbors and I did our best at a spring clean up of the memorial. (Jack is good at finding sticks but not so good at leaving them in piles ready for the landfill.) I'm a newcomer to this town, having drifted in from the east coast, but my neighbor grew up here and her grandfather's name is on the memorial. Some of the bricks on the facade are broken, some missing. The painted frame on the glass display case is pealing. The glass has cracked and moisture is beginning to seep through.

Since I'm not a skilled laborer, I helped by pruning shrubs, raking leaves, and cleaning the walkway. Monthly town potlucks are now in the works so neighbors can socialize and plan the shared labor necessary for a low-budget restoration of the memorial and the park. Yoopers are notoriously good at making do with clever, if at times makeshift, engineering. The older generation of miners knew better than to let anything go to waste, so in that spirit our town cleanup committee started looking for ways to repurpose the bricks when we remove the crumbling fountain in the foreground, and discussed who has lilac starts that would be suitable for transplanting to the park. Recycling in its original sense. And Jack's digging skills may yet prove useful when we get around to tree planting.


  1. Hm, always spooky to find an old mine shaft! Of course, now you've got me wondering which one it was -- that looks vaguely like something from the Wolverine area, but it might have been a mine building foundation (it looks like it may have been burned). Anyhow, fun reading as always. :) Be careful!

  2. Living in Los Angeles, I find your descriptions of small town life very soothing. And I love your writing style - highly readable.