Saturday, February 6, 2016

On the Gateway to the Big Two Hearted River Watershed Where Hemingway Fished, Wilbo Discovers a Replica of the Newberry Tablet.

I had to stop somewhere to book my accommodations for Hancock, four nights. Newberry awaited on my Upper Peninsula bucket list, and today, traveling by daylight, I had time to turn right and then left to arrive in downtown Newberry. This meant backtracking ten miles out and ten miles back, and backtracking I have avoided most days. Booking four nights at a reasonable rate couldn't wait until I reached Munising. Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival had booked most of the rooms, the Holiday Inn Express looking for almost two hundred dollars a night. Fortunately, I called my go-to hotel, and locked down four nights at my usual rate. Helps to get to know management.

I roamed into the Taqualand Theater, named to honor the nearby Taquamenon Falls, if twenty five miles north can be called nearby anywhere else but the UP. The doors were open, the ticket booth empty and lights were off. I recognized a series of Roman temple friezes painted as entryway murals, pictures featured in the Detroit Free Press. I might have seen more exquisite murals had the lights been up in the auditorium. The long-time owner has a GoFundMe running to transform project into digital. That's an important step; however, an entire team needs to shut the theater down and gut down to the framework and begin again. A smell of mustiness indicates that the building requires the treatment that brought back the Vogue Theater of Downtown Manistee.

I wasn't planning on contemplating ancient Minoans sojourning through the UP in search of float copper today, and the Great Waters Coffee House ushered me into Newberry's past and future. A replica of the Newberry Tablet, written purportedly in low Minoan script, awaited on the wall. Found by loggers or miners in 1896, it was ignored by the University of Michigan and Smithsonian Institute. Fortunately, pictures taken before the clay tablet crumbled around 1950 allow replicas to be manufactured. I have to laugh, pleasantly, that the article claims the tablet crumbled and then says I can visit an original at the Fort De Baude Museum in St. Ignace. The Fort De Baude museum has wonders and treasures and trained curators must be kept away from the collection.

Featured on America Unearthed, my father would love to hear me tell the tale of the Newberry Tablet. It was father after all who sent me to Aurora, Texas to look up traces of the alien who crashed to earth and was granted a Christian burial the next day. In 1892, the Dallas paper reported the incident and the University of North Texas in Denton collected fragments of alien metal for study, keener than Wolverines and Smithsonians, apparently. I might file the Newberry Tablet with the Hodag of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, 1893, or the Cardiff Giant of Cardiff, New York, 1869. Talking with father, I always explored the possibility that the fantastic was real. There's one born every moment and I have occupied my moment with some success.

I have to remember. Where I am just poking my nose around, my father knew like the back of his hand. His father taught him how to find fish, fowl and fawn enough to feed a household. I have to respect that accomplishment as I have hardly equaled it.

My rooms booked, my notes complete, I hear the barista greet the regulars in a friendly and familiar manner. One man heard news of plans to paint three murals this summer in Newberry, one to honor veterans. The barista has a team coming together, funding approved, and he know the customer's wife paints murals for a living. Plenty of Newberry happens under these high ceilings, ceiling fans turning, a ceiling painted glossy green, tin embossed with ancient ornamental symbols.

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