Saturday, April 2, 2016

Grandpa Ed Left Wilbo a Stolen Pistol, a Coffee Table Book and the First Editions of Books by Robin Traver.

One book can make a difference to several generations of a family.
My grandfather celebrated his birthday and his wife, Aino, made dinner for friends and family, breaded pork chops. Aunt Olive gave him a coffee table book of brilliantly colored images on the Copper Country, color photography still a novelty. Titled, "Lord, Slow Me Down", I flipped through the pages while sitting on the sofa his wife re-upholstered every few years. I wish I had studied the photographs, memorized the captions. I've found that title repeating as I've driven along these long roads that go town to town, taking names from the end points, like "Toivola Beacon Hill" road. "Lord, slow me down. Lord, slow me down. Lord, slow me down".
After a life traveling from job to job under railroad cars, working in mines, living at lumbering camps, fly fishing on icy streams, he had unlimited powers of appreciation of passing time, planting apple, pear and grapes in his large yard in Warren Michigan, saucing the apples and juicing grapes for jelly. I can slow myself down. I rather wish I can speed myself up.
Driving out to Lake Linden, I saw a few reasons to stop and explore. "Lord, slow me down. Lord, slow me down, Lord slow me down" repeated in my mind. I could have stopped at Quincy's Restaurant and studied all the mineral samples stored in glass cases, all samples explained with cards typed out on an old manual typewriter. I could have slown down and read all of those cards and understood all these minerals that still await discovery in the soil. Or I could have stopped in the yard with all the rusty gas station signage and gas pumps from the days of gas rationing in World War II. Or, two cars were stopped next to a ruin from the Copper era, and it's pretty extant for a ruin, still bearing up a roof that could keep back the rain and support a winter's snow.
It's hard to believe that Keweenaw actually managed to reach 260 inches of snow, the historical average, given that snowfall shortfall almost threatened Winter Carnival and its snow sculpture building with cancellation. If I had stopped, I'm pretty sure I would have found two students from Michigan Tech's program in Industrial Architecture, searching for facts and artifacts. A for sale sign stood next to the ruin, selling off the property to the left. A full workup by archaeologists often is required before development can begin on a historical site. The Copper Country started Michigan Tech, and now Michigan Tech returns the favor by documenting the copper mining era.
I finally stopped outside Denali Restaurant and Northern Exposure Coffeehouse. Nice, but if I really were exploring, I would drive out to the Dreamland Bar or better, the Gay Bar. The bar in Gay, Michigan, named for an industrialist named Gay? And then one of the staff points out the bullet holes in Denali's tin ceiling, recovered from Calumet when the G. Martini block had to be torn down. The bar counter has marble from the place, which once had a brothel upstairs. In the Copper Country, probably every building had a little something going on upstairs during mining days.
Grandfather Edward Jacob remained a puzzle to me. He didn't speak to me much. Grandmother had us over Sundays for a dinner, either chicken or pork chops. My red glass goblet filled up with buttermilk, I never knew how much I would miss her pork chops, her chicken. Once, I got up from dinner, visited the toilet, flushed loudly and returned to the table. My butt hadn't hit the seat when he declared loudly, "You're a pigeon!" "What do you mean, I'm a pigeon?". "You're a pigeon. Only a pigeon goes and craps and comes back to eat again". Grandmom intercepted the conversation with, "Ed, don't talk like this is a bar, please". Funny, I've always had a fondness for pigeons ever since. I always visit a restroom before the food arrives and hear his voice in my imagination as I sit on the porcelain throne.
One time after his death, Grandmom pulled a pistol out of her room, a revolver. It wasn't really his. My father had a story. A member of his family had stolen it from an agent of Pinkerton Detective Agency during the trouble of 1913 - 1914, the years of the mining strike. A friend had a different story, saying it was lifted from a strike breaker when labor militancy had come to Highland Park. Key is Grandpa Edward Jacob had no truck with labor movements. The family bank accounts had been drained by FDR and the New Deal, as my father explained. Dad carried on his father's Republicanism, reading Newsmax religously and keeping tabs on Fox News daily.
Grandpa Ed worked for Walter Chrysler at the Jefferson Assembly Plant, the one dynamited by Lee Iaccoca for the famous commercial. I toured the plant that arose in that factory's ashes, the billion dollar facility that assembled the Jeep Cherokee, walking the floor and taking notes for an article published in several newspapers supported by Chrysler plants. I have no evidence of his graduation from Jeffers High School in Painesdale, and yet, he qualified as a millwright. He could make parts for machines given a few measurements, drilling and cutting from blocks of metal. He even had a lump of a pliable metal that provided the name for a Sinclair Lewis novel: Babbit. His wife had read another Sinclair Lewis novel in 1923, Elmer Gantry. She made all of her friends read her copy and sign the front cover to prove it.
I had never really knew the man, although I had read all the books in this book shelf kept close by his Lazy Boy recliner in the southeast corner of a house he built himself with plans published in the Chrysler Times. He had all the books of Robert Traver, first editions, not just Laughing Whitefish. We had moments. He saw me playing pool poorly on his basement pool table and he spent hours teaching me how to "cut" a ball. My game improved and yet, I wished we had time for me to learn all of his pool table lessons.
I'm excited to learn that I'm not imagining the coffee table book. "Lord, Slow Me Down" is a title of Avery Color Studios of Gwinn, Michigan, published first in 1972. Published in several editions, I'm sure a resale shop might have a copy to give to Edward Jacob's great grand-daughter, who feels so at home on Mackinac Island. Who doesn't? But then again, the fortress has a view of a point on Bois Blanc Island called, "The Juntunen Site". A man named Juntunen allowed archaeologists to dig up artifacts from an Indian trading post before a family built a trophy home. Maybe there's something in the genetics where we can't be comfortable unless surrounded by water on at least three sides. Maybe that's why I have yet to leave the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Has the Keweenaw slowed this tramp down?

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