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Pigeon River Country

A Michigan Forest

Dale Clarke Franz

Publication Year: 2013

“A timely book that addresses serious questions facing those of us who love ‘The Big Wild.’” —Kenneth Glasser, Chairman, Otsego County Board of Commissioners “I seldom have been so moved by any writing as I have by Pigeon River Country. [It] has a power, a clarity, a message that springs from a vision, but also from a deep, inner soul.” —John F. Barton, retired journalist, United Press International and U.S. Information Agency The eagerly awaited new edition of a classic offers memories, myths, and meanings of the largest contiguous piece of wild area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Pigeon River Country is a remote and beautiful forest in northern Michigan. Ecologically distinct from most other areas of the United States, this mysterious country, shrouded in forest and laced with waterways, has a unique and storied past. Dale Clarke Franz has collected personal accounts from various people who have called the Pigeon River Country their home—including loggers; conservationists; mill workers; campers; even Ernest Hemingway, who said he loved the forest “better than anything in the world.” There are also comprehensive discussions of the area’s flora and fauna, guides to the trails and camping sites, and a photo section showcasing the changing face of this hidden national treasure. This updated edition explores why and how the outdoors moves and compels us. While it considers life beyond the boundaries of Pigeon River Country, it is steeped in the specifics of a place that lives mostly on its own, instead of human, terms. Dale Clarke Franz lived in northern Michigan for 22 years. He has been a newspaper editor, bookstore manager, U.S. Navy officer, college instructor, and portrait photographer. He administered the Otsego County Planning and Zoning Department, which encompassed more than 500 square miles. More recently, he has been a writer for the Ann Arbor Observer. Visit his Web site at dalefranz.org.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-13


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pp. xiii-17

Part 1: Impressions

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pp. 1-29

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pp. 3-20

We think we hold it within us, this place we call Pigeon River Country. But when we stand there again what is happening now does not translate to memories. And when this is over, the next time will be the only one. The moon, the birds, the air, the wind are never in the same place, providing the same songs...

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1. North Woods

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pp. 21-29

It lingers here yet: the smell of glaciers, mingled now with the sweetness of north country plants. Movement and change are the great forces of life. Elements like iron that were formed in the turbulence of stars now merge and shift in arrangements as complicated as human beings. One of our most deeply felt symbols...

Part 2: Precedents

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pp. 31-134

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2. Forays

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pp. 33-48

If the 10,000 years since Michigan’s last glacier could be compressed into an hour-long movie, the last 60 seconds would show in a frenzy the native peoples and animals disappearing, trees cut or burned to the ground, and the population bursting into millions. Yet the trees grow...

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3. The Log House

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pp. 49-54

When Lewis Perry was gathering history of the Vanderbilt area as a hobby, he clipped an article that read, “It is often what the unimportant do that really counts and determines the course of history. The greatest forces on earth are never spectacular, the summer rains are more effective than tornadoes but they get no...

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4. Lumbering

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pp. 55-60

Charles Blanchard remembered in the early lumbering days seeing ›ocks of passenger pigeons migrating north in the spring to breed. The millions of birds sounded like thunder as they approached in ›ocks that extended from east to west as far as he could see, so thick they obscured the sun. “It took as much as an...

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5. Lovejoy

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pp. 61-69

It was not for lack of trying that the idea of cultivating the wilderness died. In 1903, the Otsego County Herald ran two stories that, from our perspective, clearly show the desperation of an idea not working...

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6. State Forest

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pp. 70-80

Michigan established its ‹rst state forest in 1903. It had thousands of acres of cutover, burned-over stump lands in the north it didn’t know what to do with. So it set aside 34,000 acres in the vicinity of Houghton and Higgins lakes and called them a state “forest”—lands that more closely resembled a blackened, barren desert...

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7. Oil

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pp. 81-111

When European explorers and settlers came to North America, the animal they called the elk was the most widely distributed of the deer, ranging across what is now the United States from the Pacific almost to the Atlantic. East of the Mississippi, they lived in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee...

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8. The Dam

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pp. 112-134

From above, trout appear dark and serpentine, curving and twisting like olive drab shadows through the water below. Removed from water, trout lose their iridescence and turn dull. Yet, as they break through the surface or twist into the air to feed, particularly males in autumn, trout show a spectrum of color, with glimpses of cream on their bellies...

Part 3: Voices

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pp. 135-197

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9. Hemingway

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pp. 137-139

In his “Up in Michigan” short story, Hemingway described three young men coming back from hunting with rifles on “the pine plains beyond Vanderbilt” carrying “three deer in the back of the wagon, their thin legs sticking stiff over the edge of the wagon box.” In “Now I Lay Me,” his central character mostly gave up thinking...

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10. Berdine Yuill

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pp. 140-141

Berdine Yuill: [When] my father come, there was no railroads here or anything, just a vast amount of timber. They come and they started in the logging business. Them days it wasn’t so much logs, they cut wood, called a coal kills. They used this wood on the railroad instead of coal, fired the engines with that, you...

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11. Stanley Yuill [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 142-153

Stanley Yuill: We didn’t float anything on the rivers; they were used for pine. Our main business was hardwood. We sawed in our mill in Logan, brought hemlock in on our railroad [from] that big [logging] outfit east of Gaylord. We shipped the hardwood down...

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12. Chore Boy

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pp. 154-168

James Smith Jr.: There isn’t really much to talk about—only get up real early in the morning and go to bed late at night. I traded horses up there one time, and I was pretty smart. I was going to beat this fella at a horse deal. I never saw the man before. I just came out of the men’s camp, he stopped and talked, a perfect...

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13. Walter Babcock

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pp. 169-176

Jerry Myers: Where did your family first settle? Walter Babcock: They come to Trowbridge about 1895 or 6. Trowbridge was about four miles south of Wolverine.
Q: And right on the Sturgeon. Your father and mother had quite a large family...

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14. Living at Headquarters

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pp. 177-182

Bertha: The CC boys had saw that bear and cubs just a few days before. The dog probably got too close to the cubs. He started to bark. When the bear started to come after him, he didn’t have time to bark. If she’d ever caught him, she’d have tore him all to pieces. We got out of the road when we...

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15. Camping along the Pigeon

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pp. 183-194

Kathryn Motot: We left our home in Fostoria, Ohio, in June of 1936 to take our vacation in northern Michigan. We come up first east of Grayling on the Au Sable and stayed two nights there. That’s where Orlo done his first fly-fishing. Then we come on up north...

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16. Remote Places

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pp. 195-197

You can only beat so much brush, and your feet will only stand so many miles on the snowshoes. But modern man’s methods—all you gotta do is turn that key and tow enough gas and keep her going in a circle. I think what I like about snowshoes is that I can penetrate country nobody else...

Part 4: Directions

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pp. 199-225

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17. Ecology

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pp. 201-217

Despite the usual calm evident in the forest, troubles run deep and wide. In their depth, they involve overuse and misuse. In their breadth, they involve the landscape in general, where the potential for catastrophic failure grows more likely by the day. Our response...

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18. Sam

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pp. 218-219

Sam Titus came north from Ohio when her husband died in 1968. She began calling herself Sam because she liked the name. Once a model and owner of women’s clothing shops in Ohio and Texas, she took an interest in cultural activities and the northern Michigan outdoors. Sam and a woman friend named Herman Toms would...

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19. A Dancing Ground

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pp. 220-223

I saw the Pigeon River Country ‹rst in 1938. We had our ‹rst wildlife school there in June. The buildings were new, built by the CCC. It hasn’t changed an awful lot since then. The trees are a lot bigger. In 40 years, jack pine and red pine get to a pretty good size. There was some hardwood that wasn’t cut at all on the...

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20. Wildlife

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pp. 224-238

In order to see or hear wild animals or birds, drive or walk slowly and pay attention to any unusual sound or movement in the woods. Wildlife know Pigeon River Country much better than you or I do. These wild animals have much better sight, smelling, and hearing ability than we have. Be cautious, and you may glimpse...

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21. Signs of Wildlife

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pp. 239-242

Look at the soft sand or snow by the side of the road for animal and bird tracks. It’s hard to tell the difference between the small bird tracks, so we won’t go into that. Elk make tracks similar to deer tracks except they are twice to three times as large. On snow, they both drag their feet. Both have divided footprints...

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22. Streams and Lakes

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pp. 243-250

“The stream is brightest at the spring,” according to an old saying. The waters of the Pigeon River Country surely qualify as the Pigeon and Black rivers both arise in a roadless swampland on the southern edge of the forest. The Pigeon River is bright and clear as it emerges from the headwaters and remains...

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23. Trails and Camping

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pp. 251-253

There are several trails of varying length for both the casual walker and the serious backpacker. From Pickerel Lake Campground one may walk entirely around the lake, a distance of several miles. The Shingle Mill Pathway has several loop trails. For shorter walks on the pathway, it is possible to select destinations where the walker...

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24. Animals and People

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pp. 254-272

We bene‹t not only from time spent outdoors. We have a rare and mostly unappreciated connection with animals. Temple Grandin points out that we evolved living alongside them but now live in separate worlds unless we have dogs or cats. After 40 years of working with animals, Grandin wrote...

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25. The Birds

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pp. 273-284

If you lived in the Pigeon River Country year-round you possibly could identify over 200 different kinds of birds, nearly every species found throughout Michigan. Why such variety? Well, the country along the Pigeon River has a great number of different natural habitats: mature beech-maple...

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26. Vegetation

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pp. 285-294

With the final retreat northward of the great ice sheets that covered Michigan, simple mosses, arctic plants, and dwarf willows began to appear. In the still much cooler temperatures than what are found today, vegetation was mostly ground hugging. The terrain was much the same as what can be seen today...

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Afterword: Presence

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pp. 295-303

Over the years since we ‹rst published The Pigeon River Country, a fundamental question has persisted: What draws us to places like this forest, where the outdoors itself predominates, extends far beyond an easy walk, contains plants and animals in their natural settings, woodlands, meadows, and streams? The usual...

Bibliographic Notes

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pp. 305-323

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029648
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472031641

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013