Where Have I Been?

On hiatus for a while, that’s all. But I’ll be back– as my mother used to tell me when my dad was late coming home from work, “Don’t worry. A bad penny always turns up.”

Update, November 2016: Well, it didn’t seem to work out that way, did it? What happened was it became clear that Facebook posts found a much broader audience than the handful of folks who managed to find their way to this blog. 

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Drums Drums Drumming Everywhere

Another beautiful morning on the hillside and as I step out onto the porch I hear the drums, out of sight but clear as the autumn sky.

rumma tumma tum
rumma tumma tum
rumma tumma tumma tum
rumma tumma tum

Suddenly I find myself on another hill, looking down on Boston Harbor. My hair stands on end.

Here the bastards come. Regulars, by the sound of it, with their flags and their bayonets and their close-order drills. Thousands of ’em.

I gather myself.

More’s the need to make every ball count.

I check my musket, then look up and down the line. Every man jack among us is doing the same.

Have at us, you scum of the London slums!

I watch and wait. The drums get louder, and I check my musket again.


Thank heavens Washburn High School doesn’t have a pipe band.

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Brownian Motion of the Mind

Or, “A History of the Last Hour”

  • Flip on Pandora to my personalized classic rock channel.
  • Band comes on that I’ve never heard of, “Just Five.” Not bad.
  • Google same and find a page describing them as “one of Belfast’s hottest R&B acts” back in the day.
  • Read article and follow link to a page all about the “Irish showband” phenomenon, a term I vaguely remember from the Seventies. Read about the rise and decline of the genre.
  • Read Wikipedia article on the ambush murder of several members of this popular mixed-membership band by Protestant terrorists.
  • Remind self that I really ought to finish Carl Sauer’s Northern Mists, which I started about thirty years ago.
  • Head downstairs to the library and rummage through the shelves till I find it.
  • Notice that I’m still logged into Pandora and it’s now streaming a live version of “Stairway to Heaven.”
  • Turn off same, grab a root beer.

Broadband + Time On The Hands = ADHD Paradise

Bobby, where have you been?”

“Nowhere, Mom.”

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In The News, August 12

Washburn Times, August 12, 1920

Another Farm Wife Commits Suicide

Moquah woman hangs self Friday.

Body discovered in barn on home place. Children sent down by mother and father returning from work finds body in barn.

Mrs. Frank Zacek , age 37 years, wife of a farmer residing 1 1/2 miles west of the village of Moquah, committed suicide Friday afternoon by hanging herself.

The body of the woman was discovered by her husband, upon his return from work in the village of Moquah. During the late afternoon the mother sent the two children to Moquah to purchase some Paris green and upon their return home they could not find their mother anywhere about. The father returned home at about seven o’clock and inquired for the children why the cows have not been milked, and they informed the father that they could not enter the barn because the door had been locked from the inside. The father succeeded in breaking the lock and discovered the body of his wife hanging from a rope which had been tied to one of the rafters of the barn.

Mrs. Zacek had placed a milking stool on a box while she fastened the rope around her neck and had been kicked the stool from under her.

Coroner Amos M. Hansen of this city was called to Moquah but he decided that no inquest was necessary and a jury was not impaneled.

Mrs. Zacek was the wife of a Slav farmer residing in the Moquah district. For some time she has been acting queerly and it is thought that she took her life during one of these spells.

There seems to have been a small epidemic of suicide among the area’s farm wives in 1920: in February, a woman in Grandview doused herself in kerosene and set herself ablaze, and in April, a woman in Washburn’s “Finnish Settlement” drowned herself in her well. Mrs. Zacek’s death seems to have been the last, at least for a while. One does wonder what, if anything, this all says about the lives led by farm women onf the era. Do three cases say anything at all?

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In The News, August 8

Bayfield Press, August 8, 1938

Berry harvest is started on Presque Isle

Indians engaged in annual work at Bayfield

The blueberry harvest on Presque Isle, one of the Apostle Islands group, is just beginning and each day colorful groups of Indian pickers are making boat trips to the islands in preparation for the annual harvest.

The majority of these Indian pickers are from the vicinity of Eau Claire and belong to the Winnebago tribe. Most of them scorn modern trappings, with blankets and moccasins much in evidence.

All pickers must obtain permits to pick berries on this island which is the property of the Vilas estate. John Frostman, one of the fishermen on this island, is in charge of permits. All precautions are taken to guard against fires at this particular season.

About a hundred pickers remain on the island during the blueberry season, otherwise uninhabited except for a few fishermen.

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In The News, August 7

In Congress, August 7, 1789

An Act for the Establishment and support of Lighthouse, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all expenses which shall accrue from and after the fifteenth day of August one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine, in the necessary support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers erected, placed, or sunk before the passing of this act, at the entrance of, or within any bay, inlet, harbor, or port of the United States, for rendering the navigation thereof easy and safe, shall be defrayed out
of the treasury of the United States;

Provided nevertheless, That none of the said expenses shall continue to be so defrayed by the United States, after the expiration of one year from the day aforesaid, unless such lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers, shall in the mean time be ceded to and vested in the United States, by the state or states respectively in which the same may be, together with the lands and tenements thereunto belonging, and together with the jurisdiction of the same.

Happy National Lighthouse Day, everyone. What? You didn’t know? Well, it’s early yet– get off the computer and go out and get your party supplies.

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In The News, August 6

Bayfield County Press, August 6, 1909

Party of Madeline Island Pleasure Seekers Had a Narrow Escape

Engine in Boat Stops During Heavy Sea — Party Barely Escapes Drowning

While returning from an outing at Little Carp River a party of summer visitors at the Old Mission, LaPointe, had quite an exciting experience and one which they are not likely to soon forget.

They were in a gasoline launch belonging to Andrew Seim of LaPointe and were off Little Girl’s Point when the accident occurred. A considerable gale was blowing as the party rounded the Point and the engine suddenly stopped and refused to go, the large waves completely drenching the occupants of the boat and placing them in imminent danger of meeting death in the cold waters of Lake Superior. They were close to shore, however, and despite the large amount of water the boat had taken in, it was beached high and dry by the heavy sea and the party rescued from their predicament by a crew of lumbermen near the scene.

Beyond suffering from the nervous shock, losing all their supplies and getting a good drenching the party is none the worse for the experience. The party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Olgivie, Mr. Ferris, Miss Ferris, Mr. Brown, Mr. Williams and the owner of the boat.

Not the first pleasure boater to get in trouble on the lake, and most definitely not the last.

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In The News, August 5

Bayfield Woman To Stick By Her Husband

Washburn Times August 5, 1920

When Mrs. Emma Barningham left Bayfield for California, accompanying her husband Vern, in the custody of the sheriff from San Diego, California, and charged with a statutory crime, she told Barningham’s parents that she would help support the unborn child of her husband’s alleged affinity.

His “alleged affinity” – now, that’s an interesting euphemism. Also interesting to see that the San Diego authorities would send a deputy all the way to Wisconsin on a paternity case. I guess in a town with a big naval base, they were used to it.

Although she did not claim her husband to be innocent of the charge, she did say she would stick by him no matter what happened, and that some California girls have adopted this way of making easy money.

Ooh, those California girls!

Barningham was arrested by Police Chief J. B. McLucas, at the farm of his parents, three miles from here, about a week ago, on complaint of a woman in a San Diego maternity hospital.

When the Bayfield County Sheriff took Barningham to Washburn, county seat, and lodged him in the jail there, until an officer from the California city arrived, Mrs. Barningham would not be comforted until she was allowed to see her husband.

“If they take you back to California,” she said, “I’ll go back with you to help you fight your battles.”

Anybody else hear Tammy Wynette about now? “Stand by your man….”

Vern Barningham has an interesting biography, spanning several eras of the Apostle Islands’ history. He spent his first few years on Hermit Island, where his father was a stonecutter in the Prentice quarry, then later lived on Stockton Island, working as a hired hand in one of the fisheries. Barningham joined the U.S. Navy in 1911, and served until 1920– at which time he apparently hustled home a few steps ahead of the sheriff! I haven’t found out how the paternity case worked out, but I do know that he and Emma stayed together until separated by death many years later.

In 1926, Barningham took the position of Assisant Keeper at the Thunder Bay, Michigan, lighthouse, beginning a career which would span Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard eras. A year later, he returned to the Apostles as Second Assistant at the LaPointe light station on Long Island, then followed up with Assistant stints at Raspberry and Outer Islands.

In 1941, with the Coast Guard taking over the lights from the USLHS, he enlisted to become Boatswain’s Mate First Class, effectively Keeper, at Outer Island. Barningham retired on a medical disability discharge in 1946 after an accident involving a fall between a boat and the dock. Returning to civilian life, he became Chief of Police in Bayfield for a while, and eventually passed away in 1980.

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Keeper’s Log, July 25

Michigan Island Light Station, July 25 1935

The Amaranth finished landing material and left about 5 AM for Gull Island. The Detroit excursion boat stopped here for an hour or so, and about 50 people visited this Station. Cut grass with the power lawnmower, and it worked O.K.

And here’s keeper Ed Lane mowing the station grounds with the power mower’s predecessor.

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Keeper’s Log, July 23

Raspberry Island Light Station, July 23, 1891

The extraordinary drought of this season received a welcome interruption by frequent showers during the last three days. The rain almost came too late for the withering vegetation and garden crops.

So maybe there’s hope this year.

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In The News, July 22

Bayfield County Press, July 22, 1904

The steamer S. B. Barker, of the Booth line, is now running Saturday and Sunday excursions to Devils Island and the outing is becoming a very popular one with the summer people.

Well, that didn’t last long. As I noted last week, one year later the Lighthouse Service declared Devils Island off-limits to the public. God forbid the taxpayers enjoy themselves on gummint property. Fortunately, these days the island belongs to the National Park Service, an agency with public enjoyment as part of its basic charter. Now, if they would just put the cleats back on the landing so people could actually tie up at the island…

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In The News, July 19

Banner date for Sand Island:

Bayfield County Press, July 19, 1884

Lederle of Sand Island Has a Ten-Pound Boy Last Tuesday.

Lightkeeper Lederle of Sand Island rejoices over the arrival of an assistant lightkeeper who arrived Tuesday evening.

Ha! I’ll bet it was really Mrs. Lederle. I love catching sloppy reporting. Meanwhile, 32 years later, July 19 would be Shop ‘Til You Drop Day:

Burt Hill Diary

On June 15, 1918, all of the residents of the Island gathered at the school house for the purpose of organizing a co-operative association and starting a store. The move was unanimously adopted and a store was opened up, July 19, 1918, in the building that is now used for our guests. It was given the name of the Sand Island Co-Operative Association. Fred Hansen was elected President; B. K. Noring, Vice President: Herman Johnson, Treasurer; and I was its manager and Secretary, which office I held until the association closed up.

“Blue Light Special on aisle one: day-old whitefish, half off.”

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