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Beacon Archive

December 2002
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The Way It Was: Stanley Floyd

Long-time Island resident Stanley Floyd, who passed away in 1999, was a student of human nature. He collected historical tidbits, some of which made their way into a book he published in mimeo form. Here are some excepts:

“Years ago a fellow named Jim Thomas came to Beaver Island to raise trotting horses. After awhile he gave up, selling some and taking a few with him. He did leave the stud here, and within a few years everyone had a good driving horse–the only means of transportation in those days. Either by sleigh or by buggy. They would have races, which were fun to watch. Others wouldn't let their horses run, as they thought as much of them as did of themselves. The last thing they did before going to bed was see if the horses were alright.

“Then came the automobile, and the runaways started–as the horses had never seen or heard of such a thing. They would start acting up and usually break a shaft or two and take off for home, leaving the buggy somewhere in the woods or caught in a barbed-wire fence.

“The only bad accident I heard of was John (Shoemaker) Gallagher driving home one evening. He couldn't make the turn off Paid een Og Road. The buggy rolled there, killing him. He was the last one here to have one of the old style carriages, like the ones you see in western movies. His team could really run; one of them was a speedster who won a lot of the bare-backed races.

“Another accident was when John Grill was courting Maggie O'Donnell. He had a run-away at Kringe's Bridge. He was thrown into a barbed-wire fence, giving him a long scar on his face.
“When I was a young fellow, Karl Left and William (Brutz) Boyle had the contract to haul the mail on the ice, about two trips a week for eight or ten weeks.

“I recall my dad going several times. One time Karl Left and Joe Floyd were coming to the Island with the mail, and 2/3rds of the way they came upon a big crack in the ice. The normal procedure was to unhitch the team, take them across on a plank, and then pull the sleighs over. This time they got across with the team; looking around, they saw an ice shove and had to move away from the crack. A moment later the sleighs and the mail and everything else disappeared into the bottom of the lake. The postmaster made a report, and before long the inspectors showed up. They were there often; I recall them coming as late as that summer to see if the men would change their stories. There was a lot of twine for the fishermen in the load, and it was insured, so I suppose they thought this was like a train robbery, only on the ice.

“They thought it could take as much as 10 or 12 hours to make the trip from Cross Village, the ice being so rough. Occasionally they would have to make 40 miles a day, coming in well after dark. They had a shanty on Hog Island where they sometimes left a spare horse so they could change horses if one of theirs got tired. If it was a good, cold winter without much wind, they could make a trip in a day. I recall one day my dad went with Joe Left, leaving the beach about 7:00 a.m. When us kids went home for noon lunch the horse was at the Post Office. People thought they hadn't made it across, but they had; I recall them telling how the horses hadn't quit trotting, all the way over and back.

“This horse was one Joe Left had to buy because Harlem's horse, which they had used, got sick. He sold it. When Harlem got back from a trip, he met the fellow, who said, 'Say, Harlem, that horse you sold me died last night.’ ‘That's funny,’ Harlem replied. ‘He never did that when I had him.’

“The following year my dad, Nels, and Eddie Bowery went to Cross Village. They ended up in Charlevoix, and after a day or two my dad bought a 1924 Dodge touring car and drove from the south pier into St. James' harbor. That was a first.

“Some years later Charlie Martin met me on the street and said, ‘I'm going to Cross Village in the morning; want to come?’ I agreed, so at daylight we set off with Emmett McCann and Archie and Pat LaFreniere. The going was real good. Charlie and I decided to go to Charlevoix, and the others came along. The next morning we picked up a load–20 cases of beer for McDonough's Market and material for the Roosevelt School--and started back. We had a good crossing, so went back for a second load. We hit a crack at Rouse's and blew a tire, but still made it in 55 minutes. It was getting close to St. Patrick's Day, and the Irish were getting nervous that there might not be enough beer. We loaded another 20 cases the next morning and went down to the beach, but the ice was breaking up. So after lunch we headed for Mackinaw City, and crossed the ice to St. Ignace and headed west. Reaching Naubinway after dark, we put the old truck in a hay barn. We took two cases to a dance, and a good time was had by all. The next morning we drove home, to the relief of the Island.” 

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