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Beacon Archive

May 2003
PDF Version

The Plan for Furnishing the New Health Center

Notice to Voters: Important School Finance Issue

Chamber’s 2003 Citizen of the Year Banquet

James Kenwabakisee Cuts His Own Channel

Beaver Island Wildlife Club News

Patrick Cull, by Gosh

Michigan Townships Association

Coyotes on the Ice

Here comes... the Acacia

On This Date

My Grandfather’s Farm

Skip Duhamel: Our World-class Totem Pole Carver

News from the Townships

The EMS in Action

Charlevoix County Commissioners

Results ... from the Egg Lake Seven

The Way it Was: the Famine in Arranmore

BIBCO Press Release

Leadership Retreat to focus on challenges

Arts & Culture Grant Update

Carrie Podgorski makes Deans List

Local Poet Melissa Bailey wins Prize

17th Annual Beaver Island Talent Show

Native American and Crooked Tree teachers visit Lighthouse School

AmVets raise ribbons and flags for Beaver Island

One Hundred Years Ago

Paradise Bay Dive Shop comes to ... Paradise Bay

Come See “The Vile Veterinarian” - May 2nd 2003

Cindy Turns a Page

Weather or Not

Edgar B. Speer Refloated

Ronald Haggard 1977 - 2000

Lester Gallagher 1918 - 2002

Classified Ads

My Grandfather's Farm

The seagulls moved inland the year Bill Wagner planted corn on my grandfather's farm. They left the harbor where their gliding watch decorated the landscape and dirtied the docks, and the fishing boats where they lazily claimed the discarded remains of each day's catch. For the novel taste of earthworms and slugs, they came inland to follow the slow, gray tractor as it muddled over and plodded through the tough, overgrown fields, unworked for thirty years.

Seeming more like one large feathery organism than several hundred birds, they followed the progress closely. Seagulls hovered overhead, flapped alongside, and marched behind the tractor. Like white rag ribbons attached with string to the humming machine, they gave Bill the comic appearance of a balloon man. He led the parade daily, tilting over the broken soil on his tractor with his birds, like bouquets of kite-tails, in close attendance. The seagulls stayed when Bill went home at night, guarding the tractor and the plow and the open purse of the soil.
Impatient to get started each morning, they were already fluttering busily, vying for position as Bill made his early trek across the field to begin his work.

Dragging the plow behind, the tractor slowly transformed the field. The first pass lifted the earth in clumps, pulled out the juniper, and tossed up a few rocks. On the second, the lurching machine turned the brittle grass under, exposed the roots, and left a finer texture. With the disc attached the tractor made waves in the fresh dark earth. Fertilizer next, then the planter left crooked rows of yellow kernels. Another swipe covered the seeds; then a deposit of weed-killer finished the job.

The work took nine days from start to finish, during which the seagulls had perfect attendance.

We watched the progress from house and yard. Aunt Katie drank her coffee on the kitchen porch to enjoy the smell of freshly plowed earth with the morning sun. After dinner she and my Dad took their beers outside. Leaning back in their chairs, they kept their eyes on the tractor's path as the evening was filled with laughter and talk. When Dad noticed the gulls, he said, “Cindy, get my gun. Here's supper!” My daughters made appropriate noises of mock horror and disgust as I remembered Dad's earlier threats to “Shoot Santa from the sky,” to “put some venison steak on the table.” Many springtimes in my childhood I feared for the Easter Bunny's life. Aunt Katie must have had similar memories, according to the way she rolled her eyes at Dad's talk of “seagull stew.”

“Nothing's going to be the same,” my daughters groused at the plow. “The way he's ruining our fort. And what about Fluffy?” This was pronounced with a degree of sureness showing they thought they'd hit on an argument I couldn't overcome; they seemed to expect I would now run across the field and throw myself in front of the tractor to bring its devastation to a halt. I well remembered the frail, two-day-old kitten we'd had to bury in this field eight years before, and marveled that they did too.
Their outburst made me recall times in my childhood when I'd made paths and hide-outs in the tall grass, catching fire flies and picking wildflowers as we roamed through this vast field morning and evening, and I sympathized with their sense of loss. “Wait,” I told them. “You'll have great times playing in the tall corn.” “Watch the birds,” I said. “They're so funny. Watch your Grandpa” – that's what I was doing.

Every day, Dad walked the field. His long stride covered the rough ground with ease, and he seemed to be measuring it with his even pace. He moved quickly, as if he had a specific destination, then stopped suddenly and without a plan, just to study the terrain. With his feet planted firmly in the soil his legs formed a triangle with the ground. His broad shoulders rounded and his back formed an S-curve as he hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and rested his hands on non-existent hips. He stood for so long that his solid form took on the aura of a statue–except for his head, which nodded his grudging approval at everything he saw. Years later his image returned, not from memory but from my paintings: I imbedded his sturdy triangle form in a series of collagraphs, surprising myself with this sure symbol of safety from earlier in my life.

My daughters felt like they were losing their childhood, but Dad was reclaiming his. And above, the transition was celebrated by a swirling whirlpoolof seagulls!

–Cindy Ricksgers

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