2010.06.23 One more time: why are you here?

Written by David Green.


Thirty years ago I was doing something different than what I’m doing now. I was looking for someone to take a liking to my new K-8 teaching certificate, for one thing, but teaching jobs were pretty scarce in 1980, much like they are now.

If you go back 30 years to the date, however, I actually was doing what I’m doing now. I was writing a By The Way column for my father who left town and country for a long vacation.

I wasn’t just writing a column, I was doing the entire newspaper for three weeks. Of course I didn’t really know what I was doing, but Mary Clymer did. She’d been working at the Observer office for most of my life and she got us through.

In the column I wrote, I was trying to explain why I left Maine for Oregon and why I left Oregon for Morenci. I wasn’t very convincing.

I noted that eight years had passed since I previously helped get a newspaper out due to my father’s eye surgery. It was during those eight years that I worked in child care centers in Saginaw for two years, lived in Maine for a year while working at a rural hippie school, lived in Portland, Oregon, for two years while working in a classroom for emotionally handicapped kids (I think that’s what they were called in the mid-1970s), and returned to Michigan to earn a teaching degree—something that was preceded by working at Sauder Woodworking to earn college money.

The year in Maine happened by accident. I had no intentions of moving there. I was on a bicycle trip in Canada with my friend, John, and we met some people heading down out of New Brunswick. We were invited to stop by for a visit—a long one. I stayed a year.

The endless woods were beautiful and I wrote in that column:

“The smell of a good cedar woods in Maine is so staggeringly wonderful that I’d be willing to give up a few things in order to have a bottle of it to sniff every morning.”

I didn’t have to give up anything but a little of my ignorance. I received a package from Aletha Correll, who once lived in Maine, containing a small bag of the Maine woods. But it was balsam fir that I recalled smelling, she told me, not cedar. It was a really nice gift. I sniffed that bag dozens and dozens of times, always thinking of hiking through the forest near Pigeon Hill.

 There was the exciting coastline just down the road a few miles, lots of wild blueberries, very interesting people, composting toilets. So why did I leave?

According to my column, the spring wildflowers couldn’t match those found along Bean Creek. Autumn just wasn’t the same with so many trees staying green.

Sounds a little weak. Maybe I just wanted to get back on the road. Maybe I really wanted to see Oregon.

Portland was an amazing place to live. If you were in the right part of the city, you could see Mt. Hood off to the east. An enormous snow-capped mountain, right there in front of you.

Portland has Forest Park, one of the largest urban forests in the world. Miles and miles of trails, all within the city limits.

I suppose it has great restaurants and theatres, but I was a poor fellow living off teacher aide wages—several steps ahead of the Burnside Bridge bums, but by no means affluent.

I traveled by city bus and by bicycle, so I never visited the coast except when my cousin and cousin-out-law were driving that way. What beauty. Breath-taking beauty. The mountains, the city, the river, the forests, the coast—Oregon seemed hard to beat.

So why did I leave?

According to my column, the first thing I always mention when asked is the lack of thunderstorms. Lots of rain, but thunder is a rarity. Can you imagine living without thunderstorms? You can?

I also faulted Oregon for the lack of four seasons. Natives told me each season was present, just not as dramatic as I was accustomed to in the Midwest.

Do you buy that reason? A total of 10 years away and I returned, not just to Michigan, but to Morenci. I guess I’m still puzzled when I think about it.

The old column ended this way: “I had to leave it in order to learn how much I appreciate all these flat, boring stretches of corn and soybeans.”

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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