Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quincy Mine

Well, gracious. I'm still blogging about the first day of vacation! And we've been home for three weeks!

After the Pasty Fest, we rested in the hotel room for a bit and then headed south a few miles for the Quincy Mine Site, which offers a tour of an old copper mine.
This was not an ideal outing for a tired 2-year-old. While Cooper and Steve toured the hoist building, I carried Katie around, trying to convince her to stop screaming (or talking really loudly).

Then we donned hard hats and warm jackets, provided by the museum, and headed down a steep hill on tram car. Then we climbed in a truck, which took us into the No. 5 shaft and to the seventh level (it has 98 levels). It was about 40 degrees down there. We learned about the working conditions of the copper miners and the advancements in technology. Those men worked hard and at great risk. I loved learning about the kind of work my great-grandfather did.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pasty Fest: the main attraction

After the parade, we walked a block to our hotel and rested a few minutes before heading two blocks to the parkgrounds, the center of the festival.

I took my place in line for the free pasties while Steve, Cooper and Katie walked around, played in the bounce house and played games of chance. Cooper tossed a ball in a goldfish bowl, which earned him a free goldfish and bowl. The lady running the game gave him a small stuffed rabbit instead -- a goldfish wouldn't have lasted long with us and our travels.

Steve bought Katie this "pink pony" (it's actually a unicorn, but she didn't know that word at the time).

I stood in line in front of a nice, talkative amateur historian of Copper Country. He lives in North Carolina now but has family property in the area and comes back every year for Pasty Fest. He was interested in my family's story and then told me some fascinating details about the copper rush.

Apparently there were eight or nine different ethnic groups living in the Keweenaw Peninsula during the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were language and cultural clashes, but the worst tension was between the mining company and the labor unions. (Some of the ethnic groups were inclined toward socialism, which made union growth much easier.) He said that the English were almost always bosses because business was conducted in English and the owners spoke English -- not Russian or Italian or the other languages. If you didn't speak English, you had lower-level jobs that you typically couldn't grow out of. (That changed later.)

In 1913-14, there was a 9-month-long strike. The company wanted to switch from two-man drills to one-man drills. Well, a one-man drill was more dangerous -- you didn't have your buddy to warn you of danger or to help. And it also meant fewer jobs. (Also, there had once been three-man drills, so the workers had already lost friends and family members who had been working with them.)

There was a lot of strife in the area during the strike. The National Guard had to camp out in town more than once to keep a check on tempers. (They actually set up camp on the Pasty Fest grounds.)

And then there was an awful incident on Christmas Eve 1913 at the Italian Hall. Someone on the second floor yelled "fire," and people in panic fled downstairs. At least 74 people died in the crush to get downstairs -- half of them children. The tragedy was never investigated well, most people agree. It's suspected that someone who was pro-company deliberately and deceptively yelled fire. There's even a Woody Guthrie song about it.

Back to the pasties. They were great! Though, they weren't as good as the Thomas family variety, which uses cube steak instead of ground beef and sliced veggies instead of diced. Ketchup and chow-chow were offered on the side. I grew up eating ketchup (or catsup, as Grandpa would say), so that's what I chose.

We feasted and then watched Cooper participate in old-fashioned games -- three-legged race, rutabaga toss, passing an onion from person to person using only your chin and neck (I don't know the name of that one).

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Waiting for the Park N Fly van very early the morning of our departure

When you travel with a toddler, you must be extra prepared -- for hunger, tantrums, illness, spills, random whims. Among the airplane distractions I packed for Katie were some sheets of stickers. I was sure they'd last a good 30 minutes, thinking she'd want to carefully place each one on the pages of a coloring tablet I packed.

Instead, she decorated her jacket with the Sesame Street and Dora stickers. And then she decided to share them with me. And then she was done. All in about 10 minutes.
I love that these photos show some remaining chubbiness in her sweet cheeks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pasty Fest parade

I love this photo -- the beautiful sky that day, Cooper's readiness for adventure, a beloved fire engine and the red sandstone building.

A Fifth Street storefront before the parade

One of the reasons we visited Calumet when we did was because of Pasty Fest -- a celebration of the Thomas family favorite entree. How could we miss that?!
Saturday morning's festivities began with a parade down Fifth Street. This was a true small-town parade, with a fire engine, some folks walking, a guy and his dog, some kids on bicycles, some Red Hat ladies on a flat-bed truck, a small brass band (also on a flat-bed truck), a few people tossing pieces of hard candy at scrambling kids.

Toivo, the walking/talking pasty (we actually didn't hear him speak)

There was even Toivo, the walking/talking pasty! The young man wearing the homemade costume was clearly not the original Toivo, as the fabric pasty was ill-fitting, forcing him to hunch over a bit. And the hem was held together in places by duct tape. This was the festival's fourth year and, we guess, the costume's fourth wearing.

We sat next to a friendly mom (who took the photo above after watching us struggle to take a family photo by ourselves), her two children and her mom from a nearby town. They gave us some good advice on which route to drive to see Lake Superior. Cooper and Katie shared their parade spoils with the kids, who were eager but not near as fast as Cooper at scooping up free stuff.

This is the VFW Ladies float: "Patriotism is Not Gender Specific."

I don't know what this chicken was doing or advertising, but he makes me laugh. (He also reminds me a bit of the Chicken Express chicken, who is on signs across Texas, looking as if he's flying to his certain death.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bird by Bird

One of my favorite books is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers. The book addresses the writing process, but it also applies to life in general. (If you haven't already read it, you really should add it to your list.) The title comes from a family story. Her 10-year-old brother had to write a report for school about a whole bunch of birds. He was completely overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. Dad gave him an encouraging squeeze and told him (if I remember correctly), "Just take it bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird."

Lamott also says that good writing is about telling the truth. Well, the truth is I'm a bit overwhelmed right now by lots of little things, and posting thoughts and photos from our fabulous vacation overwhelms me more. But it's important to me to record the trip, not just for my friends but for me and our family. So, I'm going to take it bird by bird, posting a photo or two a day if I can. And then, when I've done a few, I'll feel accomplished!

These two photos are from either end of Acorn Street in Calumet, Mich. If you know me well, you know how much my mom's parents mean to me. Grandpa, who died six years ago this December, was born in a home on 10th Street, and he grew up in a duplex on Acorn. This was my first trip to his hometown. (We suspect his home was torn down, but I'm not sure, as the buildings were renumbered in the past decade as the area got 911.)

Acorn Street is short. On one end is 10th Street. On the other is an abandoned train depot. The neighborhood is a short walk from downtown, where we stayed. Its also within walking distance of an abandoned copper mine. Calumet was a boom town during the Upper Peninsula's cooper rush. My great-grandfather worked in the mines, and I'm guessing he worked at one he could walk to.

The mines closed decades ago, and there's not much left for folks to do now. But it is a charming town, with many original buildings; folks who are friendly but keep to themselves; kids biking, walking and playing in the streets without any fear; colorful front-yard gardens; and plenty of pasties, my family's special treat, favored by miners for their tastiness, durability and hardiness.

Cooper and I at the old train depot

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Almost anonymous

I know that I need to post vacation photos. Maybe they'll be up by this weekend? Here's one until then.

At the top of Brockway Mountain

The book that I helped research, write and edit is now out and on the verge of lots of publicity, especially in the Christian book market. My boss, who is gracious and kind, sometimes gets my name confused with another Tyra -- the tall, beautiful, supermodel, TV hostess Tyra. A few weeks ago, she wrote a check to "me" though the name was actually "Tyra Banks." The Bank of America ATM machine gobbled it up and credited our account regardless.

Well, the book is out. At the very end of the book, you'll find Kathy's acknowledgments to her family, colleagues, friends, editors, other folks and Tyra Banks!

Perhaps it will be fixed in the second printing. Until then, you'll just have to trust me when I point out sections I wrote. Really.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Vacation recap, abbreviated version

Friday: Fly to Milwaukee; rent minivan; lunch in Green Bay; reach Calumet, Michigan, by 7 p.m.; dinner at the Michigan House, where we're staying

Saturday: Walk to Acorn Street, where my Grandpa grew up; watch Pasty Fest parade; attend Pasty Fest, which includes free pasties, games and music; tour the Quincy Mine; dinner in Houghton

Sunday: Drive to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula; visit waterfalls, drive to the top of a mountain; play in Lake Superior; play at the Calumet schools playground; dinner at an odd Calumet restaurant

Monday: Leave Calumet early and head toward Mackinac Island; lunch at an odd Seney restaurant; car accident in St. Ignace (everyone is OK; the rental minivan is not); ferry to Mackinac Island; dinner with Jim & Betty at Mary's Bistro; sunset cruise around the island and the bridge

Tuesday: Cooper's 6th birthday; rent bikes and ride the eight miles around the island; lunch with Uncle Jim at Sinclair's; carriage ride to dinner at the Woods

Wednesday: Hike through the island to get to a butterfly exhibit and Great Turtle Park; Fourth of July picnic and festivities at Fort Mackinac; fireworks

Thursday: Hike through the island to see Sugar Loaf Rock; ferry ride to Mackinac City; drive to Milwaukee with a stop in Green Bay for dinner; play at the splash park in the hotel

Friday: Trip to Betty Brinn Children's Museum; adventures on city buses; dinner at Crocus, an authentic Polish restaurant

Saturday: Play at the splash park; go home!