Archive for the ‘Ives Lake-HuronMountainClub’ category

Ives Lake: Memories from My Childhood

July 24, 2012

The following post is taken from my book My Marquette and is preceded by a short history of Ives Lake and the Longyear family:

1970s photo of the caretaker house and red guest house at Ives Lake

1970s photo of the caretaker house and red guest house at Ives Lake

From 1971-1976, my grandfather, Lester White, was the caretaker at Ives Lake. He and my grandmother would go up to the lake in the spring and stay through the summer, only coming home occasionally on a weekend. I can vividly remember riding in the car with my mom and brother when we would drive up to Ives Lake to visit my grandparents. We would sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and any other songs my mother cared to teach us along the way. We would come to the gate where the gatekeeper would let us in because he knew us as part of my grandpa’s family.

My memories of Ives Lake are fragmented since I was only five when those years ended, but I can recall my cousins playing baseball on the large lawn, having big family picnics with all the cousins, great-aunts, and great-uncles there, swimming in the lake and my cousins collecting clams, and going fishing with my dad—I caught my first fish at Ives Lake. I remember my grandparents’ dog, Tramp, swimming in the river, and I remember going in the barn with my grandpa to see the barn swallows.

1970s photo of the Stone House

1970s photo of the Stone House

I distinctly remember my fifth birthday party was held here. I remember it mainly because I got a record player, an orange box that folded and locked up like a case. With the record player came several records made by the Peter Pan record company, including a book and record of “Little Red Riding Hood.” My cousin, Kenny White, who was born on July 4th, also had his birthday party here one year.

The clearest memory I have is of walking with my grandpa and Great-Aunt Vi behind the barn to the chicken coop, and my brother and I pretending to be Peter Pan as I described in Superior Heritage. While I don’t remember it myself, my cousins, Leanne and Jaylyn White, who are several years older than me, remember Grandpa feeding Chucky the Woodchuck, whom I also depicted in my novel.

One time, Grandpa took my brother and me into the Stone House where one of the rooms had a table with numerous rocks on it that the geologists must have been studying. Grandpa told us we could each have one of the rocks. I still have mine today, a curious two shaded brown rock like none I have ever seen since. Someday I will find a geologist who will tell me what it is.

My family has hundreds of photographs of summers spent at Ives Lake including fishing parties, picnics, and Grandpa and me on the riding lawn mower. The child’s mind is highly impressionable so perhaps that is why I remember this beautiful magical place so well.

My rock from the Stone House. I still have it but have never found out what kind of rock it is.

The visits to Ives Lake ended on a sad note when my mother received a phone call that her grandmother, Barbara McCombie White, had died. I remember I was coloring in a color-by-number book when the call arrived. I didn’t understand, but I remember my mother crying and her telling me to go back to my coloring while she got ready to go. We had to drive up to Ives Lake where my grandpa was—he had no phone there—so my mom could tell him his mother had died. The two events may not have been related, but my great-grandmother’s death seemed like the end of the Ives Lake summers to me. It was also the end of an era in another way—my great-grandmother would be the only person I would know who was born in the nineteenth century, 1885, to be exact, and being at Ives Lake was equally like being in another era.

Tyler with Grandpa on the riding lawnmower at Ives Lake about 1975.


Lady’s Slipper Season in Upper Michigan

June 25, 2011

It’s Lady’s Slipper season in Upper Michigan, and thanks to some of my Facebook friends, I heard my favorite wildflower was in bloom around Little Presque Isle near Marquette and set out on a rainy day to get photographs. I plan to have a photo of lady’s slippers on the front cover of my next novel, Spirit of the North, which will be published in Spring 2012. In the novel, there is a pivotal scene around lady’s slippers.

In fact, lady’s slippers have been my favorite flower since I was a child growing up in Stonegate near the Crossroads where the flowers grew profusely in the woods. Even back then in the 1970s, they were illegal to pick, but we picked them all the time anyway. I don’t recommend anyone doing so now since they appear to be more rare than they were back then, although by looking hard, I easily spotted about 100 of them, growing in groups of 1 and 2, but I remember them often growing in much larger clumps when I was younger. I was more respectful when I went out to photograph them this past week, and I swear they knew I was there, admiring them and they were ready for their photo-shoot. I think because of their shape they look almost like they have faces and their own personalities. You can decide for yourself.

I did not neglect to mention Lady’s Slippers in some of my other novels, so I offer here a scene from my novel Superior Heritage in which young John Vandelaare, who is only about six years old, goes fishing with his brother and older cousins at Ives Lake where his grandfather is the caretaker, and on the way back, they stumble on a field of Lady’s Slippers.

From Superior Heritage: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Three

They were all a bit tired now from the long day, and less talkative than they had been on the way to the fishing hole. They walked with a bit of urgency because they knew it would soon be nightfall, and the forest’s thick trees would block out the remaining light.

Then, as the beautiful summer evening ended, they stumbled upon a little copse, almost a meadow really, where sunbeams broke through the trees, illuminating a small patch of the forest floor.

Suddenly, Chad cried out, “Ooh, look at the lady’s slippers!”

All turned their heads to see the meadow packed with the little pink flowers that looked like fairy slippers hanging from their stems.

“How’d we miss seeing all those before?” asked Alan.

“I saw them,” said William, who had not thought flowers worth mentioning.

Chad struggled to get out of the wagon.

“Where are you going?” Jason asked him.

“To pick some for Gwamma and Aunt Ada,” was Chad’s obvious answer.

“Hey, ain’t these flowers the kind that are illegal to pick?” asked Jason.

“Why would flowers be illegal to pick?” asked Alan.

“Because they’re rare,” said William.

“They don’t look rare,” said Alan. “There’s about a hundred of them here.”

“Let’s pick them all,” said Chad. “We can give some to Gwamma, and Aunt Ada, and some to my mom and some to your mom.” He felt overcome by a desire to give all the women pretty flowers until they would all feel as beautiful as Princess Ada.

“It’s almost dark,” said William.

“It’ll only take a minute to pick them,” Alan replied. “Besides, maybe the flowers will cheer Mom up.”

            “Mom’s not going to cheer up until Dad quits being a jerk,” William muttered; as the oldest, he was burdened with understanding his parents’ marriage better than his brothers.

“If we pick them all,” said Jason, “won’t they die from being exposed? We don’t have any water to put them in.”

“Aunt Beth will give us vases, or at least plastic bags to wrap them in,” said Alan.

While his cousins debated, John joined his brother in gathering flowers. William refused to pick any—he was too old for flower picking, even to make his mother happy. But Alan did not mind pleasing his younger cousins by joining in. Chad’s little hands filled too quickly, so he enlisted Jason in carrying his flowers to the wagon for him. Meanwhile, Alan picked ferns to make backgrounds so the bouquets of lady’s slippers would look even prettier in vases.

In ten minutes, the meadow was cleared. Heaps of delicate pink air pockets of flowers were gently laid in the wagon. Chad did not object when told he would have to walk home so his feet did not crush the flowers. He thought it nicer to walk beside the wagon and look at the pretty flowers.

lady's slippers           The boys started back down the path. John looked back to where the flowers had been. He remembered just minutes before how stunned they had all been by the flowers—how there had been a seemingly endless field of pink rising up from the decaying leaves of last autumn. Now, he only saw the decaying leaves and little broken stems sticking up where once the flowers had been. The evening sun had lowered as well, leaving the field almost dark. Already he was starting to strain his eyes to see ahead of him. He wished they had not picked all the flowers; then he could have come back tomorrow night to see the pink field again.

“I hope the DNR doesn’t catch us,” said William.

“What’s the DNR?” asked Alan.

“The Department of Natural Resources. If they catch us illegally picking all these flowers, they’ll probably throw us in jail, or make Dad pay a huge fine, and then he’ll probably ground us for a month.”

John was frightened by the thought of jail. But he felt it would serve them right if the DNR did catch them. It seemed wrong to have picked all the flowers. They had not left behind a single one. He felt the trees would be lonely and sad without the lady’s slippers.

When the boys got back to the house, Ada and Beth marveled at so many delicate flowers. Beth quickly found more empty coke bottles to serve as vases so Ada could go home with a bouquet, and the Whitman boys could bring another home for their mother.

“Thanks for having me, Beth,” Ada said, as she picked up her vase and kissed her sister-in-law goodbye.

“Any time, Ada,” said Beth.

“We wish you’d come to visit more often,” said Henry.

“It was a perfect day,” Ada said.

“Boys, what do you say to your aunt?”

“Thank you for the pwincess,” said Chad.

“Thank you for the ship,” said John, and then he turned to his cousins and added, “Thank you for taking me fishing.”

William and Jason said nothing, but Alan mussed his cousin’s hair.

“We better get home before dark or Annette will be worried,” said Bill.

William thought his mother might prefer if they did not go home, but he would not argue with his father in public. Instead, he carried his and his brothers’ fishing poles to the car trunk. A sprinkle of rain started up as everyone piled into the car.

“We’re going to have another storm tonight,” said Henry as the visitors drove away.

“Well, at least the boys got out of the house this evening,” said Beth, “though I don’t think they minded being inside since they had Ada to entertain them.”

“Did you boys have a good time with Aunt Ada?” Henry asked.

Both nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, you better get to bed now,” said Beth. “John go brush your teeth while I help Chad put on his pajamas.”

John got ready for bed, then came out into the kitchen to get a drink of water before he went to sleep. When he saw the lady’s slippers sitting on the kitchen counter, he wished he could replant them in the woods, but he knew they would not grow now.

As he started to fall asleep, a loud thunderclap made him hide his head under the blankets. He was surprised Chad could sleep through the noise. He felt the thunder was a warning he had done something wrong to pick the flowers. They had been so beautiful in the forest; they were nowhere near as pretty sitting on the counter. He wanted to cry, but he felt if his older cousins knew he cried, they would think him a baby. That he refused to cry did not make him feel any less guilty.

Find out more about Superior Heritage and all my novels at

Flannel Shirt – published in “Recovering the Self”

July 11, 2010

This month my short story, “Flannel Shirt” has been published in the journal Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing.

Recovering the Self, in which "Flannel Shirt" appears.

This short story is about repressed grief and the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. Here’s a small taste of the opening:

            I had not owned a flannel shirt since I was a boy. Then my wife bought me one for our first Christmas together. When I opened the box, the smell of flannel leapt out. Overpowered by nostalgia, I pressed the flannel to my face to breathe in the comfort of cotton fibers.

            “What are you doing?” laughed my wife.

            “I love the smell of flannel.”


            “I don’t know,” I lied. “I always have.”

            I did know. I just couldn’t talk about it. Flannel reminded me of my grandfather. I rarely thought of him now, but after all, he had been dead for fifteen years. Now the flannel brought back countless memories. Flannel had been my grandfather’s everyday clothing. Some of my childhood’s happiest moments had been spent with Grandpa. Despite the age difference, he had been the best friend of my boyhood.


The story is largely based on my own experiences with my grandfather, Lester White. Most of the story takes place at a Ives Lake, pictures of which I posted in my last two blogs. My grandpa always wore flannel shirts. Below is a picture of my grandpa, taken in 1971, at Ives Lake, along with another excerpt from the short story:

Grandpa (in flannel shirt) feeding a chipmunk at the Ives Lake Barn

            Grandpa was kind to all the animals at Ives Lake. Grandma complained when the raccoons got into the garbage cans, so Grandpa started leaving food behind the barn for them. Squirrels and chipmunks were always racing across the lawn; no matter how many there were, Grandpa could distinguish between them, and each summer, I helped to name them. The chipmunks trusted Grandpa enough to jump into his hand when he fed them peanuts, and he taught me to hold my hand just right so they would equally trust me.

            One summer, a pigeon broke its wing. Grandpa was afraid a wild animal might catch it, so he built a cage and kept it safely in the house. For two months, Grandpa and I cared for the pigeon and walked it around the yard while its wing healed. When it recovered, the pigeon started following Grandpa and me instead of eating with the other pigeons.

            In the evenings, Grandpa and I finally found time to go fishing. My favorite fishing hole was a giant rock that jutted out into the lake. Grandpa helped me catch my first fish, a ten-inch trout. But neither of us were good fishermen, so we rarely hooked anything other than a floating branch; I think the real reason Grandpa went fishing was just to sit on the rock and relax after a busy day.

            I can remember my innocent young eyes gazing out across Ives Lake on those evenings. I would hear the soft lap of water against the rock as the wind gently blew, and I could feel the cool breeze that rustled the leaves. Then I would lay my head against Grandpa’s shoulder, content with life.


To read all of “Flannel Shirt,” order your copy of Recovering the Self, vol. 2, no. 3 at

Besides my short story, the issue is packed with articles on grief, addiction, recovery, interviews with professionals, poetry, fiction, book and film reviews, insights on health and fitness and much, much more!  Don’t miss out.

Return to Ives Lake – Part II

July 7, 2010

In my last post, I showed pictures of Ives Lake but not of the main building, the Stone House where the Longyears summered through the early twentieth century. On my trip there, we received a tour from John Case, Longyear descendant. Here are a few more photos:

The Stone House from across Ives Lake

The Stone House, side view

In a bedroom of the Stone House. Today Michigan State University students stay here to study the wildlife, geology, and plants of the Huron Mountain region.


On the front porch of the Stone House, relaxing.

Return to Ives Lake

July 7, 2010

Last month the Marquette County History Museum held a fundraiser with a special afternoon excursion at Ives Lake. Ives Lake is located at the Huron Mountain Club and was the summer retreat of Marquette’s Longyear family. The visit was particularly meaningful to me because my grandfather, Lester White, was the caretaker there from 1971-1976 so I was a frequent visitor during that time when I was a very young child. My mom and I made the visit last month and took the following photos. My short story “Flannel Shirt” largely takes place at a fictionalized version of Ives Lake. Since the story has just been published in the latest issue of “Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing,”  Vol. II, no. 3, people might be interested in seeing photos of the place that inspired the story.

The back of the barn.

The Barn and Caretaker's House

The Guest House

The side and roof of the barn.


My mom and I had a wonderful time reminiscing about the many happy summers we spent at Ives Lake, swimming, fishing, playing in the yard, watching my grandpa feed the chipmunks and raccoons and even a woodchuck. I remember my fifth birthday party here when I got a record player and Peter Pan records, the kind with the book and story. I trust a few of my readers remember those.

If you ever get a chance to visit Ives Lake, take the opportunity. I’ll post more about its history later, and of course, you can read about it in my upcoming book My Marquette.

My Marquette - Coming Christmas 2010!