Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Our Secret Garden
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Our Secret Garden

Robert Downes - November 9th, 2006
No one gets to the heart of Northern Michigan’s great outdoors like Jim McIntyre, who knows how to weave a spellbinding tale and has the theatrical skills and know-how to bring it to life.
Those skills come to bear in “Our Secret Garden,” a new spoken-word CD which tells of Jim’s many seasons hunting amid the fields and forests of remote Garden Island in Lake Michigan. The centerpiece of the four stories on this disc is the tale of a hunter killed on the island -- “taken out of season long before his time” -- an inconceivable death, given the island’s faraway, seemingly peaceful location.
McIntyre is executive vice president of Knorr Marketing in Traverse City, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. He’s well known to TV viewers across the region for the humorous slice-of-life commercials the agency has produced through the years in which he stars as a male chauvinist husband who banters with his wife on behalf of local products and services.
This is McIntyre’s second venture in the spoken word genre. Several years ago, he released “Minnow Al,” about a gruff, rustic character met on hunting trips in northern Ontario. Exceptionally literate and written with the lean economy of the wild itself, his stories capture the essence of the hunting and fishing experience in words that are carefully weighed and measured for the images they invoke.
In “Our Secret Garden,” he takes us back to the days of his youth and how he was introduced to hunting. For hunters, McIntyre’s story of bagging his first buck at the age of 19 is sure to invoke a trip down memory lane. So too is his tale of nailing his biggest buck ever: a 205 lb., eight-point giant on Garden Island in 1980. “Without doubt the finest specimen I’d ever seen.” Non-hunters will get a glimpse over his shoulder into the thrill of the outdoor life, sparked each November 15th on “St. Antler’s Day.”
McIntyre eases into his story by unrolling his years on the hunt: When the hunting action gets too crowded on mainland Michigan, he and some friends explore the lonely trails and mysteries of Garden Island, a small stretch of land just north of Beaver Island. Over the course of 26 years, the island refuge becomes the “secret” of the title of his work, jealously guarded by the few hunters who venture there each November.
These are men who love the island and tend its trails, slowly growing to know each other through the years, living in their separate deer camps.
“The men who hunt Garden Island have a bond that exists among them,” McIntyre recounts. “It isn’t something that we speak of, but I know it exists. All are skilled hunters, all have a deep respect for the animals that we pursue; all have a reverence for the island, its history and its future. It’s not an easy trip; the waters of Lake Michigan can be treacherous and cold in November. The weather can be miserable, cold rain, snow, subfreezing temperatures, dangerous winds. We sleep in tents on cots and cook on charcoal. There are no roads, no restaurants, no bars, no showers. And until just recently, no communication.”
The island becomes a metaphor for something that endures in the hunters’ lives -- a yearly rendezvous that carries on over 26 years when all else seems lost: “Individually we divorced, changed careers, moved, married; lived through heart attacks, surgeries, plane crashes and broken hearts. We laughed so hard we cried, and sometimes we just cried. Our campfire conversations reflected our circumstances at the times. Sometimes we shared secrets that we brought with us like excess baggage. We unpacked it -- sometimes we left it there -- sometimes we took it back with us.”
On opening day of 2000, McIntyre was sitting in his deer blind when he heard
a Coast Guard helicopter landing. At
first, he thought that someone had suffered a heart attack. “It never occurred to us that someone had been shot -- not these hunters.”
A few hours later, the helicopter came back with a sheriff. Retired Detroit firefighter Jerry Byers had been shot, never to hunt the island again.
McIntyre wraps up his story with the aftermath and how the camp at the ‘Secret Garden’ fell apart. But it’s not the ending that’s most satisfying in his story -- it’s the journey there. McIntyre has a poet’s appreciation for the written word and a gifted storyteller’s skill in weaving a spell. He’s done a great, rare thing, adding a sense of literature to nonfiction in the tradition of journalists Sebastian Junger or Jon Krakauer.
You can feel your heart rise and fall with the rhythm of his words in a story that brings you to the shores of a remote, wild island. His story brings Garden Island to life.
 
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