Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

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

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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