By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Michigans Upper Peninsula Almanac
By Ron Jolly and Karl Bohnak
University of Michigan Press.
600 pages - $27.95
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one of those empty places you go because you want to be alone. Or you want to hunt. Maybe you want to cross-country ski. There are lots of reasons to visit. For me it is waterfallsmaking a list then finding every one of them. And its small lakes so blue-green and clear you think the lake must be shallow, but it isnt. And its miles of Lake Superior shoreline, driving along and wondering about the gales of November and the men out on the freighters and if they are always watching the sky for storms. So many miles of forest and swamp with tiny villages and small towns, all far apart.
Ron Jolly and Karl Bohnak have just come out with Michigans Upper Peninsula Almanac (University of Michigan Press) which answers any questions Ive ever had about the U.P. and brings up others I didnt think to ask. Things like: How big is that huge Santa in Christmas? Or what about that 35-foot black-powder muzzleloader in Ishpemingwhats that about?
I cant begin to mention all the topics covered. From landmarks to U.P. superlativesthis is a true: Did You Know? book.
For instance: did you know that Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world at 31,700 square miles? Or how about: did you know that there was a Unicorn Questing Season, complete with licenses, at Lake Superior State College until 1987? Also, from LSSU, comes the List of Words Banished from the Queens English for Mis-Use, Over-Use, and General Uselessness still published every New Years Day.
GIRDING HIS LOINS
Here we go: There are almost 35,000 acres of virgin Northern hardwoods in Wilderness State Park. 75% of iron ore moved on the Great Lakes is shipped from Lake Superior and 50% of the coal. The long-time editor of Marquettes Mining Journal was a man whose joy it was to gird up his loins, seize a club and wade in, laying on right and left according to an orator at his funeral in 1909.
And did you know the lowest official reading in Upper Michigan was 48 degrees below zero in Ontonagon County in January 1912? Or that the mystery writer, Charlotte Armstrong, lived up there? Or that the Rolling Stones came to play one song in Marquette in 2002?
Lets talk about the cougar or what we, in the Lower Peninsula, have known (until recently) only as our mythical beast. The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and Central Michigan University now admits-through DNA evidencethere are cougars in Delta, Dickinson, Houghton and Menominee Counties in the U.P. The cougars live among moose, wolves, black beer and all the other usual wildlife, making the U.P. a kind of last frontier for a stern race of people who still value their independence and individuality.
It was these Yoopers who formed the first professional hockey league in 1904, paying the players for their talents until 1907 when the Canadian professional league was established. Yoopers not only gave us the pasty, but cudighi, and TrenaryToast. Their per capita income runs from under $20,000 to $29,000, and unemployment runs high in all the counties.
From wealth to waterfalls, if youve got a question about the U.P. the answer is probably here. There are sections on education, the economy, mining, shipwrecks, culture, government, architecture, wildlife, and so much more. You want to know the name of every lake and waterfall in every county? Its here. You want to know history and population distributions, or about the prisons and prison camps? It is all here. You will even find the number of slot machines each tribe owns.
The collaboration between Ron Jolly, broadcaster on WCTM in Traverse City, and Karl Bohnak, a meteorologist at WLUC, TV 6, in Marquette, came about because both had done previous books on Michigan. Jollys was the Northern Michigan Almanac (2005), and Bohnaks, So Cold the Sky (2006), about U.P. history from a weathermans perspective. Editors at the University of Michigan Press brought the two men together to write an almanac of the Upper Peninsula.
The writing process began with a meeting between Jolly and Bohnak in St. Ignace. After that initial meeting the two met only once more, when Bohnak came to the Lower Peninsula on a book tour. Jolly said the almanac was put together by emails after that. Ive got a huge file of the email between us, Jolly laughed. Im the geeky one who loves statistics and wrote about the authors. Karls the history buff and the weather guy.
The book was supposed to run to 200 pages and be finished in 2005. Instead, Bohnak said, it came in at 600 pages and wasnt finished until the spring of 2009.
The reasons the book took so long to complete, according to Jolly, was due to personnel changes at the press and Internet difficulties. Often his emails to Karl would go to spam and languish there until found, months later.
As 06, 07, and 08 passed, Jolly said, The information had to be updated. The process was laborious, but not that difficult.
The biggest problem for the men, according to Bohnak, wasnt what to put in but what to leave out.
The result is a huge, comprehensive almanac now in local bookstores. I cant imagine heading to the U.P. again without it.
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is a novel writer whose third book in the Emily Kincaid series will be out in May of 2010.