Tag: We Need a Little Summer

Sunshine on my Shoulders

 

The ultimate destination of that vacation with another family that I mentioned yesterday was South Manitou Island in Michigan. The island had been taken over as part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but those who owned property there were grandfathered in. When those people died, their land would become part of the park. However, one of those people owned a cabin and was a friend of Mr. Leonards*, the father of the family I was traveling with. So, Mr. Leonards got this cabin for two weeks in the summer every year, and I happened to be with them in the summer of 1976.

The cabin was not a log cabin, but more of a small bungalow home. It had two bedrooms. One taken by Mr. and Mrs. Leonards. The other was a small bedroom with a captain’s bed. Like a car ferry, a captain’s bed was something I had never encountered before. It was just a single bed with a built-in chest of drawers. I thought that space-saving idea was the cat’s pajamas. Still do, and while my current bed is a larger affair, it does have drawers beneath it for linens and for Miss Morgana to open and crawl into. (She likes drawers.)

The Faded and Tattered Memory of a Car Ferry

 

I think it was the summer I was 12. I don’t remember precisely. It was more than 40 years ago now, at any rate. Family friends offered me the chance to go with them on vacation. They may have offered it to my immediately elder brother first, I’m not sure, but it came down to me, and I jumped at the chance. They had two kids, slightly older than me. I learned about a lot of things I had never heard of before on that vacation. The route was up from where we lived near Chicago to Milwaukee where we took a car ferry across Lake Michigan to some city on the Michigan coast, probably Muskegon. Then from there to the rest of the vacation.

I had never heard of a car ferry. Even at that age, I was a history nut with two elder brothers, the elder of whom was also into history, especially military history. I had heard of Harper’s Ferry, of course, but that rather predated automobiles. My vision of a ferry was basically a raft that was pulled across via a rope or was poled across a river. I am not sure what I thought I would see when I heard we would be taking a car ferry across Lake Michigan, but when it arrived at the dock, it was not what I expected. To my eyes, it was a ship, a big ship.

Summer Lobster

 

I grew up in the North. That wasn’t really my fault, just where my parents wound up after meeting and marrying in Georgia. We would go back down to Georgia to visit family every year or so. We had a joke that it always rained in Louisville, KY, because every time we would be driving through it on the way from Illinois to Georgia, it would rain there. We might stop on the way. For instance, one year we stopped at the home of a family friend who had moved down to Tennessee. They had a line of blackberry bushes down near where the old railroad tracks used to be.

Just an aside here, but have you ever noticed how folks out in the country give direction by what used to be there?

Summer Soliloquy

 

Growing up, summer is a time to learn about yourself.

I awoke that morning to a peculiar sensation. Through the fog of sleep, my fingers brushed my head and caught something. I blearily looked at the entanglement and found it was a walking stick. I freaked. Adrenaline kicked in and I shook my hand to get it off, noting it seemed to be missing a leg (something to feel bad about later).

It’s hard to say if that was the most effective means of waking up that summer. I was at a camp for kids up to age fourteen and was at that senior age when the walking stick incident occurred. The camp provided another means of shocking one awake: showers that pumped icy cold water from the bottom of the lake. One had to hike about a quarter mile from our tent for the privilege.

Almost Serving Temperature

 

The thermometer hanging in the shade outside my battalion headquarters building read 150° Fahrenheit. Decades-old experience as a battalion food service officer prompted the thought “we’re 15 degrees below serving temperature!” It later turned out that the reading was off, about 25 degrees high, due to design limitations of the consumer-grade thermometer we had. So it was only in the 120’s Fahrenheit. But it was a dry heat—like a blowtorch!

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would later say “you go to war with the Army you have.” So, in 2003, the Army went to war in Iraq with the equipment it had, which was designed for Germany and Korea. That went for everything from sleeping bags to vehicles. Temperate zone sleeping bags and no washing machines prompted requests for bed sheets in first letters and emails home. The trucks were not armored, so just keep the windows down and drape a wet bandanna on the back of your neck. Soldiers quickly remembered evaporative cooling and tied water bottles in wet socks off the rear view mirrors to get drinkable temperature water at convoy stops.

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