By Tim McGrath
In my student days, school must have been seen by those in charge as a way to keep us busy, off the streets, and out of our mom’s hair for a good chunk of the day. I think many of us got through fairly well in spite of being made to read out loud in front of class, memorize just about everything (“This could be on the test!”), and be required to: “ Keep an eye on the length of those sideburns, mister!” What really got us charged up, though, were the teachers that got a kick out of being, well…, teachers. The truly great ones I had showed real interest in us, and they kept us engaged. No small task. Don’t remember much about the author’s purpose in writing To Kill a Mockingbird, but I do remember how that particular teacher kept us on the edge of our seats by telling her own stories: she was a natural storyteller. Had a few like that, and I’m fortunate to have had them as an influence in those early years.
In my teacher days, I attempted to keep the tradition alive. Storytelling was a perfect way to lighten the moment, make a point, have a little fun, exaggerate, BS, set the stage, and, some days, just goof off. I’ve had the good fortune to be reminded by former students how much they enjoyed the stories. Me too.
This one’s for you, Charlie….
Part 1: The Night Before
Mr. Franklin’s brown Ford Fairlane station wagon bounced its way over the rutted two-track as we slowly made our way to the campsite. “Well, scouts, we’re just about at our site. Mr. Bogard and the rest of the boys are not far behind. We’ve gone over this, so every scout knows his job in getting camp ship-shape before nightfall. No flagging on the job, either, or I’ll be on you. Scouts are prepared.”
As the Fairlane groaned its way to our site, it was clear this was going to be something big. Sprawled across the vast estate of the Boy Scout camp were other troops doing the same as us. It was the first big campout of the season, and scouts from all across West Michigan had descended on this spot. Tents quickly went up, makeshift chow tables assembled, cooking fires set ablaze: a beehive of industrious Scouts in action.
“Let’s get busy, scouts; everyone fall out and get Troop 1234’s camp squared away. We’ll show these other boys how we do things.” All the pre-trip planning and practice came to life. Each scout knew exactly what to do, and in a matter of minutes the enormous green canvas tent was up. The carload of scouts with Mr. Bogard appeared, they all hopped to it and, as if by magic, the site was prepared and ready for scouting action.
“Let’s get some ‘ssert rustled up fellas. You all had something to eat at home, so we’ll just top it off with Fluffernutter samiches and a root beer before hitting the racks. That oughta just about do it, don’t you think?” Mr. Franklin chuckled to himself; he loved being in charge. “Chuck, you, Dale, and Clark get that fire ready. You’ve got to be sitting around a roaring campfire to enjoy Fluffernutters and root beer. Might even have time to roast a few weiners if we feel like it. Just be careful by that fire, boys. We don’t want any of you three roasting your own weiners. Wouldn’t know what to tell your mothers when we get back home.” All of us in earshot of Mr. Franklin fell about the place laughing and grimacing: not a pretty image, but a fine example of twelve-year-old boy humor.
White bread, marshmallow crème, peanut butter, sliced bananas: the recipe for the perfect Fluffernutter sandwich. We scouts knew what to do, and in no time, all of us were sitting around the campfire enjoying the Fluffernutters and washing down the sticky mess with gallons of root beer.
“Top notch work, scouts. Everyone pitched in, knew his job, and got camp all tucked away in fine fashion. Before we hit the hay, how’s about a story? I’ve got one called ‘The Golden Bell’. It’s scary, so hold onto your shorts.” All eyes were on Mr. Franklin as he wove a tale of his grandfather living alone somewhere on the prairie in a one room shack. One day, as he was working outside the shack, he discovered a tiny golden bell stuck in the branches of a small bush. He plucked it out and, kept it because of its unusual beauty. As the story unfolds one dark night, an unknown force or creature stealthily invades the grandfather’s shack; first from the outside in a quiet but insistent voice: ‘Who’s got my golden bell? Who’s got my golden bell?’ Realizing the voice isn’t merely the wind playing tricks on him, the grandfather picks up the bell and hides with it in a corner of the shack. Soon, the voice is inside the shack and coming closer, repeating in that menacing whisper: ‘Who’s got my golden bell?’
Closer and closer it gets until the hot breath of the…thing is breathing on the side of the grandfather’s face. When the tension couldn’t be any greater, Mr. Franklin paused momentarily, then shouted: “YOU’VE GOT IT!” We all jumped clear out of our shoes. Some of the boys actually began gasping – it was hilarious.
“That’s what’s called a jump tale, fellas. Really made you jump, didn’t I? Wish you could’ve seen the looks on your faces when I hollered. Some of you better check your pants, if you know what I mean. Well, that’s enough for tonight, men; time for some shut-eye. We’ve got a full day tomorrow, so we’ll be up with the chickens. Let’s get this fire doused properly and call it a day.”
The tent we called home was a monstrosity: what Mr. Franklin called “Army Surplus”. Apparently, something soldiers used during what he called “The Big One”.
“Alright men, let’s form a fire line and get all our gear stowed sharp quick.” Like a fine piece of machinery each of us kicked in, and just like that, sleeping bags and pillows were piled up in one end of the green cavern. And, soon after that, each boy had staked out his space.
“Hey, it stinks in here,” Tommy Blanford yelled out. “It smells like my grandma.” General sniffing all around, and murmurs of agreement.
“Yeah, it does sorta smell like old people,” from one corner. “Naw it doesn’t, it smells like our dog pen when my brother doesn’t clean up the turds like he’s supposed to,” from somewhere in the middle.
“Quiet down, gentlemen. It’s just a little musty from being stored away for so long; nothing to worry about. Let’s get some shut-eye. Tomorrow gets here early.”
The sounds of fourteen bodies shuffling around, getting settled in: the rasping armpit noises, snickering, and goofiness of twelve-year-old boys in a tent away from home were gradually replaced with the even breathing of scouts falling off to sleep.
Soon, the deep quiet was broken by the snuffly snortling of Mr. Franklin and the gargly wheezes of Mr. Bogard. Back and forth it went: a sleeper’s concerto. It was clear the others were waking. Sounds of frustration and disgust could be heard from all corners of our canvas cocoon.
“Dad, Mr. Bogard, stop snoring. We can’t sleep!” Timmy Franklin hissed at our leaders. He must have given each a shove, because the din finally stopped, and was slowly replaced with quiet peaceful breathing. Uninterrupted silence filled the tent. There was only the occasional snortle from the grownups. All was well.
Our reverie didn’t last, however. A more insidious element crept into the tent.
From Mr. Franklin’s sleeping bag came a sonorous blast, extraordinary in its volume, followed by two more expulsions in rapid-fire succession. Several of us woke with a start wondering if we’d heard what we thought we’d heard. In response, a particularly drawn out eruption cast all doubt aside: Mr. Franklin was farting. And, it quickly became a world - class effort. But that, of course wasn’t the worst. The tent slowly filled with a noxious sulfurous wave that billowed and capered around us. The only escape was to hide out inside the sleeping bags, and hope the end came soon. It was clear Mr. Bogard was suffering with the rest of us.
“John, wake up.” Mr. Bogard yelled. “You’re killing us in here; you’ve got to stop!”
The happily sleeping Mr. Franklin woke with a mumbled apology.
“Sorry boys, it must be the Fluffernutters. Always happens when I eat those buggers. Hope the worst is over. Now let’s get some shut eye.” Easy for him to say. All of us lay waiting…, waiting…, waiting...; wondering when the next rasping expulsion would cut short our slumber. Mercifully, it never came. That was the last we heard until….
“Hey, wake up!” Steve Simmons screeched. “It’s raining in here, and there’s water coming in the door!” When we were awake enough to make sense of the yelling, it was clear he was onto something. This wasn’t another Mr. Franklin moment; it was a massive thunderstorm. Water poured down the walls, dripped from the ceiling, and rolled in through the door. Outside, lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and the storm raged on. We lay huddled together in what was becoming a stinking, soggy quagmire. All we could do was hang on and wait it out. As we lay there, voices cried out: “My sleeping bag’s soaked!” From another: ”My shoes are full of water!” Everything we owned was drenched. Much to everyone’s credit, however, no one panicked. We were mostly calm Scouts, prepared to the end. Surprisingly, Mr. Franklin didn’t say much until it was clear the storm was winding down, and a thin gray light peeked into the tent.
“Well, that was something, fellas, glad it’s over. Up and at ‘em, boys: daylight in the swamp. We’ve got a lot of clean up to do before chow. Everybody grab your gear, haul it out and spread it out on the ground. Hey, lookee over there, lads, the sun’s coming up. That and the breeze picking up’ll get things dried out soon enough. That’s a good sign. Looks like we’ve got one fine day ahead of us….”
What's happening this weekend as we await the arrival of the warm weather we're supposed to have in Spring and maybe a little less rain would be nice as well....
Friday night at the Dogwood hear the stories behind the country music hits made famous by the likes of Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Montgomery Gentry, Darryl Worley, and many others when the Nashville Songwriters perform in the Black Box beginning at 7:30pm
Multi-platinum selling hit songwriter, Gary Hannan will be joined by acclaimed songwriters and country music stars, Andy Griggs and Wynn Varble.
Alex Mendenhall is a nationally touring indie soul musician based in Detroit and he will be performing during the Acoustic Lunch series Noon-4pm at Newaygo Brewing Co. With a little soul, alternative, and jazz, his music is high-energy and features carefully crafted wordplay and rich orchestration.
The Cupcake Festival a White Cloud gathering initiated by the Boomerang group celebrates its 3rd year with a slew of events including Cruisin’ The Cloud Car Show beginning at 12:30 at S. Lester and Wilcox Ave, Cupcake Sales & Contests, a beer tent and other activities around town.
Stage Door Players Theater is presenting The Secret Garden with doors open at 6pm and Northern Towing’s Comedy Night at the Eagles Beer Tent begins at 9pm.
Speaking of comedy, ‘Make It Spicy’ at Ridge Cider Co. Saturday from 7-10pm has 5 comics taking the stage including N3 columnist Ms. Megan Wirts (Megan Again) who never disappoints.
Trilogy rocks it out at the Riverstop Saloon Friday starting at 8pm...
Lewis Farm opens for the season Saturday...
And Croton Library welcomes Michigan author and adventurer Ron Rademacher who will present on day trips to little known trails, and nature areas including old growth forests, trails along thundering rivers, and a trail famous for rainbows starting at 11am.
And it is Mother's Day Sunday so here’s a timely quote:
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” -Elizabeth Stone
The Family Services Expo is scheduled for Saturday, May 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fremont High School. Admission is free and snacks, waters, and hotdogs will be provided.
This is always a great time with lots of giveaways, door prizes, games, crafts, and the opportunity to learn about the many services available to local families.
Best of all?
Yes that four letter word we all love to hear means it won’t cost a penny to experience one of the premier family events of the year.
Kids can grab some fun by doing a little bounce house action, hitting the climbing wall or the gaga pit .
Some of the services being offered up?
Vision checks for children. preschool and kindergarten enrollment info,
car seat checks and more.
Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Karen Clark:
“This year we are changing things us a bit. There will be a new location and new date.
“We will be combining vendors and activities from the Great Start Family Expo and Spectrum's Community Health & Safety Day.. The high school offers plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces to accommodate all vendors, as well as great parking for the public. We think that this is a great way to combine events and increase the number of attendees.”
This is a wonderful opportunity for organizations to share the programs and services they provide to local families in Newaygo County. Each vendor will provide an activity that parents and children can engage in together.
Here’s a rundown of what is being offered up.
While Great Start (overseen by NCRESA) is coordinating the event Clark credits the collaborative efforts that went into the event.
“We could not put it together without help from the planning committee including employees from Great Start, Spectrum Health, Fremont PD, Sheriff's Dept, and Family Health Care.”
Here is a link to the event.
Dogwood to host PN event this Wednesday
The Final Five.
Who are they?
They are the quintet of entrepreneurs chosen among nearly two dozen entries to compete in the Pitch North event this coming to the Dogwood Center this Wednesday (May 8th) from 4-6pm.
The winner will walk away with a $4000 check as well as a host of confidence from having secured the stamp of approval from a panel of judges.
Runner-up? Well, $2500 isn’t bad for a consolation prize and third place (that would be ‘show’ for you Derby fans) nets a cool thou.
And even if you don’t come away with the cash there is the opportunity to plug your idea to not only the judges but also the audience who will be filling the Dogwood to see this local Shark Tankish event unfold.
We caught up with the five women behind the ideas to be presented to get a little background info. They were asked what inspired them to begin their venture, the challenges they have faced and their goals for the future.
And here’s what they came up with.
Pitch North is open to the public, but registration is required. To register to attend, visit pitchnorth.com
Pretty Pop Ups
Cammie Hollinger lives in Grant with her husband Jay, their two kids and a chiweenie named Finn.
After graduating from Newaygo HS she went on to obtain her Marketing degree at Liberty University and when not remodeling campers she can be found working as a travel agent or substitute teaching all the while operating a non profit organization.
“I have spent much of my adult life being inspired by The Dream Giver. The book has encouraged and inspired me to go after my dreams whatever they may be.”
Pretty Pop Ups came to fruition out of both passion and frustration.
“Our family fell in love with camping last summer, and we had several family members or friends who wanted to join us, but they weren't comfortable sleeping in a tent, and didn't have the means to tow a large camper, or didn't want to invest in a camper they would only use a few times a year.
“Most nearby camper rentals are very expensive, and not conducive to short weekend getaways for families on a budget. This past winter, I came across a blog featuring pop-up camper remodels. I realized that I had the skills and the passion to not only undertake my own camper remodels, but to turn it into a business and allow our friends and family an affordable camping opportunity.”
As for the upcoming event?
“I am honored to be a finalist with the Pitch North competition, and I look forward to sharing more details about Pretty Pop Ups with the judges and our community."
Her quote from is from The Dream Giver, the book she referenced earlier.
"Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, it's choosing to act in spite of that fear."
The Bohemian Boutique
Tara Kelley lives in Shelby with her husband, their three children and the family puppy Mabel. Born in the UP she grew up in Florida where she graduated from Jupiter High School before receiving her degree from Muskegon Community College.
Spending time with her family either outdoors or on movie nights and some regular contact with friends ( “I can’t forget about girls night, it keeps me sane”) fills her life as does the ever vigilant search for those unique items that inspire her repurposing artistry.
“I started by traveling around to craft shows selling my creations. I did well but hauling and setup by myself got old fast. I found a small space downtown that was perfect, my kids could walk to and from school and home.”
Her downtown Shelby shop Bohemian Boutique is an eclectic collection of decor, apparel, lighting, jewelry, pottery, candles, essential oils, jams & jellies in addition to Tara’s creations.
Asked why she pursued the business she stated “It was something I’ve always dreamt about and if you don’t go for it you’ll never know and always wonder.
“My Mother is my inspiration. She gave me the DIY, treasure hunting bug when I was little. She is always in my corner cheering me on. If she lived here we would be doing this together.
“I learn something new everyday, and I love it. I’ve been happily surprised by the compliments and kindness of strangers.”
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve”.-J.K. Rowling
Baking Beauty’s Custom Cakes
Ericka Frericks was born in Georgia where her Dad was stationed in the army but made her way to Michigan by the age of 2 and spent her school days at Fremont High. After graduation she completed her second year of cosmetology and took classes at MCC.
A law enforcement wife and mother of 3 their household includes a dog (Calie) cat (Tinkerbelle) goldfish (unnamed) and a leopard gecko named Tucker.
Always the family baker, she has been whipping up tasty cupcakes for holidays, birthdays and special events. About 3 months ago she started getting asked to create custom made cakes and realized there was a real need in the area for creative bakers.
“My kids were totally my inspiration. We love watching the baking show Nailed It and anytime I'm creating something beautiful in the kitchen, I always have a precious little face (or two) telling me that I would totally "nail it" if I was on the show.
"My son and daughter tell me and anyone who'll listen that I'm the "best maker ever"......who wouldn't be inspired by that?”
Ericka hopes to continue baking from the comfort of her kitchen while her littles are home and would love to expand her knowledge and experience into new techniques and new desserts.
“In 5 years I'd love to be working out of a licensed kitchen, selling some of my goodies in a local shop.”
Something about her that might surprise people?
“That I've overcome a nearly debilitating fear of rejection to become the person I am today. I've been apart of a personal development course by Brene Brown and I feel grateful for what she's taught me about being brave, having courage and encouraging those around me to do the same!
"Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver."-Brene Brown.
Red Boots Kids’ Books
Sandi Bernard lives in downtown Newaygo and is well known for hosting the Thursday night Open Mike night at the Riverstop Cafe the past 17 years. A Reeths Puffer grad she moved back to Michigan after many years in North Carolina.
“I wanted to move to the place where I felt the most serene. I had always visited my brother who lived on the river and when I made my choice it was hands down Newaygo. I always say this town is like a Hallmark movie.”
Sandi wrote lots of kids stories when her own kids were little but it was her adult daughter Marquita who lit a fire under her about 18 months ago to start writing them again and offered to help with the technical side to produce them.
In addition to her daughter Sandi’s 94 year old Mother also provides inspiration.
“She started drawing wonderful character art on lunch bags for Kids Food Basket just last year. You're never too old to take on a passion and develop it.”
Sandi hopes her work inspires children to be thinkers and doers.
“I want to help kids 5 to 10 see that they are capable of writing their own books and thus helping create inspiration that will last a lifetime.”
Her favorite quote?
"Imagination is the pathway to everything".....Terence Kenna
Truffles and Goodies Lady
Deanna Dickinson spent much of her life in Hesperia where she graduated from high school and currently resides with her three children.
She likes to spend time outdoors with her kids and her boyfriend camping, hunting, fishing, tubing and beaching it when not creating the products she sells including coasters, magnets, key fobs, lanyards, embroidered items, coin purses, cell phone wristlets, baby items, & sweet treats like candy bars, truffles, and clusters.
Her business started out as a hobby to help out with finances but over the years the business has kept growing.
“My biggest seller is my ID Wallet Lanyards I was shocked it only took me like 2 days online on Etsy for orders to start flying in. Since black Friday I have sold over 250 between Etsy, Facebook and various shows as well as my cross body bags that I sell tons of as well.”
Deanna was inspired by her parents who also did shows and made money doing what they enjoyed.
“My hope is to one day own and operate my own small shop. To have a website, hire someone part time, train them to get things ready for orders and increase my sales even more.
“And to set aside money for the kids’ college fund.”
Pitch North is made possible through funding from the West Michigan Prosperity Alliance and Northern Initiatives. In-Kind prizes were donated from The Stream, Eric R. Fox, Attorney at Law and H&S Companies
Ten young people from throughout Newaygo County participated in a special four week photography workshop at NCCA-Artsplace. The workshop first began in 2009 to honor Chris Caris, the son of Ted and Jeannie Caris, an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed the art of photography while a student at Fremont High School. The classes were funded by the Christopher R. Caris Memorial Fund at the Fremont Area Community Foundation and taught by Chris Rosenberg of Fremont.
Area art instructors and principals recommended students to participate in the class. Class participants included Wyatt Gunnett and Sierra Thompson from White Cloud; Ashley Munch and Ann Cochran from Fremont; Ayla Schneider and Jessica Bennett from Fremont Christian; Kari Huston and Nikkole Frens from Hesperia; and Cyanne Schuitema and Reagan Archbold from Grant.
Rosenberg provided specialized instruction to the budding photographers on 35 mm SLR cameras, composition, printing, and enlarging their own images. Photos from the class are on display in the NCCA-Artsplace Corridor Gallery through May 18.
NCCA-Artsplace is located at 13 E. Main Street in downtown Fremont. Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., with Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
A presentation about native plants and invasive species will be given on Thursday, May 9, 6pm at Brooks Township Hall, 490 Quarterline Street, Newaygo. The public is invited to this free program to be held at the next Citizens Environmental Watch and Action Coalition (CEWAC) meeting.
The focus of this event is how common plants that are brought to gardens and yards for beauty can often be detrimental to Newaygo County’s native habitats, ecosystems, pollinators (such as bees and butterflies), and wildlife.
The solutions will be presented as well: to instead plant native species of flowers, shrubs and trees to enhance your property which will also feed and house our important wild residents.
Randy Butters of the Newaygo Invasive Plant Project will give a presentation about common garden plants that have escaped the boundaries of our property lines and encroached on Newaygo’s sensitive forest and prairie habitats. He will advise participants on which plants in particular are best to avoid planting in your landscape.
Sally Wagoner of CEWAC will then give a visual presentation of alternative native plants to grow that will beautify your home as well as strengthen the food and habitat infrastructures for bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and birds. Participants will learn how to choose native plants that are non-hybrids so as to offer the food sources most beneficial to bees and butterflies.
Luke Cotton of the Newaygo Conservation District will cap the program with information about the NCD’s annual Native Plant Sale, where participants will be able to order non-hybrid, quality native plants for their gardens. The annual plant sale is held in June with orders taken in the near future.
Nick Looman, 3R Environmental Education, will make his debut appearance as the organization’s new Executive Director. Co-creator and owner of Newaygo Brewery, Nick is enthused about broadening his roots in the Newaygo area through environmental impact. Nick will be instrumental in helping to expand 3R’s school and community environmental education programs as well as increasing the outreach and influence of Citizens Environmental Watch and Action Coalition.
You missed the first two performances of Fremont HS Theater’ The Crucible” but Friday is their 3rd and final performance 7pm at the Dogwood.
This group has consistently put on some fine shows over the years so the telling of this Arthur Miller classic should be in very capable hands. If you don’t know the story or have ever seen the play it is a worthy experience and will redefine the words ‘witch hunt’ for you.
Friday The Journeymen (not the folk group circa mid 20th century because they broke up 1n 1964) will be entertaining folks with their high energy bluegrass sound at the NC Museum in downtown Newaygo beginning at 6:30.Ten Bucks, doors open at 6.
The Dogwood Summer Youth Theater will be presenting “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in July.
Auditions will be held at the Dogwood Center Black Box Sunday, May 5 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm or Tuesday, May 7 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm
Youth ages 12 and up are invited to come and try out. Casting calls for at least 20 male and female roles with room for many extras
The Newaygo County Conservation Collaborative is hosting Dark Sky Photo 101 at The Stephen F. Wessling Observatory. This was a session that was previously scheduled to be held at the Freezin’ Season Winter Carnival but was cancelled because of inclement weather.
This FREE event has been created to get everyone out to enjoy Michigan's brilliant night skies.
Space is limited for the Observatory Presentation portion of this event to 30 people. Pre-registration for this event is required at http://mrwa.org/dark-sky-photography-registration/.
Saturday the Newaygo Brewing Co Acoustic Lunch Series welcomes back Coty Bouchard for some Saturday afternoon good listening (Noon-4pm).
Once you hear his nicely crafted music you will likely become a fan. If you have caught him here at the Brewery or elsewhere you likely already are.
River Stop Saloon has Everett on Friday and No Outlet Saturday and they serve dip with their chips.
We like to include something out of the ordinary each week so how about Swing Dancing lessons at 18th Amendment Spirits Co. Sunday from 5-7pm?
Professional dance instructor Florencia Colella and her partner, Tom Twining will teach you the basics, you need no experience, no partner (hmmm) and no cover charge.
Sounds like a hoot.
Got an event or a happening you want included? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Attn: Suggestion Box
Features and Fun
Concerts, Plays, Happenings, Local Recipes, Gardening, Entertainment, Charities, Fundraisers, upcoming events, Theater, Activities, Tech, and much more.
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
- Eric Qualman