Book Reviews: Endurance and The Arctic Fury
By Alexis Mercer
The book reviews had to be pushed to the wayside for a while. Teaching in a pandemic has a way of shifting one's priorities. Not that I haven’t been reading, however, it was a few pages each night before my eyelids couldn’t stay open any longer. And there simply wasn’t time to write reviews.
But we made it to Christmas break. Perhaps by the skin of our teeth, but here we are. So between helping with Lego sets, enjoying hot cocoa after sledding (don’t go to the Sports Park yet...the base is not there and you will pay dearly for a fast ride down an incredibly bumpy hill with not enough snow if you're anything like me), popcorn while watching Christmas movies (how many times can you see each of the Home Alone movies? My kids are setting records I think…) and all the other fun we have managed to come up with while home for the break, I have been devouring pages of books.
Two of those books are Endurance and The Arctic Fury. One led to the next thanks to an email “if you liked Endurance, you may like these as well…” and of course the email was correct in its assumption.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing was recommended by a professional runner I follow on social media. His Instagram post showed that he was reading the book and loving the story of endurance that was not simply finishing a marathon or ultra race, but one that meant life or death, and the lessons he was learning from that.
The book is the true story of a group of men who set off on an expedition to Antarctica in an attempt to cross the continent on foot in August of 1914. Instead of making it to the uncharted land, their ship got stuck in a block of ice painfully close in miles and yet unthinkably far away from the final destination.
What unfolds in the pages is the tale of Ernest Shackleton’s brave leading of men through unfathomable conditions in an attempt to survive thousands of miles in the antarctic; many on the ship and many on land once their ship was crushed by ice blocks.
The author, Lansing, was given permission to see the diaries of all the men on the ship for this fateful adventure. In addition, he interviewed each of the surviving members of the expedition at length.
What results is the harrowing true story of men who survived some of Earth’s most unbelievable conditions that left me thinking about what true endurance means.
With a book in between completely unrelated to any sort of cold weather adventures, I was ready to dive into another exploration book: The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister.
Virginia Reeve is called upon by Lady Jane Franklin to lead a group of a dozen women into the Arctic to find her husband and his lost expedition. Though many other men have tried, none have been successful, and Lady Franklin thinks that a women’s expedition will have a different result.
If Reeve and her crew are successful, they will be rewarded greatly. If they fail? No one will ever know of their trip.
In a daunting tale that flips back and forth between the expedition itself and a trial for murder in a Boston courtroom, the suspense builds and propels the reader forward through to the very end.
Though The Arctic Fury was inspired by a true story of a lost men’s expedition in the Arctic and the wealthy wife, Lady Franklin, who funded trips to find what became of the men in the late 1840s and early 1850s, the all-women’s expedition part is purely fiction. This is a beautiful blend of historic reality and brilliant fiction to create an entertaining, thoughtful story.
One true tale to the Southernmost part of the Earth. One historical fiction tale to the Northernmost. Both captivating stories that left me thinking about bravery, adventure, survival and endurance in new ways.
Andrea and Terry Grabill answer your latest avian queries
Is there something in the bird world akin to Bigfoot?
A mysteriously rumored but never confirmed sighting of a heretofore unnamed feathered fowl?
A mysterious bird is an excellent question! I think it would be great if there was a bird of folklore that’s elusive and a great hide-and-seek champion like Sasquatch. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate such a beast...or even reports of one! The more I considered it, though, one did come to mind that many young campers were encouraged to hunt that might have been categorized as mythical.
The Grabill family spent a lot of time in the north woods camping in the 1970s and on numerous occasions, my brother and I were told to go on a snipe hunt. In hind-sight, I suspect the invitation probably came from parents desperate for some time without whining kids who had a never-ending supply of demands and questions. If memory serves, we were instructed to sit in the brush with a paper grocery bag which, when tapped with a twig, would be irresistible to snipes. I still remember wondering what the heck we would do with a snipe once we caught it.
As a young adult, mythology met reality as I watched small, long-billed birds fly over a marsh on Beaver Island giving a magical courtship dance and “song”. Dr. Hamas, our ornithology professor, identified them as Wilson’s snipe (was I being punked again?) Turns out these are REAL birds and not uncommon at all! They are members of the sandpiper family, named for famed ornithologist Alexander Wilson, and their courtship dance and “song” is a sight to see. The song isn’t a vocalization at all, rather, it’s sound produced by air rushing through its outer tail feathers as they fly. This “winnowing” is one of nature’s ethereal sounds that you’ll not soon forget. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wilsons_Snipe/sounds#
What should people look for in bird seed? What attracts the greatest variety?
Backyard birders will eventually develop their own preferences and recipes for the “best seed offering” for their feeders. Andrea and I feed black oil sunflower seeds and woodpecker suet cakes year-round. Our sunflower feeders are visited by northern cardinals, black-caped chickadees as well as nuthatches and woodpeckers. Gardeners that are opposed to the shells left behind under sunflower seed feedings may prefer to use shelled seeds. Safflower seed is also a popular offering among birders and birds alike. Check out our “These Two BirdGoobers” podcast at the following link for a more detailed listing! https://www.birdgoober.com/podcast
There are many seasonal choices as well. In winter, we supply Nyger seed (often called thistle) for winter finches such as American goldfinch, house finch and northern irruptive species like redpolls, purple finches and pine siskins. In warmer seasons, halved oranges are great for orioles and sugar-water feeders attract hummingbirds.
If you’re interested in a cool winter project, take a look at this BirdGoober video describing the process of making home-made suet cakes!
BirdGoober is Terry and Andrea Grabill, of Newaygo. They have been birding together since they met and love to share their passion for birds with people of all ages. Please send your birding questions to the Grabills at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.birdgoober.com.
By Tim McGrath
“Boy, that really was about the stupidest thing you two could have done.” – Gerald Wisner on observing a big idea gone exceedingly wrong
When I was a kid, it was declared a holiday in the neighborhood if someone’s family got a new refrigerator. The thing is, we didn’t give a fig about the new Crosley Shelvador in some mom’s kitchen, it’s what it came in that was important. There was something magical about refrigerator boxes. Seeing one in somebody’s driveway caused all other activities to come to a screeching halt. Sturdy, tall, built to hold, well, a refrigerator. That meant it could also be transformed into an almost impregnable fortress, tank, or dungeon. Usually, it held up until it rained, or somebody had the bright idea to see if it could roll down a hill with two to three other kids inside. Never worked for long, ever.
Our ideas usually weren’t intended to be naughty, but sometimes the various combinations of matches, stinkbombs, fake vomit/dog doo, BB guns, slingshots, firecrackers, junkyards, old barrels and tires did raise eyebrows. Just about anything could become part of someone’s new master plan. Take sticks, for example. So many interesting and useful things could be made with them. Various weaponry or even rudimentary communication devices could be constructed, all intended to create the next grand adventure. All it took was a couple of us to engage in groupthink, and we were off and running. Just don’t tell mom.
Then, there was Billy Martin. Billy was just a little older than the rest of us. He was the outlier, the truly brave one. The one willing to do what it took to see his grand schemes come to fruition. And, he was also the one whose big ideas regularly landed him in the principal’s office.
“Hey, look, it’s crazy Billy Martin. He’s really going to do it. Since we had all that snow the last couple days, it’s all he’s been going on about. Didn’t think he’d really do it, though,” Clark muttered. I put my hands up to shield them from the late afternoon sun. No way was I going to miss any of this.
Running, yelling, shoving kids piled out of the school across the street onto their homebound buses. Billy sauntered over to bus 21, the last in line. We watched as he hopped the curb, grabbed the back bumper, and squatted down. He gave us a wink and a wave, waiting. Bus 21 slowly pulled away from the curb with Billy sliding along happy as a clam on the icy street under his feet. He called it “Bus Surfing”. The last we saw; he was sailing away down Meyer toward Porter Street. I wondered out loud what would happen when the snow and ice on the street turned to bare pavement.
“That Billy Martin’s nuts. My mom told me if she ever caught me acting like that kid, she’d skin me alive,” Clark commented as we scrunched our way down the snowy sidewalk.
“Yeah, mine too. But, Billy Martin’s got guts, you know it? Don’t you ever want to do something that takes guts?” I asked Clark.
“OK, dork, here’s your chance. I dare you, no, double dog dare you to smack the first car comes down the street with snowballs. We’ll just see how much guts you’ve really got,” Clark taunted.
There was a big snow bank piled up by the snowplows at the end of Clark’s driveway. We dug out a little hidey-hole, made about a dozen slushy snowballs as ammo, slunk down, and waited. Clark peeked out over the top of our fortress watching for our first victim to drive by.
“Hey, hey, get ready, here comes one. Wait until I give the signal, then jump up, and let them have it! Ready…, set…, fire!” he yelled. We both jumped up, and let fly with the first salvo from our mittened hands. Both snowballs flew true and smacked the blue Ford amidships with satisfying thumps.
“Hot dang!” Clark laughed. “We got him!”
“Hot shot!” I whooped.
The blue Ford slid to a stop sideways in the road. A very large man leaped out the driver’s door, spotted us, and sprinted our way, yelling for us to stop. Realizing he was after us, we did the only sensible thing, and ran for our little lives.
We ran, oh how we ran. We raced through Clark’s backyard with the man in hot pursuit. The snow we’d had was deep, and our ten-year-old legs were no match for his. In a heartbeat, he was on us. Enormous, meaty hands reached out and grabbed our coat collars.
“Gotcha! OK, you two let’s march over to see someone’s mother RIGHT NOW! This one of your houses?” he hollered at us.
“It’s mine,” Clark choked out between sobs.
Dragging us to the side door, he made Clark ring the doorbell.
“Do it again,” the man ordered. “Your mother home, boy?”
“Yessir, she’s always here.”
Clark’s mom appeared at the door. Looking between her son and me hanging by our coat collars from the hands of a very large and very irritated man, she calmly asked: “Well, what have you done this time, Clark? And, who in the world are you?” she asked the enormous man collaring her son and me.
“I’ll tell you who I am, lady.” He unceremoniously dropped both of us with a plop on the stoop, reached in his coat pocket, and pulled out a black leather wallet. Opening it, he showed Clark’s mom a shiny brass badge. “I’m Detective Terry Ferguson from Wyoming PD. These two characters thought it’d be a good idea to throw snowballs at my car. About scared the liver out of me. Could have driven straight into a phone pole.”
“Is that so,” she said. “Well, Detective, I’m terribly sorry for what these two hooligans have done, and I promise you we’ll take care of it. I’m sure Tim’s mom will want to know what these two are up to, also. Leave it to us, they won’t be doing anything like this again. Isn’t that right, boys?”
“You know boys, I could run you in for all kinds of crimes. Trust me, you do not want to end up in juvie. You’ll come to a bad end in there. We don’t need any more criminal types out running the streets. You two listening to me and your mom?” he demanded.
Both of us shook our heads quickly; yes, we were listening. I didn’t want to end up in juvie, either. I’d heard stories. Gary Henderson’s older brother had been in juvie. Said it was rough. He wouldn’t tell us anything about it because, as he put it: “You shrimps would crap your pants, and have nightmares forever if I told you even one little thing they do to you in there. Just don’t do anything stupid enough to get sent there, seriously.” No sir, I’m going to mend my ways from now on, I promised myself.
“Alright, then, Mrs., I’ll leave them with you,” Detective Ferguson said.
“Thank you, Detective. These two won’t be doing anything like this again, will you boys? Clark, get in the house. Tim, I think it’s time for you to head home.”
We watched the cop get back in his car and slowly drive off. Clark muttered, “Sorry” through the glass storm door as he slunk inside, leaving me alone and wondering if and, more importantly, how to tell Mom if it came to that.
I shuffled along the sidewalk lost in deep ten-year-old thought. That’s when Gerald Wisner caught up with me. “Hey, Tim, I watched the whole thing come down. Man, it was so cool to see and hear those snowballs smack that car. I’ve got to tell you, though, that really was about the stupidest thing you two could have done. You know, hitting a cop car and all. Man, I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I’ve got to go, see you tomorrow. That is, if you’re still alive tomorrow!” Gerald snorted.
“Hi, honey!” Mom greeted me as I stepped in the house. “How was your day? Learn anything new?”
“Well…,” I stammered. “What’s for supper?”
Consumers Energy program supports local economy
The Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to be participating in the “Our Town” gift card/certificate effort provided by Consumers Energy.
CE is providing holiday shoppers with a dollar-for-dollar match for gift cards or certificates they buy through local Chambers of Commerce and downtown organizations, doubling the amount they can spend in downtowns across the state.
And they have become a hot item according to Chamber Executive Director Karen Baird.
”We received $3500 from Consumers Energy for their promotion. and sold out Wednesday! However – I received a call yesterday from Rich Houtteman at Consumers Energy and they have agreed to give the Fremont Area Chamber another $3000 for the Our Town gift card promotion! Se we have another $3000 in matching money for our Fremont Fun Cash.
“This is accepted at over 40 small local businesses and is such a great opportunity for our community to support the small businesses!”
“Small businesses are the backbone of the communities we serve, and every community has seen those businesses feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, Consumers Energy’s vice president of customer experience.
“With Our Town, we want to end the year by spreading cheer. We are putting dollars directly into shoppers’ hands to help them stretch their budgets and give a boost to shops and restaurants in their hometowns.”
“We are very thankful to Consumers Energy for their Our Town program, added Baird. “Their commitment to helping our businesses survive through these tough times is unmeasurable! This is that shot in the arm that all of us need right now!”
The Fun Cash is good for a year, so customers can use it well into next year to help these businesses.
For more information call the Chamber at (231) 924-0770 or visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FremontAreaChamberofCommerce/
NCCA-Artsplace Winter Community Photography Contest
The NCCA-Artsplace Winter Community Photography Contest is an event that anyone can enter and showcases the season as we make that turn toward the winter months. Entry deadline is Tuesday, January 12 by 4:00 p.m.
This free contest is for all ages and all levels of skill. All entries will have the winter season as the theme. Participants may submit up to two entries. Each entry must be an 8”x10”, unframed photograph.
All entries will be on display January 14 through February 6 in the corridor gallery at NCCA-Artsplace. First, second and third place ribbons will be awarded and the winner will be announced via facebook @NCCAArtsplace and at www.ncca-artsplace.org on January 14 by 4:00 p.m.
Registration forms for the competition are available at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street, downtown Fremont or call 231.924.4022. The guidelines and forms may also be found by clicking here and scrolling down to "Winter Photo Contest". Have some fun and shoot away!
By Ken De Laat
I recall in late spring early summer feeling a few pangs of emptiness with minimal TV sports taking place anywhere. Oh there was the rather surreal Korean baseball I watched at 5am and an occasional corn hole competition but not much else . Watching repeats of games is a concept I have never really embraced since one of the few pulls toward sports is the immediacy of the drama unfolding. To me the ‘classic’ replays seem a lot like watching repeats on coverage of significant weather events.
What I missed were the teams I followed and rooted for over the past several decades. Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Wings, Wolves and Spartans.
Then sports returned.
The basketball playoffs and Stanley Cup competition began but, alas, they took place sans Pistons and Wings due to their pathetic records so there was little interest.
And then the Tigers returned to short term action…
And soon fell out of contention despite a hockey-like, nearly all inclusive playoff system cobbled into place by MLB.
But hey, then the Lions started their season and…
Well, if you’re a fan you know how quickly that has disintegrated into another lost season, another coach dismissal and the promise of better things to come via yet another rebuilding process. You realize all is lost when Matt Prater starts missing the bunnies.
But we also had a belated college football kicking off and our two Big 10 teams possibly ready to compete for the title...
Except one has been a disaster and will undoubtedly require a new coach after the season and the other just got edged by Ohio State 52-12.
Yeah, we missed them all.
But while it’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder..
It doesn’t do much for improving your favorite teams.
Of all the things I don’t miss about the election season, and believe me there are so so many thighs I don’t miss, the commercials inundating any network programming are up there near the top. Depressingly predictable and negative they drove me to Netflix and PBS each time I settled in for some random tube watching.
But with the political millions spent on sucking up air time suddenly vanished the return to ‘regular’ ads includes a resurrected Christmas themed car commercial when the guy buys a pair of vehicles and his wife declares her love for the one he purchased for himself.
It’s not funny, not cute, not realistic and involves a couple who are altogether unlikeable.
And thus far I have encountered it an average of 11 times per hour of TV.
Now I’m not saying there’s any longing for the recently departed cosmic debris that passed for political ads…
But believe me neither of the characters in this oh so obnoxious holiday ad would never ever get my vote.
And when I am in the market for a vehicle in the near future?
Yeah. Won’t be the ones in this commercial.
Just on principle.
If you have Netflix and have yet to watch Queen’s Gambit do so the very minute (well, minutes) you have to sit down and take in this captivating show that has resulted in a boom in the sales of chess sets.
Granted this isn’t for everyone and you need to be a bit open minded but it is absolutely sublime from plot line to character development to some truly inspired camera work. This is a compelling watch to be savored and will likely evolve into that small collection of shows one can watch several times just to capture every nuance subtly intertwined into the production.
Oh, and as for the photo at the top? No it has nothing to do with the article. just liked the sign.
Hunker down fellow Near Northians.
When you stay safe we all stay a bit safer.
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