Tag Archives: North Branch

The Property on Fox Lake Road

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The land we bought was part of what had been a 40 acre parcel: a square, 1/4 mile on each side. Fox Lake Road curves a little bit through the western boundary line. It had been split into two twenty-acre parcels, both with access to Fox Lake Road, still 1/4 mile deep. The northernmost parcel had a two acre lot cut out of the northwest corner of it, and had a little cabin on it that was used as a hunting camp.That was owned by Thomas Tange.

The rest of that piece – eighteen acres – was owned by Dick Goller: pilot, plumber and  well-driller with a well-deserved reputation as a con man and a shyster. He was a short, round man with black hair, a booming voice and a big grin.  Though he was sharp at making deals, he also had a reputation for being a little dense. He came in to the Shamrock one morning, complaining that his foot was killing him. He swore the boot had gotten smaller overnight.

“Did you leave a sock inside there?” Bill Welke asked him.

“Oh, I dunno. That’s a thought, I guess!”

With that, he unlaced his boot and pulled it off. To guffaws and chuckles all around the coffee-drinkers table, and to Bill Welke’s absolute glee, he spilled a dead mouse out of his boot on to the floor.

“Huh! Well that explains it,” he said, “…suppose it wasn’t dead when I went to put the boot on. Little guy should’ve spoken up!”

Goller worked mainly from his home in Cedar Springs, but had started taking quite a few jobs on the island. Enough, he felt, for having a second home here. When he started putting his house up, he accidentally built it over the property line, on the land belonging to Tange. He split the 18 acres in half, then, and sold nine in order to purchase the section that his home was sitting on. He priced it pretty reasonably and, to sweeten the deal, he offered to put a well on the land for no additional cost.

So it happened that – just as my husband was recovering from his fall from a roof and getting back to work…as we were moving from Corner #16 to Johnson Mill Road…as I was opening a gallery in Lapeer, Michigan – we got a call from Ed Wojan about buying a piece of land. Ed was in the real estate business, and knew we’d been looking at property on Beaver Island. He thought we might be interested in this deal. We were! We made a trip to the island to have a look.

Seven miles from town, the land had a rough old two-track logging road running through it. My Dad said, “That’s a little too far from town,” and we said “No way!” From our home in North Branch, no town was closer than seven miles; I traveled twice that distance to Lapeer, and twenty miles further to college in Flint. Seven miles seemed like nothing. The logging road would be an advantage, we said. We could use the first part of it as a driveway. The back was a ready-made walking path through the woods. We could drive a truck back there, too, for hauling out firewood.

The property had three hundred foot of frontage on Fox Lake Road. The front third was a fairly open field with  wild black cherry trees and juniper bushes scattered throughout. The back was hard wood forest: plenty, if managed correctly, to provide us with a constant source of wood for heat. On the north side of the property, on what had long ago been the edge of a farmer’s plowed field, were three huge maple trees. That was it…the final selling point. We loved it!

 

 

Review

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It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve written about an address. So long, it’s a bit difficult to get back into the spirit of it. I was on quite a roll for a while there, reliving old times and pulling up memories I hadn’t thought of in years. I took a break from it, while traveling, as I knew i wouldn’t have access to old photos, or time to spend sifting through the cobwebs in my mind to get the facts straight.

Now, trying to get back to it, I note resistance. These are hard years I am moving toward: troubled marriage; separation; divorce; teen-aged daughters and all the worry and angst that accompanied that phase in our lives; new relationships and their eventual failure, too. Until I finally end up here: poor, alone and over-worked. Ugh! You notice the attitude? That’s what I’m struggling with.

So, before I force myself over this hump and back to the dirty work at hand, let’s review.

  • First the Grandparent’s house, next door to my own house, and a big part of my early childhood.
  • Next, the house on Hunt Road, across from Lake Nepessing in Lapeer, Michigan, that my father built, where I lived until I got married.
  • The first, upstairs, Court Street apartment in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The second, downstairs, Court Street apartment, in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The Lake House, on Lake Pleasant, in Attica, Michigan.
  • Charbridge Arbor, in Lapeer, Michigan.
  • The farmhouse on Beaver Island.
  • The Stone House on Beaver Island.
  • Corner #16, in North Branch, Michigan

(Whew! That’s a lot of moving around!)

I left off there, in the back duplex apartment of what used to be the Deerfield Township Hall. We were not unhappy there. Still.

The bedrooms were very small. We started with the girls sharing one room and my husband and I sharing the other. We then (my design, Terry’s handiwork) built a bed frame with bookcases for headboard and footboard that would sit in the large living room. When the bolster, pillows and  upholstery cover for the mattress (all sewn by me) were put on the bed in the morning, it looked perfectly suitable as a large sofa. That gave the girls each their own small room. It seemed like a good idea, but it had short-comings. Eventually, we put the girls back in one room, and turned the other small bedroom into a dressing room.

There were still problems in our marriage. Terry was continuing to spend too many nights out drinking, which resulted in too many fights. I eventually read a book put out by Al-Alon, that caused me to re-think my reactions. The drinking wasn’t my problem (though it clearly affected me) but I was allowing it a central place in my life. I tried, instead, to not take it personally. I didn’t pretend to approve of the nights out, the drinking or the money spent, but I tried not to feel that it was a personal affront. I didn’t cause it.

It helped me, but my change in attitude made Terry feel threatened. He wondered what I had going on that I no longer obsessed about what he was doing. Always an issue, he became more and more suspicious, jealous and possessive. No amount of reassurance helped. Then, he worked harder and harder to get me to engage angrily in an argument with him, because that reassured him that I was still vested in the relationship. There were occasions when he followed me to class, and paced the halls outside the door. There were times he dropped the girls off at his parent’s house, so he could follow me to a study group, and sit outside in his truck. There were violent outbursts.

Terry’s mother had started working for a realty company. She and my father-in-law had purchased a house for an investment, and approached us about renting it. We had never been very successful in the past with paying his parents what we owed them, whether for rent, land contract or personal loans. I didn’t like putting ourselves in that position again. Terry liked the idea. He liked the house with a yard, with a more “normal” look and feel. If he was going to quit drinking, going to get his life in control, this change would help, he said. “I could do it there,” he said.

And so it was that, just as I was graduating from Mott Community College with an Associate of Arts degree, we were getting ready to move about three miles away, to Johnson Mill Road.

Corner #16

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Cindy, in the kitchen at Corner #16, 1980

“Corner #16” was at the intersection of M24 and Burnside Road. My next address was 31 E.Burnside Road, just two buildings away from that intersection, in the back half of a duplex that was made of the building that was once the Deerfield Township Hall. The new Deerfield Township Hall, a big, modern building with a large, fenced parking lot, was across the road.

Our building was a long rectangle of cement blocks, painted in that pale green that is often associated with hospitals and other institutions. The large yard was fenced on three sides. On one side of our house was  a cute little residence where an older gentleman lived. He had a stash of “the good stuff,” he told us: the spray for insects that was now illegal. If we’d like, he could spray our yard, too. “No, thanks,” I told him, “I don’t mind the bugs.” He was friendly and kind to us, but I can’t remember his name or much of anything  about him except for the DDT. Past that house was Bryan’s Market, on the corner.

In the other direction, there was a drive with small houses lining it; more yards and houses and drives that led into little subdivisions continued down Burnside Road, with an occasional old farm house. My sister, Cheryl, lived down that way, in a nice home that looked out on a pasture.

Just a short drive south on M24, and off to the right was Sweet School, where Jen would start second grade. The school had classrooms for kindergarten through third grade; after that the students went in to North Branch for school. Its smaller size seemed perfect, as a transition from the Beaver Island School.

Continuing south on M24 would bring us to Lapeer, ten miles away. From there, it was about twenty miles to my college classes in Flint. North on M24 from our house would bring us to the highway leading into the village of North Branch. Though we were technically in Deerfield Township, our address was North Branch.

There were two sets of cement steps, and two doors on the driveway side of the building. The first door led to the front unit, where a young couple lived with their twin babies. The second door led into our new kitchen. It was a spacious, open room with a row of cabinets filling the far wall. The refrigerator was  straight ahead, on the wall that divided kitchen from living room. There was an old stove there, too, with only two working burners and no oven. For about the first eight months that we lived there, I used my electric frying pan to bake bread and rolls, lasagna, even birthday cake! The dining table fit nicely in the center of the room. At Christmastime, there was plenty of space for a large, decorated tree in there, too. I loved that kitchen!

Just to the left of the entry door, a wide passage led into the living room. Windows on both exterior walls all had deep sills, compliments of the concrete block construction, that were perfect for holding houseplants. A “front” door in that room led out to the back yard. It was the biggest living room I’d ever had, almost twenty feet in either direction.

Two doors on the far wall led into  bedrooms. For a home with such an expansive living space, the bedrooms were tiny. Their dimensions were, I’m guessing here, maybe 10′ x10′ with a closet carved out of one wall. A hallway to the right led to the bathroom, which also held the washer and dryer. A door at the end of the hall hid the hot water heater.

This was our new home!

 

After the Party

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After days of covert travel and secretive blogging, I arrived at my sister Brenda’s house in Lapeer on Friday evening. She was surprised to see me.

“Your blog said you were going to Jen’s first!”

True. I told Brenda – on the phone – that I was coming to her house. In my blog, I said I was going to meet up with my daughter, to work on the news-magazine.

That’s because my sister Amy also reads my blog. If I had said I was coming to Lapeer, Amy’s suspicions – that her daughters were going to throw a surprise birthday party for her – would have been confirmed.

Actually, Amy’s surprise 50th birthday party was my sole reason for extending my travel beyond Aunt Katie’s doctor visits.

Since I’m here, I will get together with my daughter Jen to do some work on the Beacon. I’ll get out to see my daughter Kate’s new house in Clifford. I will stay for Thanksgiving. I thought I’d even get into North Branch yesterday, for my mother-in-law Pat’s surprise 80th birthday party…but weather got in the way of that.

Though big wintery clouds were constant, the weather was clear for my drive down-state. Yesterday morning there was just a dusting of snow. I planned to drive to Clifford, then to North Branch (the surprise was scheduled for 3PM there), then back to Lapeer to be at Amy’s party by six. We had visitors, so I didn’t get out of the house as early as planned. Then the snow started seriously piling up, accompanied by winds that kept the roads slick and the visibility low.

First I delayed going, then I decided not to try it at all. The first snow is always the worst for accidents, before we remember how to navigate through winter weather. I’d been on the road seven hours the day before, and wasn’t up for more, especially fighting through a snowstorm. I would have loved to give Pat my good wishes, but wasn’t crazy about being stranded with my ex-husband’s relatives. Finally, I couldn’t chance missing Amy’s party.

My other sisters – Robin and Cheryl – had arrived at Brenda’s shortly after I did on Friday. Cheryl thought we should do a “production number” to honor Amy. She had several ideas in the works, that we tossed around. We finally decided on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” re-written to say “Aaamyyy…Don’t Let Age Get You Down,” with lyrics pertaining to her legendary forgetfulness (can’t blame that on age!) and the fact that all of us are older than she is. My grandson Brandon found the background music for us (“Make it really loud,” I told him…to drown out our poor singing voices and help to keep us on track). My brother-in-law Keith did a mid-night shopping run for poster board, glitter, ribbon and markers. We made a giant four-part birthday card, that we’d wear for our “performance.” As Cheryl left, she suggested we all arrive a little early, “for rehearsal.”

With snow piling up, we received phone calls throughout the day from cousins and friends that weren’t going to be able to make it. Keith came in shaking his head about the bad roads. Brenda accidentally exploded a whole spaghetti squash in the microwave oven: clean-up was necessary. Still, we all managed to be showered and dressed in reasonable time. The party was less than four miles away…no problem. Well, in Keith’s little hybrid car…on un-plowed roads…with snowfall of close to a foot, plus drifts…in a blinding snowstorm…that was a long four miles…ending with getting firmly stuck at the end of the driveway!

We made it though, and the party was wonderful. Amy seemed surprised and pleased by all of it. Our little production number went without a hitch except for our bright blushing faces.

Today, the storm is over. The snow has transformed the landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland, and I’m happy to be here with my family.