Tag Archives: the King’s Highway

Forward Steps



It’s another wet, gray day here on Beaver Island. One more in a long week of them. The temperatures have risen, hovering just above freezing. That allows the snow to melt, giving us surfaces that are slippery slush, cold water over ice, mush ice or – rarely – clear, depending on where you are. The King’s Highway, being a wide, paved road, is mostly clear. The Fox Lake Road, my driveway and the paths and trails around it, are a raucous combination of the other choices. I’m drinking my third cup of coffee, debating whether walking conditions will improve if I wait.

Snow melt puts moisture in the air, which gives us gray skies, cloud cover, mist and fog. All of that has been accompanied by intermittent rain. The sun came out – just briefly – over the harbor three days ago, and people stopped in their tracks to stare, admire, and comment. It has been a gloomy week. My mood follows the weather.

Though heartened by yesterday’s activities world-wide, I’m still frightened and discouraged by the political weather. I have always had trust in the strength of our democratic process, and the underlying good in people, no matter what their politics. This election, I have to say, has caused that trust to waver. I’m tired of hearing that genuine concerns are simply a matter of poor sportsmanship  or of being a “sore loser.” I’m weary of being told to wait, that everything will work out. I think I’ve heard all the same rhetoric that the people giving that advice heard, and I don’t have any idea what good things I am supposed to be waiting for.

I have friends and relatives (whose kindness, humanity and intelligence I am certain of) who back our elected president. He also has, as supporters, some of the cruelest, most degenerate and despicable people around, who spout hatred, lies and racism freely, and who believe they have an ally in Donald Trump. His cabinet picks do not encourage me. His inaugural address did not give me hope or soothe my fears. His reelection campaign – already in progress – gives me a sick feeling. Regarding his “Keep America Great” slogan, in his own words:

“I never thought I’d be giving my expression for four years, but I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great… Honestly, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till you see what happens, starting next Monday. A lot of things are going to happen. Great things.”

Again, we are told to wait. I don’t like waiting, especially when the wait is for undefined – and thus frightening – steps to “great”ness. I don’t see greatness in the cabinet choices thus far. I don’t see greatness in the plans for “the first 100 days.”  I don’t see greatness in the rise of blatant and forceful bigotry. I don’t see greatness in the many disparaging comments and attacks caused by any show of dissent or disagreement. Even the arguments, which go right back to comparisons to other candidates or the last administration, lack substance. The election is over. Being “better than…” or “different than…” is no longer enough. Now, it’s time to hold our elected officials to a standard.

Yesterday, in news reports of peaceful protest worldwide, to express support for kindness and consideration of all people, I saw greatness. That, I don’t have to wait for. What I feel like I’m waiting for, on this gloomy Sunday, are all the unknowns. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.






















The Apartment at McCafferty’s Hotel



april2016 138When the hunters and others that paid the higher, seasonal rate were gone, my family was able to move in to an apartment in McCafferty’s Hotel for the rest of the winter. The hotel was a square building with two stories and wood siding stained golden brown.  At the intersection of the King’s Highway and Donegal Bay Road, it was a block from the school, a block from the road that ran along the harbor, walking distance to church, post office and the Shamrock Bar & Restaurant, where I worked. The main door faced Donegal Bay Road. Inside, doors to the left or right led to downstairs apartments. The hall continued straight ahead to two other apartments at the rear. A stairway led upstairs to four more units. An outside stairway in the back led down to a laundry area.

Our apartment sat on the front corner of the upstairs. The door entered in to the living space, with the eat-in kitchen on the right, living room on the left, with large windows looking out over the treetops and the downtown area. At the back of that room, a short hallway led to two bedrooms and a bathroom. The walls were dark paneling. Floors were tile in the kitchen and bath, carpet in the other rooms. Furniture was already there. We added our own TV and stereo, a few books, photographs and pieces of art to make it feel like home. We were becoming pretty good at this gypsy lifestyle!

An elderly lady, the mother, perhaps, of “Bing” McCafferty, who had built the hotel, lived in one of the downstairs apartments. She’d had two husbands, and I can’t remember which one was last. She went by  either “Grandma Mooney” or “Grandma McCafferty.” She popped in to see us on our first day there. She didn’t knock before she came in.

“At my age, I go where I want, no matter what,” she explained.

She told my girls to call her “Grandma.”

“I’m old enough to be everyone’s Grandma!” she said, gleefully.

She presented us with a housewarming gift: a fat crocheted tube that was designed to hide a spare roll of toilet paper. It was made of a couple colors of variegated yarn with a fluffy pompom on top, and large shell stitches around the bottom. “This is so pretty,” we gushed as we thanked her for her thoughtfulness.

“Too pretty for the bathroom,” she agreed, “Keep it right there on that coffee table, where everyone can appreciate it.”

So it was that for the duration of the time that we lived in McCafferty’s Hotel, we listened closely for the sound of footsteps in the hall. We perfected a little relay. Whoever was closest to the bathroom grabbed the little crocheted toilet paper holder from the back of the stool, tossed it to the next person who tossed it to the next one who placed it back in its place of honor on the coffee table…before “Grandma” turned the knob and walked in without knocking.

Now that I’m older, I think of all the energy we spent being on constant alert and racing to get that little object in place. I don’t think I have changed enough to not care about her feelings. My timidity would probably still not allow me to refuse to display it. I think, today, I would simply leave it on the coffee table!

The Stone House on Beaver Island



At the end of October, in 1978, we moved out of the farmhouse and moved in to the Stone House. Easy to find, it was featured on the new Wojan-Cashman map of Beaver Island. During the tourist season, the large home rented for a whopping two hundred and fifty dollars per week…but from the end of October to the first of May, we could have it for a mere one hundred twenty-five dollars a month!

stone house 001

The Stone House was on the corner of the King’s Highway and Paid Een Og’s Road (pronounced, roughly, podge-een-ogg ),about two and a half miles south of the farmhouse. It had recently been the retirement home of a Catholic priest, Father Donahue. His nephew, Jim Lovely, had inherited it when the priest died. It was from him that we rented it.

The main structure was a two story square building of beautiful fieldstone with a gambrel roof, but additions had been added in almost every direction. To the south, a large enclosed porch collected enough heat to feel like a sauna on sunny days days. Another enclosed porch faced the King’s Highway to the east. On the west, a couple large additions featured a  living-ding room, bathroom, kitchen and a garage at the end of the driveway off Paid Een Og’s Road.

The yard was bordered with flowering hedges. A large, old rickety barn stood to the south of the house. The woods came right up to the driveway on the west.

We always parked in the driveway, and entered through the garage. The west wall – farthest from the house – and the back wall were covered in pegboard, loaded with simple tools. Shallow benches and shelves hugged the walls. In the center of the garage sat a barrel stove. The wall closest to the house had wood storage along the first half, then the stairs that would lead into the kitchen, and then a space for a washer and dryer. It seems like there was room to park a car in there, but I never remember doing it.

Up the stairs and into the kitchen, you would first be face to face with a beautiful old cast iron wood-burning cook stove. Pans rested on its surface and hung above it. Turn sharply to the left, to see the rest of the kitchen. An electric stove stood alone on the left, on the wall shared with the garage. Cupboards lined the wall straight ahead, with a sink in the center and the refrigerator at the far end. A window above the sink looked out on the driveway, side yard and Paid Een Og’s Road beyond. A little table was tucked into the corner opposite the refrigerator; between those two items, a doorway led to the dining and living space.

The dining table sat in front of a large window, again facing Paid Een Og’s Road. The far wall had once been the back, exterior wall of the original building. The wall was fieldstone. It grabbed the cold and held on to it. Those stone walls radiated cold all winter long. Though they were lovely, I shudder with the memory of them. A bookcase stood against the stone wall, its shelves filled with missals, ledgers and old cookbooks.

The stone continued  across the back wall of the living area. On the opposite side of the room, on the wall shared with the kitchen, was a large stone fireplace. A slab of wood retrieved from a shipwreck was the mantle. Into the face of it was carved the legend, “Chop your own Wood and it Warms you Twice.”  A “heat-a-lator” insert helped to send more heat back into the room. Tucked into the far corner was a door that lead into a small bathroom. The south wall had windows that looked out onto an enclosed porch. On the far end of the stone wall, just opposite the bathroom door, was a doorway leading into the original house.

What had been living spaces were now sleeping quarters. The first, main room was kept open. Just inside was a stairway, leading to two upstairs bedrooms. We only used those rooms for company. Another door led to a set of old wooden steps that led to the basement. There was a fuse box down there and a fuel oil furnace. Kettles and zinc wash tubs shared space  with equipment for making saurkraut, apple cider and maple syrup.

Across from the stairs was a small desk that held the telephone. Straight ahead was the front door, leading into another enclosed porch, this one facing the King’s Highway. A pot-bellied wood stove sat in the center of the room. To the left, an archway led into a mid-sized room with two twin beds. That became the bedroom for my daughters. At the back of that room, a wooden door led into another small bedroom; that’s where my husband and I slept.

That’s the end of the simple tour through the Stone House on Beaver Island