You Never Know Who You Might Meet

Yes, that is a small plane in the featured photo above. And, yes, that is Tom Daldin, host of the PBS show “Under the Radar Michigan” (UTR). We’ve just landed on Beaver Island.  What’s the story?

My return to Beaver Island three weeks ago reminded me that not only are Great Lake Basin (GLB) islands wonderful, in and of themselves (as are many of the islanders you’ll meet on them), but GLB islands tend to attract some mighty interesting visitors. On an GLB island, you never know who you might meet.

The Small Plane Story

While my book focuses on the 136 Great Lake Basin islands you can access by ferry and bridge—no need for private boats or charter plane—and Beaver Island is one of my favorite of those islands, it proved impossible to attend the Beaver Island Historical Society’s Art Show for a two-day book signing and get back off the island by ferry in time to dash across the northern part of “The Mitt” to Cheboygan and ferry over to Bois Blanc Island for a book talk. Too many other people had made ferry reservations by the time I received the invitation. Well, too many people had made their ferry reservations by the time I thought to call for mine would be a more honest narrative. Call for ferry reservations before you make your plans!

So I ended up flying from Charlevoix to Beaver Island via Fresh Air Aviation.  I highly recommend the service. And flying round trip in this case proved to cost just $2 more than ferrying round trip. So you’ll be familiar with them once you decide to give flying to Beaver Island a try, below on the left is Fresh Air Aviation’s Charlevoix terminal and on the right, Fresh Air Aviation’s Beaver Island terminal:

With Pilot Keith Teague at the controls, the flight itself was an amazingly beautiful and incredibly smooth experience. He and Tom Daldin wore headsets, so they could talk about Beaver Island and all that we were seeing below. (Note, that is what I imagined they were doing as least, and I wanted my own headset to listen in. And to ask questions, but then, of course, even Tom might have had trouble getting a word in edgewise.)

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While they were chatting away, I sat tight against my window, trying not to get in the way of the Under the Radar film crew, including Jim and Eric, who where shooting video footage and still photographs out of the windows for a fall UTR fall on Beaver Island. Between the blur of our plane’s propellers, I noticed the Beaver Island Boat Company‘s ferry, the Emerald Isle below in Lake Michigan:

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Under the Radar Michigan

Over the next two days, my Beaver Island friend Jan and I had the occasion to run into Tom Daldin and his crew at Stoney Acre Grill and Pub while we were enjoying the whitefish special and also during Wednesday’s evening’s (hazy) sunset. Such good guys as well as producers of an excellent show. They did, however, leave a day too early; here’s a sample of the aftermath of Thursday’s sunset:

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Post-sunset, July 21, 2016: Beaver Island, looking across Lake Michigan’s Donegal Bay to High  Island.

“The Protar Lady”

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“Whiskey Point” Lighthouse

Five years ago this last July, I was on Beaver Island, visiting my friend Jan, and actively trying to figure out what I’d include in a book on GLB islands. I walked past the “Whiskey Point” Lighthouse (aka the St. James Light) on the St. James Harbor and then, after passing the CMU Biological Station van parked lakeside, headed down the trail for what I thought would be a solitary walk at the Gull Harbor Natural Area.

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My first-ever selfie to commemorate meeting Antje Press, the “Protar Lady” for the first time in July 2011.

To my surprise, I came upon another walker. After a conversation, while seated together on a  bench along the trail, I realized I’d come upon a very special person, another interesting visitor to Beaver Island—and she’s been a summer visitor for many years—Antje Price.

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The home of Feodor Protar, 1893-1925, now on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

I met up with Antje Price again in July 2013 when I was back on my “official” research trip to Beaver Island. This time she was giving a tour at the Protar Home.

So who’s Antje Price?

 

“Doctor” Protar

First you need to know who Protar was to the island. According to the Beaver Island Virtual Tour, which tells the story more simply than I:”Protar was one of the island’s unique characters. He came to the island to ‘get away from it all’ in 1892.” But the information sign at his home, a historic site maintained by the Beaver Island Historical Society, perhaps, tells the story best:  “Trying to find some way to contribute the to the community, Protar took on some simple medical procedures …, and eventually became unofficial doctor to the Island people, caring for their day-to-day health needs by providing remedies, comfort, and good advice, all without any cost to them. He never took on anything he could not handle, and objected strenuously to being called ‘doctor.'”

His diaries, full of information about the life he made on the island, have been meticulously translated by an summer visitor to the island, who’s become known as “the Protar Lady.” Yes, that would be Antje Price. Ms. Price is also the author of a well-received pamphlet available for sale at the Beaver Island museums, Protar: a Different Life (Beaver Island Historical Society, 2006).

Taffy R’s One-a-Day

And then, there would be photographer Taffy Raphael, a Beaver Island cottager from Chicago. I met Taffy at a potluck honoring The Chenille Sisters who where performing on the island during my 2013 visit, and Taffy stopped by to say hello at the Art Show this year. Taffy participates in the 365 project, a daily photo journal. She has been posting a photo a day for four years now!

Check out her August 1, 2016 poppy (Photo 1258). Many of her photos are full of an otherworldly beauty, all of them are remarkable, and I enjoy her descriptions of them as well, like this one accompanying her poppy photo (click on the link to view it), entitled “Poppy.”

“Beaver Island holds an annual garden tour as a fundraiser for the rural health center gardens. For the past few years, they’ve asked that I photograph each visit, and then we create a framed collage for each home that volunteers their garden. This is from Anne & Paul’s place.”

You See?

Interesting islands, interesting islanders, interesting island visitors.

I could continue at length in this vein, but instead, here, below, are some Beaver Island residents of a different kind. They’re posing with my Beaver Island cottager (and mainland) friend Jan, who took me to meet them. Notice how the sun is shining on her in the center of this amazing cedar grove near Lookout Point. Not surprising to anyone who knows her. Thank you for introducing me to the wonders of Beaver Island over the years, Jan!

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