Joe Writes . . .
I recently stopped at an old friend’s cabin on the Betsie River in northern Michigan, not far from (as my brother might say) the nifty Lake Michigan town of Frankfort. I had not been at my friend’s place since the late 1970’s. We stood at the top of the bluff behind his cabin, looking down 50 or 60 feet into the river’s shallow, clear water. So clear I could see tremendous fish – salmon, I think – swimming just hard enough against the current so that they stayed in place. The fish are visible in the center of this photo; keep in mind that we were way the hell up in the air on the riverbank.
The Betsie River is clear laughing water and blue skies, a river without a care in the world. The Betsie is wind power and fly-fishing. Hipsters. Duck hunters in corduroy. Ever-so-rarely the Betsie is a grizzled fisherman keeping watch o’er his bobber, but mostly the river is Chad and Jeremy singing A Summer Song on a sunshiny, wispy-cloud day.
Our river, the Grand, is working-class. Groaning, struggling, carrying the weight of the world on its back. The Grand is blue collar with Richie Rich occasionally slumming it in a million-dollar-boat near the Big Lake. The Grand is coal-mining, ship-building smoggy Newcastle. The Grand is Eric Burdon fronting the Animals in 1965. We love the Grand but sometimes We Gotta Get Outta This Place.
The Grand will never be the Betsie, and that’s ok. I’ll never kick her out of bed for eating crackers. Flow on, Your Tired Majesty; flow down to the sea.
P.S. I suspect that most people were prone to jumble up the songs of Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon’ back in the 1960’s. My favorite song among both duos repertoire was ‘I Go To Pieces’ by Peter and Gordon. That song was written by Del Shannon, he of ‘Runaway’ fame. Del Shannon was born Charles Westover in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is split by and built around the Grand River. Del Shannon grew up in Coopersville – west of Grand Rapids – and lived for a time in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he sold carpet, worked in a warehouse and drove a truck by day while playing music by night.
P.P.S. If you decide to visit Frankfort you can get one hell of a perch sandwich at Port City Smokehouse. You can get other lake fish there as well – fresh or smoked – and top-notch beef or turkey jerky, too.
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