What's the purpose of this website? I don't really know other than a place to list obituaries and provide the local history writings. Maybe that's all there is to it, along with a little entertainment here now and then.

May 19, 2021: Grab an introduction to Design Thinking here. Go ahead, make yourself uncomfortable. Make an impact with a funny hat.

May 1, 2021: There was a time when the flowering dogwood at Oak Grove Cemetery was considered a state champion. That's no longer the case, but it's still a beautiful specimen. Every year I wonder if it will flower again because when you look at the tree from the west side, its condition does not look good at all. But every year it comes through with an astounding display.

Someone suggested yesterday that the trees of the cemetery should be tagged for identification to show off the diversity. To go just beyond the cemetery boundary would make it even better. Add a wahoo, witch hazel, sassafras and more into the mix.

May 2, 2021: I was about to proclaim today as the warmest morning since...I don't know, probably last October or maybe November. Then I talked to George Isobar.

It was 59° when he collected data this morning around 7:30, but he surprised me by telling me there was a morning in April when it was 61°. OK, so it's only the second warmest of the year, but still, there's such a wonderful softness to the morning.

April 23, 2021: I opened my camera bag Friday for the first time in four months. Why? I decided to take photos at the Hinsdale Invitational track meet at Sand Creek. I've seldom missed that event in many, many years. Sand Creek has the best track and field facilities for a photographer. The track is separate from the football field and everything is close together. You can stand in one spot and monitor long jump, high jump and shot put, and even get a runner occasionally without moving far. Discus and pole vault aren't too far away. Now the school yearbook staff has a lot of photos to chose from if they one want one.

April 23, 2021: How's the pandemic treating you? Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you feel a little aimless and empty? Stagnant? A lack of joy? An article in the New York Times describes this state as languishing – an intermediate state of mind between flourishing and depression. The author suggests this might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

It's not a lack of energy that's keeping some people from getting out of their bed in the morning. They still have the energy to do things, but not the desire. It's just on odd absence of well-being from the never-ending COVID-19 adventure. It's an interesting article. It might explain how you're feeling.

April 22, 2021: I've spent a lot of time lately on the west side of Bean Creek. That's where I've been forced to go. For decades all of the land on the east side from town to the Tourist Camp was considered quasi-public land. It was privately owned, but anyone could walk the path. Even my father used to do it in the late 1920s. Now it's marked by Private Property signs on both ends of the trail. That's such a huge loss. That path was one of the best things about Morenci. I realize that a property owner has every right to make the property private; I'm just sorry that it happened.

My continuing thanks to former city administrator Renée Schroeder for pushing city council to buy the land on the west side through a state grant. The strip of woods isn't nearly as wide as on the east and a path isn't as well established, but it's still has a great variety of trees and access to the creek. There are also two geocaches over there after I installed a new one a couple of weeks ago. I need to make a visit and see what it offers for wildflowers.

April 22, 2021: I've recently returned from my first post-Observer vacation. It was different. I didn't have that usual anxious feeling about getting back to the office and trying to quickly make a newspaper. Eventually there was an urge to return knowing that lawn mowing was needed, that garden work was in order – but then it snowed.

It's so wonderful to not think about what I'm going to use for a front-page photo, to not worry about a feature story or two every week, to not wonder how I can fill the front page. For years I figured I probably wouldn't attend high school sporting events when I no longer had to be there for a photo. The same thing has happened with city council and school board, but I'm surprised how quickly I lost interest. It's almost like a switch was turned off and my duties were done. After 40 years I thought it would be like a habit, but it's gone. And that's OK with me. On to the next thing.

April 22, 2021: Do you think cardinals know how to count? I often listen to the neighborhood cardinal early in the morning while still in bed. It perches really close to my window for a few minutes before taking off for another tree. I'm always amazed that such a beautifully piecing sound can come from that small beak.

The cardinal often gives two strong sounds followed by a series of shorter calls. This morning I'm sure it went from two shorts to three shorts to four shorts and then to five before it was gone from my yard. The morning before I lost count of the number of shorter calls as it exceeded 10. Occasionally there's only one strong introductory call and once I heard three. I've thought it's all random until this morning. More study needed.

April 2, 2021: An article about poet Sylvia Plath reminded me of a poem of hers about snow – our April 1 surprise – but I discovered the poem I was thinking about was written by Anne Sexton. She found a reason for hope in snow. I suppose the rest of us are now finding hope in spring:


blessed snow,

comes out of the sky

like bleached flies.

The ground is no longer naked.

The ground has on its clothes.

The trees poke out of sheets

and each branch wears the sock of God.

There is hope.

There is hope everywhere.

I bite it.

Someone once said:

Don’t bite till you know

if it’s bread or stone.

What I bite is all bread,

rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.

There is hope everywhere.

Today God gives milk

and I have the pail.

March 23, 2021: Back in the old days when I used to run a newspaper, as they say, I would keep track of COVID-19 statistics from the region. For a few months Michigan had many more cases and deaths than Ohio, but over the summer Ohio surpassed Michigan for total cases. Michigan started out as a hot spot early in the pandemic and for a while was one of the hardest-hit states in the Union. As some other states eased up on restrictions, Michigan's high rank began to sink. However, the death tally puzzled me. Ohio moved ahead in cases, but still lagged way behind in deaths. Again, it could be have because Michigan had such a "head start" in the pandemic.

I decided to check numbers yesterday and discovered Ohio has now recorded 370,000 more total cases and 2,463 more deaths. Ohio also has 1.8 million more people, so taking account that factor, you could say Ohio has had 255,657 more cases and Michigan has recorded 402 more deaths. Ohio has overcome the big gap.

Michigan has now logged 15,919 deaths and Ohio has logged 18,382. We know it's certainly not "the same as the flu" as we were once told. The total case count for Ohio now exceeds one million and for Michigan it's 633,191.

By far the most unusual grave marker in the entire cemetery.

March 21, 2021: I convinced my wife that a good way to celebrate our anniversary would be to visit a cemetery, so off we went to Woodlawn in Toledo, right along Central passed Upton. It's an excellent example of the rural cemetery movement from the 1800s and it's truly an amazing place.

Morenci's Oak Grove has two nice mausoleums, but Woodlawn has so many more, and many fancier ones.

This mosaic display is on one of my very favorite graves. It's repeated lower on the stone and again on the left side.

Woodlawn is still an "active" cemetery with new graves appearing every week. This one features an unusual photo.

March 16, 2021: I heard from someone today who was disappointed about the disappearance of the old Observer website – with several years of obituaries included. I explained that I didn't want to use my Social Security money to pay for that website and instead I made a free one. I also explained how the Observer's digital archive has not only all the obituaries from nearly a hundred years, but every other page of the paper as well. It's really fun to get lost in those old pages for a time.

She needed some help using the old one and I did this. I went to the digital archive (there's a link on the home page of this site or you can find it on the library's website) and typed the name she was looking for. I enclosed it in quotation marks ("Joe Blow") so the search wouldn't go after every mention of Joe nor other members of the Blow family. The quotes hold it to Joe Blow only. Then I clicked on Discover and three pages came up mentioning the person she was seeking. The middle one of the three was the obituary. Give it a try.

You can also scroll down a little on the digital archive page and select a year. Just start looking around.

March 15, 2021: Who says bipartisanship is dead? Seven Senators—four Republicans and three Democrats—have re-introduced a bill to declare permanent Daylight Saving Time and put an end to springing and the falling twice a year. The flip-flop is said to harm American's health. Taking it away would "give folks an hour back of sunshine during the winter months when we need it the most," as Sen. Wyden of Oregon said. Sen. Rubio of Florida wants stability for America's families.

I vowed Sunday to avoid getting sick this year when I spring ahead. I figured that if I didn't have to be at work at a specific time and didn't have to stay up after midnight on the Monday after the switch I would have a pretty good chance of making it through. It's actually exciting to think about the end of the semiannual ritual. Even the former President – what's his name? – favored ending it.

March 15, 2021: How do you measure an uproar? The current one underway about the possibility of a cannabis smoking lounge in downtown Morenci is a pretty good one. It measures big. It also seems like a lot of concern over nothing. The majority of planning commission and citu council members have no interest in changing zoning to allow any marijuana operations downtown. It's zoned for the east end and that's where they want to leave it. The only way it would change is if new members are elected to those groups, so hold your concern until the next election. There could be new candidates favoring a change.

For those who don't get their news on Facebook, the former grocery store downtown was purchased by someone from Detroit with the hopes of opening a smoking lounge. I think they're stuck with an empty building.

March 12, 2021: Remember getting the wind knocked out of you as a kid? Of course it happened in football more than once, but there were times just from playing around and falling wrong. There's that feeling that you're going to die because you can't breathe and can barely talk. And then it goes away and you get up and get hurt again. Or maybe it happens from getting a bicycle handlebar in the gut. That's what was mentioned in a Netflix show by comedian Ryan Hamilton called "Happy Face." My wife and I were both wiping tears of laughter from our faces when it ended.

March 12, 2021: It is with a great lack of pride that I announce a new record-holder in the Late Observer contest. Ron Whetstone of the greater Philadelphia area has finally received his Dec. 30 Observer.

March 9, 2021: Lisa next door mentioned the fear of having her car break down in Podunk, Ill., on the way to Missouri. I pointed out that Podunk is actually in Michigan. I since learned there are also Podunks in Connecticut, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. The Masschusetts location actually sounds like the only other real Podunk. Connecticut's is an area of the town of Guilford and Vermont's is an area of the town of Wardsboro. New York's is a hamlet in the town of Ulysses. I suppose it depends on how hamlets and towns are defined in those states. Maybe they are more like our townships.

Michigan's Podunk is a town is listed as a "ghost town" northwest of Gladwin. It's also mentioned as an alternative name for Rogers City, but this must be a Wikipedia joke by someone from a neighboring community. Supposedly the southeast portion of Manchester is known as Podunk. Probably similar to our Tilley Town here in Morenci.

For more on Podunk, check this out.

March 9, 2021: Abby (Blaker) Voight in Virginia is the current record-holder for the title of Late Observer Recipient. She informed me Monday that her final Observer just arrived after a mysterious journey of more than two months. I hope she remains the winner.

March 9, 2021: I was reminded this morning that many vaccine-eligible people are still await for their dose. Many are waiting through the county health department where supplies are limited. There's a lot of vaccine out there; you just have to search.

Use the Vaccine Finder website to track some down. There are many possibilities within a 40-mile radius. This tool even lists what kind of vaccine is available at each site.


March 4, 2021: The slow cleaning-up process at the Disturber office led to a gift from someone: an Observer from May 22, 1897. The difference between past and present reporting styles is quickly noticed.

There’s a front-page story with the headline “Died of Apoplexy.” Wikipedia says this: From the late 14th to the late 19th century, apoplexy referred to any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. Another reference mentions cerebral hemorrhage.

<Another sorrowful instance of life’s uncertainties!

Having performed her usual domestic duties during the day, Mrs. Martin Ray, of Medina twp., retired for the night at about 9 o’clock Friday last week in apparently as good health as ever. At 3 o’clock in the morning she was a corpse.

About midnight her husband who slept in an adjoining room, was awakened by her heavy breathing, and going to her bedside her tried to arouse her; but in vain. Dr. Older, of Morenci, was sent for, but was powerless to do anything, as the woman was beyond all medical help, apoplexy having claimed her as its victim, and her dissolution ensued soon after the physician’s arrival there.>

After that a “brief biological sketch” was provided so people knew she actually had a name: Christina Fraunfelter, 53 years old. I think it was well into the 1970s before newspapers started using women’s first names instead of Mrs. So-and-So.

March 4, 2021: The State of Michigan finally came through with the promised revenue sharing for municipalities with adult use marijuana facilities. Nearly $10 million was given to more than 100 municipalities and counties as a part of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Morenci's piece of the pie was $112,000 – quite impressive among the smaller communities involved. Lenawee County was given $336,000. The entire rundown can be viewed here.

March 4, 2021: I know there are people who are not happy about the prospect of being offered a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The protection rate doesn't match Pfizer and Moderna. The New York Times daily newsletter addresses that issue and I will copy it here. Click the little thing to the right:

By David Leonhardt of the New York Times:

It’s the latest case of vaccine alarmism.

Many Americans are worried that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is an inferior product that may not be worth getting. Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota recently told The Washington Post that he was now seeing not only “vaccine hesitancy” but also “the potential for brand hesitancy.”

The perception stems from the headline rates of effectiveness of the three vaccines: 72 percent for Johnson & Johnson, compared with 94 percent for Moderna and 95 percent for Pfizer. But those headline rates can be misleading in a few ways.

The most important measure — whether the vaccine prevents serious illness — shows the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be equally effective as the other two. All work for nearly 100 percent of people. The picture is murkier for mild cases, but they are not particularly worrisome.

Today, I want to unpack the statistics about the three vaccines and explain why the current perception is a problem.

I’ll start with an anecdote that this newsletter has included once before: Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University, was recently talking with some colleagues about what they would tell a family member who could choose between getting the Johnson & Johnson tomorrow and one of the other vaccines in three weeks.

“All of us said, ‘Get the one tomorrow,’” as Schaffner recounted to my colleague Denise Grady. “The virus is bad.”

Mild Covid means victory

The headline effectiveness numbers — like 72 percent — describe a vaccine’s ability to prevent all infections from this coronavirus, known as SARS-Cov-2. But preventing all infections is less important than it may sound. The world is not going to eliminate SARS-Cov-2 anytime soon. Coronaviruses circulate all the time, causing the common cold and other manageable illnesses.

The trouble with this virus is its lethality. It has killed 15 times as many Americans as an average flu season. Turning Covid into something more like a mild flu or common cold means victory over the pandemic.

All three vaccines being used in the U.S. are accomplishing that goal. In the research trials, none of the people who received a vaccine died of Covid. And after the vaccines had taken full effect, none were hospitalized, either.

In the real world, the vaccines won’t achieve quite as stellar outcomes. Still, the results are excellent — and equally excellent across the three, as Dr. Cody Meissner of the Tufts School of Medicine said during a recent F.D.A. meeting.

Like running into the wind

But why doesn’t Johnson & Johnson appear to be as good at preventing mild illness?

There are a few possible answers. For one, Johnson & Johnson’s research trials seem to have had a greater degree of difficulty. They occurred later than Moderna’s or Pfizer’s — after one of the virus variants had spread more widely. The variant appears to cause a greater number of mild Covid cases among vaccinated people than the original virus.

Second, Johnson & Johnson is currently only one shot, while Moderna and Pfizer are two shots. That happened mostly because of how strong the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is. Initial testing showed it to deliver impressive levels of immunity after only one shot, while the others required a booster, as Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explained to me.

The truth is that all of the vaccines seem to provide significant protection after a single shot. (Look at Britain, which is not rushing to give second shots and where cases and deaths continue to plummet.) Similarly, all three vaccines may benefit from a second shot.

I recognize that may make some people anxious about getting the single Johnson & Johnson shot, but it shouldn’t. If further data suggest that a second Johnson & Johnson shot would help, regulators can change their recommendation. Regardless, follow-up Covid shots may be normal in the future.

What’s the bottom line? A single Johnson & Johnson shot may indeed allow a somewhat larger number of mild Covid cases than two shots of Moderna or Pfizer. It’s hard to be sure. And it isn’t very important.

“The number that we should all truly care about is what are the chances I’m going to get this thing and get really sick or die,” Wachter said. After any of the three vaccines, he added, “There’s essentially no chance you will die of Covid, which is breathtaking.”

A final thought

Like most Americans, I have not yet been vaccinated. As I looked into the differences among the vaccines, I’ll confess that I had a self-involved thought: Maybe the overwrought concern about Johnson & Johnson means that its shots will go begging — and I will be able to get one sooner.

If so, I will say yes, without hesitation, and feel relieved.

In the meantime, I’d offer this advice to anybody ahead of me in line: If your turn comes and you are offered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, accept what is rightfully yours. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the just as good.

In Iowa yesterday: Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state’s public health director, Kelly Garcia, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a news conference. “I’m very happy to have received it,” the governor said, “and would just once again encourage Iowans, when you get the opportunity, please take advantage of it.”

Feb. 28, 2021: Several weeks ago we travelled to Tipp, City, Ohio, to meet our daughter Rosanna and family. It was roughly half-way between Morenci and Lexington, Ky. We hiked at a great park with a beautiful waterfall, we had a good take-out meal, we enjoyed the town.

We really enjoyed the town. It has a population of about 10,000 and has a really appealing and thriving downtown.

Yesterday we set out to repeat that venture, but learned on the way that Rosanna’s van had a dead battery. Eventually we were running at least an hour of them and it was decided that we would continue driving south and cut off some of their driving time.

This time we arrived together at Miamisburg south of Dayton. This is a city twice as big a Tipp City, but once again, an excellent downtown. There was even an open area between buildings with four colorful picnic tables for a lunch. There’s such an excellent use of old buildings for contemporary businesses. The historic downtown was preserved.

We need to make a trip back to Tipp City. In our heads, we liked TC a little better for some reason, but both are great towns. It makes me wonder how many more are down there along I-75. We considered going a little farther off the road to Yellow Springs, hoping to run across Dave Chappelle on the sidewalk. That’s one for the future.

Retirement report: I returned from the trip feeling none of the pain of missing a day of work.

Feb. 28, 2021: My vaccine summary: I know many people have had side-effects from vaccines, particularly from the second shot. I also know that it’s pretty much a different experience for everyone. I’ve talked to people who felt a little sick for a day or two and others who weren’t bothered at all. From what I’ve heard, the side-effects are nothing to be concerned about. If you experience something, it doesn’t last long and isn’t severe.

My second Pfizer shot produced a sore arm where the shot was given, but not nearly as sore as with the initial injection. The next day I felt joint pain where my arms and legs attached. I attributed that to Dorkananda’s yoga class through the library, but it could have been the vaccine. Maybe the vaccine accentuated the pain from too much stretching.

And that was it. I really noticed very little at all from the second shot. I had more fatigue for a while with the first one, but I didn’t notice it after the second time.

I should point out that I’m not a good vaccinationist. I seldom get a flu shot and I’ve skipped others. But I went with the COVID-19 vaccine both for protection and as an act of public service.

Feb. 26, 2021: Observer readers will remember that my wife is a Midnight Muser – hence the name of the column she used to write in the Disturber. She's still a late one. The other morning at 3:33 I was thinking about how cell phones have changed her arrival into the bedroom. Now she enters with the phone's light showing the way. It spoils things. Takes away my fun.

I remember when she arrived one time and I was doing a headstand with my feet against the wall. Of course she didn't notice in the dark until she discovered my absence. I've been found deeply curled into a fetal position on her side of the bed. I've been hiding to the best of my ability, clinging to the far bottom edge of the bed as though I'm not really there. Perhaps my favorite was the time I placed my head under the covers where my feet belong and had my feet on the pillow. She was rather startled; I was trying hard to breathe under a quilt or two.

But all of that is gone now. There's no escaping her light. However, just thinking about it brought to mind a new idea that I can pull off despite the phone, but I would really rather be sleeping at 4:44 or whenever she finally makes it upstairs.

The Mars landing

This is probably old news to everyone, but I didn't run across it until a day or two ago, so maybe there are some others who aren't keeping up with things.

It's so amazing to see how Perserverance is slowly dropping, swaying back and forth as it drops to Mars suspended from a parachute.

Feb. 24, 2021: While going through some items at my parents' house yesterday, I was reminded of when I worked for Reader's Digest. It was during my second year of living in Portland, Ore. The first year I worked in a classroom for what was then called emotionally handicapped children. Every school day I would board a bus and travel east toward Mt. Hood to an elementary school in the David Douglas School District. David D was a botanist who had a fir tree named after him. I can still see the faces of a few of those children, taking up a little brain space from 1977. I'm disappointed I can't remember the name today of the kid who would always say, "Cram it, pig butt!" when he got angry. Wait...it's back. His name was Lawrence.

The second year I worked for a temp agency occasionally and ended up performing a variety of jobs for a day or three, but to supplement my income, I started searching for interesting quotes for Reader's Digest to use in their Quotable Quotes listing. I knew the big money came from real life adventures and humorous tales, but I wasn't coming up with anything for those categories. Instead, I would go to the library and search for quotes.

Yesterday I found a letter from the Digest stating that my quote from Henry David Thoreau ("Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves) would appear on page 36 of the March issue and I was sent a check for $35. What makes this discovery really interesting is that the letter was dated Feb. 23, 1978 – 41 years to the day.

I'm feeling a small twinge of discomfort knowing that I made money off HDT's writing, but I think I earned it. During college I entered the graduate stacks at the library – as an undergraduate – and checked out volumes of Thoreau's journals one at a time until I made it through all 20+ of them. There were a lot of uneventful, dreary entries before finding something good like the words listed above. And his poetry – I really didn't like it all.

A year later – Feb. 22, 1979 – I recevied a second $35 check, this time for a quote by Jean Bataillon for an entry that was scheduled to appear on page 57 of the March issue. "Really we create nothing. We merely plagiarize nature." I knew nothing about Monsieur Bataillon at the time. Now, with the internet, I know he was the son of a stone mason who became a zoologist.

I see that Reader's Digest still exists, but I see nothin on the website about submitting items. Instead under Humor is included items such as this: "April Fools! 10 Facebook pranks you can pull off in seconds." No thanks. I'm not going to work for them anymore.

Feb. 21, 2021: While driving Saturday to Ann Arbor for my vaccination, I convinced my wife to put down her phone, relax and listen to a podcast called S-Town. Colleen is always working while I’m driving. There’s never-ending library business to attend to, but this time she started listening and put down her phone.

I learned about S-Town when it was new in 2017. I think I might have started listening, but soon had to write about a basketball game or a council meeting or something and forgot about it. It was created by Brian Reed, the producer of “This American Life” radio show, along with the staff of the show’s podcast series known as Serial.

I’d forgotten completely about S-Town until my friend Heather recently mentioned that she was listening to the series while walking. I tuned into the first episode and quickly moved on through the seven chapters, each lasting about an hour.

It tells the story of John B. McLemore from Woodstock, Ala. It’s a real person, a real town, a real story. “I’m from a little Shit Town in Alabama,” John says. That’s what S-Town stands for and I mention that as a warning: The dialogue is filled with profanity and will offend many people.

The story takes so many twists and turns. Listeners’ sympathies are pushed here and pulled there. An article from Vox describes it as “brilliant, complicated, frequently troubling, and often painfully beautiful.” That’s from the article in which the author says it probably shouldn’t have been made. Too invasive for reasons I can’t explain here.

It is an amazing story and very well produced. Colleen was soon drawn into Chapter 1, and while we ate dinner in our car before my vaccination appointment, she asked for Chapter 2. And on the way home, she asked for Chapter 3. It’s so compelling, you have to get more.

Get yours here for Apple people or through Google podcast or any podcast app.

Feb. 21, 2021: I’m fully Pfizer’d now after my second trip to the UM football stadium. It happened way up on the fourth floor where football players must look like ants way down on the field. Well, maybe not ants. Maybe the size of wolverines. There would be such a better view on television, and the drinks must be cheaper at home.

I gave my vaccination card to the nurse and she exclaimed rather loudly. Frightened me a little. The person right before me had the same birthday as mine, which turned out to be the same birthday as the nurse.

I was pleased with myself for Shot #1 because I wore a short-sleeved shirt under my warmer outer shirt. I pulled my left arm out of the top shirt and was left with a bare, T-shirted arm. This time I forgot that routine and had a long-sleeved shirt underneath. So I pulled an arm out of both shirts and sat there half exposed. When your turn arrives for a vaccine, remember to plan correctly for bare skin.

It was another painless shot and I asked the nurse if she wiped a numbing agent on. Think about it – how can someone stick a needle in your arm and you barely feel it? She said it’s just in the way it’s done. I supposed that explains the painful shot a friend of mine received from a possibly inexperienced National Guard assistant.

Someone asked me how I prepared for my visit. Ninety minutes before my appointment, I ate sushi and the amazing house salad from the Slurping Turtle in Ann Arbor. It’s probably the best thing to do.

My arm is sore today, but sore like Day #2 from Shot #1 when the pain started to recede. Very bearable.

In two weeks I can resume kissing strangers.

Feb. 20, 2021: As a pal of George Isobar, I haven’t been fond of the Old Farmer’s Almanac when it comes to weather predictions. I agree the book is “useful, with a pleasant degree of humor,” but despite what people tell me, I don’t see it as an accurate forecaster of weather.

My brother, A.T. Green, told me several days ago the daytime temperature finally got above zero for the first time – what did he say, 10 days? Two weeks? Let’s see what the Almanac had to say about that for Minnesota. The temperature would be 6° above average for the month, and the first 12 days of February would be mild.

TommyBoy’s weather might have been mild for Antarctica, but it was really unusually cold even for the St. Paul area.

Here in Michigan, the Almanac’s forecast went from mild for the first week to very mild and rainy. That was back when it was below zero with snow falling most every day of the week. Our February was supposed to be 10° above normal.

How about Texas where independent deregulation has caused so much suffering for millions of people? The Almanac predicted weather would go from rainy and mild to sunny and mild.

What to expect for March in Morenci? It’s going to be snowy the first 20 days, then warm, then sunny, then cool.

Feb. 15, 2021: For some inexplicable reason, I remembered my Cub Scout pack meetings the other day. The den meetings were at Imogene Cowgill's house, but the pack meetings were in the old Legion building at the corner of Chestnut and what was Railroad Street (now Maple Drive). I drove by this morning and decided it just doesn't look large enough, but I'm sure that's the location. The foundation of the house looks more commercial than residential. I think the Shay family lives there now.

Feb. 15, 2021: A few days ago I wrote about stumbling upon the Tiny Desk Concert with the cast of Hadestown. It's become a little bit of an obsession. I've watched it over and over. The songwriter Anaïs Mitchell is really quite amazing. Now I've moved on to people talking about the show, such as this and this. Perhaps I will never see the actual show, but I'm already a fan.

Feb. 14, 2021: Have you ever met a dog named Princess? A survey of names in the Hartsdale pet cemetery in NYC showed that Princess has been the most popular dog name in the past 120 years, followed by Max. In the 1930s and 40s, Queenie and Tippy were popular. Lady became a favorite in the 1960s and Brandy in the 1970s. Then came Max. Before Max, the names sound rather feminine. Was a male dog ever named Princess?

Tiger is the most popular cat name in the cemetery, although Smokey became popular in the 1990s. When I was growing up, we had a dog named Blackie and another named Sam (short for Dr. Carl Samuel Bassethound). There was a cat named Petsy and another named Midnight. Midnight was allegedly a French cat. Come to think of it, I think she always said "Mee-ew" rather than "Me-ow.

Hartsdale contains about 80,000 pets. Some humans wish to be buried there with their pet because in a regular cemetery, their pet cannot be buried with them. There's even a lion name Goldfleck buried there.

City tourguide Allison Meier points out how the cemetery shows changes in people and their relationship to pets. In many of old dog graves, the pet is referred to as a gentleman. It wasn't until around the turn of the previous century that pets were allowed into homes to live, and that's when they really became part of the family. Pet cemeteries allow people to express their grief over the loss of pet in an acceptable way, Meier says, showing grief generally reserved for the loss of a human.

(thanks to Ezra Marcus of the New York Times for writing about Hartdale)

Feb. 14, 2021: I won't say that I saw my first robin of the season yesterday. Instead I will call it my last robin of 2020. It frightened me. I was walking to work to print a couple of items and near the end of Cawley Road I suddenly heard fluttering to my side. It was a robin in some sort of ornamental hawthorne with long, dangerous spines. It was only about three feet away, but it never left the shrub. It just adjusted itself to get a little futher away from me, I guess. I don't see how a bird can move quickly through that shrub without becoming impaled on a thorn.

Feb. 12, 2021: I'm feeling rather wealthy today. That's because I watched a little Netflix documentary yesterday called "The Trader." It shows a day in the life of a man from the Republic of Georgia, a country described as lying between Europe and Asia. The man drives his truck from location to location selling a variety of items – sort of mobile flea market – and when asked for the price of something, he answers in terms of potatoes. A pair of shoes cost 20 kg. of potatoes. He also accepts cash, but that seems to be the secondary method. For me, the best thing about the documentary is the faces, especially the faces of the children.

If you're a Netflix subscriber, check it out here. It's less than 30 minutes long.

Feb. 10, 2021: I’m not a fan of musicals. I grew up with them because my mother often had a disc spinning on the hi-fi. “Oklahoma,” “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music” and so forth. I didn’t mind the music at all. It’s just that when people are walking and dancing around the stage singing everything…I’m not a fan.

That wasn’t the case when I discovered “Hedwig and Angry Inch” a few years ago – the movie, that is, since I never saw the play – and I got hooked on something else over the weekend.

A YouTube video of “Hadestown” performing a Tiny Desk Concert got my attention and now I’ve watched it half a dozen times, at least. Orpheus and Eurydice. I never knew the story. I’m socially illiterate and in many, many ways.

If you aren’t familiar with Tiny Desk Concerts, you have a lot to learn. There’s something for everyone. By the way, concerts are all done at home now. NPR isn't about to crowd people behind the Tiny Desk during the pandemic.

Feb. 7, 2021: Are you feeling guilty about just sitting around so much? Worried that it isn't good for your health? The idea that modern humans do too much sitting around might be somewhat of a myth. A couple of weeks ago on the NPR program “Fresh Air,” host Terry Gross spoke with scientist Daniel Lieberman about exercise. Lieberman is actually a paleoanthropologist who has spent a lot of time in indigenous communities around the world. What are people doing most of the day? Sitting around. Lieberman has an important qualification to add: They get up and do something every so often. They don't sit all day like some of us do at a desk. They sit and move, sit and move, sit and move. Remember that when you're Netflix bingeing. He also pointed out that chairs with backs aren't so good for a person's back.

Listen to the show here. It's the third segment of the program. Lieberman has a few other things to say about exercise.

Feb. 7, 2021: I've heard from several Observer readers who received the Dec. 23 edition during the past week. That mailing must have really gotten buried in the pre-Christmas rush. There's also a link on the homepage to look at those last two issues of the paper.

Feb. 7, 2021: I'm generally behind the times. It was only last night when I discovered Google's Random Street View and of course I got hooked for a time. A random location from somewhere around the world appears and the user can snoop around for awhile or click on Next to be transported somewhere else. My journey last night started in Hungary, then New Zealand, Denmark, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and finally the Czech Republic before I broke free to look for the place I once lived in Maine.

This morning I wondered how long it was take before I found some random site in America. Surprise – it opened in front of a house in Aylett, Va. Then I was sent to Bejsagola, Lithuania, then to the outer edge of Helsinki, Finland, followed by a national park in Botswana and then Zevenhinizer, The Netherlands.

The next click went to Skradnicka, Croatia. I followed the single-lane country road until I spotted a man in front of what I guess is his house. There's a giant pile of squash (many interesting varieties) and the man is sorting through his potato harvest on a tarp. Chickens and a cat are in the yard.

Another look: I suppose Random Street View could also be considered incredibly boring. I found a man and his potatoes, but so much of the world is just nothing but trees, rocks, soil and water. Endlessly. It could be anywhere. The countryside of Latvia looks like the countryside of France or Peru or the U.S.

Feb. 7, 2021: Isobar sez: I expected George to tell me this morning was the coldest morning since probably last February, but I was wrong. This morning at -1° was the coldest since Feb. 2, 2019. We didn't have anything below zero in 2020. I hope you got out to enjoy the coldest morning in two years.

Feb. 6, 2021: There are a few Observer favorites that come to mind, such as Phil Rubley's advertisement for a Certified Pubic Accountant. That ran for several weeks in the 1980s until Connie Ries was reading the paper at her parents' house and suddenly burst into laughter. Oooops.

I remember Steve Begnoche's story about mosquito control that quoted city superintendent Ray Yenor saying the City would look into every crook and nanny. There was also a headline about damage caused from a burning rubber.

Those were mistakes, but the following, my favorite, is the real thing. This appeared on the front page in June 1964:

"As the Observer went to press last Friday, there was still a loose monkey on the south side of Morenci.

A pet monkey belonging to Danny Hart, son of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hart, escaped last Wednesday and as of Friday noon still had not been caught.

The monkey was tied to the porch at the Hart residence Wednesday, but when no one was looking it untied the rope and headed for the trees in Stephenson Park.

No amount of coaxing could get it out of the trees. Mrs. Hart said a cage was set in the park with bananas in it, but the kids ate the bananas before the monkey could get to them.

Thursday night the fire department got into the action. They tried to wash the monkey out of a tree with the fire hose. Too much pressure in the hose broke the hose and Police Chief Richard Wise standing by the hose got soaked. That ended the Fire Department’s efforts.

Friday morning a veterinarian was after the monkey with a tranquilizer gun, but no one could find the monkey."

There was a followup item in July in my father's By the Way column mentioning the monkey was never found.

This sounds like one of my jokes, so I will provide a link to the original.

There are 14 hits when I search the word "monkey" in the digital archive for the 1960s. Pages include the Rex Theatre, By the Way, and an editorial urging people to vote Monkey. So the optical character recognition isn't perfect.

Feb. 5, 2021: I've spent a lot of time looking at maps of Bean Creek/Tiffin River [see below], but the biggest surprise of all came on the map from mindat.org that shows a location called Seneca Township meteorite. In 1923, a medium grained octahedrite weighing 25 pounds was found northeast of Packard Road where the railroad crosses. I'll be jiggered again – the second time today.

Feb. 5, 2021: Where does Bean Creek end and the Tiffin River begin? I've always been told it's a matter of what state you're standing in. It's Bean Creek in Michigan; Tiffin River in Ohio where Ed Tiffin was once governor. The same moving body of water with different names.

Then, yesterday when I was speaking with someone about the boundary of a local nature sanctuary, I was told some maps show Tiffin River starting northwest of the sewage lagoons, at the confluence of Bean Creek and Lime Creek.

By the way, the confluence of those two streams was once named Fragrancy. The Bryner boys and I were hiking along the creek around 1962 and founded a dead, bloated racoon at the location. Quite smelly.

UPDATE: Google Maps shows Bean Creek extending almost down to the Ohio turnpike, south of County Road J and west of County Road 23. That sounds wrong to me. Apple Maps shows the change just north of J.

I'll be jiggered. A map from the Ohio Division of Wildlife shows the name Bean Creek down in the vicinity of County Road J – and that's from a map of the Tiffin River Wildlife Area. Maybe it should be called the Bean Creek Wildlife Area. I think the Ohio version is this: Where Mill Creek joins Bean Creek just before County Road J, that's where the Tiffin begins.

MORE: Janet Kauffman reports this: "my worn-and-torn Michigan Atlas and Gazetteer shows Bean Creek down into Ohio until its juncture with Old Bean Creek. Old Bean joins current Bean right at, or just before, the Tiffin Wildlife Area, at Ohio Rt 3." [What? Ohio Route 3?]

"I’ve seen early settlement maps showing the Bean as “Upper Tiffin” — no Bean at all, Upper Tiffin the whole way to Devils Lake— and NCRS still calls Bean Creek Upper Tiffin in some its projects & USDA grants."

Feb. 3, 2021: I've been sorting through a lot of Stuff at the Disturber office, digging down deep into piles long untouched. This morning I found 10 copies of the infamous border change April Fools story, and better yet, I found a collection of letters from angry readers.

  • "You should be ostricized for frightening True Blue People of Morenci. You are a menace to Gods Country (America). I shall never subscribe to your trashy paper again."

  • A reader in Florida was told by her husband that she was now from Ohio. She already had it out for me because "you didn't even get my wedding announcement right two years ago." She never really said why she didn't like the story, but I'm guessing it's because she was made to look foolish. "People make mistakes, but this April Fool's Joke of yours really tops your immature and trivial form of writing. By the way, might I add that your By the Way column full of day to day accounts of your kids is not of much interest to some readers, me for one."

  • Someone gave me a pamphlet titled "Four Things You Must Accept to Go to Heaven" starting off with You Must Accept That You Are A Sinner." I can no longer remember if this came with a letter or if I just found it at the Observer door.

  • Someone signed a letter I. M. Ashamed, but this person was ashamed of those who got fooled and got angry. This writer was quite pleased with the excitement caused by the story.

  • Another writer didn't seem angry about it, but she was convinced I had made a mistake. "Hang in there and use this as a learning experience." It's OK for children to engage in harmless pranks, but for "otherwise intelligent adults of a responsible position, that's another story." I was told that Morenci is not like Greenwich Village with a diversified group of readers and she suggested that I write articles of this nature on a freelance basis for big city readers. The writer also mentioned that I have an unusual and sometimes misplaced sense of humor.

  • I received a letter from an Ohio person who was upset at my sick joke. "We in Ohio don't want Morenci any more than you want to be here." She was also pretty miffed because I referred to Ohio's state bird as the turkey vulture. The writer really thought she scored a point by pointing out that the Observer is printed in Ohio.

  • On the other hand, the Chesterfield Township clerk was delighted with the change since they would now have their own fire department. She knew it was a joke. She said the incident was mentioned by J.P. McCarthy on WRJ, by Don Wolfe in the Toledo Blade, and, of course, that embarrassing interview I had with Channel 13.

  • Mary Zeigler of Fayette loved the article and urged me to do more. "Your story was so well put together, it was easy to believe, but I knew Gov. Celeste would never be so accommodating as to rent a room in Morenci to help the new Ohioans solve their legal problems."

April 1, 1987, one of the highlights of my career, when I was running a little scared for a few days. There really were some angry people.

Feb. 3, 2021: It was George Isobar who pointed out to me how much lighter it is in the mornings now. He generally no longer needs a flashlight when he peers into the weather shed in the morning to record temperatures. It's true, even a cloudy morning isn't as dark as it was last month. Despite the coldest temperatures of the winter still ahead, and even though we likely have a lot more snow coming, spring is on the way. I can almost hear birds singing.

In the last few years, Isobar said February has been snowier than January, sometimes a heck of lot more.

Feb. 2, 2021: What – even a cooking tip? I recently read about the right way to sauté garlic: cold pan. Place oil and sliced garlic in a pan, then turn on the heat. It's said to avoid the brown edges, and I thought you would want to know.

Feb. 1, 2021: I receive a daily newsletter from the New York Times covering everything from news to recipes. Always good stuff. Today there's a discussion about the coronavirus vaccine, pointing out that many people aren't looking at the situation in a good way. They think about the possibility of still getting the virus after receiving the vaccine and seeing that as a failure. Of course there will still be some infections, but of the 75,000 people in vaccine trials, no one has died and only a few needed hospitalization. If you take 75,000 people without a vaccine, on the average the virus will have killed about 150 of them and sent dozens to the hospital. Even in a regular flu season, a sample of 75,000 people would have resulted in from 5 to 15 deaths and more than 100 needing hospitalization.

The point made in the article is that zero isn't a number that will determine success vs. failure, and any of the five vaccines available will save lives.

Jan. 31, 2021: A little more on the vaccine.... I get tired of hearing heath officials and politicians talk about the vaccine as getting "shots in the arms" of people. Why not the butt? People wouldn't even have to remove their coats and shirts. I would love to hear President Biden pledge a million shots in the butt by the end of February.

I wish I had looked around to see how others were dressed for their vaccine. I was wearing a T-shirt underneath two long-sleeved shirts. I decided I could slide one arm out of the two shirts to bare my T-shirted arm, but I also worried that I would get stuck and need the nurse to get me out of the predicament. So I practiced at home and it worked fine. And I was so grateful that I remembered to wear a T-shirt underneath everything so I wouldn't be sitting there shirtless.

I don't understand how a needle can be inserted into my arm with no pain, but I never felt a thing.

Jan. 31, 2021: I have now been Pfizer'd. I signed up for a vaccine through the county health department, but I figure that might be a long wait. Then came an invitation from UM Medicine since I am still a patient and have a semiannual checkup scheduled in March. And I far exceed the 65-year-old age limit.

It wasn't like going to the massive Salisbury Cathedral in England where people sit back and enjoy organ music coming through the 4,000 pipes, played by organists wearing ties. A variety of large, well-ventilated buildings are used for vaccinations in the UK such as the London Science Museum and Black Country Living Museum in Dudley where portions of "Peaky Blinders" is filmed.

For me it was the University of Michigan football stadium. I was hoping for the 50-yard line but instead wound up on the third floor of the Jack Roth Stadium Club overlooking the 50-yard line. This is where people with money to burn sit and watch Michigan State defeat their beloved Wolverines. That thought certainly gave me a good feeling.

The process of vaccination was such a study in efficiency. Really impressive. As I stood in line for a few minutes, advancing forward six feet every so often, it reminded me of a science fiction movie where large numbers of citizens have reported to a location to urgently – I don't know, fight a pandemic, perhaps.

If there's a way to make me look silly, I can often find it. When a person first checks in at the Stadium Club, a screener is there to make sure you belong. She stands next to a large sign displaying what seemed like a dozen health qualifications. Colleen confirmed this later: What the screener said convinced me to read aloud to her each of the qualifications. I took her too literally, of course, but after I read the first lengthy sentence about a temperature of 100.4 or something, I turned to her and asked, "Do you really want me to read all of these to you?" No, just read them to yourself, stupid. Just an example of why I went to MSU instead of UM, I suppose, but let me point out that I was accepted into the University of Michigan before changing my mind and not studying meteorology.

I'm experiencing no side effects from my dose of Pfizer, but the nurse wasn't kidding when she told me my arm would be sore.

Jan. 29, 2021: I was on my way to Adrian yesterday and noticed I was driving 52 miles an hour a couple miles east of Weston. I quickly glanced in the rearview mirror to see who I was holding up. Fortunately nobody was close but a vehicle was closing in on me. This was at least the second time that I noticed my slow speed. I'm sure it's a retirement thing. I'm not in such a hurry anymore. Now I can become a really annoying driver. I already was annoying because I own a Prius and many of us would rather coast to a stop sign or red light rather than hurry up to it and then brake hard. I'm going to have to watch myself before I become one of those people I used to find annoying. I probably still do.

Jan. 28, 2021: I wrote a post last week about snow and then forgot to click on Publish – the equivalent of saving a document. I’ll try to recreate what I wrote.

Where is George Isobar when you need him? I want to ask him about January snowfall. The weather app on my phone (Weather Underground) predicts 4 inches of snow on Monday. [This was originally written Thursday, Jan. 21]. I’m waiting to see how the prediction will change. Already this season I’ve read snow forecasts that shrunk considerably as the storm approached.

Do I think the forecasters are incompetent? No, I think they are using the television stations’ approach: “Take cover! Horrible weather coming!” They make it sound bad so viewers come back again and again for more. While my app expected 4 inches, another popular weather website predicted 1-3 inches and another only 1 inch. The National Weather Service gave a noncommittal “snow expected.”

Update: I spoke with George and learned this. Up to that point, we had only 3.2 inches of snow for the month. Not much at all, I thought. Isobar told me we had only 3.9 for all of January in 2019. 2017: 3.5 inches. 2016: 4.3 inches. 2013: 2.3 inches. In the past 15 years, only four years have exceeded 10 inches for the month.

Go back another 15 years and five years exceeded 10 inches. There was only 1 inch in 1990 and only six-tenths of an inch in 1983.

I guess my memory is failing me. I thought January was a snowy month. In the 15 years after Tom Buehrer started keeping records (1975), nine years exceeded 10 inches. There have been some big years, led by 34.7 in 1978. There have been four years in the past 45 with more than 20 inches, but overall, it’s rather common to have single-digit snow months here in January.

Update: In the end, we had only one-half inch of snow with some freezing rain on top – a long way from 4 inches.

Jan. 27, 2021: Colleen and I walked a few laps at the school track tonight. There was still a bit of snow with a little crust and plenty of footprints from other walkers. On lap five at the southwest corner, I suddenly walked into what seemed like a little magical stretch. A natural magic. Suddenly the footprints appeared as 3-D images and seemed to protrude up above the snow rather than sink into it. It had to be from shadows as the Sun got lower in the sky. It lasted a few yards then disappeared and it was back to regular footprints. This sounds a little crazy; it was more than a little fun.

Jan. 26, 2021: An update on the mailing below: The package arrived today. Pettisville is 13.8 miles from Morenci and the package averaged 1.97 miles per day directly to Morenci, but it actually traveled 450 miles to get here.

Jan. 25, 2021: I received an e-mail from the Postal Service this morning informing me I would soon receive a package. I didn't recall that I had anything coming so I looked at the Tracking History and got my laugh for the day. Here's route it took:

  • Pettisville

  • Pontiac

  • Lansing

  • Grand Rapids

  • Lansing

  • Blissfield

  • Morenci

NPR had a segment this morning suggesting that mail delivery is not about to improve much any time soon.

Jan. 23, 2021: Colleen and I walked through Oak Grove Cemetery late Friday afternoon. As we passed the tombstone of Dr. James & Mary Blanchard, I said it's probably one of the largest in the cemetery. In the back of my mind, I knew there were gigantic ones near the front that were larger. I should have said it must the largest of the "modern era," largest of my lifetime.

As we passed others, I thought it would be an interesting math project for kids to compute the total area of stone and determine the true largest grave marker out there – mausoleums excluded. Colleen pointed out the challenge of that as we passed a stone with a spire at the top that narrowed as it rose. Perhaps this: compute the area of an inch at the bottom, then an inch at the top, take the average and multiply it by the length of the spire. There would some really tough computations among the more ornate grave markers.

Two Contenders

Jan. 22, 2021: I've begun to lose track of the days without the rhythm of the newspaper week. That's a strange situation for me. I was always acutely aware of the day of the week. Last Friday seemed so much like Saturday to me and yesterday (Thursday) definitely felt like Friday. I guess the weeks are not going to zip by as they used to (yipes, it's Monday already!). I like that.

Jan. 20, 2021: While scrolling through an exhaustive list of President Trump's Twitter insults – that man was sociopathologically busy! – I was halted by the name David Green. Try as I did to educate people on the true nature of Donald Trump, it was a different David Green. I'm sure I would have made the list if he'd known of me.

Jan. 18, 2021: I've heard there is some concern about the white residue left in a pan after boiling water. It's nothing new. Morenci has what's known as "hard water" and the residue is the mineral calcium that occurs naturally in our water supply.

It collects in hot water heaters, too, which is why plumbers suggest flushing the heater annually. Plumber Ed Rupp used to describe hard water as what kept him in business.

Jan. 16, 2021: My mother became quite hard of hearing and eventually she had difficulty responding. When we had a video visit one day last month, I held up little signs with the names of my elementary school teachers, some of whom were acquaintences of hers:

  • Phyllis Gillen, kindergarten

  • Margaret Brewer, first grade

  • Mrs. Garrow, second grade

  • Rita Chappell, third grade

  • Mrs. Fether, fourth grade

  • Doris Snyder, fifth grade

  • Mrs. Anderson, sixth grade

I remember how it was a surprise to learn that teachers actually had first names – even Mrs. Anderson, I suppose.

Jan. 13, 2021: In my first week of retirement, I hit the trash can with my apple core from the steps of the Observer without fail. I was on fire. This week I've missed three times in a row. Only smoldering.

Jan. 12, 2021: My cell phone shuts itself off around 3:10 every Tuesday morning. It's been such a mystery. This morning I discovered an Android setting within Device Care that allows the owner to schedule an automatic restart. Sure enough, the previous owner (I bought it used) had it set up for 3 a.m. Tuesdays.

That's a good thing to do, except that I have to open the phone in order for it to restart. Mystery solved. A minor epiphany.

JAN. 11, 2021: Now and then I’m asked how retirement is going. It seems that it hasn’t arrived yet. During week one, I was at work on time for the first six days – well, not on time, I’m never on time, but I was there with plenty to do. I force myself to leave by noon. That way I can work at home instead.

There’s just a lot going on between Observer business, my parents’ financial business, creating a new website to continue listing obituaries, and more. I’m not making a newspaper, but I certainly am busy.

There are definite changes. Two grandkids were visiting at the end of the month and I actually played games instead of slinking off to the laptop to write a city council story or process some photos. The younger of the two came with the intention of engaging newspaperless Grandpa in activities and she was successful.

It’s a big relief not having to think about what I will find for a front-page photo or how I will fill the pages for the next week. It’s also a relief just to be free of people’s expectations. I was expected to be at every meeting, to report on sporting events, to be interested in things that I wasn’t all that interested in.

It doesn’t bother me at all that I’m still busy, but I’m no longer tied into the newspaper schedule, which is fairly constant. It’s a job that really intrudes into daily life. In summary, “retirement” is going quite well.