Friday, October 17, 2014


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When I've read about our early history, whether as a boy or more recently, my fascination with the earliest European explorers was kindled.  A part of that, I think, is because my family occasionally stopped on our way to Green Bay at the roadside memorial to Jean Nicolet along highway 57, near Dykesville.  I imagined Nicolet stepping ashore, his arms aloft, firing his pistols as I had seen in a painting reproduction.

French explorer Nicolet was in 1634 supposedly the first white man to visit Green Bay waters and come ashore, and that statue and painting were strongly etched in my mind.  Dressed in a splendid red robe with what appears to be gold applique, his show of fire power as depicted by the artist caused natives to cower in fear and uncertainty, and listen in awe to his message of greetings.  Nicolet's pistol attention-getter would have preceded the message that these inhabitants were now subjects of New France.  Then Nicolet, or a priest traveling in his company, would very likely have baptized the heathens into membership in the Roman Catholic Church.

Memorial to Nicolet that was erected
along Highway 57 near Red Banks,
near what is now near the town
of Dykesville.

Over the years, a Wisconsin bank, a high school (perhaps more than one), a Wisconsin National Forest, the Rhinelander Technical College, a restaurant and perhaps many, many roads … were named for this explorer as a way of honoring his visit, Wisconsin's earliest European connection.

Never did information contradict this general view of Nicolet's  appearance along the shores of Green Bay…until now.

Ronald J. Mason, Lawrence University, carefully points out corrections to the record in his article "Where Nicolet and the Winnebagoes First Met," published in The Wisconsin Archeologist (2014, 95(1):65-74.  Mason, a Professor Emeritus in Anthropology and a name familiar to Rock Island and Great Lakes anthropology, uses scholarly language and exacting logic, to be expected.  To paraphrase his article here will seem incomplete and lacking in respect for the supporting statements Mason makes.  Mason is most careful to close loopholes in his challenge to the existing notions of Nicolet's journey.

However, condense we must, and using his information we begin with his opening statement, one that sets the stage for a convincing argument:

 The surviving descriptions of Nicolet's 1634 or 1634-1635 exploration west of Lake Huron were not written by the explorer himself, but by the contemporary Jesuit fathers Paul Le Jeune and Barthelemy Vimont in subsequently edited segments in published collections of extracts from the annual reports of the Jesuit mission in Canada.  These substitutes have thereby become the definitive sources on Nicolet's travels.

A number of years passed, according to scholars, between the actual 1634 exploration and the written compilation of that accomplishment, based, it is presumed, on a journal of Nicolet's that might have "later been lost."  What survived may have been "delivered orally or in writing."  Mason cautions about the sources:  "However that many (years) have been, the record of where the explorer actually had gone has survived only indirectly and partially, thus requiring a measure of diffidence not always exercised by scholars appealing to it in their own reconstructions of history."

The descriptions of location that survived, then, "apart from the few snags in translating seventieth-century French" of which Mason gives examples, are a much closer fit with the rapids of Sault Sainte Marie, which is a major river that opens up to "the little lake," possibly today's Whitefish Bay, and then to a "second fresh water sea," most likely Lake Superior.   Information about a such large inland sea would have come from the earlier explorations of Champlain.  Mason writes, such "knowledge doubtless communicated to Nicolet before his departure, of the existence of such a big, even if not yet formally named, lake beyond Sault Ste. Marie…depicted on both the 1616 and 1632 Champlain maps."   Certainly Nicolet would have taken advantage of all prior knowledge before setting out on his journey.

One "snag" that may have thrown off earlier scholars, Mason acknowledges, was the notion that Nicolet met with members of the Menominee and Winnebago tribes.  Formerly scholars believed this would eliminate Lake Superior, but not the shores of Green Bay which was traditionally where scholars believed those people called home.  Mason takes pains to describe the various tribes inhabiting this area, their various native names, and those names given by Nicolet (who was fluent in Algonquin dialect).  It is also possible, Mason thinks, that one named native group could have been confused with another, and also that Nicolet may have repeated names he overheard that were commonly used by those he met to describe "diverse foreign groups" of natives.

Mason also points out hat natives may not have been closely associated with just one geographic area, as we might assign them today, or that this area may have changed over time.   We think of Lake Winnebago today as being the traditional home of the Winnebago people (why else the name?) but naming on a U. S. map shouldn't exclude the possibility that members of this tribe, or the entire tribe for that matter, might have traveled or lived elsewhere, well beyond a location that we may today consider their geographic or tribal boundaries.  Purposeful relocation (or displacement forced by other tribes), or trading opportunities with other tribes, or seeking a more plentiful food supply might also have been real reasons for moving about.

Mason writes:

This does not mean that Lake Superior was the "homeland" of the Winnebagoes and that they did not inhabit other areas instead or as well.  It simply and importantly means that Nicolet met Winnebagoes in 1634 on the shore of Lake Superior and not on Green Bay or Lake Michigan."

A part of his argument Mason bases on his extensive reading and study of the various ethnic cultures of the Great Lakes. He then cites the description of Father Claude Allouez, who wrote "some thirty years after Nicolet, about the cosmopolitan habits he witnessed on Lake Superior":

The lake is, furthermore, the resort of twelve or fifteen distinct nations coming, some from the north, others from the south, and still others from the west;  and they all betake themselves either to the best parts of the shore for fishing, or to the islands, which are scattered in great numbers all over the lake.  These peoples' motives in repairing hither is partly to obtain food by fishing, and partly to transact their petty trading with one another when they meet.

The geography of his travels as described by Nicolet (and compiled perhaps years later by his transcribers) depicted "a great river."   Mason points out that neither the Fox, Menominee or any other Green Bay river meets the true test of a "great river." But, the St. Mary's River that connects Lake Huron with Lake Superior would so qualify.   Had Nicolet found Green Bay's Fox River, its mouth near the present city of Green Bay, Mason believes Nicolet would surely have been informed by natives of the relatively easy route up the Fox, and the short portage to the Wisconsin which flows to the Mississippi River.

Readers may say, "What difference does it make, after all?"

It's unlikely that an institution in northeastern Wisconsin will change its name in light of new scholarship from Nicolet to something else, especially when that name was based on an historic event that for many years has been unassailable.

But, Nicolet's expedition is a record unknowingly embellished through the years by honest people who repeated mistaken assumptions.

Those assumptions have led, among other things, to the erection of a bronze statue and an accompanying historical plaque (as I remember these were made possible, in part, through funding by penny donations from school children).  A consideration by state highway officials to move or raze this monument was challenged by newspaper readers before the highway underwent reconstruction a few years back.  I believe it can still be seen from the highway, if you look carefully as you drive by at 65 mph.

And then there are the historic oil paintings that became popular and lasting records of Nicolet's exploits, great teaching tools to tell "the Wisconsin story." But, what if they depict the wrong geographic location?  One such painting, by Hugo Ballin, hangs in the Governor's Reception Room of the State Capitol in Madison.  A similar painting, in which Nicolet is again displaying his authority with raised pistols on behalf of France, was commissioned in 1904 by then Wisconsin Historical Society President, Robert McCormick, with artist Edwin Deming.

Such well-intended efforts perpetuate the erroneous assumptions made over generations, dramatizing errors made by earlier scholars.  For his research and his boldness, it may be Mason who deserves a monument!

 -  Dick Purinton

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Kathleen Dixon, left, will soon turn the keys to her store over to new
owner Deb Wayman.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When Island Time Books closes on October 15, Kathleen Dixon will retire from the business she started 11 years ago.  The shop's new owner will be Deb Wayman, who was on hand in the closing days of the 2014 season to meet customers and learn about the business in preparation for next year, when she'll reopen the store Memorial Weekend.

Her customers would liken Dixon's personality to that of a speed reader:  rapid, engaging conversation, seldom dropping in velocity, filled with information; a scanning of authors, books, and events; the trending of reader habits and the book industry - all within a short visit.  But, because of her love of what she does, Kathleen's been a great resource, and for those same reasons, her customer base, both regular and the drop-in visitor, has grown over the years.

Retiring after 30 years as an emergency trauma nurse - much of that time as a member of an ambulance crew - Dixon started a new pursuit as the owner of Island Time Books.  For two years it was located on Main Road across from Karly's, and then for the past nine years in its present location, nestled between the Red Cup and the Island Post Office.  As anyone visits with her knows, her mind is rapid-fire, enthusiastically promoting authors, books, her store, and the Island.

She's always loved books.  "We were readers.  My sisters and I used to walk to the libraries," Dixon remembered, noting the many neighborhood branches of the Chicago Public Library in the city where she grew up.

"Day trippers and others are thrilled to see an independent bookstore, with good coffee next door," she said, "great for browsing on rainy days.  They like the Independent Bookstore list that comes out monthly, with its many new recommendations."

Dixon prides herself in the fact she could recommend books to readers who least expected to find such a wide range of titles in so small a shop - on an island, no less.   She would often special-order books requested by visitors who stayed only a week or two, receiving their requests within two days via UPS.  Many loyal customers, she noted, buy books at the close of the season to read during winter.  Physical books, as opposed to e-books, she noted, are still very much a part of the public's reading habits.

Dixon kept current on new titles and authors, in part, by attending the annual Key West Literary Festival, where many of the nation's leading authors would gather each January.  (Key West was her former winter home, but she's now moved to the Naples area.)  At the Key West Festival, Dixon volunteered for several years at their book sales table, in addition to being a registered participant.  She's a member of the Island Literary Festival committee, involved since its inception.

This winter Dixon and Wayman plan to travel to the American Booksellers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, where Dixon will introduce Wayman to her industry friends and contacts.

Dixon still plans to visit the island in summer.  "I'll be back," she said.

New owner Deb Wayman and husband Bob, an engineer and production manager, own a summer place along the eastern shore of Washington Island, on Wickman Road.  However, their year around home will continue to be York Center, Illinois.  Their two children, Alan, 23, and Shelby, 20, are enrolled in college.  

-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Shown on the former Hansen / Standard Oil pier are Ferry Line
Vice President Rich Ellefson, Coastal Engineer David Wentland
and Ferry Line President Hoyt Purinton.
Washington Island -

Changes may appear to happen slowly on Washington Island, but they do happen.

The major news in this entry is about a change of hands on the property that was Ray Hansen's, most often referred to as either the Hansen Oil or Standard Oil property.

The pier and the upland property that supported the oil storage and transfer business, so critical to the island these many years, had been cleared of tanks and associated pumps and piping quite a few years ago, when storage was moved to a new Hansen tank facility near East Side Road and Town Line Road.

Except for an old shed containing a few related fuel transfer items, and seasonal boat moorings, the property has been mostly vacant since that time.

As adjacent landowner, and a business dependent upon water frontage and mooring for its vessels, the Ferry Line had expressed interest in purchase of the property, a transaction that was accomplished in the early days of the fall season.

While no long term plans have yet been made, initial efforts will stabilize and repair the pier.   Coastal Engineer David Wentland, of Docks & Marinas, Inc., Green Bay, will offer a plan on how best to repair the pier, work that could be done yet this winter from shore.  Attention will then be turned toward the treatment of upland property, how to best to mesh with adjacent properties, and whether safe public access opportunities, such as pier fishing, can be included and managed.

Historical note:   Hoyt Purinton, great grandson of J. W. Cornell, received the Title papers on the property intended to be purchased September 12, 2014.  This was exactly 104 years - to the day - from the date when John W. Cornell purchased the same land from Bo Anderson and Ole Christiansen.  Cornell, we presume, later sold to Standard Oil, and more recently the title was transferred to Ray Hansen who assumed ownership of the property along with the Standard Oil distributorship he already managed.

Season about to close

This week marks what for all purposes is the last of the "busy" fall tourism weeks, although we anticipate lively traffic yet through the end of the month, especially while fall colors are vibrant.

Our schedule for the ferries to and from Northport cuts back Oct. 20 - from eleven to six trips.  Many island retail shops will soon operate with curtailed hours or days of the week.   The Cherry Train - an air conditioned ride that can be miserably cold on certain fall days - is nearing the end of its 2014 track, soon ready to head for the roundhouse.  And at Jackson Harbor, the Karfi's schedule to Rock Island ends Monday.  Columbus Day is the last day of service.

I took my last turn at the Karfi's wheel Tuesday with Tony Woodruff as my crew.  The time seems to fly each one of those days I've been aboard.   I've enjoyed the full schedule of Rock Island trips - when campers and piles of gear await us on the docks at either end for a quick turn-around - as well as the softer fall schedule, when Tony and I pass the time between trips talking sailboat designs and past cruises with nostalgic regret for the short summer just passed.  (If we were tuned in to the ice boating season, our regret would soon be replaced!)

The fall weather and shorter days make the realism of camping or tramping on Rock Island less appealing to visitors.  It was just yesterday (Wednesday) that high velocity westerly winds and the small handful of Rock Island travelers, led to cancellation of the afternoon's two trips.   But overall, 2014 ferry traffic made it a good tourism season, and we look forward to seeing the next one roll around.

Apple cider at the Farm Museum and the Fall Harvest Festival Dinner at Trinity mark two major events on the island this weekend, paired with outstanding tree color everywhere.   Hardly any leaves have so far fallen, and the tree colors now may be placed in the 40% range, turning much later than many other island autumns.   There are still plenty of great fall days to enjoy.

 -  Dick Purinton


Marnie Mamminga, author of Return to Wake Robin, talked about
her family's history at their cabin near Hayward, Wisconsin.
She was one of many writers who spoke at the recent
Island Literary Festival.    

Washington Island -

Eleven authors / writers were featured at the recent Washington Island Literary Festival, the second year of the event.   It was a success in several ways.

First, besides drawing writers of considerable acclaim to this event, readers were also attracted, along with aspiring writers interested in learning from veteran writers.   The range in talent and material presented was wide:  poetry, fiction, non-fiction, investigative journalism, personal memoir.   There were plenty of opportunities to meet and speak with individual authors, and to hear them read and comment on their work.  Several workshops were held prior to the main presentations on Friday, October 3, and these were also well received by those who signed up for them.

I attended Max Garland's poetry workshop and learned from his comments and easy manner regarding his own work.  Garland is a professor at UW Eau Claire and also the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate.   Afterward, I followed him to the Island School where he spoke to freshmen and sophomore students about why poetry matters, the forms which it may take, the human need for poetry, and how it provides an important means of self expression.

Although I consider my own skills to align more closely with journalistic writing and reporting (such as I'm doing here) I can't deny the interest and mystery poetry seems to hold as an outlet for expressing ideas either too complex or too difficult for linear writing.   I'd like to think that Garland's school visit will have planted a seed or two that some day - perhaps some decade - will inspire those present to seek their own expression through one of the many shapes and forms loosely identified as poetry.

Presentations during the three-day festival varied from a panel discussion to author readings followed by question and answer, but always there were plenty of opportunities to engage an author backstage on a one-to-one basis.

Guest authors were provided courtesy lodging, and Mary Jo and I were pleased to host Larry Watson and his wife, Susan.   Aside from the fact that Larry's birthday is just one week and one day before mine (I learned we were both born in 1947), Watson's book Montana 1948 remains a favorite book of mine.   I've recently read several of his books in fact, and I enjoy getting inside the lives and minds of his characters on the Montana and North Dakota plains, a spare and tough people with few frills in their lives.   It reminded me, as I read them, of my grandparents and their neighbors farming stony land on Old Stage Road near Sister Bay in the first half of the 20th Century - minus the violence that frequently emerges in Watson's characters.

Adam Schrager, a Madison television news journalist, described in his book Sixteenth Rail the
crime, investigation, capture and prosecution of the Lindberg kidnapper, using
the advanced science to examine the homemade wooden ladder used
by Bruno Hauptmann.    

I particularly enjoyed Adam Schrager's presentation of his book Sixteenth Rail, the story of a meticulous solution to the prosecution of the Lindbergh baby kidnapper by Arthur Koehler, leading wood scientist of his day, who worked at the U. S. Forestry Laboratory in Madison.  Koehler's examination of the kidnapper's ladder came amid tremendous pressure from the public and the press to nail key suspect Bruno Hauptmann.  Schrager's logical and easy-to-read book provides a fascinating look at the rise of exacting science in crime investigation to solve the nation's most publicized crime.

Poet Laureate Max Garland visited with freshman
and sophomore students at school.

Festival venues were varied.  The Farm Museum Barn, the recently reopened Washington Hotel, the Red Barn, the Island Dairy - all were utilized in addition to the TPAC, where main events were held.  At the TPAC, between events blocked for speakers, the Backstage Bookstore featured books for sale with the authors on hand to sign them.

The Literary Festival is far from a strictly "highbrow" weekend.   Events are accessible for anyone who enjoys reading, writing, or who aspires to do more of each.  Next year's festival dates have yet to be set, but several themes are being considered along with possible author names, and we're confident, based on the success of the past two festivals, an exciting slate of writers and poets will again be attracted to Washington Island.

We should also mention that the Literary Festival's goals and efforts are closely joined in spirit with Write On Door County!, an organization that fosters writing at their center near Judville.  Anne Emerson is founder and creative force, and Jerod Santek, Director.  Both Anne and Jerod were participants in this most recent Literary Festival.  Collaboration between these two organizations will help in highlighting writing as a creative force, and in the encouragement of new and aspiring writers.

 -  Dick Purinton

Friday, September 19, 2014

washington island high school class learns about blogs

Students of Washington Island High School American Literature class:
Finn Hagen, Korrina Ervin, Shammond Ervin, Hailey Jorgenson, Elena Waldron,
Bradley Jordan, Alex Johnson, Ben Johnson, Josh Ervin, teacher Mrs. Nehlsen
and classroom aide Karin Baxter.

Washington Island Island High School -

The nine members of teacher Leila Nehlsen's Washington Island High School American Lit class invited me to speak about blogs today.

They've been studying Thoreau, Emerson and the Island's own Jens Jacobsen…about nature, journals, and self expression that can be published, or not, that often speaks to issues others may be interested in, too.

Their field trips and reading focused on personal thoughts and ideals, individualism that represents their own special gifts and talents, yet with the potential for being instructive and universal in their appeal to others.

There is something to be said for hands-on learning that textbooks may not necessarily provide, and certainly nature is one stimulus for that reflection on individualism.

Earlier, students had cut out their silhouette profiles, and these were posted in the hallway paired with quotes, for example Thoreau's "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

We also spoke about being careful in what we say and how we say it, and the "forever out there" permanence of the web.  With their assistance, I published this blog (with edits later) from their classroom.

 - Dick Purinton

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Three groups of 30+ each listened raptly to eight 
Island voices at Sunday's Cemetery Walk.
Washington Harbor, Island Cemetery -

The third Washington Island Archives Cemetery Walk held Sunday, Sep. 14, brought eight Island personalities from the past back to life before an audience of more than 100.

The Green Bay Packer organization held off Sunday's start time at 3:25 out of respect for this Island resurrection, making it possible for fans to participate in both events.   The September weather was pleasant, the monologue scripts summarizing each life were excellent, and the actors who delivered the messages did so in convincing, entertaining fashion.

The eight Islander profiles chosen, along with their respective actors, are shown in photos below.   In many instances, the likeness of the presenter to the person they portrayed was uncanny.  The many accomplishments of the persons chosen, and their contributions to Island life, absorbed within a two-hour program, was overwhelming.  These were tireless organizers, heads of families, champions of causes, successful in ways that lasted far beyond the grave.  

According to Island Archivist Janet Berggren and her staff of volunteers, over 100 programs were given out to a crowd divided into three groups.  Each circulated the short distance between headstone locations, spending approximately 15 minutes with each spirited actor.  The entire event was completed by 3:00 pm, in time to watch the Green Bay Packers get buried, then miraculously come to life again against the New York Jets.  

Julian Hagen sang his new song, written
especially for the occasion:
"From A Spirit's Point of View"

Archives President Eric Greenfeldt portrayed
his great-grandfather J. W. Cornell (1865-1952).
Research/Script by Eric Greenfeldt.

Jens Hansen portrayed
Christ A. Hansen (1856-1936).  Research/
Script by Charlotte Hansen.
Chuck Sena portrayed Nels Friis (1850-1923).
Research/Script by Connie Sena.
Neil Shadle portrayed Will Jess (1869-1938).
Research/Script by Merrill Lundberg.
Lillie May Shadle portrayed Janet Burgoon (1900-1989).
Research/Script by Kirby Foss.

Terry Henkel portrayed Jens
Jacobsen (1867-1952).   Research/Script
by Jewel Lee Grandy.
Joyce Morehouse portrayed Martha
Stelter (1914-2009).  Research/Script by
Jeanie Young.
Tony Woodruff portrayed Tom Nelsen (1871-1960).
Research/Script by Dave Raup and Grace Woodruff.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Dark clouds, distinctive rays and backlit vegetation
made for an interesting sunset at the Bayou the
day before our weather became stormy.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Maybe I've waited too long to publish these photos, because the weather has been in continual flux since they were taken.

First, we experienced warm and humid weather in the high 70 degrees (high 80s in much of the midwest) leading to violent storms and great rainfall amounts. Then starting with Thursday, Sep. 3rd, flooding occurred in areas where flooding is rarely seen, towns such as Baileys Harbor.   Trees were downed, and creeks, rivers and swamps were filled with runoff.  

Dramatic squall line between powerful rain cells
as the stormy mass moved across Detroit
Harbor in the early afternoon. The low pressure
remained to our west and moisture then circulated
from east to west over northern Lake Michigan.   
At our home we experienced power interruptions, frequent during the height of the storm, but never for more than about 20 minutes.   The REA crew stayed on top of downed trees to keep power supplied locally, but the Peninsula experienced wider and longer outages, some for close to 24 hours.

We were in Karly's for a hamburger before the first wave of the storm hit, taking in with us a slicker just in case, because the radar showed a massive storm cell was headed our way.   I had begun working on my french fries when the power went out. The deluge intensified outside, with heavy, tropical-like rains at times.

This pattern continued throughout the night of Sep 3, on and off.  As one large cell passed over, or split and went north and south, another just as large and intense formed inland to the west, taking its place in the sequence.  Around 8:30 pm, with island power temporarily out and an intense squall in progress, Hoyt and Rich were called on to make a special medical emergency trip.  

The Packer game in Seattle that same night wasn't impacted by Wisconsin's weather, but our TV viewing was.  Frequent, but brief, outages had us listening to part of the game on a battery operated radio.  It was a good diversion from a game that in many ways echoed the night's weather:  a relentless pounding.

Patrons supped contentedly at Karly's, unfazed by the
power outage, as heavy rain fell outdoors. Tim stated
the power would be back in 20 minutes - and it was.
This moist air mass began well to the southwest, Oklahoma and Nebraska, through Iowa into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.  Rather than this large humid air mass being pushed briskly to the east by a cold, high pressure air mass, which is often the case, the winds remained southerly, and we enjoyed a few more days of pleasant, warm summer weather before the pattern seemed to repeat itself.

One week later, Sep. 10, stormy skies reappeared, this time with less rain but more wind - gusts in the 40+ mph range for ten hours or so.  When the cloud cover finally eased a day or two later, we found ourselves in a high pressure system with fall-like temperatures: mid-40s by night, daytime highs in the lower to mid-50s.  

This change provided a good reason to get the pellet stove going and shut down basement humidifiers.  The drying warmth felt good, both the real heat and the psychological warmth a fall fire can bring.

Photo taken by wimpy photographer aboard the Robert Noble.
 I rolled down the window for this one as we headed through the break wall
and into the NW gale.  Temperatures dropped 10 degrees in one hour,
and winds picked up dramatically in late afternoon,
Wednesday, Sep. 10, but all ferry trips were completed.

Yes, fall is firmly in place.  The bow hunt for deer season begins today, and I believe we heard blasts from a goose (or turkey) hunter early this morning.  Several maples now show signs of bright colors, and our fields suddenly seem to have lost their summer green.  Plants are in the latter stages of production.  High bush cranberries are turning a bright red.  

Many great days lie ahead, however, and it's a time of year that many of us prefer to any other: sweater weather.   Still pleasant enough for just about any outdoor activity of your choice, at least during the middle part of the day.

Time to get out and enjoy it!  -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Washington Island -

Today's blog entry is meant to serve as a reminder to anyone who enjoys reading, literature and poetry, and having an enjoyable time meeting others with similar interests - including noted authors and poets!

Registration has been ongoing, but after September 15th the registration price increases from $75 to $90.  You can register online (go to the TPAC website and find the Literary Festival pages), by mail (TPAC, PO Box 36, Wash. Island) or stop in and see Kathleen Dixon at Island Time Books.

I should emphasize that this year the program offers an opportunity for several workshops.  I'm looking forward to the poetry workshop with Max Garland.

The poster above should have a slight yellowish background tint, but for some reason my printer cartridge (even with a new one) came out pinkish.    The photos and information is still clear, however.

I look forward to joining you at the 2nd Island Literary Festival.  Lots of great names, great books, and an enjoyable time awaits.   -  Dick Purinton

Monday, September 1, 2014


Rigging for a sail on a light air day -  
Michael Kuharski and his canoe trimaran.
Jackson Harbor, Washington Island -

While getting ourselves ready for our first trip on the Karfi a couple of weeks ago, we watched Michael Kuharski of Madison prepare for a sail from Jackson Harbor's launching ramp.

Michael's rig is a one-of-a-kind, which he says was an idea that came about over time, modified through experimentation, and he's never through with tinkering to improve its performance.  The center hull is a Mad River canoe, and he obtained the pods for the outriggers from a company out of Minnesota that made a proa-type sailing boat. From all appearances, these were made to match.

The first time I observed Michael getting his gear in order on the beach was last year.  With his portable drill in hand, I observed from a distance as he fastened the struts together - struts that held the pontoon pods in place.

Like many other onlookers, I'm sure, I expected very shortly to see a show once he nosed into the bay and experienced that first, strong gust of wind.  It was blowing fresh from the NW, and there were 2-3 foot waves with whitecaps.  Michael didn't disappoint me in terms of putting on a show - but it was a clinic, and not a show, as it turned out.  He tacked back and forth to Rock Island effortlessly, multiple times, having great fun in winds I thought would overpower him, a breeze somewhere between 15-20 mph.   He often stood up on the decks, or in his canoe, to balance his craft and to maneuver more easily.  At no time did he ever appear to be "out of control," or was his craft put in a precarious position.  When he got in a tight corner near shore and needed an extra boost to come through the wind to tack, he stroked a few times with his paddle to help bring it around.

His sail has a Sailfish insignia on it, and along with a small foresail, this is sail area aplenty.  He handles it well, as he does his craft, screaming along on reaches with little-to-no wetted surface to slow him down.  The day before I took these photos, he told me that he sailed in winds at least 25 mph, and he had fun doing it.

He spoke of his experimentation in reducing wake by the accidental adjustment of his outrigger pontoon, and centerboard position, partly the happy result of an accident in which one strut broke.  His repairs improved performance.  He's a confident sailor, enjoying what he's built, and I would add that he's also quite fit, scampering about on his craft with the agility of a youngster (I'd guess he's mid-60s).

It shows what fun one can have messing around in a small boat, and in this case, Michael's trimaran is one I would label a "high-performance" craft.  

Nutshell Pram

My Karfi partner and crew many days this summer was Tony Woodruff, a sailor who enjoys recreational sailing about as much as anyone I've known.  He often often rigs his catboat for a sail after work hours, or on his days off.

Last week, as crew member Carl and I prepared for our last trip to Rock Island, Tony (who had that day off) was preparing to launch his home made Nutshell Pram, a Joel White design.  He said that it took him a few years to put together, but the result is a stunning little craft.  Neat as a pin is an apt description of this boat, which Tony proceeded to row out to his mooring and tie off to the stern cleat of his catboat, where he put up sail.

I spent quite a bit of time at an earlier age, when I existed in much smaller dimensions, learning to sail in an Optimist Pram, 7-footers owned by the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club for the purpose of teaching sailing.   These were rather poor boats to sail, with hard chines, flat bottoms (notorious for leaks along the seams), an inefficient gaff-sprit rigs, outboard rudders and  centerboards that could be quickly adjusted by hand.   Not especially good on the wind, they were still fun when in company of a dozen other boats, all headed for the same mark at about the same time.  Lots of pushing off one another, taking advantage of chances to steal one another's wind, these were tactics employed when we needed to get to the finish line first.

Tony, about to get underway in his Nutshell.
I alternated between that sailing activity and a 19-foot family sailboat, and running around the bay in a 12-foot, wooden Shell Lake motorboat powered by a 7.5 hp Evinrude.

I couldn't have been happier on the water, and I often think I could still be happy playing around in such a small boats…its just that it's much harder to maneuver today in a boat that has a beam of not much more than three feet.

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Summer reading may be coming to a close, but how
about fall?  A perfect time to prime your
pump for early October's second
Island Literary Festival.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Recently I finished reading the two books shown above.   Both were apart from my typical reading stack of non-fiction books, but I admit to having enjoyed both very much.

My real impetus for the recent fiction binge was to better inform myself on a couple of Wisconsin's leading writers who will help lead the Washington Island's 2014 Literary Festival, Thursday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 5.

Although the Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC) will be the main venue for presentations and panel discussions, workshops and events will also be held at other island locations.   Examples: a hospitality event coupled with registration will be held Friday evening, Oct, 3 at the Farm Museum barn.   Dinner and a presentation by current Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland will be held Saturday evening at the Island Dairy.   Sunday afternoon a story telling event will be held at the Red Barn near Gislason Beach.   Workshops will be held at the Washington Hotel classroom building and backstage at the TPAC on Friday.

There ought to be plenty of variety for everyone's tastes, ranging from fiction to non-fiction, and poetry, with many leading Midwest authors, centering around the theme, "Rooted in the Heartland: Themes of Family."  I have to say that the two books shown above closely fit this theme.

Registration is open now, and you can do this by going to the TPAC website at You can also send a check (write "Lit Fest" on the Memo line) to the TPAC at:    TPAC -  PO Box 36, Washington Island, WI  54246

If you're on the island, you can stop in and see Kathleen Dixon at Island Time Books.  She'll be happy to take your check and registration, and she carries many of the books by this year's featured writers.

Cost is $75 per person for the Festival registration, but that price goes to $90 after Sept. 15.   There are workshops, too, starting Friday morning, a Poetry Workshop with Max Garland;  another on Writing with Susanna Daniel and Michelle Wildgen, 11am to 1pm at the Washington Hotel;  and a third, "Strategies for Claiming Your Creative Time," with Susan Gloss, 2-4 pm, also at the Washington Hotel.   Workshop fees are $40 for each class.

If you're a Facebook user, go to

There'a a long list of authors, and in a future blog I'll go into more detail.  For now, I hope to alert you to this event, that it's coming up very soon, just a little over one month away.

-  Dick Purinton

Friday, August 22, 2014


In Jackson Harbor Wednesday, Aug. 20, Christian Ronning
fished alongside a veteran, a friendly cormorant.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We'll try to make up for lost time and gaps in blog postings by giving you your money's worth in photos and trivia today.

In the above photo a cormorant rested after consuming a bullhead on the concrete below the launch ramp pier.  It hopped onto the pier in a friendly move, next to Christian Ronning who was fishing with his dad, Karl (at end of pier, in background.)  When we landed with the Karfi, about 20 minutes earlier, this bird was drying its feathers at the end of the dock.  But now, after fishing and eating it was preening itself, unfazed by human presence.  I was at first suspicious of its health, but knowing it had consumed a fish that it had caught,  defecated on the dock, then went back in the water to dive for more fish, this bird seemed perfectly normal except for tolerating, or liking, humans.

We haven't observed that bird since Wednesday.   Could it have been someone's pet?

Goodness snakes alive!

For most of this summer we've seen very few snakes and then only from a distance.  One was in the beak of a Great Blue Heron that flew over the water.  From our point of view, that's the best possible place to see a snake, as consumption by the large bird will soon follow.

But recently, maybe due to molting, we've seen many more, including this pile of garter snakes on and around a much larger fox snake, at the base of a birdhouse in front of our home.  For much of the day, if the sun is out to warm the boards, they come up on the boardwalk surface.

After counting the snakes (there were more snakes than fingers) though binoculars from the safety of our home porch, over 75 feet away, Mary Jo was entertained, as a kid might be watching a horror show, afraid to get closer but afraid to look away for fear of missing something.
Finally, when the afternoon fog lifted and the sun came out, the fox snake crawled on top of the boardwalk, with its head down over the water side of the pilings.  Thor snagged it for a measurement.   It measured 4 1/2 feet, give or take fractions of an inch.  We also observed several garter snakes in the same area, independent of the group pile, that would easily have measured three feet.  Healthy specimens, all.

This morning, around 8:30, I had photographed a garter snake's head poking through the boards at the Bayou, and I believe its vision was impaired by molting, for it chose not to duck back under the boards as it would normally have done.  The large fox snake Thor caught also appeared to be in the early stages of molting.


Thor then photographed two dragonflies trying out a Kama Sutra attitude before he spotted yet another, somewhat rare sight in our lawn, not but a few feet from where snakes were sunning themselves.  It was a female wolf spider, approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter with egg sack attached.  Thor photographed it just as it left its ground hole lair.

Later, I read that the female wolf spider may have as many as 100 eggs, and that these eggs eventually hatch in her sack before she breaks it open to release them.

I'm reconsidering whether or not we want 100 small wolf spiders underfoot.  But…too late, for it's already found a new home beneath the boardwalk.

That's all the news for today.   Tomorrow, we'll go with the meat-eater's diet of pork, beef and chicken at the airport, hoping to sample at least a good representation of Death's Door BBQ competitor team products.

-  Dick Purinton


Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

If you enjoy light poetry and creative writing - as opposed to local history - you may find my newest book to your liking.

Last Friday, after a circuit board problem that temporarily shut down a machine for several days was up and running, I was able to pick up boxes of finished books at Seaway Printing in Green Bay.  The inside pages had already been printed, and only the covers remained to be printed, assembled, and then packaged.

Although this is a slim volume, (just under 80 pages -  $15 + sales tax and shipping), the process of writing and editing poetry and short prose pieces came to be exhausting and exacting in its own way, as much as for other projects I've done.  But the pleasure factor in writing and creating is way up there, rating with the best writing experiences I can remember, and I hope readers will receive this with the intended fun, and resulting enthusiasm.  The topics covered, and the sculpture photos for that matter, with few exceptions aren't meant to be serious.

The written pieces are interspersed with photos of my sculptures completed over the past ten years or so.  Here again, there is no telling what reader or viewer acceptance there might be for such subject matter.   Let's just say that both sculpture activity and such writing keeps me busy and amuses me at the same time.

We had friends over for a sculpture / yard party last weekend, and it was enjoyable to see the range of reactions and comments to the sculptures from our guests.   If nothing else, these provided the excuse to have a party and socialize.

Below, I'm showing a photo of one of the more popular sculptures, because I intend to donate this as an auction piece for the upcoming Jim Jorgenson benefit Sunday afternoon, August 31, at the Island ball field.  Jim is undergoing medical treatment which not only keeps him from working, but from doing much of anything, as his work now is to overcome this illness.

From bits of conversation at Sunday's party, I think we can pin down this truck door as originating from the Island Transfer business when it was owned and operated by Leonard Jorgenson (Jim's grandfather) and Dutz Cornell.  They hauled fish and other freight on the Island.  Later, that business was operated by Doug Foss (Ivan Johnson said he helped Doug), and later yet, by Lonnie Jorgenson.  (But it's thought the old phone number would have changed by the time Lonnie owned the business.)   When I began with the Ferry Line, around 40 years ago, Lonnie hauled boxes of fish for the Island's commercial fishermen, bringing them out to the ferry for late afternoon transport to the peninsula.

Somehow, the song "Wagon Wheel" by the Old Crow Medicine Show found its way into my head while I was building this… a rocking chair with a window to the world... and the lyric "Rock Me Mama" kept repeating itself.

Several people tried this piece out for effect at our party.  The custom, chromed seat, scrapper-son Hoyt tells me, was likely Tillie Ellefson's from an exercise machine.   Rockers are from an old wooden-spoke wagon wheel, and the cup holder is  possibly from an old steam or water pump piston.   All parts were sourced from the Island except the modern-day golf umbrella.  This piece rests on a 4 x 8, treated, 5/8" plywood sheet with imitation Jackson Pollock paint job.

The Jim Jorgenson Fund Raiser will be at the Island Ball Park, Sunday, August 31, 12 noon - 4 pm, and will feature the Golden Oldies (Old Timers) vs. Young Whippersnappers (not-so-old players).  Come out and show your support for Jim and his family.  Bid it up!

-  Dick Purinton


Thor Purinton and friends visited Plum Island Saturday, August 16,
on the first of two special days when the public was welcomed
to visit and hike trails.  Shown near the forward range light, L to R:
Dr. John Buckley and his wife, Susan, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama;
Jamie Kornacker, Charlevoix; and Jess Brown, a Van Dam Woodcraft
craftsman who works with Thor in the Boyne City,
Michigan, boat shop.  (photo by Thor)
Plum Island, Death's Door, Wisconsin -

When they returned from their trip on the "family yacht" Moby Dick from Plum Island last Saturday, August 16, I asked youngest son, Thor, how it went.  "Terrific!  We had a great time."

This comes from Thor, who's been on Plum Island numerous times in years past, hiking, hunting, and swimming along a southern beach.  But that was during BLM ownership, after the Coast Guard moved their search and rescue operations to Washington Island, and prior to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) taking over and closing down the island to visitors.   In recent years, unless you had specific permission, such as research or as a work party member under Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands (FOPPI), partner with USFWS, you were not welcome to set foot on the Plum Island shores.

This is about to change, although in a carefully controlled way, starting with two special visitation Saturdays, August 16 and August 23.   One hitch for potential visitors, at least on day one, was that you needed your own watercraft for transportation.

Returning to the old Coast Guard station, near
boathouse and pier.  All structures, except the boathouse which has
already had a once-over,
await major repairs and restoration. 

Plum Island's first official guests for day one included Thor and friends who visited from Alabama and the Boyne City/Charlevoix area.  Dr. John Buckley and Susan are frequent travelers to the Van Dam workshop where they built a beautiful boat several years back, Susan C, and they're now partway along on their second project, Victoria Z.  Through the process of designing and building and observing, sometimes hands-on with suggested changes in details, they've become very close to the Van Dam craftsmen in what seems to be both an extraordinary and respectful relationship.  This past weekend the Buckleys traveled a long way to join Thor, Jess and Jamie on Washington Island, visiting Plum and Rock Islands also during their stay.

Thor's group was greeted near the boathouse by FOPPI president and volunteer, Tim Sweet, and two USFWS personnel who gave them a basic introduction that included a trail map and a sheet of guidelines, as follows:

  *  Refuge open during daylight hours only
  *  Foot travel only on the island
  *  Access for wildlife observation/photography hiking are limited to the established hiking trails
  *  Boats are required to moor at boathouse; dock space available on first-dome-first-served basis
  *  Kayaks / canoes must use designated launch / landing areas
  *  Dogs are welcome but must be leashed
  *  fishing from the dock and beach not allowed
  *  NOT PERMITTED on the refuge:  collection of plants, berries, seeds, mushrooms, rocks, fossils, lantern, or other artifacts; fireworks; camping; campfires; geocaches

Those restrictions aside, several fine options are available in hiking trails, the longest one being the Island View Trail (3 miles) that loops the island, more or less paralleling the beach.

From my own past experiences there, both in hunting and searching out trees with Roy and Charlotte Lukes, crossing the interior on any route other than a maintained trail would not be advisable anyway, under any circumstances, due to wind fallen trees, nettle plants that are six feet tall, and a parsnip plant that can deliver a nasty chemical burn.  From the maintained trails you will have ample opportunity to see Plum Island's varied shoreline and habitat, amazing for such a small island.   In addition, there are the several, interesting former government lighthouse and life saving structures found there.

It is for this second reason many will want to visit Plum Island and absorb the rich and fascinating maritime history of the Death's Door area, with Plum Island at the center of that activity.   The opportunity to view the range light structures up close, along with the old, original Death's Door 1849 lighthouse remains, is reason enough to visit Plum Island.  This old foundation was recently examined by archeologists, and their future reports will help to fill in blanks regarding this early Plum Island navigational aid.

Tomorrow, Saturday, August 23, will be day #2 for public visitation, coinciding with the Death's Door BBQ competition taking place on Washington Island's airport grounds.

-  Dick Purinton