Wednesday, September 18, 2013


White sphinx hummingmoth feeding on
a large impatiens plant near our front door.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Yesterday was our grandson's 11th birthday, and as we headed outdoors so that he could try his new pellet gun, he noticed what we at first thought was a hummingbird feeding on the pink impatiens flowers.

Except, at closer examination, it was a moth and not a hummingbird.  It seemed not bothered that we were nearby, as it circled the plant for over five minutes and at one point landed on Atlas's boot.  Unlike hummingbirds I've observed, this moth had great flying skills but was not nearly so quick.  And, it came back to the same blossoms repeatedly, instinct coupled with zero memory.

I emailed Roy Lukes, sending him these same photos.  Roy's nature column for the Peninsula Pulse covers a different topic each week, and he's considered Door County's dean of observers and foremost authority on local natural history topics.  He is also an excellent nature photographer.

Roy's reply to me was as follows:

"...this is not the hummingbird clearwing moth, but rather the white-lined sphinx moth.  The clearwing hummingbird moth is also considered one of the sphinx moths.  Both the clearwing hummingbird moth and the snowberry clearwing moth are usually not seen after the first week of August, while the white-lined sphinx flies even into the first week of October, the latest of the sphinx moths.  I agree with you that its a beautiful creature, so unafraid of humans, too!

Roy continued, writing that he and Charlotte were coming to the island this weekend to study mushrooms, something they do regularly county-wide.  I believe Charlotte has identified nearly 600 different mushroom species in our county (about 60 species identified here on Washington Island), with a goal of some day publishing her findings in a book.

Because this has been a wet summer, and now a rainy fall, there might be better-than-usual mushroom hunting and identification opportunities.

 -  Dick Purinton

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Karfi working to weather on a dirty day.
(Jim Morris photo)
Washington and Rock Islands -

The purpose of this is not to scare the pants off future visitors to Rock Island, but rather to demonstrate that the show must go on, that when people are on Rock Island and the weather picks up, we attempt to get everyone who wishes back to Jackson Harbor.

On this day, July 23rd of this year, Jeff Cornell was captain and Hoyt Purinton was his crew.  The winds gradually picked up, then became 35 mph and greater, and one last trip was made.   Park employees rounded up Rock Island State Park visitors for the final trip of the day (1:15 p.m. departure from the boathouse, I believe it was).   Passengers on board no doubt found it to be a thrilling ride.  Jeff went north as far as he could, running under the protection of the island, such as it was, then headed across the mile or so of open water toward McDonald Cottages.

(Jim Morris photo)

On Rock Island, Jim Morris with camera handy took these photos as the Karfi headed out.  Said Hoyt, on his first such windy trip on board the Karfi, "It rides surprisingly well, popping up over the waves each time.  There were easily 8-footers, and it rolled and bobbed, but the boat handles extremely well."

(Jim Morris photo)

The winds were more northerly to begin with, which makes the landing at the boathouse somewhat protected.  But as the day wore on, winds backed more NW, exposing the entrance which is right on the rocky shore, and velocities also increased.  I must say, that with my rather limited experience if I was operating the Karfi that day, park visitors might have had to quickly find campsite partners with extra tent space.  After many decades as a crew member, then as skipper, Jeff is an accomplished hand at the Rock Island crossing.  He knows the limits and capabilities of his boat.

Jeff Cornell (behind passengers in short-sleeve tee shirt), and
Hoyt Purinton (on the pier to the right) prepare
to depart Rock Island.  Smiling passengers are cautioned to
please remain seated!   (Jim Morris photo)
You, too, ought to consider a Rock Island outing!

Let me say, in a small marketing message, that not only is my book now available, but I will be reading at the Rock Island Boathouse on Sunday morning, October 6th as a presenter for the Washington Island Literary Festival.  The registration deadline has been extended to September 20th for the $75 registration fee, and I'm hoping to see many of you there (weather permitting, of course!).   Within this spectacular setting for this first-time local literary event, I will attempt to invoke pleasant memories of Thordarson and his accomplishments.   See you there!

-  Dick Purinton

Saturday, September 14, 2013

First look with Kathleen Dixon.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

A Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association annual meeting was held here Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, with representatives of many of Wisconsin's ports, governmental agencies and professionals who design and build port structures, including dredging.

The conference ended at noon, Friday, and when I went to the Island Ferry Office I learned that my anticipated book shipment of three pallets had arrived late the previous afternoon.   Our crew had put the books in the steel storage building.   Because one pallet held just four cartons, I placed those boxes on my truck.  On the way home I decided to stop first at Kathleen Dixon's IslandTime bookshop, next to Red Cup Coffee and the Post Office.

There, in front of her store, we opened up one of the boxes.  This was the first time either of us had a chance to see the finished product.  I had expectations and knew what it should look like.  Kathleen had   taken a number of advance orders from customers, but she hadn't seen any of the material, other than my description of its contents.   She hailed Cooper Henkel, who was sitting nearby on the Red Cup porch, to take several photos.

Small book shops are important for the sale of books of regional interest, I've found, and although I've developed a website that will now permit direct sales by credit card, many local readers and island visitors enjoy browsing and picking up books with a local flavor where they can thumb the cover and scan pages.  Right now, for a few days at least, Kathleen's shop will be the only store handling the book.  When I have more time, in the coming week, this book will become be available at other outlets, including mainland book shops.

Next Saturday, September 21, I'll have a signing party at the Ferry Terminal lobby, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm.

I should mention that Kathleen is a valuable member of the Island Literary Festival Committee.   She has been a participant with the Key West Literary Festival for many years, and she knows how such an event can be successfully run.  Her knowledge of writers - local, statewide and national - is tremendous.  Naturally, I'm pleased that she mentions my name to her customers.  Many people I've met aboard the Karfi this past summer received book information from Kathleen, along with her recommendation.

So, after several hours Friday spent fulfilling my own backlogged list of customer orders, I have, more or less, two pallets of about 1400 books remaining to be sold.  I expect this to be a long-term process, over several years, maybe.  But we're off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to receiving reader book orders and comments.

  -  Dick Purinton         [For book and order information go to:]  

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Crop circle, Hackpen Hill, Wiltshire County.  (MJ Purinton photo)
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The title of this blog, I admit, resembles tabloid journalism.  Confession #1.

We took a trip to England that included, among many other extremely interesting and varied sights, the stones carefully moved and placed by ancient people in the landscape, most notably Stonehenge, but also Avebury and Kennet-Longbarrow.  These people were magnificent stone stackers, something we marveled at when we saw them in person, and have often thought back on since.

Stone stacking on local beaches was a topic, on a much more modest scale, that I recently wrote about here in a somewhat derogatory, chastising tone.  Confession #2.

Mary Jo and I signed up in January for a tour expressly for the purpose of seeing and experiencing crop circles.  When I boarded the plane to England, I believed I would have an open and objective mind toward the circles and their purpose.   I returned uncertain as to who or what created the many intricate, fantastic designs in the croplands of Wiltshire County, but I was also changed by the experience.  I concluded, after being in and around perhaps a dozen crop circles, several of freshly laid overnight in the wheat fields, that there is more to the story than a "couple of guys late at night on skis with a GPS."

I was one of seven (the others were women!) led by Barbara Lamb of California, who has been visiting crop circles in England for 23 years.  She leads groups, mostly Americans, to see these phenomena.  With internet and smart phone connections, photos of both older and recent crop circles are uploaded and posted on sites where anyone can view them.  Often, they will be further analyzed and geometrically diagrammed.   (Go to to see the many, varied patterns that appear in the fields of barley, wheat, and occasionally, other crops.)  By checking in every so often, we were kept current and the site also helped us to locate older crop circles.   By recent, I mean "last night's production," crop circles only hours old.  Nearly all of them were within a 20-mile radius of where we stayed, our B & B at Court Hill Farm, a very pleasant stay with the owners and their dogs in Potterne, near the larger town of Devizes.

It is possible for men with skill and practice, having first a great basic geometric design, to create such patterns in a night's work?  A few men have proven this to be true.   But the ongoing reality of crop circles popping up over an approximately 25-year period of time (that is about the length of time of the currently recorded phenomena), sometimes two circles in the same night miles apart, in complex patterns of laid wheat or other grains, in the dark... well, it gives me pause at least.  And given man's tendency to tire of their successes over time, even when such efforts are well-publicized, leads me to agree with others that there could be more heavenly energies behind the creation of many of the crop circles.

Exactly who or what those origins might be, I am at a loss to say.  As a traditional Christian believer, if our creator could bring signs and miracles to people throughout history, if then why not now?  If we as believing humans can marvel at the similarity of the Virgin Mary in a piece of burned toast, then why not crop circles?  In fact, in precision, execution and geometrical cleverness, there is no comparison between burned toast and crop circles.

What, then, are crop circle designs telling us?  There again, I confess to having no clue other than there seems to be energy within those patterns deemed "genuine" (not made by the obvious clumsy feet of man) and the energy within them can be felt even by a rather dull point of earthly contact such as me!

For those who know of dowsing rods, there is a definite reaction for dowsers within vs. without a fresh and "genuine" crop circle.  Rather a dramatic difference, in fact, as the hand-held dowsing sticks open wide upon entering the circle and close up when exiting.  I must add that, in crop circles quite definitely man-made (i.e., highly imperfect) the rods do nothing, and even in the center of such crop circles where energy seems to concentrate, the rods are unmoving.

I fell asleep several times while laying down upon freshly-patterned wheat crop.  It was a pleasing, satisfying experience that could maybe partly be attributed to jet lag.  Others who entered the circles celebrated the energy in other ways more personal to them.  I respected and admired those who seemed to be more receptive to the energies than myself, but I was also contented with the beauty of the rolling landscape, the smells of earth and damp wheat, the sounds of the wind in the crop, and occasionally harvesters working in adjacent fields.  The hours spent in crop circles were most satisfying, peaceful and renewing in a way I can relate to the most meaningful minutes I've spent in church.  That would be confession #3!

I acknowledge other interpretations that have been made, some that seem too far away from our workaday world for me to grasp, especially hard to accept when concentrating on that paycheck or concerned if our government is making the right decision on this or that.   (And in this same Salisbury Plain, by the way, the British army regularly conducts exercises with tanks and weaponry.  We saw three Sikorsky helicopters fly over the nearby hillside late one afternoon.  At several locations along the road to Stonehenge there were "Caution, tank crossing" signs.)

My appreciation for each of the people I was with grew during the week as we gained trust and support for one another.  I had the opportunity to "navigate" several days, seated to the left hand of our driver, Barbara, as we rode in our rental van over hill and dale, through deeply rutted sod lanes and on narrow asphalt roads.

Mary Jo took advantage of an opportunity one day to fly over crop circles, something several pilots specialize in during the summers as a means of earning additional income.  These pilots track where the circles are, and were (the ghosts, or remains of old circles, often appear through new crops).  For uneasy passengers the pilots completely put them quickly in their trust, enabling them to bank low over crop formations and other local landmarks such as the hillside horses scribed into the white chalk.  The flight was a highlight for Mary Jo and others in our group.  I remained on the ground during this time, happily reading and cheering the planes onward, beyond the nearby hills.

My occasional role as front seat navigator in the rental van - perhaps earned when helping change a flat one afternoon - also prepared me for our second week in England when we rented a car for four days.   Those experiences - which were wonderful - lacked the inter-connectedness of our first week.  We had decided back in January:  while we're there, why not see more?  And so, we did.

Next: Crop Circles - a few theories explored.

 - Dick Purinton

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Sunrise over Detroit Harbor following night of heavy rain.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

No excuses for no blogs.  Just been away awhile.

Lots of activities to wrap up our Washington Island summer after our two-week trip to England (which I may report on in an upcoming blog).  There was the Death's Door BBQ, several days of very heavy rain (several reports of 7 inches falling one day), the Labor Day holiday weekend, and for me, days working on the Karfi and driving the Cherry Train.  With temperatures in the lower 50s Labor Day Monday morning, it feels good to catch up on a backlog of items at home.

An important milestone was reached in the progress of my book, Thordarson and Rock Island.  I'm now expecting a delivery date of Friday, September 13.

Two days before boarding a plane to begin our trip to England, I passed the last of the edits to Amy Jorgenson.   Amy then made final changes and sent the files to Worzalla, the printer in Stevens Point.

We had been through many edits in the previous four months, with the help of five volunteer readers.  By the time I boarded the plane Sunday, August 4, I held that any remaining mistakes would have to be overlooked by myself and readers.  Then, from England  I continued to email both Amy and the printer, and the 4-color cover was approved.  However, final text and photo page approval awaited when I came home.   Those I elected to thumb through, more for formality and as a requirement by the printer  in order to keep the project moving, knowing that any changes at that point would only cost more and add to the delay in printing.

So, September 13 is now the date I'm counting on to receive my books, and with some confidence this is a done deal, I'm happily taking orders now on my new website:        You may wish to visit that site if for no other reason than to read more about the process of finishing and publishing this book.    

With editing finally in the past, sales and promotion have taken priority.

First time event:  Washington Island Literary Festival October 5 & 6

As it happens, my new book and a new Island event will coincide.  The Washington Island Literary Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, October 5 & 6.  This event will center at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center on Washington Island, with additional activities at the Historic Island Dairy Saturday evening, and a trip to the Thordarson Boat House on Rock Island Sunday morning, weather permitting.

An Island Literary Festival was the idea of Helene Meyer's, honoring her late husband, Gene Meyer.  Helene enlisted the help of Betsy Wallman, who in turn named a committee of six other persons. I believe that our first meeting was in mid-July.  Tremendous progress was made since then in planning the program and obtaining presenters, given the comparatively late start date.

This Literary Festival emphasizes Wisconsin writers and their literature, and it's designed to give readers - the audience - the opportunity to meet and hear a range of authors with strong Wisconsin roots, and who may also write about Wisconsin.   Below is a poster developed by committee member Mari Anderson for this occasion.  I'm proud to be among those writers asked to be a presenter.  Timing of the publication of my new book is such that I anticipate receiving it in the next two weeks, in time for an event in the Thordarson Boat House Sunday morning, October 6th.  There, in the great hall of the structure most often associated with Thordarson and Rock Island, I'll read and talk about Thordarson.

The Washington Island Literary Festival Registration is being taken now, and you can sign up via the Trueblood Performing Arts Center website.  Cost is $75 per person.  You'll meet writers who include well-known former Wisconsin Public Radio host Jean Feraca, who is also an author.  Jean will also chair a panel discussion.  Listeners of WPR's Chapter-a-day will also recognize the voice of Norman Gilliland who will speak Sunday afternoon.  Norman will have a new novel out this October.  Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Bruce Dethlefsen will read Saturday evening after dinner,  and he'll also lead an open-mic, joined by other poets - including Ralph Murre and Sharon Auberle of Baileys Harbor who recently co-published a new book of poetry.  Ralph and Sharon will also read in the Thordarson Boat House Sunday morning.

Besides admission to the presentations by writers, your registration will include dinner at the Island Dairy Saturday evening, early morning coffee and pastry, break refreshments, and the Sunday morning ferry ride to Rock Island State Park aboard the Karfi.  For anyone who enjoys literature, especially authors and books with a Wisconsin flavor, you will want to send in your registration soon.  (The registration fee jumps to $90 after 9/15/13.)

This blog doesn't begin to catch up on old news, but it's a start.  I hope to see many of you at the Island Literary Festival.  It should be a fun and rewarding experience.

-   Dick Purinton