Going to the U.P.: Looking for good news
Looking for good news
The five-hour drive to Hancock gave me a scenic view of the U.P. Few towns, a lot of forests, little traffic and abundant scenery. By L’Anse I passed the copper sculpture of Bishop Baraga, the Snow Shoe Priest, and then turned north towards Houghton where I crossed over on the lift bridge and arrived in Hancock. I checked into a local motel, went to a restaurant, and had dinner. Much to my surprise, there on the menu the featured item was” Pasties!” Of course I had to ask the waitress to explain. She gave me a little history lesson, explaining that during the mining days the miners would carry their pasty dinner with them to the work site. A Pasty is of Welch (English) origin, and was adapted by the Finish miners in the U.P. It has been described as a “pot pie without the pot” filled with meat, carrots, potatoes, lard, vegetables, and seasoning. The miners carried them into the mine, and, if needed, heated them on a shovel, held over a headlamp candle. I, being somewhat curious, ordered one, ate it, and felt stuffed right up to breakfast the next morning. Now that I had learned that there were two kinds of pasties, and that the U.P. was not R rated. I went to bed exhausted! The following morning I went to my new employment, Suomi College, and asked for help in looking for an apartment. The secretary was very helpful and gave me some addresses to check out. None seemed to fit the bill. I went back to the school office, somewhat disappointed, and explained my non-success.
I did have a question for her “Why are so many people in Hancock paraplegic? She answered with a puzzled look. “What makes you think that?” she asked. I explained how I had seen many houses with wooded ramps from the front door of the house to the sidewalk. She started to laugh uncontrollably and said, ‘”Those are not for paraplegics. You obviously have not been here in the winter, have you?” I had to admit that I had not. She then went on to explain that in the Keweenaw Peninsula it is not unusual to get 200 or more inches of snow every winter! The ramps are the only way people can get out of their homes!”
She then was able to give me some good news. The Suomi Gym Instructor and her husband, a prof at Michigan Tech. University in Houghton, were going to be moving out of a very nice apartment near Suomi. They had purchased a home in the area and their apartment would be available. She said she knew the owners and asked if I would like her to call them and see if they would be interested in having me as their next renter? I almost kissed her, but learned, later, that Finlanders are a bit reserved and frown on being kissed without at least a short courtship! I am glad that I controlled myself. The appointment was arranged and I went to see my (hopefully) new landlords. They turned out to be a delightful, older couple. He was a prof at Michigan Tech. The apartment was the entire third floor of a huge mansion overlooking the lift bridge. Fantastic! It was fully furnished. The price was agreed upon, and the date for my taking possession was set. There was no garage to park in but they had an agreement with the local police department that I would be allowed to park on the sidewalk.
My new landlord talked to me about the snow “problem” and suggested that I might be interested in purchasing a snow blower.” Get a big one” he suggested. “You’re going to need it”. Never having purchased a snow blower before, I asked his advice as to where I should go to purchase it. He suggested the hardware store, just a block up the street. I went snow blower shopping, explained my need and my total ignorance of snow blowers to the salesman. There was a “summer Snow Blower Sale” in progress, lucky for me! The salesman asked what size I needed. Being Dutch and “frugal,” I picked out a little one. It had a price that seemed reasonable. He asked where I would be living. When I told him, he knew about the home, and that I would have to park on the sidewalk. He asked if I had ever been to the U.P. in the winter, and I had to tell him that I had never been to the U.P., summer or winter. With a look that seemed to portray pity, he walked me over to the BIG snow blowers and asked me if I wanted an Electric Starter? I said I wasn’t sure. He said, “why don’t you try pull starting one of these?’ I pulled the starter rope on one of the big ones a couple of times and said, “I guess I’ll take the one with the electric starter“.( I almost killed myself trying the manual one). I finished my purchase, and made an arrangement with the store that they would bring it over, “sometime in early September“. I hasten to point out that winter and snow does not begin until November/December. He smiled, knowingly, and promised to “bring it over before the first snowfall”. I had put in a full day, accomplished a lot and was tired. It was time for dinner. (No Pasty this time and early to bed). In the morning I was driving back to Reese to finish my last week of driver education. It had been quite a weekend.
I was going to become a “Snow-Blowing Yooper!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He was also the organist for the Michigan Tech hockey team before moving on to the Minnesota North Stars.