They Tied the Knot!
the evening of December 24, 2002, following the Christmas Eve service at the
Beaver Island Christian Church, Dave Duda and Marilyn Clark were joined in
marriage by Reverend Howard Davis. George "Satch" and Carol
Wierenga were the official witnesses of this special event.
Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Duda and may you enjoy many, many years of
While the rest
of the world traditionally reads "The Night Before Christmas",
has it's very own
special story for the season. Written many years ago by James S. Pooler,
now deceased, a staff writer for the Detroit Free Press, who spent some of
his boyhood days on the island this tale appeared in that newspaper and over the
years, many times in the Beaver Beacon. Those who have never read it will
enjoy it and those who have heard it may like to read it again, for the message
it carries is one we need to be reminded of from time to time. The
following is exactly as Pooler wrote it, including the misspelling of names.
Santa Missed The Boat For
James S, Pooler
always one Christmas you remember best. This one was when we were marooned
snow came in great gushes early that fall and filled
with slush ice. The mail boat, afraid of losing a propeller, stopped
coming over from Charlevoix by early December and we were cut off from the
mainland. The daring fish tugs hauled out their last hooks and nets, and
soon on all the big horizon around the island there wasn't even the distant
smoke of a freighter.
could look across 30 miles of water to the mainland, across water that looked
like ice cream that didn't quite freeze. Sometimes the lake steamed from
the cold and you couldn't see across. More often it snowed.
was a lonely feeling standing on the shore when you could see the mainland as
only a dirty little fingernail laid low on the farthest edge of the water.
You couldn't go there and no one could come out to you.
you a few islands stood darkly in the water - Garden, Hog and Hat and far to the
where King Benjamin sent dissenting Israelites from his House of David.
Isolated more than ever by winter, they made it ever lonelier there out in the
old fishermen would come down, too, and look at the lake from which they drew
their living. Weather-wise, they would squint at slush and sky and fall
into warm arguments on whether the lake would freeze all the way across that
going to be a cold winter," went one school of thought. "The lake'll
be friz solid by the tenth of January."
is goin' to be one of them winters where she just snows and snows and never sets
down to a real biting spell," went the other school of thought.
was a reason for the argument - Frankie Left and his horse, Queenie! She
was a wonderful creature who all summer long did nothing but grow fat in a
pasture. But when winter came, when upper
froze solid, Queenie was the horse that grew into the legends they still tell on
wasn't just a horse. Queenie had strange gifts such as the endurance of a
wolf and a wisdom that went beyond human understanding. She was the
lifeline to the mainland when the lake froze over. She'd travel 25 miles
across the frozen ice to
where Frankie would pick up the mail and the most needed supplies and then lope
back to the
a blinding snowstorm closed down around them Frankie just threw up the reins and
Queenie took her head, which certainly was a clever one. Once she traveled
all day and night in a storm in which they couldn't see 10 feet ahead, until
Frankie was sure they'd both freeze out there on top of
When she came up on the
wind had torn loose a great sheet of ice and with her magic sense Queenie had
circled the open water for more than 30 hours.
true, whatever legends that since have grown up to make her a combination of
Pegasus and Bucephalus.
sudden assault of winter that year had brought a tragedy to the youngsters of
- Mr. Lafferty's shipment of Christmas toys hadn't come across from the mainland
before the mail boat stopped running!
matter how much you stood on the shore and wished for terrible cold weather, the
old fishermen would tell you that the lake couldn't possibly freeze over before
Christmas. Even that wonderful creature, Queenie, couldn't bring over
Lafferty had the only store on the
That's a great, rolling Irish name, "Lafferty", in keeping with all
the other rolling Irish names of Beaver. But if you ever go to the
and name of the side of the store isn't too weather-beaten now, look at it
closely. You'll see that the first of the family to come to the
was a Frenchman named "LaFerte". But it's "Lafferty"
now to everyone on the
even the man who owns the name.
Lafferty spread out the few toys left over from the Christmas before and pieced
out the thin display with a box of those tiny nickel dolls with thin wire arms
that broke off at the first fitting. It was all he had to offer, a few
unwanted knick-knacks and the whole kit and caboodle wouldn't make a decent
showing under a modern kid's Christmas tree.
it was enough to set off the talking, the building up and suspense children
always create for Christmas. You passed the store window daily on the way
to school and watched the disappearance one by one of the bigger toys from the
window. You wondered, "Who?"
guess Christmas is always pretty much the same among the kids. The older
ones carefully building up the legend again for the younger ones and coming to
half believing themselves. And always the rampant skeptic whose work had
to be undone.
our case it was Denny O'Toole, who lived with an aunt who didn't believe in
Santa Claus, and he was hit with snowballs and kept well ostracized on the
playground. He was a small kid and by two weeks before Christmas had come
to standing around the fringe when they were telling the first-graders about
"Santa Claus" and he didn't look quite as wise as he had. At
least he kept his mouth shut.
there was no escaping Mr. Lafferty's show window on the way to school. Two
weeks before Christmas it was bare. The canny kids noticed too, that the
old fishermen were talking about that the Year of the Big Wind in
Santa Claus hadn't made it. It didn't sound good. Even the littlest
ones were conditioned with the idea that with all the tearing around he had to
do, Santa Claus could miss the small dot of an
good's faith, though, if you haven't got it when you need it most? He
might miss the Beaver, the kids admitted, but he never had. So we went
right ahead planning, confiding loudly what we expected and being as good as was
expected. But none of the older folks were offering much encouragement.
They'd come down, too, and look across the steaming lake to the mainland far
away and say it was too bad the lake never froze before Christmas.
knew we'd eat well. The kitchens were going overtime and the
was full of turkeys. They had a strange way of sorting out their turkeys
on Beaver. When spring came the turkeys would come out of the farms on to
the single road that led down the
and wander to the thick forest for nesting.
fall came and the leaves tumbled, the turkeys would come home browsing back
along the single road. What ever turned into your farm was yours.
Maybe 20 had taken off from your farm and only six came back. You'd reckon
that "pneumonia must have got them". At the next farm, where
only two started out, 60 might come home. You just had to figure that his
turkeys had nested oftener. There was plenty of sharing on the
and by letting the turkeys decide it saved wear and tear on the mind and
turkeys were killed and sized for families. Bread was put out to get stale
for dressing. Cookie cutters were traded around among the women to get all
the variety of animals possible. The jars in the pantries began to brim
over and the best specimens in the cookie menagerie were taken out for special
frosting treatment for the tree. Those fine odors of Christmas drifted out
on the road where you sniffed them in going and coming.
the Saturday after school closed, the kids took the family axes and headed for
the woods to cut their own trees. If a kid was too small to drag his home,
there always were six kids from another family to give him a hand. It
didn't turn out to be as much fun that year as we expected.
word got around that about all we'd get that year was a beautifully trimmed tree
and a lot to eat. There couldn't possibly be much under the tree. So
we picked out the best we could; trying to measure a tree in the woods against
the size of a room, and progressively got gloomier. In the early dusk we
came dragging out trees home, looking again over the slushy lake, the empty
store window and not shouting much.
as we passed Denny O'Toole, who hadn't gone to cut a tree because his aunt
didn't believe in such nonsense, and wondered if maybe he didn't have the right
idea. You wouldn't be half so miserable with no tree at all as with one
all dressed up and nothing but empty floor under it.
sewed the popcorn into strings, got out the fancy cookies and the boxes of
baubles and dressed up the green trees in their finery. Christmas came
mighty close then - and dread. There wasn't a small kid on the
that night who didn't go down on his knees even in the coldest bedroom and pray
day before Christmas came and there were seagulls perched on the shore. It
was snowing and the lake still was mush ice. We hated to give up and some
of us even went up to Frankie Left's barn and there was Queenie in her stable!
big kids told the little kids that it sure looked like a tough night for Santa
Claus. In a snow storm like we were having he could never find the
Eve came and the last loitering youngster left the beach. That's the night
you always had the corned white fish for dinner and broke into the Christmas
cookies. That's the night when the old stories were told again and at our
house Denny Boyle talked so long of the Potato Famine of the old days, how tough
things were then, that all the kids knew he was only conditioning us for the
disappointment of Christmas morning.
the night, too, when everybody trooped off to Mid-night Mass leaving one of the
family home to see that the candles didn't set the tree on fire.
went down the long road, past the homes where the yellow candles shone out and
made the cold feel stingier. Down through the woods where the light of the
lanterns began to take hold and turn everyone's shadow, even the small kids who
stuck closest to the lantern, into giants on the snow.
old magic began to take hold again and those small ones looked up into the snowy
night and listened, for they all knew that Santa Claus always came mysteriously
while they were at Mid-night Mass.
we came somberly back, lanterns, long shadows and quiet people in the hush of a
snow storm. The candle lights began to swim up out of the falling snow.
And we no sooner passed the first homes when there was a shout that began to
spring up like a string of firecrackers going off behind us. It was a
shout they must have heard over on the mainland. The kids whose homes were
farther ahead starting running.
don't think there ever was a Christmas like that one for the kids on
for any kids who had hung on to faith against all reason. They'd never
found as much under the Christmas trees. Not ordinary toys. These
were made with the hand and heart. These were the things that grown-up
children had remembered fondly from their own childhood and recreated.
fishermen had made boats, tugs and schooners, and Freddie Martin got one with a
clock-work engine. They had made steam rollers, using the wooden corks
from their nets for the big wheels. There were toboggans, polished like
mirrors, and home-hewn ball bats and the finest baseballs you ever saw wound out
of fishing twine.
were rag dolls made with the art mothers remembered from their own rag doll
days. There is no knowing how many old sweaters were ripped up, dyed and
knitted into new mittens, bonnets and sweaters. Fur coats re-emerged as a
half dozen muffs.
there's no remembering all the toys they contrived with tin cans for small ones.
Tin cans with waxed strings in them that howled deliciously when they were
pulled. And tin cans with their sides half cut out so that they were
rocking cradles, just a size for the nickel dolls.
one was a toy some parent had prized in the long ago and made with a double
pleasure. They all had been time-tried and wrought with the affection that
one has for something cherished. They couldn't miss.
think that Denny O'Toole got more than any kid on the
and was deeply shaken in his skepticism. Everybody told him that Santa
Claus had left something under their tree for him and he went around collecting
baseballs, bats, toboggans, and boats. He was pretty mad at his aunt and,
I'm afraid, the probably was well along in high school before he lost faith in
why it seems strange today to hear people moaning about not being able to get
electric trains or walking dolls or any of the expensive thing-a-ma-bobs you buy
in stores. YOU NEVER BUY CHRISTMAS... YOU MAKE IT... WITH YOUR HANDS
AND IN YOUR HEART.
VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL