Carmen's Corner

Rhymes and Reminisces
I would like to introduce you to Monica Erickson's Grandmother, Carmen Carter ( 06 Jul 1910 - 30 Jan 2000). Carmen has  written reminisces and poetry since she was 12 and I would like to take this opportunity to share her work with you. The first reminisce was published in Michigan History Magazine, March/April, 1988.

Homesteading in the Upper Peninsula
by Carmen Carter - 1980
In 1915 my parents, Ira and Wreatha Dougan, and I lived in a rented house in the country near Grant, in Newaygo County. My dad heard that government land was available for Homesteading in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for those who claimed it. So he set out to find us a new home in the north country.

He left Mother and me behind until he could find a place for us to live. He went by train to the small village of Raco, about eighteen miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. There he was met by John Fry, a family friend who had arrived a year earlier, taken out a claim and built a small cabin. Mr. Fry, who lived alone, told Dad that we could come and stay with him until we had a place of our own.

Three weeks later, Mother and I arrived at Raco. We were met by Dad and Mr. Fry, who asked me to call him "Uncle John". We were taken to Uncle John's cabin in the woods where we lived for the next six months.

Our claim was about a mile away, and we made a trail through the woods to get to it. Every day Mother and I packed a lunch and delivered it to the men who were working to clear a spot for our cabin. Using axes, they cut and trimmed the jack pine trees, then laid them aside to use in building the cabin. When they had cleared a spot large enough, they built a twenty-four foot square log cabin. The cabin was built around a used kitchen range from the lumber camp at Weller's Siding. The range, which was too large to go through the door, served as cook stove, water heater and heating stove.

I soon became homesick for my grandparents, aunts and cousins, whom we had left back at Grant. I looked forward to our trips to Raco, about every two weeks, to get the mail - especially letters from back home. The roads were just two tracks through the sand, and often we had to create our own road as we went along.

That fall, I was old enough to start school, but since the roads were impassable during the winter, I could not go. So Mother taught me at home. Every day I had lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic.

Anticipating a harsh winter, we ordered a supply of groceries from Sears Roebuck in the fall. We got flour, sugar, rolled oats, cornmeal, cases of canned milk, five-pound pails of coffee beans and our one treat - a keg of gingersnaps.

With the wild blueberries my mother canned plus venison, rabbit and an occasional side of bacon, purchased from the cook at the lumber camp, we had plenty of food.

The winters were long and lonely, and I remember the mournful howling of the timber wolves from the ridge in back of the cabin. The state paid a bounty on wolves and Dad trapped them. He sold the skins to furriers. That was our main source of income during our first winter in the Upper Peninsula. Once or twice each month, Dad walked the three miles to Raco on snowshoes with a large knapsack on his back. There he picked up the mail and any extras we needed.

In 1916, Dad was given a job as foreman at the nearby lumber camp and Mother was hired as the cook's helper. So we lived at the camp. I liked it much better with more people around. There was a lot of activity with a train stopping daily to leave supplies. And the lumbermen were very nice to me. They nicknamed me "The Little Biddie".

One of my first friends was an Indian boy named Archie Clark. We often played together, sliding down the tall sawdust piles covered with snow and ice.

I loved the big, warm kitchen where Mother and Maggie, the cook, prepared the meals. They served meals to about thirty lumbermen at long tables along one side of the room. I was especially fond of Maggie, a big good-natured woman, who always found a piece of cake or a cookie for me.

One day Dad came home from town with an Edison phonograph and some cylinder records. It had a big horn and had to be wound by hand. We listened to music for the first time in months. I loved the phonograph and played the records over and over. My favorites were "The Holy City" sung by Harvey Lauder, "The Glow Worm" and one called "Redhead".

After World War I began, we moved to Sault Ste. Marie, where Dad took a job as a guard at the Soo Locks. Finally, at the age of eight, I started school. After taking some tests, I was placed in the third grade, which meant that I really had not lost any time when Mother taught me at home.

When I was eleven years old we sold the cabin to some people who wanted to turn it into a hunting lodge. We then returned to the southern part of the state of live.

That was sixty-five years ago, but I still remember the snowbound winters, the howl of the timber wolves and the old Edison phonograph. And sometimes I wonder what ever became of my friend Archie Clark.

Next In the Series: The Way It Was
 

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