Latest Reading: The Big Seven by Jim Harrison

Harrison hunting in Montana (courtesy of the New York Times)

Jim Harrison is one of my favorite authors, partly because many of his novels are set in my birthplace of the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. The UP is a sparsely populated area the size of Maryland that forms the southern shore of Lake Superior. It is in my mind, a distinctive place in homogenized suburban America and has a culture of its own. He is from the northern part of lower Michigan and a graduate of Michigan State University. He is most known for the novella that became a movie, Legends of the Fall.

The Big Seven is one of his last books, written in 2015, a year before he died of a heart attack. It is not one of his best, but it was an enjoyable read. He goes back to a recurring character, Detective Sunderson, a retired state policeman and the detective that lives in Marquette, Michigan. It is a crime novel dealing with a violent, poor family living in the western Upper Peninsula. I love his references to life in the UP, like pasties, and his description of the people, places and lifestyle there. You can tell he knows the area. The detective story is a page turner, not for the crimes itself, but for what was going on with Sunderson.

I do have problems with the book. The main character Sunderson is in his late sixties, eats too much and drinks a lot, but is picking up women constantly. I just don’t believe so many beautiful young women are into retired, out-of-shape, alcoholics. He also constantly describes Sunderson’s drinking habits. Some of it felt like filler and a good editor would have helped him.

The title comes from the Seven Deadly Sins. Sunderson is trying to write an essay or novel on his “eighth sin” of violence but is slowed by his drinking and laziness.

Jim Harrison was a literary figure like one of my favorite authors when I was young, Ernest Hemmingway. An adventurer with a zest for the good life whose writing set in places like the American west and northern Michigan. The book made me consider going back to Hemmingway now as a middle-aged man to see how my perceptions of his writing have changed in the last 25 years.


The Mysterious Paulding Light


The boys and Uncle Jimmer are awed by the Paulding Light


This past week I spent the week visiting my hometown of Caspian, Michigan for the first time in over 5 years. I will be uploading posts from the week as I get them completed. We had slow internet at my house and I am working on a project for my doctorate and had limited time to write. I hope to get several posts up reflecting on our trips this summer.

One of the attractions that everyone should see when they are in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is seeing the mysterious Paulding Lights.  This is a natural or unnatural phenomenon, depending on who you believe. The lights were first reported by teenagers to the police in 1966, and ever since, it has been a tourist attraction. The lights were featured on a SyFy channel program. They are similar to the Marfa lights in west Texas.

Paulding is a tiny, unincorporated village located about a 40-minute drive north west of my hometown of Caspian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mysterious lights, hovering and bouncing in the distance horizon above the trees could be seen at the end of a side road off Highway M-45. We have been there several times, both in summer and winter and there are always a few people there. Paulding is not exactly easy to get to, but tourists and locals from northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. On this trip, some guys in a truck were getting stoned and another family was recording the lights with their phones.

This time my brother and I took the kids for the first time, so we played up the unnatural phenomenon theory. A train employee was run over while working on the lines and ever since then, his ghost swings his lantern to warn others. Others speculate UFOs or I heard some other stories. We had the kids good and scared when we approached the dead end, marked by a roadside metal fence. There is an ATV trail that leads towards the lights, so we hopped the barrier and walked to the lights. About 200 yards from the barrier, there is a small bridge above a beaver dam and after about 30 minutes, we turned around. We saw the lights, but couldn’t work out with the naked eye, what exactly was causing them.

Michigan Technological University researchers discovered that the lights are car headlights and tail lights from passing cars on M-45. An atmospheric inversion has a magnifying effect and allows people to see eerie lights hovering above trees in the distance. I am not sure how that works.

It was a classic UP adventure and the kids loved getting scared and walking through the refreshing pine forests at night.

Upper Peninsula Family Fun

Sitting Around the Campfire at Golden Lake

My village of Caspian is located in a beautiful, sparsely populated region of the USA. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is located between the Great Lakes of Superior and Michigan. It has the area of Maryland (500 km long and 200 km wide) and only about 300,000 people. It is a land of forests, rivers, lakes and cool weather. This summer renewed my love of this land. We hiked, camped, swam, etc. in the beauty of the northwoods. It is a great place for enjoying wilderness and has a slower pace because of the lack of people. It reinforced my desire to eventually retire or live up here, at least on a part-time basis. Real estate is cheap as well as the cost of living. We also have lots of family and friends in the region. It is a summer paradise for kids.

The Mighty Fishermen

Above is a photo of our campsite at Golden Lake (285 acres – max depth of 100 feet). We actually enjoyed a night in a tent and the kids loved the camping experience. We’ll definitely have to do it again. We also stayed at the Aurora Borealis Resort in Skanee, Michigan last week. We spent two days swimming  and beach combing at Lake Superior. Ocean is shown below on the beach front of Huron Bay. The resort is owned by a retired doctor from Milwaukee, and him and his wife have made the cabins and gardens look like Martha Stewart designed it.

Ocean Posing in Skanee Michigan

Kralovecs Sweep 2010 Rodeo Run

Post Race Press Conference

Yesterday we ran our final race this summer. The Windsor Center (building behind me) hosted a 5K and 10K run. The Windsor Center is my old high school. As the population dwindles in my hometown, schools are consolidating and there are more empty former school buildings. A group of citizens are trying to use the building benefit the community and so they are raising money to keep it open and develop it for other things besides classes.

It is also Rodeo weekend here in Iron River. Annually, the town holds a rodeo and it attracts many tourists. The rodeo performers are part of a semi-professional regional circuit and this is one of their tour stops. This was the first time in several years that they held a road running race in conjunction with the rodeo. I would like to thank Dawn Pisoni and the people at the Windsor Center for making it happen again this year.
Nadia ran the 5 kilometer race and won her age group with an amazingly fast time of 24 minutes. That is about 6 minutes faster than her times a few years ago in Venezuela. I ran the 10 kilometer and finished third in my age group with a time of 4 7:20. We both earned medals and it completed a successful summer of running with us competing in three races (Bass Run, Canal Run, Rodeo Run). I am inspired to continue to train and get more serious about my running. That is of course, time permitting. At least we would like to get more serious about running. Hopefully, we can do it this school year. 
Owen and Ollie also got into the act with the Kiddie Race. It was a 70 yard dash and both boys did well. They won participation ribbons, so we all came away with something to put in the trophy case. The kids are pictured below with their friend, Avery. We want them to enjoy running and being active and events like this will help it. In the photo above, we are pictured with my dad, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. It was a fantastic morning!

Global Warming Has Its Benefits


Nadia, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

The water temperature of Lake Superior this summer is15 degrees (F) above average. Yesterday we had a doctor’s appointment in Marquette, so we took advantage of the beautiful, sunny day and spent the day at the beach. We found a nice sandy beach near Harvey, Michigan, just east of Marquette. It looked like the Caribbean, so much so, that Nadia actually swam in the Lake for the first time ever.

It was such a nice day – the kind of afternoon you wish could last forever…

Nadia Finishes Fourth in Canal Run

Kids At the Beach, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Yesterday we went up to Hancock, Michigan to compete in the 35th Annual Canal Run. Hancock is located in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is the “ear” of the rabbit-shaped Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The peninsula juts out into Lake Superior and is about an 1 & 1/2 hour drive north of Caspian. The canal is a shipping route made through the peninsula to serve the former mining boom towns of Hancock and Houghton. It is a beautiful area and with two universities (Michigan Tech and Finlandia University) a place that we love to visit.

Nadia ran the 5-mile race and finished 4th in her age group with a time of 42 minutes and 46 seconds. She was the 25th woman overall. I ran the 10-mile race, but took the second bus to the starting line. The 5 of us on the bus missed the start. We estimated we left 6 minutes after the start, so my time of 1 hour 22 minutes, would be 1 hour 16 minutes. Despite the 6 minute delay, I finished 13th in my age group and 70th overall with my 1:22 time. I am waiting to see the results to see where I would have finished. Too bad Nadia didn’t get a medal.

It was a beautiful day and we took advantage of the weather and spent the afternoon at the McClain State Park beach. The water in Lake Superior was surprisingly warm and the kids loved it. Above is a video I took with my iPod of the kids having fun.

Big Catch for the Kralovecs

Grandpa with Owen and Oliver - Plus Two Beautiful Bluegills

We had a great day of fishing today at the Indian Lake boat landing. The boys and Ocean pulled up many bluegills and one perch. Owen even caught a couple on his own. Grandpa was a champion, baiting and hooking fish for the kids to land. We had great fun with so many fish. It didn’t matter that they were small, anything on the hook was an exciting moment for the kids. A big thanks to Hoover for the fishing tips.

Ocean Caught a Fish, too.

Nadia Wins a Medal

Nadia Sprints to the Finish

Yesterday we participated in the “Run Your Bass Off” 10 kilometer run in Crystal Falls, Michigan. The race is part of the Bass Festival in the small town located on the eastern side of Iron County. We try to run the race when we are here for the summer.

Nadia won second place in the 30-39 age group and ran a fantastic time of 54 minutes and 33 seconds. This is much faster than she has run in the past. I ran 48:15, which was 15 seconds faster than last year, but still only good for fourth place in my age group. The race made both of us wanting to train more seriously and get our times down. We’ll see if work and family committments will deter this.

Fourth of July Celebrations

Family Photo on Fourth of July

It was a rainy afternoon and evening for the Fourth of July celebrations this year. We celebrated America’s 234th birthday by hosting a BBQ at my childhood home in my village of Caspian, Michigan. We invited my aunt and uncle, Jim and Ione, and they are pictured in the back row. It is nice to reconnect with my aunt, as she looks very much like my mother and she reminds me of her.

We had some fireworks in the back yard, ate a lot of food, and then went  downtown Iron River to watch the city fireworks.