Winter—Snowed In For Weeks

Upper Peninsula Farm
July, `80

The Kitzman’s numbered nine children with twenty-nine year old Guy
the only child still living at home. Together, he and his mother
worked the farm. According to Guy, his seventy-three year old mother
did the same work I was doing. (I didn’t know whether to be happy for
her or sad. It was a little hard to believe, however.) All the
children, except Guy, were born in the little shed out back. The shed
now contained a calf and a very pretty colt. The Kitzman’s had lived
on their farm for a long time. In fact, the gravel road I came in on
was named Kitzman road. The farm itself was 350 acres, but only 150
were cleared. The farm fed 10 cows, 13 horses, 2 pigs, 2 geese, and
one dog. Over yonder they pruned a grove of apple trees just to keep the
bees happy, and happy bees produced the Kitzman’s sugar. Sitting just inside
the back porch was a milk separator and butter churn. Also, on the back porch,
a huge number of flies were buzzing around. On the window seal, they measured
three to four inches deep. When we went into the main part of the house,
after the work was done, I found myself sitting in room full of houseflies.
“They’re here because of the heat,” Guy told me. “When the sun goes
down, they thin out some.” They didn’t seem to bother Guy, but they
did me. The room itself had some furniture scattered around the wood
stove. Aside from the refrigerator and radio, no other signs of luxury
were present. It was pretty easy to tell that the Kitzman’s lifestyle
was work, work, work, and more work.

According to Guy, in the winter, they got snowed in a lot, sometimes
for weeks. They survived on his trap line. It produced food and
brought in $1000 to $1500 each winter in pelts. It was a two-day
affair to run the trap line, which meant a cold night in the woods
each time he went out. Occasionally, he even got caught in his own
traps. He told me he never worried about it, since his mother fixed
everything. One time he shot himself in the knee with a 22-caliber
rifle and had to walk three miles back to the farm. His mother fixed
that too. Guy’s trapping even developed into a philosophy of life. He
told me there are four kinds of people in the world: the sheep that
follow; the wolf that is always out to get the sheep (and, while trapping
Guy has run across wolves and a cougar—both species, according to the
DNR, are not found in Michigan); the conniving, complaining, coyote
that will do whatever it takes to survive; and the trapper. The trapper, in
which Guy includes himself, is always ready to fight, both for himself
and for others. In either case, though, the trapper is always fighting.

My trip to the Kitzman’s farm was a great experience. I originally planned to
spend the night, but I was already uncomfortably dirty, a love-boat for
the flies, so to speak! Therefore, I decided to say farewell to Guy and bicycle
off into what was left of the afternoon sunshine. The northwest wind
not only made bicycling easier, it also took away the barnyard smell
that had not left my body. Before the day was done, I had covered
another 40 miles. I camped that night at Perch Creek wayside, another
beautiful wayside—Michigan, a wayside paradise for long distance bicyclers.

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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2 Responses to Winter—Snowed In For Weeks

  1. Mèo Lười Việt says:

    Occasionally, he even got caught in his own
    traps. He told me he never worried about it, since his mother fixed
    everything. One time he shot himself in the knee with a 22-caliber
    rifle and had to walk three miles back to the farm. His mother fixed
    that too. Guy’s trapping even developed into a philosophy of life.

    Someday he will realize that his mother doesn’t live forever. He has to stand on his own feet. Though he may wake up late but hope that he can get out of his own traps and contribute his capacity to the society.

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      I understand what you are saying, but you would have to have been there to understand Guy’s life. That part of Michigan (mid 20th century) meant a very hard life. It also meant very few people, and a rag tag society (except in the few existing urban areas). In that environment, survival laid the groundwork for society and, I believe, Guy was a major contributor. Eventually, the society he helped to create would expand into today’s Upper Peninsula, the Upper Peninsula that all Michiganders love to visit. Thanks for the comment. Take care.

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