Last week Barry and I drove to a Baraga-Ontonagon high school basketball tournament, about an hour from where we live. We found ourselves ‘way back in the Upper Peninsula (Yooper) backwoods, re-living a family memory from the early 1980’s. Barry kept telling me to write a blog about our experience. I kept telling him, “Please, YOU write a blog about it!” Finally, he agreed. Please welcome my latest guest-blogger, my dear husband, as he shares our latest adventure. P.S. He’s publishing it in his column in our local newspaper, the L’Anse Sentinel.
It was September, 1979. We young Lower Michigan emigrants landed plop-dab on the old Mustanen family dairy farm on the outskirts of Pelkie. The rented farmhouse was our first UP home. Landlords Ned and Toini Moberg watched over us.
I had won a tough interview process for a L’Anse Sentinel reporting job over a talented woman writer who chewed tobacco.
Kathy was hired for an office position at Baraga County Memorial Hospital. In our early 20’s we were unknowingly laying the foundation to becoming Yoopers.
Among Kathy’s family in the distant “Thumb” of the Lower Peninsula we were something of celebrity, or perhaps just nuts. Her mom and dad knew very well this region from their dear friends, Don and Ann McConnell. They visited the deepest, darkest, buggiest and snowiest woods of rural Mass City at least annually. Don is related to the Miilu clan there.
And so it was, we young upstarts were almost neighbors. K’s parents, Joanne and Dale, soon made the trip north with the McConnells. It wasn’t long before we were at the Miilu A-frame camp, playing cards flying across the tables, a barrel wood stove and gas lamps adding charm and heat. I have a distant memory of eating bear. . .
And for evening entertainment we went to the only show in town–the old “Art’s Bar” in beautiful downtown Rousseau. Art Moilanen, owner of the bar in the 60’s and early 70’s, had the whole place jumping, thumping out Finnish polkas and waltzes on his squeeze box. I think Don played, too.
Ann did her best to teach me the highly complex hop-1-2-3 footwork required of the polka–but it must have been some Southern Comfort and suds got in my way! It was quite a night a long, long time ago.
Cheap date and a ballgame. . .
What goes around comes around–eventually.
Last Monday, March 9, 2015, I was multi-tasking again. (Read: Covering Sentinel assignment and taking Kathy on a cheap date.)
Your Dynamic Duo was off to Ontonagon to cover the Baraga Vikings-Jeffers Jets boys district basketball tourney game. (It wasn’t pretty for the Viking faithful.)
It goes without saying that K will accompany me on these long, tedious cross-country soirees if any of the above are included: dinner and a liquid refreshment; a stop at the food co-op; or a coffee shop. The more stops the merrier.
You can guess where we ended up for a pre-game dinner and pit stop, since we were headed in that direction anyway.
Angie Foley, new owner of “The Legendary Rousseau Bar”, has been advertising in the L’Anse Sentinel Dining and Entertainment section. Hence, we ambled around the snowy, slushy countryside of suburban Mass City searching for “Downtown Rousseau”.
I believe we found the industrial hub of the city–the railroad siding which was humming with log trucks rushing in load after load on the day before road restrictions went on.
“There it is,” Kathy said as three pick-up truck butts stuck out beyond the big snow piles. Snowmobiles were stacked up on the banks. The Legendary Rousseau Bar we had visited so many years ago. . .
Out of place, me dressed in a leather jacket and black pants, and K in her tailored gray wool coat, we walked on in. The door was stuck half-way open on a frost heave. No one seemed to mind.
“What’d you do, leave your helmets on your sleds?” one of the boys joked.
We met Angie and introduced ourselves. It was a grand old time.
And we met “Rousseau Rocko”, the black lab-mostly dog who was our car-side greeter and dinner guest. Kathy slipped Rocko a french fry. “Everyone does that,” we were told. “He’s a pretty good dog–when he wants to be!”
The perch and cod were tasty, the company fine and the ambiance 100 percent backwoods Yooper. It’s still The Rousseau Bar we remember.