Page 76 - Color Tour 2018
P. 76

‘People here came from Europe
with the clothes on their backs.’
2018.2019
A Breakout Season!
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 75
“Every year in June,” Nancy says, “ ve to seven big turtles come ashore and dig big holes. And then along comes the skunk and digs out the eggs. Then in late July, the baby tur- tles hatch and your yard in September is full of turtles. Then they go to the water. The deer just come. There are coyotes. We hear them in the hills. We know the Native people lived here. We’ve found arrowheads.” Her long life on the lake, surrounded by wildlife, allows her to suppose the presence of Native people and their tenure on the land.
She pauses and looks out at the lake where nature speaks a language of seasons and changing light, and something beyond language, some- thing inexplicable and deeply myste- rious, and says, “There’s something more to all this than what you can learn in books.”
She pauses again. “Don was my prince. He was a loving and gener- ous man. He was fabulous.”
They met at a dance in the early 1950s, she says, “and we just kept dancing.”
They married at St. Michael’s Church in Suttons Bay in 1953. The 1950s were generally a good time to raise families. The Great Depression was a thing of the past, the Second World War was over, the economy was booming. It was possible for one person to support the family while the other stayed home and saw to the house and kids. The Leelanau com- munity was close, many people hav- ing become related to each other over the past three or four generations.
Life revolved around church and school. Birthdays, baptisms, funerals and weddings were celebrated with family and community. Basketball games kept people entertained in winter.
“Our kids used to be able to catch pan sh for supper,” Mrs. Priest says. Her generation was frugal. Their parents had gone through the Depression and their children knew about it, sometimes  rst-hand, some- times second-hand. They learned to live with less. They’d acquired their
parents’ skills.
Men knew basic carpentry and
mechanical skills and women knew how to cook, clean, and sew. People canned everything they could from their vegetable gardens, plus apples, peaches, cherries, strawberries that
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they bought from farmers, doing the picking themselves to save money. There were wild blackberries and blueberries. Fishing and hunting sup- plemented food from the grocery store.
No one spent money on fancy cars, brand name clothes, or long vaca- tions.
The Leelanau Peninsula seemed clean and safe. Ordinary people could  sh, swim, ride bikes and enjoy the beautiful green hills and deep blue waters of Lake Leelanau, and the ever-changing colors of the water — from dark-blue to pale-tur- quoise-to-a-rare-green — of sur- rounding Lake Michigan. Those who’ve grown up on the peninsula, even today, know the different shades of water and weather that go with them. It’s a good feeling, a feeling of intimacy with something vast.
Nancy Priest lives in a modern ranch, Their  rst house, a hundred feet up the slope and a few hundred feet from St. Mary Church and School on Lake Leelanau Drive, was sold when they moved to the barri- er-free home closer to the lake.
“We had the run of the land when we  rst moved here in 1963,” Mrs. Priest says.
“It was a different world 70 years ago. It was a totally different world 80 years ago. Don’s father died when he was four months old. His mother didn’t have time for him. She had to work to feed her family. There were three older brothers, but they were busy with their own lives. What he had was the out-of-doors. He always loved nature. It sustained him. And his life was not different from that of other boys. No one had wealth. People here came from Europe with the clothes on their backs.”
Nancy Priest’s family, the Howards, came from a long line of American pioneers, mainly English, with an a mixture of other European nationalities, the exact lineage erased by time. Don’s family, the Priests, were German and came in the 1840s when people to escape conscription during the various periods of war and unrest. Don’s mother’s side was French-Canadian, in America for centuries. One of the great-grandfa- thers had a Native wife. He  nally coming down out of Canada to the United States. Nancy has heard sto- ries of sod houses, dirt  oors and large families in cramped quarters.
“Florence Lamie, 12 children.
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