Page 93 - Visitors Guide 18
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Butler Yeats. We had books, but I had read them; these were new books. I would take them to read, hiding them up under my blouse and heading out, saying I was “going to the mill” but stopping three-quarters of the way down the south slope at the barn where I took care of the horses.
Now I’m at the base of Alligator Hill again, unable
to walk it. Gray and black squirrels, thrilled with the
sunlight, are scampering over the few patches of snow and the newly bare ground. This
is the quiet beauty time for those of us who have always lived here, a time when the essence of the land seems to enter the people. For visitors lucky enough to be here now, with no one, they can  nd this, too. It’s February, but the snow cover is like the end of March. The silhouettes of the bare- branched trees on the horizon are the kind the French like in their paintings and photographs. I’m thinking of Henri Rousseau’s “Carnival Night” and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos of Paris boulevards in March.
If the day was warm, when I was on my horse, I would head up to the top of Alligator Hill
on the north side, above Lake Michigan, to what we called the Look Out. There was an
old, white, clapboard-sided building there that had been the club house for the fancy golf course during the 1920s. It was empty. I could read in there if it was raining, both my horse and myself inside. There was
a road then that went north- south along the eastern edge of Alligator Hill, a spur that ended up at a lookout above both Big Glen and Little Glen.
If I turned around at the Glen Lake Lookout and went back the way I’d come, I could turn west down the south side of Alligator Hill and arrive at the carriage house. This was a building that had served both horses and cars, a remnant of the Gilded Age. It still had a grease pit for the cars, an exhibit of the time of transition between one mode of transportation and the next, like something in a museum
If I kept going along the southerly road, along the border of the old golf course, I’d end
The once-bustling sawmill at the base of Alligator Hill.
up back at the mill. However, more often I went across the fallow  elds that had been golf fairways, where we still, even
up into the 1960s, could  nd
old golf balls, and from there
to the barn. In those days, in season, there were unbelievably sweet wild strawberries, much larger than wild strawberries today, and wild raspberries, wild blackberries, and wild plums. The wild plums had spikes on their stems.
Alligator Hill was seen by the early developers as possessing
a rare and wondrous beauty, unlike anything in the world, and they were not wrong. The grand vision the developers had for the Day Forest Estates was bold. They imagined, “A permanent Summer White House for residents of the Gold Coast of Chicago or Millionaire’s Row of New York.” An ad in the Traverse City Record-Eagle from June
27, 1927, reads: “Each estate
will command an individual setting with a marvelous vista.
A Magni cent Golf Club House will be located on the bluff. [There will be] an eighteen-
hole golf course, beach and tennis club fronting Lake Michigan, a provision for a polo  eld, an aviation  eld, winter sports facilities [and places]
for bathing, swimming, and boating. The Day Forest Estates will be so restricted [my italics] as to ultimately become America’s premier summer community.”
The developers were drunk
on their own dreams. With each honeyed phrase, the exhilarating language rose giddily, daringly, precariously, higher and higher. But it all came crashing down.
America was strewn, after the Gilded Age, with people who’d dreamed too big, or simply had an accident: lost an arm, a leg, a hand, a spouse, their mind. “Poor Mrs. M,” my mother would say about a frail, once-beautiful woman we sometimes picked up hitch-hiking, she and her three children, two skinny, bluish- skinned, dark-haired boys, and a little blonde girl who looked like a baby Marilyn Monroe, all strung along behind her as if held together with an invisible rope. Did they always hitch-hike in the rain? They always looked cold, wet, and hungry. I wanted to take them to my father’s cook shanty, dry them out by the woodstove, and sit them down at the long plank table and say, “Eat.” It looked like they could eat for years and not have enough.
The inside of my car is warm from sitting in the sun when I get back into it. It’s a day of classic coastal clouds, white puffs with gray-blue undersides, in a friendly white sky washed with blue. The squirrels are still scampering around over the hard-crust snow, trying to  nd the goods they’d buried in the fall. “Now, where did I put those beechnuts?” But squirrels can’t remember. They  nd their stash
again by smelling.
When I leave the trailhead at
the base of Alligator Hill, I drive due north, and  nally into Glen Arbor by the Christian Science Church. I pass the big restaurant on the corner where they
have live music in the summer.
I pass the Totem shop where I worked as a teenager. I pass
the Cotton Seed that used to
be the Dinette. My father and
I would sometimes eat at the Dinette. One day the waitress asked me, as my father excused himself to go wash his hands, “How much does your father weigh?” I had no idea. Many years later I would recall this odd question, especially odd when posed to a tiny child, and realize that for one out-of-her-mind moment the waitress had found my father irresistible. All the stores are closed. Only Art’s Bar is open. It’s been there forever. The only thing new is the solar panels on the roof.
I see Pam Warnes, an old schoolmate. She’s limping.
I ask her how she is. “Four grandchildren,” she says, “they keep me going.” Boys or girls, I ask. “Boys,” she says. She has her mother’s smile, the God’s love smile, good for grandsons, good for anyone. When we grew up
in Glen Arbor the town smelled of smoked  sh. The Sheridans and the Richardsons and the Killenbecks, I think, were still  shing, their nets drying under
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