Big Fish

A few years ago, to my surprise, I verified the apocryphal information that a town in Michigan was named for one of my relatives -- the brother of my great-great grandfather.

[Update]The critical thing I forgot to mention when first posting this was that before I found this article (by writing to the Bay County Historical Society) I had been at a dead end with my family history: I didn't know the name of George Nelson Bentley's father! And here I had not only his father's name but his brothers' as well. So at that point (thanks also to the LDS Family Search) the whole of my ancestry opened up, all the way back to Shakespeare's time. And that's when the genealogy bug really bit me hard.

History of Bay County, MI, by Augustus H. Gansser, 1905

Oscar F. Bentley, who was the second pioneer settler of Gibson township, Bay County, Michigan, resides in the town of Bentley, which was named in his honor. He was born in Monroe County, New York, in 1833, a son of Thomas and Sarah (James) Bentley.

Oscar Bentley. Looks to me like he's wearing his Union Army dress coat.

His father, Thomas Bentley, was born in New York State and lived there many years. In 1847, accompanied by his wife and children, he moved to Michigan and located near Flint, where he purchased a tract of 80 acres, now known [1905] as the Roat farm, the second best farm in Genesee County. Additions were made to this property from time to time and the members of the family became large property holders. Twelve children were born to Thomas Bentley and his wife, Sarah James, and of these our subject is the 11th in order of birth and the sole survivor at the present time. The mother died on the old homestead at the age of 68 years. Thomas Bentley formed a second marital union and with his wife spent his declining years on the [Livonia, MI] farm of his son, [George] Nelson. He died in his 71st year.

Oscar F. Bentley's educational training began in the public schools of New York State, and was completed in the schools situated in vicinity of Flint, Michigan. He remained on the home farm in Flint township, where his father and four brothers had cleared farms of dense forest and placed them in a tillable state, until his marriage in 1854. He then became a pioneer settler in Saginaw County, where he farmed until 1859. In that year he took up government land in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, and there maintained his homestead for 12 years, at the end of which time he moved to Northern Kansas and lived two years.

While a resident Minnesota at the time of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army, but the outbreak of the Sioux Indians kept his regiment in the West. He served three years as a member of the Second Regiment, Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry. At the time of the New Ulm massacre, he with his neighbors moved to a place of safety to live until the depredations ceased.

Refugees flee New Ulm toward Mankato after sustained attacks by Dakota Sioux Indians

Upon leaving Kansas, he returned to Genesee County, Michigan, and in April, 1887, made his last pioneer stand at Bentley, Gibson township, Bay County, where he has since resided. When Mr. Bentley first came here, he erected a large sawmill, which burned four years later. He rebuilt it at once and two years later the second mill burned. He again rebuilt this mill, which is now owned and operated by his son Frank. He has three farms, consisting of 320 acres, and is one of the substantial men of his section.

Michigan Sawmill "shantyboys"

On February 8, 1854, Mr. Bentley was married to Matilda Anderson, and they have spent 51 years in happy companionship, together braving the struggles of pioneering in different sections of the United States. [After her death he married again.]

Oscar F. Bentley has always been an unswerving supporter of Republican principles, and takes an earnest interest in his party's success. He is a man of pleasing personality, and stands high in regard to his fellow-citizens, among whom he has lived so many years.

Thanks to:


Michigan Historical Museum



Times of the day from the standpoint of a dryad.

Morning mist, Lake Boren, Washington

Still afternoon, Boca Trabaria, Tuscany

Night wind, Lake Bellevue, Washington


The Deck

This is the deck of a disused trawler at the quayside in Westport, Ireland.

Scientific for the Older Folks

Speaking of tiddlywinks... As I may have mentioned, my father was, on top of everything else, a bit of a packrat. One of his "childish things" he hung onto was this board game, which he had gotten for his tenth Christmas. We played several times when in my turn I was ten and he still thought I could be taught to understand, if not love, football.

The gist of it is that you choose what play you're going to make, and then spin the spinner to see what yardage you achieve. Then you move the little football pin to the appropriate place on the "gridiron" and follow the usual football rules (gaining ten yards to achieve another "first down" etc. -- it's all coming back to me after 40 years) until the other team gets the ball.

If you have all afternoon and a good pair of bifocals, here are the instructions.

I never took to it (or the real thing) to the extent he did. I remember endless weekends oveerhearing as he listened in the other room to the gabbling radio sportscasters wetting themselves over some unbelieveable field goal or whatever. He took me to a college game once. I remember I liked (and understood) the hotdogs.

(For more nostalgia, visit Sepia Saturday.


Sepia Saturday: My Father Reminisces, Pt.4

This week's Sepia Saturday post concludes my dad's recounting of an episode with his Uncle Clyde in Elm, Michigan around 1933. (If you missed it, we started here.)

"When do you want me to work?" I asked with a certain trepidation.

"Well, we'll want to deliver several carloads of handbills first." Uncle Clyde tenderly and thoughtfully rubbed his whiskery cheeks. "After that, we'll probably need you some on Saturdays and Sundays, maybe now and then after school, and during the summer. Just a little work in your spare time so you can save up and buy that bicycle." (He referred to a tenth-hand bicycle I had seen some time ago in a Brightmoor shop; but it had the almost unreachable price of $7.50.) I was to gradually discover that Uncle Clyde's conception of spare time was the time you weren't sleeping or in school.

Uncle Clyde's eyes glanced into the living room where our Airedale (half collie), Mike, eight, the brother of Pat, lay with dignified reserve before the fireplace and, as usual, on the one forbidden spot, the Oriental Rug.

Uncle Clyde slowly lurched in that direction, his face twisted in what could have been intended either as moderate agony or as a felon's deliberation on the best mode of attack, arms extended like a sagging scarecrow, one leg dragging, his demeanor noiseless, tense, and absurdly threatening. "Well, if it isn't old Uncle Mike," he said, he said in a strange voice, happily.

Mike raised his ears about an inch and observed Uncle Clyde with scholarly penetration; his diagnosis was swift, sophisticated, and sardonic. Not for a moment did he have the illusion that this figure was Lon Chaney or a burglar; he casually arose and strolled toward Uncle Clyde, his stubby wagged tail forming a brown-tufted fanshape in the air.

Uncle Clyde, after he and Mike had had a brief bout, during which Mike kept up an amused, tolerant growl and a rather large wag, put on his coonskin coat and started for the door. "Can you get about five or six of your friends to help with these handbills, Uncle Nelson?" he asked. "Oh yes, I'm quite sure of that, Uncle Clyde. By the way, how did you break your kneecap?"

"Wrestling with that damned cat of ours, Reddy. You remember Reddy? He was just a kitten last time you were over, and now he weighs over 40 pounds. His mother was a skinny little thing you could lose under your hatband. The only thing I can figure is she mated with a bobcat.

(More obese kitties here)

"We wrestled Monday afternoon for over 20 minutes; it made me a complete wreck, but that infernal Reddy came out without a scratch on him." Uncle Clyde picked up his groceries, said goodbye, and hobbled into the storm.

Margaret and I, at the window, watched him disappear among still thickly descending flakes; the coonskin coat, flapping overshoes, and rakishly arranged hat moved more rapidly as they receded until, a block off, beginning to fade from view, and deterred by neither lump nor log, their motion appeared rather friskily debonair.

"Er, would you care to continue tiddling, Lord Abercrombie?" offhandedly inquired Lady Bluntboots.

"Most assuredly, old beast," I replied, nose aloft, "though I may be just a dash encumbered, don't you know, with this fractured wrist."

"Oh yes. Perhaps you should use less pressure on the — er, ah," Lady Bluntboots slid her lower lip out another inch, raised her eyebrows a bit more, and savored this piquant Americanism, "er, oh — the, er, tiddlywink."

The End

The Week Ends in Black (and White)

My entry in this week's blackandwhiteweekend shows the inside of a rather claustrophobic toilet stall in an otherwise very airy, bright, and swank Palm Springs spa. "Living color" would not make much of a difference with this photo: black tiles, black door, and black jacket make for a somber vista.



Black velvet, Anaheim

Variegation, San Diego

Grafitti, Huntington Gardens

Layers, Palm Springs


Sepia Saturday: My Father Reminisces, Pt.3

Continuing my dad's recounting of an episode with his Uncle Clyde in Elm, Michigan around 1933. (If you missed it, we started here.)

Uncle Clyde pulled from a coonskin pocket and unfolded a huge piece of wrapping paper the color of raw hamburger, covered with huge ornate handwriting, which he studied at arm's length like a duke in a Shakespearean play. "I've written a handbill that will knock everybody in four counties galley west; as soon as the snow thaws, we'll get the Pontiac running and start a handbill blizzard." He capered slowly about the linoleum in a long-outmoded tap routine, looking like a kangaroo off-balance. "Next day, they'll head for the Old Dutch Mill by every road, four abreast, like to the Northville Fair."

A tinge of doubt passed through me, but, as I recalled, Uncle Clyde's descriptions usually had a queer, astonishing sort of oblique accuracy, and the Old Dutch Mill surely bore favorable comparison, point for point, with the Northville Fair.

I pondered for a few seconds, with a kind of minor awe, my recollection of the Mill and environs, over which hung an aura of robust eccentricity, a bucolic charm with shades of the Faerie Queen, Brueghel, Mark Twain, and Lucky Strike advertising.

I saw in my mind's eye the then three-storey structure of peeling white trimmed with green, surmounted on the east and west ends by huge, red latticework fans whirled gently by the wind; painted beneath each of them, a Dutch boy and girl ten feet high, frolicked in Uncle Clyde's version of a Dutch dance, their long swishing yellow hair like sheaves of wheat, huge wooden shoes lifted in vigorous rhythm, their round, broadly smiling faces like setting harvest suns, with bulging cheeks, the whole concept apparently stemming from the Hans Brinker tale of grade school, but giving the effect chiefly of gay intoxication.

In front of the Mill, scattered among four old oaks and elms, were numerous eight-foot signs in red, blue and white reading, for example, "OUR EGGS ARE SO FRESH THEY REALLY SHOULDN'T BE SOLD UNTIL TOMORROW," "WE HAVE BEEN LAYING FOR YOU," and "CHICKENS DRESSED AND UNDRESSED," each with a pastoral scene containing crowing Rhode Island Red roosters, blithe "Dutch" characters, and faintly grinning, heavy-uddered Jerseys and Guernseys.

Making a complete half circle around the Mill, the Old Dutch Midget Golf Course, looking rather the worse for wear, wound among 15 cherry trees on large islands of grass looped by deep sandy driveways. Around each green island were borders of whitewashed rocks and small American flags; from a very tall pole on the top of the Mill, between and slightly above the red fans, billowed the main American flag, twelve feet long, and saw-toothed.

On the easternmost fringe of the Gold Course, alongside the third hole, just below the high sand hill where Great-grandfather had built his log cabin in 1843 and where Uncle Clyde's yellow and brown frame house now reposed, stood the Old Dutch Lunch, inoperative since 1931, built around two cherry trees that existed in the center of the floor and stuck through the roof; nine-tenths of this structure was a screened dining floor decorated on the few wooden areas with mildly gastric cartoons, for example, a strenuously jazzing couple labelled "I call my girl Grapefruit; when I squeeze her she hits me in the eye."

Dominating, or setting the tone of, the scene was "The Old Dutchman Himself," painted on a piece of metal cut to his contours, standing 17 feet high and stationed 100 yards east of the Mill, to catch the eye of the traffic from Detroit as it swept over the sand ridge. He had a red shirt barely buttonable along his profiled stomach, which could have held a barrel of beer, barrel and all (not a mere keg), blue pantaloons of equivalent proportions, and wooden shoes resembling Noah's Ark; his chubby face, mushmelon-shaped nose, shrewd yet naive eyes and huge smile of boisterous irony might call to mind the comparatively ascetic W. C. Fields; he had, too, a thick shock of wheat-colored, ear-length hair, curling sharply outward at the edges; one hand rested casually on his ample hip, the other pointed Millward with a compelling rapture.

Stretching to half a mile in back of the Mill and beyond the edges of the black-raspberry-filled woods were the fields where my father had plowed as a boy in the 1880s and '90s, with the fine old team of Ike and Dandy, before going to Ann Arbor and then to his teaching days in Colorado. In the '20s, Uncle Clyde had staged in these fields, for publicity, occasional mildly grotesque motorcycle races and aeroplane rides, and constructed a large, roofless dance floor, used in 1932 as firewood. Down the center of the farm ran the narrow but quite high sand ridge where I had found many finely fashioned arrowheads; and where it jogged, near the Mill and house, stood six variously sized barns including the quaint one erected long ago without nails. Over this ancient and various homestead now brooded, in the depression's diminuendo, the air of a slightly dissonant and flamboyant polka.

"Just glance this over, Uncle Nelson; see if you have any suggestions," said Uncle Clyde, handing me the wrapping paper and throwing his coat on top of the refrigerator, "I don't see how a raccoon wears this sort of thing the year around."

I read the flourish-laden script while Uncle Clyde, sitting on top of the three-step ladder, held his heart (actually the left collarbone) and sung with a voice and expression resembling a yawning Airedale (an imitation, apparently, of his dog Pat), "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," wincing now and then and saying "Oh dear; oh baby, baby."

Visualizing type of assorted sizes like an 1880 "Wanted for Robbery" poster or an Elizabethan title page, I read:

for our tongue-tempting nu-laid nutritious nuggets
just off the nests of fat, handsome Rhode Island Red
and White Leghorn hens.

"So fresh they shouldn't really be sold until tomorrow."
2-lb roll 47 cents

Barred Rock roasters pretty as a picture

Rich, ambrosial grass-sweet Guernsey milk
20 cents a GALLON

Bring everybody you know to the happy sign of the
On Five Mile Road near Middle Belt
Open 8 A.M. to 11 P.M. including Sundays and holidays


and dozens of other delicious things

"It should outdraw the Fair, all right," I said, handing the wrapping paper to Lady Bluntboots of Houndsditch while we exchanged delicately ironic gazes.

"If they don't come after getting an eyeful of that, they won't have a leg left to stand on," said Uncle Clyde, "will they, Aunt Margaret?" Lady Bluntboots was inarticulate for a moment, and then hastily said, "Certainly not."

"When do you want me to work?" I asked with a certain trepidation.


Some of the photos are borrowed from:






Not a drop to drink

Less stormy water shots from California.

Koi, Mission at San Juan Capistrano

Huntington Gardens, Pasadena

Seals, La Jolla Cove

Egret, Dana Point

Wife, Seven Springs Inn, Palm Springs


Reflecting on Reflections

More explorations of looking at the world from a perspective even more alien than usual.

Crack-of-dawn shopfronts in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego.


Another World

A few shots captured on my recent trip to the Vacation Planet.

Inspired by photos like the following, taken with a high degree of "alienation."

Does the last one remind you a bit of this?