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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nature study in wild flowers

In Deerfield Park, just west of Mt. Pleasant, There is a field of beautiful, colorful wildflowers. I spent time stalking bees and other bugs today.

These butterflies were skittish and playful. They played hard to get for a long while.

Eventually I caught this one, whose wings were tinged pink and looked jeweled.

I don't know what this is. It flew like a moth but jumped off its landing spot like a grasshopper.

Is this a moth? No clue, but there were tons of them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My heron's prettier! Nyeah!

When ace Sun photographer Lisa Yanick-Joaitis posted her image of a huge, beautiful heron she took at Island Park, I had to jump in and share this image that I took of a heron farther upstream in the Chippewa River.
My son and I were canoeing. We first spotted the bird upstream of Meridian Park, and he (she?) kept an eye on us all the way to town.
This could be the same bird.
More on the canoe trip here on my personal blog, the Ranzenblog.

Through the rail trail tunnel

When the expressway carrying what was then U.S. 27 was built back more than 40 years ago, trains still ran regularly along the C&O tracks from Midland to Ludington, with the train cars connecting to points west on cross-lake ferries like the City of Midland, Spartan and Badger. The highway bridge over the railroad and Saginaw Road in Clare was built extra high to accommodate the rail cars.
Now, the rails are gone, the right-of-way converted to the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail. A recent Michigan Department of Transportation project to repair the bridges lowered the height of the highway bridges and added a tunnel to carry the rail trail under the U.S. 127 freeway.

The stonework and design evokes the look of railroad tunnels of the 19th century.

Beyond the tunnel headed east toward Loomis, Coleman, Sanford and Midland, a pleasant vista opens up.

The rail trail is perfect for cyclists, walkers, people who use wheelchairs and others. Mostly lined by trees, the linear park provides a quiet, pretty path through the countryside. It's paved from its beginning at the Tridge in downtown Midland all the way to Clare, and the state-owned portion of the linear park extends all the way to Baldwin through Evart and Reed City.

Trailheads are in Midland, Sanford, west of Sanford, Coleman, Loomis and in Clare. It doesn't take any gas to ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Saw this fella in Island Park today hanging out by the river.

Normally when I get pictures of blue herons, it's of them flying away from the camera.

But this guy (or girl, I have no idea) didn't give two rips about me being there. He just casually sauntered down the edge of the river, completely ignoring me.

Punk bird.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The buzz

"It looks like it is the season for swarming," says reader and Chippewa Township resident Steven Lowrance. He passed along these photos after a similar swarm blocked the entrance to the Blue Gator tavern in downtown Mt. Pleasant.

"We had this swarm show up last Tuesday evening," he told us. "They stuck around until sometime in the afternoon on Thursday ... Anyway, we contacted the folks at the Michigan Beekeepers Association, and they were going to send out someone to pick up the swarm but (the bees) were gone before (the beekeeper) could get to us."
Lowrance said that many beekeepers are happy to pick up swarms because the beekeepers get to keep the bees, which are running about $70 for three pounds with a mated queen. That's about what it takes to start a new hive.

"The last pic is with 'Flat Stanley,'" Lowrance said. "My niece sent us Stanley to spend a summer vacation with us. We take pictures of him all over, and she'll get him back this fall for a report at school."

That's a big swarm in a little tree.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The moonlight cruise down the Chippewa

Moonlight on the Chippewa (Click here to watch the video)

Read the story from

Most of the dozen or so people gathered at Buckley's Mountainside Canoe Livery near Mt. Pleasant were experienced canoeists and kayakers.
All of us shared a love for mid-Michigan's hidden gem, the Chippewa River, which rises in the lake country of Mecosta County and runs across the forests and fields of Michigan's midsection.
Almost all of us knew the Chippewa by daylight. Almost none of us knew the Chippewa by night.
We had a guide - and for that, we were grateful.

Summer festival videos!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The swarm

To go along with Ryan Evon's fabulous images, here's a video of the swarm of bees that blocked the entrance to the Blue Gator Friday afternoon.

A glimpse into the future?

If I'm reading this right, this says unleaded gas for $41.69 a gallon.
It ain't so, but it proves that it matters where the decimal points go.
To be fair, the problem was fixed within minutes, and the price dropped a penny the next day.
But still - when I first got my driver license back in the early 1970s, gasoline was about 35 cents a gallon. What will it be when my kids are in their 50s?

Friday, June 20, 2008


A swarm of bees descended on Court Street, between Broadway and Mosher, on Friday. The couple thousand bees alternated between a spot on the sidewalk in front of the Blue Gator and a tree next to the Isabella Bank.

Bee keeper Bob Barnard said the swarm was likely looking for their queen. She must of have left from a hive on the tree then landed on the sidewalk, leaving her scent that they picked up on.

I'm not scared of or allergic to bees, but it hurts to get stung, so I tend to avoid them if possible. But photographing tends to remove any regard for self-preservation that I have, so I walked right into them.
I've never been surrounded by thousands of bees and completely serene at the same was quite an experience.

Sun Photographs by RYAN EVON

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shuffleboard at Summer Festival

Summerfest is on in Mt. Pleasant, and the shuffleboard tournament is in full swing. watch the video.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A link to Dad

Dusty Pennell has a little bit more today than she has had on any other Father's Day.
Pennell, 27, of Weidman has a cherished possession: a photograph of her father, Albert Frank Pennell.
"I know I'll cry, but it will be a better day," she said. "I usually have a rough time on Father's Day."
Pennell was 3 years old when her parents parted ways and was 9 when Albert Pennell died.
Having last seen her father when she was a toddler, Pennell doesn't remember him and never had contact with him after her parents split.
Pennell and her mother, Deborah Lynn Pennell, relocated to Romulus from Pontiac, and then lived for a brief time in Mio. A fire destroyed their home and belongings, which was devastating to her and her brother Christopher Paul Pennell.
They no longer had any photographs of her father.
Pennell grew up knowing nothing about him.
She moved to Weidman in 1997, where she worked at the Zanzibar Beanery before she became blind in one eye and could not work. She and other family members tried in vain to find her father's relatives.
After fruitless searches, Pennell decided to look in a local phone book, and found a listing for Janet Pennell in Harrison.
That effort paid off – Janet Pennell was indeed related to Albert Pennell.
"The next thing I know, I got a phone call from my dad's sister," Pennell said. "We kept in touch for three years.
"I went to the family reunion in Mt. Morris."
Pennell met other paternal relatives at the family gathering, and a paternal aunt, Rita Pennell, agreed to give her niece an envelope containing photographs of her father.
Pennell never got that package; her aunt died in September 2007 before sending it to her.
Pennell's luck changed during a maternal family gathering at her mother's home in Weidman in mid-May.
Pennell's aunt and cousin had taken boxed photographs from her maternal grandmother's Mt. Pleasant home, intending to clean and sort them.
Sandy Reaume, Pennell's aunt, and her daughter, Mary Reaume, took the photographs out of their frames and attached them to scrapbook paper, hoping to spruce them up before displaying them at grandmother Evelyn Teeples' home.
When they took one photo out of its frame, they found another one behind it: a posed picture of Albert, Deborah and Christopher Pennell.
The sight of the photograph brought tears to Teeples' eyes, prompting her to give the photograph to Pennell.
Tammy Folwell, one of Pennell's maternal aunts, said the photograph stunned the family.
"It was a big shock to everyone in the family," Folwell said.
After getting the photograph, Pennell shared the story with Stephen Ashley, who owns the Zanzibar Beanery and is her best friend.
In addition to having the photograph of her father on Father's Day, Pennell is marking the 18th anniversary of his death June 24 and hopes to visit his grave at Lakeview Cemetery in Pontiac.
"I've never been to the graveyard," she said. "I didn't know where he was buried."
Since obtaining the picture, Pennell marvels at how much she resembles her father.
"I didn't know how much I looked like him," she said. "There are still a lot of questions."
In July, Pennell is planning on meeting her paternal uncle, Doug Pennell, who plans to bring the photographs of her father that her aunt Rita had planned on turning over.

Photo by Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis

Reporting by Susan Field

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Women get their turn

Well, I guess there are a few women after all who have complaints about men.
As promised a few weeks ago I am giving the fairer sex a chance to respond to what some claim is my slanted point of view on the genders.
Personally, I think most of them really had to dig down deep to find anything at all negative to say about “their man” or even “males in general.”
So what really does bug women the most about men?
The biggest complaint seems to be that they just don’t listen when someone of the female persuasion is talking.
Maybe that’s because women always seem to insist on having a “meaningful conversation” at the most inopportune times.
It never fails. Just when you sit down to relax after a hard day at work and begin reading the newspaper or watching the Big Game (remember any sporting event on TV is a Big Game), it starts.
Face it, unless it’s something like, “The oven is broken so dinner will be a little late,” or “You got a notice in the mail saying your Sports Illustrated subscription will run out in February (just before the Swimsuit edition comes out),” it’s just not important enough to interrupt our “chill-out time.”
We don’t want to hear about trivial stuff, talk about “our day” or think about putting money away for little Mary’s college education. Heck, she’s only 17, after all.
Those women who claim they “know all about men” should certainly understand that and show some compassion rather than complain about being ignored.
Communication, or lack thereof, was by far the biggest gripe females had about men. But there were a few others such as:
They’re too proud to ask for directions.
• Men never relay telephone messages.
• They don’t mind spending money on “toys” like snowmobiles, boats or another hunting rifle, but they never have any cash when it’s time to replace the washer, dryer or microwave.
• Males are “hogs.” They don’t pick up their soiled clothes, take care of their dirty dishes and they “can’t hit the toilet.”
• Men can never admit when they are wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault.
• They don’t want romance, just sex.
• Men whine when they catch a little cold but women are expected to “get off our death bed” to make them supper, clean the house or wash their clothes.
• After they are married, males would rather drink beer, go hunting or watch a football game with their buddies instead of spending “quality time” with their wife.
There were a few others but as you can see for yourself these are pretty petty beefs, the types of things men usually just put up with as part of a “normal relationship.”
Because I promised to devote this space to women’s complaints I won’t try to refute each and every one even though it would be easy to do. In fact I will even publish this list I received of the “10 Things Men Will Never Say.”
• Let’s watch Lifetime.
• Sex is overrated.
• I don’t want to go too far on the first date.
• Yes, I did notice your sister was prettier than you.
• There is nothing I like better than crawling into bed with a good book.
• My hips are too big.
• Aw, can’t we watch Oprah?
• Does this suit make me look fat?
• Let’s go to the ballet instead of the hockey game.
• I can’t tonight. I have a headache.
See, real men can take a joke. Like this one about Adam talking to God.
“God, why did you make Eve so beautiful,” Adam asked.
“So you would love her,” God said.
“But why did you make her so dumb? Adam wanted to know.
“So she will love you,” God explained.
I’ll even let the ladies have the last word with this one regarding “role reversal.”
“Should we try a new position tonight honey,” the husband asked.
“Sure,” the wife said. “You stand by the oven and I’ll sit in the recliner, drink beer, watch TV and belch.”
There you have it. Now I expect all those women out there to be singing my praises and telling their friends what a fair and wonderful guy I really am.
Yeah, right!
Greg Nelson is a Morning Sun staff writer. He can be reached at or by calling 989-463-6071, ext. 15.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pig Out at the Pixie

The main event during "Coneys for a Cause" pitted eight stomachs against each other in a coney eating contest in the parking lot of the Pixie.

Sun Photograph by RYAN EVON

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mt. Pleasant Baseball

The Mt. Pleasant Oilers defeated the Escanaba Eskimos at Theunissen Stadium on Tuesday.

These photos and others will be for sale: Here.

**Currently my favorite sports shot I've ever taken. Thanks for being B.A. Donny!

Sun Photographs by RYAN EVON

Saturday, June 07, 2008

St. Louis Fishing Derby

Images from the St. Louis Fishing Derby on Saturday. 10 photos of all the fishy fun at Leppien Park.

Sun Photographs by RYAN EVON