Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter…

When James Whitcomb Riley was a little boy, an orphan girl, age 12, came to live with his family. She was basically a maid, but it gave her a place to live. Little James and his brothers and sisters loved her, especially since she told them ghost and goblin stories, about “things that go bump in the night.” Her name was Allie. Later Riley wrote a famous poem about her: “Little orphan Allie’s come to our house to stay…” But when the newspaper printed it, the type setter grabbed the “n” instead of “l”. She became Little Orphan Annie. So she has remained.

Gil Hodge grew up in Petersburg, IN, 13 miles up IN Hwy 57 from my home town of Oakland City. He attended Oakland City College for a while, but his baseball skills were too great to be ignored. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The secretary who typed up the contract let a little finger drag, and his name on the contract got an s. Gil could crush a baseball, but he was far too gentlemanly to point out a mistake to a woman. He is not in The Hall of Fame despite a career worthy of the Hall. Perhaps the HOF is too cheap to pay for the extra s on his plaque. If he ever gets to the Hall, it will be as Hodges, not Hodge. [1]

My dental hygienist is proud of her Norwegian heritage. Her maiden name was Scott. “Norwegian?” I said. “Yes. My ancestors had to leave Scotland. They escaped to Norway. There people just called them ‘the Scots.’ They were probably the MacSomethings, but our Norwegian name ever since has just been Scott.”

As the winter Olympics approach, it is good to remember Bonnie Blair. One Saturday when she was about ten, she accompanied her father on some errands. He introduced her at one place. “This is my daughter, Bonnie. She’s a skater, and some day she’ll win an Olympic medal.” She thought, “Oh, so that’s what I’m supposed to do.” So she did. Six of them, five gold.

We get a lot of our identity from the mistakes and throw-away lines of others.

I wonder about Allie. When she was grown up, when she said to the other women as they worked in the church kitchen, “You know, Mr. Riley, the famous poet, wrote about me,” did they roll their eyes and say, “Oh, yeah,” and then think to themselves, “He never wrote a word about anybody named Allie.”


1] One boy from the area did make it to the Hall, Oakland City’s Edd Roush, the Reds’ center fielder, who played from 1913 to 1931. I wrote his biography for Scribners’ American Lives. His twin brother, Fred, was one of my coaches when I was a kid playing church league ball, which was our version of Little League.

I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] Having met and married while at IU in Bloomington, IN, we became Bloomarangs in May of 2015, moving back to where we started, closing the circle. We no longer live in the land of winter, but I am in the winter of my years, and so I am still trying to understand Christ in winter.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up with that James Whitcomb Riley poem, and in my Granny's book of his poems it read "Little Orphant (sic) Annie." Granny would recite that poem to us often at bedtime, "The Goblins will get you if you don't watch out!"