Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Saturday Snapshot: Marquette, Michigan

Photo by Tom Peters

     Today's Saturday Snapshot is from our old friend, Tom Peters, who took this at sunset on Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan, about 100 miles east of my regular UP spot, Ontonagon. The home of Northern Michigan University, Marquette is an area rich in iron, and one iron ore mine still operates, the Tilden Mine, in a nearby town aptly named National Mine.
     The area's mining legacy is also reflected in the name of its daily newspaper, The Mining Journal, a handsome publication whose managing editor is Bud Sargent. I phoned him up and we talked about Marquette.
     "The greater Marquette area is known as a superior location," he said. "We've got the best beaches, the best hunting, the best fishing, the best waterfalls, the best downtown area, the best shopping district."

     I considered asking whether "superior location" was a pun, a wink at the lake—I don't think it was—but thought better of it and didn't. Instead conversation shifted into winter. Sargent did concede that they "get more than our share of snow"—250 inches this past winter. Though that wasn't a record, and some places have it worse: 400 inches or more.     
      We talked about the possibility that the Empire Mine, shuttered two years ago, might reopen. 
     "That would be good news for the area—some several hundred jobs," he said. "Real jobs, not party store jobs."

     Good jobs that pay well, jobs with benefits, I said, to make sure I understood the meaning of "party store jobs."  That's what he meant.
     Not that Marquette is pinning its hopes on mining. The university, started as a teachers' college, the Northern Michigan Normal School, has diversified, and in 2017 announced it would be offering a degree in medicinal plant chemistry.
     "NMU’s program offers an entrepreneurial track with accounting, finance and marketing courses to prepare students for a business related to medicinal plants," the school explained, pointing out that everything they do would comply with all federal and state laws. "The alternative bio-analytical track provides advanced scientific understanding beyond the core courses in chemistry and plant biology. There is also a cohort component designed to strengthen connections among freshmen and facilitate mentoring by advanced students"
     The program, considered the first in the country, has drawn 300 students from 48 staes, who endure jokes about getting a "degree in weed" for a chance to get in on the ground floor. 

     “We’re providing a fast track to get into the industry,” said Brandon Canfield, a chemistry professor who proposed the major after hearing experts talk about the need for analytical chemists at a conference. 
     That's enough for a Saturday. Thanks to Tom for inspiring our visit, and to Bud Sargent for talking to me about an area he loves.
   "We think this is the absolute place to be," he said. "We can't imagine being anyplace else."


  1. How in the world do you find these stories to share?
    The writing is almost always superb, but off the beaten track stories of concrete and a weed university Are what makes reading you A monumental pleasure.

    1. Thank you. It's a highly technical, complicated process, discovering these stories, but since you asked, I'll try to walk you through it, using laymen's terms when possible.

      Tom sent me a photo. I looked at it and thought, "That's pretty. I think I'll post it Saturday."
      He also mentioned where the photo was taken. I searched "Marquette, Michigan" on Google and found its Wikipedia entry. I read that, noting the presence of a college: colleges are interesting. Also iron mining. Mining is interesting. And the whimsical name of the newspaper. I could have continued sniffing around, but it seemed easier to just phone the editor of the newspaper. So I did so, but he was on deadline and asked me to call back. I actually did call back—my central talent—and we had a pleasant conversation during which he mentioned the degree in cannabis chemistry at the university. So I phoned them too, but they didn't return my call. Which didn't matter because I pulled enough from online to say something about it. That's how it works. Glad you liked the result.

    2. The explanation stands in stark contract to Edgar Allen Poe's fanciful description of how he came to write The Raven. Steinberg make it seem like something any of us could do. Lovely to think so.


    3. And on top of an interesting and enjoyable read, I get a class in journalism 101 (or DUH, IT AIN'T THAT DIFFICULT).

    4. I'm glad you took it in the manner it was intended. I was shooting for wry rather than sarcastic. It isn't hard but ... and here's where people fall down on the job ... you still have to do it. I also left out the part about leaving out the uninteresting parts, which might be the heart of the process. People have a tough time with that step.

  2. Neil,
    Thanks for showing us how the sausages are made. Very interesting. The invention of the internet must be right up there with indoor plumbing in regards to making your job easier. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Party store jobs might have been literal. That's what liquor stores are called here in MI, and there are a lot of them.

    Fantastic shot, Tom. Beautiful colors.

  4. My Brother lived and worked in Marquette. Rugged. I overheard a comment in a bar that disinclined me from going into the woods during deer season. A guy with a rifle was asked if he had any hits. He said "No. but I got off a couple of good sound shots."



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