Friday, June 15, 2018

Post # 22

Quote for the day: "Those gulls that strolled the beach at Tawas Bay would eat anything. Anything. Anytime. Apples, hot dogs, smoked herring, Michigan dill pickles, Jewish dill pickles, garlic dill pickles, Name it, they'd eat it. They'd eat it even if it didn't have a name." Hazel Girard, Blow for Battens Corner, 1979.


American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Michigan
By Allen T. Chartier

Casual and intermediate Michigan birdwatcher’s will find this American Birding Association Field Guide a must-have book. It will not only help make Michigan bird identification easier but is filled with a treasure trove of information that will make the reader more knowledgeable and a better-informed birdwatcher.

The three hundred species detailed in the book include all the birds that visit or nest in the state annually plus a few rarities that are seen with some regularity over the years. The fewer birds to sort through than the hundreds listed in a field guide to the eastern United States makes it measurably easier to pick a bird out of a smaller lineup. And because the book is aimed at the beginning and intermediate birdwatcher the birds are not always arranged under the usual taxonomy which sorts them via evolution and relationship, but rather by similar looking

The book’s introduction will be of special interest to inexperienced birders. Sections discuss bird habitat in the state, tips on how to identify species, several pages of illustrations detailing bird anatomy, and an introduction to field marks and how to look for them. I especially liked an essay on birding throughout the year that highlights what to look for each month. A list of the state’s best birdwatching sites and a map on the front endpapers showing the general locations of state game areas, state parks, state wildlife areas, and National Wildlife Refuges will tempt the beginning birder to go in search of birds other than those seen in the backyard.

Each individual bird listing gives its size in inches and both common and Latin name. The listing usually features more than one photograph of the bird, discusses its general shape and size as compared to similar birds, habitat, behavior, and field marks. The narrative often highlights an unusual or interesting idiosyncrasy of the species' life history or character. At the back of the book, the reader will find an index and a complete checklist of every bird ever seen in Michigan, including the extinct Passenger Pigeon.

The best field guide to date on Michigan birds with a wealth of valuable information on how to improve your birding skills.
American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Michigan by Allen T. Chartier. Scott & Nix, 2018, $24.95

The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History
by Phil Porter

One's second or even the third visit to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island can be as interesting and fascinating as the first because of the island fort's outstanding scenic beauty, historical significance, and the overwhelming palpable sense that you are walking in the footsteps of history. I don't remember how many times I've walked up the steep incline to the fort's entrance and stepped back in time but if I ever go there again I want to take this book with me because it puts faces on the fort's history. 

From 1780 to 1895 over 4,500 British and American soldiers were stationed at the fort. It was built by the British to control the fur trade and the Native American tribes that were both military allies and important contributors to the area's economy. Early in its history Fort Mackinac was the most important post in the upper Great Lakes. 

The book devotes a page each to approximately 150 enlisted men and officers who served at or commanded the fort during its military existence. There is a portrait, sketch, or photograph of each soldier followed by a paragraph that covers his military career and the years when he was stationed on Mackinac Island. In a few instances, a photograph or painting of the soldier's family or home is also included in this abundantly illustrated book. A twenty-plus page introductory essay gives a concise but thorough history of the fort.

In addition to England and America, soldiers came to the fort from Prussia, Chile, Ireland, and Scotland. They were a diverse and interesting lot. Lt. Governor Patrick Sinclair was appointed Superintendent of Fort Michilimackinac in 1775 but didn't reach the fort until 1779. He immediately realized the old French-built fort on the mainland was vulnerable to attack by colonial rebels and began construction of Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island. He spent so lavishly on its construction he was recalled to Quebec to explain his expenditures. Sinclair is the only subject in the book without a likeness other than a silhouette. Major Henry Burbeck was the first U.S. commander of the fort. When he arrived in 1796 he wrote, "I find this place abounds with health, rocks, and fish, that's the most I can say for it."

Among other officers that caught my attention was the uncle of the famous painter James Whistler, Lt. Smith whose brutal punishment of enlisted men, that went well beyond the military code and was inflicted without trials, sparked the famous "Christmas Day Mutiny" of 1829.  Several officers who served tours on the island resigned their commisions to join the Confederate army during the Civil War, including Lt. Pemberton who rose to the rank of General in the Confederacy and punctuated the end of his military career by surrendering Vicksburg to General Grant in 1863.  Then there's Ordinance Sgt. David Marshall the oldest and longest serving soldier at Fort Mackinac. He spent 61 years in the army of which nearly thirty were at Fort Mackinac where he died in 1884 at the age of 84.

The author is the Director of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. His agency working with the Michigan State University Press have together produced a beautiful and historically important book. 

The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History by Phil Porter. Mackinac State Historic Parks and Michigan State University Press, 2018, $39.95

Tuebor:  I Will Defend: Anatomy of a Michigan State Police Trooper
by Robert Muladore

The author, a twenty-five-year veteran of the Michigan State Police explains why he wrote the book in the preface’s first paragraph. He wanted to give those considering becoming an officer a feel for what the job is about. Secondly, to pass along what he learned about law enforcement to new officers, and extend a “helping hand to experienced officers who may need a gentle reminder to help move them along on the path of a truly professional, caring, and effective police officer.”  Finally, to provide the public some insight into the daily rigors faced by police, to entertain, and pass along hard-earned life lessons. The author set high goals for himself and he clears the bar on every single objective.

Muladore divided his book into 40-plus short chapters. Each chapter recounts a traffic stop, an emergency call, an arrest, telling a family of a loved one's death, and routine duties that suddenly became potentially dangerous and deadly. The stories span the author’s career and he picked them because he considers they were learning experiences that made him a better trooper. They are also great examples of the narrow margin between life and death within which police do their daily job.

The stories in the book are riveting and cover the entire spectrum of emotional involvement. When Muladore had to inform parents their child died in a car accident the father performs an extraordinary act of kindness for Muladore. Realizing how hard it is to be a bearer of such news he relieves Muladore of his burden and in a way comforts him. Then there is the routine traffic stop in which the rich Grosse Pointe couple are both obviously drunk. When Mulaodore relaxes and lowers his guard the husband throws him to the ground and tries to take his gun.

Muladore is a very good storyteller and it is clear that he is the consummate police officer. What shines through almost every story is the author’s admonition to would-be police or rookie cops to never let your guard down, always be alert, and let your sixth sense guide you when something doesn’t ring true or seem right. It is a job of constant stress but the author repeatedly asserts a good cop never lets that get in the way of being respectful, compassionate, or apathetic toward the public.

It is also obvious that any officer who servers even a few years will develop PTSD. Muladore admits the faces of the dead are always with him and he has regular nightmares related to the job. He has been threatened with death by numerous men he arrested and even after retirement he is constantly on the lookout for familiar faces who might try to harm him or his family. Of note, in an afterward Muladore laments and condemns both the use of force that results in police shooting unarmed citizens and the cold-blooded murder of policemen.

This is an honest and revealing portrait of the professional life of one of Michigan’s finest.
Tuebor: I Will Defend: An Anatomy of a Michigan State Police Trooper by Robert Muladore. Principia Media, 2016, $16.99


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February 1, 2020 Post #51

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