A Thousand Things

The first Johnny-Jump Up of the season.
You never know when or where a Johnny-Jump Up is going to show its smiling face. Those nomadic violas don’t care where they hang their hat, as my grandmother-in-law would say. Bessy was her name, feisty, yet gentle. She loved to cook, bake, and laugh with her family and guests.
Gram, her grandkids called her, introduced me to begonias. A newlywed who’d never traveled north of Central Michigan University, I’d never seen or visited the place she and Gramps owned and operated. Presque Isle Lodge.
Now, the Lodge was a “one of a kind” destination, as modern marketing would tag it. During my husband’s childhood, it was the safe, rustic place where he and his cousins spent carefree summers doing what most Michiganders do for recreation. Swim, boat, and race old beat up cars until they fall apart.
I knew none of this history when Mel pulled our 1965 Mustang off the road and parked before the Lodge. But I guessed a place with window boxes bearing pink flowers had to be friendly.
And it was, with the exception of gigantic northern wood spiders. They rivaled what hung out in pump houses in Kentucky when I was a kid. That Memorial Day weekend at the Lodge, I learned many things about the north, one being the attraction of the local dump. We might see a bear.
Although we didn’t, I related to their community folklore. We had dumps along the mountainsides where I came from in Peter Creek. And I never saw a bear.
To quote George Stimpson from A Book about a Thousand Things, “Satisfying my curiosity about almost anything and everything has made my life a continual voyage of discovery, filled with surprising adventures.”  
A Thousand Things, for instance, was a $1 find on the vintage bookshelf at the Addison Township Library. The 552 pages contain 1,000 questions and answers, a catechism of information and instruction. A thorough index follows.
Since I’m a bird lover, George’s first question caused a chuckle. “Do any birds ever sing while on the ground?”
Answer: “Virtually all songbirds utter their characteristic song only while on the wing or while perched on a more or less elevated object, such as the limb of a tree, a bush or a fence post.” Shore birds and “certain species of American field sparrows”, are a few exceptions.
With all the songbirds entertaining me daily, why didn’t I notice the robin and cardinal didn’t sing when landed? After my walk the following morning, robins bobbed on the lawn without a sound, as if to say, “Yep, George is right.”
Then, lo and behold, if the first Johnny-Jump Ups didn’t appear in the gravel of our backyard patio—their yellow and purple faces plain as day in the morning sun.
Dear Reader, those little hoboes don’t mind where they hang their hat—one of a thousand curious things filled with family legend and surprising adventures in my own backyard.