My father, James Funke & I about ready to die in the Trapp Hills.
Originally published in the Battle Creek Enquirer January 22, 2006
The phone rang and it was my father, delivering the heartbreaking news.
“As of 7:00 p.m. Friday, I no longer own the Funke Homestead.”
A shock of pain coursed through my inner soul.
The ink was dry and my father was out and the new tenants moved into a piece of my background that is irreplaceable. A place that means so much to me, I just wish I had the funds to buy it before someone else did.
I would not be who I am today if it was not for the lazy days filled with running amongst the sumac, climbing “Old Charlie”, chasing frogs, and idly watching clouds skirt the sky.
We all have a favorite place, and I consider the 25 acres of fields, forests, and vernal ponds (along with a two acre garden) where was raised, in Bangor, to be my favorite place. Even my little six-year-old niece considers “pee paws woods” as her favorite place and I had no influence on her, by my father did, as he did on me.
My first memorable nature experience was exploring an open field full of small vine-like plants. At the end of the day, I was soaking in the bathtub, having discovered poison ivy the hard way. Days and days of calamine lotion, insane itching, and soaks in the tub led to a killer immunity to this reprehensible plant. Today, I can pull it by hand and I won’t get infected.
At the beginning of my 450 mile hike across the UP. July, 1998.
As an adult, I no longer can take the energetic walks reminiscing about my childhood. Every year, I looked forward to the maple leaves emerging from their winter slumber. I loved to walk amongst the spring beauty’s, listening to migrating warblers drift their melodious songs on my tender ears, and enjoy the smells of the beech maple forest that kept my heart and home warm.
I do not miss, though, the countless days bent over picking asparagus, snapping gargantuan bags full of green beans, or cleaning up chicken poop. That time was better spent, in my opinion, losing myself in the fields trying not to get poison ivy.
I gained my appreciation for the heavens above, sneaking out at three am on a cold, winter’s morning where I would lay on top of a dilapidated horse shack, counting the stars.
When I think about it, I only lived on the farm for nine years. I’ve spent nearly as long living in Kalamazoo and longer in Battle Creek, in urban environments no less! My fortune changed a couple years back, and now I am bonding with wild areas in nearby Barry County. I’ve traded my childhood experiences in Bangor for adult ones on the edge of the Barry State Game Area.
In a day and age where the Internet, air conditioning, cable TV and video games compete for a child’s time, I am so glad that I grew up in a simpler time. Albeit it was less than thirty years ago, surfing the web wasn’t even a concept, air conditioning meant opening a window, video games were for the rich kids, and our TV only had three channels. To play inside was so boring!
I regret not saying goodbye to my childhood stomping grounds. I pray and hope that the new owners, whomever they are, encourage their children to play unsupervised outside for countless hours and days on end. For those experiences are what made me what I am today. We need more children less connected with technology and more connected to nature.
As my father would say, “Go outside, you have twenty-five acres to play on!”
Note: I lived at the Otis Farm Bird Sanctuary from 2002-2017. We have moved into the City of Hastings, and have the largest yard in the neighborhood.