Were You There?

North West Company Proprietor John Sawyer and wife
North West Company Proprietor John Sawyer and wife


How many times do we put it in the hopper to go, then don’t. Well, Planet Drone finally got me to UMD’s Planetarium and an intimate, friendly space it is. This event took us in fascimile, transported with Paul Broman’s and Tim Kaiser’s electronic music, to the seven planets. The musicians needed light for their equipment which interfered with the dark needed to really enjoy the projected skies; perhaps  they could have performed from the back of the room.

Other than drones and space, Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir was a draw for me. First, she’s Icelandic; second, my grandpa and youngest brother are both Einars. Unnur, who came for three weeks to the U.S. to perform, chose to read, although I had hoped she would sing. A droning, Icelandic singer- what heaven!

The highlight of my evening was picking her brain for information on Icelandic politics. Their brand is so radical and so practical and so wise. The parliament has real power, with the President only having veto power. But the ultimate power is with the people, because a presidential veto goes to referendum where the people choose their own destiny.

And the people recently chose to prosecute their bankers instead of bailing them out. Some are in prison, others will be. The people also decided NOT to pay back England, Germany, and Holland money loaned Iceland’s criminal banks. Unnur hopes the rest of ailing Europe will follow suit. But how many other countries have such a plebiscite as Iceland’s? And when will ours?


Weather for the Lester River Rendezvous sortied all day till I finally got the gumption to climb on my periwinkle Peugeot and coast down to the shindig. The band was infectious and the sun shone steady as I looked for the tent of a neighbor who makes artisan furniture.    

Lured from my quest by Dan from Virginia’s array of made-from-scrap birdhouses, potter Beth’s irresistible animal heads, and a booth filled with hand-crocheted children’s hats, it hit me that over the years, I had never really checked out the re-enactments that go on throughout the day.

Have you seen beads being made? At the first display, a man with a propane torch (vintage 1804?) was making glass beads. The red one he was crafting came from a clear glass rod full of a chemical that turned rosy when heated. The bead, held on a metal rod, was rolled to shape, then set upright in the ashes of a small fire to temper.

The turn-of-the-18th century encampment was headed by John Sawyer (pronounced Say-er), the North West Company proprietor for Fond du Lac. Sawyer had various campmates in thrall. Frenchman Pierre was with him, on contract, for three years. Pierre supplied the furs, traded with the Ojibway for goods;
he got clothing, rum, food, trade goods and the right to join the camp in return. Pierre’s native wife was camp cook. I was invited to boiled coffee and a bit of cornbread while the traders ate a hearty stew, cooked in a cauldron dangling over the fire.

Sawyer, a self-described Brit elite, who remained seated in the company canoe over portages, spoke passable French. If a voyageur did not have a handle on Ojibway, French worked as a secondary language, and was necessary when back at company headquarters in Montreal. His metee wife, Obima-onekweh (sp?) was a chief’s daughter. Their marriage supplemented his other marriage to a British woman who lived in Montreal.

Ogichida, an Ojibway trapper, enjoyed his own tent, full of furs to trade for metalware, beads, blankets. He was wearing a British coat decorated with numbers of scalp pieces.

The day was over and people were packing up to leave as I left camp. I could not find my neighbor and his furniture, but happened on Nels and Carol Hursh’s donut stand. They gave me fried cheese curds and many delicious mini-donuts that tided me over on my ride back up the hill. It was a good, chilly first day of fall.