Wednesday, November 21, 2007


When I was in the third grade in Detroit Michigan, a lady came to give the class a book she had written called 'Legends of Green Sky Hill". Her name was Louisa Walker and she signed my book and read aloud to the class from it.
It was all about the Chippewa Indians and their Great Spirit named Manibozo. I was thrilled by the stories in the Chippewa tradition that explained why Turtle has his shell, and where the four winds come from and the Maiden that died to give us the first Strawberries.
I loved that book and still have it
There were also stories of the big lake called Gitchee-Gumee. Lake Superior is known for violent storms that can come up without warning especially as winter approaches. The Chippewa tradition has it that to be lost in the November winds on this lake means to be taken both Spiritually and Physically to the next world.

The Edmund Fitzgerald went down sometime during the night of November 10th, 1975 and all 29 on board were lost.
Gitchee-Gumee got 'em.
This tragedy pales in comparison to November 13, 1913 on Lake Superior when 12 ships and 250 crew members were lost. True to the Chippewa legend, no bodies were ever recovered.
Gitchee-Gumee 279
Sailors 0

The 5 Great Lakes are huge, like inland Seas; Superior is the worlds largest Freshwater lake. I have been on all 5. The Freighters are huge as well. The Edmund Fitzgerald was two and a half football fields long and could carry 26,000 tons of ore. I think that comes to 52 Million pounds, and the ship herself weighed half of that empty.
On any afternoon while the lakes are not frozen over I could go to the end of my block and watch a steady procession of these boats go least one every hour.
When President Kennedy was assasinated in Dallas in 1963 it resonated with me in particular because I was from Dallas.
When '"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" hit the airwaves in 1976 it resonated with me because of my familiarity with the Chippewa, the Great Lakes and even the Maritime Sailors Cathedral (Mariners Church of Detroit) because I had lived there.
They strill ring the bells for the 29 every year in Detroit, as well as candles being lit on Belle Isle in the Detroit River.
The ships Bell was salvaged and it is rung every year at a lighthouse on Whitefish Bay in Wisconsin.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'.
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
.At Seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!


Barbara said...

You can only imagine how many times I've heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in our house. There's something big and powerful about those Great Lakes.

Happy Thanksgiving, Steve!

Kilroy_60 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mother of Invention said...

That song never loses its spirit(s).

GrizzBabe said...

I'm amazed at the amount of historical information you can absorb and then spit out into an intersting story.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

CresceNet said...
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