My poetry, family, and past.
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December 23, 2015
By Michael Erlewine (

I have been living in Big Rapids, Michigan since 1980. I moved here to be close to my parents, but mostly to have a safe place to raise my kids in a small town, where they could walk downtown and go to the movies without much danger of being kidnapped, molested, or whatever. Margaret and I wanted them to have the same kind of almost rural experience that we had.

Where we live now, we have a wonderful creek and miles of trails just one block away. And about two blocks from where we live are wide fields, meadows, and more trails, with places like Sand Hill and Clay Cliff to climb or just sit high on the edge of and gaze at the trees below or watch the sun set.

And kids were always sitting around fires at the top of Clay Cliff late at night. You could see the campfire flickering in the distance. Margaret and I (and probably the kids) know every inch of those trails. But all of the above intro is just to set the scene. I want to tell you about an event that happens to me every so often here in Big Rapids, my own kind of groundhog’s day. And it cracks me up.

The Pioneer is the town newspaper and it always wins an award each year. Some publisher once explained to me that perhaps every newspaper in the country is an award-winning newspaper, except maybe one. There are a hierarchy of awards, so that every paper wins an award.

Well, as my story goes, it seems that every few years the junior reporters for the Pioneer either move up the ladder or go on to other things. So, they hire new ones. But, when they are fresh and trying to make an impression, they scour the town for any newsworthy story they can dig up.

And sure as shootin’, sooner or later these young reporters come across (or hear about) me and are intrigued by all of the various things I have done in my life. And so they want to interview me and run a story on my life or whatever. This has happened almost like clockwork for decades.

But the funniest and also weirdest newspaper story of them all happened back in 2008, when this very bright (and nice) young reporter rang me up and asked for an interview. Of course I said, sure. I like publicity and all of that. These stories are usually run somewhere in the back pages, a column or two, along with usually a terrible photo of me. These reporters can sometimes write, but they know little to nothing about photography.

Anyway, I had the interview, did my best to hold still while my photo was taken standing by a tree in my yard, and promptly forgot about the whole thing. However, a short time later the daily newspaper shows up with me as the cover story, which you can see here in this photos.

And the hoot of it all was the headline “Ramblin, gamblin’ man.” I never gamble and I hate to leave the house even to go to the grocery store, so I neither ramble or gamble. Where that came from goes all the way back to the 1960s, I believe, I played harmonica on one of the early Seeger tunes, which became a major hit (#2 on the pop charts) called “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” and he brought it out on an album of the same name. I believe this was in 1969.

So, that’s where the newspaper headline came from. The quirky part is that in this small Republican town, who in the world would remember from the Sixties that particular Bob Seeger song, much less know that I played harmonica on the tune. They even spelled my name wrong on the album. So, after that headline and newspaper, I can only assume that everyone in this small town who ever saw me (or wondered about me) must have thought that I rambled, I gambled, and who knows what else.

Talk about laughing out loud; that newspaper and that headline have to be the funniest promotion I ever got. I just came across a faded copy of the newspaper today while rummaging around, so took a shot of the front page and the rest of the story and share it here.
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