May 20, 2020
Are there certain words for you that you don’t think of often but when you hear them, your mind time travels to a moment and you can almost believe you are still there? Tittabawassee is one of those words for me. It’s a river that is under severe stress right now as dams are breaking and being breached in Midland, Gladwin and other cities in Mid-Michigan.
It is heartbreaking to hear how many people are evacuating and losing their homes to rising water in the middle of this global pandemic. It is almost inconceivable to imagine their pain and distress. I am hoping and praying for their swift and complete recovery.
When I heard the first reports and the word, “Tittabawasee,” sadness and a flood of memories rushed through my body in a jumble of thoughts. I could almost smell the river at the end of the dock, feel the sand under my feet, hear my Uncle Art’s bellowing voice and taste the best blueberries you’ve ever had.
The Tittabawasee River and the small cottage belonging to my grandmother’s brother and his wife, Aunt Marie, was home to me and my sisters for a week every year during our childhood. My parents would pack us up to spend a week with my grandparents in Gladwin visiting Uncle Art. On that river, I learned to bait a hook and fish, row a boat, maneuver a canoe and waterski. We spent hours lying on the dock, meandering along the river in one boat or another and having the best time. We had campfires, learned how to tend to a garden, picked berries and gained priceless memories with our extended family.
My dear uncle and his wife and my grandparents are all gone now, but all it takes is the name of the river that made us giggle to bring them back. The memories are so vivid I can almost feel their hugs. Sometimes when I eat a potato I recall learning how to dig for them from my uncle in his huge garden across the road. Until then, I had no idea that’s how they grew, and I savored the ones my chubby little hands dug up for my Aunt Marie to cook.
We also ate a fair amount of potato chips while we were there, accompanied by what we called, “Grandma dip,” a special treat whenever we visited her. Speaking of chips, did you know that Michigan is the largest producer of potatoes grown for the potato chip industry, and more than 70% of the state's annual 1.7 billion pounds of potatoes go toward chip production?
Not surprisingly, MSU has played a large role in the industry. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Perfecting the potato chip, to learn more about how that chip you're eating during quarantine might come from MSU roots.
While my uncle was an incredible backyard farmer, agriculture is big business for many people in Michigan. Bryan Hammis is a field manager at Main Farms LLC in Lakeview, Michigan. After trying a couple of other fields like business and aviation, he decided farming was his calling. He graduated from the two-year agricultural operations certificate program through the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology at its community college partner location Montcalm Community College. Read his STUDENT VIEW: My path to agriculture technology, to learn more about the route he took to get there.
We all have different paths to follow and, if we’re lucky, we have great mentors to guide us along the way. Ellie Small is a medical student in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and president of Detroit Street Care. When her teacher, Richard Bryce, assistant professor and physician in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, was honored with the MSU Sustained Effort Toward Excellence in Diversity Award, she wrote about him and his work. Read Small’s STUDENT VIEW: Honoring a teacher and mentor, to learn why she calls him “selfless, humble and altruistic.”
Not to be outdone, when Small was recognized at the National Student DO of the Year, Bryce took the time to write about what makes her so special. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Recognizing Ellie Small, to learn why he says she “portrays love, enthusiasm and selflessness to all, no matter who they are or where they come from.”
It doesn’t surprise me to read about incredible Spartans — I expect it. The world is filled with them doing some pretty amazing things. If you missed celebrating the newest crop of graduating students at the virtual commencement last Saturday, don’t worry. You can view the entire 22-minute ceremony on Facebook or the MSU homepage. Even virtually, you might need a tissue.
I’ve done a fair amount of crying lately. As I think about those affected by the broken dams and overflowing rivers, my heart hurts. But I am encouraged by the acts of human kindness I’ve seen. People are offering lodging, clothing, food, goods, rides and even things like stables for horses and care for pets. It is said that in times of crisis, look for the helpers. I’m certain when people are doing that, they’re finding Spartans. That’s what we do. We rise to meet challenges and look for ways to find solutions. #SpartansWill
photo by Liam Briese via Unsplash