WALKING IN the FOOTSTEPS OF THE PAST: Life in Benzie County by Freshman Bruce Catton Award Winners

By Shianne Knoch (left), Second Place winner in the 2015 Bruce Catton Awards

There was nothing on my mind that summer morning except going to the beach. It is a few days after the fourth of July, and the town is almost tourist free. I walk down my short road known as Corning Avenue and hear the normal sounds of my neighbors’ dogs speaking back and forth to each other. I get closer to the end of the road and see some of the younger boys at my school playing basketball at Market Square Park. They yell my name and wave a hello before continuing their game. I take a left and head down M22 and walk under the big, oak trees, while being passed by people on bikes and children with ice cream running down their faces and hands, trying so hard to get the last bits of the mouth-watering ice cream. I get to the end of M22 and turn down Main Street. I walk down the uneven sidewalk and pass by Mineral Springs Park; I hear the normal sound of children yelling and screaming with joy. I leave the park behind and continue down Main Street in the little town of Frankfort. I’m greeted by many of my friends and adults. Living in a small town, you learn to know everyone and they learn to know you. I smile at every one I pass while walking and just enjoy the many sights and sounds, and even the smells that Frankfort, Michigan has to offer. I finally make it past the people and the stores overflowing with people, and as I get closer and closer to my goal, I walk that twisty sidewalk that will take me to the pier. But, I have no intention of walking down the pier.

I turn right and land in the soft, white sand. I sit and dig my feet deeper and deeper into the sand, feeling the little rocks and shells tickle my toes. I lift my head up to the sun and let its warmth consume me. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing there, but I awaken to the sound of Davy, a local man who lives in Frankfort. I hear him singing to himself while he picks up the cans and bottles that were left behind form the fourth. I smile to myself, knowing how happy he is. I turn away from Davy and look at the still water. It’s just sitting there waiting for someone to come and play. But I refuse its offer to come and play; and I head down to the water.

Shianne Knoch: 2nd Place, Genevieve Pomerleau:1st Place, Sam Buzzell: 3rd Place
Shianne Knoch: 2nd Place, Genevieve Pomerleau:1st Place, Sam Buzzell: 3rd Place

Once you get past the first turn, and you can no longer see the pier, the beach becomes a magical place. It’s so open and untouched. It’s so alive and beautiful that you can’t look at one thing for too long, or you might miss something else beautiful. I pull up my pants so that I can walk with my bare feet in the water. As I get further down the beach, I see an opening between two trees, and in the middle, I see – a chair.  I walk faster and head for the strange chair. When I approach the chair, I notice writing on every inch of the chair. There are names, dates, initials in hearts. On top of the chair, there is a date that reads 2003. Here I am in 2014, looking at a date from 2003. This chair is falling apart; it almost looks like it is weeping. One of the legs is almost torn off, and the paint is chipping. I run my fingers over the different names. As I move my hand down the chair, a piece of the arm falls off, no bigger than my fingernail. I pick up the tiny piece of wood and place it in my pocket. The wind starts to blow and I hear the whines and the creaks of the chair as the wind blows through it. I sit there for some time reading all the names. After my legs grow numb from being still for so long, I stand up and spot a marker. I put my name and the date on the chair that day. I think to myself of how crazy it is to be writing on this chair. Someone could have written on this chair this same day in a different year. I was walking in their footsteps. I leave the chair behind with my mark on it.

I went back, looking for the chair, the next year, but the chair was nowhere to be found. Instead in that same clearing, there was a small sand hill with rocks piled up on it. There were names on the rocks, and in a tree branch hanging down was a bag with a notebook and markers. Inside the notebook, were writings from people.   There were dates and names just like there had been on the chair. But some people also wrote their thoughts down, leaving them for someone to find.  As a tradition, I wrote my name in the notebook and signed a rock and put it with the other rocks. I noticed some names of my classmates and some local people, as well. I stepped away from the grave of the former weeping chair. I felt something poke me, and I cringed at the pain and felt tears cloud my eyes. I put my hand in my pocket and felt for the item that is bringing me pain. I pull out the piece of wood-chip. I had forgotten I had brought it with me. I look at the chip and realize what I must do. I picked up and moved some of the rocks and started to dig a hole. After the hole is deep enough, I put the last remaining piece of the chair in the hole, and I cover it with sand. I put the rocks back in their original places, and step back.

I turned around and left; looking back once as a farewell and a promise to be back next year. I’ll never forget that weeping chair and of the history it held.

Congratulations to Shianne Knoch for her excellent essay, and her second place finish! We look forward to reading more from Shianne.

Grand Traverse Journal will publish the first place winner’s essay in the July issue.