Welcome to SCHOCK MCCOY PRODUCTIONS by J.H. McCoy. This website is named in honor of my mother,
Gloria (Schock) McCoy, and dedicated to her memory. Since it was founded in 2015, her JOURNAL and ALBUM have always been prominent features, but now some of her recipes have been added to the website (RECIPES).
The HOMEPAGE is "seasonal" and changes during the year when the seasons do. It contains some of my articles from my hometown newspaper. The NEWS section features recent photographs and comments on the local scene.
PHOTO-ESSAYS is a record of my trips to iconic locations in the U.S. A short history of the Schock family, written over 50 years ago (1970) by my great-uncle, Edward D. Schock, is presented in HISTORY. I edited it in 2020.
I hope that you will always find something interesting on this website and that you will tell others about it.
Thank you for stopping by. Please sign the Guest Book, and come back soon!
J.H. (John Herbert) McCoy
9636 Roberts Rd., Harbor Beach, MI 48441 // [email protected] // (989) 551-9487 (cell)
***CLICK ON THE NAME FOR A SHORT VIDEO***
(Click on small "pics" to enlarge)
THE "BURN BOSS" IN THE WHITE HELMET
SAND BEACH TOWNSHIP
"Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder -- no matter how old you became and how much you'd seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered."
Candace Bushnell (1958)
"THE SCHOCK FAMILY TREE" by Edward D. Schock (1970) edited by J.H.McCoy
"No winter lasts forever;
no spring skips its turn."
Hal Borland (1900-1978)
MY ARTICLES/PHOTOS FROM THE MINDEN CITY HERALD
"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
NORTHERN SHRIKE....THE BUTCHER BIRD
from The Minden City Herald, JANUARY 29, 2015
Usually silent in the winter, the northern shrike is a predatory songbird about the size of a robin. From a distance, the black-masked visitor from the far north looks like any other common backyard songster, but appearances can be deceptive. This hook-beaked predator is actually a finely tuned killing machine, a deadly hunter which preys on mice, voles, amphibians, large insects, and even other birds. Its Latin name is “Lanius excubitor,” the “butcher watchman,” but people who know birds are more familiar with its ominous nickname – “butcher bird!”
Since northern shrikes belong to the songbird family, their feet are not designed for killing and dismembering prey. They do not have talons, like hawks, owls, and other raptors; and so they kill their victims with lethal bites to the back of the neck. Then they impale them on a thorn, sharp twig, or barbed wire with the head up, much as a butcher hangs meat. After that, shrikes can tear their prey into bite-sized pieces using their powerful hooked beak. Sometimes they wedge their kill into the crotch of
a small tree or shrub to get the leverage needed to “butcher” it.
This predator-songbird is wholly carnivorous and will often keep hunting even after making a kill. The northern shrike stashes prey in trees, shrubs, and bushes around its hunting territory to provide a food cache for leaner times. Because of this practice, they have been accused of “wanton killing,” but storing food is a survival strategy used by many birds, including blue jays, black-capped chickadees, and nuthatches.
The northern shrike nests on the edge of the tundra and in open areas of the taiga.
In the summer, two-thirds of its diet consists of large insects, like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and bumblebees. But in the winter when other prey becomes unavailable, this fearsome hunter turns almost exclusively to mice and songbirds, a practical necessity as it migrates from the frozen north and travels
south in search of food.
Last year, I intended to write a story about the northern shrike and hoped to get a suitable picture, but since they are sporadic and irregular winter visitors to the
Thumb, I never had the opportunity. Occasionally, however, I did see one flying
across a field. Their low, undulating flight and habit of swooping up to a perch at
the top of a tall tree or shrub is characteristic. Their dark wings with white patches
on the top and bottom provide a contrast to their overall gray look. Their longish
black tails are narrowly outlined in white. The northern shrike scans the ground
from a high perch with its tail held nearly horizontal to its body. Sometimes the solitary hunter hovers in place before dropping down and pouncing on its prey.
In 2015, I was again looking for the “winter shrike.” By sheer luck, I spotted one on a blustery January afternoon, sitting on a power line next to the road. The shrike was facing into the wind and intently watching the grassy field below. I stopped the car well back, expecting the bird to fly off. Instead, it ignored me and continued hunting. I moved up slowly and eventually parked right across the road from the gray-colored “watchman.”
The shrike seemed to be doing a high-wire act as the strong wind whipped the line back and forth. Using its rather long tail for balance, it struggled to stay upright as
the wind ruffled its feathers. Whenever the shrike changed positions along the power line, I followed slowly in the car. Unsuspicious and seemingly unafraid, the shrike
was not concerned about my close approach. Maybe it was distracted by the raw and gusty wind, or maybe this “butcher bird” simply wanted to have its story told!
Struggling to keep its balance, the shrike seemed unconcerned about the elements and continued patiently checking the ground from its swaying vantage point. Eventually, it caught a glimpse of something in the ditch near the road and dived down from the wire. The shrike was out of sight for a short time, and when it emerged, it was carrying a vole or field mouse with its feet. The shrike flew along the ditch to a nearby shrub where it impaled its lifeless victim on a sharp twig. Then it returned to its perch on the wire and continued hunting.
The shrike did not come back to the shrub to make a meal of the unlucky field mouse. Maybe it was leery because I got out of my car and took some pictures, or maybe it was just doing what shrikes do - stocking the larder for leaner times.
Strange as it may seem, this wildlife drama played out right next to a paved road.
Cars passed by without the drivers noticing. The northern shrike continued its high-wire act, and the impaled vole hung in the shrub with its feet and tail dangling in the wind. Every day and night, countless life-and-death struggles take place on nature’s battlefield, unnoticed and unseen by people hurrying by.
Notes: There are two species of shrikes in the U.S., the northern shrike and the loggerhead shrike. The loggerhead lives and nests in the Southeast and West. It is rarely seen in Michigan, even in the summer.
The impaled field mouse was still hanging in the shrub at dark. However, later the next morning, it was gone. And so was the shrike!
The northern shrike, aka "butcher bird" or "winter shrike."
IN MEMORY OF MY COUSIN AND FRIEND, RICHARD J. "RICK" MCCOY, WHO PASSED INTO ETERNITY AT AGE 69 ON JANUARY 8, 2021.
REST IN PEACE.
Four rooster pheasants braved the strong winds and frigid temperatures last week as they searched for seeds and grain in a tilled wheat stubble field on Finkle Rd. Evidently, they were hungry because they were feeding out in the open in the middle of the day. Without cover and close to a road, pheasants are especially vulnerable. They could fall victim to a passing hawk or to a scofflaw who would shoot them out the car window.
Yes, strange as it may seem, pheasant season is open in December. The DNR claims that shooting excess roosters will not hurt the pheasant population. But
it certainly “hurts” the ones that are shot. Those roosters definitely won’t make it through the winter.
And winter is a dangerous time for pheasants. They must endure snow and freezing temperatures, lack of cover, scarcity of food, the onslaught of predators, and now according to the DNR, hunters’ guns as well.
In days gone by, there was a basic respect for this beautiful and celebrated game bird. The traditional pheasant season ran from October 20 to November 10. On the first day, hunters were not allowed in the field before 10 o’clock. This gave
the birds a chance to feed and get back into cover. It seemed like the sporting thing to do.
Then the DNR abandoned the traditional dates and lengthened the season to November 14. Hunting began on October 20 at dawn. December hunts were held in select areas. Today, pheasants can be hunted in December throughout most of Zone 3. And all this in the face of a dwindling, almost non-existent pheasant population.
However, rooster pheasants are tough, and in spite of dangers, obstacles and the DNR, many will survive the winter – that is, if they “…make it through December.”
"If We Make It Through December"
"HE WAS A MAN, TAKE HIM FOR ALL IN ALL -- I SHALL NOT LOOK ON HIS LIKE AGAIN." - HAMLET
"He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in the winter."
John Burroughs (1837-1921)
The first day of pheasant season used to be a red-letter day in Minden City. The town bustled with excitement as hunters got ready for the opener. The two local hotels rented every available room, and townspeople boarded their friends and relatives who were hunting in the area.
Pheasant season opened at 10 a.m. on October 20, and for many Michigan sportsmen in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, that date was bigger than November 15, the traditional first day of the firearm deer season.
When I was twelve years old, I thought the first day of pheasant season was the most exciting day of the year. From the time I was in seventh grade, I was never in school on October 20!
Now, it’s just another day, and the opener will pass with little fanfare. Few if any “city hunters” will be seen on the streets of Minden City. One of the hotels where they stayed in the old days has been demolished, and the other one is closed. The pheasants are gone, and a colorful era in the town’s history is over.
Note: If you want to get some idea of what the first day of pheasant season was like in the past, drive through the Verona State Game Area (Huron County) on October 20. Die-hard pheasant hunters will be combing the fields with their dogs, hoping to bag their limit of two roosters.
PHEASANT SEASON NOSTALGIA IN MINDEN CITY
I no longer hunt... because of age and because of a change in philosophy. But when I was growing up in Minden City during the 1950s, I loved pheasant hunting and everything connected with it. Pheasant season only lasted 22 days (October 20 - November 10, with no Sunday hunting), but it was the greatest time of the year for me. While I was a student at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Ruth, I hunted pheasants annually for five years before going off to college and studying overseas.
It was eight years before I returned to the field in the late 1960s. By then, pheasant hunting in the Thumb had begun a slow, steady decline. However, my boyhood memories remain . A flying rooster pheasant will be on my tombstone...a reminder of those golden years, "when the pheasant was king." JHM
MICHIGAN'S FIREARM DEER SEASON - NOVEMBER 15-30
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.
Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.
ROBERT BURNS (1759 - 1796)
NATIONAL POET OF SCOTLAND
Impaled vole (field mouse) in a shrub near the road
FIRST SNOWY OWL - FIRST DAY OF WINTER
(12/21/2022 Huron County, Northwest of Harbor Beach)
TUNDRA SWANS OFF SAND BEACH TOWNSHIP
FIRST DAY OF WINTER - 12/21/22
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL &
ITS UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS
from THE MINDEN CITY HERALD - DECEMBER 22, 2022
My old, worn copy of A Christmas Carol (printed in 1958) - an ageless classic, filled with memorable characters and Christmas wisdom.
It has been called “the greatest little book in the world” and “one of the famous masterpieces of English literature.” When Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in London on December 19, 1843, he had no idea that his Christmas ghost story would take the world by storm. But it started almost immediately: the 6,000 copies of the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve. Thirteen editions of the slim volume were published during the following year, and A Christmas Carol has never been out of print. It continues to be a Christmas favorite right up to the present day.
Based on the title, Dickens intended his short narrative to be a kind of “prose Christmas carol.” The actual title is: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. The five divisions in the book are called “STAVES” rather than “CHAPTERS.” A stave is a musical staff or a verse or stanza of a poem or song. Dickens wanted his “Christmas anthem” to be similar to other Christmas songs, which celebrated the season and taught people the true meaning of Christmas.
In his famous book, Dickens created many memorable characters, who almost seem like real people. Foremost among them is the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge himself. His famous “Bah! Humbug!” to Christmas is a phrase known around the world. His last name has even become an English word – as a common noun, a “scrooge” is defined as “a mean-spirited, miserly person; a skinflint.”
Dickens’s description of Ebenezer Scrooge is cutting and harsh:
“Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin.”
Ebenezer Scrooge did not believe in Christmas or ghosts; but nevertheless, on Christmas Eve he encountered the departed spirit of his old business partner, Jacob Marley.
“Marley’s Ghost” is the title of Stave One, and Jacob Marley is the character that sets the entire story in motion. He died on Christmas Eve seven years earlier but comes back to warn Scrooge about his preoccupation with money and profit. The narrator of A Christmas Carol begins the story with an emphatic pronouncement:
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”
Later, he repeats his assertion three more times: “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”
But on Christmas Eve, the ghost of Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge, wrapped in a heavy chain and dragging “cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel.” Marley had forged his chain in life by ignoring the needs of the poor and devoting himself exclusively to making money. Now, his ghost is condemned to wander the world, dragging his chain and observing what he should have done, but now can no longer do. He tells Scrooge that the same fate awaits him. To prevent this from happening, Marley promises Scrooge that he will be “haunted by Three Spirits.” When Scrooge objects, Marley warns him of the consequences: “Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread.”
And so, the Three Ghosts of Christmas appear to Scrooge and lead him on the path of repentance. They give their names to the middle three staves of the story. “The First of the Three Spirits” (Stave Two) is “the Ghost of Christmas Past.” It is a shifting, changing presence that seems to be old and young at the same time and has a light emanating from its head to show the way. It leads Scrooge through scenes of his boyhood and youth.
“The Second of the Three Spirits” (Stave Three) is “the Ghost of Christmas Present.” This character is a “jolly Giant,” who carries a glowing torch, which it uses to bless Christmas revelers. The ghost shows Scrooge contemporary Christmas celebrations in the city and in foreign lands. Together they visit hospitals and jails; also a miner’s shack, a lighthouse and even a ship at sea. Wherever they go, the ghost “left his blessing and taught Scrooge his precepts.”
“The Last of the Spirits” (Stave Four) is the mysterious and frightening “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” - a phantom whose features are completely hidden by a flowing black robe. It never speaks a word to Scrooge, but only points with one outstretched hand. It shows the old miser his tombstone and neglected grave in the cemetery. Then, Scrooge falls to his knees and pleads with the ghost that he is not the man he was and that his approach to Christmas has changed:
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live
in the Past, Present, and Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.”
Unlike the miserly Scrooge, his nephew Fred is one of the most sympathetic characters in the story. He is a man of kindness and generosity – a relative who challenges his uncle’s mean-spirited approach to Christmas. Every year, Fred invites his uncle to Christmas dinner, but every year his invitation is rejected. Scrooge wants nothing to do with the holiday season:
‘Nephew! keep Christmas in your own way and let me keep it in mine.”
Fred responds to his uncle’s claim that Christmas never did him any good with heartfelt praise of Christmas and the Christmas season. He reminds Scrooge that Christmas is a time of goodness, charity, generosity, and concern for others:
“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it comes around… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that
it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say God bless it!”
Other famous characters in the story are Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk,
Bob Cratchit, his crippled son, Tiny Tim, and the entire Cratchit family. The Cratchits are poor but happy. Tiny Tim accepts his handicap and on Christmas Day hopes the people who see him in church will be reminded of the One who “made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” His prayerful “God Bless Us, Every One!” has become part of the Christmas lexicon.
Then there is Scrooge’s younger sister Fan, his fiancé Belle, Mr. Fezziwig, who employed the young Scrooge as an apprentice, Mrs. Fezziwig and her three daughters, and many, many more. And you can meet them all this year … that is, if you take the time to read A Christmas Carol during the holidays. For many, myself included, reading this little book every year has become an annual tradition. Christmas would not be the same without Charles Dickens and the characters he created in his Christmas ghost story.
In Stave Five, “The End of It,” the author concludes his narrative with these oft-quoted words, which also seem like an appropriate way to end a Christmas essay:
“…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well,
if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
+++ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!
HUNDREDS OF NOISY TUNDRA SWANS, ADULTS AND JUVENILES, STRUNG OUT ALONG THE SHORE IN MY SUBDIVISION, EXTENDING SOUTH TO ROCK FALLS CEMETERY