My Town Monday: Early Days

Livingston County, Michigan saw settlement starting in the early 1830s. There were two big factor’s contributing to the settlement of Southeast Lower Michigan (yes, we really call it that, to differentiate between the Lower and Upper Penninsulas. It’s a Michigan thing.)

One factor was the Erie Canal. With the opening of the Erie Canal, there was a faster, safer route between New York and the Midwest, particularly Michigan. At the time, Michigan Territory was part of the old Northwest Territory. Ohio and Indiana Territories had been carved away and began their bids for statehood before Michigan.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. Michigan was not the first destination of choice for folks heading West. Some idiot surveyors had declared that Michigan was all swampy and unsuitable for farming. So, for some reason, the farmers avoided the state, settling instead across Ohio, Indiana and into Illinios.

Finally, someone got a clue and re-surveyed Michigan. The state was not all swamp.

Why so many heading West? Free land. After the War of 1812, the Federal Government was giving away 160 acres of free land to the veterns. By the time Michigan was resurveyed and discovered to be good land, the folks running Michigan territory didn’t want to *give* the land away anymore. So they sold it. But people still came in droves to Michigan.

People got off the ferries at Detroit. They settled the areas around there (like where Patti Abbot lives) before heading further west. Livingston County was entered from the south, as people came from the town of Ann Arbor north to the uncharted wilderness of Livingston County. There were no bridges in Livingston County in the 1830s.

The early settlers recorded in the 1880 History of Livingston County that they had to clear a lot of trees in order to plant their farms. That’s one thing that hasnt’ changed in this county– people still think that trees are in the way. =(

The only major thoroughfare at the time in Livingston County was the Grand River Trail, which connected Detroit with the capital-to-be Lansing. When Michigan became a state, the capital was made in Lansing. This immediately boosted Livingston County’s population and business as Howell, the center of the county, is the half-way point on the Grand River Trail between Lansing and Detroit.

Funny story about Lansing. When the first folks to buy land in Lansing showed up, they learned something about the land they had bought sight-unseen. The land was a floodplain. Most of the the land was actually underwater. They’d been swindled. The city of Lansing started as a con. And, since it is the state capital, the cons have only continued.

My Town Monday brought to you by the letters “TRAVIS ERWIN“. From links on his page, you can travel the world without leaving your computer. No TSA hassles, no airplane food, and no crowds. My kind of travel. =)

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My Town Monday: Mill Pond Walkway

The Mill Pond in Brighton MI, is part of Ore Creek. On one side is the Imagination Station, a massive play structure. The Tridge crosses the Mill Pond and there’s a reason it’s call the Tridge and not just a mere bridge. It’s a three armed stucture. Two arms merely link the two sides of the Mill Pond. The third heads off to the Mill Pond Walkway.

The walkway heads along the banks of Ore Creek. At the start of the journey, though, there’s a side detour. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see a little white building in the background.

That’s the Dairy Queen. Luckily the City of Brighton was wise enough to put in an actual paved path the DQ rather than have people just trample over, through, and around whatever might have been in the way. You can’t stop people from going to Dairy Queen.

Before the Mill Pond walkway, some teens would actually hop the cemetery fence (bad) just to get their treats.

The Walkway makes it’s way down Ore Creek, running behind businessess about a quarter mile.



There are little seat jutting into Ore Creek. Where one might stop, eat their ice cream and watch the wildlife.

Like the albino ducks… that are repopulating quite well at the Mill Pond.




There’s also some mighty large fish. I dont know how well this picture will come out, so try clicking for a larger view. It’s a massive fish! People do fish off the walkway. It’s usually rather quiet.

For better or worse, most of the kids and noise are back at the Imagination Station. Though, I think it’s a shame if they never made their way down the Mill Pond Walkway.

Ore Creek sneaks under Grand River Avenue.


And it’s at Grand River that the Walkway ends. There is a sidewalk through town, of course, but it’s stuck a stark contrast to the quiet of the Walkway. All along, it doesn’t feel like you’re walking through the main part of Brighton. There’s the backsides of business, but it’s quiet. You hear birds. Watch the languid flow of Ore Creek. Trees cast dappled shadows on the ground. And there’s the smell of a river.

It’s almost jarring to come around the last corner on the Walkway to the sound of trucks and cars.

To my surprise, I actually managed to take a picture between the traffic on Grand River. Grand River is one of those main roads that is never wholly empty. Five lanes of impatient traffic.

On the other side of Grand River is the Marsh and Swamps that are part of the rest of Ore Creek. A waterway that is seeing at least a little care and protection.

It’s too noisy. I’m going back to where it’s quiet.

Travis Erwin is slacking on his own My Town Monday post today, but he’s corraling the links for the rest of his entourage. Visit his page for links. And while you’re there, read a few of his posts. Aside from being the creator of My Town Monday, he’s a funny man and a good storyteller

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My Town Monday: The Imagination Station

When I was little, there was a small playground on the shore of the Mill Pond. It had tall swings, a big slide, and a merry-go-round before those things were contraband. It was sufficient for playing while Mom was milling about the Farmer’s Market looking for vegatables. (Oh joy.)

Once the bookstore moved in to one of the shops on the Mill Pond, that had more appeal to me.

Actually, the tall white thing that looks nice for climbing is just a piece of art. A scultpure purchased by the city the same time as the Nake Guy. I’ve never spotted a kid climbing it, but I surely would have. Seems like they should have picked something that didn’t look like playground equpiment next to the Imagination Station.

Okay, without further ado, the Imganation Station is a 10,000 square foot wooden play structure.



It has towers, tunnels, several slides, swings, a zip line, steering wheelse, a wooden Caterpillar, climbing ropes, and more.

10,000 square feet of playing, climbing, swinging fun. The only downside is it’s often crowded. But I’ve been there more than a few times during twilight hours to run and romp. When I won’t knock over kids.

One evening when we were just dating, Hubby and I went out to the Imagination Station– one of the first signs he had of my … eccentricities. We played tag. Being more than 3.5 feet tall, I would have been better suited to staying on the tops of the towers where the sky’s the limit. Instead, I decided I’d hide in one the dark lower levels. No more than a few feet down, I nailed my head on a support board. The stars came out… and I didn’t really want to play anymore.

It gets better– as we were leaving, a cop came roaming around to make sure that, ah, no one was in the park after it closes at 10pm. It was 11 or 12 at the time. Hubby still makes mention that this encounter with the local police should have been a warning sign to him that I was trouble. =)


Visit Travis Erwin for other My Town Monday posts.

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My Town Monday: The Mill Pond

Situtated in the center of Brighton, is the Mill Pond. This pond was formed on Ore Creek a tributary of the Huron River. Once upon a time a mill was set up on the river, using the water power to work.

Sometime in the 1950s, it was decided that something needed to be done with the old Mill Pond. At the time, the pond was just a kind-of rock lined, filthy, body of water in town. Eventually, it

was turned into something of a local attraction.

It’s got sloped cement walls, abundant wildlife, a fountain, and the Imagination Station. (Like a playground but way better! But that’s for a future week.)

Across the center of the Mill Pond is the Tridge. It’s a three-way bridge.

It’s a good place to feed the birds from. The birds in the Mill Pond are so accumstomed to being fed, that they nearly swarm strolling people. Without the beating of wings and such, but it’s pretty amazing to see a flock of twenty ducks or geese swimming at someone who happens to be standing on the Tridge. Even if there’s no food being dropped into the water.


I remember, not so long ago, that there used to be little gumball-like machines on the shore of the Mill Pond that dispensed corn for feeding the wildlife. They’re gone now, and I have to think it would be because folks wouldn’t want the wildlife dependent on people at the Mill Pond.








Clearly, though, living in the Mill Pond, as opposed to a regular pond, is a little different for wildlife. A couple years back, I recall spotting just ONE albino duck. Well, that duck has been getting busy. There are now quite a few albino and part albino ducks in the Mill Pond. Anywhere else, and I have to think these would be an oddly colored dinner for somebody.








More wildlife. The ducks and geese seem to live more or less harmoniously. As you get on the other side of the Tridge, the Mill Pond is more of a natural waterway.

Since these pix were taken in late spring, there were quite a few fuzzy and “ugly” ducklings around.

There’s a swan or two on the Mill Pond from time to time as well. But they don’t usually play by the peopled end of the pond, choosing instead to hang out on the other side.


The Gazebo, on the shore of the Mill Pond, is used for all sorts of events. It’s a gathering place, convenient to town and parking. And peaceful– as peaceful as an oft-visited place in downtown can be. Even if it is the downtown in a little city like Brighton.

I know “city” is based on population, but to me, it seems impossible that Brighton is a city. Ann Arbor– that’s a city. Howell, maybe. But not the little town of Brighton.

The Mill Pond drains under Main Street. There once was a damn here, but it was taken out a few years ago. For a long, long time I wondered where the water went. In high school, I decided it must just go into the sewers, which seemed wrong to me.

Well, that conclusion was wrong. On the other side of Main Street, there is a large city parking lot. Beyond THAT is where Ore Creek comes out in a little creek that continues it’s path, eventually going under the CSX railway and emptying into Brighton Lake.

With all the birds that call the Mill Pond home, one ever present feature that can’t be overlooked is the bird poo.

Birds poo a lot.

The city cleans the sidewalks regularly, but one is still advised to watch for wet droppings and wash their shoes upon returning home.

For years, the Mill Pond has been an attraction in downtown Brighton. A park has always sat on the shore. I’m just old enough to remember the park with the big metal slide (yeah, that would take off some skin on summer days), the swings, the merry-go-round (remember when those weren’t an Evil that had to be eradicated?)

But, that park is gone. Instead, Brighton has the Imagination Station. Oh man, that place is AWESOME! Even though I nearly got a concussion because I’m just a wee bit larger than the intended patrons. Next week– the Imagination Station.

Don’t forget to see Travis Erwin for other My Town Monday posts. Travel the world from your computer. No motion sickness or lost luggage.

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My Town Monday: The Naked Guy

In Downtown Brighton, there is a Mill Pond. This mostly man-made structure is a scene of tranquillity.


And a scene of controversy.











Because on this shore is THE NAKED GUY.




And he doesn’t have any clothes on!

You could see his “willy”, his “wiener”, his “unmentionables”– his penis. (Man, I could totally go on… there are so many names for this one piece of anatomy it’s crazy.)

If he really had them, of course.

The statue is about as well-defined as a Ken doll. Not quite androgynous, but barely lumps.

But, nonetheless, there were protests and outrage (OUTRAGE!) that this statue was placed here, purchased by the City of Brighton from a local art show.

The outrage was that this sort of nudity was profane. Furthermore, these uptight prudes– I mean, ah, overreacting busybodies, um, anyway… these folks were upset that the statue was facing Main Street.

This group of outraged citizens wrote angry letters to the paper. They went to the city council. In the end, they lost. Because there’s really nothing lewd about the statue. Aside from the fact that there’s not even any penis or balls to speak of on this statue, the city council (and much of the community) decided that neither the general public nor any kids would be scarred from seeing the statue.

Unfortunately, at the time the community didn’t realize that this was only the first kerfluffle a small group of local folks would make about ‘decency’ and ‘morality’ on a small quest to impose their beliefs on others. These folks also protested thongs in the window of the new local Victoria’s Secret. They also had a fit when the Intimate Ideas sex shop opened in Brighton. Luckily, this groupd has been distracted of late. Hopefully they’re teaching their own kids how to be good, responsible citizens who are respectful of other’s beliefs even if they disagree.

The Naked Guy, or Decision Pending as he was dubbed by the artist, still stands on the shore of the Mill Pond. Still mooning the folks at the Mill Pond and flashing the drivers on Main Street. In broad daylight. But most people don’t even seem to mind.

Go see Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday Posts.

–>I plan to do posts on the Mill Pond and the Imagination Station in the following weeks.

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My Town Monday: Local Books

Today is supposed to be a special My Town Monday where participants read a book set in their town and talk about it. I liked the idea, and I’m going to read all about where the other My Town Monday posters live and the books written there. (You should to– go see Travis Erwin for links.)

However I didn’t find any books set in Livingston County, Michigan. There are several local history books, which I would give my left arm to actually own… the historical societies printed them but don’t have them anymore.

Elmore Leonard lives in Whitmore Lake last I knew. His mystery stories were set in Detroit, apparently since he grew up there.

Michael Moore hails from Flint. I’m told that one of my aunts used to work for him delivering the first paper he printed.

Steve Hamilton wrote the Alex McKnigt series set in the Upper Peninsula. And I’m sure there are other Michigan-based stories.

But nothing seems to be set in Livingston County. Not yet, at least.

For now, the only stories I know of set in Livingston County are my own. “Assortment of Bullies,” “Failing Mark,” & “Pleasure Business” (see links–>) are clearly set in Livingston County. There are others that, well, as the author, I know they’re Livingston County stories, but there’s nothing in the text to convey that.

Perhaps it’s because there’s nothing particularly distinctive or noteworthy about this area. It’s your pretty average place. It does have a little itty-bitty hamlet called “Hell” (yep, Hell, Michigan is in Livingston County… I’ll have a post on that some day soon!)

I think the average-ness is what makes it a perfect setting. This is “Anytown, USA.” It’s also the setting I use in my Bo Fexler novel. In my novel, I refer to the local places (and the local weather trend of winter returning univited for an encore in March.) It could be any small city, any county that suffers from lopsided, speedy growth. You may not be able to find it on the map of Michigan unless you know where to look, but at the same time, it could just as well be any other place.

Do other readers like the idea of a story set anywhere? Or do you prefer traveling to some other city, with recognizable landmarks?

As a reader, I’m a little of both. As a writer, I write what I know. And I know Livingston County.

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My Town Monday: Today’s Letters are M-DOT


Since last summer, the major thoroughfare that I use everday to and from work started it’s metamorphosis. They started by cutting down all the threes all the way down the road. At the end I don’t use, they completed a massive contruction project. Now, the construction had dominated the portion of the road I use.



Watching the new bridge be built from the ground up was pretty cool. The cranes in that picture are working on the bridge. It is being built along side the current bridge over the TSBY rail road tracks.
But there was one thing that nagged at me. The bridge was not wide enough. The word was always that M-59 was widening. In an earlier post, I explained that M-59 (as shown here) is primarily a 2 or 3 lane road.

They’ve torn up the land along M-59, changed the traffic lights at the major intersection and begun serious work. Now, I’ve heard the jokes and seen the many road projects where the orange barrels seem to be doing the bulk of the work. Not true with this project. These photos were taken about quarter after eight on a Monday Morning. Already, the crews are in full swing, backing up traffic, moving dirt around. And they were working Saturday, too! It’s like Road Crew from the Twilight Zone.


But what are they doing? All I had was a few bulletins that politely informed me that my route was going to be jacked something dreadful. Sadly, there is no good route to avoid this mess without heading several miles out of the way via dirt roads. Or going through town, if traffic isn’t backed up in the intersection over M-59. But I don’t much like going through town– it’s quite a bit slower than my normal route, even if I don’t get stopped by the traffic lights or the train. (ha! wishful thinking!)

Well, a little research on the Michigan Department of Transportation (M-DOT) website and I’m pretty certain that the stretch of M-59 that I use every day is being widened into a 4 lane boulevard. Four lanes= good. Boulevard= divided highway= Michigan Left= bad.

Ah, the Michigan Left. What is it?


Okay, well, not that bad. (Comic from xkcd.com). The Michigan Left is a specially designed roadway where in order to make evil Left-hand turns, a driver must drive past their road (hey wait! I was supposed to turn there!) Then, the driver will make a U-turn in the Mediam (only at specially designated areas). Then the driver cuts off– I mean, enters traffic and crosses lanes until they reach the right hand turn that takes them where they would have made a left onto at a normal, not screwed up intersection.


I borrowed this image from the Michigan Highways website. The Michigan Left allows the state to avoid those Evil Left Turns. And everyone knows that Left Turns are the 8th Deadly Sin. Seriously, though, I understand that left turns are the most dangerous thing one can do on the road way and road planners are trying to make for better driving. Given the increased traffic on this stretch of M-59, it seems ineveitable that they would create a divided highway.

As a divided highway, all the residential developments along with traffic from Howell High School would be able to make much safter left turns, particularly duing busy times of the day. Like from 8am until 7pm. With something of a lull just before and just after lunch.

My biggest problem with the Michigan Left is that I try to be an effecient driver. I don’t like driving out of my way to get where I’m going. Some stretches of divided highway I’ve been on (like the East side of Hartland where M-59 again becomes a divided highway, there are some looooong stretches without a mediam turn around.

I’d actually rather have a roundabout, myself. Not that most drivers around here are ready to learn how to use the several we have just yet.

The Michigan Left is much, much more common was one enters areas that are, well, closer to Detroit. As a happy habitant of Cow-Town and Little Cow-Town, I don’t think we need them stincking Michigan Lefts. All M-59 needs is a turn lane all the way down it. Traffic isn’t that bad that it warrants a Michigan Left.

But, like the five lane bridge that was built and used for three lanes, I’m sure this part of a plan for the future. The local government surely thinks that, in spite of the increasing numbers of foreclosures, vacant homes, and empty storefronts throughout town, that someday, Howell will someday grow again. This downward economic spiral can’t last forever.

The orange barrels are out in full bloom around here. And in MY way.


How are you enjoying Road Construction Season?
(Does anyone else have trouble with blogger funking up their post once they add any pictures? Oh my word!)

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My Town Monday: Carnegie Library

Of course, libraries are awesome just because they are libraries. But we have an extra-special library in Livingston County. We have a Carnegie Library.

Taken from the Michigan Historical Marker for the Howell Carnegie Library:

The Howell library association originated as the Ladies Library Association in 1875. That year, ladies began offering books for lending. The need for for spacious, permanent quarters grew, and in 1902, for three hundred dollars and railroad travel expenses, Detroit architect Elijah E. Meyers, designer of the Michigan State Capitol, agreed to provide plans for a new library. The township board hired local builder A.G. Kuehnle for the project. Throughout the county, farmers gathered fieldstones used to build the Neoclassical library. The structure stands on land donated by the four sons of Howell pioneer William Mc Pherson. An addition to the library was completed in 1991.

“If the city of Howell will pledge itself to support a free library and provide a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish ten thousand dollars for a free public library building.” In 1902, in reponse to a request for funds, steel entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie’s secretary sent this message to Howell Township Supervisor W.H.S. Wood. Carnegie funded over 2,500 free public libraries throughout the English-speaking world. The philanthropist’s gift to Howell eventually amounted to $15,000. In return, the township pledged annual support of no less than 10 percent of Carnegie’s donation. The library opened on November 19, 1906.

Now, if that’s not cool enough, the building looks awesome. The stonework is incredible. Apparently, there was some ugly remodeling done during the 60s (did everyone do drugs then?) but it was fixed later, restoring the library to it’s glory.

When they added on, the addition juts out the back. There are two hallways leading to the rear addition, but the inside walls of the hallways are the original rear of the building. How cool is that?
I was going to just poach some pictures from the library’s website, but instead, I’ll directed interested parties to the virtual tour. And they did a nice job on that, too!

There’s something truly wonderful about going to the Howell Library. From the neat old architecture when you walk in to the 1875 plat map hanging in the rear, and, least we forget, the books.

Like any smart library who wants to make sure they can keep their funding, the Howell Library has some computers and movies alongside the regular books and the audiobooks.

And there are teenagers who hang out on the front lawn day after day hour after hour. Wish they went inside, but at least if they’re hanging out in the middle of downtown Howell, they can’t get into much trouble. Too many witnesses. Not that they really cause trouble– though some folks are afraid of those rabid-looking teenagers.

But the library is still a nice place to go. I think, of all the libraries I’ve been in, the Howell Carnegie library is still my favorite.

My Town Monday started by Travis Erwin. Visit him for more My Town Mondays.

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My Town Monday: The Little City that Never Sleeps

It’s 1:41AM. What are you doing?

You could be shopping for groceries or new shoes or lawn furniture. You could be eating out at one of several fast food joints or even a sit down restaurant. You mail a package or even go to the gym. At least you could in the Brighton/Howell area.

We pretty much run 24/7 around here. I’m so used to it, that I don’t even consider that the rest of the world… doesn’t. I realized this most sharply after a little weekend trip to Shipshewana, Indian for the Regional Pokemon Trading Card Game Tournament.

What do you mean places CLOSE on Sundays? Not in my area. Most places are open. There are few things you can’t do on Sunday. Or at 2 in the morning.

I do my grocery shopping at 10pm at night, though I must admit that 5am is better since by then the shelves are stocked. I have my pick of stores, too– 2 Meijer Stores, 2 VG’s, 2 Kroger’s and 2 Wal-Marts (if you count the new one out in Fowlerville.) Plust the assortment of drugstores, but I don’t go to them. For those who aren’t familiar with Meijer, they have the distinction of being the first 24 super-center, long before Wal-Mart did either. So, as long as I’ve lived in this county, one could go to Meijer at all hours for a can of paint, a pair of windsheild wiper blades, a gallon of milk and a bunch of bananas… at 3am.

I’ve mailed packages in the middle of the night using the automated postal machine. Of course, with the proliferation of ATM’s, I can do my banking in the middle of the night. Then I can go get something to eat.

I’m going to list the ones off the top of my head. I haven’t been on the midnight shift in a while, so I might be off. But for one’s dining choices, we have Little Chef (local sit-down restaurant), 2 McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. The last two I think are open until 1 or 2am. We had a 24 hour Subway for awhile, but I don’t know if they ever got anyone for the midnight shift. There are probably other places, and much of the town is open until 10 or 11 anyway.

I’ve never gone to the 24 hour gym. Yeah. I get enough exercise pushing my luck. And doesn’t typing burn calories…
It’s dreadfully jarring when I go into these strange lands where things aren’t open 24/7. Where restaurants are closed on Sunday. Where people sleep at night instead of shop or eat (or work.) I spent some 5 years working midnights in retail and I still love the middle of the night. One of the best parts is that the world is quiet– but I can still do most everything I need to. Even if I rarely go out at 2 am for a little shopping or dining, it’s always nice to know that I could. I am, after all, very used to and rather comfortable with this always on city.

I always figured that if little cities like Brighton and Howell ran 24/7, then surely most of the world did.

Does your town stay open 24/7? If not, how on earth do you stand it?

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My Town Monday: First Impression


About the center of Livingston County is the city of Howell. Howell lies about halfway between Lansing and Detroit and that’s no coicidence. It was a stop along the Grand River Trail before there was even a road. Originally, the town was called “Livingston Center” a fitting name, if not one that’s entirely uninspired.

The Livingston County Seat is located in Howell. You can tell by the map I poached from Google Maps that there’s still plenty of green in the Howell Area. A couple lakes. Not too crowded (though getting there…;-) It’s a rather pleasant little city.

So, to get to Downtown Howell, perhaps for one of our few attractions– which include the Festival of Lights, the Melon Fest and the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest or perhaps to visit the Carnegie Library or the County Courthouse or ride the Santa Train– one would travel down I-96. The best way to get to the downtown area is to get off at D-19. And one of the first sights to greet you is this:


A pair of abandoned houses. One boarded up and looking rather forlorn. The other melting with decay. Especially if you get off Westbound 96, you’ll wait at the traffic light staring straight at these two properties. Welcome to Howell.

We have a quaint historic district, lots of cool old architecture, but the first thing we want to show you are these two old negelcted properties.

Occaisionally, rumors buzz about a new road that would bypass the downtown, a route for semi-trucks to keep them out of hte historic downtown area. The construction of the loop road would take care of these two old houses. But in the meantime, we sure know how to put our best face forward.

Now, I’ll admit that one of the things that always astounds me is how hard it seems to be for a city to knock down a derelict building that’s on the verge of falling down itself. Though, these old houses are often rather tenacious, holding on and standing long enough to be trashed by vandals and punks and drug addicts. I think it would be better to have a pile of rubble than a house that some squatter or kid could get into. Most people aren’t drawn to piles of rubble.

There’s plans to “beautify” D-19 (or Michigan Ave as it’s called coming into town). Plans to put in some roundabouts and traffic lights and flowers and such. But these plans never address the sorry first impression that one gets. There is only ever one first impression. And Howell’s first impression is akin to walking into someone’s house and finding dirty undies on the dining room table.

And it’s not like these houses were recently abandoned. There’s no excuse for this.

So, if you happen out to Howell, try to ignore the way we great you. The downtown’s much nicer.



(I was too busy to get out and take my own pix, so I poached these. =)
We’ve got some great history and some neat things in this town. Not eaxactly a hopping tourist attraction, but it’s still a pleasant town. If you’re not scared off before you get here.

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