One of my guilty pleasures in retirement is reading a good book. I find myself especially drawn to historical fiction and mystery novels. In the latter category are mysteries set in locations that I am personally familiar with, including the Great Lakes region, the East Coast and the Mountain West.
My wife and I own small lake cabin in northern Michigan and two mystery writers in particular use that area as a backdrop. One is an author by the name of Joseph Heywood and his stories are unique in that the protagonist is actually a conservation office. The other is Steve Hamilton. And one of the first novels in his Alex McKnight mystery series was titled “A Cold Day in Paradise.”
All of this came to mind recently when my wife and I took a trip to visit friends in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and we went through the sleepy little village of Paradise. It wasn’t a particularly cold day in Paradise, but it certainly wasn’t a tropical paradise. That prompted me to take this picture as we entered town.
It also got me thinking about other interesting town names. Needless to say, there are hundreds throughout the U.S., but for this article, I will focus on Michigan. One of my favorites is Bad Axe. Others include:
- Vulcan (is that where the Vulcan death grip originated?)
- Christmas (not to be confused with Frankenmuth or Christmas, Indiana)
- Temperance (I wonder if they have any bars there?)
- White Pigeon (it would be interesting to find out how the city fathers came up with that name)
- Jugville (clearly, the birthplace of Jughead Jones and his friends, Archie, Betty, et al)
Then there’s Hell, Michigan. You can just imagine the fun people have with that. At least the next time someone tells you to go to Hell, you’ll know where it is. Interestingly, Wikipedia says “…Hell has no defined boundaries or population statistics of its own.” But for the record, it is located within Putnam Township, centered along Patterson Lake Road about 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor and three miles southwest of Pinckney. (Thank you, again, Wikipedia.)
As an advertising writer for many years, I always wanted to create an ad featuring the Hell, Michigan, sign covered with snow and ice and, well you can guess where this might have gone.
Actually, the Eagles beat me to it. When the band broke up in 1980 and Don Henley was asked if the Eagles might ever get back together, his response was a curt “When hell freezes over.” Of course, when the band did reunite in 1994, both their new album and their subsequent tour were titled “Hell Freezes Over.”