Water Under the Bridge: Poems from the Elk Rapids Elders Project

It has been almost four years since the first gathering of students and Elders in the Elk Rapids High School media center. It is a great deal of work to make a book. You can read about the beginning in this 2008 post about the Elk Rapids Elders Project. You can read the next chapter right here.

Here’s a holiday recipe from poet Terry Wooten. Gather 25 Elders from the Elk Rapids community. Add 41 middle school and high school students filled with questions. Stir gently. Stories will emerge. Simmer with dollops of laughter and tears. Listen for the poetry in everyday speech. With patience you can make a whole book. It will be delicious.

Horses flounder in ice-covered Elk Lake, an armada steams into Tokyo Bay for the Emperor’s surrender, a sand dune towers where the industrial park is today, a cattle truck careens into a school bus. The vivid images in this book will stay with you a long time.

Water Under the Bridge: Poems from the Elk Rapids Elders Project, by Terry Wooten and Elk Rapids School Students is available now at the Nature Connection in Elk Rapids and at Horizon Books in Traverse City. Sales of the book benefit the Elk Rapids Area Historical Society, which sponsored the Elk Rapids Elders Project and published the final work.

Here is one of the poems from the book:

Katie Sowers
The IRS Auction

We sold the restaurant five times
and kept getting it back.
Nobody realized how much work was involved.

The fifth time we sold it to a gal
who did a lot of illegal things.
She took taxes from her employees,
but never paid her taxes.

The IRS stepped in
and closed the doors.
They scheduled an auction
to sell the building.
But we owned the contract
and weren’t guilty.

The IRS held the auction anyway
to sell off
anything that was loose.

Johnny Hastings and Rick Shooks knew
the circumstances.
They got everybody to stop biding.
They bought everything
and sold it back to us
so we could reopen.

The local people came to our defense.
To have the community stand behind us
was one of the neatest things
to ever happen in my life.

The government lady in charge of the auction
stormed up and shook her finger at me.
“You planned this!”
“I did not.”
We had nothing to do with it.

The restaurant was closed almost a year
which was bad for business.

People had to have a place to go.
That’s why it’s the Front Porch Café now
owned by the community.

Katie Sowers


Ellsworth is a close-knit community.
Folks gossip like any small town,
But people here hold together.
If there’s a problem
People come together.
I love this community!
I’m proud to be a part of it!

Terry Wooten

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