Script No. 140 - September 11, 1999

Title: Cows, Maples and ... Diplomats?

The Southeast Asian island of East Timor votes for independence. While the parent country of Indonesia conveniently looks the other way, pro-government thugs sweep across the island, massacring inhabitants, driving off the foreign press and besieging the UN compound. Inexplicably and inexcusably caught napping, the United Nations Security Council hastily calls its members into session at it's Sugar Island headquarters. . . Unfortunately, only the Sugar Island part is fiction.

It might not have been if Chase Salmon Osborn had his way. And if he had "put Sugar Island on the map" most of us wouldn't have to ask where. Regular listeners will know where, when I say we've just exited the Soo Canal and are headed east through the St. Mary's strait. It's a long island on our port side, roughly shaped like Italy. According to the 1990 U. S. Census, the island has a population of 116 families. The census points out there is no one residing in nursing homes, mental hospitals, juvenile institutions, college dormitories, military quarters, or emergency shelters for the homeless. How idyllic can you get? There's not much excitement on this island named for the sugar maples that grow here. In the early days Finnish farmers from the Upper Peninsula's eastern tip would let their cattle range over it's fields. And Queen Victoria's government coveted a small tract on the southern tip. Needed a place to dump the debris dug up when the East Neebish Channel was excavated. England bought the property, it's only real estate in the U. S. at the time.

And what was Indiana-born Chase Salmon Osborn's interest in this small cow dotted plot of land? His parents were obviously interested in politics; when he was born, in 1860, they named him after abolitionist, governor and future Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. He became a journalist in Chicago before moving on to continue his trade in Wisconsin, and then in the Upper Peninsula. By the 1880s he owned the newspaper in Sault Ste. Marie and was turning his attentions to progressive politics, and to boosting his adopted state. His prose style suited both pursuits, and the times, admirably. An example. "When the Crusader dreamed and gave his life to recover the land of Christ, the sword that gleamed with the glory of heaven and the zeal of deep desire was a thing of iron ore."

Osborn went on to become Michigan game and fish commissioner, railroad commissioner, and, in 1910, governor, running on his own "new deal" platform and sponsoring legislation for woman's suffrage, agricultural education, labor reform, and a bridge over the Straits of Mackinac. In one spurt of local civic pride he offered Sugar Island as a site for the new United Nations headquarters. But luckily for Sugar Island and its resulting non-existent mental institutions, John D. Rockefeller thought it should be in New York.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor

© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte