Assembly Articles

Ticks Make Spiders Look Positively Benevolent

By Alan Marble

Every summer you catch a story in the news about a horrific accident on US-2 or M-28 in the western UP in which a vehicle, inexplicably, veers across the center line and plows into the ditch or, worse yet, another vehicle.  Forensic examination of the people and vehicles involved reveal nothing as to the potential cause of the awful wreck.  The accident is written up as “operator error” and left to the archives.

However, I believe I know the cause of these accidents.  While this is pure speculation on my part, I have a pretty good idea as to who the culprit is.  It isn’t alcohol, or distracted driving while surfing the internet.  The culprit is the wood tick. After pulling a tick from one’s dog or one’s own neck while recreating outdoors in the woods, a person develops an instant sensitivity to any soft touch to the hairline or behind the ear.  Once you have encountered an engorged grape-like tick, full of your blood or that of your faithful furry friend, your sensitivity is then off the chart.  Nightmarish creatures, the ticks.  They live patiently awaiting a warm-blooded victim to come just close enough to clamber aboard.  They will ride for hours and even days in the cuff of your trousers or the fold of your sweater, creeping with a molasses-like pace towards contact with warm skin. Insidious is an adjective that comes to mind. 

woodtickWood tick, American dog tick, one and the same. There are actually five species of ticks which occur in Michigan, but the dog tick and the deer tick are the most common, and most likely to be encountered and to pass on infections.  They are not insects, but arachnids, more closely akin to spiders.  They have eight legs and hard shells, and live in wooded and grassy areas throughout the state.  They are becoming more common, it seems, and more widespread, perhaps in response to the changing climate.  They are active in May and on into November in our area.

Ticks lay around in the grass and woods most of the time, bingeing on Netflix while noshing on bonbons and popcorn, or some equivalent anyway.  A tick detects a potential host by sensing odor, moisture, movement and simple vibrations.  A comical scene occurs in my head, imagining a slow-moving tick trying to head a Labrador off at the pass. Once a tick selects its host, gets a head start and actually scrambles aboard, it selects a suitable location on said host, and begins to bury its mouthparts into the unsuspecting creature. 

If undetected by the host, the tick begins the awful process of engorging itself with its victim’s blood, in preparation of breeding and starting all over again.  There is something particularly odious about parasites; those freeloaders which are looking for much more than spare change are actually out for blood.  If the tick plays its cards right, it fills up and drops off and starts laying eggs.  Yuck.

At any stage in this frightful process a human can intervene.  If the tick is attached to a beloved human being (including oneself), there is a strong urge to yank it off without thought or ceremony.  If attached to one’s pet, the urgency is a bit tempered.  In either case, the secret is to use tweezers or one of the many tools specifically designed for the process to grasp or trap the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly . . . and I mean slowly . . . pull backwards with steady pressure to back the little SOB out, mouth parts and all. 

The next step is crucial.  If you have a propane torch, ignite the flame and roast the tick.  Lacking a torch, use a sledge hammer to crush its tough carapace (unless the tick is engorged with blood, in which case a serious gory mess results). Seriously, though, you want to ensure that this particular creature does not survive to haunt you, your pets or your house. 

Along with the prickly revulsion that accompanies a tick bite, there can be serious health consequences.  Ticks removed within 12 hours of attachment are highly unlikely to pass on diseases like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.  In any instance of a tick attachment, the affected area needs to be cleaned, disinfected and watched for any sign of major inflammation or characteristic “bullseye”- like circles surrounding the site.  If in doubt, consult a physician. 

There is a vaccine available for dogs for Lyme disease, and I am told that a major pharmaceutical company is working on a vaccine for humans.  There are many topical drug applications for pets which work well in that the drug repels ticks and, if one stays on long enough to attach, the serum kills the attached tick. 

There is a world of good information available on ticks and tick-borne illness on the web.  Choose your sites for information carefully to ensure you are reading sound scientific and medical information. Click here to see our own Assembly Ecology Committee web page that has more information and resources.

Common sense prevails.  During tick season it pays to be vigilant with your loved ones and your furry friends.  A quick inspection of outer clothing at days’ end can pay off.  There are effective tick repellents available, but the ones which actually work are for application only to outer garments, and not directly to skin.  One trick that may actually work is to apply duct tape, sticky-side out, on trousers below the knee. Ticks seem to like to crawl uphill, and will be snared by the tape.  If nothing else, the tick(er) tape can indicate if you are indeed in an area with ticks. 

If there is an unsung natural hero through all of this, it is the unlovely opossum.  Our only native marsupial, these rat-tailed creatures mosey through life at an ungainly gait during twilight and darkness, eating pretty much everything organic which they encounter.  This includes ticks and tick eggs. One University of Illinois study indicated that an adult opossum may consume 5,000 ticks per season.  Makes me want to pick up one of those guys and plant a big smooch in thanks on its chin, except they always want to play dead when you approach, and that is a little off-putting to me. 

The Mystery of the CSA Horses

By Loren Weiss


When you hear the word “bus”, a picture instantly appears in most people’s minds: a long vehicle filled with seats, not exactly fun to drive behind. Back in the very beginnings of the Congregational Summer Assembly, though, the bus was a horse-drawn cart that brought CSA members to and from Frankfort.

Horses had the utmost importance when it came to transportation in the early 1900’s since there were no automobiles yet. They played many roles at the CSA, the bus included; and although not much is known about them, an anecdote passed from person to person gives us a clue of how - and where - these horses lived.

Jane Way Baker first heard about the Lake Michigan stables from Carter Davidson years ago, but thought little of it; it was only this year that she remembered and retold the story as she’d heard it. Once upon a time, the space that is now the Lake Michigan tennis courts used to be the stables that housed some of CSA’s horses. These horses were said to be used to transport building materials up the hill for the construction of the Davidson cottage nearby.

Another clue about where more horses could have stayed is Equarry Rd, a street close to the woods tennis courts. The definition of an “equerry” is an officer who has charge over the stables, which points to the conclusion that there were more stables in that area at some point. The existence of these past stables is proof enough that horses played an essential role in Assembly transportation back before automobiles started arriving in the 1910’s.

Unfortunately, the Archives don’t have much more information about the stables, so any further knowledge would be greatly appreciated - any readers who know more can drop in at Pilgrim Place from 10-12 on Wednesdays or email Jane Cooper at

Meet TJ Lymenstull - CSA Pianist

By Loren Weiss

TJLymenstullAnyone who has attended a recent CSA Sunday Church Service has heard Dr. Thomas Lymenstull’s stunning piano skills - but his legacy as a musician spans far beyond church pieces. He has taught master classes in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and China, to name a few, and has won plenty of both national and international competitions. But before we get into all that, here’s some backstory on the man behind the piano.

Dr. Lymenstull attended the Eastman School of Music for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees alongside his Performer’s Certificate, and the University of Southern California for his Doctor of Musical Arts degree. His career has spanned nationwide, with notable names like the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He was also an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California and a Teaching Fellow of the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching. In 1998, he chose to stop teaching at the university and moved to northern Michigan to teach at the Interlochen Academy of the Arts, where he still teaches to this day.

For the upcoming Burrows-Getz concert on July 31st, Dr. Lymenstull will perform a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues which were dedicated to him by composer Lin Hua. The set was based on the 24 Styles (or Personalities) of Poetry by an ancient Chinese poet named Sikong Tu (837-908), and takes on the quest of describing the 24 different moods of poetry in various ways. Dr. Lymenstull’s knowledge and experience in Chinese piano music is highly impressive; he even received the Zumberge Faculty Research and Innovation Fellowship from USC in order to research music from China. His program is infused with a deep sense of Taoism and spirituality and will also be filled out with some Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

Dr. Lymenstull will perform his program at the 2021 Burrows-Getz Concert on Saturday, July 31st at 7:30 PM. The concert will be held in the Meeting House and is free and open to the public.

The Journey of the Meeting House Bell

By Loren Weiss

bell 2020Everything at the CSA has a story, whether it’s the streets we walk on or the sand we dig our toes into. The tolling of the Meeting House bell is such a constant that we almost don’t think to ask about it; but as with everything, behind that strong, musical ringing lies a fascinating history.

The 300-pound brass bell wasn’t originally created to hang in our grand meeting house. In fact, it was removed from an Illinois Central Railroad engine in Chicago, falling into the hands of James L. Taylor in 1960. He wanted to arrange for it to be donated to the CSA, but he couldn’t find a way to get it there - at least, not until John Hawley showed up.

In an anecdote that is still told around the CSA to this day, John Hawley put the gigantic bell into the back of his car, then drove all the way from Chicago to Pilgrim with it in his trunk. Nancy Hawley Morrison, his daughter, says that his car was a 1956 Buick that could just barely handle the weight! “[It] caused the rear shock absorbers to go into ‘max lifting’,” she recalled. “The result was that the headlights of the car aimed at the treetops throughout the entire trip north.” With some difficulty, he and the bell made it all of the way to Pilgrim safely, and the bell was then installed in the Meeting House and has resided there ever since.


russ and kid 1russ and kid 2The bell’s main purpose is to call Assembly members to the Sunday services. Russ Freeburg, who is 98 years old and a former usher, has been ringing the bell on Sundays for over 16 years. The job usually falls to one of the ushers, but since he’d been doing it for so long, there was a mutual agreement that he could continue even after he retired from his position as an usher. On Sundays, the bell rings twice: 20 minutes before 11:00, and five minutes before 11:00. “There’s always a rush at the end after the second bell,” Russ said, smiling. “Everyone comes at the same time.” The bell also rings for emergencies (i.e. a fire), and for weddings.

Though most of the original parts of the bell stayed intact over its time at the CSA, Russ and Ken Cox ran into a problem when they tried to ring the bell as a signal of the “end” of the pandemic. “The rope snapped sometime during the pandemic year… it finally wore out. It might’ve gone back to when the bell was installed,” Russ commented. Though the rope was later replaced with the rope from the old Crystal Lake swimming lines, the loss of the old rope shows just how long the Meeting House bell has served our community.