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Page 20 ï~~ 20 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 50 BEYOND THE BOTANY-LIFE WITH ED VOSS John S. Russell 5260 Textile Rd. Saline, MI 48176 I was honored to share a home with Ed Voss for three years, to assist him in several courses at the Biological Station, and to be on his short list for camping companions at the end of many summers. He was on my doctoral committee, and was an advisor, advocate, and friend for many years. Ed was the ultimate curator. His house was curated. His car was curated. His medicine cabinet was curated, and his refrigerator was curated. At supper following a night when I had left a half-empty bottle of wine in the refrigerator, I was presented with the statement: "I trust that bottle of alcoholic beverage on the milk products shelf is NOT for our mutual consumption?" Hard to answer that correctly! His basement had a complete set of National Geographic from day one, but no TV. Surprisingly, his yard held several alien species. I planted an Abies concolor in the front yard by the drive only after a prolonged discussion about what image that would convey. I am sure that Ed was comfortable with me as a Teaching Assistant, not because of my botanical ability, but because I could keep the boats running, tie them on the trailer securely, and keep the cars running. I was happy with that role, as my guesses at plant ID were usually wrong anyway. I learned to say "Here's an interesting find," instead of "This looks like a gentian." If it wasn't a gentian, even though it looked like one, I was in minor trouble. I increased my value when I, somewhat guiltily, confessed to him that I had agreed to assist Howard Crum in Bryophytes & Lichens. Ed snorted, and said "Good. Now I won't have to stoop to identify the little stinkers." The most relaxed and fun aspect of life with Ed was during the end-of-summer camping trips. Sometimes there would just be the two of us, and sometimes three. We always sought out Lake Superior shorelines, for there we found the greatest privacy and the best botany (Fig. 4). Each trip had a theme. We might focus on exploring new areas, or on following a newly acquired map. One year it was a search for a new record for Empetrum. Some themes recurred, such as finding and consuming vast quantities of blueberries. Six species were available on the shore in August, and here, mixing of species was permissible! Pies, puddings, or fresh-any way was fine. Ed's appreciation of wild things edible extended to the fungi. I honestly believe that he was saddened when fungi were degraded and removed from the plant kingdom. That did not, however, affect their edibility. Chanterelles were particularly relished. One summer I discovered a Sulfur Shelf that fed us for several days-omelets, scrambled eggs, chili, and mixed with vegetables. We never had the nerve to try boletes or amanitas, and successfully lived on. We reminisced over Alex Smith's contention that ALL fungi were edible. Some, however, would kill you.
Page 21 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 21 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 21 FIGURE 4. Ed Voss with vasculum looking at Pictographs on Lake Supe rior. Photo by John Russell. A trip would begin with packing the car in a precisely calculated manner, so the load would not shift, and so that the driver could just barely see out the back window. Ed never got into the backpacking equipment thing, even though this would have solved lots of problems. The nine by nine foot umbrella tent, tediously coated with waterproofing, and its box (saved since purchase) of aluminum poles, went in on the bottom. It was not pushed forward, as it had to come out first so it could be erected and serve as a depot into which to unload the rest of the gear. The two-burner Coleman stove in its original box, the Coleman lantern, also in its box, the condiments, food, and utensils went in, and the toiletries went on top, always at the ready. Once I returned the toilet tissue to the condiment box. Ed's subtle response was to hide it from me, as I had from him. The cooler with frozen canned ice in ancient rusting tins went in on the left. A custom-cut shelf of plywood was laid between the window ledges behind the
Page 22 ï~~ 22 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 22 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 FIGURE 5. Ed Voss reading at 3 mile creek. Photo by John Russell. rear seat to support small items, a plant press, small toolbox, and county maps. Backpack gear would have solved space problems, but it never entered the picture. One year, catastrophe nearly struck when Jeep changed models. Renault influence caused the scrapping of the old large Cherokee design, with its lift gate and tailgate, replacing it with a unit body design. The old light blue Cherokee was badly rusted, tailgate nearly gone, and windows sticky. Ed got a new dark blue Cherokee. It was calculated to be 31% smaller in load area, if you measured all the way to the roof. I pointed out that the area above the shelf had to be left free anyway, and the calculation was revised to under 20%. I designed and cut a second piece of plywood to serve as a tailgate upon which to eat and press plants (the new Cherokee had only a single liftgate). The old shelf was cut down to accommodate the narrower width. Now the only problem was to reduce the load by about 15%. Packing tighter seemed the answer, not going to backpack gear! It was done, and the trip was accomplished, with the only problem being the front floor of the new Jeep being recessed so that it wasn't possible to just sweep Lake Superior sand out the door. Why would anyone design a four-wheel drive vehicle that way? Because they were French. Eggs for breakfast-don't cook the bottoms hard. Bring your own coffee or tea, for Ed didn't do stimulants. How did he ever get his degree? Oatmeal with bilberries was better! We'd pack sandwiches for lunch and set out on a daily hike, following maps from the DNR and always seeking blueberries and mushrooms. A three-course dinner highlighted our evenings. Often we had brought fresh corn from Clem Burr's farm east of UMBS. We ate the perishables first, as
Page 23 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 23 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 23 FIGURE 6. Ed Voss having a lunch break amidst lichens. Photo by John Russell. the canned ice could be expected to last 2.5 days if the cooler was placed appropriately in the shade and the arc of the sun in the sky was properly calculated. Evening was for bathing, and then reading (Fig. 5). Reading was continued in the tent, warmed by the Coleman, until an hour or so after dark when it was time to retire. This was also the time devoted to going over field notes, although camping trips were probably the times that Ed did the least hardcore botany. They were his "vacation" time, a time when perhaps he was most relaxed (Fig. 6) and under little pressure to perform his botanical duties. (I realize that a "relaxed Ed" is somewhat oxymoronic.) Often sadly, there was little room in the Jeep for souvenirs from the shore. I wanted to bring a pail of beach sand back for my classes, but had to package it in small containers that could be fitted into small interstices in the load. I rationalized that we could bring back a volume equal to that of the food we had eaten. A poor substitute for food, Ed opined. One thing I was able to smuggle back was a very strangely shaped burl on a jack pine trunk, which, when skinned of its bark, resembled the lower half of a human. When it was unloaded back in Mackinaw, Ed professed surprise, but I think he knew it was contraband all along. We did haul agates, the occasional pressed plant, and insects back to town. The Mackinac Bridge seemed the gate back to reality. I suspect that Ed enjoyed these weeks on the Superior shore more than any other times of his busy life, and I take solace in the belief that he is spiritually there today, in a place where essence is more important than the physical.