"There is pleasure in the pathless woods, ..."

(Lord Byron,
Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178)


       My grandparents and parents were involved in making, marketing and buying fine things made of wood, and they passed these activities and this appreciation of wood on to me.  It was, however, a work of art that really started me to think about and closely observe diverse forms of wood within its natural environments.  That work of art, "Byen og dens oppland" (The City and its Hinterland) by Per Krohg covers the four walls and ceiling of a room in the Radhus (City Hall) of Oslo, Norway.  I first saw it in the late 1950s.  Its highlight for me is the area above the door into the room, where Krohg features the sawn trunk and a few of the radiating limbs of a felled tree;  they become a veritable rose window.  Seeing this led me to look for,   to think about,    ...    another nature-based hobby:  To photograph naturally fashioned wooden entities that "hit a nerve" -- i.e., they resemble something, evoke a memory, have a eye-catching texture, ...   The main requirement would be that, so far as I could tell, each would have grown or have been modified -- i.e., so-to-speak fashioned -- as the result of one or more natural processes.  The fact that they would be attributable to natural processes led to the title Nature's Wood Sculptures. 

        Each of the features shown in this album of photographs "hit a nerve."  Many viewers, I suspect, will think that the selection of several of the subjects reflects my experiencing apophenia1; several of the photographs and captions, as well as my compilation of photographs of mimetoliths 
(See http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/mimetoliths/index.html), certainly support that possibility.  But, what about the features that seem not to fit into that "analysis"?   --  Self-analysis is frustrating!  -- I just do not know.

1. Apophenia:  When anyone perceives the shape or some visual characteristic of one thing to look like something else, that person is, according to some people, experiencing pareidoliatic apophenia.  Apophenia is the perception of connections and, in some cases also meaningfulness, between unrelated things;  pareidolia is a specific kind of apophenia that involves some relatively vague stimulus of one or more of a person's senses that causes the person to perceive or sense (e.g., to "see" or think about) something else.  The Rorschach Test is frequently cited as an example of this phenomenon.


        A number of friends -- Laura A. Carey, David D. Ginsburg, Anita G. Jones, j. Madison Rink, and Kathleen E. Schacht -- and also six members of my family -- Krista & Robert Brown, Kurt & Maria Dietrich, and Rick & Robin Dietrich -- commented about or made suggestions for improvement of different aspects of this web site as it was being put together.  I gratefully thank each of them for her or his input.                                                
                                                                                                         R.V.  ("Dick")  Dietrich, 2015
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         Photographs: The first of the following photographs was taken in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in 2007;  it was taken as tangential to my compilation of photographs of Mimetoliths.  Others have been taken now and then -- most as drive-by photographs while I remained in the driver's seat  -- up until a few days ago (2015).  None of the photographs has been retouched.  All of the objects of the main part of the album, save one, are as I found them in natural environments -- i.e., none seems to have been purposefully given the form shown in the photograph;  the just alluded to exception is the last one in the main group --  the edges of that one, a peach pit rather than wood per se, were sandedThe sizes of the objects range from a few inches to several tens of feet in greatest dimension;  other things in each photograph serve as general indicators of the size of the featured object.
             Captions and notes:  Most of the captions are merely what came to mind when the features were first seen and photographed.  The notes, which are included between square brackets below some of the entries, are of diverse intent;  along this line, viewers should recall that part of my career has been trying to educate others as well as myself.  Information included in these notes consists of such things as elaboration of the basis of or thoughts that relate to the caption, additional information of possible interest, input from viewers (especially suggested alternative captions), and merely "miscellaneous comments."          
        Three Appendices are included:  Appendix A. Forms for which captions were requested and, in some cases received from viewers;   Appendix B. A composite of Snow Look-a-likes atop Nature's Wood Forms;  [ and ]  Appendix C. Examples of a few decorative and utilitarian pieces that consist wholly or largely of natural wood forms.

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[ Interestingly, this one was located where Great Blue Herons are frequently seen.]

[ This caption is based on my recollection of the myth about the "birth" of a bird, the (H)alcyon, and its depictions, which resemble today's kingfishers;  the above wood form is similar to those profiles.  In addition, I thought about the present day connotation of the adjective halcyon, especially its widespread application to one's "golden years" -- i.e., the times and/or places that are widely characterized by tranquility, peace and prosperity;   Consequently, the "west" part of the caption is based on the facing of the wood form and thoughts relating to the well-known 19th century quotation "Go west, young man."      
         It seems of at least tangential interest, and consequently noteworthy here, that the accepted scientific name of several kingfishers includes the generic term Halcyon, and the most common North American kingfisher, the belted kingfisher, has the species designation alcyon. ]


[   The above photograph was taken during the fall of 2014.  The below photograph was taken during the spring of 2015.  They were taken from nearly, though not exactly, the same spot. In any case, the later (i.e., spring) photograph shows a "clean shaven" Billy, and he's lost beard.  Both photographs are just as "he" appeared -- i.e., nothing shown or nearby was moved or removed; the photographs have not been retouched.
          This pair of Nature's Wood Sculptures brought several things to mind:  Perhaps the most interesting is they reminded me that virtually all of the features shown on this web site were formed as the results of what seems well characterized as The RAVAGES of TIME and consequently are short-lived.  Indeed, they also led me to indicate that some of photos that I take are by a Ph.Eph (photographer of the ephemeral).  In any case, the R...ofT... characterization led to several tangential thoughts -- considerations about several of the diverse processes that are involved in the formation of these interesting "sculptures" and wondering what modifications they will likely exhibit as they deteriorate to ultimate nothingness/nonexistence. To elaborate, one of the aspects that relates to these forms and "The RAVAGES of TIME" is the fate often referred to by the aphorism "dust to dust" (see Genesis 3:19).   ] 

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[  Orpheus is widely depicted with a "golden" lyre.  According to the summary given in Wikipedia: "Poets such as Simonides of Ceos said that Orpheus's music and singing could charm the birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, ... and divert the course of rivers." 

[  One wonders if the feature that is where Abraham's nose seems to belong may represent a locust.  Also noteworthy This "sculpture" serves a dual role;  it also is a small  section of the multi-wood forms image that appears in the entry "High Tea."  ]

[ with apologies to Edvard Munch: The Scream (Norwegian: Skrik, German: Der Schrei der Natur [i.e.,The scream of Nature], which is said to have been Munch's title ]

[ The comic strip character Caspar Milquetoast, a creation of  H.T. Webster, along with Gene Ahern's Major Hoople were favorites of my youth! ]

[  This group of three discarded pieces of  Nature-shaped wood is shown just as they lay when first viewed and photographed.  When first seen, this group reminded me of Frans Hals' Laughing Cavalier.  Later, while cropping the overall photograph, the group seemed to look more like what I think the spinster daughter in Grant Wood's American Gothic painting might have appeared had she "dressed up" and donned a rather flamboyant hat and robe, before going to a High Tea.  Whoever, the mass at her mouth has been interpreted differently by viewers -- e.g., her applying lipstick rather than a sweet, buttered crumpet (my original thought). ]

[ SUGGESTIONS sent by viewers:      "Mummified Marsupial"          "Deadeye (all dressed up for the hootenanny)"           "Oh Dear! ..." ]

[ This pair, parts of the same "Sculpture," seem at odds.  The wide-eyed one on the right wants attention directed to its raised goatee as well as to its raised eyebrows. ]

[ This "sculpture" and, it appears especially, its title have led to several additional thoughts, questions, ...  --  for example:  Does the B.T. stand for Bed Time? ... for Big Time?  ... for Bad Time?  ... for . . . ? ? ?    Actually, for none of those!  It is based on my recollections of nightmares I, and several others, had each time after of some rather disturbing thingS happened to one of our group ("civilians" ) because our sergeant (regular army) seemed to need a "fall guy" while we were in Basic Training during the early 1940s in preparation  for our WW-II service. ]

[ This "sculpture" and the "title," which came to mind as soon as I saw the above patterns, reminded me of several things.  In particular, I thought about some of the lyrics of "Circles" -- e.g., ~"Nowhere to go and so we spin around in circles, circles~" and also about two vocalists I have long admired -- Ella Fitzgerald and Malvina Reynolds:  Ella's " Whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho" when she sang "The music goes round and round";  Malvina's and my conversations about her "Little Boxes..." (~"all made of ticky-tacky~") and spheres(circles) so many people seem not to recognize as interdependent as well as important . . . .  (This was when Malvina was one of the "headliners" at the first Earth Day demonstration, held on April 22, 1970, at CMU.)

[ This "sculpture" -- both viewing it and coming up with a caption was thought-provoking as well as time-consuming, BOTH of which are good for one my age who spends too much time on  this, that, and whatever. -- most of which is of little, if any, use or consequence.  Among the possible captions that were considered for more than a few momemts were "Contortionist"  (thoughts of a  friend at a place we were stationed during WW-II),  "Wrestling ..."  (recollections of 'bout' with a fellow freshman  in s Colgate dormitory),  "Holding on" (several diverse stupid 'close calls' that I had while involved in geological field work),  "No(!), I SHAN'T...."  (a hope for anyone contemplating suicide ....),  . . .       And, of course, there also were recollections of  Jack Haley (In "The Wizard of Oz").

[ This "sculpture," in part fashioned by woodpeckers led to one viewer to suggest  the alternative title "Hol[e]y, Hol[e]y, Hol[e]y."]

[ BAD, UNhealthful habits seem never to cease!! ]
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[ The pattern of the limbs of the birch tree, leafless during the winter, is striking as set off by its background of evergreen trees.  Its location serves to direct attention to that pattern; one sees it while going downgrade on a rather narrow, tree-lined road to the junction with the main road of the area, part of which is shown in the photograph. ]

[ The suggested alternative caption "Two is company ..." led to inclusion of the next two entries and their captions. ]


[ These are the roots of a hard ("sugar") maple tree, in St. Ignace that is thought to be more than 100 years old. ]

[ The roots shown on the left side photo, which was taken in February 2011, are those of a pine tree that rises from a sand dune covered area near the north shore of Lake Michigan.  As shown in the right side photo, which was taken in September 2014, they support a tree that appears to be healthy. ]

[In mid-March, 2016, a wind storm in the Gros Cap area of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, led to the up-rooting of several rather large trees.  Subsequent rains exposed the roots of several of those fallen trees and also of trees that were blown over during earlier storms.  This is part of one of those root clusters.  The ~ square root sign refers to the root directly above the sign that has the approximate right-angle shape;  the + refers to the upper left form, which roughly resembles a helmeted hornbill with an extended foot to the right.]

[ This is a small section of a photograph that was taken with a telephoto lens.  Despite its generally inaccessible location, the shape of the area that is barkless makes one wonder if it was removed by a natural processes. ]

[ This one has had responses and suggested alternative captions -- e.g.,      "Here today;  gone tomorrow"        "Roadside 'kill'"       "Sylvan Cemetery"      "Egad !"  ]

[ This photo of a fir tree  root wad has led to the suggestion of an alternative caption  "I should have been a Maple!" ]

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An appropriate subtitle might be "A Westminster 'would-be' with its 'do'" -- i.e., with its showtime hairdo. 
          This one is hardly a "sculpture."   Instead, it is an example of differences that become apparent each Fall wherever  Mother Nature's deciduous and coniferous trees coexist.
         As viewed from my Living Room, the movement of this group, with the wind, closely resembles a show poodles' head and 'do'while trotting aound the ring, at the end of its leader's leash, to exhibit its gait.  The more solid-appearing part of this "Poodle's" head, including eyes and open mouth,.consists of cedars;  its fluffed-up 'do' is the near-leafless top of a white ash.

[ This one is an exception so far as the statement relating to the "sculptures" in this album representing products of natural processes.  Quite obviously, its main part is a sawn surface.  A few others include such surfaces, but those surfaces are NOT so-to-speak featured -- e.g., the top of the fence post in "Knots" and the top of "A poochified stump?", which are the fifth and sixth photographs that follow this one. ]

[ The fungi on this tree are widely referred to as Birch Bracket fungi or Birch Polypore.  When young, they are white (see two lower ones on right photograph);  with time, they become brown (see top one on right and those in the left photograph).  Especially in the past, these fungi, when of appropriate age, were sometimes used for sharpening razor blades;  this led to another of their common names "Razor strop fungus."   Like the "artist's conk" fungus shown in Appendix B, some well-aged Birch Bracket fungi have had artwork imposed on their lower surfaces. ]

[ The shape of this feature rather closely resembles the abstract shape of a gold pendant once being fashioned for Frances, my wife for more than 60 years.  It appears to be a thin, inner layer of bark that has undergone incomplete drying, the complementary shrivellng of which led to its current shape. ]
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[ The above knotty pieces of wood -- two horizontal, the other vertical --  led me to think about "knotty problems" and their resolution and also to two kinds of thinking 
      Although most of my efforts have involved vertical -- i.e., analytical -- thinking;  I have enjoyed my ventures into the realm of, horizontal --i.e., imaginative -- thinking;  But, in many cases of both,
     One viewer has suggested that attention be directed to the snake-like appearance of the lower left pattern of knots.

[ The above gray "spray" that appears to be streaming from this stump is a cobweb. ]      

[ These two are not at the same scale.  The designation "Gigantic Slingshot" has been suggested for the one on the left by a number of viewers:  
   The one on the right appears to have been formed in part by human intervention -- probably
a county road maintenance person;  the tops of the "y" are sawn surfaces.]

[This form is not a sculpture in any context -- at least not one known to me.  It is a product of Nature -- i.e.,of  natural processes (for this feature, growth of brittle wood, wind, and gravity);  that is to say human intervention had nothing to do with the arrangement.of the pieces giving this relationship.  So, I believe it warrants a place in this document, and seems to fit well between two other natural formst that resemble letters of the alphabet -- i.e., "Y" (above) and d or b, depending upon one's viewpoint (below).]

[ The four small photos, on the right, three of which have been rotated "make my point." 
   When viewing this "sculpture," I was reminded of two things other than those that led to the caption: 
                      1.Aunt Grace's (Grace L. Dietrich's) "Reversal of Letters and Numbers" Research.
              and  2.My antique (late 1800s?!!) Thonet bentwood rocking chair.
   In addition (see in particular the main photograph), the top part of the rather long, nearly vertical part of this wood 
"sculpture" made me think of  "Macbeth" and the witches' fingers that mixed the brew.]
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[  Caption translation:  Merry Christmas!  Blue tit(mouse).   In Norway, sheaves of wheat or oats are widely given to people when they purchase Christmas trees.  Those sheaves are to be are hung up, out-of-doors, for the birds.  This tradition is said to be based on farmers' saving the last sheaf of grain from a harvest and putting it out on Christmas Eve's morning for the birds' Christmas feast.
         One viewer has noted that this "Sculpture" resembles a "Ram's Head."  ]

[  SUGGESTED alternatives:     "Mounted machine gun in place, Sir!"          "Bird in the woods"          "Fish out of water" (apparently speared near its tail)  ]

[ Granted, this is a real "stretch" but it reminded me of Pierre Boulle's wooden bridge ("Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai") and the movie that was based on it -- this, even though the above "bridge" only spans a small part of the Carp River and certainly would only support travel of perhaps a "critter" with the weight of a squirrel to use it (for whatever reason).  O well!! ]

[ The "boat" that this ~4½ft(~1.35m) long wood "sculpture" is seen to resemble is of the inflatable type.  A few viewers have indicated that it might be called a kayak rather than a dinghy.  As shown, the craft is grounded, and one might even suggest, because of the stick atop it, that the last person who was aboard may have lost the paddle and used the stick to pole the craft to shore. ]

[ This wood form looks, albeit only roughly, the way the named structure and environs might now appear had its 11th century edifice been left to the elements. ]
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[ Several viewers have seen this one as less than easy so far as relating the shape of the "sculpture" and the caption.  An explanation:  The one offering the praise is at the top and seems to be rising out of  this "monolith" -- i.e., her/his body is not in view from this side.  You can see her/his face and crown of roses-like headwear, and (s)he is raising two arms upward to the left offering the indicated "Praise ..." ]

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Appendix A.  A few wood forms for which viewers are requested to suggest "captions":  Suggestions will be greatly appreciated, and at least some of them will be (have been) added to these photographs;  in some cases, the forms and captions of this group will be moved into the main album.

[ This feature, unlike most of those in this album, was not found not as the result of accidental observations;  it was, instead, found as the result of much searching! -- Searching for a tree that would at least roughly resemble the one that is the focus in the mural by Per Krohg that is mentioned in the Preface.  A photograph of that mural is on the following web page:

           Unfortunately to date the one shown here is the best one yet found.  It shows a rather typical multi-branched spruce treee whereas Krohg's tree was a diciduous tree with only a few branches.  Consequently, the search will contine.

           In any case, when viewed from its bottom up, this felled tree also exhibits an interesting rose-window-like pattern.  SUGGESTIONS for a caption include       "Leaded Window"          "Fireworks" (of the pinwheel genre)        "Spokes (presumably of a bicycle)     and      "Broken window/windshield"  ] 

[ More captions have been suggested for the above wood form than for any of the others.  The diversity is rather interesting -- e.g.,  "Agave"     "Crown leaves of a Pineapple"     "Witch's Broom"   and   "Shuttlecock".     The one given on the form was chosen because of the explanation supplied with it.]

[ A rather remarkable coincidence:  The day after the suggestion "Flames" was made as a caption for this wood sculpture (left), my daughter, Krista, sent me the photo that is shown on the right;  she had just taken it with her cell 'phone at their summer home.  AND, she had neither seen the photograph on the left nor heard about the first listed suggested caption! ]

[ To anser viewers' questions, "~What do you see on/in this 'totem pole'?" --
Top to bottom:
  1. a dog or rodent (squirrel?);
                      2. a face -- right eye partly covered, oval mouth and goatee;
                      3. a large-eyed  "Wow(ing)" character --
its two "eyes" are about 40 per cent of the way below the top of the main photograph;
                      4. the head of an elephant and/or, in part, a broad-billed "duck";
            In addition, there are a few extraneous parts of  "imaginary creatures."

[ One viewer suggested the caption "The flying horse of Kansu";  this, interesting suggestion, rather well-based methinks, would have the horse going right (Eastward, which seems quite appropriate!) rather than towards the left.  A second viewer saw the arc as resembling a "Wagon wheel";  this would suggest simplification of the given caption to "Westward Ho  . . .  "   \
        The original caption was based on the perception that the arc portion of  this multifaceted "sculpture" roughly resembles a simplified  cross-section of a wave in a body of water, and the five pieces that trend approximately 30 to 50 degrees from upper left to lower right below the arc were seen to represent fishlike "creatures"  so-to-speak going along with, albeit just below, the wave's surface.  One viewer, who also "saw" this overall resemblance, indicated that she saw at least two of these "creatures" as ducks, grebes and/or loons or even porpoises rather than fish. ]

[ The original caption involved the "person" whose profile constitutes the ~½ (i.e., the left side) of the upper part of this overall wood "sculpture" and his/her looking down at the reflection in the pool.  Additional SUGGESTIONS -- which relate to the identity of the "person" follow, and they are given in the order most-to-least in the compiler's opinion to resemble the profile:      "Stan Laurel, sad / agog"       "Ranger Smith of Jellystone Park" (the Yogi Bear cartoon, etc.)      Puppet of the Kookla, Fran & Ollie TV show"     "Lamb Chop" (sock puppet of ventriloquist Shari Lewis)      "Homer Simpson"  ]

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Appendix B While looking forward to the leafless trees period of the typical Fall season of the area -- one of the times when one can see Nature's Wood "Sculptures" nearly unobstructed, an early ~15-inch snowfall occurred.  So much for those anticipated views, at least for 2014.  However, several snow forms that roughly resemble such things as animals, both real and fictional, and other diverse things were present, apparently supported by the trees, both growing and downed by, for example, windstorms.  The following composite shows a few of these that were present along a county road near the north shore of Lake Michigan.

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Appendix C.  A few of Nature's Wood "Sculptures" and directly, typically spatially, associated materials have been collected from their natural environments and gained  places or used-in-place in what is widely referred to as folk art.  Others have found uses as parts of such things as mounts for names and/or addresses and rural mailboxes.  A few examples of these roles are illustrated in this appendix.

Driftwood has a long history of use in creative endeavors referred to as the arts or crafts.  Diverse utilitarian as well as strictly decorative creations are widespread, and large numbers of them have been marketed.  Many of these consist of more than one piece;  some include loose pieces of naturally shaped wood from, for example, stumps rather than of driftwood per se.  Several examples, ranging from wall hangings and paperweights to rather large pieces of furniture and life-sized animals, can be seen on-line. Each of the following examples is currently in the compiler's collection. .


Driftwood plus stones are of particular interest to this old geologist!!  The left and right ones consist of driftwood and pebbles picked up on Beaver Island in northern Michigan.  The origin of the driftwood and the stone, and craftsperson who made of the one in the center are unknown;  it was purchased in a curio shop along the Gulf of Mexico shore of Texas.

Loose parts, including branches, brush, and even cut portions of trees and bushes have been used because of their shapes, sizes, etc. as, for example, decorative parts of objects such as birdhouses, flower boxes, mailboxes (including bases upon which they are mounted). Three examples in Mackinac County follow:

Stump -- This doghouse-look-alike is one of the decorative Landscape accents near a residence of Moran, Mackinac Co., Michigan.  In my mind, if would be more complete if it included the dog-and-? portion of  Chas. Addams' cartoon that depicts a dog looking at a water-spouting hydrant. 

Root -- This root and attached stump, turned upside-down to use as an accent -- i.e., a decorative urn(?) -- is near Hessel, Mackinac County, Michigan.  It was found in the owners' adjacent woods.

Tree fungus -- i.e., bracket, sometimes called shelf, fungus, of the Granoderma genus (e.g., Ganoderma applanatum) -- has found widespread use as the surface upon which folk art has been engraved or painted.  This has led to these fungi's being called Artist's conk.  The engraving has been done with diverse "tools" -- e.g., styli, penknives, sticks and fingernails;  the paintings include water, oil, and acrylics as well as artist-concocted media the consistencies of which are known only to those who made and used them. The succeeding photographs show tree fungi on a sugar maple stump in Chippewa Co. and the two sides of one of these fungi that is owned by Sandra Harrell of St. Ignace.  The artwork on the originally under side of this fungus was made with a pointed wood-burning tool by Juanita Harrell, Sandra's mother, in the mid-1970s. 
It seems also noteworthy that some of these fungi have been used as bases upon which, for example, stuffed birds have been mounted.     

[  Although included to show an example of one of these fungi, considering the connotations of the captions used in the main part of this album, the overall appearance of this trunk, now a stump, and the associated fungi seemed also to warrant a caption, eh(?!!).  ]

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Discard(s) ?!?!?!

[  SUGGESTIONS:    "Not my first choice!"          "A different direction seemed wise"          "I raise my trunk to take a bath" (so saieth the elephant)          "Just as the winds of heaven -- CHANGE." ]

[  The lower photograph of this composite was taken and originally included in Appendix A with the caption "Yikes !" and an alternative caption of "Punt."  Later, it seemed that at least some viewers would be interested in the fact that several parts of the stump exhibit additional forms that at least roughly resemble, for example, heads of humanoids. The six "characters" shown at the top of this composite are among others those that can be seen on this side of  the stump;  the among others  includes the one that is "looking over the shoulder of the second one from the right of the group of six.  All are at the same scale.  It is also noteworthy that additional features that resemble diverse living and inanimate objects can be seen when this lower photograph is observed with other orientations -- e.g., rotated 90, 180 or 270 degrees.  ¶ The caption is based on the location of the stump, Search Bay. ]

R.V ("Dick") Dietrich (b. 1924), a native of the St. Lawrence Valley, Northern New York, is a graduate of Colgate University (A.B.), and Yale University (M.S. & Ph.D -- Geology).  Now retired, he was a College professor of Geology, with Petrology his main field of research.  He has authored or coauthored many professional papers and books, some of which are textbooks, and also 14 web sites, most of which are available at http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/Default.htm .   For additional informaton about "Dick,", click the following link: XXXX

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© R.V. Dietrich 2017
Last update:
  15 February 2017
(This site will be updated continually.)