A few entries ago in this space, I wrote about my annual trip to The Pin Shoot in Central Lake, Michigan. I’ve spent a bit over 29 June weeks there since 1976, which may qualify me as one of The Summer People.  The place is classic small-town America. The one butt-wipe I’ve ever had to physically fight in Central Lake had come from out of town, and that was back in the ‘80s. Accustomed to visitors and tourists, the locals have always been pleasant and welcoming.

WiFi and cell phone reception aren’t the best, so when the Evil Princess and I need to get some work done there, we often go to the local library. Well stocked and well kept for its size, it has a whole separate building, a large cottage, where they sell used books. There’s always an excellent selection of history and biography, and occasionally shooting and other outdoor sports titles; the prices are right and the volunteers who work the place are always friendly.

Remember “five and ten cent stores”? Central Lake has one: Bachmann’s is an institution there. It’s your classic general store. Candy and books. Clothing. Shoes. Tools. Lubricants. About whatever you need can be found there: maybe not exactly what you were looking for, but something that will do.

Of course, some things change. You used to have to buy beer or liquor at what is known in Michigan – this part at least – as a “party store.” Things have changed. One little convenience store is now about 50% liquor store…but they have the right brands, at least for us.  On the other hand, the party store where we used to buy beer is now a pot shop.  Time moves on.

Hey – it’s vacationland, it’s the year 2022, and different people have different definitions of “party.”

The library emphasizes its children’s section. There’s a church sponsored recreation center for kids.  Even at the range, there was a sponsored and carefully supervised shooting event for the young teens from the community who come out to serve every year as timers at the Pin Shoot, and the sub-teens (dubbed “brass rats” ?) who police up spent casings.  A community that cares about its kids is the kind of community you want to live in.

It may not be the same every year, but Central Lake, Michigan is a town to which I’m always happy to return.

When Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can’t go home again,” he wasn’t entirely correct. Things will inevitably change over time…but the soul, the essence of a community like this, seems to remain constant, and to always beckon you back.

Central Lake has a neat little library; cottage on left houses a great little used book store.
The old party store is now a pot shop. Well, still sort of a party store, I guess…
They raise good kids in Central Lake. These are working the Pin Shoot, under adult supervision of course.
One citizen of Central Lake is Al Burnett, now 86, former national police shooting champion. I want to grow up to be just like him.


  1. Well, Mas, I must say that I think that Thomas Wolfe was more right than he was wrong.

    Most of the great religions of this World warn against attachment to things and to places. The Christian Ten Commandments warn to not covet the goods and property of one’s neighbor. To not steal. What is the motive for theft? Is it not because of greed? Because one covets the money or property of others?

    Indeed, is this not the root of the troubles in this country? Because we have a greedy elite class that covets power and covets the wealth of the American middle class? Are they not violating the Ten Commandments (thou shall not steal, thou shall not lie, thou shall not kill, thou shall not covet the property of thy neighbor, thou shall not have any other God’s before me, etc.) daily? Nay, hourly?

    Buddhism, too, warns against attachment to worldly things. It teaches that all things, in this World, are in flux, and that attachment only brings pain. That power over your life comes from non-attachment to worldly things.

    As the World changes, I have found that one truly cannot go back to another time or place. Indeed, as the Buddhists warn, the effort to do so only causes grief and pain.

    I have recently been reminded of all of this. One month ago my remaining parent, my mother, passed away at the age of 84. She is gone now and buried. I am in the middle of trying to settle her estate.

    As I went back to my old home-place and worked to attend to all the numerous details arising from my mother’s death, the truth that “you can’t go home again” hit me like a runaway train.

    Looking back does no good. We must look forward to the future. Not just for ourselves but for our Nation too. There are forces at play that are working to destroy our future in the name of building their false utopia. If we don’t get to work re-building our future, we will end up living in their dystopia instead!

    • TN_MAN:

      May your mother RIP. I lost mine almost 10 years ago when she was only 74 1/2 and I miss her very much. Fortunately, she was smart and had a living trust so everything went smoothly after her passing.

      A small town like Central Lake in a more gun friendly state and at least 50 miles from a well populated area would be a great place to live in retirement.

      • @ Tom606 – Interesting. Your mother was age 74 1/2 ten years ago at the time of her death. My mother was approximately 84 1/2 at the time of her death last month. That tells me that our mothers must have been born in the same year and, approximately, at the same time of year.

        My mother’s birthday was November 4, 1937. Is that close to your mother’s date-of-birth?

      • TN_MAN:

        My mother’s birthday was November 29, 1938, so she was about a year younger than your mom.

      • Condolences, TN_MAN. I also lost my Mom when she was 84. I am blessed, because her cousins lost their Mom when she was 27. I just finished reading a radically abridged version of “Magnalia Christi Americana” (The Glorious Works of Christ in America) by Cotton Mather, published in 1702. Cotton Mather died one day after turning 65. He had been widowed twice, and his third wife had mental problems. He had 15 children, but ONLY TWO survived him.

        Life is easy in our day.

        Related to your mentioning greed in your first post, I have heard that the main cause of divorce is selfishness.

      • Roger:

        July 13th is next week, so fire off a few shots on that day in memory of your mother, and don’t be cheap, no rimfire rounds.

  2. You almost make me want to move there. Nostalgia is always at work in my mind people keep telling its not the 50’s anymore maybe there right.

  3. I am actively looking for such a smallish town to relocate but the politics of California is fouling them faster than ever so like those I have mocked before for bailing ship, I too will be crossing at least one state line for my Mayberry.

  4. It looks real nice, a bit more country than what Hopkinton looks like as of now.
    The article was a pleasant read, Mr. Ayoob.

  5. There are a few towns like Central Lake here and there across America. They are always a nice, long drive from the nearest “big” city. My native Washington state has more than one, and I have found them up and down the west coast (even California), in the Southwest, and in New England. I have heard of them in the Midwest and Deep South from friends who found them. They are the kind of places where you will find the people willing to work hard to do something special such as the Pin Shoot.

  6. Wow! The perfect article for the 4th! You found a hidden gem! Refreshing to learn that Central Lake is out there, hopefully along with other “Mayberrys.” What a great place to live, learn, grow, and incubate “American values,” however corny that may sound.
    Happy 4th to all!

  7. “The one butt-wipe I’ve ever had to physically fight in Central Lake had come from out of town, and that was back in the ‘80s.”

    This made me laugh. Wish I could have seen that.

    Happy 4th to everyone.

  8. Never been to Central Lake, but I’ve been to nearby Charlevoix, and like most of Michigan, it’s beautiful in the summertime. I spent a lot of time in Michigan, having spent most of my life in Indiana and Illinois. But notice I said “in the summertime.” CL is pretty far north on the lower peninsula, on about the same latitude as Minneapolis, plus it’s right next to Lake Michigan, so in addition to brutal winter temperatures, you’re guaranteed tons of snow. Fair warning.
    But it is a pretty town, and I’m sure it’s full of nice people. As a native Midwesterner, I think Midwesterners are the friendliest people in the country. Not that I’m biased or anything.

    • Amen. Central Lake sounds a lot like the Texas town where I live, except instead of Bachmann’s we have one of the few remaining Gibson’s. (If you can’t find it anywhere else, go to Gibson’s.)
      Only our main shooting range is more shotgun than rifle/pistol. You see the same kind of beginning adults at our 4-H wild game dinner, and 4-H stock show.

  9. Great article, Mas! Really enjoyed it. To stay informed about things which might happen, I listen to a lot of news, and watch Doomsday videos on YouTube.com. The news is depressing, but it excites me. I find normal life to be boring, so I actually look forward to living like Mad Max and Rambo. I guess I am crazy. I do appreciate the comfortable life most of us have right now. And, when the SHTF, life won’t be comfortable anymore.

    I hear of all the bad things which are going on in this country, especially the cities. I ask God to curse the wretches of New York City who voted against Curtis Sliwa for Mayor. He would have turned NYC around by now. But, surprisingly, where I live, life is still pretty good. Prices are higher, but almost no shortages yet. Here, we are still experiencing good times, and we will have fireworks tonight, and an Independence Day parade tomorrow.

    No wonder almost everyone wants to live in America, or a place which is similar to America. We need to close our borders, but I hope the people who want to come here can stay home and make their countries better. Imitate what America did right, and reject what America did wrong. In order to build something decent, good must defeat evil.

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