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Alexander Michael Dobransky


Alexander Michael Dobransky was born in 1912 to Czechoslovakian parents who had emigrated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1895. Alex was a large man with a bulldog face and brown piercing eyes. He excelled at high school sports, especially wrestling and football. 

In the summer following his junior year, his father was killed in a mining accident. Although his academic performance was excellent, Alex chose to work to support his mother and two younger sisters. Like his father before him, he worked the deep underground iron mines of the Gogebic Range.

He was now 60 years old and had worked in the mine for 40 years. The work was dark, long, and hard. The ore dust saturated his clothing, his skin, and his lungs. He suffered from a constant cough and his appearance made it sound more like a bark.

He was a quiet man, sullen and thoughtful but strangers avoided his eyes because of his apparent demeanor. Alex had few friends and never married. He was devoted to three nieces and a nephew named Michael. Alex attended their sporting events and took Michael hunting for partridge on logging trails and along the long-abandoned street car line. When a bird would flush, he would let Michael shoot and then take the bird down with a deft swing and pull on the trigger. On those crisp fall nights, Alex and Michael would eat partridge, wild mushrooms, and dark bread piled with sweet butter.

Eventually the mines closed and Alex retired into a quiet, secluded life and tended a garden and a cluster of apple trees. He died one night as a fall storm blew dusty snow off Lake Superior.

Michael, now an engineer working in Milwaukee, returned to help with the arrangements for his uncle. After he removed the rusty and tired clothing from the closet, he found old cardboard boxes stacked against the back wall. They were full of papers. He carried one of the boxes to the bed and opened it.

He found hundreds of pages covered with his uncle’s handwriting. He examined page after page and found short stories and poems: thousands of words stretching across the pages like ants marching on parchment. He flipped through the papers and read the titles: “Over the Last Hill with Walt,” “Underground on Christmas”, “A Poem for Lonely” and on and on.

Michael held a page, stained with a coffee ring and a title that read “Wind from the West.” He read it out loud to himself.

   October wind beats against the trees

      And pulls and tugs away the leaves

   They slide and slip and fall around

      Like angels wings they meet the ground.

Michael always knew that his uncle, a bulldog in appearance, had the heart of a saint.

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