My Yearly Travelogue

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

My wife and I determine how stressful our lives are by how early we start dreaming of escaping to the north woods of Wisconsin. This year, the dreams started in early December, which is a new record. So on May 31st, we packed up the new van (the old one had been totaled by a hailstorm that made the Weather Channel’s national broadcast), and drove to YMCA Family Camp Nawakwa in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. 

As always, the stress bled away the further we drove, and by the time we arrived there, we were feeling great, unpacked, and headed straight to bed so that we could sleep as late as we wanted (with kids, animals, and jobs, we don’t get to do that much). The mosquitos were bad this year, so we mostly stayed indoors, reading, relaxing, and playing UNO (my eight-year-old daughter is a demon at the game). But on Wednesday morning, the first Wednesday of the month, I had a stated meeting to get to.

I’ve been attending the June stated meeting of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, since 2012, but this was my first year as a member. I’d petitioned for plural membership at the request of the Master and several other members, and was duly voted in, so I was quite excited to be there. My lodge polo shirt and dues card were waiting for me, and I was able to look and be fully at home. 

Worshipful Master Dave Imlah was the only Brother present when I got there, and we had a chance to catch up. I asked if they’d had any degree work lately, and he told me that they had just had a First Degree, but they hadn’t been able to finish it, because no one there had been able to give the Entered Apprentice Lecture. I was curious about that, because I’d never heard of that lecture. It turns out that the EA Lecture in Wisconsin is what Illinois calls the Explanatory Lecture, and that they’re not different in any material way. I told Worshipful Brother Imlah that I’d be happy to do the lecture if it would help out, which seemed to intrigue him. He told me he’d check on whether that was allowable and let me know after he returned from Grand Lodge that weekend.

The stated meeting itself was fun, since I could now vote on things from the mundane (approving the minutes) to the sublime (electing the Worshipful Master’s son to affiliation with Island City Lodge). After a long meeting (no one is ever in a hurry to leave), we parted on the square.

Breakfast at the lodge on the following Wednesday was pleasant, especially since Worshipful Brother Imlah told me the Grand Secretary had no problem with my giving the lecture to complete our newest Brother’s First Degree, so after the meal we repaired to the lodge room and opened solely for the purpose of the lecture (Wisconsin ritual allows that). At the Worshipful Master’s invitation, I ascended to the East, received the Master’s hat, covered, invited the candidate to stand in front of me, and gave the lecture. There are few things I love more than our Work, and the circumstances here made it an honor to do it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make a mistake, but as Most Worshipful Brother Terry L. Seward says, our work doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be impressive. I hope it was, but it was sufficient for the purpose at hand, and our newest Entered Apprentice was able to sit with his mentor to begin preparing for his Second Degree. They were deep in conversation when I left.

As I was heading to my van, Worshipful Brother Imlah suggested that he might ask me to provide some Masonic education on some aspects of Illinois ritual on my next trip north, and he promised to come south to Tuscola for a visit to my home lodge (“I need to see how you crazy guys do things down there,” was the way he put it). I’m really looking forward to his visit, and already have plans to take him to a degree or two. That much Masonic fellowship may even calm me down enough that I won’t start dreaming of my vacation until January. 


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

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