About Major Ashpole and The Five Lakes Heron

    In the Five Lakes area--which has only four lakes--Major Ashpole is, if nothing less, a publisher of note.

    His newspaper, The Five Lakes Heron--known simply as “The Heron” or, as it is affectionately called by its longer-time subscribers, “The Bird Sheet” (a big issue might be met by the comment, “That’s a lot of Bird Sheet!”)--has been published on a somewhat regular basis for the past decade.

    Although it started as a strictly local publication, and still generally only publishes articles created in and about the Five Lakes area, The Heron has a national audience.  Ashpole won’t reveal the actual circulation, but an independent media organization estimated it as somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000, to which Ashpole responded, “I only print 15,000, so one of us is wrong.”

    Ashpole, who by virtue of The Heron’s national circulation is now known in many circles as “America’s Major Ashpole,” only publishes when he feels he has “enough for an issue,” which is rarely more than on a weekly basis, and generally averages closer to bi-weekly. “If I haven’t published an issue in a couple of weeks my wife starts to serve Weetabix for breakfast, and that acts as a good reminder,” Ashpole has stated.

    He lives on “Lake Ahgowanna,” pristine and lovely, glacially formed, spring fed, the second smallest of the four lakes, which are connected one to the other by winding channels more suggestive of African lagoons than the temperate foliage that surrounds them.  Ashpole is known to warn first time channel travelers to “watch out for the boas hanging from overhead branches,” of which there are of course none (snakes that is, not branches).

    “Ahgowanna” is thought to derive from the language of an offshoot Seneca tribe, and is said to mean “Peace and Hot Air.”

    As the reader will learn from the interview with Major Ashpole, which provides important background on Ashpole himself, as well as on The Heron, each issue includes one or more essays by Ashpole, plus various features about goings on in the community, reviews, and additional select entertainments.

    This website does not present complete issues of The Heron, merely selections from recent, and not so recent, issues.

    There are also letters to the editor, which of course do not appear in the same issue of The Heron as the essay or article upon which they comment.  But for the convenience of readers of this website, letters written with regard to a specific Ashpole essay are placed directly after that essay.

    As Ashpole is The Heron’s editor, he chooses which letters to print, and sometimes answers them in the paper, as he deems appropriate.

    Subscriptions to The Heron are available, and Major Ashpole fulfills them according to his guarantee.  To wit: You can cancel your subscription at any time, but there are no refunds.

    Moreover, the more years one subscribes for, the more it costs per year (Ashpole explains his rationale for this, such as it is, in the interview), and there is no guarantee as to how many issues will be produced in any given year (see “Terms and Conditions for Subscriptions to The Five Lakes Heron and General Notice of Operating Polices” for additional details).

    In Ashpole’s home office, which is on a lower floor from the main floor (the house is built into a slope down the lakefront), there hangs a neon sign with the full name of the newspaper, a gift given to him on the paper’s fifth anniversary by his children, who together own the neon sign factory that Ashpole himself inherited from his father.  But for some reason, the “n” at the end of “Heron” is dark.

    Ashpole makes a point of telling visitors that the “n” went out on its own and he’s asked the children for a new sign.  But the sign has been that way for the balance of the decade (his children decline to be interviewed and will not comment on this matter in any event).

    Readers may wonder why the area is called “Five Lakes” when in fact there are only four.  “Someone told me the fifth lake is ‘a lake of the mind,’” Ashpole once stated, “which is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”

    Unfortunately, there is no other explanation, which, in a way, describes Ashpole himself: beyond explanation, yet there he is anyway.


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