After Vince and Lynne Krogh Casale’s sighting (and videographing) of a black bear on Bedbug Hill Road Tuesday, March 23, a reader sent along this photo of a black bear (see photo) rampaging in a yard in the Pierstown area, on the other side of the hill, both in Town of Otsego on the west side.
More bears in Otsego County is a new reality, Josh Choquette, the DEC’s new bear expert, based in its Stamford office, reported in last week’s edition.
Development in the Catskills is pushing bears north and, also, new growth in Otsego County’s abandoned farms is providing newly arriving bears with plenty to eat.
Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has Albert Colone, founding president of the former National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, musing about the immigrant experience, when times were REALLY tough. This is the first of two columns on the immigrant experience of his grandparents, Frank and Lucia (Valentini) Colone.
COVID-19, which hit America hard starting in early 2020, turned our worlds upside down. I haven’t been able to hug my grandchildren since early February 2020 on my last visit with them. So here we are hunkered down, adhering to the virus protocols, playing it safe and staying healthy.
So, what do you do to maintain your sanity?
I reflect on stories surrounding the trials and tribulations of my ancestors to understand the struggles they plowed through in their lives.
Remember, they were handicapped by not having all of today’s quality-of-life assets, no cell phones, computers, the luxuries of travel from automobiles to airplanes, prepared foods, safe housing, money and all of assets that we enjoy, and perhaps take for granted, today.
Do you hear where I’m going with this? Let me share with you some of the storied struggles of the early lives of my grandfather and grandmother.
One cold and leafless November morning about 40 years ago, I was deer hunting on Panther Mountain outside of Richfield Springs with my friend Paul O’Connor.
After a long climb, we came into an area that was covered with hardwood trees that stood in gentle depressions and on top of small hummocks. The rolling terrain repeated itself over and over in a nondescript fashion so that it was easy to get lost and difficult to determine exactly where we were.
Obviously, for a deer, it was a great place to hide out.
At one point we came upon an old shack that had collapsed under the weight of age and heavy snow.
“This was Honey Joe’s shack,” Paul told me. “He used to make hooch out of honey during prohibition.”
“Booze out of honey?” I asked.
“Yeah, Paul said. “I think they called it metheglin.”
I was fascinated by the thought of a man hiding away deep in the forest making a forbidden brew and I asked a lot of questions for which Paul had no answers.
Over the years, on deer hunts, Honey Joe’s name would come up but no one seemed to know very much about him. Rumor had it that he lived in the Fly Creek Valley near Panther Mountain and that he was a hermit.
Eventually, I got in touch with John Stucin, a farmer, whose family lived not far from where the Micklavzinas lived. That was Honey Joe’s last name, Micklavzina.
Stucin’s memories of the old bootlegger were very clear.
“He was a big man, almost as broad as he was tall. He must have weighed close to 300 pounds. He was friendly and liked to talk a lot, and he always came around in his old pickup when it was time to do chores and the men, he and my father, would get so deep into politics that us kids would wind up having to do the work!”
Stucin remembered that state troopers came around many times looking for Honey Joe’s still, but they never found it. That is all the farmer remembered, but he told me that his mother, Mary, had known Honey Joe very well and might give me more information.
Mary Stucin turned out to be a very clear-minded 92-year-old woman with vivid memories.
She recalled that, in the mid-’20s, when Honey Joe first came to his 140-acre farm in the Fly Creek Valley, “Bees weren’t his only business.” She said he and his wife Antonia used to sell strawberries, plums and apples and that he butchered farm animals as well as deer.
Mary said that he was an intelligent man and that he read a lot. Originally a farmer from Slovenia, near Austria, he was well versed in home remedies for people as well as for animals.
In spite of his weight, he was a lively man with a big round face and pale green/blue eyes. He loved to dance, especially the polka, and according to Mary, “for a man his size he was very light on his feet.”
I learned that his making metheglin out of honey and grain was a lot more casual than the label, bootlegger, would suggest.
“He didn’t charge much for the stuff,” she said. “Maybe a dollar a gallon. But all kinds of high-ranking people, doctors, lawyers etc. would come to buy it because he made good stuff and because of Prohibition.”
Mary said that even the locally famous state trooper, Sergeant Cunningham, who had an office in Cooperstown, used to come to Honey Joe for metheglin.
The rough and tumble Cunningham, who used to put on demonstrations of great horsemanship, couldn’t drive a car and would have one of his men ferry him to the farm to get some home brew.
Honey Joe wasn’t only big, he was strong. At fairs in Cooperstown, Richfield Springs, Oneonta and elsewhere, he’d enter dead-weight-lifting competitions, where he’d frequently walk away with the prize.
Once he and his son, Frank, were bogged down in mud in an old pickup truck. He got out and easily lifted the rear wheel so that Frank could slide a plank under it.
Whether he was cutting timber or shearing sheep, he always kept up with his colony of bees and the harvesting of their produce.
Years later, when his wife Antonia left the farm and headed for Cleveland to open a restaurant, Honey Joe could not bring himself to leave his beloved land.
They parted amicably but the split left the work weary farmer to enter his senior years alone and eventually in poor health.
“We used to worry about him,” Mary Stucin said. Every couple of days I’d send someone over to check.” One day our hired hand found that the old man had passed on in his sleep.
Time tends to bury and distort. While hunting deer, we came upon the ruins of a “bootlegging hermit” and found a husband, a father, a political thinker, a strong competitor, a maker of mead and a light-footed dancer. Not a bad go at life.
According to a newly released report from the Empire Center for Public Policy, “New York’s Uneven Economic Recovery: A Tale of Two States,” those of us who live in Upstate New York escaped the real estate/housing bubble that led to the economic crash in 2008. Why? Because our economy was so bad that we didn’t experience a bubble like the rest of the country. How’s that for good news?
Since the economic downturn, the Governor has claimed he has grown the state’s economy back to recovery. Have you experienced a recovery? Here’s how he’s been able to make that claim.
According to the governor, “We created 1,000,000 jobs (since 2011). New York State today has more private-sector jobs than it has had in the history of the state. Period. Unemployment went from 8.5 to 4.2 percent, and the recovery was statewide. In the old days you would see New York City doing very well, and Upstate would be struggling. Look how even the recovery is all across the State.”
The data don’t support that claim. In fact, to the contrary, it shows a sharp and growing economic divide between Upstate and downstate. According to the “Report,”, “By any standard, Upstate New York’s economic recovery has been among the weakest of any region in the country”. Only West Virginia, Wyoming and Arkansas, coal and minerals-dependent economies, have fared poorer. According to the Report, New York’s annual rate of real GDP growth has been lower than the rate for ALL states in six of his first seven years in office.
New York City, followed by Long Island and the lower Hudson valley, suburbs for the City, has enjoyed the highest rate of job growth in the state. At the same time, Upstate has gained private-sector jobs at about one-third of the national rate.
Of the State’s 62 counties,
23 of them, all but one
Upstate, have yet to recover to their pre-crash private employment levels. Knowing this, the Governor banned fracking in an attempt to court the “green community” and stopped the pipelines that could have brought much-needed natural gas and jobs to our region.
Did the unemployment rate in Upstate really drop or was it made to look that way – remember the old “shell” game? Based upon information in the Report, total private-sector employment Upstate grew by 6.3 percent since 2010. That is about one-third the U.S. rate of growth (17.8 percent) and even worse than that for downstate (21.2 percent). The Southern Tier counties ranged from having a loss of jobs to zero-5 percent growth. Guess where we fell in the ranking?
According to the Report, the 48 up-state counties saw a drop in employment “by a combined total of 87,500 from August 2010 to August 2018. Yes, the unemployment rate Upstate fell, but only because the labor force in those counties decreased by 210,000 people” – a result of fewer people looking for work because they had either given up, left the state or both. Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport
DANCE DEMONSTRATION – 10 a.m. Informative demonstration in the art of dance presented by Jillian’s Dance Arts. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. foothillspac.org
ART RECEPTION – 5-7 p.m. “Migration-Immigration: A Creative Depiction” opens depicting the arduous and dangerous path that has led many immigrant to the US throughout our history. Features the work of local artists working in water color, acrylics, oils, pen, ink, sculptures, and more. Cherry Branch Gallery, 25 Main St., Cherry Valley. cherrybranchgallery.com