Category Archives: Columnists

Hodgepodge, March 8

Tales of winters past

The older generations have always told stories of winters of their younger days to their children and grandchildren.

You know — the ones that start out, “Back when I was a kid in the winter time …”

It was likely that I had heard tales about my grandparents coping with big storms, about their trips through the deep snow to the hen house to gather eggs, and the sleigh rides of their younger days.

I do know that my grandparents both grew up on farms in the days when horses and one’s legs were the main sources of transportation.

I grew up in Syracuse and I had no difficulty thinking about the snowy winters of my youth. Winters when the snow was often up too high to get the back door open; many winters when the usually wide street in front of our house was narrowed down to a path that the cars with their tire chains didn’t dare to travel on.

It seems there was no shortage of snowy excitement from my younger days — adventures which should have kept my own children amazed by the stories of their father’s winter time activities.

Oh, my generation and I — we had our moments, OK? — but there was one problem when it came to bragging to my children about the winter time adventures of my youth.

Only one BIG problem — my kids were growing up in Fulton’s winter weather and nothing I could say about growing up in Syracuse would impress them. I’m afraid that they would have been bored from the beginning.

In Fulton the snow- banks were higher, and the houses were literally buried in snow from October to April; sometimes traces still lingered in May. It took a lot to impress them when snow stories were being told.

 

Dad’s snow tunnel

Wait a minute – I had it. When asked about my own adventures in the snow, I would cleverly switch the scene back a few years.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Grandpa (my father) was a kid?  Well, this one day there was so much snow between his house and his friend’s house across the street that they had to dig a tunnel from one to the other – and I got some pictures somewhere to prove it.”  Wow!

Well, that seemed to do it. They were impressed, and I am still searching for that picture.

 

Take a walk

I have always tried to do some walking as often as I could, just for the sake of walking and some exercise.

For years, my wife and I enjoyed frequent neighborhood walks in decent weather. Now that I am home more during the day, I try to take regular neighborhood jaunts. I find that my walks are half as long and twice as tiring these days.

When I lived in Fulton, walking was a daily ritual. We had a couple of set patterns for our walks.

As it is a common routine in Fulton to “walk the bridges,” we did that at least half of the time.

On other occasions, since we lived on the east side, we would take the “east side trek” from our house near East Side Park, up to Nestles, and then follow a rectangular course until we were close to where we started, and return home.

(I don’t live in Fulton now, but if I did I wonder how I could manage to shorten the distance between those bridges.)

If you are a walker and follow the same route every day at approximately the same time, walking can become a social event as you will meet up with at least some of the same people every day.

If you have walked for recreation for several years you will discover that you have participated in a variety of styles — moving along briskly; slowing down so your walking partner could keep up; moving slow enough to enjoy the passing scenery, and finally, “plodding along” (and slowing your walking partner down).

In your early walking days, the toot of a horn from a passing vehicle probably was a greeting from an acquaintance; now, the same thing could be considered more of a “get-out-of-the-way” blast.

And finally, a bit of wisdom from an unknown source: “Walking is a wonderful exercise that is sure to prolong your life, unless you try to cross the street.”

A question left over from last month:

Why is February the shortest month?

Well, here’s an explanation.  Back in Julius Caesar’s days, the months alternated: 31 days, 30 days, 31 days, etc., for a total of 366 days.

Julius decided he wanted a month named after him. He took the seventh month, named it July, shoved the other months down a notch with the last month dropping off the end.

That month had 30 days.  Julius thought his month should be one of the longest so he took a day from February and added it to July, giving July 31 days and February 29 days.

When Augustus came along, he wanted a month of his own. He couldn’t be ahead of Julius so he took the next month and named it August.

Like Julius, he shoved the other months down and another one dropped off the end. That month had 31 days. Augustus wouldn’t be outdone by Julius so he took another day out of poor February and added it to August.

February then had 28 days. We lost 31 and gained 30, for a new total of 365 days.

No, I haven’t been carrying all this information around with me since fifth grade; I found most of it on “Askville by Amazon.”

 

… Roy Hodge  

OPINION: It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

By Debra J. Groom

I was reading through some things on my desk and came across a notice that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

I thought I would toss in my few cents on this subject in hopes of getting a bunch of Oswego County residents off their keisters to get their colons checked out.

The best screening available for colon cancer is the colonoscopy. Yeah, I know, the dreaded colonoscopy. There may be a few of you reading this saying to yourself “Hey, no one is going to put a scope up, well, you know where.”

But listen. It really isn’t that bad. And if it can save you from dying from colon cancer, I’d say, go for it.

I have had five colonoscopies. Colon cancer and colon problems run in my family. Both of my grandfathers had colon cancer. One died from it (back in 1944, before there were the tests and treatments we have today). The other was cured, but he lived with a colostomy for the rest of his life.

My mother had problems with benign colon polyps and my sister has had colon difficulties too. So you can bet your bottom I don’t miss a colonoscopy.

The Centers for Disease Control says colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. It also is the second-leading cause of death from cancer for men and women combined in the United States.

In 2010 (the most recent year numbers are available), 131,607 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 67,700 men and 63,907 women.

A total of 52,045 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,073 men and 24,972 women.

But here is the most important statement from CDC:

“Screening can find precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.”

Are you convinced yet?

Well, while the colonoscopy sounds yucky, it really isn’t that bad.

You spend the day before on a liquid diet, which leads to ravenous hunger. But hey, it’s only one day.

You drink some bad-tasting stuff the night before the procedure that makes you spend much of the next few hours on the porcelain throne. But you have to clean out that colon so the doctor can get some clean, pretty pictures.

That part — called the prep — is actually the worst part. And think about it, isn’t it worth it to go through a few hours of discomfort to live to a ripe old age with your colon in tact?

The test itself, I have found, is a breeze. I have always been totally knocked out by the anesthesia — I’ve never felt a thing. After, you lay in the recovery room for a bit, talk to your doctor to see what they found and then off you go. Most people can eat a regular meal not too long after the test is over.

Even with my extensive family history, I have this done only once every five years.

Of course, people should always mention any symptoms they have to their doctors immediately. The CDC lists the symptoms as blood in or on your stool (bowel movement, stomach pain, aches, cramps that don’t go away and losing weight when you don’t know why.

So if you have any symptoms or you’re over 50 and just want to be checked out, celebrate this month by see a gastroenterologist and having a colonoscopy.

I think that’s a small price to pay for life.

Bodley Bulletins

By Julia Ludington

School has definitely been scarce the past few weeks!

However, Bodley students are still hard at work at their various activities.

Spring sports players are becoming excited as the season fast approaches. The first official day of practices will be March 10. Make sure you have gotten your physical and are all set to play.

Coaches will be giving their players “red sheets.” These are to record any injuries or health problems players may have.

Athletes are required to fill them out every year for the nurse. Players should make sure to get these in on time. It is very important that the nurse and trainer have your information in case of an emergency.

Our athletic department has begun to take concussions much more seriously in the past few years, so athletes should also be expecting to take a concussion test at the beginning of their respective seasons.

The test measures reaction time and recognition of shapes, words, and numbers, among many other things.

If a player gets a concussion, he or she will have to take the same test again. The trainer will compare both tests and determine if any further action needs to be taken.

No need to fret! It sounds scary, but if you take the right precautions, a concussion should be nothing to worry about. Always make sure you have the proper equipment. If you suspect you may have a concussion, be sure to tell your coach right away.

Do not forget about our upcoming musical (“Curtains”) this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday! Evening performances take place on each day at 7:30 p.m., as well as a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m. We hope you can make it!

Poetry Çorner

A Winter Truth, by Jim Farfaglia

 

Only after an Oswego County winter,

after our spirit has been buried deep,

 

can a rabbit hop onto a snow mound

and rise up on its hind legs

 

to nibble from the top branches

of a succulent shrub,

 

enjoying something so life-giving,

like that first sign of spring:

 

long dreamed of, but unreachable

without living through a long hard winter.

Light In The Darkness

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Matthew 25:23

The words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” are often repeated. Indeed,  it is  the wonderful acclamation any servant of Jesus Christ hopes to hear when his or her labors on this earth are completed.

It is something to strive toward and look forward to hearing. What could be better than to hear Jesus say those words to you?

Few things, indeed. However, as I have meditated upon the verse, I have come to think that the second part of his statement is even more precious.

It hinges upon our walk with him here, of course, but what could be better than to hear Him say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord”?

That joy is not found in isolation somewhere on the backside of the Kingdom. No, Psalm 16:11 tells us that this joy is found, “In His presence!”  It is the fullness of joy.”

To enter into His joy is to be with the one who is the author of joy unfathomable this side of Heaven. A little verse I read recently (author unknown to me) says it well.

“There, in your blissful presence, reigns immortal joy serene; No wintry storms are heard to roar, nor desolation seen. Around you flow unmixed delights, the rivers deep and wide;

While from the ocean of your love, proceeds an endless tide.”

Such reality ought to captivate our heart above all. It ought to fill us with desire for that day to arrive sooner rather than later.

It should cause us to say… no, not simply be able to say but rather to move our hearts to cry out with Paul,  “Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil 1:22-23)

Better by far. When we have passed through the valley of the shadow of death, and are done with all mortal care and grief, the Savior welcomes us home with this joyful invitation, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Thus begins our heavenly joy as we rest with Jesus forever. The joy of heaven is full, satisfying and eternal. It is an ecstatic joy. One writer said that, “It transports the ransomed soul with ineffable delights!”

If your spirit is not as deeply moved by these words as you might wish, do not be too surprised for the joy that awaits us is so far beyond what we can experience here as to sound foreign to our mortal ears.

It is the promise of something which, in this life, we have only the smallest taste. But, oh, what it will be then!

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

State Senate Report

By state Sen. Patricia Ritchie

From sowing crops by hand and working the land with simple wooden plows to employing new and advanced technologies to grow better — and more — crops, agriculture has come a long way since it first took root in the United States.

Illustrating these changes is the newly-released U.S. Department of Agriculture  2012 “Census of Agriculture.”

The survey, taken every five years, not only indicates agriculture continues to be a strong and major driver of our state and local economies, it also shows there are tremendous opportunities for further growth in the industry.

According to the report, the market values of livestock, crops and total products grown and produced by those in the industry are at an all time high. Farms in the United States saw sales totaling $395 billion in 2012 — 33 percent higher than in 2007.

In New York state, farmers saw sales grow more than 25 percent since 2007.

While there has been significant growth in the agriculture industry, the report points to a number of sobering statistics.

According to the survey, during a period of five years we continued to lose three farms per week. This figure is due to a number of factors including consolidation, competition and lastly, aging farmers.

According to the survey, a third of farmers were older than 65 in 2012.  Although the farming population is aging, the number of young farmers has increased slightly.

Despite this small increase, we need to continue to add more young people to the ranks of our state’s farmers.

As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, encouraging growth of the industry is a top priority, and in the days to come, I plan to unveil an ambitious plan to put New York at the forefront of addressing the issue of our state’s aging farmer population.

I encourage you to visit my website www.ritchie.nysenate.gov, where you’ll soon be able to find details on the effort as well as a link to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Responsible for generating more than $5 billion annually, agriculture is New York’s leading industry and it’s poised for explosive growth thanks to an increased consumer demand for food, drink and other products of high quality, fresh and local.

As state senator, I’m looking forward to working alongside our state’s farmers to seize opportunities for expansion in an effort to keep New York’s number one industry vibrant and growing.

View from the Assembly

By Assemblyman Will Barclay

This year marks the 50th anniversary  of the first Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health.

That report, issued in 1964, was the first federal government report linking smoking to ill health, including lung cancer and heart disease.

The news was a wake-up call to America.

Following the landmark report, government began its tobacco control efforts. Since 1964,  the smoking rate in the nation has been reduced by 58 percent. Fifty years ago, about 42 percent of adults smoked. Today’s rate is 18 percent.

The lower smoking rate has saved numerous lives. According to a report issued by the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, researchers estimate 8 million lives have been saved since 1964 when the public became more aware of the dangers of smoking.

Our state rate — 17 percent — is still a high rate when you consider the known health costs associated with smoking. Unfortunately,  our regional smoking rate is estimated to be even higher.

A state report indicates Oswego County’s smoking rate is 27.4 percent, based on data from the state Health Department from 2010.

Local health officials more recently estimate the rate to be as high as 32 percent. In Jefferson County, the smoking rate is 23.7 percent and in Onondaga County, the smoking rate is 20 percent.

I recently met with local health officials to discuss some of the health care challenges unique to our region. Presentations on tobacco use, among other health issues, were given at the local Rural Health Network’s meeting.

Data presented there showed as many as 26 percent of pregnant women smoked during their pregnancy in Oswego County in 2011. Health officials also reported Oswego County has a high death rate from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases.

Research shows obesity and smoking contribute to all of the above.

Local data also indicates smoking rates of pregnant women on Medicaid was as high as 42 percent compared to 8 percent of pregnant women with private insurance. While the numbers are alarming, it’s beneficial to have this data so we can work to reduce these rates, specifically in Oswego County.

The good news, health officials say, is the physician to population ratio will hopefully help our region reduce these rates and prevent premature death and illness.

At the state level, I’m pushing for reforms that would make those on cash assistance unable to purchase cigarettes using EBT cards. In fact, the state is in jeopardy of losing federal dollars if it does not reform its policies as well, so I’m hopeful this will change soon.

Though incidents of tobacco use may be higher regionally, tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death in New York, and lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the state.

Other health issues such as high blood pressure, stroke and other ailments are also caused by smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that those who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease and two to four times more likely to have a stroke. Men and women who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

Tobacco use is also responsible for diminished health, increased absenteeism from work and increased health care costs. The CDC also reports that tobacco use costs at least $133 billion in direct medical care of adults and more than $156 billion lost in productivity.

Secondhand smoke is also estimated to cost the country $5.6 billion in lost productivity each year, according to the CDC. Last year the state Assembly unanimously passed a bill that banned smoking at on the grounds of 100 hospitals. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly.

To access cessation resources, visit http://www.nysmokefree.com/ or call NY Quits at 1-866-NY-QUITS.

If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St.,Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling  598-5185.

The Sportsman’s World, by Leon Archer Fur trapping

The fur trade today bears very little resemblance to that of Colonial America through the first half of the 1800s.

The most important fur in those days came from the beaver, but fur, whether from beaver, or muskrat, was destined to become felt. The felt produced from beaver fur was of the highest quality and demanded a high price.

The felt hat or “beaver” actually went into production in the early 1500s, but it grew in popularity until by the mid-1600s it was a must have item for many people and classes.

The well-recognized stove pipe hat such as we see Lincoln wearing in photographs and paintings, was an absolute necessity for the well-bred gentleman. The 17th century cardinals wore red, wide brimmed beaver felt hats worthy of their rank, and every naval officer from lieutenant to Admiral had to have his cocked hat, made of beaver felt, of course.

I do not know if any beaver fur is used for the production of felt top hats today, because silk top hats became more popular by the 20th century, in a short time displacing the beaver.

But furs have become valuable and popular throughout the past hundred years, being desired for coats, jackets and stoles. Not many folks were around when every college man or up and comer had to have a raccoon coat, but more of us can remember the 1950s when mink coats were all the rage, commanding prices in the thousands, and a trapper catching two of the critters could earn as much as a full week’s wages from their sale.

I entered the world of trapping as a boy of 11, which coincided almost perfectly with the decline of many fur prices. I trapped mostly muskrat, but I tried my hand at raccoon, mink and ermine as well.

I did fairly well with the rats, caught a few raccoon, a couple of mink, and racked up a fair number of ermine during seven years of trapping. Above all the rest, each year I looked forward to March 1, the opening day of muskrat season.

Before I started trapping, muskrats were bringing close to $4 apiece; once I was trapping, they were bringing $1.35. The most I ever got for rats in the 50s was $2.35.

I skinned and fleshed the first few coon I caught, but quit trapping them entirely after I got 75 cents apiece for the ones I sold. I caught two mink. One was a beautiful dark male that brought me $48, the other smaller one brought me $32. The ermine were a buck apiece, but they were not hard to catch or clean, and I hunted small game as I checked my traps.

I trapped a few times after that, notably two years around 1981, when fur prices were high, and I received $10 apiece for the biggest muskrat pelts. I caught a number of raccoon and averaged $32 apiece for them.

I even tried my hand at fox, getting $75 for a red and $28 for a beautiful grey.

I thought about taking my grandson, Nathaniel, muskrat trapping in the fall of 2012, but ended up not doing it. That was a big mistake, as 2012 found fur prices soaring, and spring fur prices for many furbearers was at record highs.

Muskrats, for example, were averaging $12, with some lots going as high as $17 per pelt. Prices declined a bit from those lofty heights in 2013, but the market predictions are that the big late winter sales will still bring decent prices for good lots.

Beaver are expected to reach $32, up slightly from last year, mink on the other hand may be selling at $17, down nearly half from last year.

My favorite, the lowly muskrat, is expected to bring about $10 with some possibly going as high as $16. Other fur prices are equally impressive to me. I wish I was younger and a bit more agile, I’d be out there with a line somewhere.

One of the problems that arises whenever fur prices get to these levels, especially when the economy is a little lackluster, is that trappers work hard at locking up areas for themselves (which I am not opposed to by the way) but it does make it harder to find areas to trap.

State areas that are open to trappers get hit pretty heavily, even though the DEC limits competition by allowing only so many trappers on some game management areas.

The other problem that I ran into when trapping was paying good money, and to a lesser extent in poorer years, was trap thieves. There are always lowlifes out there who will steal animals from your traps, but the worst of them take your traps too.

One thing I know is that trappers earn their money. If they are like me, they enjoy being good at their craft as well. As long as I cannot be out there with them, I’ll wish them the best of luck and top prices, because trapping and the fur trade lives on.