Follow Up on the
A friend, who is an artist and earns his living doing carpentry,
spent two half-days last January, straightening the boards on
a table saw, measuring and cutting the appropriate ends, and screwing
them on the ceiling and walls. I had carried the boards inside
a few months before, so their moisture content would be the same
as the room, therefore shrink less, once they were screwed in
place. I also thought we would finish the job-about another day's
work-in the next month, February 2003.
It was a year later when we got out the tools and extension cords,
set up the saw horses, carried out the table saw, etc., to do
another partial day's work.
My husband and our friend had one board in place and were just
past the grumbling and swearing stage that begins every construction
session, when we realized that a chimney fire was brewing.
(Warning: Don't try this at home. The following is for experienced
Thus began an afternoon process of cutting off the oxygen until
the fire died down, trying to push through the creosote impregnated
ash, cleaning it out from both lower locations and shutting off
the oxygen as the fire would start to flare again as oxygen was
The guys switched places - my husband went to the basement and
our friend climbed up on the two story roof. After melting the
fiberglass pole that held our chimney cleaning brush (that was
like new), they had progressed to using the head of sledgehammer
attached to a chain. We opened the basement and ground-level clean-out
doors to verify that the sledgehammer head had broken through,
when the smoldering mass and newly introduced oxygen met we heard
a WOOOFF! that shot soot and smoke flying out of the top of the
chimney around the column of shooting debris. I could only see
the whites of his eyes. He was plastered in soot and pieces of
creosoted ash, from his chest, up to the tassel on his hat. His
cant had turned into erratic screaming epitaphs of an unblessed
nature - leveled at us. I decided he was all right - no one hurt
could be so poetic. I was trying to pull the burning globs out
of the clean-out door so I could close the door to shut off the
oxygen flow, but I was having difficulty because I was (silently)
shaking with laughter. Before I knew it, he was down the ladder,
he pushed me aside (none too gently) and was pulling out the stinking,
fiery mass with his gloved hands.
When my husband heard the WOOOFF! and the muffled tirade from
two stories up, he shut off the oxygen at the basement end. He
came running up and outside as I was trying to brush off a pacing
and still ranting hero.
They eventually got it under control, the chimney cleaned and
the stove pipe back in place. But even with a cheery fire blazing
and a promise of new glove, our friend wouldn't stay for dinner.
The wide pine boards still encircle the woodstove, but the image
of our multi-talented friend (thankfully unhurt), covered in soot
and jumping with vengeance, was a vindication to the numbers of
times I have moved those boards - the forced sidestep around them
each time I came in the door with arms full of groceries or firewood.
Although our like-new chimney brush is rather bent and irregular,
the next date my husband has to clean the chimney is marked on
The blackened sledgehammer head stands on the woodstove like a
monolithic stone and the wide boards are gone-Two days later our
friend came and finished the job - which is the only reason I
dare write this.
for party status, which Shandaken seems poised to still decide
this week, were also extended until that date. An issues conference
on all such claims will be held on May 25 in Margaretville.
At the February 3 DEC hearing at Onteora,16 people spoke against
the project while only two spoke in its favor. DEC Administrative
Law Judge Richard Wissler, citing the weather, closed the
meeting after three hours- just as the Shandaken meeting was
Many project opponents continued to take aim at Crossroads'
DEIS, alleging distortions and inaccuracies, while other opponents
stressed their love of the region and their conviction that
the project would damage the environment, the community, and
the local economy. The two proponents, both employees of Catskill
Corners, the shopping, lodging, and entertainment complex
owned by Gitter, expressed confidence that the resorts would
bring increased economic opportunities.
Ted Wright, the new CEO of Catskill Corners, said he has been
in the area for six months and noted how, as the founder of
Regents Hotels International, he experienced public outcry
that preceded construction of a similar development in Carmel,
California, where, he said, business has since prospered as
a result of the project.
John Kain of Phoenicia responded to Wright, saying, "I
grew up in California. Carmel was a quaint town. Now even
a millionaire can't buy a house there."
Jim Sofranko of West Shokan replied to the previous hearing's
comment by Chamber of Commerce president Ward Todd, who said
the development will bring back the prosperity enjoyed during
the tourism boom of the twentieth century. "Since when
does supply create demand?" asked Sofranko. "There
were many reasons the tourism industry died. One of them was
the invention of the airplane. I have not seen an overflow
into local hotels from an overbooked, No Vacancy' Catskill
Shideh Lennon of Mt. Tremper said even the DEIS states that
the resort would "compete head-on with local businesses,"
since it will include shops and a wide range of dining facilities,
from snackbars to restaurants, comprising 1,120 seats.
Kate Woodruff of West Hurley, owner of a furniture shop, objected
to the DEIS' statement that the resort is designed to complement
the Belleayre ski area, calling it the region's "key
destination" and stating that the area suffers economically
when Belleayre is closed. "Then why does my business
do best in the summer?" asked Woodruff, calling the project
proposal "an evasion of civil responsibility."
Several speakers expressed concern about local taxes going
up to pay for increased services such as police and fire protection,
while tax breaks for the resort mean it will not pay its full
share of taxes until 2025. Others suggested that if Gitter
is truly concerned about the region, as he states, he should
put his money into projects that will benefit the communities,
such as museums, performing arts centers, nature preserves
with hiking trails, support of small businesses, and similar
As for the same evening's Crossroads' presentation, Cross
said he didn't call it off because, "the Crossroads people
said they'd still be here."
"I got to see some larger scale maps with more topography,"
noted the supervisor, a career surveyor. "They also gave
us an index to their environmental statement and a table of
Planning Board chairman Beth Waterman, who asked a majority
of the questions at the two and a half hour meeting, said
she, "Learned a little bit. The problem is that with
so many pages, it's hard to determine if what's new is significant
and whether something important has been omitted."
To help with such difficulties, Waterman said she asked for
a red-lined copy of the DEIS that would highlight changes
from previous drafts and was told, privately after the meeting,
that one would be made available.
In addition to Cross and Waterman, questions were also asked
by planner Charles Frasier, a local contractor, and Kathy
Nolan, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
"Listening to the Crossroads Ventures' consultants give
superficial and vague answers after having just come from
the hearing in Boiceville, it seemed to me that the public
knows more about the DEIS than the consultants do," said
Judy Wyman of Friends of Catskill following the meeting. "This
is the third time that Crossroads Ventures has done a presentation
on its project and refused to allow the public to participate."
Wyman, who called the driving conditions Tuesday night "horrific,"
questioned Cross' decision to hold a meeting of such importance
in such inclement weather.
Even Waterman characterized the conditions as "white
knuckle," noting the difficulties it took to get the
planning board's traffic consultant to come all the way from
Hartford, CT to attend the meeting.
Cross said on Wednesday that he would consider holding yet
another presentation by the Crossroads' folks in the future.
"It depends on whether we have any more questions,"
he said. "And of course, it would depend on whether they
make such an offering to us."
Love Of Nature
Chase's family was in the Philadelphia area at the time, with
a hardscrabble farm, bought by his grandfather in 1920, where
the family compound now sits. He recalls, in detail, spending
all his summers in the Catskills, wandering the forests and
creeks and walking, when he could, to Woodstock where an aunt,
Carmelita Hinton, lived in a home known as Camelot, later
owned by Bob Dylan. (She went on to found the notable Putney
School in Vermont). At the time, the area was a rich mixture
of 19th century rural lifestyle and a smattering of the nation's
best and brightest artists, musicians, writers, scientists
and thinkers. You can feel the presence of such fertile soil
in the current breadth and depth of Chase's interests, intellect,
and continuing sense of passion.
His father was an engineer, an uncle was one of the leading
lights of what would become known as the Manhattan Project,
which eventually produced the atom bomb. A bright boy from
a very bright family, Chase spent a year at the University
of Arizona, then still something of a frontier school. He
went on to Yale and found himself drawn towards botany and
genetics, a burgeoning field at the time.
Kenny, originally a Compton, came from what was considered
the nation's top academic family in the first half of the
last century. One uncle was president of MIT, another of Washington
University in St. Louis, the third head of Washington State.
She went to Wooster College in Ohio, a place her family has
had close contacts with over the years.
Mutual friends brought the two back together. Sherret remembers
how people would ask if he knew Kenny, and he'd always think
how he just wished to know her more. Kenny kept hearing about
Sherret and remembering the first time she'd met him, years
Finally the two got together at a friend's wedding; Kenny
invited Sherret out to her family's farm in Northern Virginia
the next Sunday to which the young man came, only to find
himself volunteered to escort an older man out to some fields
to look at some brand-new hybrid corn. The man just happened
to be Henry Wallace, the Vice President.
Store this information for later∑
"June 29, 1941," Chase quips, remembering the exact
He goes on to talk about how he went on to graduate studies
at Cornell University only to volunteer for the war, where
he served in the 15th Air Force out of Italy. By then, he
and Kenny were married.
"After our third date we knew we were going to get married,"
he recalls, looking to his wife's smile.
She tells of her first trip to the Catskills to meet his mother,
and being picked up from the Kingston train station on a foggy
night and driven up Chase Mountain from Kenosta Lake, thinking
the whole world, "What in the world is happening?"
The next morning, clear-skied, the couple walked over Winchell's
Notch, at the place they still call "Two Views,"
and Sherret gave Kenny a ring, asking her to share his life.
Later that evening, he says, the couple went to visit an old
family friend in Woodstock who had long thought of the Chase
as a potential husband for her own daughter. But then when
she saw Kenny, he says, she whispered to him, "Don't
let her go," and he said no, no, he never would.
The wedding came quick after Sherret's call-up, and involved
everyone going to his training camp in Savannah, where the
newlyweds then lived sic weeks until he went overseas.
After the war, they made home for a year in Houston, where
he had to finish out his service. A first daughter was born.
Then on to Cornell for a year and a half where a son came
along. A first job was offered teaching in Iowa, where the
family grew to 5 children over the next seven years. Then
further jobs, in teaching and research, in Illinois, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Oswego, NY, and California before the couple
finally retired to the one place that served as constant during
their years of work and travel∑ in the Catskills.
Chase, through his career, ended up becoming one of the leading
authorities, and researchers, in the hybridization of corn,
one of the "green revolutions" that has changed
the world as we know it in the last half-century. At the same
time, he also served as one of the founders of the Catskill
Center for Conservation and Development, and has been instrumental
in numerous other local and national efforts, from the continuing
drive for a long-planned Catskill Park interpretive center
in Mt. Tremper to new work, with former Vice President Wallace's
daughter, to revive the American Chestnut.
Kenny says, with a grin, "We've lived in twelve different
places and it's the wife that makes the home when you move."
Yet she has nothing but praise for the many moves her family's
made, and all the places they've lived.
"We always appreciated wherever we were as though we
were going to love there the rest of our lives," she
says, soberly. As a result, she adds, the couple have a network
of close friends, dating back 60 years and more, all over
"Throughout it all, though, this was always our real
home, right here in the Catskills," says Sherret, whose
commentary about the proposed Belleayre Resort as an unwanted
"shining city on the hill" has now reverberated
beyond the local scene onto National Public Radio and the
New York Times. "All of our children grew up with a similar
So what about their recent appearance, Kenny's standing with
her husband in support, and the couple's beliefs about the
Another story, both agree. After all, it's Valentines.
Do they celebrate?
No, the couple says.
"But you know," Sherret adds, "This has worked
out pretty well."
At which Kenny smiles again.