This is an open letter to the Trustees of Onteora School District:
Judging from the feedback at the Community Forum held on Jan
26 at Onteora High School, and ongoing conversations, it seems
like a vast number of people in the Onteora School District
are still not sold on one or more of the following three issues
that are pushed upon them:
1) A Grades 5-8 Middle School, that puts 9 year olds in the
same building as 13 year olds.
2) The closure of another elementary school
3) The need to spend anywhere from $65-$85 million to upgrade
Respectfully, I believe that until you can convince the public
about these issues, you’re going to have an uphill battle
on your hands. That would be a shame because we do need to
spend money on our infrastructure, and we do need a more distinct
Middle School, with at least one extra grade. And yes, we
are dealing with declining enrollment.
Each of you carries the title of trustee. I assume this means
that you are entrusted by the School District. But surely
you’re also entrusted by the public, the parents, the
tax payers. We need to be able to place our trust in you too.
And at the moment, because of your lack of clarity, you’re
not earning that trust.
Last spring, you took a late night, split vote in favor of
a Grades 5-8 configuration for a Middle School. Some of us
believed that to spell the death of another elementary school,
but despite our vocal fears, we were continually assured that
such a vote had not been taken. A vote has still not been
taken to close another elementary school. But at the Board
Meeting on January 15, when KSQ Architects presented their
Middle School designs, all options involved the closing of
another Elementary School. So, our suspicions were founded,
and the vote for a Grades 5-8 configuration turned out to
be a back door vote to close another elementary school. Those
of you who voted for Grades 5-8 never had the courage to come
forward and tell the community as much. You betrayed our trust.
We know your job is not easy. In fact, it looks difficult
bordering on thankless. But each of you chose to stand for
the role of Trustee, and you are therefore accountable to
the voters. Had you put forward an actual vision for the District
a year ago, maybe we’d all be in a different place right
now. Had you said to us then: ‘We want to create a separate
and distinct Middle School for Grades 5-8, it will mean the
closure of Bennett as an Elementary, but these are the reasons
it’s the right thing to do and this is how we can make
it cost effective,’ then maybe you’d have brought
the public along with you. But you didn’t. And although
such a plan is now on the table, we can’t assume that’s
your intention because this board is unbalanced: a full five
of the seven trustees live in one of the three towns that
makes up this school district. As such, and because of its
recent upgrades, we know that Bennett will stay open one way
or another; we do not know that Woodstock/West Hurley and
Phoenicia will stay open one way or the other. You have never
looked us in the eyes and made us that promise. You put the
cart before the horse and the result is that people in the
district are confused and angry. You’re dividing us
when you should be uniting us.
Over the last several months, at Board Meeting after Board
Meeting, you have been presented with multiple requests to
reconsider your vote. You were presented with reams of evidence
relating to the educational and cultural value of rural community
schools. Yet the material on the School web site justifying
Grades 5-8 is ludicrous: a one-paged typed memo from a Steering
Committee followed by pages of documents belonging to the
National Middle School Association, none of which specifically
endorses the Grades 5-8 configuration. There were limited
copies of a pamphlet available at the Community Forum, but
most people only saw the quarter page justification on the
welcome sheet, which is too little, too late.
The analogy as I see it is that last year you voted yourself
authority to go to war. And having given yourself that authority,
you’re now going full steam ahead with your war –
unwilling to acknowledge that we, the public, have not been
sold on this war. We’re worried about the cost, we’re
concerned about the justification, we’re confused about
the goal. As trustees, you have a responsibility to sell us
your vision – to lead us, to bring us along with you,
to explain why this war is worth it. You’re not doing
At this moment, despite all the figures, there are only two
options on the table, each of which calls for the closure
of an elementary school:
(A) Turning Bennett into a separate and distinct Grades 5-8
(B) Keeping Bennett open as an elementary, cramming a Grades
5-8 configuration into the current Middle School, and closing
Phoenicia or Woodstock instead.
Some of us who speak up frequently at Board Meetings have
been led to believe that the only way to save the District’s
outlying elementary schools is to get behind (A), and campaign
for Bennett as the middle school. Not only does this pit us
against those Bennett parents who want to keep the school
as an Elementary, but we’re unwilling to do so because
we don’t know that you, the Trustees, also believe in
this plan. Do you? And if so, when will you come out and say
as much? Three of you are up for re-election this year; we
have a right to know your vision for the district.
Respectfully, then, I say that there is enough opposition
from the public for you to rethink your plans. Be brave. Reopen
the issue. Take a full evening out to debate why Grades 5-8
is the perfect plan. Then go home, absorb all the information,
and come back and vote on it again. (After all, two Trustees
are so new to the Board that they didn’t participate
in the previous debate or the vote. Indeed, we have yet to
hear them express their thoughts on the subject.) Tell us
straight up, one trustee at a time, your vision. Be honest
with us. Look us in the eyes and tell us what you’re
thinking and why. We’ll respect you all so much more
for it. Convince us that you know what you’re doing,
and why you’re doing it, and you have a chance to bring
us along with you. Otherwise, we end up in a community at
war, the cost of which – socially as well as economically
– will outweigh any possible benefits.
Mount Tremper, NY
As reported Onteora’s Superintendent Leslie Ford said
at the last forum held at the school that there will be a
bond proposal no matter how subsequent meets go. That doesn’t
sound like anyone that’s too concerned about how much
floating a bond will affect tax payers in her district for
years to come. KSQ architects have put out plans that could
cost upwards to 80 plus million dollars. It appears that the
school and the Board of Education members are really pushing
for a bond vote. What’s that all about? The last I looked
I didn’t see any of the school buildings anywhere near
collapsing, but there are two empty school buildings in West
Hurley just sitting there costing tax payers plenty of money.
From all reports no one wants the Woodstock or Phoenicia schools
closed so why not take the less expensive option and open
the West Hurley Schools.
With the declining student population and the district still
owing a Debt Service for principal and interest payments associated
with previous building projects the Board of Education members
must start to show some fiscal discipline. According to the
2007-2008 proposed school budget the district has paid or
will pay close to a million dollars in this school year in
Debt Service. The district probably will still owe more Debt
Service payments from previous building projects that would
have to be paid for by district tax payers.
The Onteora Board of Education members should close their
book on how to spend and open a book on economics and the
effects that raising school taxes have on seniors and everyone
living on fixed incomes. Board members ought to get out from
underneath the School’s Administers wings and start
thinking seriously about some cost effective measures. There
are ways to be more cost effective. An example would be out
sourcing or sub-contacting all or part of the Maintenance
and Custodial departments.
Many retirees continue to have fewer finances to incorporate
into their budgets. With everything costing more money including
increased taxes, health insurance, medications, food and gas
prices leave retirees with less spending money and the ability
to save for their taxes. Some retirees that are fortunately
enough to receive a retirement check see their pensions reduced
year after year because their health assurance costs increase
every year. The Feds trying to avoid a recession cut rates
twice in eight days. Apparently School Board members are oblivious
to the financial state of this country and what they do to
retirees when they say yes to everything that’s proposed
by the school.
At the last forum Board President Mary Jane Bernholz said,
we as a board realize we have to do a better job in the community
and getting feedback, and be more open to feedback. We want
the information. If the board’s President is serious
about getting feedback from all the tax payers in the district
she should conduct a district wide opinion survey or a questionnaire.
Taking the opinions of a couple of hundred people that attended
the recently held forums is not a very good assessment of
how district wide tax payers feel. Because of what all of
Onteora’s tax payer’s will go through from the
decisions made by the members of the board, all tax payers
should have a say in their financial future.
I was reminded last week after reading in OFP’s last
issue an article in which functional literacy was being discussed
about a couple video clips I saw a few months ago from CNNN’s
What’s This Weird Old Thing Called The World, in which
the British host comes to the good old USA to interview “average”
Americans to find out just how much us locals “really
know about the world that [we] run.”
For those of you who may not know, CNNN is a news and current-affairs
channel owned and operated by ChaserCorp. It was founded in
1983 “to counteract liberal bias in the media,”
and is the cornerstone of a television network that contains
over 40 different channels, spans 294 countries and reaches
“a potential cumulative audience of 100 billion people
At first blush, I thought, surely these videos are some sort
of hilarious or not so hilarious—depending on your point
of view and gravity of mind—spoof. They are not. Little
digs at Americans? Perhaps. Laughs at our expense? Decidedly.
(Deserved? You decide.)
What is shocking about these interviews is not that they demonstrate
how little we Americans embrace the world around us, but the
reluctant knowledge that the participants in the interviews
just might, indeed, represent the average American. The interviews
for both video clips were conducted in Washington, D.C. Granted,
only a couple dozen people were interviewed for each of the
videos. But . . . still . . . In any case, the participants—black,
white, Hispanic—range in age from early to mid 20s to
a few in their early 60s. All looked to be about middle class—a
couple lower, a couple upper. Participants appeared to range
from college students to working stiffs to professionals and
everything in between (no snot-nosed bleeding heart old lefties
or ultra-conservative shock-jock right-wing nut jobs). The
interviews for both videos were taken throughout the city.
What is disturbing about these interviews is also the reluctant
knowledge that close to half of Americans of which the participants
are purportedly representative of are going to vote in this
year’s “high-stakes” presidential election
(as if there’s any other kind). As well they should.
But while the two videos may draw some unbelievable laughs,
they also demonstrate what I would seriously argue could be
defined as bordering on “functional” illiteracy.
And that ain’t no laughing matter.
In one video the CNNN host asks Americans on the street which
countries the United States should invade next in order to
curb terrorism. Many interviewees couldn’t even find
the so-called “terrorist” states they named—including
Canada, France and Italy—on the map. Nobody questioned
the morality or wisdom, not to mention legality, of invading
another country. It was merely taken for granted that we should
But it is the other video that causes perhaps even more serious
pause—or should. Here are the questions and answers:
Name a country that begins with ‘U’: “Yugoslavia,”
“Utah,” “Utopia.” Who’s in the
Coalition of the Willing?: “No freaken idea,”
“Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan.” What’s
the religion of Israel?: “Israeli,” “Muslim,”
“Islamic,” “Catholic, probably.” What
religion are Buddhist monks?: “Islamic . . . I don’t
know.” Who won the Vietnam War? “We did . . .
wait . . . were we even in the Vietnam war? Yeah? Oh, good.”
Who’s Fidel Castro?: “A singer?” How many
sides does a triangle have?: “Damn . . . four?”
“No sides . . . one?” What is the currency of
the United Kingdom?: “What is the United Kingdom . .
. I don’t even know,” “Possibly American
money,” “Queen . . . Elizabeth’s . . . money?
That’s all I know.”
And, as the CNNN host posits, who says Americans aren’t
We may still be asking ourselves how the H we elected Bush
II, not once but twice, but I think the cat’s out of
the bag, and the rest of the world is pretty clued in even
if we are still running in circles chasing our tails.
There has been thousands and thousands of media words written
about the proposed Crossroads Ventures LLC Resort at Highmount.
Crossroads has carefully crafted a liaison between themselves
and NYS (Re: taxpayer owned) Belleayre Ski Center. I have
viewed very little media attention to the reality ofthis “connection
at the hip.” The rhetoric by the Resort representatives
would have us believe that everyone skiing at Belleayre will
benefit from this arrangement.
Belleayre Ski Center has AL WAYS touted that it was a family-orientated
facility. The fact is that lift tickets have always been priced
below competing neighboring private slopes under the guise
that the average citizen would also 1ike to ski but can’t
afford to; Belleayre’s defense to this accusation is
that they have the physical terrain that can be utilized for
accommodating novice skiers. Once these novices become accomplished
skiers they will meld into the neighboring ski facilities
and ALL win benefit. Many years ago a neighboring Facility
successfully won a lawsuit that forced Belleayre to raise
its price of lift tickets. Like other NYS owned and operated
facilities, Belleayne Ski Area is supposed to accommodate
the average taxpayer. I suspect that the ,average John Q.
Public and his family will in fact be afforded less consideration
if this “ski in-ski out” proposal is implemented.
We must assume that “ski in- ski out” users will
be either people with enough wealth to afford slopeside housing
accommodations or their guests.
We need to scrutinize the physical location of the defunct
Highmount slope in relationship to the existing Belleayre
facili1y. We find that whi1e the summit of both to be in acceptible
proximity that the loading areas are separated by a reasonably
lengthy and precipitous stretch of County 49A Highway. Connection
of these base areas for workers and guests will need shuttle
transport. Also if we look at a map we can see that ALL of
the Highmount slope descends toward the West Side Resort Site.
This appears to me that the Resort will have its own set of
trails, ski lift, snow making, grooming and all ancillary
necessities paid for by TAXPAYERS. -
The question is - who will get first preference of summer
trail maintenance; yes, the brush grows in and needs to be
cut back from time to time and the trails have to be mowed
to abate the growth of brush. snow making and the winter maintenance;
yes, water lines and hydrants freeze from time to time and
need maintenance; snow grooming, yes.. grooming equipmen1
breaks down from time to time and there is a need to prioritize
trail needs. Does anyone reading this correspondence actually
believe that John Q. Public will be afforded these considerations
before the “Rich & Famous?” Actua1ly if you
are aff1uent or just an “Average Joe” you already
know the answer!
That’s all I am going to say on this topic!
Jerry A Fairbairn
The web site supporting the "Belleayre Resort at Catskill
Resort" erroneously lists the NYS Department of Environmental
Conservation ( DEC ) as one of the agreeing parties to the
Agreement in Principle ( AIP ) brokered by the Governor and
his Deputy Secretary to the Governor for the Environment,
Judith Enck.The NYS DEC is even the first agency listed on
this web site as agreeing. But no representative of the NYS
DEC signed the Agreement in Principle. This error is serious
and misleading to people looking at this web site for accurate
information. The NYS DEC already has a conflict of interest
as a co-developer of the complex, as the lead agency for the
project and as the arbiter of the State Environmental Quality
Review of the proposed public-private co-development. If the
DEC were to be a signatory agency to the AIP their conflict
of interest would be even greater. I called the number listed
on the web site and requested that the sponsor check their
facts and if they found that it was an error to remove it.
The person who answered at the phone number listed on the
website did not think that checking the facts would be necessary
and that it would be a waste of their time. I guess it makes
me wonder which of the facts on that web site were worth checking
and which would be a waste of time.
I recently attended the second Town Board Meeting of the year
conducted under the leadership of Peter DiSclafani which included
a resolution to hire Ferrandino Associates—a Westchester
County consultant—to prepare comments on behalf of the
Town of Shandaken regarding the scoping document for the Belleayre
Supervisor DiSclafani offered an explanation of the need for
these services. In early January, it seems the Supervisor
was solicited by this firm with an offer to provide comments.
Since the deadline for submitting comments was rapidly approaching,
the Supervisor chose not to call a special Town Board meeting
or prepare his own comments. Rather, he telephoned board members
seeking their approval to go ahead and contract for $3,000
with Ferrandino. This is a clear violation of Town Law and
the need to conduct town business in open, publicized meetings.
For $3,000 the town received 21⁄4 pages of comments—the
majority of which address Belleayre Mountain Ski Center’s
Unit Management Plan. None of the comments raised new issues.
In the public discussion, it was further revealed that Supervisor
DiSclafani now understood that these actions were illegal.
However, the voucher had been signed, and the Ferrandino check
was already mailed! With no apparent regard for the law, the
town board then proceeded to vote (4-1) to approve the resolution
authorizing the hiring of Ferrandino. This came days after
Ferrandino was already paid. Only Councilman Rob Stanley,
who objected throughout the whole process, voted no.
There is so much wrong with this, it is hard to know where
to start. But let’s begin with the timeline and the
Supervisor’s great need to rush. It doesn’t make
sense to me. In early September when the Agreement in Principle
was announced, Peter DiSclafani was serving as a town councilman
and running for supervisor. He was elected supervisor in early
November. The public scoping session was held in early December.
The deadline for comments was set for five weeks later—January
14. Since he was already serving as a councilman, and since
he apparently believed there was a pressing need for the town
to have its own comments, why not develop comments over the
course of the many weeks that elapsed this past fall?
Once the Supervisor and Board understood that their actions
(with secret meetings and ill conceived contracts were improper)
why did they go ahead and approve it? What happened to open
government? Transparency? Fiscal Responsibility? Common sense?
Why are we spending $3000 for rehashed comments? For that
matter, why are we spending our tax money to challenge the
state’s plan to improve and invest millions in the Belleayre
Ski Center, the economic engine and single largest employer
in the town?
Since when does the product of illegal meetings and improper
procedures lead to documents delivered to the State in the
name of the ENTIRE Town of Shandaken?
I believe the Town needs to be reimbursed. The Supervisor
and the three board members who were so willing to authorize
illegal contracts can each ante up $750 to pay Ferrandino,
and maybe next time they won’t be so quick to squander
P.S. Before any editor makes the sexist comment that I am
the wife of a consultant to Crossroads, that editor should
understand I can and do speak for myself.
Big Indian, NY
It has started early. The new Town Board has been in office
barely a month and the over-blown attacks are already flying.
The level of hostility at the February Town Board meeting
was reminiscent of another time in our not-too-distant past.
Some of the faces are the same as before, some are new. At
issue was the Town Board hiring a consultant to write 'scoping'
comments for the town to submit to DEC by the January 14 deadline,
relating to the environmental review of the Belleayre Resort
and the expansion of the Ski Center. (The resort and Ski Center
expansion must be reviewed together.) One part of the issue
was that the new Town Board had been in office for only days
before the deadline for submission of comments. The new Supervisor,
and seemingly none of the board members, realized that they
could call a last-minute meeting to pass a resolution to move
on hiring the consultant and authorizing payment. Instead,
Supervisor DiSclafani contacted each board member individually
and asked if they wanted to go forward with this. Four said
yes, one said no. Four agreed to the cost, one did not. All
saw the submission before it was sent. The Board passed a
resolution at the February meeting formalizing this by a margin
Supervisor DiSclafani publicly took responsibility for not
realizing in time that he could have called a meeting on such
short notice. Now he knows. He said he would have paid for
it himself if the resolution authorizing payment had not passed.
What was amazing was that some present treated the Supervisor
and some of the Board members as if they had committed the
crime of the century. I would call it a blatant attempt to
intimidate the Board and drum up animosity toward them. Crossroads
consultant Gary Gailes threw the word 'lawsuit' around and
Jack Jordan kept saying that this may have been an 'illegal'
act. It was not just the words they used, but the tones of
voice and accusatory gestures. Supervisor DiSclafani apologized,
took responsibility, would have been willing to pay if need
be, but that wasn't enough.
So what's the real issue here? The real issue is/was that
the pro-Crossroads contingent seems unhappy that the Town
submitted scoping comments at all. Apparently they want the
Town to sit on sit on its hands, not participate in the review,
and ignore the fact that 85% of this major development is
in Shandaken. It also happens to be the largest project ever
proposed for the entire region. What's more, the attackers
blamed the Town because the scoping submission included comments
on the Belleayre Ski Center expansion, which by law has to
be reviewed with the resort since both impact the same area.
They acted as if it was the Town Board's scoping submission
that caused the resort and Ski Center to have to be reviewed
together which is ridiculous. It is the law that when projects
are on the table at the same time for the same area, they
must be reviewed together since they impact the same area
and resource pool. In addition, combining the review of the
Ski Center expansion and the resort is a stipulation stated
in the infamous Agreement in Principle, signed by the Governor,
the developers, and several other groups and individuals.
It was also stated in the Draft Scope released on November
21, 2007, which kicked off the scoping phase of the review.
(See DEC website for this)
One more thing. As a result of the Agreement in Principle,
what is now on the table has changed very significantly from
the original resort plan. Now, on the West side, in addition
to the Wildacres Resort complex, there is a new resort complex
called the Highmount Spa, in a new location. Both resorts
are proposed to have ski-in, ski-out capacity, with lifts
and trails joining the Ski Center to both of these resorts.
The cost of this interface would be paid for by the taxpayers,
not the developers. The last figures I heard were on the front
page of last week's Catskill Mountain News and they were 45-75
MILLION in taxpayer dollars for the Ski Center expansion and
the interface with both resorts. Chuck Perez, Jack Jordan
and others expressed 'outrage' that the Ski Center and resort
complexes are being reviewed together. They think they should
be reviewed separately. It is a little late for that. Both
are on the table now and it is the law that they be reviewed
together to determine cumulative impacts. And when the State
and the developers of the Belleayre Resort chose to 'marry'
the Ski Center and the Wildacres and Highmount Resorts, like
it or not, they became 'one' in the eyes of the review in
multiple ways. There's no turning back now.
A good motto for future Town Board meetings might be, "Get
the facts before you attack".
As a Town of Shandaken citizen, I am appalled with the situation
regarding the Phoenicia Lunch Program. We have a collective
responsibility to be respectful of the needs of our elders
whatever their situation. If we fail at that we fail as human
beings. I have personally witnessed the difference this program
has made in the lives of those who need the companionship,
nutrition, and personal contact the program offers.
I urge you to give this situation the attention it demands.
If you require volunteer commitment or a financial donation
to help make this happen, I am willing to assist as I suspect
are many others. The care of our elderly should not be politicized.
Mt. Tremper, NY
Periodically Oil & Gas companies come through New York
attempting to entice landowners to sign land leases for exploration.
Members of the CATSKILL LANDOWNERS ASSO. [CLA] have recently
CLA urges its members and all landowners in the region to
be extremely cautious before signing such a lease. While a
term of five years with rents and royalties may appear enticing
the lease becomes an encumbrance on the land. A landowner
will encounter difficulties upon a sale or mortgage. These
companies rarely take the appropriate steps to terminate the
lease of record so the problem remains many years later.
The leases contain many onerous provisions which can extend
it beyond the stated term as well as permitting easements
across lands to serve the transport of oil or gas from a neighbors
property. If you are approached we strongly suggest review
by your attorney before entering into such a lease.
CLA is dedicated to the proposition that enlightened private
stewardship has and will continue to provide a most effective
method of preserving the aesthetic and environmental integrity
of Catskill lands. For more information please visit www.catskilllandowners.org.
John J. Wadlin
Big Indian, NY
Former President Eisenhower warned that the greatest threat
to our country could eventually become the military-industrial
complex. Nevertheless, most politicians have managed to convince
most Americans that a loosely organized band of third world
criminals are the greatest threat our country faces.
The former head of the bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, wrote:
“It’s about the impact of our policies in the
Islamic world. And because we won’t talk about that
here in America, we’re not adequately defended.”
However, my Democratic representatives in Congress, Senators
Clinton, Schumer and Rep. Gillibrand refuse to mention that
our past and present policies in the Middle East endanger
They ignore the fact that our CIA brought twenty-five years
of tyranny and repression upon the Iranian people, which concluded
with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. That covert
operation helped convince many people throughout the Islamic
world that America was its mortal enemy. They avoid mentioning
the fact that in 1980, Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein,
invaded Iran and was supported our tax dollars. Eight blood-soaked
years later, hundreds of thousands of young Iranian men and
boys had been injured or killed.
We’re not adequately defended, because they refuse to
talk about how our past and present policies impact the Islamic
world. They won’t acknowledge that our military has
been ordered to commit horrendous acts, which has caused needless
tragedy in the lives of millions of people. Yet, they've never
suggest that America spend less on its military, whose primary
mission is to protect the assets of the very wealthy or admit
that most of the anguish, which our country suffers from can
be traced to militarism and imperialism.
Those Republicans and Democrats in Congress that depend on
contributions from arms dealers and the military industrial
complex are endangering our safety.
It has been twenty years since my father last wrote one of
these annual letters, asking your help in allowing us to stock
Woodland Brook’s fly fishing stretch. It hardly seems
possible that it has been that long. Tempus Fuget awful fast.
In one way or another, the message has been the same each
year. In memory of my father, and to get the request for alms
out once again, I’m reprising the letter I first sent
Here it is:
I have the sad duty to report that my father, Paul O’Neil,
who has written these letters for many years, died last spring.
The prospering of the Woodland Trout Fund and its result—the
annual stocking of a 2 mile fly fishing only stretch of one
of the East Coast’s loveliest trout streams—was
one of the uppermost things on his mind in the final part
of his life.
I have been asked to carry on in his stead. I would have killed,
if I hadn’t been granted the honor. I know about the
physical effort of stocking, having helped for the past twenty
years—that part is not new to me. This part of it is.
I’ll do my best.
Let me share a few things with you. When I was young, I would
cringe when my father walked up to a stranger fishing Woodland
Brook to talk. Besides wanting to chat, my father’s
other purpose was to see if the person’s line was attached
to (A) a fly, (B) fleshy bait of some sort, or (C) a dangerous
metal lure. If it was a fly, he would put the gentle touch
on the angler (ask the person to become a contributor—the
world being divided into two camps, you see, contributors
and all those others). If it was the dreaded (B) or (C), Pop
would be kind but firm in his advice. “Go down to the
Esopus,” he’d tell them. “ It’s a
much better place to fish with a rig like that. You won’t
catch anything here.” This embarrassed me terribly.
“Damn,” I’d think, “here we go again.
He’s going to ask them for money, or he’s going
to tell them to get the Hell out of here. How can he DO that?
Different strokes for different folks, right man?”
Of course, at the same time I was terribly proud of him for
the way he carried off this exercise. Whatever the message
the visitor received, it was delivered with a lightness of
spirit and equanimity that was the very breath of soft mountain
poetry. When I was even younger, and before the fly fishing
only idea was promoted and put into operation by Fred Muehleck
and his friends, I would commonly use any device to pull trout
out of Woodland. If I’d been privy to dynamite, I’d
have used it. Though one trout catching art I was keen to
master kept eluding me—the ancient practice of tickling
trout (now highly illegal, according to New York Statute,
by the way).&n bsp; But the beautiful Trudi Miller knew
how to do it—having been taught by her father Paul,
a past master of everything a kid would consider useful—archery,
gunnery, etc. I was madly in love with Trudi, but that emotion
was tempered by pangs of heartfelt jealousy. After all, was
it fair that she should have this magnificent talent, and
that I should never master it? Tickle them? It was hard enough
to entice the little darlings with worms, grasshoppers, crickets,
and the gallery of other things that I used (which I will
certainly not list here). So the advice my father would give
interlopers years later about the uselessness of plying that
kind of angling on Woodland Brook was not completely on the
mark. But, as Huckleberry Finn said, it was mainl y the truth.
On certain steamy summer days with the water low, I defy anyone
to catch a trout from Woodland, outside of tickling them or
My conversion to the divine pursuit of fly fishing came at
the hands of my father who took me down to the brook when
I was twelve, equipped me with the second best fly rod in
the cabin (my mother’s nicely balanced Shakespeare glass
rod) and started me out with a Royal Coachman dry with white
bucktail wing (Chile Allam’s favorite fly). On my ninth
cast I hooked and caught a 14 inch wild rainbow. “JESUS!!!”
my father intoned loudly, “keep the tip up, Mike, keep
the line tight!!!” I did, and I’ve been a fly
fisherman ever since—with strong ties to Woodland Brook,
which become steadily more indelible as I age.
Now—I will not be coy. And, I will suffer no youthful
attack of embarrassment as I ask you to contribute to this
year’s stocking fund, and perhaps dig a little deeper
than you might have otherwise as a memorial to Paul O’Neil.
The exact number of fat, healthy, spirited Brown Trout that
we put into the stream will be defined to some extent by your
munificence in response to this letter. Your generous and
prompt response will, as always, be greatly appreciated.
To help us stock the stream, please send a check, made out
to THE WOODLAND TROUT FUND, to Mike O’Neil, 101 Rambling
Road, Vernon, CT 06066.
I want to take the time to thank everyone at the Mountainside
Residential Care Center. The people there were absolutely
wonderful and gave us the best care that we could have asked
for. And when the time came they went over and above from
what was expected of them! Thank you very much for everything
that you did for us!
I also, want to thank our friends, family, Al’s Restaurant
(Paul), Riccardella’s Restaurant (Mike), Michelangelo’s
Pizzeria (Mike and Kim) and Phoenicia Wines and Spirits (Declan)
for everything that they have done to make this time a little
Thank for all your love and support.
I am writing this letter for one simple reason. to thank all
those who have been there for me in my community. I am a freshman
at Elmira College in Elmira New York, and the truth is I wouldn’t
be here without the help of those in my hometown of Phoenicia,
New York, the community of Shandaken and those beyond throughout
Ulster County. Without the encouragement of everyone, getting
into and being able to afford an amazing school like Elmira
College, would have been difficult if not impossible.
I want to thank so many people for helping me get to this
point in my life. First and foremost, my family, Diane Gehermy
Methodist Youth Group leader, Pastor Richard of the Phoenicia
United Methodist Church, and the rest of those in the church
who helped me get to where I am. I’d also like to thank
the ladies in the Thrift Store and Food Pantry, especially
Ruth Houska and Hope Gilsinger, not only did they give me
a generous amount of money for the purchase of books, but
they gave me kindness and great advice. The Phoenicia Library
Association was no different, thank you Molly Kilb, Debbie,
Regina Johnson, and Judith Singer. I’d also like to
thank the Shandaken Theatrical Society, for their generous
contribution and their help in building my character; this
includes the help of Dorothy Toman, who directed the first
play I was ever a part of, thank you Sparrow and Violet for
helping me with the art of theater and acting, and for your
advice. Thank you to Tania Barriklo, Cole, and Sophia, a family
I could always count on for their support. I also want to
thank Liz Potter, Don Bucher, Lulu, and Gingy, who gave me
so much advice, support and kindness before I left for schooL
The ladies at Ulster Savings Bank, Jodi Reyes, Jackee Dragun,
Janine Miller, Jane Booth thank you for helping me maximize
my finances for college and giving me great advice. Robin
and Ray Kirk ftom the Nest Egg, Ice Cream Station, and Video
Store, thank you so much for the job experience and for your
support. Finally, to a great community, school, and all the
wonderful people in it, thank you so much for your support)
your advice, and your encouragement. Thank you all so much!