A naked, living critter fully exposed to below-zero temperatures for 24 hours – with a pleasant, stiff breeze tossed in for good measure – should by most reckoning be dead. We know there’s science behind surviving such conditions, and that some creatures manufacture their own anti-freeze, which lowers the freezing point of their body fluids and allows them to survive. Still, seeing it happen firsthand is sort of like watching a good magician: the eyes and mind are saying, “I see it, but I don’t believe it,” even though we know there’s a rational explanation behind it all. » Continue Reading.
Newspaper articles and poetry are two quite different styles of writing. It’s probably not a common thing to be well-versed (pardon the mild pun) in both, but a century ago, a North Country man enjoyed a regular following in both arenas. One of his poems struck me as capturing nature with beautiful prose, while at the same time recalling a great pleasure that so many Adirondack folks have experienced. » Continue Reading.
“Is our climate changing? This is a question heard often these days. Some are inclined to believe it is, but others are inclined to believe it is just one of those unusual open winters. The weather has been so mild that pussy willows are showing buds, woodchucks are out, and caterpillars were found crawling on the ground.” Those aren’t my words. They’re from the Norwood News, January 20, 1932.
While reading about years past, it struck me how this mild winter parallels those of 1932 and 1933. » Continue Reading.
Of the many great stories about old country doctors, one of my favorites happened in the North Country just a few minutes south of Plattsburgh. The doctor’s name was Isaac Hutinac Patchen. His grandfather, Claude Hutinac, married a woman whose surname was Patchen. Their son, Stephen (Isaac’s father), fought in five Revolutionary War battles and endured the terrible suffering at Valley Forge. Following the war, he assumed his mother’s surname, and family members henceforth were known as Patchens.
Isaac Patchen was born around 1793, and at age 20 he began medical training. At the time, he lived in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands and in northern New York, where war was affecting locals on both sides of the lake. On September 11, 1814, during the Battle of Plattsburgh, he joined a militia force and volunteered to pursue fleeing enemy soldiers. More than twenty men were captured, and years later, Isaac received a land grant of 160 acres in return for a job well done. » Continue Reading.
Recent events (record sales numbers for our company) have helped confirm that practices I’ve shared with self-published authors selling their own work apply to both small-scale and larger-scale situations. You must, of course, have successfully gauged the sale-ability of your book, designed a pleasing cover, applied a price that works for both you and your potential customers, and have at least ballpark accuracy in predicting your audience. With those factors in place, it’s time to sell. » Continue Reading.
“Pearl, Pearl, Pearl, come be my loving girl; Don’t you marry Lester Flatt, He slicks his hair with possum fat, Change your name to Mrs. Earl Scruggs.”
Trivia question #2: What is the term applied to doilies that once appeared so often on the backs of chairs and sofas? (Or for you old-timers, on the backs of davenports.) Trivia question #3: What was the purpose of those doilies?
The three questions and two of the answers are tenuously related to last week’s piece on Allen’s famous bear fight up in Keene, and are linked to a world-famous product that was widely touted for preventing baldness, restoring hair growth, softening leather, cooking, hair styling, predicting the weather, thwarting attacks by all manner of biting insects, preventing frostbite, treating and healing skin injuries, sealing out the elements, and a bunch of other uses. » Continue Reading.
If you love Adirondack legend and lore, you’ll love this gem of a poem that first appeared in 1846. Since then it has appeared in print several times, often with revisions, and with the removal of certain stanzas. It’s the exciting story of a man-versus-bear encounter. The man was Anson Allen, whose colorful past included a fifteen-year stint as owner/editor of the Keeseville Herald, the village’s first newspaper. After moving to Westport in the early 1840s, he edited the Essex Co. Times and Westport Herald for four years.
He later published a monthly titled The Old Settler, covering stories and reminiscences from the region’s earliest history. The paper literally defined him, for Allen became known widely as “the old settler.” » Continue Reading.
If you’re obsessed with cats, you might not find what follows very funny – but I thought it was pretty amusing, and I’ve been owned by cats before. It has to do with a very efficient business plan offered periodically to folks around the country, including the readers of several North Country newspapers. Entrepreneurs sought financing for a slam-dunk proposal, the 1918 version of which targeted northern New York investors for a company based in Ontario.
The plan was to establish a Cat Ranch to supply furs for market. Clothing made from cat pelts?! Decidedly insensitive in modern times, but not so unusual when a single advertisement of the day in the Ogdensburg Republican-Journal offered coats using skins from beaver, seal, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, marmot (woodchuck), caracul (sheep), viscasha (chinchilla), fox, mink, skunk, panther, calf, and gray squirrel. » Continue Reading.
At the age of fifteen, William Anderson of Troy was a busy boy. Besides working as a messenger for the common council and handling desk clerk duties at a local library, he had toiled as a newsboy for the Troy Times since he was twelve years old. Newsboys were once a critical part of operations for most newspapers. Instead of being hired, they were independent, which was good for the newspapers but not so good for the boys. They purchased papers and hawked them on the streets, earning a tiny amount of profit for each one sold, and taking the hit for papers that went unsold. » Continue Reading.
Long ago, in the Lewis County town of Denmark – just a few miles south of Fort Drum, coincidentally – lived a family famous for its drumming skills. The Clarks’ unusual abilities began with the father, Orrin Clark, who served five years as a militia drummer.
Among his many children were sons George (born in 1844), John (1853), and Hiram (1856). Less than three weeks after his seventeenth birthday, George enlisted in the army, joining an infantry regiment. Displaying a musical talent similar to his father’s, he served as a drummer (the official military rank was Musician) for the next three and a half years. » Continue Reading.
On January 7, 1933, the lives of two North Country men converged briefly nearly 300 miles from home in the Jamaica section of Queens in the City of New York. By odd coincidence, without ever meeting, they were fatally wounded within a few feet of each other. The older of the two was Walter Murphy of Ausable Forks, who joined the New York City police force in June 1926. The following year, he was cited for bravery after stopping a runaway horse (the cause of many deaths and injuries in those days), and in early 1933 he made headlines for a murder arrest. He frequently visited family in Ausable Forks, and had just left there nine days earlier after spending Christmas in the Adirondacks.
On the fateful day, Murphy was off duty, and with a friend had stopped at a service station for gas and to make some minor repairs to his car. While cleaning up in the washroom, they overheard a commotion outside. » Continue Reading.
No matter what type of book you prefer, you’re almost certain to find something you’ll like at the Chronicle Book Fair, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sunday, November 8, at the Queensbury Hotel in downtown Glens Falls.
You’ll meet authors, publishers, booksellers and other folks – more than a hundred will be set up with displays – so there’ll be plenty of chatter going on throughout the day.
Tables featuring hundreds of book titles will be laid out in different rooms, providing great shopping opportunities for yourself or for the holidays. Strike up a conversation with an author about his or her work, they love to talk about what they’ve done or what they’re working on next. » Continue Reading.
The night of mischief surrounding Halloween seemed to often get out of hand when I was a child. While we were out collecting candy and anticipating the pleasures to follow, fire trucks and police vehicles were constantly on the run. It forever warped for me the definition of mischief. I could only guess that for children it meant rascally behavior like soaping windows, and for young adults it meant burning barns and vacant houses.
I didn’t know at the time that it was nothing new. The region’s old newspapers are filled with articles about Halloween arson, often referred to as mischief, dating back more than a hundred years. » Continue Reading.
Google, the self-professed best friend of authors everywhere, won a recent landmark case that has redefined copyright law. Grab a book off your shelf and read the brief copyright notice, which says something like, “No part of this book may be reproduced without permission …,” and mentions a few exceptions. It’s official now: that copyright “claim” is a dinosaur and needs to be rewritten to accommodate new interpretations of the law. Google (and other companies) can legally copy entire, copyright-protected books. They’ve already admitted to doing it millions of times over. While they can’t legally sell your book, they can use parts of it to drive Internet traffic their way and earn income.
The use of your book by others is still limited by law, but the court has said authors are not intended as the primary beneficiary of copyright protection. That was a new one for me. I had hoped that paying the government to establish my copyright meant just that literally—that my full book could never be copied in any way without me giving someone that specific right. But that’s not at all true. » Continue Reading.
Delving deeply into the history of Clinton Prison in Dannemora for an upcoming book (already in progress before the recent escape) has led me to profile many criminals who have done time there. Not all of them will make the cut for the book, but what stands out across a wide range of criminals is recidivism. It was not unexpected — Clinton is, after all, New York’s principal home for repeat violent felons and incorrigibles — but it’s often surprising how many people among those who have options choose crime as a way of life.
From the Albany area was a young man who had options, but typified those who eschew a mainstream lifestyle for a darker path. In the end we’re left straining for a hint of any redeeming value. » Continue Reading.