Friday, December 28, 2012

Who Am I? (Number 14)

     I was born in Indiana in 1965. My family moved to New York State when I was an infant and I grew up there. I am a well-known author of several books, and an entertainer with celebrity status. My first autobiography is a tribute to my career in entertainment and also a tribute to mankind. My book signings are big events, packed with children, parents and fans from all walks of life.
     I have written several autobiographies which made the New York Times best-seller list.
     My contribution to the world of entertainment had its moments of danger. I had a concussion on stage. It was an accident. I cheated death and I disappointed the undertaker. While I was recuperating, the public was misinformed about my status. The public was told that I went crazy, that I was put away, escaped from confinement, and returned to work somewhat mentally challenged. It was part of an act, a deliberate hoax by my managers.
     I have several stage names. To mention any of them would give away my identity.
     Did I mention that I am a graduate of the State University at Cortland, New York?
     Who am I?
     My name is Michael Francis Foley, Sr., aka Hardcore Legend, Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind. 

Wikipedia--Mick Foley

Editor's note: Photo, links and identity added 36 hours after initial post.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anna and Santa Claus Exchange Letters


Dear Santa Claus:


    I am 7 years old. I am giving you my goldfish Sunny and a small fish bowl because my teacher told me that Santa doesn’t have any goldfish at the North Pole. I put them under the tree for you.

    I love Sunny very much but I think you should have a gift for Christmas too.

    You really don’t have to give me anything for Christmas. My mom and dad love me very much and that’s all I could possibly want. But if you want to give me something, I’d like a kitten.





Dear Anna:


    Thank you so much for your kindness. I can’t take Sunny to the North Pole with me because it is too cold there. Sunny would freeze when the water in the fish bowl turned to ice. So I am leaving Sunny in your house with you where there is so much warmth and love. (I saw Sunny wink at me after I made this decision.)

    I left a gift for you under the Christmas tree.

    It is a black and white kitten only three months old. It is in an old shoe box with holes in the lid. Open the lid carefully and introduce yourself.


Merry Christmas,

Santa Claus

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas with O. Henry

William Sydney Porter--O. Henry
     "One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry--Google Books (scroll to page 16 of  The Four Million)

Also recommended: Who Am I? (Number 2)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Republic

John Brown's grave, North Elba, NY (Stoddard 1896--Library of Congress)

     During the American Civil War, when the popular song Dixie was sung by Confederate troops, The Battle Hymn of the Republic was the inspirational marching song of the Union Army. The lyrics were written by Julia Ward Howe in November of 1861, after she heard Union soldiers singing the song John Brown’s Body at a campground near Washington, D.C.

     Wallace Steffe of Philadelphia claimed the music composition for John Brown’s Body, the same music composition which was used for the Battle Hymn of the Republic. But this claim was never proved and often challenged. If Steffe did not compose the music, who did?

     The song John Brown’s Body was first sung by soldiers at Fort Warren in Boston in May 1861.  It was published in Boston on July 16, 1861 with \the following credit: “Arranged by C.B. Marsh, origin, Fort Warren.” When The Atlantic Monthly published Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1862, the author noted that she adapted the lyrics to her favorite melody “Glory, Hallelujah”—a Methodist hymn—which is the chorus music for John Brown’s Body.

     Should Methodists receive credit for the composition?  If you wish to continue this inquiry and join history’s detectives, click on:

     Turn up your speakers for a historic audio/visual performance of the Battle Hymn of the Republic on YouTube: , or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version:

Original Lyrics:

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage
the grapes of wrath are stor'd;
He hath loos'd the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watchfires
Of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar
In the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence
By the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel
Writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye
deal with My contemners,
So with you My grace shall deal:"
Let the Hero born of woman
Crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet
That shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men
Before His judgment seat.
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!
jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom
That transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who Wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas?" (Repeat)


       For many years a controversy has surrounded the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly called 'Twas the Night before Christmas.
      Who wrote it? Was the author Clement Clarke Moore (attributed)--or Henry Livingston?
      This is a whodunit, a mystery still unsolved. For a challenging short read during the holiday season, please click on link:

      Make sure to click the link near the bottom of that web page for the original poem published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.
      Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Think Snow

Greek Peak
     People who ski are familiar with the slogan Think Snow. It is a constant theme at ski resorts, such as Greek Peak and Labrador. Trouble is, Cortland hasn't had very much snow over the past two or three years. Could it be, contrary to climate change theorists, that there is not enough thinking by snow advocates?
     There was a record total of 57 1/2 inches of snow in Cortland in December 1969. As recently as December 1995, Cortland snowfall totalled 45 inches. In December 1997, snowfall in Cortland totalled 40 inches.
    At the risk of alienating those who don't like snow or who live in Cortland by coercion, we think it is time for a good measure of snow. Now!
    Snow is beautiful--in all the right places. It would be nice if snow did not fall on roads, sidewalks or football fields while games are in progress. Oh, well, can't have everything one wishes for....
     Snow is good for gardens and farms. It protects garden perennials and bulbs from deep freezes and early thaws. It adds nitrogen to the soil and conserves soil moisture. A blanket of snow has been called a poor man's fertilizer.
     Snow is good for those who want or need outdoor exercise. It is good for the manufacturers of sleds, shovels, snow tires, snow-throwers, skis, snow shoes, boots and winter outerwear. It is also good for snow plows, salt mining and tow trucks.
     Snow is good for politicians. A steady snow on dark winter nights helps politicians prepare and write speeches. When delivered, these speeches are called snow-jobs*. They are delivered during other seasons, too, but the name for them remains the same.
     A heavy snowfall is great for snuggling and intimacy. Dogs and cats seem to sleep better during a prolonged snowfall. That's not true of children. They go sledding, build igloos and snowmen, throw snowballs and play winter games until they are exhausted and very hungry. Then they return home, raid the refrigerator and the cookie jar, and generally drive parents insane.
     Snow brings beauty to the landscape. People look around and describe what they see as a winter wonderland. All sorts of words are used to describe it. One word is beautiful. Another is cold. Other words used:  very cold, too deep and too much, and time to book a flight to Florida.

1) Cortland snowfall history
2) *Words And Their Stories

Say a Few Prayers for Al Kryger
Snow Gives Greek Peak A Badly Needed Lift, Ithaca Journal

Monday, December 10, 2012

Circus House

Circus House

Sig Sautelle's Circus Wagon
     Those who drive on US Rt.11 between Homer, N.Y. and Cortland, N.Y. can see the concentric  8-sided  Circus House on the east side of the road. It was built around 1901, and today, due to age and circumstances, it needs repair and paint.

     Every house or building has a story behind it. The story of the Circus House is the story of circus promoter Sig Sautelle (Santell). He was born George Satterlee in Luzerne, N.Y. on September 22, 1848. He enlisted in the Union Army and fought in the Civil War and learned the art of ventriloquism from a fellow soldier. By age 24 he had his own Punch and Judy show, and within a few years he was working for Stowe’s Great American Circus and Barnum and Bailey. In 1882, he started Sig Sautelle’s Big Shows in Syracuse, N.Y. A SIGnature act was Sig's Cat Orchestra. Sig controlled threads connected to miniature band instruments in the paws of cats, and feline music was created. He used the state barge canal to transport his staff, animals and equipment for shows along the Erie Canal. When state roads improved, he travelled by wagon. Later on, he used the railroads. He wintered in DeRuyter, N.Y. from 1896 to 1901 and then moved to Homer, N.Y. His elephants, horses and ponies grazed on the east side of the Tioughnioga River on a hillside located between the river and current day I-81.

     Sautelle built a large octagonal-shaped barn and several octagonal-shaped stables behind  the Circus House. The 8-sided buildings were imitations of the shape of circus tents.

     Where is the vision and money to fully restore the Circus House, add circus memorabilia and posters, and make it an adjunct to the Central New York Living History Museum?

     Read an excellent short two-page bio by John C. Kunzog (1948) at: There  is also a short history of Sautelle’s stay in DeRuyter which can be viewed at:   

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candy Esculetts Cure Piles

Cortland House at corner of Main Street and Groton Ave. 
     The big story on page five of the Cortland Evening Standard on Wednesday, January 30, 1901 was the establishment of the Yager & Halstead Canning Factory on Squires Street, Cortland. When the factory was fully operational, it distributed canned vegetables to regional A&P and Grand Union retail markets.

     “It will be located on Squires St. in a part of the three-story factory built and formerly used by the Cortland Manufacturing Co., Ltd. The remainder of the factory was some time ago leased to the Champion Milk Cooler Co. and is now occupied by that concern… The firm which will operate the canning business consists of George P. Yager of Cortland and William R. Halstead of Camden, and its style and title will be Yager & Halstead.

     “This year only string beans and sweet corn will be put up…The season for beans will begin the middle of July and the season for corn the middle of August. The acreage of these two crops mentioned will probably call for the employment of between two hundred and three hundred people during the season.”

     On the bottom of page five, on the right side, was an advertisement: “Candy Esculetts cure piles. The only Pill remedy on the market requiring no local treatment. Your money refunded if you are not satisfied with the results. Ask your druggist for it. By Mail, 50 cents, prepaid. The A. Bradley Hall Co., 824 University Blk, Syracuse, N.Y. Sold in Cortland by C.F. Brown and W.J. Perkins.”

     Near the bottom of page five was another interesting drug advertisement: “Such little pills as DeWitt’s Little Early Risers are very easily taken, and they are wonderfully effective in cleansing the liver and bowels. C.F. Brown, F.E. Brogden.”

     At the top of page five is another drug advertisement: “NO ROOM FOR HEADACHE. When the nervous system is strong and vigorous there’s no room for headache. That’s how DR.  JAMES’ HEADACHE POWDERS cure. –Not by stupefying or deadening the nerves but by soothing and restoring them. Never fail, no matter what the primary cause of headaches. Absolutely harmless. At all Drug Stores. 4 doses 10 cents.”

     George Totten Smith’s “Ragtime Reception” and “Bishop—the Greatest of Great, supported by a strong company, A MAN FROM MARS” were playing at the Cortland Opera House located at West Court Street and Main Street. John Philip Sousa and Patrick Gilmore had performed at the Cortland Opera House on several occasions. The Cortland Opera House was managed by Wallace & Gilmore. William W. Wallace was the business manager.

Fulton History/NewspaperArchives--View (Adobe Acrobat PDF) complete page of Cortland Evening Standard, Wednesday, January 30, 1901. Readers may "save as" in PDF and then zoom page size.
Yager-Halstead Canning Company, Interlaken, N.Y. View (Adobe Acrobat PDF). Scroll to page 44.

Friday, December 7, 2012

NYS Public Pension Contribution Exemptions

    The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System has published a handbook for active members. You will find an excerpt below. Focus your attention on Required Contributions Fund, Tiers 3 and 4. Members contribute 3% of salary but are exempt from contributions after 10 years of membership. This rule has been in effect since 2003. It applies equally  to state, county and  municipal employees in Tiers 3 and 4. Keep in mind that "benefits" and "contributions" are separate words with separate definitions.
     School districts and local governments have complained about this state mandate which, in effect, raises the cost of contributions by taxpayers while exempting public employees. The resultant cost to taxpayers is obvious. Fire and police have a total contribution exemption for their entire active membership.

     Should  these selective rules of exemption be changed? If not, why not?

Editor's note: Several CC contributors are enrolled in the NYS pension system. Those contributors who are not enrolled probably wish they were.


Member Contributions

Tiers 1 and 2 — Annuity Savings Fund (ASF)
Today, most Tier 1 and 2 members do not have an ASF. You may have one if you joined prior to July 1, 1970 and made member contributions, transferred contributions from another NYS or NYC public retirement system or purchased prior service credit under Tiers 1 and 2. If you have an ASF:

  • Contributions accrue 5% interest (tax deferred) annually, providing your membership remains active.
  • You may borrow from it and make repayments until you retire.
  • It will be paid to your beneficiary or estate if you die before you retire.
  • At retirement, you have the option of withdrawing your ASF and investing the funds privately, or leaving it in the System to provide you or your beneficiary with an annuity return as part of your retirement benefit.

Tiers 3-6 — Required Contributions Fund
Tier 3 and 4 members: You are required by law to contribute 3% of your salary until you have been a member for 10 years or accrue 10 years of total service credit, whichever occurs first.

Tier 5 members: You are required to contribute 3.5% of your salary throughout your active membership.

Tier 6 members: You are required to contribute a percentage of your salary throughout your active membership as follows:

Tier 6 Contribution Chart
Note: From 4/1/12 through 3/31/13, all Tier 6 members are required to contribute 3.5%.
Beginning 4/1/13, during the member's first three school years of membership, he/she will contribute a percentage based on a salary projection (as provided by the employer) in accordance with this schedule:
Contribution Rate
$45,000 and less
More than $45,000 to $55,000
More than $55,000 to $75,000
More than $75,000 to $100,000
More than $100,000 to $179,000 (the limit currently equal to the NYS governor's salary)
Following the first three years of membership, a Tier 6 member's contribution rate in any given year is based on regular compensation received two years prior.

Required contributions help fund your pension at retirement. They do not provide you with a separate annuity or any other retirement benefit. If you have contributions in the System:

  • For purposes of borrowing or withdrawal of membership only, contributions accrue 5% interest (tax deferred) annually.
  • You can borrow from your contributions fund and make repayments until you retire.
  • Contributions are subject to New York State income tax when made.
  • The following federal tax information applies:
    • Tiers 3 and 4: Contributions made prior to July 1, 1989 were federally taxed at the time they were made. Those made after that date are not subject to federal income tax until they are received as part of a withdrawal, retirement benefit, death benefit, or loan.
    • Tiers 5 and 6: Contributions are not subject to federal income tax until they are received as part of a withdrawal, retirement benefit, death benefit, or loan.
  • Contributions plus interest are paid to your beneficiary or estate if you die before you retire.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Worst Mining Disaster in U.S. History

     On December 6, 1907, methane gas (fire damp) exploded in mine tunnels 6 and 8 of the Fairmont Coal Company in Monongah, West Virginia. More than 362 miners including child laborers--breaker boys or slate pickers--were killed. Rescue workers also died by suffocation in oxygen-depleted tunnels filled with black damp*. Current research by the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that the number of deaths was nearer 500. The exact number remains unknown.
     The majority of miners killed were Italian-American immigrants. One hundred seventy one died. Many of the dead were fathers with large families. The mining disaster is remembered in Italy to this day. A movie called Monongah, La Marcinelle Americana by Silvano Console commemorates the tragic loss of life. A flash video in English is also available at West Virginia PBS--Monongah Mine Disaster.
      By the end of 1907,  3,242 workers had died in mining accidents across the United States, leading to renewed efforts for mine safety and greater influence by the United Mine Workers. 
     In 1913, the second worst mining disaster in the United States occurred at a coal mine in Dawson, New Mexico. Two hundred sixty three miners were killed.
     In 1909, the third worst mining disaster in the United States occurred in Cherry, Illinois.Two hundred fifty nine coal miners were killed. Unconfirmed counts put the number at more than four hundred killed.

1) Wikipedia--Monongah Mining Disaster
2) Monongah Bell Donated by Italy--Pittsburg Post-Gazette

3) Rootsweb

* Black damp is a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Navigating This Blog

     Blog posts are arranged in chronological sequence by year, month and date/title. To access prior posts, go to the Blog Archive, click on year, month and post by title. Thank you for your interest.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt

     Unfunded obligations of the U.S. ought to be addressed, not dismissed. The messenger is not the villain. Here is a link to a short article that was published in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 27, 2012. (The article does not include reference to state and local unfunded obligations. The link was provided by author Joe Bakewell.)
 Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt

A BIRD NAMED ENZA & WILL’S WAR by Joe Bakewell are now available as e-books on all major sites including (in all formats) for $2.99.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

James Kennedy State Forest

Editor's note: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation provides this information on its website for historical and educational purposes.  

The James D. Kennedy Memorial State Forest, or Cortland Reforestation Area #3, was named in memory of the Distract Forester James D. Kennedy. The 4422 acre forest is located in the towns of Harford, Lapeer and Virgil on Babcock Hollow, Baldwin, Bleck, Cook Hill, Courtney Hill, Cortwright, Hauck Hill, Hilsinger, O'Dell, Owego Hill, Quail Hollow, Scutt Hill, Valentine Hill and Van Donsel Roads. The forest was established between 1931 and 1974 to reduce soil erosion, produce forest products, help stabilize the tax base, and provide recreational opportunities. Most of the landscape was cleared of trees for agriculture during the mid-to- late 19th century by European settlers. Between 1931 and 1976 approximately 2,280,500 pine, spruce, cedar, larch and red oak were planted. The trees were planted by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp S-125 based in Slaterville Springs, NY; Conservation Department employees; Camp Pharsalia crews and social service crews. Today the forest provides a diverse group of ecological, economic, and recreational services.

The towns of Virgil, Lapeer, and Harford, as well as the rest of present day Cortland County, were developed under the Military Tract, which was established in 1789. During the Revolutionary War New York State needed soldiers to protect its borders from British attack as well as attacks from Native Americans. Since the State had little money to pay its soldiers, a plan was devised to pay them with land. The Governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, plotted land from Oswego to the southern border of present day Cortland County. This land was dedicated for the payment of New York's Revolutionary War soldiers. The land was then divided into smaller sections of about ten square miles called townships. These townships were then divided into sections of land approximately 600 acres each to be allotted to individual soldiers. Unfortunately, the majority of the soldiers did not utilize such payments, preferring instead to take their chances elsewhere. In those instances the soldier sold his land warrant to a speculator who would commonly divide the lots into smaller pieces and then sell them for a large profit.

After two years of breaking the road, Chaplin's work ended in 1794. New York State achieved its goal of promoting the settlement of Central New York . Shortly thereafter, John M. Frank and his family used the road to settle in the town of Virgil. John Gee and his family followed the Frank family in 1795. They were later followed by John Roe and his family in 1797. These were the first three families to settle in Virgil.

As part of the Military Tract, the town of Virgil was named after the Roman poet, Virgil. Originally the town of Virgil was connected to Homer, New York. Virgil separated from Homer in 1804. The first settler of the Virgil area , Joseph Chaplin, arrived in 1792. Chaplin was commissioned by New York State to cut a road through the dense forest from Oxford to Ithaca in order to open Central New York to settlement and development. Chaplin strove to cut a road as straight as possible and eventually ended up coming out near Ludlowville. This road was referred to as "The First Road." However, the state was not satisfied with "The First Road," and refused to pay Chaplin until he made another road from Virgil to Ithaca which was named "Bridle Road.

Daniel C. Squires named the town of Lapeer, and he was responsible for its split from Virgil. Squires is reported to have commented after the split, "Although among the youngest of all the towns of Cortland County [it is] the peer of them all." Squires combined the French article La, which is commonly used like "the" in English, with the English word Peer. "Lapeer," the town's name, is a direct reference to Squires' statement meaning "The Peer." Although not organized as a town until 1845, Lapeer's first settler was Primus Grant a native of Guinea who came to the area in 1799.

Unlike Virgil or Lapeer, the town of Harford has no solid information as to the origin of its name. However, there is a hypothesis regarding its origin. It is assumed that Harford followed the example of the neighboring town of Richford in determining its name. Richford received its name from the first owner of Richford's general store, Ezekial Rich, around the year of 1821. Theodore Hart ran Harford's first general store around 1824. It is also interesting to note that Harford was and is often spelled "Hartford." Therefore, it is feasible that Harford did receive its name from Theodore Hart, although it cannot be proven.


1) James Kennedy State Forest--NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
2) State Forests...A Brief History  -- Read about the exodus of farmers from poor hilltop farms during the Great Depression.
3) Virgil Mountain Unit Management Plan--DEC -- Go to page 137, Appendix 1, to read a list of previous owners of land in Cortland District #3. This publication also has specific information about natural gas drilling.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wild Turkey Chaser

     It's easy to recognize Sam. He's got a slightly crooked smile on his face. That smile suggests mischief and wilful, good-natured deception. I don't know if he was born with that smile or if it grew on him with each exaggerated story that he told. Sam usually wears blue coveralls and a checkered flannel shirt and winter boots--even in summer. He stands about six feet tall. He has a small brown-grey moustache, darker than the grey hair on top of his head. He wears an old blue baseball cap with pinned decorations on it. What you notice about him, besides his slightly crooked smile, is his playful eyes. They light up like a Christmas tree when he tells you a story. Sam is 65 years old. Before he retired, he hardly worked for the New York State Department of Transportation.
     George, on the other hand, is less spectacular in appearance. He's about the same height as Sam and about the same age. He usually wears faded blue jeans, a flannel shirt and a blue nylon shell jacket. He's a retired school custodian. He has an intelligent handsome face, a kindly expression in his dark eyes, and a full beard. He wears a blue baseball cap too, but it is plain and not decorated.
     For several years, George and Sam have been meeting at Hyde's Diner in Cortland at 9 A.M. on Saturday morning. They've known each other since they attended high school.
     George is already seated at a booth near a window on this crisp late October morning. And there's Sam coming through the door.

Mad River Wildlife Management Area (left click on map)

     "Where were you last week, Sam?"
     "I went turkey hunting, George. Had something happen that never happened before. I got lost." Sam takes a seat opposite George in the booth.
     "That's right--woefully forlorn and lost. I was hunting for turkey near the Mad River Wildlife Management Area--north of the Salmon Reservoir--when I realized I was lost."
     "You got lost? I don't believe it. Is this the start of another nutty story? Are you trying to pull my leg again?"
     "No, sir. It's the truth, may God be my judge. Last week I parked my pickup at the end of an old timber road off Little John Drive and Oswego County Road 17. Then I took my shotgun and walked past a vacant hunting camp and into the woods toward the river. I've hunted in that area in the past."
     "You say you got lost? How long were you lost?"
     "I'll get to that in a moment. I'm telling you straight up, I never expected to get lost."
     "You're here now. If you got lost up there, how did you get found?"
     "I said I got lost. I didn't say I disappeared. And I found my way out--you may not believe this--with help from a mind-reading supernatural bird."
     "Uh-oh, this ought to be a good one."
     "I really had high hopes and aspirations for this turkey hunt, George. I had visions of Tom turkey roasting in my oven."
     "Lost, you say. I suppose you didn't have a cell phone, GPS, or compass?"
     "Hell, no. I was the perfect example of the eastern tenderfoot who thought he knew his way in the wilderness area."
     "Serves you right, then."
     "This is how it happened. I started the hunt by following an old trail that led directly to the river. As I was walking, I heard a loud turkey cackle in the woods nearby--or maybe it was a crow--I wasn't sure. A cackle usually means a turkey is running or flying away. I stopped and listened. No repeat. So I continued to follow the old path. It started to snow lightly--early for mid-October. No matter, I was dressed for it. I found a spot by a hemlock tree and sat down. I was facing the river and I had a clear view of the field in front of me. I started to call gobblers using my old Strut mouthpiece. Some yelps, clucks and purrs. You've heard me practice--I'm good at it. I heard nothing back so I called again. This time I thought I heard a long extended gobble. I was excited. Tom's don't usually gobble in the fall. I got up and stood beside the tree and called again. Some nice little yelps and purrs--trying to sound seductive like a hen turkey."
     "Somehow, Sam, I can't picture you as a seductive hen turkey. Did you wiggle your ass too?"
     "George, just this once, try to be serious and listen as I tell this amazing but true story."
     "Go on...."
     "Well, soon enough, I heard another loud gobble, much closer than before. I called again and heard the gobble again. My calls were getting results. I looked around the open field and waited. All of a sudden, I saw a bearded turkey head about twenty yards away, looking straight at me. That's when I lifted my shotgun and aimed. My finger went to the trigger to pull--and that's when that turkey dropped its head and ran. I never got the shot off."
     "Bye-bye birdie?"
     "No, he was playing hide and seek. He cackled when he ran and he yelped a few moments later. I saw him move by some rocks and bushes about 100 yards away. He stuck his head up and looked back at me. Reminded me of a scene in the old roadrunner cartoons. I'd say he was thinking, Your move, Sam."
     "Did you oblige?"
     "Yes, I aimed my shotgun at him again and just when I was moving my finger to the trigger, presto, off he goes, running through the bushes. I ran or walked for a 1/4 of a mile following him. Turkeys can fly but this one preferred to run. This Tom turkey was deliberately showing himself every now and then, like he wanted me to see where he was. I got winded so I stopped. As I caught my breath, I looked around. I didn't see any sign of him. I was disappointed after the 1/4 mile chase and I thought he got away. I put that old Strut diaphragm back in my mouth and started to call again. Just as before, I heard a loud gobble back in the woods. I got the suspicion that he was running me in a circle but I wasn't sure. I followed his tracks in the snow and went deeper into the woods."
     "Is this how you got lost?"
     "It was the beginning of it. I looked for the sun but all I could see were dark grey snow clouds in the sky. The snow had let up, but more was coming. I could see a white sheet in the sky drawing closer. I kept going. I never allow a turn in the weather to interfere with a hunt--something to reconsider someday."
     "Could you still hear or see the turkey?"
     "You bet. I followed that turkey through the woods for several minutes. I stopped when I heard a familiar gobble in front of me. Obviously, a turkey can out-run any hunter any time if it wants to. Jeez, George, not this turkey. This turkey was using me as a playmate and it was playing a game of hide and seek. I was the damn fool caught up in it."
     "Turkeys are supposed to be smart, Sam. I don't buy the hide and seek thing when the hunter has a loaded gun."
     "I had some doubt too. Despite my doubt, I carefully aimed my shotgun at him. That bearded turkey stood in full view about 30 yards ahead of me. I thought, Calm yourself, Sam. Don't miss this easy shot. But as soon as I moved my finger to the trigger, the turkey disappeared. George, I was losing my damn patience. There was something curious and suspicious about this turkey. It was then that I entertained the idea that he could read my mind. He seemed to know when I was going to pull the trigger. Now that may sound foolish here and now, George, but at that time and in that place I honestly came to believe it."
     "If I was there to advise you, Sam, I would have shouted for you to wise up and quit the hunt."
     "You know me better than that, George. I knew I was lost when I went deeper into the woods. By that time I didn't have any idea of north, south, east or west. More snow fell. I couldn't see any turkey tracks, and I didn't hear the turkey either. I was in an area of hemlock, white pine, beech, blackberry vines and thousands of rocks and boulders. It was a rugged place to walk for an old geezer. I thought, Where the hell am I? My recent footprints were getting covered with snow. So I made a quick decision to abandon the hunt and try to find the river. If I get to the river, I thought, I can find the old hunting camp and my pickup and go home."
     "So after pretending to be a hen turkey and establishing a love attachment to a bearded Tom, then getting lost, you and Tom decide to separate in the woods. Does that sum it up?"
     "Separated, yes, but it wasn't a divorce. I found my way back to the Mad River but I couldn't see my own footprints along the riverbank. Several inches of snow had fallen. I looked around. This wasn't the same place where I had been earlier. Nothing looked familiar. Panic isn't in my bones but I was close to feeling it. I felt like the last soul left on earth."
     "Hmmm. Sounds like trouble in the Northwoods--if there is any grain of truth in it."
     "Not only was it true, but it was a defining moment of self-awareness. I was lost. I didn't know if I was north or south of my hunting entry point. I made matters worse by taking the wrong direction along the river bank. As I was trudging along, I heard a loud gobble behind me. Jeez. I turned and asked myself, What's this? Is that turkey making fun of me when I'm lost? The snow had stopped falling, and this feathered freak of nature was standing on a rock and just staring at me. His head and neck shook, and another gobble rolled out. It's either the same turkey or a close twin, I surmised. Only one way for an intelligent and savvy hunter like myself to find out. I raised my shotgun and took aim. When I moved my finger to the trigger, the turkey disappeared."
     "So, it appears to be the turkey you were chasing earlier."
     "Appears so. But I wasn't in a mood to chase or shoot him anymore. I was tired, lost, hungry and cold. However that turkey wasn't going to allow me a moment's peace--not by a long shot. The game of hide and seek wasn't over. He strutted and gobbled and beat his wings. Damned if he didn't want me to chase him again. He was going in the opposite direction. So I thought, Why is he going in the opposite direction? That's when the truth hit me like Revelation and the words of Saint John. 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.' This turkey was the same turkey that made a cackle as I left my pickup and entered the woods to hunt. This turkey had been leading me in circles on a rough and tumble chase all day. I ran it through my head and filtered out all doubt. He knows I'm lost, too. He can read my mind. He may lead me back to my pickup truck. With the energy of desperation and little else, I decided to follow this mocking hide-and-seek turkey and finish the game."
     "You've got to be kidding...."
     "No, sir. It started to get dark about then. It gets dark early in the Adirondacks in fall and winter. I followed the cackles, yelps and sightings of the turkey through the darkening woods. May God be my judge, the mind-reading turkey led me back to my pickup within an hour."
     "I suppose, with your fanatical awe of this mind-reading turkey, with all the sightings, you never attempted to shoot him again?"
     "Hell, no. I learned my lesson. If I shot it--if it could be done--God would have left me in the wilderness until I died and then sent me to hell.  Besides, you don't bite the hand that feeds you, do you? Speaking of food--it's time to order breakfast."
     "Strange story, Sam. Very entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe someday you can tell me what really happened at the Mad River. By the way, before the hunt, did you have any bottled spirits to drink--like Wild Turkey?"

 Follow Sam and George:
The Mouse with Three Legs
Also recommended:
Wild Goose Chase