Pedestrian Rambling

So You Want To Be The Boss

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So You Want To Be the Boss? 

Observations and thoughts on the transition from front line interpretation to administration.

Moving into a supervisory role is generally regarded as essential part of career advancement. The the transition however, from front line interpretation to an administrative or supervisory position often requires significant changes in attitude and self motivation. These shifts are necessary to accommodate changes in responsibilities. Taking the time to recognize that this is an essential process can enhance a successful transition, avoid unnecessary stress or a bad career decision.  

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations:
My bee boxes were empty this winter. Both colonies bolted, as in the bees left. I suspect this occurred in September. I was very consumed with wrapping things up in Toledo and didn't have time to get back to the creek house and check on them at the end of the summer. Long story short, I ordered some more bees this spring. Two, three pound packages. One for the back yard and one for my brother-in-law's farm.
It is always a trip to transfer a package of bees into a hive. There is something that is very counter intuitive to opening up a container full of thousands of stinging insects and dumping them out. Mixed with this base, primal emotion there is a high level of attentiveness and care to do this adroitly and this is all tempered with the great expectation of a honey yield to follow.

Since last year's bees bolted they left a great deal of honey and I will be using this to help the new bees get established. These bees are enjoying the privilege of not only having honey in the hive when they arrived but they are also setting up residence in hives that have established comb. Creating or building comb takes time are energy so having frames with existing comb is a tremendous asset for a colony. Consequently it is certainly feasible that there could be enough surplus honey to warrant a harvest this fall.

I also picked up a bee gum this spring. That is a traditional term for a bee hive that is situated in a hollow tree or log. Phil and his crew were working on some trees in Madison and they dropped a big cherry that had a hive in it. The fellows cut the log into a manageable section and we got it loaded into my truck. Back at the house I was able to get the log out of the pickup with the little tractor and end loader. With a little bit of pushing and shoving I got it situated on a couple cinder blocks behind the barn. Cool!

There isn't that much room in the log and I am hoping that this colony will thrive. If they do well, they will certainly swarm several times this summer. If I keep an eye on them and I am lucky I might be able to catch a couple swarms and get them established in my commercial hives.
Yet another great expectation.

When I was driving back from picking up the packaged bees I witnessed something that I will surely never see again and I hope I will always remember when I reflect on my aspirations and expectations.

I was driving north and on the west side of the road was a hay field, on the east was a block of mature trees. A pair of geese were grazing in the field and a red-tailed hawk came floating out of the woods clearly on a stoop toward the goose that was closest to the road. Both geese flushed but the hawk was on a perfect Intercepting vector. At the last minute the target goose folded its' wings, turned sideways in the air and literally dropped like a rock. The hawk overshot its intended prey and continued flying aimlessly along as the other goose was well on its way to a safe escape.

This was a remarkable thing to witness. First, the evasive maneuver was simply mind boggling. The goose just collapsed in the air and fell. Second, I couldn't believe I saw a red-tail hawk attempt to take a goose! Talk about great expectations! Geese are big birds. And finally I have to wonder what would have happened if indeed the hawk would have grabbed the goose? Geese are not only big but they are tough birds. I have to assume that a goose would severely beat a red-tail up. The expectations I have for my bees have nowhere near the dire consequences of life or injury as those that could have unfolded if the hawk would have realized his mark. I suppose the moral of the story is some time it just might be best if our expectations are not realized.

"Some Old Dusty Woods"

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Some Dusty Woods:

Being back at the Creek House for the past 6 months has certainly illustrated some of the benefits of the loft condo living. When you leave, you lock the door walk away and forget about it, no sump pumps, down trees, plugged driveway culverts, nothing like that.

But we are back, living in "Some Old Dusty Woods”.  Which happens to be one of my favorite Greg Brown songs.  (Lyrics posted below) 

Last night I was on a step stool killing dozens of some kind of beetle on the living room ceiling.  Obviously one of the window screens has a crack, or maybe one of the doors. This past week I have been waging war on carpenter ants, carpenter bees and wasps.  

And my little woodlot has been invaded by a spreading force of invasive plants: Japanese knot weed, two types of honey suckle, multiflora rose, English ivy, periwinkle and several others.

I have enjoyed engaging in the war but I know that ultimately all of my actions and efforts are transitory which helps to remind me not to take this too seriously.  It is in effect recreation.  These things are not essential to my survival but engaging in these endeavors are indeed part of the human condition.  

Entropy is a crazy thing.  After being not living here for four and a half years the amount of small repair and replacement is staggering. And the large projects  I left behind seem even bigger.  

It is really overwhelming what to do in any sort of order, so I just do whatever happens to strike me as important or what seems essential to do in order to do the next thing. 

So there is tractor work, planting bed restoration, rock wall landscaping, pavers work, lots of chainsaw and fire wood and tree work and the creation and management of storage and order.   

And then there is music and outdoor pursuits.

Excuse me but I’ve got to go play guitar for a bit.   

Dusty Woods

Greg Brown Slant 6 Mind

(a vision of Robert Johnson)

He's riding in the back of a wagon and his city choes are dragging

and the sweat is pouring down his back

One eye west and one eye south

Two words fall out his mouth

He jumps down, waves, walks across the railroad track


He's in some dusty woods outside of town


Got a piece of paper folded in four, a stub pencil from the hardware store,

and a guitar that looks like it's been used

The birds shut down their song

He can't stay too long

There's something up ahead he's just got to do


He licks the pencil, looks around, writes a few words down,

and pulls a moan from his guitar

A hound dog answers low and he stands up real slow

He's got a ways to go, he don't know how far


He's in some dusty woods outside of town.

Leave the Light On


Pedestrian Ramblings: 

Took a shot with the phone of the super moon through the trees, over Big Creek.  There was a fair about of cloud covers so there was a hazy image to begin with.

I am going into my second month of “retirement” from the pubic sector.  I believe that October was the first month in 35 years or so I haven’t gone to a park board meeting and that was pretty nice.

The past few weeks however have been a ride!

Moving is always an adventure and the move back to NEO was just that.  Evidently I cracked a tooth somewhere along the way and have had quite the run with antibiotics and several folks involved with the dental profession. 

Happy to report that I am going the right direction, and now that I have lost that tooth, you should hear a marked improvement in the tonality of my blues singing.   I was thinking “A Mouth Full of Trouble” would make a great theme for a blues tune!


Maybe because of this transition period in my life I have just been enamored with Chris Smither and his tune “Leave the Light On.  Whatever the reason, it is a great song and Chris is a wonderful musician and song writer!

July 3

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Summer Abundance 

I'm sitting on the porch at the creek house with the occasional whirring sound of humming birds in my ears as they dart to and from the feeders.  After a breakfast topped off with biscuits from the oven, fresh honey and Irish butter I am nearly in a coma.  The roar of the 17 year cicadas has finally began to deminish and the tree branches where they have deposited there eggs have browned.  Other than that all of the vegitation is lush and green with the occassion patch of summer blossoms or early seed heads.   

Yesterday was the first day of a 10 day vacation and it was a big day.  It with a 7:30 am stop by the Toledo Farmers market to buy blueberries and sweet cherries grown by some friends in Michigan then across state to the NEO winery region.  At 12:00 I was performing at the Firehouse with the Next Best Thing.  Behinds us we had the spectacular blue sky, blue water backdrop of the Lake Erie Central Basin.  Got done at 4:00 and bolted over to Kosicek Winery for a second show and there was a smile on my face when I hit the bed.  

Although it has been extremely dry across the northern half of Ohio the temperature has been nearly perfect for the past few weeks with exceptional blue sky and remarkable sunsets.

Life is good here.

Before breakfast I was playing around with a Doc Watson inspired version of Columbus Stockade Blues.  This is a great old traditional tune that is often thought of as a bluegrass song.  Doc recorded it in a minor scale that is really engaging and with a little tinkering I came up with a suitable arrangement for me.  My mom and Aunt Pearl used to sing this and this has always been one of my favorite songs.  I am looking forward to performing this version.    

As I was driving over from Toledo yesterday I happen to listen to Rod Stewards Maggie May which always brings back a host of memories from when I first heard that song.  I was in the 8th grade.  For the first time I started to think about what was going on in England in the early '70s to inspire his album Every Picture Tells a story.  Mandolin's were not a common instrument in popular music at that time and is featured in both Maggie May and Mandolin Wind.  

Brits are often credited with re introducing American's to US blues, fascinating the think they might have played a role in re introducing this instrument into American popular music. 

July 4th On a rock


July 4th

It is beautiful Ohio summer morning and I have been up for a while.

Got up a bit early to enjoy some quite time and take inventory around the homestead.

I played at Zocalo’s Saturday and the Lake House yesterday which are two completely different gigs so maybe I am up because I trying to reconcile who I am after playing in such different places.

Last night was a spectacular evening. The sunset was not dramatic, but the platinum color of the lake more than made up for it. Even the drive was great. It was the first night after the new moon, and there was this tiny crescent in the north west sky.

This morning, I took the time to go sit by the creek on a big granite boulder that was pushed down from Canada by the glaciers. I was looking across the stream at another geologic feature, an anti-cline. That is basically a wave in the bedrock form some distant time in the past when an earthquake or some major disruption caused an upheaval in the earth’s crust.

It is a really cool feature. The cliff is about 60 feet high, and the exposed rock is layered shale. Generally this stuff is stacked up flat layer upon layer but because of the anti-cline there is this very distinctive hump in the layers. Sort of like taking a stack of printer paper and bending it. Only a little more impressive.

The cliff swallows have taken advantage of the situation and built a nest in the seam that formed in the shale. I don’t have a suitable camera to catch them as they fly in and out of their nest, but after my morning musings, I took some pictures anyway.

So whenever I sit on one of these big rocks, I always think about the glacier ride coming down and the force of the water moving it back down the stream-bed. Of course this made me think of Jeff’s song Like A Stone, which make the analogy of human resilience to rock.

Human resilience is an amazing thing but it is all so tenuous.

I know several young men who have been deployed in our recent military missions in the mid-east, who are trying so hard to create or hang on to some sort of life and recover from their experiences.

I don’t profess to understand why there can be such evil in our world and why we can’t find a better way of addressing it. But to sense the incredible disruption these young men are living with, and to think about the folks actually living in war torn areas of the world is so deeply disturbing.

So as I sat on my rock surrounded by the beauty of the world around me I couldn’t help but think two things:

Be thankful and grateful for the existence that I have had and to recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me to enjoy the serenity of this morning.

And what can do to help make this world a better place for others to enjoy.  I hope that music can be a part of this.


The Loss of Darkness


The loss of darkness

I had to drive to Cincinnati this past week for a work related engagement.  I wasn’t able to leave until 6:00 or so and this made for a few hours of driving after sunset.

I would have said several hours of driving after dark, but that really wasn’t the case.  We really never drove in the dark.

I am used to the drive down 71 to Columbus but I have rare occasion to continue south on this route. 

As we drove past Grove City we could smell the landfill that was designed by a friend of ours Kurt Anderson nearly thirty years ago.

He was a brilliant individual who succumbed to an inherent drive to always push the limits.  An excessive use of alcohol, drugs and some ultimate bad luck resulted in an untimely death.

Kurt had received national recognition for his design to capture and reuse the methane gas generated by the landfill.  As we drove by I wondered if the smell was the result of the single digit temperatures, a flaw in his design or some failure to maintain the system for cost cutting measures.  (Probably the latter)

There is a long stretch of 71 that goes through some exceptional farmland.  Land that feels as flat as a board and for all intense and purposes you might think you were in Iowa, so MJ que'd up Greg Brown’s “Iowa” CD as fitting music for this portion of the ride.

Of course historically this land might have had pockets of tall grass prairie, but was predominately forested at the time the first pioneers began their explorations.

It is hard to imagine just what those forests must have been like and about the best way to get any kind of descriptive idea is to look up and read some of the early surveyors journals.

I have read bits and pieces of journals from Israel Ludlow who worked in southwest Ohio and Seth Pease in northeast Ohio.  Both of these men recorded what the natural features they saw in addition to simply measuring and monumenting the countryside.

Their observations are simply fascinating.

Ohio had spectacular forests that were cleared to make way for farmland.  It was not uncommon for huge tracks of these hardwood forests to be burned over the winter months just to clear the land.

Every kid in school today knows about the loss of the rainforests but few people realize that our predecessors cleared the eastern United States in much the same way.

We were now driving through one of the most productive areas in the country for row crop agriculture on an interstate that had been built through rural, prime agricultural land.

What struck me as we drove along was how many lights there were across the landscape.

It seemed that every farmhouse or out building had a cluster of high output lights.  At every exit with a gas station there were a myriad of tall light poles.

The amount of light pollution was really disheartening.   I suppose as a culture we have been conditioned to be afraid of the dark.

That is all I can think of.  Why else would someone in rural America hang high output lights off of every building?

The opportunity to enjoy the night sky is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

When I was growing up in southwestern Ohio, one of my most engaging winter time actives was looking up at the night sky and taking in an overwhelming display of stars and planets.

It made me sad to observe this as we drove along and to think of the simple enjoyment that we are denying ourselves as a culture.

The dark is as much a part of the day as the light is.  It seems strange that we would choose to not enjoy the benefits of each.

Currently we have the privilege of living in a very lovely location and I have often marveled when a new neighbor moves in or builds a new house on our street what they choose to illuminate.  Sometime it is the length of their driveway, other times it is the porch, or garage, or outbuildings or in some cases all of the above.

And I wonder why they do this?

If they are afraid to live in a natural setting why did they move here to begin with?

Are we that afraid of the absence of light or are we afraid of what we might see in the darkness?

But I guess it is not to unlike having constant background noise on to perhaps keep us from hearing our own thoughts.

I think we listened to Greg Brown until we reached the hotel.

The Acrobatics of Life


Yesterday in the early afternoon, I was driving through the valley, and caught site of a large bird over head. Sure enough it was an eagle, nope there were two eagles!

They were both immature, just beginning to get white on their head and tails, and they were engaged in a mating flight.

Now I don’t know enough about eagles to be sure if this was the real deal and if immatures actually mate or if this was a pseudo mating flight.

Sometimes animals do a sort of pre mating play as juveniles, sort of like teenagers making out. Ideally it’s just practice, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, perhaps you have seen this on nature shows or maybe had the chance to actually watch such a site.

It was an incredible and I pulled the car over and watched for ten minutes or so.

They would circle around over this broad spot in the valley floor, the male was a little smaller and would glide over the female and she would turn upside down. They would grab at each other’s talons as they were falling toward the ground and then disengage and right themselves right above the treetops. Off they would fly, climbing up into the air and repeated this again and again.

To see the female flip and fly upside down and to see the male turn completely sideways and slip down through the air to meet her was simply a spectacular spectacle.

This all was taking place about a quarter mile from my house.

Now you might ask, "Why in the world would I want to move?"

Well that is a good question.

If things progress with the other position, we intend to hang on to this house if we can.

It is a great location and would be a lovely vacation and weekend getaway house.

This might be a pipe dream but then again we’ll sort that out when we get there.

At any rate I have been truly privileged to live for the past 11 years or so in such a cool spot that has generated so many wonderful memories.

I have watched mink hunt in the creek, as well as two big water snakes work together to herd and catch minnows. And no I am not making that up.

I have had red fox sit and look into the back door in the dead of winter as if pondering the possibility of coming in.

I watched a coyote ambush a red fox off the side of the hill.  The next morning I examined the remains in nearly the exact spot where I discovered similar fox remains a few years and wondered what had happened. That day I knew.

MJ and I have been entertained by two families, at the same time, of pileated wood peckers enjoying our suet feeders.  The adults were feeding their clumsy youngsters who couldn’t negotiate hanging upside down to feed themselves.

And I will never forget watching both eagles and kingfishers hunt steelhead in the creek.

The kingfisher realizing at the last second of his dive he was no match for the big fish and pulling off before hitting the water.

And of course there is the recollection of the early morning hours on the day of the five-hundred year flood, lying in bed with MJ feeling large logs smashing into and shaking the entire house while the little creek was roaring with the extreme volume of water.

So yep this is a special place.

I suppose I too am engaged in the Acrobatics of Life.

I know I am privileged to be here, and fortunate to be considered for yet another position that may allow me to continue to work to protect, enhance and share the benefits of these things that inspire me.

I don't know if this is just practice or will produce, but it's the journey that is life.

My form of meditative walking.


Friday Night I went out to the Conneaut Creek Club cabin and spent the evening by myself.

Saturday was the opening day of muzzle loading rifle deer season.

The cabin is a rustic Adirondack style, with propane lights and stove, no running water, a barrel wood burning stove, two wonderful porches and many great memories.

I got out there around 8:30 and it was about 15 degrees with ten inches of snow on the ground and it was lightly snowing.

Tomorrow I was intending to walk up a deer, that is slowly and quietly walk through the woods until I either came up on bedded or feeding deer.

With the particular muzzle-loading rifle that I would be using, this would require getting within 80 yards and with the cover and habitat around the cabin, this more than likely would be something like 15 to forty yards.

In order to pull this off, the big deal is moving extremely slow.  All the old hunting books I used to read when I was a kid called this still-hunting.  I never understood why the authors would use this term and not stick with using “stalking” as the common descriptor.

As I got older and realized what was involved, I began to get it.

To really do this right you are moving through the woods while being as still as you can.

I was taking a Thai Chi class a few years ago when the instructor introduced me to meditative walking.

It is a process where you consciously transfer weight through your body from one leg up through your hips then down to the other as you walk in a slow determined way.

I recognized instantly this was an excellent method of mental training for still-hunting.

That fall I tried it and what I observed was pretty remarkable.

I consider my self to be fairly observant when I am “on my game, in myself, in the moment” or whatever you call it going through the woods.

I have noticed that generally when I am going through the woods, I will occasionally see squirrels out 60 yards or so moving away from me, and song-birds occasional twittering in front of me maybe twenty yards more or less.

When I tried the meditative walking approach, I found that I was often moving through the fall woods with a small mixed flock of chickadees, junco’s and titmice immediately around me and I would seeing squirrels moving in front of me maybe ten to fifteen yards.

So needless to say, this is an excellent method of moving through the forest with hunting intentions.

One other dimension to this approach to moving is the incredible mental focus it takes.   The easy and regular thing to do is revert back to normal “walking” in addition there is an substantial amount of focus required for deer hunting anyway.

 So I was planning on going out alone and walking up a deer.

It had been a long time since I had used the CCC cabin as a personal retreat.  Most outings over the years had been with a number of family or friends, which of course were great in there own right, but being by myself was a little different.

I needed a little solitude to strip away the layers of mental chatter that have been building for the past several months.

I had a great time dealing with the simple challenge of getting a fire going with no kindling, making a pot of tea, getting my muzzle loading stuff together, which is an interesting task unto it own. 

In spite of great technological advances, these guns are still primitive weapons.   To load one, you take an amount of carefully measured gunpowder, pour it down the barrel of the gun, tamp that in place then push a bullet down the barrel and tamp that into place.

At the other end of the barrel, there is a small opening where the a spark will flash from a primer or cap.  Ideally this will happen when the trigger is pulled, igniting the powder causing a contain explosion pushing the bullet out and toward the target.

Before bed I got my muzzle loading stuff out, checked over and loaded into appropriate pockets located on the exterior of my hunting clothing.

In the morning I set off about forty-five minutes before sunrise in the 8 degree morning air.

After a executing a slow circuitous ¾ of a mile route down the valley, through the hemlock thickets, across the oak flats and skirting the grapevine tangles I was back at the cabin for a cup of tea and a bit of lunch.

Snow was still falling off and on but in brief periods it was nearly white out conditions.  After my morning hike I assumed the deer would be lying under the hemlocks and out of the weather.  My challenge would be approaching them in a manner to get close enough to get a clear shot.

My afternoon, mosey began would be on the other side of the cabin.

I immediately saw where deer had been pawing through the snow to get to grass on the dam of the pond and had more than likely bedded up in the hemlocks on the point of a keen ridge overlooking the Conneaut Creek Valley.

This is a great nearly fail safe bedding strategy, if any threat is coming they merely stand up and bound down the 45-60 degree one hundred plus foot descent down in the valley.

So how I approached the hemlock thickets was very important if I expected to get a shot.

I figured that this deer were probably conditioned to watching for people coming from the pond so I decided I would approach them from the edge of the valley ridge as best as I could.

I put up the first two deer in a few minutes.  I had walked to within twenty yards of two lying under the hemlocks, and we saw each other at about the same time and they made their move as I was making mine and no shot was fired.

In a short distance in the same thicket I walked up on another lying behind a log.  The deer jumped up when I was about 15 yards away and started to go over into the valley but the wall was too steep, nearly vertical and instead was force to turn and come straight toward me.

I pulled up, aimed, pulled the trigger, the hammer fell and the percussion cap didn’t ignite.  Evidently moisture from the heavy snow had dampened the cap.

The deer turned within a few feet of me and bounded away.

And out of the day I had gotten everything that I had needed, several hours solitude, emersion in the elements, several hours of meditative walking, and incredible rush of adrenalin in the thrill of the moment. 

There have been reasons why I haven't posted any Pedestrian Ramblings and it hasn't had anything to do with an absence of events happening, inspirations coming etc., it has had more to do with being entirely consumed with existing day to day and not having the space to capture inspirations when they come.

This was a great inspirational moment, reminding me I am still who I am and still able to interact in the many dimsions of the world around me. 

A New Year Juxtaposition


This weekend I enjoyed watching the creek thaw.

We had snow on the ground since the first of December and several weeks of below freezing temperatures.


When it heated up to the mid fifties something had to give.


It is very fascinating to watch the creek release, just like it is very cool to watch it freeze.


When the melt waters start flowing over the frozen surface of the creek it may be a matter of minutes or days before the ice breaks up but once it starts to release it happens very quickly.


And the ice begins to move and break and the force of the water breaks it apart into smaller and smaller pieces.


As the ice gets carried down stream it sometimes gets caught up and this is the beginning of an ice dam.


Friday I watched several ice dams form and break apart. It is mesmerizing to watch.


In witnessing this, it reminded me that I haven’t taken much time to see the world around me consequently I have suffered for it.


It is easy to forget how much clutter we allow in our schedule and into our mind.


It is also easy to forget how much I enjoy taking time to stop and just see things, to find the essence of what I do and to live what I am doing.


And I suppose this is my New Years Resolution.


Stop and do more.


A wonderful juxtaposition.


I got youtubed at the Beachland gig

August 10 there was a very talented young lady passing through Cleveland, Emily Erin. She was hoping to pick up a gig at the Beachland Ballroom on her way back to New York. One of my buds Dan Best with the Swamp Rattlers called and asked if I would do a set to round out the evening with Emily and I did. There was a fellow there who flip filmed the show and this version of me doing Stan Rogers' Mary Ellen Carter wound up on Youtube This has always been one of my favorites. I first heard his work perfomred by a dear friend in Dayton, Dave Gordon. He and his wife Kay did several of Stan's tunes, including Barrettes Privateers. Unfortunately I never knew who wrote the songs. When I moved to NE Ohio, a friend used to tell me I should do some Stan Rogers. Roland would go on and on about how great Stans tunes were and how much he would appreciate it if I learned a few. One day I heard Barrett's Privateers blarring out of my son Phil's room, and I instantly recognized the song from years ago when I used to live in Dayton. I went charging in there asking who was singing, and Phil told me Stan Rogers. Interestingly Roland and Dave had both passed away by the time I learned who Stan Rogers was and before I learned any of his songs. I think of them both whenever I play any of his material. very nice

Post Burning River Fest

I just took a day off of work. Yes it was an “Honest to God” day off. Well after I went in for two hours. But still I bought and installed a bike rack went to a movie. So I think this day counts as personal time. Whoa, don’t get too crazy. It has been a blitzkrieg of a year and I really haven’t had much time to do any thing beyond taking one step at a time. That being said there have been some very good moments so far this summer. Although I didn’t have time to do any promotion this year I have had several gigs at venues that I have always enjoyed. They either called me or held dates for me including the Lake House, the Old Fire House, several house concerts and that sort of thing. One of the most enjoyable was a return to the Burning River Fest. This worked out great as a gang from Western College of Miami came into town and we all had a big time of it, including the after party gig at Zocalo’s on east fourth. Big fun had by all and I am still recovering.

Whoo Boy

Let's see, Work has been exceptionally busy. Gigs have been a great diversion and great fun. Eating some watermelon after the first Zocalo's gig and having an adult beverage. Life is good.

Cefalo's What a great venue!



March 2nd, MJ and I drove down to the Pittsburg area to do a show with Tom Breiding and Sara Mcquaid.

I met Tom last year at the Barking Spider where I was doing the early show with Bruce the Bassman.

Tom invited me to open up for Sara Mcquaid and after listening to Tom's show I was sure I wanted to do it.

I was certainly glad I did.

Not only did Tom treat us to dinner he also turned us on to a great music place, Cefalo's!

Cefalo's is old Church that has been converted into a wonderful space for music and dinner.

To top it off Sara was wonderful.

While the crowd was a little light, everyone had a great time.





Had great time in New York City a few weeks back.

In addition to seeing Stephanie and Sean in there new digs and having lunch with my old college roomie, Sean and I went knocking around one day.

We were able to take in Chelsea guitars where a couple snobbish kids reminded me that all the guitars hanging on the walls were expensive. So much for buying that '63 rosewood neck sunburst strat to replace the one I used to have from those guys. However I did discover the mose wonderful Music Inn right in the village. What a sweet store.

Reminded me of my mind. Cluttered up with all sorts of things... Items with great potential, some clearly broken, and some that I have no idea what they are or might be. The guys that were working down the basement have been building electric sarods, which are very cool fretless mideastern instruments.

They also had a very cool software package that they had developed to bring out all of the overtones and sympathic scales. And if that isn't enough they had a huge collection of singing bowls and all sorts of hand percussion stuff. It is on the return to NYC to do list. All and all the city was wonderfully vibrant and full of good energy.

I'm in.

How does Steve keep toasty while checking his squirrel traps!

Actually my flying squirrel trapping was all confined to the barn attic so there isn’t much involved there in keeping warm other than poking up the stove. And if you don't know what I am talking about you should sign up for my emails! I have a fair number of people ask me about how I keep warm while I am poking about outside, so here we go. I put together just a few observations that might be handy if keeping warm in the winter is an issue for you and if not…. Well gee I don’t expect you’ll get much out of this. In January I was deer hunting and it was 11 below zero. It wasn’t that cold when I left my house but by golly it was when I got to where I was going. I have to admit I wasn’t properly prepared and it was not only close to miserable but could have easily been dangerous. I was generally OK except I didn’t have proper hand and face protection, which can be a big deal when it comes to little things like frost bite and comfort. I should have had a heavier hat, face mask or scarf and a heavy set of mittens or multilayered gloves. I actually did have those things nicely stored in a backpack in my brother in laws’ truck… Good move. Compared to most folks I spend a considerable amount of time outdoors and when I am out often times it is in fairly extreme conditions. Consider the situation I mentioned above or things like steelhead fishing, which involves standing around in cold moving water between the months of October and April. Not so bad in October and April, it’s those time in the middle! Anyhow my dear friend Lisa was one of the several folks who I have shared some “how to keep warm advice” with this year and I thought why not just put something on the page about it. Lisa was specifically asking about keeping her hands warm, and doing so in a practical and cost effective manner. When ever possible I am all about practicality and cost. I am a big fan of wool glove liners. You can buy these at army navy surplus stores and by their selves they do have utility but put them inside a larger glove as a shell and you are on to something. The liners are really in expensive and any leather or canvass/leather work glove will work as a shell. Of course there are all manner of shell/liner combinations available if you don’t mind plunking down the cash to buy them and some work better than others, but it is hard to beat the above for cost and effectiveness. You can also cut the fingertips out of this wool liner and make in expensive fingerless gloves too and for fishing this is pretty handy. Again there are all manner of fishing gloves available but if your looking to go on the cheap those wool liners are great. I am not going to get into the “how this stuff works” unless you email me and really want to know but here goes the rest of the way I get ready for the out of doors. Base Layers Most people are aware of the notion of layering clothing but not everybody really gets it. One of the most important components of my winter wardrobe is my base layer, and when I say winter I mean late fall through mid spring. It is a rare day during this period that I do not have on Patagonia Capilene tops and bottoms. The Cap 1 or what they used to call silk weight is simply great. While the newer stuff isn’t as slinky as the original silk weights it is still really nice. It is not cheap but what a difference it makes. There are a number of companies making light weight base layers and often times you can find this stuff at discount outlets like Marshalls. The key is to start thin and get bulkier then add a shell. So it all starts with a silky base layer as the foundation (and that includes liner socks too) and after that I get bulky. Fleece God what did we do before fleece? I wear fleece all the time. And there are all kinds of fleece out there. What I have discovered is if you have good base layer, even inexpensive fleece is greatly enhanced. It is not worth a darn in the wind unless like some of the higher end fleece it incorporates a windproof inner layer. Most fleece have doesn’t have wind guard and that is why an outer shell is very important. When I am steelhead fishing I generally have a layer of fleece, pants and pull over, over my capilene. I have on waders as a shell and a short rain jacket as an upper shell. If I am hunting I generally have wool or heavy canvass pants on over my capilene bottoms and they serve as a shell. And my upper shell depends entirely on what kind of hunting I am doing. If I am sitting still and it is really cold I use a muti-layer parka that basically consists of a big wind and waterproof shell over a down parka. If it isn’t that cold or I am going to be walking a fair amount I have a water and wind resistant shell that goes over a fleece of work shirt. Boots…. That is another story.

Time Passages

Time Passages. People mark the passage of time in a number of different ways, birthdays, seasons and holidays and of course the beginning of a new calendar year. Happy New Year by the way. The first time I went deer hunting I was 13. Pop and Uncle Marvin had been going to the border of Pike and Jackson counties for a couple years and they decided that my cousin Keith and I were old enough to come along. We borrowed someone’s camper and had a great time. And so that adventure began and believe me there are more that a few hilarious stories associated with some of those trips. The first few years that I went I was surely a hindrance to Pop’s hunting. He had to keep an eye on me making sure I didn’t get “turned around in the woods”, which is the Madewell term for slightly lost. He was generally concerned about me keeping warm, dry and having enough to eat. You can go on a hunting trip with someone but it is not the same as hunting with someone. Hunting with someone is a partnership. In my early years in the field I didn’t have a clue what this really meant but I am sure that I really wasn’t much of a partner. As time progressed I became surer of myself in the deer woods as I also began to physically mature finding strength and confidence and all those attributes that often come with young adulthood. Somehow there was a passage of time and suddenly I found myself keeping an eye on Pop. He was slowing down a bit and I found myself doing more and more of the simple things around our camp like lighting a Coleman lantern because he couldn’t see the hole to put the match in. But I would also slow myself down to keep pace with him while we were hunting. Of course on occasions this was more than a bit frustrating and I was oblivious to the fact that just a few years earlier the roles were reversed and it was he that was altering his preferred hunting plans to accommodate my abilities. As time continues to pass I can say that all and all Pop and I have had many good hunting trips with countless memories and a sea of faces of relatives and friends that have jointed us somewhere along the way. This included my son and son in law and nephew who are all fine hunters and strong young men. It was always a great pleasure to tell them to help their Grandpa drag his deer back to camp. This was the first year Dad didn’t go deer hunting in 42 years. Some family concerns and sever arthritis in his right hand convinced him that he should stay close to Mom. But this wasn’t the only mile marker that occurred this year. My son Phil is at the point where he is physically in the prime of his life is an avid hunter and has a remarkable set of shooting skills. This deer season Philip passed up a shot at a huge buck and allowed the deer to walk past him to come to me. The long story short is I missed it. For many years I enjoyed a reputation of being a deadly shot and have certainly had my share of good fortune in this regard. However in the past few years shifts in my vision and physical condition have resulted in a world that is not quite a clear and not nearly as steady. And while it was a remarkable deer that I missed it was an even larger gift that Philip gave acknowledging another passage of time.

Rock Hall hits a winner with Janis Joplin Tribute.

Last night MJ and I went down to the Rock Hall’s “Kozmic Blues: the Life and Music of Janis Joplin” Tribute Concert. The folks at the Rock Hall hit a homer. I have been to Rock Hall Tribute shows and I can tell you they are a great time. Last night’s show featured a great line up of performers and some wonderful video clips including a very touching interview with Kristofferson regarding the day he was told about Janet’s death. This coincided with the conclusion of the final mixing from the recording of Bobby McGee. The whole show was really enjoyable including the sound and production. Nice job Robby! The house band was great and the guitarist embraced and played with a tremendous array of tones fitting each performer and each representative tune from across Janis’ career. My appreciation of her art and performance goes back to the late 60’s, so last night was a real treat. I recall hearing Combination of the 2 and Piece of My Heart on the radio while riding around with my older brothers. And for years did a version of Summer Time that was more inspired by Janis than the musical, and I haven’t even a clue how many times I have sang or backed someone up who was singing Bobby McGee. For me the highlights of the show were Susan Tedeschi and Carolyn Wonderland. Both of these ladies are smoking guitarists and delivered wonderful vocal renditions of Joplin’s tunes. Lucinda Williams closed the show. I have seen her perform before and she consistently makes me feel like she is playing for me in her living room. It was a very personal way to wind up the night. You can read more about it by going to:

The Power of Commitment

The Power of Commitment So last month I had this business trip to Salt Lake City. Before I left one of my friends told me under no circumstance should I sign anything if I visited the Visitor Center for the Mormon Church. I have been to Salt Lake a few times and all I can say is holy smokes talk about sprawl. The entire valley is developed from north to south and east to west. I couldn’t believe how much it has grown since my first visit. And all the suburban houses have lovely blue grass lawns. Remarkable, especially since the whole place is sitting on a sage prairie or it used to be a sage prairie. They have a nifty program there where all the homeowners in the new communities get unlimited water for irrigating their lawns for five bucks a month. Where is that water coming from???? Well it is easy to understand that the far fetched notions about piping water from the great lakes isn’t so far fetch when you see what is going on there. I did get up to Park City a couple times and even got up to Sundance and drove the alpine loop. Quite spectacular. Easy to understand why Robert Redford loves the place. Anyway the big Mormon complex was right across the street from my hotel so Saturday night, we took a stroll around the grounds and the place is spotless. Simply lovely if you happen to go for the manicured lawn and grounds look. In the visitor center they have all these computer terminal set up and you are invited to punch in your name and check out your geneology. They are noted for all the geneolgy records that they keep there. Well I sat down and started to type in my name etc when an alarm went off in my head…. I had been warned not to sign anything and I thought, Wow this is pretty sneaky. So I stopped myself and got up and continued to look around. There is a pretty good connection back to Kirtland for the Mormons. Kirtland is where good old Joseph Smith got a lot of insight about how to structure the church and all that sort of thing before being driving out of town when the Mormon bank had some financial difficulties When I left the VC I stepped inside the Tabernacle where the choir does their gigs. I must admit the place had pretty sweet acoustics and it was all I could do to stop myself from belting out a few notes just to hear the reverberation. On my way out the door, this sweet little 70 plus year old lady approached me. She asked if I would be at the concert the following morning. I told her no I would be on a plane back to Cleveland. She asked if I would like a CD of the choir and I told her I had one already. She asked which one and I said that it was a collection of Christmas Songs. It seems like we do somewhere, so I didn’t think I was lying. She said she had several of their River of Promise CD’s and she wanted to give me one. I really couldn’t say no so I expected her to dig one out of her purse…. Oh no, that wasn’t the program, she pulled out her check book and asked if I could writer my address down and she would send it to me. As I was writing Steve, she leaned over my shoulder and said make sure your address is legible so I can read it. At that point the alarm went off once again and I knew I had been had. You see if they can get your address, you become a target for all their young missionaries to come visit you in the future. In a panic, I put my work address down. Three days later in the mail a CD arrived along with a DVD about the Mormon faith. Being the spiritual kinda guy that I am, I placed them both on the desk of a co-worker with a note saying that I had brought them back for his spiritual enlightenment. I have been told by those in the know that I can expect random visits from young men in ties and white shirts for at least two years.

Playing back home.

I had a great time last night performing at Brukner Nature Center. Wonderful to see several old friends, get some good hugs and contribute to an enjoyable fall equinox program. I had never considered a career in the conservation field prior to working at Brukner in the summer of 1976. I was hired basically to babysit the children of hispanic migrant workers who were passing through picking tomatoes. I was impressed with the layout and the design of the facility and trails but more importantly I realized that I could do something about things I cared for. I was motivated to change my major when I went back to Miami to environmental studies. Brought back many memories!

August Gets a Bad Wrap


August Gets a Bad Wrap

I used to fall into the trap that I think many Midwesterners fall into, and that is thinking that August is hot and miserable.

Well actually on average July is generally the hottest month of the year in Ohio.

As we enter into the last week of the month there is a little coolness in the air this morning providing just a hint of anticipation for the chilling nights of September.

It is a neat time of year, everything that makes seeds have made them, insects are buzzing, the mornings are cool.  It's sweet with the decadent ripeness of the summer. 

I think August gets a bad wrap because we are ready for a change. 

I suppose I am looking forward to the fall.

As a matter of fact Robin and Linda Williams’ tune October Light off of their Deeper Waters CD just cycled up on itunes.

This is a great song and really captures that reflective yet anxious feel associated with the change of the season.

It might just be me but it seems there is a great deal of anxiety in the air.  Unemplyment, heathcare, teh economy, political unrest......

And for me I am still juggling the respocibilities of two postions at work, and that is wearing.

So much uncertainty makes it easy to flirt with a major emotional funk.

George Orwell’s horse in Animal Farm just worked harder.

I try not to do that because most of the time I work pretty hard anyway.  I tend to go the opposite direction and get sedentary.

Of course I still do what I have to do, I.E. work and those sort of essential things but I stop doing the elective things that keep me balanced and engaged.

They just become one more thing to do, and just one more thing to do means yet more on the agenda and yada yada. 

So while I fixing my coffee yesterday in the morning I had some avian visitors who were coming to check on me.

Many native cultures believe that we as individuals have certain animals associated with us and we may or may not recognize this association.

Well for whatever reason I have had over the years a number of encounters with robins that have if nothing else been engaging.

Yesterday was one of those moments.

As August starts winding down many birds start flocking up in preparation for their southern journey, and as you would suspect the majority of these birds are first year young.

While I was making my coffee, a group of three juvenile robins decided that they wanted to check out the grumpy old man on the other side of the window and gradually moved closer and closer until they formed semi circle around the window all watching me watch them.

If nothing more it was a pleasant way to start the day but for some reason this simple little encounter somehow motivated me to get up get going.

Sometime it is the simplest things that can change a perspective.

these little things are always there it is just a question of looking for and seeing them.

Or in my situations with the robins, recognizing that they were seeing me.


Burning River Fest


Burning River Fest. Last week I was down in Tennessee hanging with my brothers and Mom and Dad.

We had a great time staying at a nice house we least through Center Hill Chalets Center Hill is a large Corp of Engineers lake just outside of Cookeville, which is where my oldest brother and several cousins live.

There were only two houses on the dead end road where we were staying so needless to say it was quiet and a perfect place to strum some tunes on the front porch.

I drove back home on Friday just in time to hook up with a gang of folks I went to college with who were in town for the Burning River Fest.

After 12 hours in the car, I was a little brain dead and tongue tied but still enjoyed myself knocking around in the Foundation room at The House of Blues, recalling a few old times and calling people by the wrong name.

Saturday, I had scored a gig at the Burning River Festival for Caroline and I on the acoustic stage. We were the last set of performer and we were set up on the north side of the old Coast Guard station.


What ever was lacking was certainly made up for in the setting. The sun was setting directly behind and it was very picturesque, not to mention the kick of playing for a number of people who used to equality listen to Caroline and I play in the college days in many musical incarnations.

Of course there were several other surprises too like Gary and Cindy coming up from Akron and Jon coming in from Ithaca. (Which by the way I think I was supposed to give Jon a ride somewhere!) After singing away, without monitors, and over the drone of motorboats and sound bleed from the rock stage, we ventured over to the Velvet Tango Room for a few snacks and a nightcap.





Steve Earle & Joe Purdy Rusted Root and the Lake House

Friday night Mj and I went to Kent Stage to check out Steve Earle and we were treated to a great show.

I do love Steve Earle’s tunes and Joe Purdy was a nice surprise.

I didn’t know anything at all about Joe but He has a nice delivery and has about 10 CD’s.

Both were doing a solo thing and it was sorta motivational for me to take it all in, especially coming off the heels of the Nashville experience.

Reckon I should turn on the machine on and get on with recording.

The following day, as in Saturday, I was off to do a wedding.  The bride wanted me to do something different for here recessional, and she likes Rusted Root; So last week I spent a considerable amount of time working up a pretty good version, although I don’t think anyone has an idea what the lyrics really are to that song.

Then off to the Lake house where I was on autopilot for my first and about the same for the third set, but the second set, now that one felt great.


It was a beautiful night on the lake, and the place was simply slammed.

I was absolutely whipped by the time I was loaded out.

Woke up this morning and for the first time in months, wrote a tune.

I think a recovery day is in order.



Nashville Cats


Nashville Cats

So 40 or so years ago I took my first trip to Nashville.

I was riding shot gun with my uncle Roosevelt who was delivering a load of fertilizer to some place in town. I was constantly thumping on my guitar so he drove the truck through the music district to show me all the places where the music was made.

Just so happened that the Lovin Spoonfuls’ Nashville Cats was popular at that time so uncle Rose and I were singing that as we drove down Broad Street.

The song says there are 1352 guitar pickers in Nashville, I am thinking that is significantly underestimated.

This past week I had the chance to hang for a few days in the guitar town.

Through nothing but blind luck I wound up staying and a Holiday Inn Express right next to Vanderbilt’s football stadium.

I had no idea that it is one of the cities hot spots for singer songwriters, and for the three nights I was there I probably heard 50 folks plying their trade.

Most were very good and some were damn good!

Debi Champion put this together with the help of Lorna Flowers.

Both of these ladies by the way are accomplished song writers and Lorna happened to be celebrating an anniversary of sorts one of the nights I was there.

You can check out the commodore at this link

It was pretty wild to sit there and listen to wave after wave of folks take the stage and do a song writer in the round for a couple tunes each then surrender their seats to the next batch.

Folks can audition for a spot at the end of certain nights and get invited back of they have good stuff.

There was a great range of material being presented and while I don’t do much in the way of country country, I appreciate the form.

I was really impressed with one fellow, Trent Jeffcoat who had several songs that were really strong for this form.  Probably one of the best car songs I have ever heard, and a couple really funny thrown in too.

His myspace link is

June 26th @ the Spider

June 26th I did an early show down at the Barking Spider with the bass man Bruce Locke. We were followed by a very good singer song writer from Pittsburg, Tom Breiding. Tom has a number of recording projects under his belt including his most recent project about the West Virginia coal fields. He asked me if I would be interested in coming down to Pittsburg next March to perform at the AmeriSon Ballroom Folk Series at Cefalo's Carnegie, PA March 2nd - Tuesday 7pm-10pm I would be splitting the night with a singer song writer from the UK Sarah McQuaid Both Tom and Sarah are very good

My Dermatologist!

A compassionate presence vs. an uncomfortable act! The first time I went to a dermatologist was after I got a little piece of my skin caught in a sweater. Some of us have these wonderful phenomena where we form lovely little things called skin tags. Bout the only redeeming thing I could research and find out about this sort of thing is that some indigenous cultures regard this manifestation as a sign of mystic powers. Whoooooo Cool. I got my mojo working! In my late 30’s I started growing these things and some how managed to get one caught in a sweater as I was pulling the sweater off. So this inspired me to go to this dermatologist who had me pull off my shirt and he looked me over. He turned away from me for a moment only to turn around with a needle in one hand and some scissors in the other. I was expecting him to look at me and then give me a prescription or something to melt my little troubles away. I wasn’t expecting a pair of eyes starring over a surgical mask intent on poking and snipping them away. I wouldn’t say I was severely traumatized but I would put it in the moderate category. It wasn’t all so painful; it was just sort of freaky. I have this strange mental thing I go through when ever I leave a piece of my body behind and I guess I just wasn’t mentally prepared for that. (Especially my mojo and would I loose my mystic powers?) I didn’t go back to a dermatologist for over ten years. When I did it was at the urging of a friend who happens to be a doctor who happens to be married to another doctor who happens to be a dermatologist. Doctor number one made a convincing case that, as much time as I have spent outside I should really give some thought to monitoring the condition of my skin. With my Pop having various skin cancers scrapped cut and snipped off this seemed like a pretty good idea. So he convinced me to go see his wife. I have to say there was no comparison to my first visit to a skin doctor. When I left I looked pretty much like I had been shot in the face with birdshot at about fifty yards. I was peppered with all manner of little red dots where I have been injected and snipped, frozen and zapped and even scalpeled a time or two. That being said however it is appropriate to mention the biggest difference of all. And that was in my attitude. You see my new found friend the dermatologist, approached things with such an overwhelming sense of compassion and reassuring confidence that I didn’t mind at all. There are few times in your life when you really can relax and surrender your self to someone’s care. I try to do that when I am on a guided hunting or fishing outing. I certainly remain aware and focused but I let the guide take me where they want me to be. It is a remarkable lightness to just be. It is really wonderful in today’s world to be able to do that especially in the area of medical care. I have never quite experienced this before where a doctor overcomes a completely uncomfortable situation with reassuring confidence and simple compassion. What is so wonderful about the whole experience is the realization of how deeply committed this exceptional person is to humanity. Today is the third year I have been back and each time I get a little “beat up” but I actually look forward to going, as it is such a pleasure just to be in her presence. Sorry fellows but when we get right down to it, I think she’s my favorite Doctor.


Beetox vs. Botox So last Tuesday when I went down to get the bees at Ken the Bee Mans I got stung twice under my left eye and once on the thumb. By the time I was one the road back home I knew that I was going to puff up a little bit. Getting stung used to not bother me at all but I think after Jim Brock and I moved a hive in the night and got zapped a dozen or more times each it seems that I have on occasion puffed up a little bit. The first time this happened was when Rachel was a little girl and was helping me tend a hive. I had taken things apart and there was a pretty good cloud of bees buzzing and she headed back to the truck. I finished up what I was doing, walked back to the truck and as I pulled off my veil off I realized that one of the more irate bees had followed me. I stared to jump in the blazer and realized that Rachel had locked the doors. While I was negotiating for Rachel to let me in, I got zapped right between the eyes. That was the first time I ever swelled up after a bee sting and the next day I sort of looked like a pig. Anyway, since then I have had the tendency to get a little puffy depending on where the sting was. Since Ken’s bees had drilled me under the eye I suspected that I would probably have a lump by the time I got home. Sure enough after getting home and dumping the girls out in their new hives I could feel a little tightness around my eye and cheek. When I asked MJ how it looked she said that all the wrinkles around my eye was gone and I looked like I had a beetox treatment and suggested that I go out and let them sting my other cheek. That way I wouldn’t look like one of those TV commercials where they treat only one side of the face to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product. Beetox what an idea! This really could be a pretty cool thing if you think about it. Age defying beetox, nature’s organic anti aging treatment. Just a simple injection or two with a tiny hypodermic administered by a completely dedicated professional. My new money making idea fell apart when I woke up the next morning and found I had a lovely purple triangle under my left eye and it looked more like someone socked me. I suppose I will try asking for a little less venom next time.

The Gals Are Back!





Looking for a queen bee!

The Gals Are Back! You might recall that last year I got a colony of bees from my friend Ken at Mid Ohio Honey. We met when he and Lori had stopped in at the Old Fire House and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my play. One thing lead to another and the next thing you know Ken and Lori are dropping off a box full of bees at my house last June. Anyway, the girls seemed to be thriving all summer and fall but last winter was just too much for them and that exceptionally cold spell we had in Febuarary after the exceptionally cold spell we had in January brought about their demise. After pestering Ken for about two months we finally confirmed a date and Last week I drove down to his place near Mansfield to pick up a couple packages of bees. If this sounds a little strange it really isn’t once you get past the notion that you are dealing with several pounds of insects that are capable of stinging you. Bee keeping has a long history and it is yet one of many really remarkable stories of how the relationship between people and animals has evolved. Beekeepers do all kinds of interesting things and I was about to participate in one I hadn’t seen before. My history as a beekeeper has had varied ups and downs but having once tasted the sweet taste of success (yuk yuk) I have found myself from time to time wanting to get back into the hobby. So here I am going off to a bee yard with Ken the real bee man. A bee yard by the way is a place where there are several hives of bees, Kens’ bee yard happens to be surrounded by blue berries. We get to the bee yard aka. Apiary and Ken pulls this giant metal funnel out of his truck. I had asked him if I should take a veil, that is one of those funny net hats that you see bee people wearing in all the photos. Matter of fact in most of the photos you see bee people wearing all sorts of special clothing. They sort of look like HAZMAT crews with white coveralls, gloves and the funny hats. And there is good reason for this. A colony may have 100,000 bees. The first time I moved a hive I had a bunch of impromptu protective clothing and I got stung more than a dozen times but that is another story. But since then I would like to think that I have learn a few chops (that is a guitarist phrase which means I think I have learned a thing of two) about handling bees. For one thing, I have developed this approach of moving very slow and deliberately whenever I am working with them, this seems to make a big difference. Zen, Me and Bee make three. So when Ken said he wasn’t going to use a veil I thought “Cool, I won’t either. Ken Hands me this giant metal funnel and pulls a couple little bee packages out of his truck. They actually use these packages to ship bees. If you have ever seen a coop they ship chickens in these packages are like this only in miniature. (But the chances that you have seen a chicken coop are remote so I don’t know why the heck I even mentioned it. I used to work on chicken farms when I was a kid and occasionally forget no one else I know has.) Anyway back to the little bee coops. They are about the size of a shoebox with screened sides and a wooden top and bottom. The top has a round hole in it that is covered with a screen once the bees are in the box. We were going to “shake down” the bees into the package. I had no idea what that was about but hey this is how you learn. We fired up the smoker, which is this little metal thing about the size of a coffee can with a bellows on the side and a funnel on the top. You put a bunch of paper and grass in it and light it. Close the funnel top and use the bellows to puff smoke in to the beehive. This causes the bees to think that there is a forest fire coming so they all set about doing their version of an elementary school fire drill. In other words they get a little pre occupied and in theory don’t mind the plundering that is about to happen. So I follow Ken to the first hive, where he puffs a bit of smoke at them, tears off the cover of the hive and to my surprise pitches it on the ground. Remember what I said about slow and deliberate? Well Ken you see has been a commercial beekeeper, and at one time had something like 2500 hives. With that big an operation time is money. I haven’t ever been around a commercial operator before. He proceeds to pull a frame (a part of the hive that holds honey comb) out of the hive that is simply covered with bees maybe five hundred to a thousand or so, looks it over to make sure that the queen isn’t walking around on it then slams it down into the funnel I am holding. The majority of the bees is flung off the frame into the funnel and down into the bee package. The operative word is majority. Maybe ten of fifteen percent buzz off into the air. We proceed to do this to over and over again and each time a few more bees buzz off into the air. So in no time we are surrounded by quite a cloud of fairly pissed off bees. Ken has a grey tee shirt on, a ball cap and jeans. I have a white long sleeve shirt and jeans. Almost immediately one flies down my shirt. And I have to stop walk away and shake her out. One near miss. Then one makes a “bee line” toward a black wrist support I have on, realizes that the wrist support isn’t skin and promptly walks over to my thumb and drills me. Which is no big deal and I knock her off before she can really give me a good dose. However that little episode is followed by a direct hit to my left cheek right below my eye. I scrape that one off only to be hit immediately in the same place again. Thankfully our first package is full and we walk away back to the truck. Off course we are escorted by a few of the guard bees who have a sworn oath of office to protect the hive several of whom fly directly into my chest to make sure that I know they mean business. While Ken closes up the first package, I dig a veil out of his truck because; I don’t want to take any more shots to the face. And the next round of shake down goes off without a hitch. So know we have maybe thirty thousand bees in two little shoeboxes all ready to go to my house and be introduced into the two empty hives I have waiting with one exception. They need a couple queens. Not to worry. Mr. Bee man, Ken has one hive set up that is something like the bee version of the Tower of London. There is a collection of royalty each in their own little cell. Yep a queen bee trapped in a little plastic cell. Who is ready to be freed by diligent attendants who only have to bust her out by eating a hole in the sugar plug blocking the opening. Ken took two of these little prisons and put one into each of the packages of bees and we were done at the bee yard and were on the road back to Ken’s place. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Lori had made a run to the local store for cold beer and pulled in shortly after we arrived. And while we were walking around trying to figure out what a kind of new tree was growing in the corner of his yard was. (Clammy Locust BTW) I saw that Ken got stung one time on the cheek too. We had a beer on the porch and I played a couple tunes for Ken and the girls, Lori, Jess and Lynn before hitting the road back to the valley. Next up Beetox!

Nice Weather

Nice weather. The recent string of nice weather has been just what the spirit needed. I don’t mind the winter and in fact I really like it. I like to work in the barn after dark and always appreciate this uninterrupted time. But I confess that the temperature does wear me down. And this winter was one of a great deal of emotional upheaval. It is still hard to get used to the fact that both our dogs are gone and I am often a little remorseful when I get home and there is no Emmet or Kate waiting to say hello and take a little stroll in the back yard. The other day I was working in the yard with Ipod and headphones on, and Bill Stains' song Old Dogs cycled up. I teared right up. Of course folks in the know, know that my work has exploded and I am juggling a great deal in the conservation career. And I miss the "boys" coming to check on me and ground me after a big day at work. And I like so many other folks have the tendency to over do it in the warmer months. Finding balance and working within the capacity I can manage is the big test, but I have been here before and hopefully will put the right things on hold and take care of the essentials. But right now in the last few weeks of spring it is easy to see that everything is just beautiful. It is funny how we choose not to look and really see what is around us. I recently read a thought by Thoreau which basically said if the stars were only visible one night out of the year it would be a historical holiday of celebration, as it is we can see them on any clear night and take them for granted. I need to remember this to sustain me through what will be a very busy year.

Turkey Anyone?


This past Sunday I woke up at 4:00 and couldn't go back to sleep. I was thinking about work and that sort of thing. After tossing and turning for about forty-five minutes I remembered that it was the last day of turkey season. I got up and threw my stuff together and ran up the road a bit to friends’ place. Generally when you go turkey hunting the idea is to get in the woods about a hour before sunrise and to get set up and ready to go well be for light. There is an old trail system that goes through this wood and I sort of know my way around so I shuffled off to fine myself a suitable tree to lean against. Now if you don’t know anything about turkey hunting, the deal is sort of like this: Spring is turkey breeding season. They have amazing eyesight and they have a pretty big vocabulary if you will. In other words they make a number of different sounds and they clearly communicate with each other. In the evenings they roost in big trees and fly down to begin their daily activities right be for or right after sunrise. The general objective is to: Know there are turkeys in the woods your are hunting. Get your self in a comfortable position where you have a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. Have some capability with a turkey call. Get camouflaged from head to toe, and be completely aware of what is going on around you. And of course you have to get all this together and ideally be sitting down and ready before it gets daylight. If you are thinking this sounds like a stupid past time, I won’t argue that you do have a point. However this is a spectacular time of year to be in the woods at sunrise and really it is worth doing regardless of if you are hunting anything. I also think anyone who is remotely interested in observing nature should get camouflaged up some time and go sit in a natural area and be as still as possible. The things you may see can simply be remarkable. But that is a another collection of stories. Ok Back to turkey hunting. I started doing this on occasion a few years ago and of all the hunting activities that I have been involved with I have laughed at myself more times chasing turkeys than any thing else. It really can be incredibly addicting and in a very bad way. You see because it is so early in the morning, you can delude yourself into thinking that you can go for a couple hours then dash home and go on to work. What happens to me anyway is I start nodding off around two o’clock in the afternoon and as I struggle to stay awake I start imaging turkeys walking in a line behind people I am talking with in meetings. This is not a good thing, so I have tried to minimize my turkey hunting. But here I was watching the growing morning light and listening to the woods come alive. All the song birds were singing up a storm, I saw a couple racoons amble down the trail toward me then climb a hickory tree just a few feet away and squeeze into a hole about 20 feet off the ground that looked about the diameter of a tennis ball. Of course there are all sorts of wild flowers coming out this time of year and there is a myriad of different shades of green and all the plants are kicking into high gear. I had parked myself at the base of a large oak tree with a natural clearing in front of me. In about fifteen minutes I heard my first gobble and it sounded like the bird was over the hill behind me. The idea of course is to make a call that sounds like a female turkey and try to entice the fellows to come looking. When I was a youngster my dad had taught me how to call quail by imitating a covey or gathering call, and many of the same basic priciples apply to nearly any type of bird calling, that is don’t over do it and let them call back. So after hearing the first male turkey gobble, I started imitating a hen turkey. In no time I had at least one and maybe two birds going. It dawned on me that I should move so they wouldn’t be coming in behind me. That isn't good because you have to let them walk by you and you never know how many there are. If there are several one of the stragglers might see you move and alert the others, so I decided to move to the other side of the little clearing. Also I felt like I would have a little better cover to my back. So I got up walked across the clearing plopped down against another large oak and waited a few minutes. Nothing but song birds. I was afraid my buddies were already on the top of the ridge when I made my move and they might have seen me. So I called a cadence and waited thinking it was still going to be a great day even if I might have blown it by getting up and moving around. Nothing Five minutes or so and I gave another cadence of hen calls, and waited several minutes and then gave it up again. This time I heard a gobble back, but it sounded further away than the ones I had heard earlier, but then again I reasoned I was forty yards further away from where I was. Waited a few minutes and scratched three more chirps and this time had a gobble right away and was much much closer. I knew the bird was out of the valley and coming my way. In just a few minutes I saw him coming down off of the trail and heading on a course that would put him stepping behind a big oak tree about thirty yards in front of me which was going to be perfect. He of course stopped for the longest time! I gently scratched a couple times on my call and he started coming a gain but he changed directions. He was now going east parallel the trail I walked in on. He stopped in a little clearing and gave a nice gobble, then flared up his tail and wings for a moment. This is always a cool thing to see and it makes them look huge. He was getting closer but taking his own good time about it. When he stepped behind a nice size tree, I eased the call down to the ground. He came out and continued walking until he was behind another tree and I twisted my gun around and turned the safety off. He moved behind the large oak I was originally sitting at and I lifted my gun to my shoulder For the longest time he barely showed himself and then finally he was a good foot or so beyond the tree. When I pulled the trigger he went right down, but I have had several friend loose birds after shooting them. Sometimes after a few moments they can regain their composure and run or fly away, so I thought I better get up and run over to make sure that this didn't happen. Now this is where it gets sort of funny. I jump up and took one step and stove my left knee. I nearly went down and I realize that not only is my left leg is asleep, both legs were asleep. I had to ease myself back to the ground for a few minutes using my shotgun as a support. All was good and he was down. This was like the perfect hunt. I mean really, I have never had one so smooth before. If I had had anyone with me who didn’t know a thing about turkey hunting they would have thought, “What is so hard about this/” Of course I haven't even shot at a turkey in 7 years or so, so I guess I had one coming! If you are interested in knowing how it tasted just shoot me an email.file:///Users/stephenmadewell/Desktop/IMG_1547.JPG

maple fest

OK I did the maple fest. Soon as I got there the fellow running the stage took me to the stash that is the place where the maple cocktails were stored and fixed me up with a drink. Maple cocktails must have about 3000 calories per drink. Pure maple syrup, dry gin, bourbon, and lemon juice. Sort of like a long island ice tea. There are good. I did my show with a fairly thick tongue! In other words I was having a little trouble with enunciation. Lost of little kids dancing around which is always cute. The whole show was filmed by m tv that is Middlefield tv! (local joke) The sound guy was like 76 years old and had these vintage speakers. He has been doing sound for the maple festival for 27 years. No monitors either…. So I couldn't hear what I was playing!! Too much fun. Was a trip. Got done and immediately when for more of the “stash”/ Whole bunch of older dudes sitting in lawn chairs in front of the storage locker, and I know why they were sitting. They had the stuff mixed up by the gallon. Big fun all the way around!

The morrel attitude adjustment

May 2, 2009 Later today I will be performing at the Geauga County Maple Festival. Geauga County makes a lot of maple syrup and this is a big tradition in this region. This festival used to be held shortly after the maple sap stopped being collected, which is generally around the end of March or early April. In years pasted it almost always snowed at the Maple Fest so the planning committee has moved it to the first weekend in May. Short of some sort of meteorological miracle it is not going to snow today. IT is turning into a spectacular May Day. I was up early this morning and out pursuing a tradition of my own. A buddy of mine has a lovely little morrel patch in his woods and for the past few weekends I have been poking around seeing what the good mushroom gods might reveal to me. Every spring since I was a little squirt with my pop I have been out at least a few hours looking around for morrels, which if you are in to mushrooms are very tasty, easy to identify and fairly difficult to find. Which leads to a certain mystique as most people hold the location of the their sacred mushroom patches secrete. (So don’t ask) Anyway I scored enough from Joey’s woods, which by the way is a factious name, to make an admirable side dish for a venison tenderloin steak and eggs breakfast for me and MJ. Now while I am taking the time to let my meal digest I thought I would post a journal entry. For the past several months my “day “ work has been basically non-stop, and I have been finding myself in bed sometimes as early as 9:30. This for me is nearly unheard of. But for those near and dear, don't worry I have been working on maintaining some sort of balance. Hence the value of the mushroom collecting stroll. There are true benefits derived from taking a walk in the woods. Being immersed in the local environment surrounded by other forms of life, seeing the beauty of a flower blossom or the chartreuse of a patch of moss. There is a lot out there to take in and taking it in seems to push other things out or at least get them in a different place in your head. At 6:30 when I got up, I had a gazillion things on my mind. Not really a gazillion, probably more like six in a gazillion incarnations. Anyway after taking my walk everything seem to be in the proper perspective. Amazing how that happens. And then I got the added pleasure of being able to come back home and do some thing for someone else, that is make breakfast for MJ. It’s turning out to be a beautiful day and I am going to have a great time playing some music here in a few hours.


Last night 4/16/09 I had a really nice time at the Barking Spider. I got there with plenty of time only to discover a full band was wailing away when I got there. As I brought my guitars in a friendly smile and a “Hi Steve” from one of the fine ladies who work there greeted me. At first I thought the band was Case students who had scored a pick up gig, but after a few minutes I realized who ever they were, these guys were hot. Sort of a jacked up James Brown funk with a wailing guitar player. Actually they were a Brooklyn band called Mercury Landing and they were on the road to Chicago, and they happened to pick up an early gig at the Spider. They cleared the stage in plenty of time and as I was setting up, I was told that Billy Lestock had been in earlier in the day and cleaned up the PA and replaced all the questionable mic Cables. As I got under way, a number of folks came filtering in, some who read my emails and others who caught a mention of the evening from Jim Blum’s WKSU show, and still others who watch the Barking Spiders’ web page. Several singer/song writers showed up Mark Freeman, Hank Mallory, Ron Chessler, Banjo Dave from the Silver String Band, and Dan from the Swamp Rattlers, Billy Lestock and a bunch of other good friends. When I got done, most everyone hung around a listened to Hillbilly Idol, who even without Paul sounded great. On the way home I started thinking about what a cool thing it is to have a community of like individuals and that is one of the wonderful things about the Barking Spider. The Barking Spider doesn’t pay musicians, they pass the proverbial hat. But a gig at the spider isn’t really about the money. It is great to have a place in town where a band on the way to Chicago can stop and catch a pickup gig. Where someone comes in on their own and fixes up the PA. Where you can go an try out some new songs and there will always be someone there to give a listen. Playing at the Spider is a way to support that sense of community that exists among people who enjoy and want to keep live music alive. It these really difficult and uncertain times, it will be community that will get us through, and I would like to think last night maybe, just maybe I made a small contribution to a community too.


The other day I was standing on the side porch and it was five degrees. Cardinals were singing in the big trees on the shoulder of the valley. All I could think was this is optimism. The wonderful thing about optimism is it is contagious. Now I am not so simple minded to think that they were singing because they were happy (of course who really knows the answer to that question). But rather they were singing because the days are getting longer and it is time for them to begin their mating ritual. Singing is in fact, their beginning efforts on a journey to perpetuate their species. However I might choose to look at it their simple little tune certainly cheered me up, and helped me face what was promising to be an otherwise dreary and stressful day. In light of the current economic and social conditions it is, or would be certainly easy to fall into an abyss of despair. If you don’t know someone who has lost his or her job consider yourself lucky. Maybe you have lost your job? I’m sorry if you did and I hope things will improve for you. There is a lot of bad mojo going round. I was talking to someone a few months back about choosing to be happy. I think being happy is often times a choice. One that I didn't make as many times as I could have. I had written a song called Sleeping on the Wrong Side Of The Bed, (and with a little prodding I hope to finish recording) which is about this very thing. Not too long after we were talking about this, he lost his job. Last week we were visiting again and after being unemployed for nearly 6 months he has found a level of happiness that had previously escaped him. He told me that it was unfortunate that while he had a steady income stream, he hadn’t been able to be happy because he was so consumed with trying to get what he wasn’t able to afford. Now he simply couldn’t afford anything beyond essentials and he had let go of the desire to acquire things he realized he really didn’t need. I realize that there are so many people in dire straights, but as my friend said, he has a warm dry house with running water. Things that just a few years ago, or in other countries would be considered luxuries. So much is relative. Some things we can change some things we can’t. Attitude is a choice. I don’t really believe that anyone knows where these current situations will take us. I believe most of us recognize that we are in for some readjustments in life style. I hope we can be like my friend and choose to be happier in what ever situation we are in. If a Cardinal can find something to sing about on a five degree March morning, surely we can too. We need to be contagious.

Ice Out

Early this morning the creek released. I don’t recall how many weeks it has been frozen, but it has been a while. Across the road in front of our house is a waterfall on a feeder stream. When I took good old Emmett out last night the little waterfall was a raging torrent and I could hear it all the way back to the barn. The big creek hadn’t opened up yet. Melt water was flowing overtop of the thick ice and I knew it would only be a matter of hours maybe minutes before the creek would be a rushing river. It has been a real privileged to live hear and experience this occurrence. Some years the release has been extremely fast and violent, others it has been like a lava flow. Last night when it let go, there was a great deal of noise as the ices was broken apart and heaved up on the shore of the creek. We probably had 15-16 inches of compressed snow on the ground Friday when the temperatures began climbing above freezing and yesterday it got up to 55 degrees. And it felt great but that is a lot of runoff and it has to go somewhere. The concern we have with winter melt is ice dams. It is conceivable that a big ice dam could form and it would be 2006 all over again. I have seen some remarkable ice dams over the years. The first one was on the Little Miami River right above Factory Road. I came across this while doing my ranger thing with the Greene County Park System. The entire stream was diverted into an old millrace due to a large ice dam on the mainstream channel. My old friend Bill Baker and I once walked across an ice dam at the mouth of Paine Creek on the Grand River. If this seems like an idiotic thing to do….. well it was. But we were well away from the main channel of the river so we thought. At one point we could hear the sounds of water rushing under the ice we were standing on. The river was carving a new channel beneath us. When we realized what was going on we dashed off of and away from the ice. We were standing on a section of the dam that was releasing. We would have probably drowned if we hadn’t got out of there when we did. An ice dam is formed like this. Thick sheets of ice that form on the deep slower pools of a river are broken apart by rising floodwaters. They get washed down stream and get caught up or trapped at sand bars or shallower areas on the stream. More ice jams up behind them and on occasion a huge dam can be created in relatively short amount of time. Of course the floodwaters have to go somewhere and ultimately they do. I have seen occasions where the water undercuts the dam and digs a deep hole in the bed of the stream, or re routes the stream entirely. And it is pretty amazing to see one let go. I have only seen this once but I will never forget it. A friend of mine and I were standing on top of a hill overlooking a stream. The entire stream was blocked and water was spilling out over the banks and spreading out across the floodplain. A small column of water came shooting out of the ice dam and was going probably thirty feet into the air. The water column kept getting bigger and bigger until it collapsed into a large gushing boil. That side of the dam blew out first and in a matter of seconds it was all gone. When the water level returned to normal I went to investigate the bed of the stream. I found that the hydraulic pressure had created a deep pool where the water had forced its way under the ice. It is not too often we get to see geologic forces at work and when ever I do it always reminds me how inconsequential my little worries are in the grand scheme of things. It was nice to hear the sounds of the stream again last night.

In the Heart of Winter.

Personally I love winter. Always have. For one thing it enables a different perspective that encourages a seasonal shift in activities. I start doing things that I have put away or put off for some time. A few weeks ago I got a call from my friend Kuma, who rebuilds bamboo fly rods. If you are not familiar with these things, they are remarkable works of art. In a nut shell, a piece of bamboo is split into smaller pieces which are hand planed to the proper dimensions then glued together to form a six sided, tapering fly rod. They are really quite amazing. An old gentleman had given me an armload of broken bamboo rods a few years ago. Bits and pieces that I sorted through and saved the ones that I thought could be salvaged. Slowly I have been having Kuma restore them. We met and I picked up the most recently restored rod and in our conversation he wanted to know if Ihad came across anything of interest. I told him about a rod that I had bought a few years ago that was sort of interesting. I had set it aside and hadn’t even thoroughly cleaned it up after the flood two years ago. It came stored a rod holder that was in a canvas bag. It was a very different storage system and that is one of the reasons I bought it. He encouraged me to take it out and do a little research on its origins and history. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that the rod it’s self is pretty cool. As it turns out it is an Empire City Rod that was built in 1888 or 89 by a couple fellows that are quite renown in the world of fly-fishing, Thomas and Edwards. But that is not the neat part of the story. On the canvas storage bag there is the name W B Mershon Jr., and a date April 15 1908. On a whim I did a goggle search and found that WB Mershon was not only written up in American Angler and Field and Stream, but he also wrote the first book on the decline of the passenger pigeon. He lived in Saginaw and was actually the mayor there for a year. He made a fortune in the lumber industry and was known for his extensive hunting and fishing trips. The Squire brothers accompanied Mershon, on at least one of his fishing trips. They were from Cleveland and I believe they started the law firm Squire Dempsey and Sanders. So there is a little local connection here too. Now I just have to find out if Jr. was his son and what the significance of April 15th is all about. By the way this rod is in excellent condition and you could take it fishing today…. that is if the stream wasn’t frozen. Needless to say I hold the thing and imagine the stories it could tell. I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to look into this if Kuma and had met in the Spring or summer as opposed to December. As it turned out, I have this lovely little piece of history that I discovered in the heart of the winter.

Deer Camp ’08

The Deer gun season in Ohio starts the first Monday after Thanksgiving, so for nearly forty years I have been scurrying around trying to get my warmest and best outdoor clothes together the weekend after the holiday. The first year my cousin Keith and I got to go with my Pop and Uncle Marvin, we were off to the hill country of southeast Ohio. That was a time when most people considered themselves lucky to see a deer in Ohio. Of course the white tail population has grown dramatically since then. We drove two trucks, Dad’s little Toyota and a big pickup with a camper shell and it was quite the adventure. There were several great memories created on that trip but one of the funniest was the unexpected trip to the grocery store. Dad and Uncle Marvin had no idea how much two 13 year olds could eat. We left on a Sunday morning and by Monday afternoon, Keith and I had eaten nearly everything that had been packed. A bit bewildered, Dad and Marv took off to do some more grocery shopping leaving Keith and I alone in the camper. As they were leaving, Keith and I were down to eating the last of the supplies, Hormel potted meat out of little tin cans on Saltines. When the men returned with additional stores, they had bought several more cans of the potted meat because Marv had seen us eating it and thought that we liked it. As you might imagine, that really wasn’t the case, we were just eating it because there was nothing left to eat. At any rate I had the opportunity to hunt with Pop and a growing number of my cousins for several years camping in everything from a shed to tents. We had some great times and experienced nearly every kind of Ohio weather. As I got older, I really notice Dad slowing down. There was a transition from him waiting for and looking after me, to me waiting for and looking after him. Before broke down and got glasses, I remember one time him trying to light a Coleman lantern and not being able to see the port for the match. I lit it for him and he said, “Getting old is no good.” When I moved to northeast Ohio, I started hunting up here because of a number of factors, ample local hunting opportunities and limited time made it seem a bit unreasonable to drive all the way to the other end of the state. In 2000, I drove back down south to surprise the gang and had a great time walking the hills I had spent so many hours walking and hunting in past years. On that trip I also realized that in his mid 70’s tent camping was a bit rough for Pop, so I insisted that he start coming up here to hunt with me. I had the good fortune to have access to a cabin and some pretty nice hunting territory just west of the Ohio/Pa line. So that was the beginning of deer camp as several of us have come to know it along Conneaut Creek. Our little party has grown to include my son Phil, my son in law Sean, my nephew Franklin and a few other friends. Franklin drives up from Tn. and stops in Dayton to pick Dad up on the way. We assemble on Sunday and enjoy each others company till mid day on Tuesday when we all part to return to our regular routines. I have assumed the role of the camp director for lack of a better term and I divy up the work of cooking and cleaning up after meals and making sure everyone’s guns are sighted in and functioning properly and giving everyone instructions on what kind of food to bring. And there is no potted meat! We eat entirely too much and have a good time reliving the past years events. We are normally exhausted and in bed by 9:30. The activities in the evening have often been hilarious. I could go on in great detail about Dad’s homemade marble game and his ever changing rules, or the time I forced the “boys” to eat all the Little Debbie and Hostess snacks that Dad had brought so he wouldn’t think we weren’t appreciative of his offer to the camp. The next year he brought twice as many treats! And I again coaxed them on sharing the story of the potted meat. As time has progressed, it started to become clearer to me that my success wasn’t measured by if I got a deer but rather to who else would get a deer in our party. This year was the first year that I actually assigned people on where to go and who did what in the field. The conditions on Monday were nearly perfect with reasonable temperatures and snow on the ground. And we had remarkable success. But with several missed shots and plenty of material for next year’s stories and good natured teasing. Dad is 84 this year so each and every one of these moments is special. It takes a lot of time and energy to organize everything but then again anything worth doing takes a little bit of effort. At 52 I am critically aware of my bodies own aches and pains, and the very real shift that has occurred to my vision. But as long as I can continue to bring them all together for a day or two of companionship, I will and that is how I will measure my success.

Happy Thanksgiving

It has been awhile since I have made an entry. I needed a break of sorts but I wanted to post a Happy Thanksgiving note. So I am sitting here in the barn with a bit of time to kill. I have a turkey in the smoker in preparation for tomorrow festivities. Our family tradition of a smoked turkey goes back several decades. Once I introduced smoked turkey to the family feast there was nothing else acceptable. The family is gathering together tomorrow and even though it shouldn’t be required, I get at least two offspring that pop the question, “Are you smoking the turkey?” My older brother Frank got my dad a little chief smoker nearly thirty years ago, and Dad never used it. So I borrowed it, as it turns out permanently. My first ventures in to this culinary realm began with making venison jerky, then smoked fish and then the thanksgiving turkey. I moved on to things like goose jerky, smoked duck, steelhead and pheasant. All of which have been met with rousing approval. So much so that just this week, Unit A, as I called Stephanie when she was little, started lobbing for jerky. You should understand that Stephanie is sort of a “cool hunter” always on the make for the next hip a trendy thing. (You can read all about her on going search on her blog Even Cleveland.) So I guess that is some sort of vote of continued significant approval. She was telling me that I could probably fulfill all of my Christmas obligations with jerky. Not Smoking T’s jerky or Trumbull Locker Jerky, but Steve Jerky. I nomore than hung up the phone when Unit B, code name for Rachel, called putting in a request for a couple smoked steelhead trout. So tomorrow, before Thanksgiving, Stephanie’s husband Sean, Phil and I will be slicing up some of the deer that we were fortunate enough to harvest into little strips in preparation for marinating and subsequent smoking. The steelhead might have to wait a bit but I can’t think of a better way for the “men folk” to spend some time together. Making a simple gift provided by the richness of the world around us. Of course while we are involved with our task, Mj and the girls will be assembling a killer dinner for early afternoon and yet another moment of thankfulness. When Sean, Phil and I take any breaks we will be upstairs in the barn going over our gear for the up coming deer gun season which begins next Monday. Deer Camp takes place at the Conneaut Creek Club, and will be a two and half day gathering of a host of family and friends. My nephew Franklin comes up from Tenn. and stops in Dayton and picks up dad. Pop is 84. And he is always excited to spend some time in the woods with his grand kids. One of the coolest things is also going to occur this year. Rachel tracked down one of his Army Air Corp buddies from the China Burma India portion of WW II. He lives about 15 miles down the road and he and Dad haven’t seen each other in over 60 years. Franklin and Dad plan to stop in a visit with him on the way up. At Deer Camp, I am like the old camp counselor, making sure everyone’s guns get properly sited in and directing who cooks what meals and does what clean up, keeping track of who goes where and who will be near by to help pop out if he gets a deer. It has been a wonderful life progression. When Dad and I started hunting deer together I was 13 and he was always looking out for and slowing down to wait for me. Now it is my turn to do the same for him. It is one of the things that I look forward to each and every year and one of the greatest things that I am truly thankful for. The creation of rich memories for many of the people I care so deeply for. Happy Thanksgiving.

Glacier the final entry


Glacier the final submission The hike out of the Bely River Valley was incredibly muddy. It was a testament to why pack animal and pedestrian trails are not always a good idea. In some spots we were literally slogging along through 6 inches of mud. With a full pack this is a little challenging at times. It required a bit of focus on each and every footfall. Other than that it was a great morning with a high big blue Montana sky. It was a little chilly when we got going and the vegetation was still very wet from the rain and snow that fell earlier so we were hiking in our rain pants, and considering the muddy conditions this was OK. We saw a couple white tail deer in one of the meadows not far from where we camped but other than that we didn’t see any wildlife. I think I mentioned before we got our back country permit that we had to watch the National Park Service video that tells you how to keep from being eaten by a bear, or how to enjoy your last moments alive playing dead before you get eaten by a bear. They suggest making a fair amount of noise and other such measures. This might not seem like such a big deal but after hiking a while, you really are more focused on simple things like breathing, checking out nature, or in our case that morning, not slipping and sliding in the mud. So we weren’t making all that much noise until we came upon a moose trail that crossed our path. I was amazed. I am very familiar with deer trails here in Ohio and so when I came upon what looked like someone had driven a roto-tiller across the trial it took me a little while to recognize what I was looking at. Rachel had continued on down the trail a bit and I called out to her to stop and check this out. So she came back and we took a moment to ogle the moose tracks and how much it had cut up the soil coming off the hillside and going down into the valley. As it turned out it was a good thing I called out. Shortly ahead of us the trail took a hard bend around a hillside. Rachel was hiking ahead of me and I saw her jump like she had nearly stepped on a snake. She turned and pointed at the ground and shouted something like “look and the size of these frikken tracks”. And yes my friends, a grizzly bear had been walking down the trail right toward us. I think when it heard us talking about the moose trail it had turned and headed down toward the river. As we continued to hike out we saw that the bear had also been walking the trail for quite some time, so it is quite likely that he detoured to avoid us. I took a picture of one of the tracks next to Rachel’s hiking boot for perspective. The funny thing about this was after seeing the bear tracks, we were both much more vocal for the remainder of our hike. About 11:00 we heard some folks coming down a series of switchbacks and they were making a lot of noise. We had stopped to take a break and when they passed us they said they had just seen a mother bear and a cub. The cub had climbed a tree and the mother bear had crashed off into the forest. Shortly after that Adam caught up with us. We figured he would catch us before we hit the trailhead as he was about as Rachel and combined and we had to take two and a half steps for every one of his. Anyway, we hiked out the rest of the way together and offered to give him a ride back to the train station. We had enjoyed our conversation with him the night before and it didn’t seem right to leave him sitting at a trailhead waiting for three of four hours for a shuttle. We enjoyed a spectacular drive down the east park boundary and really got a better since of just how big the park is. Something like 1500 square miles. The train station is right by the East Glacier lodge, which I wanted to check out anyway. These big old lodges are the source of great controversy in the park system. The overhead is huge and they need so much work. There is an on going debate about taking them down. When you see them however it is a look back into the grandeur of a different time. After dropping Adam off we continued to drive around the park with intentions of camping near the main gate. We were both looking forward to a shower and greatly disappointed to find out that none of the camp grounds in the center or on the west side of the parks had showers. So we decided we were heading for a dinner and a motel. After checking in at Cheap Sleeps getting a great shower I took my little girl out for a Montana steak dinner. Needless to say we had a good nights cheap sleep. The next day we planned on car touring the western portion of the park. This gave us yet another reason to drive past this coffee shop we had eaten at on our first morning in town. This place had killer breakfasts with wonderful muffins. I have to say that most of the meals I have bought in Montana have been pretty good; couple exceptions being one lunch at some casino near tiger town with Hollister, and a non descript burger in Zortman. That aint odd bad though! The west side of the park is where the big fire was a few years back and is it equally impressive as the east side in a very different way. We drove to a little town called Pole Bridge. Never saw the pole bridge but I am sure it had to be there. Nothing much else was. There is an amazing little mercantile store surrounded by a cluster of little buildings about 2 miles outside of the western park gate. This is at the end of maybe a 20 mile drive on a gravel road. We drove up to a beautiful place, Bowman Lake I believe, and took a hike and had lunch. And there I found one of the things I had hoped to find. Incredible quite. This is something I have only experienced a few times, where the quite is so profound it is stunning. This is something that should be protected just as much as piece of art or any endangered species. I could go on about this and perhaps I will some time, just suffice it to say it was something that I hope I would get to experience on the trip and on the west side of glacier we found it. On our hike out was stopped and took some photos by the lake, watched mayflies hatch off the water, and marveled at the total beauty on the place. While we were walking back to the car, we heard what we thought at first was someone turning a radio on. It was a fellow who had just sat down and strummed his guitar the waterside several hundred yards away. It was as loud as a ghetto blaster. We took our time getting back into town where we sat about preparing for our departure. Clothes to wash, equipment to UPS back home and a few more souvenirs to buy. The last element of the adventure was getting out of town on the last flight from Kalispel and then the last flight out of Chicago. Hurricane Gustave carried us out there and Hurricane Ike welcomed us home.


Glacier 4


hugemntclevelandinglacier.jpgGlacier 4 I finally got up and started poking around about 910:30 in the morning. The biologist’ were already out trying to collect their samples and the other group had packed out. I headed off skirting the edges of the meadows and began collecting dry branches off of standing dead trees. After an hour or so I had a pretty good pile of wood to work with and Rachel and I built a nice fire. The biologists came back about the time we got the fire going. They had decided that they were going to call off their efforts for the day as the rain and snow from the night before would skew their data. So they set about breaking their camp. They were very appreciative of the fire. Evidently they had tried to get one going earlier in the morning with no avail. Once the fire was going we made ourselves some breakfast. It is amazing how good a bowl of oatmeal can taste. To cook on I had bought this MSR rocket from a store near the airport. You really can’t expect to get through airport security with a backpacking stove so I had planned on buying one when I got there. MSR makes great gear and this is a great little stove. We had more cooking equipment than we needed and most of it was left back in the car. What we did take were some of these nifty little squishy bowls and cups, a small teakettle and a small pot and we really didn’t need much else. We had bought a several freeze-dried meals and some of which were marginal and others were really good. For example that evening we had chicken and dumplings for dinner and it was really really good. We wound up taking a few short hikes that day but mostly we just enjoyed tending the fire and drying a few things out. Rachel did take the time to open up an emergency blanket and tape it up to the insides of our tent. She wanted to minimize the drafting we were experiencing. IT worked too! Mid afternoon a solo backpacker joined us. Adam Brown. Adam had hiked across the park starting on the west side and heading east. He had spent the night at a much higher elevation and he said the storm was really interesting. Adam works for the Appalachian Trail and we really enjoyed sitting around the fire and talking with him through the night. Other than a few white tail deer, we didn’t see any big animals in the Belly River valley. We did however have quite the show with some smaller critters. The biologist had warned me to make sure to not leave anything un attended. Evidently the squirrels had gotten into a couple of their packs and made a bit of a mess. And there was no shortage of squirrels in the pine grove where we were camping. At this time of year they are busy collecting pinecones, which they store for later consumption. It is my understanding that grizzly bears will raid their pinecone caches later in the year. We got a big kick out of watching these little guys cut and pitch pine cones to the ground. Thy would rocket up a tree, work their way out to the end of the branch and begin to one by one cut each pine cone from the tree and throw it to make sure it fell to the ground. After working to cut and toss perhaps 10 to 20 pine cones they would come down the tree and scurry them off to their storage areas. They were upset that Rachel and I were just hanging around and clearly interfering with their chores. They didn’t mind us while they were cutting the cones, but when they came down to start collecting them, they were clearly irritated. And they would let us know it by climbing back up a tree, heading out to the end of a branch and then bark and carry on until they gave up and decided they had to get back to work. So they would come back down and start gathering the pinecones in spite of our presence. We also had quite the experience with a coopers hawk. Raptors are migrating this time of year and sometimes you get a chance to see something that is really cool. There was a cooper’s hanging out around our camp area that I had seen several times. Un like the squirrels he didn’t seem to mind up at all, this made me think that he was in migration from points north where he wasn’t familiar with people. He whacked a robbin right behind me while I was sitting on log then flew over to another log a few yards away and began to pluck it. That evening a great horned owl began to call and then I believe a borrowing owl joined in. I fell asleep listening to them calling from the edge of the near by meadow. We woke up to Glaciers very own alarm clock. One of the squirrels had perched right above our tent and was actually bouncing pine cones off of it. When he got ready to gather them up, he let loose such a chatter that I believe he winded himself. With that we got up and began to break camp, and prepare for our walk out.

Glacier 3


Glacier Cont. The Belly River trail head is located about 300 ft. south of the US/Canada border. We double-checked our gear, threw our packs on and off we went. The hike was about 6.5 miles into where we were going to spend the next two nights. Our intentions were to get to the camping area, set up our camp, knock around for a bit and take it easy for the rest of the day. We would be camping right next to the river and I thought I might fish a bit in the afternoon. The next day we planned to hike up to one of the mountain lakes and see if I could catch some dinner. The initial part of the hike was nearly all down hill. About 750ft of descent into the river valley, and then it was pretty level for the remainder of the walk. It was a beautiful day, although the weather report indicated a small change of showers later in the day. We started off going through mostly pines and fir trees until we got into the river valley and the forest gave way to aspen, cottonwood and large open meadows. As we worked our way into the valley we were afforded wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. It really was spectacular. When we got down to the river side, we took a break, got a bite to eat, and Rachel took a short nap while I fished a little bit. The water was incredibly clear and the silence was total except for the sounds of the stream and the rustle of the aspen leaves. We saw deer and elk track and moose tracks down on the streamside. After forty-five minutes or so of playing around in the water we geared back up and hit the trail. We walked into the camping area about 4:15 and found two other groups there. One group of four guys and a party of five folks who were employees of the park service. They were park biologists who were there to do some inventory and monitoring collecting aquatic insects and doing water chemistry. This kind of base line data is important for documenting changes in the parks’ ecosystem. One fellow from the first group had a University of Dayton shirt and we found out he was from St. Mary’s Ohio. Small world. The temperature was probably in the mid seventies and we were both pretty hot and tired, so we threw up the tent and got the food hung up. The park service provides food poles to hang your supplies from. There is also a food prep and eating area that is several hundred yards away from the sleeping areas. The idea is to avoid any smell of food around your tent incase a bear should happen by. Rachel crawled in the tent to take a nap and I walked down to the stream En route I walked by a rail-fenced pasture and a remote ranger station. The park service and visitors use horses and pack animals alike in the back country and this remote ranger station was used as a staging area for various park operations. (For example we found that the biologists had their field gear brought in and out by pack mules.) The little log house, outbuildings and fenced pasture were incredibly picturesque. And the pasture afforded a great view of Mount Cleveland, which is the highest peak in the park. A little ways down the trail there was a neat suspension bridge across the river. While I was walking down to check it out, I passed a husband and wife from the biologist group who had been swimming I the river. They were a hardy bunch, as that water is coming right off the snowfields on the mountains. I made a comment about how beautiful the day was, and the fellow said something like, yeah that’s gonna change. He obviously knew something I didn't. There was a tiny little clouds working it’s way around one of the mountaintops, but I thought it looks benign enough. I went back to camp and grabbed our water filter and a couple bottles to go get some drinking water. This is where I had what could have been a very bad experience. While I was sitting on the bank assembling the cool little Katadin water purifier, I dropped one of the components into the stream, when I jumped up to get that, I dropped one of the two rubber tubes into the stream and it was instantly swept away. I cut the remaining tube in half and all was well, but that is exactly how trouble starts, some unexpected event that can set a chain reaction in motion. By the time I made the water, the little cloud had expanded into this complete blanket of heavy gray fog that obscured of all of the mountaintops. In a matter of minutes a cold rain began falling and I was scurrying back to our tent to get the rain fly on and get the rest of our gear stored. Rachel got up and helped me get things together and we dashed back to our food supplies, dropped them down and grabbed dinner… a power bar for each of us! The rain was increasing and we could hear what sounded like a high-pitched jet engine off in distance. It was wind coming through the mountaintops and cascading down into the valley. We nestled down in the tent as the rain settled down into a steady downpour. While some folks might think this was a horrible situation, it really was enjoyable. We were both tired from the hike and there was really nothing to do but enjoy the moment. We talked about most everything, the future, the past and most of all, the humorous elements of the trip! The funniest so far, which occurred on the first night that we had stayed in the tent. It was the process I went through when I had gotten up in the middle of the night to relieve myself. Remember that I had taken my ultra lite sleeping bag and wound up sleeping in a liner, the bag and also a fleece bag. I had tried to get up without making a big stir. The process of finding all the zippers and struggling out of the many layers I was sleeping in was too much. Then after getting out of my sleeping arrangement finding the right zippers on the tent, crawling out of the tent on tired wobbly legs and standing up only to catch the rain fly on my back. This subsequently released a torrent of icy cold water right down my neck causing me to release a number of explicative phrases. Rachel confessed she was awake for it all and was afraid to laugh out loud for fear I might punch her. She said she had wanted to cry out camping nerd alert. We talked and told stories to each other until we finally fell asleep well after dark. I was awakened during the night by intense lighting and thunder. The lightening was incredible. You could hear the lightening strikes, and then the thunder. The lightening was like explosions followed by the rumble of the thunder. Occasionally there was the sound of the jet engine and then a great blast of wind would come up through the valley and shake the tent so severely that I wasn’t sure it would remain standing up. In the middle of the night, actually early morning, I remember thinking great! At last it has stopped raining! There was however a slow plop, plop plopping going on and I realized that, yes it had stopped raining, the rain however had turned to snow and snow was falling off of the trees onto the tent. I got up and looked outside to discover that we had perhaps three of more inches of snow on the ground and it was snowing quite hard. When I started to get back into my bag Rachel said “Dad there is something going on with this side of the tent.” I told her I had debated waking her up to tell her it was snowing. The tent was actually collapsing under the weight of the snow. So we began knocking the snow off of the tent. We did that two or three more times before sunrise. Between the rain and snow there was some form of precipitation for a total of 16 hours. It was perhaps the best part of the trip!

Glacier 2

Glacier Continued That evening after our hike and back to Grinnell Glacier, I jumped in a little stream to do a bit of fishing. While I had all the gear that we might need, fishing was really an afterthought for this trip. I did not want to be consumed with anything besides just being there. Sometime activities can help you enjoy a place, but I find they often keep me from truly taking everything in and they become a distraction unto themselves. That being said, I took off wading down this little stream in my Tevas in pursuit of a trout. Buy the way that water is cold! Generally speaking there are a number of trout located in this park. Cutthroat and Bull Trout are the native fish, and Rainbow and Eastern Brook Trout were introduced by stocking long ago. It is a little different to fly fish in grizzly territory. For one thing you have to be quite focused on the fishing and you really need to maintain some focus on what is going on around you. I have gotten myself into a jam one time in the Bahamas not paying attention to the tide while chasing a permit (fish) and found myself in the presence of bull sharks in water that was entirely too deep. But that is another story. Let’s just say I really didn’t want to look up out of my fishing zone and find a bear standing behind me. I was trying to do this multi-tasking kind of thing, casting, watching the fly line and drift, looking around when the sky opened up and a cold driving rain started falling. So I trundled off toward the camp site on my stiff cold feet. The rain didn’t last long and we fixed up a great meal of fresh local produce and hit the tent. After our hike up the mountain and back we were pretty well wiped out, but not too tired to notice that the temperature was rapidly falling and it was spitting rain again. Now Rachel is one of those people that get cold sitting in the shade of a tree on a 90 degree day and generally speaking I am not cold. However with her heavy sleeping bag and me with my light one I think we were evenly matched in the chill factor! When we got up in the morning, there were frozen half drops all over the tent like those little sheets of colored penny candy. Quite pretty. We spent a good part of the day and evening getting ready for the back packing portion of our trip and checking out bears on one side of the valley and mountain goats on the other. We even had a white tail deer and fawn come into our camp while Rachle was getting ready to cook dinner. That day we took it easy and recovered from our big hike the day before. I have really bad ankles that are prone to getting very stiff if I don’t eat a steady diet of anti-inflamatory drugs of one kind or another. So it was a good thing to rest up a bit. The hike up to the glacier was a sort of test to see how we would do with the altitude, the climb and descent and for me, the weight of the pack and my fussy ankles. In addition to the local weather forecast this test was important to determine where we were going to go into the back-country. We had tentatively chosen an 18 mile loop for a three day two night hike, but all the camp sites were pretty high in elevation and subject to much cooler weather and the change in elevation was over 2,000 ft. After looking at out literature and talking with a couple of the staff we decided to go to option two which was the Belly River Drainage. We would be camping at a lower elevation and there was only a 740 ft decent at the very beginning of the hike. And with that in mind we secured our back country-packing permit for later in the week. Before they give you one, by the way, the rangers ask you several questions about your gear and they make you watch a video on how to avoid being attacked by a bear and what to do if you are. I did have some bear spray, which is this of high-octane pepper spray in a canister that reminded me of a small fire extinguisher. I have been “maced” and pepper sprayed in training situations and I figured was enough pepper spray in that canister to knock about fifty people to the ground. I couldn’t help but think they should tell everyone, Christ if you have to spray a bear, your are going to get sprayed yourself!” I didn’t see anything in the video about what you are supposed to do after you use the pepper spray and you have incapacitated yourself with the back draft. I suppose while you are flopping around on the ground you are easy prey for Cougars. I also found out from the video that should you be attacked by a black bear or a cougar, you are supposed to fight, (unless you have pepper sprayed yourself) If it is a grizzly you are supposed to play dead, unless you think the bear was planning to eat you. Then you are supposed to fight like hell!!! Yeah right! I had already thought this through in my head, and my plan was to trip Rachel should she try to out run me. Actually I knew all this stuff already and I had decided that if needed I was going to trip Rachel even before she started going to the personal trainer. Later that evening we went to a very informative park program at the Many Glacier Lodge. This is one of three rather mammoth wooden structures in the park that was built years ago. It is a big controversy in the park service to keep 'em or tear em down. Huge overhead. The place gets shut down at the end of September and there is one care taker in the whole valley. Kind of like the “Shining”! Actually the general history of the park, of how all the lodges were built, the road to the sun, the story of the Native Americans of the region just added to our ability to enjoy the majesty of the place. While the temps were in the thirties that night I think we had gotten our sleeping gear adjusted because we both slept very well. We woke up to a heavy frost. After breaking camp, we were off to the Belly. This trail-head is right south of the Canadian border. I pretty good poke from Many Glacier. We stopped at this little general store at Babb, and had an absolutely great breakfast at the Babb Press then drove the 15 or so remaining miles to the trail-head.

Glacier Trip !


It is a funny thing, the objects we surround ourselves with. I have these matches in my drawer, two books, one from the Baldwin Creek Motel, the other from the Adirondack League Club. Both souvenirs from fishing trips from many years ago. I touch them and I think of a time from the past. Each book brings up a memory rich in visions and recollections from that moment in time. One has no matches left, but the striker is good, the other still has several matches, but the striker was fouled from getting wet in my fishing vest. Together they are still serviceable, but separately they are worthless, except for the memories they bring to me. That is what I am writing about memories. Together I used them to light a cheap cigar as I settle in to write this little epistle. To help out, I also cracked open a bottle of Pinot Noir from Conneaut Cellars. This happens to be a very good wine from a family vineyard located in western Pennsylvania where I have performed at their patron appreciation picnic for every year since 1998, until this year, 2008. This year I opted out instead to take a trip with my daughter Rachel to Glacier National Park, and to create some new memories. I normally write a lot in the fall and winter in my barn, and this is really the first, introductory if you will effort for 2008. I couldn’t find a crock screw for the Pinot, so I used my Hatachi power drill and a deck screw to get the bottle opened. And I am drinking the wine from a martini glass….I have a few things to get in order in the barn to be ship shape for the winter! So now with the bottle opened and a Swisher Sweet smoldering in the tray I can begin to proceed with my entry of the evening. That is… the summary of our trip to Glacier. My children are dear and special people. They make me think of who I am and sometimes how I might have been or might be a better person. I think that is the value of children. Rachel is my middle child. Middle children, in case you don’t know always seem to vie for attention. Not the youngest, not the oldest, they are in the middle and they work hard for some special attention to call individuality unto them. Rachel is this way. So when she told me several months ago she wanted to do another trip with me, I noticed. She has always been drawn to the gadgetry of backpacking and the sense of adventure that comes with such trips. She told me she wanted to do a backpacking trip. Without a moments hesitation I committed. We discussed the possibility of Yellowstone, and then Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain seemed especially promising as we know people who live near the park and it seemed like a natural choice. I thought the discussion was over when she called one day and said, “Dad, I think we should do Glacier. You always said you wanted to go to Glacier and that is where I think we should go.” I went along instantly, but I did tell her that Glacier has a lot of grizzly bears and that I had never had a good nights sleep when camping in bear country. She of course chided me for being afraid of bears. In a matter of a few weeks she was signed up with a personal trainer and I asked her if she was getting in shape with the thought of taking on a grizz. Of course she said no but she definitely wanted to be able to out run me. Smart kid! We set up a schedule where we were getting together nearly every week and hiking in local parks. The idea was to get an idea on what we felt comfortable in hiking on a reasonable day hike. The intention was good but our commitment was a little lacking… or should I say my commitment was a little lacking. I mean I walk a lot and I didn’t feel motivated to go out walking every weekend just to prove to myself that I can walk. We had a lot of fun going over gear selection, including food and figuring out what we needed, what we had and what we were taking. It seemed like no time until I was making travel arrangements. At first we wanted to take the train to the Glacier Apgar park gate, but the bus shuttles were questionable and the 26 hours on the train seemed a bit much. I opted for flying and renting a car. We were to leave Cleveland on Thursday Sept. the 4th, but the departing jets were jammed up due to hurricane Gustav so we lost day there. We didn’t leave until Friday. We flew to the airport in Kalispell, Montana late on Friday, picked up our car and drove straight away to the park. As Rachel would say, “The Majesty of it all!” was upon us. We got our week entrance pass to the park and returned to town to find a hotel. The next day we stopped at several local establishments to buy some essential gear, like a stove and some local produce, had a killer Montana breakfast, drove the Road to the Sun, and went up to Swift Current campground and threw up our tent. We took a day hike up to some waterfall, and on the way back to the campground saw the first of the several grizzly bears we would see on the trip. It was a sow and a cub, and they were on the talus slope behind the Swift Current Motel. We didn’t know it at the time but later we determined that the bears were pretty focused on eating huckle berries and the entire side of this slope was covered in them. As a matter of fact I am not so sure that you couldn’t have walked right up on the bears. Over the course of the next two days, we saw several bears in this area and it was really remarkable how intent they were on eating these berries. The bears would take their head and push the whole bush to one side, then wrap their tongue around a branch and strip the berries off as the bush returned to it’s normal position. This observation was made possible through the use of several spotting scopes that were set up by bear observers in the parking lot of the motel. Just a little side note about the motel. The Swift Current Camp Ground and the Swift Current Motel are at the end of a 12 mile road that closes down around the end of September. While these aren’t luxury accommodations, we discovered that the best public showers in the park are located here. Now considering that the park is 1500 square miles this is a pretty big deal. That night we nearly froze. We discovered that weather in Glacier is more fickle than fancy. It really depends on what side of the park you are on, how high you are and what funny little local condition may come to pass. While the weather forecast predicted highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the mid 40’s, ice on the tent in the morning seemed to indicated things were a bit cooler. I had taken a super light down bag rated to 40 degrees and had liner for it, so that gave me a few more degrees, and a fleece bag for wrapping up in around the fire at night…. I wound up sleeping in all of them. Consequently getting in and out of my sleeping arrangement was an act Houdini would have been proud of! (Rachel has more comments on this) The next day we took a really challenging day hike up toward Grinnel Glacier. It was about a 1600 foot climb and descent in elevation and was a good thing to do before securing our back country camping permit. I took my backpack on this hike just to see what it would feel like. The views were absolutely spectacular. In addition to glaciers we saw mountain goats, big horn Sheep, mule deer, moose, marmot, and just missed a wolverine. We walked through several piles of bear scat. That is a polite scientific way of saying there was bear shit all over the trail. The moose however stole the show, two cows and a calf cavorting in an alpine lake was pretty special. This is the end of installment Number One

August 14 and 15th

Bass Lake was nice last night, and I have to thank Steve Howell. Evidently there was some confusion in the schedule and he graciously let me perform. Todays Sparx in the City was great. Lots of traffic, good positive feed back and a nice way to close out my street performances...until the Gallery Hop. Which is coming up in September!

Darke County Park District Gig

I really enjoyed being able to get back to southwest Ohio to do a performance for the Darke County Park District. I played a two hour show at the Shawnee Prairie Nature Center for a about a hundred people. The stage location at the nature center takes advantage of a natural geologic land-form called a Kame. That is basically a gravel deposit formed when the last glacier was retreating. The hillside makes a natural amphitheater where folks sat on lawn chairs and enjoyed the music and the bugs. I just love the laid back atmosphere provided by the surrounding agricultural lands and the ambience of the deep history that covers the land. The park is situated where Fort Greenville was located. The sky for the drive down and back was incredibly dramatic. Mj and I drove the back roads back home for a great part of the trip and enjoyed taking in the country side and the many small towns were drove through. Thanks Mandy for putting it together and having me back again.


Wednesday I was doing the background music set at Gamekeepers Inn. I approach this as a very laid back gig. I generally don’t even introduce the songs I am playing. After all it is such a nice patio, there really isn’t much to do except add a little ambiance! Anything more than that would be overbearing. This gives me a nice opportunity to play through many of the new tunes I am working on. For whatever reason, I had a number of old friends appear that I hadn’t seen in a while, and met some new one too. It really was a great night for the kind of gig that it is. When I got home I found out that Arrow Creek had been reviewed by CoolCleveland. I have posted the brief review on my press page or you can check it out directly by going to Last night I did a Sparx in the City set down on west 6th. All sorts of folks were hustling to the Browns preseason game, including Lance, Cindie and Gary. I can’t say it was perfect venue, but Sparx is a great program to get performing arts on the city streets. I wasn’t sure what the weather was going to do and sure enough around 8:10 a big blow came ashore and thanks to Stephanie and Sean I was able to get everything out of the storm. Looking forward to the Darke County Park District performance tomorrow night in Greenville Ohio.

Vintage Ohio

I played at two different venues at Vintage Ohio yesterday. The Lake Metroparks Farm Park is a great setting for this event. Multiple stages, all sorts of music, well over ten thousand people for each day of the two day event. My first show was 3-6 at the fine arts tent, and it was a very pleasant setting. Nice spot for people to sit eat lunch and drink their wine. Other than a bit of cross bleed from the bigger stages it was near perfect. Met a bunch of folks and had an enjoyable time. The second venue at the "wine store" check out area was 6-9 and I was in a big rush to get from one place to another so I just threw my stuff up behind the check out tables. I provided ambiance for the folks waiting to process their sales. Passed out 2008 schedules and made several contacts with many new wineries. Hopefully will set the stage for some future performance opportunities. I missed playing at Wertzstock. the big home town bash, but I am sure they had a good time without me. Hopefully I'll make it next year!


I have a number of brothers, three biological brothers and several others that fit that brotherly category. Dave Noble the park systems current director and I have worked together for nearly twenty years and worked on things together for even longer. Dave has biological brothers too, and one day in the office when we were sharing notes about our brothers it dawned on me that he and I have spent more time together as adults than we have spent with our brothers. Sort of an interesting revelation. I have several musical brothers that I have made a lot of music with. Vance Wissinger is one of several. Vance and I have done hundreds of gigs together, seen a lot of things go down and Vance and I can tell a few stories. Some of these associations have come about as a function of time spent together and others have some other sort of “connection”. For example Bob Hollister and I have not played nearly so much together but for whatever reason are still connected. A few years ago I ran into Alex Bevan. I had met Alex at Miami University just in passing, and we got re acquainted some fifteen years later. Alex and I have played a bit a music, worked on a few projects, helped each other out from time to time, and I am happy to say we are pretty good buds. This past week, while I was transferring tunes from disk to the computer, I noticed how Alex had signed the disk he gave me last fall. It is a lovely project called Fall and Angels. It said To Steve a brother in music. Well this weekend Alex came to my rescue like a big brother. I was playing at the Lake House, and the deck was packed. Simply packed. Instead of setting up in the corner, I had to set up on the end. After I had everything set up, I went to pull my PA mixer back a bit and stepped on the mic cable as I was picking it up. As simple as that seems, it was enough to trash the cable. NO big deal, I always have a couple spares in the bag or stashed in the car……not this time. Alex lives down the way so I called him and left a message. After exhausting a few other alternatives, I started to do an instrumental set. Word came that Alex was on his way! In a few minutes, like a big brother to the rescue, Alex came bounding down the stairs cable in hand and said “I was in the shower when you called, I am between gigs, up from Akron and on the way to Eastlake. Here you go.” Of course I said thanks, and also “Ladies and gentlemen, thanks to Alex Bevan, I now can sing.” Which prompted the front table to ask Are you kidding is that Alex Bevan? Sure I said. One guy jumped up and said “Let me get my picture taken with him!” So being the ever-obliging, but ever rushing Grammy winning soul that he is, Alex stopped to pose with this guy. It was quite the buzz for the next few minutes. So like the perfect big bro, he not only saved my butt but graciously added a nice dimension to the show by just being there. Thanks Alex!!

Half way through a four night string

Bass Lake was really nice this week. Perfect weather and a good group of folks showed up. Nice to see Pat and her gang from Akron. A great surprise. And I got to learn about the upcoming Hobo convention in Brit Iowa. Far out! Who knew? Last night I did a pick up gig with Al and Andrew Bonnis and Randy the percussionist at the Chester Tavern. It was a great time to play with a band and by the end of the night we had a pretty good groove happen. Tonight is the Lake House, and then tomorrow is the Little Mnt Heritage Fest. and I'll be a tired old dog. Aint no pup no more!

Sharing the Summer Doldrums

The summer doldrums was a term that sailors used to describe a windless period that would set in during the middle of the summer. Stuck on a big sailing vessel in the middle of the ocean in the hottest part of the summer doesn't seem like a lot of fun to me. However sailors practiced all sorts of things to while the time away waiting for the weather to change and the wind to return. I thought about this after playing last Saturday at the Old FIre House. It was stifling hot, humid and there wasn't a hint of breeze coming off of the lake. I connected with the crowd on my very first tune but had to stop to adjust the PA a bit, and lost them just that quickly. The remainder of that set and for the next two was touch and go. It was just to hot and humid to be comfortable outside unless you were just sitting still. I really couldn't expect people to get too thrilled about anything I was doing, and just had to hope they were sitting there and enjoying themselves. It's moments like this when you wonder to yourself "What am I doing this for?" And then some one comes up and says, "We Are really enjoying your music." And suddenly it all seems worth it. In the third set percussionist Dave Hunter and his wife Shelly showed up and it was nice to have a familiar face in the crowd. Interestingly I had a hat on that Dave had given me. I just had a hunch they would show up. For the fourth set, the breeze kicked up, the crowd engaged and I finished up feeling pretty good about the day. And sailed away from the summer doldrums.

I set up a blog

This is a more flexible format to work with. Check it out!

Deer on the Grill

It is mid July. One of my friends Bert Carlisle always used to say that after the fourth of July the summer was winding down. For me it is just arriving. It is very hot outside. I was in my late twenties when I realized that July was the hottest month of the year. Up until then I had mistakenly blamed August for my summer misery. Generally speaking I don’t like hot weather, or should I say in my younger years I didn’t like hot weather. My disposition seems to be turning ever so slightly. Due to the day’s hot temperatures it seemed like a good night to cook outside, and it just so happened that I had venison roast thawed in the refrigerator. So after a brief bath in a bit of olive oil and some seasonings, it has made it’s way to the grill and I am killing time while the roast cooks. I simply can’t do a roast on the grill with out thinking of Gary Pack. Gary and Linda were friends of ours when we were down in Greene County Ohio. They split up shortly after we moved to Geauga County and we lost touch. I think Gary spends some time in Costa Rica every year but other than that I haven’t a clue what he is up to now and I don’t know what has become of Linda. Gary had an amazing comprehensive ability. He was one of few people that I have met that can read some thing and then just do it. He had gotten into deer hunting somewhat late in life, and at that point in history the deer population had not yet exploded in the eastern United States. It was a big deal just to see a deer in the early 80’s in Ohio, especially in the southwest part of the state where we lived. Working as a Ranger Naturalist (bar musician) I was never really “fiscally solvent”, and Mj and I were always scavenging just to eat. I really mean it. Before the kids came along, well actually let me rephrase that, when the kids were still little there were times we collected returnable pop bottles for the refund to buy bread and eggs. That is when we coined the term bottle assets. As long as we had returnable pop bottles under the kitchen sink we had “bottle assets”. So yes things were a little tight and I’m sure you get the picture. Whenever I got a deer, it was a wonderful thing, and we were committed to making every meal count. It wasn’t long until Mj and I had both developed some very good approaches to cooking venison I had also learned some very important rules for dealing with venison. First deer fat and marrow tastes bad and goes rancid quickly. Second, when the meat is over cooked it gets tough and tastes gamey, and finally how you butcher a deer is pretty important. We concluded that when prepared properly venison is so delicious that it was really a travesty to grind any meat into burger. Ironically, many people we know think that is the most practical way to prepare a deer because they don’t like the taste of the steaks and the roasts. So they grind the whole thing up and use it in chili and spaghetti sauce. It was early January when Gary stopped by my office to tell me that he had killed his first deer. He had shot it with a muzzle-loading rifle and was on his way to the butcher. I asked him how he was going to have it butchered, and of course he said he was going to have it ground up into burger because he didn’t care for the taste of venison other wise. I told him that was a huge mistake, and that I would bet a pay check that he wouldn’t regret following the directions I was about to tell him. Gary by the way paid more in taxes every year than I grossed in annual income so the bet meant a heck of a lot more to me than it did to him. Much to his chagrin and with a great deal of persuasion on my part, I had convinced him to give the butcher my instructions. A few weeks later Gary and Linda were over at the house for dinner and I knew that Gary’s deer was still at the butcher. Ohio typically has what is called the January thaw and we were enjoying the warm weather we were grilling hamburgers on the grill. Before everyone sat down to eat I slipped back outside and threw a venison roast on the grill and covered it. The charcoal had burnt down and there was a nice, very low even heat. A few hours later I grabbed a saltshaker and a sharp knife and ask Gary to “Come check this out”. It was well past dark by this time and Gary couldn’t see what I was carving on, or how rare the meat was. I will never forget his response, as he tasted it. He couldn’t believe it was venison. So he called for Linda and Mj and the three of us stood in the dark and ate the roast as I carved it into bite size pieces. It is funny how certain memories come to mind from such events. But I am thankful that they do. Yet another reason for me to be grateful for the deer I killed this year and the memories that it has brought back to me tonight as I have prepared it. The roast should be about done.

People I have worked with

People that I have played music with. There are a whole lot of folks that I have played music with in various and sundry musical pursuits, and for some time I have thought about listing them. I don’t know why other than a tribute to things that they gave me in the experiences that we had. Some of them no longer play or are no longer with us. There are some I may have omitted. But here is starting with the first Garage Band. These are grouped by bands, some of which I can no longer remember the name, or by era, and some names reappear cause I played with em in several incarnations: West Milton 1969 Jeff Butts Terry Penkal Scott Flowers 1970 Tim Mote JD McKnight 1971 Wissingers’ Palace Steve Penkal Vance Wissinger Rick Gowdy Tim Mote Craig Foreman John Tomlinson Wayne Jackson Dave Everhart Tim Mote Steve Penkal Larry (Murf) Burnette Tim Mote Bob Gross 1974 Doc Holiday Dennis McDowell Larry Taylor Mark Hilt Dave Hilt Joe Rosenbaum Vance Wissinger John Rhoer Kevin Bert Gary Kurvis 1975-78 Oxford Years Rich Scheurmann Kurt Anderson Mark Grieger Kurt Anderson Caroline Quine Vance Wissinger Fred Rice Dave Young Zutty Sekora 1979 @ The Trolly Stop years Vance Wissinger Tim McKenzie Steve Hampton Dan Cel Astrid Socrates Scotty Robinson Greg Hawhee Dougie the Drummer Doug Hoskins Doug Hamilton 1980 Roy Calhoun Band (The Trophy Club Experience) Roy Calhoun Hawse Vance Wissinger Rick Gowdy Roy Calhoun Band second edition Craig Schaffer Chris Bresenski Pat Hailey The Steve Madewell Band Astrid Socrates Bill Baldock Michael Clutter Vance Wissinger Paul North Late As Usual various members Al Bonnis Vance Wissinger Chris Otto Donnie Philips Mark Mutterspah Drew Bonnis The First Pat Dailey Band Pat Dailey Alex Bevan Tommy Dobeck Ron Jarvis The Madewell Brothers Band Jeff Madewell Mike Gross Vance Wissinger Ron Randal Recent efforts and a number of incidental and recording occurrences Todd Blum Billy Lesstock Bill Watson Bob Hollister Caroline Quine And other I just haven’t mentioned.

A river with a broken heart.


anotherriverlunchshot.jpgCaroline Quine was in town this week to visit her family in Akron and she and I thought it would be fun to perform together if we could. We were hoping to do a few of the tunes we used to play in college and some of the songs off of Arrow Creek if she could make it up here to one of my shows. I had a Thursday night date at Basslake Tavern that worked perfectly so she and her immediate family Douglas, Hazel and Pearl came up to spend a few nights here in the valley with Mj and I. It was incredibly supportive of Douglas and their two teenage girls to take a few days of summer vacation in order for mom to sing a couple songs with her old buddy Steve. Consequently I was hoping we could do a few things that would provide a good time. Thursday afternoon we went canoeing/kayaking down the wild and scenic Grand River. My buddy Tom who runs Raccoon Run Canoe rentals estimated our trip to be about two to two and a half hours. We got in the water about 1:15 and it seemed that I should have plenty of time to get back to set up for our performance. A length of a river trip depends on several things; skill level, how hard you paddle and on water levels. This time of year the Grand can drop really fast and when that happens a two-hour trip can become a five-hour trip. And that is what happened. We had two canoes and one kayak for the five of us and as we neared the mid way point I knew I was not going to be able to make my schedule. I decided to take the kayak and sprint down the stream for the next 4 or 5 miles to our take out. So I paddled ahead and left everyone to enjoy themselves at a more leisurely pace. Now I spent most of my time on the river between October and May and I almost never get on the river in the warmer months. And Tom is one of my go to guys for finding out what is happening on the river during the summer. He was telling me that it is not too unusual to see bear along the Grand when the berries are ripe, and we know that there are several eagle nests on the river. I didn’t see the eagles this trip but I could hear the juveniles caring on begging for food at one of the nest sites. I came upon a deer drinking at streamside, I glided under a great blue heron, had an oriole fly by and I noticed an otters den. Small-mouth bass were chasing minnows and a host of other wonderful life and death dramas were going on around me. It was really hot and the sun was bright, and it wasn’t long before I noticed I had missed a strip of skin on my right leg with the sunblock. (It amazes me how that stuff works) I started paying attention to the course I was taking down stream looking to take advantage of the shade and at that time I noticed something that made my heart sink. I realized that there was not a single sycamore tree along the river that was fully leafed out. I have several sycamore trees in my yard and knew that there was an anthracnose affecting them. I have been so busy at work and at home that I hadn’t thought about what effect this was having along the river. Sycamores are those big white trees that grow along waterways through out the Midwest, and I wrote about them briefly in an early essay on the wood that we cut into lumber. They are the largest and dominant plant along our streams and are the anchor of that ecosystem. Among other things they shade the stream and keep the water cool, and there are a host of aquatic creatures that depend on moderate water temperatures. As with all things the connectivity factor is often over looked. If rocks are the bones of the river and the water is the blood, then sycamores must be the heart, pumping moisture back into the atmosphere through transporation. My rivers heart appeared to be broken. These have always been one of my favorite trees for so many reasons and to be paddling by mile after mile of them in decline was just emotionally devastating. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the global ecology is rapidly changing, not only from things like climate change but also in the introduction of regional non native plants and animals, the rebounding populations of certain species and the rapid decline of others. I remember when I was a youngster a line of four large American Elm trees dying in our back yard from Dutch Elm blight, and how upset my father was about this. When I got older I heard about the decline of the American Chestnut. Both situations were regarded as such tragedies. The elms lined the streets in many cities and towns across the Midwest, and when they died these tree-lined streets were forever changed. Chestnut was regarded as a remarkable rot resistant wood that was easy to work with. It was regarded as the red wood of the east. In recent years there has been a great deal of awareness about emerald ash borer and the demise of the American ash trees. I have ash flooring in my house. I can’t help but wonder if in years to come it will be regarded as a rare wood. I had no idea, or should I say I hadn’t thought about the impact of this anthracnose on sycamore. But it was like seeing a part of the river dying. I don’t know what the prognosis is. I don’t know if this means certain fatality for these trees or not. I had an unbelievable feeling of helplessness as I kayaked down the river. It was like the times when I have sat and talked with someone I cared for after a break up or a loss. Where I have been trying to reassure myself as well as my friend that they will live through the crisis while knowing they will never quite be the same. Sycamore Anthracnose is a type of fungus and if you want to know more about it you can visit P6120002.jpg


The first gig of the year at the Firehouse Winery, I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and Lorry. They like my music and they wanted to know if I was a teacher or had a degree in a philosophy. We started talking and the next thing you know Ken was telling me he was had an apiary. I haven't had any bees in years. Today Ken and lorry stopped in with a hive of beens for me and Yippie Skippie boys I am in business!


Location location location! It would be a rare individual that does not have an idea what bird migration is about, but an even rarer one who completely understands it I suppose to most folks the term bird migration conjures up images of giant flocks of waterfowl or shore birds that they have seen on Nature or Nova or they might recall the image of a flock of geese. To me I have this process similar to the dictionary where I go down a mental checklist of definitions or images. I don’t go too far down the list associated with bird migration until I see or think of warblers. They are these lovely little jewels that fly around in the treetops and sub canopy in the spring. They appear in this part of the world around the 10th of May. There are all sorts of warblers with their own special beak and behavioral adaptations to make the best of where they happened to hang out. And some are exceptionally beautiful. I never really learned warblers. Maybe I didn’t have the time, the mentor or maybe the predisposition. Well let me say I never thoroughly learned them. I knew and still know some of the more common ones, yellow rumped or butter butts as they are called, or the hooded warbler, another very showy bird. I used to see them all the time when I was leading the occasional bird hike back in Greene County. Whatever the reason I always appreciated the ability of bird enthusiast to not only identify what seems to be an endless array of bird by sight but often also by sound or call. Generally you can tell dedicated birders or at least people who hang out with dedicated birders. At the sake of profiling let’s just say when they are in the field they have a certain look. And that is OK cause most enthusiasts do. The majority of outdoor activity surveys I am familiar with have confirmed that wildlife observation is one of the nation’s top, if not the top recreational activity. These are surveys conducted by a whole host of conservation organizations. They lump casual wildlife observation right in there with the die-hard nature geeks. (Don’t worry I haven’t offended anyone, although I don’t fit the bill of a birder, I am enough of a nature geek to get by with using this self descriptive term) Good birders are a dedicated bunch. They will drive miles to see the unusual occurrence of a bird that is out of range. They spend tons of money on gear and clothing, eco tourism and the whole stick, not to mention birdseed, feeder’s houses and so on. A few years ago a fascinating lady left the park system nearly a million bucks to build a bird sanctuary. So I have wanted to go check out a couple Ohio birding hot spots to see what we should try to accomplish. It had been years since I had been over to the Crane Creek Area of Ohio, which is a known birding Mecca, and I jumped at the suggestion that my friend Ann had regarding a birding road-trip. She was in charge of scheduling the next outing for our social/enrichment club. It is called the Society for Intellectual Stimulation. We coordinated our schedules with another of our SIS members Dan and off we went abirding. Not only do Dan and Ann know about birds, they know their bird business and they also know the business of birds. What organization does what for whom and who is better at providing what services. It was very cool to get the inside from a couple pros. I haven’t been on a bird trip in years and it was a gas. First of all the companionship was great, secondly Ann brought all this dark chocolate and double stuffed Oreos! Now granted my sources of indulgences are often from a bottle and not appropriately consumed while driving or early in the morning. Hmmm although there has been a time or two when I have lived out the theme of that great old song that says lord forgive us and protect us we’ve been drinking whiskey for breakfast! Anyway back to birding….wired by chocolate, motivate by good conversation and ramped up on several cups of java we were on the boardwalk armed with binocs and talking our fool heads off. In a matter of minutes we had seen more species than I could keep track of, and seen a half a dozen stalwart of the birding community. Now I have my theories on successional evolution and how resource managers have to think in big historical terms when we are managing resources in Ohio. I wanted to check some things out with regards to the facility design but I was also going to reaffirm the significance of the geology and the geographic location of these birding hotspots. In other words I think we can make a pretty cool area with this donated money but I wanted to see just what we might expect with regards to bird utilization… There is a reason that those places are there. They are located on major flyways that birds have utilized for years, and people took advantage of them for hunting purposes for years, and some decades ago, some people got something’s right and protected some relatively small chunks of property that is incredibly valuable bird real-estate! As the old mantra goes, Location Location Location. And I was seeing it again for the first time in years. We left Crane Creek, stopped in the little visitor center, got lunch, ran up to Ottawa, hit that visitor center, checked out an eagle on the nest with it’s baby and ate more chocolate. Gee what fun! The mission was a success on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think how bird watching can be like an art form. Wait, before I say this I must also say it can be and is often approached as a science. More people might better appreciate it if it was more like an art form… Let me explain my analogy. An artist is always looking for sources of inspiration, some come as a big flashy spotting, but others have to be looked for and then recognized for what they are. And suddenly there it is a little jewel of color and light flitting, flitting, flitting and then it is gone. And while it can mean so much to the individual, it can mean so much to so many when shared. And even the most common and routine occurrence may have beauty and value for those not quite so accomplished. Keep looking you might spot a warbler.

American Lacewood

Flood Wood This week I hired a sawyer to bring up his portable saw mill and cut up about 2,000 board foot of lumber. These were logs that were the result of the flood. I had several trees that were damaged or washed down from up stream. In the initial clean up we hauled away 6 large dump trucks full of wood that I couldn’t use or salvage, but the big clear logs I saved. I also had to take a few trees down when we went to rebuild the house, which resulted in some additional logs as well. So for nearly two years two piles of logs have been out by the barn, one a pile for either fence posts or firewood, and the other for milling into lumber. The largest tree that we cut down was a big sycamore. The butt log is close to three feet across. I couldn’t move it much farther than from where fell, so it is still up by the house. There were however several ten foot logs that came out of that tree. I have always loved sycamore trees. Their distinctive white, green and brown bark, huge size and tendency to have hollow cavities just give them a great deal of character. Some times children mirror our value and behavior, and when Philip was just a toddler, he was always asking if this or that tree was a big old sycamore. So I guess my fascination for these big riverside plants was passed on to him. There was one large sycamore at the Narrows Reserve on the Little Miami River that I walked by hundreds of times. It’s giant root system hung out over and extended down into the water making wonderful habitat for the fish and animals in the stream. The portion of the root system that was out of the water was utilized by other animals for hiding places and homes. This was a giant tree, maybe 10-foot around. They get really big. Supposedly a fellow had a black smith shop set up in a hollow one along the Ohio River, and during the civil war there is a story of four confederate spies hiding inside a hollow sycamore… with their horses. There are no giants like this in Ohio any more but maybe some day there will be again. Anyway I used to wonder what all the big tree on the Little Miami had seen. Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton surely walked underneath it as well as Tecumseh and Blue Jacket on their way to and from Kentucky into the heartland of Ohio. If trees could talk, what stories they could tell? Once I was leading a guided hike with a group of second graders down the river and noticed a black rat snake’s head looking out from one of the root hollows. I thought the kids might like to take a look at it, so I got down on my stomach and gently pulled him out. The snake kept coming and coming until all of his nearly six foot body was wrapped around my arms. So I guess you could say that sycamores can have lovely little surprises! That is what I found when researching what I could do with the wood from this beautiful tree I had to cut down. I have heating my house with wood in years past, and have cut split and burned a lot of wood. I have come to realize that there is a lot of scrap and wasted wood available for burning and to me it seems a shame to simply burn up a tree that could be used for so much more. I didn’t know much about sycamore wood other that it has a high water content when it is green. In doing a little looking on the internet, I discovered that when it is quarter sawn it has a spectacular grain and used to be called American lace wood. I also found out that years ago it was commonly used for guitars and instruments. Now I was on to something. I could get one of my guitar building buddies to make me a guitar from some quarter sawn sycamore. That seemed like a great idea. So that was what I was thinking when I asked my new friend Alan to bring his portable saw mill down and saw up my logs. I also thought I might be able to panel the inside of the barn and maybe make some furniture with some of the wood as well. After we got the mill set up we started cutting, first slabbing off the bark and squaring up the log. And then we began cutting off boards. It is remarkable how exciting it can be as the grain patterns in the boards are revealed with each cut. The quarter-sawed material was spectacular. In addition to the sycamore we also cut some ash and elm logs. Which is partially stacked on my trailer waiting to be moved into the barn. Where it will air dry for several months before being used for whatever it ultimately will be. The last time I did this sort of thing was when we remodeled the house and will milled an ash tree into flooring. Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote about that experience and I hope to record soon: This Old Wooden Floor SWM 2008 I remember very well the fall day we cut it down The ash tree standing by the barn We laid it on the ground Matty came to help me out just to settle up a score We cut the her into 8 foot logs to make this old wood floor **** Charles brought his sawmill the logs we cut to boards I stacked them up inside the barn and stored it all indoors In the spring I went to Hartsgrove to old Joe's drying kiln He dried the planks we hauled them off to an Amish Mill **** I picked em up and brought them home Boards planned down so true The clearest ash you'd ever seen was milled to tongue and groove David cut and nailed em down and we sanded them so smooth Coated them with Waterlox when this old floor was new It looked so fine when we were done My God it looked so good It was the pride of MJ's home this old floor of wood In the summer of 2006 there came a great big flood The water rose and when it fell left a foot of silt and mud Friends they came from all around to see what we might need We had to gut the our whole house right down to studs and beams **** Al and Andrew cut the nails from each and every board I stacked it up and once again I hauled this old wood floor Off to Ricky's Warehouse, on the other end of town And there is sat for 6 long months until we could put it down No one would believe it but every word I say is true When we nailed it down a second time it looked mighty good Now the children sitting at my feet ask me to once more Tell them all the story of this old wooded floor If the dogs may scratch I don’t care As they run out the door So many things I’ve been through with old wooden floor I say a prayer for every hand that touched this old wood floor.

Twang Towne Ezine Interview

This was an interview with me that focused on Arrow Creek and my approach to writing and pruduction The whole article is on my press page or you can go directly to it by cutting and pasting this link. Singer/songwriter Steve Madewell uses dramatic textures to enhance song experiences Written by Carson James To these ears, Steve Madewell is a painter as well as a musician. Too often in this genre, we give such an emphasis on the craft of songwriting that we neglect the creativity needed for the arrangements. Not so with Madewell. Here is an artist who spent as much time and effort into making every track on his album Arrow Creek sparkle like his words. Let’s take a trip into Madewell’s world, one that spans historical events and geographical territories.....

The Sense of Wonder NAI Talk

The Sense of Wonder NAI Talk - April 15, 2008 The Sense of Wonder People have asked me where do I get inspirations and ideas for songs. Partially from spending a few years doing environmental education programs. I recently did a talk for the National Association of Interpretive Naturalist Region 4 workshop. And it was one of those presentations that will get better if I do it again. You might recognize interpretive naturalists as the folks who lead nature walks at parks and nature centers. However they do a great deal more. This is a partial narrative from that presentation and kind of give insight into these experiences and how I think: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon. I am very flattered to be a part of the NAI and I am truly happy to be here. I feel that what you contribute to our collective conservation efforts is so very very important. What I hope to do today is to share some observations that I collected for this presentation. And like many things of this nature some of these concepts maybe rather obvious, and others maybe a bit more elusive. But my hope is that I can offer these up to you and perhaps they maybe of value in the course of your life's work. Oh and should you have any questions or comments or if you take issue at any point with what I maybe saying, or if an analogy is not clear, please by all means feel free to interject your thoughts. I would welcome your comments and having spent a little time around interpreters, I have not found them to be a shy bunch. Currently I work as the Deputy Director of Lake Metroparks, and I have been involved with park administration for well over twenty-five years. However when I entered the field it was never my goal to get into the administrative side of the business. I have always enjoyed being outside and in some regards I feel it is unfortunate that I am mostly in doors. It simply had never occurred to me to consider a career in the field of conservation until I had a summer job at Nature Center. I grew up in an out door sort of family. My father was, and still is at 84 a gardener, a hunter and a fisherman. Some of my earliest memories are of working in the garden and the excitement of going fishing. I can vividly recall looking into a bucket full of water at a bluegill waving his fins when I was between two and three years old. So you folks who are doing programs for young children. I can tell you that some of those experiences are certainly retained. Dad was predominately a stream fisherman. We would go fishing, wading in the small streams across SW Ohio. He would set me up with a fishing pole, strap a small pail of worms around my neck tell me not to step in water so deep I couldn't see my tennis shoes and that if I needed him he would be around the next bend. I generally wouldn't see him for the rest of the day. He is also a Euell Gibbons kind of guy, hunting mushrooms and used to pull the car off of the road stop to gather wild apples and other edibles. A behavior that was passed on to me (much to the chagrin of my family) It is interesting how our mind can recall certain things. Whatever reason at the moment they occur they have some sort of impact that will always be with us. I remember Pop holding a no deposit no return glass bottle when they first came out, and saying "This make no sense". I also remember driving around the ever growing suburbs of Dayton and Dad pointing to shopping centers and saying, "I used to hunt rabbits there". So I grew up with a conservation ethic al be it perhaps not in a traditional sense. It wasn't one of supporting the local park system although we used them. The only time I had been to a nature center was in third grade. But if I were to distill the ethic I grew up with it might be best described as " waste is not a good thing", and “the world will feed you if you know it and take care of it”. Like a lot of kids growing up in a rather rural setting I was outside a great deal of the time. Generally speaking I was really bored in school and felt somewhat trapped. I started playing guitar in jr high and I like to think music gave me a focus that kept me out of any real trouble. Although that might be a relative statement as I nearly got expelled for making gun powder with supplies we pilfered from the Chem Lab and I was involved in one pretty bad tractor wreck. I was just riding on the tractor that Mike Maynard drove into a house on the last day of school my sophomore year. But that is another story. I went to the now defunct Western College of Miami University which was an interdisciplinary college. The college was based on three core courses Natural Systems, Social Systems and Creativity and Culture. And the simple premise that these three areas of study were related and empowered by the synergy of their inter actions. The first physics problem I worked on was calculating how many tons of sulfuric acid was being produced and spewed in to the air by Dayton Power and Light every week. I found the inundation of negative environmental material thrown at me my freshmen year to be over whelming and incredibly depressing. And that was the summer I got the job at a nature center. Though it wasn't a very glamorous one. I was literally hired to baby sit the children of Hispanic migrant workers. I believe that the Nature Center had gotten a grant to provide summer programs to these children and I was primarily hired to look after 45-60 kids, some of which could not speak English for three or four hours a day. Some times there was a morning group and an evening group. This was three or four days a week and I was to keep them from interfering with the regular activities of the center. What did I do with them? Well I felt compelled to instill a value for the nature center and to do activities that were non intrusive. It was really pretty cool. These kids were jazzed to be there and their observation skills knew no boundaries. I don't think they had been dulled up by watching endless television. I didn’t know anything about environmental education and they didn’t know anything about nature centers so we were perfect for each other. We had limited structure and we learned together and it was amazing what they discovered and what they taught me. I had read a book called The Lives of Children by George Dennison which was about an alternative approach to education. It had a premise of losing time to gain time and that is what I did with these children. We approached each day with a very open structure. We celebrated an experience of mutual discovery. One of the boys, was the “Alpha male” of the group if you know what I am talking about. His English was very good so I gave him the job of being my interpreter. The summer job at the nature center was a great experience in so many ways and this really was a pivotal time in my life. First I knew that I had had a miserable educational experience in jr. high and high school and I recognized that I simply didn't learn the way that I had been taught. Secondly I knew that I was deeply concerned about the environment. And finally here I was having this experience at this nature center where there was a different approach to education, oriented toward things that I cared about and according to all the regular staff there, I seemed to be good at it. So that summer experience between my first and second year of college provided me with an insight that perhaps there was something I could do to help bring a greater awareness to people regarding what we were doing to our world. After that I knew I wanted to be involved with environmental conservation in some way. The Topic So with that bit of a personal intro and narrative I would like to move on to the topic at hand But before I do can I ask is there anyone here that feels that this career is a calling? I recognize that the field has matured and developed, And often times when this begins to happen with career tracks things change. And I was hoping that some new entries into the field could give me a read on this. Do you feel that it is a privilege to be in this field? At the time I got my first full time position I remember reading that there were as many as 85 applications for every entry level position. We were in the height of what I call the John Denver era when there were a lot of people who wanted to work in the great out of doors. After 30 years I still think of this career as a calling and I still feel it is a privilege to work in this field. I am proud of my job and my contribution and I sincerely hope you are too. I would also like to ask, how often do you stop and think about what you are doing and why you are doing it? Recently I had a chance to reflect on this in the process of preparing for a presentation. The why and how I got into this field and why I have stayed in it. I mean, as I am sure most of you know it certainly is not the money, especially early on in a conservation career. It wasn't always the working conditions either. I have had offices in attics, closest, trailers, modified garages. As an aside what is it about naturalist and offices? Do you think that every agency has administrator that thinks “They don’t want to be inside so they are going to be miserable anyway so let’s stick em in the basement.” Actually it is a testament to the commitment to the field. And it wasn't always the hours. I can recall many instances where I have sent staff home after realizing that they had not taken a day off in over a week. And I bet you have heard from your friends and family, wow what a great job you have! But what do you do in the winter time? Well it is a great job and a great field! I was thinking about this and much more when about 18 months ago I was asked if I would address the Bishops Retreat of the northern Ohio Diocese of the Episcopal Church. When I got the call I asked the Bishop what he wanted me to talk about. He said "Could you just share your views on nature?" I said OK and I blurted out how about a talk on the Spirituality of Landscape? I hung up the phone and I thought “Now what the Hell does that mean?” Needless to say I was very flattered by the request. But this was a little different than most speaking request I get. This was not an invitation to speak on a park project, or the mechanics of some sort of program. As I set about preparing for the talk I spent some time evaluating what had transpired in my career that had resulted in this invitation. Now please understand that I don't really regard myself an expert on anything. I have the pleasure and good fortune to have worked work with some wonderful staff and have some very special and gifted friends. And I am not by the way an Episcopalian. And I find some humor in the light that I grew up in a fundamental Baptist home. (I stopped going to church when I was 16 or so for number of different reasons.) I was being asked to address a group of Episcopal priest on spirituality and I consider my self a pedestrian. I think I was 22 when I realized that I am really a pedestrian. And when I tell people that most of the time it works, but every now and again I have to explain what a pedestrian is. Now I must admit though I have kind of back slided here the past few years and don't walk nearly as much as I should. So in the process of preparing for that talk I realized that what I do have and what I sincerely I hope I can always hang on to is the ability to be easily distracted and endlessly and enamored with the wonders of the world around us. And this wonderment with the endless connectivity of nature has shaped my career. In preparing for that presentation on the Spirituality of Place I realized that this attribute was responsible for pulling me along in this field, and was more than likely the reason why I was asked to do that talk. I am willing to guess it is something that all of us in this room share and that is The Sense Of Wonder So what is The Sense Of Wonder? Well I am not sure but I suspect that if I were in school right now I would be diagnosed with ADD. And I find it a little funny that the perhaps very condition that I am crediting with my success is one that has turned out to be so vexing for many students and children today. And just as an aside I can't help but wonder if maybe someday we might realize at least with some kids maybe it is not a problem with the child but maybe it is our system. Anyway, some time after the Spirituality of Place presentation, which by the way had two parts. I did a talk and then that evening I did a one and half hour concert of original tunes that are stories set in or told in a nature setting. I mentioned to Ann Bugeda and Dan Best that I had an done interesting and enjoyable Presentation, and in a day or so, Dan ships me an NAI program presentation form. And here we are. I think there was a little apprehension about me doing the same talk, probably because of the title, which I understand. But really I think a great deal of what we do in this field is actually quite spiritual. And while I do not advocate a spirituality to any deity I do believe in the connectivity of all things in the universe. Anyway, I redirected and began to prepare for this presentation and in doing so rediscovered the title of a delightful little book I had read quite some time ago. The Book Are you folks familiar with Rachel Carson's books? She actually wrote several. By training she was a marine biologist and worked for the Federal Government for a number of years. I am sure that many of you are familiar with the book Silent Spring. Some claim that Leopold began the modern conservation movement with his book A Sand County Almanac and some give credit to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring for starting the modern environmental movement. Early in my own career in this field it was Silent Spring that had a major impact on me. I found the Almanac just a little too slow, and while I recognized it as a valuable work it didn't call out to me with the same urgency and need as Carlson's book. Some of you might know Ralph Ramey? Interestingly enough though, in recent years I have found that I have developed an appreciation for a philosophy that Rachel put forth in a book not nearly as well known as Silent Spring. It is a simple little piece she wrote for, or should I say, wrote with her grand nephew Roger Christie. It is called The Sense Of Wonder. I read it some time ago and I can't say that when I did I didn’t model my life or behavior around its message. I simply read it in a few minutes and sat it down. And there is sat until I found the title on some neglected corner of my head. What I can tell you is that there is a philosophy in this little book that is quite profound. And as I have gotten older I realize the power of this approach to experiencing and sharing nature. And perhaps even living life (as a better pedestrian) In essence it is about joy and wonder and less about science. Her believe was this is the way to prepare the “soil” for future educational growth and learning. And it actually goes in the face of a widely held belief that I have heard time and time again in educational circles and that is “we value what we name.” Carson really de emphasizes this practice and instead focuses on the value of the experience. Interestingly enough I found this quote in another source Avoid falling into the trap of the naturalist where one tries to catalog and list everything and fails to see the beauty of the landscape. Try instead the approach of an artist and take in the entire image. At this point I would like to take a moment if I can to tell you that what you do is important. And consequently it is important that you do it well. I believe that heaven forbid if any of us in this room left this existence we would leave this world knowing that we have had an impact on people that we have worked with, people who have attended our programs, people whom we have never met who have enjoyed projects we have worked on. I know that because I have an understanding of the power of the work that we do in this field. And I have seen it in many many ways. We never really know the capacity of the people we are dealing with, what that young person may grow up to be or what that senior citizen might choose to do with their estate. Just a couple short stories to illustrate this point: (Major donations Chuck Grantham and Robert Bateman Me and Dr. Mastin.) So you really don't know the manifestation of your actions. So it is important that interpreters especially approach there work with sincerity and enthusiasm. And in doing so you will find reward in the work that you do. Now why is your work so important? Well clearly you are the messengers of the conservation community, carrying the banners promoting the value of our natural heritage, the importance of biological diversity, and the need to seek sustainable practices and so on. But you do more. With the transitory nature of today's society I believe that people are looking for some sort of stability in the world around them. Parks and Nature Centers provide some form of stability in a world of constant development and change. I also believe that people need to feel some sort of assurance that there are things beyond our control or that have the resiliency to withstand the folly of our actions. People are looking for opportunities to forget about the demands from their daily work and the ability to find beauty in the world around them. And that perhaps the remaining wild and distant places are somehow mysteriously tied to the beauty they maybe able to find in their back yard or in their local neighbor nature center or park. And they need this awareness because it helps offset a phenomena I call emotional fatigue. I honestly believe that good interpretive work can provide a passport to a world that includes hope and optimism and can increase individuals and consequently our societies capacity to care and respond. We are bombarded with so much negativity until it is easy to get to a point where we are simply numb. It is not that we don't care, we really aren’t sure if it matters if we do. I believe people are looking for a rejuvenation of or to find this same Sense of Wonder. And you hold the key to open this world for many people. How to find and hold on to The Sense Of Wonder First of all I think it is important to place things in a bigger perspective. What ever the topic relate it to the next bigger level and let folks know that you do not know every thing. Elevate the view of the topic until you reach a level where there is a common perspective and everyone in on a level of discovery. I like to step back and look at how things fit within the three big systems that enable life as we know it energy flows, water cycles and geologic systems. If you can do this it is a great way to bring a bigger perspective to a specific topic. There is a tremendous amount of power in the world around us that can be harvested to help illustrate any point. And this connectivity is critical to encourage a big picture in which to hang future discoveries in. I also like to examine what has happened to make this moment possible historically, maybe socially, and certainly from an ecological perspective. In our field the cause is bigger than any individual or any one individuals’ message and we all carry a little piece of the load. When we tie our message to a bigger perspective we might individually lose importance but our message has become a part of a much bigger message. I have been involved in my own form of interpretation for over thirty years. And by many standards I have been blessed with a fairly successful career in conservation. Over the years I have developed and presented a host of programs, supervised a number interpretive operations, had the privilege of being involved with the conceptual development and building of several nature and educational centers and of course participated in many interpretive programs with my kids. Early on I learned a number of things while being involved in interpretive programming that have served me well in a number of ways including in my capacities of development and government relations and land negotiations. These are things that I have found People respond to enthusiasm, sincerity and honesty People also respond to a cause or belief. If you sincerely and honestly believe in a cause and your enthusiastically present it people will enthusiastically respond to you. When that happens it is a marvelous buzz! And I have learned some things that do not work as well. I have created a little grouping of these things that I am calling the buzz killers. So as you might imagine I believe in order to do your job most effectively you want to Avoid The Buzz Killers Now there are several quotes I will take from Rachel Carson's book to illustrate the point. Avoiding The Buzz Killers I can tell you these are all things that I have done myself and I have also witnessed in other programs. I have put them into a few large categories The first of which I call Needing to be the expert "I have made no conscious efforts to name plants or animals, not to explain to him but I have expressed my own pleasure at what we see." His value system was not based on the scientific knowledge that his great aunt had. His value system was based on what he could sense. Several examples of this that comes to mind My favorite is the fishing guide who says Oh You should have been here yesterday. Steve and Paul Story. Oh that was just Colts Foot it is a non native plant Oh that is just a Great Blue Heron they are all over the place anymore. Dwelling on negative outcomes In some instances it might be better to focus on what we don't know and instead look for understanding and in site Another Buzz Killer is Failing to recognize the value systems of others “Many Children perhaps because they themselves are smaller and closer to the ground than we are notice and delight in the small and inconspicuous.” Phil and the Red Tail Hawk /The Whale story in California How many enriching interpretive opportunities have been lost because someone is afraid to share what they know because their value system might be different than the group leader and destroying the participation of others with a different knowledge base in the group Barry Lopez story Ever been on a forced hike? Deck Hunter the forced walk I believe in allowing children to wonder down the hallway and there may so many rooms to explore. Buzz kill # 3 The We They Trap Interpretive Programs are no place to harbor the personal agenda. I have seen many wonderful settings destroyed by an individuals frustration with their employers, government etc. This is one earth Dwelling on the negative and looking for someone to blame is not a solution to any problem. Story of the goose hunters on the east coast and the bird watchers. This work is too important to alienate people Focus on the positive and remember the bull dozer operator gets time and a half on sat. And finally trying to Reduce the mystery of life to black and white “The value of the game of identification depends on how you play it. If it becomes an end in itself I count it of little use. It is possible to compile extensive lists of creatures seen and identified without ever once having caught a breath taking glimpses of the wonder of life.” Avoid reducing the mysteries of interaction into black and white. It doesn’t always work. The story of the population shifts and dynamics of deer turkey and eagles in the eastern US. Failing to recognize the resilience of nature discredits us. “Understanding the why and understanding the why may change. Shifts in our understanding and the resilience of nature anthropomorphism are all areas where we are shifting our understanding "It is not half so important to know as it feel" The challenge of a good interpreter is to be able to make the connection back to the theme at hand through the observations they have made, not to try to control the observations. “Hatchets are in the hammer family.” When I stopped taking my field books I think we need to be advocates of being plugged in and environmentally aware all the time, and that mean being open not just plugged in when we are at the park or nature center or in a program. And perhaps a better way of doing this is to try to draw connections to nature where ever we are with or without a field book and whenever and wherever the sense of wonder takes us. And just a word on avoiding burn out. You have to be true to yourself know your limitations. It is important for you to be effective at what you are doing as opposed to assuming a role that is not for you. Don't be afraid to try but for heavens sake the world need effective people on all levels. The cause is bigger than the individual. And the cause's needs and the way you help meet those needs are to take care of yourself. So what I am telling you is It is not only important for you to avoid the buzz killers for not only your program participants but it is important to avoid these to prevent burn out for you. One of the ways that I have worked to combat burn out and fatigue has been to invent or discover new ways of exploring my commitment to the environment and my desire to share this commitment with others. It is so easy when you are in a cause driven profession to have that cause become your lifestyle and suddenly your lifestyle becomes your work. When this happens it is nearly impossible to segregate work from any down time or recreation. At first this effort manifested it's self in developing new interpretive or educational programs in broader topics and activities. (embellish) Then in different administrative pursuits until I actually got so far removed from the field that I lost the direct recharge I used to receive delivering programs. I started to conduct business meetings outside in parks, or scheduling canoe outings or hikes instead of lunches or breakfast meetings. Then I started taking community leaders and elected officials fly fishing to introduce them to the regions local resources. Finally in recent years I began to incorporate natural resource elements in the songs that I am writing and performing. IT has given me a completely different method of outreach. You have a marvelous profession that is so critical to the world we live in. Remember to reward yourself by allowing yourself to enjoy the interaction you have each and every day and the beauty of the world in which we live. Seek out those opportunities to incorporate new ways of experiencing the world around you and your ability to explore and share the world around you and maintaining the Sense of Wonder.

Keelin Over

Keelin’ Over I always thought that was an interesting term but I don’t know why. I have had virtually no exposure to the world of sail boats and sailors, and this is a nautical word. I read a book a few years ago about the Essex. The ship that the story Moby Dick was in part based around and there is a great description of a whaling boat keeling over as it left harbor. I think the name of the book is In The Heart of The Sea. The keel of a sailing vessel is a rather large affair that is part of the underside of the boat and is the counter weight for all of the sails and the rigging. Sometime keels are filled with lead and are very heavy. If a boat were to get laid on it’s side or even completely turned upside down the weight of the keel can right the boat and pull it back over. The implication of the term appears to be two things, one the act of falling over or being turned upside down, and also the process of being pulled back up or righted. I can only image how dramatic the act of a big sailing vessel getting laid completely on it’s side and then pulling itself upright must be. So that is the term I have used to describe a couple of my own little experiences here in the past 6 months because on two occasions I have been laid down and been righted back up. Keelin’ Over The first time this occurred was the night of the Western Reserve Hospice fund raising performance in September. This also happened to be the quiet little CD release party for Arrow Creek. I had originally hoped to have had Arrow Creek done two years earlier, but I ran into some difficulties which caused me to postpone any recording for a while. About 6 months later I started moving forward again and then shortly after that the flood came. All recording was again put on hold for about a year as I worked with a host of people to gut, elevate and rebuild the house. I can say without reservation it has been some pretty rough hoeing since 2005. After getting the house livable in the spring of 2007 I began working where I had left off with the recording. I maintained a pretty demanding work schedule for 12 weeks or so up until the CD release in order to get the disc mixed, out and back in time for this performance. When I say demanding, I mean between my job, continuing work on the house to repair the flood damage and working on the recording/editing/mixing process I am talking about three of four 18 hour days a week and at least 14 hours for every other day. I was also performing two or three times a week. Of course getting the CD off to the production house was one thing, trying to make sure it got back in time was another, and that had it's own set of challenges. (Which by the way the shipment arrived at my house on the day of my show!) And there was the process of planning and promoting that event, which was a small wine and cheese tasting affair which included the usual host of coordination and preparation tasks. But it all came off without a hitch and at the end of the evening, after every thing was done and all the gear torn down and I was back home, I sat back in a chair on the porch and simply punched out. I could describe what I experienced but I don’t see the need or value of going into that detail. Let’s just say, I believe, and have been told that it was quite possible I could have died had it not been for a couple people smacking my face and telling me to come back. I did go and check things out with my Dr. and everything came back clear, although we mutually concluded that I hadn’t been a model of ideal living that particular day. And there was no denying the schedule I had been keeping was really out of hand. I just figured I needed a break. Especially when you put things in the context of the past few years. Emotionally I wasn’t shook up at all, but physically I wasn’t quite right for several days. I have not maintained any religious affiliation since high school, but I have maintain a certain level of spirituality. And I always marvel at folks who clearly have greater religious convictions than I but seem to have no faith. At this stage of the game I am fairly comfortable with the consequences of being alive. And don’t get me wrong I am not volunteering to call it a game. But I do believe things are what they are and it is better to swim with the current than to fight it, and that particular experience was big enough to re affirm my believe that sometimes it better to take it all in instead of trying to run away. Well let’s fast forward things a few months. I have several really big projects going on at work that are on go all the time. In addition there is the basic personnel supervision issues that go with the territory. The house is still not done and I am pretty burned out on that whole scene especially the odds and ends of the finishing esthetics. I am just getting ready to launch into a major landscaping component of the whole project, which I happen to be dreading because a) it is expensive, and b) will take all summer. Yet somehow I have still been writing a fair amount of new material and I would really like to get back into a recording mode. Unfortunately I am finding it difficult to find the time to make that happen. A week or so ago I came home with intentions of wrapping up several small projects, one for work and one for music. That plan got derailed and I wound up running around dealing with a bunch of other stuff. To be truthful I was pretty ramped up about this because it wasn’t where my head and heart were at. The long and the short of it is after getting a few errands done I took a walk down to the creek and spoke with my neighbor for about 30 minutes. As I walked back to the house I started getting really dizzy. I went in kicked off my shoes, lay down on the floor and passed out for a short while. Mj called the squad and when they got there my pulse was 38 but everything else seemed to be OK. They hauled me off to the ER and I have to say it was great service all around. Again I checked out OK and again I went to my regular care giver and seem to be fine. I did go around with a 24 hr heart monitor strapped on for a day and I will go in for a CT and a ultrasound but the general suspicion is everything will be OK. So I am looking at things trying to figure out how to minimize internal conflict, balance external priorities, and maintain some sort of awareness on eating, sleeping and drinking properly. I will let you know what I find out. But I can pretty much say "Gee what fun is that?"


Nearly thirty years ago a friend of mine John Humpston was telling me about filling out his application to graduate from Ohio state. He had left the religious affiliation line blank and it was returned to him stamped incomplete, so he wrote in “pedestrian”. The admin types accepted that and John graduated. When he told me that story I decided that I wanted to be a pedestrian too. Since that time I have actually developed some fairly complex ideas associated with what it means to be a pedestrian. I spoke at the Bishops retreat for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Ohio last winter, and shared some of my ideas about the Spirituality of Place and landscape. Basically I said you don’t get an idea of what is going on somewhere until you get out and walk, and you sure don’t know who you are if you don’t know something about where you are from. (I said a little more than that, like an hour and a half worth). Anyway the beauty of being a pedestrian is you can get to the lowest common denominator. I like that, it's slow but there are merits to that too. Being a reductionist of sorts I belief that there are three primary systems that interact that enable life as we know it. Energy flows (or cycles if you happen to believe that the universe is a closed system) water cycles and mineral cycles or geologic processes. I like to feel that I am interacting with these big systems. When I am standing in a stream of moving water, I feel like I am in the vortex of all three. The water is moving due to the effects of weather, the weather is the result of energy flows, and of course the moving water is eroding the rock on which I am standing. Of course fly fishing is the excuse that I predominately use to go stand in streams, and don’t get me wrong, fly fishing certainly has it’s own zen thing going on for me too, but fishing is not the end game. That is an interaction of mechanics and the merger or interactions of two worlds and one just happens to above the surface of the water and the other below it. But if the water isn’t moving it isn’t the same. It is not the big hit that I sometimes get from just being there in middle of the dynamic interaction between earth energy and water. If I get emails of interest either directly or posted on my little comments page I will share more of my thoughts on this. But mean while back to John Humpston. John had a sign in his bathroom that said “Preserve Wild Life Throw A Party!” I adopted that as a motto for too long too, like 25 years too long, and realized, there has got to be a better way to help animals! This kind of living is killing me. Who knows, maybe some day I will give up on being a pedestrian, but for right now I am still walking. 

Another nice Reivew Of Arrow Creek

 / I got notice of this blog post while I was up in Chicago. Mj and I went up for the weekend to just get out of town. What a nice city. I can't help but think Ohio has so screwed up in not having any resonable mass transit. We had a great time taking the trains to about anywhere we wanted to go. One stop was agumented with a short walke to Tommys Guitar Cafe. A guitar shop that sold killer bugers! Great art museum too! I couldn't help but feel the vibrance of the city downtown. While I hate to drive through it, downtown Chi town is fun. One of the most wonderful things was the art in front of our hotel. Running the risk of illustrating my amazing lack of sophistication in not knowing the name of the sculpture, let me say the stainless steel coffee bean is a wonderful peice of art. When you witness people all around an object that is clearly bring excitment and joy, how can anyone doubt the value of art? It was superb, and I guess that alone should motivate me to look up the proper name of the piece! Cheers!

Different version of Arrow Creek

I was cleaning up the barn computer the other day and found an early mix of Arrow Creek. Kinda cool with some percussion and a second guitar. Just for grins I posted it on Folk Alley If you want to give it a listen go to

Waffles, a maple syrup delivery system

02/27/08 Last night, well actually all day yesterday and last night, it snowed. We have about 10 inches of the most beautiful fluffy snow on the ground. I have read that Inuit’s have names for 28 different varieties of snow. I certainly recognize several but this is the only one I have a name for and that is “sugar snow”. So called because this kind of snow always falls during maple sugar season. I heard this snow name from Mj years ago. She grew up in maple sugar country, I grew up in corn and beans country. My first exposure to making maple syrup came through my friend Vance Wissinger’s dad. Vance senior dragged me out back of Wissinger’s Palace and showed me a series of metal barrels that he had modified and was using to cook down maple sap, which he was collecting in five gallon plastic buckets. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. And over an open stove this takes a long time and requires a lot of attention to keep it from burning. He was making this amber maple syrup that was quite smoky, and it didn’t really sheet off of a knife the way I later learned it was supposed to. Vance’s syrup was a bit thinner than that. He gave me the low down on how he tapped the trees, how much sap he was boiling down to get his syrup and told me “you never can tell when you might need how to make maple syrup”. Less than 18 months later I was working as the director of the Geauga Park District which at that time was the only park system in Ohio with a sugar house. This is only one of several stories I could recount about Vance seniors obvious connection to my cosmological existence. He was a trip! Every time it snows a sugar snow, I also think about Harold Berry. He was the father of one of Mj’s friends who introduced the term to her and consequently me. Harold had a sugar house and the last time I saw him he was standing in front of a 6 or 7 foot high pile of sugar wood. That is fire wood that has been spilt into four foot long sections. I suppose he was in his 80’s. Several years prior he had been diagnosed with cancer and given a relatively short time to live. I remember he had told me when we found out he was refusing the recommended treatment because he had lived a good life and wasn’t going to screw up the end of it. So several years later it appeared that he was doing quite well and was clearly enjoying getting ready for another maple sugar season. So what’s the big deal? Well is goes like this, once you have had real grade A light maple syrup it re defines all forms of syrup. For the past several weeks I have been getting this hankering for pancakes. And then I realized it was not really a craving for pancakes, but rather the combination of pancakes, melted butter and real light grade maple syrup. As this desire grew it became redefined and clearer, until through conversations with MJ we jointly realized it was waffles that we wanted. Not Belgium Waffles, but crisp hot corn meal waffles that will readily melt a pat of butter and are capable of holding up to a real drenching of maple syrup. So after talking about maple syrup and waffles last week, we dug out her grandma’s ancient waffle iron made up a batch of corn meal waffles and proceeded to enjoy a wonderful breakfast feasts…. for dinner! As they say, when the mood hits! We enjoyed a wonderful meal dressed up with one of the first locally harvested treats of the year. Greg Brown has a wonderful song he wrote about his grandma canning summer in a jar, I can tell you that in the middle of February the taste of real maple syrup is like those first warm rays of March sunshine, the hope of spring. As I pushed the light fluffy sugar snow off the car this morning, I really didn’t mind as much. I know it is going to be sunny today and the sap will be flowing. Tonight there will be some old fellows sitting in their sugar houses tending the fire and watching the sap boil.

First Snow

Today is the first real snow of the year and it is really coming down. The first good snow always makes me reflective and I enjoy seeing natural systems interacting We have about 12 inches on the ground and it is still falling. Temperatures really dropped last night and the creek froze lumpy. That is when the freeze takes place really fast the current piles the ice up as it is forming. I have had the privilege to watch the stream freeze in a number of ways under different conditions. Once it was very cold and still. The water just seemed to get thicker and seemed to change color. There were small ice flows moving downstream in the current. In what was really a matter of minutes the deep slower pools were suddenly covered in a smooth clear layer of ice. Ice out is pretty wild too, but that is a story for the spring. Last night I had the pleasure of watching a herd of four deer come through the yard. They went through the yard like it was their own buffet. They started out eating from the small corn pile I have out by the barn. (They feed me and I feed them) They proceed to work their way through the yard stopping to sample hemlock, then red osier dogwoods, rose bushes, hydrangeas, hemlocks again, azaleas, rhododendrons, hemlocks yet again, and finally the english ivy out front. I always get a great deal of entertainment from watching or observing wild life. I am captivated with they way they move within their environment and how aware they are of everything around them. Of course given my interests, I would never pass up an opportunity to watch an animal or a natural phenomena unfold under the notion that I was learning about or studying the creature or situation. A few years back however I had a revelation that often times while I was studying animals or nature I also had the opportunity to really learn about myself. There are so many lessons to be learned by simple observation of the world around us. Or maybe they aren’t all lessons maybe they are re assurances that things will be as they need to be. Years ago, in period of great turmoil, I would wake up in the middle of the night a complete wreck, and I would go out walking down the Little Miami River. I would find myself considering the fact that many of the trees I was walking under were over 200 hundred years old, that the Native people had canoed or walked under them as well as famous frontiersmen like Daniel Boone. That all these people before me had enjoyed the sweetness of life and that the world continues. There was and is a lovely re assurance that came in recognizing that I was a part of a much bigger system, a continuum I think most of us suffer with the wonderful ability to deluding ourself into believing that we can will control over what is around us. Consequently have a giant power struggle with anything and everything that threatens that control. For me while this is not an easy ting to do, a better approach is to be aware of how I am part of what is going on around me and a part of a bigger system. Keeping that awareness and openness I am much more inclined to be productive, creative, at ease with myself and the world. While this is something that I could and should be doing all the time, the chatter and demands of everyday life are so distracting. The natural world often reminds me of a different way to be. It was something I learned that from the trees and get reminded of when I watch wildlife or interact with the natural systems. This winter I wrote a song called “Gifts” which is posted on this web page. A large part of what that tune is about is dialing in to the world around us and finding those gifts to receive and gifts to share.

Another Day On Steelhead Alley!

An edited version of this post may be on the Patagonia field report web page. The thermometer read 12 degrees! Not exactly an ideal temperature to go fishing. I was helping guide a steelhead outing for a group from Patagonia and hey they should be all about extreme fishing. When it comes to steelheading your plan has to be flexible and often you use every card in the deck. The plan was to pick up my guy Bill Klyn with the intentions of working a small stream for a couple hours. Then head for the Grand River and bounce our way upstream. Unfortunately the cold was a problem on the little creek. Shelf ice was rapidly building and flow ice made it difficult to get the line to sink. If you happened to cast onto the shelf ice, the fly would immediately freeze in place. Until the day warmed up, it wasn't feasible to fish the creek. I accelerate my plans for the day and we moved onto the Grand, where the water temps would be slightly warmer and the problems of flow ice and shelf ice would be minimized. Of course this was still no pic nic, but I figured the Patagonia fly fishing guys probably suffer from some inferiority complex around the rock climbers and extreme skiers and all, so I thought at least Bill will have something to talk about. Unfortunately due to ice melt the day before, water visibility was about 8 inches and the water flow was high. Then the wind kicked up. I had no idea what the wind chill was. After a few hours of standing waste deep in glacial gray water, it was apparent this wasn't happening. We worked back to shore and Bill commented on the ice on the back of my waders. I turned and I saw a fine glaze of ice all over him. Wow, we might not have great big frozen beards, and black frost bitten fingers, but gee whizz, we kinda looked like we had been in an extreme out door adventure! While we might not have been handing on the side of a mountain at 25.000 feet this kind of stream fishing this was pretty extreme! I said to Bill "What a great catalog shot!" Then realized, even if we had gotten a picture I doubt that we would have made the catalog. We were just a tad too old and too plump. Instead of extreme outdoor enthusiast, we looked more like a couple of glazed donuts, or at least two glazed fishing nuts! After an early lunch I was mentally scrambling for our next option. I came up with an idea that had more IF/THEN statements than a graduate level philosophy text book. We headed to a large pool on one of the smaller tribs. I broke off shelf ice and pushed it downstream and opened enough water for Bill to fish the belly of the pool. Everything was going "swimmingly" until I lost my footing breaking the ice and soaked my left hand and lower arm. (note to self, when wringing out a wet glove in cold temperatures it is important that you remove the dry glove first). As ludicrous as this seems, it worked. Bill hooked and landed several fish. And it was all so effortless! Ah symmetry! While releasing one of Bill's fish, the eye of my wading shoe caught on my net. I fell in this time soaking my right arm. But a lesson learned! I took my left glove off before I wrung out the right

Jeff Madewell Rosebud Clothing Drive

In 1999 my younger brother Jeff started a clothing and toy drive for the native people living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. You can go to the following web page and read a little bit about every year if you would like. If you do please read the first posting I think it is the best. Jeff is remarkable person in many ways. When he was little he was always interested in playing the drums. One day when he was 11 or 12 he was watching my older brother Bob and I playing guitar. We took a break and Jeff just picked up my guitar and started playing. I had heard about such things before but I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was in college and didn't have much money but I scraped some cash together and bought him an electric guitar for $15.00 the next day. Since then he has developed into one of the best electric guitarists I have ever heard, period. Right now he is primarily performing with Erin Higgins in southwestern Ohio, but he has also had some great bands, least of which was Love Junkie At 19 Jeff had a bought with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and through some strange complications he lost approximately 98 percent of his vision. In spite of this challenge he has developed a career as a performing musician, teacher and recording engineer. Every month he also provides a CD's worth of sound beds, jingles and parody songs for AM radio distribution across the US. He has an incredible work ethic but he works very hard to make a living. While many of us are content to either enjoy our success or complain about our lack of success, 8 years ago Jeff decided to initiate a clothing and relief drive for the Lakota Sioux. The success of this drive has been over whelming, and thanks to some of his dear friends and some generous corporate support he has been successful in delivering semi truckloads of goods to these folks who are in very dire straights. This spring, Jeff had some very serious medical complications associated with Histoplasmosis and he nearly died. He was severely weaken and his road to recovery in light of his work load had been arduous. Even so this year Jeff has again resumed his relief drive and for the first time, he has been invited to ride along with the trucker to deliver the 40 plus pallets of clothing toys and house hold commodities. They are leaving on the 11 th of December and returning on the 15th While Jeff is really excited to go I am asking if you could just take a moment to send a positive thought or prayer his way to grant him a safe journey and return. Thank You Steve Madewell

Arrow Creek is being promoted by Sutton Records

Today was the first day of an agreement between Madewell Music and Sutton Records involving the promotion of Arrow Creek to NPR radio stations in several regions of US and folk based stations in the UK. There will also be efforts to solicit interest and reviews from singer songwriter publications and other distribution companies. If you would like you can listen to "Is This What We Have Become" and "Climb" on Folk Alley. Folk Alley has a section called Open Mic for new and independent singer song writers to post songs. There is some really good stuff there. Check it out! Two weeks ago I did my first broad cast. I really appreciated those folks who wrote back with suggestions and requests for what they wanted to see either in future emails or posted on the web. I will take those to heart and get on it as time permits. If you would like to be added to the email list, go back to the home page and sign up! Steve

Hello Belgium!

WEBRADIO GOLDEN FLASH DJ Ray Pieters, contacted me a few weeks ago and inquired about playing Arrow Creek on his award winning web radio show. For 27 years he has been hosting his own Radioshow " Somewhere Between “ based in Westerlo, Belgium. Thanks to Ray, a few cuts from Arrow Creek are being played in Europe. Thanks again Ray! And for those who caught any of my tunes on "Somewhere Between" and decided to check out my web page, Hello and thanks for listening and visiting! Peace Steve

Hey Broadway Joe’s was a really great time!

Yes indeed it was a real treat. First of all it is wonderful for a community to have such an active arts program! Thank you Julie and Keith for having me down! Secondly it was a really really nice feelling to see “sold out show” on the flyers! Jim, your place was really nice and I just had to use that big old couch on stage. I mean why not? To all the folks that came out, thank you for being such a great crowd. Hopefully I will be back! Steve

Wound Too Tight Selected as a finalist for the Song Of The Year for the month of August!!

Sopg Of The Year is as it says, a song writing competetion, that has several catogories. I submitted Wound Too Tight and was selected as a finalist for the month of August. Here is the link if you want to see the listing Here are some of the comments from the review SONG WRITER Stephen Madewell NAME OF SONG Wound Too Tight COMMENTS ON EMOTIONAL IMPACT Your lyrics have a playful, upbeat feel as you ramble about the woes of life. The music has a solid, traditional groove that suits this song well. Your title is a perfect fit that grabs the attention and wholly reflects the song. This is a very fun song. COMMENTS ON TECHNICAL EVALUATION: Your vocals are very good. They have consistency and a very nice sound. Your music is simple but good, with a nice, upbeat acoustic groove. The melodies are simple but do a good job of setting the mood for the song. Structure is perfect, with smooth flow, smart arrangement, and a rhythm and tempo that fits the song. The production is great and could just use a little fine tuning in your final mix and the presence of the overall mix. COMMENTS ON MARKETABILITY: This may not be the most marketable song, but someone looking for a fun album track won’t be able to pass this one up.

As the summer winds down...

The last weekend of Sept. was great. Had a business trip to Indy, which provided an opportunity to stop in Dayton and listen to brother Jeff and Erin Higgins do a show at the Toll House. They were both sporting new Taylor Koas, which sounded great. Got back in time to perform an early show at the Rocky River Fest. on the west side of Cleveland on Sat. Really nice to see the partnership in that watershed coming together for such a nice event. Cleveland Metroparks was a wonderful host site. I hustled off to Geneva on the Lake to do my last afternoon show of the year at the Old Fire House and Marge and Harry showed up!Sweet to have the freindly faces, and talk with Harry about building a guitar for me! Concluded the weekend playing sunday night at a lovely barn party for Jon and Aimee. What a super evening. Again great to see familar faces, and hear so many nice comments. Hope everyone who took an Arrow Creek CD home enjoys it! Will be working on the house this week. A brief performance next weekend for a memorial dedication for Chuck Ashcroft. Chuck was the Director of the Gand RIver Parnters Inc. and he passed away entirely too early. He was a wonderful and gentle person, and he loved the song Rivers and Trails. We could all only hope to preserve a little piece of the world in our life time and Chuck did just that. I am honored to have been asked to play a song at the dedication of this Grand River access area that will be named for Chuck.

Greg Brown/Gold Cup

Saturday, MJ and I ran up to and caught Greg Brown at the Ark in Ann Arbor. The guy is a treasure. Wonderful show. Bo Ramsey opened up and also played with Greg. Bo's guitar work was so subtle and just kept building through the night. I always find it wonderful when someone slowly but surely kicks me in the pants. Ann Arbor is such a sweet little city and the Ark is a great venue as well. Big Fun. Ohh Checked out the Herb David guitar studio...I don't know, might have been a mistake. I keep preaching we all need to give up the want, but there was one guitar there that....well...i might want. Hit the road after the show in order to get back to Cleveland to do play some tunes at the Gold Cup horse show Sunday. Nice late morning early afternoon event. Saw a surprizing number of folks from the Greenville Inn days.

A couple performances with The Next Best Thing

For a number of years Al Bonnis and I played together as Late As Usual, sometimes as a duo and sometimes as a trio with my friend Vance Wissinger. A few years ago I started working on more of my original material and began doing more solo performances. All the while Al has been playing with his son Andrew who is really a very good musicain in his own right. This past week we did a couple private parties together. One night AL and I played electric guitars and we did a selection of blues and swing numbers. The next we all play "unplugged" including Andrew on an upright. Big fun all the way around!

Arrow Creek is here!

My second CD arrived just in time for a series of shows the first weekend in Sept. For now you can download a digital version through: I was so fortunate to have a very nice article appear in the in the News Herald about the CD and the activities of the weekend. Bob Hollister flew in just for the occassion! We had one crazy night of running around and rehearsing, and then we were off to the races... We did a sit down concert as a benifit for the Hospice of the Western Reserve on Friday night. Bob did a great one hour show, then I did a bout half the songs from the CD. Which by the way is named after the creek valley where Bob lives. Wine and cheese followed and a good time was had by all. All the proceeds for the evening including CD sales went to Hospice. Saturday was a similar show at the Geauga Park District's Donald Meyer Center for about a hundred folks, only this time Bob and I just took turns doing tunes. We even sang a few together! Sunday it was off to the Conneaut Cellars annual patron pic nic where we had a blast playing anything and everything that came to mind. It was a great weekend, but I sure missed Caroline Quine... She worked so hard with me, pulling and pushing me along the way during the recording process. And she also did the Graphics on the CD....Which are lovely. Oh yes the CD, in a short while it will be available through CD Baby, eventually I tunes and Digimusic. But first I have a few things to take care of in the mean time.

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    NMR and P Association,  Santa Fe
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