Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

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.

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

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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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