Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SO LONG "WILD BILL" We'll Miss Ye...

I first met Bill Stedman at the Redfield Hotel one thirsty night in the late ‘70s.
He was mouthing off about our President suffering from “rectal-cranial” inversion. I lost my beer out through my nose I was laughing so hard. We were shootin’ pool and he was pretty good (for an Army puke)…

We called him “Wild Bill” Stedman in those days.

He had been in a tough outfit during his service in the Army and I honor him for his service. The special training he endured in the Army is physically and mentally grueling, and any man who makes it through that deserves recognition and respect.

He was a good shot and one heckuva deer hunter and knew the Tug Hill well of course. I suppose I can say this now that he’s gone off to the great hunting ground…but Wild Bill told me he liked smoked salmon BETTER than venison sometimes. Well, I like venison a LOT more than salmon, so we agreed to swap venison for salmon pound for pound. He always gave me a tenderloin or sirloin – only the best cuts. We continued with this arrangement until I enlisted in the Navy and went away in 1980.

I haven’t seen Bill since and now I am sorry to have read his obituary. Now that he’s gone I regret I didn’t look him up when I was home on leave. He had a quick wit and a long list of jokes. He was a dependable sort and willing to help you out if you were broke. I probably still owe him like 20 bucks for beating me in 8-ball so much. Once in a while I’d beat him but I think he let me.

One time some friends and I were on the way home to Sandy Pond at zero-dark-thirty after an evening of revelry and mischief at the Redfield Hotel. Some local band had played that night and we all had a real good time. It was December and a light rain was icing up the roads so I had to drive like a Grandma. Coming around a long curve on a down slope somewhere between Redfield and Greenboro, we suddenly saw a dark figure with a flashlight in the middle of the road waving it around at an alarming rate and holding his other hand up, screaming over and over STOP! STOP! STOP! I started pumping my brakes but the tires were not experiencing any road friction on the wet ice so it took forever to get her stopped, just missing the guy with the flashlight. Then we saw the accident about a tenth of a mile down further. Looked like about 4 cars in a serious pileup in the middle of the road.

The guy with the flashlight was Wild Bill.

He was standing in the middle of the road forcing cars to stop before more cars piled up. He stood there waving that flashlight and screaming at cars until the cops and ambulances got there. Some of the cars he was stopping got a little out of control so he had to dodge them as they slid by. The man was fearless and agile. I don’t think anybody in the pile-up got hurt, but if it hadn’t been for Wild Bill stopping all those cars who knows how horrible it could have become. After he was done he just got in his vehicle and drove away.

He never mentioned it again – didn’t think anything of it I guess. The people involved in the crash don’t know it, but they owed Bill a lot after that night, maybe their very lives. Wild Bill was one of the good guys and I was fortunate to have known him only for a couple of years…we’ll miss him.

Monday, July 27, 2009

















Thursday, July 9, 2009

Greenboro - Almost Heaven

Road through Greenboro at sunrise.

Back in the day this road through Greenboro was narrow with no lines, a long quiet walk...

Littlejohn - I didn't have time to see if the old fire tower is still back there.

Nice to see a restaurant in the area these days.

This is some kind of tavern that exists near Greenboro now.

Close up of the restaurant.

The memorial near Ode's old homestead.

This old church still stands.

This is looking west, the beginning of Route 15 that goes all the way down to Sandy Pond.

I caught the sunrise here from Sandy Island Beach. Needed coffee bad when this was taken.

Sunrise is absolutely the best time to shoot photos in my book. Lately I have been catching the sunrise at Tydings Park in Havre De Grace where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay - lots of sailboats and yachts to capture there. Seems like Saturday mornings are best for this activity - few people are about before 6am. I love the solitude - helps me recharge...

During my recent visit to Sandy Pond, I awoke at zero-dark-thirty Sunday morning (June 28th) and headed to the small hamlet of Greenboro on the Tug Hill Plateau, about 40 minutes due east from Sandy Pond. If you have never visited Greenboro then perhaps you might consider it - it is a lot more "almost Heaven" than West Virginia (and everybody still has their TEETH there -just kidding!) It's much different now than it was about 40 years ago - - the trees are MUCH bigger now and I noticed there is a tavern and restaurant in the area.

I was first introduced to Greenboro by a bright young girl I used to be sweet on.

Greenboro was so different from Sandy Pond I became fascinated. The people living there seemed to be much closer and neighborly, ready to lend a hand in a heartbeat (well, many of them were related).

I was only 15 and awkward, oddly uncomfortable that there was no waterfront, no swimming, no water skiing. In those days my young psyche associated a sense of security and comfort from being able to watch the sunset over the water, not over a bunch of stupid trees. Strange how my immature mind worked at that age (Iwas pretty much a clueless pup then).

I was impressed at the amount of snowfall there during the winter months - about 3 times as much as we got at the Pond, maybe 200+ inches per season. I took that kind of snowfall for granted many years ago, but today I admit I have trouble wrapping my head around it...it is truly beautiful there after a 2 foot snowfall and the sun peeking back out, casting long shadows after supper.

Snowmobiling in this area was incredible. There was a million trails going everywhere. The snow was so deep it was like gliding on soft thick clouds. I never experienced complete silence before I had a chance to drive the old orange '69 Moto-Ski back deep into those woods and stop and turn off the engine. The deep snow would soak up all the sounds and you only heard the gentle breeze whispering in the tree-tops, with an occasional squeak or groan of branches rubbing against each other. At Sandy Pond you always heard other sleds or music or airplanes...there was only complete silence there a couple hours after the BARS closed and the revelers passed out, just before the sun popped up. (Chuckle)

A couple of friends and classmates- - Chris Ouderkirk (aka "Ode") and Greg Yerdon (aka "Bronson"), lived in Greenboro. Today Chris is the Facilities Boss at SCCS, but I have no idea what Bronson is up to.

I remember Ode's Mom Shirley was a skillful deer hunter - much different than my Mom.

I remember there was a horrible accident right in front of Bronson's house one time - a head-on collision. There was death. Sorrow permeated the neighborhood for months afterward - a very young girl had died. If my memory serves me right her name was Gay Giddings. I still get a chill thinking about that...everybody was trying whatever they could do to save them just after it happened. It is a remote area and it took forever for the ambulance to arrive. Enough about that.

I also remember Bronson's baby brother was attacked and mauled by their family dog, a St. Bernard. His face got chewed up pretty bad. Very bizarre.

I learned some important life lessons in Greenboro:

  • Watching the old "HEE HAW" comedy show with good country folks is better than watching American Idol, CSI, and Andy Griffith simultaneously.

  • If anybody EVER puts you up to shooting a skunk with a deer rifle, make absolutely sure you miss it. If you hit it with a 30 caliber bullet it will explode stinky skunk juice all over the area and gag everybody for days afterward...I still don't know why it was to be shot. I aimed low and shrugged my shoulders while it fled. After that incident I had a reputation in Greenboro of being a poor shot. So what. Not sure how I could be a good shot anyway with a strange gun I had never fired before in a strange place aiming at something I would never eat...

  • I never want to witness a bull becoming a steer again. I was asked to help castrate a young bull being raised for beef, but ended up only watching the grisly procedure. I never went back THERE again - THAT guy deliberately scared the Bejesus out of me for his own reasons...which was uncalled for but funny when you think about it. I was just a young impressionable kid that was probably begging to be scared anyway.

  • NEVER agree to sleep in an unheated room during the winter months if you staying at a friend's house in Greenboro. You WILL freeze your frigging butt off - and you BETTER not complain the following morning, or you will be labeled as a PUPPY from Sandy Pond (which actually was pretty damn accurate in those days.)

I suppose I could ramble on but it would be interesting to only a very few people. I am surprised by the vivid nature of my memories there.

The Littlejohn Wildlife Management Area is in that area too. There was (is?) a tall fire-tower at Littlejohn to use to spot forest fires. Lightning tends to spark fires in the woods once in a while. I and some of my buddies used to go there back in the day and climb that tower for fun - I have old-school 8mm movies of that.

I hunted deer in the Greenboro area a few times with my Springfield 30-06, but all I ever could get in my sights was a disappearing white tail bounding away at an alarming rate. I'll admit I was a novice in these woods and I had a great deal of respect for the guys (and gals) who were successful in their deer hunting there. I prefer hunting ducks at Sandy Pond - - I was truly in my element there. Ducks are small targets traveling 60 mph - a tad bit more plentiful and challenging (and not as gross to gut and dress).
I noticed some kind of memorial stone posted in Greenboro just up the road from the old church. Perhaps that's relatively new. Amazingly, that old church across from Ode's old homestead is still standing. I wonder who takes care of it?

Some things never change and that's a good thing.

The light of the sunrise was incredible when I took the photos. The angles of the shadows enhanced the peacefulness of this place that I'll never... forget. Wish You were there...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alumni Banquet, Visiting Sandy Pond

A good meal with old friends - brother Pete still likes to sport the long hair...

Dad's boat - now it's my turn to take care of her.

Front: John Didden, Stephen Kappesser.
Back: Carol (Hilliker) Didden, Barb Clark, Dee (Miles) Yerdon, Roxanne (Janacek) Ferguson.

We recently visited old friends and family at Sandy Pond and surrounding area. I hadn't been there since 2005, after my Dad, Ed (Kap) Kappesser passed away.

Sorry to say it's been a hard 4 years for us since - Yahweh dragged us through the Valley and now we are MUCH stronger for it:

In 2006 Barb had to defeat breast cancer. I prayed I wouldn't lose her for I then would need to crawl into a hole and die.

It was a true blessing to be a short drive from Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is the best in existance (ask any doctor).

Barb endured a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. She volunteered for a clinical trial in which they administered chemo and radiation simultaneously - a one-two punch. The doctors report that it is very successful so far - hundreds of women have benefitted from this treatment.

My Lord and our wonderful church family and friends (especially at Towne Baptist Church) pulled us through that deep, dark valley with many acts of raw unconditional love and kindness and even more prayers...Barb is still cancer-free.

At the same time Barb was sick, our young daughter Sherry got mixed up with some thugs and found herself in very serious trouble with the law, facing 10 years in prison for armed robbery. THAT was a nightmare. We prayed and asked all who we knew to pray...

The assistant States Attorney recognized the situation with Sherry so she convinced the Judge to have mercy - - so she did 30 days in the slammer and 2 years probation. Again, the prayers of many prompted our Lord to help Sherry. She's OK now - all that's in her past.

2007: I tore up my shoulder lifting a concrete slab building our raised-bed garden. I had to endure rotator-cuff repair surgery. Luckily the orthopeadic shoulder surgeon for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team (and Director of Shoulder Orthopeadics at Johns Hopkins) Dr. Steven Petersen, agreed to repair the shoulder. He's a good man...talk about answers to prayer. It's great to witness a guy who knows what he is doing. I was on disability for 12 weeks and it took 10 months for the pain to go away (Thanksgiving morning it disappeared!). I am still doing physical therapy. It's strong and getting stronger now.

This year God has blessed us with vigor, resources, time, and joy so we decided to finally visit the Pond again.

My siblings Kip and Amy are going through somewhat hard times now so I urged them to pray and their hard times will pass. I'd give them money but that would accomplish nothing. We all have our valleys.

June 26th Barb and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary at Sandy Pond. If you had told me 27 years ago that I'd be celebrating our wedding anniversary, I would have spit in your eye. Back then, anniversaries were for geezers. Not anymore.

The annual Sandy Creek Central School Alumni Banquet happened to occur on June 26th, so we hopped in the fambly truckster and whisked ourselves northward to attend.

We got to take a tour of the SCCS campus thanks to some fellow National Honor Society youngsters, and then enjoy the banquet among a few of my classmates from 1972: Dee (Miles) Yerdon, Roxy (Janacek) Ferguson, John Didden, Carol (Hilliker) Didden, Barb Clark, and my younger brother Pete.

Also chatted with Mama-Sue Bitz and said hello to Dr. Patty Ledden as they were inducted on SCCS' "Wall of Distinction". I have deep respect and love for Sue - she has a big heart and a keen mind.

They let me say the opening prayer for the banquet and to my surprise I didn't choke up.

I kept the prayer was short and solid - hitting at the heart of my Faith.

I prayed in the name of MY Saviour, Jesus Christ - an oh my gosh I said His name out loud at a sanctioned public school event. (So what are they gonna do, take away my birthday?)

Not a problem at SCCS - people there recognize and respect The Faith.

A couple of people complimented me on the prayer later - Christian brothers and sisters are everywhere -!

We stayed at the Acutec Lodge (it's a big cottage) on Sandy Pond's waterfront next to Jo Maas' home. My old friend Rob Smith's company owns this pretty place and he was drumming up business in Paris with his wife Nancy at the annual international air show so the cottage was ours for the weekend - thanks so much Rob and Nancy!

It is a beautiful place to stay...and of course we did not touch one drop of all the wine stored there (probably enough to stock a cruise ship...?)

Not that it's a bad thing to have a unique selection of the grape.

I visited with my old friends Jo, Brenda, Dan, and Pam Maas, who were throwing a graduation party for their progeny on the shore next door. I discovered that Brenda's daughter Alyssa can sing like a bird strummin' her guitar - keep rehearsing, girl. She sang many of my old favorites by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. I got to sing harmony on one tune...

Saturday morning I took a trip to the other shore and discovered my former crony and partner in mischeif Johnny McClellan drinking coffee on his patio at 6am. I hadn't seen Johnny for 27 years...we caught up for an hour and it was like no time had passed at all.

These people mean a lot to me and it was great to catch up a little.
The trailer I brought to pick up Dad's old boat was inadequate so we towed nothing home - laughing about our new "invisible" stealth boat...
I'll pick up the boat later - looking forward to making her seaworthy again.
I took photo opportunities all over: Wigwam Hotel, Sandy Island Beach, Greene Point, Seber Shores, Sandy Creek, Pulaski, Smartville, Wheat Hill at sunrise, Little John Preserve, and Greenboro. These were all my favorite places - home of many fond memories and friends ...wish you were there...
I'll post photos later...