Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Opening day has varied meanings in different regions. To baseball fans it is the first pitch. To fly fisherman it is a morning on the stream.To Keystone state deer hunters it is the Monday after Thanksgiving when deer are hunted with rifles.For me, for many years, it is a trip to Deer Camp in Pike County and a cabin on a ridge above the Delaware river in Pennsylvania's northeast hardwood deer country.The experience and the memories begin during the drive. Beeches,Oaks and Hemlocks are framed black against the failing sun as you turn off Route 209.
When you drive off the paved road, there is the weathered grey wood sign "Camp Reform" bearing a carved outline of a high-powered rifle shell. The trucks and jeeps are parked in the wet leaves around the cabin and a dull yellow light pierces the Pocono darkness from the front window. Mounting the porch you see the jugs of spring water and the stacked cases of beer. The door always sticks so you give it a hard yank and you are met with the smell of cigar,woolen clothes,gun oil and the earnest greetings of the boys...your brethren,your hunting buddies. These are guys you went to college and law school with, as well as local old timers who grew up in and around Stroudsburg.In this cabin there is no pretense or posturing; just hunters gathered for a yearly pursuit of bucks and camaraderie unique to a hunting cabin.
At the table is Chick, 80 years old and still hunting. He wears the same black and red checked hunting cap, which is probably from a pre-war Woolrich catalogue and faded fatigue green khakis. He is fond of cranking up the wood stove and putting a galvanized pail of water on top.This arrangement gets the cabin sweltering like a botanist's hot-house...even though some years it is 60 degrees and raining outside. If you screw up and miss a shot, Chick will call you a Dutchman. He remembers guys who used to trap with your Grandfather. You covet his old deer rifle and feel privileged to talk to a sage old hunter of his wisdom and years. He says little but when he does speak we listen and it is either deer hunting wisdom or some damn funny story from a hunt 40 years back.
Benzley is at the table, a face and carriage like John Wayne and a Lucky Strike perched in his mouth. He is the Captain and you pay deference to his experience and woodsman's knowledge. He was a Marshall and a Sheriff and even in hunting clothes and a wrinkled orange cap has a distinct aura of law enforcment authority. He makes you feel welcome and will put you on a good deer stand the next morning because you are Jon's buddy from Lehigh. Benzley fries the eggs and scrapple in the morning and makes coffee that could erode a slab of Appalachian rock. He drops you off at a carefully selected deer stand in his old Chevy truck and leaves you in the cold dark morning with a wish for good luck and usually a remark about not missing.Benzley picks you up when the sun drops over the ridge and by that time of the late afternoon your cold toes and hands welcome the light glow of his headlights coming up the logginrg road.. He tells you where to watch for does and following bucks near a certain tree or stand of Rhododendron because he knows. Most of what you know about deer hunting comes from listening to Benzley and from hunting with him.
Roy stands up from the big table in the middle of the cabin and slaps your back. He asks how the goose hunting has been and wants to show you his new rifle...all the while hurling loving insults at Larry. Roy can drop a deer at 85 yards that is at a full run and put the lead projectile right in the "engine room" behind the front shoulder. Roy's wife has sent up 3 pans of lasagna for dinner. The sauce is from a jar and she uses too much ricotta...but it is filling and you eat 3 plates full out of respect. Roy can help you zero in your scope and knows the best loads for your .35 Remington for different stands where your shots are at varied distance and maybe thru thick brush.
Larry is the much loved and dumpy jester of the crew.His face is more Norman Rockwell hobo than anything else. He is in his early 70's and makes gag-inducing dandelion wine...but excellent syrup from a Maple sugarbush on his land.Larry's homemade scrapple is the best you'll ever get....made with buckwheat instead of cornmeal from a pig he kills every November. Larry has a bone saw in his garage and will butcher your deer for you.... a skill he learned in the woods but refined working at the A&P. He also dabbles in making "shine" and when you sit down, he hands you a "Veryfine" juice bottle of corn liquor that surprisingly has some color and age to it and hits the throat with less burn than you anticipate.The whiskey adds to the warmth of friendship you feel in the room. Larry is a guileless rural gentleman who asks questions about events in Philly and how the Eagles will make out. He is sure to remind you that Roy is a candy-ass and old Chick will out-hunt all of us and that John is getting uppity since being elected mayor and then Common Pleas Judge. Larry can shoot an acorn off an Oak at 100 yards and has great Navy stories. Larry used to be a bit wary because he figured you have money...but years of hunting together filed down that edge.
Jon is there at the table cleaning his .45 side arm. He carries this Colt revolver to his stand and swears one day he will drop a buck with it. A Lehigh and Law school classmate with a disarming smile,a wealth of charm and country wit and a surgical intellect and intelligence that he keeps well hidden at Camp...but unleashes on the County Bench in his role as Judge. He pitched for Lehigh,excelled in Law school and is engaged with passing to his sons the etiquette and ritual of Camp. Jon asks about the pheasant hunting, your wife and kids and makes his yearly excuse about missing the Lehigh v. Lafayette game. He spits his Skoal wad in a styrofoam cup and gets you up to date about his kids, his wife, County politics and where the deer are moving. Jon is the Co-Captain of the Camp and has killed his share of deer and knows these woods like a bookie knows the line on the Eagles/Cowboys game. Much of the ground we hunt on was taken from his grandfather by the Federal Government via eminent domain when they built the dam on the Delaware and created the Delaware Water-Gap National park. This affront still stings him and he is no fan of the Park Service or their intrusions. He knows I am from the Main Line but gives me a pass because I know what a "farmer's rain" is and because some of my people came to his County in the 1700's and because my Grandfather grew up in a house down the street from his and hunted and trapped these woods and rivers in the '20s, and because I know my way around a deer camp,and around these woods and around a duck blind and have a good bird dog of my own. You know Jon is one of the best guys you will ever know and you mentally kick yourself in the ass for not seeing him more often.
Bammer is another Lehigh crony who happens to live in New Jersey now and apologizes for it frequently. A broad shouldered ex-football player,he gives you a bear-hug and belts a shot of moonshine with you and makes sure you always have a fresh cold beer from the porch. Bammer makes the evening meal a sporting competition and can consume massive amounts of whatever is plated before him. He can drag a deer 2 miles through Pike County woods like a John Deere tractor and will always show up to help you gut and skin whatever deer you may shoot. He also expects and demands that I bring at least 2 of my Mom's Shoo-Fly pies. These are the wet-bottom variety that eclipse the cake-like junk fed to the tourists by the Amish down in Lancaster. These pies are from her great-grandmother's recipe and my Mom hits the ball over the fence every time she makes them. The pies are the first thing Bammer asks about after releasing the bear hug.Only after the pies have been produced from the truck does he ask about how things have been going since you last hunted together.
After dinner the Sunday night football game is flickering on a piece-of-shit 19 inch TV wedged in the corner. Smoke from the stove mixes with cigarettes and cigars and the stories and raunchy jokes pierce the humidity of Chick's water bucket heater contraption. Talk soon turns to where we will hunt the next morning and where the big bucks might be. A few hands of cards are played but the heat and the whiskey make you drowsy and you hit a bunk earlier than normal because you are getting up at 0-dark thirty. As you drift off and ignore the snoring and the creaking racks...you have a child's Christmas eve-like hope that you will clip the big buck the next morning. You inventory your hunting gear in your mind and the comfort and familiarity of deer camp is your last thought before sleep.
Monday, November 28, 2011
I have not spent much time reporting on the status of boxing endeavors as there has not been much to report. Things have changed dramatically. Specifically, our team has now signed a very exciting and talented young heavyweight. His name is Joey Cusamano and he hails from Virginia Beach. We have brought him up to North Jersey to train with Nelson Fernandez in preparation for a slate of fights beginning in late January. This kid is big,strong and possessed of blistering hand speed and serious athletic ability. He was 20-0 with 18 KO's as an amateur and 2-0 with 2 KO's as a pro so far...we hope and believe this is the one...the kid who can bring a heavyweight title back to the U.S.A. It will not happen overnight....but each journey begins with the first step.
Friday, November 25, 2011
After a wonderful feast at the Sportsman'a home, featuring 15 for dinner and an 18 lb. free range turkey, it was off to the Duck Hunting Club. Of course, I helped with the clean-up chores before departure so we got to the Club fairly late.My wife and I worked hard on preparation and I was not going to bug out on the aftermath.
My companion was a buddy who now lives in Ohio and comes East for Thanksgiving with family in New Jersey. Our post turkey waterfowling has become a tradition of sorts. Carl is a great friend with a biting sense of humour and a love for the outdoors. Since his move we do not see each other enough but when we do, the whiskey supply is in peril, the conversation is intense, and the clack of pool balls is a constant.
We sat at the Club bar and enjoyed the Bourbon and cold beer, caught up about our kids, and then hit the racks.... a little too late given the early pre-dawn report required of duck hunters.
Friday dawned sunny and warm,too warm...a "blue-bird day" as the hunters say....NOT optimal waterfowling weather. No action to speak of in the A.M. and we adjourned to Helen's Famous Sausage house for a post hunt repast and to re-fuel for the afternoon expedition. After breaking out the pistols and cracking away at some bottles and cans for a while, we headed to the goose pit at about 3 P.M. and saw plenty of geese...just none that were interested in our spread of decoys. I believe they were resident, non-migratory birds that are quite wily and not easily duped by plastic injection molded facsimiles of themselves. We had numerous groups fly over and around; alas none were in range and none would lock up and commit. So as darkness fell and we were treated to a tremendous sunset, we unloaded and headed in for clean up and the trip back. The "middle" season ends tomorrow so we put up the shotguns until the season re-opens on December 7th. Until then, I am looking forward to a trip to Towson next Saturday to see Lehigh hopefully smoke Towson in the FCS playoffs.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Many neighborhoods have their version of a "Turkey bowl"...which finds old friends and guys from the block getting muddy and slopping around in a Thanksgiving day game of touch football. As guys get older, there are a few kids involved....then a few more. Eventually,the game becomes more about the kids. I refer to this stage of the tradition as the "ACL-tear Bowl" as injuries can visit the creaky pins of mid-40's wanna be Desean Jacksons as easily as a rookie chef can dry out a turkey....nothing like a trip to the E.R. on Thanksgiving because you pivoted too hard trying to deke a 6th grader.
My friend and professional colleague Steve Schain has elevated one of the local "Turkey Bowls" here on the Main Line to a status so laudable, that even the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a long piece about the game in today's paper. An excerpt of same will be recorded below.
In the meantime, I applaud Steve for his effort and for what he has created. I have known Steve since Junior High and was very pleased to get re-aquainted with him over the last several years. He is a funny, intelligent,friendly guy and a damn fine father, Lawyer and philanthropist. He gives his time to his kid's teams and to the local little league and to his friends. Every neighborhood needs more guys like him.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.The following is an excerpt from the column about the Amherst bowl:
"The tradition begins with Steve Schain, so it's his story. He's a 47-year-old lawyer reliving childhood as a suburban Superdad. Only instead of a cape, he flies around Bala Cynwyd wearing an American flag bandanna on his bald head.
Nine years ago, the Amherst Bowl was just Steve calling buddies to drag their boys out for touch football on Thanksgiving morning. If they were lucky, the kids worked up an appetite and the men scored points with their wives.
"I was there the first year. It was just a few of us and it was very casual," recalls Michael O'Hare, a lawyer for mutual funds and father of Connor, 13, and Tim, 10.
Now, 127 players make up 12 teams playing five 20-minute games for neighborhood glory. They wear color-coded T-shirts and pay a $25 entry fee that lets them carb up on doughnuts and pretzels.
Schain matches the money left over after the costs are paid and donates it to children's charities. This year's list includes a foundation memorializing Charlie Schwab, a beloved Lower Merion dad who died recently.Intense competitors crave a gilded Amherst Bowl Cup, but Schain eschews such pageantry.
"If there was a brass ring," he surmises, "people wouldn't play for the fun of it."
"I want every kid to have one great play they talk about with their kids at Thanksgiving in 30 years," he adds. "I'm just trying to give every father and son a memory."
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The 147th Meeting of College Football's Most Played Rivalry was a tremendous day. The weather was crisp and clear, the Tailgate fare was delicious, the beer and drinks were liberally poured and my buddy Glenn and his son Gabe flew in from Calif. for the game. We had a great crew of Alumni from several classes and it was a blast having a few beers with the Lehigh crew and seeing all the wives and families. Perhaps the best part of the day was the sound ass-whooping the Lehigh boys put on the hapless Lafayette Leopards:37-14. This victory garnered Lehigh a bye in the FCS playoffs and we will now play Towson on December 3rd. This schedule has fomented a scramble for tickets and some hasty plans to get a crew together to go South and cheer for Lehigh...and since my daughter's school is right near Towson...an excuse to visit her and take her to the game...she has been at Lehigh v. Lafayette games since she was in diapers.....and indeed I shamefully admit I used to smuggle beers into the stadium in her snow suit back in the day...is that wrong?
After Sunday morning squash and brunch at Germantown Cricket, we dropped Glenn and Gabe at the Airport for the flight West.Then it was down to the duck hunting club for the Goose/Duck opener on Monday. We had an excellent dinner of Smoked ham, home made mac'n'cheese,greens and pickled beets,cornbread and lager as
we watched the Eagles beat that team from North Jersey....and things went downhill from there. There were few birds flying on Monday and it was a warm foggy day that featured misquitos in the blinds and a pitiful harvest of waterfowl. We are going back down to load up, put out the decoys and try again on Friday.....but because it has not been very cold up North, I fear the migratory birds have not really come down yet....so I do not expect too much. Nevertheless, it will be good to spend time with my son in the duck blind and goose pit....I only hope he does not clip me at the poker table like he did last January!
Friday, November 18, 2011
You have seen Max here before. You have seen him twixt two massive Stipers on the dock and you have seen him on the cover of a book he and his dad wrote about striper fishing. This young Sportsman has taken to the woods and we see the result. Max dropped this huge Buck in nearby Doylestown on a farm owned by one of his Dad's clients. This intrepid young hunter has not had his first girlfriend or even a driver's license...but he has had a once-in-a-lifetime Buck. Well done Max...we can't wait to get you in the duck blind or goose pit and see how you will impress us next.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I have avoided this topic over the last week. Our papers and broadcast media are flooded...it is a tragic set of circumstances and events on many levels and in many lives here in the Keystone State. I was never a big fan of this school but have many friends who went there and who are huge fans. Ironically, I am technically some kind of half-assed alumni( a notion I resist and protest with great resolve) since my Law School was purchased lock,stock and barrel by this monster institution in center County. A colleague who hails from Eerie,Penna. sent this image this morning and I thought it was shameless but clever...to the point that I thought it worthy of sharing with my small and deeply troubled set of followers.
In the meantime...all is still well in the Pennsylvania Valley of college football that is still happy.....GO Lehigh!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
As a supplement to the last post about the Lehigh v. Lafayette Rivalry...here is how the Game ended in 2009...Lehigh wins in overtime on an interception.
Love a goal line stand.
The Lehigh faithful are making ready for the 147th meeting of College Football's most played rivalry. Lehigh has already won the Patriot League Championship and is going to have a good playoff seed with a win over the hapless Leopards of Lafayette.Lafayeete has been fairly lame this Season....but as with any rivalry...they can look to salvage their season with a win over Lehigh and teams "play-up" under these type of intense circumstances...so despite the disparate records, Lehigh has to bear down to crsuh Lafayeete and finish strong.
The game is at Home this year at Lehigh....the valley in Pennsylvania that is still "Happy"...Saucon Valley... where our Stadium sits in a beautiful setting among acres of fields and groves of trees...a truly wonderful spot for Tailgating. Indeed,one of my best buddy from Lehigh is flying in from Santa Cruz, California with one of his sons for this game...big tailgate with all the guys and families. Go Lehigh....Go Engineeers!
As aside, James from "Man of the 50's" blog advises that his daughter went to the Lehigh v. Holy Cross game 2 weeks ago. As a result, James is now sporting a Lehigh cap around his neighborhood in the Mid-West...something about that image just makes me smile.
Monday, November 14, 2011
I have taken some heat from blog passers by who have a problem with killing animals. I shall defer any protracted arguments about the issue. We can agree to disagree.
However, in deference to those anti-hunting types....I offer this photo of moose hunting.
I myself have never had the desire to hunt moose.I have had the chance. I have seen many in the days back when I canoe camped in Algonquin Provincial park and kicked around the woods in Maine. I saw several recently in Steamboat, Colorado.They always seemed such stately and docile creatures...staring at you while munching a big batch of duckweed or just walking by in the woods like they could not give a damn about your presence in their patch of forest.
More importantly, I hear they are not the best eating...and I strive to only hunt what I will eat(except snow geese...but that is another story altogether.)
So if your are hiking around Maine this season, be wary, some crew of Moose may be looking to lash your behind to the top of the truck.
Friday, November 11, 2011
The print jumps off the page and slams you in the chest like the crushing checks I distributed in the crease in front of my Goalie. The print is reporting the passing of one of your lacrosse coaches from High School in the obituary section of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I generally do not read the death notices,but they are on a facing page near the weekly weather which I always check. When you inadvertantly spy a familiar face it shocks you.
The face I saw is above: Coach Neely. He was an assistant coach for my High School Lacrosse team in the late 70's and early 80's. He taught us to protect our goalie,establish the sanctity of the area in front of the goal so the Attackmen knew they would be punished if they entered. He also taught us and drilled us in the fast break slide and man-down defense. More than than the technical, he taught us to play hard but clean and to be gentleman when the final whistle blew. Lacrosse has always had the tradition of a hand-shake line up at the end of each and every game. Coach Neely taught us to be gracious winners and losers in that line. He was a great guy...I liked and respected him and now I learn he his died. Like blocking a hard shot from a Midfielder....painful.
You will note the uniform cap worn by Coach Neely in the photo...He was also a dedicated volunteer firefighter and EMT...hence there is a whole seperate level of respect and appreciation his friends and family can express to honor his memory
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
When you drive by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you see tourists literally lined up to have their picture taken in front of the "Rocky" statue. In this great boxing city it is sad that visitors revere a fictional boxing legend rather than the real thing....it should be a statue of Smokin' Joe they pose before.
Last night the Philadelphia boxing community got the word that Joe Frazier has passed away. We are all saddened by this news.
Joe was born poor in rural South Carolina...one of 13 kids. His father was a sharecropper and sometime bootlegger who lost part of his left arm to a gunshot wound. Young Joe worked hard from a young age and became transfixed by the boxing matches he saw on T.V. He began to train. They say his devastating left hook was developed by using a cross cut saw with his Dad..who had to use his right hand due to his injury. He fashioned a heavy bag from stuff in the barn and it hung from a tree limb and Joe hammered it every day for an hour.
He dedicated himself to the "Sweet Science" and eventually won an Olympic Gold medal and then the World Heavyweight title...back when that title really meant something...not the alphabet soup of belts and titles we have today.
You know the rest...the legendary Madison Square Garden fight against Ali and the loss to Foreman.
When his gloves were hung up....Smokin' Joe stayed in Philly...his adopted hometown. He ran a gym, mentored fighters and trained quite a few. He was a gentleman to those he met and he was adored by the fight fans of this City. We will miss you Champ.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
This Sunday will find Steeplechase fans from The Main Line and Southern Chester County tailgating at the PA Hunt Cup Races in Unionville, PA. The farm where these races are held is simply beautiful and is a classic example of the rolling hills,fields and woods of Southeast PA horse country. This is a smaller Meet and the purses are not comprable to Radnor or Far Hills or the Grand National. Nevertheless, this slate of races finds top notch trainers,jockeys and horses on the entry card and is always exciting. The course is rigorous,challenging and sometimes dangerous.
The smaller format makes for a more intimate afternoon of tailgating with a knowledgale crowd of afficianados....people really there to watch and wager and not just see and be seen while sucking down Bloodys and eating pate'.
Many of the events in the Steeplechase season find crowds of pretenders who are there to party,gossip,pose and puke while dressed up in a manner they think an RL advt. of Steeplechase tailgating would look like. They have no idea that horses are running and no idea what he sport is all about. Instead, they stumble and flog about with the trappings but never really get the soul of the sport. It is sort of the contrast between the May Virginia Gold Cup versus the October International Gold cup....or the difference between Far Hill in NJ and My Lady's Manor in Maryland.
This year I think Bon Caddo has a chance to repeat as winner of the main race....followed closely by Prof. Maxwell or a late challange by Private Attack.
The weather forecast is favorable, the wagering will be spirited, the tailgate spread and cocktails inviting, and we are not even going to miss the Eagles as they are playing Monday night.