Strange Fruit and Other Start-Ups

1.  I had a couple of non-related flashbacks to the late 1980s. In the first one I recalled a winter night, trundling off to a movie at Alfred U., in which our four-month-old son experienced his first theater production. Woody Allen’s “Bananas” was good for belly laughs.

kits observing home improvement work outside…

As Woody’s character rose to the presidency of San Marcos, the plotting seemed a little dated but the action was fresh and humorous. Our son’s attention was undivided– even during a milk break taken while sitting on his mother’s lap. “Bananas” must have been a red flag or a jolly admonition about the future.

Image result for Woody Allen Bananas FilmThe second flashback concerned a late-night talk with Mike and Tom in 1987. We were sitting at the National Hotel in Bath, conversing on my work with Great Elm Press and about our various literary goals. We also spoke a bit about our new-found interest in the streams and trails of northern Pennsylvania.

hiking up Dryden Hill…

An old fellow, probably homeless and too drunk to see, wanted us to drop four quarters in the jukebox for a set of “country tunes.” Before I finished a selection for him, we saw two policemen entering the bar who then proceeded to arrest the guy. I approached the cops, saying, “I don’t know this man… but I just put four quarters in the jukebox for him. Can he hang around until his songs are played?”

The cops never cracked a smile .

Pine Creek caddis special…

[My thanks to the Slate Run Sportsmen blog ( which first published Part 2 of this post (without pics)]

2.   I first became acquainted with the Slate Run area in the 1980s. Making an occasional run between Virginia and western New York, I would sometimes stop at an alluring place like Pat Reeder’s Tavern on Route 44, locations I’d eventually link to an ancient Chinese drinking song– “In all these details there are secret truths; but when I try to speak of them, everything slips away.”

where I live, from Dryden Hill…

I bought my first PA, out-of-state, fishing license in 1987. I’ve returned to the wonderful trout streams such as those in the Pine Creek Valley ever since. I even published a book of poetry called The Wild Trout in response to the first two seasons of listening to the call of the Pennsylvania wilds.

In May of ’87 I participated in the first of many long hikes taken near Slate Run. To connect with my hiking pals, I had to drive my brother’s rusting and dilapidated car, stopping in Germania for directions on how to take a short-cut out to Pine. Late for my appointment at the trail-head, I drove frantically down Germania Branch then up and over the ridges, fearing that the car would die, choking on dust that mushroomed through the floor boards, in one of the most adventurous 24-mile drives I’d ever taken.

fossilized cellar stones reinforced with underlain cement & blocks…

Difficulty aside, I found that the mountains were inviting. The Francis Branch looked good for fly-fishing; the Golden Eagle and Black Forest trails could lead me away; and the Slate Run general store, hotel and tackle shop would be there to sell me anything else required for salvation.

There I was. And it’s been upstream and down, ever since.

3.   Lyman Run is one of the closest Class A trout streams to my home. I began my relationship with its four-mile stretch of special regulations water in May of 1987. I turned south from Pennsylvania’s Route 6 onto Thompson Road and found a scenic forestland of spruce, hemlock and deciduous trees. Before I suited up to fish, I was greeted by a wood turtle, a raven, and a black squirrel scurrying through the fog that lay upon the forested valley.

old square-cut barn nails…

Fly-fishing for a mile or so, I saw only two or three other anglers. Overhanging branches competed with numerous brook trout for the nymph and dry flies I presented. Lyman Run was tight with alders and hemlock boughs but the sight of brilliant native fish brought smiles of satisfaction.

Back home, I learned about an accident that had just occurred. Elsie B. had lost control of her car and crashed into a big maple tree in my yard. The car was totaled. Leighanne had called authorities and had helped Elsie from her vehicle.  Curiosity seekers drove by for the next few hours.

The driver hadn’t been seriously hurt but was ushered to the hospital. Her car had sheered off four feet of bark on the tree. An inspector came and suggested that we cover the wound with tar and black plastic. We needn’t worry about the tree’s appearance: “It looks better now than it did before.” So, no serious injuries, and we had a new “improved” version of a maple tree!

hand-hewn logs exposed at base of 19th-century house…

I spent an hour cleaning up crushed glass and litter. Elsie’s husband, Reggie, arrived and said, “If I’d known this was gonna happen, I wouldn’t of sunk so much money into the car.”  A minute later, Ed Dickerson pulled up, feigning to lose control of his truck and shouting from a window, “Oh no! I’m gonna hit a tree!”

From here on out, we were extra careful when we had our pets and children near the road.  “Bananas” was set to re-play in our heads.

a favorite hill barn…

a Slate Run brown (2019)…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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16 Responses to Strange Fruit and Other Start-Ups

  1. Dale Houseknecht says:

    Hi Walt I think we met in 1989 at ole bull fishing with rex and the Botkt gang!

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Beautiful fish, Walt. And no, cops don’t have much of a sense of humor, especially these days. I hiked the Golden Eagle Trail up to the Ravenshorn a little more than a month ago. Challenging but fun.

  3. Brent says:

    A lot of memories here, several of which illustrate that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ll deliberately leave that comment a bit ambiguous, but I’ll say I can’t wait to see how the house is turning out!

  4. You’ve covered a lot of ground here! I couldn’t remember where Alfred Univ is. I looked it up. Did you enjoy your time there?

    • Oddly enough, Alfred University is in Alfred, New York, a small village in the western sector. Yeah, I did enjoy it. Six years, two degrees, but mostly enjoyed seeing an incredible amount of rock concerts (jazz, too) at the school, starting with the Dead in ’69. I’m surprised I can remember any of this. Thank you!

  5. UB says:

    I have a small coffee can with dozens of those old cut steel nails in it. When I was a youngster, my Father would give me one and I’d try to drive it into a board. Those things would bend over easier than anything. I could not drive them in straight. I think I have that can up in Slate Run now at the cabin. Good pictures as usual – nice view from Dryden Hill, nice looking barn – don’t see any ‘saddle-back’ sway in it from that pic, and of course a nice fish. Might get back 1st or 2nd week of Aug. – Thanks for the ‘shout-out’ (to SRS website…) – thanks a lot!

    • You’re welcome, UB. I might start collecting those antique nails, myself. God knows I could find plenty of ’em in the old wood getting worked over here. Couldn’t drive one, though. I can barely drive a straight one. Hopefully the month of August will be kinder to the runs than the current month has been.

  6. loydtruss says:

    As I get older I find myself looking back on past experiences just as you have here. I’m a sticker for the old stuff, such as the barn which looks in great condition for its age. Enjoyed the journey, thanks for sharing

  7. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed your 1980s recollections here, Walt! My teen years were in the 80s, big hair, loud music and questionable style. Throw in Reagan and Thatcher, and it’s little wonder I mostly shudder looking back. Your stories remind me it wasn’t all completely bananas…
    These days, it’s less hair, quieter music (some of the same tunes, just better volume control) and no progress on the style front. As for global politics, oh dear. One almost misses the 1980s!

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