Sunday, December 21, 2014

A good view on law enforcement

My family suffered yet another sudden tragedy last week, which is why posting has ground to a halt. I'll touch on that later.

In the meantime, a friend of mine from my newspaper days posted this to Facebook today, and I felt it deserved a bigger audience. He definitely leans left, and I rarely see eye to eye with him on social issues, but his post made a lot of sense to me. I had a few quiet minutes at work, and copy/paste is quick and easy, so read on.

                                  * * *

Such a terrible tragedy today in New York. We've had far, far too many this year in the United States.
None of them needed to die. Not the police officers in New York today, not Eric Garner, not the officers in California, not Tamir Rice, not Michael Brown, not the officers in Nevada, not Bryon Dickson.

And don't blame this on an urban or black or cultural thing. The coward who shot the officers today might have been in a gang, but the cowards who killed the officers in Blooming Grove, California and Nevada were white, anti-government fanatics.

We need to have an honest discussion in this society about how we treat police and how they treat us.

They cannot see civilians only when they are committing crimes or in danger.

And we cannot see officers only when we are in danger or we misbehave.

We have to see each on our streets. In our churches, in our stores and know each others' names.

Certain parts of society need to learn that in areas of this country the police don't have a great reputation for honesty and integrity.
And certain parts of society need to see police as part of their community.

I don't know how we change it. I'm not that smart.

But I do think there are some things that should be obvious at this point.

Training needs to be improved. Spending money on war vehicles doesn't seem to be as valuable as getting extra men and women in uniforms and on the streets.

Officers shouldn't just be in schools to guard against the next shooting, but so that a little kid can see an officer smile at them and ask them how they're doing.

There aren't enough female and minority officers in the field.
And we need to look at each other beyond seeing a badge dividing us.
We need to look at each other for who we are: brothers and sisters, countrymen all.

And here's a little tough love for both sides of the divide. If you're an officer and someone on your squad is doing something immoral, you speak up. You don't just owe it to us, you owe it to yourself. And if you think the police are keeping you down, stop generalizing. We all know there are bad apples in every profession. Don't confuse the good guys with the bad guys.
I keep thinking about my 3-year-old.

Michael loves seeing police officers when he's out and about. I'm fairly certain he wants to be four things when he grows up: Iron Man, Batman, a firefighter or a police officer.

Two weeks ago, we were sitting in a hoagie shop in Wilkes-Barre when two State Troopers sat down next to us. He stared at them then asked, "Are you a police officer?"


"Are you a good guy?"

The other officer laughed as the older one said, "We try to be."

He looked at the officer's gun. "Do you shoot people?" He has no boundaries. And, in our house, we often talk about how good people don't shoot people.
The officer who was laughing stopped. They both paused and looked at each other. I looked at them, hoping they weren't offended. I partially wanted them to pull a bait and switch.

The officer said they hoped they never had to shoot anyone.
Michael went back to his hoagie and the younger officer reached over and patted him on the shoulder.
"You be good, Santa's watching."

"You know Santa," Michael asked.

"We do."

Those are the interactions that can save a community.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Deer Camp

Tomorrow is the last day of PA's rifle season, and our camp will be makin' the last minute push to get some deer on the ground. I stumbled on this article from a local rag the other day, and it got me to thinkin' about the ol' timers who have made their final trip to camp... a day we all must face at some point.

* * *

By AD CRABLE | Staff Writer


 John M. Herr has been making the pilgrimage to the Stony Battery Hunting Camp in Centre County since 1936.

That was the year he turned 18 and was out of high school. His father, John H. Herr, felt strongly about the importance of a good education and did not allow his eight children to miss school, even for deer camp.

The only years Herr did not make it to deer camp were the three during World War II when he was in a B-17 as the lead bombardier on bombing missions over Germany.

When he got home, his father died suddenly a week after deer camp. The oldest in the family, he took over running things.

But deer camp was a touchstone that was always there and didn’t disappoint.

He’d push deer and take his turn as a stander with his .35 Remington that he’s had since the 1930s.

Now, at age 96, for the first time, he may not make the drive this weekend to his beloved deer camp that’s been a fixture for generations of Herrs since 1907.

The retired carpenter hadn’t hunted for three years. “I just can’t walk the hills anymore,” he says matter-of-factly from his Kirkwood home where he lives with his younger sister, Verna Herr, 92.

“I just didn’t want them to worry about me while I was out hunting.”

Understandable since the camp has always done its deer hunting with strenuous drives up and down mountains. “When I first started, you never even heard of a treestand,” he points out.

The old hunter’s last deer drive was in 2008 when he underwent heart bypass surgery.

But he remained camp cook until two years ago. The hunters awoke to sizzling sausage and scrapple each morning to get the oomph to get over those mountains.

But Herr still oversees paying the camp’s bills, as well as the log of who gets a deer — and who misses.
And he’s always been in camp for, like, forever. And he always stays two weeks. He was there in October for the annual woodcutting weekend. He didn’t tell anyone then he wouldn’t be in camp for the season opener Monday.

That’s because he just made the decision a few weeks ago. Various health issues forced his hand. He’s had heart bypass surgery, a hip replacement and two ailing knees that were never replaced.

“I’m going to miss it, you better believe,” he says. “I will miss everything. The fellowship. I’ll miss all of that and they’ll miss me too.

“We had a fellowship that you won’t find in most camps. We just got along. It was always that way.”
His brother, William, 92, who has heart problems, won’t be going either, not that that’s any consolation.
At one point in the interview, when asked what he will miss most, John Herr blurts out, “I’m not saying I won’t go up.” He does drive to camp by himself each year.

But his sister quickly responds, “ I am saying you won’t go up!”

That defiant notion suppressed, Herr gets back to imagining a deer season without deer camp.

“I’ll be thinking about it, yeah,” he says. “You can’t get that out of your head. That’s part of life.”

Many deer camps can be on the rustic side. But for almost 40 years, Charles W. Book and fellow hunters braved the elements in tents or two primitive open-sided stone shelters in a clearing off a dirt road in Potter County.

The dinky 5-acre Prouty Place State Park was the setting for a lifetime of memories for “Bud” Book, 85, a retired Lancaster city firefighter.

Fellow bowhunters George Martin and Henry W. “Hen” Fischer and others made the pilgrimage, same time each year, for the archery, rifle and flintlock deer hunts.

Eventually, the shelters, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, were torn down and the hunters set up large tents and placed tarps over picnic tables to eat.

Heat was generated by a good sleeping bag and light by gas lanterns.

Over time, Book lost many of his hunting companions. Then, Fischer, too, was gone.

Around the time Book retired, in 1989, he started hunting back in Lancaster County on a farm in Drumore Township.

He hunted there for years until his knees got so bad he had to walk across the fields with a cane to get to his treestand. Eventually, it got too hard to climb into the tree-stand.

In a completely satisfying transition, Book started putting his son, Charles “Chuck” Book, and grandchildren in the treestand while he kept a watchful eye below.

“I didn’t even take my gun along then,” he recalls. “I just went down because I wanted them to get a deer. I’d let them sit up in my treestand and I sat under the tree. I’d be half asleep and I’d hear their gun go off and it would scare the daylights out of me.”

He was present when his grandson, Garrett, got his first deer, a doe, with a flintlock. And when another grandson, Zach, got his first doe with a rifle.

Zach was eager to take the deer home to show his mom. Book told Zach’s dad, Mike Daminger, to take over the treestand. By the time he drove his grandson home, his son-in-law also had taken his first deer.
A few months after Garrett got his first deer with Book’s original .243 rifle, he found it wrapped under the Christmas tree. Book bought another .243 and gave it away also when Zach bagged his first deer.

“I loved going out with my grandkids,” he says. “I was just never interested in getting a deer when they were along. I just wanted to see them get one. As a matter of fact, in later years I wasn’t even interested in getting a deer. I believe I got a little mellower as I got older and I didn’t want to kill anything.

“I’d aim at them, put the crosshairs on them, take the safety off and say, ‘Gotcha!’ then put the safety back on and put the gun back down on my lap. I did that more than once. Now, anytime a nice buck would come along, I wouldn’t have done that.”

He remembers the oldest hunts most vividly. “Some of my best hunts were Hen, Chuck and me. We’d build a campfire every night and talk,” he says.

Book hasn’t gone on a deer hunt for close to six years now. But he’s OK with that.

“I have grandsons and a granddaughter who love hunting. I’ve just had a good life. I never got many bucks but I always had a good time, and that’s what’s important.”

Ad Crable is a LNP outdoors writer. Email him at Read his outdoors blog at Follow him on Twitter at @AdCrable.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Huntin' Weekend

This was one of my long weekends, and bein' the middle of the rifle season, I planned to spend all of it huntin' somethin'. Friday, I planned to spend explorin' Loyalsock State Forest in Northeast PA and try to find a bear to track down. Saturday, I'd be huntin' around camp for the doe opener, lookin' for some easy meat. Monday would be another day to clean up any tags yet to be filled.

Of course, they call it huntin' and not killin' for a reason.

Friday's hunt coincided with some purty bad weather movin' in. I had a great time explorin' the Loyalsock, but damned it I didn't even see a critter at all, not even a squirrel. I saw plenty of deer tracks and cut four sets of bear tracks, but none of my sets worked out. I hiked almost four miles around the McIntyre Wild Area.
I found several places where bears
had gone out of their way to walk
the length of a nearby log.

One side of the split hollow I was watchin' on my third sit.

Purty little spring I crossed on the way out.

As the light started fadin' and the mist moved in, I worked my way back to the truck. By the time I got back to the truck and got situated for the drive to camp, it was just damned ugly out.

The ugliness continued all day Saturday. Just cold, wet, nasty shit. By the time we all converged back to camp on Saturday night, we were a buncha drowned rats with borin' stories of no deer movin', with only one deer and a few shirttails hangin' on the meatpole. Given the shittiness of the weather there wasn't much in the ways of pictures bein' taken.

Of course, today is absolutely beautiful, albeit a bit chilly. We did some light chores around camp, and I took a few minutes to soak in the hot tub with a few cold ones. We got it rough here at camp, fer sure.

Spanky and I are huntin' tomorrow yet... hopefully the good weather carries over and we can find a few deer to bring home...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My condolences to the Main Line...

In my previous post, I linked to one of many awesome reads from the Main Line Sportsman.

I had noticed that he hadn't posted for a while. I finally looked a little further into it, and was incredibly saddened to find that he succumbed to a heart attack at the end of October.

We had talked a few times about making plans to meet up for a waterfowl hunt, but they always fell by the wayside. Part of my sadness is that I never got to meet the man in person.

Godspeed, Andrew, and may the duck-filled marshes of Heaven be every bit as good to you as they were down here.

* * *

Andrew K. Touchstone, 51, of Gladwyne, a Philadelphia lawyer and small-game hunter who loved to work his bird dogs in the marshes of Delaware, died of a heart attack Tuesday, Oct. 21, at his home.
A Bryn Mawr native, Mr. Touchstone graduated from Harriton High School, Lehigh University, and Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law. He was a longtime resident of the Main Line.
His first job was with the law firm Swartz, Campbell & Detweiler in Center City. He worked for several more years at Smith, Giacometti & Chikowski before starting his own firm, Touchstone & Associates, in 2005. The firm specializes in workers' compensation cases and commercial litigation.
Outside the office, Mr. Touchstone had widely ranging interests. He was an avid waterfowl hunter, and enjoyed training and dispatching his bird dogs to flush out ducks and geese.
He enjoyed serving as a boxing agent and manager for a few fighters as well as hosting a weekly radio show on boxing.
Mr. Touchstone loved lacrosse, having played through middle and high school. He also was a music aficionado, his favorite style early Motown. He was a partner and owner of Chris' Jazz Club in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2005.
Mr. Touchstone blogged on his website - Main Line Sportsman - about his hobbies. On Sept. 8, for example, he told how to make dove breast empanadas from several "fat, healthy birds" he had killed.
"Ultimately, after all the preparation and the placement of decoys and the time in the field, it becomes about the eating," he wrote.
"I winged the recipe [no pun intended] and sautéed some shallots and added the chopped breast meat and two tablespoons of peach-pecan jam. . . . I reduced liquid and then cooled the mixture. After folding the meat into circles of Pillsbury crescent roll dough - and baking - these appetizers were a huge hit during cocktails."
Mr. Touchstone was also known as a reader and knowledgeable historian, and for having a vast vocabulary and a legendary sense of humor.
His passing "leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of life for many friends and family," said his relatives.
Surviving are his mother, Phyllis; his wife, Teri; daughters Elizabeth and Courtney; a son, Joey; two brothers; and nephews and nieces.
A life celebration will be held at noon Saturday Oct. 25, at 444 Devereux Dr., Villanova. Burial is private.
Donations may go to Diversified Community Services of Philadelphia, via, or to the Andrew K. Touchstone Fund at the Adirondack Foundation,