A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: April 4, 2012

It was Ray Smith Day at the Phoenicia Library, Saturday, the day before opening day of trout season.

Fitting. Ray Smith was the most celebrated fisherman on the Esopus Creek. Ever. From the 1920s and ’30s to the 1960s and ’70s, Phoenicia, Esopus, and Ray Smith were names tightly linked in he collective mind of the angling world.


A Catskill Catalog: March 28, 2012

A Sunday morning, summer of 1975 or so, in New Kingston. My neighbor had taken a morning snort or two and was feeling emotional. He motioned toward my three- or four-year-old son, running willy-nilly through the yard. “See that little shit,” he said to me, “He’s Catholic and I’m Protestant, but I love him like he was my own.”


A Catskill Catalog: March 21, 2012

Maple syrup appears nowhere in the index of History of Food, the all-inclusive standard French reference on the subject, written by the very high-brow Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat and published in 1987.

Maple syrup’s just too local, I guess, just too much of a regional food to merit inclusion in a book that claims to trace the nutritional choices of universal humanity. Maple sugar is “of only incidental importance.”

Important around here!


A Catskill Catalog: March 14, 2012

“The river is the carpenter of its own edifice.” So said Luna Leopold, engineer, geologist and father of modern water management.

I heard that quote from Wayne Reynolds, Delaware County Commissioner of Public Works, when he made a presentation last week in Fleischmanns. Forty people crowded the monthly meeting of Fleischmanns First, a village-focused civic organization of which I am a member. The commissioner came to talk about village bridges.


A Catskill Catalog: February 29, 2012

In late summer, 1938, the New York Tribune sent a reporter to the upper Delaware Valley. Tribune readers, generally affluent and educated, might be curious about the historic agricultural valley that was soon to disappear to provide water for the City of New York.