Saturday, May 7, 2016

West Branch day 2

Recreation and re-creation.

I heard an alarming statistic today:  25% of children never play in the out-of-doors.  Yes, that’s right.  25%.  We were in the middle of a wide-ranging conversation as we bounced along in Dan’s pick-up truck. We were in an Angler Club’s caravan, between stops to stock trout, and so our conversation was changed subjects quickly as we got in and out of the truck.  I didn’t get to follow up on that 25% comment, really, but it stuck with me through the rest of the day as I made my way through the various outdoor activities that had been planned for Day 2 of my 3-Day Immersion Experience in the West Branch Convocation. Who would want to stay inside on a day like today?

Glenn made it up to Williamsport late last night and so he was at my side as we reported for Trout Stocking duty at 8:00 AM this morning.  Our hosts were The Rev. Veronica Chappell and her husband Dan.  While Veronica stayed home to polish her sermon for Sunday, Dan took my husband and me for a wonderful adventure that included an outing with his buddies from the Lycoming Stream Angler’s Club and then, later, to a favorite spot to hunt for leeks (ramps).  Dan has belonged to the Angler’s Club for almost a decade.  This group’s primary activity is to nurture trout fingerlings (10,000 of them annually) as they grow in a long tank/run from June-May and then to release them, in batches of 1,200 every Saturday during the month of May to boost the level of trout in the fishing waters.  These are dedicated men who take turns feeding the trout twice a day every day- in summer, winter, autumn and spring seasons. The leader of the group, Sam, told us about coming out in the winter and having to break the ice on the tank to feed the trout.  That’s dedication.  The Club also hosts a kid’s fishing derby and has an annual meeting. It’s a no-frills club that focuses on its mission.  The primary focus of this volunteer group is to fill our waters- (Particularly the Lycoming stream) with lots and lots of beautiful fish for the pleasure of the sportsmen and women who enjoy fishing.  And… there’s more.  What we witnessed in our couple of hours this morning was a fellowship and camaraderie of the highest degree.  There were probably 15 men (and one woman) in our “team” this morning who went out in pickup trucks chasing Sam and his truck that tows a big trailer with an aerated tank holding hundred and hundreds of rainbow, brown, golden and brook trout.  At each stop (they’ve got their fishing holes all figured out) everyone jumps out of their trucks and stands near Sam’s trailer, waiting to be handed a bucket of trout to carry down to the stream.  I got to carry one of the first buckets and released a 10-gallon drum filled to the brim with squiggling, lovely fish into the beautiful, clear stream.  The fish stayed, dazed for a moment, facing upstream, and then flipped over and took off, swimming for their first time in “big” water.  I loved standing around with these guys.  I loved their chatter, their camo jackets and how they smelled, slightly of cherry tobacco.  And they were kind to me.  I’m beginning to “get” PA sportsmanship.  At one of the stops that we made, there was a wooden platform built with a low railing around it- kind of like a dock on the edge of the shore- it is a handicapped access fishing spot.  Pretty cool.

We said our good-bys because we were beckoned by the call of  the wild leek. 
Dan swore us to secrecy as we drove a good 5-7 miles up a country road that turned, eventually, into a dirt road and brought us over several very narrow bridges and along a creek.  We were hunting ramps!  (Actually, there was little hunting involved; Dan knew exactly where to take us).  If I’d wanted to give away the exact location of  his secret leek spot I’d fail… it was a twisty and windy road through some of the most lovely country.  Fiddleheads, trillium, soft leaves, may apples and moss carpeted the spot where we stopped the car and we were handed a bucket and a trowel.  Just a short walk down a bank and … there… they were.  Wow.  After about 20 minutes I decided that I could stay all day, digging leeks and listening to the sound of the creek nearby in the sunlight dappled forest… but… we were on our way.

We returned to show the success of our harvest to Veronica and enjoyed a lovely meal- flavorful vegetarian chili, cornbread, fresh fruit-  and  rested up for the next event…(while Dan cleaned our leeks- God bless him- and packed them in a cooler with some trout filets, home-grown asparagus and home-made hot sauce. Wow!  What a care package from the West Branch!)

We met Nicole English at the Little League Museum and she gave us a grand tour of the museum and the entire campus, including the dormitories where the players stay, both ball parks and the new statue of Casey at Bat.  It was great.  Nicole is super-smart and full of history and information about Little League-in-general (she grew up in Williamsport, played Little League and has toured the complex and museum many times)… we felt as though we had our own private docent with us.  What’s not to love about America’s Game? 
running the bases!

We headed back into Williamsport and met our friends at Christ Church where they were getting ready to serve up a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, jello, coleslaw, rolls, desserts and drinks to a room full of hungry folks who travel to Christ Church every first Saturday for this event.  The food was being prepared and served on this day by the Penn College dental hygiene students and supported by a large group of Christ Church parishioners.  I got to wear an apron (it had printed on it, “Have You Hugged an Episcopalian Today?”) and, instead of serving much food, I ended up sitting with different guests and hearing their stories.  Over and over again, I heard of the appreciation that the guests have for Christ Church and the dedication of the workers in bringing them a meal each month; and in the personal stories I heard notes of sadness, loss and, from many of them, a hope and desire to be re-created.  This is a town that has its share of people in difficult life-spots… and they, like all of us, dream of having their wounds healed and look to a better day.  Ann Morrison shepherded me around during our visit and Carol- Queen of the Rummage Sale- took me to the undercroft/basement where I witnessed the largest – and most organized- collection of “rummage” ever collected.  (And the sale doesn’t even take place until October! They are still collecting items!)  For the record, Christ Church served almost 80 meals tonight… and also delivered another 50 to shut-ins. 
a few of the kitchen crew

a few of the guests

It was a full day, brimming with beauty-  the beauty of God’s creation, of camaraderie and fellowship, of service and of hope.


It’s early to bed as we rest up for a day that will include two services at Trinity, Williamsport and a few confirmations!  Can’t wait.

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