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December 05, 2016
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A little birdie told me

Claudia Chaiet, left, Cathy Paty and Roberta Byron-Lockwood greeted visitors to the Sullivan County Sportsman's Expo at the Villa Roma in Callicoon.

Dharma alerted me to animals in the road, and at first glance I thought it was horses, but a second look confirmed that it was innkeeper Victoria Lesser (www.theoldnorthbranchinn.com) out for a stroll, flanked by her gigantic (and gorgeous) dogs. Pulling over, I inquired about her next venture, since I had heard that the Inn was changing hands. “Where did you hear that?” she asked while I snapped a pic and patted the dogs. “A little birdie told me,” I replied. “Isn’t it true?” Shaking her head, Victoria informed me that although rumors were flying, the inn is up and running, ready for guests. The place is (IMHO) a local treasure, and the beautifully decorated guest rooms, cafe and antiques gallery make the historic structure a destination. When asked, Lesser told me that the turn of the century bowling alley was ready for parties, and I assured her that I would spread the news, before taking my leave.

Once inside the Villa’s convention center, I stopped at various booths and checked out the schedule of demonstrations happening throughout the day, including trapping, fly fishing and meeting some birds of prey, which intrigued the dog, but put me on alert. A crowd had formed at the base of the rock-climbing wall where Times Herald Record writer Leonard Sparks was attempting the ascent. “Uh oh, Sparks. The River Reporter is here,” one of the onlookers yelled, as I set up the camera to capture the moment, taunting him and talking smack. “You can do better than that,” I laughed, observing that one foot still on the ground didn’t count. “Strap me in fellas, I’m going up,” I shouted and dared Leonard to show me up.

Looking defeated as I scrambled up the 40-foot wall, Sparks sighed and gave up as I reached the summit and rang the bell, determined to look brave and waving at the crowd cheering me on. “Better luck next time,” I crowed, patting him on the back and reminding him that The River Reporter is always up for a challenge. Properly chagrined, Leonard shook my hand and assured me that he would “try harder next time,” as I retrieved the pup from SCVA president Roberta Byron-Lockwood’s loving arms and exited, headed for Narrowsburg, NY.