Growing up in a town where cows outnumbered people, I was exposed to country music at a young age.
At first it was vinyl and 8-track tapes. My grandmother had an old record player and a smattering of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Jimmy Dean in her collection. There was even a Hank Williams record or two. The 8-track stereo at my folks' house often played Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle.
Music was in the background of my childhood. But in my adolescence it became a soundtrack.
At first, there was U2. Then I forayed into whatever was playing on the staticky Skidmore College radio station and later, punk, hardcore, metal and even folk.
When I joined the Army in the early 1990s, country music surged back into my life. Within a few days of arriving at Camp Greaves, Korea, after boot camp, tobacco-dipping good-old boys from West Virginia, Georgia and Alabama sat me down in their barracks rooms and cranked Bocephus, Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe. They were missionaries whose calling was to convert northerners to the sounds of Outlaw Country.
From there, country became a part of my music collection.
When I was asked last Sunday to cover the 500th show of Country Express, a Delaware County band that bills itself as the "No. 1 Classic Country Band in New York," I had one of those "Wow, I get paid for this!" moments that make this job great.
In between sets at the Oneonta Elks Lodge, Country Express lead guitarist and vocalist Rob Laing said one of the secrets to the group's popularity is country music itself.
"It has a certain appeal to all generations," Laing said.
In addition to playing in the area this summer, Country Express will be performing at the New York State Fair on Sept. 3.
Laing was quick to point out the headlining musical act at the fair that day: Sugarland, a country duo born in the 1970s.
Despite what turned out be a rainy Saturday last weekend, Jason's Run was a success, according to organizer Karen Vagliardo.
After the death of her son in a 2008 motorcycle crash, Vagliardo began raising money to purchase banners, signs and bumper stickers with the slogan, "Check Twice _ Save a Life. Motorcycles are everywhere."
One of the main features of her campaign is the Jason's Run motorcycle ride that starts at the Oneonta Veterans Club.
"Even with the weather not looking great, we still did well, and we missed all the rain on our run to Richfield Springs American Legion," Vagliardo said in an email Thursday.
The group continued on to the Waterville American Legion for lunch before returning to Oneonta.
"It was a great day all in all, and we can't thank everyone enough for all of their help and support," Vagliardo said.
The emerald ash borer has arrived in yet another New York county.
In New York state, the invasive beetle was first detected in Cattaraugus County in 2009. It has also been found in Genesee, Monroe, Livingston, Steuben, Greene and Ulster counties. The latest sightings have been in Erie County, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Earlier this spring, purple emerald ash borer traps began appearing in the area in an attempt to detect the presence of the emerald ash borer, which has been responsible for the loss of tens of millions of ash trees in the country since the 1990s.
According to the DEC, damage to ash trees is caused by the larvae, which feed in tunnels just below the ash tree's bark. These tunnels disrupt water and nutrient transport, causing branches, and eventually the entire tree, to die. Adult beetles leave distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of the branches and the trunk. Other signs of infestation include tree canopy dieback, yellowing and extensive sprouting from the roots and trunk. Infested trees may also exhibit woodpecker damage from larvae extraction.
Jake Palmateer can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 221, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.