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Essex

The term blizzard gets overused, but today it looks like the genuine article is upon us. To be a true blizzard, you need winds of 35 miles per hour or better, visibility of less than a quarter mile, and snow fall lasting more than three hours. I would add the cabin fever factor, which coops one up in the house unwillingly and leads to crankiness, excessive television viewing and four wheel drive envy.

An avid reader commented on all the robins around town, and wondered why there seem to be so many. I did a little research and found it's not unusual for them to overwinter in this latitude, although they sensibly and more commonly are found in the Bahamas and Florida. They are among the earliest birds to return in the spring, and subsist on invertebrates, fruits and seeds. Since last summer was nearly perfect for plant growth, I suspect there's a lot of feed to sustain their numbers. The birds we're seeing may be waiting here until the weather improves and they can continue northward to breeding grounds, which stretch up to the Arctic tundra.

My new career is that of museum docent, at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum on the old base in Plattsburgh. It's mostly a collection of cars, featuring two Loziers. The Lozier family was from Ohio and made a fortune building high quality bicycles and sewing machines. Friends in Saranac Lake suggested Plattsburgh as the perfect site for their next endeavor, pleasure boats and marine engines. They built a factory where Georgia Pacific now stands and made beautiful, expensive and reliable water craft. After the patriarch died, younger family members turned to car building and in 1905 sold their first one, an aluminum bodied touring model that went for $4,400. In 1905 the average annual income was about $800, a house cost $2000, and the finest Mercedes Benz went for $2,400. The cars were hand built to irrationally high standards, used 24 carat gold for the pin striping, and were road tested for 500 miles around the Adirondacks before delivery. It's a fascinating story- more next week.

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