Off the Northway: Children, photos and pumpkins

We had an arresting front-page photo the other day. A Texas toddler whom folks call “Gator” was show

We had an arresting front-page photo the other day.

A Texas toddler whom folks call “Gator” was shown laying a hand protectively on a stack of buttered pancakes, shooting someone a look usually seen on a sheriff who’s tiring of hearing a dubious alibi and is now late for lunch.

If they’d been pumpkin pancakes, it would have been a great seasonal photo — or at least would have had the basic elements of one.

Cute kids and human emotion — even if what’s being expressed is resentful gluttony — are staples of newspaper photography.

And now we’re into harvest season, and the photo possibilities involving pumpkins, gourds and toddlers are — well, obvious, if not endless.

I once worked at a paper where “small child, large vegetable” was a staple photograph of the day in the fall. As I say, it’s a clever idea, but the possibilities aren’t endless.

This may not be a good year for staging such dramatic contrasts, though. Giant pumpkins are going to be in short supply.

It was so rainy this year — even in places that didn’t flood — that pumpkins maybe got planted late, or many of them rotted on the wet ground in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee.

“The rainfall this year has been terrible,” said Barbara Hanehan of Hanehans’ Pumpkins in the town of Saratoga. She estimated the farm will have only one-third its usual crop.

“With Irene, the pumpkins just seemed to take that water in and then rot early,” she said.

There will be plenty of pumpkins — albeit small ones — when Hanehans’ farm is on a Saratoga County farm tour today, but later in the fall she expects to run out.

Nearly all fresh pumpkin sales occur from late September to Halloween, when people want decorative pumpkins or jack-o-lantern makings. Prices, not surprisingly, will be higher, though the shortage is a regional one, not national, as happened a couple of years ago.

But growers like to emphasize the eating potential of the orange globes. Roasted and in pies, they offer nutrients and fiber. Canned pumpkin can be baked into a custard-pudding dish without bothering about the pie crust — a fall staple at my house — or it can be mixed into pancakes.

Gator would probably enjoy pumpkin pancakes, once he’s done questioning suspects.


Two of the men behind Saratoga County’s big infrastructure projects are retiring.

William Simcoe, who left the city of Albany in 2007 to become the founding executive director of the Saratoga County Water Authority, has retired. It was under his supervision that the water treatment plant in Moreau and the massive piping system from there to Malta have been built, with all of the delays and hiccups that go with starting something new.

“He did a great job,” said authority Chairman John E. Lawler.

Lawler said that in the early days, it wasn’t clear if the water system — critical to attracting the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant to the county — would even be built.

“At one point we had a $3 million grant, and the state had basically reneged on the other $30 million [which later came]. We didn’t know if Global was going to come or not, and we were laying pipe every day,” Lawler said.

Cash was so tight that contractors would be paid and as soon as they cashed their check, Simcoe would go to the bank and get a photocopy and drive it to Albany so it could be reimbursed from the state grant, Lawler said.

“The guy was working and not even knowing if he would have a job in a month,” Lawler said.

At the other end of the county infrastructure system, James DiPasquale will wrap up his career as executive director of the county sewer district at the end of the year.

DiPasquale, who started in 1996, is only the third director the sewer district has had since it was established in the 1970s.

Replacement searches for both men are just getting started.

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