[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 11, 2006

$100M Glass Works Village Proposed
Developers have clear view of hamlet’s future . . .

By Jarrett Carroll and Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — As the town holds community meetings to plan for its future, a giant $100 million mixed-use development near the YMCA and elementary school was proposed at yesterday’s planning board meeting.

"I don’t want to get into the minutiae of the site plan this evening," Chairman Stephen Feeney told the applicants. "This is the beginning of the process."

The new development is called the "Glass Works Village" — a name suggested by the town historian, Alice Begley. The name refers to Guilderland’s glass-making factory, founded in 1785 on the banks of the Hungerkill, known as the Glass House. It was the largest glass-making factory in the country at the time.

The proposed project would include 345 condominiums with 195,000 square-feet of retail and commercial space, a village green, a nature preserve, and three parks on 57 acres off of Winding Brook Drive and Western Avenue.

According to Platform Reality Group, partners in the project, the proposed village is designed to honor the town’s history and encourage residential interaction with a "walkable mix of homes, shops, offices, and parks."

"It will have a village feel to it," Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise. "It will create some identity for the Guilderland hamlet."

Atlantic Pacific Properties, Platform Reality Group, and DRA of Troy, which are proposing the project, made a presentation to the town’s planning board yesterday evening.

"I love the idea of it, but now we really need to look at the details," the town’s planner, Jane Weston, told The Enterprise earlier this week. Weston added that traffic impacts and design issues will have to be thoroughly discussed before serious consideration can be given.

"Over 50 percent of the property is going to remain green space," said Runion.

A decade ago, a different Guilderland Town Board turned down a proposal to re-zone the same area as commercial. Developers Salvatore Beltrone and Joseph Lucarelli, known as B&L, had proposed 210,000 square feet of retail and office space and 26 single-family homes, scaled back from its original proposal of 260 units of senior housing.

Anne Rose, then a councilwoman who voted against the plan, said at the time, she could not vote for a re-zone "which could give the developer an opportunity to build the most intensive level of development on this property""

Timothy Sheehan, another councilman who opposed the plan, said at the time, in December of 1996, "We have a lot of retail space in town already. The developers may be barking up the wrong tree."

The B&L proposal was initially tied to the building of the YMCA facility; the YMCA proceeded with its project after B&L was turned down.

The Glass Works Village proposal comes less than a week after a workshop was held at the Guilderland firehouse, which gave residents a chance to participate in the planning for the future of a strip along Route 20, which the planners refer to as a hamlet.

The workshop defined the "Guilderland Hamlet" as stretching between routes 155 and 146 along Western Avenue, and surrounding areas south to the Normanskill and north to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

"It’s still in the preliminary stages," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday of the Glass Works proposal. "I’m not going to say anything negative about the project at this point." He did add, however, that preliminary estimates show the project will bring a very promising tax base to the town.

"We have been working for a long time to identify the right site for this project. Glass Works Village will incorporate the traditional village concept that has proven successful for hundreds of years," Daniel O’Brien, director of the project and president of Platform Realty Group, told The Enterprise.

"That village, walkable community, I think is very important," said Runion.

Partners in the Glass Works Village project include O’Brien; Dominick Ranieri, who is a principal in the architecture and planning firm DRA of Troy; and Joseph A. Sausto, who is a real estate professional and attorney with Platform Realty Group.

The partners presented their proposal to the planning board Wednesday in hope of receiving planned unit development zoning.

A planned unit development is a re-zone approved by the town board that allows greater design flexibility than traditional zoning. PUDs are generally used for mixed-use developments on large plots of land with the intention of achieving flexible architectural design.

PUDs also have a mix of compatible land uses including varying residential and commercial use, while making creative uses of open space to preserve key natural or historic features. It clusters buildings onto smaller lots than usually permitted, while maintaining the same permitted density to the overall area.

"The town we build tonight will help build the community," Ranieri said. "People are searching for a coherent community. We believe GlassWorks Village will strengthen the community"enriched by social interaction."

Planning board’s reaction

At the agenda review, Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the proposed development does not meet the description of a PUD request.

"It’s just developed every piece of the property," he said. "If there’s a huge mitigation, okay"but [the applicants] are murky about the $1,500 per site rec[reation] fee."

Board member Thomas Robert said that the proposal "is a big chunk of high-density development" when the town is "trying to ease up."

"We need that type of housing"instead of McMansions," said board member Terry Coburn.

At the meeting, Feeney said that some of the "design elements are excellent." But he added, "This is full development of the site, as I see it, which is fine""

Feeney said that the applicants have honored the required setbacks, but that every amount of available space has development planned for it. He told them that wetlands cannot be calculated into the plan as active usable open space.

Steep slopes and water areas are in the forever wild portion of the property, Ranieri said earlier.

Feeney asked him to better define green space on the plan.

Feeney also noted that the town wants to conserve the natural topography of the site, but that the plan calls for "major digging out." He said that construction would remove 200,000 tons of material from the site. "That’s a significant amount of material," Feeney said.

The plan provides for three small parks, but not playing fields or other recreational areas. Feeney explained that each new home built in the town is subject to a $1,500 recreation fee because the town provides for the recreational needs of the residents.

Feeney touched briefly on several environmental issues related to the project. Near a proposed pool and clubhouse, the plan depicts a ravine crossing that shows little conservation of the site, Feeney said.

"What is the impact versus the benefit" That concerns me," he said.

Feeney noted that stormwater management must be an integral feature of the site.

He looked at three separate residential portions of the plan, and said that their garage-dominated profiles were not in the character of the proposal.

"It’s sort of celebrating the automobile. Clearly, traffic’s a huge issue."

The planning board received a traffic study of the area on Wednesday, he said, but had not yet examined it. Feeney said that the traffic study would be critical to the project.

Overall, the board supported the concept. Board member Paul Caputo said that the proposal would be a "good use of the property."

Board member James Cohen, however, said, "In a town grappling with tremendous growth, this is practically an explosion."

The planning board voted to concur with the town board’s request to be lead agency for the project.

At Wednesday’s meeting, representatives from a number of organizations — the town’s Pathways Committee, the Guilderland Hamlet Association, the YMCA, the Guilderland Public Library — all voiced support for the proposal. Several nearby neighbors have voiced concerns about lighting, traffic, and water runoff.

Hamlet workshop

Several dozen residents, and many of the town’s leaders went to the Guilderland firehouse last Thursday to listen to a presentation by Behan Planning Associates of Saratoga Springs, and to tell the planners what they want to see in their community.

The Hamlet Planning Workshop, as it was called, is one of several Guilderland has held after hiring Behan to develop a comprehensive land-use plan for the town. Last Thursday’s workshop began with an introduction by Runion and John Behan. The workshop is a part of a project which is partially funded by a grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee’s linkages programs.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss land use, bicycle and pedestrian opportunities, and transportation issues throughout the hamlet. Runion called the meeting an important part of the town’s planning process, and an opportunity for residents to be active participants in the future of their communities.

The workshop will be used to identify a vision and long-term plan for the area, as well address development patterns, land uses, and transportation needs and options, according to Runion.

"They all seemed very consistent," Runion told The Enterprise about the resident’s reactions, saying the area’s identification was a key theme to the meeting.

Begley gave a presentation, as well, describing the historical hamlet’s significance to the town. With the town’s first industry in the hamlet, glass-making, the area has historically and recently become the town’s center, she said, even though it is not the geographic center. The hamlet of appropriately-named Guilderland Center is at the center of town.

The Behan planners asked residents to break into groups and discuss a range of issues and how they would propose to deal with them. Among the issues were:

— Transportation, including access, streetscapes, crosswalks, and sidewalks;

— Connectivity, including off-road trails, pathways, and bicycle lanes;

— Roadway management, including limiting curb cuts on Western Avenue and shared parking lots;

— Land-use patterns, including commercial and residential planning; and

— Addressing design guidelines and developing agricultural and site design.

"If you demand it, it can happen," a Behan associate told residents before they broke into several smaller groups. Residents were divided by either house location or specific interest, and they discussed all the issues presented to them. At the end of the discussion, each group presented their ideas to planners.

Runion told The Enterprise that there will be at least one more public meeting after planners digest and incorporate the residents’ suggestions into their own plans for the hamlet. The town leaders in attendance at the workshop included Supervisor Runion; town board member and the town’s Democratic chairman, David Bosworth; Councilwoman Patricia Slavick; and Receiver of Taxes Jean Cataldo.

When asked, Runion said he does not believe that Guilderland is experiencing any radical development phase, despite three re-zoning hearings next week, a large senior citizen development proposal at the former Bavarian Chalet, and the new Glass Works Village proposal.

"I think the town’s always had development pressures. I don’t think it’s any greater now than in the past," Runion said. "We go in cycles."

The story of the Glass House reads like fiction’

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Glass Works, the name of a proposed $100 million development in town, was suggested by Alice Begley, Guilderland’s historian. The name is derived from one Guilderland’s oldest industries: glass-making.

In a series of articles published in The Enterprise decades ago, former town historian and Enterprise contributor, the late Arthur B. Gregg, wrote about the Glass House, which was Guilderland’s famous glass-making factory. In 1975, Gregg’s articles were assembled into a book called Old Helledergh: Scenes from Early Guilderland.

The factory, called the Albany Glass Works, was located along the banks of the Hungerkill, nearby present-day Route 20, a road historically known as the Great Western Turnpike.

"The story of the Glass House reads like fiction. Its very existence might even be challenged but for the few documentary references and the occasional unearthing by the plough of irregular lumps of blue and amber glass," Gregg wrote.

The main source of information regarding the Glass House, according to Gregg, is Joel Munsell’s Annals of Albany. Munsell describes the Albany Glass Works, most likely founded in 1785, as being located at Dowesburgh, an earlier name for the town, 10 miles west of Albany in what is now present-day Guilderland.

There are several discrepancies on the distance of the factory from Albany, said Gregg, because of the ever-changing city line. A man from Amsterdam, Holland, named John DeNeufville invested "his former wealth in hopes of retrieving his fortune," into the land for the glass-making factory.

"One naturally wonders why they chose for their project a location then almost a wilderness," wrote Gregg. "It was two miles distant from the highway connecting Albany and Schenectady. The Great Western Turnpike would not be built for another fourteen years. There were, however, quantities of sand, there was water power from the Hungerkill, there was plenty of wood for the furnaces, and"considerable potash, used in glass making, was manufactured in the localty."

A letter that DeNeufville wrote on Dec. 9, 1787 to Colonel Clement Dibble of Philadelphia, is currently in the New York State Library, and it stated that "the glass house comes very well, that they were able to sell their glass at retail equal to the British although it was yet objected to, on the account of its local character; that of course during the winter months exports to New York must be discontinued, while navigation on the Hudson was closed."

Gregg wrote that the year following that letter, in 1788, DeNeufville was visited by Elkanah Watson, a man with whom he had corresponded. Watson wrote he "found him in solitary seclusion living in a miserable log cabin furnished with a single deal table and two common arm chairs, destitute of the ordinary comforts of life."

In January of that year, the factory’s proprietors, Leonard De Neufvill, Jan Heefke and Ferdinand Walfahrt, "appealed to the patriotism of the State of New York to sustain their establishment. They said the state was annually drained of 30,000 pounds for this necessary article which they could manufacture of any size superior to the English glass. Their petition failed," wrote Gregg.

It was also that year that a grand celebration took place in Albany honoring the adoption the Federal Constitution for the newly-formed nation. In the parade were glass-makers dressed in green and they carried various tools such as globes and bottles, and a number of them were no doubt from the Glass House on the Hungerkill, according to Gregg.

Again in 1790, the proprietors petitioned the state legislature, and were granted 1,500 pounds on March 3, to ensure the continuation of the Glass House.

Going on to be a very successful industry, the factory, by 1813, had grown to an output of 500,000 feet of window glass per year. The village, called Hamilton at the time, contained 565 houses occupied by laborers employed at the Albany Glass Works, wrote Gregg. United States Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and General Phillip Schuyler both held large financial interest in the glass-making factory.

"As to its flasks or bottles, we know that one lone specimen is on exhibit in the State Museum at Albany. It might be described aqua-marine in color, half pint capacity, and bears the words in one surface, ‘Albany Glass Works, N.Y.,’" wrote Gregg. "On the reverse is what is said to be either Washington or Hamilton in uniform. A duplicate of this flask is to be found in the Municipal Museum at Rochester."

Grazianos use small cows to make big dreams come true

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Jason Graziano stands comfortably midst his small, new herd of classic Hereford cattle. He has brought the cows a bucket of grain. They cluster amiably about him as he pats their curly white heads. The red fur on their backs looks soft in the late evening light.

He wipes some mud off of one of the Hereford’s faces. "See what pretty pink noses they have," he says.

The heads of the full-grown cows come just to his waist. Graziano is one of only three farmers in the state, and the first in the region, to have the classic breed — with a lineage that goes back to the mid-1700’s in England.

Graziano grew up on Bullock Road in New Scotland, where his family raised thoroughbred horses. He wants his children to grow up with the same understanding of country life.

He looks out from the small pasture he has fenced in and points across a thickly treed area to a bridge in the distance that crosses the Black Creek.

"This all used to be farmland; it was all wide-open field," says Graziano, making a sweeping gesture with his arm that reaches from Depot Road, where his house sits, across the woods and over to the creek. He plans to reclaim the land for Patroon Farms, as he calls his place.

Graziano has an old photograph that shows the farm the way it used to be. The grand, steep-roofed Victorian house still perches by the road. But the massive barn behind it is gone. Rows of cultivated crops beside the barn are gone, too, and so is the nearby orchard and sweeping pasture.

The current farm has its quirky aspects. A 35-foot fishing boat sits in the pasture, near the cattle. Graziano is restoring the boat himself.

Newly-purchased young hens are warming in a lamp-heated coop in the barn, readying themselves for the day when they’ll lay eggs.

Family matters

Graziano’s talk is filled with family — both extended and nuclear. His father first researched the little-known Herefords. His cousin designed the farm’s website (PatroonFarms.com) so people can find out about the breed, and perhaps purchase some of their own.

Most weekday mornings, Graziano puts on a suit and tie and goes to work in Albany as an administrative aid for the State Assembly. But on weekends and evenings, he’s comfortable in overalls and work boots on his farm.

He and his wife, Marcy, purchased the 69-acre farm and its 155-year-old house with the idea of turning it back into a working farm.

"I’m an outdoors kind of guy," said Graziano.

"He’s a big hunter," said his wife.

"I wanted the kids to grow up in the farm atmosphere," said Graziano, "and learn the important lessons of life, the simple things...where a hamburger comes from; that Styrofoam is bad, that farm-fresh is good; buy American, be American.

"We like the outdoors," agrees his wife. "Not being in the city with the houses next to each other."

Marcy Graziano talks of her dreams as she holds her week-old baby, Austin, in her arms and as their three-year-old daughter, Alexis, and two-year-old son, Jason, scamper about on the hardwood floors in the parlor.

Marcy Graziano talks of plans she has for the house; the pocket doors and oak fretwork will stay.

Jason Graziano talks of plans he has for the farm. Already he has moved a small, rotting barn next to the house, back near the cattle, placing it on a solid foundation.

"When we bought the place, this barn was considered a liability," he said, describing the way it leaned towards the house. He got an estimate to have it moved, and termed it "astronomical."

So, he moved the barn himself.

"I used PVC tubes," he said matter-of-factly. He went on to explain that he took the rotted bottom foot off the barn, lowering it on to the tubes. He then used his Ford tractor to pull the barn back to the new foundation.

How did he get the idea"

He answers with a shrug, "It’s just like they did with the pyramids."

Graziano is building a solid three-rail fence around the pasture for the cattle. Most of it now is fenced with temporary stakes strung with wire that carries an electrical charge.

"I don’t want the kids to touch it," he said, noting that it doesn’t produce a severe shock. "It’s like touching a light socket with wet fingers," he said.

Classic Herefords

"This is the latest and greatest in beef," said Graziano of the classic Herefords.

But, while the heart-healthy beef is now popular with health-conscious Americans, the breed has a long history. According to a booklet complied by R. Rust Largent from Point of Rocks Ranch in Fort Davis, Texas, where the classic breed was nurtured while most of America moved towards large cattle, the breed was developed in the middle of the 18th Century in Herefordshire, England.

As urban populations grew in Britain, beef cattle were needed to feed the city dwellers. Before that, farm families had had multi-purpose oxen, which pulled their carts and furnished meat and milk. Benjamin Tomkins in 1742 decided to breed cattle that could efficiently produce beef from native grass pastures. By the second half of the 19th Century, Herefords were a dominant breed in England.

Henry Clay imported the first Herefords to America in 1817; by 1900, imports totaled 3,600. As America became settled, there was a growing need for beef in the big cities and ample grass in the midwest. Different bloodlines were developed among the American Herefords and, by the second half of the 20th Century, the smaller breeds fell from popularity.

The smaller classic or miniature Herefords are now again becoming more popular. A classic Hereford weighs less than 500 pounds and stands under 38 inches in height at maturity, while some of the larger modern Herefords weigh over 3,000 pounds and stand 65 inches.

The classic Herefords are not a small version of the modern-day, tall, long-legged Herefords but, rather, are similar in conformation to the early Herefords, which were short-legged and chunky.

The original Hereford was bred to be a better beef animal by being self-sufficient, using grass to the extent of becoming fat with no other nutrition. The original purpose of what are now referred to as miniature Herefords was to genetically re-establish the type of Hereford that made them the original "Royal Breed" or the "Beef Breed Supreme."

The miniature Hereford matures early, is highly fertile, and has high feed conversion.

Total nutritional intake is directly proportional to body weight. That means two 600-pound cows require no more nutrients than one 1,200-pound cow, but they’ll provide twice as many T-bones. Prime beef can be produced at 14 months with a miniature Hereford.

The cuts of meat from a classic or miniature Hereford are smaller but are more tender.

The classic Hereford is also bred to adapt to various climates, to be hardy, and to have calves easily.

Also, the little Herefords can be raised on small farms and are kept by some people as pets, in the way they would keep a dog.

Guilderland classics

"The cows are self-sustaining," said Graziano. "They eat grass and drink water....The majority are sold as pets...They use them in petting zoos.

"They’ll mow your lawn... They don’t dig it up," he said.

The rule of thumb is to allow an acre for every two cows, he said.

Graziano currently has one bull and four cows as well as the recently-born calf. Two other cows are pregnant and due to give birth soon. The Herefords have a 10-month gestation period.

"You can do this with just three or four acres," said Graziano.

A male calf, a steer, costs $500 to $1,000, he said. The heifers cost $2,500 to $3,000, "because they’ll have calves," he said.

Depending on the fluctuating price of beef, the meat from an 18-month-old steer will sell for roughly $1,000, said Graziano. The meat is in demand, he said, because it’s tender and "heart-healthy."

The meat is desirable, he said, because the cattle are fed primarily with grass rather than grain. "It’s 80 percent more efficient than other cattle," he said.

Graziano built an addition on the barn he moved to shelter the cattle, but they hardly ever use it, he said. "Only when it rains hard or in the middle of a snowstorm," he said. "They like to be outside."

While Graziano said he feels his children will be safe near the cows, the bull is "not totally predictable." He stressed, "You have to show respect for a bull."

Asked if it would be hard for the children to know animals they had grown close to were to be slaughtered, Graziano said the plan, for now, is to breed them for sale to others.

"Eventually," he said, "when we build a herd, we may send them out for beef."

The cattle they purchased came with carefully recorded lineage.

"We’ve got family trees and paperwork," said Graziano. "It’s like buying a purebred dog."

The cattle also came with names — Pebble, Silver, Nugget. The Graziano kids named the new calf Supper.

"That baby cow is wild," said Alexis. "I have to get a nice one."

Two of the cows are 14 years old; one is 15, said Graziano. The bull is three-and-a-half years old.

"The vet said she saw one live to 22," he said, when asked about the life span of the Herefords.

"They’re out to pasture; this is their retirement," he said of his cows.

Graziano points out the bull, licking one of the cows. "He’s a lover," he said, "She’s pregnant."

Graziano is eagerly awaiting the next birth.

The vet has instructed him how to dip the navel.

He missed the birth of Supper. "I was watching and waiting for days," Graziano recalled. "I went to bed late — at 12 o’clock." Still no calf.

When the next day dawned, he said, "I looked out the window, and there he was. I went out and he was already dry."

Graziano concluded, with a shake of his head, "It’s really kind of miraculous."

Altamont’s cowboy, at 78, produces a film about a disappearing life on the Florida range

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Many Americans, when they think of Florida, think of beach vacations and trips to Disney World.

George Pratt knows a different Florida — its heartland, cattle country. Pratt has produced a bittersweet documentary, Cowboys of Florida, that captures the essence of a disappearing way of life.

"This is a culture that’s foreign even to the Floridians," said Pratt. "They walked out of the theater in Boca Raton saying, ‘We never knew.’"

Director Victor Milt shot several hundred hours of film over the course of three years and edited that to its essence — 36 minutes.

The film features interviews with working cowboys, rodeo riders, and ranch owners interspersed with scenes of them at rest and in action.

Cowboys of Florida was selected from over 350 international submissions, as one of the 10 finalists in the documentary category for the Palm Beach International Film Festival, held April 20 through 28.

"I’m the oldest cowboy," said Pratt, who is 78.

He is a man who once said crime didn’t happen in Altamont because he wouldn’t permit it.

Pratt retired as the village’s police chief in 1992 and has since spent a chunk of every year on Florida ranches, working as a cowboy.

Respecting history

Born in Schulyerville, N.Y., Pratt grew up with a sense of the importance of Saratoga County history.

"As kids, we used to chase through the rooms in General Philip Schuyler’s house," he said. "Fortunately, we learned to respect local history in school."

Pratt described two kids, maybe 12 and 13 years old, he recently watched at an Altamont eatery — one tuned into his iPod, the other engrossed in a hand-held video game.

"The son of a cowboy who rides with me is responsible for a thousand-pound animal; he maintains and cares for his horse. He does the same work I do," said Pratt. "He’s the same age as those boys.

"If these two with their games are an example of our future," he said, shaking his head in worry as his voice trailed off. "They’re divorced from reality," he said.

Riding the range is real and so are the lessons learned there, Pratt said.

Part of the impetus for making the film was to educate Florida youth about their own heritage.

Pratt had talks with Howard Milton, the DeSoto County historian, a man in his eighties. He compared Milton to the late Arthur Gregg, Guilderland’s long-time and much respected historian. DeSoto County is not coastal; it is towards the gulf coast side of Florida, about midway down the peninsula.

It was Milton who put Pratt in touch with Victor Milt.

Milton said that it took two New Yorkers to tell this piece of Florida history, Pratt reported.

Milt and Pratt have donated the film to the DeSoto County School District.

"They are implementing a new program with their school. This will be part of an ongoing history lesson," said Pratt.

Pratt is also donating a DVD to the Altamont Free Library so local residents can learn about life on the Florida range.

Pratt’s favorite comment from a viewer was the declaration that the film is "refreshing."

"It’s refreshing," Pratt said, "to watch something that’s not about sex or war or diversity problems."

The film

"He’ll never get rich; he’s got all he needs; he knows how God’s world is run..." So go the lyrics to the song that frames Cowboys of Florida. "Workin’ real hard with his hands...He’s part of the sweet meadowland..."

The song was written and is sung by Mack Martin, a Florida realtor, who appears in the film, talking about the dramatic increase of land prices that are forcing out the ranchers.

The cowboys are shown "workin’ real hard" — spraying to kill blood-sucking flies on the backs of their cattle, herding the cattle on horseback with the help of dogs, castrating steers, training horses.

They are also shown riding on the range, drinking coffee around a campfire, and competing in a rodeo.

"I’ve got this scar right here," says a rodeo bull-rider, taking off his Stetson, to reveal the long gash on the back of his head. "The bull stepped on my head," he says matter-of-factly."

"What state has the most cattle"" asks Katherine Harris, in another scene. She shot to national prominence in the midst of the Florida vote-counting controversy in the 2000 Presidential election, and now represents Florida in the United States Congress.

"It’s Florida!" she answers herself. "People always think it’s other locations."

Harris goes on to gush, "My first crush as a little girl was on our foreman...I thought he was John Wayne."

Pratt is among the cowboys portrayed in the film. He talks about how it’s stayed the same over the years — the rope hasn’t changed, the saddle hasn’t changed, the horse hasn’t changed.

He says you hear about ATV’s herding cattle and, sitting astride his horse, Pratt concludes, "That’s a crock — you ever see an ATV swim a river""

Scenes with Dr. Barbara Carlton, whose family has owned a 150,000-acre ranch since the 1800’s, are interspersed throughout the film.

A gray-haired woman, she sits by her stone fireplace and says the Carlton legacy is "to hold onto the land."

Carlton speaks fondly of her girlhood horse, named Charlie Horse.

"I lived and breathed to ride that horse," she says. "He was my best friend. It was a sad day when I had to go to college and leave him..."

In a later scene, she says, "You’ve got to love the land in order to endure the hardships."

In her final scene, she reveals the Carltons are on the verge of selling to developers. "We’ve reached our maximum potential," she says.

The land that sold for 25 cents an acre during the Depression, in the year 2000 sold for $2,000 an acre, and currently is selling for 10 times that. A realtor in the film reports on land in Sarasota County that is selling for $500,000 an acre.

"It’s hard to let go...," says Carlton.

"In the arena"

"I hate to see it end," said Pratt of the cowboys’ way of life.

It doesn’t bode well for the future of America, he said, pointing to a favorite quote, part of a packet on Arcadia — the words were spoken in 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider who became President:

"It is not the critic that counts: Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming...."

For Pratt, the cowboy’s life embodies a personal credo of overcoming hardship and participating in the arena of life.

Pratt’s early life was not an easy one. "My father was dead. My mother raised us," he said of himself and his two siblings.

"I worked on a farm and, when I turned 14, I worked nights, from three to 11, at a wallpaper mill," he said.

He joined the State Guard at age 15, Pratt said, and then, in 1944, he joined the Navy; he served in the Navy until 1953.

Pratt tells students who gather at Altamont’s Home Front Café to learn about World War II, "Our country can’t afford fools and cowards."

Pratt looks back on his long life with satisfaction.

"Back when I was a kid, everybody wanted to be a cop, a private eye, a cowboy, or a fireman. I was lucky," said Pratt. "I got to be them all."

After he left the Navy, Pratt became an investigator for an insurance company, where he made good money. When his first wife died, he re-evaluated his life, he said. He was serving as an Altamont Village trustee at the time, he said, and the long-time police chief, Howard Diehl, was getting ready to retire.

"I had no dependents," he said. "I went to Bill Aylward who was the mayor at the time and asked about the job." Pratt was told he’d have to go to school again. He did.

"I accepted the job at a much-reduced income — $8,000 or $9,000." he recalled. He also volunteered as a fireman.

Pratt worked as Altamont’s police chief until 1992, when he retired and traveled to Florida.

"I wound up in a trailer park in Arcadia," he said. "I ran into a man who was a cowboy all his life."

From then on, Pratt was hooked.

"My wife said I went from playing cops and robbers to playing cowboys and Indians," Pratt said with a hearty laugh.

Back in the saddle

Pratt is in Florida four months of each year, from January to April.

"It’s a way of life that’s hard and dangerous," he says.

Asked why he likes it, Pratt pauses a long time, and then answers, "A friend of mine said, if I got along with humans the way I get along with horses, I’d be a good person."

One scene in Cowboys in Florida was filmed in January when the temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We were waiting for the sun to come up to load the truck," said Pratt this week, recalling the scene.

One of the cowboys had a broken leg.

"You don’t work, you don’t eat," the hobbled cowboy says on the film, explaining why he is on the job despite his injury.

Pratt, on camera, says, "It’s the only place I know of you can do 50 cents worth of work and get $8,000 worth of bullshit at the same time. That’s a good ratio."

The cowboy, who is on crutches, manages to get on his horse.

"Did you notice nobody helped him"" asked Pratt this week. "That’s not bad."

He described an experience of his own to illustrate the point. There’s a saying among Florida cowboys: "Don’t ride where the blue flowers grow," said Pratt. That’s because the flowers grow where the ground is soft.

Pratt accidentally got into such a quagmire. "My horse went down," he recalled. Pratt rolled to the side, out of sight of another cowboy who saw his horse down and his hat floating on the swamp water.

"He thought it was the end of me," said Pratt. "I managed to get out of the weeds....They probably would have left the horse there. I beat him with his halter to make him hump."

Once the horse was up, the foreman asked, "You all right""

"I said, ‘Yeh,’" recalled Pratt. "He said, ‘Get your ass back up in your saddle. We’ve got to finish this job.’"

Pratt concluded that he likes such camaraderie.

As he talked, he held out his hand to show a splinted finger. "The last day I rode," he said, "my horse pitched me off. That’s why I have a broken finger." He also has a cracked rib and a pulled muscle in his back.

"You get back on your horse," he said.

[Return to Home Page]