A little anxious,little nervous, about heading back to my paradise


Terry Mosher 3



Red & Trudy's


Soon I’ll be headed back to a different world, and that makes me anxious because it’s tough to gear down from the pace I’m used to. I’m going back to where I was born and spent the first 14 years of life. And while I’ve been back there numerous times over the years, I thought I would not return after the last time, which was 2006.

But here I am, on the verge of marking another return to a part of the world where there are few fast days and the simple things we relish here in our hectic life on the Left Coast are the norm back there.

I’m talking about a little corner of New York State that is called Southwestern New York that covers the Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties and nestles up against the North-Central Pennsylvania border.

This is an area that I call paradise because of its natural beauty and because of its remoteness from the rest of our world. You couldn’t find it on your own. You would have to accidentally discover it. You might fly into Buffalo from Sea-Tac and get lost after you head in the wrong direction in your rental car. You would become anxious when the highway narrows to two small lanes and every several miles you enter a small village that doesn’t appear on any maps.

These small villages of maybe 50 residents appear and then disappear just as quickly as they appear. When you arrive at Olean, New York, about 70 miles south of Buffalo you have entered the fringe of paradise.

Olean is where I saw play one of the greatest college basketball players. That would be Tom Stith when he along with his brother Sam led St. Bonaventure into national prominence (actually the Bonnies were already considered a major college power before Tom arrived).

You might know St. Bonaventure because of Bob Lanier, a three-time All-American who played for the Bonnies from 1967-70 and led them to the NCAA Final Four. But I remember the Bonnies of the late 1940s through the Stith years (1959-61) when he was an All-American and battled Oscar Robertson for the top college scoring threat in those years.

The 6-foot-5 Stith died in January of 2010 at the age of 71, and that closed for me that part of my life in Paradise.

Olean is six miles north of my little hometown village of Portville, and while I will go there I am headed a little south and East  of Portville to Richburg, about 15 miles away where my brother lives in an eight-bedroom home now with just one of his sons, Matt. Peggy, his wife of nearly 61 years, died last month after a long struggle with COPD and an earlier fight with cancer, and I’m going back to just be a presence for my brother in case he needs to talk, which he probably doesn’t because he like the rest of us Moshers doesn’t talk much unless there is something significant to say.

I’m anxious about the trip because, one, as I said there isn’t a whole lot going on there. The big news now is that Matt is trying to capture a raccoon that is getting into his roosters’ feed. I guess the coyotes, the deer and the occasional bear don’t mess with the feed.

Matt was telling me this morning there used to be a neighbor (Richburg has a population of just over 400) that fed the bears. One year there were four bear cubs from one mother who would come down off the hills to his house and eat out of his hands. Matt said he used to feed them apple pies and one time he put a pie up about 10 feet in a tree and this big bear came down and reached up with his paw, knocked the pie down and ate it.

From what Matt said, Richburg citizens did not like him feeding the bears. They don’t have to worry now. The guy died two years ago.

But while that kind of occurrence is not the norm, it is an indication of life back there. Sure, people now have cell phones and there is some problem with drugs, but the pace of life is so much slower than it is here and that kind of worries me because I have to learn to slow down.

The beauty of that area can take your breath away if you are not used to it. The area is located in the foothills of the Alleghanies, which are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The foothills are a wonderful place to hike because there is little underbrush and it’s relatively easy to roam them, as I did when I was a young kid, sometimes going barefoot.  I loved the feel of the leaves underneath my bare feet. Don’t ask me why, I just did.

There are natural springs in those foothills and the water was clear and cold and sure tasted good after hiking on a warm day. I often would just sit down and dangle my bare feet in the water. That felt like heaven.

I’ve gotten old now and I will not trek through the hills, which makes me sad. I loved the adventures I discovered in my young days. But life goes on and after a while the body gives out and shouts, “No more, no more.”

But I will go to Red’S & trudy’s in Portville. That place has been around since 1924. It’s just a little white house (I would not call it a restaurant) and it serves a unique burger. They are called hamburg. They consist of loose ground beet that is mixed with onions, mustard and catsup (or you can get them without those condiments) and served on a large toasted bun that is buttered and sprinkled with salt. They are incredible, and very delicious. Then you add in their unique strawberry milk shake and you begin to feel like you are really in heaven.

I’m hoping the hole-in-the wall little ice cream place just a block away will still be there. Their ice cream is unbelievable, especially the maple nut.

Almost all the people I grew up with there are gone. They have either died or moved away a long time ago. But little changes there in the physical sense so I’m sure I will be emotionally overcome as I drive through the side streets and see the homes just like they were when I was little. I have told this story before but there was a house on East State Street in Olean that had a big bay window with a large crack it in it. That window, that crack, was there for at least 40 years. It sounds weird, but just seeing that cracked window on my numerous trips back there gave me a sense of security – I felt everything was right with my small world because that window was the same.

Then when I was back there in 2000 I was driving down East State Street and I glanced over at the house and did a double take. That window had been fixed. There was no crack!! It ruined my whole trip back there.

My point in this story is that nothing really changes there. The population of Olean has declined since we left there in 1954. The population of Portville is the same. New homes are rarely built. Old homes are rarely painted. Things remain the same. And for me there is some sense of relief, some security in knowing that everything will be the same. It’s like I will have gone back in time.

That, of course, tells you a lot about the economics of that area. There is little work. If you grew up there chances you are not there anymore. You have to go where there is work, and work is definitely not there. But it’s not a ghetto. Don’t get me wrong. People survive nicely, somehow.

I remember clearly as if it were yesterday when four of us – Amos, Dave, Dick and myself – decided that we needed to get out of town. The time was the winter of 1960. It was cold and bleak and we were four young guys whose ambition was too big for the wonderful small town that we all loved. But love couldn’t hold us. We had to leave, and we did one cold day. We drove to Los Angeles. My three amigos are now gone, but I remember the good times we had, both in Portville, and in Los Angeles.

For some reason I dread flying east. Usually I would jump at a chance to get out of town. But I have gotten old and my body does not work like it once did, or work the way I would like it to work, and going on what will amount to a seven-hour journey with a stop in Chicago on the way there and a stop in New Jersey on the way back here just seems like a bit much for me.

I am going, however. I need to be there for my brother, if he needs me, and I will get a chance to see my two other brothers, one who will be coming up from Maryland.

Hopefully, this will not be my last adventure. I need to think positive that I and my brothers will be alive years from now. But as my brother Ray said to me a long time ago – “We are now in the front line.”  All the older Mosher generation is gone and now we are the older generation. I can’t believe, for example, that I have one nephew who is 67 going on 68.

I’m sure there will be a little sadness on this trip. For not only the loss of my brother’s wife, who gave him 14 kids, and for one of his daughters who died just before his wife, but for the childhood friends I had who are also now gone and the early loves that I had while going to college in nearby Alfred.

For all those who have left me, including my three amigos, this song‑ I Still Miss Someone ‑ written and sung by Johnny Cash, the man in black, tells it all:


At my door the leaves are falling
A cold wild wind will come
Sweethearts walk by together
And I still miss someone

 I go out on a party
And look for a little fun
But I find a darkened corner
‘Cause I still miss someone

 Oh, no I never got over those blue eyes
I see them every where
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

 I wonder if she’s sorry
For leavin’ what we’d begun
There’s someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone”


That’s enough for today. I’ll try to write some more once I get back to paradise. I don’t know how that will work, but then I don’t know how I have worked it all these past years.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.