Gregg Burdo was walking along Upper Glen Street in Queensbury one frigid day last week when a Warren County Sheriff's Office patrol car pulled up alongside him.
The officer driving asked him how he was doing, and told him that sheriff's Lt. Steve Stockdale had asked him to check up on him.
Burdo told the officer what he has told me the last couple of times I have checked in on him: That he is doing fine, despite the most brutal winter stretch in decades.
Burdo is the Vietnam veteran and former local star athlete who has lived in the woods of Queensbury for decades, caring for a variety of cats and subsisting on social security and returnable bottle-and-can collections.
At Warren County Sheriff Bud York's request, the sheriff and I checked in on him on Monday, and found him in good spirits at one of his restaurant haunts in town.
Burdo talked with us about a project he wants to undertake, photographing his cats, with the pictures to be shared with sick children at Glens Falls Hospital. The sheriff offered him some help with the project.
Burdo's rib pain from breaks suffered during a fall on an icy sidewalk last month has improved, though he found out that his diagnosis was worse than initially thought. He had broken five ribs.
(Sensing doubt on my part that he could carry on with five broken ribs, he pulled a folded yellow doctor's diagnostic sheet that showed he has fractures of ribs 8 through 12 on one side.)
He said he has seen a lot of bad winters over the years, and said his key to keeping warm has been a synthetic underlayer of clothes. When we saw him Monday, he had three layers on in the restaurant, and five when we headed back outside, including two hats.
He said it's been a struggle to make sure his cats, (he has 16 at this point) stay out of the cold. They know not to spend a lot of time out in the severe cold, and find ways to persevere, as he has for decades.
"They basically go out, pee and come right back in," he said.
Burdo has put his shelter together with layers of materials that allow he and the cats to keep each other warm. He spends much of the coldest times inside local businesses, (the Christmas snowstorm was spent in a convenience store), and says there is little sleep to be had during the supercold nights.
I told him that we have heard from many readers who continue to want to help him.
He said the only help he could use was with his veterinarian bills at Glens Falls Animal Hospital in Queensbury, where readers helped him with thousands of dollars in donations last year, and with Wal-Mart gift cards for cat food. He has a post office box in Queensbury where he gets mail, PO Box 4683, Queensbury, NY., 12804.
Burdo is confident we have seen the worst of winter. If anyone would seem to know, he would.
-- Don Lehman