The last few times I stopped by to see how Gregg Burdo was doing, he wasn't around. Burdo, the homeless veteran who has lived for decades in a wooded area of Queensbury, had clearly been at his camp, but he was out and about when I visited several times over the past month or so.
He had wanted a camera to take pictures of a new litter of kittens, and I had an old digital camera, so I was trying to get it to him, but had no luck.
I was off on Friday, but stopped by a store near his camp and decided to swing by. I found him walking in with one of his bicycles, and he gave me a hug.
"Where have you been?" he asked.
Burdo is technically homeless, but he has an active social life. He gets out to OTB, local stores and restaurants, socializing with the people he has met and who frequently help him. I explained I had missed him three or four times.
"Leave a note!," he said.
The litter of kittens he had wanted to photography was gone, North Shore Animal League having convinced him to give them up. He was very happy with the help the organization has been giving him in recent months, and wanted to publicly thank them. He looked to be down to five or six cats at his camp, and they all appeared healthy. A viral disease that was causing facial problems for many of them over the summer doesn't seem to be an issue anymore.
Poppy, his oldest and favorite cat, looked good and thick, ready for colder weather.
(He told me about a skunk that has been coming into the camp to eat cat food at night, and the loud noises skunks make with their teeth when they eat.)
It was cold and windy Friday, and Burdo was layered up. He said he was warm, and showed me piles of clothes he recently got, which included sweatshirts and sports jerseys. His camp had been re-arranged, more tarps added and open spaces closed up.
His main bicycle broke down, and I was able to arrange to get him an old one we no longer used, with my son off to college.
I asked him if he needed anything, and he said he was all set. I reminded him that there are organizations that can get him indoors for the cold weather, but he said he has made it through plenty of winters and thinks it will be another mild one.
I hope for his sake he is right.
-- Don Lehman