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All Walks of Life

Jolly Rover class of 2017 and Instructors

As the skillset of the Jolly Rovers grows, so does its roster. Every organization thrives on the diversity of its constituents and we are no different, new blood helps to broaden the horizons of The Crew.

Three years ago I stepped trepidatiously into Jolly Rovers Spring Training, the trees had yet to fully bud and the April sun was beating through the barren canopy with solstice force. Shoulder to shoulder with a retired beer connoisseur, IT professional from Kazakhstan, New York state elementary school teacher, and Bermudian personal assistant, we donned our hard hats for the very first time and struck Earth. It was the first time my wife and I had ever set foot in that part of Wawayanda State Park but we left with a sunburn, aching muscles, and a feeling of unusual accomplishment that still makes us grin to this day.

This spring a new crop of bright-eyed recruits began their journey to becoming a Jolly Rover with our Spring Training courses held at the Mohonk Preserve. Since then they have continued their apprenticeships throughout this year. After speaking with them I could tell that the same welling pride was roiling within the spirits of these future Rovers. Cultivating the call-to-arms across age, cultural, and employment differences, Sam Larson, a software engineer from the big city said it best.

"It was refreshing to see the wide range of backgrounds and personalities that Rovers had, and to see how this niche brand of volunteer work somehow managed to bring them all to the same place." Sam's motivations to hit the trails mirrored my own and many others'; an escape from the city's daily grind to find a place where you don't always get cell signal.

Mike McEachin, a Railway Superintendent with the MTA and a Marine Corps veteran

offered his wealth of experience in heavy lifting to the Rovers' cause this spring, learning a thing or two in the process. I had the good fortune to work with Mike on some of his first stone-splitting & leverage projects and I left that day a wiser man. A master with a sledge, tie, and words, Mike had the following to say:

"I was impressed by the knowledge, skill, & professionalism of the work being performed, and the friendship, & camaraderie of a group of volunteers made up of people from all walks of life."

The appeal is not limited to residents of the Big Apple, Leah Rudge, an intern with Sam's Point Preserve at Minnewaska State Park and daily trailgoer was drawn to the subtle attention to detail and respect for aesthetics.

"I think what struck me the most was how natural it looked, and I knew there had to be a lot of care and skill that went into making something so breathtakingly beautiful. Glad I get to be a part of making beautiful and awesome things!” Coming from someone who opts to spend her two days off in the same forests she toils in the other five, I'll take this as quite the endorsement.

Steve Bianco, professional excavator artist, put down his hydraulic paint brush to heft a few stones by hand. Ever a man of few words, I believe we've sold him on the benefits of hand excavation.

“Inspirational! What an awesome concept, lifting rocks without Diesel engines and hydraulic pistons, just a bunch of people working together. Most Impressive!” Keep an eye out for his upcoming book of knot-weaving.

Forging a pathway to the out-of-reach wonders of Upstate NY, the Rovers grow each spring as like minded volunteers filter in from all walks of life. Year after year we return to sweat, toil, and celebrate like some sort of migratory beast driven by a goal larger than ourselves.

The writer, Tom Ludorf has been an active Jolly Rover crew member with his wife Emily since the Spring of 2015 and is currently apprenticing to become Team Leader. He works as a professional Emergency Medial Technician (EMT) and and lends this skill over to the crew as one of our field medics. In addition to this, Tom is the official Jolly Rover blacksmith, repairing and modifying tools as needed in his backyard forge.

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