Steve Maden: An American Original
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Up the stairs there is a framed hand colored two-page illustration from Beer’s 1871 History of Ulster County. Such illustrations are around but I’ve never seen a hand colored version of anything in this book. To my untrained eye the coloring looks old. It is certainly interesting, depicting a scene a scant 2 miles from his house, down on the water drifting west on the Rondout Creek toward Eddyville. This is local history at the cellular level. The scene is of what was once a blue stone company, backed up against the water where material bargained and sold was settled onto barges to be poled out to the Hudson and then sent either north to Albany and the Erie Canal or down toward New York City and beyond.
Upstairs I see that Steve has other interests. There is a room of toys, all manner of children’s collectables. Down the hall there are period clothes. My Mother would have liked them for the memories they’d stir of her days between the first and second wars but she also never saw a particle of dust she could tolerate and the dust [I think we’re leaving footprints] would have triggered a 10 on her Richter scale.
On the way down the stairs without making eye contact I offer $500 for the hand colored illustration. He says “nah” and I proceed to wrap up the visit, talking about payment and shipping and what I hope he’ll someday uncover. Heading toward the door he says okay. “Okay, okay. I like that print but I’ll sell it.”
Ten days later I’m home and the UPS man rings the bell and delivers two boxes. Steve has packed the photographs and the print well and they are ready for a new home. And I’m very happy to have them. My living room is homage to Rondout, a mostly forgotten place, which is as alive for Steve as it is for me.