THE NEWS FROM ONEIDA LAKE
by Jim & Sue Kelly

Jim and Sue confess to really enjoy living on the lake--so much so, apparently, that they’ve begun a series of humorous articles featuring "the news from Oneida Lake”.

Patterned after Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegone”, Jim and Sue's articles provide a witty and welcome addition to our website.  We’re privileged to have their permission to reprint their stories here, and we’ll keep them coming your way as long as Jim and Sue keep writing them.

HALLOWEEN, 2000

It’s been a quiet week up here on the lake, but there was a lot of commotion a few weeks back.  Everyone was very upset with the new addition to Clancey’s sign.  The main topic of discussion over at the Eat-A-Lot Diner and at the Bait-N-Brew was what to do about the sign.

Stinky Williams thought the sign was great, and wanted someone to take his picture standing beside it.  Father Migliori was so upset that he called Sheriff Wysocki and demanded that he do something.  Sheriff Wysocki said there was nothing he could do, seeing as how that was Clancey’s profession. I guess I should explain a little bit about Clancey’s.

Clancey McBeth and his wife, Elizabeth McBeth (that’s right, Beth McBeth, and she married to the name--go figure) are both morticians.  They met and married in mortician school and now run the Lakeside Funeral Parlor and Crematorium--known locally as Clancey’s.   Around Oneida Lake, instead of saying, “He’s gone to meet his maker” or “He’s bought the Farm”, they say “He’s gone to Clancey’s”.

Ever since they’ve had the parlor, Clancey and Beth have taken separate vacations.  As Beth says, “people don’t stop dying, and you can’t just leave them lying on the slab for two weeks while you go off cavorting around the countryside on vaction”

Beth likes to go to Europe and has taken many vacations to Paris, London, and other glamorous Eurpoean cities.  Clancey, on the other hand, used to like to go fishing, and traveled all over the world on fishing trips.  About ten years ago, Clancey was on a fishing trip in the Bahamas and tried scuba diving and was “bitten by the scuba diving bug”.  Now every chance he gets, he goes diving.  Clancey and his brother Thomas are the only scuba divers here on the lake.  It’s many a time I have driven down Muskrat Bay Road and seen Clancey walking out to the lake in his diving gear.  He even has one of those diving flags flying from his mailbox.  Everybody thinks he’s sort of crazy to dive in Oneida Lake.  At its deepest point, it’s only 45 feet deep, and the water’s so clear you can see all the way to the bottom.  No need to dive down to see what’s there.  But Clancey really enjoys it.  One of his favorite tricks is to sneak up from under water on someone who is fishing and pull on the fishing line real hard then pop up out of the water and scare the living daylights out of them.

Clancey’s also on a quest (or was).  Having watched many specials on TV about people searching for wrecks and treasure, he had started his own search here on Oneida Lake.  Many years ago, before they paved Route 31, Charlie Kasoag (who was the Postmaster at the time) used to run the mail up and down on Oneida Lake in the winter from Sylvan Beach to Brewerton on a mail sled--an enclosed sled drawn by a horse.  After Route 31 was paved, Charlie converted the old mail sled into an ice fishing hut.  One year they forgot to bring it in before the spring thaw and it sank.

Clancey’s quest was to find that old sled.  To that end, he had outfitted his boat with all sorts of depth finders, sonar and radar devices.  Somewhat excessive for a lake that was only 45 feet deep at its deepest spot and so clear you can see to the bottom.  Well, the last weekend of September, Clancey was out in his boat depthfinding, sonaring, radaring and scuba diving around Clark Bar and he found it.  It was in 18 feet of water and clearly visible from the surface.

Clancey and his brother hauled the old sled out of the water and carried it back to Clancey’s house.  When they finally got around to cleaning it up and looking inside it, they found a human skeleton.  Clancey was very excited with this find, especially given the line of work he was in.  It was then he came up with the idea.  He had always thought that the sign at the funeral parlor was very boring and needed something to liven it up.  Why not hang the skeleton from the funeral parlor sign?  He spent the rest of the weekend working on that skeleton and on Monday morning, there it hung--a full-size real human skeleton.

Beth McBeth was furious.  She demanded that he take it down immediately, but Clancey would have none of that.  “Our parlor will be known throughout the county.  We’ll have so much business we’ll be able to add that new wing we’ve been talking about”, he told her.

By Friday, the whole town was in a fray.  Father Migliori had the Catholic Women’s group leading protests in front of the parlor.  The crowd over at the Eat-A-Lot were trying to organize a boycott--no one would die until Clancey removed the skeleton.  The boys at the Bait-N-Brew were going to sabotage Clancey’s boat.  Stinky Williams was still trying to get someone to take his picture beside the sign.  And Beth had left for her mother’s, saying she wouldn’t return until the skeleton was gone.  Clancey was determined to stand his ground.  That was until the true identity of the skeleton was found out.  As required by law in New York State, when any unknown human body is discovered, a search must be performed to find out the identity of the remains.

Clancey had reported the find to Forrest Barton, the Onondaga County Coroner.  Forrest found out (through the use of dental records) that the skeleton was that of Reiley Kasoag, a long lost Uncle of Charlie Kasoag.  All the Kasoags had thought that Uncle Reiley had moved to Florida.  Upon finding out that the skeleton hanging from Clancey's sign was that of their Uncle, they were furious. They demanded that Clancey remove it immediately and they were planning to sue Clancey for every penny he had.  After long negotiations and the removal of the skeleton, and the promise by Clancey to provide “the best funeral ever seen on Oneida Lake” free of charge, the Kasoags agreed not to sue.  Clancey was very disappointed.  He has since ordered a full size plastic skeleton to hang from the sign.

And that’s the news from Oneida Lake, where all the men have gone hunting, all the women have gone shopping, and on Saturday mornings, all the children watch cartoons on television.

Copyright © 2000, J. W. Kelly.  All rights reserved.