Volume 1 Issue 14 1993
October 21-November 3

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week! Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Cover: Oyster Season Opens—Prospects Poor
Gather your oysters while you may,
Old time is still a’flying
And that same mollusk you slurp today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

New World Cornucopia:
Our Cups Runneth Over with Native Abundance

Burton on the Bay:
Cover: Rocks Rampant

Bay Life
Cover: Point Lookout Wraiths: Ghosts with Good Reason

Dock of the Bay:
Can nuclear power and natural gas make good neighbors? Plus a hero for our times, boat show bounty, and big fines for littering.

Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Commentary | Bay Reflections | Who's Here | Politalk

Sky Facts | Laughing Gourment | Not Just for Kids

to the top

Oysters: Scraping the Bottom for the Dregs of the Bay’s Past Abundance
by Carolyn Martin

“Last year was the worst on record. I can’t imagine this year will be much better.”

“It’s not much of an industry as far as harvest goes.”

“It’s devastating us. It’s going to wipe us out.”

“Those are the voices of the government scientists who manage, the environmentalists who monitor and the watermen who make a living from the same resource ... oysters. The Bay’s endangered shellfish is literally being eaten to death.

Nature—Against Us or Our Only Chance?
As the 1993 season opens this month, the harvest forecast is once again gloomy. Expect about the same or even fewer than the 123,000 bushels from last year. Gone are the days of multi-million bushel harvests. Depending upon which voice you listen to, the new goal is to either to save, sever or survive.

MSX and Dermo. Mention the parasites that are eating up the oysters and you’ll get a shake of the head and heavy sigh from every mere human trying to fight them. The single-celled devils bore into the oyster host, reproduce quickly and finally take over and kill the oyster. MSX goes after young, small oysters and kills quickly. Dermo prefers older, larger oysters, just at market size, and kills slowly. Dermo is the worst culprit in our waters.

The bad news is the parasites are spreading. DNR reports the diseases “intensified and expanded their ranges” during 1992. Dermo has spread to every productive oyster bar in Maryland. Most of those bars are so severely infected, DNR predicts a “continuous annual mortality greater than 50 percent at these locations.” There are three exceptions to that rule. The upper Potomac River above Swan Point, the mainstem of the Bay above the Bay Bridge and the upper Chester River should have mortality rates lower than 50 percent. Right now the safest haven seems to bars in the upper Bay. That’s where the 1990-92 oysters came from; those beds will once again be harvested in 1993.

“The race is to see who gets there first, the oystermen or the disease,” says Dr. Ron Klauda of DNR’s Bay Research and Monitoring division. State biologists are now conducting the 1993 fall survey to see how far the parasite problem spread during the summer disease season. They will examine 64 key oyster bars, testing for MSX and Dermo, and measuring the size and number of dead and living mollusks.

If the bad news is disease, the worst news is no cure. “We’re a long way from getting the answer, I think,” laments NOAA science coordinator Ed Christoffers. Scientists know the MSX parasites like salty water and seem to be affected by temperature, but that’s about it. “In some cases we don’t even know how the disease is transmitted,” adds Christoffers.

There is a frenzy of research and theories among those who are closest to this diminishing resource. Every environmental state and federal agency seems to be involved. EPA, NOAA, DNR, DOA and FWS are pumping millions of dollars and staff hours into finding a solution. A special advisory group of watermen, scientists, environemntalists and politicans has been meeting to figure out how to save the oyster and the industry. The “oyster roundtable” is the first time so many different factions have come together to create a solution.

A workable solution is what the watermen want. They count on the harvest to feed and clothe families during the winter.

“Mother Nature’s the only chance we’ve got right now because man’s not smart enough to do it,” explains Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen Association. Simns pulls no punches. He and other oystermen are touchy because they’ve been partially blamed for the loss of oysters.

The charge is that overharvesting and dredging destroyed beds and stressed the mollusks, them opening them to infection. Simns contends the oysters were weakened by a lack of oxygen, caused by too much nutrient in the Bay. He blames an increase in population and nutrient-rich sewage for stressing the oysters.

The frantic search for a cure, even a band-aid, has sometimes pitted scientists against watermen. Voices of concern have been raised in anger. Oystermen favor helping Mother Nature along by continuing the current practice of moving young seed oysters from diseased to safer waters. DNR concurs and recommends that only “disease-free or lightly infected seed” be planted in low-risk areas, where parasites are minimal. The concern is that transplanting young oysters may introduce the disease into healthy beds.

Tame Shellfish
Another option is aquaculture—raising or farming oysters. It’s an idea that’s been catching on in Maryland since 1988. The Department of Agriculture encourages the new industry and has staff devoted to coordinate and promote the idea.

There are pros and cons. One positive is that the oysters grow quicker, because they’re raised in containers near the surface, where food is more plentiful than the bottom. Also, disease can be controlled and scientists say oysters with a 6 to 12 month healthy start have a better chance of fighting off Dermo and maturing to market size.

But aquaculture is expensive. It takes a lot of labor to coddle the oysters and that drives up costs. One farm has already gone under. The remaining two operations in the state, one private and one association, aren’t talking.

Roy Castle is talking. He’ll tell you 3 million oysters were raised last year, and the number could jump to 10 million this year. Castle is DOA’s aquaculture project manager. He says his farmed oysters wind up in raw bars, but are too expensive to replace wild oysters which are shucked in mass volumes. One market for the tame shellfish is Pittsburgh, where wholesalers are buying 65,000 oysters each month for raw bars.

Eat Your Oysters While You Can
Nevermind Pennsylvania. Think Maryland. Are there enough oysters to go around? Can we afford them? Will they be safe to eat? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Fried, stewed or nude. Serve them as you please. Even the diminished supply will meet demand, according to the experts. There will be enough for your Thanksgiving dressing and New Year’s stew. The cost will be the same or a tad higher than last season.

Most importantly, the state and the watermen want you to know these oysters are safe. MSX and Dermo don’t hurt humans. If you’re healthy, you can eat them raw. If you have AIDS, cancer, diabetes or a suppressed immune system, do not eat raw oysters. DOA’s seafood marketing dietitian says everyone can eat cooked oysters.

Enjoy your wild Maryland oysters while you can. The most controversial solution to the problem is to shut down or restrict harvesting. Scientists quietly admit that some colleagues have given up on oystering as a Bay industry. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation pushed for closing beds in Virginia and they’re taking a hard look at Maryland. The environmentalists are worried that if harvesting isn't stopped now by choice, it will eventually be stopped by force because the oysters will be gone.

Regardless of who you talk to and what their theory or solution is, they all share a sense of frustration and dread. It is frustrating to be outdone by a microscopic parasite. It is dreadful to think that a parasite could write history. Destroy a way of life, a tradition, a healthy product of our precious Bay.

It is foolish to ignore that possibility. Listen to the voices of those closest to the crisis.

“We can study it to death, but we won’t be able to do anything about it. Nature has the upper hand.”

“The facts speak for themselves. It doesn't make much sense to harvest what’s left.”
“We’ve been tightening our belts for the last four years. We’re getting ready to cut ourselves in two here, I believe.”

The Oyster Roundtable
The distressed oyster has become a peacemaker among people. For the first time, watermen, scientists, environmentalists and politicians have come together to try and save the declining shellfish.

The advisory group assigned to resolve the oyster crisis has agreed on a compromise plan which combines harvest restrictions, research, seeding and aquaculture. The so-called Oyster Roundtable recently issued its proposal after three months of meetings.

The group recommends setting aside parts of the Chester, Choptank, Nanticoke, Magothy, Severn and Patuxent rivers for study and recovery. After the details are worked out and the plan is signed by all participants, it will be available for public comment. Eventually the recommendations will become new regulations, which probably won’t go into effect until next oyster season.

Since the 1800s, committees have been formed to review the Bay area oyster population. What sets the most recent group apart is the diverse makeup of its members, which includes opposing factions. State officials hope that reaching agreement at the table will mean working together in the Bay to restore the oysters.

to the top

New World Cornucopia:
Our Cups Runneth Over with Native Abundance

Tobacco’s New World cousins flourish here as prodigally as the old sotweed in its long reign. Squash are full, pumpkins are fat, and peppers (which are tobacco’s cousins in the genus “capsicum”) are plentiful. Squash and peppers are so abundant that gardeners are smiling and cooks struggling to cope with native abundance, as you shall read. Everybody, of course, knows what to do with pumpkins, so you’ll find them all over our pages this October.

Hot Stuff
Not too many growing seasons ago, people questioned your ancestry if you grew any pepper other than those big, green dull ones. Then, a few years ago, those who dared began tucking a jalapeno plant in the corner of the garden for kicks and a little variety.

Nowadays, you don’t have to look far to find a garden sizzling with an assortment of vivid peppers that are hot, hot, hot. Finally, the time to harvest our little devils has arrived.

Is this a trend, or is our family strange?

“Our business has doubled in a year,” said Nita Acuff Crown, manager of Flamingo Flats, an amazing store in St. Michaels, MD.

Flamingo Flats is the place to tune up your taste buds. You’ll find pepper sauces from around the world, from Jamaica Hell Fire to Samson’s Sauce, billed as a means to either cure insanity or drive you nuts.

And no, their jerk sauce is not something you give the creep down the road; it’s a finely seasoned Caribbean concoction that will turn any meat or fish exotic.

This time of year, you can also acquire some of the 100 or so fresh peppers grown by Flamingo Flats owner Bobby Deppe.

Nita Crown believes that people are turning to peppers for seasoning to avoid the unhealthy excesses of oil, sugar and salt. Peppers are good for the circulatory system, she observed.

Others suggest that Americans have grown tired of the bland food they grew up with. A little hot pepper sauce adds pizzazz, and there’s evidence to show that people’s tastes are changing. From 1987 to last year, consumption of dried New Mexican chilies nearly doubled to 64.2 million pounds, according to the American Spice Trade Association.

The evidence is not only statistics: peppers have sprouted their own magazine and enough books to fill a small library.

Alternately, the pepper phenomenon might be attributed to the spreading popularity of the Latin culture, the source for most of our exotic varieties. There could be something to that. Seldom do you sit at a restaurant South of Texas or Florida when they don’t bring a bottle of sauce or a dish of peppers to your table. Take that, gringo.

Then there’s the possibility that people want to test their limits with doses of capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-iss-in), the chemical in the membranes of a pepper that makes it hot. The mouth burns, the face reddens and you grab for your beverage. And you may get the hiccups.

Boy, was that pepper righteous.

At our house—where we grow a dozen or more varieties of hot peppers—we consider ourselves pros when it comes to hot stuff. We’ve paid our dues.

Years ago in Illinois, we’d lunch at a parlor that served up greasy, Firebrand chilli (as it’s spelled in Lincoln Land). Eat a whole bowl of The Den’s hottest concoction and you got to write your name on the wall. (What happened if you ate two? Have you ever tried to write with a red-hot bowling ball in your belly?)

In travels south of the border, some people bring back serapes. We import hot sauces and seeds to plant. Our favorite sauce for a while was Matouk’s Hot Calypso Sauce, a name that conveys more than a spice.

This year’s dry summer was brutal on vegetables. Our tomatoes were so-so and some farmers’ crops down the road were declared disasters. But all of our peppers—with nary a fertilizer or pesticide, we might add—grew like monsters.

We’ve got hearty bushes of various jalapenos, green and red. We’ve got fairly common Hungarian hot wax and hot cherry peppers that will shrivel your tongue.

We didn’t get it together this year to grow our Peruvian purples or our Bolivian rainbows. (Thus, no weird entries at this year’s county fair.) But we’ve got a half-dozen healthy Habaneros bushes drooping with specimens that go 9-10 on the international 10-point heat scale.

We’ve got too darn many red and green cayennes, some long and gorgeous Anaheim reds, gobs of Thai chilies and some of those fiendish little Tepins, a 10 on every heat meter. We’ve got several whose names we’ve forgotten. What do we do now?

As long as there’s a healthy tomato in the county, we’ll be making salsa for chip-dipping. We’ll dry a mess of the cayennes for spices and ornamental purposes. We’ll slice some varieties for cooking and eating. And we’ll can as many as humanly possible for year-round use in every imaginable fashion.

Before the frost, we’ll also bring two or three of the healthier plants inside, where they will be producing warm surprises well into winter.

At our house, the stews will not be for the faint of heart.

(If you’re interested in getting a Flamingo Flats catalogue, call 800/468-8841.)

— BL

Too Many Zucchini
Five years ago, I moved to South County, and the memories of that fateful first garden still make me tremble. What was I thinking? When I recall the consequences of my thoughtless actions, I still … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

My last home was in the Historic District in Annapolis. My plot of land had a house on it. No front yard, no side yard. The back yard was big enough for my car and two garbage cans.

The lack of space, the constant noise, and the Molotov cocktail tossed by an irate colleague against my neighbor’s clapboard wall convinced me to move.

It took six days for my house to sell. I laughed all the way to the realtor’s office to put the down payment on my new South County hillside home. It had land—not much, only 80 x 189—tiny enough to keep trim and a nice flat space for a garden. I’d grown up with a garden and considered that country life wasn’t authentic unless a garden graced the back yard.

I laid out my garden on grid paper. Twenty-four tomato plants. Twenty-four basil plants. Twelve green peppers. I like tomatoes and basil twice as much as green peppers. Six pumpkin plants, for the kids in the neighborhood, for Halloween. And six zucchini plants.

Ed, my neighbor—the man who knows everything—checked on my progress as I planted the seedlings. He’d rototilled the whole thing for me, with several mutters about the size of the plot. He seemed to think that a plot 20 x 40 was a little much for one single female. I ignored the mutters. I knew how many vegetables I was likely to consume. While I laid out the plants, Ed studied the garden plan.

“Six zucchinis,” he finally said. “That’s a lot of zucchini.”

“Nah,” I said, “I love zucchini.”

“But six…”

Tomatoes and basil thrived through May and June. The peppers were doing absolutely nothing. Which was a good thing, as a relentless green wave of zucchini vines was clambering over the spindly plants.

Ed, normally an upbeat man, eyed the vines sourly.

“That’s a lotta zucchini,” he said for the tenth or twentieth time.

“I’ll let you have one or two.”

“Don’t bother,” he said. “I’ll have plenty.”

“But you didn’t plant any.”

“Don’t need to.”

I dreamed of what I’d do with my zucchini when they got big enough. Steamed with butter and herbs. Raw in salad. In soup with yogurt. Stir-fry. Pickles, plain and curried. Fried. Cut in matchsticks and sautéed for pasta.

Late July and early August, the zucchini was taking over the entire lawn. I’d eaten zucchini every meal for three weeks. I woke up tasting of zucchini.

I took bags of zucchini into the office. Every client would be graced with a nice sack of fresh, organic zucchini. I was amazed at how many didn’t want it.

Mid-August. Steamed with butter and herbs. Raw in salad. In soup with yogurt. Stir-fry. Pickles, plain and curried. Fried. Cut in matchsticks and sautéed for pasta. I canvassed the neighborhood for new ideas. Zucchini bread. Stuffed zucchini. Layered zucchini baked with cheese. Chocolate zucchini cake. Chutney. My fingers shook when I touched the stuff.

“Want some zucchini?” I casually asked Ed one afternoon.


“I’ve got some nice zucchini bread, too.”


“Zucchini chutney’s coming along. It’s spicy, got jalapenos in it.”

“Thanks, but I’ll throw up if I look at another zucchini anything. Maybe in January I’ll try some.”

I skulked strange neighborhoods at dawn, leaving anonymous bags of little green vegetables on front stoops moist with dew.

Late August the nightmare intensified. Huge zucchini were thrusting out of the sea of vines.

“Look,” Ed said one afternoon as I stared unhappily at the frothing green wreckage of my garden. “You gotta just do it.”

“Do what?’

“Pull up the damn vines.”

I recoiled. Ed shot a glance at me. I couldn’t meet his eye.

“Well,” he said casually, “I think I’ll get along home. You going out this afternoon?”

I nodded miserably.

“See ya.”

I went to the mall, walked around, looked at stuff but didn’t see it. I drove home, dreading the moment when I would drive past the garden. I braked, stopped, stared.

It was beautiful. Rototilled between the rows of tomatoes and basil, around the remnants of the kids’ pumpkin plants. And a wide, dark swatch of freshly tilled dirt. Absolutely gorgeous.

— Lee Summerall

to the top

Calvert Gas Terminal: Gambling Proposition?
If you live along the Bay within 10 miles or so from the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, the mail this month brought you the plant’s chatty little Community Update.

“LNG Plant No Undue Hazard to CCNPP,” was the update’s main story, written about a consultants’ study.

You may not have read past those maddening acronyms. (LNG stands for Liquid Natural Gas; CCNPP stands for the plant.) And probably not ten people read the study. Here’s what’s happening:

Columbia Liquid Natural Gas Corp. has applied to reopen a gas terminal with off-shore loading at Cove Point in Southern Maryland. Tankers from Algeria or elsewhere would come up the Chesapeake to unload, and then the gas would be pumped through a 6,400-foot underwater tunnel to shore. There it would be stored in four 375,000-barrel tanks.

One of several questions here is what effect an explosion might have on the nuclear plant, which is 3.5 miles away. Also, is there a danger to the containers of casks of highly radioactive spent fuel which is now being stored at the plant?

Baltimore Gas and Electric, which owns Calvert Cliffs, paid consultants to study these questions. Then, in Community Update, the utility published a conclusion: the chance of serious damage to the plant from a gas explosion is 1—in—25 million.

This finding is based partly on the belief that a gas cloud probably wouldn’t drift as far as the plant before exploding.

We’re in no position to challenge that finding, given that the study consisted of enough mathematical equations to make an algebra teacher dizzy.

But we did notice a few understandable tidbits:

The consultants, Arthur D. Little Inc., found 32 cases of fire or explosion on gas ships. Based on these studies, they estimated that there is a two percent chance of a major gas release from a fire or explosion at the unloading dock and one percent for such a release at sea.

If a collision occurs, the probability increases to four percent. The consultants remind us that there is no speed limit for tankers on the Bay.

The report also points to potential hazards in an operation such as this: an airplane crash, sabotage, hurricane, frost, high winds, tanker ramming, construction defects, overfilled tank and too much pressure in the gas pipeline..

“Attention needs to be paid to sabotage potential by disgruntled employees as well as by terrorists,” the consultants observe.

Gee. Let’s hope Columbia treats its workers well.

The study also notes that some gas pipelines have a 1 in 10 chance of rupture when they fail.

Let’s see now. In talking about potential problems, we began at 1—in—25 million and now we’re down to 1—in—10. Hmmm.

Could it be that before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission makes a decision that people might want to take a closer look at what Columbia intends to do?

Boating’s Back
If attendance and sales during the two weekends of the Annapolis Sail and Power Boat Shows are a harbinger of things to come, then the boating lifestyle is back in a big way.

Boat show goers and exhibitors alike were elated. Sailboat show attendance was up 23 percent over last year’s show. Powerboat manufacturers were selling new boats: Viking Yacht Company reports four boats sold during the show with more to come; Baltimore Bayliner Dealer David Baumgarner of Riverside Marine sold 25 boats at the show.

Consumers were clearly pleased at the numbers of boats and the amount of products available for purchase. Overall the number of boats exhibited was up 15 percent over last year. There were over 300 filled booths during each show. Not everybody bought boats, but few left the shows empty handed.

Since every hotel room in surrounding Anne Arundel County was booked, latecomers were referred to rooms in Washington and Baltimore. But no one seemed to mind. Stunning autumn days during both shows didn’t hurt; babies didn’t cry’ and boat buyers didn’t scowl at unfair taxes.

Those who came to buy bought, and those who came to sell sold. Seems like a good time was had by all.

— AH

A Kayaking Hero’s Harrowing Journey
Everybody loves a hero, perhaps because the courage of others brings out the potential in us.

In our search for a hero, Dock of the Bay considered S.L. Potter, the 100 year-old Californian who bungee-jumped from a 210-foot tower last week. But he’s too cantankerous.

“Hell no,” he grumped when asked if he was scared.

Instead, we bring you Steph Dutton, the man with an artificial leg who paddled his sea kayak 1,600 miles from Canada to Southern California. His is one great tale.

Dutton spent 56 days paddling in the Pacific Ocean on a quest that boils down to grabbing the most out of life. This was no leisurely, shoreline cruise. He saw sharks and whales and things in the water that disturbed him mightily.

Paddling between two and four miles out in the ocean, Dutton endured 15-foot waves and following seas that roared up more than a few times to dump him.

“It made it a little spooky. Actually, it was scary as hell,” said Dutton, of Granite Falls, Wash., speaking to New Bay Times by cellular phone a few days after his journey ended.

In 1978, after stopping to help a troubled motorist, Dutton was plowed over by a truck. As a result, he lost his leg 16 months later. For his B.C.-to-B.C. adventure (British Columbia to Baja, Calif.) he used a specially designed rudder on his Eddyline kayak.

National Handicapped Sports sponsored Dutton’s record-setting voyage. But this journey had as much to do with ticking clocks as with overcoming handicaps.

Dutton’s father, an adventurer himself, succumbed to a brain tumor in his early 50s. Dutton’s brother, 50, learned recently that he, too, has brain disease. Dutton, 43, is a healthy man but he has gained a special sense of our mortality.

This journey was partly about tying up life’s circle. After his father, Al, died, his ashes were scattered from a plane over the ocean off San Diego. Steph Dutton had never visited the spot—until he paddled to it.

“I stopped for a while there and I put my hands in the water. And I just cried like a baby,” he said.

Along the way, Dutton saw more than whales and wondrous sights. He was appalled, he said, by the trash, plastic bits, party balloons and the floating remnants of ocean dumping. While paddling for his life, he scooted about gathering up the flotsam and stuffing it in his vessel. At night, when he camped on shore, he would empty the garbage.

Dutton was especially troubled by the vast oil slicks and pools of scum from drilling rigs off of Santa Barbara. “I thought that when this happens, the Coast Guard shows up with the booms,” he said.

Once, a boat was dispatched to check on this lone figure paddling far out at sea. “I said to them, ‘Are you here to clean up the oil’?” Dutton recalled. “They looked at me real funny.”

What now? On Oct. 17, after barely catching his breath, Dutton placed second in the master’s division of the Angel Island Regatta kayak race in San Francisco. He has more races on his calendar and next spring he plans to visit the Chesapeake Bay kayak symposium as a Eddyline’s representative.

So look up Steph Dutton, real-life hero, and he’ll share with you the simple but profound truth that propelled his journey.
“Life is just so darn short,” he said, “and many people die or retire without ever having done what they want to.”

Way Downstream...
In New Mexico, conservationist and Navajo Indian Leroy Jackson, 46, has been found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Some of us at New Bay Times knew Jackson as a pleasant and earnest man who traveled through Indian Country in his van, working to stop the overharvesting of trees in his beloved Chuska Mountains.,

Earlier this month, he disappeared after a tense, public meeting. New Mexico state police found Jackson’s body wrapped head-to-toe in a blanket inside his locked van, parked at a rest stop.

Police said they found no foul play. Jackson’s friends want federal authorities to investigate.

Jackson lamented to us last year the damage timber-cutting has done to sacred ground and herb-gathering spots. He had a sharp eye for the world. “White people are no smarter than us; they just know how to manipulate,” he said.

He had no use for fellow Indians who he believed had sold out their people. “They’ve got big bellies and they care only about themselves,” he said.

Leroy Jackson, warrior for the earth, is mourned by many...

Remember the Khian Sea, the ship that sailed the world loaded with toxic incinerator ash, looking for a country to dump on? Finally, the ship turned up empty, and a crew member sang that the cargo had been dumped in the ocean.

The ocean has taken revenge. Two Annapolis men who were corporate officers in the shipping company received stiff federal sentences this month. William P. Reilly got 37 months and John Dowd got five...

Ever see Presidio, the bad Sean Connery movie about a murder at the San Francisco military base of that name? The base, which is situated near the Golden Gate Bridge, is scheduled for closing. There’s talk about turning it into a center for studying the global environment. Sounds like the best idea we’ve heard yet for military conversion...

What has Mongolia done that the U.S. hasn’t? Ratified the United Nations treaty on protecting biological diversity—intended to save animals, plants and seeds from extinction. Mongolia is the 30th to get on board. The U.S. is dawdling...

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Zimbabwe, where they’ve begun a heavyweight task: moving 1,000 wild elephants. Using a $200,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and money from Britain, workers are tranquilizing these beasts and trucking them to other parks and valleys.

The goal is to thin out a 6,000-elephant herd, which had become too much for the Zimbabwe park.

Think somebody might be talked into sending a few of those creatures our way to promote a little of that diversity along the Chesapeake Bay?

to the top

No (For Now) on NAFTA
We had planned to sit out here at the Chesapeake, catch a rockfish or two and write about Halloween. But there are too many goblins afoot elsewhere trying to sell us NAFTA.

In case you tune out this kind of thing, NAFTA is a treaty-like agreement that opens borders for trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Congress will vote for or against it in a few weeks. The agreement sounds harmless, but it will touch many lives and not just along the Mexican border.

Supporters say we can bring sleepy Mexico into a new era, creating a nation of 160 million consumers for U.S.-made goods. They say that special provisions have been made to guarantee retraining for U.S. workers who would lose their jobs when industries head south for Mexico’s cheap labor.

(We figure that we could probably put out New Bay Times pretty cheaply if we headed down there and paid people $35 or $40 a week. But we’re not sure how many of you read Spanish.)

Proponents also tell us that “side agreements” guarantee that Mexico will be forced to protect its people from even more pollution caused by U.S.-owned companies.

It’s now or never, we keep hearing.

Well, we’re not convinced—yet.

As far as U.S. workers, we don’t think that a $100 million retraining plan is enough consideration for what they could lose. We’re talking about much more than money. We think this nation has paid much too little attention for years to the flow of jobs to Mexico and elsewhere.

Will the attitude change with ink on a NAFTA paper? We think not. Why not gear up these retraining programs today while the issue is hot? Then bargain some more.

When it comes to the environment, we’re torn. Some of the brightest people we know insist that bringing Mexico into the “system” is the only way to get a grip on the horrible conditions there.

They warn that unless we seize this day, Mexico will draw back further into the control of feudal lords who hate the country’s poor. We sure hope that doesn’t happen.

But here’s a couple of things we worry about. First, we wonder if what is written in the “side agreement” is incentive is enough to prod Mexico and its worthless, corrupt EPA—called SEDUE—to clean up its act. Pollution along the Mexican border didn’t get to be among the worst on the planet because SEDUE needs a little fine tuning.

Once the NAFTA deal is done, would this or any administration spend political capital for remedies? The U.S. even declined to get involved last week against Norway for violating international rules in the killing of whales.

There are some elements to this that you don’t hear much about. With trade tariffs phased out, more of our fruit and vegetables will be grown in Mexico. That means more produce at your local supermarket that is grown with a grab bag of hot pesticides, some banned in the U.S.

And as far as we know, the Food and Drug Administration has no plans to beef up border inspections—which now stand at one percent.

Here’s another local angle. Maryland officials have trumpeted the boon to the Eastern Shore poultry industry as more markets open up in Mexico. But have you heard them talk about controlling poultry’s extra nutrient pollution runoff into the Chesapeake Bay?

Maybe we’re conservative. Maybe we don’t like pig-in-a-poke purchases. Maybe it’s everybody saying take it or leave it.

But we think a better deal could be had for U.S. workers. And we think that new rules could be hammered out that do a better job protecting human rights in Mexico and health on both sides of the border.

to the top

Speaking the Plain Truth, Plainly

Dear New Bay Times:
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is very appreciative of your newspaper’s coverage of Bay-related news and of your conservation-minded editorials.

And your recent editorial reproach of scientific “gobbledygook” was penetrating. Enviros (twaddle for “environmentalists”) are also tainted with this communication deficiency. As you said, we all might influence more people (and make more friends) if we more often spoke the plain truth, plainly.

So, we will try to do better, and you keep editing the balderdash!

Rodney A. Coggin, Public Affairs Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Annapolis, Maryland

Chapter 3: The Levin J. Marvel

Dear New Bay Times:
I’m sorry I missed your write-up on the Levin J. Marvel. (Aug. 25.)

In 1953 or ‘54, I saw the Edwin & Maude and the Levin J. Marvel. laid up at Salisbury, Md. Subsequent inquiry indicated that these were the last Chesapeake Bay Rams, craft that were built to fit the locks on the old C&O Canal, before the Corps of Engineers made it a sea-level route. They were not good-looking vessels—slabsided, blunt bowed, and bald-headed—but they certainly were distinctive.

The Edwin & Maude was much the better and the better looking of the two. Her bold, sweeping sheerline gave her a claim to beauty and showed, along with her tight seams and solid timbers, that her hull was in good condition. This is proved by the fact that she was sold and operated for 20 or more years as a dude schooner under the name Victory Chimes. (She went to the Great Lakes, where she fell on hard times. In the 80s, I read that she was owned by Domino Pizza Corp. Does anyone know her current location and status?)

The poor old Levin J. Marvel was a far different case. When I saw her, her hull was so badly hogged (i.e., bow and stern had drooped) that her sheer line was straight. The gaps that had opened between the butts of the planks had wooden wedges driven in to fill the spaces and keep the planks from working in a sea. Signs of rot were everywhere. The edges of many planks were so soft and rotten that they wouldn’t hold caulking. Lead tingles 15 and 20 feet long were nailed over many seams to stop the leaks. I recall that after her loss, I read in the Baltimore papers that the pull of her anchor chains pulled her bows right off. I was not surprised.

I must disagree with Mr. Gingel (“Commentary,” Oct. 7), that the only real mistake the Marvel’s captain made was leaving the Eastern Shore. He made a mistake in buying her. He showed criminal irresponsibility in taking passengers aboard when the hurricane had been long forecast.

Last, he was wrong in trying to drive her north, into the wind. f he had run off for Solomon’s, it would have been easier on the ship, faster, with a better harbor waiting.

Peter H. Ludewig, Arnold, Maryland

Looking for Sir William

Dear New Bay Times:
Where is “The True Story of the Wild and Cantankerous Sir William” that I read in your paper (Aug. 12-25)?

I’m a duck nut. When I was a child my favorite story was about ducks: “Make Way for Ducklings.” The interest carried through my life.

I thought “Sir William” was a charming story my grandchildren (Cristin, two, and Nicolas, three, plus one on the way) would love and grow up with. I want to give it to them for Christmas.

I’ve looked all over in bookstores and libraries for this charming story. I’ve asked people. Nobody else has heard of it and it’s on no one’s register.

How can I get a copy?

(P.S. I pick up your paper every week and love it.)

Jeanne Summers, Shady Side, Maryland

Editor’s note: Now that she knows she’ll have a sale when she gets “Sir William” done, NBT’s children’s page editor Sonia Linebaugh promises to write faster.

From Lusby to Dover, Read All Over

Dear New Bay Times:
We have a summer home in Lusby and really enjoy this paper. Thanks—and please send us a two-year subscription.

Ken & Vonnie Zeigler, Dover, Pennsylvania

“Big Tony” Replies

Dear New Bay Times:
In your so-called newspaper, I read about how your writer thinks he finally shook the fishing jinx I zapped him with for messing in the business of my country.

Funny man, you are wrong! When Big Tony does the voodoo to you, it is not so easy to escape. And who is this Capt. “Hexbuster”? Where did he learn spell-breaking? (I have my eye on him, too.)

The Curse of the Deep does not sleep.

Anthony “Big Tony” Lopez, Freeport, Bahamas

Editor’s note: The authenticity of this airmailed note from the Carribbean could not be verified..

to the top

Worry Lights that Hold Back Nights
By Sonia Linebaugh

A problem bright and bold as brass is marching into our peaceful Bayside nights. Lights. Artificial lights are shining their way into our once serene nightscape with no apparent resistance and no regulation.

I’m not against light. I use it myself to see this computer screen so I can write this commentary. I use lights to steer my car at night, to read by, to cook by. I use lights to guide my guests to and from their cars at night.

But sometimes I say to those guests, “I’ll let you go in the dark so you can see the sky.” Then they speak in wondering tones of a magic they haven’t seen in a long time. They are amazed at the number of stars. They wonder why they haven’t been aware of the night sky in years. They whisper detailed memories of other occasions when they actually saw a constellation they recognized or experienced the full glory of their own starry, starry night.

I feel sad. I know that the night sky they’re making so much of is not the full feast. This miserable half-cup is all I’m able to provide because of the street lights that hold back the night.

To what purpose do these lights pierce our nightscape? Safety. Lights have come to be synonymous with safety. What? Tell that to the people at 7-Eleven and all those other shadowless convenience stores that are a favorite target of robbers. Tell that to the people who deal with crime statistics. There are more lights than ever before polluting the skies of America and is the crime rate going down? No. And where is the crime rate highest? In the bright lights and close-packed big cities.

So don’t move out here to the beautiful shores of the Chesapeake Bay and bring your worry lights with you. Leave them behind. Look at the lights of the night sky. Don’t hide in your house behind locked doors with security lights blooming from every corner illuminating your ugly security fence and your tidy manicured lawn that dumps pounds of pollutants into the once pristine Bay that attracted you here in the first place. Don’t come here with your urban and suburban fears of indigenous people and animals and plants that thrived here in happiness and harmony (well, relative harmony) before you arrived.

Turn off those lights. Look out and see the deer. Turn off the TV. Hear the owls call and the foxes and raccoons hunting in the night. Go outside. The bogeyman is not waiting for you. Look up. Find the Big Dipper. Find the Pole Star. Find the Little Dipper. Find mystery, magic and brilliance in the lights of nature.

See if you can remember what attracted you here in the first place. See if you can leave your suburban baggage behind you in the suburbs. See what wonders Bay life has to offer you.

Later, after you feel at ease in the comfort of the Bay night, join me in asking the county to turn off our night lights—maybe just every full moon to begin with.

We’re grown ups. I’m sure we can learn to walk out of our brightly lit anxiety closets and learn to see the real treasures and dangers of our world by nature’s lights.

to the top

Hallowe’en—An Appealing Day
by Sandra O. Martin

These mid-Autumn days sing a siren song. Appeal rings in the air. The blazing trees, the ticklish breezes, the sunbaked smell of Concord grapes, wraithful mists and the Harvest moon break open human hearts like pumpkin shells.

This morning’s pastel sunrise shimmering on the spread satin of the Chesapeake summoned me as strongly as love.

It’s no accident, I think, that we celebrate Hallowe’en, our most appealing holiday, this time of year.

Hallowe’en, you’ll remember, is short for All Hallows’ Eve. October 31 is the “eve” of a big celebration in the Catholic calendar. The next day, November 1, believers pay special attention to all the saints (or hallowed ones) who’ve gone to heaven before them. That’s All Saints’ Day, which in turn is the “eve” of November 2, All Souls’ Day, when all the dear departed whose addresses we’re not so sure about get their share of prayers.

This lovely time of year our thoughts are on the dead; perhaps their thoughts are on us. Maybe not. It may be only our mood, provoked by the bone-deep knowledge that Autumn’s abundance is not about to last. The beautiful, blazing leaves are about to burn out. They’ll fall, and our gardens will wither, and the sun will seem snuffed out by winter’s wet blanket. The lovely Persephone is bound for her half-year in Hades, taking our summer with her.

It may only be winter’s coming that puts death on our minds. Or it may be that the spirits of the underworld really do come calling this time of year, and that Hallowe’en’s the open door through which they pass.

Calling that shot is a gamble many prudent folk are unwilling to take. Thank you just the same, they seem to say, we’ll be ready when the ghosts come.

All those little ghosts fluttering in the trees of suburban houses are calling cards marking households that give ghosts their due. “Don’t bother to stop here,” the black cats, harvest kings, spiders and inflatable skeletons signal. “We’re frightful enough.

“Any frights you have in stock would be superfluous at our house. If you really need to scare the living daylights out of somebody, try the house next door. They didn’t bother to put up any decorations. They’re quite unprotected.”

That’s the jack o’lanterns’ message.

It’s not crows those scarecrows are scaring away. It’s the beckoning underworld. Ghosts are appealing to us through Hallowe’en’s open door:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleafing?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
No matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for.
It is Margaret you mourn for.

So wrote the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Autumn, like Spring, wants poetry, and long-remembered verses spring forth unbidden to help me interpret my heartfulness. It’s not only leaves and tomatoes that will be leaving—all in such a blaze of glory that we love them better than ever since they were new this loveliest of seasons. We’re thinking ahead.

This time Shakespeare said it: we “love that well which [we] must leave e’re long.”

So why the good mood? Why are all the little ghouls and Freddies and goblins and monsters and veloci-raptors shrieking with delight as they run from house to house to extort candy? Why are big kids and grown-ups dressing up, too? Why’s Hallowe’en such a party?

No wonder we celebrate it. All those little ghosts are crooking their fingers and calling to us in fond, familiar ways: we’re hearing voices of old friends we have loved and lost. We’re hearing our own sweet ghost in them.

The appeal is irresistible. We cannot help but respond.

Come on. Let’s carve the pumpkin and put a candle in it.

— Sandra O. Martin is New Bay Times’ managing editor.

to the top

Rock Fishing Gets Better and Better
Better late than never; probably better late than ever. Such is the outlook for the waning days of Maryland’s fall rockfish season, which promises to improve with age.

When the season opened Oct. 1, the fish were large and abundant, but catching them was something else. Oh, they could be caught, but since the moratorium was lifted anglers had become accustomed to catching their limit quickly. Not infrequently it was go out, catch, and back to the docks.

This year, things started out differently. While the recreational fishing effort was the same, the catch rate and actual catch was about half of what it was last year. No figures in for charterboaters, but judging by the airwave complaints of some charter skippers, they also found it took longer to guide parties to their limit of two rock a day, which sometimes complicated the schedule for those who chartered two parties a day.

But things will be getting better, count on it. As the weather and water get cooler, all the scattered small schools of stripers in the Chesapeake will bunch up into larger—and more easily fishable schools.

In the early days of the season, the Chesapeake was a bit warmer than usual for Oct. 1. Simply put, the fish weren’t into their fall pattern, catching many anglers by surprise. To further complicate things, the early days of the season were marred by brisk breezes, which hit hardest of all those of the upper Bay who prefer drifting live eels.

In crowds of boats that develop over schools in eeling, winds create tough fishing. It’s difficult to set an effective drifting pattern in winds and a navigational nightmare to avoid other craft.

Before the recreational season closes Nov. 7, look for excellent conditions: fish in large schools, and better still, many of them breaking much of the day. Breaking fish with screeching gulls above makes it easier for boats to locate them—and not infrequently in late fall, the schools stay topwater longer. They don’t appear as wary.

Feeding Frenzies
Trolling catches rock feeding on the surface (you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg; many more fish are below them), but for more excitement, try casting to them. In much of the year, most breaking rock are throwbacks, but as the weather gets chilly, many of the larger fish also surface. It’s not unusual to get the required 18-inchers and larger still.

Some of the best late-season casting will be off the mouth of the Potomac River, where one can pretty much count on schools of breaking fish all day long. It’s just running from one to another, as I did recently with Capt. Andy Scheible Jr. out of Scheible’s Fishing Center at Ridge just inside the mouth of the Potomac.

The best is yet to come there, but even on our early trip—and despite stiff winds—we were in breaking fish all day. Our technique was to troll with white bucktails with twister tails added at varying depths. We couldn’t get out into open and more productive waters because of the wind but found things smoother at the Hotel, a spot close to shore just above Point Lookout, where there were rock aplenty.

While Johnny and Elaine Marple, Joyce Murphy, Steve Ballman and my wife Lois concentrated on handling trolling rods, I cast white Atom popping plugs and small spoons into the breaking schools. The fish wasted no time in snatching the plugs popped on the surface, or the spoons reeled in fast in an erratic pattern.

When the school retreated below the surface, there was always another one, two or more within a short run, and the catching resumed—mostly rockfish, but some blues mixed in. Most of the rock were more than 18 inches, some were 25 inches or more. What a thrill it is to see a fish of that size blister a lure atop the waves.

A fish that strikes on the surface often fights on the surface, which, when combined with medium-action spinning tackle, makes for an exciting scrap. We caught more than 125 rock that day, kept only our charter limit of two each—and kept nothing under 22 inches. In the heat of summer, catch and release is not practical because of mortality associated with stress, but in the fall—and with careful handling—fish appear none the worse for the experience.

Capt. Scheible predicts there will be even more schools of breaking fish, and they will be bigger before Nov. 7. One won’t even have to troll as a backup, though those not adept with spinning tackle probably prefer dragging bats behind the boat. It’s less strenuous, and for many, more productive. The charterboat season continues through Nov. 21 when rockfish should still be breaking; if not, they will be available via deep trolling.

Techniques, Old and New
As the fall rockfish seasons continue, each year fishing techniques become more varied. This year, many more fishermen turned to drifting large chunks of soft crabs. Some planned using them before the season opened; others switched to them when live eels didn’t at times produce as well as in previous seasons.

The basic techniques are the same; find a school of fish, position the boat to drift over them (or anchor so the bait will drift to them) and drop the baits.

Which was the best? That depends on what an individual fisherman caught. Both worked.

There is one difference in fishing the two. With eels, the angler allows the rockfish to make a short run before setting the hook to better get the bait well inside its mouth. When using crabs, it’s best to set the hook immediately upon the pick-up.

Coming back, also, is chumming—though not with clams as in the great days of the 1970s. Instead, alewives are ground up and tossed overboard while hooks are baited with slabs from the sides of other alewives. The baited hook is drifted back slowly in the chum line. There’s no waiting when the fish grabs the bait; set the hook hard immediately.

A few lucky fishermen who were able to get grass shrimp, found them exceptionally productive. But this hasn’t been a great year for grass shrimp, and in the fall of any year they are even more scarce. Clams would also work, but back in the days of hundreds of pan rock being taken in clam chum lines, the price varied from $2 to $20 a bushel. Now, they can cost up to $100 a bushel—and it takes a lot of them to create and continue a good chum line.

Where They’ll Be
The lower Bay might be the best in the final days of the season, but rock should be available about everywhere in the Bay and its major tributaries, though north of the Bay Bridge the fishing isn’t expected to be as good as from early to late October.

A good bet would also be the Patuxent River—and therein lies another story.

In years just preceding the moratorium, that river wasn’t considered much for rock, even worse for spawning populations. Hardly a fry was reared there successfully; counts of juvenile fish were so low the river wasn’t even considered in young-of-the-year surveys. Ten years ago, that river’s index was figured to be around .06, which means less than one young-of-the-year rockfish for every trawl sampling by fisheries’ scientists.

Enter Ben Florence, DNR’s once-rockfish chief, later to become head of tidewater hatchery operations. Hatchery rockfish fingerlings were stocked heavily in the river year after year—and subsequently not only a healthy population developed, but also healthy brood stock.

Recent studies indicate that 42 percent of rock taken in the Patuxent originate from those fingerlings raised in hatcheries from eggs stripped from ripe wild females on their spawning runs in other Bay tributaries.

Better still, studies also indicate that 85 to 90 percent of fingerlings caught in young-of-the-year samplings originated from hatchery stock. The Patuxent’s sampling count late last summer was an incredible 100.4! It’s a success story for which DNR—and its point man, Ben Florence—deserve a tip of the rod.

Still more good news on the rockfish front. The annual year-of the-young index in the four traditional major spawning areas offers solid evidence Maryland’s population has taken another big step towards recovery. This could mean even greater relaxation of fishing regulations next year—if improvement continues.

DNR recently announced a record Young-of-the-Year Index of 39.6, which topped 1970’s previous record of 30.4. The index is an annual evaluation of average spawning success in the Susquehanna complex, Choptank, Nanticoke and Potomac.

In 1992, the collective index was 9.0; it was 4.4 in 1991; 2.1 in 1990, and 25.2 in 1989—the latter a count that triggered the lifting of the moratorium. This year, the Choptank River’s index was 105.5, the highest ever for there; the Potomac also got an all-time high with 36.2. The Susquehanna complex’s 23.0 was the eighth highest ever for there, and the Nanticoke’s 8.9 was the best in 21 years for that river.

A decade ago, as sportsfishermen were pleading with DNR to make drastic cutbacks in catches if not implement a moratorium, the young-of-the-year index was 1.4—and the Potomac was the highest with a mere 2.0. Fishermen now pushing for drastically relaxed catch regulations should keep this in mind. We rebuilt stocks by tight controls; we could reduce them via insufficient restrictions.

Enough said...

to the top

Point Lookout: Horrors, Frights and Haunted Nights
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

Here on Point Lookout there is a pall of sadness over the last bittersweet days of October. Empty is the osprey nest atop a piling just offshore. Now departing terns, who summer nearby, cry as they sweep low over the white lighthouse guarding this southernmost tip of Maryland.

Bordered on the east by the Chesapeake Bay and on the west by the broad Potomac, Point Lookout is nowadays a 500-acre state park, a favorite of fishermen, campers and nature lovers. Migrant flocks seek cover in the wide marsh. Clouds of transient monarchs pause to graze the goldenrod.

Yet this is a shore with a dark past.

Death-filled Days
On the path beside the river, golden leaves scurry beside me and crackle underfoot. The path is deserted, yet I pause often to peer over my shoulder because I am walking in the footsteps of ghosts.

My path leads through the well-trod grounds of the Union Army’s Civil War Camp Hoffman. By War’s end in April, 1965, 52,000 men had come through this notorious prison site—the North’s largest. Twenty thousand Confederate soldiers were interned here, in a space prepared for half that number. Nearly 4,000 perished under appalling conditions.

Today’s pine-scented path meanders to the fort and stockade. At the shadowy glade where the prison pen once stood, some imagined presence draws my glance sharply to the dark corners. The path continues toward a swampy place where smallpox victims were isolated; today, I do not hear their cries for help. Abruptly, the path ends at the burial ground. These dead have found little rest. They have been interred and disinterred and moved so often about the camp that only the skulls remained intact.

The Civil War made the Point a hospital for Union troops. After the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the Rebel camp was added. But long before that grim chapter, this had become a dark shore.

Leonard Calvert, the first governor of the Maryland colony, died young here, on land was settled in the early 1600s as part of St. Michael’s Manor. His son drowned nearby in Calvert Bay. Virginia Indians raided in 1648 and 1681, killing many of the settlers.

After the Civil War, the tradition continued: Many a soul has been lost in shipwrecks on this vulnerable stormy shore, including two dozen who drowned when the steamer Express broke up on the beach near the lighthouse in a storm on the night of October 22, 1878.

Horror has mounted on horror until you can feel, hear and see its traces. Point Lookout, says world-renowned parapsychologist Hans Holzer, is the most haunted place he has ever visited.

Ghostly Encounters
Wandering apparitions appear on pathway and beach. Ghost-lights flicker far out on the water on moonless nights: perhaps they are the lanterns of prisoners who drowned, attempting to escape in makeshift boats. Until the 1920s’ hotel was razed, guests complained of visitors who walked in and out of closed doors. The lighthouse is still visited by a woman, seemingly locked in a basement room, who cries for hours and scratches at the door. A golden-haired young man hides in a closet beside the steps to the light tower.

And at one camp site on the grounds of the former smallpox hospital, a bully ghost compels campers to loud, agitated action.

During the past century, the Chesapeake has reclaimed over half of the land once occupied by Camp Hoffman—as if to erase the blight. Few relics remain. If you search, you’ll come upon a few reconstructed remnants and impersonal historical markers. Most poignant is the fine, small Civil War museum nestled in a meadow of mallows and plumed phragmites; here you’ll find letters, diaries and pictures: the cherished goods soldiers carry into battle. The tangibles are inadequate; the ghosts are eloquent.

A few nights before Halloween each year, rangers, psychics and local historians recount the stories of those who linger here into eternity. Nature and artifice add eerie effects: herons squawk in the shallows; a fox barks across the river; the throbbing white light of a strobe illuminates the pale faces of soldiers who re-enact wartime scenes.

A full moon is expected to preside over this year’s Ghost Tour, scheduled for October 29 and 30 from 7-9pm. Admission: $2. 301/872-5688.

to the top

In the Air
Common terns, wearing their winter clothes, perch one to a post along the skeleton of summer’s jelly fish net in Herring Bay. The pigeon-sized terns are crisp white with gray wings edged in black. The black cap of the breeding season is reduced to a blackish nape and black line running through the eye. The bill is as bright red/orange as ever, but winter feet are blackish. Terns breed from Canada to the Carolinas and winter in the tropics.

In secondary positions on lower posts, black-billed, yellow-legged Little gulls, also dressed for winter, took their seats. In their own pattern of the popular gull colors of black, white and gray, the Littles have changed their summer black caps for gray with a dark spot behind the eye. They’ll likely winter here.

All-year residents in familiar dress are up to strange antics this season. Huge noisy flocks of blackbirds and starlings—some a solid half mile—are zooming around Southern Maryland. Dawn and dusk are their favorite caterwauling times. “I don’t know why they do it,” shrugs Jack Leighty of the Southern Maryland Audubon Society. “They don’t know why they do it. Maybe their flocking’s left over from a former migration pattern.”
These birds will be with us all winter long, though they’ll unflock soon.

In the Water
It’s the time of season when the fish and the birds cavort together. The hungry, diving gulls lead fishing men and women to the rockfish, which have begun to school in the colder weather.

Capt. George Prenant, who operates the Stormy Petrel charter out of Deale, attests to the healthy stripers being taken in this season of fishing delight.

“Most of them were being caught in 28-42 feet of water on spoons, parachutes and bucktail rigs,” Capt. Prenant said.

For an updated report or to book a charter, call Capt. Prenant at 301/261/9075.

to the top

Calvert Crusaders
Calvert Future Vision (remember them from last issue?) is focusing on its goals, and some politicians may not like what they see. In a recent organizational meeting, Visions members decided to take a closer look at Calvert County politicians and their attitudes toward the environment.

The grass-roots citizen group hopes to first educated voters on a variety of issues, then to inform the voters on how politicians stand on those issues. Hot topics include maintaining the integrity of town centers, developing a new industrial park and protecting the county’s environmentally sensitive areas.

Visionaries plan to mobilize the 50 folks on their mailing list to create a new presence and let politicians know they’re being monitored. Members will attend government meetings, write letters, publish flyers and eventually make endorsements.

If you want to join the crusade, call 410/535-4349 or attend the next meeting on November 15, 7:30pm, at Prince Frederick Library.

Baby Boomer Bass
Though the oyster situation is sad this fall, there is some good news from the Bay.

The juvenile striped bass are here in record numbers. DNR reports the count is the highest ever since the state started surveying the young fish back in 1954. Officials credit two factors with the comeback: cool, wet weather and strict conservation efforts.

Like the baby boomer humans, this group of baby rockfish will become a “dominant year-class,” which means they’ll be the big reproducers for years to come. The 1993 group is four times larger than last year and way outnumbers the last big class way back in 1970.

Along with the rockfish, blueback herring, hickory shad and yellow perch are also making a strong showing. DNR says the juvenile striped bass will be old enough for you to catch during the 1996-97 season, which could be an era to tell tales about.

Shades of JFK and FDR
If you’re nostalgic for the “Ask not what your country can do for you” days, pine no more over how to complete that famous phrase. In the manner of Presidents Roosevelt (Eleanor’s husband, not uncle) and Kennedy, President Clinton will be happy to explain what you can do for your country.

Like FDR’s Conservation Corps and JFK’s Peace Corps, WJC’s National Service Program is designed to put Americans to work on our country’s problems. Specifically, human, education, environmental and public safety problems.

Participants will get a small stipend during their time of service and a $4,725 education payment when their term is completed. The school money must be used for higher education or vocational training.

In our area, the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is already looking at ways it could use the patriotic workers. Habitat restoration and monitoring are a couple of options. The Annapolis-based office hopes to get a jump on its environmental colleagues by quickly feeding its ideas and proposals into the EPA machinery.

The National Service Program is scheduled to begin placing volunteers as early as the spring or summer of 1994.

Teaching Trash
Boaters of all sizes and shapes know the problem. You spend the day or weekend or week out on the water, and you’ve got ... trash. Imagine the stuff naval fleets or cruise ships accumulate. How do they deal with it? Where does it go?

Those questions are being answered in classrooms, where student now study how to live with marine debris. The lessons are developed by the U.S. Navy and the Center for Marine Conservation.

According to CMC, the students learn what it’s like to live with and handle trash aboard a Navy ship. The idea is to get the kids thinking about how to create less trash, especially plastics. Sixth graders in Florida learned how to transfer the nautical lessons to their daily land-bound lives.

Marine debris is both a serious contributor to water pollution and a crime. Just ask Princess Cruises, Inc. That company paid a $500,000 fine for dumping plastic trash in U.S. waters.

CMC reports Princess is cleaning up its act by improving waste handling equipment and educating its staff about dumping laws. However, the marine watchdogs add they’re hearing from cruise passengers who complain some ships are still breaking the law.

National Trail
Maryland has another first. The Beach-to-Bay Indian Trail has been named a “National Recreation Trail.” The 100-mile long path, which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, is the state’s first national trail.

The route marks the seasonal movement of Native Americans from ocean to Bay. Sen. Paul Sarbanes pushed for the National Park Service designation, saying the trail “extends through some of the most scenic and historic areas in America.”

The trail begins at Assateague Island and winds through historic towns, tidal bays, an old-growth forest and a cypress swamp. It will be formally dedicated on October 29 at a ceremony with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and the Senator.

Sarbanes hopes the trail’s cultural and recreational opportunities will boost the local economy by attracting the three million people in the metropolitan area who live just two hours away.

We hope those same people enjoy themselves but don’t detract from the trail’s natural and historical beauty.

— Carolyn Martin

to the top

Oktoberfesting at the Old Stein
Where Else but Mayo?

The Old Stein does not fit in.

Before you reach what may be the German restaurant nearest to the Chesapeake Bay and what owners claim is Anne Arundel County’s only German restaurant, Rt. 214 has twisted through many transformations. From Capitol Hill, DC’s busy, populous Central Avenue shoots to the Maryland line, becomes a congested state highway, passes the bustling Addison Road Metro, crosses beneath the Beltway, runs alongside one of DMV’s surliest offices, transverses burgeoning suburbs, eases into rolling horse-country hills, hops past Rt. 2, and becomes a Bay-headed backwater.

If you keep patience with the road after the land flattens and continue as if you were going to the defunct amusement park that once made Beverly Beach and Mayo desirable destinations, you’ll understand why the Old Stein does not fit in.

Because out here in crab country, the Old Stein serves up pickled herring (called rollmops) and braises pigs’ knuckles in Burgundy wine.

Locals still haven’t totally acquiesced to the Old Stein’s zeitgeist—despite its having occupied a Mayo landmark for a decade … despite a snug bar that invites you to settle in and bend an elbow … despite menu where Maryland familiars, crab cakes and soft shells, run alongside guttural-sounding German specialties … despite the fact that those pigs’ knuckles taste darn good.

If you, on the other hand, can indulge a taste for the unfamiliar without loving Bayfood less, October’s the month to take that drive.

Even if your heritage is German, German foods may be alien to you. Nineteenth-century German emigrants have long since joined America’s culinary mainstream, where their contribution has settled to an unfortunate most-common denominator of cold cuts, over-cooked meat, starches, and sticky sweets larded with Kool-Whip. That’s not German cooking, but unless you’re on come-to-dinner standing with a family that emigrated after World War II, it may be the closest you’ve gotten to the cuisine of the recently reunited Deutschland. With Germany the enemy in two wars, many German-American families relinquished affiliations that identified them as the “krauts.” They Americanized and ate hotdogs—just like you and me.

Even today, there are lots more Japanese restaurants than German in American cities.

So what’s a German restaurant doing in the Chesapeake countryside?

Realizing the typically American dream of proprietors Karl and Ursula Selinger. In Germany’s Allied-occupied post-war years, kids grew up in the shadow of American culture. “All the movies you saw were made in America. They made you dream of America,” says Karl.

Ursula left their Rhineland region in ‘57. Karl emigrated in ‘59, got drafted in ‘60 and got to know American from the top down, as a service man guarding the passage of presidents at Walter Reed Army Hospital. In his fondest memento, the boyish, upright soldier who was Karl stands in the shadow of the ever-young John Kennedy. One of his greatest regrets is that he’s been unable to duplicate the stolen photo placing him in Dwight Eisenhower’s shadow.

For the next 20 years, he worked in DC’s food and beverage industry, dreaming all the time of a place of his own—not in some mall but freestanding, where you could do as you wanted. Ten years ago, their Sunday driving quests took them to Mayo. The old house they found there had been in service a long time, as one of South County’s first gas stations, then a market, a tavern, before it became the Old Stein.

There it is still, a curiosity to arouse your curiosity. What better time to satisfy that curiosity than now, when Germans celebrate Oktoberfest?

One of the few things Karl doesn’t like about his adopted nation is fast food. Chains, he’ll say, are pushing the little restaurants out. Worse, they’re abusing customers with bad food and poor, impersonal service. Those flaws are corrected at the Selingers’ Old Stein. Ursula—who waits tables as well as running the restaurant—will welcome you. Karl will steal out of his kitchen to say hello.

“Do you like German food?” one or the other will ask. When you’re seated in one of the Old Stein’s three small, cozy dining rooms with its menu open before you, you’ll find these choices to try out:

Lots of wursts: dark or light, smoked or plain, pork or veal—all under $10. These savory sausages are stuffed in Baltimore by German butcher Egon Binkert. Everything else on Old Stein’s menu is made in Karl’s kitchen and draws German eaters from Baltimore, Washington, even Virginia.

Schnitzels, sauerbraten and rolladen. Schnitzels are breaded cutlets of pork or veal, calorically finished as, say, Cordon Bleu with a topping of ham and cheese. Sauerbraten is long-marinated beef, sliced and served in tangy gravy. Rolladen is beef—often flank steak—nicely rolled around bacon, carrots, onion, and dill pickle.

Topping the menu at $15 are German samplers and Oktoberfest specials, the latter including the aforementioned pig knuckle. If yours is a European appetite stimulated by richly sauced meats served on the bone, you’ll love that knuckle. Otherwise, try something else. Eating it is something like eating crabs, Ursula says: you’ve got to pick around to get the good out. German main courses are not for vegetarians.

But the sidedishes might be. Old Stein’s sweet and sour red cabbage is delicious and the potato dishes—round potato dumplings heavy with nutmeg, macaroni-like spatzel dumplings and German potato salad—are substantial enough to make a meal.

Top a meal like that off with one of the desserts Germans are famous for—Black Forest cherry cake with its whipped cream layers, Viennese or apple torte—and you’ll be ready for bed or exercise. Better choose the exercise.

Especially if you added good German beer—Old Stein’s plentiful offering include draft liter mugs and steins plus a Beck’s nonalcoholic brew—wine and liqueurs.

That ought to be enough, shouldn’t it?

But Laughing Gourmet discovered a bonus at Old Stein—a lesson in genealogy to remind us what a interconnected jumble of turns and chances bring us, from many distant shores, to our beautiful Chesapeake Bay, where we all fit in.

Follow Rt. 214 toward the Bay. When you pass Turkey Point Road on the left, expect the Old Stein—an old house that stand alone—to turn up pretty soon on your right. But don’t come on Monday. The Old Stein’s open Tuesday through Sunday, from 4pm till the customers stop coming. 301/798-6807.

to the top

If you get up early these days, you can see Orion racing across the eastern sky, seemingly in pursuit of Taurus the bull.

Orion is the mythological son of Poseidon (the god of the sea who holds a forked spear). He’s a mighty hunter of great beauty and gigantic strength, yet—like many a Greek hero—he comes to his doom over an affair of the heart.

Orion was loved by Eos, goddess of the dawn. But the goddess Artemis loved him as well. The most dramatic version of the story relates that Artemis’ angry brother Apollo tricked her into shooting Orion by mistake. Other versions say she slew him out of jealousy or as a penalty for losing a game of quoit-throwing.

Now in the skies Orion is forever a warrior, seen from behind, wearing an easily spotted belt of three stars. He wears a lion skin over his shoulder and carries both club and sword.

Orion contains many bright stars. The most easily distinguished is Betelgeuse (pronounced beetle-juice, just like the movie), which glows yellowish-red in variable brilliance on Orion’s left shoulder. Other bright stars in Orion are Rigel on the right foot (raised because he’s running) and Bellatrix on his right shoulder. The Orion nebulae, an area of space dust, is seen below the belt as Orion’s sword.

to the top

Pounds of Pumpkins
by Sonia Linebaugh

Last year Judy and Merle Howard sold 3,000 pumpkins at their farm on Route 258 in Deale. This year they expect to do the same. All the pumpkins are grown in their own fields except some of the giants.

This year their fields only produced 38 giants so they bought some from the Eastern Shore to please their customers. Their largest big one is 195 pounds, the size of a big man, and is shaped like a pickle. Mrs. Howard says she won’t sell that one—it’s too interesting. If you, too, fancy a big pumpkin, they do have a 175 pounder for sale for $20. They have a few others at that same price and quite a few large ones for $15, but prices go all the way down to 75 cents so there’s something for everyone.

Mrs. Howard paints some of her pumpkins. There’s one with Count Dracula’s face. Another is a smiley face. One was painted to look like a pig with four squashes next to it painted like piglets. That one sold in a hurry. Mrs. Howard uses acrylic paints and spray varnish to make her decorations last through the season. One painted like a turkey can be used for Thanksgiving.

The animals that live on the Howards’ Bay Front Farm have come up near the pumpkin patch so that children (and their parents) can get a close look. There’s magnificent white Thomas Turkey, Arnold the Pig who’s on a diet but seems to spend all his time eating, a peacock, guinea hens, ducks, chickens, and a goat. Geese run around loose. Cows and a horse can also be seen on the hayrides given on weekends through October 30.

to the top

Book Review: Blue Claws
Written & Illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop
280 words
By John C. Hines III

This book is about a grandfather and his grandson going crabbing together at the bay. It was the first time in the boy’s life to be alone with his grandfather and the first time he went to catch crabs. I like this story because I like crabs and I like doing things with my Grand Dad Big Johnny and my Grand Daddy Charlie. So this is the perfect book for me!

The boy and his grandfather went crabbing with “Two nice-size bunkers,” which they use for bait on the end of their lines. The little boy didn’t like tying the slimy fish tail to his line. But he was holding his breath, so he did it. My favorite part is when two old men come along the dock and ask if they had any luck in catching some crabs. They sure did have luck, a whole bucket-full of “blue claws”!

This book has great pictures on every page. My favorite picture is the one of the grandfather holding the crab by the back fins and showing his grandson the claws. This is the way I hold a crab too, so it won’t bite me.

If you like to go crabbing on the Bay and spend time with your grandparents, you should check this book out from the library.

Jake Hines, 9 1/2, lives in Owings Cliffs and likes to go crabbing with his Grand Daddy Charlie. On their best day they caught two bushels. Jake also likes to read and write and take pictures. He likes to watch TV shows with guns and listen to heavy metal.

to the top

How Much Do You Know about Halloween?
1. Where does the term jack-o’-lantern come from?

2. What was the original reason for the festival of Halloween?

3. What did young people learn from paring apples in one unbroken band on Halloween?

4. How did the custom of Halloween come to the U.S.?

5. What taxes are associated with Halloween?

1. Jack-o’-lantern is derived from the name for a night watchman who carried a lighted lantern in olden times.

2. Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve—the evening before All Saints’ Day) marked the end of the Celtic summer. A time of harvest festival and preparation for winter, it was also a day when the dead were thought to revisit their homes. Some say that people started dressing in scary costumes to frighten the dead away.

3. If someone could pare an apple in a single unbroken band and then throw it over the left shoulder, the initials of the future husband or wife would be revealed. This was one of many rituals for seeing who one’s mate would be.

4. Immigrants from the British Isles, especially the Irish, brought the idea of “mischief night” to this country.

5. At Tara in Celtic Ireland, all household fires had to be put out on Halloween night and rekindled from the official fire at Tlachtgha. People had to pay a tax to light their torch from this fire, then carry it home to restart their own fires. Matches were not available in those days.

to the top

Walking Faces
Back when our production manager, Alex Knoll, was very small our friend, Leann Dasgupta, dragged home the makings that would become one of the two best costumes he ever wore. It was a big cardboard box, and only she could see the magic in it. But she introduced her two kids, Haydee and Kevin, and Alex and his mom, to the art of making monsters. Here’s how:

You’ll need:
1. A large box. An appliance box is best and will make four masks.

2. Newspaper, five pounds of flour, a bucket of water & a place to do this messy work.

3. A utility knife, a thick paint brush, paints, string. Miscellaneous items like glitter, feathers, wire, yarn, fabric strips or ribbons can be added.

Here’s what you do:

1. Cut a large shield shape, with a small wing midway on each side, out of each face of the box.

2. Hold the shield up to the person who’s going to wear it. Hold it so the bottom is just at the knees. The top may be taller than the wearer’s head. Mark where the person’s nose is.

3. Lay the shield flat. Cut an oval hole for wearer’s face using the nose mark as a center guide.

4. Score the mask with three vertical marks on the front. To score means to cut lightly with the utility knife through just the top layer of cardboard. Then bend the cardboard at the scores so it will curve partway around the wearer.

5. Now mix up some papier maché glue by mixing flour into a bucket of water until it’s nice and sticky.

6. Dip torn newspaper strips in this glue and use them to form large eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth, below the opening for the wearer’s face.

7. Let the whole thing dry before you paint or decorate in your most creative way.

8. When you put the mask on, hang the wings over your arms; then tie a string across the back from wing to wing.

Alex remembers, “It always smelled dank and it was uncomfortable–big, cumbersome and jagged inside. On the other hand, it was like being in a suit of armor.

I was a monster. I thought of myself as a wild thing, able to don a completely different identity.

I kept it for years.”

to the top