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Chesapeake Country Volunteers Find Thanks Giving
Six volunteers share their heartwarming stories
by Stacy Allen, M.L. Faunce, Carol Glover, Val Hymes, Valerie James and Sandra Martin
What thanks will you offer when the feast is laid on the table? Is it for being or doing or having or getting youll give blessings? Amen to all. But its yet another -ing word that gives meaning to Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving, we asked volunteers from all works and walks of Chesapeake life what and why theyre giving.
Musician Larry Griffin, founder of We Care, feeds thousands, ministering to body with food and spirit with music.
I listen a lot, said JoAnne Mitchell, Hospice of the Chesapeake volunteer.
Third-grade teacher Steve Burke helps Special Olympians develop their athletic skills.
Realtor Evora Davis opens the book of literacy for Annapolis area children and adults.
To help keep senior citizens safe and independent, Lloyd Lewis and his fellow Kiwanians will tackle any job that doesn't require a building permit.
I'm available whenever and wherever I'm needed, said Calvert County Abused Person's volunteer Maggie McLaughlin.
Their charity combines with the gifts of tens of thousands of other volunteers to spread reason for thanks throughout Chesapeake Country. But nobody benefits more, so were told, than the people who do the giving.
I get far more than I give, said one after another.
Giving, they told us, puts the thanks in their Thanksgiving.
Larry Griffin of We Care and Friends
By the time you read this, We Care and Friends, founded by Larry Griffin of Annapolis, already will have served Thanksgiving Dinner to about 3,000 homeless and needy area residents on November 24. This Sixth Annual Thanksgiving dinner was made possible with the help of countless volunteers and fund-raising activities that began over a year ago.
For the sixth year, the Cook-Pinkney Post of the American Legion on Forest Drive has donated their hall. Volunteers and local cab companies delivered meals to shut-ins. Griffin made sure that the music of five local bands, all volunteering their time, was served up along with the mashed potatoes and turkey. A musician and social activist, Griffin believes in the value of music.
"Music is so universal, he said. You know, James Brown said, everybody can dance. If you're moving your feet or your body, you're dancing.' Music lifts your spirit, so it's part of our Thanksgiving dinner."
Percussionist Griffin, 47, who says he was always an entertainer, began beating boxes and tin cans in grammar school. But his life didnt stay upbeat.
"I was homeless, he said. It's something I personally went through and now I want to give back. When I've helped someone or put a smile on a child's face, I know I've really done something." Now fighting a rare glandular cancer, Griffin knows something about healing, too. He is now taking a holistic approach, combining a good diet of vegetables, herbs and teas with the traditional medicine. To that prescription, he adds another ingredient: Music. It's a big part of the healing.
"My spirits are high," he said, "because I have my music, I have God in my life and I'm helping people. To me, that's the best reward in life."
So Griffin, whose group also sponsors an annual Christmas new toy drive for children, is looking ahead.
"My vision," he said, "is to establish a cultural healing center to help feed and clothe and house the homeless, to have classrooms, to teach responsibility, to educate those who need work skills. My goal is to bring people together from all communities those in need and those who want to volunteer so we can learn from each other."
Reach Larry Griffin for We Care and Friends at 410/268-8289.
Maggie McLaughlin of Calvert County Abused Person's Program
Safe Harbor. The name says it all. No battering waves and tossing wind. Calm, organized and secure.
In Calvert County, Safe Harbor is a place for abused adults and children, referred from area agencies, to get out of the storm. Here without fear they carry out lifes daily rituals: laundry, cooking, school, sleeping plus counseling and job skill courses. The community helps out with donations of goods, time and money.
Since 1985, one of the helpers has been Maggie McLaughlin, a retired physical education teacher. McLaughlins the type who can laugh and cry at the same time, whose face mirrors her excitement and happiness and her days of woe.
Formerly an abused wife, she now reaches out to other abused persons. "I had an education, a job, and a support system through AlAnon, said McLaughlin, 55. I also had the support of my family and friends, who never gave up on me. So I feel good when I can be supportive in return, especially when people don't have the backing of their families."
Her work makes her the arms people fall into when the bottoms fallen out of their lives.
"I do all the usual volunteer activities: staff the hot-line, help them with referrals. I meet rape victims at the hospital and stay with them. I listen as they decide whether to press charges or not. I go to court with them. I'm available whenever and wherever I'm needed. I check to see what are safe times to call. Then I call them on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. I answer questions, take them to legal aid, Catholic Charities or Social Services.
From the thousand crises of a dozen years, some memories stay vivid as a new bruise.
"I got a call at 3:45 in the morning. A lady at the shelter was in labor. While the ambulance took her to the hospital, I rushed over to meet her there.
I'm trying to help. Don't cry, I'm saying. She's crying. I'm crying.
"You're so strong, she says. I'm on the bed with her. Breathe, I tell her.
"The baby shot right out.
I said, Oh! we delivered.
I saw her at the Safeway recently. Maggie, she said, come see your baby."
With tears in her eyes, McLaughlin tries to explain why she spends so many hours helping others. By volunteering, she said, I get the opportunity and it's a gift to make someone feel important.
It's scary to go to court by yourself. Your life is on public display, and this is a small community. We're not sitting in judgment of you, I tell them. Look at me and look at the judge, not at the people in the courtroom. I'm there for you.
It's so rewarding. I've become friends with some of the people I've helped; they've almost become family. I've never had a bad situation here. I look for the good in everyone, everyone has it, said McLaughlin.
A Safe Harbor doesn't have to be a building. It can exist in the arms of a Maggie McLaughlin.
Since 1984, people victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual abuse have looked to Calvert County Abused Persons Program for kindness, support and advocacy. Since 1993, theyve been able to take refuge in Safe Harbor. The Safe Harbor shelter came into being through the cooperation of the Calvert County Commissioners, Health Department, Historical Society, Retired Black Teachers and Womens Center. Reach the Abused Person's Program at its Help-Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 410/535-1121 301/855-1075).
Steve Burke of Cecil County Special Olympics and the Annual Unified Sports Sailing Regatta
Steve Burke, 33, of Elkton, doesnt have a whole lot of time on his hands: hes a third grade teacher at Elk Neck Elementary and a dad. But each year he makes time for the huge Annual Unified Sports Sailing Regatta at Elk Neck State Park, a competition where athletes with and without disabilities come together to race catamarans. Special Olympics athletes have mental retardation or closely related developmental disabilities.
Cecil County Special Olympics hosts the annual regatta. As well as doing what in the regatta, Burke is serving for the third year as its the county Special Olympics area director, overseeing the financial aspects of the programs and making sure that the year-round sports programs sailing, basketball, softball and volleyball continue to run.
Im not a Special Ed guy, Im a sports guy, explained Steve, who coached special athletes for a year and a half before turning administrator.
The direction Special Olympics is going, with inclusion and Unified Sports, is getting our athletes in the mainstream as much as possible. So its important that these athletes are able to train and compete competitively.
Last year, at the 1996 Fall Sports Festival, I was watching our power lifting team. Its a powerful team of six lifters, some state record holders. During the dead-lift competition for heavyweights, this one athlete lifted an incredible amount of weight. It was easily comparable to what a professional lifter could hold. Seeing that, and his reactions to the lift, was very emotional, very powerful for me.
Experiences like that are why Steve says I just believe in Special Olympics. I believe in everything about it.
Still, he says Id kind of like to coach again. Get more hands-on and involved with the athletes.
Either way, hell continue to make time in his busy life for Special Olympics. That, he says, is because anyone who volunteers always walks away with more than they took to it.
Lloyd Lewis with Partners in Care
With aches and pains and impairments, its not easy being old. Harder still in a society like ours, where all the attention goes to youth, health and vitality.
But age has its heroes. One of them is Lloyd Lewis.
For 22 years, hes reached out to serve and protect his environment, community and its people. When Lewis, 58, was working full time as an oceanographer for the Department of Energy, he filled his spare time with volunteer service. When the Ph.D. scientist retired in 1995, he turned his full-time energies to volunteer service.
In particular to seniors, who, he says seem to be forgotten and don't get much assistance.
But not by Lewis and his fellow Mayo Kiwanians. The entire Commodore Mayo Kiwanis Club is looking out for seniors, cooperating with a countywide program called Partners in Care to keep South Anne Arundel seniors safe and independent. "We install safety devices for seniors who cannot afford these services and without them would not be able to retain their independence and stay in their homes," Lewis explained.
The Kiwanians first stop is the bathroom, where safety seats in tubs and railing around toilets make a big difference for people who are frail and fragile. But the crews don't stop there, for theyll tackle any job that doesn't require a building permit. Last week Lewis worked with a Kiwanis crew to put plywood up around a trailer for a senior couple. "Thatll save them a lot of money on heat this year," said Lewis.
When one jobs finished, we look around to see what else may be needed. We always check the smoke alarms, he reported.
Donning their caps and badges, the Kiwanis Volunteers work in teams. "One installs the safety devices; the other is the 'chit-chat' guy," Lewis said.
The chit-chat guys work is just as important as the doers. Seniors need to feel comfortable with you. They need to know what is being installed, how it's being installed, and how to use it properly, said Lewis of the job that often falls to him.
Lloyd Lewis is a busy man. The afternoon NBT caught up with him, he had four homes on his list plus two volunteer trainees Jim O'Farrell and Bill Lovelace from the Annapolis Kiwanis Club. That's after spending the morning volunteering at Jug Bay Wetlands, keeping up on his commitment to the environment.
Lewis is so busy that he can't remember all the good he does. But people hes helped remember him. Once in a while, when hell see someone that he did some work, he gets his reward. I get a thank you and a big hug. That's what they can afford to give, and that's what it's all about."
Coordinating the senior service of Lloyd Lewis, the Kiwanis and over 200 active volunteers is Partners in Care. Based at North Arundel Hospital, Partners in Care matches able volunteers with elderly, disabled or otherwise needy people. Reach Partners in Care at 800/227-5500. Matching their services farther south in Anne Arundel County is Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers: 410/267-6026.
Evora Davis of People United in Christ
Evora Davis, age, of Annapolis realized a long-held dream when she founded an organization to help others improve their lives beginning with reading.
After 35 years in computer programming and management at the Justice Department and 10 years selling real estate, this mother and grandmother created People United in Christ. Its mission: to help the unemployed and welfare recipients find jobs; to help people in low-paying jobs get better ones; to help people keep their jobs, and to help others improve their life-management skills in their homes. Nine months later, the program includes tutoring, weekly reading lessons for children at Woodside Gardens in Annapolis and training tutors and mentors for adults. A dozen skilled volunteers and tutors work in coordination with the Literacy Council, the Community Action Agency, Social Services and other agencies, churches and civic groups
"This is something God intended me to do. It has always been in the back of my mind, a vision, really. I wanted to help people achieve prosperity and success in their lives through the study, understanding and practice of God's word, to relate God's word to the practicalities of life and to help adults and children improve their learning skills, said Davis.
Adults have the greatest need, she explained. Theyre also the hardest to reach. "Since reading is the key to an education and education is the key to a better job and a better life, we decided to target adults with little or no reading ability. But people who cannot read are reluctant to come forward, although we can assure them that their participation will be kept in the strictest confidence. We have to hit just the right buttons to reach those people. We must be patient, understanding and caring.
Kids, on the other hand, eat up both the knowledge and the attention. Said Davis: "The children love the reading lessons. They insist on doing more when the time is up.
Like any upstart project, Davis has a wish list as long as a letter to Santa. "We need more tutors. We need office supplies and space for training that is easily accessible to the students, perhaps a business office we can use on weekends or in the evenings. But we are growing steadily. Networking and word of mouth have brought us students and invaluable volunteers.
"It has not been easy, she concludes, but the rewards are many. I feel fulfilled.
To volunteer as a tutor or mentor, call Davis at 410/267- 8029.
JoAnne Mitchell of Hospice of the Chesapeake
Volunteer JoAnne Mitchell, age, cradles three-year-old Erin Bohns in her arms. The tiny girl, her familys youngest child and angel, weighs 11 pounds.
At three, Erin has survived end-stage cerebral palsy and a host of crippling side effects longer than anyone would have expected. Joyful though her survival is, life under such circumstances places extraordinary burdens on a family. As well as their daughter, the Bohns have two young sons. Both parents work, mother Kim trying to continue her fathers printing business.
Hospice of Chesapeake is the familys lifeline, coming to their Severna Park home with nursing, counseling, spiritual support and just plain loving care.
Loving care is the chief job of Mitchell, a homemaker who makes time every Wednesday from 12:30 to 3 to hold and nurture little Erin while the family gets on with life.
We at hospice are here to help people in their death, but I think the biggest thing we do is help people live. We walk with you all the way, said Mitchell, who learned about hospice first hand in the long months other volunteers helped her sister, Suzanne Lebowitz, in the final stages of her struggle with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
When hospice asked me to work with Erin, my daughter was pregnant, Mitchell by then an experienced Hospice volunteer reflected. I wondered how that would be, whether Id feel particularly sad for Erin or concerned for my own grandchild.
What happened is, I realized along the way that each child is a gift for whatever they have to give us. The potential is so different for each individual. In caring for my granddaughter, Madison Suzanne, Ive discovered the challenges of a very active child are gifts. In this baby we nourish for whatever time shes here, Ive discovered other blessings, like seeing brothers learn unconditional love from watching mom and dad care for their baby sister.
So hospice is not a sad situation. Its helping that baby, helping my sister, helping the terminally ill person deal with life and find whatever joys they can find along the road. How best to make them comfortable, how to help the family live together when you know the end is coming. Certainly there are sad times, but because I look at it as listening and helping people live their lives, I have the privilege of seeing life differently.
Working as a volunteer with hospice, I get far more than I give.
Hospice programs surround patients and families with loving care. But theres one catch: to enter most hospice care, a person must be no more than six months from expected death. To ease living with illness, Hospice of the Chesapeake, the regions oldest and largest such program, last year began an outreach it calls Bridges Supportive Care. Learn more about either program at 410/987-2003.
Shore Grinch Steals Christmas
The Chesapeake Railroad wont be running this Christmas.
You wont be able to hop on the Candy Cane Train for a ride with Santa. The vintage heavyweight Pullmans, the Defender and the Catoctin, and the 1942 Whitcomb diesel locomotive, will stay shut up in their sheds. Instead of bustling and jolly, Ridgely Station in Caroline County will be bared and bleak.
All because a grinch stole Christmas.
This Eastern Shore grinch drove a tall heavy truck under one of the Chesapeake Railroads key bridges. The hit and run driver hit the underside of the span so hard, leaving so much damage that it cant be repaired in time for Christmas, laments Stacy Bartosh.
Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves are all outfitted with no place to go. And we sure dont know what to do with 5,000 candy canes, Bartosh says.
If she worries this disappointment like a aching tooth, its because the little railroad has been her lifes stage. About 15 years ago Bartoshs husband Bill, a locomotive engineer for over 30 years, purchased the company, reviving it after a decades absence with no state for federal subsidies. (The rails are government owned; equipment and service are the companys.) Thats a feat unusual in the transportation industry and remarkable in the shrinking rail industry.
Working entirely with volunteers, Bill Bartosh rebuilt and reopened the 55-mile Caroline County line.
We were married on the train, in a vintage wedding suited to its classic equipment. We lived on the train, Stacy Bartosh says.
One of Marylands shortest, the Chesapeake Railroad Company operates largely as a freight carrier. But for eight years, its make its famous at Christmas excursions, running short trips from Thanksgiving through most of the month of December. Passengers also ride for full at Halloween, and school children go on field trips. Wed love to develop this Eastern Shores tourist and freight business. Were right on the way to the beach. You cross over the line on the way to Rehobeth, Bartosh says, seeing the future in her imagination. The nations getting back to rail, she adds. Its so ecological in fuel consumption and wear and tear on the roads.
But this holiday season, dreams are in the future and problems close at hand.
The railway bridge over Rt. 404 cant be fixed soon enough to bring Christmas to Ridgely and Caroline County. Weve had the bridge hit in past, but weve always been able to identify who it was and they paid to fix it, the railroad wife says. This time we dont know. We have insurance, but the deductible is staggering.
Please tell the people the railroad regrets it is forced to cancel the Christmas season.
Green Heros Earn Gold and Bronze Rewards
You can get gold or bronze for being green, metaphorically speaking. Thats the message two statewide environmental trusts hope youll get.
The Maryland Environmental Trust wants to reward green action by awarding grants of $2,000 in honor of Margaret Rosch Jones and $1,000 in honor of Bill James.
Margaret Rosch Jones was the executive director and moving spirit of the Keep Maryland Beautiful program in the early 60s. An early proponent of recycling, she activated a admirable range of interests, from oil companies to Girl and Boy Scouts. Now, Maryland Environmental Trust is seeking communities and non-profit groups that show similar devotion, energy and ingenuity for litter prevention, community beautification or local environmental problems. For keeping Margaret Rosch Jones spirit alive, they can improve their work $2,000-worth.
As president of the Maryland Senate, Bill James was the principal architect of many of Marylands environment laws and programs, including the Tidal Wetlands law, Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation. He also authored the legislation creating the Maryland Environmental Trust. The $1,000 grants that carry his name and honor his work enable a new generation to take personal responsibility for the environment. Eligible are school groups, science and ecology clubs and other non-profit youth groups proposing projects that stimulate understanding of or eliminate problems in the environment.
To make your nominations before December 31, get your application from Maryland Environmental Trust, on the first floor of 100 Community Place, Crownsville, MD 21032: 410/514-7902.
On the other hand, maybe youd rather have a bronze statue for your green work. If so, Chesapeake Bay Trust has just the thing for you: an 18-inch high bronze sculpture of the Chesapeake Bay Trusts symbolic blue heron.
The bronze heron will be awarded for the first time this year in honor of Ellen Fraites Wagner. Ellen Fraites Wagner, who died two years ago this week of cancer, worked closely with our fellow trustee, former Gov. Harry Hughes, in establishing the Chesapeake Bay Trust, said Sen. Arthur Doorman, chairman of the board of Chesapeake Bay Trust.
It commends individuals or groups that promote public awareness and participation in the restoration and protection of Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to the new award, the Chesapeake Bay Trust makes grants to schools, non-profits, public agencies, community associations and civic groups involved in Bay restoration, clean up or education. Four to six hundred grants are given each year, totaling between $700,000 and a million dollars. Funds come from individual donations, the line 63a Maryland Income Tax Checkoff, and the ever popular Blue Heron Chesapeake Bay license plates. Since 1985, the trust has given 3000 grants to 1400 different groups, totaling $7 million.
Make your nominations in a 1- to 2-page letter demonstrating efforts toward preserving Chesapeake Bay. Letters should be sent to the trust at 60 West Street, 200A, Annapolis, MD 21401 by January 2, 1988 for presentation at the Second Annual Tributary Teams Conference in College Park on the 10th.
Lost Towns Find $15K for Hi-Tech Cameras
When winter comes, the freezing ground gives up few treasures and better hides its clues of the past. Archaeologists braving the north wind while standing holes filled of ice water wonder if they traveled the right career path.
But around Christmas this year in Anne Arundel County, a high-tech gift will warm the dog days of digging.
Thanks to a $15,000 grant, the Lost Towns of Anne Arundel County will be putting to work a new state-of-the-art video camera, along with a new computer and software for editing.
Who knows, at London Town and Providence the countys prime digging spots hot equipment like this might be enough to ward off a cruel north wind.
Were on the cutting edge of technology and archaeology, asserted Jim Gibb, an archaeologist on contract with the county.
The National Park Services Center for Preservation Technology and Training is contributing the $15,000 for the video system. It is another in a series of grants that the Lost Towns project has been winning as the 17th century digs gain wider exposure.
So what will the new camera and its partner computer do? The digital camera provides video images with crystal clear resolution. Besides recording historical excavations of note, the camera can give the diggers what some critics of London Town say has been lacking something to show an interested public.
Gibb explains a possible scenario:
We could take photos of an excavation, put them on a computer screen and recreate not only what the hole looked like filled with trash, but what it looked like with the building around it. We can create in simulation a show for visitors to see...
If, say, public broadcasting wanted to do a piece on us a few years from now, we could give them our digital images in sufficiently high quality for them to edit into a documentary.
The award suggests that if archaeologists arent digging, they ought to keep writing grant proposals. One day, the most hopeful among them believe, London Town especially could rival Colonial Williamsburg in some ways.
In a few years, it could be much nicer than Williamsburg; smaller, easier to handle and with some pretty sophisticated technology to help interpret the site, Gibb said.
Wanted: Big Thinkers For Small Planning Groups
Sign up or shut up.
After months of hard bargaining and rancorous debate, Anne Arundel County is shifting to the next stage of its General Development Plan: picking the neighborhood committees that will advise the county on details.
So if you want to have your say on matters such as mixed-use development, community design and transferable development rights, you have your opportunity to speak up.
The county began taking applications last week for the first six 16 small area planning committees that will be meeting over the next three years.
The first committees: Edgewater/Mayo; Annapolis Neck; Broadneck; Crofton; Severna Park; and Crownsville.
Not until a year from now will applications be accepted for Deale/Shady Side and South County, two more of the 16 committees.
People at least 18 who live in the communities or own businesses there are invited to apply. But theyll have to be prepared for a rigorous, twice-monthly series of meetings.
Members must be free of conflicts of interest. For instance, it wouldnt be appropriate for a committee member to push for development rules that could be financially beneficial. All will have to sign a document that reads: I agree to be open-minded in order to listen and record impartially the views of the community.
If you want to serve, youll also may need to know how to write persuasively, judging by the blank sheet of the application on which you must tell why you want to serve on a small-area planning committee.
Applications are available at libraries and county office buildings. The deadline for applying is Dec. 31.
In Nova Scotia, Roman Catholic monks have been born again as become environmental advocates. They are upset, reported the Associated Press, that the chain saws of a timber company are disturbing their mediation. So several times a week, they drive to a message center to wage an e-mail, phone and fax campaign against the lumber company
University of Toronto researchers have a message for us that we may not want to hear: Not only are cockroaches good for the environment, they are beautiful, reports the Toronto Globe & Mail. Good for the environment, researchers say, because they eat lots of bad little things. And beautiful because their bodies have "pleasant colors and designs"
In New England, fishing folks are having a happier Thanksgiving now that Congress has agreed to ban factory fishing trawlers at least until next October. The prohibition, tacked on to a spending bill, revokes earlier permits and bars trawlers of over 165 feet in length from dropping their huge nets to scoop up herring and mackerel. It could mean more mackerel along the Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay
Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Shelton, Conn., where authorities thought they had an emergency on a garbage truck when three sanitation workers fell ill recently. City officials called a hazardous waste company, who sent in seven experts clad in respirators and air packs.
The wary experts, no doubt looking like a Ghostbusters team, sifted through the trash and located the problem. They gave the town a bill for $6,784, along with the source of the problem:
Fifteen bags of cat litter.
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Thanksgiving on the Chesapeake
Dashing about the way most of us do, we forget to observe the wonders of where we live and the bounty in our midst. This is the time to take not. Here, in our view, are a few reasons to be thankful for our good fortune in living along the Chesapeake Bay in winter:
- Caring People. In our cover story this week, we write about people who see to the needs of the hungry and the elderly, the abused and the dying. We are fortunate to have people like Larry Griffin, Jo Anne Mitchell, Maggie McLaughlin, Lloyd Lewis and Evora Davis among us;
- Beautiful Surroundings. Sure, summer is the Bay's shining time. But winter along the Chesapeake with clear water reflecting gentle light; with swans and solitude reminds us that the Bay is pretty nice all year round;
- Mild Climate. A trip to the Midwest recently (3 degrees wind chill) reminded us that while we complain about the rain on the weekends, it's pretty doggone pleasant around here even in the harshest part of winter. (Of course, El Nino may prove us wrong on that one.) Good weather means there is:
- Plenty to Do. Even in the cold months with sunlight in short supply, Chesapeake Country offers abundant opportunities for hiking, canoeing, kayaking and combing the waterfront in search of in antiques, entertainment and that perfect bowl of cream of crab soup;
- Sound Economy. The Chesapeake Bay is a magnet for tourist dollars and, increasingly, a high-tech homeland. And in Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties, we have very few polluting industries to contend with. The trick, of course, is maintaining a balance between development and preserving the shorelines and the open spaces that keep our region habitable;
- Helpful Government. Many of you would debate us on this score. But from the federal government, the Chesapeake Bay consistently scores all it asks for in clean-up moneys and research dollars while others get less. We should be relieved that the foundation is laid for whipping Pfiesteria if that nasty little microorganism resurfaces next spring. Lastly, we along the Bay can hope that "Smart Growth" discourages dumb development;
- Plenty to Read. This is a shameless plug for newspapers. But if you spend time elsewhere in the country, you know that journalism in many places has deteriorated for a variety of reasons, and that a lot of papers aren't worth reading. Here, you have access to two of the finest metro dailies in the U.S. (the Sun and the Post), a feisty Annapolis paper with a healthy attitude toward government waste (The Capital), and, of course, New Bay Times, which aims to guide you winter or summer, rain or shine.
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Kinte-Haley Puts NBT Ahead of the Pack
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
Thank you for your informative and inspiring cover story on the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial being planned for Annapolis City Harbor (Nov. 6-12). It amazes me that there has not been a ground swell of interest and financial support for this project from this community that prides itself on preserving and promoting its history Why havent the county and state governments raised the money to complete the memorial, which will certainly increase tourism and generate national and international interest in this area? I guess only football stadiums count.
Once again, New Bay Times leads the pack on issues concerning the Bay and all the citizens of this region. Keep up the good work!
Connie Harold, Annapolis
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Marine Scorned (by a Woman)
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
I take great stock in whatever Bill Burton has to say about fishing. But on other matters, we live on different planets.
In his recent New Bay Times column (Nov. 20-26), Burton fumes about recent comments by Army personnel chief Sara Lister characterizing U.S. marines as extremists. Lister apologized but was promptly fired when Republican lawmakers in Washington demanded her ouster. Newt Gingrich added fuel, declaring that her remark had damaged the morale of the entire military.'
And so it went, reactions and overreactions across the county proving, mostly, that hell hath no fury like a marine scorned (by a woman).
When I asked my brother, a retired Marine Corps colonel, about Lister's fighting words, his response was more pithy. Sometimes extreme situations call for extreme actions, he said of the smaller branch's mission. But do the comments affect morale? I don't think so, reflected the former infantry officer. You have to take comments like this with a grain of salt. Today's young people in the military have the skill and the talent to take them wherever they want. I've seen reactions ricochet around the Beltway before, and they don't have any bearing on how people look at things. In fact, Lister raises a larger issue that some missed in all the brouhaha: the danger of disconnect between the military and the rest of society. If many Americans fail to appreciate the history and reality of military life and service, overreaction and fuming, by old warriors or anyone else, isn't the cure.
As I said, Burton and I are from different planets. Maybe it's true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But I'm beginning to think Burton may be from Pluto, a planet that's often just in the dark.
D.C. Bourne, Churchton
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How I Fell in Love with Chesapeake Bay
By K.J. Kohler
A couple months ago, I caught up with my Broadneck High School classmates at the class of 92s five-year reunion at Kurtz Beach. Sparked by the view of the Patapsco River and a chat with an old friend, I've found myself reflecting on my most memorable of "most memorable experiences" from high school three days and two nights on Fox Island.
I must admit something less than the purest of motivations for going. I had my mind on someone special, and this retreat spelled opportunity to my 17-year-old mind. The schoolboy crush was probably shared by two-thirds of the young men assembled. Turned out that special someone became enamored with the counselor. Still, by trips end, my heart was filled.
By then, I had fallen for the lady named Chesapeake. She must have had a similar affect on most of us, students to teachers plus two Baltimore Sun journalists on assignment.
One counselor asked, "Who's ready to go home?"
Nobody spoke; all that could be heard was the slap of tide crashing against the shore and a seagull crying overhead. Nobody wanted to go back to the "real" world after realizing how much fun it could be to live "green" in an unspoiled ecosystem.
If I could put it in a bottle
water splashing against the shorelines
birds calling out a brand new day
and best of all
the sounds of silence
A myriad of lessons were learned as we explored the marsh, the saltpans and the sulfur-rich nutrient stew that is the basis of the Chesapeake's food chain. We learned, too, how to change pace.
Watches were confiscated as we arrived on the island, 12 miles off Crisfield, Maryland. We learned to tell time Aztec style. Looking to the east or west with one eye closed, an outstretched fist between the horizon and the sun represents an hour.
Reflecting on the way he looked at his watch every five minutes on the mainland, fellow student Pete Gerace said, "At school, everything is bells and deadlines. Out here, you just take as much time as it takes do things right. I like that."
Breaking the norm became commonplace, as counselors explained their nature-based house rules to preserve the Bay. Most notably, to ward off harmful run-off, all 18 students declined the two-minute rinse shower allowed during the weekend. Gray water was collected to be recycled at neighboring Smith Island.
At the cabin we found a different lifestyle, one that took some getting used to but made sense even to teenagers. A stationary bike in the corner of the white-washed kitchen powered the freshwater system. The "pig bucket" to measure visitor's food waste was empty when we left. We used Clivus Composting toilets without the accustomed flush. We used solar power for lighting, and then only in the main rooms.
The cabin itself sat on planks, and a float bobbing up and down through a hole in the living room floor reminded us of that fact. An aquarium, fondly dubbed "the television," showed the same nature show 24 hours a day, without commercials. Our weekends episode: a blue crab dies without explanation and mysteriously disappears before the coroner could arrive.
If I could put it in a bottle
the river flowing into the sea
the tall grasses blowing in the wind
and best of all
the sun radiating from beyond the clouds
like God smiling back at us
as we sit in the awe-inspiring creations of His beauty
We adjusted to the weekend of a lifetime. I will never forget waking at dawn the last day to watch the sunrise light the faces of my partners in slime. We had spent a weekend boating, seining, dredging, midnight canoeing, blindfolded marsh-mucking, crabbing, passing a blowfish from hand to hand and simply marveling at the habitat of 90 percent of the Chesapeake's animal species.
If I could put it in a bottle
the detritus signaling the finality of life
the saltwater symbolizing the beginning of life
and the crisp clean air blowing somewhere in between
If I concentrate, I can still feel the emotions that flowed over me as, blindfolded, as we spent what seemed like an hour in the tall grass of a saltpan.
If I could put it in a bottle
warmth from the midst of a cold morning
wholeness from the midst of an empty shell
inner and outer peace
Moments later with blindfolds removed, we were instructed to write down "a few thoughts whatever came to mind." Looking back, I must have found my muse for the first time, for without being aware of it, I had written my first poem, "If I Could Put it in a Bottle."
Quite a feat for someone who, after 12 years of public schooling, thought poetry was for dead white guys and stale English classes.
If I could put it in a bottle
I would cork it up and never
nor hurt it
put it on display (24 hours a day)
So that everyone could savor it
anytime, every time and all the time
just like me.
K.J. Kohler is NBTs fall intern.
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When Flying Fish Have Feathers
Hooking a gull is for the birds.
The first time I witnessed such an incident was on a mid-October day on the Susquehanna River with the late guide Earl Ashenfelter. Rockfish were schooling up thick in preparation to head down the Chesapeake, and surfacing plugging as a means to catch them was in its infancy in our Bay country.
It was in early morning; fog patches still clung to the water, and Earl and I were experimenting with a bait then common in New England though virtually unknown south of New Jersey. It was the Atom Plug, designed by Bob Pond of South Attleboro, Mass., and he had given us a dozen or so for field testing.
Earl was skeptical I wasn't confident but had taken rockfish on Pond's plugs at Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard previously. There were several different models in two basic versions a popper and a swimmer. This day, we chose the poppers.
Back then, most rockfish were small, say 10 to 15 inches. Larger ones were the exception. The Atoms I had used previously were large and heavy to match the big fish in New England; our experiment involved smaller models more in keeping with the Susquehanna's bounty.
We quickly took a few fish, barely legal, and they were small. I think at the time the minimum size had been lowered to 11 inches, to be returned to 12 inches a year or two later. Earl grumbled. He always targeted bigger fish of 16 inches or better, and I might add that at that time if our contemporary 18-inch minimum had been in effect, abundant as the stripers were in the Susquehanna, few fishermen could have taken their limit.
Also, there was at that time no catch or possession limit; keep as many as you want just as long as they were long enough; same with the commercial fishery. It was the free-wheeling days of rockfish management that many years later contributed to the urgency of a moratorium.
So we're out there fishing when Earl let out his trademark cry of delight. "Hot-su-baby, It's a nice one."
An Unlikely Catch
His rod bent, line went off the reel, he leaned back in his seat and started working his tackle. He had cast far downstream and he could cast a mile so I looked in that direction. No sign in the haze of a rockfish fighting on the surface as they do when hooked atop the water.
Then, hovering about 25 feet above the river, I noted a large sea gull flying in a most unusual pattern. It dawned on me that bird was on the other end of Earl's line, putting up a whale of a scrap, and Earl didn't suspect a thing. And I wasn't about to tell him. I wanted to see his expression.
As the gull gradually tired, Earl realized the nice fish was an angry gull that had to go back and that would be no easy task. Gulls have tempers. They can be downright ferocious when frightened. And they also have sharp and strong claws. The same for bills.
It was a two-man job, the release of this gull. Earl grabbed the towel used for wiping hands as I took over the tackle and brought the bird close enough for him to grab. Then he had not only beating wings, claws and bill to avoid, but also a second set of sharp treble hooks. The other hook of the two sets of treble hooks was in the gull's bill.
Tenderness comes difficult when a creature isn't cooperative, which this big old gull wasn't, but finally the hook was removed, and the bird flew off leaving behind a few droppings on Earl's sleeves and the seat of his skiff. It left behind as well an astonished old time river fisherman who had never seen a hooked gull before.
Gulls have extraordinary eyesight; normally they move in to check out anything that looks edible when tossed from a boat, but always they back off if there is a hook present. Well, almost always. When we had been bass'n, not infrequently gulls came down, but they quickly retreated when close enough to see either line or hooks. The same when we had cast a live or cut bait that didn't sink quickly.
But plugging for rock was a different story. It involves working a bait fast, fast enough to mimic a fleeing wounded baitfish, fast enough to create enough of a commotion to catch the eye of fish, and also sufficiently fast that the fish must react quickly before it gets enough of a view to determine it isn't a real baitfish.
The Atom caught on quickly as a fish-getting lure, and the hooking of gulls, while not becoming common, occurred enough that fishermen caught one now and then. Sometimes the angler was as frightened as the gull; like "what do I do with this thing?" Unfortunately, some just cut the line, sacrificing the bait while leaving the de-hooking for the bird.
In the hey days of clam chumming on the Bay, gull catches weren't much of a problem. The birds settled for the ground chum and apparently detected the clams with the hooks in them. But these days chumming involves menhaden, and not infrequently an angler flip-casts a chunk of bait with hook imbedded onto the surface with little or no weight, and it drifts on or near the surface for a few moments before sinking.
Usually gulls ignore such baits, but some caution is lost if other gulls are also involved the first come, first served mentality applies. Hook-ups have become more common. One day fishing the LNG plant near Cove Point last September, my party hooked five gulls. They're fast, if you see them approach, no way can you yank the bait away from them. What they want, they get.
West is Worst
Our problem hereabouts is minor compared with unintended bird action on the West Coast, and part of the blame is attributed to El Nino. As waters warm, baitfishes head for cooler distant waters leaving less food for hungry sea birds, especially cormorants, which, unlike gulls, dive many feet below the surface in chase of bait on hooks.
The diving birds can go down into the drink as fast as a bait sinks. Some days, a boat can hook 100 or more cormorants in a day and not all survive the encounter.
For fishermen, the problem goes far beyond the lost fishing time and handling an angry, frightened bird. Animal rights activists are watching, and so are commercial fishermen who gripe that they must modify gear or move from areas where their nets take protected species such as sea turtles and dolphins.
No such rules have been implemented to keep sportsfishermen from hooking sea birds that are also afforded federal and state protection. The issue has become more than a tempest in a teapot.
Authorities are monitoring the activity to determine the extent of its impact, and who knows what can lie ahead in regulations? Birds deserve protection, especially from the few contemptible anglers who view fighting a bird as "sport" to counter boredom when fish aren't biting. Don't assume those who implement regulations will overlook the threat to bird life whether posed intentionally or unintentionally by fishermen.
Just consider that the use of lead in smaller fishing sinkers is being phased out because sometimes birds swallow them when feeding on the bottom, then suffer from lead poisoning. Among waterfowlers, lead shot was banned for the same reasons.
Things could get interesting.
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Some areas of the Chesapeake Bay are amazingly productive, like the Kent Narrows. Looking at a chart, the Narrows has a shape somewhat like an hour-glass, mostly at its southern end. To the north, the Chester River snakes northeast up the shore; to the south is the open water of the Eastern Bay. This narrow stretch of water that sandwiches Kent Island and the Eastern Shore proper has for many years been a good spot to take rockfish and big white perch.
The challenge of fishing the Narrows is not only negotiating the swift currents that sweep through at breakneck speeds but also using the right bait or lure at the right time, all the while avoiding snags. Yet if you fish one area long enough, you begin to pick up the subtle nuances that can mean the difference between catching fish and being skunked.
Capt. Chuck Foster knows a thing or two about fishing and a good deal about how to fish the Narrows. Hes one of those people who luck seems to line up with. Once in a blue moon I have outfished him, but that usually lasts all of 60 seconds. Chuck even out-snags me.
The Narrows is notorious for stealing tackle, particularly if you're bottomfishing. Chunks of concrete and metal make a nasty bottom contour and great fish-holding structure. Suffering only a single lost rig at the Narrows is doing well.
Foster has elevated even snags to an art. Not once but several times, Ive seen him rescue his rig intact while picking up tackle along the way. I've seen him pull up a Rattle Trap, top/bottom rigs, and an expensive, nearly new large swimming plug.
Recently, we met up well before the dawn, hoping to get in a last day before the season closed. Chuck likes to hedge his bets, so in addition to feather jigs, he usually brings along bull minnows and perch when we can rustle them up. Apparently the three- to four-inch perch so effective for live-lining were somewhere else, deep water most likely, so we settled for jigs and minnows.
I worked my jig as best I could, but I was being outfished in both quality and quantity, so I did what every good (or desperate) fisherman does: switch to what the other guy is using.
Then, with a couple keepers in the box, the tide dropped out and with it the fishing. Should we pack it in, go get some sleep or go to work? Not on Foster's boat. We went looking for them, but, as if by magic, the fish that had cluttered the screen only an hour earlier were gone, adios amigos.
While I contemplate such mysteries of the universe, Foster continued to fish, suggesting that we troll live minnows along a section of riprap. I halfheartedly tossed my offering behind the boat and waited for nothing to happen.
That probably would have been the case had I been alone, but Foster's luck took precedence over mine. His line sang and the shallow water boiled as his rock broke the surface.
As soon as I went to net his fish, its brother or sister hit my bull minnow. Once I set the hook and brought the fish to hand, we had our limit, two fat 20-plus inchers. The last two fish were purely the work of Foster. I would've settled for another Smores Poptart and a nap.
Fish Are Still Biting
The end of the 1997 rockfish season is upon us, and since it coincides with the Thanksgiving holiday, a few words of thanks seem appropriate. Certainly the shadow of Pfiesteria lingers on, and the possibility that we haven't seen the last of the "cell from hell" is very real. Without a doubt, the beastly organism is a real threat to the health of humans and fish in particular waterways, and it should be given the full attention and energy of all appropriate private, state, and federal groups.
At the same time, however, many places on the Bay produced some the best fishing in recent years. An abundance of healthy rockfish tops the list of bounties to be thankful, followed closely by excellent runs of sea trout. Strong numbers of white perch, spot, croaker and black drum kept Bay anglers happily busy as well. It's not too late to catch a rock and perch or two for long winter.
In the northern Bay, there are rockfish around, but a good fishfinder makes locating them easier. Trollers dragging white bucktails dressed with twister Tails or Sassy Shad, diving plugs like Mann's Stretch +25 and Umbrella rigs can take keeper rock. Some better bets are mouths of the Patapsco and Magothy rivers, or the edges and drop-offs around the Bay Bridges.
Fat white perch and some keeper rock (most are undersized) are at the Stone Piles, where feather jigs and worm baits work well. Try Kent Narrows with either live minnows or perch (if you can find them), as rockfish of two to five pounds are moving through on way to wintering grounds.
Eastern Bay, the Hill and the Diamonds down off the Choptank are still holding nice rockfish, and trollers (umbrella rigs are a suggestion) seem to take better and more fish. The Gas Docks, western channel edges and Cedar Point have fish, breaking and holding in deeper drop-offs, sea trout beneath the rockfish at the surface at times.
A few perch remain in the rivers. Try the mouth of the South, Old Severn River Bridge or Thomas Point Lighthouse. Apparently pickerel are beginning to bite more consistently, a welcome opportunity for anglers fishing rivers after the rockfish season closes.
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