Volume 5 Issue 51 1997

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).


On Our Cover
Santa never changes. Just the kids get older. Photos courtesy of Bill Lambrecht and Sandra Martin.

‘Takes’ on the Season—
No two people experience the holidays the same way, but the season sure pulls the cork on all our emotions. Here’s what popped out when the pressure was released in five of our writers and readers …

Dock of the Bay
Burton Benchmark: 50 Years in Journalism … and Counting ‘• Pearls’ from Healthy Beds: Good News in Oysterland • For the Season, an Oyster in Every Fowl • Help New Bay Times Celebrate the Season in 1998 • plus, Way Downstream ... In Virginia, Smithfield’s $12.6 million fine diverted from Chesapeake Bay … In Florida, net fishermen win a round … In Ireland, Glen Lake done in by bureaucracy … In Wyoming, it’s a wolf-eat-coyote world … In Montana's Glacier National Park, it’s amazing how much outhouses cost … and this week’s Featured Creatures, San Miguel Island’s sea lion pups done in by El Nino.

Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Bay Reflections

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Seasonal Takes—‘Tis the Season: NBT Writers — and Readers — Reflect
Regardless of age, race or religion, no matter who we are, the holidays pull the cork on all our emotions. What pops out when the pressure is released is a favorite subject with our writers and readers. Following are five takes on the holidays. Seek out your armchair. Settle in. Enjoy.

Maybe we’ll be hearing from you next year.

Take I: Christmas Me No Card, Please
In which the author complains about greeters who find it easier to sign their name than write their own words of good (or, depending on the receiver, bad) will …
by Pat Piper

Those who, someday, will write of our society’s demise can point to television, movies, music, greed, godlessness, gated communities and a disengaged electorate.

But the silent killer is the Christmas card.

Millions of these things are being shuttled from community to community as you read this, and a majority offer nothing more than something about “a joyous season” or “holiday wishes,” which neither sender or sendee would ever think of saying on their own. Much less know what it means.

Let me put it this way: if some guy came up to me at Billy Jacs in Deale during a pool game and said: “May the warmest of memories and the happiest of moments make this the merriest of Christmases,” I’d ask Milly to cut him off for half an hour. But if the guy had given me a card, I’d have though nothing of it.

So let’s review the issue thus far: we send cards to each other with phrases that, literally, have no meaning whatsoever and, if they do, it’s because someone else came up with the idea.

But, as they say on bamboo steamer commercials, that’s not all. The M.O. of Christmas Carding has become a quick signature at the end of the meaningless phrase or poem. That’s it. No news of the family. No news of the job. No news of the dog. No insight on how the car is running or who much was lost this year betting on the Redskins or if someone we both know is out of jail yet or one iota of news about something in the category of common ground.

It’s but a name that I knew before I got the card and nothing more.

Let me put it this way: It takes longer to address the envelope than it does to write a message on whatever goes inside the card. And this gives consideration to the fact that we don’t have to lick stamps anymore, which is probably saves another 2.5 seconds.

Because of the fast-food approach to this season, if you ask the card store people to show you the aisle containing blank Christmas cards, it is usually a single slot next the “Sympathy: Dead Dalmatian” section.

It’s going to become even moreso.

The e-mail Christmas card, though in its infancy, is going to become a part of our lives as more people bring computers into their homes. We will buy software with Santa and reindeer and all the other stuff, design our on card, choose from a thousand variations on a theme of season’s greetings, type our name on the bottom and with a single tap of enter, within two seconds send the card to everyone on our list.

William Shakespeare saw this coming. In Hamlet, he wrote: “Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” I’d like to have had the chance to shoot a game of pool with that guy. But all the more, I’d like to have seen what he could do with a job at Hallmark.

—Having just co-authored, with Larry King, the book The Future, Pat Piper, of Rosehaven, knows whereof he predicts.

Take II—
Maybe, on second thought, you could do without the mass, photocopied letters some people mail each December.

Dear Friends:
‘Our lives have been so full and busy that the time has just flown by …’
by “Doc” Shereikis

There wasn't a specific moment when we decided to stop, but a few years ago at our house we more or less quit sending out holiday cards. It seemed too perfunctory to send a pre-made card with just our names on it to people we hadn't seen in years; and it just seemed redundant to send such cards to people we'd probably see anyway, so we could deliver our holiday greetings personally. Ideally, we'd have liked to write detailed, personal notes to the people we cared most about, but that prospect — trying to convey in a few lines the feelings you had at the end of yet another year — seemed too daunting.

And we'd received enough of those full-length holiday form letters to convince us we didn't want to risk that sort of thing. You know the kind I mean, where the writers go on and on about their children's perfect teeth and test scores and high-scoring games, and the scholarship offers they're weighing, and the new homes they've built with the money from their bonuses or book advances, and how everything is just so unrelievedly perfect they can hardly stand it. The kind of letter that makes you want to puke, in other words, like the one I got a few days ago from … ah, but that's another story. A few years ago, I hit on a solution: a generic Christmas letter designed to make recipients feel really good about themselves, which is what a proper holiday letter should do, after all. I've had enough people tell me about the deep, warm feelings it brought them to make me think it's time to revive it, and with a few changes in names and situations, you can adapt it for your own uses and make the holidays a happier time for all your friends and relatives. It's the tone that counts, after all.

Think of it as a reality-oriented letter, and let it go something like this:

Dear Friends,
Gosh, it hardly seems possible that it's the holiday season again. Our lives have been so full and busy that the time has just flown by. Our year got off to a positive start when we learned that our oldest son, Ralph, had not been expelled from the university after all, as they had told him just before Christmas. He was only put on probation, pending payment for the room they said he destroyed and payment of the $500 library fine he supposedly owed.

It looked like sloppy bookkeeping again on the university's part, but we covered the bills and now all Ralph has to do is get off academic probation by getting his average up to a D by June. He only needs three As and a B this term to do it — if they don't mess up the records as they seem to do so often over there.

Springtime brought us more good news. When our middle son, Tommy, got arrested out at the park with that crowd that was drinking and fighting, he was lucky enough to be hauled in with a lawyer's son. And when the other kid's father took both cases, we not only saved a bundle, but the lawyer got Tommy and his friend off completely on the controlled substance charge, and they ended up with only six months probation and a year's supervision. Some of the kids got a year plus a year, so we were thankful, as you can imagine, even though Tommy wasn't doing anything and it was a shame he had to be hassled like that.

Tommy's sister, Debbie, our youngest, showed her pluck and family loyalty when she spoke for Tommy at the trial. She was cited for contempt of court and assault on a public official, but when they found out she was a minor they only gave her a year's supervision. So she and Tommy now have even more in common.

When Alice got in that car accident last summer, we thought we were out of luck because the guy who hit her had no insurance. But it turned out Alice lost the court case on the accident and she was found at fault, so our insurance company paid for both our repairs and the other guy's. Right now, we can't get coverage for our remaining car and the van, but we're driving carefully, and our agent says we may be able to get new coverage for only a few hundred dollars more a year if we can keep our records clean for another six months.

When I was down-sized last June, I was kind of hurt, as you can imagine, especially when the IRS wrote right about then and said their audit showed I owed around $15,000 in taxes from the years before. Luckily, I had taken my severance package in a lump sum, which almost covered what the IRS said I owed, and they said they'd give me some time to come up with the last couple thousand since I had made such a good faith effort to pay up. So the timing turned out to be lucky, even though I could have used the severance package to pay a few other bills if I hadn't had to give it to the government. But losing the job after all those years was still a blow, especially since Alice and I had just started our trial separation. But things started looking up again when I landed not one, but two, new jobs: on the breakfast crew at the fast food place around the corner, and evenings and week-ends at the concession stand at the local movie theater.

The hash browns and buttered popcorn have put about 20 pounds on me, but, luckily, the uniform shirts at both places are made to be worn outside our pants, so I can keep my top pants button open and still breathe pretty easily, without buying a whole new wardrobe. (I am working on a conditioning program, though, and yesterday I did eight sit-ups and ran in place for a minute-and-a-half.) And even though I only get to see the last half hours of movies at the theater, I pretty much get the idea of the movie from that, so I save a lot of money on entertainment.

Well, there's much more I could write about, but there are things I need to do around here. We've got some people coming over for Christmas dinner, and I wanted to get the storm windows up before they got here. Then I need to drive Alice (we're back trying it together again, for the holidays, at least) over to her mother's so she can use her stove since ours doesn't work now that the gas company shut off our supply yesterday. They just can't seem to get their records straight over there.

A Happy Holiday to all of you!
—“Doc” Shereikis is the Movie Professor

Take III—Okay, forget the letter, but take no such liberty with the gifts …

Dear Friends:
It’s the Thought that Counts, Virtually
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

Dear Friends:
My holiday preparations are a snap this year. I turned them all over to my roomie, the resident computer expert. This letter is the only part that is real. All else is virtual.

It is a wonderful concept with no tiresome shopping involved. We got the idea from our kids when they bean sending us virtual flowers for special occasions. How nice, I thought: posies that last and last and don’t aggravate our allergies.
Well, I don’t know computers, but even I can figure out that if there are such things as virtual florists, then there must be lots of virtual out there, even virtual banks and checking accounts. So guess what the kids are getting for Christmas? Virtual cash!

We will replace all their messy pets with virtual. Consider the money saved on food and vet bills. ( I can only imagine what it would cost to feed a dinosaur!) I’m looking forward to owing the banty rooster I have always wanted (the noisy real thing had been banned by my Property Owners’ Association). There just may be, too, a peacock in my future. (And while we’re at it, let’s have some virtual lawnmowers and weedeaters, noisy nuisances the Association has always welcomed.)

There is no end to the possibilities: I have plans for a virtual boat and RV for virtual vacations. (No upkeep there, no fuel costs, no packing.)

Well, pardon my ebullience but you can see this has been a good year for me. My kids are all virtually fine. They all have virtual jobs. They will be coming from distant points to spend the holidays with us. We will have virtual snow (less messy than the other kind). I hope they will like the virtual turkey and stuffed ham with all the virtual trimmings. Ah yes, and that virtual fir tree that does not shed.

Your virtual friend,
— Audrey Scharmen, who writes from the Patuxent River at Lusby

Take IV—In which you get a glimpse of what all that virtuality could do to the economy …

A Boat Salesman’s Christmas
by Ron Young

‘Twas a week before X-mas
and business was slow;

We hoped for some customers,
but they did not show.

The boats in the showroom,
all sparkled and shined:

The Parkers up front,
The Gradys behind.

I sat in my office
and stared at the phone.

But nothing was happening—
why couldn’t I be home?

When all of the sudden,
a customer came in

Seeking motor and trailer
for his boat made of tin.

I jumped from my chair
to give him a price

On a mercury 15 or 20—
either one would be nice.

I wrote all the figures
on the back of my card.

I wanted to sell something,
so I tried to close him real hard.

He thanked me for the info
as he headed away,

And as he reach the door he said,
“I’m not buying today.”

As all other retailers
have high sales in their sights,

Boat dealers should wish all Merry Christmas!
and turn out their lights.

— Ron Young sells fishing boats at Tri-State Marine in Deale


Take V—There’s always reason for thanks in Chesapeake Bay.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Chesapeake Bay
Then down on the dock we heard such a clatter,
I went to the window to see what was the matter.
by Thomas L. Hallock Jr.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Bay,
Not a rockfish was stirring by the nets where they lay.

The perch nets were boxed up with their lines made of lead,
And the bug fish were swimming with bugs in their heads.

The tongers were tied up, no oysters on deck,
The pound netters were inside sewing on net.

The clam rigs were silent, no noise to be heard,
The crabs headed south, along with the birds.

The fish cops were snuggled asleep in their beds,
As visions of anchor nets danced in their heads.

Then down on the dock we heard such a clatter,
I went to the window to see what was the matter.

“What is that?” my wife said sharply.
I said, “Looks like Santa in a 40-foot Murkily.”

His face was all red and round like a dish,
And I swear I could smell the odor of fish.

Dressed in orange Grundens, white boots and all.
He was quite a stout fellow but not very tall.

His crew was four elves, all dressed in green,
With beards and sou’westers, they really looked keen.

Then he ran up the pier in a rather quick huff,
With a sack full of gill net and radars and stuff.

He put his gear down on the walk-in box floor,
Then turned with a jerk and ran out the door

As he ran down the pier, he yelled as he laughed,
“Slack her up forward and slack her up aft.”

With a blink of an eye he was nearly out of sight,
Saying, “Hold her 120o for “Bloody Point Light.”

This story is true, so I thought you should hear.
Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year.

— Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. William Norrington, of Shady Side, and the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society

For Bill Burton, A Half-Century in Journalism … and Counting
If you're asked to remember what happened on a Dec. 7 in the 1940s, you'll no doubt recall a royal ruckus in the Pacific.
But there was another notable Dec. 7 in that decade, and it was the start of a lot of hell-raising of another sort.

On Dec. 7, 1947, 50 years ago this month, Bill Burton went to work in journalism.

Burton, we note shamelessly, is the no-holds-barred columnist at New Bay Times. He writes more restrained columns for the Annapolis Capital twice weekly. He is the editor of Fishing in Maryland, and every year he publishes the Maryland Deer Hunting Guide.

Not bad for somebody is supposedly retired — after 38 years as outdoor columnist for the old Baltimore Evening Sun.

We tell you about Bill Burton's career because we think it's important to to pay tribute to longevity in this throwaway society of ours in which, as one friend put, instant gratification is too slow for many people. We think there's plenty to be learned about the media from Bill Burton, who turned 71 on Dec. 15.

But he wasn't yet 20 back in 1947 when he was hired as news editor at radio station WSKI in Montpelier, Vt., which held the distinction of being the last state capital in the nation without a radio station until WSKI came along.

We know Burton for his outdoors wisdom but, truth be told, his political senses were developing even then. He predicted on the air that Harry S Truman would win the presidency in 1948 over Thomas Dewey, a forecast that even the boldest of pundits didn't hazard.

Burton was a wandering fellow, as you’ll see. He left broadcasting for the first of a slew of newspaper jobs, beginning at the Woonsocket Call in Rhode Island. Soon he was on to, in no particular order: the Uxbridge Whitinsville Times in Massachusetts, the North Adams Transcript, the Providence Journal, the Bennington Banner and the Springfield (Mass.) Union.

Back then, newspaper jobs weren't so hard to come by — or to leave. “Until you're 30, never stay at one paper more than six months," Burton was told. That’s a creed he tried to live by.

But he didn't leave before he got some plum assignments: As political editor of the Union, he covered the Adlai E. Stevenson campaign train and the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1952 when the GOP nominated Dwight D. Eisenhower. But all of this may have been too civilized for the rough-and-ready Burton judging by his next job: the Anchorage Times.

What better place for a fisherman and hunter than Alaska, you may ask. But the shortage of winter sunlight — and the lack of variety — sent Burton packing. "All there was to do was write and drink," he said of the winter months.

Next it was on to the paper in Plattsville, Neb., which didn't measure up as one of Burton's favorite places. So in 1956, he accepted a temporary position with the Evening Sun, replacing outdoor writer Dave McNally, who had moved on to the Chicago Tribune.

"I told them I'd stick around for six months," recalls Burton, who had no intention of being tied down.

He stayed 37 and a-half years, achieving the status of one of the most storied figures in Maryland journalism history. He worked during an era when editors stayed out of reporters' business; during his career with the Sunpapers, he received two assignments. He found his own news, breaking stories, fishing with presidents, covering the Ernest Hemingway fishing tournament in Cuba and stirring the pot along the way.

Just like in his columns, Burton is full of opinions about how many newspapers have changed. Much of it has to do with the shift in focus of many papers from hard news to series, packages and feel-good reporting.

In Nebraska, Burton recalls, they'd write stories about somebody's pig getting sick. "When I got in this business, you had to have the news first or some S.O.B. wanted to know why you didn't. You didn't say, 'Oh, I was thinking about handling it this way.’ They'd just look at you," Burton says, fixing his bearded face into a glare.

Technology has changed the newspaper business but an even greater effect, Burton believes, can be summed up in one word: attitude. The attitude of being complacent in delivering breaking news; of giving advertisers too much sway; of trying to copy television by dishing out "fuzzy features."

After all these years, he has this counsel to young reporters: "Keep it short and make it readable."

This holiday season, let's raise a glass to Bill Burton — and in his 51st year, we’ll be watching to see if he practices what he preaches.

—BL

From McNasby’s to Spat, Good News in Oysterland
On the long list of wrongs neither love nor money can right, the decline of Chesapeake Bay oysters ranks with poverty and the weather. No wonder. Snug in their beds on the bottom, oysters are worse off than sitting ducks: You can’t even duck when you’re encased in a calcified chamber, cemented into the petrified branches of your family tree.

When silt falls like rain, darkening the horizons, oysters can’t get up and move to a brighter bottom. When disease ripples through their waters, oysters get hit by the wave. When fishermen rake tongs through their fields, oysters are as helpless as potatoes.

For these reasons, oysters are to Chesapeake Bay what canaries were to coal miners: an early warning system. For the past half century, that early warning has sounded in Chesapeake Bay.

So when you see oyster interpreters smiling, you’re seeing good news indeed.

Which is what you’re about to read.

We’d just finished a tasty pint of McNasby’s “famous Pearl” oysters — a brand extinct for over a decade — when we caught up with Steve Jordan, Department of Natural Resources man in charge of the Oxford Cooperative Laboratories. Had we imitated the cat that swallowed the canary? we asked the oyster scientist.

“I don’t think it’s endangering the resource to eat oysters,“ Jordan replied.

“This is first year in quite a few when I can say that I have some hope that the oyster population is going to increase over next few years,” he added.

Jordan, mind you, fights on the front line of the oyster wars on the duo of deadly oyster diseases, Dermo and MSX.

But this year, against all odds, both diseases seem less virulent.

“We’re seeing somewhat reduced levels of disease this year,” Jordan explained, reminding us that, since both Dermo and MSX flourish in salty water, they’re expected to be at their most virulent when there’s been little rainfall to freshen the semi-salty Bay.

“It’s not gone away, but given that we had a rather dry summer, it’s almost surprising that we’re seeing levels as low as we are. In particular, Dermo, which has given us problems for quite a few years, has certainly not increased and in several areas decreased. That translates into good survival of older oysters. It tells us that at least not going backwards.”

More good news from 1997 is a well-fertilized crop.

“We’ve had the second highest spat set on record since 1939 in several areas. In the Eastern Bay and some middle Eastern Shore tributaries, the Miles, lower and Little Choptank rivers, we’ve had really great sets,” Jordan said.

In most areas of Chesapeake Bay, oysters are no longer left to reproduce on their own. Spat, or seed, is gathered in hatcheries to be replanted elsewhere. Still more good news comes from Maryland hatcheries, which this year were astonishingly fecund, according to Dot Leonard, who directs DNR’s oyster recovery programs. “We expected to produce four to six million seed oysters and got around 70 million,” she reports.

Some of that seed is planted on bars of shell laid by oysterman on the state payroll. That, says Jordan, “makes new oysters where they wouldn’t have been otherwise.

“With hatchery operations beefed up this year, we’re trying to help nature in any way we can. Some of this is beginning to bear fruit, we think. With good survival and spat set, there’s room for optimism,” said Jordan, adding that he was “crossing his fingers.”

Meanwhile, those “Pearl” brand oysters we ate signaled good news on the Western Shore. And it’s good news oyster lovers don’t have to wait to enjoy.

While you’ll have to wait three or four years for spat set this year to reach your oyster bar, you can buy McNasby’s Pearl brand oysters today. That’s the good news from Eastport Seafood Company, which has returned the name McNasby to Eastport after an absence of over 10 years.

If you’re an oyster lover with older roots in Eastport, you’ll remember the name McNasby.

That’s as in William J. McNasby Sr., who founded the oyster house that bears his name a century ago. The first McNasby’s appeared in 1886, when Chesapeake Bay oysters were harvested in amazing abundance. Early in this century, McNasby’s moved to 723 Second Street in Eastport. When the first McNasby dynasty ended, the building was purchased and restored by the city of Annapolis.

Five years ago, Doug Orr moved the Eastport Seafood Company into the old McNasby’s to sell fresh and prepared seafood. Business prospered and this season, as manager Tom Jockel joins Orr as partner, the company packed its first oyster.

Of his expansion, Orr said “we decided to go with oysters first because of indications it would be a good year. It’s also a tradition here, with McNasby’s being an oyster packing house.”

In keeping with that tradition, Orr brought back McNasby’s old pale blue “Pearl” label with its trademark pearl necklace.

“It’s a slight variation on the original from 19th century, a little updated to fit a jar rather than can,” said Orr. “The date stamp we put on our oysters,” he added, “is seven days shorter than the law allows, and the amount of water we pack with is less than most.”

The pints of select and standard McNasby Pearl oysters for sale at Eastport Seafood Company are “mostly Bay oysters delivered by truck from watermen and commercial suppliers,” Orr said.

Though shucked to Orr’s specifications, McNasby’s Pearl oysters are not shucked on Eastport Seafood’s premises. That more-specialized State Health Department license is held by only 35 Maryland firms, while 105 more, including Eastport Seafood, are licensed to repack and ship oysters.

For the time being, Orr and Jockel aren’t shipping their Pearl brand oysters; you’ll have to buy them on premise. In time, they plan to produce a whole line of seafood products including McNasby’s cocktail sauce for McNasby’s Pearl oysters.

That’s news you can sink your teeth into.

—SOM

An Oyster in Every Fowl
Oyster news like that suggests sometime more worth sinking your teeth into this season: a holiday fowl dressed with oyster stuffing.

We make ours this way:
Prepare a large pan to sauté a base of chopped onions, celery (with leaves), and your choice of herbs. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme is as hard to beat. Being with a little olive oil or butter or, if you’re cooking very light, spray the pan with a vegetable spray and, instead of sautéing your vegetables, simmer in a little chicken stock.

When they’re nearly soft, add oysters and their liquor, about a pint for every 10 pounds of bird. Sprinkle with pepper and a little salt and set aside.

In the same pan, very lightly brown your bread cubes with or without oil. Cool and moisten until spongy with chicken stock into which you’ve beaten one egg for each cup of stock. Lightly fold in oyster mixture. Spoon stuffing into bird, packing it loosely. Serve from and with bird at your feast.

Note that oyster — or any — stuffing can also be baked in a closed casserole for about 45 minutes.

—NBT

Help New Bay Times Celebrate the Season in 1998
\New Bay Times needs your help to prepare next year’s holiday feature. Do you have seasonal traditions that emphasize family, friends or good deeds that help others?

Please share them with us. Write to NBT, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 • Fax to 410/867-0307 • or E-mail to 71632.125@compuserve.com.

Please include your name, address and phone number.

Way Downstream …
In Virginia, a federal judge has decided that the record $12.6 million fine levied against Smithfield Foods, the pork processor, goes into the federal treasury rather than to clean up Chesapeake Bay and rivers the company polluted over the years. The judge, Rebecca Beach Smith, said she might change her ruling if Congress changes its rules regarding civil penalties …

In Florida commercial fisherman are celebrating the decision by a judge to prohibit major parts of the state's controversial net ban in six coastal counties …
In Ireland, a communications breakdown by the government led to the destruction of well-known Glen Lake. As wildlife officials worked to protect the lake, the public works department succeeded in draining it, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor …

In Wyoming, a scorecard in Yellowstone National Park proves that this is a dog-eat-dog world. Since reintroduction of wolves, the population of coyotes — their cousins — has dropped in the Lamar Valley by 50 percent ...
Montana's Glacier National Park is the site of a new government scandal. You recall those $700 toilet seats paid ordered by the Pentagon? That's peanuts compared to the two $1 million, solar-powered outhouses that the National Park Service has planned near the border with Canada. Officials say it will let them reopen ski chalets closed five years ago because of faulty septic systems …

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Southern California, where eco-detectives have been trying to figure out what has killed 8,000 sea lion pups. Could it be poachers? Toxics? Pesticides?
The tentative conclusion is that it may not be a human culprit at all. The pups apparently are dying because El Nino has warmed the ocean and driven herring, anchovies and seal food northward into cooler waters. The situation is so grave that two-thirds of the 23,000 pups living near San Miguel Island may perish.

Should humans mount a rescue operation? No, say National Marine Fisheries Service officials, who contend that nature is thinning out the seals. Said Channel Islands manager Ed Cassano: "The environment puts limits on the population of these animals as they grow, and El Nino is one of the limits."

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From Year to Year
The people who bring you New Bay Times~Weekly wish you the best of the season — but we’re not quite ready to say good night.

Our final issue of 1997, Volume V • Number 52, will hit the streets December 26 with a full calendar — plus loads of New Year’s Eve happenings — to carry you through ‘97 and into ‘98.

As in the past, we’re taking one week off to prevent staff mutiny so there’ll be no issue January 1.

Then we’ll start all over again on January 8 with a new year’s worth of news you want to read.

See you next week, and next year and in the next century.

That’s a promise we’ll keep — as long as you keep reading our pages and supporting our advertisers.

As long as you keep picking it up, we’ll keep putting it out.

The people of New Bay Times, from left to right: Capt. C.D. Dollar, columnist • Bill Lambrecht, publisher • Carol Glover, writer • Jim Gibbons, sales manager • Betsy Kehne, production manger • Janie White, volunteer • Sandra Martin, editor • Brian Shipman, Calvert Country distributor • Audrey Scharmen, writer • Nathaniel Knoll, special projects & distribution • Kevin Kohler, fall ‘97 intern • Brianne Warner, summer ‘97 intern • J. Alex Knoll, general manager • M.L. Faunce, writer • Stacy Allen, Not Just for Kids editor • Bill Burton, columnist.

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After Tragedy, Please Help
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
Caroline Jordan and her two daughters, Clara and Rosie, of Anne Arundel County, were involved in a boat fire near Solomon’s Island on Dec. 9. 1997, Caroline’s 37th birthday. The fire claimed the life of her youngest daughter, Clara, two. Caroline and Rosie, five, were treated for smoke inhalation at the shock trauma center in Baltimore. They were released from the hospital two days later.

The friends of Caroline Jordan have established the Clara Jordan Foundation. All charitable contributions will benefit the family by helping defray funeral expenses and medical bills and providing counseling for Caroline and Rosie.

Please help, sending your contributions to the Caroline Jordan Foundation; c/o Provident Bank, 1200 Eastern Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21221.

— Nicol Bevins, Shady Side

You Can Tell a Ship by its Name
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
In Bill Burton’s column, “Reflections on December 7” (Dec. 11-17), I was shocked to read his reference to the “624-foot carrier West Virginia and her sister ship Maryland … the Oklahoma and … the legendary cruiser Arizona.”

Calling those ships carriers is a horrible mistake at the beginning of a story. I didn’t even finish because I was so torn up.

In World War II, only battleships were named after states. Aircraft carriers were always named after battles. So the West Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma and Arizona were all battleships.

From a writer who served in the Navy, as Burton references his stay in a Navy hospital in 1945, he should know about ships and how they are named.

It’s basic, something that they teach in boot camp. I myself am a 27-year Navy veteran, so I should know. And so should Bill Burton.

— Bill R., Dunkirk, Md.

Editor’s note: The writer not only shares Navy service with Bill Burton but also the same birthday, December 15. Happy birthday to both. On the subject of battleships and carriers, thank you for the clarification.

A Most Elegant Fowl
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
My wife, Barbara, and I were very pleased with the opportunity to share the elegance of “our” swans with your readers (cover and page 4, Nov. 20-27). It brought to mind a phrase that is a take-off on Edward Lear’s “Owl and the Pussycat:”

Swan, oh, Swan
Though you be not owl,
You surely are
A most elegant fowl.

— Gene Miller, Fairhaven

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The Christmas Myth
Could it be true that on Christmas Eve all the animals in the barn speak?
by Aloysia C. Hamalainen

So many stories are retold to children about the myths and magic of Christmas. It’s part of the secret pact of parenthood to continue these charming traditions. There is one story, though, even as an adult, I’ve always wondered about. Could it be true that on Christmas Eve, at midnight, all the animals in the barn will speak?

Sounds too cute and trite for words, doesn’t it?

At any other time of the year, a silly notion like that is easily dismissed. But I don’t think there is a person alive who has not experienced something unexpectedly magical around Christmas time.

Last year, my daughters and I discussed the possibility of this phenomenon as we drove to and from the barn in the evenings. Our dog, two cats and parakeet tell us things all the time, mostly along the lines of “feed me” or “pat me.” My horse can even talk back. Once, after a long brushing and as I ran my hands down his legs to check for any swelling or heat, I told him, “What a lucky horse you are to have someone take such good care of you.” Instantly I heard, as he turned his head back and gently lipped my hair, “Ah, but how lucky you are to have me!”

Nonchalantly, I asked my horsy friends (they would never by shocked by a question like this) if they had ever heard the animals in the barn talk. No one had, of course, because there is simply no time to do all that has to be done on Christmas Eve. Who can go to the barn at midnight when there are presents to be wrapped, toys to be put together, places to go, people to see …

Last Christmas Eve, I managed to carve out the time to go to the barn. I brought jerky treats for Coco the dog, kitty treats for Salem the cat and fixings for a hot mash for Dorsaz, my horse.

In the spare stall (all the horses live outside at my barn) I sat on a pad of hay and waited while they finished their goodies. It was cold and still outside, but the stall was filled with the sweet smell of the hay, the rustling in the straw of hooves and paws and the crunch-munching of contented mouths. The light was dim inside the stall and the shadows loomed against the wooden walls.

As it got closer to midnight, I remarked to my company, “You know, even if you can speak, if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I'm not sure if I really want to know.”

Coco left her jerky and lay down beside me. Salem delicately climbed in my lap. Almost dozing, I looked at my watch. It was midnight.

“So, what do you say, Coco?” Her tail slowly thumped the ground, her brown eyes shone and she softly puffed air through her lips. I chuckled, “You can't speak English, poofing your lips like that.” My voice jarred the calm of us four different beings spending time together.

Stroking Salem’s ears, I asked, “What about you, buddy?” He couldn’t talk through the rumbling purr that revved through his whole body. A happy, happy cat, I thought.

Warm, molasses-scented breath blew on my cheek as Dorsaz lipped the top of my head. Gently peeling the cat off my lap, I stood up. As I stroked his face, he blew softly through his nostrils into mine, a typical equine conversation. We stood there, nose to nose, inhaling each other.

The next morning, my daughters jumped on my bed, after rampaging under the tree and tearing open their presents, of course. “Mom, what did they say? Did they talk to you?” Even my husband raised an eyebrow.

“Of course they did,” I replied. “They told me what Christmas is all about.” Their eyes were wide in amazement, and their mouths were open Os. Not a sound, as I went on.

“These are three gifts of Christmas. Coco told me of Peace. Salem told me of Joy. Dorsaz told me of Love.”

The End.
Aloysia C. Hamalainen writes for NBT on family life among the species.

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With Wildlife, Finders can Become Weepers
A feather can weigh heavily on the scales of justice …

A feather in hand is better than a bird in the air.
— Jacula Prudentum by George Herbert, 1651

It all depends whence the feather came. Ask Nathan Landow. Or better still, ask me. I fared better than Nathan Landow.

Confession time: hopefully, the statute of limitations has long passed and the real perpetrator is long in the grave. Now that I’ve retired, it’s too late to lose one of the best jobs anyone ever had.
But first the background.

While this writer doesn't hold developers — which Nathan Landow is — in much esteem, there is some empathy for the Montgomery countian who is a former Maryland Democratic Party chairman and more recently a major fundraiser for Al Gore.

Seems Landow is interested in collecting more than a share of the valuable gas and oil rights of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe of northwest Oklahoma. The Washington Post reports he wanted to keep in his "collection" a feathered Sioux Indian war bonnet, which he says was passed down to him by his father long before there were laws banning traffic in such things as elephant tusks, eagle feathers, wild goose eggs and wild ostrich plumage.

But that fancy headdress contains about 30 feathers determined to come from eagles, which we all know are not only completely protected by law but also are held in high regard by American Indians, one of whom, Archie Hoffman, noticed the bonnet while attending a meeting in Landow's office lobby. Hoffman, the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribal business council secretary, later mentioned this to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — whose job it is, among other things, to enforce endangered species laws.

A Illegal Lark
Fish and Wildlife is zealous in its enforcement, no exceptions. Thirty years years ago I accompaned the late chief federal agent hereabouts, Bill Kessinger, and the legendary Willie J. Parker to check a goose-hunting field for bait. We found some illegally scattered corn, and we also came across a dead meadowlark, which interested me more than the yellow stuff the hunters had "seeded" to attract honkers within range of their shotguns.

Innocently, I picked up the brown and buff, yellow-breasted bird — which incidentally really isn't of the lark family; it's of the starling tribe — and stuffed it into my pocket, commenting it replace one long used by my kids for school show-and-tell programs as well as by me in appearances before Boy Scouts and other youth groups.

I had mounted it myself, and when I found an old abandoned nest in a rutted depression on a Talbot County wheat field, I put the two together and had a dandy nature exhibit — especially when I later came across a couple hatched-out meadowlark eggs of splotchy light brown on dull white.

The two federal game wardens looked aghast, then firmly and officially advised me the carcass was contraband. It wasn't allowed in anyone's possession without a permit.

It mattered not that my old stuffed meadowlark, like this one, was dead when I found it. Or that it served nature educational purposes. It had to go, along with the nest and eggs shells.

So I know how Nathan Landow must have felt when the feds decided to confiscate his war bonnet, which he says experts tell him dates back to the '30s when possession of eagle feathers weren't prohibited. But Fish and Wildlife can be like IRS — guilty until proven innocent — and kept pressing to determine legality.

At last report, the war bonnet was headed to the Plains Indian Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Wyoming, compliments of Landow.

Caught in the Act
It just isn't meadowlarks and other threatened or endangered species that can get one on the wrong side of the law, either federal, state or both.

If Grandpop goes to the Great Hunting Grounds in the Sky, and among his possessions is an old deer mount with a fine set of antlers, don't put it out in the yard for a lawn sale. That's a no-no. Sale of many wild game parts is highly restricted.

Twenty years ago at a stop in Winnipeg during a several week waterfowl nesting grounds survey with Fish and Wildlife and the Canadian Wildlife Service, my companion, Reese Layton of Glen Burnie, spotted a war bonnet in a Hudson Bay Store. Several feathers were broken so it was sale priced at about $150.

Noting the gleam in Reese's eye, I told him he couldn't buy it. Reason No. 1: Possession was illegal in the U.S. and soon would be in Canada. Reason No. 2: We couldn't legally bring it home. Reason No: 3. It couldn't be shipped commercially, and there was no other way to transport the cumbersome headdress without breaking more feathers.

Reese could be contrary, but finally I prevailed. Or so I thought. Enroute home, we approached U.S. Customs at Toronto to discover a drug sting at the airport. Everyone was ordered to unpack everything.

"Now, aren't you glad you didn't buy that war bonnet?" I asked Reese. Timidly, he confessed he had not only bought it but had packed it carefully in my oversized emergency sleeping bag to avoid more crushed feathers.

I was flabbergasted. I knew I was going to lose one of the best jobs in the country in a most embarrassing way: possession of an endangered species. The Sun would have a new outdoor editor. In addition I faced a big fine, possibly prison. Perhaps I ought to become a Canadian citizen.

When a senior U.S. customs agent approached to ask my name and the nature of my business, I explained I was an outdoor writer covering waterfowl problems in Western Canada. He asked if I knew Bud Leavitt, then the outdoor writer for a Bangor, Maine, newspaper.

When I told him yes, he said Bud was a friend of his and began telling stories of their hunts as he sat on my big rolled-up sleeping bag, little realizing it was a "feather” bed.

After accepting an invitation to join him and Bud on a grouse trip in Northern Maine in the fall, I figured I might as well face the music.

"Aw, come on, I know you wouldn't be bringing in anything you're not supposed to," he said. "You're a friend of Bud's. Put your stuff back together and I'll see you in camp," he said from his perch on the sleeping bag.

On the flight to Baltimore, Reese was unusually quiet, and never again did I see the war bonnet or my sleeping bag.

Still, I wonder if Thomas Jefferson used the quill of an eagle feather to pen the Declaration of Independence.

Burton Walks the Plank
Egads, the U.S. Navy might come and reclaim this red-faced former sailor's honorable discharge, issued in 1946. Though I was land-based (Pacific Theater) in underwater demolition for the SeaBees, I should know my warships and how they're named, which I do, though reader Bill R. of Dunkirk (he didn't leave a last name) justifiably might think otherwise.

I made the mistake last week of writing aircraft carriers were named after states, and I knew better. In the process of editing for reasons of space, I moved some sentences around and last week's column ended up that way, when in fact it should have stated carriers were named after battles such as the Coral Sea, the main topic last week. Another was the Bennington, for the Battle of Bennington in which the Green Mountain Boys of my home county in Vermont rallied a rag tag army to intercept much-needed supplies for the British at Saratoga, the turning point of the Revolution. (History attributes the Battle of Saratoga as the turning point of that war, but Vermonters claim it was Bennington because, had the redcoats gotten their supplies, they would have prevailed at Saratoga)

Battleships are named for states, cruisers for cities, destroyers for people; it's all in the old Bluejackets Manual. Sorry, for the goof, Bill R., and I understand you called on your birthday, Dec. 15, which also happened to be mine. I hope I didn't ruin your special day. Happy belated birthday, and please don't think SeaBees don't know what's going on on the brine — or this one doesn't want to walk the plank.

— B.B., USN, long "retired"

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Loon-atics
A slate gray ceiling canvassed the sky, yet another signal that autumn's time is nearly done. The frigid temperatures and nature's call has sent most species of fish to warmer water, either to deep holes throughout the Bay or out of the Chesapeake entirely. Most fishermen, except the most ardent, have oiled their reels and stowed their tackle, looking forward to the winter boating and fishing shows. But recently, four expert fishermen caught my attention enough to compel me to cut the engine and watch their skills unfold. These were no ordinary fishermen, nor were they even human. But fishermen of the first order they were, some of the best on the Bay. They were common loons (Gavia immer), some of the last of their kind to follow the menhaden down to coastal Carolina, to the open ocean and the sounds behind the barrier islands, where they'll spend the harshest parts of winter.

The loons that begin to arrive in Chesapeake country in late September already wear their fine winter dress, though they won’t don their most impressive breeding plumage after their late winter molt.

Before their final push south, loons form hunting parties, herding baitfish into the shallows and devouring incredible quantities of bunker and other fish. Using a technique called "peering," in which they partially lower their heads below the water, the loons visually lock onto their prey. Then, using their large, webbed feet, the birds plummet full bore after the fist, time and again, fulfilling their gluttonous appetites.

My loons in Whitehall Bay performed similarly, diving and surfacing constantly for the hour I watched them. Their fishing pattern was precise, working within a quadrant, the two pairs forming each corner. First one side then the next; hardly ever did the birds go under at the same time. During my highly unscientific behavioral study of the loons, the longest loon underwater clocked in at 26 seconds. The average water depth was less than 15 feet in that area they fished, and I would imagine, if necessary, they could have easily doubled that dive.

The amazing thing was that here were four birds, whose summer breeding grounds may be somewhere in remote Canada or Nova Scotia, along the Great Lakes perhaps, fishing our Bay waters as efficiently as any full-time angler — certainly better than the intrigued observer watching them that day.

To make your freshwater or saltwater fishing report, news of outdoor club/organization event, outing or function to Chesapeake Outdoors • Phone 410/757-0130, then press # 3 • Email at OspreyExpeditions@compuserv.com.
Please include detailed information including times, date, place, phone and contact.

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