Burton's Year in Review

Vol. 8, No. 52
Dec. 28, 2000-Jan. 3, 2001
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You hear the name Bill Burton and you think outdoor sports. Burton's a man's man, a Hemingway of Chesapeake Country. True enough, but not the whole truth. At 74, Burton's as active mentally as he is physically, which means he's all over the Bay - from crabs to Cruisers. Review his columns for the year, and you get a wise and witty summary of the new millennium in Chesapeake Country.

January 27: Snow Day

When I went to bed at 2am, no flakes were falling, though NOAA weather band radio reported odds were for the storm to hit more to the west. When I awoke at 8am, no need to even go to the window. It was eerily quiet. There was a muffled silence, the kind that can only mean snow, lots of it. Even without the late forecast, I'd have known. Anyone raised in the country can understand why. It's the way things were before weather watchers had so many fancy gadgets.

February 10: Maryland's Buy of the Century

Purchasing Deep Creek Lake with our tax funds and adding it to the state park system is good news. Developers would have loved that whole parcel, but the 3,900-acre sparkling clear, fish-filled mountain reservoir created in 1925 by Youghiogheny Electric Co. will remain ours to use and at a bargain price. Public access is guaranteed there, which makes those who use the Bay envious.

March 16: Spring Fishin'

Back when God made real fishermen, they fished any day they thought fish would bite. Even when March winds blow, many fish bite as spring comes. This is crappie time, but not a crappy time for fishn'n. This is also the time for bass and pickerel.

April 13: Burton Victorious

For years my goal has been twofold: To accommodate the squirrels while ensuring the birds of adequate seeds. In the effort, the backyard is a maze of master cables from tree to tree, drop wires to hold feeders, baffles to discourage squirrels from reaching the feeders and special ground and tree feeder stations for squirrels in hope that these will divert their attention. None of it has worked.

Now, for $34.99, I've baffled the thieving squirrels - though I know well my victory is momentary.

May 4: So You Want to Be a Writer?

Success comes to the writer who can lure couch potatoes from the boob tube and speakers to books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals - and computer screen.

What are you waiting for? The hardest part is the first word, sentence or paragraph. Get them down. The rest follows, easier and easier. Relax and keep writing. You are a sum of your experiences and observations - and there's enough there to make interesting stories. If you don't tell that story, probably it will never be told.

June 1: In Memory of Heroes

Harry was still in his teens when his plane went down: no wife, no children, not even a steady girlfriend. His mother and father are long gone, and no one is left to remember him on Memorial Day. So, I headed to the docks of Annapolis to let U.S. Navy flying seaman Harry Beckwith know he was not forgotten.

June 29: In the Catbird Seat

Join me on the patio on the east side of the Burton home overlooking Stoney Creek. I'm seated on a glider next to a small, U-shaped garden, doing what adventurers would consider dull. But my early mornings here are oft the most pleasurable hours of my day. Before, during and after going through the morning papers and breakfasting on cereal, I'm feeding wildlife: birds, squirrels and rabbits.

August 3: Accounting for Tastes

By contemporary standards, there was an awesome ration of strangeness to the Patriot-blue work of art that pulled up alongside me at a stoplight. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This beholder sometimes demands traditional, old-fashioned design. What car can compare in design to the old Packards with their solid and distinctive grills? Probably that's what gets me about the PT Cruiser. The front end brings me back to when cars were distinctive.

September 7: In Crabby Terms, This Is the Season of Our Discontent

Our beloved blue crab is obviously in trouble, big trouble. Crabs are more scarce than Oriole victories. We've had crab scares before, but never like this. The situation is being scrutinized, assessments are underway, some tough decisions will have to be made in both Maryland and Virginia. The General Assembly could well get into the act.

October 12: It's a Fish-Eat-Fish World

If I were a fish of the Chesapeake or any other waters - with the lone exception of a fish bowl with only one resident - I wouldn't dare blink an eye. No matter how big a fish can be, there's always something hungrier around - and if it's not bigger, then it hunts in packs. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. How'd you like to be a trout with a hook firmly set in your mouth by a hungry angler - while all around you are even more famished and greedy bluefish anxious to take advantage of your predicament?

October 19: Farewell, Fine-Furred Friend

OJ knew he had a good thing going at 178 Park Road. A few hours roaming the woods were sufficient. He would then return to his haven under one of the junipers and wait for any door to open. Now he has made his last escape. He is nestled in the daffodil patch where he liked to curl up and where the earth is warmed by the early sun. Above him are a few flowers and a large, flat stone upon which is painted in green: OJ, our cat, 1984-2000, and my crude rendition of his silhouette.

November 30: The Trouble with Crabs

Winding down now is a season during which many chicken neckers didn't get enough for their crab feasts. But it was also a season when Charlie Schnaitman, who - for as long as I can recall, has worked both sides of the catching of crustaceans from his establishment at the gateway to the biggest blue crabs anywhere- couldn't always sell them enough to fill their nearly empty baskets. Crabbing was lousy, he concedes, for both the pros and the amateurs.

You might say for the Schnaitmans, Charlie and son Chuck, it was a lose-lose situation. With recreational catches from low to nothing for much of the season, boat rentals were likewise. With commercial catches off equally, there were few crabs for them to market.

December 21: Olds Lang Syne

Over the years, my old journals inform me, I've owned 29 autos of one make or another, many made by manufacturers that have folded, including at least one each Maxwell, Jewett, Hupmobile, Hudson, Henry J, DeSoto, Whippet, Willis-Knight - and a variety under the Nash and subsequent American Motors labels.

Only once did I own a vehicle from the company founded by Ransom E. Olds, and whatever carpentry skills I have today I owe to that jalopy.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly