Dock of the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 19
May 10-16, 2001
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For Supermom, It’s All in a Day’s Work

photo by Mark Fulir
Belgian drafthorse Blaze with her new-born colt Ben.

Ah, the modern day Supermom. She's expected to carry quite a load. Wife, mother, protector, maid, chef, chauffeur and mentor. In the good old days, she'd also have carried the title "head chef and bottle washer."

Yes, she's a tough old gal, but she can't hold a candle to the Belgian draft-horse Blaze.

Blaze and mate Pete are pulling horses. Their owner, Terry Cooper of St. Mary's County, trailers them to competitions where they show off their super strength. As part of the team, Blaze must pull her share. But as with most females, it isn't exactly an equal load she carries.

Draft pulling is a team effort. It takes two working in unison. So as an expectant mom, Blaze had to work just as hard as her partner when the duo of chestnuts got some pro bono exercise pulling logs at the Orange Trail Boardwalk recently at Calvert Cliffs State Park. As always, they worked beautifully together, sharing the workload.

But on April 22, there was only one doing the work. Just two weeks after pulling logs and lumber, she's giving birth to a spunky little stallion, Ben.

"Blaze was outside last night," said owner Cooper. "I noticed after she came into the barn to eat that she was in a hurry to go back outside, so I followed. That's when I found the colt near the barn."

So Blaze can play mom now, right?

Nope. Like her human counterpart, she must do much more. She'll be mate to Pete, mom to Ben and return to pulling within the month, expected to carry her full share while mentoring her firstborn.

But that's life for horses of Blaze's breed. They are strong and have proved they can survive.

Belgian horses are native to the country of Belgium.

This little country in Europe - blessed with fertile soil, abundant rainfall, excellent pastures, hay and grain - developed the heavy, powerful breed of horse in the late 1800s using genetic material from the large black horses known as Flemish horses, called "great horses" by medieval writers.

As larger animals were needed for industrial and farm use, stallions from Belgium were exported to many parts of Europe. The national government played a significant role in promoting the breed, holding the great National Show in Brussels, which served as an international showcase. The horses became a national heritage and quite literally treasures. By 1891, Belgium was exporting stallions to the government stables of Russia, Italy, Germany, France and the Austrio-Hungarian empire.

Not to be left out, an American association was founded in 1887 in Indiana, where it remains today.

But it was slower going in the U. S. for the Belgian horses, which arrived behind the Percheron, Shire and Clydesdale work breeds.

Only after Belgium sent an exhibit of horses to the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 and the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago in 1903 did the breed grow, registering 1,773 by 1910.

It seemed Belgians were here to stay. But World War I took its toll. As importations came to a halt, breeding slowed. But by 1937, they were back 3,196 strong.

After that surge, several things conspired to put an end to draft-horse breeding.

World War II created a labor shortage; small, rubber-tired row-crop tractors appeared; and the tremendous push for mechanization put all draft breeds under severe pressure. At one point in the early 1950s, registrations of Belgians dropped under the 200 mark.

But history has a way of repeating itself. The powerful horses with their rich heritage enjoyed their greatest growth between 1981 and 1985 with 4,056 registrations and 5,920 transfers. Today their main work is shows and competitions.

So it seems Ben the Belgian colt has quite a legacy to live up to.

And Blaze, his mom?

Well she'll be there to help him. For she, like her human counterpart, is Supermom. She is strong and can carry the extra load.

-Connie Darago

A Coast Guard Sticker on Your Port Can Keep Your Boat from Getting Hurt

photo by Christopher Jensen

Check, mate.

The destination for the day was to be St. Michaels, but at 10:00 in the morning with the wind hard out of the north, there arose some uncertainty.

"Honey, where are the flares?"

"Aren't they up there on the bridge?"

"Ah no, I don't see them up here. I think I saw them in that locker up at the front of the vee berth. Would you take a look?"

"Hold on "

Their eyes met as they realized that the Chesapeake Bay didn't care whether the flares were aboard or not, and they'd be in real trouble if, in fact, they'd been in real trouble and were not instead tied to the pier undergoing a vessel safety check, a free service provided by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron.

No problem.

Cold water and crab chow aside, if the regular Coast Guard or the Natural Resources Police had discovered that the flares were not aboard, the skipper might have been fined and would most likely have had to endure a search for other possible violations. This could entail a splendid afternoon spent observing armed strangers poking about the bilges and sock drawers while being scrutinized by other armed and wary strangers, all the while hove to in lumpy water.

Oddly enough, there are many who would not care to partake in this sort of affair. Fortunately, an alternative exists, as Bob Gittings, vice captain of Flotillas 15-4, a local Coast Guard Auxiliary group, explained on a recent visit to Hartge's Yacht Yard.

"You arrange for an examiner to come down to your boat at a time when you can be there. We don't just check out the boat; it's more than going down an equipment checklist. First and foremost it's a one-on-one educational session with a trained volunteer vessel examiner."

George Pacharis, division staff officer for vessel examinations, continued.

"In about 15 minutes, we can tell you why certain equipment is required and how to use it, and hopefully you'll know enough to save your life and your boat. The more people we educate, the fewer we'll have to rescue later on, and that's a lot easier for everybody."

The most frequent discrepancies, Pacharis said, are out-of-date flares or improperly displayed registration numbers. But he is most concerned by the enormous numbers of boaters he meets who have never actually tried on a lifejacket.

The right way, Pacharis said, "is for the skipper to hand every passenger a lifejacket when they come on board, have them put it on and adjust it so it fits and keep it at hand - if not wear it - for the duration of the voyage. The skipper should practice a man-overboard drill every outing. If you make a game of it, kids love it. Somebody else on board should know how to operate the boat and the radio - in case the skipper's the guy who goes over the side."

Gittings filled out the safety list: "I'd like to see a list on every boat that tells anybody where stuff is, and when the expiration dates will occur for things like flares and medications," he said. "I like to check out things like anchor lines - so many are worn out. I like to look for cracked fittings and fuel lines, and if I smell gas I like to get the hell off that boat right away and continue things from a safe distance."

If the vessel and its gear checks out, at the end of the session the skipper is awarded a rather spiffy sticker to display, usually from a portside window or other easily visible permanent structure. The sticker is not a boilerplate guarantee against being boarded, but many have found it to work.

Falling short, the skipper can fix what needs fixing and get what needs getting and try again for the sticker. The examiner doesn't alert the cops or the regular Coast Guard or any law enforcement personnel of any shortcomings. No fines. No warnings. No problem. It's all so much easier at the dock.

-Christopher Jensen

Sweet Adelines Crown Arundelair Queen

The Arundelair Chorus sings barbershop four-part harmonies. Similar choruses sing around the world.

We were sailing along on Moonlight Bay

We could hear the voices ringing, they seemed to say

You have stolen my heart now, don't go away

As we sang love's old sweet song, on Moonlight Bay

-"Moonlight Bay": 1912

Take a large melting pot. Add lead, tenor, baritone and bass voices. Blend one old sweet song and practice, practice, practice. Yield the ringing, harmonic sounds of barbershop music and special friends.

Who knows whence this American folk art came, but by the turn of the 20th century, male voices rose in barbershop harmony at parties and picnics, society gatherings and christenings. Naturally, women were not going to be left out. Fifty-six years ago, the Sweet Adelines first raised their voices in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the turn of the 21st century, barbershop's ringing chords and four-part harmonies rose round the world in voices male and female - but always in English.

Suzy Wishard, one of 30,000 Sweet Adelines International lifts her voice in the 34-year-old Arundelair Chorus.

"I'm a bass," says Wishard. "I didn't know that until I became a member."

Sweet Adelines' choruses, ranging in size from 20 to 150, serve as workshops where members train in barbershop harmony. From there, they form quartets. With 22 members, Arundelair Chorus fields three quartets.

Members meet once a week at the Naval Station theater in Annapolis, singing their songs again and again to reach the fifth note, the overring.

"When we see our director, Joe Biddle, jumping up and down, we know we've achieved that fifth note," says Wishard. "That's the ring that defines perfect barbershop harmony."

Choruses are aligned in regions, which hold yearly competitions. Wishard, fresh from the North Carolina barbershop competitions, sings the praises of making dear friends as well as sweet music with the Arundelair Chorus.

Top among them for many Arundelair Adelines is Glenna Long, retired for 28 years and a member of the Arundelair Chorus for over 20.

"She gets all gussied up and looks like a real glamour girl in full make-up, eyelashes and all when we go to competitions," says Wishard. "The entire chorus admires her ambition and enthusiasm. If only we could clone her."

But they'd have to catch up with her first.

The active Long is on the Board of Directors for the Anne Arundel Medical Center Auxiliary and the local chapter of AARP. She chaired the Lifeline Volunteer Program, which helps people with multiple health problems to keep living independently in their homes. She helped raise $75,000 to purchase computerized units for the Anne Arundel and Queen Anne County response center. She works at the outpatient center, the breast center, oncology center and the emergency room at the Medical Center. Like Wishard, she is a breast cancer survivor.

To celebrate such grand women among us and raise funds for both the Chorus and the new Annapolis Medical Breast Center, Arundelair Chorus is about to crown a Queen for a Day. True to the old television program, she'll be showered with queenly prizes - dinner packages, cleaning services, dinner theater tickets and other luxuries. You - and everyone else - will share a good lunch and hear first hand a true American folk art as both women's and men's barbershop quartets perform.

Bring your mothers and grandmothers. Bring your daughers. Bring your wives. One of them will be crowned queen Saturday May 12 from noon-3:30 at the Elks Lodge in Edgewater. Information and tickets ($25): 410/757-0403 or 410/798-0118.

-Connie Darago

Way Downstream ...

In Texas, a state senator who examined his hotel bill blew up when he saw that he was being charged a $3 "energy crisis" fee. Unlike most people feeling gouged, Kenneth Armbrister (D) had a forum to complain: the Senate floor in Austin. "Now, we have hotels in this state trying to make an extra buck over something that doesn't exist in Texas," he argued ...

In Switzerland, the World Wildlife Fund International had disquieting news for people who carry around bottles of water: You're wasting your money. In a report last week, the group said that in most developed countries, bottled water is no safer or healthier than tap water even though it costs 1,000 times more ...

In Albania, a dirt-poor widow with four children was in the money after her only cow gave birth to a two-headed calf. An unidentified veterinary association in the United States paid $25,000 for the freak, born with two brains and two mouths. The woman might have been poor but she wasn't dumb: She refused to sell the cow, observing that it might produce another valuable calf ...

In Austria, if you never saw a dead cow blown up by explosives, you may have missed your chance. According to Reuters, the Austrian province of Voralberg has banned detonating cow cadavers because environmentalists and tourists didn't like it. Farmers dynamited dead cows rather than paying to helicopter them from meadows ...

Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where Aboringal leaders are angry at authorities for killing wild dogs. Last weekend, 28 dingoes were shot dead on a resort island after wild dogs killed a nine-year-old boy.

Before that, a woman backpacker was bitten on the rear end.

The Ngulungbara people call the dingoes their brothers. A judge countered that the state of Queensland had a duty to protect public safety.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly