Burton on the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 52

December 19-25, 2002

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We like to say that Bill Burton left the Baltimore Evening Sun, where he’d worked for over 35 years, to come work for Bay Weekly. That may be stretching the truth, but Burton retired from the Sun about the time this paper came into being. For all our 10 volumes, his thoughts on — and increasingly around — the Bay have enriched our pages.

A New Baby for the Burton-Boughey Family
Welcome to this Earth of ours Mackenzie Noelle Boughey born on the last Thursday of 2001.

Welcome though you are, this grandfather cannot help but speculate what lies ahead in this curious and continually changing world. I think of the words of Heinrich Heine, who a century and a half ago wrote: I advise our grandchildren to come into this world with very thick skin on their backs.

My advice to you, Mackenzie Noelle Boughey, are the words of George Santayana: There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
— No. 2, Jan. 10

Matching Wits with Squirrels
Time and again, I’m outsmarted by persistent creatures that could fit in my pocket if I dared put one there.

Among the two score or more bushytails that romp on my side lawn up here on the shores of Stoney Creek in North County, one has once again made a fool of this writer and of the unknown person who devised what he promoted as a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder.
— No. 9, Feb. 28

Tribute to a Journalist
It’s a unique profession, always challenging, always fascinating and nearly always satisfying, so much so that few who take it up seldom abandon it for good. I know. I gave it up for a short spell 50 years ago, and though I made more than twice my reporting salary in sales, I couldn’t stay away from pad, pencil and typewriter.

Why? Within the heart of any journalist, there’s the aura of excitement. There’s a story to be reported, a view to express — and the keyboard is at your fingertips.

The ramifications of this profession have been in this writer’s thoughts more than usual, prompted by the filmed and cold-blooded murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was doing his job, chasing after a story in Pakistan, where he was kidnapped and subsequently beheaded.
— No. 10, March 7

Remember When
A curious thing about age. Most of us gripe about it, but if we hang in there long enough to rack up the years, we’re more fortunate than those who don’t. The alternative is a rather dismal occurrence.

Like it or not, age keeps piling upon us with its good and bad, aches and pains, happiness and worries — and the greater the age, the more we have to look back on.

I remember savvy old Grandma Burton reminding me that looking back on the good old days didn’t necessarily mean one is unhappy with the present.

That came to mind the other day, when my brother John of Salt Lake City e-mailed me a test to determine not just one’s age but what one has witnessed as years piled on. I’m the oldest of the five Burton siblings, so I felt justified in adding more remembrances to his test.

Here’s just one from a list of 41:
29. Studebakers — which, after World War II had big rear windows, so unusual that from a distance one couldn’t tell whether they were coming or going?
— No. 14, April 4

Rememberin’ Slammin’ Sammy Snead
The death of one of golf’s greatest legends — if not the greatest — brought back old memories. Our paths crossed not on a golf course but on water, for the Slammer was also a fisherman. For years he held a world record for bonefish, which have such a reputation for elusiveness and power that a record catch is akin to a hole in one at the Masters.

We were pretty close buddies for a week. When I heard of his passing, once again I realized that I had not followed through when I said to myself ‘I’ll look Sammy up one day; he’ll teach me golf, and I’ll teach him to make those short casts.’ Not that I wanted to learn golf, but as well as a priceless lesson on the turf, I would have enjoyed more of Sammy Snead.
— No. 22, May 30

Eagles Are Fine in the Wild, But Don’t Invite One Home
Once there was a time when I wished to high heaven an eagle would be forgotten. It was in the ’70s, when I was the outdoor editor of the Evening and Sunday Sun, and I was in Canada.

With my interviewing finished, my traveling companion and I went shopping at a Hudson Bay Store. He spied a full Indian headdress, and he wanted it.

I was familiar with the relatively new Endangered Species Act and told him to forget it. I told him of the fine, the possibility of jail and I reminded him he was traveling with me. If he was caught, I could kiss my job good-bye.

At the border, a big drug bust in progress, all our luggage had to scrutinized.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t buy that headdress?” I said.

He looked sheepish, then said, “I did.”

“Where is it?” I demanded.

Said he: “I thought your sleeping bag would protect the feathers.”
— No. 25, June 20

The Kid’s Last Out
It was in the arena of casting for fish that I first met, and later associated on more than several occasions, with the Kid. In fishing, he was like he was in baseball: Brash, confident, damned good, and not reluctant to let everyone know how good he was. He bragged, but he could — and did — back up his bragging.

The Kid, of course, is Ted Williams, who passed last July 5 at age 83.
— No. 28, July 11

Odd Bayfellows
In this a summer of oddities — the snakeheads in a Crofton pond; second thoughts about the use of nuclear worms and green crabs for bait; both red and black puppy drum in most unusual sectors of the upper Bay; and a pretty much confirmed sighting of a manatee in the Magothy — we’re witnessing creatures where they shouldn’t be.

But if we get right down to it, that’s been going on since the beginning of time. Sometimes, it’s the creatures themselves in concert with Mother Nature who do the transplanting. But too often, it’s via human whims — or at least human negligence in better protecting our environment from potentially dangerous immigrants.
— No. 32, Aug. 8

What Memorial’s Big Enough for Big-Hearted Johnny U?
If ever a single gridiron star made a team — and made that team the darling of a city, indeed, the whole state — it was Johnny U. He was the consummate quarterback, cool, smart, confident and able to pick a defense apart.
— No. 38, Sept. 19

Catch ’Em While You Can
In no other sport is big so dominant. In football, a coach wants big linemen; in baseball, it’s big hitters; basketball, big scorers — but in fishing, all emphasis is on big. Big fish — fish big enough that an angler doesn’t have to stretch the truth when telling of the catch.

We’re coming into that season on Chesapeake, the time when the biggest fish of all will be available. Fish big enough that those who put up their boats early will wish they left them in the water.
— No. 44, Oct. 31

On Liberty Ship John W. Brown, Veterans Cruised Memory Lane
The other day — Veterans Day — a tad more than 500 of the 25 million remaining warriors of World Wars I, II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and other conflicts, observed the occasion aboard the World War II Liberty Ship S.S. John W. Brown for a cruise of an hour in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.
— No. 46, Nov. 14

Christmas Words for Voiceless Creatures
Since I was old enough to believe in Santa Claus, I was also old enough to believe that on midnight as the jolly old man in red made his rounds, animals in the house, the barn and in the wild could and would talk.
— No. 51, Dec. 19

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly