Volume 12, Issue 34 ~ August 19 - 25, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

photo by Maureen Miller
Del. Virginia Clagett with Barbara and Jack Smith, at a roast celebrating Smith’s 80th birthday and recognizing him for his contributions to the community.
Roasting and Toasting Jack Smith

In Galesville, a village where heritage rules, longevity seems a habit. When Jack Smith took his turn to 80, he wasn’t the only one at the party who’d passed that milestone. Among the 150 friends, neighbors and relatives celebrating was Smith’s 100-year-old aunt, Agnes Dixon.

Billed as a “Roast and Toast to celebrate the illustrious and perhaps infamous Mr. Jack of All Trades Smith,” it was a fun-filled evening sponsored by, and benefiting, the Galesville Heritage Society.

Smith — well known for sending peels of laughter through a crowd with his quips, stories and elaboration of the facts — had the tables turned on him, as friends and politicians stepped forward to roast him.

“This is a man I can look up to,” said Anne Arundel County Councilman Big Ed Reilly, who towers over Smith, as he passed on the county council’s congratulations.

Jack Smith — husband, father, sailor, Naval Air cadet, teacher, country store keeper, lumberyard owner, environmentalist, volunteer and an unbelievably spry octogenarian with a twinkle in his eye and a 1950s crewcut — smiled up at Reilly and shook his hand.

Del. Virginia Clagett presented Smith with a pin making him an honorary member of the General Assembly.

Representing County Executive Janet Owens, Bea Poulin presented Smith with a citation saluting him “as one of Galesville’s treasures.”

Smith responded with typical modesty. “As I look out in the crowd, at those here from Galesville, they have done just as much as I.”

But all knew that isn’t quite true.

Smith was born in Galesville, and other than the few years he spent away at school and in the service, that village has been his home.

Jean Trott, a Galesville native and distant cousin, remembers back into the 1930s, when “Jack was the teacher’s pet. We never knew whether to kiss his ring or adjust his halo,” she said.

Following in the footsteps of his mother, Jessi Dubel Smith, who chronicled Galesville’s history with the Maryland Gazette, Smith has dedicated much of his life to preserving the heritage of Galesville.

In the seven years Smith served on the Galesville Heritage Society’s board, he has led the society from a tiny room behind the West River Market to its own historic home, the old Carrie Weedon house.

Leni Preston, who has worked with Smith on an interpretive plan for the new museum, quoted Emerson to describe Smith’s tireless efforts in the Heritage Society: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

A believer in conservation as well as preservation, Smith raises oysters off his dock to help replenish the Chesapeake Bay population; he grows native grasses in his yard; and he uses his Coast Guard Sea School captain’s license to conduct weekly tours of the history of Galesville from the water.

Smith’s tireless enthusiasm is known across the county. He travels 40 miles twice a month delivering Meals on Wheels to six customers. He is a past president and board member of the South Anne Arundel Lions Club.

He’s been honored with Southern Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce’s Gene Hall Award and the Jaycee’s Outstanding Man of the Year Award.

Jack Smith has made history just as he’s helped preserve it.

As a young man during World War II, Smith joined the Navy and was stationed at Attu Island in Alaska. Back home, he finished college, taught math and science in a Baltimore County high school, was keeper of the Smith Country Store in Galesville and then manager of the family lumber company.

The Smith Building Supply Company, which Smith owned and operated for 33 years until its closing in 2001, wasn’t your typical lumberyard. It was a mom and pop business on the crossroads of Churchton and Shady Side, a one-stop lumber, hardware and garden store where service and advice were freely laced with jokes and generosity.

“Many months our Accounts Receivable would run in the one-million-dollar range,” says Smith, a man known to never to say no to anybody.

Several who roasted Smith talked about their first meeting at the lumberyard.

Terry Smith (no relation to Jack, as he reminded the crowd) of the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, remembered his first visit, after buying a house in Shady Side.

“There was Jack, rubbing his hands at the prospect of a newcomer with D.C. plates. “We will match — or exceed — any price you can find,” Smith recalled Smith saying.

For just such supposed cleverness in business, Fred Wilson roasted his uncle. “Jack really lived by his personal philosophy,” said Wilson, “which was give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll buy worms from you.”

If all the roasting wasn’t all quite true, it didn’t matter, for everybody knew the truth about Jack Smith. As Poulin said, reading from the county citation, the truth is that “It takes a Jack Smith to raise a village.”

—Maureen Miller

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Starfish Returned

Prodigal seahorse returns to the fold

he most sensational art heist of Calvert’s 350-year history has come to head-scratching conclusion as Calvert Middle School’s wayward Starfish mysteriously washed up overnight on the school’s doorstep — or, rather, trash paddock — the thief perhaps encouraged by the sheriff department’s promise of amnesty.

Head custodian Mark Reynolds made the discovery, spotting the sculpture near a dumpster when he arrived to work in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 17. Teachers, staff and students learned of the return as they filtered in and out of the school.

Starfish, a six-foot tall seahorse sculpture painted in the likeness of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, stands out as one of the boldest of Calvert County’s Seahorses by the Bay exhibit, a public art project showcasing 25 student-embellished seahorse sculptures throughout the county. It had been on display beside Adams Ribs, south of Prince Frederick until
June 26, when it disappeared from its concrete pedestal.

“There was actually supposed to be a monument put up today at Adams Ribs,” said Annmarie Garden’s Jaimie Jeffrey, a member of the Seahorse Committee, on the day of the reunion. “So it’s kind of ironic he’d be returned today.” The monument was to include information for donating to the Starfish Memorial Fund, a fund-raiser intended to compensate Calvert Middle School for the money Starfish would have earned the school at auction.

“It was a great surprise,” says the school’s principal Nancy Highsmith. “Everyone is very excited.”

Calvert Marine Museum’s exhibit staff picked up Starfish from the school Tuesday to assess its condition and return it to display as soon as possible. Aside from a few paint chips, the piece was reportedly returned in very good shape.

The unexpected return leaves many questions unanswered. Was it the final piece to complete someone’s seascape bathroom theme? Was it intended for a black market auction? Perhaps it was on its way to a photo-documented cross-country trip? Or simply a prank engineered by a small group of miscreants?

The vacuum of answers lends Starfish an air of enigma, perhaps piquing collectors’ interest when the seahorses eventually go to auction at a time as yet undetermined. In the meantime, you can drop by Adams Ribs, on northbound Route 2-4 a few miles south of Prince Frederick’s town center, to welcome the prodigal back home.

—Mark Burns

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Waterman Earl White worked most of his life on skipjacks, later captaining Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s own Stanley Norman.

Earl White, Chesapeake Waterman

Appropriately enough, I was on the water when a friend called to tell me that though Earl White had fought the good fight, he passed away August 9, after a brief illness. Earl was one of those rare, unabashed spirits that come into our lives like the tide’s ebb, effortless and graceful.

To many of us, Earl symbolized the rich cultural fabric that was life in Chesapeake Country. But so much more than that, he was simply a good man. In an era of hyped platitudes and padded credentials, Earl White was a Chesapeake original: genuine, honest, and straightforward.

We connected through the blues. We both loved the great champions: Son House, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. To Earl, who played guitar and sang of what he lived, these two powerful life forces, music and water, were inextricably linked. You can’t fake it; it’s too real. Like Earl.

Born in Dames Quarter, Md., he worked mostly aboard skipjacks, boats of an era long gone when the Bay’s vitality was unparalleled. As the storm clouds gathered over Europe and America emerged from financial ruin, Earl dredged for oysters. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel pummeled the Atlantic Coast but Earl still helped deliver a load of oysters. When the nation faced internal strife and political upheaval in the 1960s and ’70s, Earl was still earning a hard living from Chesapeake waters.

When the oysters crashed in the late 1980s, he accepted a job as field educator with Chesapeake Bay Foundation on the skipjack Stanley Norman. Until recent months, amidst Code Orange alerts and dead zones, Earl was a calming and steadfast influence on the school kids, teachers and adults who boarded Stanley Norman to learn about the Bay.
His was a rich life full of abundant oyster harvests, bone-chilling winters and violent squalls. He regaled his audience with tales of fat oysters, a rich Bay and promise of a brighter tomorrow for the Chesapeake. He was living maritime history, unfiltered.

I met Earl nearly 10 years ago running a field trip on the Patuxent River. As usual, Earl mesmerized this group. He recounted abundant oyster hauls decades earlier on the Hawks Nest, upriver from Solomons where we had anchored. Now it was just a worn-out oyster bar. I had a set of 14-foot shaft tongs to demonstrate a traditional method to harvest oysters. I lowered the tongs into the swift ebb tide and struggled to get a bite on the shell. As I pulled the tongs up, grunting, sweat flooded my face.

Without a hint of arrogance, Earl took his turn. Like a hot knife through butter, he plunged the tongs through the water, fluid and graceful, like Ali in the ring. That moment is burned into the back of my eyes: a man nearly half a century older than I working the shaft tongs like he was conducting the New York Philharmonic. Poetry in motion.
Earl inspired me with his love of life and generous soul. Thanks, Captain.

—C.D. Dollar

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Ask the Plant Professor

Matching Cause with Effect

Q My baby zuchinnis are rotting from the flower end up. Is this caused by lack of pollination?

A No. The fungal disease Choenaphora is very common on squash, as well as pumpkins, eggplant and chile peppers. In warm, damp weather, it can start at blossom or stem end of fruit. The disease overwinters on dead plants or soil, then in spring spreads to blossoms by bees, cucumber beetles and splashing water. Promptly remove diseased fruit now and spent plants at season’s end. Place mulch under plants to stop the splashing of spores. It’s also a good idea to physically remove stubborn flowers from squash once the fruit starts growing.

Q What would make my lawn turn the color of straw?

A Causes of early lawn yellowing include overfertilization, misapplication of herbicide, mowing too low, diseases, buried debris or pet urination. Try matching your lawn damage with the color photos on our web site.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

Way Downstream …

In Washington, they held a birthday party last week for perhaps the world’s oldest bear, a husky brown in a ranger hat and blue jeans. You got it; his name is Smokey, he turned 60, he looks marvelous and if he decides to run for office he’d begin with some serious name I.D. A survey showed that 95 percent of American adults and 77 percent of children know who Smokey the Bear is …

In Wisconsin, Republicans ran into a slight problem when it comes to the presidential campaign issue of outsourcing American jobs: the Bush-Cheney baseball caps were made in China and the Vote Republican shirts in other Third World countries, reporters noted …

In England, Stonehenge, a monumental circle of Neolithic stone has endured for some 5,000 years. But authorities report that the area is under assault from an unexpected enemy: badgers burrowing into nearby pre-
historic burial grounds …

Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where a sudden and massive infestation of ants is being likened to a “B-grade horror movie.” The supercolony of Argentine ants stretches 60 miles near the city of Melbourne and is on the march, Reuters reports.

In Argentina, where the ants come from, they congregate in smaller colonies and only fight with one another. But scientists say that somehow, they’ve genetically altered during their long journey and now they rarely bother each other while taking over swaths of earth. Sounds to us like the insect version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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