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Volume 16, Issue 42 - October 16 - October 22, 2008
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One Man’s Treasure

My many papers find a home in the Bill Burton Chesapeake Bay Research Area

Usually, this theme continues as: One man’s junk, another’s treasure, or vice versa. Me, I’m a lucky man. My treasures (though some might call them junk) will remain treasured long after I am gone.

There are different varieties of pack rats. There are those who collect and keep in hopes of eventual monetary gain, others who can’t let anything go once they’ve had it in their paws, still others who simply enjoy collecting and its associated prestige. Then there are those like me, a Yankee pack rat. Vermont poet Walter Hard wrote about us; we’re of the type when, once gone, the family rooting through our belongings will come upon a sack of twine labeled pieces of string too short to use.

We hoard things not just because they are useful but because they might be useful some day. Writers are prone to save a piece of obscure information, a catchy phrase or a string of well-written words — just in case they might come in handy some day. We also hoard reference books, as well as magazines and newspapers.

Long before the computer age, we accumulated the paper trail. Our treasures are not buried within a hard drive; hard copies of them are everywhere: in files and folders, on shelves, crates and boxes, atop desks and chairs, within books and the latest probably still in our pockets. Too late now to convert them to computerese. That could take a lifetime.

So what happens to all our collectibles when we’re gone? Are many of the belongings tossed out, others scattered to the winds with no one around to appreciate how useful a whole book — even a few notes — might be for one seeking background, facts, interesting info, miscellaneous trivia or such?

My Time Had Come

Seeing I was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, the time had come when it was appropriate for me to ponder the future of my collectibles, primarily little pieces of facts and information on the environmental front long forgotten, though possessing the potential for an interesting side note or possibly a revival at some time in the future. Some of the hundreds of books might be old, but within their covers could be pertinent info no longer available in subsequent works.

You might say I have a library of books, writings, notes, observations and thoughts on environment, ecology, nature, natural history and just plain conservation concerning Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. All with no future home. I’m not suggesting it is worthy of an institution of higher learning library or archives. But surely it’s appropriate for students and others involved in research on such matters.

Making the connection — matching my treasure with a recipient who would see it as treasure, not trash — didn’t come easy. But when granddaughter Grumpy — aka Mackenzie Noelle Boughey — heard me asking a friend who might want some books on butterflies and deer, she interrupted “Mr. Decker would.” Mr. Decker is Tim Decker the science and environmental teacher at Gibson Island Country School, where Grumps is a first grader.

So I called. Mr. Decker assured me the school’s library and science department would be interested for both student and teacher research. Bring on the books and materials, he said. The first shipment of more than 50 books has a new home in the new Bill Burton Chesapeake Bay Research Area of the school’s library. Last week, headmistress Laura Kang, teachers, first graders and friends were on hand to make it official with a ceremony and the hanging of a plaque.

Great is the satisfaction of knowing my collectibles will remain together after I am gone. I can contribute them piecemeal over time, reserving some still needed. In all, the school’s library will receive at least several hundred reference books, crates of clippings and files including the only complete file on the sea monster Chessie, seeing that the Smithsonian Institution turned over to me its own files more than 25 years ago when the Chessie of Chesapeake Bay thing took on too much of a circus atmosphere for the proud institution.

Gibson Island Country School is a state-certified green school. Small, private and a tad over 50 years of age, it was among those early pioneers to bring environmental matters into the curriculum and prepare students to lead in the making of a greener world. How fortunate am I to find a fitting home for my collection and still with enough time remaining to witness some student or teacher making good use of my treasures.

’Tis the dream of any pack rat. Enough said.


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