Volume XVII, Issue 24 # June 18 - June 24, 2009

Letter from the Editor

Fathers’ Days

Here are our founding fathers, making history

Days that have gone down in history might have begun like this: Founding fathers assemble from their provinces of power to give the full force of their authority to the aspirations of one of their number.

The second Sunday of June, coincident this year with Flag Day, belongs to Bernie Fowler, the lean, lanky, long-retired 85-year-old state senator from Calvert County. The occasion is Fowler’s celebrated Patuxent River Wade-In, and he dresses purposefully for it, in denim overalls, a straw hat flying an American flag and white sneakers. Then, right at Broomes Island, where he ran the boat concession as a young man in the days of clear water, he wades into the Patuxent.

The white sneakers are key, because when Fowler can no longer see them in the mucky sand beneath the brown, thick water, he stops. The height of the water stain on his pants legs is measured into history as the year’s Sneaker Index of Water Clarity.

This year’s index is 261⁄2 inches, half an inch lower than last year. His index has risen and fallen, reaching as high as 441⁄2 in 1997 and as low as eight inches in 1989. But it’s never reached the five-plus-feet highs of Fowler’s youth, which is why he’s kept wading, at the same place and time, for 22 years.

Next year Fowler’s Wade-In will move downriver to Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, where institutional power will assure it continues “in perpetuity.”

In some years, only the dedicated few — including his wife of 60 years, Betty — walked with him.

Nowadays Fowler walks not only with conviction but also with power.

From Tom Wisner, who inspired this walk into the water, comes the power of the spirit. About to turn 79 and locked in a give-and-take battle with lung cancer, the Bard of the Chesapeake (about whom you read in these pages last week) is attuned to the soul as well as the science of the river.

Each year, Wisner sings the assembly — some 200 strong, with waders and watchers — into the river to the tune of “Chesapeake Born.” So compelling is Wisner’s power that the governor of Maryland rises to do his bidding, adding his “fine Irish tenor” to Wisner’s song: “I’m Chesapeake born, I’m bound to thee, indeed I am, I’m Chesapeake free.”

“Chesapeake Born” is not O’Malley’s only song this day, though he sings it with promise. For the second time this week, he’s called to lead the singing of Happy Birthday to Steny Hoyer, congressman for this region of Maryland and the plenipotent majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Hoyer never misses the Patuxent River Wade-In, and June 14, his 70th birthday, is no exception.

Political power bound to spiritual power bound to the power of a sustained idea and backed by the power of the people: It makes you think this is a cause bound to make history.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher