|Chesapeake Countrys Ride of Spring ~ Marlborough Hunt Club Returns to Roedown
By Christopher Heagy
Photos by Scott Dine
Walk over the grass and gray and brown fade before your eyes as a mother duck leads the next generation across that greening field. Warm as the sun opens over the Roedown farm and spills onto the crowd gathering along the hillside.
Watch as that hillside comes alive, as the village-for-a-day rises in an early morning chill. Hear the high-pitched voices of children playing in grass. Listen as the chatter of the village builds to a roar. Wait for the sound of the horn and the pounding of hooves.
For 27 years, the promise of horses and racing have enticed and excited Chesapeake Country to the fields of Roedown farm in Davidsonville.
On April 1, the ride of spring returns to Roedown. From the first race of the day - the half-mile sprint of the Raymond R. Ruppert Memorial for junior riders; through the test of will, endurance and athleticism of the three miles and many leaps of the John Murray Begg Memorial; to the final race of the day, the Foxhunters Relay Race - horses will run and jump and race across the uneven turf of the Roedown course.
From a mingling of 300 on those first race days of the early 1970s to the 5,000 to 6,000 spectators of recent years, the Marlborough Hunt Races throw all types into the mix.
From the Clagetts to the Buntings to the Chaneys, the names on historical plaques throughout Southern Maryland; to horse owners, jockeys and outriders; to a family taking in the first festival of spring - they all come to frolic on the farm. Lawyers and builders, politicians and watermen, all mingle and watch, laugh, eat, drink and take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a Southern Maryland tradition.
The horses make the event and give us a reason to celebrate. But something else is at work. We come to build our tailgate, to celebrate among friends. We eat our deviled eggs and chocolate-covered strawberries and drink our bubbling champagne. Each year we look forward to this right of passage.
We want to stand on this hillside, watch the horses storm by, and shake off the winter chill. Yes, let us soak up the early spring sunshine and believe that all the promises of a day like this at a place like this are true and that so many beautiful days are just around the corner.
The horses bring us to this field, but this feeling of hope, this first festival of spring holds each of us and brings us back year after year.
Gates open at 10am; 1st race noon @ Roedown Farm, Davidsonville. $5 admission; $10 parking. Bring a picnic or tailgate invitation; no food sold. Rain or shine. Please, no pets: 410/956-1975.
Fitzwater Back at White House on West Wing
When Marlin Fitzwater ["Writing the Bay," Vol. IX, No. 11: March 15-21] left his job as White House press secretary for President George Bush, he saw himself living the good life in Deale as a writer and occasional speaker or consultant. But the good life often involves unusual twists, and his many titles now include writing consultant for the television series West Wing.
West Wing is NBC's dramatic one-hour weekly program of stories from the White House. It explores the relationship between the president and his staff and other government agencies while also developing personal tales of friendship and family life in high-powered political circles. Fitzwater's role includes drafting scenarios for the program based on his real-life experiences in the White House.
He calls the show "an amazing process." He talks to the scriptwriters on the phone, drafts a vignette and maybe some sample dialogue. "Six weeks later, it's on TV."
The show is not only amazing but, he says, accurate, and he praises its educational content. For one, it portrays how the political party of the president dictates the actions of the government. But, Fitzwater adds, West Wing "works hard to portray good people trying to do good things." In case you wondered, he says "the government is full of good people."
He has not been to Hollywood to see filming on the set, but he has seen and enjoyed being part of local shooting in Washington, D.C., where he lived the hectic days the show portrays. With early mornings, late nights and a never-ending series of events, discussions, meetings, phone calls and crises both minor and major, the burn-out rate is high. The "life-expectancy" of a White House staffer, Fitzwater says, is only two or three years. He lasted 12 years in one of the hottest seats of all as White House spokesman and press secretary.
With his more-than-a-decade's worth of good stories, maybe West Wing will last as long.
In Time for Spring: A Boardwalk to Calvert Cliffs
photo by Connie Darago
Kazing, kazing, pop-pop, pop-pop, ta-dut, ta-dut, echoes across the fresh water bog. It's not a woodpecker on this remote Calvert Cliffs State Park trail.
What's piercing the usual calm?
A new boardwalk to show you, close up, more of nature's many faces.
The Orange Trail, the longest of the park's 13 miles of hiking trails, winds 3.7 miles through the most pristine area of the 1,400-acre state park in southern Calvert County. It carries walkers along stands of mighty oak, freshwater meandering streams and an enormous freshwater bog.
The new boardwalk spans the bog, which is no mean trick. So say The Friends of Calvert Cliffs State Park Inc., the volunteers who have operated the park for 10 years, since Maryland Department of Natural Resources threatened to lock the gates for lack of money.
It's not like the Friends are made of money; every cent they spend they raise, through fundraising and grants. Getting boardwalk to bog took all the tricks up their sleeves - plus a team of 2,000-pound pulling horses and four aspiring Eagle Scouts.
When Friends vice president Tim Roxey, a nuclear engineer, began work on blueprints for the 150-foot boardwalk across the freshwater bog, he knew he'd taken on a challenge. A previously built observation deck had not faired well. Freezing and thawing had warped the decking. Pilings had settled unevenly.
So Roxey designed the new boardwalk to float, allowing bottom pieces individually to work their way down and settle on the bog's bottom. Once settled, periodic hardware adjustments keep the boardwalk stable and level.
But Roxey's plans required special materials and tools for the project in the middle of nowhere. Telephone poles were substituted for bottom pieces, with the 24-foot poles donated by the local electric company. Bids were sought for the cheapest marine-type treated wood. A Sears tool sale netted savings on a gasoline generator, air compressor, air drills, screw guns and hammers. And when there were trees to be cleared, safety gear, helmets, goggles, chaps and a chain saw with lots of extra chains were purchased through a clearance catalog.
One more trick was needed to transport these supplies from the workshop to a bog a quarter-mile from the nearest road. Board member Danny Huseman asked co-worker Terry Connor if he'd like to give his team of pulling horses a little exercise - pro bono of course. Connor's matching team of chestnut Belgian horses, Pete and Blaze, an expectant mom, performed brilliantly, hauling out cut trees, hauling in poles and new lumber.
Finishing the job took four aspiring Eagle Scouts who thought they wanted an outdoor job.
"We knew when we saw the plans it would be a perfect Eagle Project," said Troop 413 Scoutmaster Gary Floyd. "We wanted something big enough for four Scouts."
It was plenty big.
"I never thought it would be this much work," said future Eagle Scout Ray Galgano, who took the first phase and racked up over 300 hours in the first weekend.
"Me either," said second-phase builder Aaron Floyd as he tugged at two five-gallon buckets of gravel. The two other aspiring Eagles, Mike Wagamen and Armando Hernandez, nodded in agreement as they toted a pole.
After bog and new boardwalk, the Orange Trail continues to a fossil-hunting beach on the Chesapeake Bay. There, you'll encounter the 75-foot high cliffs for which the park is named, looking much as they did in 1608 when Captain John Smith discovered them. He described them as "mountains of diverse nature, Marle, Fullers earth," and spoke often of their unsurpassed beauty.
The story told by the cliffs dates back far beyond Smith, 15 million years to the Miocene era, when all of southern Maryland was covered by a warm, shallow sea. When the last great ice sheets receded, the sea fell to its present level and the bottom was exposed. The ancient sea floors continue to be carved by the sand and the waves into the cliffs familiar for almost 400 years.
Come see for yourself along the Orange Trail.
Way Downstream ...
On the Eastern Shore, folks may be worrying soon how to pay for protecting their beaches. The Bush administration in Washington is proposing a new funding formula that would require states and local governments to pay for two-thirds of the costs rather than vice-versa ...
In Chicago, the Joyce Foundation has created a website, AirHead.org, that lets you calculate how much air pollution your family produces each month. (We were shocked to learn that our output last month was over 3,000 pounds) ...
In New York, the famous landfill with the funny name - Fresh Kills - accepted its last load of garbage last week. The 3,000-acre, 20-story-high dump won't hold another bag of trash, and from now on New York City garbage will be hauled to a transfer station in New Jersey and then shipped by truck and rail to out-of-state dump sites. So beware ...
In Hong Kong, conservation groups have drafted movie stars for their campaign encouraging diners to forego the traditional Asian delicacy of shark's fin soup. The organization WildAid says that fishermen routinely cut off the fins and toss the sharks back in the water to die. Fishermen say that happens rarely ...
Our Creature Feature comes this week from Norway, where a love-seeking and apparently near-sighted moose has fallen in love - with a yellow Ford.
Leif Borgersen told reporters last week that he discovered the compact car covered with lick marks, saliva and other moose leavings, Reuters reported. "I'm a bit uncertain whether I should take the risk of letting the car stand alone and defenseless," he said.