Dock of the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 23
June 7-13, 2001
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Many Hands - and Feet - Relay for Life

When the American Cancer Society tapped Barbara Sturgell of Deale for its second annual South County Relay for Life, she knew just what to do. She passed the torch to her daughter, Sharon Staley. It's not that Sturgell, with eight cancer victims in her family, isn't sympathetic. And for years she's raised funds for the American Heart Association and other worthy causes, as well as contributing to the success of the annual Cancer Gala at Rod 'n' Reel in Chesapeake Beach.

But Sharon Staley had just spent 16 months learning about cancer up close and personal. She took up the cause full heartedly. "I do accounting," said Staley, "so I got involved just after the tax season. In three days, I had the maximum team of 15 people. They had to be willing to commit to raising money, so I told them that each one should aim for $100."

According to the American Cancer Society, 71 percent of donations go to the nonprofit's mission. That includes 20 percent for prevention programs that provide information to the public and health professionals; 17 percent for service programs to assist cancer patients and their families; 15 percent for detection/treatment programs that search for ways to spot cancer earlier and to provide information about treatment, recurrence, symptom management and pain control; and 19 percent for research support to academic institutions and scientists seeking new information about cancer.

The remaining 23 percent goes to support the society and fundraising programs like Relay for Life.

To raise the money, team members invite donations for starburst-shaped papers called danglers that are dedicated to the cancer victim or cancer survivor of the donor's choice.

"I told my team to try to sell them for $1 each. One team member sold $298 worth in one evening," says Staley. All were "dedicated to the memory of Al Staley, at left," Sharon's husband who died of a rare brain cancer this winter. "Everyone down here," Staley continued, "knows us and knows Al."

In addition to raising money, Relay for Life is a free family festival at the South River High School track in Edgewater. Part party, part memorial ceremony, the "community celebration of life" continues all through the night from 6pm June 8 until 9am June 9. Staley and her crew will be among 45 teams setting up their tents on the sports field. All 15 team members are sleeping over, though her dad, William Sturgell, "might sleep in the camper in the parking lot," Staley said.

Like the others, Happy Harbor Family, Friends and Fishermen will have a crew member walking the oval track around the field at all times. At some point during the night, there will be a pajama parade. A yard sale starts at 5am Saturday morning.

"It's going to be fun, and it's going to be sad, too," said Staley. "My friends say the luminaria ceremony is very touching." As darkness falls, teams place hundreds of lighted candles in translucent paper bags to honor their loved ones who have battled cancer. Family members walk the track during the ceremony, while songs like "Amazing Grace" are sung and inspirational words are read. Bring hankies.

Sharon Staley's cancer story started about a year before Al died, when he was diagnosed with a fast-growing malignant brain tumor. Doctors gave him three months to live, but neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins used a new therapy to shrink the tumor. Last October, they pronounced the tumor small enough to allow some optimism. Al thought he might live to see a grandson. But within two weeks, the tumor had shot back up, and soon he was reduced to crawling. In three more months he had died.

"I worked just three hours a week during that time so I could be home to help him," says Staley. "It's a fight. It's hard. You do what you have to do. I had to stay strong. The last week we were lifting him into a wheelchair. The last day he spent in bed." She falls silent.

"It helps to stay busy," Staley resumes. "My grandson is three months old now, and he's one of the team members. He'll be there at the Relay for Life. And I have two new nieces as well."

Much as the babies help, the Relay for Life is obviously getting a lot of Staley's time and attention. She has personally raised $900 for the cause and has gotten the contribution of two charter fishing trips from Captain Jim Brincefield of Jil Carrie and Captain Brian Keehn of Canvasback, who sail from Happy Harbor in Deale. For a chance to win, pay $5 for a ticket, available from the captains or at Happy Harbor.

Keeping with the team theme "Fish for the Fight against Cancer," Staley's crew will have a boat filled with water and toy fish along with fishing poles for the kids at their Relay camp site. Look for fish and you'll find the site for Happy Harbor Family, Friends and Fishermen.

The South County Relay for Life goes on rain or shine Friday through Saturday, June 8 to 9 from 6pm until 9am at South River High School. North County at Linthicum Relay for Life, June 15-16 at Lindale Middle School. West County Relay for Life at Arundel High School, June 22-23. Expect food, music, games, ceremony, silent auction, yard sale and more food. For information on sponsoring luminaria (suggested donation $10 each) or making other donations, call the American Cancer Society: 410/721-4304.

-Sonia Linebaugh

Waylon Jennings Rocks Chesapeake Country

photo by Connie Darago
It was a frail Jennings who graced the stage, but die-hard fans still found it a good show at Calvert Marine Museum’s Washington Gas Pavilion.

It's a shame you couldn't see the waters of the Bay and the Patuxent River from Calvert Marine Museum last Saturday night.

It would have been quite a sight under a full Bay moon to see the water rock to the sounds of legendary country singer Waylon Jennings.

It was a frail Jennings who graced the stage under the stars at Washington Gas Pavilion. True Jennings followers could tell time by their hero, for time and illness had taken their toll.

"He's had past health problems and had both hips replaced this year, but he never complained," explained Lee Ann Wright, director of development at the museum.

Powered by attitude, which Jennings still attributes to his mentor Buddy Holly, the show went on, raising about $15,000 to support Calvert Marine Museum in the coming year.

Jennings made himself at home with the age-mixed crowd of 2,800 followers as he sat on a stool center stage, Telecaster resting on his knee. "Just where the hell am I?" asked Jennings. "They could drop me here and I'd have no idea where I was."

"You're in Solomons - God's country," yelled a voice from the crowd. "We love you, Waylon."

The music of the night stayed true to the music of the legend.

Jennings cranked out old songs like "Amanda" and "Mamma, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" and shared a duo with wife Jessie Colter. Spicing up the old mix with the new, he also included hits from his '99 album, Closing in on the Fire, and his 2000 release, Lucky Dog.

Long-time Jennings follower Diana Worrell traveled 300 miles to make it the fourth time she's seen this favorite perform. "It's been 10-years since I last saw Waylon," said Worrell. "I'm anxious to see if he's still got that strong-edged sexy voice."

Did he?

Clear and strong as ever, she said. "He might not be able to stand and rock around the stage with his Telecaster," said Worrell, "But he's still got that edge that puts him in a league of his own."

It was that image of a stationary, seated Waylon that disappointed many fans. The band did more than its fair share of numbers, Jessie did three of her own, but Jennings was clearly only strumming his guitar.

Worrell begs to differ.

"It was a great concert," she said. "His voice is still incredible. That's what's important. He just blows me away."

Throughout the years, Jennings has held strong to his own style of country, breaking every musical barrier. For die-hard fans, Jennings was still proving he could make music his way. The stage was packed with musicians. The horn section sported trumpet, saxophone and trombone. Strings found two lead guitars, a bass, a steel guitar, an electric fiddle and even a cello. A keyboard and small white baby grand rounded out the ensemble, giving endless possibilities to the music.

"Most of these band members were together 10 years ago," said singer Carla Robertson. "When we reunite for these tours, it makes things easy. We are comfortable together and have a good time."

The band was having a good time, and so was the crowd when they cut loose with a couple of instrumentals. Gerry Rafferty's 1978 hit "Baker Street" had arms in the air and hands clapping to the beat.

"Jennings' band is awesome," said my son, 30-year-old Bill Darago of Prince Frederick. "I grew up listening to Jennings and watching him on the Dukes of Hazzard, but I haven't listened to his newer music. This music rocks. I really like what I heard."

Is it new music - or an old attitude - carrying on?

Whatever you call it, it was well worth the trip to Solomons to see a legendary Jennings perform music his way.

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, comes to the Marine Museum for its end-of-summer concert.

-Connie Darago

In Season
Prothonotary Warblers at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp

Thanks to Herman Schieke for permission to reproduce this illustration.

The land slopes steeply down to the bottom, becoming a flat, wet floor at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. Looking upward, you feel you have entered an amphitheater of filtered light. The cinnamon-colored trunks of the bald cypress - so called because, unlike most conifers, they drop their leaves in winter - are like great buttressed columns. Bald cypress trees grow taller than any tree east of the Rockies, and they are known to live for 1,000 years or longer.

Red maples, arrowwood, viburnum and other woody plants fill in the lower levels of the forest. Sound has a different quality here, too, seeming muffled as it does when there is deep snow. The feeling here is timeless. You can't help but slow down and breathe a little more deeply. The trail is short, so I take my time, stopping frequently to look and listen.

I like to visit in all seasons. The swamp is beautiful in winter. With the leaves off the trees, you can see the bowl-like shape of the land, and you are protected from the wind. It's then a good place to look for hermit thrushes, winter wrens, kinglets and woodpeckers.

In April, the buds on the trees and shrubs swell and open, Jack-in-the-pulpit emerges from the swamp floor and Parula warblers sing their buzzy song. Soon the Parulas will be joined by scarlet tanagers and that denizen of southern swamps, the prothonotary warbler.

Male prothonotary warblers have a deep, rich golden color. If a goldfinch is 18, then prothonotaries are 24 karat. They are named after the College of Prothonotaries Apostolic of the Catholic Church. These clerics - who sign Papal Bulls and record canonizations of saints - wear saffron-colored cowls.

Few, if any, birds have played such a crucial role in a chapter of history as has the prothonotary warbler. A State Department official named Alger Hiss was on trial, charged with supplying classified documents to the Soviet Union. Hiss was a bird watcher. A question about a prothonotary warbler was a turning point in the trial. The story goes that when asked if he had ever seen a prothonotary warbler, Hiss hesitated. The purpose of the question was to establish whether Hiss ever frequented the location where the drop was made. The awkward pause damaged his credibility and contributed to the guilty verdict. Partisans still debate Hiss' actual guilt or innocence.

Scientists believe that swamps containing cypress, tupelo, sweet gum and alder existed as far north as Maine during the late Miocene Period, four to seven million years ago. Now Battle Creek is at the northern edge of that range for the magnificent bald cypress. There is a large complex arrangement of Cypress Swamps on Maryland's Eastern Shore reaching all the way to Sussex County, Delaware, in the Pocomoke River drainage basin. But Battle Creek is the northernmost remnant on the Western Shore.

For Calvert County Department of Economic Development's new brochure, Travel Through The Centuries, The Historic Treasures of Calvert County, Maryland, I had the honor of creating the scratchboard illustrations, including the warbler.

When you plan a trip to Battle Creek, include a visit to some of the other interesting historic sites nearby. Get your brochure at 800/331-9771 ·

-Gary Pendleton

Way Downstream ...

In Annapolis, Gov. Parris Glendening gave the jitters to county commissioners across Maryland when he announced last week that the state would become involved in local land-use rulings that encourage sprawl. The governor said that the state might file lawsuits against localities if they violate Smart Growth principles ...

In Sweden, researchers might be taking the organic movement too far. They are experimenting with using liquid nitrogen to turn human corpses buried in biodegradable coffins into organic matter that enriches the soil like compost. They already have an endorsement from the Church of Sweden, which said: "We are promised a new body at the resurrection and so we have no need for the old one"...

In neighboring Denmark, ornithologists are hearing a new sound from songbirds: The ring of cell phones, especially Nokia's standard tone. It may be no more than a sign of the times; bird experts say they were not surprised at hearing the cell phone sounds because birds always have imitated the sounds of technology, the simpler the better ...

Our Creature Feature comes from Tibet by way of Hollywood, where a trendy fashion boutique is in a jam for what it draped around the necks of the well-heeled. If you've never heard of a chiru, it's an extremely rare Tibetan antelope with one of the softest coats in the world.

Using a secret Kashmiri technique, weavers make luxurious shawls that sell for several thousand dollars. The only problem is that selling the shawls in the U.S. is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, which is why Maxfield's, the California company, agreed last week to pay a fine of $175,000 and place advertisements in fashion magazines describing the chiru's plight.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly