Volume XI, Issue 52 ~ December 25-31, 2003

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Burton on the Bay

Bill Burton turned 77 last week. He says he’s slowing down a bit, and we’re glad because that means the rest of us might just have a chance at keeping up with him. After six decades in the newspaper business, he’s still got more of what it takes than 93 percent of his juniors. So at year’s end, we’re delighted and amazed all over again to follow him near and far through Burton on the Bay.

Provisioning the Ark ~ Feb. 13: No. 7
The cold weather we have been enduring since Christmas has posed some challenges for Ted Kitzmiller, a compassionate fellow who not infrequently is obliged to come up with a specific meal for one or more at the supper table. There have been times when the pantry was mighty low on the makings of a suitable meal. Like the time he called me asking where he could get some minnows. And soon.

Ted and his wife Velvet operate Noah’s Ark, a wild animal hospital and rehabilitation center at Broadneck Road, outside of Annapolis. And they have a couple of patients who would soon go hungry and who were in no shape to endure an empty plate. One is a great blue heron, the other a black-crowned night heron, and both are definitely finicky eaters.

Hold on, Osama: My Safe Room’s Not Quite Ready ~ Feb. 27: No. 9
Each morning before departing to her office, wife Lois waves in front of me a list of necessities to prepare for attack at the homestead on the banks of Stoney Creek in North County. When she returns each evening, there is evidence of displeasure when I have to admit I didn’t buy a battery radio, bottled water, duct tape and plastic sheeting.

At 178 Park Road, you’d have thought the bin Laden Clan was living up to the freshly designated Orange Alert, which coincidentally television personalities were pushing hard — for both viewer ratings and sponsors marketing duct tape, plastic sheeting and bottled water.

Gambling on Slots ~ March 27: No. 13
Methinks something is wrong when a state promotes gambling — a state that at the same time still has the authority to arrest you and me if we’re caught in a friendly low-stakes poker game in the privacy of my home.

Yet you know that in a poker game in my house, all of the players would get the money dropped on the green felt table top. No one else would get a cut of the pot.
In the state’s gambling endeavors, the players only get maybe half, if that, of all the money wagered. The remainder goes for promotion, programs to cure compulsive gamblers, printing, labor, advertising, administration costs, commissions to those who actually sell the chances, perhaps a lobbyist or two and who knows what else. What’s left goes to anything from education to building stadiums for threadbare professional sports owners.

Think those odds are in your favor?

A Parable for Our Times ~ May 15: No. 20
If you think there was rampant dissension in the early days of the latest Iran conflict, or even in Vietnam, you should have been around during the McCarthy Era. In those days, freedom of speech — and just about anything else — was considered appropriate for only those who climbed aboard the ultra patriotic bandwagon of Tail Gunner Joe, the former deskbound Marine airman obsessed with the notion the very fiber of our country was infested with Communists about to take over our government and the rest of the world.

Last week, the transcripts of the infamous McCarthy hearings were made public, and they brought back to this writer those days of shame and dissent.

Burton on the Bay Celebrates 10 Years in Bay Weekly ~ June 12: No. 24
With much fanfare, Maryland’s outspoken and oft controversial boss waded into the Bay to tinker with the special relationship with our prized crustacean: the blue crab of Chesapeake Bay.

That’s the way it started a decade ago this month, my first column for what was then New Bay Times and has since become Bay Weekly, the sheet you are holding in your hands. This being the 10th anniversary, those of us still aboard have been requested to resurrect a piece of our early work, then review it in light of the circumstances of today. On the crab front, it’s not a happy anniversary. If anything, things have gotten worse.

Teach a Child to Fish, And You’ll Never Fish Alone ~ June 19: No. 25
To others, Grumpy is better known as Mackenzie Boughey. She’s been around for 18 months, and seeing she’s my granddaughter, I figured it was time for Grumpy to go fishing. After all, the first discernible word to pop out of her mouth was issshh. Honest.

Her first issshh was directed at the household aquarium in mid-April. She got it right at the docks of Harrison’s Chesapeake House, when I introduced her to a rockfish of about 18 pounds, caught on the opener of the season. “Fissshh,” she screeched as she tried to hug it.

Horror Stories from the MVA Lines ~ Aug. 28: No. 35
August 22, 2003 (I list the year because that’s how long lines are, and yes, I’m being facetious again because if I wasn’t I’d be bawling) I journeyed to the Annapolis MVA office to get some information about the vision standards I’ll need to meet to maintain my driver’s license.

When one was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, there are periodic eye exams between license renewals, which I can fully understand. But I have fears of dying of old age in a line in an MVA facility.

Fishing After the Deluge ~ Sept. 25: No. 39
Let’s forget for the moment about the so obvious destruction of Isabel, and speculate what the still unknown can mean to our Chesapeake and its aquatic inhabitants.

“What else can be done to oysters?” is the way Pete Jensen, deputy secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources put it.

Heaven knows that like oysters, crabs don’t need another hit. Howard King, DNR’s director of fisheries, is concerned about them, too. For a while now, female crabs have been moving to the lower Bay to spawn. The eggs and larva are swept by currents, many go to the ocean, most to be carried back into the Bay as currents change. Howard’s concern was this: Depending on the forces associated with a major storm, how many would end up too far away to make it back?

Sticky Business ~ June 5: No. 23
When I saw the taillights of the car driving Lois to the airport disappear last Saturday, I breathed a sigh of relief — if only momentarily. The previous couple of hours had been threatening indeed. I had to keep the wife out of the kitchen, more specifically away from the big white General Electric stove I gave her as a gift a few years back.

The previous afternoon I came across a long forgotten half-gallon tin of maple syrup. Real Vermont maple syrup.

It would be the ideal gift for my friend Alan Doelp. But I had reservations about the year the syrup was boiled. So I decided to inspect the syrup first, heat it up and check it out. The syrup went into a large pot, which went atop Lois’ white stove. And the telephone rang. You know the rest.

Saving Our Bay ~ Nov. 20: No. 47
Within the Philip Merrill Environmental Center building of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Annapolis, the commodes in the restrooms don’t flush. They are environmentally friendly: no water, no chemicals involved. Human waste is composted, which means no runoff or treated sewage to taint the Chesapeake Bay.

Fittingly, it was in this building that a coalition of charterboat skippers, sportsfishermen and commercial watermen met in concert with the Foundation’s declared war on nutrient contamination of the Bay. The lion’s share of nutrient pollution that prompts — among other problems — dead zones with little or no oxygen hails from sewage treatment plants and agricultural runoff.

Oxygen-starved waters are not fitting for aquatic life, and their cause — nutrient pollution — remains the main cause of the Chesapeake’s water quality woes. Even an environmental dummy knows that, but sadly there’s a real big difference between knowing and doing — ‘doing’ as in doing something about it.

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Last updated December 24, 2003 @ 11:47pm. Merry Christmas!!