Saturday, January 31, 2009


This was taken from the landing at Edwards Creek on a bitterly cold morning. I like the juxtaposition of the gull--free to take off and fly away any time--and the work boat, which is tethered firmly to the dock and whose purpose is labor vs. pleasure.

Speaking of being tied down with responsibilities (labor) yet wanting to fly away (avoidance of work, aka pleasure), I turn to a few words about my bad habit of procrastinating.

Dear Saturday,

Today I was supposed to publish details regarding the 2009 Virginia Blogfest that will occur in Mathews County, Virginia, from July 16-19, open to any blogger, commenter or reader who would like to attend--up to a certain number (to be determined). However, thanks to that pesky Friday, I was too tired to work on it. When I say "tired," of course you know that really means "lazy."

I'll call Sunday or Monday up right now and ask if I can post Blogfest details then. I am sure it will be just fine.

Finally, I also want you to know that you're my favorite day of the week, right up there with Friday. Take care, and thanks for understanding.

Chesapeake Bay Woman

p.s. Perhaps readers can use you, Saturday, to come up with an entry for the little contest I am running. If you aren't familiar with the contest, click here.

Letter #2

Dear Big Hairy Envy,

I will try to send you something today or tomorrow regarding a write-up for the Blogfest, and we can publish the details simultaneously. I broke out into hives today when I realized we probably need to add a blurb to the sidebar of our blogs. I am really hoping you know how to do this, because otherwise I will very likely press the wrong button and delete my entire blog. While this may be a very favorable outcome, I really need this blog to keep me from getting any real work done around here.

Chesapeake Bay Woman

p.s. Have you entered the contest yet?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Three Channels

I took this Thursday morning at about 7:30 from the Sea Breeze restaurant as people driving by wondered what on Earth I was doing. Speaking of wondering, I often wonder why I can never find anything decent on television when I have approximately 5,362 channels to choose from. How is that possible?

Every now and then I like to reminisce about the good old days, before cable TV and microwavable pancakes, but right around the time of 8-track cassettes, Tang and Space Food Sticks. (I loved the chocolate ones and swore I was turning into an astronaut with every bite I took.)

Yes, I often reflect back to the days when all television sets had aerials and rarely picked up more than three channels, which of course were ABC, NBC and CBS. There was no network devoted to food; no 24-hour cartoons; and no movies on demand. To watch a movie, you looked up the show times in the paper and drove to the theater. Before Gloucester's Hillside Theater and after Donk's stopped showing movies, that would entail a 40-50 mile drive for those of us in Mathews. You also didn't have to take out a second mortgage to buy popcorn, but that's a topic for another day.

Back during the 1970’s, the closest thing to Reality TV was the news, which was actually about The News, rather than what Katie Holmes wore to the Screen Actor Guild Awards or how a one-eyed grandmother in North Dakota gave birth to a flounder. For instance.

Here's a random list of some of the programs we watched and/or I remember from that decade:

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (Was this chick weird or what? She looked like an aging Pippy Longstocking, never happy, whiny, always in the midst of some crisis or drama....Wait a minute. I resemble some of these remarks.)
The Carol Burnett Show
Hee Haw (Yes, we did watch this, and we may have even liked it, but you're not going to get me to admit that here.)
Sonny and Cher
Flip Wilson
Lawrence Welk (We were forced to watch this. It was painful.)
Glen Campbell (I really wanted him to be my Rhinestone Cowboy; I had a huge crush, until I saw Medical Center's Chad Everett, who was later replaced by KC Royals baseball player George Brett, who has been replaced by my current boyfriend, Harry Connick, Jr.)
Captain Kangaroo
Romper Room
Schoolhouse Rock
Sesame Street
Electric Company
All in the Family
Mary Tyler Moore
Happy Days
Laverne and Shirley
Mork and Mindy
Barney Miller
Petticoat Junction
Green Acres
Dukes of Hazard
Charlie's Angels (I actually hated this show. Hated it! Also a topic for another day.)
The Waltons (I might have had a teeny tiny minuscule crush on John Boy back then, although that mole was very distracting, and he was a tad too gaunt.)
Little House on the Prairie (Tears, anyone?)
Walt Disney (on Sunday nights, preceded by Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, of course)
Hawaii Five-O (a Chesapeake Bay Mother’s favorite, I could take it or leave it except for the theme song).
Six Million Dollar Man (I also wanted to marry him for about a day, but I quickly snapped out of it.)
Wonder Woman
Bionic Woman
Fahn-tuh-see Island
Love Boat
Buggs Bunny-the all-time best in the cartoon category. Ever.
Josie and the Pussycats
Grape Ape (What kind of a person thinks up a character called Grape Ape? How much money does this person get paid? Are there currently any openings for the creative sort who spawns ideas like a ginormous purple ape who says two words, "Grape Ape?" I'd really, really like to apply.)
Scooby Doo (I might have had a crush on the blond-haired guy. Yes, I had a crush on a cartoon character. It was his broad shoulders.)
HR Puffenstuff....Who's your friend when things get rough. (Ummmm. Hello? Puffin' what?)
...and tons more I'm sure you will remember.

Yes, those were the good old days of television. Today we have hundreds of channels and rarely can find anything worth watching. In the days of three channels it seemed like everything was entertaining, even if it was a show featuring a midget dressed in a tuxedo living on an island where Ricardo Montalban granted people’s every wish.

Right now, I wish I was coming in for a landing in Ze Plane sitting next to George Brett. Or Chad Everett.

But definitely not John Boy or that cartoon character, just to be clear.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daffodils-Part II

This little red structure, which I've always admired, is located in Dutton on Route 198. If I'm not mistaken (and there's a reasonably good chance I am), nearby is a field that sprouts daffodils each spring. Speaking of daffodils, below is a continuation of the speech my grandmother gave to a state-wide Woman’s Club convention held in Richmond in the 1970's.

Daffodils - Part II
By Chesapeake Bay Paternal Grandmother

Click here for Part I

“…The daffodil has meant Nature’s annual re-birth for many hundreds of years—over Southern Europe, when color once again erases the drabness of winter. Daffodils are all members of the amaryllis family and belong to the Northern Hemisphere. Most of them came from the mountains and valleys of Spain and Portugal, back in the days when Mother Nature directed the gardens of the earth. It was these wild things the poets of old described and the common people took to their hearts and scattered everywhere over the country-side, especially in the British Isles.

It was mostly wild daffodils our ancestors brought to this country in and after colonial days. In fact, the first fain* beginning of the modern daffodil dates back to about 1870, when certain Englishmen began inter crossing selected specimens of their wild Lent Lilies and first produced Emperor and Empress, followed a few years later by King Alfred,** the greatest daffodil of all time in terms of popularity and quantities raised and sold.

So it was: Mother Nature first presented us with the wild daffodils and men, mostly studious Englishmen, took over the processes of evolution in the latter part of the 19th century and produced the bulging list of varieties available today…..”
-CB Paternal Grandmother
Chesapeake Bay Woman’s Additional Mindless Commentary--Because She Just Can't Help Herself

*I confess, I am in my forties and have never seen nor heard of this word before, but that should not come as any surprise. Either that or the Brain Disease I succumbed to after my first child was born has wiped out any and all memory of that word (and many others). "Feign" yes. "Fain" no, it's not ringing a bell. At first I thought it was a typo, but because Chesapeake Bay Woman is known to be wrong *occasionally,* I decided to look it up. “Fain” means gladly or willingly, and is archaic, just like my computer and my dial-up internet. By the way, any day now, based on its impertinent behavior, this PC will be making its underwater debut into Queens Creek.

**I remember this particular type of flower. My grandfather grew jillions of them. Jillions is what comes after billions, in case you didn't know. (I learned this as a liberal arts major who survived four years of college with nary a math class taken.)

Each spring I spent many hours after school picking King Alfreds. Do you have King Alfred in a can? Better let him out. Sorry, this is the first thing I think of when I hear King Alfred, even if it wasn't King Alfred, but Prince Alfred. Or Prince Albert. Prince Henry? Patrick Henry?

Does anyone, anywhere have any idea what any of this has to do with daffodils?

Don't forget to submit your entries into The Contest so that we can actually read something up here that flows in a logical, sensible, coherent, cogent, organized and succinct fashion rather than my flitting from one unrelated topic to another such that one minute we're talking about King Alfred daffodils and the next we're mentioning Patrick Henry, who may or may not have been trapped in a can.

(I know, it's Prince Albert. I also know he has nothing to do with daffodils. And I also know that if I don't stop typing right now, I will never shut up. You're welcome.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cross Country Trip Chapter VII

This old house is in a field down near Freeport. I took this on the last day of deer season, when every hunter this side of the Mississippi was out shooting. Speaking of wanting to shoot someone, we turn now to another chapter in the Chesapeake Bay Family's cross country "vacation."

In 1977 the Chesapeake Bay Family crammed a family of five, a cooler, a portapotty and no entertainment to speak of (portapotty notwithstanding) into a VW bus. They drove from Virginia to California and back pulling a pop-up camper even though they had never camped before, and even though they were crying tears of boredom by the time they reached the state of West Virginia on the very first day. (For previous chapters of this saga, check out the December archives or click on the links in the last paragraph below.)

Driving across country with your two younger sisters and your parents, with absolutely nothing to do except breathe, held the same charm as a bowl of bran flakes and was more boring than a tax form. Written in Spanish.

Even less thrilling was the stretch of road between West Virginia and Wyoming. That stretch of road as I recall contained this: Churchill Downs, some Daniel Boone Fort that made me angry because it was so boring, and pavement. Eternal stretches of a never-ending highway called Monotony, with occasional side trips down the road known as Tedium.

This so-called “vacation” was especially trying for Chesapeake Bay Father, who did most of the driving as well as all of the work putting up and taking down the camper every day. CB Father worked about 12 different jobs to make ends meet and spent precious little time at home. During the week, he worked at his car repair shop, came home for supper, went to bed for a few hours, rose at 11 p.m. and drove to Naval Weapon Station 30 miles away for the night shift. He set gill nets and sold the fish. And most Friday and Saturday nights you could find him playing drums in a local band.

Going from 24/7 Workaholic to 24/7 Entrapment with Dysfunctional Family was a change of pace and a bit of a culture shock. To say the least.

By the time we arrived in Yellowstone, the Chesapeake Bay Family was weary and bedraggled. Everyone was getting on everyone else’s nerves, even though the scenery was incredible. (It could be successfully argued that we got on each other’s nerves well before this vacation, but that is neither here nor there.)

At one point, Chesapeake Bay Father decided we should all go on a family hike. Did I mention that CB Father does not hike? I meant to.

I think he just wanted to get the heck out of that VW bus and gallop ahead far enough to sneak a cigarette, even though he didn’t smoke, or steal a shot of Jim Beam, which he undoubtedly needed after driving through sixteen states with three trifling kids. Or rather, two trifling younger sisters and one very responsible, mature, well-behaved, mild-mannered, courteous 13-year-old, who uncharacteristically was plotting how to leave her Middle Sister at a rest stop again. (Chesapeake Bay Mother had Valium, come to find out, courtesy of Dr. Kearney, so she was all set.)

We hiked up the steepest mountain this side of Kilimanjaro, complete with hairpin turns and hazardous overlooks. Baby and Middle Sisters were not at all enthused by the Family Hike, so after they whined to the point of wearing down everyone else’s last functioning nerve, we turned around to go back to the trail head.

CB Father, tired of all the weaving back and forth at the hairpin turns, decided to take a “shortcut” that was off the main trail. This so-called “shortcut” was a straight shot down a very, very steep embankment.

I now turn to an excerpt from a paper Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister wrote in school, which references what happens next in this story:

“…When I see the pictures that we took at Yellow Stone Park, in Wyoming, I imagine being there again. I remember when we went on a hike in the mountains there, and my father “fell down the mountain,” as my younger sister put it, when actually he was playing around and he tripped and rolled down the path a few feet. We laughed at that all day.” -CB Middle Sister

Actually, we laughed at that the entire month of the trip. And the whole next decade. And then some.

Yes, CB Father slid right down the mountain on his back and did in fact end up farther down the trail than the rest of us when he managed to stand up again after brushing the pine cones, sticks and dirt off. Oh, and the best part of all? He was in charge of Baby Sister, and my version of events says that he fell down the mountain and she came trotting behind him, and Chesapeake Bay Girl watched in horror as her father and her 7-year-old sister plummeted to their near-deaths.

Mind you, this wasn't so much horror at being concerned for their safety, although there was some of that. No, this was the sort of horror that washes over a teenager when The Embarrassing Family has done something so mortifying you wish you had a one-way ticket to another planet, because this one is simply way too small for you to coexist in.

In fact, it feels about the size of a VW bus.

Let’s summarize the highlights of the CB Family Cross Country “Vacation” thus far:

1. Middle Sister comes out of a rest stop bathroom dragging a johnny mop attached to her poncho.

2. Family leaves Middle Sister at another rest stop. Parents don’t even notice until Oldest Sister calls it to their attention. Oldest Sister wonders why she did that and kicks herself repeatedly.

3. Mother gets flashed when she peaks into a camper at the Grand Canyon parking lot, and the people inside have disrobed for the experience. What we had, then, was a Peeping Mom.

4. Father takes a hike to escape the insanity of the car and falls down the side of a mountain with Baby Sister trotting--then tumbling--close behind him.

5. CB Oldest Sister spends hours on end in the back of the VW bus replaying these events in her mind and wondering how on Earth she came to be born into this madness, and how much longer until this so-called “vacation” is over.

Don't forget to submit your entry into the contest due next Wednesday. Click here for details.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Ancient Mariner

This is a dock over on Gwynn's Island somewhere. Gwynn's Island is the home of the man highlighted in today's guest contribution from Mathews Mountain Man.

Poppa, Tribute to the Ancient Mariner
by Mathews Mountain Man

"As of the day that this Tribute to Aging Well was written, Poppa, Daddy Jim's son-in-law, was 97 years and 89 days old – or young, if you prefer. He is the oldest citizen living on Gwynn’s Island.

Poppa is a retired Coast Guard Commander, who in the last 89 days has used electric clippers to repeatedly trim the seemingly nautical mile-long hedge that encircles his home, climbed a ladder or two, cooked in his galley, swabbed his deck and eaten more “slivers” of pie and gallons of ice-cream than all the a la mode lovers attending the annual Cobbler Cook-Off sponsored by the Gwynn’s Island Civic League. He would have mowed the lawn too, but his daughter and son-in-law take care of that – somehow it’s not nautical enough.

Poppa’s long life started shortly before that famous iceberg-bound maiden went down in the cold North Atlantic, taking most of the passengers and crew with her. It may be hard to accept the notion that a nebulous anticipation of that pending calamity was floating about the room when Poppa was only a gleam in his father’s eye, or that foreshadowing anxieties were stirring in his mother’s womb between the time that he was conceived and the time he arrived, or that a mysterious cross-mingling of times had anything to do with the person that Poppa became, but, somewhere, somewhere in that history, I am convinced, there is a mystical link between him and the ship that met her demise one day shy of seven months after the day he was born. Perhaps he came to save her sisters.

Whatever the origin of his essence, it happened that his longevity germinated in a good set of genes and was fueled with a steady diet of seafood – boiled, baked and fried, the occasional glass of wine, hard work, enjoyable work and more work – if only done, at times, to occupy his soul. He has realistically high expectations regarding his own abilities, as well as a supportive network of friends and family. And, sometime between his beginning and now, sometime after he saved that iron maiden’s first offspring, he became, Poppa.

Any seafaring salt who lives for100 years is a rare fish indeed and we cannot know in advance if Poppa will make it that far, for he is now sliding down the steeper slope of senescence – but across the endless trajectory of time, what matters most? He is a timeless treasure, an ancient mariner with an abundant history that will live on as long as his descendants want him to live. For those who have listened, he has given much for others to pass on.

When engaged in conversation with him about the local waters in and around Gwynn’s Island, the many tributaries that empty into the Bay, or the greater waters of the Atlantic, one soon understands that Poppa is fluent in all the maritime languages. Whether it’s the details of stringing a gill net or the nuances of sculling a dead rise skiff, constructing a trot-line for catching crabs, or collecting oysters from 10 feet of murky, green water with a 16-foot set of shaft tongs, the minutiae is still as available to him as any boyhood memory.

When he talks about his service as a ship inspector, I envision him at the helm of a 900 foot ocean liner, nimbly dodging underwater mines and German U-boats lurking in the waters off the coasts of New Jersey and New York - he must have been one helluva helmsman.

Today you might find Poppa watching the barometer like a madman and obsessing over two thermometers – one on the north and one on the south side of his house. Ask him for a forecast and he glances at the sky, senses the humidity and notes the direction of the wind. He intuitively mixes a lifetime of experience with his up-to-the-minute data and predicts the weather as accurately as a meteorologist forecasting with the aid of some high-priced computer meta-model.

He loves maps, maps of any kind; give him a map, a compass and a set of nautical calipers and he will semi-circle his way around the globe. Only Neptune knows what he can do with a telescope, a sextant and a slide-rule; hell, only Neptune and Poppa know how to use all of those instruments at the same time anyway. We look at the stars and wonder; he looks at the stars and finds a pathway to wherever he wants to go.

“Can you see the Eastern shore from here, Poppa” I asked him once?
“If you go down to Tin Can Alley on a calm, clear day, you can see it,” he replied. And he is right; I have seen it, shimmering above the edge of the water on a cold, dry day when the wind and the gravity of other heavenly bodies weren’t lifting the waters enough to block the view of the distant shore. I’m glad Poppa’s the one who taught me that.

In the last 100 years, there have been many Poppa’s, but he’s the only Poppa I know, and I’m damned thankful to have made his acquaintance. He is a man of the maritime world and he will forever be my grandfather." - MMM


Chesapeake Bay Woman Again - I love stories like this and am so thankful we have people around to tell them. I want to document and preserve however many I can.

Speaking of telling stories, don't forget about the contest for writing about a lively, colorful or otherwise noteworthy character from your hometown. Mathews folks are especially encouraged to participate, although it's open to everyone. Entries are due February 4. Click here for details.

Monday, January 26, 2009


This is (yet) another picture I took from Commenter Breezeway's property on Gwynn's Island. I posted a sister picture of this not too long ago. Speaking of sisters, family, and colorful characters from long ago (What? You didn't realize that's what we were talking about? See how I can jump from one unrelated topic to another without batting an eye and expect everyone to jump with me?), I turn now to a contest about characters.

I am pleased to announce something new and different here at Life in Mathews: a post that doesn't cause your eyes to roll back in your head.

Yes, a contest.

I'm not big on rules, but here are some suggested guidelines:

1. Write a brief story about a colorful, unusual, humorous or otherwise noteworthy person/character from Mathews or your particular hometown. This could be a family member, or it could be some other lively character who stands out. Although I am particularly interested in hearing from Mathews folks, non-locals are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

2. You may submit more than one entry.

3. This should be about a real, non-fictional person. (Yes, I know. Real + non-fictional=redundant. I excel in redundancy.)

4. There is no hard and fast limit on how long or short it has to be, but try not to pull a Chesapeake Bay Woman-style story that stretches from here to Amsterdam. However many words it takes to get the picture of your character across is fine.

Mail your entry to and indicate whether you're OK with me publishing your story on this site. No matter who wins, I am sure there will be stories I will want to share, assuming we have good participation.

Deadline: Wednesday, February 4, at 7:00 p.m.

The prize: Your story will be published here (I can just feel the enthusiasm). The real prize is a choice of the following:

1. Lunch at Linda's Diner in Mathews, either with or without Chesapeake Bay Woman (your choice), and possibly with another surprise local guest, who is quite the character herself. How is that for vague? This prize is being donated by a blog reader who wishes to remain anonymous.


2. $25 (Cash or a gift certificate, TBD)

Depending on how many entries I receive, I may post selected entries here and ask the readers to determine the winner.

Clear as mud? Welcome to a Very Chesapeake Bay Woman Contest where we make the rules up as we go. Ask any questions you have in the comments section, and I'll be back on here tonight after work to answer them, assuming my computer works, and that is a touch-and-go situation. Basically I touch it with a sledgehammer and then go away, hoping things will improve.

Have a good week, everyone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Silent Sunday

This lopsided picture that had real potential was taken on Commenter Breezeway's property, which is an incredible slice of Heaven Pie. Even if you don't like pie, you'd love this place and ask for seconds and thirds.

Boats sail on the rivers,
And ships sail on the seas;
But clouds that sail across the sky
Are prettier far than these.

There are bridges on the rivers,
As pretty as you please;
But the bow that bridges heaven,
And over top the trees,
And builds a road from earth to sky
Is prettier far than these.

-Christina Rossetti

I realize the title says "Silent" and yet there are still words here, but for me this is pretty quiet. I'm not done yet though.....

I have 2 announcements coming up this week. I'm not normally a planner or a scheduler, but I am working on a contest and also the official details of our 2009 Virginia Blog Fest. When I say "details" I mean "vague information with only one or two specifics."

The blog fest info probably won't be up before next weekend, but the contest will definitely be coming soon....this first one will likely be directed at my local readers, but don't worry, I'll eventually get around to another one in which anyone can participate.

Now, it's time for me to stop talking and let you all get on with your Sunday. Have a wonderful one.

And for you local readers, be thinking up your best Mathews story.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This is a dock over on Gwynn's Island. I don't know the name of the creek, don't know the name of the road. Paying attention to such details while maneuvering an automobile and a camera is not high on my list of concerns. There are more important things to worry about such as, "Who is watching me from their house as I stop in the middle of the road, roll down my window and take a picture of their dock?" and "Is it considered trespassing if you take the picture from the state road?" "What if one tire is in their driveway and the other three are on the state road?" These last two are hypothetical questions of course.

About half of the people who visit Life in Mathews are locals (current or former) who I know. Another percentage of readers comes from other blogs that I read and leave comments on. But there's a third category of visitors here, and they're the people who happen here by accident because the blog came up on a google (or other) search for something entirely unrelated.

For example, let's say I went onto Google and typed in "how to make a homemade wreath" because I was interested in actually doing that. (I'll wait while you stop laughing.) Google would pull up some very nice sites on making wreaths, but my Life in Mathews blog would pop up because of that horrendous incident I had over Christmas trying to make a homemade wreath. Some innocent soul would stumble upon that post and this blog and run screaming, never to come back again.

I happen to be able to see what words and phrases they're searching that pulls my site up, and some of them are downright hilarious. Below are a few of my favorites:

"Johnny Mop" -Linked to my Cross Country story where Middle Sister dragged one out of the restroom with her.

"Can u drive with high beams when it is pitch black?" - Linked to the story I did yesterday about driving with high beams, and I'm sorry, but if you don't know whether you can drive with high beams on when it's pitch black, you'd better be googling "smart pills."

"Historical value of eggs"-Linked to a story I did about the chicken farm at Dixie. I was quite unaware that eggs had historical value but am pleased to hear it since I have some in my icebox several years old.

"naked camp horse pony riding bareback" -Linked to my story about riding ponies bareback down Route 198. This particular search came from someone in Argentina. It warms my heart that someone in Argentina read about Mathews when they were really trying to find out about some lewd camp. Warms my heart, indeed.

I have plenty others, but I'll save them for later. Right now, I'm going to ponder why anyone would want to ride a horse naked. And furthermore why someone in Argentina wants to go to camp to do it.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I took this from the public landing on Gwynn's Island on a day it was so cold you had to squeeze your eyelids shut to keep precious heat from escaping from your eyeballs. I was trying to zero in on this hidden skiff and zero out on those houses in the background, but it didn't work. (See previous statement about way too cold.) Plus the dock was slippery with a thin coat of ice, and with my luck I'd have ended up hind parts over tea kettle in the creek.

Speaking of things hiding in the grass (and we were, right?), here's a little something about daffodils.

Believe it or not, as cold as it is, and despite the fact it’s only January, there are daffodils starting to sprout in my front yard.

As I have mentioned before, my grandfather used to sell daffodils commercially, and we still have tons and tons of bulbs that produce flowers each spring.

My grandmother was heavily involved in the local Woman’s Club. Recently I found a copy of a 4-page speech she gave at a convention in Richmond, probably in the 1970’s. I will be sharing excerpts from this speech sporadically rather than dump the whole 4-pages out here at once. (You're welcome.)

Below is an excerpt:

“ ..I have a few comments, by way of introduction, that follow no particular continuity,*but which I felt may be of interest to you.

The daffodil story goes back many centuries, back to the tazetta-filled urns that decorated the temples of ancient Greece. (Tazetta, by the way, is a species, or one of the divisions, of the daffodil family. The name comes from an Italian word meaning “little cup,” and there are usually four to eight small cupped up tilted flowers per stem, grouped in a head, like the geranium.**) Well, so much for the tazetta-filled urns of ancient Greece.

Literature contains many passages from Chaucer***to our modern writers, all extolling these cherished messengers of early spring. The daffodil has meant Nature's annual rebirth for many hundreds of years over Southern Europe, when color once again erases the drabness of winter."

--Chesapeake Bay Woman's Paternal Grandmother

Chesapeake Bay Woman’s Non-Value-Added Commentary

* I see now where I get my rambling, unfocused, run-on-sentence-filled writing style now.

**Holy cow. She even has parenthetical expressions (or whatever you call these words that are strung between parentheses, which represent superfluous, nonsensical thoughts I usually have that only create sentences that stretch from Virginia to Idaho..) that are as long and rambling as mine…this is starting to scare me.

***I can’t think of Chaucer without thinking of a certain high school English teacher whose nickname was Wahoo. I’ve always wondered how that name came about. I'm almost afraid to ask...Also, it reminds me of the time I wrote an essay analyzing various characters in the Canterbury Tales. Except that essay wasn't for me. It was for one of my readers out there who was struggling with the whole Canterbury Tales thing.....

Attention: If Mrs. Wahoo is reading, please disregard that last statement. I was hallucinating when I wrote it. I think my brain is still thawing out from trying to take a picture while slipping and sliding on ice while walking down a dock at the public landing on the coldest day of the year.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


This old service station is at Harcum, which is just outside the county line on Route 198 headed towards West Point. This part of 198 is very tricky at night, because it's narrow (2-lane), it's very dark (no such thing as street lights and very sparsely populated), and for the most part it's surrounded by woods on either side (translation: # of Deer=the population of Tokyo). Use of the high beam setting of your headlights is essential to any nighttime trip on this and any other roads in or near Mathews County.

If you live in Mathews and the surrounding counties, you have to navigate plenty of back roads, usually narrow, two-lane roads, that may or may not be marked. (As in some of them don't have a center passing line or a line marking the shoulder. Sometimes on these desolate, unmarked roads, if nobody else is coming, I will drive in the middle or on the left-hand side simply because there's no line telling me I must stay on the right. I'm rebellious that way. Plus, I'm bored. Plus there isn't a prayer of another car coming for months on end, so I know I'm safe. Plus I like saying "plus.")

Even our main roads are narrow, and all are two-lane; the closest four-lane highway is the next county over.

Dark, country roads necessitate the use of high beams when driving at night or early morning, before sunrise.

You never know what's going to jump out on to the road in the darkness-- a dog, a deer, even the occasional stray person who is hitchhiking or staggering home. Or somewhere. Of course, if you’re down New Point way, there’s always the chance that a herd of fiddler crabs will ambush from nowhere with no warning whatsoever except the clickety-clack of their little legs scurrying across the pavement.

For these and other reasons, successful night-time navigation in Mathews involves heavy use of the high-beam mode of headlights.

Skilled country drivers are very adept at shifting from high beams to low beams at precisely the right time; timing, you see, is everything.

For example, it's pitch-black dark and you see no cars coming - click on the high beams so you can see better. You drive for a while and as you approach a turn, you see another set of headlights approaching. At just the right second before the other car gets near, you click your high beams back down to low. As the car passes you, you click back to high again.

Bad drivers do it all wrong, this high beam to low beam thing.There are basically three types of Bad Drivers as Relates to High Beam Usage:

1. The person in the oncoming car who turns their high beams on and promptly forgets they're on, never lowers them and successfully blinds everyone coming in the other direction.

2. The person in the car ahead of you who will not turn their high beams on even though it’s pitch black dark and there’s a herd of deer ready to jump out in front of you both. This is trifling because not only can neither one of you see properly, but you can’t even turn your high beams on without blinding him from behind. Which leads me to….

3. The person behind you who has their high beams on and does not lower them, rendering your retinas useless due to the glare of their headlights bouncing off your rear view mirror directly into your cornea.

Anyway, this is a long, rambling way of introducing what I really want to say, which is this: I am very, extremely, highly tolerant of all sorts of bad drivers around here, the 3 described above and others, because most of the time I'm not in so much of a hurry that I mind when somebody pulls out in front of me, or when they drive 25 miles per hour wearing a great big hat with a feather coming out of it, or when they can barely see above the steering wheel, but yet they still have a driver's license even though they remember when Ulysses S. Grant was alive. For instance.

No, I have a lot of tolerance for all types of drivers. Except for one.

For some reason, my Saturn must have really bright low-beam headlights. I say this because frequently on my ride home at night, the oncoming car will flash their headlights to high and then low quickly, which is the universal signal that says “You idiot. You are driving towards me with your high beams on. Please refrain from blinding me and causing a head-on collision. You’re an idiot, but I am going to forgive you because I am giving you this fair warning to turn your lights down. If you lower your high beams, nobody will get hurt and we can proceed along as if nothing ever happened.”

The thing is, I don't have my high beams on. Not at all. They just think I do. But I don't.

Now,if I get that signal twice—in other words, I do not change my headlights after receiving the first signal because they’re on the lowest possible level of brightness—yet the oncoming driver gives me the YOU IDIOT LOWER YOUR HEADLIGHTS signal again, then I become absolutely, 100%incapable of exhibiting rational human behavior and am a hazard to anyone and anything in striking distance.

This irritates me because I am being blamed for something I am smart enough not to do, which is blind the oncoming driver. But there's no way for me to communicate this to the oncoming driver, other than this, which I did tonight when it happened:I grabbed the handle of the thingie coming out the steering wheel that controls the beams and wrenched it to the setting known as High, Blazing Hot High, Blind You High and Don't Tell Me I Have My High Beams on When I Don't High. That level of high. And I left them on. High. Left them. On.

By so doing, I created a whole separate breed of Bad Driver to add to the list above:

4. The tired, frazzled Coming Home from a Horrendous Day of Work Well-Meaning Mother who does NOT have high beams on because she's a good driver, but who is forced to defend herself because the oncoming car thinks she intentionally has her lights on high beams so she must then turn high beams on and blind oncoming driver to "show him."

Chesapeake Bay Woman Who Really Needs a Vacation
(And who really can't stand people who think she's intentionally driving towards them with high beams on when she isn't.)

p.s. This may be the world's longest, most boring post ever written that could have been summarized in two to three sentences. Please see above about needing a vacation. I hear Costa Rica is lovely this time of year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Here's a picture of my house. As you can see, it is in need of repair.

OK, so my house isn't quite this bad....yet. This beauty is over on Gwynn's Island, and I took the shot on a very dreary, overcast day. If you weren't looking closely, the house practically blended into the scenery. Speaking of old houses needing repair, I turn now to another chapter in the Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to Household Maintenance series.

As you know, Chesapeake Bay Woman's forte is anything domestic. She cooks like Julia Child, she makes crafts like Martha Stewart, she has more cleaning tips and hints than Heloise, and she lies. Just like a rug.

So, naturally, household maintenance projects are right up her alley. "Right up her alley" in this case is translated as "really nothing CBW needs to get near, because hair, teeth and eyes are liable to be flying everywhere after the temper tantrum or panic attack that accompanies most of the Do-It-Yourself Projects she undertakes."

For months now (we won’t mention how many, because that’s irrelevant at this juncture, which is good, because I can’t remember how many months it’s been), I've needed to change the filters in my heating/ac vents. I suppose the technical term is HVAC filters, but how would I know? I do know I have a heat pump, and every month the filters are supposed to be changed. I've been putting it off because that's what I excel at: putting off and ignoring necessary work. Unless work is defined as The Internet.

Figuring there are others out there who are lacking in the Self-Help Department, I offer the following step-by-step instructions for safely and efficiently replacing these filters.

Well, I offer instructions for replacing them, anyway.

1. When replacing the filters in your heating/ac vents, it is always advisable to have some spare filters on hand with which to do the actual replacing. This is a key ingredient in the filter replacement process.

2. Since you do not have any spare ones on hand, you'll need the dimensions of each filter so you can go down to the store at the courthouse to buy some more. When building a house, make sure that every single HVAC vent in your home is a different size. This will add extra excitement and frivolity to the filter replacement exercise.

3. Since you can’t locate your measuring tape to get the dimensions, set about the process of taking the old filters out so you can get the measurements written on the side.

4. Get the step ladder off the back patio which Chesapeake Bay Son left there on Christmas when he was trotting all over the roof looking for his remote-controlled helicopter.

5. Set the ladder up inside the house. Be sure to drag in some leaves and pine needles that accumulated on the ladder while it sat outside for 2 weeks. Pray the ladder is not providing shelter to insects who, upon being introduced to your warm home environment, decide that indoors is far better than outdoors. Flinch nervously as you already feel bugs crawling on you. Go ahead and let out a little scream if you feel like it. I know I did.

6. The reason you'll need a ladder is because the biggest vent, which is in the dining room, is up near the ceiling, which happens to be very high (as in somewhere in the proximity of Outer Space, however far away that is from the ground).

7. Carefully climb the ladder and realize you’re getting dizzy, likely due to the lack of oxygen in that particular layer of the atmosphere. Try not to panic. Try harder. You’re not trying hard enough.

8. While teetering back and forth on the 8’ ladder, reach up and say a prayer that you can get the vent cover off without plummeting to your death. As in all projects described on this site, it is advisable to have your affairs in order. Designate your beneficiaries and get a copy of the will out so people can find it easily.

9. Remove the filter, which has disintegrated from the weight of all the dust, hair and dirt. Notice that the filter is a 30-day filter. Recall that it's been “you don’t know how many months, never mind years” since you last did this. Feel all the dust and dirt suddenly overtake your lungs as you realize what you’ve been breathing in all this time. Become convinced that you have allergies or asthma, even if you’ve never suffered from these ailments before in your life. Return to the state of trying to prevent a panic attack while continuing to do your best balancing act at the top of the 8’ ladder while you are juggling a large filter weighted down with 55 pounds of cat hair, dust and dirt that comes showering down on you with each and every move you make.

10. Repeat this process for every vent in the house, only be sure to stand in a chair with a broken seat on it for the remaining vents that are at a more reachable level of the stratosphere. This will keep you on your toes and provide an extra, completely unnecessary level of danger in this otherwise delightful process.

11. Go to the store and buy the filters, only one of them will be the wrong size because even though you took every filter out and wrote down the dimensions, you wrote down the wrong size for one of them. This was likely due to the distraction caused by staving off death or vertigo while teetering at the top of an 8’ ladder all the while inhaling cat hair and dust. Or it could be due to the fact that you have a problem with attention to detail and numbers. Either/or.

12. Give up on the whole process; leave the ladder standing in the dining room; leave the newly purchased, wrong-sized filters on your bedroom floor, and take a nap. Pat yourself on the back for at least removing all the old filters, although now you have no filters at all inside each vent in your house. Pray that the rodents scratching around in your attic don’t discover this.

13. Have a dream that you cannot breathe and you’re drowning in dust, cat hair and lung-damaging, microscopic particles that a nice, clean filter would have shielded you from had you been more disciplined about changing the old ones.

14. Wake up in a cold sweat—coughing--and call a friend to replace the filters for you. Flick a stink bug off their arm as they are putting away the ladder that has been inside for several days, and realize you may have yet another insect infestation. Of stink bugs.

15. Cry.

The End.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Man on the Moon

I shot this picture early one morning over on Breezeway's property on Gwynn's Island. I went over there hoping to get some good pictures of the bay but the lighting wasn't quite right. I went down on the beach in front of the little cottage and felt the urge to look behind me. As I gazed up, I saw the moon surrounded by these tree limbs, and the sunlight shining just perfectly onto the grasses. It was a most unexpected gift.

I am going to be very brief today in honor of the Inauguration. (Please hold your applause and cheers down to a dull roar, thank you. No pushing, shoving or stampeding as you bust your way out of this post.)

I selected this photograph of the moon for today because it reminds me that my great-grandfather, who was the blacksmith at Flat Iron long ago, never believed that a man actually landed on the moon. He thought the whole thing was staged by Hollywood.

This same great-grandfather and his daughter, my grandmother Nanny, lived in a different era, one in which nobody believed a person such as Barack Obama could--or would--ever be President of the United States.

I can't prove or disprove the moon theory, although I'm reasonably sure it wasn't staged. But times have changed, and I feel honored and privileged to be able to witness* this incredibly important and truly remarkable day in our country's history.


(*By "witness" I mean "watching it on TV while at work when I'm supposed to be working, not watching TV," but this is neither here nor there.....)

p.s. This represents 2 days in a row of posts that are on the more serious side. I will return to my usual, hypnotic, inane posts tomorrow. If I remember correctly, it will be a tutorial on how to replace your AC/Heating filters in 46 easy steps, a couple of which are tricky when not performed properly.

Also known as, "Chesapeake Bay Woman nearly kills herself, once again."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Race Relations

The other morning I drove over to The Property on Which I Have Permission to Trespass (Commenter Breezeway's Gwynn's Island cottage) and was treated to a light and color show. Lightness, darkness and color are part of what today's story is about.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am sharing some facts and a story relating to race relations on Gwynn’s Island.

John W. Dixon wrote a book entitled The Black Americans of Gwynn’s Island, 1600s through 1900s, “Facts and Perceptions,” from which I took the following information:

“1. The first black people arrived on the Island in the mid-1600s.
2. Black men, women and children accounted for nearly half the Island’s population from 1790 through 1860.
3. The first major decline in the black population occurred after the Civil War.
4. The black community was fairly well established in 1910. By 1920, the last black family departed.”

Mathews Mountain Man, who grew up on Gwynn’s Island, shares a story about the decline in the black population below. Thanks, MMM, for your contribution.
Daddy Jim
by Mathews Mountain Man (MMM)

"Most people called him Daddy Jim. He was a hard man, at times. Folks that knew him say that he cursed, often – G.D. this and the hell with that. I suppose he was that way because he wasn’t a big man, but he always had a big man’s job. He was a waterman all his life – lived on Gwynn’s Island, which sits in the Chesapeake Bay between the York and Piankatank Rivers. The Island is shaped like a triangle; about three miles long on the Bay side. A good part of it is marshland, filled with “skeeters” in the summertime. Back in Daddy Jim’s day the only way on and off the island was by boat or ferry.

Daddy Jim owned a couple of work-boats – used them for crabbing, fishing and raking oysters off the bottom of the Bay. He sometimes had a bunch a fellas working for him – big round-shouldered guys, the kind of shoulders one gets from spending long days working a set of shaft tongs – these were the kinda men that wouldn’t take crap from anyone. So Daddy Jim had to be a hard man to keep fellas like that out of trouble, not to mention getting a good day's work out of them.

As hard as he was though, he had a reputation for trying to be fair and for acting prudently when the well being of others was at stake...

During the first part of the twentieth century, Gwynn’s Island was racially integrated. But, as was common throughout the south during that time, there were whites that didn’t want their neighborhood integrated; and, they would often blame anything that went wrong on the blacks. If something was stolen the whites blamed the blacks; if some skittish souls were suddenly awakened late at night by strange noises, they claimed that black folks were out to get them. Talk went on like that for years until one day a white man accused a black man of cutting him up and robbing him a few days before Christmas. The white man went around telling others his story, getting everyone stirred up.

Until recently, I believed that that event represented the low point of race relations on Gwynn’s Island and that Daddy Jim and a few others subsequently rounded up all the blacks and told them that they had twenty-four hours to get off the island – and, twenty-four hours later they were gone. My grandfather (Poppa), however, recently shared a more detailed version of the story that offers a different perspective.

Poppa confirmed the story about a white man who was cut-up before Christmas and that a black man was accused of the crime. He added that there was a trial; a trial that was typical of the early 1900s. An all-white jury saw a white man who had been cut-up, claiming that he had been knifed by the black man. When the black man pleaded his innocence the jury didn’t believe him. What Poppa told me next, however, came as a surprise.

Poppa said that after the trial Daddy Jim overheard one of the white men talking bout how he had lied, that he and another white man had been drunk and got in a fight with each other – things got a little out of hand and one cut the other up. He added that while the black man was in jail, some whites on the island started talking about lynching him. The whole thing snowballed, and within a short time a lot of blacks on the island were threatened. In the meantime, the black man was released from jail and went home to Gwynn’s Island. When he learned that his life was in danger he ran off to hide. At some point, Daddy Jim gathered a group of blacks at a church to discuss the situation. Poppa said that they decided that the safest thing to do was to leave the island; and, that night, Daddy Jim and my great-grandfather shuttled several boatloads of black folks, with all the belongings they could carry, from Edwards Creek to Cricket Hill. The wrongly accused black man, however, was still missing. My great-grandfather eventually found him hiding in the church attic. Poppa said his father had a hard time convincing the man to come with him; he feared that he was being lead into a trap. But the black man finally left the church, got on the boat and was taken to the mainland.

I asked Poppa why someone didn’t just tell “the law” that the two white men had lied. He said that it would not have done much good; the law wasn’t supportive of blacks back then.

Perhaps Daddy Jim bravely took on the risk of getting involved in the first place, though others might argue that he was opportunistic. I may never know the truth, but I’d like to think that Daddy Jim’s main concern was for everyone’s safety including his family, the blacks and even the whites. It seems like he did his best to make sure no one got hurt – and no one did. Sure, he could have taken a stronger stand; one might argue that he should have. But, he did act, and, perhaps for the times, he acted in a sensible way. After Poppa told me the story, I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened to all the Jewish people in Krakow if Oskar Schindler had taken a more absolute, less subtle stand against the Nazis. Gwynn’s Island was not a holocaust prison camp, but in the early twentieth century it wasn’t above bloodshed over racial issues.

There’s more to Daddy Jim than I’ll ever know, good and bad. But if the story my grandfather told is true, I have a new found respect for Daddy Jim...

Today, Gwynn’s Island is once again integrated."

Sunday, January 18, 2009


This is a picture of an old house on Gwynn’s Island I’ve been meaning to photograph for some time. Below is the story of how this picture came about.

Warning! This post is exceedingly long even though it can be summarized in one brief, succinct sentence.

For those of you in a hurry, here’s the bottom line: Chesapeake Bay Woman finally got caught trespassing, but things turned out OK. The End.

For those of you who are looking for a sedative or sleep aid, below is the version that stretches from here to Costa Rica. You will find yourself nodding off by about the third paragraph, but don’t worry. I’ll wake you up when it is over.

On Friday, the coldest day of the year, the day it was so cold you were wishing you were in Siberia because it would be warmer, I got caught trespassing. We all knew it was just a matter of time. But this happened when I least expected it.

I received an e-mail from a fellow Mathews blogger indicating that the ice over on Gwynn’s Island was photo-worthy and that I should head on over. Looking for any excuse to avoid laundry, dirty dishes, clutter or anything resembling household maintenance or domestic duties, I raced to the door, tripping over dirty laundry on the way out, and drove over there.

Although there was a bit of ice here and there, I wasn’t inspired enough to pull over and shoot. Or rather, those places that I would have shot required delicate planning and an overall strategy that I was not capable of concocting on such short notice. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, however, I decided to go further onto the island to take a picture of an old house I’ve admired ever since I was 4 years old and lived two doors down.

As I said, it was the coldest day we’ve had here, so I was all bundled up in an outfit just as fitting for the weather as it was a covert mission: gloves, ski cap, sunglasses, bulky coat and huge scarf. I was a little nervous, because this particular house is right on the main drag headed to the Gwynn Post Office, and there are lots of houses in close proximity. Also? There’s really no place to park. Normally I would have stopped in the middle of the road and shot the pictures, but there was someone behind me, so I confidently pulled right on up into the yard. Oh yes, I did.

I was feeling confident because if anyone was upset about me being there, they’d not bother dealing with it because of the frigid weather. Plus, I had my camera out and it was obvious what I was doing. Bottom line? No worries, and Chesapeake Bay Woman starts snapping away.

Then, I heard a car approach and slow down. I remained confident because surely they could see what I was doing, i.e. taking pictures to plaster all over the internet. I kept my back to the car and snapped away.

Oh no. Please. No. I turned around and saw a brown Buick pulling in on two wheels. This person meant business.

Trying to simultaneously keep from fainting and yet craft a polite explanation in my head, I walked over to the lady, who already had the window rolled down—on this, the coldest day of the year and all, when people are not supposed to be out in cars with their windows down checking on an * innocent * person trying to photograph a house on someone else’s property so that she can post it on the internet for the world to see. For instance.

The lady immediately went on the offensive. “May I ask what you’re doing?” she said with just the slightest hint of attitude, a quasi-scolding tone, one I am all too familiar with but have not heard since I was a teenager, when it was usually accompanied by a flyswatter-wielding Mother and some whining younger sister who had filed a grievance against me with said weapon-wielding Mother.

My instinct said to run, but the heart attack I was having would not allow my feet or legs to move. I have never fainted before, but I now know what it feels like because I was building up to a full-on faint very quickly.

I managed to move a few steps towards her car and smiled as I spent the last few seconds trying to concoct a response. One way or the other, I was going to win this one, because I would throw out, “This house is so beautiful,” and “I’ve loved this place ever since I was 4 years old and lived right over there,” and “I’m just an amateur photographer, but I know art when I see it.” My last resort would be, “Can you dial 911? I am in the midst of a cardiac event that requires immediate medical attention.” So, I had my game plan. I’d make her forget the fact that I was doing anything improper, and all would be fine.

She stared me down and waited for my response, with that window rolled down as the Arctic air whipped around us. I launched into my speech head first, feeling like a bungee jumper just free falling and praying that death was not imminent. Or rather, if it were in fact imminent that it would be swift and painless.

The first words out of my mouth were, “I’m a photographer and....” At this moment, I had come close enough to the car to be able to see the driver. I froze. I could not believe my eyes. With all that adrenaline rushing through my veins, I snatched my sunglasses off and said, “Hi, Pookie, it’s me, CBW!”

Yes, it was Mrs. Pookie of exploding hamburger fame, mother of commenter and blog contributor, Mathews Mountain Man. Lo and behold the place I was shooting was her grandfather’s old house. She told me its history and went on and on about the inside--where the staircase was; where the kitchen was (originally out back); and how the 3rd floor was where she used to sleep as a child.

We talked for about 10 minutes in spite of the excruciatingly cold Arctic blast encompassing us and my heart attack, which was already in progress but was starting to revert to more of a mild panic attack.

Yes, Mrs. Pookie scared the bajeebus out of me, but by golly if I’m going to get caught trespassing, I’m sure glad it was by her, someone I know. We had a nice, long visit while I mopped the sweat off my brow on this, the coldest day of the year.

Now, excuse me while I check myself into cardiac rehab.
CLAP-CLAP-CLAP! Time to wake up, now! Your Sunday nap is now over. Thank you for napping here, it's been a pleasure to serve you and meet your sleeping needs.

- Chesapeake Bay Trespasser

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wood-Burning Furnace, Part II

This is the second in a series of shots I took of my favorite barn around here. Speaking of second in a series, we return to Chesapeake Bay Mother's continuing saga of the Wood-Burning Furnace my father is obsessed with.

The Wood-Burning Furnace, Part II
By Chesapeake Bay Mother

“Previously, I wrote about Husband’s purchase of an outdoor wood-burning furnace.

In October, his crew installed everything, burying insulated pipes all the way to our oil-burning furnace in the basement. They congratulated themselves on a job well-done and said goodbye. It is almost Thanksgiving as I write this, and nobody can figure out how to marry these two systems. I overhead some talk of purchasing another “heat exchanger.”

This all reinforces the bad history Husband has with compulsive buying. The UPS man knows us well. Last year he delivered two(2) Amish electric fireplaces. I think they just made the wood features since they don’t believe in electricity.

He literally falls in love with prospective purchases. An incapacitating hysteria possesses him quelled only by the writing of a large-sum check.

His mother had that, though she bought mostly clothes and hats, but occasionally she would fall victim to this inexplicable desire to own something just plain strange. In this category I offer the “Big Round Ball” light fixture * as evidence. When the Williamsburg-style chandelier in the dining room had the misfortune to be yanked from its mooring by someone in the family who was having a really bad day, Husband’s mother replaced it with a Victorian ball light about the size of a soccer ball. It was just eerie hanging out over the antique dining room table like a UFO in search of a runway.

Once Husband had me attend a motivational meeting for a pyramid scheme he was high on. I wasn’t impressed, though Husband clearly was. It showed when he left so intoxicated by sales-sermon-induced euphoria that he actually drove onto the interstate in the wrong lane. When I say wrong lane, I mean going Westbound in the Eastbound lane. He laughed, chided himself, and backed up correcting his mistake without incident. You can understand how pleased I was when I got the news that he had already invested money. The immediate reward was a set of pots and pans. The long-term reward was a request from the Postmaster General’s office for any material concerning the “investment opportunity” we had received in the mail…something about fraud.

We have our home in a family trust, so I comfort myself that Husband’s disease, though ever present, is somewhat thwarted and contained. Over the years we have owned an airboat (good in the Everglades, where we don’t live), a huge commercial ice machine (donated to the Middlesex Fire Department), a welding machine, air compressor, motorcycle and a Volkswagen “Thing,” which has become a honeysuckle planter.

At present, Husband is anticipating the eventual operation of the furnace by bringing truckloads of wood—not yet split, actually whole tree trunks—and plopping them in the yard where we recently cleaned up an old woodpile overgrown with brambles.

Just when you thought it was gone, the big ugly woodpile is back.”

Chesapeake Bay Woman’s Comments
* I actually have this “Big Round Ball” light fixture stashed away somewhere in my basement, which is a graveyard filled with the Ghosts of Impulse Purchases Past. They were going to throw the fixture away, but I thought it looked “tres retro.”
Now that she mentions it, the thing really does look more like a soccer ball, not to mention: Chesapeake Bay Woman trying to hang a light fixture? Ha! I don’t think so. I'd sooner toss it outside and kick it into a goal. Or Queens Creek.

Regarding CB Daddy's compulsive shopping ailment: Don’t even get me started on the Home Shopping Network. The last time he watched that, he ended up with not one, but *two* sets of steak knives that could be placed in an incinerator and still be able to cut through barbed wire.

Why two sets, you ask? Well, he placed one order, then promptly forgot he had done so. Later, he called and ordered them again. He was consistent and persistent, if nothing else. He was going to have those knives even if he had to buy two sets to get them.

Home Shopping Network was only more than glad for him to order two sets.

His wife? Not so much.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Tastee Freeze

We've had some really incredible sunsets lately. The skies absolutely glow with color. I took this in the front yard looking towards my parents' walnut trees. Speaking of glowing bright red, that reminds me of the hot dogs we used to get from the Tastee Freeze.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a fast food restaurant in either Mathews or Gloucester, and the closest McDonald's was in Newport News, an hour away. (Children! It's OK. Calm down. Things turn out just fine in this story.)

Surprisingly, the world continued to spin on its axis, life was sustainable, and nobody perished from Big Mac Attacks or a dearth of saturated fats or mealy, frozen potatoes deep-fried in Lord Knows What.

We didn’t have special names for our burgers—like the Whopper, or the Big-n-Tasty (the Big-n-Nasty as Chesapeake Bay Daughter calls it)-- and "supersizing" was something addressed by Jack LaLanne or Richard Simmons. Or, in some instances a girdle.

Kids did not suffer mental anguish from the lack of Happy Meal toys, and parents were oblivious to the hazards of the drive-through window, which include high-blood pressure; missing teeth due to gnashing, and lively exchanges with human beings who have the IQ of a small kitchen appliance. For instance.

No, everybody made out just fine around these parts, but every now and then we did crave a pizza burger or a root beer or a delectable bright red, artificially-colored hot dog served on a steamed pillow of bun.

In such times as these, we went to a prehistoric place known as the Tastee Freeze.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of two Tastee Freezes in Mathews County, although there were others. Payne’s Frosty Freeze and Emory’s served the county’s “fast” food needs admirably for many years. They were both located at Ward’s Corner but coexisted peacefully because they were distinct enough in their offerings, ambiance (if you want to call it that) and service to avoid heavy competition with each other.

The Chesapeake Bay Family preferred Payne’s Frosty Freeze for a couple of reasons. First, we went to school and were friends with the Payne children. Second, after a long day of being left stranded at the Islander swimming pool with no adult supervision, no money, and no food, there was nothing quite so heavenly as a Payne’s cheeseburger or hot dog on perfectly steamed buns. We ate like savages thanks to being left with no money or food all day long in the hot, sweltering, humid days of summer, but we’re not talking about child abandonment. Not this time, anyway.

Back to the Tastee Freeze story.

While not “fast,” Payne’s was fast enough. You had just enough time to play a game of pinball, or put a quarter in the jukebox, or sit and stare at the other people waiting inside.

Over at Emory’s, which was more of a drive-in, you sat and watched the owner and his wife slowly, methodically, slowly and—last but not least—slowly write down the orders and assemble each one. Slowly. Moving in super slow-motion. The Chesapeake Bay Children were not patient enough to wait over at Emory’s, they needed food quickly because they were left with no food and no money all day at the Islander. (Have I mentioned that yet?)

Alas, Emory’s has been torn down, and Payne’s is now a sit-down, family style restaurant. But the memory of those pizza burgers, those delectable cheeseburgers and those Red Dye #2 Cancer-Enhancing Hot Dogs lives on.

McDonald's and Hardees can’t hold a candle. Or a chocolate, soft-serve ice cream cone.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Basement - Part II

This old house is on the left side of the road as you're coming from Glenns towards Freeport. Although you can't exactly tell from the angle, it's an incredibly narrow house. I got out the car and walked around back (or not, depending on who is reading this) and couldn't get over how narrow it was. A person could walk around that house twice and get dizzy from going in circles.

Speaking of going around in circles, I have another story about our basement, which is sure to make your eyes spin like pinwheels.

When the Chesapeake Bay Sisters were kids, the basement of our house was an indoor playground. Although minimally finished with a concrete floor and visible support poles, it was the perfect place for roller derby (Kansas City Bomber, anyone?), riding a bicycle into a clothes line, scarring your nose for years to come, and pulling Baby Sister in the wagon.

One evening, all three Chesapeake Bay Sisters were down in the basement playing with the wagon. I was pulling Baby Sister while Middle Sister pushed from behind. Baby Sister was loving it.

We went around and around in circles, fast. Faster. Faster. Faster. This isn't fast enough....Let's go even faster!

Yadda yadda yadda* the wagon turned over as we made a sharp turn. Baby Sister flew out the wagon and made contact with a piece of furniture. Blah blah blah, lots of blood, wah wah wah wah (said in your best Charlie Brown Adult Voice), she had to get five stitches in her forehead.

The End.
*Chesapeake Bay Girl--always the one blamed for these sorts of mishaps even though Middle Sister was complicit-- called for Chesapeake Bay Mother, who raced to the top of the steps.

Greeted by screams (from the two younger sisters) and blood (from Baby Sister), Chesapeake Bay Mother was rendered helpless to behave as a properly functioning member of society.

As CB Panicked Mother hurled the questions and the epithets out with the intensity and frequency of a machine gun, Chesapeake Bay Girl stifled herself in her best Edith Bunker fashion. The more CB Mother screamed, the further CB Girl retreated into silence. This was a survival mechanism kicking in, plain and simple.

Mass hysteria ensued, and yadda yadda yadda Baby Sister came out OK, while Chesapeake Bay Girl was scarred for life.

The End, II.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wood-Burning Furnace

This is a shot from my back yard during a recent sunset. Although we're facing east, the sunsets produce spectacular light shows in this direction. The weeds you see need to come down even though I find them pretty....I didn't do one lick of push mowing this summer, and now you see the result. The only thing that's gonna get through this stuff is a bush hog.

Speaking of unwanted things and pesky irritants in life, we turn now to a new source of irritation for Chesapeake Bay Mother: my father's acquisition of and obsession with an outdoor, wood-burning furnace.

Chesapeake Bay Mother is contributing again today, because I've been working the paying job and have been too stressed out with computer issues to focus on the blog.

Enjoy! (Or, as a friend--for whom English is a third language would say-- "EnJOIN.")

by Chesapeake Bay Mother

"Husband proclaimed he was getting an outdoor, wood-fueled furnace to heat our house.

I got to select the site of said furnace, since I had no other say in the whole matter other than my statement of refusal to participate in trudging outdoors in winter to load wood anywhere--including into the furnace. Husband said OK...he gets weak when it comes to something he wants to buy.

I chose a location remote from our home to satisfy my unreasonable need to keep what looks like a smoke-belching johnny house* far enough out of the picture so our curb appeal still registers "rural waterfront" as opposed to "backwoods functionally obsolete with no teeth." Victory for me. Pouting for Husband. He must now install the thing which entails burying about 150' of massive line underground and connecting to our oil-burning furnace in the basement. Poor baby.

I mean what I say about myself and wood, having had an interior wood stove in the past. I don't mind cold; if it means wearing a coat indoors, so be it. I'm tough and willing to hibernate. But the days of dropping heavy logs on my bare toes at 3 AM are gone forever. Coincidentally, I have a friend who during her wood-burning years, participated in domestic violence with her now ex-husband, when they threw fireplace logs at each other at about 3 a.m. Logs don't kill people; people kill people. But logs can do the job.

My unwillingness to be a good sport probably means Husband will be around to man the wood needs of his newest novelty. On those days when he must be away, we will see who takes his place. I'm guessing one or more bubbas.** And if we get the right breeze, we won't all die from smoke inhalation or catch a cinder and burst into flames.

Then he can realize the fruits of his labor--bragging to the neighbors about how much money he is saving, not counting the huge outlay and installation costs of the furnace, which resides within flirting distance of his beloved John Deere, who appears to be turning somewhat greener of late."



* Indeed when Chesapeake Bay Son first saw this outdoor wood-burning furnace, he said, "Why is there a Trudy's Toilet in Nanny's yard?" Trudy's Toilets is a local portapotty outfit, and this furnace thing looks just like one. (BTW - Trudy's are the BEST portapotties ever. She even puts bouquets of flowers and mirrors in hers. The mirrors are for make-up application or checking one's nose, for those of you ready to make a snide remark about why there would be a need for mirrors in a portapotty. Sometimes there's even a sink to wash your hands. It's a first class operation. For real.)

** No offense to Bubbas, seriously; she has nothing against Bubbas, and have mercy nor do I. Bubbas make the world go around, at least the world known as Mathews County. Are there any with a bush hog who would like to make some extra money?

Lastly, I'd like to say this about all that furnace commotion above:

The distance between the site CB Mother selected for the wood-burning furnace and the house in which they live is approximately the distance from New Hampshire to Rhode Island. You can't just get up in the middle of the night and toss a log on the fire. You have to get out your GPS and pack provisions for the trip.

When that thing is going full steam, it looks just like the paper mill at West Point - complete with the pile of logs right next to it. You need to turn your windshield wipers on and blink back tears just to get through the smoke.

Chesapeake Bay Father opted for this heating mechanism because the cost of fuel oil was sky high, and he figured this would be a way to save some money.

The only thing he's saving is a place at Number One on Chesapeake Bay Mother's List. Yes, that list.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Basement

This old barn is at Soles, on the right as you're headed towards Dutton. The property happens to be For Sale if anyone's interested. Given there was a For Sale sign out front, I figured if anyone questioned what in the heck I was doing parked on their property, I'd say I was interested in buying it. It happens to be a true statement. Doesn't mean that I can afford it, though.

I will be sharing more photos--close-ups--of this very beautiful barn in the coming weeks. If I didn't have dial-up internet, I'd post more than one picture of it here today, but a shred of sanity is required for Chesapeake Bay Woman to function minimally as she does, and therefore one picture per post is the recommended daily allowance.

Growing up, the Chesapeake Bay Sisters spent many gleeful hours in the basement of their house. The basement was big, with a cement floor ideal for roller skating, skate boarding--even bicycling, assuming you were content riding around and around and around in small circles on a pink bicycle with a flowered banana seat that belonged to Middle Sister but that you liked way better than your own. For example.

The laundry room was down there too, and Chesapeake Bay Mother would often rig up a rope between the basement's support poles to serve as a clothes line.

One day, Chesapeake Bay Girl took her sister's beautiful pink bicycle with the flowered banana seat for a spin down in the basement. Even though she was a tomboy, she secretly wanted that pink bike instead of the boring blue one with no banana seat that she had; but there was no bitterness or resentment on her part. No.

Chesapeake Bay Girl was so in awe of that flowered banana seat that she stared down and admired it as she pedaled around the basement. Her eyes drifted slowly over each pink part of that bicycle. As she pedaled.

(Insert sound of the needle being pulled off the record here.) Quicker than you can say, "Rope burn!" Chesapeake Bay Girl rode that beautiful pink bicycle right smack dab into the clothes line her mother had strung up precisely at eye level, making CB Girl wonder if her mother wasn't subconsciously rigging up a noose.

The rope hit her straight across the nose, and flung her backwards. Thankfully the only real injury was a rope burn, and for many years afterwards she sported a white line running horizontally across her nose. It would not tan and would not go away; there are several grades' worth of school pictures to confirm this.

In spite of lessons to be learned about coveting thy sister's bicycle or paying attention to what you're doing, the real moral of the story is this: Use a clothes dryer, Chesapeake Bay Mother.

The End.

p.s. I am still having computer problems and can't access EVERYTHING on my computer. I just happened to have stockpiled two or three posts over the weekend and therefore can avoid a long stint in Saluda jail for at least 24 hours. (Once this computer dies for good, I will pitch a hissy fit the likes of which have never been seen around these parts, and that's saying somethin'.)

If anyone can tell me why I can pledge allegiance to deFRAG, toss my cookies and STILL have an aol system that moves the pace of molasses in January, please, please give me some advice. I am just about ready to check myself in to Eastern State Hospital.

So, while I am trying to avoid incarceration and institutionalization (is that a word?), please understand that if I do not comment here, if I do not respond to e-mail and/or if I do not show up on your blog to comment, it's because the computer is in the bottom of Queens Creek, and I am in a nice, comfortable, sterile environment complete with padded walls and prescription medicine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Explosion

This is another picture I took one quiet, peaceful morning on Gwynn's Island. It was spectacular. Speaking of peace and quiet, I now turn to a story that involves anything but.

Today we have a guest contribution about a church cookout. Actually, two people contributed to this post, and part of it is copied from a recent Facebook conversation.

The cast of characters in this story includes:

MMM - Mathews Mountain Man, author of the story and Gwynn's Island native
B. - Gwynn's Island native who grew up with MMM
The Preacher - of Gwynn's Island Baptist Church
Mr. C - man who was helping the preacher
Miss Pookie - MMM's mother

Holy Hamburgers in Space or
A Conversation between Old Acquaintances on FaceBook


CBW has been encouraging me to relate the details of a conversation I had on FaceBook with an old acquaintance. When I reviewed the “message” exchange between my friend B. and I, I thought it was funny enough in its original form – with a few discrete modifications of course. Besides, I’m too lazy to sit down and compose a well written essay.

Respectfully in regards to B, some people remember the strangest things...

Enjoy, MMM

The Facebook Exchange:

December 5 at 11:43am

MMM: Hey B. All is well here. "Hamburger in space... um"; seems I vaguely recall something that happened at a youth church meeting with The Preacher? Am I even in the ballpark?

December 5 at 5:50pm

B: Yes! The Preacher and Mr. C. were leading the Royal Ambassadors [Baptist Youth Group] and after playing ball and having a lesson, we cooked out behind the church. Miss Pookie, knowing you didn't like hot dogs, had fixed you a hamburger in Reynolds wrap, and it blew up and never came down. I swear no one found even a piece of it. I think several of us used the Lord's name in vain when it went off.

December 6 at 10:44am
MMM: You certainly remember the details about that one better than I do. I should ask Pookie what she put in that hamburger, though I'm sure The Preacher and Mr. C. have already done that. Maybe that explains why I now like hot dogs.

December 6 at 11:02am

B: Maybe Miss Pookie was having vision problems back then, instead of garlic powder, she must have picked up the one that said gun powder.

December 10 at 10:49pm

MMM: So B, I've been getting a little grief about that pyrotechnic hamburger. (I'm accustomed to grief from CBW and her sisters - we go back a ways.) And, I've been told that you might post a story about it on some obscure blog... If so, you may as well get my take on it:

As for the hamburger; Pookie was trying to kill me; but she failed, just as she did every other time she tried. God forbid I hear the words, Mathews Mountain Man; did you know that when pronounced in sequence Mathews Mountain Man means "I'm going to kill you"; in another language it also means R.U.N.

Pookie didn't kill me with that hamburger, but she almost killed the preacher and one of the most pious citizens that ever lived on Gwynn's Island - Mr. C. Just think, a preacher and one of God's finest, both dead and gone with one hamburger. As for me, I was in the sanctuary on my knees when the damn thing exploded.

December 11 at 12:05am

B: Up until the moment the said hamburger exploded, I had always considered Emory's burgers to be the most dangerous. His were hard and flat and it would be assault with a deadly weapon if one were thrown at someone. No, your burger took it to new heights, literally.

December 11 at 12:28am

B: I think this is funnier than the time they gave away the turkeys on WKRP. They threw them out of a helicopter, and Less Nessman made it sound like the guy who announced the Hindenburg disaster...They're hitting the ground like bags of wet cement...

CBW's Commentary (because you know she can't help but remark even when it doesn't involve her)

Once upon a time at a church picnic, a boy's mother packed a hamburger that, when heated over a campfire, blasted off into outer space never to be seen again. To this day nobody knows why it exploded or where it went, but it remains one of the many unsolved mysteries of Mathews County and gives a whole new twist to the expression, "Where's the beef?"