Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three-Thing Thursday

Once again we find ourselves saying hello to Three-Thing Thursday, where I share three random things and you share three things. Whatever you want, anything at all.

This particular Thursday arrives boisterously--sporting a black tie and raising a champagne glass--because it's New Year's Eve.

Under my roof, New Year's Eve generally arrives with some mismatched pajamas, a pony tail, reading glasses and late-night TV accompanied by stale popcorn. Except when I was in my twenties. Oh, the stories.

Let's start with my three things, only because we must.

1. New Year's Eve is different from every other night in that there is a worldwide, legitimate and encouraged excuse other than blogging, which technically isn't legitimate or encouraged but is certainly an excuse to stay up past midnight.

2. Last night, on the dark ride home from work, there were four combines harvesting soybeans in the crater field on the right as you descend the hill into the crater from James Store/Gloucester into Mathews. Thanks to all the rain and wet soil, many fields have gone to waste, unharvested. Combines working by spotlight are not unusual, but four of them working together in the same field after dark is. That's teamwork (in hard times and without the benefit of daylight) at its best.

3a.My dear friend from high school who owned the brown Pinto and drove me to the Old Mill Skating Rink every Friday, Ms. Seabreeze, called me out of the blue. It's always wonderful talking to her. She's newly engaged to the most wonderful man in the world who doesn't take her for granted a single minute and makes her very, very happy. This all makes me very, very happy.

3b. Speaking of "out of the blue," there is a blue moon tonight. How many times have we said, "CBW is succinct once in a blue moon"? In other words, a blue moon never happens is a rare occurrence.

Country Girl Kate and her Husband alerted me to this blue moon.

My trusty Wikipedia informs me this is an extra full moon that ordinarily wouldn't occur in the year (as opposed to a blue one that would only appear rarely--in this case never). Wikipedia probably said more, but I can't remember and we're taking the needle off this record and storing the album for another day before there is a 3c which really equals 5. And we're not talking algebra because I don't speak that language.

Now it's your turn. Share three things, share fifty-three things, the sky's the limit.

If you can't think of anything tell me about your plans for New Year's Eve or about a memorable New Year's Eve in the past.

Most of all, I wish you happiness, hope and peace in this new year coming.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Misty--and More

Warning: Exceedingly long post follows in which Chesapeake Bay Woman proves once and for all that she has the writing skills of a third grader problems with attention deficit disorder.

Here is another shot from the recent foggy Saturday. After this, there's only one other picture from that morning I want to share, then I promise to move along to something worse different.

"Misty" was the first word that popped into my head after gazing at this last night. Unable to focus on anything, ever, on the picture much longer, I began thinking about the word "misty." Then my ADD-afflicted brain took off like a Mexican jumping bean down the hairpin highway known as Main Inane Street.

It started with "I get misty," and then went to Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby; then I stopped by the memory of a college friend who used to imitate Sinatra. Then a strange smell came from the kitchen and I remembered chicken pot pies were baking. Or burning. Because I'd forgotten them.

After making sure no flames were licking the ceiling--this time--I came back and tried reigning myself back in to "misty." Misty of Chincoteague popped into my head. I love Misty of Chincoteague! I love the little island/town of Chincoteague for that matter. Where are we going for vacation this summer?

What, pray tell, does any of this have to do with the photo of a misty creek?

Knowing full well the answer, I then decided to do a google search on ADD since I always joke about having it.

Mind you, this is a self-diagnosis.

Imagine my horror surprise when had this to say about one person suffering from ADD. Note that I have highlighted in red the parts that scared the crap out of me seemed to resonate with me, added my own thoughts in green,and crossed out parts that don't apply. (If the color scheme below and associated random thoughts do not prove my point, nothing will.)

"Sara is quiet 40-year old woman with three kids. As a child she got average grades and was not a discipline problem. Her imagination was so vivid that she daydreamed a lot and had trouble focusing on the teacher, and she was harassed by her parents for being so far away and "in the clouds". Her entire life has been marked by disorganization and procrastination. Her IQ is 152 (I don't know what my IQ is because that would involve numbers, which I do not do) but she feels stupid (especially around numbers). She loves her family but is overwhelmed by the daily routine. (Can I get an Amen?)

Sara has the rarest MBTI temperament: INFP. This temperament is associated with the best writers in history and is said to have the "soul of an artist". She naturally focuses on her inner world and is inspired by imagination. Unfortunately, this perfectly natural temperament trait has caused her to feel different from others and to be looked down upon. She has been unable to find her niche, and she suffers from anxiety and depression, both of which cause an inability to concentrate and mental fogginess.

She is also a perfectionist, a trait associated with giftedness(no, that was Middle Sister), which is one reason she cannot seem to get started on the many artistic projects she dreams up in her head (Blog Fest movie, anyone? How about the reality TV show. Have I mentioned I want to sell photographs, do a calendar, give tours of Mathews and sell things on e-Bay?). Her natural tendency to think divergently causes her to be disorganized and her house is always a mess (Oh thank the stars above! Finally there is a medical explanation for the piles of clutter and clothes surrounding me! I truly am cleaning disabled.).

She has a strong tendency to blame herself and to try and meet everyone else's expectations, which is one reason she is so depressed. Her depression makes it even more difficult to accomplish anything, so a vicious downward cycle has left her feeling completely overwhelmed and worthless. She also has a fatty acid deficiency (who knew?) that became severe after her pregnancies, which has seriously increased her depression and inability to focus."

CBW's Remarks:
1. Holy crap mackerel.
2. I am an INFP (introverted, intuititve, feeler, perceiver) on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is a test used for organizational development, and I've taken it a quazillion times all with the same result.
3. I am NOT some of that other stuff .
4. I've always said that after children I became progressively dumber and more scattered.
5. What is this fatty acid deficiency? Can it be cured by guacamole? How about McDonald's fish fillets? A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken? Fritos? Please?
6. What's the number of the nearest trained medical professional? Is it Wine-One-One?

It's official. The internet says I have ADD. I'm going to McDonald's now to work on this serious problem.

Pass the french fries. And the fried chicken.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Above is a recent shot of the shoreline and cemetery across the creek from my house. Saturday we had lots of fog, which created a bounty of photo opportunities.

Below is a shot (from Septemberish* of this year) of the same shoreline, shifted slightly more to the right. The rays of the setting sun behind me created an incredible light show across the creek.

The mood of the first one is somber, cold and gray, like the tombstones in that cemetery. The second one is peaceful, warm and relaxing.

Nature is just like us. She can be in a good mood or a somber mood, depending on the day or even the time of day. She gets angry sometimes too. Based on the number of nor'easters we've had this year, I'd say she has lots of pent-up hostility. She may need to learn some stress management techniques.

As I write this my mood is closer to somber because of my return to the paying job today. It will be back to the usual routine of commuting and sitting at my desk daydreaming of a job that I would actually enjoy, such as creating a reality TV show based on Mathews, its stories and its lively characters. Or creating the Blog Fest Movie. For example.

After Wednesday I'll be more along the lines of happy and warm because I'll be off Thurday and Friday.

Which of the two photos best represents your mood today?

*Septemberish is a guess because I'm too lazy to locate the date of the photo month which falls somewhere between late summer and late fall and almost always appears on the calendars of individuals with an acute lack of attention to specifics or details.

Monday, December 28, 2009


No matter how many sunrises I witness from the back door, they're each different and spectacular.

Different and spectacular describes all the women I've met via this thing called blogging. And to be sure we're not discriminating, the men partnered up with these ladies are wonderful too.

Yesterday afternoon we had a small gathering of local bloggers: Big Hair Envy, Noe Noe Girl, Ann Marie and Ghostless.

Ghostless, who is newly-moved to Mathews but not quite in her home, is a wonderfully warm and charming lady with a flair for color, style and the ability to maneuver a horse trailer. Much like my mother, she adores animals so much that a 37-year-old parrot and a donkey are on her extensive list of pets.

All my life I've wanted a donkey. And pigs actually. Everyone got quite the chuckle when I proclaimed my love for donkeys.

When Ghostless finally cuts through all the red tape to move into her house, my hope is to be able to meet her horses, her donkey, her parrot, and her dogs. But especially her donkey. I love donkeys.

Stop laughing.

Big Hair Envy, who came with Cool Breeze, is kin to me. So help me, she's kin to me. Around these parts "so help me" is another way of saying, "Oh yes indeed, for sure." Each time we get together she and I step a little bit closer to figuring out a family tree--which may or may not be our own. But by golly we're mappin' somebody's family tree. So far we've got a connection from her family in West Point to a family in Cobbs Creek, so it's only a matter of three miles distance before we figure out once and for all we're blood kin to each other by way of Cobbs Creek. Or the internet. Or the Mattaponi River. Or Malbec.

Noe Noe Girl and Cee Dub are the most instantly-likeable, sincerely cheerful, and genuinely-loveable people ever put on the planet, and if you do not want to laugh, then you'd better steer clear of Noe Noe Girl. Today Noe Noe used one of my favorite forgotten expressions when she said that one of the 4,358 cheeses brought by Ann Marie was "off the hook." When you say it with attitude and soul, "off the hook" means "out of this world and possibly out of this galaxy." It was really good cheese. And Noe Noe Girl is off the hook.

Ann Marie and the Waterman came with their crystal-blue eyes and their wonderful Mathews stories. Ann Marie also came with a cheese plate to die for and a camera that required its own zip code. It was that big. The Waterman's impish smile and colorful quips were the perfect spice that was sprinkled atop the already-flavorful group.

The internet has an amazing ability to bring completely different yet equally wonderful people together who otherwise would never cross paths. And when these people come together, it's all good.

Very, very good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Saturday morning was rainy and much warmer than usual. After the rain cleared, the clouds lingered and a fog crept down the creek creating images like this. There are several shots of the fog I'll eventually share assuming my computer doesn't kick the bucket, which it's threatening to do.

Today is when the blog friends stop by for a visit. Middle Sister is here too. Best of all I'm off from the paying job on Monday.

Life is good. Except I need to stop eating, start exercising and make time for a four-hour jog nap. All that can wait until tomorrow.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


This was taken about six months ago from the public landing down Haven Beach way.

Due to the 15-20 minutes necessary to upload each and every photo posted here, I have to stockpile photos. So, for example, on Saturdays when I'm doing a load of laundry and praying to win the lottery so I can pay someone else to do my work I'll press the button, walk away, and return later to an uploaded picture. Rinse, repeat. The end result is a stash of uploaded pictures completely unrelated to whatever I sit down to write about each night. It also results in pictures that might have been taken years months ago, like the one above.

Welcome to ADD and dial-up internet Life in Mathews, where random words accompany unrelated pictures.

These past several days have been too chaotic for words and it's nice to have a day to do nothing. Except wait for Middle Sister's arrival and the Chesapeake Bay Family Wii Challenge that will take place this evening.

The day I'm really looking forward to is tomorrow. That's when Big Hair Envy, Noe Noe Girl and Ghostless will be coming over for a visit. Here's my weather prediction: it will be sunny with a 100% chance of laughter.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Those of you who attended last year's Blog Fest will recognize this place. Speaking of Blog Fest, it is time to start planning the next one for 2010.
I can't wait.

These are recycled pictures, but they represent what brings me peace and joy the whole year long.

Peace, love, joy and happiness to you all

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Three-Thing Thursday

Here we have a shot of the always-lovely Chesapeake Bay and Aaron's Beach in winter. I wish I could say I took this recently, but the only thing I've taken recently is an arthritis-strength Tylenol.

When did Christmas become something which requires a shot of vodka pain relievers?

Thankfully, it's Three-Thing Thursday, where I share three random things, and you share three things, whatever you want, anything at all.

Let's begin.

1. Not only is today Christmas Eve, but it's my mother's birthday. I'm responsible for the birthday/Christmas Eve dinner.

2. While I rotted toiled away at work this week, my children surprised me by putting up a few outdoor decorations. This entailed miles many, many yards of extension cord from the house to the lane. The end result was a blow-up, motorcycle-riding Santa Claus to the left of the driveway, and a race-car Santa (complete with pit crew) on the right.

3. There is something very wrong with my computer but so far I've been able to patch it together to create this post. This on top of the existing stress (see above about Christmas Eve and dinner) is really cruel and unusual punishment. If you don't hear from me, you'll know the computer has finally been thrown in the bottom of Queens Creek where it belongs decided it's had enough.

Now it's your turn. Tell me three (or more) things. Whatever you want. Anything at all. Your hopes, your dreams, your worries, your Whatevers. You might also add a line which tells me where I might find a free an inexpensive new computer after I take an axe to this one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Wave

Life is a wave, which in no two consecutive moments of its existence is composed of the same particles.
- John Tyndall

Neither can the wave that has passed by be recalled, nor the hour which has passed return again.
- Ovid

Naturally, it's Christmas Eve Eve, and Chesapeake Bay Woman is not prepared. She will rise at 5:30 a.m. today and drive the hour in the dark to work. She will sit at her desk listening to her brain slowly rot away while her subconscious recites lists upon lists of random--yet crucial-- things that need to be completed before tomorrow. Then she will drive an hour home to the Hudgins post office and hope the stuff she ordered last-minute from the internet arrives, otherwise she will have to turn back around and drive another 15 miles to the Gloucester Wal-Mutant where she prays she will find the things she ordered off the internet that didn't arrive on time. Then she will resume start crying from the stress of it all and wish that she could start a new society on a planet with absolutely no Wal-Mutants stores, no crowds and no shopping. And life would be good.

The End.
- Chesapeake Bay Woman.

p.s. Have a great Wednesday, and remember life is like a wave. There's no sense getting worked up over the moment because that moment slips away, crashes ashore and disappears forever. Then there's something new to deal with. Such as a sinking boat a tidal wave.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Switch (Again)

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is a trying one thanks to the paying job and this little holiday coming up.

The house above is on the way to Haven Beach near Old House Woods. As I was studying the photo for inspiration, the branches stood out. And branches--especially thin ones--always remind me of switches.

Since I'd already written a post on switches last year, and because this is a very busy week with no time for anything except worrying to focus on anything except survival writing, I decided to recycle it. Because that's the kind of quality entertainment we provide here. The Switch Redux. Recycled posts. Repetition, ramblings, ridiculosity and reruns.

(I'm not sure that "redux" is an official word, nor that it's used properly. But surely after reading "ridiculosity" you realize that we're not here to demonstrate anything that is proper.)

And now, without further ridiculosity ado, here's the recycled post from September 2008.

When I was a kid, someone gave us a pony named Thunder, who was the most stubborn animal that ever lived aside from my two sisters.

Whenever I rode Thunder, I'd break a branch--otherwise known as a switch--off a bush to use as a crop, to give her a a gentle tap (and the occasional whack) when she walked instead of trotted; when she stopped dead in her tracks instead of moving forward, and when she reached around and bit me just because I nudged her with my heels to get her to move at all.

She was one ornery (pronounced AHN-ree) pony.

Back in those days, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. And switches were often used on children, usually as a punishment for some wrong doing. Go ahead and call Social Services, but you ought to give them the whole truth, which was we all made out just fine in spite of the fact we were hit with switches, flyswatters made of steel, and hairbrushes made of lead.

But we're not talking about all that, we're talking about switches and I have a story about one switch in particular.

When I was about six, my sisters and I spent the night with my grandmother, Nanny, in Gloucester. Middle Sis and I fought a lot, but not just cat fights. No, these were legendary brawls involving teeth, hair and eyes, hitting, lots of kicking, biting and torture of all sorts.

Nanny knew what a tough job it was to prevent these fights. This particular occasion, to keep us in check, she carefully selected a very large switch from her yard and placed it on a shelf out of our reach but within sight. She told us she certainly hoped she would have no use for it, but reassured us that she wasn't afraid to use it if necessary. Then she returned to the kitchen to fry the best fried chicken ever to touch an iron skillet.

Chesapeake Bay Child, ordinarily a very loving and caring individual, especially to her younger sisters, suddenly felt an evil streak come over her. It hit her like a tidal wave and she could not fight it. For reasons that are not entirely clear, I pulled up a stool, stood on it and grabbed that switch off the shelf. I have no earthly idea why, but I then commenced to walk up to my grandmother, who was wearing a dress and hovering over the stove. I started to hit her bare legs. Yes, Chesapeake Bay Child took a switch to her own beloved, fried-chicken-making, favorite grandmother.

I have no idea how this story ends because I very successfully blocked out anything that happened next. I want to say that in spite of the egregious violation on my part, she resorted to laughter and a phone call to my mother. I don't recall flyswatters or hair brushes being used, so the humor must have outweighed the act of disobedience.

Note: No children, ponies or fried-chicken-cooking Nannys were harmed in the making of this post. A few bushes had their branches torn off, and one ornery sister got her hair pulled, but otherwise everyone came out unscathed. Physically, anyway. The jury is still out on the mental part.


Tune in again tomorrow for another exciting rerun episode of Chesapeake Bay Woman Grasps at Straws Just Days Before Christmas.

And, of course, more ridiculosity. Redux.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Red and Green

This picture, taken earlier this year at Aaron's Beach, shows some lovely green marsh grass and a pretty red _____________.

(Fill in the blank with the appropriate term because Chesapeake Bay Woman has never seen one of these pretty red ___________s before and has absolutely no idea what they're called. Pretty Red Marine Plant would be the name I'd give it, although since that's such a mouthful, I'd probably shorten it to Pretty Red. Or just Red.)

Actually, the more I look at this picture, the pinker this pretty red__________ becomes. Perhaps I'm confusing this pinkish________with those red sponges that often wash up on the shore of our beaches. Perhaps I want it to be red so I can claim to be posting a Christmas-colored picture.

Perhaps--just perhaps--Chesapeake Bay Woman is so exhausted from housework; Christmas preparations; Christmas procrastinations; Christmas decorations; Christmas dawdling; Christmas worrying; bad weather; neighborhood Christmas party; kids' bedrooms that are not fit for man nor beast; kids' bathroom not fit for a hazmat team; sick Father; no time off from the paying job this week; a cat that needs to see the vet; a dead blue jay on the front porch; Mother's birthday on Christmas Eve; dinner preparations for Christmas Eve; a boat filled with frozen water and 10 years left on the loan; and Life that she has no time to focus on anything substantive for today's post.

There's a good chance the rest of the week here at Life in Mathews will be just as lackluster and ridiculous stark as ever today's post.

Do you know what that reddish-pink plant is above?

What are some ideas for a Christmas Eve dinner that has to double as a birthday celebration for a mother who, though not vegetarian, loves vegetables? I want to do something different besides the same old Same Old, but it needs to be easy. Different yet easy. Does different yet easy exist when one is talking about fixing a special holiday/birthday dinner?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Silent Sunday

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Man's heart away from nature becomes hard.
~Standing Bear

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Secret Three

This is a strange shot of a place my sisters and I called Secret Three. It's strange because of the fog, which makes it difficult to discern the real tree limbs from their reflections.

Secret Three, named after the three Chesapeake Bay Sisters, is a cove located on the side of our house, close to the boathouse. There used to be muscadine grape vines hanging over our secret fort, and a tree stump loaded with periwinkles (which are really just snails unless you're around the Chesapeake Bay Children, who insist on calling snails something else being specific).

That barely-visible brick house in the background belonged to the Davises until they passed away. The lovely young couple living there now swears that Mrs. Davis's spirit is still tampering with their thermostat. Seems every time they turn up the heat, an Unknown Someone turns it back down.

Our whole neighborhood is haunted wonderful and has quite a history which I'll write about when the winds aren't whipping and the bed isn't beckoning. (It's a cold, snowy, icy, late Friday night as I write this.)

In related news, tonight is our neighborhood Christmas party which thankfully I am not hosting. Click here for the background on last year's neighborhood nightmare. No, the Chesapeake Bay Family will be trotting down the lane to a neighbor's house where we will have a grand time.

I'm looking forward to anything I'm not in charge of to it.

What will you be doing this evening?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Glimpses into the Past

One of my favorite parts of our weekly paper, the Gazette Journal, is the Glimpses into the Past column. Here you'll find excerpts of articles dating back as far as 100 years.

This week several interesting stories relating to Christmas were showcased as follows:

90 Years Ago
Thursday, December 18, 1919

"To the readers of the Gloucester Gazette: your supply of Christmas delicacies is not complete without some of the delicious Summerville pecans, and there is no present more acceptable to your friends than a package of these nuts. I can furnish them to you at a price of 50 cents a pound. Joseph Tabb, Gloucester, Va."

CBW's Unnecessary Remarks:
First of all, 50 cents a pound for anything sounds great, but more than that how wonderful and simple a gift of pecans would be. To be clear about how we pronounce the word pecan, it's PEEcan. PeCAHNS are grown in another universe country. Or at least another state. I'm going to have to stand firm on this statement even though it's liable to cause some grumblings even amongst locals. PEEcan.

80 Years Ago
Thursday, December 19, 1929

"Dear Santa Claus, My letter is late. I have been sick. Please bring me a pair of skates and a doll and a carriage and a pair of slippers and also oranges, apples, candy and fireworks. Remember all at my house and my teacher and a little orphan girl, Lewis. I am a little girl nine years old. God bless you, Santa. Nannie Sadler, Hudgins, Va."

CBW's Getting Ready to Show Her Age Remarks:
There was a time not so long ago when receiving oranges in one's stocking was considered a thrill. My mother told us about oranges at Christmas and how special they were, and we would sometimes get them in our stockings as children. Mrs. Noland of the Gloucester County Day School taught us to stick cloves into citrus fruits and adorn them with ribbons. They were fragrant and beautiful, and we used them as decorations. Oranges and Christmas go together for me, always have.

70 Years Ago
Thursday, December 21, 1939

"A community Christmas Eve program will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Old Mill Skating Rink. The old familiar carols will be sung by a large choir."

CBW's Need to Say Over and Over Again How Much She Misses Roller Skating at the Old Mill:
Some of the greatest times of my life were spent at the Old Mill Skating Rink. Click here for more on that. My grandmother and her sisters skated there. My mother skated there. I went to birthday parties there. Kids did the hokey pokey and they turned themselves around there. But I never, ever, knew they sang Christmas carols there.

Something tells me the disco lights were not invented up and flashing during the Christmas sing-along, and nobody was playing crack the whip.

But that's just a guess on my part.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three-Thing Thursday

Welcome to Three-Thing Thursday where Chesapeake Bay Woman shares three things all of which reveal an utter and complete denial that a week from today is Christmas, and you share three things--whatever you want, anything at all. Just please don't remind me of the mere week remaining to do anything for Christmas.

Let's begin.

1. Today in a staff meeting, a person used the phrase "reach out to" a total of 18 times, and this is the number I counted only after realizing how often it was being used. For example the person might say, "Here is a problem, and I'd like you to reach out to Jane Doe to solve it." Or "I reached out to John Doe but he was no help at all." Just play along if Merriam Webster or Wikipedia has officially pronounced "reach out to" the preferred substitute for "contact" or "get in touch with," or "call." I didn't get the memo, and if I did I threw it away.

2a. Saturday's Christmas Parade here in Mathews was great even if I seemed to be more excited about it than my own children--and Baby Sister. Several pictures were taken, however Chesapeake Bay Woman doesn't (a) take pictures of moving things that (b)are lit up at night and (c) when her batteries die on her she views it as a sign that pictures of this exciting event were just not meant to be.

2b. The picture above gives the illusion that trespassing may have been involved. For the more realistic view that doesn't involve trespassing a zoom lens, turn down the American Legion Hall lane right before sunset and instead of looking at the Hall on your left, take a gander to the right. And use your zoom lens while standing in the comfort of a perfectly legal spot known as the state road.

3. My office went to a tavern in Colonial Williamsburg for a Christmas lunch, and it was a lot of fun because I don't get out much. We sat down in a dungeon of a bricked basement lit solely by candlelight. It took a good 10 minutes for your eyes to adjust, that's how dark it was. As the hostess led us this way and that, down one set of stairs and through a maze of rooms, one of my co-workers said, "They're taking us to the Catacomb Seating Section!!" and I laughed. Very loudly. Probably a little too loud for the already-seated, somber diners whose eyes were rolling back in their heads still adjusting to the darkness of the basement in a centuries' old dining establishment.

Now it's your turn. Please share three--or more--things that you feel like getting off your chest. Or off your shoulders. Or off the top of your head even. Whatever you want, anything at all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prose by Middle Sister

Today we will read a little essay written by Middle Sister in the year 1977. If I knew how to scan documents I'd post the original which she wrote on a piece of loose leaf paper. But that frustrating topic--relating to technology, instruction manuals, learning new things, crying and impatience--is for another time.

Let's begin.

"My name is Middle Sister. I am nine years old. I will be ten on July xxth, 1977. (This year is 1977.) I have two sisters, Chesapeake Bay Girl and Baby Sis. CB Girl is twelve. Her birthday is on January xxth. She goes to the Mathews Intermediate School. She takes piano lessons and has been taking them since November 1975. She weighs 95 lbs. and is skinny and strong! She likes things that have action. She has a pony named Thunder. She took riding lessons too. About a year from Mrs. Thomas in English and some from Mrs. Griffith in Western. Her middle name is Carol.

Baby Sister (whose middle name is Biddle) is my younger sister who is six years old. She will be seven on October xx, 1977. She used to take piano lessons. She used to take riding lessons too. Baby Sis is in the Gloucester County Day School with me. She is in first grade. She is the smartest of her class. She ways [sic] 65 lbs. She is not exactly skinny, but not fat. She took riding lessons from Mrs. Thomas, English."

- Middle Sister, Age 9

And now, at age 44, I, Chesapeake Bay Woman, would like to write the missing paragraph about Middle Sister using her format above as a guideline for what's important to cover when discussing one's sisters:

"Middle Sister, whose middle name is Kay, never took piano lessons. We do not know why. She did go to 4-H and was a champion egg grader thanks to Mr. Dinwiddie, who is a subject for another time. Wonderful man, colorful character. Middle Sister was so smart she had to skip a grade, and she hasn't stopped talking since she was two. She took riding lessons, English, from Mrs. Thomas and rode a pony named Brillo. (I rode Taffy and Yogi. Some poor person got stuck with Pendragon who'd always lie down when you tried to ride her. But we're not here to talk about that now. Middle Sister never strayed like this from the topic at hand now did she?)

Middle Sister talks a lot and is always putting on a show to torture entertain us. Middle Sister is neither skinny nor fat, and I have no idea how much she weighed at any age of her life and am curious to know how she knew what Baby Sis and I weighed in the year 1977." The End.

p.s. I'd also be curious to hear what Baby Sister has to say about being called the smartest in her class. Something must have gone terribly awry in later years but that, like Mr. Dinwiddie and like Baby Sister's middle name of Biddle, is a topic for another day.

p.s.s.t. I really do love my sisters but it's just so comfortable easy to pick on them, especially around the holidays when they wear extra thick lipstick and smear it all over your wine glasses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Around the Bend

The window above belongs to an exquisite house nestled in the bend of a very busy section of road in Gloucester. Anyone who lives in Mathews passes it every time they go to Wal-Mutant. It's on the right-hand side as you're approaching the stop light at Route 17.

If you click on the photo you'll see a sign (in the window) which is all too familiar to me. Familiar, yet troublesome.

That sign and the window are part of the house below.

The reason the view of the house is blocked by trees is as follows:

* You can't see it, but below what's shown in the picture is the Autobahn. On off days it's used for Nascar trials. Those familiar with this stretch of highway understand how well-traversed that stretch is. The only way to take a decent shot would involve trespassing (at best) or death by Business 17, which is why the funeral parlor is conveniently located two doors down.

* Speaking of which (trespassing not death), there are No Trespassing signs everywhere. Everywhere. Take a gander at what's hanging off the cedar tree there in the foreground.

* I had to pull over on the opposite side of the road; pretend as if I were going into the Frame Shop located there; use the super-zoom function on my camera; then pretend I wasn't taking pictures and wasn't going to the Frame Shop, all the time sweating bullets. Bullets the size of cannonballs.

*It's really very difficult to take decent pictures when your heart is thumping so loudly you can't hear yourself sweating cannonballs think.

In any case, I love the house above. There are several outbuildings and dependencies that are absolutely gorgeous.

My mother, who is from Gloucester and used to live in the Court House not far from here, has not sufficiently answered my question of what this place used to be, or who owned it or why it's so magnificent. Another very real possibility is she's told me but I've forgotten.

Either way, I'd love to know more about it and get a closer look without fear of being arrested for trespassing or being run over by the Daytona 500.

p.s. Dear Frame Shop Owners,
Thank you for letting me pull in your parking lot for just a minute or three two the other morning. You have no idea how many times I've driven by your place and wanted to stop by, not to purchase frames but to take pictures of what's across the street. Although I'm sure your frames are just superb. Fantastic even.

Thanks again,


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Back Door

This is the view out the back door of an old house in the Haven Beach vicinity. The photographer no doubt had some sort of compelling reason to be in on the property, but that is most definitely not what we're here to talk about today. Or ever.

This back door reminds me of an ongoing source of confusion within the Chesapeake Bay Family, and that's whether to call the back yard the back yard or to call it the front yard. And if you're confused, then you're right where you need to be.

You see, some people--i.e. Chesapeake Bay Mother--call the back yard the front yard if that yard is on the water, also known as waterfront property. The house fronts the water, so that is the front of the house. If you're asking yourself when this agonizing post will be over, the answer is soon.

But Chesapeake Bay Mother was the only one in our family who called our back yard the front yard. Everyone else called it the back yard because it was in the back of the house as you approached from the road and why in the world am I explaining what a back yard is to people who already know?

This caused confusion for decades. When Chesapeake Bay Mother asked us to do something out front, we'd end up in the wrong yard. If she asked us to get something from the back yard, we couldn't find what it was we were supposed to be retrieving because we were on the wrong side of the house.

And now, dear reader, it's time for me to shut the front door and stop this rambling nonsense. Please hold your applause until I say a few more things.

There were two reasons for this post today: to share this shot of bright sunlight streaming through the old screen door of a house being taken over by nature; and to convey to future generations that my mother attempted to teach us the correct terminology for the orientation of a house vis-a-vis the water but it was lost on me. As is the phrase "vis-a-vis" which I pulled from thin air.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blue Skies

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,
If a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you,
If the simple things in nature have a message you understand,
Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
Eleanora Duse

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on Earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Welcome to Life in Mathews, where Chesapeake Bay Woman posts pictures of wet sand, a few pebbles, some seaweed, and an empty bottle and calls it a post thinks it's exciting. That's because she doesn't get out much.

The other day I returned to a spot at Haven Beach where I'd previously found a lot of glass bottles. Seeing nothing more than a few shards, I started making my way back to the car, when lo and behold I spotted the bottle pictured above.

It's a Bayer aspirin bottle; a really cute, heavy, glass bottle that says The Bayer Company Division along its sides.

What struck me is not that this is an unusual bottle, heavens no, they're a dime a dozen I'm sure. No, what struck me was that it's been so long since I've actually held an aspirin container that wasn't plastic. Come to think of it, there are very few things that do come in glass these days. Even glass jelly jars (which the Chesapeake Bay Family proudly used as drinkware) are slowly going by the way side.

After pocketing this bottle, I returned to the car, but not until I laboriously dragged picked up a huge stump of drift wood. "This will look nice in one of my flower beds," I thought. It was such a nice thought, given that I don't actually have any flower beds. Any bed I do have is either unmade or full of weeds.

I opened the back hatch and turned it this way and that so it would fit inside.

Then sand poured from a hollow cavity of the enormous tree trunk and went all over my groceries.

The End.

p.s. Baby Sis is coming home from Richmond tonight. We will be attending the Mathews Lighted Christmas parade, whose theme this year is Farming by the Bay.

I can't wait.

This is bound to be more exciting than an aspirin bottle and a washed-up tree trunk.

I'm counting on it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Great Escape

Here we have yet another example of how you never know what in the hay you're going to see here in Mathews County.

Here, what we have is a horse sashaying down the middle of the road without a care in the world.

On my way home from Haven Beach yesterday, I was only slightly surprised to see a horse getting ready to cross the road. A horse with no rider, no halter, and no fence surrounding him. With nothing better to do (except all the thousands of chores I had to complete but was avoiding by driving to Haven Beach), I stopped the car and started taking pictures from the comfort of the driver's seat.

So to clarify, there was a horse loose walking down the middle of the road, and there was a crazy woman stopped right behind him--in the middle of the road--not rushing out to secure the horse, but sitting in her car snapping photos.

That sounds about right.

As I was snapping photos of a horse walking down the very same middle of the road where I was sitting in my car, two young men approached on foot from a nearby house. Rehearsing my standard speech about being an amateur photographer, I suddenly realized that "I'm just taking pictures" was not an appropriate response in this particular situation, even though as I sat in the driver's seat with the passenger window rolled down to talk, my camera dangled from my neck.

After a brief conversation so full of twists and turns I could scarcely convey it in a miniseries, we mutually determined that we did not know where the horse belonged. They said they'd contain the horse, and I said OK.

As I drove off in search of horse pastures that were missing one blanketed horse, thereby assuring there'd be no time for laundry, vacuuming, and putting up Christmas stuff, I came upon a car stopped in the road. The driver was talking to a person in another stopped car going the opposite direction.

This is not an unusual sight in Mathews, this business of blocking traffic briefly as people chat in the middle of the road. But the protocol is that when a car comes up behind one of the two blocking cars, the conversation is over, the two parties wave and depart.

When that didn't happen, I realized one of the cars belonged to the game warden. I pulled up, put the car in neutral (as another car pulled up behind me), walked up to the conversation (in the middle of the road) and said, "By any chance, are you all talking about the escaped horse?"

Indeed they were.

So I told him where Mr. Horse was, and after wrapping up the second "middle of the road" conversation, everyone parted ways. Presumably Mr. Horse is back home.

Tomorrow I'll share a story about my trip to Haven Beach and something I found there. It's not nearly as exciting as an escaped horse, but then again, what is?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three-Thing Thursday

Welcome to a three-ring circus Three-Thing Thursday, where we each share three things (or more, the number is as arbitrary as anything else written here). It's sort of like show and tell, except there's no showing involved.

The three things can be related, as mine are today, or they may be entirely unrelated, like most of my sentences and paragraphs.

Here we go:

1. Saturday night at 6:00 is the Mathews Lighted Christmas Parade at the court house. This is probably my favorite land-based parade, and I've been to my fair share of parades.

2.a. That same evening, there's a lighted boat parade at Yorktown. The boat parades are always fun, always beautiful and sometimes good for a laugh (see #3 below), but I must attend the Mathews land parade. It's tradition.

2.b. The first time I attended the Yorktown boat parade was from the Gloucester Point side of the river. One really big boat--all decked out in sparkly lights, replete with blow-up Santa Clauses and extremely drunk inebriated individuals--ran aground just inside Sarah's Creek. This is where the laughter part of a boat parade comes in. The sight of raucous people in a big boat adorned with blow-up Santa Clauses running aground is really a sight to be seen. By the way, I love the word raucous.

3. I went to the DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles) two times in one week for the exact same transaction--and almost had to come back a third time. This is after I had tried three times via internet and twice by phone to complete said transaction. On the last trip in person, I actually had to use vacation time. Because everyone wants to spend their vacation in the DMV, right?

But this, dear reader, is a story for another time.

So, there are my three things. Now it's your turn. Have at it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Here we have a common sight in Mathews: a hitchhiker.

This particular hitchhiker was hunting for lunch in the ditch behind him, but when he saw me coming he straightened up and stuck out his thumb his beak. I didn't have room in the car for a heron this particular day so I smiled politely, waved and kept on driving. He did not look pleased.

Hitchhiking simply was not a big deal when we were growing up. In fact, we knew most of the regular hitchhikers in Mathews and had no problem pulling over to give them a ride. Nobody ever worried about being held at gunpoint, never to be seen nor heard from again. It just wasn't like that.

As I've mentioned before, many of our locals enjoy the occasional drink, which is to say that they drink to any occasion, up to and including waking up in the morning. Sometimes these folks lose their driving privileges for good and resort to riding around town on lawn mowers, bicycles and scooters. Others just hoof it. Others hitchhike.

Back in the 1980's--before cell phones, GPS systems, and cars that can take your blood pressure reading and refer you to a specialist if needed--my college roommates and I routinely hitchhiked, it was how we got home from fraternity parties got around Rugby Road in Charlottesville.

But then there was the time we were driving my VW Bug on I-64 from Richmond to Charlottesville. I think we were coming back from a Police concert but it could have been Prince. Anyway, thanks to my attention to detail the VW ran out of gas in the middle of the interstate. It was dark, but we weren't too far (10-15 miles?) from our exit. Without giving it a second thought, we pulled the car over on the shoulder, got out, stuck out our thumbs, and ended up riding the rest of the way in the cab of a Breyers Ice Cream tractor trailer.

And we lived to tell about it.

Today, even if I were armed with a machine gun and had Mr. T. as a bodyguard, there's no way anybody could pay me money to get in the cab of a tractor trailer traveling down the interstate at night. We won't even mention the conniptions, hissy fits, and fire-breathing dragons involved if my children ever did something as dumb as that.

Did you ever hitchhike?

Disclaimer: The author in no way condones hitchhiking in modern times and is only talking about the Paleolithic Era, when the world was a little kinder and gentler, and stupid teenagers on the side of I-64 were not only stupid, they were very, very lucky.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Little Red Barn

There's something very special about this barn, and I've only just met it.

This little red barn lives behind a house that is for sale on the way to Haven Beach. Sometime last week I posted a close-up shot of the door on the lower left. That photo prompted three separate e-mails from blog friends, all of which had something very different to tell me about this barn.

Ms. Foolery said she loved the barn door and tinkered with that other photo to make it simply wonderful. Don't ask me what she did, but I think a magic wand some sort of software was involved. Also, don't ask me to post her version back up here, because although I'd love to, that assumes I know how to do that. And we all know that Dial-Up CBW and her Amazing Techno Skillz will not be performing that sort of feat anytime in this lifetime soon.

Next, Ann Marie, owner of Ann Marie's Restaurant--who serves the best fried oysters, fish and hush puppies on Planet Earth as well as the entire solar system--sent me an e-mail asking where that barn door was located, exactly, because she thinks it's one she's been dying to take me to for a while. We still haven't figured out if it is, but whether it is or it isn't she and I are going barn hunting one day. Cameras in hand. Get Out of Jail Free cards too, for when we get caught trespassing.

The next thing you know, Commenter Ghostless, who has been househunting here and just last week moved to Mathews, sent an e-mail asking if the barn door in that post belonged to a barn that was affiliated with a house for sale that happens to be somewhere on the way to Haven Beach.

Why, yes, it is.

Commenter Ghostless is now an official, bona fide resident of Mathews County, and hopefully I'm going to meet her later this week. Although she hasn't purchased a house yet, she's told me about some of the ones she's seriously considered, and they all sound like Chesapeake Bay Woman may finally be able to take pictures without trespassing perfectly splendid.

Anyway, I just found it interesting that this little barn spoke to others as loudly as it did to me. What I wouldn't give to take a peek inside know a little bit about its past.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Cruise

This sailboat was down near the dinghy dock at the Urbanna Oyster Festival a month or so ago. A very large boat--a cruise ship-- is involved in today's post, written by my mother about a trip she and my Middle Sister took many moons ago. This is but one chapter of the many vacation horror stories from the Griswold Chesapeake Bay Family History Book of Nightmares.

Also starring in today's post: sweat, menopause, government forms, and Middle Sisters who twirl their hair rather than offer to help a stressed out parent.

Sweat Me a River
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

So much of life is beautiful, but a lot about life breaks your heart. The silver lining of heartbreak, a good cry makes you feel so much better.

I don't cry much since menopause, when in the process of going to seed, I cried a few times but always sweated like a longshoreman on the heavy end of the load. The reasons for crying varied, but the sweating was consistently a spontaneous event absent cause or cure.

There was the time Middle Child (Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister) on college break persuaded* me to spend my savings on a Caribbean cruise for just the two of us. Husband couldn't go and so that left me as the only grown-up, responsible and all.

(*Chesapeake Bay Woman would like to interject something here about Middle Sister and her ability to sell snow to an Eskimo, but instead I'll just remark that while Middle Sis was sailing the Caribbean on a free cruise, I was either driving the VW Vanagon non-stop from Charlottesville to Miami with sixty bucks to my name or slaving away at work depending on what year this was. We now return to the family dispute, already in progress.)

After the flight and on the bus to port, we were issued papers to be filled out in agonizing detail, requiring all kinds of numbers, dates and details of our authenticity. I struggled to write answers through steamed-up glasses as Middle Child filed her nails. It was do or die as we were told, because if our information were inadequate, we could not leave the ship when it was in port. Pressure builds.

Soon I hear Middle Child laughing, and laughing some more. Then, "Why are you sweating?" so loud heads were turning. I was soaked from the waist, blouse, and even the pen was slipping from my sweat-soaked fingers. It was raining perspiration.

What a great vacation this was beginning to be!

As the ship was leaving Miami, all horns tooting, all bells ringing, the Star Spangled Banner playing on steel drums, I took a misstep on "Z" Deck and slid all the way to "A" Deck using the Slippery Metal Stair Express. I don't know how many people I took out on the way down. Really, it wasn't so bad though. I had a couple of vertebrae that weren't even bleeding.

The rest of the cruise was pretty much all Hallmark moments with photos of us taken at every opportunity by an eager photographer who struck when you were least prepared and posted the pictures publicly as a complimentary embarrassment.

Then there was the waiter of foreign extraction, who felt obligated to pay me undue attention since I was traveling without Husband. If my very life depended on securing a man, I'd have to make out a bucket list...I am not gifted that way. However, this waiter would take every polite rejection as a fire would gasoline. I actually had to lose him after each meal by going to other decks so he couldn't track me to our room.

When it's over, heading home, we think about the fun, the food, the falls and wonder who will play me in the movie when my life makes the big screen.

Maybe one of the Flying, Sweating Wallendas.

Above written by Chesapeake Bay Mother. Some time I'll tell the story of another family cruise involving both parents, all three sisters, and not one grain of common sense in the bunch.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This is a completely unenhanced and unmodified picture of the locust tree that overlooks the creek in my back yard. (I am unsure if either of those two un-words are actually words.) Ordinarily you can see the creek and Smithers Cemetery from this vantage point.

The fog that particular morning was as thick as peanut butter. Thankfully I didn't have to drive anywhere that day, because driving in peanut-butter-like fog can be hazardous. It can also make you hungry.

I'll end on this note, and that is: Only here (and in most kindergarten settings) will you read made-up words and phrases such as "peanut-butter-like fog," that may or may not be appropriately hyphenated.

Now, I'm going to stop advertising all the rules of grammar and the English language I've forgotten in the past quarter century and get on with the rest of my Sunday, which hopefully does not involve fog, hyphens or cemeteries, but may well include some peanut butter.

Have a great one.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Window

A week or so after Hurricaneaster Ida, I drove down to Haven Beach to inspect the damage. To get there one must pass an old house which sits directly by the dirt lane leading to the beach, on the right. My kids like to call it the Monster House because at one point one of the upper windows was covered by a great big picture of a creature from Where the Wild Things Are. Very strange, yes, but around here we've become accustomed to strange. Often we expect it. Strange is really the norm.

Anywho, when I drove past the house I noticed that not only was that picture gone, but all the windows were blown out.

Although I'm not sure if the storm blew the windows out or if someone purposely broke them, the fact is for the first time I could see clearly inside the house.

I love the window pictured above for several reasons. First, it provides a tiny glimpse into the house's past life. This was probably a little girl's room which I say only because of the flowery wallpaper. Second, I love that you can see through to the window on the opposite side of the room. It, too, is blown out and shows a tree trying to take over the house. (The trees are very successfully taking over. I'll share shots from the back of the house another day.)

In a way these windows tell a story. The first provides a glimpse into the past. The second shows the future.

I could stare through this window for hours wondering what happened inside that room. And that house. If only walls could talk.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The A & P

Back when I was growing up, the only grocery store around Mathews was the A&P, unless you count Cobbs Creek Market or Port Haywood Market, which were really country-store precursors to modern-day convenience stores. Next to A & P was the Western Auto, the post office, and something else (an appliance store, perhaps) that I'm forgetting because of my attention-deficit to detail.

The A&P was cozy, comfortable and familiar. The people who worked there had been there since I was a baby. The cashier ladies. The produce man (who may or may not have had a crush on my mother). The meat man. In her rambunctious teenage years, Middle Sister donned the red polyester A&P smock for a bit. When I say smock I might really mean apron or shirt, because I can't remember anything other than the red part. See above about attention-deficit to detail.

The main thing I remember about the A&P was the coffee aisle. The heavy aroma of coffee beans and that big red grinder were exotic to me. Even today Eight O'clock Coffee, which was the A&P signature brand, is my preferred brand of coffee beans. Good thing, since that's about all we can get around here besides Folgers and Sanka.

Little did I know that A & P's roots in Mathews were deeper than their Eight O'clock Coffee the grocery store at the court house. Below is from the book, "Gwynn's Island Times":

"December 1, 1932: Nearly 50 men and women were examined by Dr. Hoskins this week for employment in the big packing house of the A&P Tea Company and the plant of the Gwynn's Island Operating Company at Callis Wharf. The men will shuck oysters and do other work and the women will pick crabs and fill other positions wherever they can be used. Local labor will be employed as far as possible.

The A & P plant is under management of Mrs. A. S. Beattie. This plant will buy and pack shell fish for the A&P stores located in all parts of the United States. The Gwyn's Island Operating Company will handle crab meat and herring roe, much of which will probably be taken by the A & P organization."

The A&P grocery store in the court house, which was torn down to make way for the Food Lion, was an institution here in Mathews. The former A&P operation on the island is probably a lesser known enterprise, though it's no less fascinating to me.

Did you ever visit an A&P? Did you have a favorite grocery store when you were growing up? What made it so special?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three-Thing Thursday

Welcome to Three-Thing Thursday, where I share three things and you share three things, whatever you want. Anything at all.

I'll begin because somebody has to.

1. The barn door pictured above is in the yard of a house that's for sale. When houses are for sale and innocent bystanders pull way up in the drive, the purpose of the visit is as "potential customer" not "active trespasser toting camera and publishing photos on a blog."

This is a most important distinction. Just ask any judge real estate agent.

2. The sun was peeking perfectly through the clouds and the trees to illustrate the hole in the door that was cracked open.

3. Sometimes I wish I had a blanket permission slip to trespass. Are they available down at the court house, blanket permission slips to trespass? All I want to do is take pictures of inaccessible places and share the beauty. Is that wrong?

Now it's your turn. Tell me three things, tell me forty-three things, whatever you want, anything at all.

If you're stuck, tell me why every week we have rain and 40 mph northeast winds even though the hurricane season has officially been declared defunct.

Or tell me why just yesterday it was spring and tomorrow it's Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom we explore the little-known world of the sturgeon, an elusive and mysterious sea creature, not so little-known and mysterious to most people but most definitely to Chesapeake Bay Woman.

Yesterday's story about 80 pounds of roe from a 400-pound sturgeon sounded a little crazy to me. Sure, I can imagine catching a 400-pounder on some deep-sea fishing nightmare trip off of Hatteras or out in the Gulf Stream on some charter boat rigged with commercial-grade fishing equipment.

But a 400-pound fish around here? Caught in a pound net?

(Did you notice how I toss in the term "Gulf Stream" as if I know what in the tackle box I'm talking about even though I don't?)

What exactly is a sturgeon?

As usual, when I don't know the answer, I turn to my old friend the magic eight ball Wikipedia:

"One of the oldest families of bony fish in existence, they are native to subtropical, temperate and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes and coastlines of Eurasia and North America. They are distinctive for their elongated bodies, lack of scales, and occasional great size: Sturgeons ranging from 7–12 feet (2-3½ m) in length are common, and some species grow up to 18 feet (5.5 m). Most sturgeons are anadromous bottom-feeders, spawning upstream and feeding in river deltas and estuaries. While some are entirely freshwater, very few venture into the open ocean beyond near coastal areas.

Several species of sturgeons are harvested for their roe, which is made into caviar - a luxury good which makes some sturgeons pound for pound the most valuable of all harvested fish.* Because they are slow-growing and mature very late in life, they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and to other threats, including pollution and habitat fragmentation. Most species of sturgeons are currently considered either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered."

Next up, we have this bit of information from my new BFF, from March 2003:

"When settlers arrived at Jamestown, the first “cash crop” they sent back to England was caviar harvested from Chesapeake Bay sturgeon.

The giant fish — the largest, longest-lived species native to the Bay — have a long and colorful history here: Early settlers reported that natives would test their bravery by lassoing a sturgeon by the tail and trying to hang on until the fish was tired.

During the Revolutionary War, an American soldier was killed while rowing across the Potomac when a giant sturgeon jumped out of the water and landed in his boat.

But the sturgeon were overfished in the late 1800s, and their population never recovered — no sturgeon are known to have spawned in Maryland for decades, and there are only sporadic reports of spawning in Virginia."

* Now we know why the fisherman in yesterday's story must have been thrilled to have caught a 400-pound sturgeon in his pound net, even though I'm still struggling with the concept of catching a 400-pound fish in a pound net. However, I know as much about the capacity of pound nets as I do the Gulf Stream.

** The more I hear about this Loch Ness Monster beast called the sturgeon, the fishier the tall fish tales smell. Or rather, the taller the smelly fish tales grow. Or, how about how do we know for certain that a Revolutionary-era soldier was killed by a single fish landing in his boat and not something else? Perhaps he just drifted out into the Gulf Stream.

Or got caught in a pound net.

Does anybody know anything about sturgeon? Can a 400-pound fish become trapped in a pound net? I understand the concept of pound nets (click here for some background) but struggle with the fact that 400 pounds of monster would make its way into one. Aren't pound nets usually located close to shore? Does this mean that I need to worry about 400 pounds of killer fish picking his teeth with my spinal cord the next time I go swimming in the bay?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gwynn's Island Times

This building is located across the road from the old Scrooch's Market (now Roz's Island Market) on Gwynn's Island. The picture is lopsided because I was stopped in the middle of the road, and a car was coming, plus some man in the parking lot across the way was glaring staring at me. In times like this, one cannot be too hasty. However, haste does make lopsided pictures.


Today we're taking a look at an excerpt from the book called Gwynn's Island Times, News Items from the Mathews Journal, 1905-1937, and Gazette Journal 1937-1950. One particularly newsworthy page caught my eye, and that was page 84. I'll wait while you find it in your copy.

In case you can't locate it, here's what it says:

Jan. 18, 1940: Mrs. Missouri Morgan, the oldest woman in Mathews who was 98 years old, died Wednesday night, January 18 at her home near Gwynn.

Feb. 29,1940: Grimstead. Saw mills are buzzing around here. It is to be deplored as the woods make fine breaks for the winds of the Chesapeake Bay.

April 11, 1940: Gwynn's Island. H. H. Ambrose who had a cancer of the lip is all right now after Dr. Nelms treated him with radium.

May 9, 1940: At Mathews a pound net belonging to J.C. Williams of Gwynn's Island caught a 400-pound sturgeon, one of the largest of the species caught in Virginia waters this year. The eighty-pound roe sold for $80 and the remainder of the fish boosted the total to more than $100

So to recap: The oldest woman in Mathews dies; saw mills are a-buzzin' but should be deplored; a patient is cured by a dose of radium; and a 400-pound sturgeon is caught--all in the span of the first five months of 1940 on little old Gwynn's Island.

Who says nothing ever happens around here?

This talk about catching the Loch Ness Monster a 400-pound sturgeon in a pound net, though, sounds borderline crazy to me. Tune in again tomorrow when we'll learn more about this sea creature called a sturgeon and why 80-pounds of dead fish eggs would have made that pound fisherman forget all about the deplorable buzzing of radium the saw mills.

Have you ever had caviar? Do you like it?