Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paper Box

Above is the paper box at the end of my parents' driveway, after one of our recent snowstorms.

Below is the paper box from Miss Pookie's house.

Paper boxes have special significance because they remind me of my paternal grandmother. She walked every day of her life, very early in the morning. Since she was already out and about, she'd take people's paper out of the box and deliver them to their door.

At the time, we couldn't get paper boxes at the end of our driveway, they were all collectively located at the end of the lane or "state road" (meaning a road maintained by the state, assigned a route number), so this saved the neighbors the bother of having to drive or walk to the end of the lane to retrieve their daily news. In addition to delivering the printed word, she was able to visit with the neighbors who happened to be awake at that hour, and she'd dispatch any relevant neighborly news. It was a win-win for everybody.

Recently a dear friend of mine said something about going to get the paper out the can. (An actual can, not the bathroom.) And it made me remember that before plastic paper boxes there were round cans, sometimes rusty round cans, just big enough to hold a rolled-up paper. I haven't seen one of those anywhere in decades.

Who else remembers riding to school on dinosaurs round paper cans?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pookie's Place Part V

Last weekend, after spending time listening to Miss Pookie's colorful and animated stories, I ventured outside to take four thousand pictures a look around. During a photo shoot with the main house, I kept hearing something calling me from behind the garage. It was a familiar voice, but one I hadn't heard in several decades.

It was this tractor.

This handsome tractor rests comfortably behind Miss Pookie's garage right near the stand of pine trees her son Mathews Mountain Man planted as part of a 4-H project a long time ago.

She could not understand my enthusiasm for the tractor and became even less enthralled when I mentioned how this was the very same model I used to drive up and down my grandfather's daffodil fields in the spring, hauling a wagon loaded down with baskets of daffodils. "Daffodils! Don't even get me started," she said. I resisted the urge to ask any follow-up questions, because it felt like the right thing to do based on her tone in the delivery of that statement, but rest assured I'll get to the bottom of the daffodil dilemma during my next visit.

There's a hedge surrounding her yard, and her 99-year-old father still attempts to maintain it. Below, she tells us how originally the hedge formed an archway over the two parts of the yard which allow access in from the road.

During one of her tales, Miss Pookie made a statement which is now my new favorite saying. Although I've completely forgotten the particular story, she spoke of walking down to the dock during a time of trouble, because, "The water is my tranquilizer."

Living on an island, she doesn't have far to go for that tranquility.

Thanks again to Miss Pookie and Mathews Mark for letting me legally trespass and take pictures, and for reminding me that this county is brimming with remarkable people.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pookie's Place, Part IV

This beautiful porch, swing, American flag and hedgerow belong to a lady I visited with last weekend, Miss Pookie.

Mathews Mark probably had no idea that a one-hour visit with his mother could turn into forty days and forty nights such a long series of blog posts. In fact, when he said he wanted to schedule another tour (of his friend's old store) the same day as the meeting with Pookie, I started to stress, because I knew for sure this one visit would generate a year's week's worth of blog posts, and each place deserves the proper time and focus attention.

The bottom line is I can over analyze talk the heck out of something that most people would otherwise skate right through. And when I say talk I mean write because in person I won't say two words. On paper I can't stop. But this is not about me
, it's about Miss Pookie's house, which was built in 1915.

The light fixture pictured above hangs in Miss Pookie's dining room. Her grandfather spied it hanging in a bar an establishment in Norfolk, back in the days when the waterways were the roads and there was practically an interstate freeway seaway between Norfolk, Mathews and Baltimore and various ports in between. He purchased the fixture and carefully cradled it in a blanket for the potentially rough boat ride home to Gwynn's Island. From the dock he carried the fragile fixture on a horse and buggy to its final destination here in the dining room.

One of the first things Pookie said after, "Come on in, there's no such thing as company in this house, everybody come on in and sit wherever you like," was "That fixture in the dining room? It will never, ever leave this house." Then she relayed the details of its magnificent journey from Norfolk to Gwynn's Island. "My sister and I decided a long time ago that if we ever sell this house, that fixture stays. It belongs here."

Pookie also said that Son Mathews Mountain Man once scrambled atop the dining room table and began fervently dusting off the fixture thinking it might be a Tiffany. He didn't find any conclusive evidence, but you never know.

Either way, it's priceless.

A person could spend an entire day with Pookie in her dining room and never get around to talking about the history of each piece on display. This particular picture caught my eye, it's a beach house from her native South Carolina. She mentioned that during one hot, sweltering summer, she put Mathews Mark's playpen underneath this house for shade.

Remember playpens?

That's Mathews Mark there in the background probably wondering why on Earth any human being would take a picture of another picture.

That's because he didn't know it was really a picture of another picture held by a woman telling a story, while the sun bounced off the mirror, which hangs over a mantelpiece, which adorns a gorgeous fireplace, with a firescreen that says RUSKAY across the front, representing a very unique blending of two names. (Deep breath due to lengthy sentence.) The mirror reflects a sunlit window draped in lace curtains, behind the photographer, as Mathews Mark looks in another direction.

See what I mean about over analyzing? See?

Yesterday I promised a post about light fixtures, tractors, strangers in the night and playpens. We can check off light fixtures and playpens; tomorrow we'll cover the tractors, and a hedgerow. The strangers in the night will be covered another day, it's a post in and of itself.

There are many treasures in this house, and they're all wonderful people.

Can you think of a treasure or a sentimental item that is meaningful to you or your family?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three-Thing Thursday

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

Keeping with this week's theme, my three things come from last weekend's visit with Miss Pookie. When we last left off, we were taking a walk from her grandfather's house to her house, where she stays with her father, her husband, her memories which hang like the pictures on her walls, and about 5,000 fascinating stories.

1. The chair above sits on Pookie's front porch, which wraps around at least half her house and features a swing. It's the sort of porch you could laze on for days hours on end.

2. This house where Pookie currently lives was built by Daddy Jim. Click here to read an excellent story written by Pookie's Son Mathews Mountain Man on Daddy Jim. Chesapeake Bay Daughter notes that "Daddy Jim built sailboats, a yacht, and skiffs in the barn behind Miss Pookie's house."

3. Daddy Jim's vision for this house was very specific. Pookie said that during the house's construction he returned from being away on the boat to discover that the staircase was far too steep, definitely not to his liking. He had them rip it out and start over, with very specific instructions on how to construct it so that the incline wasn't straight up all at once. The next time he returned to another staircase that needed to be ripped out. Rinse, repeat. He made them rip out that staircase a total of 3 times before they finally got it right. Pookie simultaneously wanted to show us the end result and discourage us, since her 99-year-old father was sleeping upstairs. Next time I go back I'll take a picture of the staircase that finally passed muster.

3.b. Wait until you hear the story of his dining room fixture. Tomorrow I'll show you a picture of it.

3.c. I am so eternally grateful to Pookie and her family for allowing me to visit, take pictures, and tell some of their stories, because otherwise this week's posts would have been monopolized by whining, crying and complaining about how this has been the second worst week in 2010, which thankfully will be over soon.

Stay tuned for more stories from Pookie's Place which will include light fixtures, tractors, strangers in the night, and playpens, not necessarily in that order.

In the meantime, please tell me 3 things. Whatever you want. Anything at all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pookie's Place, Part III

Welcome to Day Three of the tour through Miss Pookie's grandfather's house on Gwynn's Island. Mathews Mark was kind enough to show me around the place last Saturday.

This is a shot of the staircase which leads up to the third floor of the century-old house. It's taken from the same spot as the one below, but I couldn't decide which one I liked better, so here they are, both of them.

Yesterday I showed you a picture of the staircase from the front door as you walk in. Mathews Mark was busy looking through boxes and telling us all sorts of things about the house, but all I could think about was going upstairs. After snapping some photos downstairs, I cautiously put my foot on the first stair and said, "Do you think this will hold me?" "I don't know," said a very wise Mathews Mark.

The very silly Chesapeake Bay Woman, figuring a fall from a couple of stairs could only hurt so much, placed the other foot on the step. She grabbed the railing and gave her a shake. Solid. Then she gave a little hop followed by a stomp. Nary a budge. With that, she scampered up the stairs, two children following her, while Mathews Mark was left wondering what clause of a home insurance policy would ever cover three people falling through the second floor of a great-grandfather's old house.

But come to find out, the second floor was solid too. Not even one place was unsafe, unless you want to count the hole in the floor where the chimney used to be, which we didn't.

Around the corner was yet another set of solidly built steps in almost immaculate condition. Up we trotted to the third floor, where this gorgeous wallpaper had been waiting for years, hoping someone would come along to take its picture. Isn't it beautiful?

The third floor was practically untouched, other than by a few raccoons. Unlike the first and second floors, the walls were still intact, and perfectly usable furniture adorned the two bedrooms. One room overlooking the rooster house back yard and the chicken coop must have been for children. The wallpaper was very playful.

There are other pictures of the interior, but it's time now to take a walk down the road to visit with Miss Pookie, who is the mother of 4 sons, including Mathews Mark and Mathews Mountain Man (MMM in the Comments). She also takes care of her 98-year-old father, the oldest living resident of Gwynn's Island. (He may be 99, this is an important fact, but there was some debate between Mathews Mark and Miss Pookie and I can't remember who said what. Pookie said he was 99, I think.)

Miss Pookie is the hardest working lady I've ever met. In addition to raising 4 boys, she worked as a postmaster (postmistress?) for many years at the tiny little Hardyville post office, where she was once approached by a man who had landed his ultralight airplane in the field out back. He wanted to know if she would close up the post office for 30 minutes so he could take her up for a ride. "I told him no siree there wasn't aaaaaannyyy way! he was getting me inside one of those things, thank you very much!"

Mathews Mark then pointed out that one of our former postmasters would shut down the post office for a week to go on vacation. Can't do that any more without getting in a little bit of trouble, so imagine what they'd say about the postmaster shutting down for an airplane ride, not that you could pay Pookie any amount of money to go.

Miss Pookie's at once funny, brilliant, brutally honest, beautiful, sarcastic, caring, opinionated, playful, old-fashioned, youthful, loving and stubborn--but in a good way.

Here she is. Can't you feel the personality coming through? She has a wonderful southern accent which sings in the background as she tells her stories.

Notice behind her on the kitchen wall, there's a rotary phone. That's her primary phone, and when it rings, she comes to the kitchen and stands there to talk (or sits at the kitchen table). Much like my parents, who don't even own an answering machine, she's not worried about whether she makes it to the phone in time or not. If it's important they'll call back.

As I was explaining to the Chesapeake Bay Children how a rotary phone differs from a push button phone, and how rarely they were used today, Miss Pookie chimed right in.

Miss Pookie: "Those people will call up and tell me to push 1 for this or 2 for that! They don't understand I don't have any buttons to push."

CBW: "No, they probably don't. Most everybody has those push buttons now."

Miss Pookie: "So sometimes when they tell me to push 2, I'll dial the 2 on the phone, but nothing happens."

CBW: Yes, you pretty much have to have a newer phone to do those sorts of things."

Miss Pookie: "You wouldn't believe it. Just here recently I got a call, and the lady on the other end told me to Press 1 without even telling me what I had to press it for."

CBW: "I hate those calls."

Miss Pookie: "She kept repeating, Press 1 now. Finally, I told her I didn't have any buttons to push since all I had was a rotary dial.

CBW: "You told this to the recorded message?"

Miss Pookie: There was a brief moment of silence as she paused to reflect upon this. It probably had not occurred to her that the voice on the other might not be a live human being. Then she said, confidently and proudly, "Why yes I did."

She also told us how Grandma kept a shotgun in the kitchen and threatened to shoot if the boys didn't shave according to her standards - no beards or five o'clock shadows allowed. It sounded an awful lot like Miss Pookie threatening to take off her shirt at the dinner table if her boys ever showed up to eat without theirs on. As Mathews Mark told us several days ago, one time they forgot her threats and showed up shirtless to eat. She proceeded to take hers right on off and ate in her bra. She's a woman of her word.

In Chesapeake Bay Daughter's notes she quotes Miss Pookie as saying, "Mathews Mountain Man would say 'Mumma, don't tell it, don't tell it!' (presumably talking about the no shirt story, although CB Daughter says it was about any story), and Miss Pookie would say, "I'm going to tell it! It's my story and I'm going to tell it."

There's only one Miss Pookie, and only she can tell her stories. I think the world of her and greatly admire her endurance and stamina. She's really remarkable.

Sorry this is so long, but there's so much to say. Stay tuned for more Tidbits Told by Pookie, coming soon to a blog near you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pookie's Place, Part II

Today we continue the tour of Ms. Pookie's grandfather's place, led by Mathews Mark.

The superfluous commentary is provided by Chesapeake Bay Woman, free of charge, as an extra nuisance bonus.

From the main road, all you can see is the house and the old kitchen that I featured yesterday. Imagine my surprise when Mark said, "Wait, there's more back here." More? Back where? How could this be? You can't see anything more from the road.

This is where legal trespassing with someone in the know really pays off.

After plowing and clawing through a small jungle some overgrown shrubbery we made our way to another country yard. Angels started singing, Aaaaaaleluia!

There in all its weathered red paint glory, with the sun paying extra close attention, was the rooster house. Or the hen house. Mathews Mark called it the rooster house. Hen house sounds better to me, but no matter how you slice it we can all agree that it's a chicken coop male and/or female farm fowl lived here at some point.

Mathews Mark said that during his childhood in South Carolina, Pookie would bring the family here during the summers to visit with her grandfather. The kids would spend hours playing in this rooster/hen house. It's easy to see why adults like me children would want to play inside now, but if there were chickens or hens or roosters or whatever living inside, I'm not sure how much time I'd want to spend in there. Have you ever smelled a chicken coop rooster/hen house?

Regardless, this one smells good now.

Below is Mathews Mark relaying more critical information, probably about the outhouse that we were trying to locate to no avail. He's standing in the doorway of another structure, used primarily for storage, next to the hen/rooster house.

Ladies? If I haven't said so today, Mathews Mark is single and available, unless he's met someone I don't know about, which is entirely possible since all we were talking about is outhouses and rooster houses and chicken abodes that may or may not actually be hen houses.

Finally we went inside the main house. Although it's old and has seen better days, that house is solid as a rock.

As you walk in the front door, the first thing that greets you is this staircase, below. Tomorrow I'm going to post my two favorite pictures from inside this house, and they involve that staircase.

Currently the house's primary function aside from being beautiful is storage, and there were some fascinating relics hiding inside, like this great kitchen chair (below) vintage 1970. The chair stands out with its green white and yellow flowers in the middle of an otherwise plain brown room.

That seems to be the theme of my favorite photographs from this house: A vintage item with lots of color clings to some lasts breath of life in contrast to the surroundings which seem to have thrown in the towel.

And speaking of throwing in the towel, it looks like somebody threw in the broom. This is how my sweeping sessions usually end up too, complete with broken glass.

Yes, kids, this is what brooms looked like when your mother was growing up, back when the same traveling salesman also sold whisk brooms that we used to sweep out the car because there was no such thing as a mini-vac.

We have hardly skimmed the surface of everything I want to convey, and the best is yet to come. A loose agenda for the rest of the week is as follows:

Tomorrow - My two favorite pictures, taken from the top floor of the house.

Friday - We'll move down the road to Pookie's current house where she will regale us with some stories. We'll also begin taking a look at Chesapeake Bay Daughter's notes from our visit, which are very thorough.

Saturday - Who knows, it may be a continuation of Friday's stories, there really is so much to tell.

Sunday - Your guess is as good as mine. Pookie has another family dwelling she wants to talk about, and Mathews Mark has a friend with an old store loaded with antiques just ripe for photographing.

Or perhaps I'll finally get around to announcing the Name that Ghost winner that is two weeks overdue.

Nah, I'll save that for when I run out of things to say, which is why I held the contest to begin with another day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pookie's Place, Part 1

Saturday I spent some time over on the island touring Eligible Bachelor Mathews Mark's great-grandfather's place, shown here. That's him walking around the side of the house. He was probably saying something very important but my focus was on the house.

One thing I'd like to convey before I forget is this house never had bathrooms. Ms. Pookie later stated, "No septic," when talking about the current owner's deliberations over whether to renovate it. Mathews Mark couldn't recall where the outhouse used to be, but the water pump is still standing out back.

Since this was such a rare opportunity, I declared this a mandatory field trip for Chesapeake Bay Daughter. To Teenaged Chesapeake Bay Son, knowing full well mandatory would not go over well, I said "Your sister and I are going to tour a historic home and visit with a local legend. If you want to come, fine, you'll enjoy it. If not, fine too." He stewed on this for a while, and of his own volition he opted to come along.

Chesapeake Bay Daughter was christened the scribe and given a pen and tablet to take copious notes. Wait until you read those notes later in the week, they're priceless.

Before venturing indoors, we spent some time outside admiring the various outbuildings.

This one behind the house was exceedingly photogenic, and I neglected to ask Mathews Mark what it was used for. Or maybe he told me when I didn't have my listening ears on and before CB Daughter began taking notes. Or maybe he was waiting out front wondering why I was dillydallying in the back yard.

Here are the many faces of the outbuilding which caused me to dillydally:

Mathews Mark or Mathews Mountain Man, please let us know what specifically this building was used for. Based on the proximity to the main house, my guess is it was the original kitchen.

Tomorrow we'll tour the remaining outside structures that came as such a surprise I almost fainted. After that, we'll use the key below to venture indoors for a glimpse at a house that is built as solidly as the pyramids in Egypt.

After we explore the inside, we'll take a stroll down the road to Ms. Pookie's house, where the stories abound and where Chesapeake Bay Daughter's transcription skills will prove invaluable.

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Looking Forward to the Past

Yesterday I had the privilege of photographing this historic Gwynns Island house which is 100 years old if it's a day. That uppermost window? You can stand upright there, it's an entirely usable third floor with absolutely beautiful wallpaper.

Allow me to get a little bit weirder weird for a minute and ask you to look at the back door (above). It's open and yet it's closed. There's some symbolism here. The house, once full of life, still beckons you to come in, but only so far.

Above is Mathews Mark opening the door to the world within this house. After spending a great deal of time taking shots of the exterior and of the magnificent outbuildings in the back, I was thrilled beyond belief to be able to take a peek inside. Legally. It's just not something I'm accustomed to.

Speaking of taking a peek, this is Chesapeake Bay Daughter squinting to see through a hole in one of the outbuildings. Look at the difference in color between the gray building and the background--which represents the dead of winter here in Mathews. The tree, which is enveloping the building, seems to grasp at Chesapeake Bay Daughter as if to say, "Come here, child, we need you."

But none of this is relevant to the main thing I wanted to convey, which is this:

Yesterday Mathews Mark let me trespass, photograph and wander through this house which has been in his family for a century or more. Afterwards, I went to visit his mother Pookie, one of my favorite ladies, who can weave a story as colorful and unpredictable as the view through a kaleidoscope. Her house, right down the road from the one above, is also rich in history. She very graciously shared her home, her stories and her warmth while patiently allowing me to photograph things like rotary phones and light fixtures.

Over the course of the next several days, I will endeavor not to over-analyze all 100 photographs until you run away screaming I'll share some glimpses into the world of this house, and the family behind it, which includes Mathews Mark, Mathews Mountain Man and their colorful, lively and very entertaining mother Pookie.

After a day full of stories, laughter, history lessons and incredible photo opportunities, I must say it again: Reality TV show producers should be busting down the doors to get at this county.

With deep appreciation and gratitude to Ms. Pookie and Mathews Mark, I look forward to sharing more photos and stories throughout this week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Building

This structure was either a school or a church, and at one point here recently I could tell you which one, but welcome to yet another fact-filled post written by Chesafreak Bay Woman, who can barely remember her own name.

Perhaps one or more of our local readers will help fill the gaping holes in the sieve known as my mind, but first a little background on this structure's location and how the photo came about.

Coming from the Court House past Moon, you eventually come to a T in the road.

(If anyone reading this is not from Mathews, please note that no errors were made in the construction of that sentence, particularly the parts that say "Court House" and "Moon" because they are actual places here. Although there may well be other errors in the sentence, those two words are correct.)

Anyway, at the T past Moon, make a left, and just before you bear right to head in the direction of Siberia and also the Eastern Shore Haven Beach there's an old building on your left sitting next to a house. This is the building.

Now I've passed this place eleventy scrillion times going to and from the county beaches. But on this particular day, what caught my eye was the open door. Each and every one of the previous eleventy scrillion times, the door has been shut.

From the car, stopped in the middle of the road, I rolled down the window and took this shot, hence the pine limb obstructing the full view of the facade which might have been avoided had I been able to go into the yard for a better angle. Beggars can't be choosers.

Speaking of beggars, that door beckoned. It called my name.

Today it gives me great joy to announce two things:

1. I did not risk breaking the law to dash into the building above no matter how much it called, and for the moment we will not dwell on the legality of taking pictures from a car stopped in the middle of a road. Thank you.

2. Today I will be legally trespassing on a Gwynns Island property--the very same house where I was officially nabbed for trespassing a year or so ago--at Miss Pookie's grandfather's house.

Pookie and Mathews Mark will be on hand to tell stories and provide some hysterical historical background, and I can take pictures inside the house without risk of spending quality time in the Saluda jail.

Stay tuned. Pictures and stories will be forthcoming and nary a one will be from Saluda. The good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

Click here for a picture of the house and the original trespassing story.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pound Nets

The Glimpses into the Past section of of this week's Gazette Journal makes several references to a cucumber packing plant at Cobbs Creek pound nets.

If you're wondering what a pound net is, click here to view a blurry photo of one and an even blurrier write-up from when I first started this insanity blog.

Better yet, if Mathews Mark is reading perhaps he could leave us a comment describing what they are.

The bottom line is pound nets are on the Endangered Species List of the Chesapeake Bay, a list which includes watermen.

100 Years Ago
Thursday, Feb. 17, 1910
from the Mathews Journal

The fishermen are all busy, improving every reasonably good day, getting down stakes in order to set their pounds for the spring* fishing. The work is hard, the exposure is great, and they earn all they get. If something is not done to protect the pine woods,** it is only a question of time before they become a thing of the past. The fishermen in and around New Point will set about 400 pound nets this season. Perhaps each net will require an average of 125 stakes, which means 50,000 trees.

70 Years Ago
Thursday, Feb. 15, 1940

Large numbers of pound stakes, which had been driven by fishermen in preparation for the spring* shad run, were carried away by heavy ice floes last week as Tidewater thawed out from the heaviest freeze in years. This ice and snow which prevailed for almost two weeks created an almost unprecedented scarcity of oysters and fish.

* Did you see that? The word "spring" was mentioned twice in these February articles. Daylight eternal grass cutting and warmer weather are bound to be on the horizon.

**The fact that I have 3 good-sized pine seedlings growing in my gutter as we speak gives me some degree of confidence that pine trees are not in short supply in Mathews County.

But the pound nets are a different story.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three-Thing Thursday

Welcome once again to Three-Thing Thursday, not to be confused with a three-ring circus, but if the shoe fits then by all means let's wear it and call it what it is.

So as part of Three Thing Thursday the three-ring circus which is my life, every Thursday I like to have a time where I can say at least three things, whether or not they pertain to a circus living in Mathews or to some abstract photograph of a sinker, or some Name that Ghost Contest , for example.

More importantly, you get to share three things, and your three things always make me smile and laugh. Lots.

Here are mine:

1. In typical Chesapeake Bay Woman fashion, I held a Name that Ghost Contest last week--or last month, who can remember?--then promptly neglected to select a winner, not that there was a prize or anything. This sort of well-run machine is highly representative of most everything else in my life. I have good intentions, but become distracted by emergencies and/or a bird flying by (isn't it pretty?) because clearly I suffer from ADD and early-onset-Old Timers Disease, where focus and memory are the first to go.

1b. If I am not distracted by a pretty bird or a paper clip have time, I will announce the winner of the Name that Ghost Contest tomorrow. Saturday at the latest. Or Sunday. (Pretty bird.)

2. This week I was thrilled to arrive home from work in daylight. Daylight is this phenomenon where you can actually see. When you live in a rural area like Mathews, the only street lights are near the main part of town, or sprinkled hither thither and yon. I don't live near the main part of town, and hither, thither and yon is about five miles away. So I'm usually fumbling in the dark trying to get in the door, all the while being circled by hungry cats. The hungry cats were still there, but at least I could not step on them see them.

3. My Pinto-driving, skating rink partner from high school--known as Ms. Seabreeze in the Comments--was married last Sunday. She called to tell me her plans, and she was glowing, beaming even. (FYI- You can see someone beam over the phone if you're paying close enough attention.) Congratulations, my friend.

Now it's your turn to share three (or more) things, whatever you want, anything at all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Sinker

This is a sinker which has been on the end of my dock for centuries decades. What's so amazing about that statement is that this very same dock has been flooded over by various storms--including a hurricane and a tropical storm--that have knocked heavy-duty items clean overboard and into the creek. Yet this one little sinker stays put.

For Grandma J. any of you who are unacquainted with sinkers, they're the weight that you tie to the end of a fishing line to keep it below the surface of the water or on the bottom of the creek or river you're fishing in. I've also used them as paper weights to weigh down crab lines but that's probably not the intended use for them.

My father has thousands of these stashed in various places like the garage, the boat house, the barn, etc., but a few have managed to linger on the dock in spite of Mother Nature's every effort to nudge them overboard.

This particular one looked like a fish to me. (A fish with a string attached to it, that is.) The way the colors of the string and the weight blended in with the dock also gave me pause.

Gave me pause? Did I really say that something "gave me pause?" How does that work, anyway, this giving of pause? Maybe they thought that saying "caused me to pause" would sound too Dr. Seuss-like. Still. Even so. Better to sound like Dr. Seuss than a geek or a freak, that's what I always say.

Now that I've analyzed this simple sinker to death, the only thing remaining is to share a poem that I wrote, because that's what weird normal people do, isn't it, they write poems about things like fishing line sinkers when they are crazier than a loon trying to stay awake in a meeting at work.

The Sinker
By Chesapeake Bay Woman, written in under four minutes while pretending to take notes attending a meeting yesterday that lasted 2.5 hours but should have lasted four minutes.

At the end of a dock
Off the Chesapeake Bay
Lay a fishing line sinker
That wouldn't go away.
Right there on the boards
It would stay. It would stay

through hurricanes and flooding
and Nor'easters too.
The dock would be swallowed
By the tide as it grew.
But the little lone sinker
Stayed put through and through.

You'd think that at some point
This lone little sinker
Would wash off the dock
'twas a clingy little stinker.
Then again, you have to wonder why Chesapeake Bay Woman didn't just bend over, pick the dang thing up and put it away or throw it overboard.

The End.

* Have you ever used sinkers for anything other than their intended use?

* Is there something in your house, your yard, or anywhere in your daily travels that you know you should pick up, put away or throw away, yet you don't?

* Fill in the blank: The last thing to give me pause was ______________.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The House

Once upon a time, in a place across the creek, there lived a quiet, beautiful old house with so many personalities that Chesapeake Bay Woman could hardly go a day without taking its picture.

Some days, the mood would be eerily quiet, mystical and serene:

Other days were cheerful and content, even with an inordinate amount of snow. The house hadn't seen this much snow in decades, and she was quite content to be out in it all. What a change of pace from the ordinary winters:

Ms. House's favorite part of each day was sunset, because no two were ever the same. The setting sun seemed to like her too:

Then one day Chesapeake Bay Woman heard some clanking and some noise coming from across the creek, and she saw this:

And this:

After taking Ms. House for granted all these many years, Chesapeake Bay Woman was grateful that every now and then she'd snapped the odd photo of Ms. House, because who knew she was slated for demolition.

The End.

Epilogue: This house is a metaphor for anyone in life we may take for granted. One minute they're there, and then--poof--gone.

The post was not intended to question or judge the property owners, more it is a lamenting of something I just assumed would be around forever.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Track and Field

This weekend my basement flooded, which is to say that Chesapeake Bay Woman spent two consecutive days in tears was forced to go through junk to ascertain what was regular old junk and what was trash that should have been thrown away decades ago really and truly junk, all of which was trash sopping wet.

After digging through to China layers of rubble, the source of the leak was found. Right next to that source, like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, was a metal box containing letters and newspaper clippings from my past.

This concludes the basement portion of this post, and it also marks the exact spot in the whole basement operation when Chesapeake Bay Woman threw in the towel to focus her attention on the contents of that box, because that was way more fun and a lot less work.

Once upon a time, back in the Mesozoic Era Chesapeake Bay Woman was an athlete, and she thought she'd spend the rest of her days competing in track meets up to and including the Olympics. And she was very serious about that Olympics thing even though now it makes her fall out laughing until she nearly pops a pants button busts a gut.


As I was going through this box I discovered a newspaper article.

The headline was, "Kline Sets World Record in Richmond Meet." Mr. Kline from Mathews broke the world record for the 70-74 year old age group in the 400 meter dash. He came in at 68.1 seconds. For someone in that age bracket, that's unbelievable. Some 45 74 year-olds I know can't recall what they had for breakfast in 68 seconds, much less sprint a lap around a track.

The articles goes on to say, "Joining Kline at the Richmond meet were four other Mathews runners. Chesapeake Bay Woman won the long jump with 18' 1/2 ". She won the event by 1/4" on her last jump of the day. Blah blah blah. She also ran the anchor leg for the Pacers Track Club of Newport News mile relay team. Her 1:06 split gave the relay team a second place showing."

Basically this means that I ran a 400 (one lap around the track or one leg of the mile relay) only two seconds faster than Mr. Kline who was in the 70-74 year-old bracket. I might have been 17 years old. Repeat for emphasis: He was 70-74.


Here's the part that's important, and the reason I even mention this article, besides the amazing Mr. Kline:

"Mathews Mountain Man earned a fourth place ribbon by throwing the javelin 165' 11". He pole vaulted 12'6" and high jumped 6'. Ms. Seabreeze ran in the 1500 meters and Farley A. reached the finals in the 200 meter dash."

Mathews Mountain Man (known as MMM in the comments section) is Mathews Mark's brother. He has contributed some invaluable stories and is long overdue for submitting another one (hint, hint). Ms. Seabreeze, who used to take me to the skating rink and points beyond in her brown Pinto, also provides valuable and humorous commentary here. We were all part of a traveling track team who lost touch after it was over, and here we are 30+ years later reconnected however loosely and rather accidentally by this blog.

It boggles my mind.

Aside from Facebook, which seems to be reconnecting people who don't even remember each other (not that I'm speaking from experience on that "not remembering" thing), have you reconnected with old acquaintances through the internet or blogosphere?

Or how about a 74-year-old man running a 400 in 68 seconds. He was such an inspiration to me at the time. Do you know any people approaching older age who are in amazing shape and are exceptional athletes for their age?

Is there a market for junk '70s-era light fixtures, saddle blankets, typewriters, mismatched china, slightly damp clothing or soggy books?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Above is a shot of the creek at sunset, facing east. I love the pink hues in the sky and their reflection in the water.

Today is Valentines Day, when we're supposed to contribute to Hallmark's profit margins eat chocolate and reflect on love. We are supposed to eat chocolate, no?

So in honor of chocolate love, below are some quotes on the topic. My very favorite of all time is that last one, uttered by the most precious girl in the whole wide world.

"Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of Heaven. Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell." - Marianne Williamson

"Where there is love there is life. Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred." -Mohandas K. Ghandi

"A man is not where he lives, but where he loves." - Chinese Proverb

"He is not a lover who does not love forever." - Euripides

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." I Corinthians 13:4-8

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." -Jimi Hendrix

"I love you too much." - A then 4-year-old Chesapeake Bay Daughter to her mother, who loves her and her brother too much too.

Whether it's to a spouse, a significant other, a partner, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a child, an acquaintance or a random stranger, tell someone you love them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Old Mill Skating Rink, Pt. II

Last weekend after the snow storm passed, I took some pictures from the end of my dock. The snow and the thin coating of ice on the creek made otherwise ordinary objects take on a new look.

Today, we continue with my great-uncle's description of the Old Mill Skating Rink in neighboring Gloucester County. Bill is married to my grandmother's sister, Nellie, and I'm so indebted to him for sharing his memories with us.

Gloucester, Virginia
by Mr. Bill Braxton

"There were some special nights at the skating rink. For example, skating was allowed until midnight on New Year’s Eve, and a special program was planned on Halloween. There was usually a Ladies’ night on Tuesday when girls were admitted at reduced prices. The usual admission for skaters was 35 cents which included the rental skates. On Friday and Saturday nights when the attendance was large, there was a standard program which might go as follows with skating from 7:30 to 11:00 P.M.:

All Skate
First Couples
Reverse Skate
First Trios
All Skate
Second Couples
All Skate
Ladies’ Choice
All Skate
Flashlight or Tag Skate (on signal, boys would move up to the next girl in line)
Third Couples
All Skate

The program varied from time to time, but basically it was the same. Sometimes there were even printed programs, and the girls would have boys sign up for each skate.

As the skaters became better and better, shoe skates became popular, and the rink did a brisk business in selling of shoe skates. A standard pair of shoe skates sold for approximately ten dollars, and these became a favorite gift for birthdays and Christmas. Mr. Hogge would take orders for shoe skates and would have them delivered to the rink in about ten days.

In October, 1939, I was discharged from the Army and promptly reenlisted for an Air Corps unit in Miami. Within a few weeks the President announced a huge expansion of the Air Corps, and my unit was disbanded. I ended up back at Langley Field and was assigned to the GHQAir Force headquarters which was headquarters for all the combat units in the Air Corps. I immediately resumed my trips to the Gloucester skating rink.

Several of the men at Langley liked to roller skate, and soon I had a full car load of skaters on Friday and Saturday nights. We shared expenses for gas, the Yorktown ferry, and entrance to the rink. During most of 1940 a small group of us from Langley would go to the rink two or three nights a week in addition to Friday and Saturday nights. On many nights we had the rink almost to ourselves and could practice figure skating and other skating routines which we could not do on Fridays or Saturdays because of the crowds.

In January 1940 I met Nellie Streagle, a cute little girl who lived at Flat Iron just across the road from the rink. Nellie was a good skater, and she and I found ourselves skating together and even entering skating contests which we won several times. In January I also met Lucy Jeffries, an elementary school teacher who lived at Shackleford near West Point. Lucy and I soon started a year long love affair which consisted mostly of going skating together. In the meantime I skated almost as a team with Nellie. Towards the end of 1940 this became a problem with Lucy, and we ended our affair in January, 1941.

Nellie and I started dating in the summer of 1941, and when she graduated from Botetourt High School in June, 1942, I got her a job at Langley Field at the Officers Club. In 1942 I went to Officers Candidate School in Miami Beach, but returned to Langley as a second lieutenant in November, 1942. Later in 1943 I volunteered for pilot training, and never returned to Langley. Nellie remained there during the entire war. I received my pilot’s wings in August, l944, and our long separation resulted in us going our mutual ways. We had contemplated marriage, but the long separations drove us apart, and we did not get back together until 1999 after both our first spouses had died.

Over the years the friends we made at the skating rink became life-long friends. At least four boys from Langley who went skating with me met local girls and married them. These were Nellie and I, Annie Brown and Lee May, Harold Fenstermacher and Catherine Jordon. and Bill Altemus and Polly Dunston. Lee May died several years ago, and Annie lives in an assisted living home in Richmond near her son Ronnie. Harold and Catherine live in Gloucester as do Bill and Polly. Nellie and I were married in 1999 and live in Tampa.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the Old Mill was a great gathering place for the young people during the years 1939, 1940, and 194l. Within a few months after the war started in 1941, the government instituted gas rationing, and it became increasingly difficult for people to get gasoline for recreational purposes. The gasoline rationing for family automobiles was only three gallons per week, and it became unpatriotic to have your car parked in front of a skating rink or movie theater. The rink continued operations throughout the war years, but it was never the same after early 1942. One time in 1945 I flew a military plane to Langley Field and visited the skating rink on a Friday night. There were only a few young people at the rink, and I did not know anyone. In fact, most of the young people of the years before the war were then working for military facilities in the Chesapeake Bay area or had entered the military service.

I cannot name more than two or three girls from my high school graduating class of 1934, but I can vividly recall the names of many of the girls I met at the Old Mill before the war. All of them would be at least 80 years old now, and I am sure they will not mind my mentioning their names. How many of these do you know? Annie Brown, Nellie Streagle, Lillian Tucker, Dorothy Thomas, Trevilian Kerns, Elizabeth Peters, Beth Walton, Mae Vaughn, Shirley Green, Elsie Green, Louise Mele, Edith Pemberton, Polly Dunston, Lucy Jeffries, Judy Jeffries, Jean West, Alta Fleming, Betty Mae Belvin, Gwendolyn Harris, Gwendolyn Anderton, Terethia Jenkins, Ida Mae Jenkins, Catherine Jordan, Betsy Ishkanian, Billie Ishkanian, Cecil Waddell, Ada Marie Shackleford, Lorraine Thomas, Nancy Blair, Molly (What was her last name? She lived in Mobjack, and often came to the rink with her mother. I remember her because she was a girl friend of one of my friends from Langley, and we often gave her a ride home after skating.)"

Bill Braxton
140 Bosphorous Ave.
Tampa, Fla. 33606
(813) 258-5509

p.s. from CBW: That cute Nellie Streagle, my great-aunt, is as cute today as the day she was born. The youngest in her family, she looks exactly like my mother - they could be sisters. Love you. Nellie and Bill. Thanks for being such an inspiration to this family and the world, once the movie producers catch hold of your love story.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Old Mill Skating Rink, Part I

Back in the day, the first floor of this building housed, among other things, a bowling alley. That top floor, reached by going around back, was Heaven on Earth The Skating Rink.

My best high school memories outside the Islander involved the Old Mill Rink.

Favorite grandmother Bernice and her sister Viola (who could make anyone laugh without even trying) told stories about that rink. Their sister Nellie had stories, but I never heard them since she lived so far away. That's where Bill comes in.

Bill, in his 90s, is married to Nellie. He has a very vivid memory and an even better ability to tell a tale.

Below is Part I of Mr. Bill Braxton's description of the Old Mill Skating Rink in the late 1930s to early 1940s. Parts II and III will follow in the days ahead.

Gloucester, Virginia

You had to have been there.

There is an old building on the left side of the road from Gloucester to Mathews (SR 14) about three miles from the Gloucester Court House. This building has a distinctive round roof , is located near the mill pond, and is today a type of country store. Anyone looking at the building today would be hard pressed to believe that this building was once the center of the universe for teenagers of Botetourt and Achilles High Schools and probably also for Mathews from April 1939 to shortly after the beginning of World War Two. At that time the building was the home of the Old Mill Skating Rink.

In 1939 I was a soldier in the Army Air Corps at Langley Field, Virginia, near Hampton and Newport News. I learned to roller skate when I was about ten years old and visited the roller skating rink in Newport News a few times over the years. I bought my first car in 1938 and was then able to visit some of the area around the Peninsula; however, the chances for a soldier to meet any young girls in the area were few and far between. I had been at Langley for almost three years and had only one girl friend. and even that was broken off when her family did not want her going with a soldier. One day in April 1939 a friend of mine at Langley asked me to go with him to Mathews to see his girl friend. He knew I liked to roller skate, and mentioned that there was a new skating rink up there, and we could go skating on Saturday night. His girl friend was Elsie Green who lived in Mathews. Elsie had a sister Shirley, and the four of us went to the Gloucester rink on Saturday, May 6, 1939.

As soon as we entered the rink, I could hardly believe my eyes. There seemed to be girls, girls, girls, far more than I had seen in my three previous years at Langley, and there appeared to be only a few boys. I had not even put on my rental skates when a cute little girl came up to me and asked me to skate with her. Her name was Annie Brown. She lived in a place called Guinea that I had never heard of which she told me was near Gloucester Point. Annie introduced me to several girls who all seemed delighted to have a boy to skate with. I had a wonderful time, and my friend and I spent the night at the Green home in Mathews. I might mention that Shirley Green became a good friend of mine who furnished me rationed gasoline coupons after the start of World War II.

When I first went skating at the Old Mill, the rink was very small, probably about 100 feet long by 50 feet wide with a pole supporting the roof right on one end of the floor. Skaters had to skate around the pole when circling the rink. I became a regular visitor at the rink on Friday and Saturday nights, and skated there at least twenty times during 1939. The rink was always crowded.

A Mr. Noble owned the rink with Mr.Marvin Hogge managing it with his son Marvin Hogge, Jr., assisting in taking attendance and managing the rental skates. It was obvious from the first that there was a need to expand the rink and remove the pole from the skating floor. Work was started on an expansion, and the expanded rink was opened on July 7, 1939.

Paul Nelson was hired to play the organ for skating, and the Old Mill became one of the few skating rinks around the country with live music. The organ was placed in a small booth above the floor at one end of the rink. There was a small snack bar in one corner of the rink, and benches along one side of the rink for spectators. In addition, there was a small screened in porch on the front side of the rink, and a skate room near the entrance.

Mr. Noble also brought in a skating professional named George Roebling as a skating instructor to teach figure skating and various dance routines for skating couples. Figure eights and other figures were painted on the skating floor for skaters to practice the various figures which were required in national skating contests.

Mr. Nelson obtained sheet music for popular songs as soon as they were published. These songs were made very popular by the big bands at the time such as Oh Johny, Blueberry Hill, I’ll Never Smile Again, et al, and soon skaters from as far as Washington and New York were visiting the Old Mill. In addition to music for skating, Mr. Nelson also gave Sunday concerts at the rink which were well attended. There was no skating on Sunday.

I might mention something about the dress of the students and others visiting the skating rink. In contrast to today, there were no slacks and shorts for girls. On Friday and Saturday nights especially, the girls wore their “Sunday best,” or at least their best school clothes. There was no dress code for the rink, and everyone was well-behaved. If a boy seemed to have been drinking, he was promptly banned from the rink. George Roebling and Jr. Hogge skated along with the other skaters and prevented any rowdy behavior which might have endangered other skaters.

More to come tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three-Thing Thursday

This is a repeat of a picture I posted here some time ago. A time when the grass was green. Leaves were green. Horseflies were rampant. And snow wasn't coming down horizontally was something that only happened in Antarctica.

This photo is just another reminder that spring and summer are around the bend.

One blink, and it will be Memorial Day. Blink again and you're welcoming September. The third blink seems to invite Christmas, and after a fourth blink your child has aged 10 years and you begin to receive mail from AARP.

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

Here we go.

1. Yesterday I received one of the greatest gifts I could ever hope for, and that's a story from the late 1930s/early 1940s about the Old Mill Skating Rink and my favorite grandmother's sister, Nellie. Nellie lives with her husband Bill in Florida. They grew up in Gloucester and their love affair would make an incredible movie. (Producers? Are you listening?)

2. Tomorrow I'm going to post the skating rink story, written by Bill, which is more valuable to me than anything and everything in Fort Knox.

3a. My trip to NYC was cancelled by Mother Nature.

3b. This week I had to scrape ice off the inside of my windshield. The interior. I'm not making this up, thanks to a leak in my windshield and/or sunroof in my Saturn. Did I miss the recall on Saturns for interior frost problems?

Now it's your turn to share three things. Whatever you want. Anything at all.

On your mark, get set, go.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dew Poisoning

Here's a really bizarre picture of ice on some marsh grass that halfway reminds me of those huge collars the vets put on dogs to keep them from scratching their ears.

Speaking of really bizarre, I'm about to share with you my knowledge on the topic of a little-known malady known as dew poisoning.

Very Important Disclaimer: The problem is, I don't really have any knowledge on the topic of a little-known malady known as dew poisoning. The information you're about to read is very likely incorrect. I am merely passing along a description of what we in the Chesapeake Bay Family referred to as dew poisoning. For all I know I'm describing the first signs of malaria or diphtheria or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Not that I'm a hypochondriac or anything.

Let's begin.

Yesterday as I sat blinking back tears from the monotony of my paying job, I noticed that I was growing older by the second and rotting away in an office my hand was hurting. Upon closer inspection I discovered a slit, a cut in the crease where my pinky finger meets my hand (the tough part of the hand).

This cut has the exact same shape and feel as cuts I used to get on my feet. Cuts or splits that we called dew poisoning.

We went barefoot 365 days a year in warm weather, and often I'd have to go out early in the mornings to feed the animals or hang clothes on the line. Occasionally there'd be dew on the ground.

One time I noticed a cut, a slit right under my baby toe, in the crease where the toe meets the foot (the tough part of the foot). Since it hurt (just enough to be aggravating), I showed my mother. Now whether she was joking or whether she was serious, I do not know, but she said it was dew poisoning. There was nothing that could be done except wait for it to heal, so "Run along now and have a nice day."

So, a child walks barefoot across a dewy yard. The dew causes the skin to split under the baby toe. This sounds disgusting equals dew poisoning. At least in the Chesapeake Bay household.

A quick Google search produced a variety of explanations for dew poisoning, none of which resembled my definition, but almost all involving hooves. Wet hooves. Belonging to horses. And cattle.

Sure, there were a few articles that mentioned feet, skin rashes, itchy skin or swollen calves in humans, but most of the dew poison cases involved horses.

Giddy up.

Have you ever heard of dew poisoning?

Note: The Dictionary of American Regional English (implying that this is a regional term) has this to say about dew poisoning:

Any of various rashes or infections of the feet or legs, believed to be caused by dew; the presumed agent causing such rashes or infections; rarely, a foot disease of cattle. Dew poison—same as foot or hoof rot.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Ice

Sunday was bitterly cold here in Mathews, but the sun was out in all her finery.

Her rays danced off the thin coat of shimmering ice on Queens Creek, and I spent a great deal of time just sitting on the dock, absorbing the quiet and admiring the light show.

This is a zoomed-in shot of one of the boats in our cove, and strangely enough there happened to be a big vulture/turkey buzzard/hawk/super-sized crow or some other large black bird perched right there on a dock post beside the workboat.

But with all there was to take in and absorb, the ice stole the show.

Back when I came along in the 1950s 1970s the creek--and the bay for that matter--would freeze over frequently. We're not talking a slushy ice, we're talking ice that you could stand on. Skate on (with your feet stuffed into plastic bread bags inside your mother's over-sized work boots, just as an example). Tap dance on. Stomp on. And yes, drive a car on if one were so inclined.

Besides all the fun and entertainment a frozen creek provided us youngsters (click here for an ice skating story I'll never forget), there's one thing I'll always think of whenever I see ice on the creek.

When we had a big freeze, my father would go out--sometimes twice a day--to break the ice around each dock post. You see, when ice that thick freezes, it grips pretty tightly to the poles supporting the dock. That's all well and good until the tide comes in and pushes the ice--and the dock poles--up. And up some more. Until your dock is deformed. Next thing you know, you're having to hire someone to pound the poles back into the mud and rebuild your dock. This is definitely not a good thing. Definitely not.

In the 9 years since I've been back here, we've never had to worry about breaking the ice around dock poles because good, hard freezes just don't happen.

But every now and then we'll have a slight freeze like this weekend, and the memories of slipping and sliding on the ice with our feet stuffed in bread bags come flooding back.

And I wonder who came up with the brilliant idea of putting bread bags over one's socks, because everybody did it. At least around here.

What memories do you have of wearing bread bags on your feet ice and/or ice skating?

In other news, as I write this it's way, way late at night, and I have not been able to focus on anything except survival yesterday's Name that Ghost Contest. However, before the end of the week, we'll have ourselves a properly named ghost. Because that's what we do around here to distract ourselves from the things life throws our way. We hold contests to name ghosts.

By the way, it's not too late to submit an entry, seeing as I can't focus on anything it until later this week, when--oh by the way--
this lovely lady, this lovely lady, this lovely lady and I are headed north of the Mason Dixon Line to visit her, her, her and her. And the weather will be just dandy, and Amtrak schedules will not be impacted.

Pardon me while I prepare my acceptance speech for the Worst Blog Post Written While Asleep Most Consecutive "Hers" in One Sentence contest.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Name That Ghost

This is Queens Creek looking towards Gwynn's Island.

Yesterday while taking a walk in the snow, I paused at Gustav the Killer Goose's pen to snap this photo. He was none too pleased that a person was breathing venturing so close to his territory and thus he began hissing and spitting.

Gustav (pronounced Goose-tov) was named courtesy of a Name That Goose Contest here on this blog, because that's the sort of high-quality entertainment you can expect here on any given day.

Click here for background on that contest and a shot of Gustav on the John Deere tractor. You can't make this stuff up, folks. Reality TV producers? I could keep you in business for decades.

Anyway, because the Name that Goose Contest was so successful, we need to have a Name that Ghost Contest, because that's the natural progression for contests. You start with a goose and you move to a ghost. It's right there in the Welcome to Mathews manual, in the chapter entitled Eccentric, but in a Good Way.

Mathews Mark is the caretaker of a very old, beautiful house that came with a wood stove, some gorgeous antique furniture and a ghost. Click here for background on his house.

Mark has several stories of encounters with his roommate and has decided it's time to give the ghost a name.

So here is today's challenge:

1. What name would you give this ghost if it is a female?
2. What would you name a male ghost?
3. What is it called when you're excited about running a Name that Ghost Contest on your blog, and do I need prescription medication?
4. Do you think the ghost inhabiting Mathews Mark's house is male or female?
5. Is Gustav, pictured below, hissing because he's tired of being confined in a pen that looks like a crab pot or is he just naturally ill-tempered?