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by Anita DiGregory

WAYS TO MAKE CHILDREN FEEL SAFE WHEN THE WORLD DOESN’T FEEL SO SAFE

Sometimes, this world can be a pretty scary place, and not just for children. Between the news, social media, and the internet, things can feel pretty out of control these days. So, when riots, violence, and images of anger and hatred seem to dominate the media, how do we help our children to feel safe? As a mother of six children, here are some hints I have found to be helpful.

 

Disconnect and Reconnect

In a world where Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the Internet, and the news are all only one click away, it is very hard to escape the harsh realities that seem to lurk right outside our homes. As a result, many of my family and friends have chosen to step away from it all for a while by either deactivating their accounts or just taking a mini-media break. By doing so, it is easier to close the door on the anger and hatred and reconnect with those most important to us: our family and friends. We can all benefit from breaking from the web and spending time making more memories together.

By spending time away and reconnecting with family, children of all ages will tend to feel less anxious, more connected, and experience less of a loss of control. Whether it is a family game day, a day hike, a weekend camping trip, or even a day trip to a favorite destination, disconnecting from media and reconnecting as a family will help children see the world as a safer place than the media paints it to be. Even a recent episode of Duck Dynasty featured Willie Robertson taking his family and their friends out on a fishing trip…the catch was that they all had to leave their phones and devices at home. By disconnecting, we are able to more easily reconnect with nature, our loved ones, and our many blessings.

 

Keep Lines of Communication Open

With today’s media saturation, it is even hard for adults to cope with the images and messages of violence and hate. Children are even more sensitive to this and often internalize what they see, resulting in increased anxiety.  Talking with them about their fears will help them to feel less anxious. Depending on their age and level of development, children may have difficulty communicating about how they are feeling. As cliché as it may sound, creating a safe space for them is extremely helpful in opening the lines of communication. For example, taking them out for ice cream or going fishing together may help them to feel more relaxed and connected, allowing them to share their thoughts more freely. For younger children, reading stories about feeling afraid or drawing pictures about their fears may help them to communicate their fears better. Even if their fears sound irrational, it is important to remember it is very real for them.

Try to be empathetic, understanding, and help them to feel safe. If a child’s fears are resulting in destructive or negative behaviors or robbing them of daily joy in life, it may be necessary to seek some professional help. Just as the child would need to see a doctor if they had a broken bone, they may need some professional assistance if their anxieties are causing them emotional brokenness.

 

Limit Exposure to Fear-causing Stimuli

Over the years, I have learned my children are like sponges, and they often hear and understand a lot more than I think they do. Limiting their exposure to scary media images is extremely beneficial. Although today’s world can often be overwhelming for adults, it is also beneficial for us to limit our demonstrations of distress in front of our children. It is very important for children to feel safe and have a sense of control in their environment.

 

Appeal to a Higher Power

People of faith know prayer as very powerful.  Prayer is essentially a conversation with God. By praying together, children feel confident in knowing that they are not alone, even during their scariest moments. One of my children’s favorite books is Emma and Mommy Talk to God by Marianne Williamson. In it, Emma and her mother talk about prayer and pray together. Prayer is powerful for Emma, so much so that it empowers her with faith so that when she wakes up scared in the middle of the night, she is able to pray and feel comforted. One of my children had an overwhelming fear of tornadoes. She felt better, safer, and more secure knowing that God was always near, no matter the time or place, and being able to pray to Him.

 

Model Kindness

Bombarded by scenes of protests, riots, violence, and destruction, adults and children alike may experience a loss of hope and faith in humanity. When anger abounds, it is even more important to counter that with kindness.  By performing random acts of kindness, children are empowered, knowing they can make a difference in the world, and that, in turn, makes it just a little bit less scary, reestablishes hope, and restores faith in humanity. Additionally, kindness also has another very positive side effect: It is often contagious! When someone reaches the front of the line at the coffee shop to find their coffee has been paid for by another, that patron is inclined to pay for the person behind them. Think of the good we could all do if we strived every day to model kindness by performing these random acts. By modeling this for our children, and even performing these acts with them, we not only help them to feel safer and more secure, but also teach them how to think of others and not so much about ourselves, and in turn make the world a better place.

Fountaindale Volunteer Fire Department Adams County Company #3

State and county lines are no barrier when it comes to fighting fires. The Fountaindale Volunteer Fire Department is located in Adams County, Pennsylvania, but when needed, they provide mutual aid to Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, as well as Franklin County in Pennsylvania.

Dave Martin has been Fire Chief of Company #3 for thirty-five years. He said that the most unforgettable incident during his years with the department was the Jacks Mountain fire in December 1998. The fire burned for three days and consumed eighty acres. Forty-five fire departments from Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania fought the fire, which almost reached the homes in the development at the top of the mountain. However, the fire was contained before any homes were damaged.

Chief Martin said that the company was founded in 1946, and started with only one fire truck. The fire station was not built until 1974, so the fire truck was housed in a garage next to the current station.  At that time, there was no 911 service, so calls were routed to the home of Earl “Polly” Shindledecker.  He and his wife took the calls and pushed the button to blow the siren.  The department has grown significantly, and the equipment now consists of a rescue engine, engine tanker, brush truck, and special unit.

Current officers are Keith Rudisill, President; Dale Buffington, Vice President; Sarah Ginn, Secretary; Karen Rudisill, Assistant Secretary; Peggy Martin, Treasurer; Dave Martin, Fire Chief; Sam Ginn, Deputy Fire Chief; Steve Yingling, Lieutenant. Board of Directors are Charles Berger, Chris Corle, Sam Ginn, John Ruppel, and Steve Yingling.

The department also has five junior members, who have been active in the department since they were fourteen years old. Junior members attend trainings and take classes where they learn the basics, as well as learn teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and discipline. They also help during fire calls by getting equipment for the firefighters. They plan to continue their training and become interior firefighters when they are eighteen.

Fundraising is critical to an all-volunteer organization.  Karen Rudisill said that they have had great community support for their events, which include twice-a-year drawings/dinners at the Fountaindale Fire Station and the monthly Bingo that is held at the Fairfield Fire Hall.  However, they are always looking for more volunteers. You don’t need to be a firefighter to help. If you can make sandwiches or bake cakes, you can be a valuable social member.

Community outreach is also important. They assist with fire prevention activities at Fairfield School and participate in the Carroll Valley National Night Out. Community events include the annual Christmas party, parades, and fire truck rides at the Blue Ridge Library.

In the short time that I spent with the members of Company #3, I could see that they are dedicated volunteers who work hard to provide service to the community, but it was also obvious that they have fun and enjoy being together.  Check out their Facebook page and call them when you are ready to volunteer.

Pictured are: Junior members (in truck) Lida Fitz, Colleen Rudisill, Olivia Scott, Claudia Rudisill; (standing) Dave Martin, Arley Scott; (seated) Dale Buffington, Becky Buffington, Peggy Martin (holding granddaughter, Emma Ginn), Sarah Ginn, Karen Rudisill, and Keith Rudisill.

by Lisa C. Cantwell

Dear Reader: This is a column to help you determine the history and value of your heirlooms, attic finds, flea market purchases, or antique items. Please send a picture and description of your piece, such as how you acquired it and any details about its history, to tomandlisa@wildblue.net. I’ll research any item, whether it’s a piece of furniture, a painting, a tool, a doll, a figurine, or an article of clothing.  An approximate value will be determined to inform you if it’s a “Trinket or Treasure.” Please submit all pictures and questions by the preceding 15th of the month for possible publication in the next monthly issue of The Catoctin Banner. All inquiries will be answered; however, only those selected for publication will include approximate value assessments. Furthermore, not all submissions may be published in the Banner due to space considerations.  Please include your name or initials and where you reside. Thank you and happy treasure hunting!


“Attached are some pictures of the 30-star, hand-stitched, pre-Civil war flag we found at my mother’s (she died recently). It originated from my Dad’s side, as the note we found with it was from my grandmother. How she got it, I do not know. We found it in a bag of linens, along with a flag of 48 stars (we almost didn’t look in there and were going to just put it with the other Goodwill items). It is approximately 10’ in length. It is hand-stitched and shows some wear. It has some tears along the upper edge and a “blood” or wine stain in the middle. The note says it was at a banquet in Arlington (Heights), Illinois, held in honor of Abraham Lincoln in 1858. Attached is a full picture of the flag, the note, and some of the stitching. We don’t really know what do with it, what its value is, if any, or who to contact to verify its story.”

— J. Joy, Frederick County

You have found a truly RARE, American TREASURE in your mother’s home!

This 30-star, 13-stripe pieced and sewn flag appears to be in very good condition and would be coveted by any collector or antique flag dealer. Regarding the history of this type of pre-Civil war era flag, the 30th star was added for the state of Wisconsin on May 29, 1848. The flag became official on July 4, 1848, and would be the national banner until July 4, 1851, when a star for California was added. Presidents James Polk (term: 1845-1849), Zachery Taylor (term: 1849-1850), and Millard Fillmore (term: 1850-1853) served under the 30-star flag. Among collectors, flags that pre-date the Civil War are the most desirable of all U.S. flags. One antique flag site stated that because the 30-star was official for only three years, there may be fewer than fifteen of these flags that remain today. Another noted that an authentic, hand-sewn, 30-star flag is a one in 10,000 find!

As for the flag’s provenance, your grandmother’s note mentions Arlington Heights, Illinois, as the site of a banquet held in 1858, where Abraham Lincoln was honored. Although my research did not reveal a banquet in Arlington Heights, per se, 1858 was indeed a very busy year for candidate Lincoln. He was nominated as the Republican choice for the Senate race by 1,000 delegates on June 16, 1858, at the State Republican Convention at the Springfield, Illinois, Statehouse.  The vote occurred at 5:00 p.m. at the statehouse, with Lincoln delivering his famous “House Divided” at 8:00 p.m. that same evening. I could find no account of a banquet or dinner held that day, but further research on the Illinois state and local level might reveal more. As schoolchildren, we learned of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It was in 1858 that seven debates occurred between Lincoln and Democratic nominee, Stephen A. Douglas, in seven towns throughout Illinois; but, again, none were held in Arlington Heights. Although your grandmother’s note is part of the flag’s legacy, it’s going to be difficult to prove factually, unless there’s a photo, program, or other evidence that such a banquet occurred. However, do present the note when you have it appraised.

A search of antique flag dealers revealed two that would be able to authenticate and value your flag. They are Jeff R Bridgman Antiques, Inc., of York, Pennsylvania, and Bonsell Americana of Hillsdale, Illinois. Both are reputable purveyors of early American flags. On its website, Bonsell Americana offers an authenticated, 36-star, American hand-sewn flag, ca 1864-1867, for $11,500. Bridgman Antiques did not have a 30-star flag on its website; however, in 2016, an article from a prominent magazine listed a 30-star, ca. 1848-50, “Navy Jack” offered by Bridgman. It was similar to your flag, with five rows of six stars, each rectilinear, but on a blue field only, meaning there were no red and white stripes. Bridgman’s asking price at that time was $30,000. So, should you decide to sell it, both of these antique flag houses are a good place to start!

It’s a good thing that you searched through that bag of linens before donating it to charity! Your mother and grandmother preserved a rare banner of American history. Don’t be concerned about the stains or holes in this beauty. It is still valuable and desirable to a collector or museum. I’d advise not to make any attempt to clean or repair it, but do guard it from sunlight, moisture, and temperature extremes, until you have it examined by one of the experts I listed above. Thank you for sharing this American icon with me and the readers of The Catoctin Banner!

If you’d like to discover the history behind and value of your heirloom, attic find, flea market or yard sale purchase, collectible, or antique item, don’t forget to send in a photo and description of your trinket or treasure to tomandlisa@wildblue.net. Your piece could be featured in an upcoming issue of The Catoctin Banner.

Paint and Pop Tarts

by Valerie Nusbaum

Recently, our upstairs landing and stairwell finally got a fresh coat of paint. That project had been “on the list” and “in the works” for several years, but something had always come up to keep the job from getting started. Randy, bless his heart, took a day of vacation on Friday and spent two hours that morning putting up lovely blue painters tape and putting down plastic drop cloths.

I had thought that I was being kind and considerate when I made the suggestion that we hire someone to do the painting, but Randy saw it as a challenge. Honestly, we’ve had so many other obligations lately, coupled with the hours he works at his job. I really didn’t expect him to do the painting himself. He had other ideas.

My way of helping was to go to Walmart (which, for me, is less enjoyable than a good teeth cleaning) and buy the supplies. To make it simple, we decided to paint the walls the same color as the walls in the foyer and kitchen, and Randy assured me that he had more than enough paint stored in our basement.

He ran out of paint by lunchtime on the first day of the job. I was kind of glad about that, because I’d been stuck upstairs in my office all morning since the stairs were taped off.  Even my bathroom was off-limits, as the door opens onto the upstairs landing. When Randy had to stop work, I was relieved in more ways than one, and I scampered downstairs to get lunch ready. One of my jobs while Hubby does “man’s” work is to keep him fed and watered. Yeah, I know Gloria Steinem would have my head, but I really don’t like to paint and the stairwell and landing aren’t large enough for both of us and an open can of paint. Besides, just two days before this job commenced, I went to Brunswick and painted my mother’s kitchen. So, there. We dined on Swedish meatballs over wheat pasta, steamed zucchini, and crescent rolls.

After lunch, Randy drove down to Home Depot and got some more paint. That was not without its problems, because the young lady behind the paint counter was a trainee and her supervisor had left to go to the bathroom an hour ago. Randy ended up showing her how to mix his paint, and then assisted with several other customers. I heard all this second-hand from Randy since I skipped the Home Depot trip and stayed home to clean out the linen closet.

The walls and ceiling were finished by Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the linen closet, the bedroom and bathroom doors, and the trim were the agenda items.

After a hearty cheese and veggie omelet and whole grain waffles, Randy got busy. An hour or so later, I gave him a small piece of a breakfast bar as a treat. He commented that it tasted good, and I made the mistake of saying that it reminded me of a Pop Tart.  I realized my mistake, but it was already too late. You see, there was a Pop Tart incident some years ago. We never speak of it, but it went something like this…..

Randy liked Pop Tarts, and I sometimes bought a box of them for him to take in his lunches for work. I began noticing that the Pop Tarts were disappearing rather quickly, so one evening I asked him about it.

“Have you been eating two Pop Tarts at a time?” I asked.

“They come two to a package. Aren’t you supposed to eat both of them?” he replied.

I explained that one Pop Tart constitutes a serving. The other one in the package is to be shared or put away for another time.

“The package isn’t resealable. And Randy isn’t sharing his Pop Tarts,” said my husband.

I pointed out that the serving size is printed right on the back of the box, along with the nutrition information. It is clearly stated that eating only one Pop Tart is recommended.

“Really?” he exclaimed. “It’s a Pop Tart. There is NO nutritional value. That’s why they’re so delicious. And furthermore, Kellogg’s is trying to scam us with that packaging.  If they only wanted me to eat one, there should only be one in each package.”

The next time I bought a box of Pop Tarts, I opened all of the packets and put each Pop Tart in its own little baggie. Randy took two of them anyway. I stopped buying Pop Tarts, and we never mentioned them again.

The doors and trim eventually got painted, and everything looks bright, shiny, and clean.  Our next project is pulling up the carpet and putting down wood flooring in the rooms upstairs. I’m already planning my menus. Breakfast will not include Pop Tarts.

The Politics of Pollution

by Christine Maccabee

I am certain most people would agree with me when I say that clean water and air are precious resources for us, and we must protect them for future generations. As far as I can tell, clean water is as important as money, if not more important. So, for me, when I consider my political and economic priorities, my bottom line is always the water and the air. How there can be any debate about this, I am not sure. Perhaps people would have to have seen what I saw years ago to begin to feel as I do.

I lived in Western Maryland and West Virginia in the 1970s. Being the nature lover that I am, I took long walks in places most people never go. One day, I heard the sound of rushing water and, thinking that it was a stream, I ran to see it. What I witnessed startled and shocked me beyond belief. I saw a swift stream running bright orange in color. I stood there transfixed, thinking it was just a temporary problem, but the orange water just kept coming. At the time, I could not figure out why it was orange, but knowing I was in coal country, it soon became clear to me that it must have been due to the waste dumped into it by the coal company upstream.

Ever since that day, I have not been the same. I became semi-political but did not know how to get my voice heard, so I wrote songs. I am in good company as a nature lover/song writer. Jean Ritchie, a songstress who grew up in Eastern Kentucky, wrote a song called “The Last Old Train’s a Leavin,’” which spoke of the mountaintop removal that tore up her grandfather’s land. Jean chose to stay, and fight, and sing her songs.

While living in Frostburg, Maryland, I, too, witnessed a mountaintop removal and, in the aftermath, felt like I was walking through the end times of utter devastation. A group of students and community members like me attempted to plant saplings on the rocky mountaintop, but many of the trees died. Unlike Jean, I did not stay and have not been back since. However, I took away with me a desire to rectify environmental problems wherever I live.

Recently, I heard that an important Stream Protections Rule, which had finally been put in place seven years ago, is being abolished. Now coal companies will once again be permitted to discharge their toxic waste into the nearest streams as they were doing during the 1970s and before. This will save the companies money, they say. I became sick at heart when I heard this news, and this is just the beginning of a process of deregulation, which will certainly be continuing over the next number of years. Unfortunately, the bottom line is no longer purity of water and air, but money and convenience.

The way I see it, pollution is not really a political problem. It is actually a human problem. We contemporary humans have every opportunity to help with the pollution problems by using less energy in our homes and businesses. We can learn to use less electricity by using energy efficient light bulbs; turning off unnecessary lights; keeping temperatures a bit lower during the winter; using air conditioners only as needed; and yes, using solar energy, which people are starting to do more. All of this, and more, is the inside work.

I recently watched a Maryland Public TV film, Keeping the Potomac: the Politics of Water,” and was sickened when I saw a paper mill along the upper Potomac constantly spewing its waste into the river, killing off all aquatic life below the issuance point. It is beyond disheartening to see the brown gunk coming out of the pipes and the harm it is doing downstream. Regulations are and have been needed there, badly. Question is: Why are there no regulations to control such a travesty?

Fortunately, as humans, we have built in problem-solving skills. We can recycle our waste paper and buy more recycled paper products. Also, perhaps coal and paper company managers need to do more problem solving on their own, do more inside work, and some real soul searching regarding their priorities. That way, they can come up with solutions of their own rather than relying on governmental regulations or deregulations, as the case may be. Or, perhaps, it is time someone knocked on their door.

As a friend of mine said recently, “this is the inside work we all must do, whether it be in our homes, at our jobs, or in our relationships with others.” Outside will be fine so long as we all do the inside work. First, we must examine our spiritual callings to be caretakers of this planet, and of each other, and then we must learn, teach, and act.

So, the true politics of pollution resides in the human heart. That may be our only hope.

When sixteen-year-old Nathaniel Rowe first came to Emmitsburg in 1837, it was a small town with a lot of log homes.

“They were warmed with big open fire-places and wood stoves. We knew nothing about coal. We lived well and comfortably, however. Locks on the doors were unknown—we had no thieves. There were no butchers nor bakers. We eat pork more than any other kind of meat. Once in a while a farmer would kill a calf and divide it up amongst the neighbors, each taking his turn at butchering. We wore homespun clothing. Everybody had his own patch of flax,” Rowe said in a 1908 interview in the Emmitsburg Chronicle.

He didn’t come to Emmitsburg for the quality of life, though. He came to learn at the hands of a master.

John Armstrong was a gunsmith who had started crafting a variation of the Kentucky Long Rifle in town by 1808, which is when he purchased property in town to set up his business. He taught a generation of gunsmiths, so much so that he and his apprentices were known as the “Emmitsburg School of Gunsmiths.” The Rock Island Auction Company website says Armstrong “is generally considered to be one of the very best of the era. His pieces often draw comparisons to Swiss watches and Rolls Royce automobiles—classics that defy time.”

He is believed to have been born in Liberty Township on September 5, 1772, according to Albert Manley Sullivan in Emmitsburg: History and Society. Details are scant on where he learned his trade, but it is believed that he was apprenticed to George Schroyer in Hanover. Sullivan said that the similar features in both Schroyer’s and Armstrong’s rifles lead to this conclusion.

Although most of Armstrong’s rifles are from the 1800s, a few have been dated to the 1700s, which means that he arrived in Emmitsburg probably around 1793.

“The point is that John developed a style early in his career, in the late 18th century, that pleased him and pleased his customers; he did not change that basic design with the passage of time,” Sullivan wrote.

Armstrong was a perfectionist who crafted all of the parts for his rifles, even though it took more time.

“Most gunsmiths of that period bought their locks from lock manufacturers. They were cheaper and increased production. This saved the gunsmith money in two ways,” Sullivan wrote.

The result of making them himself was worth it. Sullivan described the locks as “slender, graceful and beautifully proportioned. They blend perfectly into the architectural balance of the gun.”

Like any artist, Armstrong signed his locks. An Armstrong rifle without a signed lock is not worth nearly as much. Rowe said that he and Armstrong bought the barrels. However, they also made some.

“The first barrels were made by welding two bars of iron around a solid core. Later, old horseshoe nails were made into gun barrels. Some of the barrels we bought in Lancaster, Pa., and some were made around here. We bored out the barrels ourselves testing the accuracy of the work by squinting through the bore at a bright light; any inequality would cast a shadow on the opposite side of the barrel,” he told the Chronicle.

Rowe was Armstrong’s last apprentice. Armstrong is known to have been working up to at least 1841. At that time, he would have been sixty-three years old.

Armstrong and his wife had seven children: William, Robert, Samuel, James, Ann, Elizabeth, and Jane. Robert and Samuel tried to follow in their father’s footsteps but didn’t have the talent that he did. Armstrong’s legacy was passed on through his apprentices like Rowe and George Piper.

Sullivan estimated that based on the time it took Armstrong to make a rifle that he probably made around four hundred in his career. Less than thirty are known to exist.

 

The rifle is a John Armstrong rifle. Armstrong was a noted Emmitsburg gunmith in the early 1800s, and his rifles are sought-after collector’s items.

Pfc. James Aubrey Houck

On January 1, 1923, a New Year’s baby arrived in Johnsville, Maryland. The new baby boy was delivered at home on the farm his parents owned and operated. He was named James Aubrey, and his parents were Roy Walter and Mary (Blessing) Houck. His mother gave him the name Aubrey, because she had gone to a movie and that was the star’s name. She liked the movie so much that she said that was going to be her next boy’s name.

Aubrey grew up helping on the farm and playing with his three brothers and one sister. He really liked feeding and riding the horses, but he wasn’t fond of milking the cows. Of course, he made the best of it all, because he really wasn’t one to complain. The field work was done mostly by horse and hand back then. The most modern piece of machinery the family owned was a thrashing machine.

Aubrey had to cut corn with a sickle and shock it; later, he would come around with the horses and wagon and load it all by hand. The hay was also done mostly by hand, except for the sickle bar mower that was horse-drawn. The hay, after drying, was loaded on the wagons with long pitch forks. When the hay arrived at the barn, it was unloaded and put in the mows by a very large cradle fork that was tied to a large rope, run through a block and hooked to the horses by a singletree and lifted to the hay mow.

Aubrey grew up working and playing on the farm and going to school at Elmer Wolf School in Union Bridge. He was old enough to drive his father’s car by 1939, and his dad would lend him the car so that he and his brothers could go to the local fire hall dances. That is where he met Mary Jean Wantz. They started dating, fell in love, and got married. Shortly after their marriage, Aubrey was drafted into the Army Air Force to fight for our country until the war was over, or our President said he could come home.

Aubrey was only in the service for a short time when he got word that Jeanie (that’s what he called his wife) was pregnant with his child. He was trained as a mechanic and worked on airplanes. He was then sent to Germany and fought in the infantry. Aubrey kept in touch with Jeanie by writing her when he had the chance and reading her letters from home. His son was more than two years old when he stepped off the train and saw him for the very first time. Aubrey and Jeanie lived with her parents for a while after he returned from the war, and he went to work at the Fairchild Airplane Plant. Jeanie’s father worked as a mechanic for the Emmitsburg Railroad Company. One day Jeanie’s father went for a walk in the woods behind his house. He was gone longer than usual, so someone went to see what was taking him so long. He was found sitting on a rock where he had passed away from a heart attack. Shortly thereafter, Aubrey moved his family, including his mother-in-law, to Hunt Valley, Maryland, where he began working for Shawan Farms. Shawan Farms consisted of around three thousand acres, owned by the Miller family. Aubrey began driving a team of mules to do farm work. Aubrey and Jeanie had two more children while there.

The family eventually moved to Taneytown, Maryland, to the Bob Bankert farm and took over the farming for the rent of the house. Aubrey also got a job working at the Cambridge Rubber company making rubber boots. While living and working there, they had another child, bringing the total to four. The oldest son was six years old now, having been born in 1943, and was in first grade. He helped on the farm by putting the automatic milkers together, so that when his dad got off work, he could go right to the barn and start milking. Aubrey was very good at operating heavy equipment while in the army. So, when he heard of a job opening operating a horse drawn grader, and about the money they were paying to operate it, he jumped at the chance.

He moved the family back to Emmitsburg, where he would reside for the rest of his life. Aubrey was a member of VFW Post 6658 in Emmitsburg, American Legion Post 121 in Emmitsburg, and the Indian Lookout Conservation Club. Aubrey and Jeanie finished their family with another son, making the total of children four boys and one girl—the same as his mother and dad. He built a house along the Waynesboro Pike, just one mile outside of Emmitsburg. It seemed there was always someone there for him to work on their vehicle (trucks, cars, and even tractors) and he would not accept anything for it. He would always say, “Maybe I’ll need something some day and then you can pay me back,” but everyone knew he wouldn’t accept anything.

Aubrey had a mild heart attack and the doctors said he should think about slowing down. So, after operating heavy equipment for Hempt Bros. Road construction for over thirty years, he retired. He had another heart attack, and was recuperating to have surgery, when he suffered a massive heart attack. On April 15, 1980, he passed away at fifty-seven years of age, in the CCU of Gettysburg Hospital. His mother had passed in January and his sister in February of the same year.

I am sure by now you know that I am writing about my father (some of you called him Orby, some called him Orvy; he would smile, but he never corrected anyone). I can’t remember ever hearing him say anything bad about anyone. He was the hardest working, kindest, and most giving man I have ever met. I am sure if you had the good fortune of meeting him, you would be in complete agreement. You became his friend instantly upon meeting him.

I didn’t write much about his time in the service during WWII. He never spoke much about it, and when you mentioned something about it to him, he would just smile and change the subject. I do know that he was proud to fight for our freedom and was very patriotic, and that’s enough for me.

God Bless America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.

James Aubrey Houck

Colgate: Friends’ Creek Farm

by Brian R. Waesche

The property at 7950 Friends Creek Road is the former private resort of the Craig Colgate, Jr. family. The Colgate vacation home is the more modern of two homes on the property. The Colgate holdings were intersected north-to-south by the waterway Friends Creek, and west-to-east by the Pennsylvania border. The Colgate’s large summer home, though addressed to Emmitsburg, actually stands in the state of Pennsylvania, experiencing dual residency. Unknown to many, hidden up a lengthy, private lane marked by two stone pillars, the Colgate house is set down a drive following Friends Creek into its wooded valley. The drive’s columns, placed beside the low-lying road-bridge where Hornets Nest Road’s designation becomes Friends Creek Road, are the only hint at the secluded Colgate retreat.

The first of the two homes, a frame farmhouse overlooking Friends Creek, is a cozy 19th-century dwelling, accompanied by a medium-sized barn on the Maryland side of the land’s division. Built on the sloping grade to the creek, the farmhouse is raised in the front, exposing a full fieldstone foundation level below the front porch, in contrast to just two upper white-sided stories at the rear. The Colgate drive passes first by this primitive frame house before winding between the farmhouse and a barn, to climb the knoll where the Colgate retreat, called the “Colgate Mansion” by some, oversees the estate.

The main house of this circa-1900 full stone, “Colgate Mansion” appears to have once been, perhaps, half the size, thought to have started as a small stone cottage due to variation in the stone at the center of the construct, suggesting this portion of the house was formerly enlarged by itself. The house today is complete with an upper half-story, making it a proper cape-cod made unique as the upper three bays of the front façade are not constructed like typical dormers, but more so in reverse with the casement, French-country windows, inset in the roof rather than protruding outward. Several additions have also been made to the home, such as a large glass pavilion room, rumored to have once been an indoor pool but is now a flagstone-floored recreation space.

Also on the property is one surviving fishing cabin made of log along Friends Creek, an abandoned fenced tennis-court, concrete-edged stock pond, random open-air chimineas built of mountain stone, and sporadic stone stairways leading into the waters of Friends Creek for fishermen. These stairs, chimneys, and cabin pay homage to the Angler’s Club that the Colgate’s assisted in founding and further allocated their property as its headquarters.

Craig Colgate, Jr. was born in 1912 to Craig Colgate, Sr. and Marion Townsend Colgate at Flushing, Long Island, New York. His mother died this same year, if not during child-birth, within months of welcoming her son. The senior Craig Colgate (born 1875) was the son of Robert Colgate, Jr. (1851-1922), also of New York. Robert Jr.’s father, Robert Colgate, Sr. (1812-1885) was the head of the company that became Colgate-Palmolive after he began mass production and sale of the toothpaste that his father, William Colgate created. William Colgate was born in 1783 at Kent, Great Britain, before immigrating to the emancipated colonies of America. William passed away in 1857 at New York City. The work of William’s son, Robert Colgate, Sr. allowed his Colgate Company hygienic paste to grow into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, headquartered at 300 Park Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. Craig Colgate, Jr., the two-times great-grandson of William Colgate, graduated from Yale University in 1935, before teaching at Deerfield Academy in New England. In addition to teaching, Colgate was also the school’s second swim coach between 1937 and 1942. Deerfield’s most successful sport, since its first swim team was formed in 1921, Colgate was a forerunner to the reputation the school would earn as a top academic swimming competitor. Deerfield is credited today with twenty-one New England Championship swim titles, seventeen of which were won consecutively between 1974 and 1990. Colgate’s affiliation with Deerfield was discontinued at the start of World War II, during which he served as an Army counterintelligence officer in the Mediterranean Theater.

In May 1942, the engagement of Craig Colgate, Jr. and Barbara Hobart was announced, and the pair was wed within the year. From Chicago, Barbara attended finishing school in Switzerland before graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts in 1937. In the early years of the war, Barbara drove an Ambulance for the American Red Cross. When combat came to a close, the couple lived in Illinois, where Colgate, Jr. again taught school before relocating to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to earn a Graduate Degree in History from Harvard, where he was also a member of their championship swim team. In 1946, following graduation from Harvard, Colgate worked a short time for the National Trust for Historic Preservation prior to employment by the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). While an Agent for the C.I.A., between 1947 and 1960, Colgate was stationed in Chicago, Berlin, and Washington, D.C., outside of which he and his wife purchased a home in the D.C. suburb of Bethesda in 1951.

Following his government years with the C.I.A., Colgate became involved with the Kennedy Presidential Campaign for the duration of 1960, of which John F. Kennedy successfully won the race to become the 35th U.S. President. Ballads cast, Colgate became Director of International Trade in 1961, and worked for the commerce department through 1966. Also at this time, the junior Craig Colgate purchased land sixty miles north of Bethesda at Emmitsburg, where he long operated a tree farm for hobby. Colgate and his wife purchased more land in Emmitsburg in 1972, their vacation home likely gained with this purchase.

Already immensely successful, in 1966, Craig Colgate, Jr. founded Columbia Books. The leading agency in the publication of information directories, relating to business, government, foundations, lobbying, and associations. Colgate was active president and publisher to his company until retirement in the 1980s. Columbia Books continues to be operated out of Bethesda, where it was founded, and is known today as Columbia Books & Information Systems (CBIS). CBIS is now also the parent company to several other subsidiary brands.

An athlete, teacher, veteran, public servant, politician, businessman, agriculturist, and member of the Washington Metropolitan Club, Craig Colgate, Jr. died of a heart ailment at the age of seventy-nine on June 2, 1989. Three years later, Barbara H. Colgate moved from her Bethesda home to the District of Columbia in 1992. As worldly as her husband, Barbara was fluent in German and French, an avid tennis player and skier, volunteer at the National Gallery of Art, and generous donor to the construction of the Washington National Cathedral. She was also a tutor to children and enjoyed her garden club.

Barbara Colgate passed away in August of 2004. Her obituary mentioned the Western-Maryland home of her and her late husband, which they called “Friends Creek Farm”. The Colgate’s daughter, Susan Colgate Goldman, recalls, “She [her mother] entertained thousands of people there over the years. She always had something going on there with a big crowd.”

Craig Colgate, Jr. and his wife were survived by three children: Craig Colgate III, Robert Hobart Colgate, and aforementioned Susan of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, at the time of their mother’s death. Each heir received an interest of the Emmitsburg Friend’s Creek property, and in 2005, conveyed the holdings to Friends Creek Farm LLC of Middletown.

The stone Colgate house showing one of the large additions tastefully added with stone “book-ends” complete with a chimney and filled between with cedar shake.

The farm house on the property, in exquisite condition overlooking friends creek.

Seasoning Meats

Buck Reed

When we are talking about seasoning meats, I do not mean salt and peppering a steak before putting it on a grill. For the record, by all means, do that. Seasoning meats are a class of ingredients that, when incorporated into a dish, add a distinct flavor to it. These are usually meats that are processed by curing, aging, or smoking, or a combination of two or even three of them. Before refrigeration, these processes were necessary to extend the shelf-life of these products. As these processes became more refined, and even elevated into an art, these ingredients became an important part of our cooking tradition.

Curing is the method used to draw out the moisture of a meat or fish with a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, and other chemicals. The curing process adds a unique flavor to the meat, depending on what it is cured with, as well as how long it is cured. Smoked meat is preserved in two ways: by dehydration and by the chemicals (phenols) in the smoke that are imparted to the product. The type of wood used, as well as temperature and time, all effect the finished product. Aging is generally done to beef to tenderize it, and is done under very controlled conditions. All these processes take time, not only for the process themselves, but the commitment to master these procedures as well. Many of these products are elevated to delicacies in their respective cuisines. Using these products in our cooking can not only connect us to our culinary traditions, but also add a flare of creativity to your table.

Chowder was the first dish that came to my mind when I was articulating this article. Salt pork or bacon is an essential and traditional ingredient in this dish, that adds sweetness to enhance whatever the main ingredient is. Unless you want a smoky flavor, smoked meats should be avoided. Soups, in general, are a great vehicle for getting rid of food product that might go bad. So, why not try a bit of chopped pastrami or corned beef in your vegetable beef soups or stews? Unless you’re afraid of being called a “culinary genius,” you really have nothing to lose.

Ham is another fantastic ingredient. Whatever flavor the ham owns, it very easily transfers to your dish. Beans simmered with ham bones or a ham hock make flavorful soups or side dishes. When it comes to prosciutto or serrano ham, stick to a good, flavorful cheaper product, as these “Cadillac” hams do not really hold up to a longer cooking process. When prosciutto is added to pastas or pizzas, it is usually added just before it is served. If you cook them into the dish, the other chefs will call you names.

Are you in a rut with your usual breakfast of bacon and eggs? Try switching out the bacon for a couple of slices of corned beef or pastrami. Or, for a healthy choice, a nice slice of well smoked turkey breast beats turkey bacon any day. I know switching out your loved one’s bacon for anything else might cause some strife in your household, but you can always claim temporary insanity.

When it comes right down to it, the production of these foods is more art than science, so taking a bit of time to find the right ones is time well spent. And learning how to cook with them could elevate your game in the kitchen and at the dining room table.

by Cupid, G.O.A.L. (God Of Archery & Love, an honorary degree from Olympus University)

I was winging my way over the Catoctin Mountain the other day when an errant arrow, launched by a local young lady, sent me tumbling into a tree. I came crashing down pretty hard. It was scary. I’m Cupid. I don’t do scary well. The brown stain in my diaper can attest to that.

The lady apologized for nearly skewering me. Then she added, “I saw the diaper and the wings and thought you were a stork carrying a big, ugly baby my way.”

I took exception to that. My nose may be big, but it’s not that big. Besides, I have better-looking legs than a stork.

Anyway, she told me that The Catoctin Banner Newspaper had a Valentine-themed issue coming up. She asked me, since I am the leading expert on archery, love, and romance, if I would give readers some tips for Valentine’s Day.

I told her, “Sure. Here’s the first tip: Be sure about what you’re shooting at! Don’t tick off the guy bringing the loving!”

She grinned and said, “Maybe I did get what I was aiming for. You’re here, aren’t you?”

She had a point, and it was at the end of the arrow that she was casually aiming in my direction. So here’s my second tip: Women! You can’t live with them, and you can’t outrun them if they are armed.

As I was shopping in Jubilee Market in Emmitsburg for some clean Depends in my size, I came up with a few more tips that I thought I would pass along for those of you who don’t mind advice from a god whose mom was the goddess of love and whose dad was the god of war.

Don’t use a bow that’s too powerful. Be realistic in your expectations of what you can accomplish for Valentine’s Day. If you have your heart set on a moonlight kiss while standing on the Eiffel Tower, you’ll be disappointed with anything realistic that you can actually do. So plan something you can actually pull off.

Sharp arrows penetrate. So do words. If you want to tell your romantic partner something, make it genuine and from the heart. It will have more impact than a greeting card.

Aim for the heart. It’s all about romance. What does your romantic partner love? Try to include that in your planning.

Wear a secure diaper. Like I just said, it’s all about romance. Don’t be in such a rush to get your clothes off. Enjoy the time together.

Make sure to have plenty of arrows. Have a backup plan in case something falls through. It doesn’t have to be elaborate because you shouldn’t need it. Just in case, though, you’re prepared.

Keep your wings out of the way. Not everyone can pull off wings like I can. Fancy is nice, but it’s not necessary. You’ll want to plan something that your romantic partner can connect with.

Make sure your bow is well strung. Get your mind out of the gutter! I wrote strung! Anyway, they say women don’t care so much about that. That’s another reason I wear a diaper.

Accuracy is important. Know what your goal is. You shouldn’t want to make things about you. Making yourself happy is a pleasant side effect. You’ll want to aim for making your romantic partner happy.

Don’t give up accuracy for speed. Take your time as your plans reveal themselves. Don’t rush for the hoped-for outcome. Enjoy the journey and being with someone you love.

Find the right place to hunt. Know where things will take place. Plan out your evening to make it special. If something requires reservations or set-up beforehand, don’t wait until the last minute.

Practice in low light. Game usually isn’t out in bright sunlight, so hunters need to get used to hunting in low-light conditions. The same is true if you’re hunting romance. Nothing helps set the mood better than dim light. Besides, don’t we all look better in candlelight?

Shoot for something. You eventually have to take the shot. Do something. You might mess up, but at least you tried. Don’t waste the most romantic day of the year watching NASCAR on television.

So there you have it, my friends. Sure-fire tips to make sure you hit your target on Valentine’s Day. Will they work? Of course, they will. If you can’t trust a love god who has lived for centuries, who can you trust?

Thurmont – Gateway To The Mountain

The following comes from a June-July 1959 Thurmont Topics. The newsletter was a publication for employees of Moore Business Forms. Thurmont’s late George W. Wiremen was the editor of the publication during his career there.

The Bentztown Bard was the author of the following poem written for Thurmont. A bard is a poet. The Bentztown Bard was the pen name of a 42-year journalist with The Baltimore Sun, named Folger McKinsey. According to cecildaily.com’s journalist, Erika Quesenbery Sturgill, McKinsey was known in Frederick and Baltimore for his writing and poetry, but was an Elkton, Maryland, native and a former assistant editor to the Cecil Whig. He moved from Elkton to Frederick and lived in an area called Bentztown. He worked at The Daily and Weekly News while in Frederick, and wrote two volumes of History of Frederick County, MD, with Thomas J. Williams.

He continued in Baltimore as a columnist. While there he wrote the song, “Baltimore Our Baltimore” in 1915 for a contest that he won. He wrote countless poems. In his obituary upon his death at the age of 83 in July of 1950, he was acclaimed with knowing every nook and cranny of the state, from the mountains to the sea.

Thurmont – Gateway To The Mountain

Thurmont lies at the foot of the hills

And its street runs into the mountain,

And very near are the singing rills

And the foam of a forest fountain;

And the old homes stand in such friendly guise

As if to welcome you in

From the world of struggle and strife

And the hatred, evil and sin.

 

All day long the seasons flow,

The peaks of the ridge beyond it

Are telling of dreams that come and go

To the orchards that softly frond it;

And the lovely park in its quiet peace

Brings back as fine a story

Of the lads that served for the great increase

Of freedom and of glory.

Thurmont stands with its back to the blue

Of the hills, and looks away

To the vales that lie in the frost and dew

And the mists of the autumn gray;

And wandering spirits of fancy dwell

In the nooks and the lovely hollows,

And ever the kiss of the mountain spell

The way of the wanderer follows.

 

Thurmont, high on the hoary knob,

And yet so nestled down

In the tender arms of the mystic hills

That dream of the mountain town;

As I shall dream, as I go my way,

Remembering, aye, so long,

How the autumn sun shone yesterday

On its peace and beauty and song!

 

— THE BENTZTOWN BARD

by Lisa C. Cantwell

Dear Reader: This is a column to help you determine the history and value of your heirlooms, attic finds, flea market purchases, or antique items. Please send a picture and description of your piece, such as how you acquired it and any details about its history, to tomandlisa@wildblue.net. I’ll research any item, whether it’s a piece of furniture, a painting, a tool, a doll, a figurine, or an article of clothing.  An approximate value will be determined to inform you if it’s a “Trinket or Treasure.” Please submit all pictures and questions by the preceding 15th of the month for possible publication in the next monthly issue of The Catoctin Banner. All inquiries will be answered; however, only those selected for publication will include approximate value assessments. Furthermore, not all submissions may be published in the Banner due to space considerations.  Please include your name or initials and where you reside. Thank you and happy treasure hunting!

This month’s focus will be on three antiques that were recently sold within this region, along the Mason-Dixon Line.

Please send your vintage or antique curiosities to tomandlisa@wildblue.net by February 15 for inclusion in the March column.

Wall Curio Cabinet

This small, wall-mounted curio was bought for $125 at a Franklin County, Pennsylvania, antique show. Dating to the early 20th century, this pine and oak charmer has brass hinges and a turning latch on the door, which recall a “mission” design.  Four shelves on the sides depict a rather classical look, with its Corinthian columns and arches. The top shelf has a rolling, romantic design backdrop, with a hole cut for mounting. Three glass shelves inside suggest a later addition. The original shelves would have been wood. Buyers can expect to pay up to $300-plus for similar pieces with definite period features and maker’s imprint. The buyer planned to use it as a bathroom cabinet, but this piece would look lovely anywhere in a home, displaying small keepsakes and treasures.

 

Barrister’s Bookcase

A stackable, tiger-oak, barrister’s bookcase yielded $350 at a regional antique auction house in Pennsylvania, recently.  Dated 1908, this particular one was sold at a bargain price! Similar bookcases in good condition can bring as much as $600 to $800 in the antique market. This unique design was patented by American businessman, Henry C. Yeiser, in 1892, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

These bookcases were produced by his company, The Globe Wernicke Company, and enjoyed a worldwide market well into the 20th century. Immensely popular in Britain, the bookcase became known as a “barrister bookcase” due to its favor among lawyers and notaries.  In addition to the stackable feature of the shelves, retractable glass door fronts kept dust off precious, expensive law books. The patent on the Wernicke bookshelves lasted only twenty years, so many copycat bookcases were made, and knock-offs are still available in stores today. Globe Wernicke closed its doors in 1955, so to find one of their quality solid-wood barrister’s bookcases in good condition is well worth the investment for any booklover or antique aficionado.

Hay Cradle

The hay cradle brought $125 at an antique mall in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The buyer plans to hang it in her barn to display knitted goods made from organic wools processed at her sheep farm. This cradle has no identifiable maker but is typical of cradles used during the late 1800s. Also known as a “cradle scythe” or “American grain cradle,” it was used to collect straw, which was deposited into piles or mushroom-shaped mounds known as “swaths.” An experienced cradler at work on a farm during the height of use in the late 18th and 19th centuries could cut two acres of grain shafts per day. The earliest cradles of record date to 13th century Europe. Widespread use in Germany probably accounted for immigrant settlers bringing this invention to the Pennsylvania/Maryland region. According to “American Artifacts,” an internet site, E. Whitman Co. of Baltimore, advertised a five-finger cradle for $5.00 in 1858. According to the same source, Sears Roebuck catalog priced a four-finger grain cradle for $2.25.  With the invention of horse-drawn reapers and, later, steam-threshing machines, these cradles fell out of widespread use by the mid-20th century.  In 1924, the last U.S. patent was issued for a grain cradle. Still, American-made cradles can be found at local farm sales.

by Valerie Nusbaum

Despite what you might believe, writing is hard work. If a writer has a good idea, the words can flow from the brain, almost more quickly than they can be written. When the ideas stop coming, then the problems begin. That’s where I am today. I have a column due next week and absolutely no idea what to write about.

The column is for the February edition, so it seems silly to write about the recent Christmas holidays. I’ve been there and done that already. Valentine’s Day has been done to death and, besides, there’s only so much I can say about hearts and flowers and romance without gagging. Groundhog Day? I could give you a brief history of how the tradition got started and then tell you that my in-laws were married on February 2, but I don’t know where to go from there. Let’s see…President’s Day? I guess we could discuss Washington and Lincoln and a few other Commanders in Chief. I could mention that I’ve been trying to memorize the names of the Presidents in order of service, and once I’ve mastered that, I plan to commit their terms and Vice Presidents to memory as well. I’m an American. I feel I should know that. I don’t believe I can come up with nine hundred words on that subject, though.

Randy really hasn’t done anything particularly funny lately. He’s working long days at his job, and we have a lot of family issues that we’re dealing with. There’s nothing of interest to my readers in that. This is supposed to be a light, humorous story, not something that will make you cry or fall asleep.

My brother is flying in from Montana for a short visit, and I could write about how we’re always happy to see each other, but we manage to get on each other’s nerves after two hours together. Some things never change.  I’m planning to make a sign to hold up at the airport for him. You know how the limo drivers hold signs with their passengers’ names? My sign will read “Booger.” I’m trying to talk Randy into holding a sign reading “Bigg.” There might be a story in that for another time.

Our nephew sent us pictures of our grand-niece, Clara, playing inside a big cardboard box. That’s it. Not even a paragraph.

My mother suggested that I write about the time we were kids, and Mom was sledding with us at my grandparents’ house. Mom ran over Pap’s peach tree with the sled. She thinks that story is hilarious. You be the judge.

I’ve started three other columns and have left them all hanging. One was, indeed, about Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t finish it. Another one was about the month of February.  Three paragraphs in and I was stumped. The third one was a piece of fiction about a girl who was allergic to flowers and chocolate. What was I thinking?

I was getting desperate, and then I remembered that right after Christmas I had read The Girl on the Train. I found that book very disturbing, and yet I couldn’t put it down. After I finished the book, I gave it to Randy and asked if he’d read it to see if he had the same reaction. Not being a big fan of “chick lit,” he read it and then said, “You’re darn right it was disturbing. I read the whole stupid book about those silly people, and the writer never once mentioned what kind of train it was.” His reaction cracked me up, but I didn’t think I could write a whole column around it.

I thought about writing something regarding weight loss since everyone seems to be trying to lose weight after the holidays. Then I remembered something else that Randy said recently. You see, he’s not a member of Oprah’s fan club. Now that Oprah owns a portion of Weight Watchers and she’s become their spokesperson, Randy is even more annoyed with her. We were watching television the other night and one of Oprah’s commercials came on. Randy looked over and said, “You know, someone should put Oprah and Marie Osmond in a room together and let them eat each other.” It took me a second, and then I figured out that Marie is a spokesperson for Nutri-Systems. Maybe a weight loss column is a good idea for another month, but I think I’ll leave Oprah out of it.  And Marie.

So here I am with a whole lot of nothing. Life is like that. Sometimes it’s exciting and filled to the brim with action and adventure. More often than not, it’s like this. Stuff happens, but most of it isn’t worth repeating. And some of it can’t be repeated in polite company (most of my emails with my friend, Gail, fall in this category). We have appointments with our doctors and dentists, we get bills that need to be disputed, we have lunch or dinner with friends, and we spend time with our families. We can choose to grumble about things or we can smile and get on with it. Most of all, we can relax and enjoy the slow times. Trust me, it won’t always be this way.

Christine Maccabee  

Many years ago, I found a holly tree that was half-dead in a pot at a nursery. They were closing up for the winter, so were only too happy to sell the holly to me at half the price. Thrilled, I brought it home and planted it with great care on one side of my house. Over the years, it grew nearly as high as the roof.

Several years ago, my holly got a disease and was obviously dying, so with great sorrow, I decided to have it cut down. However, I noticed a shoot coming up one side of the stump and decided to give it a chance. Now I have a lovely young tree, about ten feet tall. As you can see, I do not give up easily on living things.

Just last month, while sitting at my computer,  I heard a commotion outside my window. It was a fluttering of wings, but mostly some loud screeching or calling. Looking out, I saw two blue jays, one of which was a juvenile. The older, larger adult was broadcasting a message out to the rest of his clan, I suppose, saying “No berries on this holly.” I have learned that birds have specific calls or songs for specific purposes, the truth of which reveals their amazing innate intelligence (which some call instinct). Indeed, sadly, even though those two blue jay scouts had found a holly tree, there were no berries on it because it is a male.

Some people do not like blue jays, especially not when they come to feast at their bird feeders. Jays have gained an unfair reputation as bullies, even bandits, due to the mask patterns around their eyes and an occasional nest robbery. In fact, blue jays are related to crows and ravens, which are known to be carnivorous, but rarely eating the eggs of other birds. J.J. Audubon called his drawing of blue jays “Crested Crows,” which is a translation from the Latin. They will even eat your cat’s food and pluck out the eyes of dead animals. Some people call them “winged vagabonds.” Call them what you like; I think they are beautiful.

According to naturalist Calvin Simonds, the blue jay’s reputation as a nest robber is “much overstated,” as they prefer nuts, acorns, seeds, and small fruits.1 In fact, the blue jay is actually a tropical bird, which has expanded its range through North America, as far north as Maine. Talk about adaptation of a species! I admire the blue jay for its pluck. As for the “bully at the bird feeder” accusation, I believe smaller birds are simply intimidated by the blue jay’s large size. I have never seen a blue jay bully my smaller birds, although some animals—as well as some human beings—seem to exhibit inbred, bullying tendencies.

After the disappointment expressed by my two jays in the holly tree, I decided I need more hollies, female ones this time, to get berries for all my birds. I already have dogwoods on my land, but not nearly enough native elder, cherry, crab apple, or holly. Red cedar is a good tree for wild fruit, but is known to create disease in your orchard trees if it is within one mile of them. However, on Cape Cod, a birder counted 20,000 migrating robins in a cedar tree grove, eating their fill until finally leaving to go further south, so cedar is a great habitat in the right places.

But, I digress…now back to the holly. I emailed a naturalist friend, who has a stand of female holly trees. Before winter is out, I will be rooting as many cuttings from his hollies as I am able, so, in time, I will have plenty of wild fruit to help my frugivore-feathered friends through the winter. So, what’s a frugivore, you ask?

In my research, I learned that some birds are frugivores, or fruit lovers. Besides blue jays, other frugivores are robins, bluebirds, thrush, mockingbirds, catbirds, and cedar waxwings, along with others, I am sure. Developing habitat for wild birds and bees and insects of all sorts requires appropriate and diverse vegetation. So, I must thank my blue jays on the holly outside my window for spurring me on to a better wildlife management plan. Seeds in my feeder and suet are not the only ways I can help my kin.

I do not care as much about the ornamental qualities of hollies and dogwoods, but more about their usefulness for wildlife. After all, what would this world be like without the voices of the birds, the buzzing of the bees (all wild fruiting trees get flowers first), the astounding colors of flowers, and the voice of the wind through the trees, even my poor little male holly tree; perhaps it will be thrilled to have a few females around!