Friday, January 29, 2010

More Poetry

So now that I have discovered how easy it is to come up with a blog post if I just throw a poem on here... well look out because I'm too lazy busy sometimes to think of something brilliant to write.  So I pulled out something I wrote many years ago.  It does have to do with Deltaville as that is the "setting" of the poem so to speak.  Oh, and the definition of psithurism is the sound of the wind whispering through the trees (found that in the Balderdash game... love that game)


                    On nights when the pines talked
                    We shared whispered secrets
                    Behind heavy olive drapes.
                    "I think we should go swimming
                    off the pier," you'd say.
                     "Hey let's scare the neighbors with our cap guns,"
                     I'd offer.
                     Each summer we whispered
                     Staring up at the ceiling of the ancient trailer.

                     At 13 we discovered boys.
                     "Randon held my hand while roller skating,"
                     you offered like a confession to a priest.
                     "Was his hand sweaty?"
                     I wanted to know.

                     At 16 I was alone in the living room.
                     Our great-uncle dying in the house next door.
                      "Do you believe in God?" I whispered
                      to no one but the ceiling.

                      At 20 I was getting a divorce
                      Faced with raising a child alone.
                      It was the first year
                      I wasn't able to go to the trailer.

                      At 22 I visited the new house standing
                      where our old trailer used to be.
                      I stood outside with familiar pines
                      Staring up into the blind eye of God
                      Like the eye of a storm
                      silent with no wind.
                      The pines quiet like you and I
                       -- cousins grown too old for whispers.

We're still close, just not like we were when we were little...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Deltaville's Poet

Who knew Deltaville had its very own poet back in the day?  J. Bailey Cornelius was his name.  He was born in Deltaville in March of 1862 and in 1920 wrote a book of poems entitled Spare Moments.  Here is a selection:

Home Ties

Here's to the shores of Jackson's Creek
Where I first saw the light of day.
With its bright and sparkling waters
That unites it with the Bay.
Where we hear the seagull screaming,
And the waves roar, ring with mirth.
I wonder could I give it up
For another spot on earth.
Where we see the white winged vessels
Darting, glancing-a pretty sight;
The white and shining beaches
Stand out boldly to left and right,
And the broad Chesapeake that wash them
With its pale green waters and surf,
It would break my heart to exchange it
For another spot on earth.
Here's where friends and kindred
And the wild fowl come and go;
I take my summer evening rest
Where the cool southeaster blows;
With sand diamond studded beaches,
And the breakers dance with mirth,
Shall I ever have to leave it
For another spot on earth?
Oh, for a thousand years right here,
With friends that come and go,
And view the sunbeam sparkles
On the tide that ebbs and flows,
And hear the gladsome laughter
Mingled with the roaring surf;
Lord, I pray thee let me live,
My last day, here, on earth.

Mr. Cornelius hit it on the head.  Wish I could get my hands on a copy of that book of poems!  Perhaps I will blog one of my own poems on here...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hauling Nets

Gill nets.... you either love 'em or hate 'em, mostly hate 'em.  Pepop was known to put out a gill net now and then.  Pepop must have been the model for Tom Sawyer as he had a way of suckering kids into child labor making kids think work was fun and therefore helping him with his chores.  One of these chores was setting the gill net in the evening then hauling it in the wee morning hours of the next day.  Very wee hours.  Like no-human-in-their-right-mind-would-willingly-get-up-to-go-haul-stinkin'-fish-nets hours. 

Anyway, the routine was that in the evening we would ride out on Pigpen (Pepop's boat) to go set the net.  He typically put it in the Rappahanock not too far from the mouth of the Bay.  I remember throwing buoys over, then the ole hand-over-hand of slowly feeding the net into the water.  S-L-O-W-L-Y (also read agonizingly boring for a kid).  Usually there was always some sort of tangle to work out.  Eventually we'd get'r done and head home watching the sun set behind the Robert O. Norris Jr. Bridge (or the Rappahannock River Bridge).
I stole borrowed this picture to show what the gill net looks like once it's been set.  Fascinating.

Come morning the hours before morning, we would get up, dress, maybe grab a snack and head over to Pepop's Pier to board the boat and head to sea the rivah to see what we caught.  I would be lying if I tried to say that I hated this part.  I loved to go bring in the net.  There was the sense of surprise- "What would we get??!"  Sometimes we were lucky and caught a Great White sand shark which was the best prize of all- for a couple of 8 years olds anyway. 

But it was early (before 4am- we had to be over Pepop's by 4- 4:30).  Very early for a couple of kids.  My cousin Kelly and I overslept one morning and woke up to the sound of the engine.  We jumped up, threw on clothes (I distinctly remember a bright red windbreaker I owned that I always wore) and proceeded to race across the front lawns of our neighbors screaming for Pepop to wait for us.  Luckily we were fast and made it to the public pier where he picked us up (If I remember correctly he was laughing- I'm sure the neighbors were not).

The trip out to the river was the best.  Usually the waves were large enough that we could lean over the side of the boat and soak our heads.  Kelly and I loved doing this and always tried to tell our grandmother that we had fallen over.  I'm not sure, but I don't think she believed us seeing as how only our heads were wet.
Pepop was lucky enough to have a gill net hauler.  He had 2- their names were Jamie and Kelly.  Usually there was another adult there to help since child labor laws make it illegal to force us to work we were little.  We'd haul the net, watching for anything more interesting than a Spot or Croaker.  The sun would begin to rise over the Bay and we'd head back with our catch- soaking our heads the whole way. 
Don't get excited, stole this pic too from the AP News, it really is the sunrise on the Rappahannock near Deltaville. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I had a conversation of sorts (through blog comments) about the differences between a Stingray and a Skate so I thought perhaps I would outline some differences between some things around Deltaville (and its surrounding neighbors).

Skates and Stingrays are very similar though the main difference is that Skates do not have the stinging barb on their tail a stingray does.  Skates also tend to stay in more of a marine environment- that is they don't care for brackish water.  Stingrays of course have a barb on their tail that can cause a bad sting if the stingray is in danger.  Most stings occur when the animal is stepped on.  The tail comes up and the stinger hits the leg of the offender.  A good way to prevent stepping on a ray is to shuffle your feet while wading.  I think based on what I read, that the ray is what people see most often in the tributaries of the Bay. 

Let's go for another difference- Flounder and Hogchokes.  First, the less obvious- Hogchoke was the cooler CB handle and no one wanted to be Flounder (I ended up with Jabber Jaw- NO idea why).  Hogchoke (or Hogchokers) have their eyes and mouth on the right side of their body while Flounder have their eyes and mouth on the left side.  Hogchokes got their name because farmers used to feed them to their hogs and the hogs sometimes choked on the fish's fins.  Yum.   Nothing says lovin from the oven like fishy smelling pork.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Ugliest Fish in the World

This description from says it all, "toadfish common name for the sluggish, bottom-feeding fishes of the genus Opsanus, found in the shallow waters from New Jersey to the Caribbean. Toadfishes feed almost entirely on crustaceans and small fishes. The head of a toadfish is broad and flat, with barbels and fleshy fringes, sharp gill covers, and spiny protrusions on the cheeks; the mouth is enormous and has many sharp teeth. The scaleless, slimy body tapers to a slender tail."   Honestly, if cow poop had fins, eyes and teeth it would look exactly like a toadfish.

I went on many fishing trips as a kid and the one thing we were taught to fear wasn't a shark... it was the toadfish.  In fact, if I or any of my cousins were unlucky enough to have snagged one on their line, we were allowed to even try to take it off the hook.  Actually, if we ended up catching one, the hook was lost as no one attempted to take it out of the fish's mouth.  What would happen is that Pepop would grab the line and flop the fish on the cutting board.  Taking his old used knife, he would stab through the toadfish's head pinning it to the board.  Then he would try to get the hook out.  Usually though the line had to be cut and the toadfish went overboard. 
The danger came with what it has in its mouth- rows of stiletto knife shard needle teeth that might take off a finger (everything dangerous might take a finger, or even a hand or foot- I'm sure you'll hear me say this more than once).  Afterall, toadfish are designed to crack open an oyster, so think of what it could do to little fingers. 

As scary as they might have been, we still liked the excitement of catching one. 

And before all you animal lovers and PETA people and Fair Treatment of Ugly Slimy Fish people jump on me over killing them... remember that they feed primarily on oysters.  Oysters are declinging.  Toadfish were not declining at the time.  Oysters are the lungs of the Bay and its tributaries- very important.  So the fewer things out there eating them, the better. 

Here's an interesting tidbit- In 1997, NASA sent the Oyster toadfish into space to investigate the effects of microgravity on the development of otolithic organs (whatever they are).  I hear they ended up using them as part of the "star wars" program.  We'll be sending them into Afghanistan and Iraq should the need arise. 

Sturgeon Creek

This is where our house is located- right on Sturgeon Creek. The creek was named for the Atlantic Sturgeon that was once prominant in its waters.  Unfortunately overfishing created a decline in the sturgeon's numbers and sightings are few and far between.  I was lucky enough to see one when I was around the age of 10-11.  I was in Deltaville with my aunt and cousin and while we were outside we saw them.  We didn't see anything in detail, just a couple of dark shadows moving through the water near our pier.  I secretly was hoping  thought it might be a great white shark.  Of course we went to the master of all wildlife knowledge- Pepop- and asked him what it might be.  He of course knew right away and told use how lucky we were to have seen it.

When I was a kid, Sturgeon Creek was teaming with wildlife.  We had a pair of resident otters that kept us entertained while they were there.  We of course also had ducks- wild ones and a flock of white Pekins.  Someone's dog had their way with the white ducks, so the wild ones are the ones left now.  I do remember watching what we called "dipper ducks" that would dive under the water and pop up in a different place.  I don't see them too often.  I think they are actually known as a Bufflehead duck which is a pretty interesting bird.  They are monogamous, taking only one mate for life. I was lucky enough to see some loons (other than the ones that walk on 2 feet) when I was down in early April.  I love hearing their lonely calls.

We've also housed a muskrat in the marshy area between our house and what was always referred to as Miss Mary Jane's house (the owner's name growing up was Mary Jane, she lived there).  If memory serves, she had an apple tree at one time, and the muskrat could be found sitting under it munching apples.  They are fun to watch swimming, though they do a number on the ground with their tunnel networks. 

Of course we have all the other waterfowl.  One of my favorites is the Blue Heron.  We always called the Blue Herons "Big Bird".  Now and then we get to see some snowy egrets too.  I was lucky to see one across the creek and snap some photos of it.  I also love the ospreys in the area.  When I was younger, every evening we would make a trip over to the other side of the creek to go see the osprey nest.  It was there for many years before the old tree finally fell into the water.  Now there is a nest that sits atop one of the light poles of the stadium.  I hear sometimes and outfielder stumbles upon a fish carcass now and then. 

Of course you have the Seagulls, the fish and once Kelly and I even caught a seahorse- definitely a rare sight in the creek. 

But I think my all time favorite animal encounter happened when I was kayaking around the sandbar one evening.  I was just drifting around in the low water when about 30 stingrays moved in and began feeding.  It was amazing to watch and even feel them bump the bottom of my kayak. 

So, those are some of the things about my creek.  Many other stories... but I have to save some for another post.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I have so many stories and things to say about Deltaville that it's hard to pick what I am going to write about.  Afterall, I've been spending time there for 30+ years (granted I don't remember all 30+ years since some of those were spent as an infant).  But I thought I needed to talk about someone who was a large part of my Deltaville experience and who still influences me today though he has long since passed.

Pepop was my grandfather's brother.  My grandfather died when I was 5, so Pepop took on that role for me.  My cousins Ty and Jeff (who I will mention now and again) were Pepop's actual grandchildren.  When I was younger, Pepop and his wife Memom were called Uncle Roy and Aunt Helen.  I don't remember when the Pepop/ Memom names came about, but Kelly and I just started using them along with Ty and Jeff.  I remember Ty thought it would be cool to shorten Pepop to PP, but Pepop but a stop to that pretty quick.

Pepop's given name was Charles LeRoy "Roy" Jackson.  He served in the merchant marines and was also the Superintendent of Patapsco State Park in Maryland.  This job I'm sure is the reason why he had such a love and knowledge about wildlife. 

Memom and Pepop lived in the house next to ours.  In the years before we had a house there, we had a trailer, and after our stay was up, we would always take over our perishables to give to them.  Ice Cream and milk probably wouldn't make the 4.5 hour trip back to Baltimore.  And during our stay, you could always hear me yell out that I was going over to Pepop's house.  I spent a great deal of time there.  Usually I would watch he and Memom play pinochle (a weird card game I never could learn to play.  And don't get excited that I knew how to spell it- I looked it up).  A lot of time in the evenings, the whole family would gather around Memom's kitchen table and we would all play Uno. 

Things I remember about Pepop:
  • He had a tattoo of a swallow and an anchor- if I ever had the nerve to ink myself, I would probably do some variation of his in rememberance.
  •  He had this large leather chair he would sit in at the kitchen table.  It had a high back and padded arms and metal brads lining the seams.  If we dared sit in his chair, we would be tickled until we threatened to pee.
  • His crabbing permit number he had on his pots was I-107.  Some might think it strange that I remember that, but when you spend as much time as I did pulling pots, it's burned into your brain.
  • He always wore some ratty old hat (I have recently learned this is called a BCH- birth control hat) a button down shirt- unbuttoned and a pair of plaid shorts.  Usually this outfit was finished off with a pair of dirty white rubber boots that smelled like fish.
  • He had a beat up white pick up truck that he loved that we took on errands around town or to Mathews to get dead smelly fish crab bait.
  • He always had a dog, I remember one named Sam, but the one dog that I remember best was Sheba, she went everywhere with Pepop (but she's another post).
  • He would send me letters and cards and always had pictures of the local wildlife he saw- Blue Herons (Big Bird), squirrels (Inky and Dinky), ducks( Quack, Qua and Qua), etc.  They all had names.
  • His CB handle was Pigpen.  If you were on his boat, you know why.
  • He had a small trailer next the house that he used as his work shop.  He kept his big toe in a Fleischman's Margarine tub on his work table (it was amputated).  My oldest cousin Jeff used to chase us and tell us he was going to get "toe juice" on us. 
  • He had an AWESOME vegetable garden.  He used crab shells as mulch and compost and the corn was a great hiding place when we all played hide and seek.
Around the time that I turned 16, Pepop passed away.  Funny, writing that makes me get a lump in my throat and tear up a little.  He was such an awesome huge figure in my life.  I worshipped him.  While he was sick, I sent him letters nearly every day and even sent him home made cookies.  He never failed to send me letters back.

Whenever I am in Deltaville, Pepop is on my mind.  I am close to him there on the water and in the fields and woods.  And when I see a blue heron, I tell my kids his name is BigBird, and share a bit of my past with them, and a little bit of Pepop too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meat Tenderizer- A Girl's Best Friend

I bet you think this is going to be about cooking or grilling the world's best steak... Wrong!  I'm talking Jellies- fish that is.

Anyone who has spent time in the water knows about jellyfish.  Beautiful and ethereal, these creatures of the deep are a HUGE pain- in whatever area they come into contact with!  While not deadly like the box jellyfish, irukandji and Portuguese Man O'War, they still irritate enough to ruin a beach excursion.

As kids, Kelly and I loved the water(reminder, Kelly is my cousin, kindred spirit, fellow hooligan).  We had a pier right there to use for swimming in Sturgeon Creek, but the creek was full of jellies.  What to do?!  We donned jeans, turtlenecks, knee high socks pulled over our pant legs and an adult who was to be the "sea nettle spotter".  And in we went.  Swimming fully clothed is not easy, especially in winter clothes.  I could never figure out why I was sent to Deltaville in the heat of the summer with long pants and turtlenecks.  I guess it was to prepare for a possible sudden ice age.  I had clean underwear too for those who care to know.

At the local beach- Stingray Point, Kelly and I waged all out warfare on the globs of goop.  Seated on our owl raft (it had clear plastic eyes for underwater viewing) we would bombard the jellyfish with sandballs.  Of course all we really accomplished was sending them deeper and out of sight.  As we got older, we started catching them and dissecting them on the pier.  I'm surprised we didn't get stung doing that.

We had our fair share of stings through the years, and each time, someone would get out the meat tenderizer, make a paste with water and applied it to the sting.  Gross you say?  Neverwork, you think?  WRONG!  It was proven years later that there is an ingrediant in meat tenderizer that neutralizes an enzyme in the sting.  Sometimes baking soda or toothpaste works- similar to a bee sting.

But one place meat tenderizer doesn't work well is the eyes.

Yes, there's a story. 

My cousin Ty, myself and Kelly went out to help Pepop pull the crabpots.  It was something we all loved to do.  Being out on the boat was always fantastic, and messing with the crabs and baitwas always a good time (we are were weird).  So we were hauling pots and the lines were covered with tenticles.  Since the palms of your hands are too think to get stung, it wasn't a big deal.  Unfortunately it was hot, and we were sweating, and Ty rubbed his eyes as they were burning with the salt.  It didn't take long for his eyes to be stung.  He couldn't see, he was freaking out.... Pepop headed back to the house where Memom tried to tend to Ty.  We were quite fascinated with what she might do.  Sprinkle tenderizer directly in his eyes?? 

He ended up going to the Rescue Squad.  Ty was always going to the Rescue Squad but that's something for another post. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Creepy Guy

On our road there is a house and in that house lives The Creepy Guy (key dramatic music). 

I'm sure that this man, and elderly gentleman, is quite nice.  Granted he never waves to me, even when I am waving so obnoxiously that I nearly swerve into the tree alongside the road so that he can see me.  His moniker came about one day and my cousin Kelly and I were driving into town.  As we drove by his house, we saw his head pop up in the bay window to see who was driving by.  He has little hair and the quickness he exhibited in popping up from a prone position was amazing.  My cousin said, "That was creepy!"  And that's all it took for my son to begin calling him The Creepy Guy.

Lately The Creepy Guy (yes I think of him in all caps) was sitting outside his garage watching the goins-on.  Not as creepy as the head popping thing, but he still scares me.  Ethan is fascinated by this guy.  He knows where he lives and requires updates on who saw them while in Deltaville.  The last time we were down, Ethan was curious if he had a car.  On a walk with the dogs, we went near the Creepy Guy's house.  Ethan started shrieking, "He Do! He Do have a car.  He have a truck!"

So here's to the "keepy guy" May he bring years of enjoyment for my crazy son.
Not the best pic as I was trying to nonchalantly take his photo without being notice while driving down the road at 25MPH and Ethan yelling, "You get him picture?" loudly with the windows down.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What's so Special about Deltaville...

For starters, it is the boatbuilding capital of the Chesapeake.  Or so the sign used to say.  I've been going there for 34 years.  I am 34. 
Most of my summers were spent here playing with one of my cousins, pulling crabpots, hauling fish nets, swimming and generally running amok as children do.  Pretty much things are the same now.  I hang out with my cousin, pull a few crabpots, swim and still run amok for the most part. 
It's small town America where the front page story of the local paper recounts the daring rescue of kittens thrown off a bridge into the Rappahanock.  Seriously, the story ran for a couple of weeks from the initial rescue right up to the adoption of the lucky kitties. 
It has a small town baseball team that plays in an old time ballpark that my great grandfather helped build.  I have a long family history here. 
I'm pretty sure my love of animals and nature comes from spending time here.  My great-uncle (who filled in as a grandfather when mine died) Pepop lived here.  He was next door and as a former Superintendant of Patapsco State Park in Maryland, he knew all about nature and passed on the knowledge.  He took us on fishing trips, let us pull pots and go out in the morning to haul in the net (obviously he was a master and convincing children that these chores were fun and interesting... must have read Tom Sawyer). 
The days are long and lazy and the memories warm and happy....