Sunday, March 29, 2015

LIBRARY BOARD: They stayed long after library closing time

In last week's column I wrote two lengthy (probably too lengthy) items about the March meeting of the library board (the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, which the board has renamed the Kennett Public Library). The meeting started at 7 p.m. and, according to the suggested time limits listed on the agenda, should have lasted an hour and 47 minutes.
It was still going strong when I left at 9 p.m., and I just found out that the meeting lasted until midnight. A five-hour meeting! As the popular catch-phrase goes, "I can't even!"

AT THE RACES: The Cheshire Races, a springtime ritual

We just got home from a glorious afternoon at the 70th running of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds Point-to-Point Races at Plantation Field in Unionville. True, the temperature didn't get much above 40, but because I wore so many layers, I was perfectly warm (really, I was). The bright sun felt heavenly, especially compared to last year's horrendous, character-testing sleet and mud.
The races were exciting --- in one, the horses were so close together at the finish line that, as the announcer said, you could throw a net over them. It took a few minutes before they were able to sort out the winner.
Best of all, there were no injuries to humans or horses. I'm told that the condition of the racecourse was excellent and fast.
What's great about the course is that you get a close-up view of the horses and jockeys -- you can watch the horses jumping over fences right in front of you, and then racing to the finish.
Our jovial party of four (the usual suspects) brought along sandwiches, fruit, vegetables and a giant urn of hot tea (which was very welcome). The steeplechase is always a beginning-of-spring social event, and we saw lots of friends and neighbors, including a couple who make it an annual ritual to hike to the course from their home in the middle of Unionville (a healthy walk indeed!).
Everyone was so wrapped up in hats, scarves and sunglasses that I know for a fact I greeted some total strangers. Umm, sorry about that.

DRONES CLUB: Upcoming lecture about two uses of drones

There's going to be a talk about the use of drones both in warfare and for humanitarian purposes at London Grove Friends Meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18. Speakers will be Jessie Mooberry, vice director of Uplift Aeronautics, and Elizabeth Beavers, who is with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Q&A time and refreshments will follow the presentations. Free admission and all are welcome.

CHORALE: A patriotic concert at the UHS auditorium

Ruth Russell asked me to tell my readers about the Brandywine Valley Chorale's spring concert, "Testament of Freedom: A Salute to America and Our Armed Forces," at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at the Unionville High School Auditorium. The chorale will perform "Hymn for the Fallen" by John Williams; excerpts from Randall Thompson's "Testament of Freedom"; and the always popular "Danny Boy," "Amazing Grace," and "America the Beautiful."
Ms. Russell writes: "The centerpiece of the concert will be an extremely moving piece entitled 'Last Letter Home' by Lee Hoiby. The lyrics of the song are taken directly from letter written by a man named Jesse Givens who drowned in Iraq on May 1, 2003. He asked his wife only to read it if he didn't come home. A very powerful song."
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Folds of Honor Foundation.
Tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for students) are available online at or at the door.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Fine-tuning the bridge over the Red Clay

A faithful reader notes with approval that East Marlborough's road crew has replaced the "ugly, if practical, steel guardrails on the northeast end of the Mill Rd, bridge over the West Branch of the Red Clay, at the intersection of Mill and Wollaston roads. That steel guardrail was there for several months and sort of marred the appearance of the otherwise handsome wood and iron bridge."
He said he was happy to hear that the shiny steel guardrail has now been replaced "with an attractive wooden guardrail.  It looks very nice. We'll see how long it lasts...  hah!"


BINNIE: Goodbye to a little furry friend

This week I said goodbye to my sweet guinea pig Binnie, who lived to the remarkable age of eight years (the usual cavy lifespan is about six years). I adopted Binnie, her brother Fennel, and their mother Ellie when the little ones were only a few days old. Binnie outlived both of them. Yes, she was getting frail, and losing a little bit of her hair, but she was healthy and happy until the day she died, eating her carrots and lettuce and squealing vigorously for more.
We should all be so lucky.

Friday, March 27, 2015

LUNCH: Just what the doctor ordered

I happened to be in an elevator on Tuesday and overheard a doctor on his cell phone, calling in an order. Par for the course in a medical building, but the order wasn't for a test or procedure; it was for his lunch: a large cheesesteak with extra fried onions.
I was sharing this anecdote with a friend, and she told me that Tuesday was in fact National Cheesesteak Day. Yes, apparently this is a real holiday, and not just in the Philadelphia region. I can't tell you whether the doctor knew this or was just ordering his standard mid-day meal.

NEW BOLTON: A typical week caring for baby animals

On March 24 Dr. Emilie Setlakwe gave a fascinating lecture at New Bolton Center, describing a “typical” week in the life of a veterinarian in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She told us in detail about four of her patients: a pregnant goat who couldn't stand up (her treatment included a "goat float"), a premature foal with "dummy foal syndrome" and other problems, a sow who needed a cesarean section, and a cria (a baby alpaca) with seizures. Judging from her account, NICU vets need ample amounts of stamina, technical know-how, creativity and compassion. I was glad to see a few youths in the audience -- perhaps future veterinarians?

POST OFFICE: Unionville's loss is Lincoln's gain

I was sorry to hear that Shoon Ok is transferring from the Unionville Post Office to the Lincoln University one. She was friendly and competent, quickly learned customers' names and our corresponding box numbers, and always provided good customer service. As one customer noted, "She helps me mail old 78rpm records all over the country and we talk about old-fashioned things and times." Another lamented, "Now we'll have to train someone else!"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

APPRAISER: Keeping you apprised of this honor

Congratulations to Kennett Square native Susan Hall, a real-estate appraiser who just earned the title of Member of the Appraisal Institute. Susan's family and friends know how much work she had to do -- and how many classes and exams she had to take! -- to achieve this status from the national organization. According to the institute's website, "The MAI designation is held by appraisers who are experienced in the valuation and evaluation of commercial, industrial, residential and other types of properties, and who advise clients on real estate investment decisions."

OLD TIME MUSIC: Fiddle, guitar, banjo and mandolin

Eric and Suzy Thompson and Rafe Stefanini performed a fun variety of bluegrass, gospel, Cajun and blues songs at this month's Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music concert in Newark. Eric and Suzy live in Berkeley, California, and Rafe lives in Elkins Park, so they don't get to play together very often. Suzy mentioned wryly that the audience "might see the creative process at work" during one song they hadn't rehearsed very much.
One song was about Aunt Caroline Dyer, an African-American woman who offered both hairdressing and fortune-telling services to her clients. Another was about the romantic adventures of Lord Bateman, Americanized as "Lloyd Bateman" because, as Suzy explained, "in the United States we don't have lords and ladies." Even in the American version, though, he still owned a castle.
The audience for these concerts skews toward the AARP demographic (there are a lot of gray beards), so it was good to see a young girl with her parents at the show.

GIORDANO'S: Good food and excellent service

We enjoyed a good dinner Saturday night at Giordano's in Kennett Square, thanks to a gift card from the generous senior Tally-hos. I had a wonderful green salad with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, pecans, and apples topped with two large pieces of seared ahi tuna. My dinner partner had the crab and roasted pepper soup (he let me have half and it was delicious), and a big dish of spaghetti with mushrooms and red sauce. We both brought home leftovers.
Our waiter, Lisandro, was the model of a good server: efficient, pleasant, well-spoken, attentive but not hovering, and knowledgeable. And the kitchen was so well organized that even though the restaurant was full of families, we got our meal quickly.
As we do at any local spot, we ran into people we knew: this time it a local real-estate agent, and a couple who are getting married in May.

DR. OST: Embarking on a new medical practice

Patients of Dr. Mary-Anne Ost's, take note: As of May 29, she will be starting a new practice. She is joining MDVIP, a national network of primacy care doctors, a move that she hopes will allow her to combine old-fashioned, personalized "local doctor" care with high-tech wellness programs.
"I just want to take care of people the best I can, and empower them," she told me. "This is why I went to medical school."
She'll be moving her practice from its current site at the medical building of Jennersville Hospital to an office building across Baltimore Pike, and she plans to open another office in Willowdale later in the year.
On the MDVIP website ( there is a lot more information about Dr. Ost and the services she will offer, such as unhurried appointments (30+ minutes), 24/7 availability via cell phone, coordination of care with specialists, and an extensive annual physical. When traveling, patients will able to use MDVIP’s network of almost 800 doctors for urgent care needs.
The cost to join the practice will be $1,650 a year, with payment options available.
To learn more about the new practice, you can call Debbie Gowl at 877-767-7351.
(I should add that Dr. Ost has been my doctor for many years. She is also the mother of three, a farm owner, and a side-saddle rider.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

SHARING: Helping the less fortunate who don't want to ask

I was struck by a Facebook post today from a generous local woman who encouraged people to check in with their friends and ask, "How are you fixed for food?"
"You might be surprised to know how many middle-class families struggle to put food on the table,  yet are embarrassed to ask anyone (friends especially) for food," she wrote. "Yesterday, a friend offered me fresh produce she had. Once I got it home I saw it was more than I could use. I called another single mom I know and offered it to her. She said my timing was perfect. They barely had any food left in the house. I bagged up more of what we had and took it to her. She never would have asked."

LABCORP: Tilda is an inattentive customer

This morning I became the stereotype of a zonked-out teenager. I went to the LabCorp office in Kennett for a routine blood draw. Almost every seat in the waiting room was full, so I signed in and then plugged in my headphones to listen to music, expecting a long wait.
Well, apparently the receptionist called my name a couple of times and I didn't respond. Finally another woman caught my eye and brought the fact to my attention.
I promptly pulled out my earbuds and sheepishly went up to the receptionist, who was highly amused and said her daughter does that in the car all the time: "I'll be talkin' and talkin' and she's like, what?"
I apologized and made a point of deliberately unplugging the jack from the phone in front of her and she laughed.
Not only was the clerk pleasant and tolerant, even with a jammed waiting room early on a snowy morning, but the woman who did the blood draw was so good that I didn't even feel it. Well done!

GOTTA HAVE FAITH: Another series of lectures on other religions

Last fall West Grove Friends Meeting sponsored a popular series of Wednesday night lectures about other religions, and a few readers lamented that I didn't give them enough advance notice. Well, here's your chance: more lectures are coming up on Wednesday evenings during April from 7 to 8 p.m.
On April 8, Jada Jackson, Clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, will discuss Quakerism.
On April 15, Shelley DePaul, assistant chief of the Lenape Nation and the administrator of their education program, will discuss the Native American tradition. Shelley teaches the Lenape language at Swarthmore College, has written original music and poetry in the Lenape language, and teaches music in piano, guitar and Native American flute. The Lenape Nation’s cultural center is in Easton, PA.
On April 22, Jim Hammerman will discuss "The Fourth Way," a spiritual practice based on the teachings of George I. Gurdjieff. I checked out the website of the Gurdjieff center in Philadelphia and what popped up but this nice aphorism: "Practice love first on animals; they are more sensitive."

BUREAUCRACY: Mr. Cranky is on the road again

The Cranky Friend has finally resolved his protracted disputes with the Harrisburg powers-that-be, and on Thursday I drove him to the auto-tag place to pick up his shiny, brand-new license plate, complete with a fully valid registration sticker. After not being able to drive for months, he was so happy he was practically cradling the license plate in his arms.
I asked him if his driving and parking skills would be rusty after so much time off the road, and did he perhaps need me to walk him through his first effort at a self-service gas pump. His reply showed how quickly he can revert to his usual crankiness.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BAYARD TAYLOR: Disagreement over library's architect choice

A contentious discussion over the choice of an architect revealed a sharp split between the new leadership of the Kennett Public Library board and longer-serving members.
At the board meeting on March 17, Susan Mackey-Kallis (board president), Geoff Birkett (vice president), Joan Weber (treasurer) and board members Rosa Quintana and Douglas Thompson supported a motion to back out of an agreement the previous board had made in 2012 with the Lukmire Partnership of Arlington, Va.
They argued that selecting a local architect for the new library would make it easier to raise money and would counter the negative public image that the library board is composed of "outsiders." 
But they were outvoted by board members James Nelson, Barbara Cairns, Jerry Brown, Carol Starzmann, Carolyn Mohr and Karen Ammon (secretary). They said it would be unethical to go back on their word, since they already committed to Lukmire after a thorough search process. Vacillating would compromise the board's reputation and would discourage other architects from even considering bidding on the project, they said.
Ms. Starzmann, who served on the committee that chose Lukmire in 2012, described the lengthy process the board went through to select an architect. They advertised widely, put out a detailed request for proposals, held an information session at the library, received 31 proposals (some from local firms), visited numerous projects designed by the candidates, reviewed each proposal in depth with independent readers and then ranked the finalists. She said Lukmire, who will work with Kennett Square architect Dennis Melton, was the clear winner.
"The proper homework has been done," agreed Ms. Cairns, who also was on the search committee.
Mr. Nelson, an architect himself, said there would be a serious ethical problem if the board backpedaled after hiring Lukmire, especially since he had already started to work on the project.
Ms. Mohr, who is an attorney, said backing out of the deal would open the board to a lawsuit.
Mr. Thompson argued that no formal contract was signed between the board and Lukmire, so the board was free to change its mind.
Ms. Cairns responded that the contract had been put on the shelf, with Lukmire's approval, while the search committee spent time looking at in-town sites.
"They understood where we were," she said. "They've been very patient."
Also at the meeting to support staying with Lukmire were former search committee members Bill Landmesser and Amy Cornelius.

BAYARD TAYLOR: Library board's reaction to the name change

At their March 17 meeting, some members of the Kennett Public Library board spoke about the public reaction to their recent decision to change the library's name from the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library.
Both Library Director Donna Murray and trustee Geoff Birkett said they have heard overwhelmingly positive support for the name change among library patrons and the general public.
But board member Jim Nelson said the name change was highly unpopular and further eroded the board's credibility in the public's eye. He said the people he heard from were "almost totally against it" and were angry about "the way it was brought about," without any notice to the public ahead of a banner with the new name being hung across State Street as a fait accompli.
Mr. Birkett pointed to the 7 percent increase in library circulation in January and February 2015 versus the same period in 2014 as evidence that people are still using the library and thus support the change.
"If they were really worried about the name change they would've taken their cards home," he said, adding that "it's not a change of name, it's a change of brand, a change of emphasis."
Mr. Birkett said that despite the initial negative reaction on social media, only a few people showed up at the board's "listening sessions" after the name change was announced, and most of them supported it.
Joseph L. Sherwood, the Executive Director of the Chester County Library System, happened to be at the board meeting and suggested that the circulation increase was a function of the ice storm in February 2014 that shut down all the county libraries for several days.
(Ms. Murray disagreed with this suggestion; she told me the day after the meeting that the library was actually open fewer hours for the same period in 2015 than in 2014 -- 471 hours vs. 475 hours -- and the circulation numbers still rose by 7 percent.)
Board president Susan Mackey-Kallis said the library's development director, Maureen Snook, has applied for a $6,000 grant to catalogue the library's Bayard Taylor memorabilia. She said that just because the board stripped his name "doesn't mean we lose contact with that legacy."

LITTER PATROL: Red Clay Valley Clean Up on March 28

Charles Shattuck, the owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited shop in Hockessin, reminds me that the 27th annual Red Clay Valley Clean Up will be held on Saturday, March 28. "We need all the volunteers possible," he said. "Volunteers are asked to meet at the Anson Nixon Park at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 28. Gloves, bags and road assignments will be handed out. After such a long grueling winter let's all get out and make Kennett Square beautiful once again."

Monday, March 16, 2015

ST. PATRICK: Sticking with the traditional meal

Two days before St. Patrick's Day, we stopped by to visit some extremely nice friends who clearly are proud of their Irish heritage. They already had two corned-beef briskets simmering in a large pot over two burners on the stove. While the wife was fretting over the fluctuating water temperature, her husband was describing the mustard glaze, cabbage and soda bread he was planning to make. You won't be surprised to hear that their dog's name is Murphy.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BRIDGES: The Lenape Bridge is full of potholes

Have you driven over the Lenape Bridge recently? There are potholes on top of potholes and there's very little room to maneuver around them. I cannot imagine what it's going to be like when the Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine at Pocopson is closed for replacement for 18 months, forcing many more drivers to take Route 52 and use the Lenape Bridge instead. As it is, when the Pocopson bridge was flooded last week, a commuter friend of mine was stuck in a traffic jam on Route 52 that stretched all the way back to Denton Hollow Road.
The last I heard, the Pocopson bridge project is supposed to start the middle of this year. The 77-year-old bridge, which according to PennDOT carries nearly 14,500 cars  a day, is going to be torn down and replaced in an $8 million project.

THUMBS UP: A stunning "West Side Story" production

Halfway home from the Saturday-night show of "West Side Story" I turned to my fellow musical-goer and said, "How on earth am I going to write about this?"
It was such a stunning show that you simply had to be there. What talent Unionville High School has! I can't adequately describe how terrific the dancing, singing, acting, costumes, sets and music were. It was a hugely entertaining evening, with moving versions of the classic Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim songs.
As we walked into the auditorium, I took one look at the set and said, "This is so far from the plays I did in high school." The woman in front of me turned around, nodded and said, "This is like Off Broadway."
She was right.
My awestruck congratulations to everyone involved in the show, and very best of luck to the graduating seniors. I look forward to seeing the younger members of the cast in many more shows.

Friday, March 13, 2015

WINNIE-THE-POOH: A sneak peek at a new book

I knew there wouldn't be enough time for me to go home between a late lunch date and my gym class at the Kennett Y, so I took along my current proofreading project to work on in the Y lobby (it's a book on the history of public opinion surveys about religion).
I sat down at one of the tables, plugged in my headphones, spread out my papers and worked for about 45 minutes. As I packed up, I noticed that the woman at the next table also had a stack of hard-copy proofs in front of her.
I struck up a conversation, and it turns out that her name is Kathryn Aalto and she is an accomplished garden designer and writer. She lives in Exeter, England, but is in the States with her husband during his academic sabbatical. And what she was working on was the proofs for her book, Exploring the Hundred Acre Wood: The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, which is supposed to come out this September. It looks completely charming, full of the original pre-Disney Pooh illustrations by E. H. Shepard. (Kathryn cautioned me that the book title might be changed; apparently her publisher, Timber Press, was still getting input from the sales force).

SPRINGDELL: Another reason not to speed on 841

This morning I was driving south from Springdell on Route 841, with a Mercedes behind me. It's a short trip, but we encountered one obstacle after the other in the southbound lane: a vulture lunching on road kill; a pool of standing water; a big pothole; and a disabled white car pulled only halfway off the road. By the time I turned onto Route 926 to get to the landfill, I felt a certain affinity for the Mercedes driver, as if we'd bonded during the experience. Goodness knows what he encountered between 926 and 41!

GOOD EATING: Hood's and the Whip team up

What's not to like here? As Hood's BBQ & Deli gets ready to open its renovated restaurant, they'll be visiting The Whip Tavern in Springdell on Friday, March 27. "Together we'll be serving up a mash-up of a few our favorite dishes," reported the Whip on Facebook. And even better yet: "A portion of the sales will be donated to the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company in an effort to buy a new stove for the firehouse." 

POPE FRANCIS: The ripple effects of a pontiff's visit

In September Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia, where he'll attend the World Meeting of Families and celebrate an outdoor Sunday Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. How does this affect Unionville? A friend reports hearing that some locals are converting their homes into informal B&Bs and taking in paying guests during the Pope's visit. People are flocking to our area from far and wide to see the popular pontiff and are scrambling for a place to stay, even this far outside of Philadelphia: hotel rooms in the city and suburbs are few and far between.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Report from the monthly meeting

I couldn't attend the March 4 meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors (it was postponed due to bad weather), so this morning I stopped by to ask township secretary-treasurer Shirley Walton what I missed.
Not much, apparently: the board approved the prior month's minutes, authorized the payment of bills, and discussed some changes in the zoning code pertaining to alternative energy technology. According to the report submitted by Lieutenant Bob Clarke, he worked 40 hours in February, handled 20 incidents, wrote five speeding tickets and three parking tickets, and issued six warnings.
The next township meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3.

POINT-TO-POINT: The Cheshire races are coming up March 29

It's a really good thing that Jock Hannum and I had places to go after our Thursday-afternoon interview, because left to our own devices we would have just refilled our coffees and stayed at Foxy Loxy yacking until closing time. Jock and I were there to chat about the upcoming Cheshire Point-to-Point Races (of which he is chairman), but our conversation, as always, took intriguing tangents all over the place.
The short version is that this year's point-to-point, the 70th running, is being held on Sunday, March 29, in Unionville, on the property of Cuyler Walker and Katie Walker and Mr. and Mrs. Roger Elvin. Kirstie Grabosky is co-chair, Clipper LaMotte is vice chair, Franny Sharon is race course coordinator, Suzanne Kloud is in charge of hospitality, Doug Grabosky is the entry liaison, and Cindy Buchanan is the director of patrol judges and outriders. Greg and Caroline Bentley provided generous support for the ambulance and medical services provided by the Longwood Fire Company.
There is a new race this year, the Junior Field Master's Chase for riders less than 16 years of age. Bruce Miller will lead the riders over the first several fences and then will let them loose to race to the finish. The race is sponsored by Cindy and Richard Buchanan.
This year's Ladies' Race is being sponsored by Sanna and Kathy Neilson in memory of their mother, Nina Gill Stewart.
Jock has a brown briefcase devoted just to point-to-point materials and showed me the proofs of the race program that he and Wilmington photographer Jim Graham are putting together. On the cover is a photo of Mark Beecher on Grinding Speed, who won last year's Cheshire Bowl.
Now: about the weather. Jock said the weather at last year's races was the worst he could remember at a race meet in his entire life, with the miserable sleet, freezing rain and mud. By definition, therefore, the conditions will be better this year. I already have my parking pass.
For more information, visit

Monday, March 9, 2015

LIVE MUSIC: Two concerts are coming up

A couple of musical events are coming up soon that I want to let you know about:
1. David Power, who plays the Uilleann pipes, will be performing a concert of Irish music at the Coatesville Cultural Society, 143 E. Lincoln Highway, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, as part of a series of Irish traditional music that Emily Fine and Frank Dalton of Embreeville and Todd Denton of West Chester have been producing for the past ten years. "Our concert series is a labor-of-love, grass-roots, non-profit endeavor from top to bottom," Frank told me in an email. For more information about the concert, visit
2. Davey Dickens of Unionville is helping to organize and is performing in Soldier Jam, a concert to raise funds for an all-accessible French Creek fishing preserve. Headliners are Hezekiah Jones, Mason Porter, The Griz Band and the Manatawny Creek Ramblers. The show will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 28, at the Thorncroft Equestrian Center, 190 Line Road in Malvern. For more information visit (French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust is one of the concert sponsors).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

KENNETT SQUARE: A high-caliber fundraising event

On Saturday night a group of friends and I went to a very enjoyable and by all indications hugely successful fundraising banquet for a national organization at Kennett's Red Clay Room. The place was packed; we had to park across Cypress Street.
The organizers run these banquets all over the country and have fundraising down to a science. With remarkable efficiency they cleaned out our wallets. They were raffling off all kinds of cool items, at $10 or $20 a ticket. An envelope circulated at each table, and at the end of the evening if your table number was picked and you had contributed, you got a very nice prize. There was a 50/50 raffle (the total was $850), at 12 tickets for $20. Simply to enter one raffle for some high-end items, you had to buy a $100 ticket package.
All these different "games" were very confusing to us novices at first, but with the help of old-timers we figured it out and spent freely.
The official part of the evening opened with the Pledge of Allegiance (everyone looked around, searching for the American flag) and a blessing, and then the law-enforcement officers and veterans in the crowd were asked to stand up for a round of applause. (An officer from a neighboring municipality was sitting at the next table and I hooted at him until he stood.)
The announcement of the raffle winners was lots of fun. The emcee would draw the winning ticket and announce the number, and a few seconds later you'd hear shouts and clapping erupting from the winner's table. We had two big winners at our table, including a fellow who decided to attend the banquet at the last minute. I won only a pocket knife emblazoned with the organization's initials. But it's a very nice pocket knife.
The dinner was very tasty -- the waiters brought around salads, and then we went through the buffet line of meatballs, chicken, roast beef, ziti, green beans and carrots, and roasted potatoes. I was impressed with how quickly the crowded room was served.
I really enjoyed socializing with the people at our table. Three of the people discovered that they keep horses and chickens; they were set for the evening conversation-wise. Two women were comparing notes on their yoga practice. One of my table-mates is a supervisor in a northern Chester County township; I wanted to gossip a little with her about politics but never got the chance.
After dinner was the live auction, conducted by a tall guy wearing a black cowboy hat. He had to chide the audience (not just our table, I should add) several times for making too much noise. The bidding was lively on a few of the items: A red, white and blue guitar autographed by Ted Nugent sold for $550.
I was amused to watch the scene at a neighboring table: a woman was shooting daggers at her husband for getting caught up in the excitement and bidding way too much money for an oversized cooler that he could have bought at Cabela's for a whole lot less.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

NEW BOLTON CENTER: A typical day for a NICU veterinarian

Because of the freezing rain on March 3, New Bolton Center rescheduled its "First Tuesday" lecture until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, in Alumni Hall. Veterinarian Emilie Setlakwe will present "Tales from the NICU," about a "typical" day in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The lecture is free but please register with Barbara Belt at
According to a press release from New Bolton: "Setlakwe, a resident in internal medicine with a special interest in neonatology, will tell the stories of several sick neonates treated in the NICU: foals, calves, goat kids, lambs, crias, and other species. Setlakwe will describe what caring for these sick neonates entails, including intensive care of 'mattress' and 'dummy' foals; high-risk pregnancy monitoring of pygmy goats; and treatment of crias that develop severe infections shortly after birth."
I've been to several of these talks and they are always fascinating.
Future lectures are: April 7: Dr. Meagan Smith, "New Points in Equine Acupuncture"; May 5: Dr. Dean Richardson, "Fixing Broken Horses"; and June 2: Dr. Laura Johnstone, "Treating Cancer in Horses."

Friday, March 6, 2015

GRATEFUL: My kingdom for a loader tire

"They have no concept how much they saved my life."
I just got off the phone with West Marlborough Township road crew boss Hugh Lofting Jr., who asked me to publicly thank the Borough of Kennett Square for him.
It seems that the tires on front-end loaders, like apples, have a shelf life, and one of the tires on West Marlborough's loader blew out with the worst snowstorm of the season bearing down. That meant there was no way to load salt into the township's trucks.
"Oh my God, it was my worst nightmare," said Hugh. "We were dead in the water."
Panicked and fighting a case of strep throat, Hugh said he called around to all the farmers he could think of, but no one had the right tire. These special tires, it seems, cost almost $4,000 each, and for technical reasons you have to buy four at a time.
"Can you imagine [West Marlborough supervisor] Bill Wylie's face if I gave him that bill?" said Hugh.
Hugh lives in Kennett borough and was standing in his driveway when he saw one of the borough's plow guys coming by. Might they have a spare loader tire? he asked desperately.
Oh, yeah, we do, the fellow said.
Hugh said he went out at 6 a.m. and picked up the 2,000-pound tire, loading it into his truck by himself with the borough's backhoe. Then he persuaded a Lancaster County tech to mount the tire on the loader -- and all was well in Hugh's world again. He and his crew could go out and plow and salt and do their best for us very grateful residents.

SPIRITS: His hopes were shattered

Burst pipes, perilous driveways, extended commutes, cancelled appointments: all common woes given the weather this week. The Cranky Friend had his own woes: only a few steps from his back door, he slipped on the ice and broke the gallon bottle of port he had just purchased.
"It's small consolation that the quart of bourbon was safe in the other bag," he lamented in an email. "I can't believe I dropped that port. It would have been so pleasant to sip as the snows swirled about. Whisky is a different thing altogether."
I replied that he was lucky not to have been injured by the glass shards. He told me I understood nothing of his pain.

DOUBLE GLAZING: The benefits of a garage

Foolishly, I left my car outside during the freezing rain last Tuesday afternoon instead of putting it in the garage. The poor vehicle accumulated a coating of ice that took quite a while to defrost. While the vents were blasting hot air onto the windshield and the embedded wires were melting the ice on the back window, I ran the side windows up and down to dislodge the ice. As I lowered the front passenger window I saw with wonder that the ice had formed a second, completely intact window behind it. I reached over to clear it and most of it collapsed -- into the car, of course.
And why, you ask, was I venturing out in an ice storm? To attend the monthly West Marlborough township supervisors' meeting, of course. Which, in the end, was postponed to a night on which I had another commitment anyway.

FORESIGHT: Just as well I didn't bet him

Last Wednesday evening I asked the Young Relative if he thought school would be cancelled the next day.
"Yes," he replied calmly. "I guarantee it."
Normally I would challenge such an assertion from the youth, suggesting, perhaps, that he put his money where his mouth is, but this time it's wise I didn't: school was cancelled not only for Thursday, but for Friday as well. Being the sharp character he is, he probably would have insisted I pay him double the wager.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

ON THE RADIO: Top of the charts from the Seventies

I know I'm not the only one who has been glued to WXPN 88.5 this weekend listening to their Seventies marathon: they've been playing every single number-one song from that decade, chronologically. As I'm writing this (trapped inside because of the freezing rain), they're playing Paul McCartney & Wings' "Silly Love Songs" from the spring of 1976 (which topped the charts for five weeks).
What a blast from my high-school years! It's scary how I recognize every song -- sometimes within the first few notes -- and most of the lyrics, even though it's been many years since I've heard them, songs like "Delta Dawn," "Sunshine on my Shoulder," and "Love Machine." Great stuff.
And what a hoot to remember TV shows like "Welcome Back, Kotter" (could you name the Sweathogs?) and fads like streaking and CB radio.

BALD EAGLES: Conowingo photo contest winners

A few months ago I wrote about the fun I had watching bald eagles -- and the intrepid photographers taking photos of them -- at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. On Feb. 21, Exelon, which runs the dam, announced the winners of the Conowingo Bald Eagle Photo Contest. Wilmington bird photographer Jerry AmEnde took the blue ribbon for "Grab and Run," an astonishing, beautifully composed shot of a bald eagle clutching a fish in its talons. You can see all the winners -- honestly, I don't know how the judges decided -- on the "Support Conowingo Dam" Facebook page.