Mary Flood and the reverential snow geese

March 2, 2012
Tyler Bryan and his snapping friend.  Don't try this unless you know what you're doing. If a snapper gets hold of you he won't let go even if the sun goes down and you chop his head off. BY CHAD BETTS

I drove north last Saturday morning for an early funeral service honoring the life of Mary Flood, who died suddenly a few days before.  Mary and her husband, Jim, raised a fine family of seven children.  They lived in Rehoboth Beach for nine years in the mid-1960s into the 1970s when Jim was editor of Delaware Coast Press.  Then they moved north to the capital to start their own newspaper, The Dover Post. They managed the Post successfully, side by side with several of their children, for more than 25 years.

Mary loved to laugh and loved to read.  One day Jim called to relay a message from Mary.  “She’s just finished reading a book that she thinks you would really like,” said Jim.  “It’s called the Island at the Center of the World and tells the story of Manhattan when it was under the control of the Dutch.”

Mary was right.  It’s a great book, especially for those who love history and especially local history.  It refers to the Lewes area obliquely when it discusses Dutch efforts to control all the Mid-Atlantic territory between what they called the North River – now known as the Hudson – and the South River, now known as the Delaware. The book is enlightening, particularly in terms of how the Dutch preference for free markets without prejudices shaped the founding documents of our nation.

Mary will be missed for many reasons but will long be remembered for the great family she and Jim shaped.

A nice drive north
Though a sad occasion, it was a nice drive to Dover, especially early on a weekend morning in the winter when traffic was light.  The flat farm fields of Delaware alternate with great expanses of salt marsh around the Broadkill, the Mispillion and the Murderkill before the westering roads to the capital begin their slight rise into the higher lands of the peninsula.

Just west of Red Mill Pond, I began seeing echelons in the largest flock of snow geese I have ever seen in my life. Probably coming off Delaware Bay and flying inland toward the southwest, the snows continued flying over Route 1 for the next 15 miles. Vs and Zs and single strings of them flew over, hundreds of thousands of them, the whole great flock not petering out until I passed the pretty white church at Argos Corner.

This winter’s warm weather kept most of the Atlantic Flyway’s ducks to the north of us, but it sure didn’t dissuade the record hatch of snow geese from coming to their traditional wintering grounds on Delmarva.

A week filled with wildlife
Tyler Bryan showed me a phone photo Friday night at the Georgetown Oyster Eat. There he stands, holding a none-too-happy snapping turtle by its tail.  I told him to send it over and I’ve included it with this column.

“I was walking the edge of a swampy area on a piece of state land outside of Milton looking for deer sheds when I spotted him creeping through the shallow water,” wrote Tyler when he sent the picture. “When I first walked over I jumped some wood ducks out of there. No doubt he has had a few meals from them. My buddy Chad Betts was walking with me too and he took the picture. It wasn't a huge one, probably like 15 pounds, and he was plenty feisty.”

Personally, I like snapping turtle in a soup with sherry – not hanging from my hand.

Bill Schab and I crossed paths at the Oyster Eat too and he told me he had been walking the beach at Cape Henlopen that morning. “I counted seven seals in the surf. They looked right at me and trailed along as I made my way up the beach.  It was cool.”

To quote Tyler, when you’re out in the wild, “it’s always an adventure.”

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