Category Archives: News Links/Human Interest

CXXVI. Duck Creek Historical Society Burger Night Fundraising Dinner

Saturday, May 24, 2014 — A truly magical evening Wednesday. The café bulged with diners; extra tables were brought in. I was a guest at our town’s Duck Creek Historical Society Burger Night Fundraiser at The Odd Fellows Café on Main Street: all natural, farm-fresh half-pound burgers, homemade French fries or kettle chips; for dessert, The Odd Fellows Café superb bread pudding.

I sat among a party at a long table. I was pleased to find myself sitting opposite Rick and Tish Schuman, whom I have known for a decade but never have had the opportunity to converse with beyond saying hi. Rick did much of our historic Smyrna Opera House restoration, including the sprung hardwood floor. Rick and Tish are folk musicians, performing at the café and elsewhere. They are former members of Delaware Friends of Folk, where they were married at a performance some years ago, and are friends with my group of good friends centered around the historic Maggie S. Myers oyster schooner, oystering, horseshoe crab preservation, and Emmy-winning Michael Oates’s 302 Stories, “telling the stories of Delaware people and places.” I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Rick and Tish better, such down to earth people. Too, I have been looking for a piano, a good one someone wants to give away, and Rick, playing in two bands, knows of a piano restoration/moving guy. He will put me in touch.

The Duck Creek Historical Society is a nonprofit local organization. The Society, all volunteers, operates The Smyrna Museum. The Museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

The building housing the Smyrna Museum has a fascinating history itself and served as the site where in 1863 men between the ages of 18 and 45, who had their front teeth, were conscripted, by lottery, into the Union Army during the American Civil War. If you were rich, you could buy your way out, by paying someone, such as an Irish immigrant, to fight in your place.

Presently, the Museum offers an extensive Civil War exhibit including a collection of letters from one soldier, Alexander White, to his uncle. In one letter, he writes to send his greetings to his various family members and that he hopes to see them again: his company has been ordered to a battlefield near a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg. His letters detail the Gettysburg battles and his intimate combat experiences and difficulties receiving packages from home. He survives the battles and the war and comes home. I plan to return to the Museum to sit and read these letters. We are fortunate to have this treasure at our Museum.

The Civil War exhibit occupies one room. There is much to see at the two-story Museum building, a feast for the eyes and sensibilities, such as the wreath made from human hair; and new this spring has been an exhibit featuring ladies fashions. The exhibits in two rooms change every two months. Presently, globally-esteemed, local sculptor Richard Bailey is on hand exhibiting his Italian marble, granite, and semi-precious stone sculptures, including beautiful translucent butterflies. Coming this fall – and I mustn’t miss this one – are the Haunted Ghost Tours. A group called Delmarva Historic Haunts (DHH) has detected paranormal entities in the Museum and, I’ve been told, has captured at least one on video.

Some of the videos are posted on the Duck Creek Historical Society Facebook page.

Also on the Historical Society Facebook page are videos of the Delmarva Historic Haunts investigations at the historic Odd Fellows Hall. Spellbinding.

I am intrigued with the energies DHH found in the Café kitchen where two employees, separately, felt a shadow brush behind them late at night – I have felt such in my own historic home – and the energies and grumbling in the Café basement: I have been in that Odd Fellows Hall basement, and I sensed something down there. The walls are brick, the floor is dirt and the ceiling is low. Despite my girlfriend and I, at age 20 (just last year, mind you), referring to the I.O.O.F. as the Idiotic Order of Odd Fellows, the Odd Fellows have always engaged in humanitarian activities. I feel uplifted whenever I enter the building, now The Odd Fellows Café, and a few years ago, when it housed my friend Jackie Vinyard’s The Gathering Place store. Jackie restored the building, almost single-handedly, with help from her dad and a friend.

Smyrna is a town of ghosts, and lore, and rich history. Most of the spirits are friendly, some of them are child pranksters. I had lived in this town not more than two months when I went out into my backyard one blustery day and I knew: This Town Has Ghosts. Yes, there are many and many of us in human form have witnessed them.

Behind the Smyrna Museum stands The Plank House. The Plank House has been moved twice from its original location, the second time in 1998-1999, when after diligently working to gain possession of this building, the Historical Society disassembled the planks, carefully numbering them, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, and moved the building to the rear yard of the Smyrna Museum, where the building was reassembled. Now completely restored, the Plank House is considered one of the finest examples of a local structure from the early 1700s, said to be one of three plank houses in Delaware. The Swedes were the early colonists who knew how to build plank houses and log cabins, dating back to medieval Scandinavia, at least. Other European colonists (the Germans knew, but arrived later) didn’t know how and followed the Swedish example – except for the French, who knew how to build log cabins, but set the logs vertically, rather than horizontally, as in a stockade fence. But, of course. They were French, after all. How small in stature those early American settlers were; even I, at five-two, would stand stooped in the Smyrna Museum Plank House, had not they added another plank to the wall upon reassembling, thus elevating the ceiling a foot.

I find visiting the Smyrna Museum, enjoying conversations with Duck Creek Historical Society members and visitors, fellow history lovers, a pleasant and edifying way to spend a Saturday morning. I was there this morning again. I enjoyed a wonderful discussion about sculpture and art with Richard Bailey and revisited the Civil War exhibit. If you are interested, you can find pictures and learn more of our Smyrna, Delaware, history when you visit the Smyrna Museum website and the Duck Creek Historical Society Facebook page. You can find The Odd Fellows Cafe on Facebook and Café photos at The Trip Advisor.

Back at the Café for Burger Night, as the evening mellowed, a well-liked couple arrived, and everyone cheered, “The Neighbors [as I shall call them for this story] are here! The Neighbors are here!” and applauded. That’s the magical charm of this small town, augmented when my friend and I stepped out into a light rain on Main Street, brightly lit by period lamps, to walk home.

—Samantha Mozart

CXXIV. The Quest for Human Equality and Dignity

Five years ago I wrote a story about the Network to Freedom, the runaway slaves and the abolitionists who risked life and property along the Underground Railroad. Recently, I watched the film 12 Years a Slave. The film is based on the 1853 memoir, available on Amazon, Twelve Years a Slave, of Solomon Northrup, a free black man abducted and sold into slavery. This is the story of one man’s quest for equality and dignity. There are many such stories, and they haven’t ended with antebellum America. Yet today, humans suffer in bondage. Never is it untimely to recount the human quest for equality and dignity. I published my story under my byline in Middletown Life Magazine, Middletown, Del., in December 2008. Here is the link to that story: The Quest for Human Equality and Dignity.

Underground Railroad Terminology, Workers and Statistics

Pilots ventured south to encourage slaves to run away and gave directions along the way. “Stockholders” donated money. Agents directed fugitives between stations. When the “cargo” reached a “station” or “depot,” the stationmaster gave not only shelter, but food, clothing and care for broken bones, cuts, and sometimes bullet wounds. The conductor’s job was the most dangerous of all, overseeing a fugitive’s safe journey from station to station to final destination. That final destination was most often Canada, out of reach of the long arm of the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act ruling runaway slaves stolen property and therefore liable to be returned from the North to their masters in the South.

The enactment of this law coincided in 1793 with the invention of the cotton gin making cotton and the slaves more valuable. By 1840, cotton was the most valuable commodity in America, and rewards for captured slaves were high. Moreover, Northerners benefited from slavery by finishing raw goods from the South and returning them to the South. This economic climate notwithstanding, from about 1810 to 1860, the agrarian economy in lower Delaware shifted from labor-intensive cotton and tobacco crops to the capital-intensive crops of grains and fruit such as peaches, making owning slaves a liability; so, slave ownership dropped from about 95 percent to around 24 percent.

Workers along the Underground Railroad came from all walks of life – shopkeepers; farmers; Quaker Indiana businessman Levi Coffin, often called the president of the Underground Railroad, and with his brother and sister-in-law, said to have started the Underground Railroad in North Carolina; millionaire Gerrit Smith, who twice ran for United States president; and former runaway slaves like Harriet Tubman, who returned at least eight times to her native Maryland to free others. Only about five percent of fugitives made it to freedom in the North, according to the video documentary Whispers of Angels.

Samantha Mozart


Against All Odds …

In the spirit of our American Independence Day celebration, I post this story. If the colonists had given up during our American Revolutionary War when the odds were against them, as they were throughout the war, we’d be bowing to a queen whose father overcame a stutter. Miracles do happen.

This email was sent to me here at my blog. I agreed to post this uplifting story. It’s about faith and not cowing to the odds wielded by an often uninformed opposition. Click on the link in the middle of the message to view Heather’s story on video. It is just over three minutes long.


I came across your blog and really identified with a lot of your writing. My name is Cameron Von St. James and I was thrown into the role of caregiver when my wife, Heather was diagnosed with a very rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma, just three months after the birth of our only child. We were initially told that she could have less than 15 months to live, but she was able to defy the odds and eventually beat the cancer. During her treatment, I had to learn quickly to be an effective caregiver, and there were many times when I became overwhelmed and beaten down by the role, but we managed to fight through it together. We recently participated in a short video about my wife’s cancer experience, which we hope to use to raise awareness and support for people fighting illness, and the caregivers who fight alongside them. Here is the link to the video:

I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing this video on your blog? This Sunday is Cancer Survivors Day, and I was hoping that you might help us share our message of hope in honor of the holiday to help spread awareness for this awful cancer. I know that cancer isn’t necessarily the focus of your blog, but a positive, uplifting story about overcoming an illness can be a huge help to any sort of caregiver when they’re feeling down! I’d love to share this message with your readers who might take something away from it, if you’ll allow it. Please take a moment to watch our video, and let me know if you think it’s something you’d be interested in sharing on your blog.

Thanks so much for your help!

The View from Taylor’s Bridge — The Delaware Wild Lands Perspective

Earth Day 2013 is April 22.

The View from Taylor’s Bridge – The Delaware Wild Lands Perspective

On a crisp, blue October day in 2007, I stood gazing from Taylor’s Bridge out across the pristine Blackbird Creek watching it timelessly meander through cord grass bending in the breeze. Up close, my eye caught a cluster of rare, treasured native cattails huddled among the waving Phragmites. The dense population of Phragmites in these marshes has crowded out the once abundant cattails. Muskrats eat the tender cattail roots. Until the middle of the 20th century muskrat trapping here was widespread and lucrative. Trappers sold the furs to the Hudson Bay Fur Company and placed the skinned, cooked meat on the family dinner table – not too gamey with gravy and seasonings, they say. Then the character of the marshes changed. They became saltier and overrun with the non-native Phragmites having roots too tough for the now sparse muskrats to chew.

The Blackbird Creek, looking east towards the Delaware River.

The Blackbird Creek, looking east towards the Delaware River.

The Blackbird landowners were farmers, loggers, trappers, and hunters. A hardy breed, living in that remote, wet area where the Delaware Bay meets the Delaware River, they respected the value of the land and practiced good local stewardship.

Leaning over the rail of that low bridge, I looked down at the dark water and watched fish leap and make whirlpools that glinted in the inrushing tide. I wondered at the view had not a group of concerned citizens such as conservationist Edmund H. (Ted) Harvey, founder of Delaware Wild Lands, Inc., farmers like Jack Dukes, Governor Russ Peterson and others rushed in to wage a 10-year battle, finally saving 5,000 acres of untouched, varicolored salt marsh and agricultural land within a reed’s breadth of Shell Oil’s planting a wild entanglement of refinery towers, belching smokestacks and pipelines there.

A Blackbird Creek Branch, viewing east to Delaware River

A Blackbird Creek Branch, viewing east to Delaware River

How different would have been the view: Other oil and shipping companies joined the opposing forces. The conservationists were up against big players – George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon; and, yes, Maurice Stans. In the middle of the Delaware Bay shipping terminals, islands piled high with mountains of coal, would sit where schooners piled high with mountains of oysters once sailed in prime fishing grounds. The coast from north of Bombay Hook to south of Prime Hook, both National Wildlife Refuges, along the Delaware Bay would have become another Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, just north of the Delaware state line, where malodorous refineries have rooted themselves along the river banks as dense as Phragmites.

“In the beginning [Delaware Wild Lands] were like stamp collectors,” said Holger H. (Rusty) Harvey, Delaware Wild Lands, Inc., executive director, from his office in Odessa’s historic Old Academy building. We bought checkerboard parcels of land so that Shell couldn’t use the land in between, pieces with the idea of slowing them down, to block access to fresh water. That really did it — big time,” said Harvey. “It stopped Shell cold in its tracks.” Delaware Wild Lands now owns about 4,000 acres around Taylor’s Bridge. Finally, the passing of former Governor Russell Peterson’s Coastal Zone Act in 1971 stopped Shell for good. Shell put up all the land for sale and Delaware Wild Lands bought most of it in partnership with the state of Delaware.

The strategic holdings of Delaware Wild Lands are protected long-term. Funds come through an endowment and tax-deductible contributions. They buy tillable acreage on which they administer land husbandry and game management.

Cattails in the Blackbird marsh

Cattails in the Blackbird marsh

Delaware Wild Lands, Inc., “is a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of natural areas through the acquisition and management of strategic parcels of land.” Rusty Harvey, Ted’s son, became executive director after Ted’s death in 1978.

“My father was a man of incredible foresight,” said Rusty. “I’ve never known anybody like him. He finds a way to make people like him.” For example, it didn’t take Ted long to raise $80,000 to purchase the Great Cypress Swamp in Sussex County, when he told the Wilmington Garden Club women about the beautiful white-fringed orchids growing there.

When Ted Harvey was a boy, his dad took him around to see the state, fishing and enjoying the wildlife, instilling in him a deep respect for nature. Ted became an airplane pilot. He lived many years in Florida – between Key West and Key Largo. He had a fishing lodge there. “In 1933 they had solar power and air conditioning,” said Rusty. When Ted came back and saw the changes in Delaware, he was shocked and saddened at how real estate development had changed the landscape. Places he had visited as a child were no longer recognizable. He got friends interested to save the land before it was gone.

“We didn’t like the idea of being overrun,” said Jack Dukes. “They were going to dredge Cedar Swamp.”

A skeleton forest, the white cedar swamp at the mouth of the Blackbird that Shell wanted to dredge, is the sole New Castle County remnant of Atlantic white cedar. In 1878, the Blackbird, once primarily fresh water, now a tidal marsh, with an abundant growth of cedars, changed in character literally overnight when, during a fall hurricane, what the locals called a tidal wave breached the barrier beach, inundating the cedars. The previously protected inner marshes have since been subject to tidal action and salinity. The slow meandering of the Blackbird Creek from its headwaters in the Blackbird State Forest is the prime factor in keeping the water pristine.

Three bald eagle nests are located near where the Blackbird meets the Delaware River. There, on Mill Island “Before the Revolutionary War, the Tidewater Mill ground grain and timber,” said Dukes.

The Dukes Farm at Taylor Bridge

The Dukes Farm at Taylor’s Bridge

Jack Dukes committed land early to permanent farmland preservation. And in 1987 the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated the Dukes farm a National Bicentennial Farm. To be so designated, the farm must be in the family for 200 years, and not all such farms are chosen. They must meet additional standpoints.

“It’s a magical place down there on the Blackbird,” said Rusty Harvey. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The long flight of the red knot [in the spring from Chile to the Arctic to breed] amazes me. They stop in this area to feed on horseshoe crab eggs and double their body weight. It took me damn near ten years to do that.”

—Samantha Mozart

Cattails among the Phragmites

Cattails among the Phragmites


Sadly, Rusty Harvey passed away unexpectedly in May 2010, and we lost

Jack Dukes in March 2009. He was an eighth generation farmer on the family farm at Taylor’s Bridge and was an avid hunter, trapper and conservationist.

Gov. Russell W. Peterson passed away in February 2011.

To learn more about Delaware Wild Lands, visit or see them on Facebook.

I excerpted and edited this story from a story I published in the December 2007 issue of Middletown Life Magazine, “The Blackbird: The View from Taylor’s Bridge.”

I thank my friend Michael Oates (302 Stories), Emmy-winning video documentarian, for connecting me to the research sources he used for his beautiful video documentary, “The Blackbird.” Through Mike’s generosity, I had the honor of meeting Rusty Harvey, Jack Dukes and other tireless wild lands preservationists, so I could write this story of the inception and continuing efforts to preserve the land and our environment under the Coastal Zone Act.


Chasing Rainbows

Here is a press release from my sister Kathleen Long announcing the publication of her 13th novel: Chasing Rainbows. Kathleen’s page turners are warm, funny, sad, touching, suspenseful, impossible to put down; and when you finish the last page, you want more.

Hello out there!

First of all, I hope this note finds you well! Around here, the leaves are changing, the nip of autumn is in the air and my little one is spending her weekends cheerleading at soccer games. Life is good.

I’m emerging from my self-imposed writing break to announce my newest release. This one is the book nearest and dearest to my heart – funny, poignant and uplifting. If you enjoyed my romantic comedies, but also enjoy a deeper read with a bit more pull on the heartstrings, this is the book for you.

What’s that saying about the devil you know? For Bernadette Murphy, it’s the devil she never expected that changes everything. Her father’s sudden death leaves a gaping void in her life and is one in a series of events that rock her world. But with the discovery of her father’s book of cryptograms, Bernie realizes his encoded lessons in living may be exactly what she needs to survive.

When Bernie finds herself in trouble at home, out of work and banned from the mall after a confrontation at the cosmetic counter, she discovers what her father always knew. In life, you either choose to sing a rainbow, or you don’t.

From dealing with her family’s grief to dieting, dating and divorce, for Bernie, the singing is about to begin.

Chasing Rainbows is available now at these online retailers:

For Amazon Kindle and all of their wonderful platforms–

For Nook and Nook Color–

For a variety of formats, including PDF–

In other news, now that school has started, I’m back at the keyboard and ready to write! In addition to new Body Hunters titles, I hope to have news for you soon on a new contemporary series. Additionally, I’m working on re-releasing my first titles digitally. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, please friend me over at Facebook — — I hope to see you there.

Happy Reading!

Nov. 3 Event: 40 Years of Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act

A Community Perspective 

Delaware Wild Lands is hosting an evening to learn more about Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act (Act) and share the community’s 40-year history with the Act’s legacy and future. This event is free and open to the public and will take place on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 7pm at the Blackbird Community Center (120 Blackbird Forest Road Townsend, DE).   The evening will include a showing of the new documentary, “An Evolving Legacy; Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act,” produced by 302 Stories, Inc., which recounts the dramatic history and current challenges to the Act. Refreshments will be served.

The Coastal Zone Act, passed by the State Legislature in 1971, is considered a landmark piece of environmental legislation. The Act was prompted by Shell Oil’s attempt to turn much of the Taylors Bridge area into a major oil port and refinery.  Then contentious at local, state, and federal levels, the Act is now renown throughout the United States for its success in protecting Delaware’s coastal resources by prohibiting industrial development. Because of this legislation, the coast of Delaware remains largely undeveloped and teaming with wildlife and waterfowl and unspoiled coastal forests, marshes, and sand dunes. Yet the Coastal Zone Act does not restrict residential and commercial development, which is beginning to encroach upon these natural areas.

Following the showing of the documentary, community members from Smyrna, Taylor’s Bridge, Blackbird Creek and surrounding areas will share their reflections about fighting to protect generations of investment in their lands and their way of life or supporting industrial development that promised new jobs and income for friends, neighbors, and Delawareans throughout the state.

To learn more about the event, please contact Kate Hackett or Debbie Turner at Delaware Wild Lands (302-378-2736; ).  For more information about the documentary, please contact Michael Oates at 302 Stories (302-475-6119),

About Delaware Wild Lands, Inc.  

Delaware Wild Lands Inc. is non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring Delaware’s natural resources through the acquisition and management of strategic parcels of land.  Fifty years after its founding, in 1961, Delaware Wild Lands has protected more than 30,000 acres of land in Delaware and now owns and directly manages 20,000 acres of land in Delaware and Maryland.

Contemplating the Butterfly

ButterflyJapan holds an annual Buddhist ceremony Obon that
welcomes back the spirits of the dead.  The butterfly: a
reawakened spirit.

Yesterday, the world commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, but Sunday had another significance for Japan. It marked six months since the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, a date now seared in the country’s national consciousness. At 2:46 that afternoon…
(See my link to the Tomodachi Project, here in the left sidebar, under “Friends & Nonprofits”.)
You should watch The Butterfly Circus. Everyone should. It is being made into a full-length film. Heartland Film Festival 2010 Best Short Film. Tens of thousands have viewed this beautiful and thoughtful film.


“On Reverie” by Raphael Enthoven

“Imagination, knowing and dreaming into the heart of the matter.”

Raphael Enthoven is a French philosopher. In his essay, “On Reverie,” published today, August 8, 2011, in the New York Times he places his thumb keenly on the focus I attempt for my blog. I wish I could say this so well as M Enthoven, my kindred mind.

Do read this deeply thoughtful and beautiful essay, lyrically translated from the French by Betsy Wing.


Relaxing, Touching the Memory, Music Helps With the Final Transition

Without Words – NY Times Video

Jack Agüeros, a New York Puerto Rican poet with Alzheimer’s disease, has lost the ability to read and write, but still has moments of lucidity.