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Itís shotgun season in Maryland, when the local hunters put away their silent bows and take to the forests in an exuberant spree of gunfire that sounds like live reporting from the Middle East.

I always worry a little when the woods start to echo with the deep, throaty booms of the 12 gauges. A single shot every now and then isnít much of a concern, bespeaking a measured, mature approach of carefully aimed shots at actual, legal game animals.

Itís when I hear a three- or five-shot barrage, or even more, that I begin to worry. Someone nearby has a fully automatic rifle that sounds off every few months, adding a certain perilous verisimilitude to the usual fall Gaza Strip ambiance.

Iíve been hunting before, back in the days of youth, with their aura of invincibility and a naive belief in the competence of oneís fellow man, so I know that the indiscriminate blazing away is a sign of either very poor marksmanship or happy drunkenness, or both, none of which, and especially the combination of the two, being conducive to a comfortable feeling of trust.

The Worthless Dogs, of course, are petrified of the fusillade, closing in on the legs of the designated dog walker at the first discharge and flinching with each report. The look on their poor faces reminds me of a toddlerís first glimpse of a clown: worried, uncertain if the strange new phenomenon is really dangerous, but not willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Their reaction is a little reminder that the slow accretions of evolution have not entirely left the bewildered beasties, bestowing on them a healthy fear of the unknown that renders them not as unequipped for life as they might appear when they are, say, eating a plastic bag or a piece of aluminum foil with a spot of burger grease on it.

If they were really all that stupid, theyíd run off gaily in the direction of the racket, eager to meet the source of the noise, and no doubt promptly end up shot to death by an overeager amateur, who might not even know the difference between a deer and a dog.

The upside to the celebration of Second Amendment rights is, of course, the appearance on the dinner table at Chez Davis of venison, a portion of which we claim as part of our contract with the trusty fellows who rent our land for hunting.

This always makes me feel rather seigneurial and makes me wish I had put other things in the contract, like a wheel of fresh cheese wrapped in ferns or a bushel of frumenty, or something else appropriately medieval (though I would never go so far as to claim anyoneís firstborn child, and I really have no idea what frumenty is).

These deer are the next thing to tame, unharried as they are, by anything more ferocious than the Puzzled Pack, the members of which have decided that deer are more a part of the landscape than a threat to their territorial rights, and give them only the most desultory pursuit when we spot one of a morning.

Here, again, their attitude is a mystery, because they have a visceral antipathy to the vultures and crows that visit the fields regularly, chasing them with as much dedicated fury as they can muster (admittedly not a lot).

The annual re-enactment of the Lebanese Civil War really doesnít put too much of a crimp in our style, though. We keep to the open and try to wear something thatís not brown until the clamor dies down and, sadly, the flow of tender, corn-fed deer meat dries up.

Players needed for Scoutís Eagle project chess tourney

Troop 1780 Boy Scout Brian Linder's Eagle Scout project is putting together and running a free chess workshop and tournament for any kids in the community in kindergarten through 12th grade.

In an email, Brian said he had half of the slots filled with participants, and he needs more.

The one-hour introductory chess workshop followed by a chess tournament for youth starts at 7 a.m. Dec. 15 at Westlake High School at 3300 Middletown Road in Waldorf.

Awards will be given in the late afternoon.

There is no cost, but interested participants must register in advance by sending their name, age, grade and email address to Await an email confirmation as space is limited and the event might fill up with participants.

NAACP branch to hold election

The Charles County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will hold branch elections for 2013 and 2014 for election of officers and at-large members of the executive committee Dec. 18 at the RE/MAX Building at 106 Stanhaven Place in White Plains.

Polls will be open from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

To vote in a branch election, one must be a member in good standing of the branch 30 days prior to the election. A form of identification is required, branch Secretary Ruth Proctor wrote in an email. She can be reached at

Community Services guide available online

The Charles County Department of Community Services winter edition of The Guide is available online at

Online registration for most programs is available. The winter guide is online only.

Go to or call 301-934-9305 or 301-870-3388.

Nominate an outstanding teacher for award

The Charles County school system is accepting nominations for The Washington Postís 2013 Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.

Nominees must be full-time teachers in grades prekindergarten through 12 and have a minimum of five years teaching experience. Three of those years must have been with Charles County Public Schools. Teachers may not nominate themselves. Nominees must maintain their teaching position throughout the 2013-14 school year.

Nomination materials must include a minimum of four statements of support, one of which must be from a professional educator; a career summary; a description of contributions in each of the nomination criteria categories and two color photographs submitted both on a disc and printed out, one a headshot of the nominee and one a photo of the nominee in the classroom.

GO to for nomination criteria and other application information.

Nominations packets are due Jan. 11. Materials should be sent to Jeanette Sudik, Division of Human Resources, Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L.. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646.

Award recipients will be recognized and awarded $3,000 at a ceremony in May. Call 301-934-7220.

Pesticide applicator training, exam set

A private pesticide applicator certification training will be 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Davidsonville Family Recreation Center at 3789 Queen Bridge Road in Davidsonville.

The certification exam will be given at the center 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 28.

To register, call the Anne Arundel County Extension Office at 410 222-6759.

1812 bicentennial coin available

This year, purchase a gift that can be cherished and passed down from generation to generation: The Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin.

The coin, issued by the U.S. Mint, pays tribute to the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and Marylandís significant contributions.

The coin will be on sale until Dec.17. The coin is available in both gold and silver and as a special gift set.

Designs of the commemorative coin represent the Battle of Baltimore and The Star-Spangled Banner.

Proceeds from the coin support bicentennial events, programs and educational initiatives, according to a news release from Star-Spangled 200 Inc., the nonprofit organization that supports the fundraising goals of the stateís War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

The commission and Star-Spangled 200 are implementing a three-year commemoration of the War of 1812. The 18-month Chesapeake Campaign will commence in April and lead up to Star-Spangled Spectacular in September 2014 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of ďThe Star-Spangled Banner.Ē

The coins are available at

Volunteer to be a docent

Looking for a new and exciting way to volunteer?

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum is recruiting docents for its class from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 23 to March 27, at the park at 10515 Mackall Road in St. Leonard.

The program will provide volunteers with in-depth knowledge of the archaeology, history and culture of Southern Maryland with a specific focus on the land where JPPM sits today.

Volunteers also will examine techniques and education strategies for engaging museum visitors in meaningful explorations of the past.

Class size is limited, and registration is required. Tuition and fees are $15. Class materials will be provided.

Call 410-586-8500. Go to