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This is the time of year that my Southern upbringing is more a curse than the usual unmitigated blessing.

Generally, I’m happy with having grown up well below the line where grits change to potatoes on morning diner menus and you have to special-order your toast if you don’t want biscuits, but long about (note the folksy Southern colloquialism from my native speech) the first week or so in February, some long-buried instinct awakens deep within me, and I get extremely irritated that it’s not spring yet.

Now, the Cumberland Basin where I had my raising (feel free to imagine a soft Middle-Tennessee drawl speaking this column aloud on a porch caressed by a gentle, warm breeze if you wish. Imagine a glass of bourbon, as well. I sure am.) does have winter, but it is a puny winter, a winter that folks from more frigid climes, well into the hash brown belt or even the lutefisk zone, would hardly recognize as such.

They get snow down there but are so unused to it that a mere half-inch or so is enough to send a city into a chaotic nightmare of spinning cars, crumpled fenders and snow shovel-induced heart attacks. The 40 inches we got here a few winters back (the great Snowpocalypse of 2010) would have ended civilization over much of the former Confederacy, sending hordes of refugees clad in flip-flops, Bermuda shorts and T-shirts from barbecue joints over the border into Mexico and parts south (I picture grim times until they could adjust to tequila juleps and pulled pork on tortillas instead of spongy white rolls).

I recall one winter when I was holding down a job in a Tennessee county that is mostly famous for having hosted outlaw country star David Allan Coe in one of the richer and more hedonistic periods of his life. It snowed a moderate amount, or at least what would be considered a moderate amount up here, 4 or 6 inches or so, and life came to a grinding halt.

Part of the problem was that a good two-thirds of the roads were unpaved, so plowing was not really an option, the county not having enough financial reserves to entirely rebuild all of the gravel, chip and seal, or just plain dirt throughways that were their responsibility.

The other part of the problem was a direct result of the first part. The guys in charge of getting power back on emphatically did not have the skills needed to drive large trucks on unplowed, snowy dirt roads.

For a young reporter, it was a moveable feast of disasters newsworthy enough to be printed but not so horrible as to be depressing. I rode around in a National Guard Humvee with a disaster relief crew for a few days, snapping photos of power company trucks in various stages of stuck and handing out emergency Army rations to people who were trapped with two-wheel drive in what had become overnight a four-wheel-drive world.

A thaw hit soon enough and life went back to normal, but I will always remember that time fondly, and it produced one of the greatest quotations I have ever included in a story.

The Humvee I was in stopped at a farm way back in the hills, where a man of about 80 was splitting wood in his yard. The sergeant in charge of our little unit asked him if everything was all right, and the man spat on the ground in contempt and said, “I got a ham in the smokehouse and three cords of wood. Go help someone who needs it.”

At any rate, by the time Presidents Day was done down there, the forsythia was usually in bloom and the crocuses were nearly gone, so I find the cold around here well into March offensive. I’d probably move back if I liked grits enough.

La Plata High sets antiques show and sale

The 21st annual Antique Show and Sale will be held at La Plata High School 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 9 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 10 at the school at 6035 Radio Station Road.

Antique dealers from all over the mid-Atlantic region will be selling items including furniture, jewelry, silver, books, linen, glassware, collectibles and sports and political memorabilia. There are memories around every corner. Stop by to reminisce, shop and enjoy a bite to eat. Call 240-259-2411 for more information.

Admission is $5, $4 with a flier from the school. Proceeds support the La Plata High School band and orchestra program.

Get your Andy and Opie on

Grace Brethren Church and the Charles County Arts Alliance will present Memories from Mayberry, an evening of bluegrass gospel music and fun, 7 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the church at 13000 Zekiah Drive in Waldorf.

Rodney Dillard, one of the Darling family from the Andy Griffith Show, will share stories about what it was like making the show and will play, with a few friends and Grace Brethren member Bill Adams, the music of Mayberry. Dillard also will share his faith message and how the show was built on biblical principles.

There will be a Mayberry trivia contest and Mayberry pie and coffee in the Aunt Bea concessions area.

Donations accepted. Call 301-645-0407.

Write better ... with a twist

Writer and editor Yvonne Medley will present two workshops, Write on Wednesdays — with a Twist and Write on Saturdays — with a Twist.

The Wednesday workshop will be 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 13, 20 and 27 at the Waldorf West library at 10405 O’Donnell Place in Waldorf.

March’s Write on Saturdays will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 2 at Marriott Residence Inn at 3020 Technology Place in Waldorf.

The workshops will have a maximum of eight writers and include private consultations with a professional editor. During the workshop, writers will receive invaluable information and critiques particular to individual writing projects.

Sessions address the choices surrounding promotions, marketing and publishing; and look at the art of dialogue and story construction and the rules of writing through the examination of literary classics, film and screenwriting. Refreshments will be served.

Go to, or call Medley at 301-705-8972.

Realtors seeking posters for Fair Housing Month

The annual Fair Housing Poster Contest sponsored by the Maryland Association of Realtors is open to public and private school students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

A local competition is held first, in which one winner is chosen from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. Winning posters from each county are sent to the Maryland association to be entered in a statewide competition, in which posters are chosen to be featured in a 2014 calendar.

Winners in the state competition will be honored at a reception at the State House in Annapolis during Fair Housing Month in April.

Students who wish to enter can get guidelines and contest rules through their school office.

All entries must be delivered or mailed by Feb. 28 to the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors, 8440 Old Leonardtown Road, Suite 211, Hughesville, MD 20637.