Spring Is Harsh

Story and illustration by Doug Pifer

One warm evening in early May I was watching several purple martins as they circled and landed on our four-tiered aluminum martin house. Seconds later, a big Cooper’s hawk charged by, barely missing a martin perched on the porch of its nest compartment. The martin flew off and the hawk continued into the far woods without missing a wingbeat.

A few days later I was haying the animals and looked up to see a big pair of wildly flailing wings on the far side of the martin house. The Cooper’s hawk was clinging to the house while martins fled the scene. Seconds later the hawk flew off, talons empty. I couldn’t see what happened. I imagined the hawk had just grabbed one of the martins as it retreated into its nest compartment and then tried, without success, to pull it out.

For the past eight years we’ve had a resident martin colony return to nest in the martin house and gourds. During that same span of years, Cooper’s hawks have nested and raised their young in our neighbors’ woods. Our martins have experienced numerous hawk attacks. Last year I saw a hawk snag a female martin off the top of the house and fly off with her in its talons.

Purple martins and Cooper’s hawks have coexisted as natural enemies for millennia. Cooper’s hawks are bold and aggressive, and use a strategy of speed, ambush, and surprise to capture their winged prey. Fast as they are, they can’t outfly a healthy purple martin in the open sky.

Struggles for survival remind us that spring, the season of new life and new growth, also brings lightning, thunder, pillage, and plunder. I encountered spring’s harshness this morning when I nearly stepped on the delicate, fractured shell of a speckled egg. Traces of fresh yolk and a visible puncture told me this egg had been stolen from the nest, possibly by a gray squirrel or a blue jay.

Our dead Kentucky coffee tree was selected as a nest site by a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers. Male and female woodpecker chiseled and drilled a deep cavity with a round entrance hole near the top of the dead trunk. After the woodpeckers finished their work, a pair of European starlings commandeered the nest hole and evicted the woodpeckers. The starlings are currently feeding a second brood of youngsters there. A woodpecker sometimes returns to peer inside but is quickly shooed away by the protective starlings.

A black rat snake has also claimed this dead tree as its headquarters. Last month, our dog discovered a newly shed snakeskin among the fallen shards of bark at the base of the trunk. As the young starlings grow bigger and ready to fledge, the flickering tongue of the snake will pick up their scent. I thought the snake would climb up the tree and into the nest hole to swallow the baby birds, which it did last year. But yesterday, the cries of newly fledged starlings in the adjacent tulip tree proved me wrong. The nestlings survived this time.

A delicate dance between predator and prey keeps the prey strong and the predator on top of its game. Such drama is the centerpiece of nature.Illustration by Doug Pifer courtesy Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Anchors Away, Kaylynn Browne

By Samantha Pigott

No matter where you are born and where you live, the first 18 years of life are filled with growth, change, and excitement. Kaylynn Chapman Browne has certainly had her share. When Kaylynn arrived in Berryville 12 years ago, it started with a weeklong summer visit with her Great Aunt Beth and Uncle Ellis Chapman.

A week turned into a month and month into the summer, and by the end of the summer it was obvious Clarke County was where Kaylynn belonged. Guardianship was granted to Beth and Ellis. They were thrilled to have a daughter after the youngest of their four boys had just graduated high school. That nest wasn’t empty for long.

Kaylynn was a great student. She always achieved straight As, and school seemed to come easy for her. Soon her Aunt and Uncle had her enrolled in Tae Kwon Do. Jumping all in, they signed the Black Belt contract, and Kaylynn earned her Black Belt by age 13.

In the summer following her freshman year at Clarke County High School, Kaylynn decided she would try tennis the following spring. She worked hard learning the sport over the summer and fall. After a lot of hard work, she made the team as a sophomore.

The end of that school year Kaylynn applied to the very competitive Mountain Ridge Governor’s School and was accepted. That added a very new and demanding level of academic rigor. 

Fast forward to senior year and Kaylynn started in the Number 2 spot on the tennis team. This season has been a remarkable one. For the first time in Coach Schulhoff’s 30-year tenure, the team qualified for regionals. At the time of this writing, they are preparing to play for the state championship. 

Kaylynn applied to several colleges, and was accepted by most of them. However, since entering Governor’s School, her interests have changed considerably. Four years ago she “knew” she was going to be a dermatologist; now has done a 180-degree swing to an engineering path. Her change in academic focus, along with calculating the costs involved in a traditional education, left her with some pretty strong second thoughts about entering college. Her Aunt (being from a military family) took her to meet with military recruiters. After talking to the Air Force and the Army, the Navy won out. Kaylynn realized that serving her country was where she was being called. She has been recruited to the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion training program and is currently waiting for MEPS date.

Encouraging Young Writers: A Budding Writer Interviews His Softball-playing Sister

By Douglas Kennedy

Fourteen-year-old freshman Emmerson Kennedy is the starting catcher on the Clarke County High School varsity softball team and for the ShenVal Swarm 18U black travel softball team. Her younger brother Douglas Kennedy, a 4th grade student at Cooley Elementary, is very proud of her.

Douglas was teaching me about the rules of baseball and softball, explaining terms like RBIs (runs batted in) when the subject of his sister’s skill in the sport came up. Ever on the search for future writers for our hometown publication, I suggested he share her story with our readers by interviewing his sister for Clarke Monthly (with permission from his parents’ of course.) Following is Douglas’s unedited interview with Emmerson.

— Jennifer Welliver

Douglas: What started your softball career?

Emmerson: Playing tee ball when I was in first grade.

Douglas: Who are your top three influences in softball?

Emmerson: Casey Kennedy (my dad), Scott Rhinehardt (my hitting coach), and Aubrey Monroe (Team USA’s catcher)

Douglas: What college do you want to go to?

Emmerson: I have not yet decided, but Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina, and Oklahoma State are on the top of my list.

Douglas: Why did you pick [those] colleges?

Emmerson: Because they have the major I am interested in, and their competitive softball program.

Douglas: What is your favorite subject in school?

Emmerson: Art and marketing. I get to use creativity in my work!

Douglas: What is your favorite professional sports team?

Emmerson: The Minnesota Vikings.

Douglas: What is your favorite meal?

Emmerson: A Philadelphia sushi roll with white rice

Douglas: Do you have any pets?

Emmerson: Yes, three cats, one dog, two horses, and two fish.

Douglas: What are your parents’ names?

Emmerson: Margret and Casey Kennedy.

Douglas: Do you have any siblings, and what are their names?

Emmerson: Yes, I have one brother, named Douglas. [LOL]Thank you Douglas for sharing Emmerson’s skills and achievements with our Clarke Monthly readers. And thank you for contributing to your community paper! We know you will both continue to achieve great things.

Juneteenth Celebration to be Held June 15 at Fairgrounds

By Rebecca Maynard

The community is invited to celebrate and learn at the annual Juneteenth celebration at the Ruritan Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 15. The gates open at 11am and the program begins at 12:30pm. Allison Seymour, D.C. Channel 9 news personality, and Mark Clark, Baltimore radio personality, will MC the program. 

“This is their third year with our local program as they now feel as though they are locals,” said Dorothy Davis, Josephine Community Museum board member.

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday. 

The nonprofit Josephine School Community Museum, Josephine Improvement Association (JIA) and Clarke County Training School & Johnson-Williams High School Reunion Association organized the event, which will feature a variety of vendors and food trucks. The popular MLA mime group out of D.C. returns, as does Susan Shields. Souled Out will close out the day with a live performance.

“The flag memorial is a major display which memorializes the enslaved individuals who labored in Clarke County,” Davis said. “Many of the historic structures, churches, mansions, etc. were built by those who were slaves here.”

“The Lest We Forget Slavery Museum’s Traveling Slavery Exhibit from Pennsylvania  is a new feature this year and should not be missed,” Davis said. 

The exhibit, according to its website, provides a unique historical perspective into the reality of slavery for Africans brought to America. It is the only museum of its kind in Philadelphia that exhibits authentic slavery artifacts which include hundreds of shackles, chains, coffles, branding irons and other forms of punishing ironware.

Authentic documents show how enslaved Africans were bought and sold as chattel. Numerous “Jim Crow” objects which negatively depicted and ridiculed African Americans, creating a lasting racist attitude, are also on display. Incredible African works of art – sculpture, oil paintings and vintage photographs are on display and descriptive contextual panels are posted throughout to assist visitors in understanding the significance of this period in American history.“To many African Americans, this is our Independence Day,” Davis said. “While it is a day of joy, it is also a reminder of our nation’s history, how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.” She added: “Let’s celebrate our freedom with the unique traditions of such a rich, vibrant culture.”

Fourteen Years Ago

By Geo Derrick

After more than a dozen years at the Clarke County Farmer’s Market, Geo Derrick is retiring.

Joining the local farmer’s market with Geo’s Joy Herbal Medicine was one way that I felt empowered to support our area agriculture and preserve this precious “greenbelt” known as Clarke County. Having witnessed the frenetic development of good farmland in Virginia and nationwide, I found solace and peace when I finally moved here full time.

To this ideal, I was happy to offer free health and wellness advice on Saturday mornings for 13 years, to draw people to the market and support the many vendors that joined us. Having an abundance of locally grown food and clean air and water are the foundation of good health, and we are so blessed in this county.

I have felt a true sense of belonging with another extended family of friends that show up in rain or shine to shop locally. It has been a joy 

getting to know everyone and staying abreast of our community lives together. Deciding to retire as a vendor has been surprisingly emotional for me. I feel a deep loss in my heart.

So, becoming a sponsor of the Clarke County Farmer’s Market was an easy decision to ease the sadness and continue this mission. Our community is precious to me, and I am grateful for all who gather here on Saturdays. During this time, many of the natural products that we have created were a result of your needs and suggestions and remain available year-round on our website or with a phone call.

I admit that my husband and I look forward to finally sleeping in on Saturday mornings and simply showing up as shoppers for this sweet social time in Berryville. It is a privilege to be among such good and caring people.Namaste. Love, Geo

Clarke County Historical Association to Host Eighth Annual Colonial Kids Day

The Clarke County Historical Association is pleased to bring back Colonial Kids Day at the Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood, VA on Saturday July 13th from 11-4 p.m. What began as an internship project for a Shenandoah University student has turned into one of the most exciting and well-attended children’s events in Clarke County. This year’s event will feature a wide variety of activities which will allow children of all ages to experience everyday life in 

Colonial Virginia.

Activities include blacksmithing, craft making, colonial games, a scavenger hunt, the history of the Mill, living history interpretations, and grinding in action. Other historical organizations will be joining us on site that day, such as Sky Meadows State Park, the Newtown History Center, the French and Indian War Foundation, the Frontier Culture Museum, Sons of the American Revolution, and the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area Association for children to learn even more about history.

Colonial Kids Day is sponsored by Perry Engineering, Berryville Family Chiropractic, and Locke Store. Admission is $5 per person and can be ordered online at www.clarkehistory.org/events or over the phone at 540-955-2600. Tickets can also be purchased at the door the day of the event.

Founded in 1939, the Clarke County Historical Association is a 501 c 3 non-profit dedicated to preserving the history of Clarke County. Our offices are located in the historic Coiner House at 32 East Main Street in Berryville, Virginia. Also located in the Coiner House is a museum, genealogy research library, and an extensive archive of historical material relating to Clarke County and the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

CCHA also owns the Burwell-Morgan Mill, a fully operational 18th century grist mill located in nearby Millwood, Virginia. Their volunteer millers grind a variety of grains as well as give tours of this historic site every Saturday from May through November.

Supervisors  Appoint Douglas Shaffer to fill Berryville District seat

By Cathy Kuehner

During its public work session on May 13, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to appoint Douglas Shaffer to fill the Berryville District seat recently vacated by Matthew Bass. Bass tendered his letter of resignation in early April; his last day as a Supervisor was April 30.

After being sworn in by the Circuit Court Clerk, Shaffer participated in his first Supervisors meeting on May 21. He will serve as the Berryville District supervisor until the Clarke County Electoral Board certifies the results of a special election on Nov. 5, 2024. Anyone who is qualified, including Shaffer, may run this year to fill Bass’s unexpired term that ends in 2027.

In early May, Supervisors chair David Weiss (Buckmarsh District), vice chair Terri Catlett (Millwood District), Bev McKay (White Post District), and Doug Lawrence (Russell District) interviewed four candidates for the temporary appointment.

“We interviewed four great individuals who applied for the vacant seat,” said Weiss. “I was impressed with their knowledge and commitment to their community.” Catlett added that the four applicants “all brought a lot to the table.”

Weiss noted, “Doug brings 20 years of service to the town, and he has aa solution-based way of approaching issues.”

Shaffer, 63, was born and raised in Berryville, the county seat. He served on the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals from 2000 to 2010. Appointed to the Town Planning Commission in 2002, he served as its chair from 2010 to 2021. In 2012, Shaffer was elected to Berryville Town Council, representing Ward 1 for one four-year term. He is a Virginia certified 

planning commissioner.

“I want to be a voice for the town again,” Shaffer said. “A few years ago, I needed to step back for personal reasons, but now I’m anxious to get back into service.” As for officially running for Berryville District supervisor this fall, Shaffer said, “My hope is to work with the Board for a couple months, because it won’t mirror Town Council or Town Planning Commission. Then, I’ll feel confident running for the seat.”

Shaffer’s decades-long career has been in construction material management. He is presently a building inspector for the county’s 

building department. 

“Berryville has been well served [by its Supervisors] and will continue to be well served,” said Weiss.Find more information about the Board of Supervisors at www.clarkecounty.gov/government/boards-commissions.