Happy birthday, Sam!

It was an honor to attend Sam Wickersham's 100th birthday party on Saturday, April 27. Sam grew up on a dairy farm near Marlboro Village and graduated with the class of 1938 from Unionville High School. He worked as a mailman in Kennett Square for more than 30 years and, after retirement, worked at the Longwood Gardens "post office" for 10 years. In 1981 he was inducted into the Kennett Old Timers' Baseball Hall of Fame. He now lives in Kennett Township with his daughter, Marcia Wickersham Wilkins, who organized the party and had lots of old photos and news clippings about her beloved father to show guests.

Sam wore a sign around his neck proclaiming that he was 36,522 days old -- "But who's counting!" On hand were family, including his great-grandchildren, friends and former coworkers.

I asked Sam how he reached the century mark and he said he attributes it to his parents and his healthy upbringing on a farm, where he learned the meaning of hard work.


History of Longwood Gardens

A reminder that Colvin Randall will be discussing the history of Longwood Gardens in a free lecture from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Kennett Township building, 801 Burrows Run Road, Chadds Ford. His talk will cover "the complete story of Longwood Gardens over the past century from the planting of the original arboretum by a Quaker family, to Pierre du Pont???s creation of the gardens, conservatory and fountains, to its transformation from a private estate to one of the world's greatest horticultural showplaces."

The lecture is sponsored by the Kennett Township Historical Commission.


Brandywine Creek Road closed

Brandywine Creek Road has been closed to westbound traffic since March 2017, and now it's closed in both directions so that crews can install a retaining wall along the steep slope down to the creek, reconstruct and protect the streambank, and replace the pavement and guiderail. Construction is expected to last until the summer of 2020. The state-funded $5.6 million project is being done by Road-Con Inc. of West Chester and the detour takes motorists on Route 162 and Strasburg Road.

Residents who live on the road regularly document on social media that foolhardy bicyclists ignore the prominent "no bicycles" sign and ride along the uneven, perilous road.


It's epic

The trucks and equipment have arrived at Plantation Field at Route 82 and Green Valley Road, and the workers seem to be making good progress building the two dozen obstacles for the annual Tough Mudder event on May 18 and 19. If it's anything like last year, you can expect to see lots of athletes in soaking wet, filthy clothes running all over the 10-mile course, clambering up slick ramps, slogging through freezing mud pits, carrying their teammates on their backs, and swinging from ropes across swamps. I have friends who can't wait to fork over their money to register each year.

I stopped by the staging area off Apple Grove Road the other day to check out the progress and noticed stacks of metal pipes, a large crate labeled "nets," stacks of huge plastic tanks to transport water, some large pre-made wooden corners, a stack of railroad ties??and two utility vehicles.


Old-time music

On April 27 we went to an old-time music concert by the South Carolina Broadcasters. Despite their name, they actually hail from Mount Airy, North Carolina, and said they were very glad to have made it to the show in Newark, Del.: the 120-mile drive through rain and traffic took them six hours!

In traditional style, the musicians used only one microphone (emblazoned with "SCB") and it was fun to watch them taking turns stepping up to the mike to provide harmony or to do a solo, and then stepping back.

"It's all in the timing," fiddler and banjo player Ivy Sheppard told me at intermission.

Ivy is a big fan of the Carter Family (superstars in the old-time music world) and said she now has a copy of every single 78-rpm record that they produced.

The other members of the South Carolina Broadcasters are Ivy's husband, guitarist Dave Sheppard; Jackson Cunningham on the mandolin and guitar; and Stu Geisbert on the upright bass.


Feeling my age

At the Y I occasionally take a class called CycleBeat, a 45-minute indoor cycling sweatfest in which you match your bike's RPMs to the tempo of the music, switching between low, middle and high gears. Sometimes you sit in the saddle and other times you stand upright. Sometimes you do fast??pushups on the handlebars. Did I mention there are also??disco lights flashing around the room?

Obviously, the music is a vital part of the class, so the instructors take pains to put together fun playlists. Yesterday we rode to a 1980s soundtrack that included "Material Girl," "Danger Zone" and "St. Elmo's Fire." "I Think We're Alone Now" started up and the teacher called out, "Who sang this?" It was on the tip of my tongue to respond, "Tommy James and the Shondells, of course!" but someone beat me to the punch: apparently someone named Tiffany did an 80s remake.

Another reminder of my demographic came in an online questionnaire I received from my alma mater asking about my undergraduate studies overseas and how they affected my career and later life. It was timely, as I am working on a project that requires me to "translate" American English into British English (think "whilst," "practise" and "behaviour"), something I probably couldn't have done without studying abroad. There were many questions asking about dates, with each year in the 21st century offered as an option -- and then a catchall category "Before 2000." As if it was prehistory.


Signs of spring

So far I've seen the first foal (at a farm off Newark Road), the first gosling (in the pond in the Southridge development), and today the first squiggly black tadpoles (in the little creek by my vegetable garden). At a friend's farm for breakfast the other morning I saw my first hummingbird of the season. I put out my own feeder as soon as I got home (recalling that the proportions for nectar are 1/4 cup sugar to a cup of water), but no luck yet.

The viburnums at my brother's house were in peak bloom last weekend, and they were so fragrant we felt like we might be overcome, like Dorothy and her friends in the poppy field in "The Wizard of Oz."

Last Saturday morning there was a bike race through our area, and the participants came down my road in droves. Problem was, there had been a downpour earlier in the morning, and the creek had overflowed its banks, flooding half the already narrow road. The chaos and jockeying for position was especially comical (for us spectators, at least) when a horse trailer appeared, traveling the opposite way.


People and their hobbies

On April 28 we went to the Backyard BBQ competition, a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts at the New Garden Township Park, and were surprised at first that although there were lots of grills and smokers in evidence, we saw no food being prepared anywhere but the food trucks.

Dearest Partner, who has a laudable natural curiosity, approached one of the competitors, who was sitting under a canopy with his family and dog, and asked him what was going on. The man explained that the cooking had been done that morning, and the entries had already been submitted and??were in the (doubtless sticky) hands of the judges.

He said that he participates in several of these contests each summer for fun, although there are other chefs who take it more seriously -- like one guy he knows who competed 37 weekends in a row! The winners receive a cash prize. The New Garden competition had only chicken and ribs categories, but larger contests, like the Boooo-BQ Festival held each October in Indian River Inlet, also include brisket and pork shoulder.

Also at the New Garden festival we enjoyed talking to a guy from the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources, who showed us a display of scat (replicas, of course), animal footprints and pelts. He also had a lively frog in a big glass water-filled jar and a snake, who was napping.


A spicy sauce

When I first earned my driver's license, one of my favorite errands was picking up takeout for the family, usually subs, cheesesteaks or pizza. The Young Relative is following in my footsteps. The other evening he brought home dinner from his favorite Mexican place, Red Sombrero in the Longwood shopping center. After admonishing his father to use only the milder green sauce, he poured the red sauce lavishly on his own tacos.

Having proudly "made my bones" the other night by ordering my lamb biryani at spice level 6 at an Indian restaurant, I felt more than ready to try the red sauce. He handed it over, but with some hesitation -- and for good reason. It was so incredibly hot that I cried out, doubled over and grabbed for my ice water. Of course the Y.R. and his father were in hysterics as they simultaneously proclaimed, "Tilda item!"

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