Entries are due by Friday, Oct. 10, and I'll report on the winners in my column of Oct. 16.
Like a fireplace log that's burned down to radiant coals, the commemoration of last weekend's commoration of the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam still glows in my memory, as much for the possibilities it presents as for what happened.
Like many people, I was leery of the crowds, but we joined them cheerfully Sunday, because for all the talk of doing this every five years, it may never happen again, at least in the way it did this time.
At 5 a.m. we walked from the parking area in the dim light before dawn to a hillside above the battle area. The crowd talked, mostly in hushed tones, as if waiting for a church service to begin, and a man behind us (obviously well-read in history) explained in detail what would happen to his teen-aged son.
We heard the musket fire in the distance first, popping like a string of firecrackers. Then the cannons roared and men on horseback rode behind the artillery, making me wonder how such beasts are trained not to rear after each blast.
Toward the battle's end, the fog and smoke cleared, and it was as I had promised my children it would be - a stage play with a cast of thousands, all of whom had researched their roles, bought their own costumes and even paid to participate! As they marched off the field, most looked tired, but a little sad that it was over.
The event may be over, but the effort to turn the history of the Civil War into something of benefit to Washington County should continue. My family and I went out to dinner Sunday, and some re-enactors, still in costume, came in to eat as well.
Why not, I thought, a Civil War -themed restaurant, with servers in the attire of the day, serving the fare of the 1860s? Why not a conference center of the kind envisioned by a 1988 state study, to give visitors an overview of what happened here in Civil War times, and to help them decide which site to see next?
The one thing we did not hear Sunday was the old Washington County mantra "That'll never work here." It did work, and can continue to work, now that we've seen how a community working together can transform itself.
On a more somber note, I got some news about Bill Kaufman, the West Side Avenue man who was burned out of his house, then discovered he had cancer of the tear duct.
According to his daughter Sharon, he's now undergoing radiation treatments in Florida, where he and his wife were staying with a daughter while a contractor rebuilds their Hagerstown home.
The work's almost done, Sharon Kaufman told me, and the only thing left is hanging new drywall, which should be complete in about three weeks.
Is there anything people can do?
"I hate to ask for money," she said, but added that her father's treatments have been an unanticipated expense, along with the cost getting him from his daughter's home in Port St. Lucie to the hospital, about 45 minutes each way. There's a trust fund set up in the family's name at Home Federal Savings Bank.
The elder Kaufman, still the jokester despite his troubles, sent along this one recently:
An exasperated mother came into her teen-aged son's room one day with an angry look on her face.
"If you don't turn off that music," she said, "I'm going to lose my mind."
"I think it's too late," the boy said. "I turned it off an hour ago."
A letter-writer (who didn't write for publication) recently took me to task for the column I wrote on my son's musings about the possibility of becoming a journalist. In it, I said, a doctor whose son wanted to follow in his footsteps would probably be more pleased than I am.
Yes, I should have said "a doctor whose son or daughter..." but in mitigation I would point out that in 1996 I used this column to help raise cash for a young Boonsboro woman to attend a summer medical-study program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Am I forgiven?
Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.