Another chance to pick carry-out perfection

February 25, 1999

Twenty-five years ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, I picked up $25 almost every month just for entering the journalism faculty's writing contest. Not that my stuff was always the best, but I was usually the only student writer who bothered to submit the required three copies of an article and an entry blank.

I mention this because on Feb. 4, I announced a contest with a $20 prize for the person who could best describe a Washington County carryout where a family of four could find an economical meal for those nights when the crush of youth activities - Little League, ballet classes and the like - make it tough for parents to feed the children something nutritious.

I'm not asking you to describe the most meaningful moment of your life; just tell me where a family of four can get something that isn't greasy fast food. So far I've only got one entry, and while that's enough to win the contest, it isn't enough to help the lady who originally suggested the contest; what she needs is a range of choices in Washington County.


To help her out (and possibly win $20) send me a description of your favorite nutritious and affordable takeout meal for a family of four, to Best Carryout, c/o Bob Maginnis, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21741. Entries can also be faxed to (301) 714-0245 or e-mailed to The new deadline is Thursday, March 4.

Last week my mother came up from her home near Annapolis to spend a week with us in the country. Four days into the visit, she had a diabetic reaction in the middle of the night that left her bewildered and us terrified. Fortunately, we are blessed with an outstanding crew of volunteer firefighters and paramedics, who arrived, eight in all, on the scene in less than five minutes.

When they had revived her, she apologized to them for their trouble, and marveled that none of them had been on duty in the station house when the call came in; all had gotten up out of their beds at home to answer the call.

They did so to help a woman they'd never met, who's never been to one of their carnivals or bingo games, just because they believe in community service.

I bring this up not because my mother's story is unique; I'm sure it's repeated all over the county every week, in one form or another. I repeat it because the dedication of these volunteers merits something better than they got from the last Board of County Commissioners.

That board paid for a fire/rescue study that, in my mind, ducked the tough questions in favor of "further study." For all the men and women who get up in the middle of the night to help people they don't know for no money at all, this county board needs to do better than the last one.

This past week I had the privilege of being the guest reader in one of Fountaindale Elementary School's fifth-grade classes. It's been a long time since I've been in fifth grade, so I wasn't sure what to choose. I had an old copy of a Hardy Boys' mystery, "The Missing Chums," but I looked it over and whatever riveted me to the page as a child is something I can't discern now.

I settled on Jack London's "The Call of the Wild," the story of a house pet stolen from his comfortable home and sold to a "dog breaker" who in turn sells the animal to a man who's putting together a team of sled dogs.

It's not London's harshest animal story; the story of "Diable" and his evil master LeClerc is much worse and would probably produce nightmares if read to any small child, but "Call's" dead-on descriptions of the winter wilderness made me want to bundle up for a hike in the woods.

In answer to a reader's complaint about the old picture I've been using, the Herald-Mail photography department has taken a new head shot of me, and as soon as they find the photographic equivalent of the device that turns sows' ears into silk purses, we'll start using it.

In answer to other reader requests, we have brought back columnist George F. Will through the week and added another columnist, Robert Samuelson, on Saturdays.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's move to tie funding for a new University of Maryland campus in Washington County to a tobacco tax hike has irked some local General Assembly representatives, with Del. Joseph Bartlett, R-Washington, Frederick, saying that he's "certainly not being strong-armed by the governor."

It may not be fair to link the two, but this campus has been a dream of forward-thinking people here for 30 or more years, a dream many thought might never come true.

The question for Bartlett and others with similar thoughts is: "When this session is over, do I want my greatest accomplishment to be keeping tobacco taxes low, or bringing a new UM campus here?"

Bob Maginnis is The Herald-Mail's Opinion page editor.

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