Author archive: Malcolm Barr, Sr.

Local News
Want to save America’s wildlife? Call your congressional representatives
March 14, 2018

The U.S. Congress is on the cusp of voting on a bill that could have life-and-death consequences for animals and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is asking people of Warren County, and, indeed, the nation, to urge their legislators to protect America’s horses and wildlife.

The legislation is the spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018. The national Humane Society urges support for legislation that would, in part, ensure:

— The ban on operating horse slaughter plants in the United States is maintained.

— America’s wild horses and burros remain protected from mass killing.

— Harmful wildlife provisions are excluded, particularly language that would allow cruel trophy hunting methods on some National Park Service lands in Alaska.

–Congress maintains critical Endangered Species Act protections for species such as the gray wolf.

The number to call in Washington is (202) 224-3121, leaving a message for Congressman Bob Goodlatte and Virginia U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to the effect that they work with leadership to ensure that the Final FY18 spending bill protects America’s domestic and wild horses from slaughter and mass killing.

Additionally, request the delegation’s help in safeguarding America’s wildlife from harmful changes to the Endangered Species Act and provisions allowing extreme methods of killing grizzlies and wolves on some Alaska Park Service lands.

Local News
R-MA Interact Club adds a penny-plus to ‘Penny Wars’ fund drive
March 9, 2018

The Randolph-Macon Academy middle school Interact Club, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Warren County, has raised $570.01 (who donated the extra penny?) in its annual “Penny Wars” fundraiser, bringing to about $11,000 the total the club has raised for charity in the past eight years.

The middle school kids, now led by R-MA faculty member Danielle “Dani” Clingerman, voted to donate the funds this year toward helping the family of a local child who recently succumbed to cancer.

Earlier recipients of “Penny Wars” funding include Feed My Neighbor (formerly Stop Hunger Now); Able Forces, a local organization assisting wounded veterans find meaningful employment; the Salvation Army; and families affected by natural disasters.

Club members, since 2010, have donated more than 8,000 hours of community service to those in need.

Local News
Opera returns to Front Royal’s Osteria Italian Kitchen April 13-14
March 8, 2018

FRONT ROYAL –Highlights from Bizet’s opera “Carmen” will be staged at the Front Royal restaurant Osteria 510 Italian Kitchen next month, the fourth in a continuously sold-out classical music series.

Local favorites Melissa Chavez, soprano, and Nicholas Carratura, tenor, with accompanist Jan Wagner, will again anchor the dinner-theatre type show. Wagner is the director of orchestral studies at Shenandoah University.

A four-course dinner is offered by restaurant owner Vincenzo Belvia. The artists perform between courses with one of them explaining the words to the Italian language arias as the show progresses.

According to “impresario” David Freese who approached Belvia with his “night at the opera” idea two years ago, three out-of-town artists will perform “Carmen” with Chavez and Carratura.

The two nights of music, April 13 and 14, begin at 6 p.m. and are open only to those with reservations. Tickets for the dinner and entertainment are $60 and may be reserved by calling (540) 631-1101

Local News
Sick and injured native wildlife get second chance at new hospital facility
March 8, 2018

This short-eared Owl was treated for an injured wing and returned to the wild, but not before he made the cover of The Ridgeline newsletter. Courtesy Photos/Blue Ridge Wildlife Ctr.


BOYCE – The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center’s new hospital in Boyce admitted more than 1,800 patients – mammals, reptiles and amphibians – last year, according to the veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Riley, DVM, who attended them.

Statistical data provided in the BRWC’s most recent newsletter, The Ridgeline, indicates that Warren County produced the third highest number (186) of wildlife patients in the 22 Virginia counties served by the Clarke County animal hospital. Frederick (539) and Loudoun (385) had the highest numbers while Clarke received treatment for 161 sick or injured wild animals.

The year 2017 was the first full year of operation in the new million-dollar facility that lies just off Route 50 at 106 Island Farm Lane. The building is a short distance from the original, aged house the Center operated from for many years.

Intake at the hospital started 2017 low, 29 in both January and February, peaking at 362 in May and staying busy the summer months of June (305) and July (304) then dropping off to 50 and 62 in November and December respectively. Of the total, 50% (916) were birds, 42% (774) mammals and 8% (137) reptiles and amphibians. Injured turtle admissions (120) increased 55% over the previous year. Among 916 birds delivered for treatment, the hospital received 100 more injured raptors (220) than in 2016. Many showed signs of various degrees of lead poisoning. The cause, and suggestions what can be done about this, is another story for another time. She explained the spring/summer spike being “due to the large number of babies.”

Admittance to the hospital is not good news for all our wildlife friends: those that have a very poor prognosis are humanely euthanized to limit their suffering. However, the good news is, according to Dr. Riley, those patients which made it through the first 24 hours at the center had a survival rate of 74%. Riley points out that the center is open 365 days a year “and there are very few days we don’t receive at least one patient.”

During the winter “downtime” BRWC held its first hospital “open house” Jan. 13. Board Chair Linda Goshen described a “truly spectacular day.” Said Goshen in a Letter from the Chair, “We had planned for 200-300 people … at the end of the day, approximately 1,500 people, most unfamiliar with BRWC, had walked through the building and learned about our mission … it was a good day for wildlife, too, as more members of the community are aware of who to call when they come upon a wildlife emergency.” The hotline is (540) 837-9000.

The BRWC is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization established to provide quality rehabilitative care to native injured and orphaned wildlife … in Northern Virginia. The center also provides environmental education programs for people of all ages.

This Virginia Opossum was treated for an ugly wound at the base of his tail. He was released, fully healed, right back where he was found.

Local News
Front Royal man travels 6,000 miles to play in medieval football game
February 13, 2018

Ashborne, U.K. is home to a unique annual football game that drew one man across the pond–from Front Royal, VA! / Photos by Michael S. Williams

ASHBOURNE, U.K.– Michael Williams of Front Royal is more than 3,000 miles from home today (Feb. 13) playing an ancient football game through the streets of this historic agricultural town where the goals are three miles apart and among the few applicable rules is one against murder.

Williams learned of the 500-year-old possible forerunner of rugby and American football while shepherding groups of Randolph-Macon Academy students on exchange visits to Ashbourne’s historic Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (circa 1585). He vowed one day to fly the 6,000-mile round trip and take part. Ashbourne, a town not much larger than Front Royal, lies roughly in the middle of England and is steeped in history dating from Roman times.

The game is unique in that there is no limit to the number of players and lasts up to 16 hours over two days You choose sides according to where you were born – to the north or south of the River Henmoor that runs through the town. Michael, 50, whose family hails from the south of England, is one of about a thousand  “Down’ards” who are chasing a solid,cork filled, basketball sized,ball, while roughly a thousand more “Up’ards”, born north of the river, are pushing and pulling and tugging and (sometimes) fighting to score a goal by fording a pond and hitting the ball three times on a plinth where an old mill once stood. This is the equivalent of the end zone and a touchdown.

The game, called “Shrovetide Football,” is played annually on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and Ash Wednesday (our Mardi Gras), and since medieval times begins around noon in the town square where a VIP “turns up” — throws into the crowd — the hand-painted ball at which time everyone has at it.

Meanwhile, store owners prepare for the game by nailing boards across their shop windows to mitigate against property damage. The “hug” or scrum, those closest around the ball, ebbs and flows, north and south, and the hundreds of “Up’ards and Down’ards” push against each other – think of a Redskins’ running play lasting not seconds, but a couple of hours, attempting to drive the ball toward their goal.

Crowds gather on the streets of the small town.  Below:  Michael S. Williams visiting with locals as he also participates in the annual game. 

Williams no doubt has already been dunked in the freezing Henmoor River – the ball, ergo the “hug” or players around the ball – spend some time in the waterway but mainly it is propelled forward through the streets of the town, then across fields and country roads leading to the targeted mill sites..Pause for a moment and imagine five to six hundred sweating players pushing each other in opposite directions. Anyone, at any time, can dive into, or out of, the fray.

While the ball is within town limits, players are known to duck into a tavern for a refresher, then dash back out to support their own side. If no goal is scored by 10 p.m., the game is called.

There are few rules though in modern times, there had to be a prohibition from carrying the ball in a motorized vehicle. One of the few original rules dating way back prohibits murder or manslaughter. “Undue violence” is “frowned upon.” Cemeteries and churchyards are deemed out of bounds.

What the intrepid Michael Williams may not have been aware of before making his trip: as a non-resident, he cannot be credited with scoring a goal!

Editor’s note:  Malcolm Barr Sr., a Rockland resident and contributing writer for the Royal Examiner, attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in the 1940s and played Shrovetide Football in his youth. He has had no burning desire to play the game a second time, however.

Local News
What happens to your Social Security check in wake of federal shutdown?
January 20, 2018

Even though a government shutdown began at midnight Friday, those who receive Social Security checks will still receive them as usual. /File photo.

WARREN COUNTY –With the federal government effectively closed down less than 12 hours later, a Social Security expert provided timely and good news for many area residents Friday, January 19, at a noon service club luncheon.

Invited for a second visit in a year by the Rotary Club of Front Royal, Arlington financial planner Matt Ward zeroed in on Social Security benefits, specifically on what may happen to them IF the government was closed down by a failure to approve a federal budget by midnight Friday. Many “pensioners” – and Warren County has many pensioners – worried that with a government closure threatening, their benefits would cease, at least temporarily.

Of course, at midnight Friday, on a 51-49 U.S. Senate vote, the federal government was, indeed, closed indefinitely.

Answering a question from his appreciative audience and amid laughter and applause, Ward said loudly and assuredly: “NO! your Social Security benefits will NOT stop. You will continue to receive them without interruption “and forever! Social Security benefits are NOT affected at any point by government closures!

Ward otherwise stuck to his prepared script which was devoted entirely to Social Security. At the outset he asked Rotarians and others to pose questions that they most definitely wanted answered in his allotted time frame. Complicated as many were, answer them he did, earning himself a long, hearty applause rarely heard for a guest speaker at a regular Rotary meeting at Houlihan’s Restaurant on Route 522 North. The luncheon was, as always, open to the public.

The second of four questions from the floor regarded the consequence of the pending government closure on the Social Security retirement program – specifically, “Will we continue to receive our checks?”

Other answers that he wove into his speech (or lecture) were more convoluted and often were prefaced with “it depends.” One of those, for example, was, when potential retirees first see the three main options they must consider before collecting that first check: should you (a) start collecting early (b) start at full retirement age (66) or (c) start up to a few years after full retirement age. The answer, “It depends…” followed by 10 minutes of pros and cons including betting on longevity, considering spousal benefits, tax consequences, and the role social benefits would play in one’s total retirement income.

The areas covered in an always entertaining and educational talk are contained in a handout Ward provided titled “Social Security Savvy.”

For official information on Social Security, you may go to the Social Security website, “Understanding the Benefits” 2016.

He also appeared to recommend seeking a local, respected financial advisor well before retirement age.

Finally, however, Ward left the definitive answer to the question so many of us were asking ourselves when the federal government closed down at midnight last night – and the answer was “No!”

The checks will keep coming.

Local News
New bridge at Morgan’s Ford opens Monday, Jan. 22
January 19, 2018

ROCKLAND – A new bridge spanning Morgan’s Ford in the Rockland area of Warren County opens Monday, January 22, County Administrator Doug Stanley unexpectedly announced Friday. The opening is about 4-1/2 months ahead of the originally-forecast early June target date. Stanley made the announcement to applause at the regular Friday luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Front Royal.

VDOT photo. Work in progress

Stanley said finishing touches still need to be made to the two-lane span, locally known for 85 years as “Morgan’s Ford low-water bridge”. However, the plan is for the new bridge to open to traffic Monday morning, re-connecting the Fairground Road area of Rockland with Happy Creek Road to the south. It will restore an alternate and more direct route into and out of town for residents of the Rockland/Milldale area north of town and the Shenandoah River.

The estimated $10-million project replaces the historic single-lane bridge over the Shenandoah River which closed in April 2015 when new construction began. In early December Stanley said the structure was “running ahead of schedule” and indicated a possible opening prior to the end of 2017. While that target wasn’t achieved, three weeks into the new year and over four months early isn’t bad either.

In a press release issued late Friday afternoon, VDOT noted that contractors will continue work on the Route 624 bridge project through late spring. That work will include “a final layer of asphalt on the bridge approaches, installation of final pavement markings, aesthetic treatments on the bridge railings, grading and seeding on both sides of the bridge, and construction of a parking area on the south side of the river.”

VDOT also observed that motorists can expect single-lane traffic and flagging operations as needed during the final months of the project. That work will generally occur Monday thru Friday and VDOT urged motorists to plan for potential delays and remain alert as they travel through the work zone.
The new bridge and Route 624 to the north will have a restriction on trucks exceeding 30 feet in total length. This restriction will remain in place even after the construction project is complete, VDOT noted, stating, “Truck drivers should continue to use alternate routes.”

On January 29, 2016, the Virginia Department of Transportation awarded a $4,886,508.07 contract to Orders Construction Company Inc. of Saint Albans, West Virginia. The project had a fixed completion date of June 1, 2018.
Additional information about the Route 624 bridge replacement project can be found  here.

Local News
Middletown dental hygiene students seek to help Jamaica underserved
January 19, 2018


Brandy Boies (LFCC Rotaract Advisor), Cal Coolidge (FR Rotary member), Jessica Mahon (LFCC Rotaract President), Uswa Arain (LFCC Rotaract Vice President), Rick Novak (FR Rotary President). Courtesy photo.

A half-dozen or so members of Lord Fairfax Community College‘s Middletown Rotaract Club – that’s sort of potential Rotarians among young people who aren’t quite ready yet for full Rotary membership – have embarked on a humanitarian project among poor people of Jamaica.

Financially, they bit off more than they could chew, and that’s where the Rotary Club of Front Royal, through member Cal Coolidge (yes, he is a distant relative of the late president), stepped in.

The aim is to send five second-year dental hygiene students to Jamaica for a week in May to provide “essential dental services to underprivileged and underserved” in and around the town of Negril where there exists a five-year-old church-built free ophthalmic and dental clinic for the needy. The dental part of the operation is headed by Strasburg Rotarian Kathy Kanter and is a project of the Negril Rotary Club.

The LFCC group of young students estimate the total cost of the effort is $6,000. Until they made a pitch at a Front Royal Rotary weekly meeting a few weeks ago, the club was finding it tough to raise even a third of the total required. Coolidge stepped in and got his brother and sister Rotarians to cough up another $2,550, but the dental hygiene students remain $1,512 short, and the deadline to go or no-go the week of May 14-21 is fast approaching.

So…any one or any organization willing to step forward and help get these young folks to Jamaica for a week of free dental work among the needy this spring, please  click here to donate or mail a check to LFCC Rotaract Club, 173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown VA 22645, designating donations to “dental mission trip.”

Community Events
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center invites public to Jan. 13 Open House
December 29, 2017

The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Clarke Co. will host an Open House Jan. 13. Photos/Dara Bailey Design

The two-year-old, state of the art, Blue Ridge Wildlife Center at Boyce in Clarke County will be open to the general public for the first time on Saturday, January 13 from noon to 3 p.m. Members of the public are invited to the Open House to learn about what goes on day-to-day behind the scenes of this amazing new hospital, only the second of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A full time veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Riley, treats some 1,000 animals each year. While most are returned to the wild, those whose injuries are more severe are provided permanent shelter at the center. The facility has a $400,000 annual budget and occupies 17 acres of grass and trees immune to the traffic noise of nearby Route 50.

Waiting to welcome visitors to the Open House will be Wildlife Ambassadors such as Jefferson, the American bald eagle; Beeker, a striped skunk; an eastern screech owl named Dopey; Arctic Fox Snow; and a variety of other foxes, squirrels, turtles, possums; and even a black snake called Slim.

Above, Jefferson, the American Bald Eagle; below Rocket, the flying squirrel (he thinks he’s an eagle) – the pair will be among animals ‘meeting and greeting’ the public at Open House.


Jefferson is one of several raptors housed at the facility that were injured by collisions with vehicular traffic and left unable to fly after their treatment. All, or most, of the animals are used in an extensive educational program conducted in the Bradley Learning Center, as well as off site at schools and clubs in Clarke, Warren and other neighboring counties.

Hillary Davidson, the newly appointed executive director, who boasts an injured owl as a family pet, advises to call ahead (540) 837-9000 if the weather looks dicey, and for directions; or online visit Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

The wildlife center/hospital is about a half-hour drive from Front Royal.

Education is a big part of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center – here, Heather Sparks shows young visitors an Eastern Screech Owl.


Local News Seasonal
Front Royal Elks wrap up busy holiday season
December 22, 2017

FRPD officers gathered with Santa at the Front Royal Elks Lodge to offer a little Christmas cheer to the community’s kids. Courtesy Photos/Elks LodgeFront Royal Elks Lodge members are taking a breather at home for the holidays after another busy season entertaining kids and the elderly.

On Saturday, December 9, at the lodge on Guard Hill Road, 50 needy children met Santa Claus, who with the help of 10 Front Royal police officers, handed out almost 400 Christmas gifts – twenty-five-hundred dollars worth from the Elks National Foundation – to the children who ate 23 pizzas donated by The Melting Pot, Anthony’s Pizza and Fox’s Pizza.

In addition, Walmart donated, through the Elks, sufficient food on December 16 to provide 240 dinners for the elderly and infirm.

These are annual events for the Elks. The first is helped along by the police department and elementary school counselors who recommend the names of the children. Santa arrived, if not by reindeer, with a holiday-festive police escort.

Local churches, nursing homes, and the Senior Center are invited to participate in the annual event.

Early delivery – over 400 presents waiting to be opened by the 50-plus children who came to meet Santa at the Elks Lodge on Dec. 9.