Down at the very bottom of Maryland's Eastern Shore are little towns called Box-iron and Girdletree; across the line in Virginia is Greenbackville. Lovely, quiet places all.
In the general store at Girdletree they serve a lunch of hot dogs and cookies and cherry Cokes. The hot dog comes cold from the display case, along with a wire coat hanger. The diner splices the dog on the steel and cooks it to his own taste inside a huge potbelly stove. When it's done he's presented with a mustard-slathered slice of bread.
The sandwich costs 20 cents. Desert cookies are a penny apiece.
It's a strange place to find well-heeled businessmen. Men like Bill Rowland, who drives down in a Cadillac to hunt his farm on Chincoteague Bay. And Robert Scrimgeour of Silver Spring, who made his bundle in real estate.
"I bought this place," said Rowland, gesturing at a 430-acre expanse of cornfields and chicken houses and marsh, "because I could get twice the farm for half the money here. I couldn't approach anything like this in Talbot County."
Rowland bought his farm three years ago; Scrimgeour acquired a nearby farm of similar size last year.
They are busy men who like the peace and easy pace of the lower shore better than the building bustle in places like Easton and Cambridge and Chestertown. The farms are good places to bring their kids, they say. And good investments.
But most of all they're here because they love to hunt ducks and geese.
Scrimgeour and Rowland, who were roommates at the University of Pennsylvania, like to hunt Canada geese about as much as anyone likes to do anything. There are Canadas by the thousands wintering around Chincoteague Bay and the men do well enough hunting them.
But in recent years there have been increasing numbers of a different kind of goose -- the snow goose.
Last Friday Scrimgeour and Rowland were in their shoreside goose blinds before dawn. Before the day was done they'd had some Canada goose shooting, and they'd also watched tens of thousands of white snow geese pass overhead.
"We're not set up to hunt them," said Rowland.
They are now.
The sight of multitudes of snows passing overhead unmolested tweaked the imagination of Scrimgeour and a pair of his guests. There must be a way, they thought.
So they passed up the afternoon Canada goose hunt and went exploring. They learned from a local man, Denny Price, that the snows had been flying in from the water and landing in a field in Girdletree, where they happily spent the day chewing on winter wheat and leftover corn.
The lower Eastern Shore being less formal than the goose-crazy central regions, the men thought nothing of simply asking the farmer who owned the field for permission to hunt the following day. And the farmer thought nothing of saying sure.
That night they set up 100 or so silhouette snow goose decoys in the field and went to bed dreaming of the eerie squawks of a thousand snow geese wheeling overhead.
In the dark before dawn the cars and trucks began arriving. All Scrimgeour's people and all Rowland's people had heard of the novel expedition and they wanted to be part of it.
They trudged into the field by moonlight. Price showed them what to do. "Climb down in the ditch," he said, "as deep as you can get."
The ditch was a farm drain. In the bottom was a foot of cold water. The men and boys clambered down and sprawled below ground level, covering their bodies with brush.
The geese didn't fly at dawn. The men knew it was all or nothing, that if the flight pattern and feeding pattern had changed they would see nothing but pigeons and doves for their efforts.
In the end the pattern held.
At 8 a.m. they saw the first great vee of snow geese looming over the tree line, heading inland from the water.
"Down," Price shouted. Heads disappeared. The great flock of snows kept coming, as if following a magnetic force. In a few minutes they were over the decoys. They slowed, 100 yards high, their brilliant white underbellies reflecting the low sun.
Then they went on.
But right behind was another flock, and another and another and another.
And some weren't quite as smart.
It was quite a sight, to be lying on one's back and see three different flocks of snow geese whirling, pitching and flapping on three different levels overhead. Some flew too close, and a half-dozen hunters shouldered shotguns and blazed away.
The flights continued off and on for two hours. No snow geese were entirely fooled, but enough flew low that the rag-tag band of ditch hunters bagged eight geese.
And watched 10,000 more fly off.
The hunt was done by 10 a.m., when the flights abruptly ended. There was a race to Rowland's place to catch the last of the morning Canada flight (they didn't), and then an afternoon of stalking the cornfields after quail and pheasant, which Rowland pen-raises and releases for hunting.
There was time for some to slog through the marsh, creeping up on potholes in search of black ducks, and the late Canada flight that night.
All of which left barely enough time for a late stop at the Girdletree general store, and one final 20-cent hot dog.