He is an old man now. The old family photographs show him in a white linen suit, with other men in similar attire, and the women in organdy dresses down to their size 4 slippers and their picture hats and their handkerchiefs, silk and waving in the slight breeze that sometimes helped cool the Eastern Shore.

Good Lord, those must have been marvelous Sunday afternoons, along the river, in the rose garden, behind the fig leaves, and the old pictures show them smiling and holding up frogs and squirrels and whatever came along, with old Sam, the handsome one, pretending to eat a toad. The old photo albums show it all, including love for one another.

Old Sam was a man of love. He married his Georgia, when she was a girl, and he loved her deeply during the 50 years they were married. He went out in the marshes and the flats and into the river and onto the bay and he shot whatever flew -- sometimes with home-rigged cannons mounted on sinkboats, and he would fill the freezer locker with ducks and geese and see the rest to the best restaurant in town.

he duck-eating feasts were the glory of the Eastern Shore.

The old family photo albums show Sam with rows and rows of ducks, strings of quail, lines of bluefish. He knew how to bair a deer bed, with apples and black molasses, and how to make a dove decoy out of an old sock stuffed with a tennis ball thrown across a telephone wire on the end of a cord, and he thought nothing of it.

During Prohibition he ran whiskey through the Chesapeake Outlet, with a Thompson at his side, and thought nothing of that either. And he played poker once a week, at high stakes and in a gentlemanly fashion, at one of the most exclusive clubs in the community.

One day Georgia planted a magnolia tree in the back yard of their home, which was no more than a half-dozen blocks from the center fo the downtown area of the city. She loved it. And, of course, because she did, so did he.

The Sunday afternoon parties continued, and Sam and his hunting and fishing friends continued their activities, each willing the others their gear -- shotguns, rifles, insulated suits, waders, and finally Sam got it all, because he outlasted them. Some of the clothing didn't fit, but he had a nephew who would grow into it.

The women withered, as women, alas, do, but Sam grew taller and stronger, and he would sail his little boat out into the bay day after day and bring home fish and ducks for remembrances of feasts past.

And then Georgia got sick, and went to a nursing home, and then she died. And it was likely that Sam got to looking through those old albums, seeing the stron young men and the organdied women and the hope in their faces.

"When is the funeral?" an old friend asked Sam.

"There isn't any," Sam said.

And then he took his spade and went out into the back yard, about six blocks from downtown, and tore through the spread roots of the magnolia tree Georgia had planted decades before, and buried her ashes there. And somebody said, "You can't do that," and he said, "Who the hell says I can't?" and to this day the mallard ducks and the Canada geese fly over Sam's house, and he doesn't much care.

But that was a long time ago. In fact, it was in January 1980.