Marylanders are accustomed to seeing Eastern Shore grain fields occupied in winter by odd little cornstalk houses surrounded by statues of Canada geese. These are known to be the hiding places of goose hunters, and the statues are decoys.
But what is this curiosity of a cornfield, 20 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Rte. 301? No statues here. It looks like trash strewn around, as if a diaper truck ran off the road and tipped its load.
It is diapers, sure enough, and it turns out to be Charlie Weis' work. He did it on purpose and he's going to do it again next year, only with more diapers.
Just how many Pampers are out there?
"First of all, they aren't Pampers," Weis said disdainfully. "Name brands cost too much. These are Acme brand. Discount. Ten cents apiece.
"There's over 3,000," he went on, "but only about 1,200 are actual diapers. Another 1,800 are white plastic garbage bags. I did that for economy reasons. And there are probably 100 real decoys scattered in."
Weis' work may not resemble an Andrew Wyeth landscape to the discriminating human eye, but it is deceivingly lifelike from overhead to scavenging flights of white snow geese.
In the past 10 years they have abandoned their traditional wintering haunts in coastal marshes in favor of higher ground in Maryland, where Weis hunts them.
Snows, like their sought-after comrades, Canada geese, are feeding these days on corn, soybeans and wheat as the marshes, stricken by declining water quality, grow barren of nutritious grasses.
Like Canadas, snows find plenty to eat on the Eastern Shore, where corn and beans are king and where modern, automated harvesting techniques leave a groaning board of waste on the ground.
In 1974, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that only 4,200 snow geese wintered in Maryland, out of an Atlantic flyway flock of 95,300.
This year, having adjusted their eating habits, more than 10 times as many snows are in Maryland -- 48,300 out of 99,400 in the flyway.
In recent years, big white flocks have arrived here around Thanksgiving, and more than one Eastern Shore hunting guide has watched them whistling overhead by the thousands while he and his party waited in vain for a little flock of Canadas to move.
Weis and a few others on the upper shore have begun hunting the snows as an adjunct to their Canada goose operations.
They quickly learned that snow geese, which travel in huge flocks, are not fooled by small decoy rigs. The wary birds react only to thousands of decoys on the ground.
Enter diapers, the practical solution to the problem of getting a lot of white, waterproof objects out without spending a fortune.
Weis favors infant size because you get more per box.
He buys the 60-diaper packages for $6 each, then unfolds the individual nappies and lays them flat upon the ground, often with corn stubble stalks through the ends to hold them steady.
Throw a few thousand diapers and trash bags around in a convincing pattern and it's amazing how closely it resembles a flock of snow geese feeding happily in a field, particularly when you toss a few dozen ears of plastic "Quack Corn" into the mix to hint at a grand food supply.
"I don't like to get too optimistic," said Weis, as he led a pair of urban interlopers into his diaper field before dawn last week, "but I'm predicting a banner day."
Well, the snows did not start flying exactly at 7:25, as Weis had ordained, but by 8 a.m. their gravelly cries were audible from the pit blind in the middle of the decoy spread, where the hunters lurked.
Soon the sky was dark with the beautiful birds, the snow white of their breasts accented by the flapping, black-tipped wings.
The geese were flying between Millington refuge in Delaware and the Corsica River in Maryland, Weis said, but when they saw the field full of diapers many wheeled in flight and began circling.
It proved an astonishing, unnerving, exhilarating place to be, hiding underground as 1,000 or more squawking, wild birds from the arctic tundra descended all around.
Most of the snows were smart enough to spot a trap and resume their travels before venturing too close.
But enough flew within range to give the hunters their day limits -- four geese per hunter -- before lunchtime.
They took them home and cooked them and they were fine, and the children used the snowy wing feathers for play.