Other than being a satisfied buyer of his product and an occasion al visitor to his enchanting winery near Middleburg, this scribe has no relationship with Archie M. Smith Jr. But a letter from Archie -- the monthly newsletter of the Meredyth Vineyards, of which he is president -- arrives regularly, and it's read like a letter from home.

Enough said. Here's what Archie passed along, affectingly, in his latest letter, dated Aug. 1:

"It's very dry now, but until recently everything was growing more than we expected this year, including wild animals.

"The mower flushes rabbits out of the brush as it passes. A ground hog was hugging the sod between the rows of the vineyard and watching me out of the corner of his eye. Deer pass by with their white tails bouncing across the hillsides. A red fox galloped away trailing his bushy tail.

"And, after a morning on the tractor, I noticed a peculiar flat rock where the mower had passed. It moved. I said, 'No kidding, a turtle!' Had the mower hurt him? He crept cautiously along. Apparently not.

"Once we tried to make soup of such a turtle, but it wasn't worth the trouble. I got off the tractor and picked him up, turning him over (keeping my fingers away from his mouth). The mower hadn't scratched him.

"He reminded me of some elderly gentleman out for an afternoon stroll. So I carried him to the edge of the pond and set him down on dry land. He could take his choice.

"I drove back to the house, thankful that I lived among so many friends."