Editor’s note: Read the article on this award-winning short story here.
“Up from the meadows rich with corn, clear in the cool September morn, the clustered spires of Frederick stand, green walled by the hills of Maryland.” My grandfather muttered this as the race horn sounded. Weaving in and out of boats, he skillfully drew the tiller back and forth to avoid a collision, a look of happiness and determination on his tanned, wrinkled face.
Sailing with my grandfather, surrounded by dinghies on this warm August Saturday, made me feel happy and safe. I was the first person he asked when he needed crew to race with him in his sailboat “Moby Dick.” The starting area was filled with a large fleet of dinghies, gathered for the weekly race. The small, one-sail boats were closely packed together as the horn announced one minute. His eyes gleamed as he spoke the last verses of the Barbara Frietchie poem, which took him exactly five minutes to recite. He said it at the start of every race, instead of using a watch, to know exactly the amount of time before the starting horn.
“Peace and order and beauty draw; Starboard! Starboard!” he cried, while positioning his boat on the line. I always stifled a laugh when he recited the “peace and order” verse during the start, the most stressful time in the race. “Round thy symbol of light and law; quick pull in the sail!” he shouted at me from the side of the boat. I rushed to grab the mainsheet as the five short beeps followed by a long beep, signifying the start, blared from the Race Committee Boat.