Ode to a white slug: We hardly knew ye

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Today, friends, I had expected to bring you the odd, amusing and fascinating story of an albino slug discovered by a Lansdowne resident named Ken Freeland. Alas, in addition to reporting the slug's existence I must report its demise. Call this: Ollie, we hardly knew ye ...

One day about three weeks ago, Freeland reached for what he thought was a piece of scrap paper on the front walk of his home on Wisewell Court. It was a slug. A white slug. "It was headed across the walk for our flower bed in the early evening," Freeland says. "I had never seen anything like it before. I'd seen plenty of slugs but not an albino one. I figured it was an unusual find."

Certainly not your garden variety gastropod.

Freeland put the slug in a plastic container filled with sod. He fed it some dog food, and the slug seemed to go for it.

Hard as it might be to imagine - especially if you're in the slugs-are-disgusting camp - Ken Freeland grew attached to the critter. He named it Ollie and started taking it for morning walks. Or crawls. Or slimes.

"I'd water a little bit of the lawn early in the morning and set him out and let him get a little exercise," Freeland says, laughing at himself while speaking enthusiastically about how he cared for the unusual mollusk. "I'm a Vietnam veteran," he allowed, in passing. "I don't kill things."

Freeland, who runs a power-wash company called Clean Improvements Inc., made numerous phone calls in an effort to find someone with slug expertise, or someone in the zoological community who might be interested in taking Ollie, perhaps even exhibiting him.

After calling several facilities - including the Baltimore Zoo and the National Aquarium Freeland found serious interest at the Cincinnati Zoo. Randy Morgan, associate curator of entomology, believed Freeland had found a rare specimen. Albinism among vertebrates is well documented, he said, but less common among invertebrates. Certainly, Morgan said, he had never seen a slug totally lacking pigmentation.

Arrangements were made to ship Ollie to Ohio. Freeland mailed him in a moss-filled container. Ollie arrived in Cincinnati in good shape. Morgan, who was even more impressed when he saw the creature up close, placed him in a tank with other slugs.

Two days later, Ollie was gone. Only a small piece of his white body remained in the tank. Morgan, surprised and saddened by the development, thinks the albino might have been eaten by the other slugs. Perhaps there was something wrong with Ollie; perhaps he was unable to fend off an attack.

"He seemed fine when he got here," Morgan said. "But I noticed that he seemed to sit out more than the other slugs. The others would sort of hide under mulch and cork during the day. I've had slugs in tanks together before and they all seemed to get along. I don't know why this happened. It certainly bummed me out."

A news conference to announce an Ollie exhibit had been planned, Morgan said. And Ken Freeland had hoped to visit his slug at the zoo.

He feels terrible about Ollie. "Well," he said, "it was a pleasure to have known him. At least he got a plane ride. How many Baltimore slugs get a plane ride to Cincinnati?"

The Gold Wing Honda thing

I envy Wayne Pool. After a long time running his family's Tip Top Motor Court on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, he sold the place, then hit the road with wife and friends, doing that Gold Wing Honda thing through 19 states in 17 days, following the summer sun to Big Sky.

He saw things he'd never seen before - grizzly bears, the Dakotas, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands - and in a way he never would have seen them from the inside of a car.

"We could see the tops of mountains as we drove," he says. "It's something I hadn't really thought about until we got going. There's a lot you miss when you're traveling any great distance in a car. When you're on a motorcycle, man, it's all right there in front of you and above you."

And, in case you haven't heard - or seen it for yourself - it's a big beautiful country out there. "Land of milk and honey," Pool says.

And corn and potatoes

"We saw corn for days and days," he says. "We saw potatoes for days and days. We grow a lot of potatoes in this country."

Pool, who is 56, is part of a subculture of middle-aged Gold Wingers, a lot of them empty-nesters who've purchased the popular Hondas and set out to do something they've put off for a couple of decades - hit the road on a bike.

"A lot of yuppies are into it now," Pool says. "They're tired of wearing suits all day and want to see the country on a bike. We have a lot of gray-haired [American Express] Gold Card people, too."

He's describing the Honda Gold Wing Road Riders of America. You join the club when you purchase a luxurious Wing - "It's a living room on wheels," Pool says - then hook up with a local chapter. There are 12 chapters in Maryland. Members of Pool's chapter made the trek to Billings, Mont., this summer for the national rally. "We did a little formation flying," he says.

His wife, Judy, was with him, and the Pools were joined by Billy and Betty Benton, and Dave and Gloria Pumphrey, all of Glen Burnie; Vince and Carole Glorioso of Elkridge; and Paul Trahan of Sykesville.

As they traveled through the Midwest, then north, then into the Southwest, the Wingers kept in touch with each other via helmet intercom and CB radio. "We traveled from eight to 10 hours each day," he says. "The temperature range on the trip was from a low of 37 degrees to a high of 105 degrees. One day, I think it was in Wyoming, we hit 60 mph crosswinds and 2 inches of rain. Up in Glacier [National Park, Mont.], there were snowdrifts on both sides of the road."

Six-thousand-eight-hundred-eighty miles on a fancy motorcycle left him and his biker buddies a little saddle sore. "But," he says, "we carried Gold Bond Medicated Powder, and that took care of it. That stuff is great."

Pub Date: 8/29/97

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