WHENEVER the Western Maryland College women's basketball team has a home game, a bunch of senior citizens is there to console, cajole and counsel the players from the highest row of bleachers.
Some have been on that back row for more than 20 years. Among them are Dorothy and Paul Martin, parents of Becky Martin, who this year celebrates her 21st year as the team's coach.
Eight to 12 of their friends gather with them on the same stretch of bleachers, where a wall offers back support, they explain.
It would be nice to have cushions, they say. But when they tried that, a young man innocently picked them up. The cushions were labeled "Seniors," and he must have decided that they were one of the school's perks for fourth-year students, Dorothy Martin said, laughing.
For a home game, these friends often make a night of it. First the basketball game, and then to one of their homes on Pennsylvania Avenue for a night of chicken foot - a dominoes game - or cards.
Most Thursday nights, they go to dinner together: "We like to go places that have half-off-the-second-meal coupons," said Paul Martin.
"I come to the games because I like to see the action," said Clara Carr. "I like for Becky's girls to win, and I like to be here with my friends. Some of us have been friends since we were 4 years old. I worked with Dorothy in the sewing factory since before I got married, and I've been married for 54 years."
Although these folks rarely miss a home game, they also rarely miss a chance to offer assistance to the referees, especially if they think a call is bad. They have been known to bellow sentiments such as, "They see our fouls but they can't see theirs" and "That ref is blind. Come on, ref, get a Seeing Eye Dog."
When the game is as close as the team's recent nail-biter against Muhlenberg College (WMC won by one point in overtime), these fans are screaming to be heard over the band.
If it's a blowout in WMC's favor, their conversations often drift to "How's your health?" and "Remember those times that Becky and all the kids enjoyed playing in the creek on the Leppos' farm?"
Many of them can reel off the team's home-game record without notes: WMC 83, Muhlenberg 82; WMC 66, Haverford College 19; WMC 57, Lebanon Valley College 50.
Like many other fans, these friends grouse loudly that WMC is not ranked in the region.
"These games give us something to look forward to in the winter," said Jean Jenkins. "It has been fun watching the girls and getting to know them."
"Some of the people up there [on the back row of the bleachers] I have known my entire life," Becky Martin said. "They are an extended family no matter how good or bad things get. I consider myself fortunate that my parents have shared in this with me and with their friends."
Farm museum winter
Carroll County Farm Museum might be closed to the public during winter, but the staff has plenty to keep it busy as it prepares for "open season," which runs from April until the end of the Holiday Tour.
"This is a 140-acre farm, and we are busy, busy, busy," said administrator Dottie Freeman after a morning meeting about the Maryland Wine Festival.
"In addition to taking care of all the needs associated with a big farm and a center that hosts more than 100,000 tourists, we use this time to recruit and train volunteers, host traditional arts classes and groups like the Maryland State Holstein Association and Maryland Welcome Centers representatives," she said.
Calendars and brochures must be prepared; budgets planned; and painting, cleaning and repairs to complete.
The curatorial department is transforming the farmhouse from holiday grandeur to its everyday splendor. Folks are pulling up rugs, cleaning them, waxing floors and hanging new pictures. New exhibits are being planned and put in place.
Leftover merchandise is inventoried, and new items are ordered for the General Store. Weddings, receptions, company picnics and reunions are being booked.
"We're building outdoor runs for the animals right now so they can get more exercise and sunshine," Freeman said. "When the weather cooperates, the three barns will get new siding. Yes, work goes on here all year long."
Information or to receive a copy of the museum's Calendar of Events for 2002: 410-848-7775 or 410-876-2667.
Living Treasure honored
Westminster resident and Sandymount Elementary School teacher Sue Coldren honors Pauline Sinclair as her Living Treasure this week.
Sinclair teaches second grade at Friendship Valley Elementary and is a Westminster resident.
"We started out as roommates 30 years ago. She is a fellow teacher, a best friend and a confidant," Coldren said. "She pulls from her own inner strength and relates in a way that has helped me do some soul searching for the better.
"Pauline has offered support and hope through tragedy, and she rejoices with me at momentous occasions. Even though we can't talk every day, or sometimes for several weeks, there is still a bond, a kindred spirit for our lifetime," Coldren added.
Brighten the day of someone who has made a positive difference in your life. Submit a name and specific reasons why that person has been your Living Treasure to: Lisa Breslin, 35 Ridge Road, Westminster 21157, 410-848-4703.
Lisa Breslin's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.