WESTMINSTER — Beverly B. Byron plopped into a chair behind her desk in the late afternoon Monday and looked forward to at least attempting to catch herbreath.
Late summer is supposed to be one of those infrequent times of the year when the pace slows for members of the U.S. House of Representatives like Byron, who presides over Maryland's sixth district.
But for Byron, a Frederick resident, the stop at her district office on North Court Street was practically the first respite in a day that combined keeping abreast of a military coup in the Soviet Union with an annual Carroll tour.
"So what has happened since I left this morning?" she said during a phone call to her Capitol Hill office.
Plenty, it turns out.
Several minutes of scribbling on a note pad followed, including updates on the day's events stemming from theousting of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by a KGB-military junta.
"No busier than usual," Byron said after hanging up the phone.
Yet the crisis unfolding thousands of miles away in Moscow took a back seat to some more grass-roots concerns on this day, when Byron visited nine communities in Carroll. The swing through the county is one of 12 such visits spread over four weeks during which Byron will stop in dozens of towns throughout the district.
The sixth districtis made up of Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, and parts of Howard and Montgomery counties.
In Carroll, Byron said she listened to farmers devastated by drought appeal for federal assistance. Other residents voiced concerns about taxes, Social Security and shrinking government
"And it gives people a chance to come in and let you know what's on their minds," she said.
While the Soviet crisis commanded international attention, only one person in Carroll had asked about it as of Monday afternoon, she said.
"It's going to take a couple of days to get it all filtered out," she said of the Soviet situation. "I don't think we know who the new leadership's going to be. I think it's too early."
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the early stages of the coup, Byron said one thing's for sure: Both houses of Congress likely will have newthoughts while continuing work on Defense Department legislation, which lately has been focused on scaling down the military.
"What happens (in the SovietUnion) in the next couple of weeks could have a dramatic impact on those issues," the congresswoman said.
Byron also said she is intrigued by what she characterized as the flip-flopping posture of Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian republic and until recently Gorbachev's leading adversary.
"I find it interesting that the man who was calling for strikes and demonstrations against the government three weeks ago now seems to be the champion of Gorbachev," she said.
And Byron acknowledged that the impact of the events on the Baltic states and the rest of Eastern Europe will be profound and immediate.
"We've made a great many of moves in this countrybecause of glasnost and the end of the Cold War," she said. "I don'tthink we're going to find that the Warsaw Pact nations changing back. But this is a difficult time."
Closer to home, Byron said many people who turned out at stops Monday expressed alarm at the escalating costs of medical care. Others were worried about cutbacks in government programs because of the effects of recession.
"People are concerned about the state cutting programs, and yet no one wants taxes raised," she said. "If you don't raise taxes, how are you going to continue programs?"
Byron told local farmers she would push for emergency drought assistance for farmers when Congress returns to Washington in September.