Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Maryland Watermen's Monument

If you have ever driven down Route 50 on Maryland's Eastern Shore, chances are you have seen the road sign for the Maryland Watermen's Monument. You probably glanced briefly at it and then continued without stopping to get to Ocean City or home. The other day, I happened to be in the area and stopped by to finally see what the memorial was about.

Located in Kent Narrows, this memorial was, according to the Chesapeake Quarterly, constructed in 2003 with private funds to honor those who work as commercial fishermen, or Watermen, in Maryland. Commercial fishing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. In fact, it typically ranks as the most dangerous every year.

Although being a waterman on the Chesapeake may not nearly as dangerous as being an Alaskan fishermen, the job still carries inherent risks. In addition, it is not as financially rewarding as it used to be, thanks, in part, to government regulation. As State Senator Hershey said at the monument's rededication in 2013, “[O]ne of Maryland’s most traditional industries is under attack, from quotas and harvest limits to increased fees and regulations.”

It is interesting to note that while there are no shortages of public memorials to government employees and officials who perform less dangerous and generally less important work and often for better pay and benefits, the humble watermen who risk their lives to provide us with food must be content with their own small, but dignified, private monument. I suppose that is the way it has always been and always will be. Still if you are driving through the area and have some extra time, stop and take a look at the monument and remember those in all sorts of jobs who work quietly every day, often in dangerous conditions, to keep you happy, healthy, and well-fed.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Boonsboro, MD and the real Washington Monument

Boonsboro is a small town located in Washington County, Maryland, just off the South Mountain. According to Boonsboro's official website, the town was "[f]ounded in 1792 by George and William Boone, cousins of Daniel Boone . . ." With a population under 4,000, the town is fairly small. Nevertheless, it is steeped in the history of the Revolution, the Civil War, and the culture of the South Mountain.

Arriving over the weekend, the first place I visited was Dan's Restaurant and Tap House, which boasts of having 24 craft beers on tap. I had a few of the beers, including their Dan's Gateway Gold Lager, which is brewed exclusively for them. The beer was great. So was the atmosphere. I had no complaints about the service or the food. The prices were about what you would typically expect from a craft beer bar. While there were other places around to eat, this appeared to be the popular watering hole.

Leaving the bar, I made my way over to the Turn the Page Bookstore. The bookstore is owned by the husband of best-selling novelist, Nora Roberts and thus has a many copies of her books for sale. It also has a wide selection of books about Maryland history and folklore. I purchased a copies of South Mountain Magic: Tales of Old Maryland and Haunted Ocean City and Berlin. They also sell copies of my book, Witch Trials, Legends, and Lore of Maryland. I mail them copies a few times a year and they mail me back checks. They are nice to deal with. In addition to books, they also have, to quote their website, "jewelry, soy candles, handmade soaps, gifts and Organic Fair Trade coffee beverages" for sale.

They got everything covered.
Doug Bast, museum owner
I would say that the main attraction in the town is The Boonsborough Museum of History. This private and free museum offers a unique collection that covers almost everything including mummified birds, religious relics, and weapons from ancient history to confiscated shivs from the State prison in nearby Hagerstown. The owner, Doug Bast, will happily give you a free tour where he will proudly show you the items he has acquired over the years. Despite the fact that he is badly suffering from Parkinson's Disease, he is extremely enthusiastic about his collection, especially his many macabre items, including a severed arm from the Civil War, children's coffins from the Victorian period, and a desk made out of wood from the scaffold John Brown was hanged on. Tours are generally given on Sundays, but you can call ahead to schedule one. Donations are greatly appreciated.

Size doesn't matter. It came first.
On your way out, or into, town, there is the real Washington Monument just a few miles away. First completed in 1827, before Baltimore's Washington Monument was built and well before the one in DC was even conceived, this monument was allegedly built in one day on July 4, 1827, by the citizens of Boonsboro in a patriotic fever. Of course, the original structure had some problems and was worn down over time. In the 1930s, the structure was mostly rebuilt and that is what you see today. Located along the Appalachian Trail, on the South Mountain, it is only a very short hike from the parking lot. A few steps on the inside will get you to the top where you will have an amazing view of the surrounding area. This area is a State Park and there was a small admission fee based on the honor system, which most people appeared to happily ignore.

There are other attractions in the area, such as the Antietam Battlefield, South Mountain Battlefield, and Gathland State Park.

Gathland State Park
Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland - book review