Endangered treasures

DisappearingJoustLMaryland is home to some wonderful things — that just may be gone soon.

We all know a story about the disappearance of a local treasure: libraries looted, shrines blown up, historic buildings burned, waterfront places that eroded away. Recently, a Mayan pyramid was NHquarterbulldozed out a road’s way in Belize. Remember the Old Man in the Mountain that graced the New Hampshire quarter? Gone. What local treasure do you remember — and miss?

In Maryland, before they are only a memory, we need to take an afternoon to experience these fading treasures, pose for a picture with them, and celebrate them while we can.

Smith Island

Kayakers take off to explore the Smith Island Water Trail.

Smith Island’s waterways attract kayers.

I planned to put Smith Island on my list when it looked like it was even more in danger than I thought. In mid-May, county officials offered to buy residents out so they could move off the little islands in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. It looked, briefly, as if this unique place might become only a memory. A Baltimore Sun report earlier this spring, however, said the residents rejected the state/county offer to spend $2 million to buy and bulldoze the islanders’ homes. The residents could then relocate to a place where they wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the storms that whip the island, flood it and occasionally leave a lot of damage in their wake.

But they said no. Their beautiful islands (It’s not just one, you know) are saved. I still think a visit is in order. It’s a great place to spend a day or a weekend.

Beaten biscuits

DisappearingOrrells

Orrell’s still beats their biscuits at their bakery in Wye Mills.

Ever tasted a beaten biscuit? A firm, round little roll leavened by beating the dough with a hammer or axe handle. Or, as Orrell’s Beaten Biscuits does it, by a special machine that beats that dough into submission. Orrell’s is the only one company that makes them any more. There was a time, so I’ve heard, when they were a part of everyday life, or at least Sunday dinner. You can find beaten biscuits at shops around the Eastern Shore, but the best place to find them is at Orrell’s where baking day is Wednesdays.

Orrell’s is in Wye Mills, just off Route 50 near Chesapeake College. It’s also home to the Wye Grist Mill which once supplied Revolutionary War troops. It’s open on Wednesdays, too. The town is teeny but the these two stops can make an interesting afternoon. Lunch in Kent Narrows or Easton can make it a pleasant day.

Horse racing

DisappearingRACIBGOnce the Preakness is over in Maryland, a lot of people forget the horses are still running at Pimlico in spring or Laurel Park in the fall. Other horse racing fans head to Timonium Race Track for thoroughbred racing during the Maryland State Fair. A different kind of horse racing, harness racing, takes place for a few days in summer in Ocean City at Ocean Downs.

There used to be plenty of other race tracks — there used to be lots more horses and horse farms, too. Is this a dying sport? Catch it while you can.

Jousting

DisappearingJoust2Another horsey sport needs a few more fans. Jousting isn’t just for men in shining armor. In rural Maryland, riders aim for a little ring rather than another knight. It’s a sport of skill and horsemanship. A few dedicated jousters keep their sport alive.

The Eastern Shore Jousting Association even has its own Facebook page. The schedule of summer jousts is listed there, including the joust Wednesday, August 7, at St. Joseph’s Church in Cordova. This is an all-day affair of food and horses. Costs a buck for admission.

Local railroads

DisappearingRR

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers excursions between Cumberland and Frostburg.

Amtrak, Acela and CSX keep commuters, tourists and freight moving between major cities but the small railroads that once connected the state’s small towns remain only as tourist attractions. At least we’ve still got them to ride and cherish on occasion. You can visit the Monocacy Valley on the Walkersville Southern Railroad. Or take the Cumberland-Frostburg route through the mountains of Western Maryland on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Some excursions include murder mysteries or dinner. In Baltimore, the B&O Railroad Museum takes visitors along the very first mile of track ever laid in the United States.

Skipjacks

The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester alongside a fellow skipjack.

The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester alongside a fellow skipjack.

Sure, there are plenty of sailing vessels plying the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We’ve got your yawls, your sloops, your schooners and your log canoes. But there ain’t nothing like a skipjack. These workhorses of the Chesapeake Bay still bring home the oysters on cold, wintry days. But there are only a few of them left. Most watermen have turned to more modern ways of harvesting our favorite bivalves.

Skipjack captains offer excursions from Tilghman, St. Michael’s, Havre de Grace and southern Maryland to keep their boats afloat and give visitors a ride they’ll always remember. Here are a some bay beauties to set your sights on: The Nathan of Dorchester in Cambridge, H.M. Krentz in St. Michaels, Rebecca T. Ruark in Tilghman, The Stanley Norman, a boat of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, in Eastport (near Annapolis.)

As if to prove my point….The Skipjack Martha Lewis is undergoing restoration in Havre de Grace. You can watch the progress at Hutchins Park.

Skipjack races are another way to go. In Cambridge, the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Races are Sept. 21. On Deal Island, the Lions sponsor their own skipjack race on Labor Day.

© Text Mary K. Tilghman

Photo credits:
Jousting photos courtesy Eastern Shore Jousting Association
Smith Island kayakers photo by Patty Hancock
Skipjack photo courtesy of Nathan of Dorchester
Racing photo courtesy Laurel Park
Railroad photo courtesy Allegany County Department of Tourism
Orrell’s sign by Gina Truitt

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