~ Small Town America ~

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Comments on the new Chincoteague Island page

~~~ by Craig Banks

Chincoteague Island is the largest town on Virginia's eastern shore. Like Wachapreague and other waterfront towns, Chincoteague has a history deeply connected with the waters of the Atlantic. First settled around 1700, the principal industry was commercial fishing, especially oystering. Later a poultry industry thrived.

In March of 1962, storm waters flooded the island, impacting property and industry in the small town. Many of the downtown buildings were damaged or destroyed. The residents repaired the damage but the poultry industry never rebounded from the disaster.

Chincoteague Island is perhaps best known for it's ponies. Marguerite Henry's bestselling book "Misty of Chincoteague" introduced the world to the wild ponies of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. According to legend the herd descended from horses shipwrecked when a Spanish galleon sank off the coast of this close knit island town.

Chincoteague is well known for it's fishing opportunities. Many vacationers try their hand at the sport, and some anglers come to the island specifically to fish the local waters. Anglers may target flounder, croakers and other inshore fish, or perhaps experience deep sea fishing for tuna, sharks, billfish and other big game fish.

The tourism industry is booming in this small town. The combination of attractions include Chincoteague Island Wildlife Refuge, the Assateague Lighthouse, the pristine beaches of Assateague Island, the wild ponies, annual pony swim, firemans carnival and more.

The island is currently in a state of flux, as growth affects the island similar to the rest of the eastern shore. Real estate there has become very expensive, which has closed some businesses and created opportunities for new ventures. Many of the small properties have been acquired and the current trend leans towards construction of waterfront condominiums.

The changes on the island reflect it's evolution from a quiet fishing village to a well known vacation attraction. Fish houses are becoming seafood restaurants, old homes turn to beds and breakfasts, and stores now line the main street offering a wide variety of artwork, foods, clothing and gifts.

Much more information about Chincoteague Island Virginia is available at www.chincoteague-island.net.

Wildflower blog to go with the new 'Byways' page #12

~~~ by the photographer, Dorothy Perrucci of Onley Images

It’s been said that wildflowers are misunderstood weeds. While I’m not exactly sure of who said that, I don’t believe it’s true and have discovered some of the most amazing plants. Many of these plants are so small as to be missed unless one was actually looking for them. All of the wildflowers photographed for my series were taken within a 1-2 mile walking distance of our home in Onley, VA.

Nearly all were photographed in late spring before the hot (and buggy) summer weather set in. Many were photographed right in our yard, which required getting down on the lawn since so many of these wildflowers are small. The details in these small flowers were just amazing to me as were the colors. I discovered vibrant blues, yellows, pinks and many other colors as well.
I also learned a lot by going to wildflower books available in the public library and also ordering some reference books. For me, one of the most helpful best books for local wildflowers has been Wildflowers of Tidewater Virginia by Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope. This book is color coded and has photographs and descriptions that include the common name of species, scientific name, flowering period, and information on the plant size, leaf and flower character, plant uses, miscellaneous comments, and habitat.

Since lots of people have asked about the equipment I used to capture these tiny beauties, here’s the lowdown. I have a Fuji S7000 digital camera with macro capability. For the record, it’s a 6MP camera, which unfortunately is no longer made, but other similar cameras with macro capability would probably do well. I recently purchased a macro lens for my digital SLR but
admittedly don’t use it as much as the Fuji. It’s more powerful, but also heavier and I prefer to travel light when I’m walking around the yard and neighborhood. By the way, wildflowers like many other plants are known by various common names, so if anyone knows other names for the images shown, please feel free to share them. Also, I have a large number of “unidentified” wildflowers and if anyone can identify those, I would be interested as well.

Dorothy Perrucci

Comments on the new 'Wachapreague' page

First of all, gotta admit it, I love Wachapreague. It’s a bit like Willis Wharf in that it still has the flavor of the quintessential southern coastal fishing village/community. I always feel good when I’m in Wachapreague. Part of this, I think, is because of the houses. People live there and you can tell that people live there. Their yards are not always perfect. They all seem to make an effort at keeping them neat and picked up, but they are not silly about it. If the folks at home are working on a project, things are lying around the yard. And that’s how it should be. It’s their yard! Please protect me and mine against tyrannical home owners associations! They foster little paper doll cutouts of people and communities.

Oops, guess I’m off on another rant. Anyhow – one person’s opinion.

How about those dawn pictures. I’m so sorry if you have your monitor set dark and can’t see them. I lucked out and they turned out super. They really were taken at dawn and I don’t do ‘dawn’ for almost anything or anybody. But for Wachapreague I felt I had to make an exception. And it was worth it. It was peaceful and quiet and just before things would start to jump.

Wachapreague is a busy place. It’s a working place. Some places I have a problem getting people in my photos, not here. Here people are going about the job of getting things done. Was happy to be able to include folks out and doing. On the second page, I’ve included something some of you might never have seen. I got these pictures during duck season and that’s a shooting blind. It can be tricky to get into small places ‘cause it’s hard to see. These guys made it look as easy as it probably is to them. Wouldn’t be to me.

The small carnival pictures were taken while the ‘show’ was shut down. It is now in full swing and the clickable enlargements or details are night time festive shots of the same rides and so forth. One of the things that some of you out there might not realize is that these carnivals are owned by the fire departments and run by the firemen themselves - all voluntary. They use the money to fund part of their fire and rescue work throughout the year. Kudos to all these folks!

In the rows below the carnival pictures are various shots. Ron and Abner came to say hello. Two guys talking ‘cars’ in the middle of the street. Gotta love it - same everywhere. Next picture - concession made for some inhabitants. And that building - I just like it. And the chairs in front of it, empty now. But when works done for the day and the weather’s right, they get some use.

Next row, just interesting scenes. I especially like the one of the new boat nose to nose with the one that’s way past its better days. Next 3 pics - meet Joe. He’s a buddy of mine. And that’s his buddy next to him. Those curlews are carvings of Joe’s. He also builds the best looking scale model boats you ever saw, complete with all the trappings on them. Old scows and old skipjacks, you name it. Models that come to life on a table or a porch.

The last 3 shots are among my very favorites. They serve to remind me of what we are in the process of losing to development.

Ann Devletian

Comments on the new 'Eastville' page

‘bout time, right?

Sorry it has taken me so long to add the Eastville section. And, I think I’ll be adding more to it at a later time. I’ll let everyone on the mailing list know if and when.

Eastville is the visually perfect picture of a small southern town, small and cozy, quiet and peaceful. Of course, one has to go elsewhere for gas, groceries, doctors and so forth. But like other Shore towns - not too far. Every time I hear about someone campaigning to bring business and businesses into the small towns, places like Eastville come to my mind. Big deal, two miles to the highway. My thought is to keep things up on Route 13(the main through way down the middle of the peninsula), that’s already ugly! You can stroll the streets of Eastville and feel like you’ve stepped back in time. (And, at the same time, pop into Food Lion for a TV dinner? Perhaps not.) Don’t screw up the flavor of the small towns, there aren’t many of them left. One person’s opinion.

Eastville, Virginia has something that no other county seat in the nation has. Continuous, consecutive court records dating back to the early middle of the 1600s. This puts them older even then Eastville itself. I think that’s pretty neat.

Very early in the 1600s the young man, Thomas Savage came to the Shore. The natives liked him. The then leader of the natives, one Debedeavon, gave Thomas a huge (I do mean HUGE) amount of land. (see marker at top of photo page). At a point, at an extreme end away from the town (which came later), Thomas built a home. Eastville itself sits on another part of the same grant.

If you come north from the Bay Bridge Tunnel about 20 minutes worth of driving and turn right on to Willow Oak Drive you will be on the seaside of Eastville. This drive will take you past a number of comfortable set back homes. One of these is haunted by the uneasy spirit of a young confederate soldier. Yes, Eastville has its haunts.

If you continue along that road, you will come to old Eastville Station. Nothing left to prove the busy glory time of rail travel on the Shore. If you cross the tracks and keep driving, you find yourself deadending in the Northampton County Parks and Rec. Park. It doesn’t look like much but a lot goes on there. The guy in charge is Barry Randall and he does a good job keeping it ship shape and trying to accommodate everyone. And that’s not easy. The disc golf folks have their tournaments there and that has really taken off. The teams play baseball there, too. We have our Powwows there and Barry goes out of his way for us, too. On those grounds we have buried ancestors (http://www.virginiaindians.com/vapilot.htm) and we have located other old, old graves. As you look at pictures of Northampton’s park you need to realize that this piece of public park land is all that remains that is legally accessible (all else being in private hands) of the acreage (far less than Debedeavon generously gave to young Thomas Savage) that was made into the first Native reservation in the nation. The natives never even received much of what was promised and the noble settlers soon cheated them out of what they did get. You may laugh, but spirits also roam that park. Actually I’d be more surprised if they didn’t.


As you look at the photos you will see a sign for Holly Brook. If you click on it, you will go to a page of photos of that house. Interesting. It has been added to with sections of two other old homes of the same era from else where on the Shore. Very different. Its present residents are working on restoring the gardens. They are doing such a good job. The gardens were originally planned so that there would be color and interest at all times of the year. The out buildings
reminded me of the years I spent in Williamsburg. I even got a bit nostalgic. My grandson fell in love with it.

Also in that group of homes, you will see one with flags. That’s actually like a daycare center. I put that one in here because whenever I pass it I have to laugh. One night we were leaving a friend’s house very near there. It was very late and I was driving and very tired. It was pitch dark, no lights anywhere. I backed out of the driveway after looking to make sure nothing was coming. I guess you have to know what you’re looking for, though. I glanced once more in the rear view mirror and STOMPED on the brakes! There were eyes at the back of the car looking at me through the back glass. I got out and moved off a horse that had come up to see if we were going to do anything interesting. I guess I almost did! I found out later that he lived at the daycare center and at night he just let himself out and wandered around. I love the Shore. I used to have friends who would ask me, “Don’t you get bored in the country?”

To visit old town Eastville, you must retrace your steps and double back across Route 13. Here you come to Yuk Yuks, a local hangout. I like that name. Then you pass an old graveyard on the very side of the road that’s kind of neat. That’s one of the things I like about the Shore. Ancestors pop up everywhere. I’m sorry, it was raining or I would have gotten some dates. But I know they are old.

The first church you see is Bethel AME. Bethel hosted the first ordained black minister to give a sermon on the Eastern Shore. This may have been Reverend Caleb Burris, but I’m not positive. The next church, Christ Episcopal, is one of the oldest churches on the Shore. The next building photos are the Eastville Inn, built in the late 1700s, the base of the confederate monument (the obligatory monument to death in great numbers) and the original courthouse from which steps the Declaration of Independence was read in August of 1776. If you click on the monument photo, you will see the present courthouse. The next photos are of a little old shop. Debedeavon’s marker on the green and the old debtors prison. There is restoration going on as you can see. I liked the shot of the kids and the old storefront being worked on. It said something of history to me. There is a photo of the present day jail. Yes, don’t say it, they’re getting a new one.

I would like to get more photos in Eastville and I would like to get pictures of New Castle, restored, that was Thomas Savage’s home. For now I leave you to look at what there is so far. Enjoy!

Comments on the new ‘Tangier’ page

Well, days getting a smidge cooler, they’re takin’ in the corn and the soy beans are turning yellow so it was time for a trip out into the Bay, destination Tangier Island Virginia, a singular place if ever there was one. I do mean that. There is no place quite like Tangier. With sometimes 500 visitors a day, it’s still quiet and peaceful. the long time residents speak what amounts to a unique language (it’s a form of Middle English) and there is even a medical condition named for the island.

We took the Captain Eulice out of Onancock. The trip was supposed to take about an hour and a half. You can’t prove it by me, I didn’t take a watch and I completely lost track of the time. It was a perfect trip, not too hot and smooth as silk. By the time Watts Island loomed on our right, it seemed like maybe fifteen minutes had passed. The only thing missing was a chance to fish. Maybe another time.

A tour guide greeted us at the dock. Riding and walking tours were offered. We declined. There were also available golf carts one could rent to travel the island. This we also declined. We should have rented one. It would have enabled us to cover more ground in the short time we had. Actually, staying over night might be a pleasant option for some to consider.

For those of you who don’t know, that photo on the 2nd page is a swelling toad. If you get some, don’t eat them - they’re ugly! Call me and I’ll take them off your hands for you and even dispose of them properly.

We saw about three cars/trucks (one with flat tires), that’s all. May have been some we didn’t notice but the standard means of transport here are bikes, cycles, carts and feet. Not necessarily in that order.

I imagine that the food was good at the non-dock eating places. After all, they have been doing it for a long time. But as for us, we grabbed lunch at the dock while we waited for the trip back (remember, no watch, couldn’t be late for the boat). And I have to say this, CRABCAKE SANDWICH - YES. The Waterfront Restaurant served the best crabcake sandwich I have run across on the Shore, done to perfection and huge. Not greasy at all and not too much filler. Eat your hearts out, landlubbers!

I also feel the need to mention a couple of absences we noticed, trash and ‘bitey things’. We took some of those handy insect repellent wipes and didn’t even open one of them. Don’t know if that’s a usual thing but we liked it a lot. Forgot to ask if they sprayed, I hope not. Now - rest of the world - take notes!!! No clutter and no trash. Trash cans everywhere. Neat clean yards and absolutely NO scrap of any kind of thrown down trash anywhere that we went. These folks are proud of where they live and it shows!

I feel like saying something else, too. I’m not sure how, though. I don’t want to be misunderstood. (whoa, scary – how unlike me) This is a tough, enduring bunch of folks, these Tangier Islanders. Watermen for generations. Well, crabs are short and winter looms large. With clamming, oystering and crabbing falling off, they have turned the one thing they do have, their island, into a substitute cash crop. And they are doing it very well indeed. If you visit their Tangier you will find the investment well returned. Everyone we spoke with was, without exception, patient, considerate, pleasant and helpful. The guys in the oil company photo were great sports and warned me about the risk of a broken camera from taking their picture. Having worked with the public, I realize that’s not an easy task to carry off day after day. Especially when the public is trampling through your streets and gawking at you, checking out how you live. I guess, bottom line, what I’m trying to say is, Nice going and thank you for letting us visit your home!

We brought back pictures! Water, crabhouses, water, front yards, back yards, even little creeks, crabs and trash cans. Oh, yes, and water. Enjoy ‘em.

Comments on the new Byways page, #10

This year our six year old Granddaughter and I caught the closing night of the Onancock carnival. So you’ll see her in the pictures. She is the tiny, joyful face looking over the side of the whirly ride (sorry the photo is so grainy, but I really had to blow it up large to be seen - she’s so small). For the record, Grammy does NOT do the ‘ride’ thing. Also for the record, that did not slow our granddaughter down for the first little minute! I watched her ride everything - alone! She was absolutely fearless!

We had a great time. It’s a shame that this is one of the rites of summer that is disappearing across the land. It’s an opportunity for kids and adults to hang out together and have a good time. Affordable times like this are hard to come by these days. Here on the Shore we’re still the lucky ones. And it’s a ‘one size fits all’ sort of thing. Everybody turns out, the very youngest and the very oldest, the handicapped are welcome and biker guys drop by and have a good time. And we fund the volunteer fire companies at the same time. In several of the pictures you will see those same firemen keeping watch over things at the park. They really look out for the kids. And there’s another plus. From time to time one sees traveling carnivals set up in shopping centers and similar places. And the kids always want to go. Well, having walked though some of these with our children, I can tell you - they’re not always safe. And please know that the art of the flimflam is alive and well. At our fireman’s carnivals - no worries. These dedicated folks are our neighbors, friends and families.

Shore carnivals feature the usual games of chance, cake walks, pitching quarters, spinning the wheel and like that. There’s always Bingo. Ferris Wheels and Tilt a Whirls of various sizes and styles light up the night. Usually there’s a local band to hear. And FOOD!! Sure, there’s the usual hotdogs, pizza and cotton candy. But this is the Shore - We also have homemade ice cream, sometimes clam fritters and oyster sandwiches. HEY, we do food right.

Now, I can’t stand it any longer. I’ve been good for too long. I’m going to break bad for just a minute. I’ve left it for last so you can leave now and not miss anything and not be offended. I heard someone say the other day that we simply had to start being accommodating to all the people who were moving to the Shore. There just weren’t enough things for them to do like they had where they came from. Give me a break! We go to carnivals, we play baseball, we go
crabbing, we go fishing, we walk in the woods and on the shore and the marsh, we bike with our families, we garden, we play with our kids, we watch TV, we go to the movies (yes, movies are still affordable enough for families to go together here). WHAT? There aren’t enough golf courses, wine tasting parties and fancy dress balls here to suit ‘em or huge shopping malls to hang out and spend money in? I’m so sorry. I’ll bet there were plenty of these where they came from. They can always go back there. We still have simple things here. And it would seem that one can’t always have both styles. There are plenty of places they can get what they want for entertainment and there are very few places left for folks like us. I see three choices here, go home, blend in or get over it. A while back I would have seen a fourth choice, share. We are perfectly willing to share reasonably. That doesn't seem to be working.

For those of you who appreciate the simple things in life, enjoy the pictures.

Comments on the new Byways pages, #s 7 & 8

Sorry to be so long getting more material online. We wound up with in excess of 350 photos. It was a daunting task. Just short of a hundred made the final cut and even some of these had to go. Not easy decisions to make. Also, sometimes work gets in the way. What can I say. Gotta eat!

Page 7:
How about that sky! Bet you city folks out there thought that the “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” thing was a crock. Well, there’s a storm coming - trust me on this one.

See that vulture? That’s a real coup on Ken Miller’s part. It’s a Black Vulture, not a Turkey Vulture. We don’t have too many of then around here any more. The color? It’s called ‘4 am shades of gray’, The fox is Ken’s shot, too. He has watched them grow from tiny to tot over the last month and they are all doing well. What can I say about the geese? Well, they make good parents and they make for very happy foxes. That foal has good color. And it’s at a good age. Bet
he or she will bring good money at the Chincoteague Fire Department pony sale in July.

I love how the far trees get that faint reddish tint to them. At first you’re not even sure you really see it. And it’s one of those things that, if you’re too close, you don’t see at all.

About that Paulownia. Some people call it the Empress tree, Why? Beats me. I know that this is the only time when it looks anywhere near royal around here. It really is a trashy lookin’ scrubby tree. BUT, if it’s cultivated a bit and allowed to grow right, it resists insect damage and can grow to 15 or 20 feet in maybe 4 years. And if allowed to grow thick enough it makes a great shade tree or used as carving wood, it’s hard to beat. And you’d think with all the decoy carvers
around here, this’d be a plus. Go figure.

Very nice paint job on the blue house, but I really liked that calico cat on the porch - really shows off all the work.

Do you remember the paper mulberry trees in Byways 3? Well, they don’t look any less strange in the spring. In fact they look dead, but the new growth and foliage is amazing.

Page 8:

I was right close to some Wisteria one time when it ate a transformer - lot of noise, lot of sparks, big mess. A good time was had by all! Yes, I know. Wisteria is a pain in the %^&$ in the South. But it surely is gorgeous. Scotch Broom is rapidly declining on the Shore. I’m told that it used to be thick everywhere. Now you have to know where to look for it. Another casualty of ‘progress’. And I don’t know what this white stuff is. But it is pretty. I found it more so because I found it
right on the edge of a dirty piece of ditch water with beer bottles in it. It sort of said something to me about beauty existing in spite of humans defacing it.

Nature hides little bits of beauty for us to find. In odd places where we don’t expect it. If we don’t look for it, we’re the losers.

Lilacs - another story entirely. Bright, loud and in your face, But they seem to be always on the way to becoming, but never quite complete. Just when you think they have a ways to go, you turn around and ... perfection. And then you look again .... and there’s more

This brings us to the redbud, almost the first tree of the season to dress out. I must confess, it’s my very favorite ornamental tree. Its ‘all out’ exuberance and enthusiasm for blooming is awesome. Buds pop out from everywhere, branches and trunks. It simply can’t be contained.

That’s all I have to say. Just, please, enjoy the pictures.