Oral history is storytelling at its most ancient and most personal level.
It’s history with emotion. It’s history with a voice.
One of the things I like best about oral history is the fiction of individual perspective, the element of embellishment, of the teller improving the tale through the telling, not always letting facts get in the way of a good story. Facts don’t always tell the whole truth.
The people around here have always been known for the blunt earthiness and salty eccentricity that comes natural to tough folk living off the land and the water.
On the Eastern Shore, we are flush with characters of character.
Troy Wilkins, Joey Horney, Charles Bryan, Sonny Schulz, Bill Benton
On April 30th I participated in the first Chesapeake Storytelling Festival by hosting Legacy of the Chesapeake’s Waterman’s Story Swap. The following stories are derived from that fun and enlightening session, and/or the one-on-one interviews conducted with the participants beforehand.
A couple things an aspiring waterman has always eventually needed were mentors and a boat.
For over 45 years, Sonny Schulz has co-owned with his family the landmark Kent Narrows’ restaurant Fisherman’s Inn. Sonny has served in various civic positions, been a leader in regional economic development, and has supported many philanthropic endeavors in our community, including the Chesapeake Storytelling Festival. But before all that, Sonny had worked on the water since the age of twelve.
Sonny: I bought my first boat in high school. I didn’t have any money – I needed a boat because I wanted to go oystering. I’d been working, culling, for Teeny Jones and Robert Horney. I went to a Mr. Marshall down to Wittman (in Talbot County) and had a boat built. She was 34’ long and with the motor it cost me $1800. I had a little money and went down to Mr. Roy Golt to borrow the rest of it. At two percent interest, I paid him back by Christmas. He said Sonny you better keep this money you might need it. Winters coming. I said if I do I’ll come back and ask you for it again.
Joey Horney has worked on the water since he first went crabbing with his father when he was ten or eleven years old. His family has worked the waters around Kent Island for generations. As watermen have for ages, Joey has used his other land-based skills at times during his decades-long career as a waterman, but the passion for working the water remains first in his heart and soul.
Joey: I was twelve and my brother (Keith) was ten. We’d been out trot lining with our father. He’d take one of us one day and the other the next. He said “Why don’t you save up your money and buy a boat,” so we did. We bought a little Rock Hall boat from Mr. Wesley Ruth and paid I don’t know, $450-500 for it. Our father always crabbed outside the creek, and we were supposed to crab inside. Our father was crabbing and my brother and I got to fist fighting over who was going to drive and who was going to dip. Our father couldn’t see us on the boat and thought we fell overboard. He came flying over to us, wide open, and when he got there and saw us fist fighting he went ballistic. He made us get our lines up and when we got home he said, “We’ve got a boat for sale.” Said he’d go back to taking one of us one day and the other the next. He told my mother, “I can’t catch crabs worrying with those two.” We had that boat a whole two weeks.
LOOK FOR PART 2 TOMORROW
Keep doing it Brent. Keep these stories alive. If not you, who?