As a kid growing up in Maryland, I never thought much about the uniqueness of the watermen of the bay because it's just the way it was. I always knew that it was a tough way to make a living but I thought that's what they did elsewhere. After moving away and traveling around the world I now appreciate it a lot more.
Besides tonging, there is still a small fleet of skipjacks remaining that drag for oysters under sail certain days of the week. You can see in this video that they're in pretty rough condition, yet still are on the water.
Seeing the watermen working the estuaries and the bay is what makes the Eastern Shore, the Eastern Shore. A few years back, one DC insider decided to follow his colleague and buy a house in St. Michaels, overlooking the Miles River. The Miles is often full of working watermen and it's been that way for centuries. According to the locals, the new DC arrival wasn't pleased with watermen "blocking his view" of the river and sent the authorities out to move them along so he wasn't bothered. It's difficult to imagine such an idiot, but that's what people were saying.
The same new arrival to the region also managed to disturb the locals by entering the small town either via helicopter (which is loud) or motorcade, with sirens and flashing lights and people barking out demands to get inside their houses. The area is the more conservative part of Maryland but even so, the locals soon strongly disliked the new arrival and his obnoxious ways. If you guessed that the new arrival was Dick Cheney, you'd be right.
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