Editorial: Broken rhythms
A look at our old newspapers, and excerpts printed in the column of "Glimpses Into the Past," reveal an activity that was common then, but probably puzzling to newer residents today.
Excited reports were made each year: Capt. Brown had caught 50 shad and 600 herring; Capt. Armistead and his boys brought a large load to the dock; the fishermen of Severn were getting their nets out.
Spring fishing was a ritual, a rhythm of the advancing year. It brought fresh fish to the table, and more importantly, cash to households that got through the winter on credit and "egg money" at the community store.
Those days are gone. It’s illegal now to take shad during the spring shad run. Along with mostly closed oyster beds, closed winter crab dredging, and a host of limitations on other species, the shad ban is a symptom of two things. The first: the continuing sad state of the fountainhead of local heritage, the Chesapeake Bay. The second: the broken rhythms of our once purely rural way of life, as farmers and fishermen have sold off their fields and boats and moved, or commuted, to the city for more lucrative incomes.
Just a remnant remains. Today we acknowledge the tremendous legacy they built for us, the annual calendar that began with felling and sharpening poles and then driving the stakes for their nets, bringing home a few shad, plowing the fields, setting out trot lines for crabs in the summer, tending the corn and watermelons, harvesting the beans, salting the fall spot, and settling down for the dark and lean days of winter. We salute our ancestors of the land and waters, and the honorable heritage they set out for their descendants.