Life in West Denton in the 1920s, on Choptank River, Caroline County, Maryland

Below is text from “Chapter Three – Activities Along the River” of Bridges To My Maturity,  Delightful Memories of What It was Like to be a Young Lad in the 1920s Along the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, by George W. Swartz.

Digitized, edited, and prepared for re-publication by CCHS volunteers Dave Ellis and Don Barker.

See all of our republished stories by George Schwartz about West Denton here.

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The Choptank River and the activities around it contributed much toward the meaningful and enjoyable experiences of my early life. There seemed to always be much adventure associated with the river. Even the ebb, low, and high tides were fascinating to me. A boy soon learned that fishing with a pole and float was best at ebb tide, a time when the tides were changing and the surface of the water was as smooth as glass. Then there were storms that brought very high tides. For a while, all tide regularity ceased – the river might overflow its banks and the water remain at high tide for several hours, even a full day or more. I have seen the tide high enough that the water reached our front yard and lapped at the back end of my dad’s store.

There were unusual experiences too. I remember the time that a sailboat captain tried to leave Denton during a storm that was bringing a high tide and strong winds. He requested the draw to be opened so that he could leave, which in the minds of a few local people around the drawbridge was a questionable action in view of the storm. Along with the strong wind, the tide was flowing very rapidly through the draw part of the bridge, so fast that his little yawl boat couldn’t push the vessel through the drawbridge. It lingered there in the draw part of the bridge for quite a few minutes.

The captain was a feisty old salt who listened to no one, and all the while he was bellowing out orders, interspersed with numerous curse words, to his one shipmate in the yawl boat – all of this to the delight of the local I-told-you-so citizens who on previous occasions had a dislike for the old salt because of his cockiness. All of a sudden he decided that he could do the job better himself and ordered the shipmate out of the yawl boat and jumped in himself. By some freak action he caused that yawl boat to rush forward, climb the ropes that attached it to the stern of the vessel, and then drop straight down into the water stern end first, submerging the engine and carrying the old captain with it. He came out of the water like a drowning rat clinging to whatever was available.

Naturally, the engine was dead, and without its push the strong tide caused the vessel to drop back out of the draw. The old captain had managed to get back on board and he had to throw lines over to the wharf where some local residents helped tie up the boat again. The next couple of days were spent in dismantling the yawl boat engine, drying it out, and preparing for another attempted departure. All of this had tied up the drawbridge and traffic for the best part of an hour.

After leaving Denton at age seventeen, only to return briefly during a couple summers, the remainder of my life has been in the mountains, towns, and cities of Virginia However, I have never really lost my love for the Choptank River and the adventures and experiences of my boyhood days. Every now and then something causes me to recall some experiences or adventure that happened there many years ago.

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