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Voices From The Past by Gary D. Crawford

One of the most enjoyable aspects of living on the Eastern Shore is listening to people speak about its rich and varied history. Their voices fill in the past I didn’t know, each tale and recollection adding yet another thread to my heritage tapestry. I’m sure you know what I mean. For those of us who weren’t born and bred in this place, hearing local stories is an important part of our learning experience, for it helps deepen our appreciation of the place we now call home. I came to grasp this more clearly some years ago, when I accepted a n inv itat ion to present one of my slide shows to residents of a pla nned communit y in Ea ston. The presentation was on a Tuesday afternoon, I was unknown to them, and the subject was the history of Tilghman’s Island. I reckoned, therefore, that the turnout would be very slim, perhaps just a handful of folks who were tired of Canasta. When over 70 people turned out and listened attentively for nearly an hour, I just had to ask my host about it. He explained that nearly all the residents of that community are transplants from elsewhere. They know relatively little about this area but are keen to know more. “It’s

hard to put down roots in soil you don’t know,” he said with a smile. Indeed. We do need to k now w h e r e w e a r e , d o n’ t w e? H i s observation certainly explained, in a nutshell, my interest in those conversations with local friends. I was learning about the place where I had decided to live the rest of my life. Not only was this learning informative and sometimes fun, I was beginning to get a sense of that complex and interlocking web of relationships that prevails in our rural communities. Most of my conversations are casual and quite by chance, you understand. I have no real purpose in mind other than to “soak it up.” I am not an interviewer; I’m just curious. So I listen and maybe ask some questions. The talk flows freely. Afterwards, I may jot down some notes, especially the genealogical spaghetti. It strikes me, now and again, that until quite recently ~ well, the last 5,000 years or so ~ such conversations were the only way we could ever know about events we did not actually witness. Somebody had to tell us about them. If we weren’t told about something, orally, we couldn’t know about it ~ at all, ever.