Friday, October 30, 2009

Once Removed

Robert T. Valliant, my grandfather, at his father's shucking and packing houses in Oxford, Md., where Bates Marina is now. Circa 1905.

My dad turned his knee around backwards. Kneecap got whacked side-on by essentially a 2" x 10" or so and spun it clear off its hinges. He was a boardsman for a Chesapeake Bay log canoe at the time, likely racing with Doug Hanks at the helm. That was the end of his log canoe sailing days.

Our family has become further removed from the water with each generation. My great grandfather, Jeremiah Valliant, was a partner in William Valliant & Brothers packing houses in Bellevue, Maryland, until a business falling out saw him open his own competing shucking and packing houses in Oxford. He had four young'ens, an even two boys (Robert and Jeremiah) and two girls (Louise and Harriet). The two boys would end up running Valliant Brothers Marina, where Bates Marina currently sits at the end of the Strand, same Oxford location as the shucking and packing houses.

Robert was my grandfather. He's the young lad pictured above. He was born in 1899 and lived to be 95. Marina owner and beyond, he was a lifelong fisherman. He kept detailed logs of every time he went out, what they caught, who he went with, what they used. He took my dad fishing, and he lived long enough to take me fishing a number of times from when I was little. I still remember turning around and seeing him peeing in an empty milk carton at the back of the boat. I never asked where the bathroom was after that.

That love of fishing, boating, and being on the water translated directly to my father. But he doesn't own a marina, he's an accountant. His education and occupation don't put him right on the water, though he'd no doubt love to spend more time there.

When I was 15, I came into a 13' Boston Whaler with a 40 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor on it. It was tied up behind our house, in shallow water or mud if the tide was out. $5 worth of gas and you had more than a day's adventure. There wasn't a creek between Oxford and Easton that we didn't explore or a beach we didn't pull up on. Maybe a couple, but not many. I wasn't that concerned with a driver's license when I turned 16, it couldn't hold a Zippo to being on the river.

I feel connected to Oxford, the Tred Avon, the Eastern Shore, the Bay. A bond in the blood and in the bones. But I am further removed. I wonder if I have it like my grandfather did. Or my father does. The water, creeks, rivers, bridges, is where I feel it inherently. But I don't do enough with it. I get it when we're on the water with the girls, or this summer on a stand-up paddleboard. And I look for more.


Runners on Trails said...

The more I work on boats the more I become removed from the water I knew so well. This essay, Michael, sang to me. Four seasons of the year were spent on the water when i was a lad. Most of it was spent within a foot of sealevel while in my skiff that i would skip between LaGates Cove and Oxford. Winters had me 2 inches above the water while on iceskates. I knew every bouy from Oxford to home by heart; never did i use a search light at night; i'd find them spot on; right where they should be.

Kelly said...

thisis really well-done, it captures your own nostalgia in such a delicate way. Thank you for a lovely post.