It was like a Norman Rockwell painting, missing only the pot-bellied stove, cracker barrel and checkerboard.
Folks sat around Alvin Cullison's general store on Old Hanover Road in Boring chatting as the pendulum of the old oak-cased Regulator clock above the empty cold-meat case tick-tocked away the afternoon.
Mr. Cullison, at 86 a town elder, and Postmaster Mary Jane
Pusey, 38, who presides over the tiny Post Office that has occupied a corner of the store since 1880, chimed in with occasional observations as the talk leap-frogged here and there. The store itself was built in 1854.
An old iron letter box beside a small Christmas tree invites children to deposit letters for Santa Claus. "If they put a return envelope with a stamp, Santa will write back," promised Ms. Pusey, postmaster for 11 years.
"People come from all over the country, including Boring, Oregon, the only other Boring, to see this Post Office and take pictures of it. There aren't many like it left," Ms. Pusey said as she adjusted the Tiffany-style stained-glass lampshade above her desk.
Outside, a yellow school bus arrived. Laughing youngsters swinging book bags --ed in, gulped an after-class soda and raced out again, intent on an afternoon's freedom before supper and homework.
"It's serene," Ms. Pusey said of the tiny village set in rolling countryside in northwestern Baltimore County. "I feel blessed. It's like living in a time warp. I don't adjust well to the 'progress' that you see around you. There's a rhythm of life that we have here that they've lost downtown. The seasons dictate the pace of life."
The town of Boring -- the name was changed from Fairview in 1905 in honor of David J. Boring, appointed in 1880 as the first postmaster -- is one of many similar enclaves spotted around the county.
Some were founded as farming centers, while others were built as way stations along the expanding railroad networks. The old Western Maryland Railway line, now part of CSX, crosses Old Hanover Road three times in Boring.
Boring is on the arc of Old Hanover Road, with Woodensburg at one end and Fowblesburg at the other. Once a toll road paved with cobblestones, the road follows an old Indian trail and enabled horse-drawn wagons to avoid Starr Hill on the Hanover Pike, according to Mildred Nolte, 91, Boring's oldest resident.
The town's name always provokes jokes, so residents have worked out a smiling stock rejoinder: "It's never boring in Boring."
Life is about to get even livelier, however. Bingo three nights a week began at the Boring Fire Hall Dec. 10 as a joint venture between the Boring and Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Companies.
The change has ended the popular Boring Auctions at the fire hall, and the Boring United Methodist Church must find a new venue for its affairs.
Development in the area has increased traffic volume through Boring along Pleasant Grove and Old Hanover Roads, but the village remains basically unspoiled, said Walter M. DeVilbiss Sr., 68.
A few new houses are interspersed among old homes, many with Victorian gingerbread, in town and on the outlying farms. The only intensive development is the 18 to 20 expensive new houses on Mamopa Court, at the edge of Boring.
"We don't want it to change," said Mr. DeVilbiss, a native who commuted downtown for 44 years, first by rail and then by car, but who always relished the return to his rural retreat.
"You can still sit out on your porch in the summer and enjoy it. The majority of the people are longtime residents, and everyone knows everyone else," said his wife, Virginia.
Nearby is the old frame house where Mr. DeVilbiss was born. His son and grandchildren live there now.
Although Boring is encircled by farmland, the village remains residential, Mr. DeVilbiss said, a bedroom community for area commercial centers, including Baltimore, Towson, Hunt Valley, Owings Mills, Westminster, and Hanover, Pa.
The lack of water and sewer lines -- and Baltimore County's policy against extending them in rural areas -- has saved Boring from developers intent on subdividing farms into housing tracts, Mrs. DeVilbiss said.
"We don't have it, and we don't want it," she asserted.
Back at the store, Mr. Cullison said that when his father bought it in 1925 he stocked everything from feed, seed and fertilizer to fresh eggs, meat and household staples.
Today, only a few bottles and cans line the near-empty shelves, and other goods are scarce as well. The feed business died 20 years ago, groceries went, and then the gas pump, he said.
"I just about break even," Mr. Cullison said. "It's a dead horse. An independent grocery can't survive anymore. We can't carry the stock like the chain stores. I can go to the chain store and buy anything cheaper than the wholesaler sells it to me."