Shore Shots

August 23, 1992|By Text and photography by Frank Van Riper | Text and photography by Frank Van Riper,Copyright 1992 by Frank Van Riper. Published by Quesada House, Washington, D.C.

PARKSLEY, VA. — The Eastern Shore can be a land of contradictions, as enchanting for its serene beauty and isolation as for its bustling ports. Seemingly light-years away from the hurried lifestyles of Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis, the Eastern Shore developed at its own pace and with its own identity. It is a place of history, small-town ideals, richness and poverty. What binds the people is their love for the land and the water, on which they are dependent for livelihood and recreation at a time when they also are concerned about the environment and the Chesapeake Bay's future.

Frank Van Riper, a commercial and fine art photographer and former newspaper reporter, made his first visit to the Shore 10 years ago. In April 1990, as part of the American Society of Magazine Photographers' "10,000 Eyes" project to mark the 150th anniversary of photography, he chose to document Eastern Shore lifestyles. This spark, once flamed, burned for two years. It led him down farm-lined byways and riverside docks to capture the images to be published next month in "Faces of the Eastern Shore."

HOG-BUTCHERING TIME

Parksley, Va. -- Young's Meat Barn in Parksley, Va., started 26 years ago by Ralph Young and run now by his son Franklin, is one of the few markets on the Eastern Shore that kills its own meat. That means customers literally can buy sausage and pork chops that 24 hours before was a living animal.

CDepending on your point of view, the kill room is like an efficient auto assembly line or a grisly death chamber. Workers at separate stations do separate jobs as the product -- in this case a 300-pound hog -- moves from one man to the next. This worker is denuding the hog.

Princess Anne -- This unseasonably warm spring morning in Princess Anne, H. DeWayne Whittington, school board superintendent of Somerset County, had just come to work. He was dealing with two prickly issues: a teacher whose contract was not being renewed and a school bus that had just broken down.

The former was, in some ways, the easier to confront. Mr. Whittington, who grew up on the Eastern Shore and whose reputation as an educator extends far beyond the region, clearly felt he could not retain someone whose performance was below par. The bus was another matter. Mr. Whittington tried to think of ways to get another bus in his meager fleet to do the work of two. Any alternative meant one group of students had to do without: a field trip missed; a ride home delayed.

Salisbury -- The Salisbury Baptist Temple's drive-in Passion play features dialogue written by the Rev. Owen Perdue. ("Don't I get any change?" asks one character after buying a sacrificial pigeon at the temple.) The setting is impressive: a man-made hillside a few hundred yards from the one-story church/school complex. It is adorned with a stage-set temple, cave and marketplace -- as well as a partially concealed cherry picker on which Christ ascends to heaven at the play's end.

On the chilly March evening of these photographs, the Rev. Perdue was absent. During the previous night's rehearsal the horse he was riding shied suddenly, fell and rolled on the reverend, shattering his ankle. He made it to opening night in a wheelchair.

Pocomoke City -- "They said I should live in a low-stress environment."

Trish Evans came to the Eastern Shore out of medical necessity: In effect, her doctors prescribed the move after she was struck by a car on Manhattan's Lexington Avenue. The accident left her with several injuries and temporarily blinded. The two locales recommended to her were Somerset County and anywhere in Maine.

She chose Pocomoke City and set up her antiques business, a cluttered storefront a block off Main Street where one can wander through old treasures redolent with the musty smell of someone's attic, where most of the stuff doubtless originated.

Easton -- To anyone who grew up loving the game, an evening of softball at a local field on a summer night -- when you are so close to the players that you can hear every exhortation and expletive -- is heaven on grass. This night, in Easton, the Moose Lodge was playing the Bud Lights and before long it was clear the Bud Lights were outclassed.

Chincoteague, Va. -- "I had my accident six months before we were married," said Gene Shaffer, "and for the first year I sat around feeling sorry for myself -- 'Oh I can't go huntin', I can't do this, I can't do that.' "

"Then, finally, Mary came up to me and said, 'Get off your a--; you're gonna hunt.' "

For those in wheelchairs, the paved Woodland Trail in Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge is perfect. Deep in the sanctuary, the trail provides them with the access they need to hunt successfully. On this day during the refuge's once-a-year controlled hunt to thin out the deer population, Mr. Shaffer, George Markland and Tom Reese bagged their limit, while Mary Shaffer, not pictured, helped out.

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