The Waileses prize Thistledown Farm NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

NEIGHBORS

January 14, 1993|By JUDY REILLY

Every now and then you meet people you've just got to tell the world about. More often than not, I've run into these folks in northwest Carroll County.

Forget Bill and Hillary, George and Barbara. During the coming weeks this column will be introducing readers to neighbors who make the world go around. This week, meet Laura and T. R. Wailes of Taneytown.

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I followed the written directions into foreign territory, the rural farmland west of Taneytown. The car went obediently down Bull Frog Road, making a crooked turn onto Roop Road, as I looked for the farm modestly described by its owner.

"You'll see the pond, the barn, the sheep wandering around, and the house standing on its head because our kids trash it on Saturdays," he warned.

I found the farm and drove down the driveway. After I turned off the engine, I sat and stared. Surrounding me was a perfect, peaceful setting. A tall, red-brick farmhouse kept watch over 124 acres. Three dozen Scottish black-face sheep wandered in and out of the red barn. A pond was nearly frozen in stillness. Three hundred Black Walnut trees, an investment in the children's future, grew in straight rows. A light blanket of snow covered everything.

When I finally pried myself from the scene, the owners of the sterling property, T. R. and Laura Wailes, welcomed me like an old friend. I had pursued them in search of the miniature clay houses Laura makes for a living, collectibles sought by discriminating fanciers from here to Williamsburg, Va. I found her houses, and much more!

The Waileses were newlyweds when they moved to Taneytown 12 years ago to tackle the restoration of their house and acreage. They worked on the property for an entire year before they moved in.

"There were rusty appliances on the front porch, chickens in the house, and the yard was only mud," remembers Laura.

In the renovation process, they found signatures of Civil War soldiers on the beams in the attic, cannon balls and bullets in the yard, and ghosts -- friendly, mischievous ones -- but more about that at Halloween.

Today, the farm looks like it must have when it was a proud part of the landscape nearly 200 years ago. Christened "Thistledown Farm," the property reflects the commitment of a new generation of Carroll residents -- people who treasure the resources of land and space and are determined to preserve both.

About Laura Wailes' miniature clay houses. . . . "I've done art forever, and clay for 20 years," she says, and she's been in the business of making houses for six years. She apprenticed at Windy Meadows Pottery with Jan Richardson, "the guru of house builders," and then went out on her own.

Laura finds inspiration for her miniature houses from Carroll County architecture. She'll cruise the back roads with a sketch pad and camera, and when an old homestead captures her imagination, she records it on paper or film, returns to her studio at Thistledown Farm and begins creating it.

More often than not, her dwellings are the old ones that strike a chord -- the old Victorian or free-style place that reminds you of someone's grandmother's house.

No two pieces are alike, and each has details that make it look like it could be lived in and loved: roof stains and shutters, front doors and porches. Laura's enthusiasm has spilled over to her customers, who eagerly await the new designs she works on in the early part of the year. She credits the favorable response to "a whole new feeling toward local artists. People want what's original and unique; they want to meet and support the local artist. That's wonderful."

Currently Laura sells her pottery, with husband T. R.'s "invaluable help," at shows in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. To receive a listing of where you can buy her creations, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Thistledown Farm Pottery, 3225 Roop Road, Taneytown, 21787.

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Think summer! Boys and girls, ages 6 to 16, who like to play softball and baseball can sign up to play through the Union Bridge Recreation Council on Jan. 18. Sign-ups will be at the Union Bridge Community Center from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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Attention, kids 8 to 18 years old! Join the Carroll County 4-H Performing Arts Club Saturday, from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., at Zion United Methodist Church, 2716 Old Washington Road, Westminster. Information: 848-4611.

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