National Geographic : 1938 Jul
ROADS FROM WASHINGTON Photograph by Willard R. Culver AUTO TAGS COST TOO MUCH? THEN MOVE TO SMITH ISLAND, IN CHESAPEAKE BAY In prosperous times islanders drove about 30 cars; now there are fewer than a dozen. Because these self-reliant men build their own roads, the State of Maryland does not enforce the law requir ing license plates. There is no ferry to the mainland; autos are brought as cargo. A rust-eaten buoy marks the end of a short stretch of experimental pavement across the salt flats. 2 or 3 children," was offered "on credit." Where oxcarts loaded with hogsheads of tobacco for waiting schooner holds once creaked over shell roads, through the pine woods and beside the cypress swamps, fast trucks now roar northward on smooth high ways with melons, tomatoes, and sweet corn for city tables. Today, the masters of many old planta tions are men from the North who call them "country places." Descendants of plantation hands work in the canneries. Sheep and tobacco, slaves and sailing ships, are gone with the loom and the spinning wheel. WOMEN KNIT HOME-GROWN WOOL Yet, even today on Smith Island old women knit socks and mittens from home grown wool they spin themselves. At Salis bury on the Wicomico River I saw sailing vessels laden with watermelons (page 4). A few old negroes, smoking home-grown tobacco, live loyally still on the plantations, secure under the paternalism of the sons of their fathers' masters. One wealthy outsider tried to buy a patch of woods from an impoverished planter for several thousand dollars. "I just can't sell it," the old southerner said, gazing affectionately at the oaks, pines, gums, sycamores, and holly trees of the big woodlot his family had owned so long. "I get logs for my fireplace there." "But for fifty dollars you could buy plenty of logs!" "I guess so," the gentle old man replied. "But a fire's nicer to sit by when your own wood's a-burnin'." Not far from Salisbury, a modern town of more than 11,000, a man ferried my car across a wide estuary on a flatboat, as I have seen river coolies do it in China, by pulling on a rope stretched over the water. Waiting on the other side was a new five ton road scraper. " 'Course I can get it across!" the boat man exclaimed. " 'Taint hard-just slow." At Princess Anne, south of Salisbury, we saw a hotel, built, its sign declares, "in 1744, in the reign of King George II." It is still open.