By Sandra Zunino
Author Don Parks of St. Michaels takes readers on a trip back in time down the rivers of the Chesapeake in order to ever preserve fading memories and the heritage and of the Eastern Shore.
A retired school administrator and elementary school principal, Don was born and raised on the Eastern Shore in Dorchester County and recognizes that the culture is rapidly disappearing. When friends, new to the area, expressed their interest in stories he often told of his youth, he decided to put pen to paper in his book, Chesapeake Winds and Tides.
In the book, Don investigates the culture and heritage of the Eastern Shore, so heavily influenced by the Chesapeake Bay. Don admits as a boy he used to think the Chesapeake Bay belonged to him. “It was a very special place when I was growing up,” says Don. “Basically farmers and watermen were all that was here.”
Before construction of the Bay Bridge in 1952, the Eastern Shore was very isolated. Uncorrupted by city influences and technologies, her inhabitants possessed a unique innocence. Simply put, life was simpler then.
In writing Chesapeake Winds and Tides, Don piloted his 25-foot powerboat, Yankee Rover, up 10 rivers of the Eastern Shore area and around Smith and Jefferson islands. Each chapter is devoted to a river with Don narrating his voyage and some history of that river. He then interviews two natives from that region.
Much of what Don includes in the book is offbeat stories and little-known facts about the region. He was influenced by award-winning American journalist Charles Kuralt who wrote about his extensive travels across the United States in an R.V. “He would travel the highways,” says Don. “I did the same thing in my boat and I thought that was an interesting way to do it.”
It took two and a half years for Don to write Chesapeake Winds and Tides. He has also written a second book focusing on the upper Eastern Shore islands, rivers and tributaries called Chesapeake Splendor, which is currently at the printers. It should be available in another month.
Don inherited his story-telling ability from his father, who was a waterman, born and raised on Holland Island, which was evacuated in 1920 due to erosion. “I was always vitally interested in where he came from and his stories about what life was like there,” says Don.
“He was terrific and funny.” Don adds. “People would gather around and listen to his stories in fascination.” In fact, Don’s father is the subject of the first chapter of his third book, which he is currently writing.
As a volunteer docent at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and a captain of a tour boat, Don gets a lot of practice telling stories about the Eastern Shore. One of the few native volunteers, other Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum volunteers frequently ask him questions so they can learn more about the area.
Chesapeake Winds and Tides can be found on Amazon.com, local bookstores and museum gift shops across the Eastern Shore as well as in the St. Michaels and Easton libraries. The book has sold so well, it is now going into a second printing.