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Waterman Randall S. Peffer

Waterman - Randall S. Peffer

Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Dust wrapper age toned and tanned on the verso. Text complete, clean and tight.

2nd printing. [First Published: Same year] Contains: Black & white photographs; Frontispiece;

From the cover: “For three hundred years, generations of Tilghman Islanders have lived by harvesting the waters of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. They are watermen, an old English term for commercial fishermen, and their lives today retain much of the spirit and simplicity that characterized their land’s first Anglo-Saxon settlers. Randall Peffer’s first-person account provides an intimate portrait of the life of this community of rugged individuals through a year’s harvest cycle. It is a story that will touch anyone who has ever glimpsed the lives of the people of the Chesapeake Bay, whether in person or through the Chesapeake’s recent recreation in fiction.

Watermen began out of the author’s own search for his ancestral roots. Temporarily abandoning a teaching career, Peffer moved to the island and took up life as a Tilghman Island waterman. In his book, he takes the reader to work on the Bay, as he learns first-hand the waterman’s skills in oystering and crabbing, eeling and finfishing. With self-deprecating humour, he shares his experiences as “the new man” on the island — a stranger, easily spotted in the small population of 1500. He relates the gentle bantering and teasing he received on his first off-the-water adventure in goose hunting, or “gunnin’,” when he appears (in his companions’ eyes), dressed like a “mannequin from the window of Abercrombie & Fitch”. And he tells of his brief ostracism as a “Jonah” — the harbinger of misfortune most feared by the watermen — after the boats he sails on no longer seem to be able to draw the full catch that these watermen need in order to survive.

Along with his own experiences, Peffer introduces us to the lives and life-styles of the islanders themselves, told much in their own words. We meet proud, seasoned skipjack captains like Bart Murphy, who each day in season takes his eighty-seven-year-old wooden boat out to dredge oysters from the Bay. And there are women, too. Ginny Adams works beside her husband, harvesting oysters in the most ancient tradition of the watermen — the slow, laborious method of using hand-held tongs to scoop up oysters.

The men and women, their strengths and weaknesses, their wit and frustrations, are the heart of Peffer’s story. Their lives show not only the joys of an independent way of living, but the hardships endured, whether from the harsh winter that freezes the Bay, from the erosion of the island itself, or from the tragic deaths that inevitably result from working on the water. Above all, they are people who have learned how to endure, and their unique way of life goes on.”

Size: 9½" x 6¼". Brown boards with Black titling to the Spine. 195 pages.
Waterman Randall S. Peffer