Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I first encountered "Smedly" while walking in a long un-used transportation corridor near the Harford/Baltimore County area of Central Maryland. This part of the State was once served by a robust rail system, which to this day, bears obvious, and in some places massive disturbance of landscape and habitat. Throughout the area, 100 foot high earthworks are testament to the needs of a bygone era's desire to make an efficient link through the farmland into the then rural lands reaching toward Baltimore City. These moments of progress continue to this day, as the landscape becomes more urbanized. It is a study in land use and planning, but behind it all, is the fact of this compact and somewhat tortuous landscape carved both by the plentiful streams and the river that flows naturally through the steep gorge that necessitated the railway to span this terrain. This activity occurred around the turn of the century, or a little later, and the histrionics necessary to pull off this feat of engineering must have been a marvel of the times.
But there is a human story that emerges, as well. A whiskey maker by the name of "Smedly" seems to have produced his own brand of the demon alcohol, and the consumption thereof seems to have engendered a sort of backwoods clubhouse created by a number of artifacts, from the signature bottles he used, to his penchant for keeping old rusty rigs. We surmise that a number of his contemporaries holed up in a little known camp on the Gunpowder Falls (on the stretch several miles below the current Pretty Boy Dam). The remains of a Studebaker can be found there, and to this day, many young men, with low standards and a taste for rot-gut, can be heard, on a clear cold night, bent on deviance and destruction. Thus it will ever be, it seems, and we pray that these nee'r-do wells will some day see the light of salvation. But for now, there's howlin' down by the river, and the still is afir'in, and the cold earth suits any and all comers. Watch your step, and hold onto your jug!

1 comment:

  1. here's buchanan smalley and me on the High Line Park, built on abandoned rail trestle in Chelsea on west side of manhattan