Liv­ing his dream

Woody Faulkner re­flects on life as a wa­ter­man

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By KATIE WILLIS kwillis@star­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @kwillis_s­tar­dem.

— Charles Woodrow “Woody” Faulkner was born July 25, 1930, at the hospi­tal in Eas­ton. He said there are few things in life that he has en­joyed more than work­ing on the wa­ter and rais­ing his four chil­dren.

He has lived on his fam­ily’s wa­ter­front prop­erty on Bar Neck Cove on Tilghman for the past 87 years. Faulkner said he be­gan work­ing on the wa­ter when he was 13, and spent the next 64 years work­ing as a crab­ber, fish­er­man and har­vest­ing oys­ters, as well as tak­ing peo­ple hunt­ing on what used to be Nel­son’s Is­land, which he said since has washed away.

He said he also worked as a car­pen­ter dur­ing the months he was un­able to work on the wa­ter, mostly when the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay froze over. He said he was lucky to have the work to fall back on, and not all wa­ter­man are that lucky.

“If we had a bad crab sea­son or oys­ter sea­son, I al­ways had a job to go to,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner said one of the first houses he worked on was a house on Po­plar Is­land, which he said since has burned down. Vickie Fisher, one of Faulkner’s daugh­ters, said dur­ing his car­pen­try ca­reer, he re­stored his­tor­i­cal or old homes, in­clud­ing We­b­ley Farm and Sher­wood For­est. She said he re­built a home on Cum­ber­land Is­land in Ge­or­gia, as well, and Faulkner said he helped build parts of the Gold Room in the Tide­wa­ter Inn.

Faulkner spent his time on the wa­ter hand-tong­ing for oys­ters, crab-pot­ting and trotlin­ing for crabs. He said he was in­tro­duced to the world of hand-tong­ing one sea­son when he and his half-brother, Harry Lar­ri­more, were work­ing a con­struc­tion job.

“He said, ‘Woody, let’s get a boat and go oys­ter­ing,’” Faulkner said. “I said, ‘You’ll star ve my fam­ily to death.’ I had never caught an oys­ter. He said, ‘Well, let’s try it.’”

Faulkner said they went down the Bay and bought an old boat, and his brother taught him how to hand-tong. He said that’s how he learned, by con­tin­u­ing to work the tongs, re­gard­less of whether or not there were any oys­ters in them.

The tongs could weigh about 80 pounds while pulling them up if they were full of oys­ters, Faulkner said. He said hand­tongers drop the tongs and pull them up as of­ten and as fast as they can. After he got a good load of oys­ters he said he would dump them into the boat and cull, or pick through, them. He said he tonged in the rivers and creeks around Tilghman, and on the Bay to­ward St. Michaels.

“It’s hard work,” Faulkner said. “If I got 16 bushel, it was good, if I was by my­self.”

Faulkner said his fa­vorite part of work­ing on the wa­ter was crab­bing, trot-lin­ing specif­i­cally. He said he used to trot-line around Todd’s Point Creek in Dorch­ester County, where he said the crab­bing was good.

“I crab-pot­ted for a while, but I like trot-lin­ing bet­ter. A lot bet­ter. I don’t know, you’re to your­self more, and you don’t have to worry about all those pots around you ... I like crab­bing,” Faulkner said. “You get up early, you get done a lit­tle bit early. And you’ve got to sail the boat across the river in the dark by 4 o’clock — course you had some in­stru­ments in the cabin.”

Faulkner said he be­gan crab­bing when the only in­stru­ments avail­able were a sound­ing pole and a com­pass.

When his fam­ily was young, Faulkner said he would come into the dock at Bar Neck Cove and his two sons would come down to the dock to help take the bait off the lines while he went in­side for break­fast.

Fisher said Faulkner grew up on Bar Neck Cove. His fa­ther was a store keeper and wa­ter­man, and owned a small oys­ter shuck­ing house on the cove. His mother tended to the fam­ily and the fam­ily’s an­i­mals.

When he was about 20 years old, Faulkner bought his first boat from Hoop­ers Is­land in Dorch­ester County, and be­gan crab­bing and oys­ter­ing, as his fa­ther did be­fore him. The boat was a dove tail-style boat, Fisher said.

He mar­ried his late wife, Carmelita, and to­gether they raised four chil­dren: Alan, Gary, Vickie and Danielle. Faulkner said his son, Alan, is a life mem­ber of the St. Michaels Fire De­part­ment and also a mem­ber of the Tilghman Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, and works on the wa­ter, as well. Carmelita passed away in 1983, Fisher said.

Faulkner said he once worked on a skip­jack, Dorothy, oys­ter­ing for one year, but swore he never would work on an­other. One sea­son when hand-tong­ing wasn’t yield­ing the oys­ters he had hoped for, Faulkner said his neigh­bor and sev­eral other wa­ter­men rented the skip­jack to dredge the Bay.

“I’ve never done such fightin’ in my life,” Faulkner said.

He said he thought the ves­sel was go­ing to sink with all the storms that took place dur­ing that sea­son, and only the cap­tain had been dredg­ing be­fore — the crew were all new to dredg­ing.

“It was an old boat, and ev­ery­thing on it moved. It was a work­boat, ev­ery­thing worked ... That skip­jack, oh my God, I was so glad when that was over,” Faulkner said. “I hate go­ing to work mis­er­able, and I was, I tell you, but I didn’t want to quit. But we caught a lot of oys­ters, be­cause ev­ery one of us could cull ‘em.”

He later pur­chased his sec­ond boat, named Sea-Tac, for crab­bing, fish­ing and oys­ter­ing. The boat was 34 feet long, 8 feet wide, with a wooden hull. He har­bored his boat at his dock on Bar Neck Cove.

He said he once car­ried an ad­mi­ral from the U.S. Navy when he went out crab­bing.

“It blew a gale. Ev­ery­body up at (the tackle shop) said, ‘Mis­ter, you bet­ter not go with him in that boat, he’ll drowned you for sure,’” Faulkner said. “When we got into the dock, he made me feel good. He said, ‘Woody, you got a fine lit­tle boat here, and you re­ally worked it good.’ And it blowed a damn gale.”

His third ves­sel was a brand new, 38 foot long, 11 foot wide boat with a fiber­glass hull, which he named Woody’s Dream.

Faulkner said once he had his photo taken by a gen­tle­man and later found out the photo was part of an ex­hibit within the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tute.

About 10 years ago, Faulkner said he sold his boat and his li­cense to work on the wa­ter. He bought a lawn mower and cut grass for a time af­ter­ward. He re­mains an ac­tive mem­ber of Tilghman United Methodist Church.

Faulkner said he’s had a good life and his chil­dren have been good to him, and he con­sid­ers his greatest ac­com­plish­ment rais­ing his four chil­dren.


Woody Faulkner work­ing on his third boat, Woody’s Dream, in 1989.

From left are Woody Faulkner and his son, Alan, docked at the Fair­bank Dock in Tilghman.

Woody Faulkner crab­bing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay on Woody’s Dream.

Charles Woodrow “Woody” Faulkner, 87, sits in front of a skip­jack at Dog­wood Har­bor on Tilghman Is­land.

Woody Faulkner with his first wife, Carmelita, with whom he raised four chil­dren: Alan, Gary, Vickie and Danielle.

Woody Faulkner holds a crab while spend­ing time with a friend.

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