formerly Sykesville Online
Picture derived from "A River Walk"
by Sykesville's Jones Sisters
A few years ago, I wrote about this bench in Sykesville Online. Do you recognize where it's at? Do you know if it's still there? I used to walk my dog there. The water was loud. He would wade out into it, shoot out his big fat tongue, and slurp it up for a long time. His name was Barkley.
One day, that bench just showed up. It's heavy. I've always wondered how it got there. Shortly after I found it, someone strong carried it out of the water and over to the bank, where you could actually sit on it and watch the water and maybe see a few deer on the other side. I would do that sometimes, but Barkley hated that. He couldn't care less about deer and was impatient to get back to frantically sniffing around. (You can read a variation of the original story here.)
He sort of read the ground with his nose, snorting up all kinds of weird information, totally absorbed, happy sparks flicking on and off in his brain. The fields were his library.
The bench was still there last time I checked, but since my kids have grown up, and Barkley died, I don't go over there now.
The little stream is called Piney Run. Patients from Springfield used to wander along that creek back in the thirties and forties and fifties. One guy actually ate snakes. He wore a tattered coat and kept mice and other small animals in the pockets. They ran up and down his sleeves and through his hair. I've heard this from three different people, and I'll tell about it some day.
What about Sykesville Online?
Well, I got involved in writing a book called "In Carrie's Footprints, the Long Walk of Warren Dorsey." (The area where that bench sits is called Carrie Dorsey Park now, in honor of Warren Dorsey's mother. So I guess my writing added up to something.)
Then I wrote a couple more articles and kind of forgot about Sykesville Online. I wrote another book called "In Search of Helen from Two Locks," which took me two and a half years. I'm hoping the town will name a park after Helen, too.
She died at Springfield in 1953, but she only lived here three years, unlike Carrie who spent most of her life here. Carrie's mom was a slave. Helen Starliper suffered from a rare brain disease. At least one of Carrie's sons was a cook over there at Springfield, while Helen was there, but I'm sure they never crossed paths.
The Broken Website
But something else happened to Sykesville Online, besides me getting busy. It broke. The last story I wrote was about Lloyd Helt, who was mayor in the eighties and into the nineties. I just saw him recently.
His story is still there at sykesvilleonline.com, but it's all messed up. All the pictures are gone, all the design elements.
You neglect a complicated website long enough, and it slowly falls apart, like an old house where no one lives, like the one where Helen grew up at a place called Two Locks on the C&O Canal.
So I checked into it, and the program I used, WordPress, gave me a bunch of warnings about updating PHP, updating the MySQL database, updating WordPress, updating all my plugins, reinstalling my theme, and doing something having to do with http versus https. I made a few changes and that made things worse. Before long, I couldn't even log in to the site. It was time to call the hosting provider and ask for help.
And man, I just said, "No."
So Now What?
Well, there were some stories I liked, like the one about Lloyd. So I decided to save my favorites, using various extreme measures, and put them on this new site called Sykesville Stories. Someday, hopefully, I'll combine them into a book.
But I won't be messing with my http problems, PHP, MySQL, or any of that other complicated stuff. Instead, I'm going to painstakingly restore all my favorite old stories using something called Wix. There are those who don't like Wix. They consider it some sort of cheating, a tool for amateurs. To them, I say, "Oh well."
One story I've definitely got to put back together was about Wade Warfield, the guy with his name on the big buildings on Main Street, who was so instrumental in founding the town. Wade lost all his money and everything he owned very quickly in 1927, two years before the Depression. (He was ahead of his time.)
Now I've got more information, including a big pile of really old deeds that I found on eBay that show him buying and selling property all over Sykesville in the early part of the 20th century.
I still don't how he lost his money, but I know who he owed and how much, and I've definitely got some good things to add. For instance, when they took and sold everything he owned, all the way down to his toilet seats, cufflinks, and spoons, not to mention the house where he lived, he stole a few light fixtures.
When the new owner discovered that the fixtures were gone, he demanded that Wade hand them over. Warfield refused. It became a legal matter. I'm not sure how it worked out in the end, but I hope to find out.
I've also discovered that his first wife used to dress up like Charlie Chaplin. She wore a man's hat, fancy men's clothes, and a fake mustache. She carried a little walking stick and had at least two complete outfits made for a man.
They got rich.
Then she had her third daughter and died a week later, probably because whoever delivered the baby had dirty hands.
Wade married her younger sister, who as far as I can tell, did not dress up like Charlie Chaplin or wear a fake mustache. She raised her sister's children as her own, and she and Wade never added another. He outlived both those sisters. They're all buried together over in the Springfield Cemetery under big flat stones. Not fancy at all.
So on to Lloyd Helt, who came along just in time to breathe life into Warfield's wheezing old town before it was too late. Lloyd got here about 50 years after Wade collapsed of a stroke and someone found him lying there on his front porch on Springfield Avenue, where he used to watch the kids go to school.
Like old houses, old dogs, old websites, old stories also change with time, even if you don't touch them. They become like photographs, fixed in a moment that's no longer true.
So Lloyd's story isn't exactly the story it used to be, but you won't know that until you read the last line. Unless you read the last line first. Which you shouldn't. But probably will.