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Police officer, Army veteran, father: Meet Jeff Smith

EASTON — The rain is downpouring and covering the street in puddles when Jeff Smith, dressed in his full police gear, comes all the way down his porch steps to get me inside and out of the storm.

“It’s a nasty day,” he said, leading me up the steps and shutting the door.

It’s quiet inside his tidy home, but that spell is quickly broken when a brown labrador bolts to the door, tail wagging, and nuzzles his head against my leg. This is Smith’s police dog and newest partner, Chief. But like most things in Smith’s life, he’s something much more than just a dog or a partner. He’s a friend that Smith has sworn to protect.

“Be a good boy,” Smith said to Chief, gently nudging him away.

Smith’s five years in the military has taught him a few things, most notably that what many of us take for granted — friends, family, even the strangers in our community — should be cherished and protected. It’s why he became a police officer after his time in the army and has continued to serve the community for more than 20 years.

His apartment is clean, with polished wooden floors and plain but elegant black couches. The house is filled with framed photographs — one of a police car, another of Smith with his fellow police officers. A black-and-blue banner stretches above a couch, reading: “Blessed are the Peacemakers.”

The 44-year-old Army veteran is not shy about his love for law enforcement. Nor the years he spent in the military, and definitely not his passion for serving and protecting, whether it be for the community or the nation. To him, it all ties together, and “joining” means both police work and service to the military. It’s all about protecting.

“I think the people that choose to join,” he said, “make a choice to change their life and they are doing that to make the people in their country safe. At times, it puts them at risk of death and it changes their life forever. So many people are still willing to make that choice, that decision, and people should respect that even if they don’t make that choice themselves.”

Smith’s 17-year-old son, Jacob, is moving around upstairs as we talk. The two live together with Chief, and Smith says that even though they are both busy working all the time, they share a good and quiet life here. Smith, who comes from a family of veterans, doesn’t think Jacob, or his 20-year-old son Elijah, will join the military, but he had encouraged it.

“I think the military is a great experience and a chance to meet new people,” he said, but he admits “it’s not for everyone.”

Smith’s own decision to join the military was an abrupt one. He grew up here, near Gordon Parkway, with his parents and a little brother, Zach. While he had never once thought about joining the military as a child, he had fantasized about becoming a police officer.

“I idolized officers,” he said. “I didn’t think about service then, but since I was a little kid I thought it was a neat job.”

His ambition ties together neatly with his upbringing. He was raised in a religious family, with Methodist parents, and Smith was involved in church youth groups and even attended St. Peter and Paul, a private, Catholic high-school.

“We weren’t that strict,” he said,”but we would get up every Sunday morning and go to church. At my mom’s mom, we always had a moment of prayer.”

Smith was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts of America too, working with them until he was seventeen, though he never finished his work as an Eagle scout. Still, Boy Scouts would eventually expose him to the military world, ultimately influencing his decision to join.

The Boy Scouts of America host a National Jamboree every four years, pulling together thousands of scouts from across the country to participate in days of camping and camaraderie. Smith joined a National Jamboree in Virginia as a teenager and came back committed to joining the U.S. military, which had sent representatives to the event.

“It was the experience of being with the army, eating in the mess hall, and seeing what was going on,” said his father, Alan Smith. “He decided at that point it was what he wanted to do.”

Alan Smith says his son wasn’t influenced by his family history when he decided to enlist. He comes from a line — not too long of a line — but a line of veterans nonetheless. Alan served in Vietnam, working in communications and with submarines for about nine months; and two of Alan’s uncles served in World War 2.

So Alan was surprised when an excited Smith told him he was going to join the military after graduation.

“I was very surprised he had latched onto it that quickly and decided it was what he wanted to do,” Alan said. “I served a short time myself, and I think he took an example of that. I was very supportive of the military for him and I think it’s a good place for people wanting to serve.

“I saw a bumper sticker many years ago: if you can read this, thank your teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank your veteran,” Alan Smith continued. “People take it for granted — but the world would be a different place if you didn’t have veterans. There are people willing to sacrifice everything for the freedoms of this country.”

When he graduated in 1994, Smith enlisted in the Army, thinking it was a chance “to see different areas, learn something new, and just get away from here and experience a different kind of life.”

He had basic training at Ft. Armistead in Baltimore and then Ft. Huachuca in Arizona, where Smith had advanced training to become an imagery analyst. His task was to look at satellite photographs and analyze them for military intelligence. It was a far cry from working with animals or canines, but it was “interesting to look at all the different pieces moving,” he said.

By 1996 he was trained as an airborne soldier and moved to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, moving into the 319th Military Intelligence Battalion. The following year he would ship off to Bosnia for a peacekeeping operation helping to resolve lingering conflicts in the country, which had been beleaguered by a civil war over independence.

He would only spend a year there, but it would change him.

“Every third house, you could tell where somebody threw bombs. Parts of it were missing,” he said. “Always, kids would come up and ask for food. You would look at the kids, see how they are growing up and having to live their life, and it was sad.”

Smith was rejuvenated by his experience, wanting to protect those he loved back home from ever feeling the way those kids did.

“I was a 20 year old, but still, to think — I wouldn’t want to live like that,” he said. “To beg soldiers for food and worry about someone coming to kill me. It’s a terrible way to live. I grew up here in Easton, and (I’m glad) you don’t see it really anywhere in the U.S. I was wishing there was something I could do to make things better.”

He would bring that desire back home. Smith spent four years and nine months in the military, and he retired as a Sergeant in 1999. He doesn’t really know why he wanted to leave so bad, but he wanted a new experience, and he had gotten most of what he wanted out of the military.

Besides, there was his dream of becoming a police officer, and by 2000 he came home and joined the Easton Police Department.

Throughout his career, he would work in Easton, Cambridge and, now, for the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office. Just as his time in the military was all about protecting others, he is now on the streets doing the same thing.

“He treats people with respect — he can certainly flip the switch if we need to —but he’s very people oriented and knows how to talk to people,” said First Sgt. James R. Dobson, who responds with him on police calls. “When he is working he gives it his all. That is what I really appreciate about Jeff, that he goes out of his way to help others. We want people who are out there giving it their all and keeping people safe.”

Smith trained Dobson as a field supervisor, and became a mentor and friend to him. Dobson is often in awe of how Smith always gives it “110%” everyday, and is often the first person at the Sheriff’s Office for his shifts. That’s his military discipline, says Dobson, and it speaks volumes about him.

His honor and commitment to service should be recognized more than just once a year, he added.

“I think Veterans Day is a time to reflect,” Dobson said. “They have a day, but it shouldn’t be the only day we honor our veterans. We shouldn’t just focus on one day a year they get acknowledged.”

Smith is a community-oriented police officer working during a time where the police are not necessarily the most respected. It’s become harder for him to be the officer he wants to be in the face of attacks and anti-sentiments lobbed at police officers across the country.

Smith doesn’t think that’s justified, even though he supports police reform and accountability for bad actions, because it’s the exact opposite reason he joined both the military and the police.

“To sit there and watch some of the videos and look at the news of people throwing things at cops,” he said slowly, pausing between each word. He adds: “Obviously there are some bad cops out there, but at the same time, the ones that are getting killed are not the ones doing it. It’s a scarier time.”

He acknowledges that Talbot County has been very supportive of him, and he hopes to keep it that way. Working with the community is exactly why he joined the police department.

Smith gets up multiple times while we talk to take care of Chief. He tells his dog and partner to sit over on the couch, but his words are kind and gentle, even when he was to be stern.

It’s the same way he treats everyone: with a healthy dose of respect and care, while still managing and protecting in the best way he can. Smith divorced twice, but his commitment to his family, his children, and his job is evident to his girlfriend Abby Weese.

“He’s a good officer and one of the reasons I Back the Blue,” she said of the movement supporting the police. “You see him, and he is caring and kind and cares about what he does. Thirty minutes early for work, stays late, cares, wants to do a good job. He still has that respect for his job.”

Smith is so committed, he even went to a senior’s house to get a bird out of her house, and was happy to do it. He’s also a “family man” always there for his children. Weese wants people to know officers like Smith are out there.

“Jeff will do anything for anybody,” she said. “He is upset people have this connotation that cops are bad right now because he is still out there willing to lay his life down for strangers. When we honor veterans, we honor those who are willing to lose their lives” and that also includes the police, she said.

Not everyone will see it that way, but Smith said his focus is on working with the community and having a positive impact everyday. And, of course, to continue to protect and serve.

Smith leads me to the door when we are done talking, making sure that I can find my way back to the car through the onslaught of rain. He adds something else before I go.

“I loved the experience I had,” he said, “and the fact that I’m able to say I did my time in the military and I served. I’m proud.”

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Governor warns against travel, promises jail time, fines for disobeying COVID-19 orders

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan is rolling back indoor capacities at restaurants, discouraging out-of-state travel and said those who ignore COVID-19 orders could face potential jail time and fines as reported cases of the virus increase in Maryland and other parts of the U.S.

“We are headed in the wrong direction,” Hogan said during a briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 10, in Annapolis. It follows up on warnings about a rise in coronavirus cases Hogan issued earlier this month.

The state of Maryland is discouraging travel to U.S. states where there have been increases in coronavirus cases reported by health agencies.

“Today, I am worried we have now crossed over into the danger zone,” Hogan said of the recent rise in new cases and hospitalizations in Maryland.

Hogan also wants local authorities — including the police — to step up their enforcements of mask mandates, social distancing and other orders related to the virus.

“Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue and have begun letting their guard down,” Hogan said. “Too many businesses are failing to comply with state regulations and orders.”

The Maryland governor said those who fail to comply with COVID-19 orders could face jail time, fines, the loss of liquor licenses, and scofflaw businesses could be shutdown. He also voiced concerns about social functions and house parties.

Hogan said Tuesday the state has seen more than 1,000 new cases each of the last seven days, and COVID hospitalizations are at their highest levels statewide since June. The positivity rate for coronavirus tests statewide was 5.24% on Tuesday. Hogan said that is above the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns,” Hogan said.

The state reported 1,338 new COVID cases, 12 new deaths and 54 new hospitalizations on Tuesday. There are currently 761 COVID hospitalizations, and there has been 4,084 reported deaths statewide from the virus since the pandemic began in March.

The governor allowed restaurants to go back to 75% indoor capacity in September. That order is being pulled back and restaurants will go back to 50% indoor capacity, Hogan said Tuesday. The indoor capacity pullback order goes into place on Wednesday and will be enforced, the governor stressed.

The Maryland Department of Health is also discouraging indoor gatherings of 25 people or more. The order does not apply to churches or religious services, the governor said. The state health agency is also telling nursing homes to stock up on masks and protective gear.

The governor has also ordered state agencies to return all non-essential employees to teleworking and encouraged private employers to do the same or have staggered hours to limit potential exposures.

“Our primary goals continue to be keeping our hospitals from overflowing and stopping more Marylanders from dying,” Hogan said.

New shutdowns as well as restrictions on travel and public gatherings have prompted protests in Europe and the United Kingdom over their impacts on jobs and civil liberties.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, told The Star Democrat he opposes new shutdowns that would hurt the economy and jobs. Others also expected fresh shutdowns and restrictions potentially being imposed by other states and potentially a new Biden administration in January. Harris is a medical doctor who represents the Eastern Shore.

“Now is not the time to shut down the economy again,” Harris said.

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md., said on Monday they expect a more aggressive federal role when it comes to COVID from a presumed Biden administration. Biden, who has been projected as the 2020 winner by media organizations, has promised new COVID actions and orders in his first day in office in January.

Hogan did not order any new business shutdowns or restrictions but said other actions could be taken if the virus situation worsens.

“We may need to take additional state actions in the days and weeks ahead if the situation continues to deteriorate, Hogan said.

Veterans Day: A Happy Accident

EASTON — Although she has settled into her career as a reporter and editor at The Star Democrat and now calls the Eastern Shore her forever home where she and her husband Joshua are raising their five children, for a dozen years Jessica Duerstine served in the U.S. Army as a public information specialist.

She didn’t sit back behind the lines, either. When Pvt. Jessica Booker from Arkansas was deployed to Iraq, she was the gunner on her team of Army journalists who ventured out to the war zone to tell the stories of heroes on the front lines.

Duerstine’s Army career taught her much, but her year in Iraq helped her tell the stories of her fellow soldiers, chart her career, expand her understanding of other cultures and appreciate her own.

She was 23 years old when she signed up in March 2004. With a high ASVAB score that bolstered her goal of becoming a linguist, Duerstine’s high school escapades temporarily prevented her from getting the necessary security clearance. Sometime after her journalistic and public relations training, she did become a linguist with top secret clearance, but her subsequent assignments never allowed her to become a military linguist in the Pashto language she had learned.

Still, even after the highs and lows of her Army career, she said getting into journalism was a “happy accident.”

It was the summer of 2003, and Duerstine was working at the Walmart corporate headquarters during the day and waiting tables in the evening to “have something to do and stay out of trouble, I guess,” she said. “And then the Iraq war happened. I was completely against the Iraq war … a friend of mine … was actually killed in Iraq.”

“So it was the summer of 2003 right after the invasion, and I was kind of like, what am I doing with my life? I want to do something that makes a difference and has some sort of meaning and some sort of purpose beyond just a normal, go to the office 8 to 5, fill out spreadsheets and contact warehouses and do all that nonsense. I wanted something more,” Duerstine said.

That same summer, on a whitewater rafting vacation in North Carolina with her parents and younger sister, Duerstine met a group of soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg. “They were talking about the Army and they had just sort of a way about them,” she said. “I liked their confidence, their dedication. I thought, I want to be like them.”

Arriving home on Monday, she visited a recruiter on Tuesday afternoon. She needed to lose 50 pounds, so the recruiter offered to work out with her every evening. “So we did. I couldn’t even run a quarter-mile. I couldn’t do a single push up. But six months later, I had lost enough weight to be able to go to MEPS in Little Rock.” MEPS stands for military entrance processing station.

The new recruit scored in the top 3% on her ASVAB test, and when she scanned the list of available jobs, the self-described news junkie picked journalism. She passed the voice audition, graduated from basic training before Memorial Day weekend, then began her training as a military broadcaster at Defense Information School at Ft. Meade, graduating just after Labor Day weekend in 2004. She thought she would head to the Armed Forces Network at an overseas location, not to the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I didn’t even have a year in the Army,” Duerstine said. “I knew it was a possibility when I signed up, but I didn’t think it was going to be that fast because I still felt like I didn’t know anything about the Army. Even though I felt like a soldier, I didn’t feel like a real soldier.”

She found out soon enough what it felt like to be a “real soldier.” Although she had never touched a gun until she joined the military, she became the gunner for her public affairs team, riding atop their Humvee carrying a light machine gun known as a SAW, or M249 squad automatic weapon.

“I liked being a gunner,” Duerstine said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was probably the most fun I had in the Army. I had a lot of fun in the Army, so that’s saying something. (It was) the adrenaline rush. I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie — you know, go cliff diving in Arkansas, whitewater rafting, the biggest, scariest roller coaster. It’s hard to explain. There’s just a rush that you get every time you go out, knowing that any number of things can happen. I absolutely loved it.”

Not everyone believed she should be a gunner. “I like to think the Army has made a lot of progress … as far as gender equality,” she said. Even so, Duerstine said fellow soldiers would openly question her ability to handle a gunner’s responsibility. “It was this sort of old-school mentality that women couldn’t be an asset to the team — we were more of a hindrance to them. And that bothered me for a really long time.”

The night Duerstine was injured by the concussion from an improvised explosive device (IED) in May 2005, she was riding out with an infantry unit to cover a story. “Sometimes, if it was just the two of us going out (one broadcaster and one print journalist), and they would just stick us in the back of somebody else’s vehicle, which was fun, because I got a lot of really good soundbites, a lot of good interviews. I generally preferred that. Convoys were fun — I really enjoyed them. Not as much in April through September, because it was like riding in a in a blow dryer with sand in your face.”

During that night convoy, her team was covering “a really cool story. And it had to be at night to show us some of the features of CROWS, or Common Remotely Operated Weapon Stations,” Duerstine said.

“A lot of what had been happening in Iraq in the previous two years (was that) they were losing a lot of gunners because of IEDs,” she explained. “So the guys who would sit on the top of the Humvee with their machine guns — a lot of them were being killed by IED explosions, and they were trying to figure out a way to make it safer. So we were covering one of the first CROWS systems that was delivered in-country. The gunner actually sat in the backseat, and it was all remote-operated, it had infrared sensors, and it was all camera-driven — like playing a video game. We started out with them that afternoon, went out to do some test fires during the day, so we could see how it worked and get video of it moving around. But they wanted to show us how it worked at night, so we started driving.

“So we’re driving down the highway, and he’s talking to the guy in front, and he goes, ‘There’s something right here, right here,’ you know, directly to our left at this location. And so the guy radios it in to give the coordinates, and we make a U-turn in the median of the Iraqi highway. The rest of them (in the lead vehicle) had driven right past it.

“We were really lucky that it was buried too deep, so it did very little damage to the Humvee itself. It was a lot of rocks, a lot of debris — very little shrapnel type particles hit the Humvee. We were out there pulling security for hours. But we were really lucky that our vehicle was the one that had the remote gun system on top and not a gunner, because (the weapon system ended up being damaged from shrapnel) we probably would have lost him.

“It’s a really fantastic technology, and I was really excited to be doing the story,” she said. “Of course, all footage from that point ended. So instead of having this great story where I talked about the guy and his experience using it, I never got the chance to interview him again. It ended up being (something) like a 60-second voiceover package.”

Duerstine suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, from the concussion of that blast. “It’s interesting — I can remember everything leading up to the blast. I can remember everything the following day. A lot of what I know (about the night after the blast) is from the incident reports that are contained within the award nomination,” she said.

Because she was traveling with an infantry unit, she received a Combat Action Badge, a “special recognition to U.S. soldiers who personally engaged, or are engaged by, the enemy,” which had just been approved on May 2, 2005 by the Army Chief of Staff. The CAB is intended to serve as a companion to the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) and Combat Medical Badge (CMB) and was created to recognize the greatly expanded role of non-infantry soldiers in active, ground combat.

Because she was in public affairs and technically not in a traditional battlefield, the infantry unit recommended her and another soldier in her public affairs unit for the badge. She said receiving the recommendation and award was flattering. “It felt really good that they were like, ‘Hey, they performed well, we’re gonna recognize them,’ because they didn’t have to,” she said.

In Iraq, “there were a lot of bad moments, but there’s a lot of times where funny things happened, and that’s what I choose to focus on,” Duerstine said. “I probably have more rose-colored glasses memories of my time in Iraq than actually exist, but I feel like it’s better for me if I can just think about the fun times like the toilet paper story (Duerstine wrote about during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for The Star Democrat). That’s still one of my favorites. That whole weekend was a mess, but ... how I remember that whole weekend was just the laughing.”

“One of the best things about being a journalist in the military: You got to experience everybody’s job,” she said. “Every day was a new adventure, like covering a platoon whose job was to walk through a small Iraqi neighborhood and talk with the Iraqis about any insurgent activity … The little Iraqi children just couldn’t believe that they were seeing a female soldier. One little boy brought me flowers, and the translator said, ‘He asked his mom if he could give you flowers from their garden.’ And it was the sweetest thing.”

“I would talk with Iraqi women, (and) a lot of soldiers don’t get that opportunity,” Duerstine said. “It was kind of insulting, but at the same time, it was really neat. We’d go to somewhere, and they would guide me off into a room where the females go, but they were just fascinating. They just opened up to me. They loved Oprah, their English was pretty good. They watched Oprah because they were able to see her on satellite, and they asked me if I knew her. They wanted to talk to me about America, about what it was like being able to work.”

Duerstine’s Iraq experience comprised her first year of 12 in the the Army, but it left an indelible impression.

She said she had “all sorts of really neat experiences that opened up my eyes to — even though the military was such a male-dominated career field — how fortunate I was to have what I did because conversely, there were Iraqi soldiers who would find out that I was married, and tell me that I was horrible because I was not at home taking care of my husband. And so it made me appreciate American culture that much more.”

“The kids were just wonderful and so curious,” she said. When an Iraqi handyman came on base, Duerstine would have an opportunity to spend time with his young sons, “really neat kids” who taught her how to count to 10 in Arabic while she, in turn, would joke with them and teach them words in English.

“When the whole ISIS thing started becoming an issue again in 2013, I thought about it,” she said. “Those 7- and 8-year-old boys are in their early 20s and possibly not around anymore. I still wonder about some of the people I met and hope that they’re OK.”

Happy accidents, as Duerstine describes them, have been woven into her life. From the ups and downs of her military career, to her busy family life and new home on the Eastern Shore, she said each change has been challenging, character-building — and always for the better.

Nautical Alchemist

GRASONVILLE — One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. While he deals in memories, his military past stays with him, too, and Veterans Day holds a special place for Josh Davidson, a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force for four years. A sort of a nautical alchemist, he takes deserted boats and strips them down to their fiberglass husks. He mines out anything of value — either artistic or functional — and sells them.

His shop, Anchors and Oars in Grasonville, reads like the “Sanford and Son” television show from the 1970s, but there’s an underlying order based on his military training.

“I was a Russian linguist for the Air Force. I was behind a desk listening to audio. At the time I was fluent,” he said.

“I served in California, Texas and Maryland. [I was] just glad I was able to serve this great country,” he said.

Veterans Day feels special to Davidson, who shared, his grandfather was in World War II and his uncle in Vietnam — both of them in the Army. “I think I have a special place in my heart for anyone who joins the military,” he said.

Davidson started small in the antique business. There was an antiques store in Stevensville that he walked into, the owner was taking vendors and told him he could rent a little space. Before that he had only sold some things on eBay.

“I have always kind of bought and sold stuff. I was yard-saleing and stuff and I liked it. Almost everything I do now is on Facebook and here [at the store in Grasonville], of course. I drove by a 4,000 square foot space for super cheap, and that is how I started my own antique store,” he said.

People come from all over to buy his stuff. Tennessee, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. They come in to see what else he’s got.

“This one guy drove from Florida because I had a certain boat. He had the boat, too, but it had been ruined — like messed up by a hurricane. So he says, ‘Can I come up there and take stuff off of your boat?’ He went back home with his car absolutely packed, like on top of his car,” Davidson said.

He prefers to call what he does recycling rather than salvaging. He takes all the metal. He scraps some of it and puts the salable items in his store. On some level, he is like a nautical curator.

He offers owners of derelict boats a cheap solution.

“Most boat haulers charge $80 a foot. Say this boat is 36 feet. That is $4,000 to make a boat go away. I’ll do it for free if it has enough good stuff on it that I can sell at the store,” he said.

On the topic of Veterans Day, Davidson said, “I think it is special for someone to volunteer and go into the military and serve and be ready,” he said. “But there’s just so many people that I know who were overseas fighting and saw some tough stuff. So I always honor other people. You know I am thankful that I got in and out with no trauma. I know I lot of people who still have issues.”

“The biggest thing that bothers me is veterans suicide. That is something I always like to point out on Veterans Day. I like to bring it to the forefront because there are people who get out of the military who are just kind of lost,” he said.

Davidson noted the challenges veterans can face after their service.

“It is something like every two minutes a veteran commits suicide. People think coming out of the military is really strong, but it can be really, really lonely. So if you don’t have a family or you do have a family, they don’t understand what you went through. I think it is really important to talk about it,” he said.

“I knew a woman whose husband jumped off the Bay Bridge — twice,” Davidson said.

Davidson was a founding board member of a veterans organization called The Veterans Art Project.

“We did a lot of work all over the place with artists trying to give outlets for veterans who happen to also be artists. Give them ideas, something that they can do,” he said.

As a businessman, he was affected by COVID-19 like everyone else.

“We were closed for two and half months. I am just open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I wasn’t sure if anyone would come out. And it actually turned out to be the best thing for me, because when we were open Wednesday through Sunday, I only had two days to really work here. Once we got back up and running, sales have been surprisingly good,” he said.

“We are probably doing as well as we did last year even being open three days as opposed to five,” he said. “I average three or four boats a week. Unless it is a big one like this one (36 feet). I have a huge list of things that people want already. So when I get things like they want — a steering wheel that size or people who want a railing for that particular boat — I pull this stuff and already know where it is going,” he said.

There is also yin to all this yang. He sends old sails to Sea Bags, a company in Maine that transforms them into hand bags and pillows. He sells candles, jewelry and gift items as well.

“This is a great place for a husband and a wife to come, because she could send him in there, and she could go in here and shop. They’re like ‘Holy cow.’ You can buy candles, you can buy jewelry and clothes and gifts. You can come here and shop for a housewarming gift or a wedding gift,” Davidson said.

Thinking about how COVID has affected his surroundings, he is sad for all the stores that have closed. But he is grateful he is still up and running.

“I think when everyone was home for three months, they really started looking around their house,” he said. “They got tired of that one wall that wasn’t finished. I’ve had so many people come in here and be like, ‘I am buying everything you have.’ Also they were home and bored and they start working on their boat that has been sitting in their driveway for ten years. And so they need parts for the boat.”

Davidson keeps busy. He’s a photographer, filmmaker and editor, too. He was hit by the coronavirus on this front also, because he does video and photography work for the Annapolis Boat Show that was canceled.

In 45 minutes three customers came in looking for specific nautical items. He has an encyclopedic memory of what he has in stock down to the last cleat. He’s like someone who runs a great hardware store.

Where others find junk, Davidson finds treasure — and helps others find their own.

U.S. flag

Veterans Day Ceremonies in Talbot

9:30 a.m. E.E. Streets VFW Post 5118, 355 Glebe Road, Easton

11 a.m. front lawn of the Talbot County Courthouse, 11 N. Washington St., Easton

1:30 p.m. Veterans of Foreign War Post 5246, 2630 Rosser Road, Federalsburg, followed by meal

5 p.m. Veterans Day car parade to honor U.S. military veterans, Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, 28712 Glebe Road, Easton. Info: SardAshley32@gmail.com