A Muskrat Economy


This is how you take notes in the 21st century.
 I always did good, honest work in college, but basing a book on research you did more than a decade ago isn't wise. In addition to running out and visiting Castle Haven, I went back to double check my research. Much of it is online, but I hoped I could deepen my understanding and maybe get some more relevant photos with a peek at the archives.
No one is to blame, but for the three of you who care and don't know, public, county-run libraries here on the Eastern Shore very rarely have control over regional collections. Primarily, I think, it's because the cheap, selfish, mongoloids elected to run county governments would prefer to burn the historical documents rather than pay a professional to curate it. This creates an upside and a downside.
The upside is that dedicated historical societies made up of professionals and volunteers are given collections to protect and curate. The downside is, they're no better funded than libraries and no more interesting to the counties, so there generally is a fee to get your hands on what used to be public records and many of the places are open for 10 minutes every afternoon, tragically understaffed and under-equipped. (The fees aren't a problem. I donated a total to $10 researching Eastern Shore Beer and would have been happy to pay more, but it's a sin how little local governments care about preserving their heritage.)
Meh.
Courtesy Cambridge Economic Development Department
Anyway, the library at Cambridge has a card catalogue for materials stored at the historical society across town, which I found amusing. Since I couldn't get any work done that day, I decided to poke around through the architectural photos to see if I could find something of the Recreation Center that eventually became RealeRevival (RAR) brewery, the first brewery in Cambridge since Wild Goose shut town more than a decade earlier.
As it turned out, the buildings all around RAR were historically significant, but RAR itself was less so. It's just as well, I eventually got my hands on the "before" photo of RAR and it was meh.
'Eat Mor Rat'
While I was waiting for the architectural history photo book, I knocked around the Maryalnd Room at the Dorchester County Library and stumbled across a book on how to best use muskrat. It was one of the most wonderful books I've ever seen.
I've eaten muskrat and, honestly, it's not bad. The problem is it is really hard to get past the fact that it's called muskrat. Some people here on the Delmarva Peninsula call it "marsh rabbit" which is a better name. It looks enough like a rabbit when it's on your plate, unless it's called muskrat, in which case it looks like a huge freaking dead rat on your plate.
I felt a little sorry for the poor schmuck at the USDA who wrote this pamphlet in the hopes he could help people cultivate a food and clothing use for this resilient varmint. If your of a mind to eat animals, this one's just as tasty as any other and more naturally plentiful. The book makes a good (if government-pamphlet level dry) case for why the muskrat should be cultivated for its meat and fur, but (predictably) the rodent never caught on as a cash crop. Oysters, clams, rockfish and crabs are just an easier sell and also don't contain the word "rat" in their names.
Muskrats are only one of the many, many kooky things people thought local economies should be based on. When I moved here there was some hope that nutria, an invasive species that had made inroads on the peninsula, could be hunted for food.
What I discovered after I struck out in Cambridge was another kooky idea that had its roots in Talbot County. Apparently some whacky colonial bigwig thought the Eastern Shore economy could be based on beer. I'll be checking in with that story next week.
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