White Rock Cemetery, Gaither, Maryland, just outside Sykesville.
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Sykesville's a weird little town, isn't it? And sort of fascinating. I remember the first time I saw it. I was on my way from my townhouse off Johnnycake Road in Baltimore County to a job interview in Gaithersburg. I had my directions printed out from MapQuest, and for some reason they led down a narrow winding road toward a hidden town and across a small bridge over a small river (which I mistook for a stream) and into this rundown looking place that turned out to be Sykesville.
The wind snapped our clothes. It whipped the trees. There was a presence there, maybe something trying to scare us off, away from the river and the house and the whole story of Helen. Or maybe the opposite.
Maybe it was glad to see us, thrilled to have someone walking around the old yard on the cliff by the water. Not a warning, a welcome. Or maybe I imagined the whole thing.
Then came Professor Lee. He had no family there. He didn't seem to own anything. He didn't seem to want anything. He just wandered into the community and stayed, an educated black man with no known past, walking out of slavery's shadow into this small camp of former slaves and their children.
He walked up the beach by himself, a sad, huge, mysterious figure, and I was sure his voice had changed for a while, and that his eyes had, too. I was sure, and I ran the conversation through my mind, over and over, and it went through fast, and the words all ran on top of one another, and Suzanne came to me out of the darkness.
She didn't say a word, and I didn't, either. She pulled me back to the edge of the beach. And then she took me somewhere I'd never been before and haven't been since.
A Bit About This Site
Greetings, and thanks for stopping by the Jack McBride White website, where you can find more information about Jack's books and the characters in them, including the life stores of Warren Dorsey, Helen Starliper, and a huge supporting cast. You'll also learn about the small towns of Clear Spring and Sykesville, the C & O Canal, and the Springfield Hospital center.
For more about Jack and his biographies, memoirs, and novels, click here.