Friday, January 15, 2010


There's an area in nearby Gloucester County called Guinea.

(By the way, the picture above was not taken down Guinea, it's from Bethel Beach shortly after the Hurricaneaster known as Ida.)

For the unacquainted, Guinea is an isolated section of Gloucester on the water. It's sort of like Tangier Island, in that the people there still speak with a certain accent/dialect supposedly descended from the early colonists. They are well-known as excellent watermen and have quite the seafaring history.

With all that isolation, however, comes a reputation that is not always complimentary. Although most of them are as good as gold, they are known to be rough. Tough. Not people you want to mess with. Or look directly in the eye.

I'm not saying that any of this reputation is true. But true or not the legends and the reputation have persisted over many centuries generations.

My mother grew up in Gloucester and graduated from Gloucester High School. This evening as we were leaving a basketball game, she was reminiscing about her school days, when all of a sudden she veered to the topic of Guinea. (She dragged me kicking and screaming with her.)

Below is a reasonably close representation of the discussion that ensued.

Disclaimer: The following disparaging statements were made at the end of a long, long day by a very tired mother. They fell upon the ears of a very stunned but equally tired daughter. The daughter would like to say that she loves Guinea and everyone who currently lives there, anyone who used to live there, and anyone who ever will live there. I promise I'm not making eye contact when I say that either. Let me repeat: Guineamen are great, and I am afraid of love Guinea.

Chesapeake Bay Mother: "Lawd! Those girls from Guinea. You didn't want to mess with them. They'd just as soon shoot you as look at you."

Chesapeake Bay Woman, very worn down from a long day of driving and shopping with her mother: "Hmmm."

Chesapeake Bay Mother: "Yes indeed. They were mean as snakes, almost like a different species! Some of them had webbed feet."

Chesapeake Bay Woman, incredulous and wondering where the mothership was that deposited her on this strange planet: "What??"

Chesapeake Bay Mother: "Yes, and they wore flip flops to school. Actually the ones on the island never did go to school."

CBW, wondering how somebody with webbed feet slides a flip flop on: "What did they do?"

CBM: "Who knows! Not just that, but they were the only people I knew--the girls now--who would put permanents in their hair and never brush it out! They'd come to school with their hair all shiny and curled up."

Chesapeake Bay Woman, wondering if she ought not get out of the car and run--quickly-- to look for the mothership that so cruelly abandoned her here: "WHAT??"

Chesapeake Bay Mother: "Yes, lawd. You remember I told you about that time there was a Guinea girl on our basketball team, and she was shall we say expecting. The basketball coach was so afraid of her she didn't say anything and the girl played basketball most of the season. Pregnant. Really. The coach was afraid of her."

Chesapeake Bay Woman, starting to twitch and flinch: "Hmmm."

Thankfully something else happened to change the subject.

I think it was when I saw the lights from the mothership and I said I had to go.

The End.

p.s. On a more civilized note, Guinea is also the home of the Guinea Jubilee. Click here for more info on this annual festival which draws people from all over. Nary a one of them shows up with webbed feet wearing flip flops. I don't think.

p.s.s.t.Mathews Mark, since you are threatening to leave us tomorrow due to lack of computer, please regale us with any stories you have relating to Guinea, but remember to be nice. Guineaman are people too. Even if they might have webbed strange feet.


Grandma J said...

I'm taking your mother at her word! I'll have to hit her up for more stories about the Guinea Girls. Remind me at blogfest not to look any of them in the eye if we happen to come across any of them.

ghostless said...

They must have a pretty well known reputation, because when I was at my sister's at Christmas, West of Richmond, one of her family members asked me, who the group of people were in Glouscester county that talked with an old English accent that you didn't want to mess with.
The only folks with an accent I knew of was Tangier Island.
There is a similar accent in Appalachia due to the isolation of the mountains. Sort of a cockney english/southern mountain accent. Very difficult to understand, actually it's a dialect..with its own vocabulary.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I can just hear CB Mother telling that story. Have her save up some more Guinea tales for Blogfest!

Mental P Mama said...

LOL. I can just hear her saying all that! And anyone who cleans a dog's backside with Fantastik is somebody I'll just take at her word!

Anonymous said...

First, I have to say that I have been sick since last week...which is a sorry excure for missing CBW's Birthday! Happy Belated Birthday my friend!

I have 2 stories about Guinea. My brother and his friend sailed a catamaran on the york river. It was about midnight and their mast had broken. They had 2 choices...paddle with the current and land in Guinea around 1 am or so. OR paddle double the time AGAINST the current to land on the yorktown side. They opted to paddle to Yorktown. They knew better than to arrive on the shores of Guine as an uninvited stranger after midnight!

CBW, do you remember the "Gong Show" at MHS? A bunch of us got together wearing hip boots, crab pots as pops and did "The Devil Went Down To Guinea....He was looking for some skoal to steal"
We didn't get gonged, not because of talent I assure you, but because of curiosity as to how the song would go LOL

I had a patient to see in Guinea in 1993 (I was a home health nurse), I was told by the patient's caregiver himself not to come after dark. No lie!


Caution Flag said...

There's a county or two in Kentucky which sounds very similar to Guinea. When our high school sports teams went there for a game, the drivers and parents always brought guns. Well, they probably always had guns for other games, but I just didn't know it.

Jamie said...

OMG! I have been spending all my summers in Deltaville (30 some) and have never heard of Guinea. Now I want to check it out. And my first thought was how to webbed footed people wear flip slops? Perhaps it was more of a house slipper with open toes? I'm googling Guinea

Trisha said...

Interesting. I must admit I have never been in your neck of the woods but . . . I certainly won't go to Guinea!

big hair envy said...

One of my grandfather's sisters married a Guineaman. To this day, he is one of my favorite people! Although, I must admit, it took me YEARS to be able to figure out what he was saying. I didn't care much about that, as long as he kept giving me candy before church!!!

Daryl said...

I got so wrapped up reading comments to yesterday's post I clicked out and forgot to read these and comment ... 27 days and counting ...

And I am very glad I set aside my hot cocoa to cool a bit or it would be on this computer screen ... just sayin' you write so well and I adore your mother (mainly cause she's not mine .. when they arent yours its always funnier)

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Captain Herbert used to tell me stories of Guineaman, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. I was going to write a song about it but Cher beat me to it!
We should try and make that Jubilee. They have a Hardees we can drive through!

Life with Kaishon said...

Your Mama is so funny : ) I am glad you get to listen to her stories! : )

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

GJ-Wish you could have heard it come from the horse's mouth last night. It was unbelievable.

Ghostless-That is something else - their reputation spans the state. It definitely takes some getting used to, the accent/dialect/whatever but it is fascinating to hear nonetheless.

Meg-Many times I've asked her to tell me some Guinea stories, and there usually was nothing substantial. All of a sudden she spontaneously launched into this last night. So when you ask her, don't be surprised if she doesn't say much. But then again, don't be surprised if she talks about such things as webbed feet.

MPM-I was trying to block that memory out. For everyone else, when MPM was here she arrived during a time when my dog Buddy was having some problems that we won't talk about since some of you may be eating. This problem caused a slight mess, some of which lingered on the dog. MPM witnessed my mother wipe the affected problem area--on the dog-- with a paper towel and some Fantastic. Trust me, it was anything but fantastic.

MsSeabreeze - Hope you're feeling better. Yes, I remember that gong show, but for the life of me I don't remember your hilarious Guinea song. What I wouldn't give for a video of that.

CF- Amazing, I wonder if anyone ever had to use their gun.

Jamie-Can't believe you've never heard any Guinea stories, but you won't find much about it on the internet, at least I didn't. Much of the info is folklore, so to speak, and there is some stuff in print, but I've not seen a whole lot on the internet. It's a fascinating topic, really.

Trisha-We'll leave Guinea off the road show if you ever come this way.

BHE-I'm sure he was good as gold. I had a girlfriend from down Guinea and spent many a weekend with her riding her horse. The horse was named Satan. Seriously. But they were mighty fine people.

Daryl-27 days? It will be here before you know it. My mother is something else, all right.

NNG-We should make a concerted effort to attend the Jubilee this year. It just might rival the Oyster Festival for fun, frivolity and photo ops. If I'm not mistaken, they also have a parade. Perhaps we could enter a float! Ms. Seabreeze seems to have some creativity in this area, so maybe we can recruit her to participate too.

It's Friday, and Monday is a federal holiday. It just doesn't get any better.

The pale observer said...

Funny - living in West Africa as I do - I saw Guinea and automatically thought of the West African country!! I had no clue there was another Guinea outside Africa!!!

Holli in Ghana

Mathews Mark said...

There is and Island off of Guinea marshes called Big Island. The French sent prisiners to this Island way back when. this was the start of Guinea People. They are known for thier waterman skills, honesty,temper and endurance.The older ones could not read or write.(like Me) but try and cheat them out of a dollar,you would get your butt beat.Most of the fast talkin older ones have died or killed each other off, brothers loved to shoot brothers in Guinea.(but that another story) MM

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

pale observer-How incredible is this thing called internet that I can write about a tiny speck on the Virginia map known as Guinea and you can write back from West Africa. Thank you for writing from worlds away.

Mathews Mark - We need you on this blog. Get a computer quickly! Thanks for the background, as always.

mmm said...

It must be the distance between Mathews and the Mountains, but my ears are burning - a few days late (reference to a prior blog from CBW).

And Happy Birthday CBW - a few days late.

The Good Life in Virginia said...

maybe we need to go to the guinea festival in september. i have always wanted to see someone with webbed feet :)
sound like an interesting place though...

Angel Mama said...

I'm still here! Busy with new 2 month old!!

You forgot to mention some of the great names these people go by...

I have spent my share of time in Guinea, growing up here. Actually took on a few of those Guinea girls, and survived. (I was a bit of a wild child in high school)

There are such cute nick names- Monkeydick, Humpty, Goot, Johnny Hot Dog, Bubbadick, Bubs, and Paas. These are just the few I could remember off the top of my head.

Good times...

foolery said...

Doesn't every part of the world have a "Guinea," if not in name, then in spirit? On our Coast Range there is a tiny road which will let people drive directly to the ocean (I think it's only about 3- or 4000 feet) through a town called Covelo. I know only three people who have done it, and they are all armed. So we go the long way to the ocean, which is 4 1/2 hours.

And in the Sierra foothills to the east the mountain towns (fairly or not) have such dangerous reputations that the sheriff's officers don't patrol there often. Someone actually SHOT AT a bulldozer operator who was trying to make a fireline during our bad fires two years ago.

Isolation creates an us-and-them mentality, sometimes.

LOVED THIS STORY, CBW. Hug your mama for me.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Mathews Mountain Man (who the newcomers here may not realize is Mathews Mark's Brother)- It must be all that mountain air blocking out the signals that otherwise would expeditiously reach your ears to cause them to burn. Your very entertaining brother may be without a computer soon, so we're trying to do whatever we can to keep him hooked up here. (Mathews Mark, are your ears burning now?)

Good Life - Yes! Seriously, I'd like to go even if there are no web-footed people there. I'm going to investigate this further. The jubilee, not the webbed feet.

Angel M - Congratulations on your new addition! I hope that everyone is doing well, it's so good to hear from you again. You must be enduring many sleepless nights, but enjoy the time when they're so tiny and helpless, it's so very brief.

Foolery-Remind me to leave my bulldozer at home if I ever come out that way. Also, it's good to know that we aren't the only ones with a reputation for isolated misbehavin'.

The Wrenns said...

I currently live on Guinea Road down in Hayes--I didn't grow up around here, so I don't have any of my own stories. But I LOVE hearing all the folklore! And I make a point of attending the Guinea Jubilee every year--my kids march in the parade!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

The Wrenns-It's great to hear from you, and I can only imagine the stories you've heard! The Jubilee sounds like a lot of fun, and if everything goes well I'll be there this year snapping pictures - maybe of your children in the parade.

Thanks for commenting, and please feel free to chime in with any stories you may have heard.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Life with Kaishon - My goodness forgive me - I didn't even see the comment, it probably came in as I was writing a response, which often happens.

Now, the real question is - are you coming to Blog Fest? Grandma J. will be here. You can bring anybody you want - Kaishon included.

Country Girl said...

This Guinea sounds very strange. But interesting, too.
I love conversations like this. My husband and I have them all the time. Your mom is funny.

WV: vivivess

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

CG-Vivivess. That's a derivative of the Spanish verb vivir, "to live." Perhaps it's from some isolated part of Spain with a long history of jubilees and reputations. For example: Carlos vivivess in great anticipation of the next Jubilee.

OK, I'll stop now. This is why we need Mathews Mark - to keep the addled contents of my brain safely unspoken.

knotty said...

Entertaining post. I, too, grew up in Gloucester and remember all the rumors. In about 30 years of history there, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I went to Guinea!

Anonymous said...

My father always remembered the day Edward VI abdicated. He was working in Morgan's Drug store, the original place near the circle. A Quinea man was listening after the speech he said, "By golly, he talks just like." Of course, theQuinea diale ct is an Elizabethan cockney version,

the quinea way of life was a hard one. Due to this, they matured early because life expectancy was 40 to 50. I m sure now they are living longer.

Wouldn't be good to i terview someonenow to seehow they have changed .

Anonymous said...

I married a woman from Guinea. They are very friendly and proud people. but can be very hostile if they feel mocked about their heritage. My wife was able to speak in a normal American tone of voice, but when around her kin folk she could break into her Guinea speech and the best way I can describe the dialect is a very fast paced, unique sounding running argument. I could pick out a few words here and there, but their way of conversing is to argue and challenge each other in a sly, but friendly tone that moves very rapidly.

I was always fascinated to listen to their conversations.

An example sentence could be something like: "I land in hell, if you don't duck low under that beam, you going to hoot your hade" (Hurt your head).....

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the web feet is nonsense..... just mocking by outsiders.

The violent streak of Guineamen is true....

While me and my wife were visiting friends one evening, a knock on the front door was answered by our friends 19 year old son. He came into the living room a minute later holding his stomach. He had been stabbed. While driving him to Walter Reed hospital, He told us that he had borrowed a wrench from a neighbor and had forgot to return it. So the neighbor stabbed him when he answered the door.

Also my wife's father had been murdered when she was little. He was sitting in his car, when he was shot point blank in the head by a man who thought he had been seeing his wife. Very sad way for a child to lose their parent.