Mr. Oxford Boat Yard

I hesitated before throwing a heavy line into the thin outstretched arms of the older fellow standing at the head of our slip. But he caught the line, wrapped it deftly around a cleat, and beckoned for the next one. This was our first visit to the quiet Chesapeake Bay town of Oxford, Maryland, and we had just met James Robert “Just call me Jimmy” Taylor, Oxford Boat Yard’s 95-year-old dockmaster and living legend.

We soon learned that Jimmy began working at the boatyard in 1931 after moving from the family farm in Virginia. At a 95th-birthday party and crab feast, yard manager Braxton Strueber told a typical Jimmy story about watching him lift a 45-pound CQR from the deck of a hauled-out boat, toss it over his shoulder, and scramble down a ladder and across the gravel yard. He was 85 at the time.

Although he rarely shows such feats of strength nowadays, Jimmy’s conversations often come around to the theme of people helping people, out of kindness: He says, “If I see that someone needs a hand, I go over and help them. At the end they say, ‘Well, how can I pay you?’ And I tell them, ‘You just did. Your smile was my paycheck.’” Jennifer Goff and J. Holt

Click here to view a PDF of the story from the March issue.

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