Where We Live
Resting on a Peninsula, With Little Pretense
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Cabell P. Bragg seems oblivious to what many would consider his million-dollar view of the Patuxent River.
Bragg, 95, bought his waterside rambler in Golden Beach for $15,000 in 1963 after selling a 175-acre tobacco farm.
Sitting outside recently, away from the view, Bragg cracked hazelnuts to feed the squirrels. "When you see that water once, it doesn't get any bigger or better," he said.
His son Franklin, who lives with him, is just as nonchalant. "I consider it just more acreage I can look out on," Franklin said.
Neither of the men is a boater, though the younger Bragg did buy a jet ski once -- to impress a woman. "Didn't work," he said. "Shows how dumb I was."
Golden Beach is in St. Mary's County, just south of the Charles County line. Six miles east of Route 5, a two-lane rural road dead-ends in the community, which is on a peninsula that juts into the river. Nonresidents are referred to as "inlanders" -- in an endearing rather than sneering way.
Cabell Bragg is the only surviving sibling of 15. Faded photos of grandparents, parents and other relatives -- including his eldest sister, who lived to be 100 -- grace the walls inside, as does a picture of his wife of 75 years, who died two years ago.
A wall-size poster of his family tree, where countless branches spread from a trunk bearing the names Robert Lilly and Mary Fanny Moody, got Bragg talking more than did the panoramic scene from his window.
Golden Beach is a casual place, where houses, even those with magnificent views, tend to be low-key. Located on what was an 18th-century plantation called the Plains, the community began as a summer retreat for Washingtonians in the 1950s. Many of the original houses were one-story, 20-by-30-foot cinderblock cottages. Fred Cain, a retired truck company manager, said a lot of folks have built over and around those instead of demolishing them.
There are 1,270 lots with about 1,050 year-round residences now. Many of the remaining lots are vacant because they won't drain sufficiently to allow development.
Residents are a self-reliant, eclectic group whose expertise leans toward such practical skills as furniture repair, plumbing, gardening and construction. "When I retired, I swore I'd never eat anything that didn't come out of my garden or the water, and I haven't," Bragg said.
Fred and Iva Cain built their house from a kit in the 1970s. One day, when Fred was trying to maneuver a staircase into place, a stranger drove by and said, "If you give me 30 minutes, I'll come back and put that in for you." Cain and his neighbor, Mike Holmes, have been friends ever since.