The name dates to 1905, when the Western Maryland Railway decided that "Double Pipe Creek" was just too long a name for the the train timetables for this tiny village on the Frederick-Carroll County line. Change it, the railroad said.
One of the village's residents had seen the word "detour" on trips west, and the citizens assembled in Shorb's general store to choose a new name accepted his suggestion without, it is said, really knowing what it meant. It sounded good at the time, but over the years, Detour's 100 or so prideful citizens have suffered obscurity and derision. They live, after all, in a place little known and often mistaken for a bypass.
Natural disaster brought by the often overflowing creek that courses by the village and indignities heaped by unfeeling outsiders have made Detour a place where no news is good news. That the summer passed without a major flood is this year's major nonevent.
The biggest local story in recent days happened, in fact, 15 miles away in Westminster, where almost all the worldly goods of Detour's oldest citizen -- who no longer lives here -- were sold at auction. Some 352 bidders paid what to many seemed an astounding $29,658 for the largely waterlogged belongings of Vallie Shorb, known to everyone here as Miss Vallie, a retired piano teacher.
They came from as far away as Philadelphia and Savannah the other weekend, and paid as much as $510 for a box of her postcards, $220 for three boxes of her canceled letters and $175 for an old lace dress. Even a box of old underwear brought $67.50. The sale lasted 12 1/2 hours over two days.
It was the talk of Detour, the prices paid and the sadness felt for Miss Vallie, clear of mind but fragile of health at age 93. "I didn't want to sell it all," she said the other day from the nursing home in Westminster where she sits in a rocking chair by a window overlooking a cornfield. "I'd keep it all if I had a place to keep it."
The sale marked a milestone for Miss Vallie, but also for the village itself, located on Double Pipe Creek near the confluence of Little Pipe Creek and Big Pipe Creek. For generations, the Shorb name was almost synonymous with Detour or Double Pipe Creek, the name Vallie Shorb still prefers. Today, her family's store is long gone, and there are no Shorbs left in Detour.
Four decades ago, the Federal Writers Project visited Detour and found two general stores, a bank, a grain elevator and coal yard, a blacksmith shop and a dairy employing 50 people. The dairy closed in 1958, the grain mill a year or two ago. The Detour Bank remains, but, because of the floods, moved its main office two years ago to a branch in another village. There is a welding shop, owned by a man with a self-inflicted tattoo that says "Born to Lose," and a used auto parts place guarded by dogs named Patton and Satan. There is one general store and a beauty shop.
"I'm the only beautician in Detour," said Gloria Bollinger of Gloria's Glamour Corner. "Some people think they're supposed to keep on going, that it's a real detour. It's an ideal spot, so long as the water don't get up."
Her landlord and the owner of the general store is Mike Smith, a 31-year-old, relative newcomer who has acquired and renovated most of the houses on one side of the main street. Smith owns and operates the village's general store. Its windows are filled with baseball trophies won by the team he sponsors, but none of the players is from Detour.
For his industry and civic spirit, Mike Smith is regarded as the unofficial mayor of this unincorporated village. Each household pays him $25 a year to defray the costs of Detour's 10 street lights, a source of pride to practically everyone except Carroll (Blue) Wolfe, the welder. "I think there's too damn many of them," he groused the other day.
Across from Smith's store, Mae Franklin and John Rice, the postmaster, hand-cancel mail with the "Detour" postmark five days a week. On Saturdays, the mail goes "raw" to Baltimore, for cancellation and processing. Someday, all Detour mail may be trucked uncanceled to Frederick and then only residents sending a letter from one local post office box to another will see the "Detour" postmark.
With its industry gone, Detour's work force travels to Taneytown, Rocky Ridge and other nearby towns to work in the rubber and stair-step factories. Except for Roger Liller. He commutes to Bethesda.
The Lillers moved up here from Gaithersburg to get away from the crowds and, except for the floods, like it here. The former dairy they bought in 1969 adjoins Double Pipe Creek, a good place to catch carp and bass when it is not flooding their home.
During Hurricane Eloise in 1975, Liller said, "I sat on that railroad track the whole day and night waiting for the water to go down. The moon was shining the night it did. It looked like a horror picture, things hanging on the trees. My '57 Studebaker farm truck hung in that tree over there."
It was during the same flood that they carried Miss Vallie away in her rocking chair. The venerable old lady had refused to leave her home. As the waters rose, she simply sat on the porch in her rocker until, finally, the rescue workers lifted her and her chair onto the back of a pickup truck.
She moved to the nursing home in 1979, and friends worried that her possessions would be stolen from the empty house. So they were sold instead. Now her beloved house, too, is for sale, seemingly a bargain at $47,500. "However," cautioned the real estate agent, "it's in a flood plain."
"I'm the first one on the crick," said Dick De Berry, whose home is next door to Miss Vallie's house. "We get enough to get wet, don't we? Hell, if you live on a hill, you get blown away."
They have, at least, a sense of humor here about their village and its place in the scheme of things. "We're proud of our little town," said Mae Franklin, the postal clerk, who broke into a chorus of a country music classic that could also be the town song: "Detour, there's a muddy road ahead. Detour . . . "
The train responsible for the town's offbeat name no longer stops here.