Frog or duck?
It’s Wednesday afternoon, and the 4 O’clock Club has convened at Buzzy’s Country Store. Men crowd around a white countertop or lean against the vintage metal Coca-Cola fridge while the store’s mascot—a Saint Bernard named Bruno—lumbers about the hardwood floor, greeting more customers as they arrive.
Amid the laughter and chitchat of multiple conversations, Jimmy Cullison and Pat Birmingham are engaged in a good-natured argument over a central character in a mildly off-color joke.
“You’re talking about the one where the kid’s dragging the dead frog down the road,” says Cullison, sipping a 10-ounce can of Budweiser (see sidebar).
“Dead duck,” Birmingham replies.
“Frog,” Cullison shoots back.
The disagreement, however, is quickly resolved when both men realize they are talking about two different jokes.
“This is the best joke-telling bunch there ever was,” says Jim Gray, a charter boat captain and loyal 4 O’clocker.
Travel down Route 5 through St. Mary’s County about as far south as you can go on the Western Shore, and you’ll arrive in Scotland. As the locals like to say, “It’s not the end of the earth, but you can see it from here.”
“The end of the line,” says Scotland native Chris McKay. “If you don’t have it, you ain’t getting it.”
For the Point Lookout-bound tourist, Buzzy’s is the end of the line for last-minute purchases: firewood, charcoal, bug spray, snacks, soda, ice, fishing rods, and tackle. Located three miles north of the state park, the southern Maryland landmark sits at a small bend along Route 5. The stars and stripes proudly hang on the front porch, and the sign above reads, “Beer, Tackle, Liquor, Souvenirs.”
The regulars vary in age; some are in their 50s and 60s, and then there are old-timers like Charlie Simms, 84, a World War II vet and retired Navy chief. As an aerial engineer, Simms flew 100 missions during the Berlin Airlift in 1949.
“Now I’m just plain tired,” he says with a wry smile.
Seven days a week—over the course of a few cold ones—politics are debated, gossip is shared, and stories are told.
J. Scott Ridgell, the store’s 60-year-old proprietor, often jokes that if world leaders want solutions to the problems facing their countries, they ought to put a call into Buzzy’s at 4 p.m.
“We can pretty much cover every subject and we’re experts on none of them,” says Birmingham, a middle-school teacher.
Since you can practically cast a line from Buzzy’s front porch into either the Potomac or the Chesapeake, fishing is always a hot topic.
“The only problem with fishing is there’s always [someone] who wants to catch a fish,” quips Cullison, who, in addition to owning Bay Forest Tree Service, is also a charter boat captain.
But Buzzy’s isn’t just a clubhouse for men. Wives often drop by, and their kids make a beeline for the penny-candy jars.
“We can bring our families here,” says Cullison. “All my kids came up in here.”
“We’re still waiting for you to grow up, Jimmy,” Birmingham chimes in.
Before the rise of supermarkets and quick-stop shops, the country store was not simply a destination for necessities, it was a hub where neighbors gathered. For more than a century, Buzzy’s has maintained that spirit.
“The country store was sort of like the crossroads where people would go not only for their supplies, but they’d also go to catch up on local news,” says Ridgell
And mail. Up until the late 1940s, Buzzy’s also doubled as Scotland’s post office.
In 1897, Nathan Shuman, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, opened the first mercantile business in the one-and-a-half-story building where Buzzy’s is located.