Maryland Traditions Folklife Area
muskrat trapping and eel pot weaving
Church Creek, Maryland
photo credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs
Rhonda Aaron, from Hooper’s Island, is renowned in her community for being a repeat Women’s Champion Muskrat Skinner of the Eastern Shore; her 2004 skinning performance was featured in the documentary film Muskrat Lovely. A nationally known Eastern Shore cook as well, her culinary specialties range from southwestern muskrat to Smith Island cake.
Rhonda is closely associated with the National Outdoor Show, and may be best known as the world champion muskrat skinner, but she has done a great deal to share her knowledge of trapping, skinning, foodways, and eel pot weaving with others, connecting this kind of functional sewing to other women's traditions in watermen communities. She has shared her extensive expertise through work at the Dorchester County Library, as a recipient of a Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award, and at both the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, as well as the National Outdoor Show and the area's other festivals and gatherings. Rhonda and her family were recently featured in an episode of Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods; she presented the trapping, cooking, and eating of muskrats, eels, turtles, and other traditional Eastern Shore fare in a way that provided context for foods not commonly found in the grocery stores, encouraging viewers to see them as important cultural traditions, not as “bizarre” foods.
Among Rhonda’s most important contributions is the awareness she brings to the work and creativity of women in hunting, trapping, and fishing communities, emphasizing the blend of domestic and occupational partnerships that support their activities.