Friday, July 25, 2014

My South Beach

     Went back to my favorite beach in the whole world today, South Beach on Martha's Vineyard. The beach is mine. I own it. There are probably a few thousand people who would disagree on my claims of ownership but they just don't understand. How could they? How could they possibly know that about sixty or so years ago I laid claim to South Beach? So I forgive them. I even let them use it in accordance with the beach rules established by the town of Edgartown. I'm not as dumb as I look or sound, by the way, because when I allow the town to think they control my South Beach, they pay for life guards and police ATV patrols, rest rooms, and even trash collection. They foot the bill. I own the sand. And the water, especially when big waves are crashing on the shore. Yes indeed, it's mine, all mine. 

     When I acquired rights to South Beach back in the 1950's it was a dangerous place. The huge waves rolling onto the beach, one after the other, were known to call out to young boys like me. This is no word of lie; I heard them with my own ears,

     "Come on, young man, just get your toes wet a little. Let your feet slowly sink into the soft tan sand until it has wrapped around your ankles. Then lift your feet out and move farther in towards the waves. Don't listen to your parents' warnings about an undertow...the water loves you. It's obvious you love it too. Come on, you can do it! Don't be a chicken!"


My parents were smart enough to prevent me from 
succumbing to the Siren's song issued by the waves at South Beach. For one thing, we always visited in the evening when oncoming dusk would limit our time spent here. And for another thing our uniform was a pair of shorts or dungarees rolled up to our knees. No bathing suits. No swimming. No jumping the waves. Way too dangerous! Our swimming trunks would have been at home drying on the clothesline after real swimming took place in kinder and gentler waters at State Beach on Nantucket Sound. No waves there, just ripples that you couldn't call waves and you could hardly even hear as they softly lapped against the shore.

The other dangerous aspect about South Beach then was it had
only been about ten years since World War II had ended and there were physical reminders of  defensive war preparations taken on the beach. Large cavernous cement gun revetments had been constructed in the dunes. The guns were long gone, of course, but that didn't stop my imagination from picturing artillery positioned to fire shells horizontally out toward U-boats threatening the island.  And as dusk settled over South Beach and I looked out over those huge rolling waves getting darker and if I stared hard enough I wondered if perhaps I was looking at the conning tower of a submarine or was it just the darkening shadows playing tricks on my eyes?  It was scary if you thought about it and therein lies the danger; imaginary perhaps but nevertheless an exciting and delicious combat fantasy for a young boy to feast on. 

Each time I return to South Beach I look for those revetments and wonder how it is that something so huge and indestructible could have vanished without a trace. There were at least two of them in the dunes and perhaps more if you walked west on the beach. Unlike today there were no "keep out" signs or restrictions on how far you wanted to walk down the beach. The only barriers were my nervous parents that wanted to make sure we headed back to our car before it got dark. And more often than not the beach was deserted on our evening visits.  That solitude and many other characteristics of South Beach have changed over the years but so does everything else. Nothing stays the same, not us, not nations, not technology, and certainly not beaches. 

But that's ok. It's life. It's the way of the world. And even with the changes I can still use my imagination. I can close my eyes and hear the waves pounding the shore and know that they will keep on doing that forever. And then I can slowly open my eyes again just barely enough to squint out over the water towards the horizon in search of U-boats. And be prepared to protect my beach. My very own beach. South Beach on Martha's Vineyard Island. 

My South Beach

Monday, May 5, 2014


     It's time. Time for a truce. I guess it's really a virtual truce because I don't think the combatants knew there was any conflict.  I'm talking about one squirrel and two cardinals, all of whom like to dine at our bird feeder. It's a story that has been developing since last Christmas when we received the feeder as a gift. I'll try to be brief. That's not easy for me.

     Our gift givers were kind enough to hang the feeder for us on Christmas night.  We watched every day for the flocks of "Wild" birds we assumed would gather to dine at our feeder.  The birdseed that came with the feeder indicated it was ideal for "wild" birds (as opposed to domesticated birds, I suppose) so being located adjacent to a state park we took as a sure sign that we'd be refilling our feeder on a frequent basis. But for the first week or so we did not see any feathered friends.

     Somewhere in the first or second week our morning ritual of hopeful bird sighting was marred by tragedy; there was no bird feeder anymore! But upon further inspection the feeder was found on the ground underneath the tree where it had been mounted. There had been some strong winds the night before this happened so we chalked it up to mother nature. We hung up the bird feeder again, this time with bungee cords on the top and bottom. It may not be nice to fool with mother nature but it wasn't very nice of mother nature to mess with our feeder either, so we considered ourselves even on that score. 


Still, no visitors to our feeder, none that we could 
see, anyway. Finally, we decided to mount the feeder on a shepherd's hook, thinking perhaps the tree was not too inviting. And furthermore, we started to suspect that some one else or some thing else was discouraging the winged creatures...

If you look closely just to the right of the white vertical
post and at the edge of the grass you will see a furry critter. We have tagged him "Pedro" for reasons I'll explain later. But we assumed the birds were avoiding our feeder because they would have to compete with this critter. 

Okay, I said I was going to keep this short so here's what we did in more or less chronological order.

1) Mounted feeder on shepherd's hook.
2) Moved said hook up onto the lawn.
3) Experimented with Cole's "hot" birdseed
4)Started bringing feeder inside at night. 
5)Chased the squirrel away by yelling .
6)Chased squirrel away by clapping.


When some cardinals started showing up on a pretty regular basis it became apparent they and Pedro were sharing the birdseed via alternating shifts. There are two of them, male and female. The birds feed the first thing in the morning, occasionally mid-day, and early in the evening. Pedro feeds in the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon. He and the cardinals seem to have worked out a mutually agreeable dining schedule. And Pedro doesn't eat that much so we haven't had to refill the feeder very often. 

Why did we name him Pedro? Because we poured Coles "hot sauce" cured birdseen on the top, his favorite place to climb inside and feed, and it didn't deter him one bit. The product was advertised to be fine with the birds and would create smoke coming out of the squirrel's ears. Not for Pedro. 

So the truce, if we can call it that, is not between the cardinals and's between us and Pedro. We're not chasing him away anymore. 

Cardinal is on the state park fence.