Lobsters and Ewes

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of March, 1983:

Gasoline prices fell as low as 99 cents a gallon at Cape service stations in the past week, and Vineyard travelers who noticed them came back with questions for Island dealers whose gasoline still sells for more than $1.30 a gallon. Gasoline bulk buyers and service station owners on the Vineyard said that the price comparison is distorted and pointed out that everything from food to furniture is more expensive on the Vineyard, with the percentage increase in fuel costs no greater. They point out as well that because fuel comes over water and is stored here by a middleman, there is an extra but necessary layer of cost. And since the Vineyard fuel delivery system must be geared for a three-month summer rush, prices support businesses that limp along the rest of the year. Fuel tank fields and service stations are built on expensive properties, increasing overhead costs and requiring more substantial profit margins. Service station owners said this week that prices have been dropping steadily in recent weeks. Ralph Packer, one of two main fuel suppliers to the Island, said gasoline may sell for as little as $1.20 a gallon in the weeks ahead.

A dragger brought a good catch of lobsters into Menemsha this week, and Poole’s has everything from one-pounders to six-pounders in the tank. And the kitchen full of steam kettles at his market has been perfuming Menemsha steadily, with Eau de Quahaug, cranking out chowder base. Everett says the chowder operation has been going full tilt since the end of February. “The weather’s been tough, but we did have another trip of rock scallops in — the Icelandics. Now the wind’s let go, but I don’t know if they are getting out tonight or not.”

Perhaps as a salute to the season, Bill Honey’s ewe Martha at Brookside Farm had twin lambs on Sunday, a ewe and a ram, both black with small white stars on their foreheads. A nervous novice at midwifing, Mr. Honey had frequent telephone consultations with Arnold Fischer during the accouchement. On Monday, his ewe Betsy also produced twin lambs. The three other ewes of the flock, Parnell, Polly and Maria, named for the Island’s liberty pole heroines of the Revolution, are due to lamb any day, and the lambs will also probably be black. The ram of the flock is a large, almost square black animal, also bearing a revolutionary name: Crispus Attucks.

The Roaring Brook Farm in Chilmark, a strategic tract of land steeped in the history of the Vineyard and rich in the memories of the owners, the James Cagney family, has been placed on the market. A parcel of 213 acres of undeveloped farmland is being offered at $1.1 million. A purchase-and-sale agreement for a smaller parcel of land and the two houses on the property has been signed by the husband of Jessie Benton. There is considerable talk about the sale in Chilmark these days. There is concern about prospects for development. But much of the talk centers around the buyers and sellers, two of Chilmark’s oldest and most talented families. Miss Benton is the daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, the painter. Mr. Cagney is the son of James Cagney, the actor. The farmhouse on the property is over 250 years old and contains markings of the Claghorn homestead, birthplace of Col. George Claghorn, builder of the frigate Constitution. Indian history runs deep through this land. An ancient, decaying structure on the property is known as Dinah’s Bridge, named for an Indian woman. The boundary wall is called Calumet Bars, which separated the land from the property once held by the Sauermaug Tribe.

The Assembly of God church in Vineyard Haven will hold a public burning of drug paraphernalia, books on the occult and witchcraft, “trash books,” records and tapes. The burning will be in the pit next to the church on State Road. The Rev. Kirk Birkeland appeared before Tisbury selectmen this week to explain the significance of the burning, and to secure permission. He had the selectmen read verses from the Book of Acts in the Bible, a reference, he said, that explained his desire to burn this unsavory material, in the open for the public to witness. Selectmen said if the fire chief approves the burning, they had no problem. Reverend Birkeland said it will be a small fire.

Round two is about to open in the battle of Georges Bank. In U.S. District Court in Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the New England Conservation Law Foundation will argue for a preliminary injunction against the second North American offshore lease sale. They will argue that the risks to the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank far outweigh the estimates of oil and natural gas. They will say the U.S. Interior Department, which will conduct the sale, is moving too quickly before time has been allowed to examine the impact of oil drilling last year on the banks, and before knowing the impact drilling will have on deep-water marine environments.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner