Island Stew

From Gazette editions of May, 1936:

If Martha’s Vineyard people are desirous of adding to the number of deer now on the Island, the opportunity is at hand. Officials of the Rod and Gun Club are in receipt of a communication from Miss Katherine Foote of the Animal Rescue League, who is ready, pending the approval of local authorities and residents, to provide the Island not only with deer but elk as well. Twelve elk and eight deer are available, no cost being attached save that of transportation.

Already the Island has a few deer; how many is problematical at this time for several reasons. Two bucks and a doe were reported late in the winter. There is the possibility that some unscrupulous gunner has availed himself of the opportunity to dine on venison and that perhaps these deer may have figured in “lamb stew” or a similar dish, despite the recently enacted game law prohibiting the shooting of deer on the Vineyard at any time.

William S. Tilton is the last chanteyman of the Vineyard, perhaps the last of New England, home of the clipper ships which produced this type of maritime character. The custom of speeding up work with song is said to have been borrowed from the slaves of the South who loaded ships with cotton, and the word chantey is believed to be a corruption of the “Chantez!” shouted by Creole overseers as they commanded the laborers to chant or sing.

Of all the chanteys which have survived, there is probably none so stirring as Blow the Man Down, which was timed to the windlass heaving and seldom sung save when lifting the anchor. Seated comfortably in his pawl post, the chanteyman would raise his voice in song to speed up his laboring shipmates. Mr. Tilton can still raise an echo with the old words, though his eightieth birthday has long since dropped below the horizon line astern.

Nantucket fishermen are proving they were right in their claims that shellfish pests are wreaking havoc on scallop and quahog beds. They have been insistent that the species of crabs commonly called “Cape Cod ministers” have been so abundant that shellfish have no chance at all. Under the WPA allotment boats have been busily at work gathering the spider crabs in their dredges; over 10,000 bushels of the pests have been taken already. The good work continues day and night.

To many thoughtful Vineyarders, the action of the superior court in releasing upon probation three young housebreakers, suggests a serious problem still unsolved. We have no confidence in the reformative value of our penal institutions, whether those for the young or for the veteran criminals. It would have been no assurance of any character building if the ringleader had been sent to a reformatory.

But what of the major problem, the problem of the community? We have had too many instances of vandalism. Individuals who break into houses and steal valuables are difficult to apprehend. Still harder to trace to the guilty person is the looting of trees and shrubs. It is vital to the interests of the Island that such forms of crime be checked.

The recent cases were striking in two ways. First, the offenses were repeated and serious. The thievery was not casual, but carefully calculated. Secondly, the detection of guilty persons was accomplished by diligent police work. The public cannot expect the police to solve all such cases. Yet the community sees aggravated offenses committed and the offenders brought to book through good police work; instead of an object lesson we have the anticlimax of long probation.

We are inclined to believe that the only real solution of the problem, from the standpoint of the community, will be stiff sentences and the decisive upholding of the police by the courts. In the present instance we have, at least, a test; and the events of the next year or two will be interesting to watch.

Bob is a gentlemanly Gordon setter, owned by Harry Kaller, Oak Bluffs grocer, and Harry offers the claim that Bob is the only self-supporting dog in the county. One day this week, while sitting beside his master in front of the store, Bob walked out into the street, picked up a piece of paper and brought it to his master. The paper proved to be a two dollar bill, which pays for Bob’s license, and further astonished Harry, who remarked that it bodes well for business when money is so plentiful that even the dogs pick it up in the streets.

A huge white whale was seen by Capt. Harry L. Peakes last week while running through Woods Hole. The monster, which was of a huge size, showed parts of its body several times, exhibiting a skin that was milk white. White whales have been seen around Cape Cod shores on many occasions in the past, but it has been many years since one was seen this close to the Vineyard.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner