From the Vineyard Gazette editions of May, 1933:
A conservation army, numbering 219 men, will arrive on the Island today to take up the work of reforestation in the state reservation under the federal plan for relieving unemployment. This army is one that has been through the preliminary course of training at Camp Devens and will be in the charge of a captain and two lieutenants of the regular Army, besides a detail of military police.
The outfit is to encamp under canvas at first, on the state forest reserve, and is to be augmented by an allotment from the Island towns. The Island men are to be chosen, sent to Camp Devens for physical examination, and then returned to join the Island detachment.
Major E. A. Lester of the regular army visited the reservation to pick out the camp site and arrange for the driving of wells for the fresh water supply. The major mentioned the possible erection of four or five barrack buildings to house the men later on.
The work will be directed by L.B. Sanderson, superintendant of the reservation, and will consist of cutting new fire stops, improving those already cut, building roads and developing all water holes. The general plan indicates that the summer will yield results that would require many years of work with the normal personnel employed there.
The detailing of this force to the Vineyard was effected through the efforts of Rep. Ernest Dean, who is thoroughly familiar with the work of reforestation by the state, and was quick to take advantage of the opportunity to speed up the program of planting the Great Plain with useful trees, as well as to secure employment for some of the Island men.
Water, particularly salt water, has a degenerating effect on barnyard fowl. Such is the decided opinion of various Vineyarders who have witnessed the strange effects of its influence upon dignified hens and roosters, and who now marvel over the behavior of one large Rhode Island Red rooster owned by Dolph Manning of Vineyard Haven. After having been kept to a poultry yard a few fathoms from the beach for several months, this rooster has entirely given up the uttering of his usual “Cock-a-doodle-doo,” and honks exactly like a wild goose.
Mechanics employed by a nearby garage first learned of this peculiar phenomenon when they distinctly heard the cry of the wild goose and ran out to see where this bird might be. A diligent search failed to reveal any such fowl, but they saw the big red rooster arch its neck and utter the familiar “Honk-honk” of the untamed Canadian wild fowl.
The rooster is in prime condition and presides over his flock of pullets in a perfectly normal manner except for his peculiar cry, and old Vineyarders declare that it is the influence of salt water, recalling similar peculiar occurrences of the recent past.
It is recalled that a few years ago John D. Bassett of Chilmark, who lives near the shore of Chilmark pond, had a mallard duck which never gave the customary quack, but barked exactly like a small dog, frightening the sheep and the fowl about the farm.
And it is further recalled that a couple of years ago Captain David Butler of Menemsha fed his hens on fish at times, keeping them in a yard near the beach. When winter arrived and the fish rations were curtailed, a couple of these fowl flew from the enclosure and, joining the seagulls that soared near, skimmed out over the water and endeavored to catch shiners and minnows as the gulls were doing.
So we are to lose Hedge Fence lightship from the sea. This friend of all hours is to go because of the need for economy, that national necessity so earnestly desired in its general sweep and so grudgingly accepted when it touches home. How many Vineyarders will miss the constant light by night, and the red hull with its twin masts against the blue water by day! The substitution of buoys may do well enough for navigators, but for those who are Island bred and Island dwellers, the lightship will leave a void.
Hedge Fence lightship is the lightship nearest the most thickly settled part of the Vineyard. She lies at her post within easy view of Oak Bluffs, where she may be seen from hundreds of houses. She is passed by small craft from the Island, and by the steamers bound back and forth across the shoals.
To speak sadly of the passing of this vessel may seem an excess of sentimentality to inlanders and mainlanders. They do not understand what vessels and lights mean. We recall an Island home, away from all neighbors, where families lived for generations before the day of the good roads and fast travel.
Those who lived in the house were not lonely, because there were ships passing and lighthouses flashing by night, and it made no difference that these vessels and lights were far away. Lights and vessels are company to sea-minded people. And if sea-minded, how is it possible not to miss an old friend like the Hedge Fence lightship?
Property owners of East Chop are forming what is to be known as the East Chop Association.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner