It’s the Berries

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of July, 1933:

Most visitors to the Island are under the impression that our land is not much good for agriculture. There are too many rocks. In some places there is too much sand, and in other places too much clay. The soil is acid and needs cargos of lime. Yet Island farms have been amazingly productive. Island milk is rich and creamy, and the Islander with farming talent and skill has never yielded to discouragement. Moreover, the Island soil produces many things we regard highly which mellower ground on the mainland will not grow.

Blueberries flourish in an acid soil. The berry picker knows where the choicest berries are to be found and berry picking in summer is an avocation acclaimed by many who look forward to these expeditions.

Azaleas, among the highest ranks of our flowers, also flourish in ground like ours. In some Island gardens they blossom where woods and house lots meet. Land is not to be branded with poverty which can decorate itself like this.

These two examples are cited because they are aside from the conventional idea of crops. Plenty of things may be grown simply by letting the soil have its own way, and there is, in the public made up of summer visitors, a possible market for many harvests of the future. The business of raising things is pretty well broken down in the world at large, and when it will be restored to some state of profit we do not know. But though business conditions and other factors may be serious obstacles to Island crops, old and new, the soil of the Vineyard itself is ready and waiting to do its part.

A fishing expedition to the wilds of Squibnocket ended disastrously for two Edgartown anglers when a big wave, rolling in from way past Noman’s overturned their dory, and all their tackle was lost. The two, Steve Gentle and Ken Shepherd, had loaded Steve’s patent trailer, built especially for distant expeditions, early in the morning, and they started with high hopes of a successful day. Trouble with dogfish — ”sandpaper fishing” — had beset them on other trips, and a new deal was anticipated. A thorough ducking, however, was the tough break in store for them, to say nothing of the loss of several poles and their gear. The dory was saved.

There was, as the tale goes, an old Vineyard woman reputed to be a witch, who told fortunes and sold charms. It was her custom to solicit trade among the whaling captains, and many of them would not sail without securing a charm. But at length, one of the captains rebelled. He had enjoyed good luck for many voyages and came to the conclusion the charms had nothing to do with it.

On the day of his sailing, the old woman came to the dock at Edgartown and there met the captain, asking him why he had not been to see her. He explained and an argument followed, in which the whaleman said his say after the manner of seamen.

The old woman said, “Suit yourself: You will raise plenty of whales, but you won’t fasten to one.”

The captain laughed and sailed away, but the old woman’s prophecy held good. They sighted whales daily, but try as they would, they could not put an iron into a single one. And daily, a white bird flew around the ship, a peculiar appearing bird such as no man had ever seen before.

The crew became uneasy, for they all knew of the old woman and the captain’s failure to purchase her charm, and they muttered amongst themselves that the white bird was the old witch.

More to appease the men than anything else, the captain took a silver dollar and pounded it into a ball for a fowling piece. On the following day, when the bird appeared, he shot at it, and it fell into the water. Although unable to pick up the bird, the men could see the water was stained with blood. The incident was duly entered in the log, and after that the ship secured plenty of whales.

On arriving home the captain and crew spoke freely of the incident and, much to the captain’s astonishment, a checkup of the day and hour revealed that the old woman died suddenly at the hour that the bird was killed.

Martha’s Vineyard summer society was well represented at the East Chop Beach Club water carnival. Ninety-four entries, including men, women and children, made this the largest water meet yet staged by the club.

The keenness of competition and sportsmanship disclosed by the junior entries was particularly gratifying to the club management and committee who hope to build and develop these events into something outstanding in the summer programs of the Island.

The features of the meet were the fancy diving of Jack Brooks, former intercollegiate fancy diving champion, and John Field, who did comic diving, the old clothes race, wherein the entrants dived from the pier, swam to the beach and dressed in costumes which were well mixed, and the racing where the swimmers carried an open umbrella in one hand.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner