Birds of a Feather

From Gazette editions of July, 1936:

We went to the Farmers’ Cooperative Market last Friday. It’s held in the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury every Tuesday and Friday of the summer. Most of the individual stalls were run by women who could get away from their household duties during the day to sell their own goods. They had on sale substantial, home-made products, just the kind of thing you would expect a New England good wife to produce.

The customers started coming at quarter past ten. They were mostly summer people, and their costumes ranged from slacks to long silks, and in one case to a purple boucle dress garnished with pearl earrings and necklace. There was one man in plus fours and ribbed stockings who walked in, took a few puffs on a cigarette, and walked out. And then there was an artist. She did not tell us she was an artist, but she wore a short, multicolored smock, and an enormous straw hat, and she took an aesthetic interest in the lettuce.

This affinity of birds for roads seems to be something new. Or perhaps it is that motorists are meeting more birds. In the horse and buggy days a bird was out of the way before the driver came too near, but now the radiator of a rapidly moving car is all too likely to bring down a robin or a chewink on the wing. All drivers must have noticed the constant appearance of birds directly in the way. The trouble is that the birds wish to use the roads crosswise instead of lengthwise. This runs counter to the customs of mankind. Since there is no way of revising the ideals of nature or the habits of the human race, the birds will doubtless continue to run serious risks.

A good compromise would be to have birds fly across dirt roads only. Dirt roads are still leisurely, in their very nature imbued with philosophy and reflection. They seem to loiter as they wind through the scrub oak of the plain or shady woods of hillier regions. A bird may fly across a dirt road and add charm to the scene and joy to the heart of the traveler. The hard-surfaced highways have no time for such attractions, and the horsepower of 1936 automobiles turns rural charm into death and danger for birds.

One sees the birds in greatest numbers on the roads across the plains. There live the mysterious dozens and hundreds of chewinks in their perpetual full dress, which adds to the dark formality of a tuxedo the ambassadorial touch of a red waistcoat.

The robins join them on the plains, and both species are always crossing from one side to the other.

It would be preposterous to suggest that motorists drive more slowly in order to permit the birds safe passage, for motorists are always in a hurry. Even in vacation season they are bound somewhere in order that they may be bound back again. Against such an ingrained human necessity as that, the desire of birds to cross the roads seems capricious.

Mrs. Oscar Denniston of Masonic avenue left the Island for Boston to attend the commencement exercises at Boston University. Mrs. Denniston is to see her daughter, Amy, receive the degree of Master of Arts. In June 1934 Mrs. Denniston saw her older daughter, Olive, receive the degree of Master of Education from the same university.

A man in Jersey City has received a sort of transitory fame by walking barefoot in a park in the early hours of the day. The Jersey City police were baffled by the sight of this morning barefoot walker, this dew-paddler. Many dwellers of American cities had forgotten that there was such a thing as dew. Dew on the grass, in the first sunlight of the day has become a phenomenon seen only in parks, just as early American things are seen only in museums. The curator can explain to spectators the uses of warming pans and oven spades; but apparently only this one Jersey City man remembered that dew on the grass in the first sunlight of the day is good to walk in, barefooted and contemplative.

His odd memory of this pleasant item of life as once it was everywhere on the American continent caused anxiety all along the line in the Jersey City police department. From patrolman to sergeant to lieutenant to captain the anxious reports went, and finally the collective mind of the department announced that it was all right for a man to walk barefooted in the dewy grass, under a special permit.

We mourn that walking barefoot in the dew should have become a luxury in the cities. But one detail still remains to be cleared up. Can the Jersey City man extend his bare foot with the greatest of ease in the dewy morn and lift off the head of a dandelion or daisy between his big toe and the next toe to it? We will bet that the Jersey City police would be simply popeyed to see him do it.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner