From the Jan. 16, 1976 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by William A. Caldwell:

One of the fringe benefits guaranteed to the Vineyarder who goes off-Island for a while consists in the adventure’s authorizing him to lie with impunity about where he’s been and what he’s seen and done. From Homer’s time to Uncle Joe Allen’s, which is a framework large enough to embrace Thucydides and Marco Polo and the whaler captains, the storyteller has enjoyed a presumption of credibility. The citizen who reported he had seen a Bonaparte’s gull on the Farm Pond in Oak Bluffs would be asked stonily to produce documentation and eyewitnesses; the one who assures you he had to stop the car and shoo a herd of unicorns off the road in Paramus, N.J., incurs no risk of cross-examination. Most people shrug or tsk-tsk. A few have an uncle who told them last summer there’s a lot of unicorns around in Rhode Island. The taller the tale, the likelier.

And this is a pity, I reflected on my way home from the continent a day or three ago, because there are times when a fellow wishes to be disbelieved. The weather has been hellish and no per cent, and I meant to astonish people on Martha’s Vineyard, which never has snow, by detailing the horrors of a blizzard in Megalopolis. Eager as they are to be gulled, the Islanders would never believe all these marvels of Nature and human idiocy; oh, come off it, they would say; and, once they had satisfied themselves that such things cannot be, I’d haul out a stack of newspapers and display the steamer headlines — “Worst Storm” and “Area Paralyzed” and all that, with four-column photographs illustrating how a superhighway can be converted in a day into a horizon-to-horizon parking lot. I yearned to be challenged.

I had rehearsed a few brief but graceful vignettes. Once, fumbling in the snow for the valve cap on a slow-softening tire and wondering whether there is any misery so piercing and unescapable as zero, I caught myself organizing a little meditation on the varieties of snow. There are Eskimo languages, I’m told, that have no word for warm, as in bath or zephyr, but dozens of words for snow. Depending on its texture, the direction and velocity of the wind on which it is borne, the depth of it, one snow differs from another as radically as a gale of ours differs from a doldrum, and I suppose that life or death depends on the polar icecap, as it does anywhere, on the richness of the vocabulary with which people certify to each other what the weather is doing. By this time I had inflated the tire. But, I went on, practicing the little essay I was polishing for my next meeting with word-fanciers like John Golding and Mary Carter and Houghs and Scotts and Freydbergs, even the Eskimos have no noun for a wintertime phenomenon of civilization’s. Call it snog.

It consists of snow and smog. It is greasy. From the Tappan Zee Bridge or the top of the arched roadway over the Fall River you cannot see through it to the ice-choked surface of the water below, but in New York or the part of North Jersey in which was going on the nuptial merrymaking of the long weekend you can see the snogfall along the streets and roads. Snow is white. Snog is beige when fresh, mellowing fast into cockroach-brown, then a bruised blue-green, then soot-black. People on the Island would never believe it.

Nor would they believe that at the height of the storm the highways were jammed with automobiles. Hundreds of cars headed north for ski country, thousands of cars hurrying south from the little towns to where the action is, all of them wasting irreplaceable petroleum in a way for which our children will curse us. Where were we?

We were on our way back to the Island preparing to astonish the stay-at-homes with stories about snow drifted over the tops of cars, snow choking the highways, wet snow bowing birches and firs down to the ground, dry snow filtering through doorways and under windows, such snow as Martha’s Vineyard never gets to see and relish. They’d never believe it.

On the ferry a man asked whether it had been snowing along the coast. Oh, a little, we said, and out of courtesy we asked how about the Vineyard: the usual half inch or so, we supposed. Oh, a little, he said, not more than six or eight inches. No problems. How did we think Regan will do in the Massachusetts primary?

The heaviest snow we saw was on the Island. I have decided not to astonish my friends in town with talk about the weather; the subject, I have discovered, is a bore. I cannot wait, however, to phone the folks back in snowbound New Jersey that when we woke Wednesday morning all the snow in places a foot of it or more, had been snatched away. The earth was bare. The roads were clear. Across the sound you could see the red glow of the towers on Nantucket. In the swamps the willows were flushing gold. Spring was indubitably in the air.

They’ll never believe it.

Compiled by Hilary Wall