From the March 19, 1965 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, spring will begin at 3:05 p.m. tomorrow. The Vineyard, obviously, is ready for the event which in astronomical terms, means the vernal equinox — and how musical these Latin words are after a long and fairly cold winter. The Old Farmer says that the sun will enter Aries, but that’s getting into astrology.

Spring fever will soon be endemic, one supposes. According to Webster, spring fever is “the lazy listless feeling which comes to persons with the first warm days of spring.”

And the lazy listless feeling is usually accompanied by the long thoughts referred to by Longfellow in association with youth, but also in the arrival of the fresh warm season.


The old-timers will bemoan the changes that have taken place on the Island in three-quarters of a century or less.

And if these old-timers should wonder why all this change and what brought it about, the answer is “sheep.” There can be no escaping this fact.

Sheep accounted for the prosperity once so evident on the Island. Sheep kept many an elderly soul from going on the town, in far more recent years. And sheep preserved the natural beauty of the Island as nothing else could do, for generations. The deluge which wiped out all this and more, came as the result of the end of sheep-raising.

In these days, few have the need to figure as closely where cash is concerned, and fewer yet know how to obtain even a part of living from the soil. Only here and there is found a human soul who mourns for a sight of a vanished landscape that once delighted the eye. This list includes the sheep flocks, grazing on a thousand hills, and preserving natural beauty far better than mankind could ever accomplish it.


“What,” Arnold M. Fischer, the West Tisbury farmer, asks, “has become of the old-fashioned hulled corn of our childhood? The canned variety doesn’t taste the same to me and I had been giving a good deal of thought to the fact that the old-fashioned white field corn is not grown on the Island any more.

“Discussing this matter with Daniel Manter recently, while in his boathouse on Town Cove, he called my attention to a fruit-jar, filled with white corn. ‘It was given to my father by Adelbert Mitchell in 1930,” he explained. ‘Do you suppose it will grow?’”

To make a long story short, Mr. Fischer took the seed-corn home with him, and being uncertain as to whether there still remained the germ of life in it, experimented with sprouting of some of the kernels. And they sprouted! After nearly thirty-five years!


An ejaculation frequently heard on the Vineyard in the old days was “My soul and body!” This seemed to provide expression for a multitude of emotions from astonishment to exasperation.

When were “the old days” in which “My soul and body!” was a good part of everyday usage? Well, a good while ago now; not one generation, but possibly two. Modern equivalents are apt to be profane, or in bad taste, or mere echoes of the latest thing on television.

Probably the old phrase died out because the kind of people for whom its use was in character died out; fashion changes, character changes, and usages of language with them.

But it would seem — well, to some Vineyarders it would seem like old times — to hear the exclamation, “My soul and body!” once again.


There are two phrases, unrelated, so usual in speech and writing these days that no one seems to challenge them, yet they raise the gravest grammatical questions. One is “top secret,” which we suppose is intended to mean the most important secrecy and actually means, many times, the best advertised secrecy. As to secrecy, itself, it admits of no degrees, top, bottom, or in between; you either have it or you don’t.

Is it possible to make anything more secret by referring to it as “top”? Certainly you can make it more of a mystery, and suggest to more and more people that they keep guessing what it is, and thus perhaps incur a greater risk of what is known as spilling the beans. A “top secret” is presumably known to all or most of the top people, and since it is amazing how many of those there are in our world of importance and self-importance, it may be imagined that a “top secret” is in a subtle sense less private than an ordinary or bottom secret which may exist in lowly fashion between you and me alone.

The other phrase is “end up.” Nothing seems to end any more; it always “ends up.” This does not mean it concludes in a vertical position but only that it ends positively and no fooling around. But if something ends, and ending is ending, no matter how you look at it, and whether the conclusion is reached by slow degrees or by sudden resolution.

Just the same, most of us have fallen into the habit of saying “ends up” as a means of gaining emphasis, though already the emphasis is mostly lost through over-use and we are left with one more maiming of clear, forthright English.

Compiled by Hilary Wall