Long before Cedar Tree Neck became the magnificent conservation area that it is today, it was a tucked-away refuge for summer visitors. I was reminded of that fact recently when I received a surprise phone call from Jack Daggett, the son of John Daggett, who with his sister Emma owned the 32-acre property into the 1950s. Amazingly, Jack had remembered my name when he read a recent column of my mine.

He had found an old guest register, with my father’s name and address on it. The date was August 11, 1957. I was seven years old.

To have first experienced the Vineyard at such a young age was to see the Island in its most pristine form. I was, in essence, an only child and the first child to have ever been allowed to stay at the property. My parents were the closest in age to me. To my youthful eyes, everyone seemed to be a grandparent or older, and they all treated me as if I were their grandson.

I had the complete run of the place and I did indeed run everywhere. We stayed in the Rose Cottage which was the first cottage on the left as you broke out of the forested dirt road that led to Cedar Tree Neck. It was a typical, narrow Vineyard road that stretched endlessly for a mile or more. It was pockmarked with deep ruts, and pullouts on the sides provided an escape when the road got too tight for cars to pass.

When the road suddenly emerged into the sunlight, there was the Rose Cottage on the left. A trellis in front was entwined with pink roses and inside were two bedrooms and a walk-in closet. There was no plumbing and only a white porcelain bowl and pitcher on a dresser for morning face-washing. A wooden towel rack at the side provided cloths and towels.

On the wall of my parent’s room was a large, black water stain. One year my father got a black crayon and finished what the stain was suggesting — a mighty whale with water spitting up out of its snout. That image sealed the deal: this was our special vacation place.

Every morning I was the first to wake up and rushed out of my room and through my own screen door to head out to the big barn and community bathroom that sat atop the bluff overlooking the beach below and Vineyard Sound. No one else was awake and Cedar Tree Neck was mine.

I then went over to the big house, also on the bluff near the barn, and up to the back door to the kitchen. There I was greeted by Dottie, the cook who had begun baking hours before. The kitchen was large and filled with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes while a cloud of flour always seemed to hang in the air. Pies, cakes, muffins (blueberry, especially) and breads seem to pour continuously out of that warm and welcoming sanctuary. I always got an early sample of what would be served for breakfast accompanied by pads of soft butter that melted smoothly into the warm creations.

Soon, the guests, who stayed in their own tiny cottages spread around the property like hidden acorns, started to arrive for breakfast. My parents eventually followed and I joined them at a table set aside from the main dining table — a long wooden pew of a Quaker-like gathering at which were seated all the other Daggett guests. Miss Daggett, of course, was primly seated at the head.

My parents and I remained separated from the other guests as the experiment of my simply being there was conducted. We ate quietly and I soon left for other explorations without incident (usually).

After breakfast, many of the guests would sit out in front of the main house, enjoying the views of the Sound and the Elizabeth Islands. Some had trained catbirds to come and eat raisins out of their hands. I tried it, too. I would place about a dozen raisins in the palm of my hand with my thumb extended and wait. Soon enough, a catbird would float down and grip my thumb with its pinching claws and stare down at the shriveled fruit. Then, peck, peck, peck, the raisins disappeared. I was stunned to see a wild animal such as this so close up. It became one of my favorite things to do.

If it were a rainy day, I would head over to the bank barn on the bluff. It was an impressive post and beam structure with a large sliding door. Inside, its cathedral ceiling soared above me. Dangling down from the rafters were fantastical souvenirs of Daggett family world travels — huge blocks from masted sailing ships, bright silver banners featuring large black oriental characters, photos, harpoons and much more. It dazzled me.

My favorite place in that barn was the large picture window that looked out over Vineyard Sound. When the weather turned gray and angry, it was the place to be. I’d kneel down on the couch under the window and watch storm clouds blow and tumble above the water towards the Island, bracing for their arrival on the beach and the barn itself. Then the rains would come. And the wind. In a big storm, bullet-like drops would slice sideways in such a dense torrent that the Sound would fade away from view in a foggy haze while the sides of the barn stood strong, the sliding door shaking and rattling under the assault. I felt safe inside while the maelstrom raged around me.

Fifteen years later I would build my first house on the Vineyard — a post-and-beam home with cathedral ceilings constructed of 100-year old, remilled timbers. It was a barn-like refuge of my own that helped me recall those magical days at Miss Daggett’s when I first felt that electric jolt of independence, and that outside my door was a wild world of wonder just waiting for me to reach out and explore. Thank you, Emma, for taking a chance on me.

David Lott lives in Vineyard Haven.