Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ed. Note:

In a detailed essay about Fire Island before 1910 (see: Dobie, "History of Inc. Village of Saltaire") Frank Goggins Esq. recommended: Legends of Fire Island Beach and the South Side, Edward Richard Shaw, Copyright United States Book Company, 1895.

Here is a short excerpt:

Seventy years ago two boys, one seven years old and the other twelve, made a trip with their father up the Great South Bay. They had been promised that when it became necessary to land and mend the nets, they might run across the Beach to the ocean.

So, one afternoon when the nets were spread, away the boys scampered, dragging their outstretched hands through the tall grass. But coming upon a damp spot of meadow when a third of the way over, they were obliged to turn their course. In doing so, they chanced to look behind them, and seeing how far they were from the boat and how small it appeared, they were afraid, and had half a mind to turn back. But the younger lad caught sight of the large, leafy stalks of a great rose mallow, a few steps ahead, spreading the broad petals of its passionate flower out to the sun and the breeze.

" See them big flowers," he said, to his brother.

Forgetting their fear, both ran to the spot, plucked a handful, and continued their way to the ocean.

"They ain't got any smell," said the older, " but they're a pretty color."

" Let's get a lot when we come back, and take 'em home," suggested the younger.

But the showy flowers, deprived of the abundant moisture which their roots continually send up, soon wilted and lost their fresh, tropical beauty. Surprised and disappointed at this, the lads threw them down and quickened their steps. So anxious were they to get across, that the Beach seemed much wider than they had ever imagined. At last they reached the ridge of hills that lie on the inner side of the surf strand, shutting out all view of the ocean, and toiled to the top. The hills seemed very steep and high to them, for in all their lives they had never been away from the low and level south side of the Island.

Reaching the top, that far and mighty prospect of the great deep burst upon them. It was a sight they had expected to see, but a sight of whose accompanying grandeur they had not formed the least conception. They stood silent, each for the time unconscious of the other, while the feeling which comes in the presence of the sublime surged up within their minds.

Young hearts, though, do not give themselves up long to such emotions, and wear their freshness out with pondering, as older people do. With these boys, the spell was brief; but during it the great sea had breathed its infinite benediction upon them, arousing within them feelings unstirred before. The usual traits of boyhood, however, soon asserted themselves, and the boys ran down the slope and began to gather shells and skim them into the surf. They did not, though, whirl away every shell, but, now and then, thrust a pretty one into their pockets. And with the shells they often saved smooth white stones that had been bathed and polished by the sea.

Tiring of this play, they turned to making marks and figures, and writing their names in the wet sand. Then they threw themselves down and dug holes in the wet sand with " skimmauge" shells, and banked the sand up over their feet and hands.

" I wonder where that ship's going and how far away she is ?" said the younger lad.

" Oh, fifty miles—for you can't see anything but her sails, and only a little of them," answered the other.

Then the younger asked if that wasn't the end of the world where the sky went down into the ocean. And watching the low clouds that floated along the distant horizon, he fancied that they were going off to the end of the world.

"Maybe," he spoke, "they're going after rain—clouds have some place where they keep their rain. How slow they're going! When they get the rain, they'll hurry back. Why, then they almost fly. Ain't you seen 'em fly on a stormy day when they're low down, and you could almost see through 'em ? I guess they hurry to scatter the rain over
more ground."

The elder brother paid no heed to these fancies, but began to roll his trousers up above his knees as high as he could pull them. The younger quickly did the same, for there were no shoes and stockings to be removed, as bay-men's boys, in those days, went barefooted in summer time...

Read the whole book here:

Ed. note: we couldn't find anywhere a definition of "skimmauge" but we note tha the author put the word in quotes suggesting that it is a long forgotten colloquilaism. If anyone has any ideas, please let us know. As for "Great Rose Mallow," here is a citation:

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