Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summers on Chincoteague as a Child

I'm nearing the age of 60, so my memories of growing up on Chincoteague Island (during the summer months) are dated, and belong to a slower and safer time - but they are wonderful memories.  I remember being 4 or 5, and being handed a quarter and told that I could walk down the street (Peterson) and go to Betty's store and get whatever I wanted.  My grandfather's house was all of five houses down the street, before it ran into Main, and relatives lived all along the street, and Betty's store was directly across the street.    I remember being proud of being a "big girl" and being allowed to go to the store by myself....  and now I wonder how many relatives kept an eye on me from behind curtains as I walked down and across the street.  Even so, I knew I could never get lost on the island - if I became disoriented, I could knock on any door and tell the person who answered that I was "Cap'n Walt Johnson's" granddaughter, and I'd be treated to cookies and milk and then sent in the right direction of the house.
   As I grew older, I wandered the entire island.  I'd stay with cousins and aunts and uncles, have breakfast with them, make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and wander off until nightfall, when I'd return to have supper with the family.  Of course, I soon found the bridge across the Assateague Channel and over to the Wildlife Refuge.  Sometimes I'd spend the whole day on Assateague, wandering the wildlife trails, and drinking from the same brackish ponds that the ponies and deer drank from.  I never worried about strangers, meeting new people, or anything other than getting back to the house at a reasonable hour.  I would fish, crab, clam, and oyster just for the fun of it.  I'd spend hours sitting quietly, watching the deer and ponies, squirrels and the birds.  So many birds!  My parents purchased a paperback Eastern Bird Identification book, and I wore it out - doubled over in a pocket in my jeans, or just stuck in the waistband of my shorts.  I have to admit that while I was on Assateague, I avoided the Rangers as much as possible - they wanted visitors to stay on established trails or go straight to the beach.  I explored the entire southern end of the island - from the Maryland/Virginia drift fence down to the southernmost point of the island, along the Atlantic coast, around Tom's Cove, and back up the Channel.  And I had a blast.
   Luckily, I was never hurt, other than banging a toe, barking a shin, or taking a few layers of skin off my hands and arms.  I did pick up a few leeches and ticks. The only time I can remember being in danger was when I got too close to a mare in season, and one of the stallions chased me up a tree...  I learned early that the tides running through the Assateague Channel could easily sweep you out to sea, and so I always used the bridge, unless one of the watermen offered a ride.
  Yes, spending my summers on Chincoteague, as I was growing up, was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life

No comments: