This Little Harbor (a 30:30 report)

06/18/2020 0 By BuddyCushman

We used to trail horseshoe crabs at Little Harbor beach when we were kids. These beach visits were mostly, and maybe always, on trips with the folks, when a blanket would get spread on the sand and there was likely a genuine picnic basket and tuna fish sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly and pickles and something to drink, it could have been lemonade, my mom was pretty amazing running the show and taking care of business, it was pretty much her with the planning and organizing and making things happen. And this surely was true as well with journeys out through the woods and the marshes and tall grasses and developing sense of marine life and the cooler feel of the air, and both before and after they put the par-three golf course right around the big corners from making your way down into the parking lot, and getting your town beach sticker checked at the booth, and I do not remember either of my parents in bathing suits though no doubt they were, or my sisters for that matter, but usually it was the five of us and probably four after my older sister became older and hanging with the folks was a letdown and she had friends to do more teenaged things with, and I got there too, there is some form, some routine, some predictability with the growing up thing and separation, like part of the healthy psychological process….

So, sure I went less with the folks and then not at all, and without the kids I’m guessing they mostly stopped going too, and if that is predictable it doesn’t remove a tinge of sadness, like why are things the way they are, go the way they go, who strikes out to do it different? Which is a question I wish I had on my mind say every day growing up instead of the rather ‘normal’ and ‘predictable’ childhood, at least for white, lower-middle-class small-town me growing up….

So there is all that and in this particular time of our lives in the United States there are more serious concerns, but I began this one with the image of those big, strangely-shaped, dark-brown horseshoe crabs, they looked like misshapen tanks moving over the sand, easily seen and tailed through the clear shallow water, it goes without saying they had those long thin, stick-like tails which would actually drag through the bottom and leave a trail, so you might not see an actual crab but as you started wading out into the water see one of those trails and get on the look-out thing and follow it and voila, hello there Mr. or Mrs. crab, (If there was a way to be a horseshoe crab sexer I sure didn’t know it) and I didn’t know the word “ambiance” back then, and maybe I didn’t know it until I was in my 40’s or something, but those crabs cruising and sliding and gliding through the shallow water just along the sand bottom they were for sure part of the ambiance at Little Harbor beach, which feels like a significant aspect of my this-life DNA, like dissect me and you’ll find some Little Harbor residue there….

And of course one of the truly individual aspects of that beach was how flat it was and with virtually no drop-off from the shore heading out toward the larger waters of Buzzards Bay which meant you could walk out for, no lie, nearly a half mile – or maybe for a little kid it felt like that so maybe it was in fact a quarter mile, but it was at least that – you could walk all that way and still not have the water up above your knees, and when you think of that for me Little Harbor wasn’t really a swimming beach it was more an experiential beach, an exploring beach, because if you walked what would have been west or maybe southwest to the end of the paved parking lot you came to a channel of water, which would be flowing in pretty good with an incoming tide, and that ended up curving around the back of the lot and into what was a very large area of marsh and salt-water reeds and all kinds of hermit crabs and probably lots of seabirds – which I didn’t notice enough – and you could look way across the marsh over toward a more tree and shrub and the occasional house lined landscape….

And I actually maybe 50-something years later painted that very scene from a photo and hung that painting in the Academy Theater lobby here in Portland during one of two showings I had there and got a call and sold it

for $200, a massive windfall in my artist life, but back to the main beach and another thing we did, not just me other kids too, was you could take a little plastic shovel or even your foot or your hands and dig a small channel in from the tideline and up into the beach a little and dig it deep enough, which could have been like three inches, so the water would come in and at the end of the canal dig out a larger pool, and I’m thinking you can see what I am describing in your mind’s eye, kind of like an upside down lollipop starting at the water’s edge, and when you were patient and it didn’t take too long after a couple of minutes you would see minnows swimming up your made-made canal (or girl-made, whoever did it) and into the little pool where they would be swimming around, and maybe this becomes some kind of science paper or treatise but you have to wonder what was in it for them, the minnows, and do minnows get curious?

Which is a question I do not remember ever thinking in all these more than 70 years of my life, or do they (minnows) think there is a like a pot of gold and this brand new road which wasn’t there half an hour ago is like a treasure map or something, because in a way that journey could easily become suicidal with some quick kid footwork, though happily I do not remember doing that….

And back to today when the country is so messed up with hate and general meanness I am glad to count myself as someone who says nuh-uh to that kind of behavior, but building those little minnow pools was another thing to do at Little Harbor (and of course other beaches in town, though most of them, like Pinehurst and Parkwood and Onset and even Briarwood were way more swimmable and better places to check out girls – okay, I’m aging here, more teenage time, probably riding bikes there and not with mom and dad) — but my point is you could still do the minnow thing at Pinehurst even if you couldn’t track and follow horseshoe crabs because the degree of drop from the shore out was way steeper and the water wasn’t as clear and you were thinking about other stuff anyways….

But let me get back to Little Harbor because when I got older and mostly friends of mine and not me had their own cars and we would go drinking beers and maybe Tango there some nights, which you always had to watch out for the cops showing up, and here’s a fun Little Harbor tale – two of my friends, call them Rick and Doug, went drinking there one night, which one of them told me this the next day, and all of a sudden the cops were coming down the incline into the lot and driving right toward them, so the driver pulled the other one over to him and they pulled a jacket or something up over the head of the passenger guy and pretended to be making out – and give those kids academy awards because the cop searchlights ended up doused with them using their microphone to tell the “lovers’ to clear out….

Which is an okay story but I like the horseshoe crab and minnow and endless low tide or marsh stories better, and my mother’s wicked good picnic lunches and even remembering the cool cars my dad owned from time to time, one was a ‘56 Pontiac.