4/18/2005

Daisies

The wife, you know, the 'other' person who wants to rule the Island, and I went out for a Sunday afternoon ride yesterday, and one of us remarked on how more and more of the lots and edges of developed property were cleaned of brush and junk. Well that thought sent me on a little "deja vu all over again" visit to the past. When I was in grade school and high school, the self appointed grassfire lighter, bug burner and noxious weed eliminator, would head to the west side, (the Worst side)over too about Wardens Pond. There abouts, he would accidentally drop his match that he had just lit his cigarette with and also the cig. Damned if it didn't start a little grass fire! Well he would just move a few feet down the road and try again. No sense having that fire licking up his leg and denuding him of leg hair. After going thru the same routine four or five times, he would have a sheet of fast moving flame about about a hundred yards long and tongues of bright orange licking up to about thirty or forty feet in the air. Well pretty soon the siren would go off and all hands in the fire department including all male members of the school, 6th grade and above would report for duty to the fire barn which was where Aldo's is now located. There we would be equipped with a straw broom and a bucket to carry water in. We would then be loaded into trucks and delivered to a site down wind of the impending flames and up wind of a house that might be in peril. Our job was to fill the bucket with water from various sources, wells and cisterns mostly, stick the broom it in to get it, the broom good and wet, and then go get between the flames and the house and defend said edifice from those greedy,hot, devouring little tongues of flame. Most people kept the grass trimmed very short around the perimeter of the house just fore this reason. They used various forms of accoutrement's. Some times it was a scythe and sickle, and in some places a newfangled thing called a lawn mower! Damnedest thing you ever saw! It did nothing useful, but turned perfectly good blades of grass that would have done a fine job filling the haystack, into useless little pieces of grass that the cows wouldn't even eat! But I digress FAR afield. Most folks owned a varied lot of grass eating animals and they did an unusually good job of keeping things trimmed very short. So mostly all we had to defend against were the flying pieces of grass and straw that would find their way to the rooftops, This was a good place for all we nimble youngsters to be positioned so that we didn't accidentally get eaten by those voracious flames.
Daisies you say? What's with the title of "Daisies"? Well some of the good things that happened because of these unexpected fires, was that a lot of the not so good weeds were toasted and that no underbrush was allowed to accumulate. It also did a wonderful job of keeping the stone walls clear of brush. Now early in March, wherever you looked you would see blackened fields all over the Island. In a few places you could even see faint blushes of green trying to break out of their places of hiding. Give these fields a few weeks of rain and some warm weather, and by the time the Graduation exercises at the school rolled around, there were just ab-so-lute-ly millions of daisies of all kinds and colors proliferating in every square inch of Block Island's fields!! It was an awe inspiring sight. The kids at the school would go out with cars and trucks, and scissors and knives, and come back in a few hours with enough daisies to completely cover the wall behind the stage where the Graduation exercises were to take place that night! A grid of thin boards covered with chicken wire was erected against the back wall and the flowers were tucked in the openings by the more artistic of the female members of the school populace. Some times they even spelled out words or even pictures. IT WAS FANTASTIC! It was as close to the Rose Parade as we would ever get to here on BI. And it was "woe" of the highest order if you were afflicted by the pollen distributed throughout the room! There was always a full compliment of June Bugs winging their way busily around the room, to also add too the evenings entertainment. The ladies DID NOT like them landing in their hair. It was always a fun thing to watch them trying to remove them from the hair nest. Some tried to be oh so discreet about it, and others just yanked, hauled,screamed a lot. Sure was funny to us little guys. Damn, they were only June Bugs! But as the farming died out, along with the fishing, and people moved away from the Island, the fields were slowly given over to the assortment of "trees", shad, bayberry etc. That now infest the Island.
So as I ride around the Island on a sunny Sunday afternoon, in my minds eye I can still see those fields loaded with the daisies, and the possibility that in the near future, some semblance of those fields might again re-appear for all to enjoy as much as my generation did! SO THERE! No politics! TIFN Everett

6 comments:

Sam said...

Now we're feeling a little better! Well, I just nominated you over some wierd blog thingy for Warden - hope you aren't mad.

This was one of the best things ya wrote, better than the Navy stuff. Yes, I was a fire-bug when I was about 12 or so.

But correct me if I'm wrong, Block Island used to have beautiful rolling hills with grass and tilled soil, not all this Bush County crap. Sure, there were some big trees like the chestnut, pine, and others, in stands or around houses for protecton against the north wind, but everyone cut hay or burned the brush. Martha Ball wrote lots about how they used to cut hay on big tracts of land but now the machines sit rusting away, overgrown with poison ivy and trash.

Nowdays folks seem to really like the poison ivy and trash because it offers some privacy and makes for some cool trails like the Maize. Personally, I'd get a Caterpillar hydro-ax and knock down all the crap and then burn it to fertilize it and promote wild flowers on the second year. Think daisies of five kinds!

Too late this year, the plovers left Texas and Florida and will be there soon. But let me say that if you get rid of the high brush, poison ivy, and invasive trash, you'd have less deer, deer ticks, host mice, and so forth. It makes way too much sense for anybody to do. The only thing is, you can't burn poison ivy right away. The fresh poison smoke could kill people with allergies. Prescribed burning can only be done in the fallow months with no rare birds. That's why you wait a year before burning trash with mixed/dead poison ivy.

What they did around the Airport, sad but true with all those dead trees in what was a magical forest, was the right thing to do. It is hard to get folks to believe the whole island, except for certain parts you well know, should get the exact same treatment.

They're too damn proud of their poison ivy and brambles, I guess.
~Sam

Ex-Manissean said...

There you go jogging my childhood memories again. I can remember the tons of daisys and milkweed around in the 60s but mostly gone by the 80s. The bush and brush is a good thing cause if BI was still open fields now,it would look like someone took a big cookie cutter and dropped a pork chop shaped slice of the suburbs in the ocean.

Sam said...

Dude, you're cracking me up ... Block Island is a giant pork chop if you look at a map. I needed that. Folks are getting so darned serious these days, so down and serious about everything. Thanks, Ex-Manissean!

Remember "the other white meat,"
-Sam "chop daddy" Wells

Anonymous said...

It used to be no one needed privacy from their neighbors; their houses were never right on top of one another.

As farms broke up and houses were built, the brush grew up and everyone kind of liked the privacy it offered.

Now we have McMansions with residents who want every inch of their 3 acres manicured, so the brush comes down and the fences go up.

If it weren't for the fences I'd say the island looks better with the crew-cut.

It's too bad no one wants to spoil their view with a tree (a regular tree or two, not the $60,000. variety found out at Southwest Point!), it would be really nice to see some trees.

Sam said...

Have you heard they're trying to bring back the American Elm and the American Chestnut? I'm not too sure if the Elm was ever on Block Island but I grew up in Connecticut (Clinton & Old Saybrook and Essex) where there massive stumps left over from the trees dying of blight - some were over six feet across, it seemed. Of well, do the patriotic thing and buy American!
-Sam

Everett said...

Hey Sam, just a note to clear up a point or two. (I) wasn't the local firebug! He was a guy a lot older than me, but many from my generation will recognize who I was talking about. Yes burning PI can be a deadly affair. Ask Denny Heinz! We almost lost him to that very problem when he was around twelve to fourteen. He was in tough shape for a long ,long time! And in regard to the Enchanted forest,myself and all of the kids frome the school of the late forties early fifties were responsible for actual planting of most of those trees from the end of the airport runway on up the hill. I'm not sure of all the people who were the instigators of the whole thing, but Earl Dodge was the guy handing out the whips,(small trees) and an iron bar to drive hole into the ground. Then you would drop in a whip and step on the side of the hole to compress it around the roots. Two guys working together could put in a hell of a lot of trees in an afternoon. I to am sorry to see them gone, but they were one hell of a fire hazard in the condition they were in at the end.