Bobbie Wayne's Blog
War and Peace
Yesterday was overcast but pleasant so Dan, Liberty and I walked through "old town,"which is full of 17th and 18th c. houses built when Marblehead was primarily a fishing village. We trek uphill on a narrow, crooked street where the pink and purple cosmos have overgrown their tiny plots. Liberty zig-zags from one side of the street to the other, blocking me with her leash. Built on granite outcroppings, (not marble), many of the town's houses look like blocks tossed by a child, placed every which-way. Some face each other, others are diagonal to the rest. The houses themselves are crooked; built to fit on the rock beneath them with acute or oblique angled walls as the builder saw fit. Crooked cobblestones form driveways and paths. The houses are close to each other with small yards. Many of the owners were mariners, away on the sea for months at a time. These were no farmers. Some homes still nail the dried tails of tuna they caught on their wooden doors.
We stroll through Crocker park, high above Marblehead harbor. The Neck, a small barrier of land across the harbor where the extremely well-heeled live and play shimmers through the haze like a mirage. Hundreds of boats bob in the harbor. With a fair wind blowing, the sailboats are out in force, weaving in and out of yachts as they make their way out towards the harbor's mouth. People on benches watch a school of little sailboats milling about the instructor's boat chaotically, like a flock of disorganized white geese. Leaving the park we follow Front Street past more orderly sea captains' houses, each bearing a small plaque identifying the year it was build, the owner and his profession. Townspeople and their kids are out, taking in the last of the season's warm weather. Everyone, even tourists, says "Hi," as we pass. The Landing and the Barnacle, the two restaurants in town which overlook the harbor, are packed. As we approach Fort Sewell, overlooking the harbor's entrance, the sidewalk runs along the water. A yellow
lobster trap sits atop the stairs that lead to what is, at low tide, a rocky beach with little dinghies anchored offshore.
We enter the lower parade: a grassy field that rises up to a sidewalk lined with benches where people have a good view of the boats going out on the sea. The upper parade looks down a rocky cliff to the ocean, where 18th c. soldiers would have kept a keen eye out for invaders. A British cannon now stares out over the water. General George Patton's schooner, the When and If, can be seen out past Cat island, with its load of tourists on board.
Since dogs must be leashed, we have joined two thirty foot lines which we fasten to Liberty's collar. Like Marley's ghost, she trails the leash with her on the lower parade as she streaks after our frisbee. An off-leash dog barges over, wanting to play. Liberty ignores him; all senses fixed on the frisbee. I explain to the owner that my dog takes this job very seriously and will defend her territory against an interloper. He is unimpressed. His dog, younger and larger than Liberty jumps on her once more. She seizes him by his ruff. The irresponsible man, who still hasn't collected his dog, frowns at Liberty. I consider leaping on his back if he touches her, but he just stalks away, offended.
Switching Liberty's leash, we climb the hill to the high parade, and look out at the Atlantic. We walk back passing the 1735 house Vice President Elbridge Gerry once occupied. We are near our car when we pass a British flag hanging from a stately house. Across the narrow street on an equally lovely home hangs a yellow flag with a rattler in striking position. "Don't Tread on Me," it reads. It was first inspired by Benjamin Franklin's illustration in the Pennsylvania Gazette, where the snake was chopped up into various pieces, each representing a colony. The caption read, "Unite or Die." The flag was meant to unite the colonies during the French and Indian War but was later adopted during the Revolution.
"How eager we are to fight each other," I think, recalling the man in Fort Sewell and his dog. "Perhaps we need a new flag. It can still read, "Unite or Die, but for once, let's leave out the snake.
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