Islander's Blog

Thanksgiving Leftovers

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“When Black Friday comes, 
I’ll collect everything I’m owed. 
And before my friends find out,
 I’ll be on the road.”
– Steely Dan

We were on the road for Black Friday, visiting family for my favorite holiday. Nobody had spoken about the economy as we sat down to the turkey. As I watched my nephew play high school football, my brother, a surveyor, did say he still had work but was not sure what will happen next. We quickly went back to watching the game.

The economy is becoming this country’s main topic of conversation, and not in an abstract way.

The game itself was pure Thanksgiving Day high school football. The stands were filled. Both teams had marching bands that provided an ongoing soundtrack. The band from the school we were rooting for was selected to play at the Rose Bowl.

My nephew had a dozen tackles from his linebacker position. But in the end a team that was 1-9 was overpowered by a team that is heading to the Super Bowl. Great band, lousy team.

Friday morning the television was filled with people waiting in line for doors to open at shopping malls. Later that afternoon we heard on the radio that a clerk had been trampled to death. The news seemed surreal and I could not get the idea out of my head that somebody was going to have to remember that a loved one had died that way.

This weekend is our own barometer of the economy, the Christmas Stroll.

It is helpful to remember that the Stroll was originally a way to make it easier for islanders to stay home and shop. Then came the idea of extending the season into something called the shoulder season. Now the hope is for one last burst of summer-style spending from summer people.

Years ago I worked on a newspaper in West Virginia coal country. There was a local store from a chain I had never heard of, a sort of very small department store. The week after Thanksgiving, the store put up a Christmas tree and surrounded it with a four-foot chicken-wire fence.

The idea was that you would take a ticket and it would say boy or girl and age, so that you could buy an appropriate gift. The store would wrap it and you put it under the tree. By Christmas the gifts were piled to the top of the fence.

Now this was a very poor place, where unemployment was close to an all-time high. But just about everyone knew somebody worse off than they were and they dug into their pockets.

The contrast between that West Virginia reality and the fur coats and big money that I shared a flight from Hyannis with, as I made my way back to the island, was stunning.

Things are different this year, of course, and getting an influx of dollars into the cash registers of local merchants is a step in the right direction.

Deer season began this week, and somebody already got shot. Fortunately it was not fatal. The island’s very first deer season, in 1935, was brought to a halt when a man named George Sylvia was accidentally shot and killed. Then-Governor James Michael Curley stepped in and canceled the season.

It was a season filled with controversy. To begin with, the deer had been seen as a sort of wild petting zoo, ever since they arrived. So hunting them was not everyone’s idea of sport.

Most people know the story of how the deer got here. In 1922 some commercial fishermen picked up a buck they came across swimming in the sound, and released him into the wild on Nantucket. Four years later a man named Breckinridge Long had two does shipped here and let them free. Before long there was a deer herd.

Deer hunting meant driving out into the moors just before dawn or just at dusk, sitting quietly for a while, then turning on the car lights to see if there were any deer nearby. People were outraged when the state decided to allow for an open season on deer, and hunters from the mainland began to arrive.

These says there is just as much discussion over the fate of the herd, but now it centers around deer as carriers of Lyme disease.

And “Old Buck,” the original deer who was fished out of the ocean? He was hit by a car on the Polpis Road and killed in 1932.
– John Stanton

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