Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


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A round of golf in the summer can be pretty pricey but there are ways to lower the cost.

President Barack Obama, shown here on the first day of his 2013 vacation at Farm Neck Golf Course in Oak Bluffs, is among the many Island visitors who spend time on the links on Martha's Vineyard. — File photo by Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald

Affordable golf. On Martha’s Vineyard? In the summer? Actually, yeah. In fact, there’s even an inexpensive option.

Island golf courses appear to have constructed a fee schedule designed to maximize income during the season and still provide affordable in-season golf to a pretty passionate group of year-round Island golfers who hold a resident membership in one of the Island’s many clubs and visitors able to play at off-peak times. Affordable off-season and winter memberships are offered by Edgartown and by Mink Meadows. Off-season rates at Island courses are in line with off-Island courses.

One might think the five courses here would probe the outer limits of pricing as Island purveyors sometimes do. But that’s not the case with golf.

Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs and the Edgartown Golf Club have not raised prices in years, and while in-season midday rates are zesty, $160 at Farm Neck, reading the small print can get you on for just a few dollars more than nearby off-Island public courses charge in-season. Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown is a members-only club and doesn’t have public play or rates.

Courses in upscale communities such as Pembroke, Wayland, and Scituate feature greens fees with a cart in the $60-70 range for 18 holes. Pinehills in Plymouth, a top-quality course, gets $100-110 for 18 holes and a cart in season and charges about the same as Farm Neck and Edgartown for early and late day rounds. Mink Meadows is less expensive than Pinehills for off-peak tee times.

You can play Farm Neck early in the day for as little as $80, half its midday in-season rate. Edgartown plays all day for $70, though you need to play a round with a member before earning three additional rounds at that price without a member present. Mink Meadows in Tisbury offers 18 holes for $95, with a cart for $113, midday in-season, but you can play nine early for $35, or $46 with a cart. Play nine late in the day for $45, $56 with a cart at Mink.

“I think Island golf fees are reasonable,” Mark Hess, general manager at Edgartown Golf Club said this week. “Our rates have remained the same for about five years. And relative to resort areas, golf rates here are really reasonable. Go to Hilton Head [S.C.]: you’re looking at $150 or more easily. There are fair rates out there and you ought to be able to get on. The number of Island golf courses is sufficient to meet demand.”

Farm Neck is humming along nicely, head pro Don Costello said. “Our rates have been unchanged for three years,” he said. “Greens fees at other top-rated resorts are two or three times higher than ours. The number of rounds are up this season. Our pro shop does a good volume of business. We have top brands and we’re less expensive than the (golf) warehouses. We see it as a service for Island golfers for their clubs and equipment.”

But the hands-down most affordable, and probably the coolest golf experience you’ll ever have, is offered by The Ancient and Honorable Chappaquiddick Links (AHCL) on North Neck Road on Chappaquiddick.

This 105-year old course was built by and is maintained by descendants of the Marshall family which owns the property and attendant buildings. It’s nine holes, and a classic Chappy experience. Featuring two par 4s and seven par 3s, the 1,325 yard beauty wends its way along the Cape Poge Bay shoreline. The family maintains the rustic course as a matter of love.

“No, it’s not a moneymaker,” said Brad Woodger, who manages and maintains the course for the family. The AHCL, also known as the Island Ball Watchers Society, is real golf presented in a droll, understated Island way.

It’s a private club, which actually means pretty much anyone can play at a rate of $40 a round, though recognized Islanders often get a discount. There is still be an honor box for off-season golfers. Sir Reginald the Crow is the course mascot and logo-bearer and keeps an eye on all things golf. The Ancient and Honorable is reluctantly up for sale by the family. Golf course, main house, outbuildings and 18 acres for $12.5 million. No buyer yet.

Mr. Hess and Mr. Costello play Chappy and enjoy it. “It’s really a fun course and golf doesn’t come any more affordably,” Mr. Costello said.

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William Waterway's new book honors the Gay Head Light.

“Gay Head Lighthouse: The First Light on Martha’s Vineyard,” by William Waterway, The History Press. 159 pages, $19.99.

The Gay Head Light will likely be pulled back from the precipice yet again.

Right now it stands only 50 feet from the eroded Gay Head cliff’s edge, but a group dedicated to saving the 215-year old beacon have found the Island icon a new home 150 feet away. The Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee ( has in hand more than half the $3 million needed to move and restore the lighthouse.

Now comes William Waterway (Marks) with a slim volume about the lighthouse, which has survived attacks from nature and from bureaucracy in its lifetime. What we also get from the Gay Head Light story is a macro view of the country’s post-Revolutionary history and a micro view of up-Island life as it was lived in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in the words of the people who lived then.

Turns out the care and safety of Gay Head Light has been a mission for Mr. Waterway for nearly four decades, which led him to personally pay for its upkeep for several years. Mr. Waterway founded the Vineyard Environmental Research Institute (VERI), the first U.S. civilian entity to be awarded the care and feeding of lighthouses from the U.S. Coast Guard. VERI has a 35-year lease dating from 1986 with care for the East Chop and Edgartown lights also included.

Mr. Waterway’s mission has led him to ferociously research the lighthouse, its Aquinnah community and people. Scholarly and commendable work.

If Aquinnah has always felt exotic to you, annual town meeting hijinks aside, Mr. Waterway’s text sheds some light. Until South Road was extended to Gay Head in 1931, there was no paved road to the light. For more than 100 years, travelers could only traverse the last five or six miles on foot or horseback.

And when they got there, hot showers did not await. Nor did electricity. Aquinnah was the last town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be hooked up. Here’s some perspective: when you and I were rockin’ to Dick Clark and “American Bandstand” on TV in the 1950s, Aquinnah was a-twitter about the arrival of electricity. The lighthouse was electrified first, but only after Elsie Grieder, the lighthouse keeper’s wife, wrote to President Harry S. Truman to scold him about conditions at the light. Truman always promised that “the buck stops here,” and he was as good as his word.

The Gay Head Light was literally isolated from the remainder of an isolated island, with the responsibility of making safe passage for mariners navigating the ship-eating Devil’s Bridge, an underwater ridge that extends out from Gay Head toward Cuttyhunk.

Mr. Waterway gives evidence, through correspondence and in conversation with lighthouse and Wampanoag tribal elders, of the difficulties of being a lighthouse keeper in Gay Head. There was limited potable water: a trek to a fresh spring a mile away was the best answer. Firewood to heat the light and the keeper’s house was shipped in by boat.

The lighthouse lens refracted light from 14 lamps fueled by whale oil, creating smudge on the lenses and windows and the need to clean the lens and window surfaces constantly. Our 19th century national government knew Gay Head was critical to marine passage in the golden age of sail and that Vineyard waters were among the most traveled and dangerous in the world.

Still, when first keeper Ebenezer Skiff petitioned for a raise from $200 per annum in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson had to approve a $25 increase. Skiff’s later petitions for raises, and a horse and wagon to fetch water, required the attention of presidents Madison, Monroe, and John Q. Adams. Gay Headers were chatting with the White House 200 years ago. Can’t make this stuff up.

The arrival of “Gay Head Lighthouse” ought to aid fundraising for the preservation of Gay Head Light, but not just because it’s really old and a premier Island visual treat, but also because it is a symbol of the character of eight or nine generations of Islanders who have kept its light burning.

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— Photo courtesy of Veranda Publis

“Bandstand, The Search for the Oak Island Gold” by Jib Ellis, Veranda Publishing, 2014, 390 pages, $16.95, available at Bunch of Grapes (Vineyard Haven), Edgartown Books, and at area libraries.

We all enjoy a perfectly-prepared bon mot.

In “Bandstand, The Search for Oak Island Gold,” long-time Island resident Jib Ellis serves up bushels of them, reason enough to read this reckless, funny, and literate novel about a hunt for 600-year-old treasure in Nova Scotia, of all places.

There’s more. “Bandstand” is a well-plotted story of five people who embark on a treasure hunt of two kinds. The nominal expedition is to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, a real place, in which Vikings, Knights Templar, and pirates of various stripes are rumored to have buried their loot, including the ever-popular Holy Grail and the answer to the Shakespeare or Francis Bacon controversy. The hidden treasure notion has attracted treasure hunters since 1795. Naturally, the local populace now offer an annual festival during which fortunes are presumably found in tourist wallets.

The fallback treasure hunt is the team’s group-funding Internet gambit in which memberships are sold, offering the opportunity to buy lottery chances for a share of the swag. Mr. Ellis told The Times, the 200-year effort to unearth Nova Scotian buried treasure “is a philosophical challenge, not an engineering challenge.” When you learn what Team Ryder’s map is, you’ll understand. “The book is not autobiographical, the characters are bits and pieces of people I’ve known along the way,” he said.

Mr. Ellis’s characters are authentic, individual — a few just this side of needing institutional care — but all resembling people and personalities we know that we know but just can’t place. Good stuff here: it’s got depth and it’s funny.

Ryder, the protagonist, is a 42-year-old rich guy who lives near East Chop. He loves boats, women, and not doing much. He understands the Island and its people.

Ryder is also having an affair of the heart with Charlotte Rosen, a snappy, gorgeous, age-appropriate, AA-loving attorney who is well aware of The First Law Of The Sisterhood: Men Are Not As Smart As Us. Ryder also knows this is true and he doesn’t care. He does believe that true love is balm to his semi-broken heart. Mr. Ellis delivers well-defined characters, each with its own clearly-described neurosis.

There’s Fitzroy, the Jamaican B-school genius; and Daniel, an Island Native-American computer wonk. Finally, there is Benson, a giant falstaffian character, Friar Tuck with a mean streak. Ryder, Fitzroy, and Benson met at Columbia and have remained pals.

While he has morphed himself into a Druid bard as we meet him, Benson’s career specialty is black ops. How black, you ask? So black that he doesn’t work for Uncle Sam. He works for a secret company that works for Uncle Sam.

Benson is my favorite. Everyone should have a Benson. Mine was Tom Trainor. Benson and Trainor shared remarkably similar attributes: staggeringly big, socially tone-deaf, limited impulse control, dangerous at rest, and extremely dangerous when provoked.

In our youth, Trainor enjoyed strolling into college bars to announce that he was “six-foot-five, 265 pounds of rompin’, stompin’ destruction.” Oh, the fun that ensued. Tom’s great heart blew up in Costa Rica 15 years ago while on a spiritual mission to establish a bar for workers in the Brazilian rain forest. I am not making this up.

Spirits like these are rare and they are irresistible, given the Prufrockian lives most of us lead. So despite documented knowledge of painful consequences, we go into the bar with them anyway. Thus, Ryder and his team make Benson their advance treasure scout. Ryder and the team knew better and they did it anyway. Gotta love it.

Mr. Ellis knows his pirates and his history. Norsemen and Europeans were rattling around the east coast eons before Cabot and Columbus. Ancient Irish were here in the sixth century.

This is a fiction, but also a story woven from strands of real history combined with research and generally logical projections. I have always seen pirates as ill-intentioned snowbirds, obsessed with tropical climates but the pirate rock stars (Blackbeard, Black Bart, et. al.) were here. One of them, trotting off the gallows, confessed that he had buried loot in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Ellis’s short bio reveals a varied writing past. He uses the language beautifully, delivered in a wry humorous style that indicates wisdom born of long experience with our often sketchy human condition. “Bandstand” is a shade longer than it needs to be and features, well, odd cover art. Of particular note was my reaction to occasional but startling deviations from structure, syntax, and punctuation. After a few outbreaks, I found myself saying, “Well, that’s Ryder for ya.” When the author can make you believe the character screwed it up, you got some writing, brotha.

“Bandstand” has its own personality. Leo Kottke wrote the principal blurb. Mr. Kottke has made a virtuoso musical career from blending disparate styles into a seamless whole. He understood “Bandstand.”

One Larry Miller wrote the other blurb. Mr. Miller is not identified but we assume he is not the right-handed pitcher who enjoyed virtually no success in a brief major league career.

Mr. Miller weighs in with the thought that “F. Scott Fitzgerald lied. There are second acts. Jib Ellis and Bandstand are living proof.” Good news for those of us who maybe didn’t knock ‘em dead in the first act.

Author’s Talk with Jib Ellis, 7pm, July 30, Edgartown Library. For more information, call 508-627-4221. Mr. Ellis will also appear at Islanders Write, a one-day literary event sponsored by The MVTimes and Arts & Ideas Magazine. His book will be available for sale there, along with other independent authors Amelia Smith, Michael West and Tom Dresser.

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Do the best tee and eat for free

Net Result owner Louis Larsen, left, with Evonne Kelly and son Andrew Larsen show off past anniversary t-shirts. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated Wednesday, August 6 at 4:38 pm.

Okay, let’s get real and ask ourselves some tough questions.

For example, what would you do with 40 free lobsters?

Or 45 pounds of scallops?

How about 62 pounds of swordfish?

Buckle up, folks, ‘cuz someone will be faced with decisions like that. The catch is you have to design the best tee-shirt in celebration next year of the 30th anniversary of The Net Result, the premier seafood emporium, on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.

Remember, the opportunity to win a $1,000 grand prize gift certificate to the Result doesn’t happen every time the tide rolls in. In fact, this is the first time proprietor Louis Larsen, a third-generation Island fisherman, has had a design competition for the Net Result signature tees, which have been around in several iterations for 29 years.

Mr. Larsen told the Times last week that the contest is underway but still in formative stages, a tried and true Island strategy. There will be prizes for runners-up and eventually, there will be official entry blanks, courtesy of Ms. (Beth) Larsen, a steady hand on the Larsen organizational tiller.

“Our 30th anniversary is July 4th, 2015, so it’s a year away, but we wanted to get going early so summer people could participate. After all, we do the majority of our business in July and August,” Mr. Larsen said. The popularity of the signature tees, which change design and slogan every five years or so, seems unending.

“I remember making up 1,500 of them one time, to give away on the anniversary. When people saw them around, they wanted them, so we had to reorder. We sell ‘em for 10 bucks or so,” he said, noting, “I got a call once from a guy in Washington, D.C., asking for a shirt. He said he was reading the copy on the back of the 25th anniversary shirt on the customer in front of him but she left before he could finish reading it. So I shipped one out to him.

The front of The Net Result's 20th anniversary shirt.
The front of The Net Result’s 20th anniversary shirt.

“We’re just looking for the best catchy slogan to put on our 30th anniversary tee-shirts. We’ll be in business 30 years on July 4th, 2015,” he said. The winning slogan should reference seafood, he noted, adding that prior tee slogans include: “20 years and now we’re cooking,” a classic tee that featured a lobster cooking a clam, in honor of the introduction of a prepared takeout menu; and most recently, “25 years of casting our best lines,” which came with 25 fishing-related lines on the back (that the guy from D.C. just had to finish reading).

You can enter as often as you wish; you don’t have to buy anything, and if you don’t have a piece of paper, staffers have plenty of pens and fish wrap on hand. For now, your slogan, name, phone number will do just fine. Deadline for entries is…a long way off.

“We’ve had one-sided and two-sided tees. Depends on what we come with. Generally our logo is on the front and the saying on the back. We’re looking for some inspiration,” he said.

Here are a few clues, in addition to past tees pictured here, to get your creative juices going;

Larsens know fish. Mr. Larsen’s grandfather, Daniel Larsen, a Norwegian immigrant, started the family business at the turn of the 20th century. Louis Larsen Sr., father of Louis and Dan, who operates Edgartown Seafood, was a recognized pioneer sword fisherman and proprietor of Larsen’s Seafood market, now operated by his daughter Betsy in Menemsha. Mr. Larsen died in March, 2014 at 88 years.

The back of The Net Result's 20th anniversary shirt.
The back of The Net Result’s 20th anniversary shirt.

Larsens are authentic people. When an errant driver crashed into The Net Result last winter, the family repaired the damage themselves. “We have insurance but it was close to Good Friday, which is an important fish day on the Island,” Mr. Larsen said. “We didn’t want to wait. People expected us to be open.”

Larsens are go with the flow Islanders. “We opened on July 4, 1985,” Mr. Larsen recalled. “It had nothing to do with the holiday. I was up in Boston waiting for my licenses to come through. They were granted on July 3, so I hustled back and opened the next day.”

So fire up the right brain and get cracking. And don’t worry, you don’t have to use the gift certificate all at once. And if you struggle with decision-making, you can always go with 200 pounds of cole slaw.



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Painting A Life, Ray Ellis: An Artist Seen Through His Work, 192 pages, 159 paintings, Compass Prints, Savannah, Georgia, 2014

Before his death in 2013, the painter Ray Ellis had resided full-time on Martha’s Vineyard for more than three decades, and as a public symbol he is as recognizable as Gay Head Light and the gingerbread cottages.

We observed him as a genial and gentle man, a nationally recognized artist, and so generous a donor of his valuable work to Island fundraising causes that he became one of our community’s largest contributors. Fewer of us knew Mr. Ellis’s backstory and his ferocious instinct for survival as an artist and as a man in the social and artistic turbulence of America in the 20th century.

For that perspective, we are indebted to Island writer CK Wolfson, who has given us a gem, a complete story, based on careful research and extensive, candid conversations with Mr. Ellis before his death.

What we get in “Painting A Life” is a boisterous saga of a man who persevered, falling and getting up again and again through The Great Depression, World War II, and enough death, disillusionment, and financial setbacks for two lifetimes. We learn that it took Mr. Ellis almost two-thirds of his life to achieve his simple goal: to paint without distraction.

Coffee table books typically deserve their reputation as the Chinese food of really expensive literature. Accompanying text often is as glossy as the pages. “Painting A Life” is not one of those. For one thing, it only costs $45, the in-season equivalent of two cheeseburgers and a couple sodas.

For another, the book is a valuable reading experience. While it appears to be a definitive collection of Mr. Ellis’s work — with more than 175 sketches, cartoons, portraits, and still lifes from way stops in his much-traveled life — this is a story of life lived to the fullest in pursuit of conviction.

Not that there weren’t pitfalls and distractions, including service in World War II, the death of his first wife after a long struggle with alcoholism, raising four children, and the siren song of business success that led to bankruptcy.

Mr. Ellis kept on painting, developing his style regardless of the period’s art fashion from Art Deco, Modernism, and the flinging of paint on blank canvasses. And it worked. Six thousand paintings worth that hang in galleries, museums, and in private collections all over the world.

If you are an artistic knuckle-dragger, as I am, you will be amazed before you are halfway through reading “Painting A Life.”

As a result of the honest narrative and paralleling selections of work for each period of Mr. Ellis’s life, you will begin to know the man and see his struggles and successes right there on the canvasses. Very cool experience. Ms. Wolfson and Treesa Germany, director of Compass Point and the Ray Ellis Gallery, have done a great service to Mr. Ellis. He and they have provided readers with a spate of clear and useful life lessons and cautionary tales in the unvarnished telling of his tale.

We learn that Mr. Ellis was not your reclusive artist swathed in angst but very much a man of the world. He spent much of his life in the advertising business to generate coin for the family. If you’ve been in that business — or watched Mad Men — you know that the advertising agency business is not a breeding ground for high principles, loyalty, and the like. It almost got him, but he kept on painting.

Mr. Ellis completed his work on the book before his death. He is much-quoted and his words, offered with pure candor about the business of living, have an Olympian cast today, barely a year later.

Here’s my favorite. “It isn’t the circumstances that control the results. It’s what goes on inside your head, despite what’s going on outside.” The book is replete with these gems, polished and buffed hard after 92 years of living.

It seems to me that Ray Ellis’s life is his gift to us as much as his art is. Read his story.

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Mikey Waters, aka “The Ring Whisperer,” finds another one.

Heidi Renneker poses with her savior and wedding-ring-finder Michael Waters. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Heidi Renneker sat on a bench in Edgartown last Wednesday afternoon and stared at the diamond wedding ring on her left hand, winking in the summer sun. “No,” she said softly. “No, I didn’t think we’d ever see it again. I thought it was gone.”

On June 25, Ms. Renneker, her husband, Todd and their cherubs, Elsa (3), Jack (5), and Ava (8), were half way through their annual week on the Vineyard, playing catch in the water on State Beach.

“I threw the ball and my ring just flew off my hand and disappeared into the water. This ring fits perfectly. It’s never come off,” she said. The Rennekers watched, aghast, as the priceless third-generation heirloom ring arced away, then disappeared into three feet of water.

Heidi Renneker shows off the ring Michael Waters found.
Heidi Renneker shows off the ring Michael Waters found.

Two things happened almost  immediately. First,”Todd said, ‘Don’t move! We’ll find it,’” Ms. Renneker recalled. Then the soft summer day suddenly turned ugly. Wind, chop and slashing rain came up, hampering, then ending, their groping search after 30 minutes.

Enter the “Ring Whisperer” aka Michael Waters of Edgartown.  “We went back to our rental place and I just started Googling. Nothing under ‘metal detectors,’ so I Googled everything I could think of, and under ‘lost rings’ I saw a story in your paper (“Facebook leads to Mikey Waters and newlywed’s lost wedding ring,” MV Times, July 17, 2013)about Mikey finding a ring last year,” Ms. Renneker said.

“He called back almost immediately,” she said, turning to Mr. Waters, sitting quietly on the bench, enjoying the story. Mr. Waters had just returned the beloved ring to Ms. Renneker, accompanied by the kids and her mom, Linda Raveis, all of whom came back to the Island on Wednesday for the reunion.

“I could just tell from her voice how devastated she was,” Mr. Waters said. “So we went to State Beach that day and they showed me the area. I was going to find that ring for her.” A born and bred Islander, Mr. Waters knows the waters and currents hereabouts.

“The storm was in full force then. I had to wait for it to settle down, so I marked off a grid, set a couple of red landscaping flags on the dunes, where they’d stay put until the weather let up,” he said. Mr. Waters searched the beach near the tide line while he was waiting, to see if the ring had washed up.

Michael Waters, left, with Heidi Renneker and her kids (from left) Elsa, Ava and Jack.
Michael Waters, left, with Heidi Renneker and her kids (from left) Elsa, Ava and Jack.

The weather took its time letting up and the Rennekers departed several days later for their Wayland home without the ring, but with Mr. Waters’s commitment. “He kept telling me, ‘We’re going to find it’ and I could just tell he wouldn’t give up,” Ms. Renneker recalled. “This has been a wonderful life experience. I didn’t know people like Mikey were still around, who would make this kind of effort for complete strangers.”

Mr. Waters is a buoyant, understated man of middle height. His eyes dance, giving a hint of the leprechaun about him. Ring-finding is not his business; he just lucked into it, so to speak. Like most working Island residents, Mr. Waters has multiple jobs, as a truck driver and machinist for Goodale Construction Company in Oak Bluffs, and operating Creative Concrete Designs, a home-based business specializing in patios and driveways.

Being the Ring Whisperer is a feel-good avocation. He has no fees or rates, will accept a reward if offered, and often a reward is offered. Would he do it for nothing?  “Yeah. I’ve done it for nothing,” he said. “Sometimes the object has little financial value, but its meaning is priceless to people. I like that feeling of seeing people reconnect with something important to them.”

So shortly after the Island Home cleared the dock in Vineyard Haven on Saturday morning with the Rennekers aboard, Mr. Waters was back in the water searching, and he unearthed the treasure.

“I’ve found rings before but not in three or four feet of water. I have a scuba-type attachment for the detector and I knew the current had been pushing right so I started at the far right of the grid. And there was a ring like Heidi described, three or four feet from the spot it went in, buried under two or three feet of sand,” he said.

“I knew they had already left, so I took a picture of the ring with my Iphone and sent it to Heidi,” he said.

“When I got the text with the picture and the message ‘Do we have a match?’ I just broke out in goosebumps, then ran screaming to Todd: ‘Mikey found the ring! He found it!,’” she said. Fade to happy pandemonium in Wayland, followed by a joyful reunion of the Rennekers, the ring, and Mikey Waters on Wednesday in Edgartown on the bench next to the courthouse.

Mr. Waters is seven for seven in the ring-finding business and word is getting around via Facebook and Google. “I’ve had four calls in the last two weeks, including the fire chief in Aquinnah (Simon Bollin) reporting that a couple being married at the Outermost Inn had lost one of their rings in the field near the Inn,” he said. “They got married with one ring and I went up the next morning. Hughie [Taylor, proprietor of the inn] had staked off the area. We found it.”

Mr. Waters has had his share of hard times. He went through a difficult health issue several years ago and experienced the Island rallying to him and his family.

If you’ve been to an annual town meeting or the odd selectmen’s meeting, you know that the people who live here can be contrary and stubborn beyond words, but not when it comes to helping out, friend or stranger will step up.

Heidi Renneker’s reaction on Wednesday to a stranger who showed up for her is a reminder that the people who live here are an essential part of the beauty of the place.


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New Book Captures the Artist, the Island and 25 years together.

“An Amazing Story of the Vineyard’s Derby: 25 years of Paintings, History and Fishing” by Ed Jerome and Ray Ellis. Compass Publishing, Savannah. 132 pages, $48. Available at Bunch of Grapes, Vineyard Haven, at Edgartown Books, online, and at Island libraries. A Limited Edition, signed and leather bound, with a Ray Ellis print enclosed, is available through Mr. Jerome for $250; $300 at bookstores.

You probably know a lot about the late Ray Ellis and about the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. At 68 years, the Derby is the Island’s longest running play, but there’s a lot more to be learned about Island fishing history, culture, and about Mr. Ellis, its premier artist. The story is told wonderfully in “An Amazing Story of the Martha’s Vineyard Derby”.

Derby president Ed Jerome and fast friend and internationally-known artist Mr. Ellis, in the final year of his life with a cast of two dozen anglers and wordsmiths, have created the definitive work on Island fishermen and women and about fishing, a primary cultural imperative here.

Never wet a line or staggered to the Derby shed at 9:59 pm to weigh-in before the doors closed? No problem. This book works on a variety of levels and has been crafted lovingly by Mr. Jerome as a showcase of both Mr. Ellis’s considerable artistic talent and his community commitment.

Each of the 25 paintings Mr. Ellis created as a mitzvah to the Derby is reproduced in an 18×24 inch high-quality volume. Sale of the prints of the paintings and the income from their first collaboration, “Fishing The Vineyard,” published in 2000, has produced a staggering $500,000 in scholarships for Island kids since Mr. Ellis put paint to Derby canvas in 1988.

His 26th and final work, an evocative landscape of the Cape Poge Light on Chappaquiddick, is aptly titled “Journey’s End” and is the cover art for the book.

Each of the 25 prints includes a back story by an Island angler about fishing at that spot or an historical footnote, such as the 1998 print “The Harpooner,” accompanied by Arthur Railton’s account of a German submarine’s sinking of the Progress during World War I, leaving Captain Bob Jackson of Edgartown and his crew rowing a dory 50 miles from shore.

Some stories, no matter how often retold, give fishermen a blood rush. Mr. Jerome wrote the story of “Columbus Day Blitz,” a 2000 rendering by Mr. Ellis of a night when huge striped bass ran like bluefish and every cast was a hit. That night has become the ne plus ultra of Island fish tales. Now Mr. Jerome was really there, but, like Carlton Fisk’s 1975 World Series homer, if everyone who believed they were present actually were there, both Fenway Park and Tisbury Great Pond would have sunk below sight.

Other stories remind us of the noble beauty of striped bass, which creates a willingness and respect for them. For example, Derby icon Janet Messineo has a hard and fast rule to release her first bass of the Derby, keepers included. Accompanying “Stripers at Devil’s Bridge (1999),” Cynthia DeFelice writes about the night she caught the largest striper of her life, and then, awed by its power and beauty lying in the shallows, released it.

A look at the contributors to “An Amazing Story …” reminds us that fishing is not a guy thing and its lure cuts across all walks of life. Contributors include a retired ironworker (world striped bass record-holder Charlie Cinto) and Vineyard salts like Everett Poole, Bailey Norton, and Cooper Gilkes, all fishing cheek to jowl with Rhodes scholars (Arthur Gordon) and nationally-known journalists and authors, including Nelson Bryant and Philip Craig.

Contributors include: Spider Andresen, Jeff Dando, Jack Fallon, Chris Kennedy, Mike Laptew, Mark Alan Lovewell, Ms. Messineo, Tom Richardson, Nelson Sigelman, Greg Skomal, Matthew Stackpole, and Bridget Tobin.

Mr. Jerome also sheds light on how the Ellis prints came to be. Turns out that every year in winter, Mr. Ellis and his talented gofer and model, Mr. Jerome, would visit likely fishing sites for the following year’s print. They would gauge tide, time of day, and available light, then skitter across dunes and man-sized boulders to set up the perfect scene, captured first in photography, then in sketch form before Mr. Ellis painted the final scene.

Their willingness to plan resulted in perfect renditions, including “Greeting the Islander (2009),” commemorating the last voyage of the beloved Steamship Authority ferry, which completed 57 years of service in 2007.

“Ray insisted that a recognizable Island landmark be included in every panting so that people who had visited the Island would have a framework to remember their time here,” Mr. Jerome told The Times last week. “One thing that’s special to me is that it’s really a piece of Vineyard history. Twenty-five years of Ray Ellis’s work and its unique place in our history. It was a joy for me to be part of it.” The former Edgartown School principal noted that part of the book’s proceeds will go to the Derby’s scholarship fund.

Edgartown Books will host a book signing event with Mr. Jerome and contributing authors on Friday, July 18, at 5 pm. Edgartown Books is located at 44 Main St. in Edgartown. For more information, call 508-627-8463.

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“The Vineyard We Knew” by Kevin Parham. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, C’est La Vie in Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown Books.

Kevin Parham has written a gem of a memoir about his life as an African-American city kid summering on Martha’s Vineyard in the bucolic 1950s and in the charged 1960s.

This book sneaks up on you. Mr. Parham quietly enfolds the reader into the personalities of his family and friends, particularly his gaggle of siblings, cousins, and himself — initially an unwilling vacationer — as we watch them evolve each summer from children into teenagers under the ever-watchful eye of Nana, before whom Attila the Hun would quail.

Mr. Parham’s work is redolent with minute details of daily summer life on the Vineyard in the late 1950s, a full generation before well-heeled crowds packed the Island. In his introduction, Mr. Parham — a writer and musician who lives in Plymouth with his wife, Olivia — notes that he has had extensive conversations with family and friends to recreate specific events and activities of their coming of age years.

Mr. Parham, an Oak Bluffs summer resident, will discuss “The Vineyard We Knew” on Thursday, July 24, at 6:30 pm at the Oak Bluffs Library.

What we get is an unflinching, unsanitized story, told sequentially through the eyes of a small child, an adolescent, and a coming-of-age teen, overlaid with the perspective of an adult who understands its significance in shaping the person he has become.

Writing through his child’s eye, for example, Mr. Parham employs infinitesimal detail to create an apparently vast physical universe around Nana’s home at 48 Pacific Avenue in Oak Bluffs — just as the world would appear to a six- or seven-year-old.

In fact, his detailed descriptions of the walking and bike routes taken by he and his siblings and friends through fields, woods, fruit orchards, and the cemetery en route to Circuit Avenue, less than a half-mile away, seemed so exotic to me that I went to the site of 48 Pacific Ave. last Sunday morning in an attempt to recreate for myself what that landscape must have looked like 50 years ago.

The neighborhood today is far different from the unheated two-bedroom shacks of Mr. Parham’s youth. I encountered rehabs and new builds with appropriately Spandex-clad inhabitants, but I saw little evidence of the unruly riot of flora and fauna that caught the eye and stimulated the imagination of an urban kid willing himself to live and flourish in an unfamiliar environment.

Nana’s summer roost is long gone, replaced by the Oak Bluffs Library. However, if you pause to sit on the bench at the gazebo next to the library, where 48 Pacific Ave. stood, you will find an inscription on it to Carrie White and Beatrice Parham Hammonds, Mr. Parham’s grandmother and mother.

“The Vineyard We Knew” is also a story of wary, urban African-American kids who discovered the freedom of acceptance, of being one with a polyglot community of cultures and skin tones on an island far removed from a formalized culture of racism 80 miles away in Boston.

Mr. Parham tells us he is glad of that early experience as he managed his way through assassinations, the wars against racism in this country and in Vietnam, and the peace and love movement of blessed memory, including his initial participation in the sexual revolution on the Island during the summer of his 17th year.

This is his first try at authorship. “I wrote the book because I had always shared stories with family and friends of our time on the Vineyard,” he told The Times in a phone conversation last week.

“Really, the book is to honor my mother and my grandmother for what they’d done for us, the sacrifices they made that I only understood as an adult. Maybe I was also hearkening back to a time long-past.

“But I do believe that our experiences as children are definitely a blueprint for the rest of our lives. During childhood, of course, we have no frame of reference about that. No awareness of what’s possible through perseverance.”

Mr. Parham’s willingness to show us his insides — fears, insecurities, and pratfalls — during a youthful decade or more of his life on the Island is authentic and will jog our own memories of the scary growing-up time. If you’re an Islander, his descriptions and references to long-gone people and places here will remind you of a simpler time in your life.

Author’s Talk with Kevin Parham, Thursday, July 24, 6:30 pm, Oak Bluffs Library. For more information, call 508-693-9433.

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A team of 12-year old Martha’s Vineyard Little League all-stars is livin’ the baseball dream this week while competing in a Maryland all-star tournament against 16 other squads from Canada, Michigan, and other eastern seaboard states.

Reporting Tuesday evening from the fabled Ripken baseball complex in Aberdeen, Md., coach Phil Regan was thrilled with the experience his players are having and with their poise and high performance levels playing against the “big guys.”

The “home crowd” Island contingent includes two dozen parents, including four who drove to the event, providing shuttle service to the complex and to special events like Vineyard player Owen Bresnick’s 13th birthday, celebrated this week at a local restaurant.

Mr. Regan was astonished at the physical size of tournament teams. “I’m 6′ 1” and there are 12-year-olds here who are taller than me. I’m not used to seeing 12-year olds with mustaches,” he chuckled. “We are definitely the smallest team in the tournament. When we went to pick up our tournament shirts, we learned that sizes began with men’s small. So that’s what we got and most of the kids are swimming in them.”

On the field, it’s a different matter. Call it the Pedroia Effect, but while the Vineyarders are still looking for their first win after four games, they have been in every game, leading in two contests and taking a one-run lead into the last inning of one game before dropping a squeaker. In the highly-competitive skills competition, the Island kids have finished third and fifth in two double-bracket events.

“They have a double-play competition in which ground balls are hit to each infield position. They have to complete the double-play flawlessly and the shortest elapsed time to complete four double-plays wins. We won our bracket and finished less than three seconds behind the overall winner in the finals,” he said.

The Vineyarders are playing under Little League tournaments rules which call for a larger field, longer base paths and pitching mounds and outfield fences farther from the plate than they have ever played on. The rules allow base-stealing, and balks are called on pitchers.

“The baseball is going great,” Mr. Regan said, noting that the other tournament teams are experienced with the larger field and new rules. “We struggle with stolen bases, we’ve never done it, but we haven’t had any balks called, either. Our kids are adapting quickly.”

A highlight of the week has been the appearance of Tad Gold who plays for the minor league Class A Aberdeen Iron Birds at the complex. A 2010 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and a 2014 graduate of Endicott College, Mr. Gold was named 2014 national division 3 college baseball player of the year before signing with the Baltimore Oriole affiliate last month. Mr. Gold is the first product of Island Little League to sign a professional contract.

“The kids all know Tad,” Mr. Regan said. “He sat in the dugout and brought a teammate, Steve Wilkerson, to cheer us on. We were scheduled to go to one of Tad’s games, but a tornado alert canceled it. We’ll try to get to Lowell in August when they play the Spinners.”

This complex is incredible. There are seven fields, including replicas of Fenway Park with a Green Monster, Wrigley Field (Chicago) with the brick and ivy, and Memorial Stadium, the former Baltimore stadium. We didn’t get a game in Fenway but on Saturday we play on the signature field. It’s a stadium, really, with three or four thousand seats. Jake Howell will start that game.” Jake was the winning pitcher for the Red Sox in the 2014 Island Little League championship game last month.

“The Island community made this happen for the kids,” Mr. Regan said. “The support we have received makes you grateful to be part of this. All these people who took time off during the busiest time of year to come is terrific.” Offering kudos to his employer, Hutker Architects in Vineyard Haven, Mr. Regan added, “Mark (Hutker) has been completely supportive of our involvement in Island Little League.”

Team chemistry is strong, Mr. Regan said, noting that all-star Miles Sidoti is on the DL with a broken hand but made the trip anyway.

Wait ’til next year? “We’ll see. It’s expensive. There is another great tournament in Pittsfield that we’re considering as well.” That camp is operated by western Mass. native Dan Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox and current general manager and executive vice president of the Baltimore Orioles.

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Tad Gold prepares to swing in his first pro start as a member of the Aberdeen Iron Birds. — Bob and Corey Rinker

Tad Gold grounded a hard single to left field on Saturday, July 5, to record his first hit as a professional baseball player. A 2010 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Mr. Gold plays for the Aberdeen Iron Birds of the Class A New York-Penn League, a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, current leaders of the American League East. His inaugural hit came in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a game between the Iron Birds and the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Batter up: the single A Iron Birds are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.
Batter up: the single A Iron Birds are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

Mr. Gold was the national 2014 Division 3 college baseball player of the year as a senior at Endicott College in Beverly, and he played three years as a starting outfielder for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks in the high-quality amateur Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) here.

The FCBL, like the Cape Cod League and other amateur wooden bat summer leagues, offers gifted players an opportunity to showcase themselves to major league scouts. Mr. Gold’s resumé induced the Orioles to draft him in the 32nd of 36 rounds in the major league draft of high school and college players in June. He learned of his draft selection as he was being honored before the Sharks’ home opener in June.

A month later, Mr. Gold finds himself in Aberdeen, Md., in rookie A ball, scrambling for at bats and riding the buses for five or six hours, mostly to scenic small towns in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and a couple of not-so-scenic places like Youngstown, Ohio.

He plays under the intense scrutiny and analysis that Major League Baseball teams apply these days to talent competing to get to “The Show” and multimillion dollar paydays. The NY-Penn League has been in business for 75 years and has seen a troop of major leaguers come through, playing until recent decades in splintery old ballparks with bad lights.

Not today. The increase in popularity of minor league baseball and MLB’s attention to its prospects has created showcase playing grounds. Mr. Gold and the Iron Birds play at state-of-the art Ripken Stadium, created in 2002 by Oriole Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. Its 6,300 seats are generally sold out.

This week, in a happy coincidence, two dozen Island Little Leaguers and entourage will be at Ripken Field to watch the Iron Birds and Mr. Gold.

If you’d Like to watch Mr. Gold and the Birds play locally, mark down August 28-30 when Aberdeen travels to Lowell for a three-game set with the Spinners, a Red Sox affiliate.

The Times caught up with Mr. Gold by phone last week to get his impressions after a month of pro ball. “The routine is similar to playing with the Sharks: we get home late at night, wake up later in the day and back to the ballpark for eight or nine hours,” he said. “The biggest difference from the Sharks is that the competition is a lot tougher and when we go on the road, it’s for a three-game series or more, so you’re sleeping in hotels. It’s cool, though: we got to see the hot dog eating contest when we were in Brooklyn. Their stadium is near Coney Island.”

(For the record, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut won Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog contest for the eighth consecutive year, downing 61 dogs for the $20,000 prize.)

“Baseball is a job,” Mr. Gold said. “There aren’t many off-days, but I’m as excited today as I was the first day I got here. This is a first class organization. Our stadium is amazing. The baseball people are really smart and they bring in roving instructors to work on every facet of the game — hitting, fielding, base running, making cutoff throws. I’m going in early today for bunting work. These coaches are passionate. You can tell they want us to succeed. They’re always bringing up examples of major leaguers who’ve gone through here.”

His first hit felt good. “It felt good to contribute to a win,” he said. “And it was Seinfeld Night at their park so there were like 9,000 people in the stands.”

How does the clubhouse differ between amateur and pro ball. “Ultimately, it’s more like we’re teammates than guys competing to make a living,” he said. “I wondered about that, what the atmosphere would be like. Really, we’re a bunch of 18- to 24-year-olds playing baseball, You know, I always called my managers or coaches ‘coach’ not by name, but it’s all first names here. They emphasize that we are colleagues, co-workers.”

Mr. Gold’s manager is longtime major leaguer Matt Merullo, a third generation Boston-bred baseball family that includes Boston sports legend Lennie Merullo, who, at 97, is the only living man who has played for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series (1945). Matt Merullo’s 19-year old son, Nick, signed with the O’s last month, becoming the fourth generation of Merullos in pro ball.

Life has sped up in several ways for Mr. Gold. “Really good competition. You don’t see a guy who doesn’t throw 90 (mph). I’ve seen 98,99. That’s the adjustment, getting used to the fastball. In college, a guy at 85 was throwing pretty good. Here you’ll see a curve at 85.

“I absolutely know I can play at this level,” he said. “I’m starting to catch up to the fastball and I’m more and more comfortable in the [batter's] box. This is a special time of my life and I try not to lose sight of that.” However his current season turns out, Mr. Gold will return to the Island, at least briefly, after Labor Day when the short Class A season ends. Then, perhaps there will be an assignment for a fall instructional league or a winter at home getting ready for spring training.