West Tisbury: Finding a place of sanctuary


This morning I looked at an online map of coronavirus spread, and was shocked at the thick red areas covering much of our country. Mike and I continue to be surprised at how few people we see on the evening news, and even around the Island, who are wearing masks. All this is making me feel terribly discouraged. Americans have even been denied entry by E.U. countries because of the continued rampant spread of the virus here. Every day brings another example of something I never would have imagined or expected to see.

I have to admit that I am learning a lot about our Constitution, our system of government, and our history. I read an article about how Mount Rushmore came about, a scheme to attract tourists to buck up the economy after miners during the Gold Rush took over much of South Dakota from the Lakota Sioux, land that was given by our government for their reservation when the tribe was forced from their former lands to what was then considered land no one would care about. Then Mount Rushmore was taken from them without permission, too. Gutzon Borglum wasn’t drawn to this project as an entirely artistic commission either. It’s so interesting that we, in 2020, are learning about the terrible injustices over our history as a nation. My 1950s education is certainly making a poor showing.

There were a few black families in Ridgefield when I was growing up, and they felt like just themselves, part of the community. They lived in perfectly nice houses or apartments, not unlike the rest of us. I never thought of anyone as being separate from everyone else. Booker Jackson Sr. was our mailman. His son and daughter worked in my parents’ drug store before they went off to college. So did Joanie Allen, who was white. The Hills, the Webbs, the Farmers, they were people we knew who lived in town. (See note at the end.)

Once again, all this weighs on my spirit as we continue social distancing and staying mostly at home. My home and my yard continue to be my sanctuary from the world and whatever is happening out there. How lucky I am to have this when so many others are suffering through this pandemic.

I am grateful for the cooler temperatures this summer. The weather has been more like August than June or July. We wake up to ground-foggy mornings that gradually break into blue skies and sunshine by afternoon. It has been comfortable in the house with just a small fan to blow the air around.

I am happy to tell everyone about the birth of Skyler Rose Wallcox on June 16. Her parents are Hilary and Brian Wallcox. Hilary will think me remiss if I don’t mention that many of us in West Tisbury remember her in a baby seat on the counter at Alley’s when her mother, Diane Wall, was at work. I miss those informal days in town, before so many regulations. Even before coronavirus. Remember Lambert, the Partons’ store cat, who hooked bags of cat chow off the shelf whenever he was hungry? Babies probably wouldn’t be allowed on counters anymore, either. Dear Skyler, you are coming into a different world. I welcome you with open arms and an open heart, and promise we will all do our best to give you the happiest childhood. I can’t wait to love you as I loved your mom and Aunt Tessa, and to make lots of memories together.

My friend, Blue Cullen, mentioned the other day her dismay watching the bench being removed from Alley’s porch. Now that the store is open, the porch crowd had assumed they would be back drinking coffee and watching the world go by from the familiar perch. Spread out more and wearing masks, of course. Mike often brought a chair for when the bench filled up, so we could have managed. And we are all sensible adults. Not to be.

I am sounding so gloomy. Please forgive me. I will try to recover my good humor by next week, but this column is meant to reflect life in our town. This is life in the uncertainty of this moment.

A passing of the torch occurred last week when Bill Haynes retired as plumbing inspector. Bill has served our town his whole adult life. Besides plumbing inspector, he has been fire chief, EMT (both he and Betty), chairman of the Paths Beside the Roads Committee, a member and officeholder of the Ag Society, and generally willing to help out when asked. A totally good guy. He and Betty passed on the commitment-to-service gene to both their children, Janice and Bruce. Now Bruce’s son, Nathaniel, is a member of the Fire Department, too. Thank you, Bill, for being a good citizen and a good friend.

Sad news that we have lost Mary French, who died at home on June 29. Mary was a wonderful artist and a wonderful person. I was so glad to have known her and George. Condolences to Ellen and Doyle, and to all who will miss Mary.

(I am embarrassed to admit that I am all that black people think of clueless white people. I couldn’t remember the Webbs’ name, so emailed my brothers to ask. They both responded with the name, and the comment that they both thought there had been racist incidents in Ridgefield. Mike sent an article from the Ridgefield Historical Society that shocked me. I had no idea. I am including the link to this story in case anyone wants to read it (bit.ly/2BII0Ho).

Jack Sanders was an editor of the Ridgefield Press, our local newspaper, and, I just learned, has written several books about Ridgefield, as well as Old Ridgefield columns for the Press. He wrote about these racist incidents in one of his books, “Wicked Ridgefield.”)

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.