Creek and marshes were home

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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Growing up on Jones Creek was enchanting to a boy in the 1950s.

Our farm ended at the headwaters of a small tributary of the creek and didn’t provide access to Jones Creek except on an extraordinary northeaster-driven tide.

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We did have access, though, along a woods path on the adjacent farm. There was a farm landing there, and the mysterious remains of as bridge that had, in what is now forgotten history, tied the farms along either side of Jones Creek together. I have spent hours and hours in search of a local map that shows that bridge, but have not found one. A few years ago, a couple of the pilings were still visible at low tide, and at one time, they were sufficiently intact to show mortise joints at their tops. Somewhere, there almost has to be a map showing that bridge, I have failed to find it.

On the east bank was the Edwards farm, now known as the Oaks and home to Dr. and Mrs. Ryland Edwards. It was where my father and his numerous siblings grew up. On the west bank, in my parents’ time, was a farm was owned by Mae and Olive Branch, spinster sisters and also cousins. They sold the farm on which I grew up to my parents in 1939, and throughout my childhood, the woods path on their adjacent farm was our access to the magical world of a saltmarsh creek.

Tied to a tree at that creek landing was a tiny bateau that my father had built for the express purpose of trapping the marshes of Jones Creek. He was an experienced trapper who had earned a living during the years just prior to the Great Depression by trapping muskrats, otter and mink on Jamestown Island. When he and my mother moved to what became my home place, he continued trapping for some years, and my brother followed him into the trade, using the same tiny boat to paddle the guts of Jones Creek to set and tend traps.

By the time I was old enough to trap, the price of muskrats had plummeted and I never took up the practice. I did learn to love the creek, however. In those days, lush marsh grass bordered the creek and the numerous small tributaries, or guts, as they were known.

Whenever there was an extra high tide, I would explore various parts of the creek in the bateau, sitting in the bow and paddling the boat stern-first, as I had been taught to do. It handled easier and could turn sharper than any canoe I’ve ever used.

What I wanted more than most anything back then was a sailboat, which was not in the family budget. So, at about age 10, I tried to turn our tiny bateau into a square-rigged sailboat. With a willing friend, I rigged a small piece of canvas on a strip of wood, tied that to a longer piece — a “mast,” you will — and headed for the creek.

My friend held the mast and sail in place amidships while I steered the boat from the stern with a canoe paddle. It actually sailed downwind a bit, or more accurately, was blown downwind. The old boat disappeared while I was away at college. It had been tied quite securely to a pine tree in a tiny gut next to “our” landing, and I always suspected somebody felt they needed it more than I did at that point and simply paddled it away.

I doubt that whoever took it ever enjoyed it as much as I had.