This sketch was written by Caroline Barrett Baumhart in 1994:
For many happy summers, my brother rented a five bedroom cottage, perfectly situated on a finger of earth between the ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway in Summer Haven where we lived the carefree life of beach bums, operating a small hotel. It was routine and necessary to do a house count each morning to feed whomever was going deep sea fishing with the Captain or those who just came for R & R for a night or two – male or female – sleeping wherever they could curl up.
Everything was idyllic. Bubba, my brother, provided a well stocked larder which the grocer delivered. The laundry truck came once a week to collect and deliver our clean needs and at our disposal was his Karman Ghia convertible, Chris Craft runabout, row boat with outboard motor, plus any kind of fishing gear to catch all the gifts from the water if one was lucky – fish, clams, oysters, conchs, and shrimp. Sitting on the porch, a 20-cup coffee urn brewed our life’s blood – only out of operation when we slept.
My brother’s month-long vacation each year was the only way to be with his family. It began when the children were young. The girls – Denise, Maura, and Suzy about seven and Billy perhaps three – extending into their teens. Mother was the Major Domo with Bubba and I pulling up the loose strings, getting bait, fixing fishing line, and keeping tabs on the three girls, the neighbors three boys, and protecting busy little Billy from serious sunburn or falling off the dock. The real wheel that made all the magic was our cheerful black jewel, Eloise, who was a marvelous cook. She arrived each morning via bus from town and each night someone would drive her home either by car or boat. The day’s uniform was a night shirt with robe or a bathing suit making the laundry detail real easy.
My other brother, Cob, and his family then lived in Jacksonville. Their daughter, Lisa, was then about a year old. They would visit often with relatives from Savannah. Two other families who owned cottages in the Cove were there each summer – the Duponts and the Zaharias – who had children our girls ages. This association was a very pleasant one for both adults and all the children.
|Marjorie Barrett and Caroline Baumhart
The day’s activities naturally were water-involved. As they grew older, water skiing and a boat ride for a treat at Marineland – all looking like little Indians chucking down the river – added to our fun. To add competition to the busy days and entertainment for the evening, we had a ceremonial each night after dinner. On an old string mop stick placed in the flag brackets on the edge of the front porch, we would hang the underpants of the one who brought in the catch of the day. This was truly a great and coveted reward accompanied by sacred rites. With lighted candles on the serving table, the winner filled a bowl of river water to bless the luck one. Next everyone would form a line with dish pans, pots, and spoons, beating them madly and yelling. Louis, one of the neighbor boys, blew his bugle and everyone marched around the porch to have the special one’s forehead anointed with the river water. We then marched to the flag pole to hang his pants on the mop announcing the Champ for the day. The noise was deafening for the whole Cove during this ritual, but everyone knew silence would soon follow with bedtime.
Then there was that unforgettable night – morning actually – when Bubba informed us the mullet were running. We all went out a high tide (3:00 am) to catch a real treat. With a lantern on the bow of the boat – for what reason I do not know – Denise, Maura, Suzy, Bubba, and I piled into the boat. When we reached midstream shortly after leaving the dock, we were engulfed in what seemed to be a rain of fish jumping into the boat, hitting us in the face and body. All of us were screaming – unbelieving what was happening – then aware that all cottage lights were going on and our neighbors were appearing on the water’s edge. Not one line ever went into the water, but we had a feast of delicious mullet and grits for breakfast – all from the bottom of the boat. Paul NEVER believed this fish story – no matter what – and perhaps others would doubt this experience also, but it is a true adventure of the fishes that didn’t get away!