Friday, June 26, 2015

From the Pensieve - Memories of Dad - Installment 3

In early February of 2015, my father passed away. In preparing for our remarks at his funeral, my brother Carl and I began putting together short stories of our times boating with Dad. In the interest of preserving these stories, we thought it would be a fun exercise to share them here as a series of blog entries. Over the next several months, new installments will appear on occasion.

Snallygaster Creek

When I was very small, Dad used to tease us about a mythical creature called a Snallygaster. He said there was a creek named after it. Even promised me that we would visit there one day on the boat.

At the time I first heard of this mythical creature, I was maybe four or five years old. As near as I can tell, Snallygaster Creek is some unnamed cove off the Choptank River. I was a little young to read charts at the time but I always remember being near Oxford, so that must be the place.

Every year we went on our annual week-long boat trip on the Chesapeake Bay. We often buddy-
Legato III and WindSong rafted together.
boated with Mom & Dad's friends Ellen and Bill Riddle, who also had a sailboat. Every evening we would arrive at the same destination and raft the boats together, sharing food, drinks, and stories. Part way through one particular trip, we were all sitting around in the evening. Dad and Mr. Bill were discussing the next day's destination. Dad mentioned going to Snallygaster Creek. Mr. Bill made some lame excuse about needing to go to Oxford to meet his relatives and maybe he would catch up with us later in the week. I think he was scared.

Wimp. I wasn't scared. Much...

So the next morning we were off to the mythical Snallygaster Creek. It was a relatively short trip, and we were anchored safely by early afternoon. Dad got the dinghy ready so he could take the dog ashore to do what dogs do ashore. "Do you want to go with us?", he asked. "No. I'm hungry. I want to stay here and eat a snack", I said. Later in the afternoon, Dad tried numerous tactics to get me in the dinghy, or go for a swim. I was having none of it. I didn't want to risk having an encounter with a Snallygaster. It was the longest afternoon and evening on the boat, ever. No water activities. As luck would have it, we never did see a Snallygaster, that day, or ever.

I never saw a Snallygaster until just today when I Googled it. Wouldn't you know I found a picture of one. Of course we all know since I saw it on the Internet it must be real, right? Then I looked a little further down the search results.

According to Wikipedia: 

The Snallygaster was a mythical legend that had roots in the German immigrant population of Maryland, going back as far as the 1700s. Early accounts describe the community being terrorized by a monster called a Schneller Geist, meaning "quick spirit" in German. The earliest incarnations mixed the half-bird features of a siren with the nightmarish features of demons and ghouls. The Snallygaster was described as half-reptile, half-bird with a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth, occasionally with octopus-like tentacles. It swoops silently from the sky to pick up and carry off its victims. The earliest stories claim that this monster sucked the blood of its victims. Seven-pointed stars, which reputedly kept the Snallygaster at bay, can still be seen painted on local barns. 

Scary creature, this Snallygaster. Clearly I was right to fear him. Apparently I was not safe on the boat either because this beast had wings! Good thing my 6 year-old self didn't know about that little tidbit. A blood sucking monster with wings? And how is it possible that we went there without one of those 7 pointed stars painted on our boat? Irresponsible parenting, I tell you!

Over the years, the Snallygaster became a running joke with Dad, and I'm fairly certain that at some point or another, some mention of Snallygasters was made to the grandchildren. Strange, I never noticed that gleam in his eye years ago when he spoke of it... I guess I was too terrified to notice.

Then I found out that Washington DC has a Beer festival every year called Snallygaster.  Looks like a road trip in September of this year may be in order. Who's afraid of a Beer festival? Not me...

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