Thursday, May 8, 2014

Daytona Beach

So, I've been on a Leadership Retreat with my husband in Daytona Beach and I thought I'd share with you a historical description of Daytona Beach that is quite different from how the area looks today. This article was posted in the Atlantic Monthly 1894 and you can read the rest of it here.

Tun first eight days of my stay in Daytona were so delightful that I felt as if I had never before seen fine weather, even in my dreams. My east window looked across the Halifax River to the peninsula woods. Beyond them was the ocean. Immediately after breakfast, therefore, I made toward the north bridge, and in half an hour or less was on the beach. Beaches are much the same the world over, and there is no need to describe this one — Silver Beach, I think I heard it called—except to say that it is broad, hard, and, for a pleasure-seeker’s purpose, endless. It is backed by low sand-hills covered with impenetrable scrub, — oak and palmetto, —beyond which is a dense growth of short-leaved pines. Perfect weather, a perfect beach, and no throng of people: here were the conditions of happiness; and here for eight days I found it. The ocean itself was a solitude. Day after day not a sail was in sight. Looking up and down the beach, I could usually see somewhere in the distance a carriage or two, and as many foot passengers; but I
often walked a mile, or sat for half an hour, without being within hail of any one. Never were airs more gentle or colors more exquisite.
As for birds, they were surprisingly scarce, but never wanting altogether. If everything else failed, a few fish-hawks were sure to be in sight. I watched them at first with eager interest. Up and down the beach they went, each by himself, with heads pointed downward, scanning the shallow water. Often they stopped in their course, and by means of laborious flappings held themselves poised over a certain spot. Then, perhaps, they set their wings and shot downward clean under water. If the plunge was unsuccessful, they shook their feathers dry and were ready to begin again. They had the fisherman’s gift. The second, and even the third attempt might fail, but no matter ; it was simply a question of time and patience. If the fish was caught, their first concern seemed to be to shift their hold upon it, till its head pointed to the front. That done, they shook themselves vigorously and started landward, the shining white victim wriggling vainly in the clutch of the talons. Itook it for granted that they retired with their quarry to some secluded spot on the peninsula, till one day I happened to be standing upon a sand-hill as one passed overhead. Then I perceived that he kept on straight across the peninsula and the river. More than once, however, I saw one of them in no haste to go inland. On my second visit, a hawk came circling about my head, carrying a fish. I was surprised at the action, but gave it no second thought, nor once imagined that he was making me his protector, till suddenly a large bird dropped rather awkwardly upon the sand, not far before me. He stood for an instant on his long, ungainly legs, and then, showing a white head and a white tail, rose with a fish in his talons, and swept away landward out of sight. Here was the osprey’s parasite, the bald eagle, for which [had been on the watch. Meantime, the hawk too had disappeared. Whether it was his fish which the eagle had picked up (having missed it in the air) I cannot say. I did not see it fall, and knew nothing of the eagle’s presence until he fluttered to the beach.
Some days later, I saw the big thief - emblem of American liberty — play his sharp game to the finish. I was crossing the bridge, and by accident turned and looked upward. (By accident, I say, but I was always doing it.) High in the air were two birds, one chasing the other, —a fish-hawk and a young eagle with dark head and tail. The hawk meant to save his dinner if he could. Round and round he went, ascending at every turn, his pursuer after him hotly. For nnght I could see, he stood a good chance of escape, till all at once another pair of wings swept into the field of my glass. “A third is in the race! I‘Vho is the third,
Speeding away swift as the eagle bird ? ”
It was an eagle, an adult, with head and tail white. Only once more the osprey circled. The odds were against him, and
he let go the fish. As it fell, the old eagle swooped after it, missed it, swooped again, and this time, long before it could reach the water, had it fast in his claws. Then off he went, the younger one after him. They passed out of sight behind the trees of an island, one close upon the other, and I do not know how the controversy ended; but I would have wagered a trifle on the old white-head, the bird of Washington.

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