The title almost sounds absurd to anyone who knows the area. To those who don't , it may suggest visions of Long Island's Hamptons or the Gatsby Goldcoast. Truth is it's neither. The Mastics were developed for New York City area, blue collar families, looking for an affordable vacation spot. Sprinkled among its summer bungalows there was an extraordinary sampling of colonial history. A lot of history happened on their premises too with Butchie and me.
My sister Gerry was always an adventurer. The
fact that she was eight years older seemed to magnify that effect
with me. for she seemed to lead a life that was very exciting
and almost always out of my reach 'cause of our ages. But looking
back she was pretty generous with sharing her discoveries with
her little brothers.
One Sunday around 1951, our grandmother, Anna Spooner from Jamaica, Queens was out visiting and also babysitting us. I can't recall where our parents were that day, but Gerry asked Grandma if she wanted to go for a little walk to see a fantastic big house she had found. It was a real nice fall day and when Grandma asked how far it was, Gerry said, "Oh not far at all it's right by Dick's" Dick's Delicatessen was a little grocery, variety and soda fountain about a mile away. So off we went Gerry, Grandma, Butchie and me to see this "great house in the woods with lots of barns around it." By the time we reached Dick's, both grandma and me were getting tired legs. Gerry was walking much faster and always had to stop to wait up for us. After we walked a few blocks past Dick's, Grandma was starting to have some worry in her voice. "Gerry how much further?" 'Just a little ways Gram'. We started heading down this road in the woods and soon the pavement turned to sand. Finally we came to a path just wide enough for one car to travel on and Gerry said "This is it, here's the driveway. The trees were huge and there was a chain across it. The driveway went on as far as you could see and several of the trees had signs on them that said POSTED. This seemed to 'cause great concern for Grandma but Gerry said it was ok as she knew the owner. "Who is the owner?" Grandma asked "William Floyd, but he's been dead a long time, his relatives own it now and they only use it once in a while".
The word dead kind of hit home with Butch 'cause he now stuck much closer to us as we walked along this very shady path that seemed to go on forever and get darker as the woods got even thicker. I don't think anybody questioned Gerry any further on how she knew the owner. Fact was she didn't know anyone. She just knew what she learned from her school friends who showed her the place.
William Floyd was indeed dead a long time. He was entitled to be.... as he signed the Declaration of Independence. In a year or two both Butchie and me would start going to a brand new school they were building named for him. Of course none of this impressed me then, but what did was the sight of all these ancient barns when we reached a clearing. Gerry said one of them was built over a pit of quicksand to scare Butch. They all had no doors on them and he stayed far back from the entrances. The main house itself didn't seem that big to me. True it was much bigger than most I'd seen, but I guess it was the long walk that had worn me out. It did have a certain spookiness to it though. There was no one around and Gerry said even if there was, we were not allowed in the house anyway. So there was nothing to do but turn around and head for home.
On the return trip my legs gave out. Butchie and Gerry took turns carrying me on the way home. Grandma had to stop several times to rest and when we finally got home our folks were back. Mom was wondering what happened to all of us. Gerry got yelled at for stressing out Grandma and was told to never to go there again. She probably didn't, but it would certainly not be the last time for Butchie and Me .