Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Beach Buggies
AJ Robinson

Usually, when someone talks about sand buggies on the beach, they mean actual vehicles that you put gasoline in and drive. Well, the sand buggies my friends and I used to "drive" were literally sand buggies. That is, they were buggies made of sand. As a child, when going to the beach, I built all the usual sand castles and such down by the shore, but they always got washed away when the tide came in. Granted, we tried to protect the castle with a moat and walls, but that nasty tide just could not be denied. My father even told me: time and tide wait for no man.

So, there came a time when castle were considered something only "babies" built. After all, by that time, I was all of eight, and quite sure that I was so grown up. I wanted to find something else to build on the beach, but couldn't figure out what to do.

Well, one day, out beyond Second Bridge (site of the beach scenes for the movie "Jaws"), we chanced to meet up with my grandparents. They had this favorite spot along State Beach, right near the beach plum bushes. They liked it because the beach was a short walk from the road, and when you went out into the water, it got deep quickly. That might seem an odd thing to like, but you have to understand our family - we're all very tall; six foot is fairly normal for us. When you're that height, you sometimes have to walk a long way to get out into deep water. In the case of this stretch of State Beach, it got deep fast; hence my grandfather's love of the place.

So, this one day Mom, Dad and I met up with my grandparents at their favorite spot, and Grandfather asked if I wanted to build a sand castle. When I explained that I was beyond such childish things, he asked if maybe I'd like a sand buggy. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was curious.

He had me sit on the beach with my legs straight out in front of me, and then he and my Mother began piling sand on my legs. It wasn't easy sitting up straight for long, but he piled up some sand behind me, and then it was okay.

Once my legs were completely buried, he began to shape the race car. He made wheels (well, the upper half of wheels) on both sides, and shaped the body of the car. With a stick, he carved the grill work, and then my Mom decorated the vehicle with shells. A little sand piled right in front of me was formed into the upper half of a steering wheel, and then he carved a big number eight right on the side of the "engine". I didn't understand why he chose that number, but he explained that it was my age.

After that, it was s simple matter to start "driving". Soon I was on the Indianapolis Speedway and then the Daytona Beach Speedway, and any other speedway I could think of. Then, disaster - my engine was damaged, and smoke billowed out. Actually, my feet had poked out of the sand, effectively rendering my engine useless. The magic was broken, and the fun was over.

As it turned out, I'd been happily playing at that for about an hour! Ah, such is the simple joy of a child's imagination. I wanted to "fix" the car, but it was getting late. So, we packed it in for the day, and headed home.

The next time we went to the beach with Reed, Lisa, or any other of my friends, I introduced them to the new sand art form I had learned about. At first, we would just build one race car at a time. Then we got the idea to build one for each of us, side by side. If there was only two of us, that proved difficult, but we'd manage. And then we would "race" around the beach or some famous race track. In some cases, the race would end in "tragedy" as we would "crash" and be "thrown" from our cars. I actually got pretty good at that.

Yes, just another silly aspect of a childhood on Martha's Vineyard. Nothing high-tech, nothing special; just kids exercising that most important muscle of all - their minds, with a bit of mindless fun.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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