|Stud Barn at Helas Stock Farm, by Earl Akins, Jobstown|
Helas Stock Farm is a fabled place in local worldview. Mr. Akins worked and played there as a boy, and that experience may have influenced his lifelong interest in horses, and horseriding. I'll provide more detail about Helas Stock Farm, which is a good story in its own right, in a separate post. For now, I'll note that memories of his experience on the Helas property have given rise to a series of commemorative paintings. These paintings embody personal memories of the buildings, the horses, and activities on the farm. Earl Akins's paintings mark the stock farm as a focal point of the Jobstown area and surrounding communities.
Some of the original structures on the stock farm have been lost to fire, or were considered "attractive nuisances" by the owners and were taken down. There was a bath house, located on a part of the farm right across the street from Earl Akins's home, which by all accounts was a splendid building. A few small cottages stood near the bath house, and these were destroyed too -- all but one, that is, which was moved to a site on Saylors Pond Road going toward Wrightstown, where it now serves as a private residence. The pretty little cottage is evocative, I believe, of the original bath house complex.
|Relocated Bath House Cottage|
To make a segue here, I learned about the cottage from Raymond Gaskill, whom I met at Creekside Glass one Saturday morning. Creekside Glass in Pemberton is owned and operated by Lester Gaskill -- Raymond's son -- and members of his family. Raymond Gaskill grew up on a farm in Jobstown, and he has memories of Helas Stock Farm too.
Creekside Glass is a place where community members gather to talk about local history, events, and people. It's also the home of a very significant collection of artifacts -- bird and fish carvings, mounted trophy fish, and an array of signs collected from local shops that have gone out of business over the years. The sign collection commemorates those businesses in a unique and interesting way.
Mr. Gaskill has gradually put this collection together, which reflects the business history of Pemberton and nearby places. Some of these businesses were cultural businesses -- Bill Lucas comes immediately to mind. Some of the old signs have an artistic quality as well, which heightens the impact of the collection, and suggests the relationship between history and culture. The signs are an inventory of local business history, abstracted from their original setting and brought into a new focus. Bill Lucas's shop sign, which stood on the edge of his property in view of passing traffic, has recently been added to the collection (Bill died in December 2011, but his business activity had ceased some time before that).
Another very intriguing artifact on display at Creekside Glass is a hand-drawn map that was created by a fishing guide in Tuckerton. Tuckerton is located to the east of Pemberton, just 30 miles or so as the crow flies, at Little Egg Harbor on the Atlantic coast. I mention this because I believe that the fishing map, appearing as it does in a Pine Barrens setting, suggests the complex and enduring relationship between the Piney woods and the coast -- connections which aren't always obvious but are deeply significant. I'll explain more about this relationship in a future post.
|Fishing Map drawn by Capt. Russ Albertson|
I said I'd mention one more place, and I want to do that before closing this post. Ken Davis at East Street Art led me to Earl Akins, but besides that, Ken is also a member of a Pine Barrens hunting club, with property and a hunting camp located deep in the woods in Pemberton Township. Ken arranged for me to contact a longtime member of the club, who goes by the name of Bones. Bones and I talked briefly on the phone one night a couple of weeks ago, and made a plan to meet. We met in Whiting on a Saturday soon after that, and after brief introductions, climbed into Bones's truck and drove off to visit the camp.
|BBB Hunting Club, Pemberton Township (rear view, with bonfire fuel in foreground)|
I can't take time or space here to discuss the camp in detail (I'll try to do that in a future post), except to say I believe the club is an indication of the highly significant hunting culture of the Pine Barrens, one which, due to lack of interest on the part of local youth, may be weakening and perhaps even slipping into decline. The BBB Hunting Club is trying to buck this trend. The club is a focal point for people who continue to participate and respect local hunting ethics and traditions. Club members and their guests gather at the camp during the various hunting seasons, they gather there for shooting practice and shooting competitions, they gather there to socialize.
An especially important feature of the club, apart from the fact that the members hunt collectively using a method called "driving", is that they involve young people in their activities, train them to the hunting life, teach them the appropriate use of firearms, and enforce strict safety regulations. These factors combine to create an atmosphere of cooperative endeavor in pursuit of -- in pursuit of what? Bones says the object is not to kill deer, and his statement rings true. I've heard as much from other hunters here and in other parts of the country. In my view, I think the "game" being played here is the enactment of local history, the preservation of a deeply significant feature of the local culture, and the maintenance of the social life of the community. And for a community who value the natural world as much as Pineys do, it's finally all about getting out into the woods.