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Secrets of the Knob LbNA #3358

Owner:Rae Contact
Plant date:Dec 31, 1969
City:Woods Hole
Found by: dingus&dufus
Last found: Jan 20, 2017
Hike distance:Unknown
Last edited:Mar 26, 2020
Secrets of the Knob

"It's our last day," she said. She picked up a rock from the sand in Racing Beach and threw it in the ocean.

"Yeah, I guess it is." He picked up a very flat rock and counted as it skipped eleven times across the water. Then he looked at her squarely and said, " Do you want to go back?"

"I guess so," she said, gazing up at the sky thinking the whole situation over. Her mom was putting away her summer clothes and getting ready to close up their summer home when she left. She had spent summers on Cape Cod since her parents bought the house four years ago.

"I don't know," she admitted. "No, actually. I'm really not ready for summer to end. But what else can I do? Once again the scientists here failed to come up with a way for me to have summer all year," She had spent the summer combing the beaches, riding her bike, and exploring the trails. And he had been there with her for every bit of it. It had been a great summer. She had grown to expect him to be where ever she went. He had become her best friend.

"What about you? Do you want to go back?" She asked.

"No." His answer was straightforward. He knew her well enough now to trust her with his thoughts. The truth was he didn't know what he was going back to or even if he was going back at all. His mom was not packing his summer clothes.

He came with his mom to Woods Hole at the beginning of the summer where she taught classes in ceramics and watercolor. His dad staid home but promised he would be down on the weekends. That was two months ago and he hadn't made it down once. No one could miss the cool tones in his parents' voices when they parted for the summer. Spending summers on Cape Cod was not the norm for him. And now he wondered what his mom had in mind. One thing was for sure. She couldn't winter here. There wouldn't be enough work for her in the off season.

It was 1978. They were both 13. They met at the beginning of summer at the Woods Hole Ferry. She was returning from a weekend with family friends on Martha's Vineyard. Her mom was late to pick her up and she had too much stuff to carry by herself. He hung out at the ferry and everywhere else in Woods Hole while him mom worked. She asked him to help her get her luggage off the Ferry. He was only too glad to be of service to someone.

Her mom was an hour late. They bought an ice cream and sat on a picnic table watching the boats. He loved boats. And he loved the water. He told her all about the scientists working in Woods Hole. In fact, he talked the whole hour. He hadn't talked to anyone his own age since he arrived there the week before. Mostly, people just came and went on the Ferry and didn't hang around. She said practically nothing. But she showed up in Woods Hole the next day on her bike. And they had hung out together every day since.

At the time she looked frail and thin and a good deal smaller that he was but now he towered over her. She hadn't noticed that he was now three inches taller or that his voice cracked and squeaked as it adjusted to his new stature. He hadn't noticed that she too had grown, but in different places. Now as he looked at her with hot pink fingernails and frosted lipstick, he was startled by feelings welling up in him. He wasn't used to that and he wanted to run away from them.

"Race you to dock!" He jumped on his bike and took off. Somehow his bike seemed much smaller now as he pedaled as fast as his long legs would take him toward Quissett Harbor. She followed as fast as her short legs would go. He outdistanced her until she could barely see him when he rounded the corner.

She couldn't help but grin to herself. Everything was a game to him and he loved beating her. It was all right with her. She could have cared less if he won. They had played all kinds of games during the summer. She could beat him handily in scrabble, but he was clearly the king when it came to physical sports. Of course, he always kept the score. Sometimes she let him win at Scrabble just because it thrilled him so. But she would never ever tell him that!

He was completely out of her sight now. She knew he would be waiting at the dock and counting to see how far behind she was. So she had to keep up her pace. Even though she had appeared frail when they met, she was actually strong for her small size. She could ride her bike long distances. He liked that. They rode everywhere together. Races like this one throughout the summer had made her even stronger. She may never win a race, but she certainly wasn't lacking in enough stamina to get there.

He whistled all the way to the dock, then jumped quickly off his bike and stretched out on the grass so that when she came around the corner she would think he had been there forever! The first time he pulled this on her, she was embarrassed that she was so slow. He took a bunch of grass he had pulled out of the ground and tossed it up in the air so that it fell in her hair. Then, as she gasped indignantly, he teasingly tackled her to the ground tickling her neck with more grass. When he told her she would just have to toughen up if she were going to hang out with a boy, she retorted that he would have to soften up if he were going to hang out with a girl! They both struggled and laughed until their stomachs hurt.

Of course, now she was no longer fooled by these antics. She was too used to them. In fact, she fully expected when she arrived at the dock, she would find him in some casual position, looking very smug, and asking, "What took you so long?" But, in fact, that was not what she found.

Instead, when she saw him, he was standing on the edge of the dock staring intently out into the harbor. He stood absolutely motionless. The precocious look of victory she had expected to see was replaced by a look of wonder. As she got off her bike and set her kickstand, he motioned to her to be quiet and move slowly. She crept silently up beside him. And then she saw them. There in the harbor just beyond the dock were two killer whales. One was much larger than the other. The water was perfectly still as the trade winds had already settled for the day, and they had a perfect view of the pair.

"Wow!" she whispered. "They're great! What do you suppose they are doing here?"

"I don't know, probably eating fish," he whispered back. "I've never seen one up this close before."

"Neither have I. Aren't they fantastic?" She was almost squealing with excitement.

Buzzard's Bay, a huge expanse of water, hosted many ships heading toward Cape Cod Canal. The Elizabeth Islands in the distance were home to thousands of seals. Shifting shoals, uncharted underwater rocks, unpredictable winds, and the ever-changing tides made navigating the area somewhat treacherous to the unseasoned mariner. The seals occasionally made their way up the Bay into Quissett Harbor to sun themselves on a rock, but never the whales. They hung out mostly in the much colder waters of Cape Cod Bay. This beautiful little harbor was very deep and was home to several dozen smaller boats moored in its middle. The respective number of dinghy's dotted the shore.

"Do you think that's a mother and a baby whale?" she whispered softly.

"Hmm, I don't think so. The big one is half again as large as that 20 foot schooner. Male orcas max out at around 30 feet, so it's gotta be a male. The smaller one is too large for a baby. I would bet it's an adult female. I don't know what they are doing in Quissett Harbor though. Even if they are feeding, this harbor is really small to draw them in here."

She smiled. He never ceased to amaze her with his knowledge about the ocean and what's in it.

"Do you think something's wrong?" She asked.

"Sometimes they beach themselves and nobody knows why. Scientists speculate they are sick and get disoriented. The male leads them into shore and the others follow. Makes me wonder if there are more out there."

His voice was no longer a whisper but a low murmur. As he spoke, the female whale began to edge closer and closer to the dock. He slowly stooped down until he sat on the edge of the pier, took off his sneakers and hung his legs over the edge. His toes skimmed the top of the water.

She stood motionless hardly daring to breathe. She couldn't believe what she saw him doing. Part of her wanted to grab him and pull him away. The other part stood mesmerized by the confidence and fearless resolve in his movements and his voice.

He sat very still with his toes barely touching the water. She held her eyes steadfast without blinking and breathed very shallow so as not to move or make a sound. She sensed danger facing her and this was her intuitive way of dealing with it.

He continued to talk in the low steady voice as the smaller whale kept getting closer and closer. He told her about the cod the orcas liked to eat. He told her orcas are called killer whales because they can be very aggressive and have been known to kill other whales and just leave them there without eating them. He surmised that maybe they were lured into Quissett Harbor by one of the seals that hoped to make an escape there. He told her about their sharp teeth and their beautiful white markings and their remarkable curiosity.

Just as he was telling her about the man in California who had trained one, the small orca slowly stuck her rounded head out of the water about two feet from his toes. While he didn't move and he never stopped talking, she realized that now he was actually talking to the whale!

He told the whale what a lovely animal she was and that he was very happy to make her acquaintance. He asked her what had brought her and her companion into Quissett Harbor and would they be staying a while or would they be going back out to sea. He asked her if others would join them or were they travelling alone. Then he stretched out his hand toward the whale and said, "Madame Orca, would you do me the pleasure of allowing me to kiss your fin." And with that he tilted his head ever so slowly as to welcome her to this dock!

She had stopped breathing altogether as the orca inched closer and closer to his hand. He slowly tilted his head further and further until he was bent completely over. His movement was so slow she could barely make it out except that the distance between him and the whale gradually grew smaller and smaller and smaller until they were just an inch apart. They staid in that very position for what seemed like an eternity.

Then the orca rolled over ever so slowly and raised up her fin to his hand. Just as he touched it she slipped into the water, slapping the surface with her tail as she disappeared. The sudden burst jolted them both and he fell right off the end of the dock!

She gasped but could not scream because she had been holding her breath too long. Instead she found herself choked and frozen in horror and in certainty that he would be immediately killed by the whales if he didn't die from fright in the fall.

Within seconds he bounced back up on the deck as if he were a volley ball! He was laughing with exhilaration and gagging at the same time because he had inhaled as he hit the water.

"She saved me! She saved me!" he cried. Unable to contain his jubilation he grabbed her and hugged her, jumping up and down until she was as wet as he was.

"She came up under me and flipped me back up onto the dock! She saved me!" He was finally able to explain. Then they both laughed. And she cried and laughed and cried.

They heard a noise from behind them and turned to see two water spouts simultaneously from the whales' blow holes. The orcas had turned toward the mouth of the harbor.

"Come on!" he said as he took her hand and led her down the path toward the Knob. "Let's watch them go out!"

Taking the path on the right, they ran as fast as they could, stumbling every now and then over the occasional rocks protruding from the dirt. When they got to the neck of the Knob where they could see the harbor, they stopped briefly to see if there were any sign of the orcas off the rocky shore.

"Hurry! They are probably already out of the mouth of the harbor!" he yelled and took off to the top of the Knob.

They were both breathing heavily as they skimmed over the last of the timbers making up the steps to the top of the Knob. They continued to search the water for signs of the two but they didn't see them.

"They must be gone," he said with disappointment. She couldn't answer. She was still out of breath. They scanned the water hoping to get a last glimpse of the whales. But there was none.

Finally, exhaustion overtook them and they both fell down on the ground and stared at the sky which had turned a iridescent pink from the setting sun. As the sun sunk lower and lower, the sky turned brilliant red, making the white rocks on the beach sparkle with rays of red, orange, and yellow.

"Wow! I can't believe it! I was in the water with a whale!" he exclaimed.

"Yes! And you scared me to death. I thought you were killed right there in front of my very own eyes! I thought I would never see you again. I was horrified!" Tears welled up in her eyes.

He sat up and took her hand. They sat silent for a while breathing in the beauty of the setting sun. The rays lit their faces with a golden glow. They were both thinking, "It's almost over. There's not much daylight left."

"Will you ever see me again?" he asked. They both knew the possibility was slim to none they would meet again next summer, or ever.

"Come on, let's go to the Tree one last time," she said, not wanting to think about it all just yet.

They made their way back down the trail, past the steps to the beach to the second trail leading off to the right. They knew these paths well. Only the locals knew how to get around on the Knob.

He reached up, grabbed the back of her neck and pushed her head down to miss the low branch in front of her. The heavily shaded trail was already getting dark and that limb was always a surprise even in the brightest time of the day. She barely missed it and smiled at his foresight. He was always looking out for her. She liked that.

They turned left at the end of the trail. The path to the right would have taken them down to the water, but it was too late for that now. Besides they were already wet and it was getting cool. They followed the trail, which got quite steep and was almost washed out in one place. At the next fork they turned left again. In anticipation, their pace had quickened until they were running again to the Tree.

"My Lady!" he said with a gallant bow and hoisted her up to the rope. She giggled as he grabbed her and shoved. She squealed with delight and a chill as her wet body flew through the air, swinging back and forth.

It was then that she knew it. She never wanted to leave here. She never wanted to leave him. She was overwhelmed with emotion. They were only 13. This was not supposed to happen to her until she was 23. She never wanted to stop swinging from that tree. She never wanted him to stop pushing her.

Finally, he said, "Come on, we have to go. It's getting dark."

She knew he was right. Her parents would be worried if she staid out past dark. He took her hand and they retraced their steps back to the steep trail along the water. Turning left, they made their way toward the inner harbor. When they passed the steep trail on the right guarded by two rocks, dusk was bearing down. He pulled her down with him as he stooped to peer through the thick leaves of the trees for one last look at the lovely New England Gambrel sitting high on the hill across the harbor. There was just enough sun left to spot light it for them. As they looked across the water, they both saw it at the same time. Two water spouts coming out of the water.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

"Ahhhh, Madame and Messier Orca, I see you are still our guest!" He said, turning to her, "or have you been sent here to foretell our future?"

Then the two whales simultaneously nose dived and flipped their tail fins as if to say, "Oui! Oui! Yes! Yes!"

She covered her mouth with her hand and sheepishly giggled. They watched as the Orcas finally made their way back out to sea. Then he did what they had done in this spot a hundred times. He took off marching down the trail counting.

"One, two, three, four, five, six..." She followed and joined the counting. It was one of their many secret rituals. "Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty!" They stooped down and turned left into a very small and mostly unused trail that housed a group of large rocks. They had sat many times on the flat one on the right and listened to noises in the woods. Of the many rocks on the Knob, this one was their special spot. They were sure they were the only ones who had ever sat there. A small piece on the back of the rock was broken. It was their special hiding place. Over the summer they had left many things hidden there, mostly sea glass, shells and special rocks they found on the beach.

"Where will you be in ten years?" she asked.

"I will be graduating from college with a degree in Marine Biology and I will be moving here to Quissett Harbor to play with the whales." They both knew that was a stretch as he did not come from a family of means.

"I will be graduating from college with a degree in Art and I will be moving to Quissett Harbor to teach all the children how to draw whales and paint harbors." They both knew that would be possible but not probable because she was from a family of means. But her parents most likely had other ideas about how she would contribute to society.

"Yeah, right." He said sarcastically, "You will be engaged to a very prestigious Harvard lawyer from New York and will spend all your time shopping at boutiques and browsing in the art galleries in the city." He was disappointed in himself for speaking these words without thinking. They had never their discussed the family ties. At 13, it didn't seem to matter-- until now.

"I could never do that," she whispered. "I'll never be able to forget this summer. I'll never be able to forget you." Then she reached over and very, very gently kissed his lips. It was too dark for her to see him blush. Emotions swelled over him that he had never before imagined. He pulled her close to him and hugged her. Even though they were still wet and the air was cool, he felt warm all over.

"I'll make you a deal," he said. "In ten years, if you still think that, come back here to this rock. I'll leave you a sign that I still think that too."

She smiled. "I like it. If I get here first, I'll leave you a sign that I still think that. It's a deal!" They put their right thumbs together and twisted their hands. It was the way they sealed all their deals.

Their hearts were lighter as they made their way over the steep trail, down the steps made of timbers and back to their bikes.

He kissed her on the cheek and said, "I'll see you in ten years!"

Then he got on his bike and rode off into the darkness.