TRUE STORY OF RATTLESNAKE ISLAND
1913 text from reference (15) in the Bibliography
is remarkable what large sized romances small bits of territory are capable of
producing under favorable conditions. Though containing but ten or twelve acres,
Rattlesnake Island forms the scene of quite an interesting episode along this
island lies about two miles to the northeast of Put-in-Bay. Its surface,
partially covered with forest fringe and red cedar, is broken by outcropping
beds of limestone. In shape it is elongated with a hump in the middle, and two
islets - mere dots - at the tail end, known as the “rattles.” Viewed from a
distance, a lively imagination may readily resolve this dark couchant body of
land outlined against the turquoise blue of Erie into a gigantic rattlesnake,
with head erect and rattles in working order. From its peculiar formation the
island is generally sup- posed to have derived its name, though some assert that
the appellation was bestowed in consequence of the illimitable quantities of
rattlesnakes which rendezvoused in and among the creviced and broken rocks. From
these fastnesses they were wont to wriggle forth into aggressive prominence,
hissing and clicking their spite, and whipping the earth and surrounding
vegetation, until everything looked blue. Many “vets” were numbered among
the reptilian hosts, regular old sockers with whole strings of ratt1es. So thick
were they, it is avowed - that a man couldn't walk without treading upon three
of four of the “varmints” at every step - this in the halcyon days of yore.
At a later date the enterprising community of snakes here represented materially
lessened in numbers, until comparatively few remain to adorn the spot named in
able accessory in the dispersion of this reptile colony was undoubtedly vested
in the brawn and muscle of the proprietor, whom for convenience we will call
“Hank Smith,” who with his family located on the island. Old Hank wasn't
afraid of rattlesnakes, evidently, and prided himself manifestly on owning and
occupying with his household gods a whole island, which, if not very big, was at
least far enough removed from adjacent isles to afford ample seclusion. So at
least he imagined, and so in reality it might have proven but for the obtrusive
fact that the old codger possessed several comely daughters, and since “love
laughs at locksmiths,” traverses distances immeasurable and achieves
impossibilities of all sorts, this blind but ever active imp was not long in
finding his way to Rattlesnake Island.
the eldest, was an attractive maiden with eyes that matched the color of the sea
and sky and hair a fluff of golden brown. She was lithe and active, free and
fearless, revelling like a duck in adventures on the water. She was an expert at
fishing and fowling, could manipulate a pair of oars with admirable skill, and
with a light skiff was accustomed to cross frequently the two mile stretch that
intervened between Rattlesnake and Put-in-Bay.
the latter place she speedily became the attraction of a youthful fisherman who
crossed her path - whom we will call Tom Taylor. After this there was no more
peace for Rattlesnake. From time to time it was haunted by a spectral sail which
circled about the island, edging nearer and nearer at each cruise, until one day
it lay beached close by the “grout” house of Hank Smith. At beck of the
little winged god, Tom Taylor and his boat had followed the charmer to her rocky
retreat. This being his first experience in courtship, however, Tom proved a bit
fresh and his bashfulness was excruciating. His feeble advances were regarded
with apparent disfavor, the coy maiden turning a deaf ear to his importunities,
until in black despair he shook the dust of Rattlesnake from his feet. The
spectral sail retreated over the water, returning no more that season to haunt
the mirrored coves of the little, lone isle.
Taylor “darned” and “gol-darned” his luck and the girl, and wished
himself and her in - well, in a clime too hot for health and comfort.
thus abandoned schemes matrimonial, he returned to his work of inveigling into
nets of tarred twine the unsuspecting finny tribes, an occupation with which he
was more familiar than that of love-making.
early spring day, some months following the collapse of Tom's love affair, a
terrible squall, such as sometimes swoops down unannounced upon the islands,
struck Put-in-Bay with a force that twisted limbs from the trees and sent the
tumbled seas spouting up the rocks.
from her window, an old woman who occupied a cottage on East Point thought she
espied a small boat far out on the lake driving eastward before the gale. From a
shelf she snatched a pair of marine glasses, through which she took a second
observation. Yes, the boat was evidently drifting at the mercy of the wind and
current. Not an oar was in motion. Only single occupant could be discerned and
that was a female. With breathless haste the old woman rushed to a little cove
where stood a fish shanty.
an angle of the L shaped dock several boats lay moored, and two fishermen
attired in yellow oil skins and sou’ westers were coal tarring twine over a
smoking kettle. One of these individuals proved to be our friend Tom Taylor. Tom
took the marine glasses proffered by the scared old woman, and through them
examined the drifting boat.
my buttons, if it ain't a woman!” he exclaimed. With two or three long strides
he reached and began un- fastening a boat.
you goin' to do?” demanded his companion.
to pick up that skiff; come on, Jim.”
demurred, urging that no boat could live long in such a sea, and that it was
foolhardy to venture.
however, would take no denial, and with serious misgivings Jim was finally
persuaded to take a hand at the oars. Under the double pull the boat plunged
into the boiling surf. It was a hard struggle and many times the boat barely
escaped swamping in the heavy sea that struck her, but at last the castaway was
overtaken. As they approached, the woman stretched appealing hands toward them
and Tom turned in his seat to get a square look at her.
Scott!” The beaded perspiration on his brow now began streaming down his
cheeks. It was Celia, she who had so cruelly jilted him. But all differences
were forgotten when life and death hung poised in the balance. The drifting boat
was nearly filled with water and it seemed as if every sea would submerge it,
but the boat and Celia were both rescued and landed upon the lee side of a
projecting headland. Celia was drenched through and through. Her hair hung in
strings, her clothing clung closely about her, and altogether she looked as
picturesque as a ducked hen.
may thank Tom here for your salvation,” remarked Jim, turning to the fair but
never see a woman yit that, I thought more of than I do of my own individual
self, an' if Tom hadn't shamed me out, I expect he'd awent alone and you’d
both gone to Davy Jones.”
that they had reached land, the rough old fisherman had removed his boots and
was draining off the water that had collected in them.
girl made no reply, but from under dripping locks she beamed upon Tom a smile,
the most heartsome and approving that he had ever received.
answer to anxious questions Celia explained that when midway between the two
islands a rowlock had become detached and fallen overboard, rendering the oars
useless, and being overtaken by the squall she had drifted until discovered and
found shelter with some friends at Put-in-Bay until the next morning, when the
gale having died, she was restored to her anxious parents by Tom Taylor in
person. She was not much worse for the wetting and scare received and was
appropriately subdued in manner, treating Tom with uniform kindness and
evidently regarding him as a hero.
Hank received him with effusive demonstrations and insisted upon his remaining
for the day as an honored guest, placing before him in the way of entertainment
the best that his larder afforded.
behaved beautifully and it will hardly be necessary to tell of all the little
flirtations successfully prosecuted by the young couple during that brief day.
the evening as Tom was about taking his departure, his host clapped him on the
shoulder and said:
man, if it hadn't been for you my girl would now be drifting down Lake Erie a
corpse instead of sitting here. You’ve saved her life and now I don't know how
I am to pay you for the trouble, unless you're willin’ to take her.”
wave of scarlet suddenly swept over Tom's face, extending clear to the roots of
his red hair, while the girl looked the picture of confusion.
Dad!” she exclaimed.
succeeded after a mighty effort in gaining his composure, and after clearing his
throat said that if the old man was “willin’” and the girl was “willin’”
he guessed he'd call it “square.” The girl nodded; the old man said “all
right,” and promised to throw in the boat as a part of the bargain. So before
the ice fields blocked the island passages there was a wedding on Rattlesnake
and Tom bore away his bride in triumph.
by one old Hank Smith was robbed of his daughters and he eventually left the
island himself, and another “Family Robinson” who succeeded him now
occupies the place.
Taylor multiplied and increased as years swept on and now rejoices, with his
“better half,” in an ample share of this world’s emoluments.
All Contents Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Middle Bass on the Web, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction without written permission is forbidden for any purposes other than personal use.
Revised: 21 Jul 2008 07:50:13.
This page has been accessed times