Noah Sears (1751-1835)

I call this a blook instead of a blog because I have compiled these stories into a book which is available online.  [].  Noah Sears is my second cousin (many generations removed) and since I was recently admitted to the Cape Cod Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution I have been studying our Revolutionary War ancestors. Even though a fellow’s whole contribution was to march on Alarm from Yarmouth to Dartmouth for 3 days we must consider that he probably spent a lot of time drilling with the local militia! Here is my second cousin-

Noah Sears was born on 11 Apr 1751 in Yarmouth (now Dennis), Barnstable, Massachusetts[i],[ii],[iii] as the seventh child of Elisha Sears and Sarah Vincent. He had six siblings, namely: Samuel, Bethiah, Elisha, John, Enoch, and Constant. When he was 42, he entered marriage intentions 8 Feb 1794[iv][v] with Desire Merrill and married Desire Merrill on 17 Feb 1794[vi],[vii] in Yarmouth, Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA by Rev. Nathan Stone. Desire was admitted to the Dennis Church, 14 Sep 1794[viii];
He was in Lieut. Micajah Sears’ company, and served 3 days, alarm at Dartmouth, 6 Sep 1778[ix],[x],[xi]

Noah is second cousin of Micajah- with grt-grandfather Paul Sears and Deborah Willard as their common ancestor.

Noah appears as grantor or grantee in seven deeds recorded at the Barnstable county courthouse. In his time the border between the towns of Dennis (inc. 1794 from part of Yarmouth) and Brewster (inc. 1803 the north part of Harwich) was walked every year by the selectmen of both towns to formally establish the boundaries but vital records and deeds of citizens of the area could be recorded in records of either town. They seemed to claim residence in whichever town provided the best advantage. In one case Noah sells property which is partly in both towns. The villages where Noah lived and worked are referred to as East Dennis and West Brewster. The Barnstable County Courthouse burned 22 Oct 1827 destroying 93 folios of deeds recorded since the county formed in 1685. The selectmen of the towns were charged with going door to door to re-file property deeds. It is possible Noah was part of many transactions which were never re-filed.

The Dennis Historical Society has original records of monetary notes held by Noah in which he loaned neighbors money and received interest. In 1812 he was owed by Widow Nickerson’s estate $50 plus $13.12 interest. In another deed on 22 Jan 1830 when he is 79 years old he buys saltworks from Isaiah Crowell on Quivet Neck, Dennis. The saltworks were in development on Cape Cod during and after the revolutionary war operated into the 1860s. In 1831 there were 764,280 feet of saltworks. That number tripled in the next ten years. Quivet Neck was uniquely situated to take advantage of the tides and wind to manufacture salt by evaporation. So it appears Noah was quite an industrious realtor, banker and salt manufacturer.

Noah Sears was buried in Ancient Sears Cemetery, West Brewster, Brewster, Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA (#45). “In Memory of Mr NOAH SEARS who died Sep 23, 1835 in the 85th year of his age next to his wife Desire who died Sept 1, 1828 In the 62 Year of her age.

3390 Cape 716Noah(45)

[i]Dennis Vital Records- Vol I, p. 5 [Book of Records for the Town of Dennis. Begun in the year 1794 page 6 original record] Elisha and Sarah Sears of Yarmouth – Noah Sears born 11 of April 1751
[ii]Dennis Vital Records- Vol I, p. 117 [Borths and Deaths Early 1700s to Date: Part I page 1 original record Elisha Sears and his wife Sarah. A record of their children – Noah Sears born April 11 1751
[iii] May, Samuel. The Descendants of Richard Sares (Sears) of Yarmouth, Mass., 1638-1888, [] (Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890) p. 152, No. 232
[iv] May, Samuel. The Descendants of Richard Sares (Sears) of Yarmouth, Mass., 1638-1888, [] (Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890) p. 152, No. 232
[v]Yarmouth Vital Records-Book 4, p. 118 ent int Feb 8th 1794
[vi]Dennis Vital Records- Vol I, p. 61 [page 120 of original record] Returns of marriage made to me by the Revd Nathan Stone for the years 1794- Feb. 27. 1794 Noah Sears and Desire Merrill
[vii] May, Samuel. The Descendants of Richard Sares (Sears) of Yarmouth, Mass., 1638-1888, [] (Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890) p. 152, No. 232
[viii] May, Samuel. The Descendants of Richard Sares (Sears) of Yarmouth, Mass., 1638-1888, [] (Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1890) p. 152, No. 232
[ix] May, Samuel. p. 153He was in Lieut. Micajah Sears’ company, and served 3 days, alarm at Dartmouth, 6 Sep 1778
[x] Massachusetts, Revolutionary War, Index Cards to Muster Rolls, 1775-1783- Sea Cost Defence Muster Rolls, Vol. 35, page 237 []
[xi] United States Rosters of Revolutionary War Soldiers and Sailors, 1775-1783, p. 954 [] 3 days, Capt Micah Chapman’s Co Col Freeman’s Regt

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The Jetty – A Rumination

The Jetty, A Rumination
By L. Ray Sears, III

This memory came back when I was on Cold Storage Beach in East Dennis a few weeks ago. The jetty which protects the Sesuit Harbor channel appeared to be nearly under water! Sea water was in the parking lot at the south end of Sesuit Harbor boat ramp. Yes this visit happened to be exactly high-tide for one of those nearly 13 foot spring tides-that comes with a new moon. In just six hours, at low tide, everything that was just under 13 feet of water would be exposed to the air. At that point the jetty would look like a mountain.

I have fond memories of that Sesuit Harbor jetty. A favorite at low tide was to climb among the rocks down by the water’s edge looking at starfish, snails, and mussels. Climbing up the side of the rocks and hopping from one giant boulder over the gaps to the next all the way to the north end of the jetty was also a treat. My sister says it’s like you are at the end of the world. It was especially fun when we were finally trusted to make the journey ourselves. The waves would sometimes crash on that jetty point. As I leap-frogged over the rocks I could take a peak to see what each fisherman thought would be the magic bait for the day.

We spent all our time on the east jetty, jutting out from Quivet Neck and which borders Cold Storage Beach. I can only remember once or twice venturing over to the west side. That side would be for people from Sesuit Neck. East Dennis might comprise both necks but somehow there was a difference in atmosphere between the two places. I remember after a highly successful fishing trip I was hauling my basket of fish down that west jetty trying to give some away to the fishermen there. I was not very successful. One fellow even asked me if they had been cleaned. I remembered that day many years later when I was reading a book by Patrick McManus called “Never Sniff a Gift Fish.” How could someone turn down one of my fresh caught fish? Well Americans are not big fans of dark fish like mackerel and blue fish but I still love the taste.

You have probably seen photos of the jetties. I have seen the jetties from all angles, in the water off the beach, in the channel heading out for fishing or clamming. We always kept a fishing boat moored in Sesuit Harbor for the summer. Dad would fret a little each spring as he called around to find someone with a trailer to take the boat from its cradle in Gramma Sears’s barn down to the harbor. And he would fret a little more as we clamped that old ten-horse Johnson outboard motor to a trash can full of water to see how hard it was going to be to start after a long quiet idle winter. An engine like that required water for cooling to prevent damage from overheating. Once the engine came to life I don’t remember it ever failing us out on the water.

I do vividly remember a phone call from my Uncle Allen after Hurricane Donna had hit the Cape in Sep 1960. I was only in second grade but we had just been down for a visit and the boat was still in the water. Allen said that the hurricane had pulled loose the mushroom anchor at the end of our mooring and the boat was severely damaged by rubbing against the rocks on the jetty. This was a lapstrake wooden boat and normally you could see where edges of one hull plank overlapped the plank below it. After Donna was finished our boat was finished too. No more distinction where one board overlapped the next, just a smooth sided, very thin hull from the abrasion of the rocks. She was no longer sea worthy and had to be hauled away to the dump.

Those memories got me curious as to the origins of the jetty. On the Wayback Machine ( I found a 1908 report to the Board of Harbor and Land Commissioners by Engineer Frank W Hodgdon. “This harbor is at the mouth of a small creek emptying into Cape Cod Bay. At the present time the bottom runs dry at low tide, varying from about 1 foot above low water at the outer end of the jetty to 5 feet at a point opposite the high-water line to the Eastward.” “It would appear, from the examination and from the statements of people living in the vicinity, that formerly there was a considerable depth of water in the harbor, and that it had been gradually filling in with sand to its present condition. It would seem that about 1851 a jetty, the remains of which still exist, was built on the easterly side of the mouth of the creek, and that a considerable industry was carried on in building vessels and in making salt, which was shipped in other vessels. From the statements made it seems there must have been at least 3 feet of water at mean low tide in the channel of the creek, in order to have floated the vessels of the size which are described as having been built.”

So the reason East Dennis has a jetty is because of ships and salt! Engineer Hodgdon was talking about the 160 foot-long clipper ship Hippogriffe built by Shiverick Shipyard in 1850, and even the Webfoot completed in 1856 which was 180 feet long! No coincidence the jetty and the shipyard co-exist. Can you imagine a 180 foot clipper sailing into Sesuit Habor today? There is a great postcard in Geta Crowell’s legacy to the Dennis Historical Society showing a gin-pole crane with block and tackle building the original jetty in the 1850s. It was probably powered by oxen.

Hodgdon doesn’t stop there. Just one year after his visit, a stone jetty 700 feet long was constructed and a year later it was extended 300 more feet. Today the east jetty is 1,700 feet long and the west jetty is 1,000 feet long. Here is Hodgdon’s design-

“At the present time the sand from the beach to the east is driven into the harbor by the northeast winds through the break in the jetty near the shore. If this break were repaired and the jetty raised above the high water mark throughout its whole length, undoubtedly the current would scour out the channel and increase the depth of the water in the harbor.

“I have prepared a project for rebuilding the jetty with quarry grout to the height of 12 feet above mean low water in the bay, the shore end extending to and joining the sand bluff. The estimated cost of reconstructing the jetty , making it 5 feet wide on top, with side slopes of 1 on 1 ½ feet for the full length of the old jetty, – about 1,100 feet, is 9,500 tons at $2 plus supervisory fees =$20,000

“On the shore to the westward is a large quantity of stone and bowlders, which might be used for the core of the project to save cost.

“At the present time there is a cold-storage plant located on the bank of the harbor, which  cares for fish brought in by the small boats both from this creek and from a number of other creeks along this shore. The owners of this plant claim that if the depth of the creek were increased, many larger craft would bring their fish here. ”

The money spent by the Commonwealth on this project was key to the livelihood of our East Dennis ancestors. My grandpa Leslie Sears lived on Quivet neck in 1909. He was 17 years old and I can imagine one reason he grew up to attend MIT and become a civil engineer was watching the construction of that jetty,

Nancy Thacher Reid in her book on Dennis says that “in 1953 extensive work was done to dredge the harbor and to rebuild and extend the jetties.” I don’t remember that but I do remember in years growing up seeing a dredge in the harbor and a big discussion amongst the grownups about where the sand from that dredging operation should be deposited.

I like to think of those jetties as a wonderful landmark and treasure for the many thousands of people that have enjoyed their protection. They watched the launching of 8 clipper ships, the processing of tons of salt and fish and are still like sentinels keeping watch over the village of East Dennis.   Link to 1909 photo of Sesuit Harbor Jetty Reconstruction.

Beautiful view of the current jetty looking South – Facebook link to Sesuit Jetty photo

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Let Go To Listen: Cape Cod Ruminations

My new book is available!

A series of ruminations about the author’s experiences on Cape Cod as a summer kid and now family historian. This compilation seeks to encourage others to get involved in writing their recollections.


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Book publishing

I am getting ready to publish my second book –  Let Go To Listen – a series of ruminations that I have written over the past twenty years.  Most of these stories appeared first in the Bulletin of the Cape Cod Genealogical Society or the Journal Of The Cape Cod Genealogical Society.   A recent seminar I attended for book authors described some of the process of marketing a book.  One is to let people know what you  are up to!  I have so many irons in the fire it’s hard to choose just one.  Having my Mom edit this new book has been the best part of the process because she got me started.  Mom took a Personal Life History course and wrote many stories about herself and that gave me an inspiration to do the same.  I hope this new book encourages you to write down some of your stories!  In the photo you can see my Dad directing anti-aircraft artillery fire at the Grafenwoehr Range in West Germany, 1953.  When you are on the radio-telephone there is a button on the hand-set with the words- Push-To-Talk.   Implied in that label is “Let Go To Listen!”

directing firing

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Sears Family Association Facebook page

Wow we’ve now got over 700 members contributing on our Sears Family Association Facebook page.  I hope you will come join us- just click the button at

There are probably hundreds of different families that claim the name Sears.  Many family names were changed from their native spelling to Sears to make it easier to record and pronounce.  Some examples include: Cyr (French), Sariyar, , Sayers, Sares, Scarce, Scearce, Scears, Sear, Sears, Seers, Seirs, Serrer, Sias, Siers, Sire, Sirre, Soares(Portuguese), Zaher (German), Tsiorz (Lithuania).

There is a nifty Family Tree Y-DNA site which men can use to see which branch of this great tree  You can see over 60 family groups (haplogroups) represented on this page (many thanks to Suzanne Sears for figuring all this out)-

a)R-Z367 CYR: Rene: Ancestor Andre Suire b. 1660 Fontenay le Compte France to Montreal

b)R-M269 Cyree: James A. Sire: 1837 : Archibald Syra? 1804 Kentucky

c)E1b1 Haplogroup: Ancestor Bastien Gazeau: presumably France…Haplotype found in high concentrations in Morocco

d)E1b1: ancestor not identified: haplotype found highest in Morocco, Somalia, Tunisia, Egypt, Kosovo, Greece

e)Em2- Primary DNA signature for Niger/Congo: 60% of all African Americans

f)G2a: Ancestor: Turkey: common haplotype in Turkey Mountainous regions (Sariyar)

g)I1: aka “Nordic”: also spelled SCEARS: Marker 390=23 usually Norse/Viking: Hints the lineage may track back to North Carolina

h)I1: Ancestor Thomas Sears 1741 VA: usually considered “Nordic” in ancient origin: Marker 390=22 usually SAXON

i)I2a: SNP Z2710: “Slavic” anciently: SNP considered French: confirmed origins in Bedfordshire England (Thomas Sears b 1730 Virginia (son of Joseph Sceares): son

j)J2 Group 2: Ancestor John Zaher, Lancaster PA:: family tracks to Switzerland: Highest frequencies Anatolia, Turkey, Italy, Iberia:

k)R-M269 James Lawson Sears C. 1800 Loudon VA.

l)R-M269 John Sias 1666+…Oyster River NH. Genetic clues point to SouthEastern Irish/Welsh regions…also consistent with Brittany/Normandy

m)Q1a3-Cyr: French spelling out of Canada: originally in Maritime provinces + Quebec: DNA suggests Asian roots

n)R-M269: Probably British to Germanic/Polish roots

o)R1a: Sayers, John 1776: Chelmsford Essex UK:

p)R1a1a – Benj Sears: Eastern European/Caucasus origins

q)R1b1a2a1a1b: SNP Z43 is from Italic Branch U152 Celtic Alps James Seers 1720 Virginia –Sears

r)R1b1a2-Cyr:Ancestor Pierre Sirre b.c. 1648 probably Flanders: arrived Port Royal (now Nova Scotia) c. 1668

s)R1b1a2-Sayre/Sears SNP CTS3087 Considered English in Origin

t)R1b1a2-Scarce: tracks to William Scearce 1715 Upper Piscataway Hundred Maryland. Surname is pre 7th Century English of Viking/Norse origins: meaning Seabird.

u)R1b1a2-Sears,(Sayers)(Sares) Richard 1590-95 (Cape Cod Plymouth Colony) Colchester England: tracks back to early 1400s Colchester Sayers

v)R-M269: Joseph Seares/Sears/Seirs of Middlesex VA b.c 1680 DNA tracks to Northumbria/Scotland anciently (other DNA samples of this lineage conflict

w)R-M269 Robert Sears 1792 last known to be in Ohio: said to be from New York

x)R-P311-R1b1a2-Sears, Timothy b. 1780 N.C.. DNA closest match tracks to Bromsgrove, Worsteshire Eng: departure Bristol:? Large Fr

y)R-P312: Celtic: Closest Genetic Match hails ancestrally from Bern Switzerland

z)R-Z304: (3,000 BCE) John Siers: b.c. 1700..resided Prince William County VA.Genetic Ancestry Southern Germanic as per the Bourbons

aa)I-M223 SAWYER: Haplotype I2a2a:Germany/ North Eastern Europe/Sweden/Norway/England:

ab)Sayers: Ireland> Marker 393=14 found in only 5-8% of all R1b samples

ac)R-M269 SEARING: DNA identical match to Simon Searing 1615 Wormley Hertfordshire England: genetic hints back to southern Finland: other Nordic/Viking/Germanic ancestry

ad)R-M269 SEARS: Rowan County North Carolina: (also recorded as Sayrs in 1790 census) DNA suggest Essex Sussex: Earliest male Richard Sayers: b.c. 1735 sons Christian and

ae)R-L2 SIRE: DNA is 21 marker match to surname Morrison of Scotland origins

af)R-M269 Soares

ag)U106: Z306: Found Belgian coastal 4,000+then England (Buckinghamshire) Older type Proto Indian Euro Roots

ah)M-269 William Nicholson Sears: 1806 N. C. 1850 census w Mom Sarah Sears b. 1780 must be earlier Sears patriach in area..deceased: genetic clues track to London Eng

ai)M-269 William Sears Texas b.1863: most clues track back to Kentucky origins: best genetic matches/Scottish/Irish

ak)J-M172 ZEHR: Peter 1730: roots Sulztal Austria/Alsace-Lorraine Haplotype J2b2: highest density in Balkans Anatolia and Caucusus


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I was looking for a site where a new genealogy convert could create a family tree for free!  That is when I found – the first thing you  do when you create and account is create a profile- here is mine.  Ray’s Wikitree Profile

There is full security on the site so that the information of those who are living is protected.

It is a collaborative site so that one family tree is shared by all people!  If information is incomplete, you are free to add more.  There is a code of conduct that basically is the golden rule-  you know, like  “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”

It is a great site and I hope you give it a try.  You can see some of the badges I have “earned” if you go to my profile.  All this in just a few weeks of participating with  this great Crowd-sourced genealogy site!sears-3708_wikitree

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The Camera – A Rumination

The camera is such an amazing genealogy tool. I have always been enamored with photography. I have been taking pictures since high school and I have so many negatives I don’t know what to do with them. Now on top of those negatives, I also have thousands of digital images of portraits, tombstones, families, and documents and have just as much difficulty trying to organize them. I can’t bear to throw away those negatives. They sit in a banker’s storage box and nag at me. I guess I will write on the box- “the contents of this box are safe to throw away when I am gone.”

I learned to develop film and had my own darkroom in a closet in my early teens. I was always a chemistry buff. This film hobby made chemistry practical. Later I got an enlarger and learned to create black and white prints. For many years I had a Minolta SRT-101 that was my pride and joy. I had a whole bag full of different kinds of lenses and filters. I drug that camera and lense bag all over Europe in my years living there. To go with my negatives I have boxes of photographic slides just waiting to be viewed. These old photos are automatic triggers to memories that could have become just cobwebs in a busy brain. I keep thinking I will someday get my pictures labeled. If you have not done this already- get a photo pencil and start labeling your pictures!

I recently re-discovered an old prized possession. It may be the genesis of my interest in photography. In the early 1950s my Dad bought a beautiful Nippon Kogaku Nikon camera at the Army post exchange in Germany. He took beautiful pictures with this camera. As a kid I would endlessly wind the film advance knob and pretend to take pictures, listening to the mesmerizing click and motor sound. Real film was not an option for a kid. But could you imagine what all those “pictures” would look like now? What kinds of beautiful memories has that camera seen? My Dad took that camera with him on his Vietnam tour. My sister just discovered a whole trove of pictures he took during his service in Vietnam and is cataloguing them. Here is a photo Dad took which he labeled “Charlie, my friend who helps his father repair bicycles” in 1964, Saigon, Vietnam. The camera is in disrepair now but the internet tells me it is quite unique and valuable. I still have my light meter to tell me what speed and aperture settings should be used to take the optimum photo.sears_leslie_r_jr_friend_Charlie

It is said that in the first 80 years of photograph (1830s to 1910s), before photography became “commercial,” that a few million pictures were taken. By the 1930s the world was taking a billion pictures a year. Now we take over a trillion pictures a year (some estimates are as high as 14 trillion pictures a year since nearly every phone has a camera!)

Today we use our “cameras” to photograph tombstones, book pages, family portraits, and nearly anything else that can be “seen” by the eye. We don’t even take notes anymore. The video mode of our cameras is now allowing us to capture audio with our pictures making the process even better. I recently did an “inventory” of the house just wandering around with the camera and describing what I was seeing. If only we can figure out how to preserve these images for the future? I have uploaded many hundreds of pictures to the associated family in Ancestry. Ancestry appears to keep the full resolution of anything upload. I hope Ancestry will be around for a while. Facebook is another platform that appears to preserve pictures but they drastically reduce the resolution of photos to save space. Our family belongs to a website called “” which promises to preserves pictures forever but I have seen other Internet companies go up in smoke losing all content. Even Forever could experience a sundown event. One area that has become interesting to me lately is the Wayback Machine!   They take “snapshots” of webpages on the internet and work very hard to preserve them “forever.”  I once posted a lot of information to a web system run by Yahoo called Geocities. The Wayback Machine took some snapshots of my pages so that you can still see them today even though the original website disappeared in the 90s.

Best of luck with your photos, videos and Memories!



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I can tell you I am not afraid of water. Sure some of the creatures you might encounter in the water or the power and force of the 60 foot wave or tsunami can be intimidating but in the normal course of life’s events, water holds no power over me. That is mostly because I believe I am a good swimmer. Once you subtract the fear of drowning from the equation you go about your business with not much thought to the danger of water. I have written about time on the water fairly extensively but not so much about the time I have spent IN the water. I have no memory of learning to swim. My Dad was always in the water growing up and had no fear and I believe that is what he taught me. He said the boys never took a shower all summer on the Cape in the 30s and 40s and were as crusty and salty as a barnacle before the summer was over. Maybe salt water swimming is nature’s bath? Mom says that when we were in Germany we would go to the Schwimbad at a nearby German castle that had survived the war. So from age one, I was never a stranger to the water. When we returned from Germany we lived in Massachusetts and traveled to Cape Cod often to spend time at Cold Storage Beach in East Dennis. That is where I got my first exposure to salt water. Mom said I was the pastiest white three-year old on the beach having come from the cold German winters, but youngsters don’t compare tans. I just believe that learning to swim at the beach is the best of all options. You are never in over your head, the salt water makes you pop to the surface like a cork, and there are untold treasures to be found as you poke around on the ocean floor. Yes that Cape Cod Bay water is mighty cold but kids don’t let that faze them. Kids will stay in that icy water until their lips turn blue, body covered with goose bumps and shivering all over. A few minutes of lying in the sun or a warm pool of water on a salt flat to stop the shivering and you are ready to head back to the deeps. My niece grew up on the rocky Maine beaches and her motto was “If you think it’s wahm, it’s Wahm!” It was always a treat for me after the beach to go to a warmer spot like Scargo Lake and rinse off the salt. I raised three little fishes in the slightly warmer waters of Nantucket Sound at Dowses Beach in Osterville and those three girls blossomed into real swimmers when we moved back to Oklahoma and had a pool in the back yard. I still think my favorite place to swim is just offshore in water slightly deeper than the reach of my fingertips.

GrammaRayMom     You may know that we moved a lot, but wherever we moved, Mom and Dad made sure we could be swimmers. In Fairfax, Virginia we would drive miles into the country to visit the US Army’s Vint Hill Farms, Electronic Warfare Complex, which had an Officer’s Club where we could go swimming. Then our folks were instrumental in building a community pool at the top of our street in Fairfax called Villa Aquatic Club. The whole neighborhood met at our house for the meetings to discuss construction of that swim club. I was proud to know my Dad was the board chairman that oversaw such an amazing effort for the kids in the community. We had the usual US Army recreation pool when we lived at Fort Leavenworth. Then when we moved to Houston for a year while Dad was in Vietnam, we were fortunate enough to live near a YMCA called Dad’s Club. My younger sister learned to swim there. I was in Boy Scouts and got my swimming merit badge in Houston. Boy Scout Summer Camp was quickly divided into those who could swim and those who still needed to learn. It sure took the pressure off me that I already was an experienced swimmer. Going away to camp is hard enough for a junior teenager without having to worry about swimming skills. Jump in the water, swim from one dock to the other under supervision of the life guards and you got a wrist band that showed you could swim and participate in all water activities.

One of our favorites was canoe races. Each canoe had two boys from one team to paddle and a third boy from the opposing team who sat in the middle of the canoe with a #10 can to bail water. But he was not bailing water out of the boat. He was filling the canoe with water from the lake. It didn’t take long before that canoe was full to the gunwhales with water and you were paddling a swamped canoe.

Back to Virginia during high school and there was the Overlee Community Center and Pool at the foot of our street where it seems like we spent most of the summer. It is only now that I am realizing how fortunate we were as kids to always have a pool or a beach as a hangout.

We had a nice indoor pool at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and I even thought of joining the swim team there but I was too busy with the rifle team. Summers in college, my girlfriend had her sailboat moored out in a small inlet at South Harpswell, Maine. You had two options to go sailing, row the dinghy out to the boat or swim from the dock to the boat. You might think Cape Cod Bay water is cold until you jump in the water at South Harpswell. It takes a minute before your lungs can start working again after that shock.

My stints in the Army meant a pool was never far off. My summer of training at Fort Riley, Kansas had a lot of water events. One of those was a “Confidence Course” in which you crawled out onto a rope strung between towers forty feet over the water. Then you drop. The first second you fall about sixteen feet. You hit the water during second two. I think my heart beat about 20 times during those two seconds. Now the trick was to get your boots off and tied around your neck and then get your pants off, tie knots in the legs and flip those pants over your head scooping air to make a “Mae West” flotation device. Now you can finally relax and swim to shore. I am sure it was even more exciting for those who were not strong swimmers. We learned “drownproofing” at Ft Riley and realized you could stay in deep water for hours with minimal effort. We got to sail the little Sunfish out at the recreation center lake. Before you could take the boat out to the middle of the lake you had to capsize it and show the director you could right the boat and get back on. No fear once again. Have you drownproofed your loved-ones?

Swimming2When my wife and I moved back to Germany the community pool was just a block from our townhouse and we visited often. One curious note about German pools- everyone must wear a bathing cap – except babies – they wear nothing at all! It took me a while to track down a German bathing cap before I could swim in the neighborhood pool. I learned to scuba dive in Germany and experienced some of their freezing cold lakes during open water dives in the spring of 1981. I had a full wet-suit with hood and mittens but that layer of water between your skin and the suit still has to warm up before you can be comfortable. In that 38 degree water, the standing rule was, the first time you shivered in that suit after initial warm-up, you and your dive-buddy had to head back to shore. Anybody who is experienced in a wet-suit knows some tricks to warm up that thin layer of water between you and the neoprene. Your body is much smarter about cold water than your mind. Everything worked fine until I tilted my chin down and a rush of cold water ran down my neck under that hood. I straightened up quick. That underwater training served me well on a later trip to the Great Barrier Reef as we dove to see coral, parrot fish and even the occasional shark. I also got to dive with the manatees in the warm water of the Crystal River near Tampa, Florida. No wet suit needed there.

Our community in Oklahoma built a beautiful indoor pool complex and that’s when I really took off. I spent nearly every lunch hour with a friend there swimming a half mile or more for about ten years. I racked up over a 1,000 miles in the water during those years. I was so used to being in the water the skin on my fingers didn’t even wrinkle up any more after an hour in the pool. That experience even prompted me to enter one of those “aluminum-man” triathlons (300 meters swimming, 10 miles on the bike and 2 miles running). I came in last but I did finish! Now here in Oklahoma City our neighborhood has a brand new Adult Health and Wellness center and the pool looks absolutely marvelous. I can’t wait to swim there and I won’t even have to overcome that procrastinator’s shock when you first jump into a cold pool. You know that shock wears off within two or three minutes and the rest of the swim is very comfortable but try telling that to your brain.

Just one more “water” experience for my closing thought. My Dad always had a boat in Sesuit Harbor and told me we often moored next to our cousin Seleck Sears. One time Dad came down at high tide to go out fishing and there was Seleck up to his armpits in the harbor working on the side of his boat. When Dad expressed surprise Seleck replied, “If you are going to mess around boats you’ve got to expect to get a little wet!”


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Scouts – A Rumination

    A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Did you know we Scouts have a law? Every scout takes that law to heart very early in his training. Then he tries to uphold it the rest of his life. What is it exactly that leads someone to take on such an onerous task? You’ve probably all got the image of a boy trying to help a little old lady cross the street but somehow it is much more than that. There is a very interesting feeling you get when you do a good deed. I still love doing a good turn and even more so when I am the only one that knows of it. Modern day jargon refers to random acts of kindness or “pay it forward” but scouts have been the leaders in these concepts for many years.

I suppose I got into scouting because my Dad was a scout. In 1941 he was a Life scout in Troop 9, Old Colony Council, East Weymouth, Mass. That is probably the typical path. Either a parent, friend or school-mate gets you involved and you enjoy the camaraderie, competition, and consistency.  Something about wearing a uniform and achieving goals makes this all very appealing. I started Scouting in the early 60s and made it as far as Star scout rank before I switched from Boy Scouts to Explorers where there is not as much focus on rank and merit badges. Scouting seems to sticks with you more than other youth activities. Is it because of a broader life experience? Maybe because scouting spans such a great number of years.

Camping is one of the highlights of scouting and a week away at summer camp is the first experience for many boys to be somewhat independent.  It was especially nice for me the year my Dad was in Vietnam. Seventh grade is hard enough on a kid but worrying about your Dad all that time makes it even tougher. When your Dad is deployed it is really special to have other folks to lean on. Canoe races were my favorite part of summer camp.  There were three people in each canoe.  Two from one team paddled and the third guy from the other team sat in between and filled our boat with water using a #10 can.  It’s tough to row a canoe filled with water. I can’t remember if our teammate in the other boat was successful in slowing them down as he filled them up. My best friends were scouts. In high school, a real treat for two or three of us was to go camping in Virginia’s Appalachians or out on Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach. Today there is still no better experience than camping right on the beach. After all, we were trustworthy and we had all the skills needed to rough it on our own for a few days. Not many places allow beach camping, but in my part of the country, Mustang Island near Corpus Christi is a haven for beach bums. Accessed primarily by ferry with primitive campsites you cannot beat the experience of sleeping a few feet from the waves.

After I graduated from high school I spent the whole summer living on our boat on the Patuxent River- in Maryland just up from Chesapeake Bay. I still have a longing to live afloat. Catching and cooking up eels and Chesapeake blue crabs, enjoying the activities at the marina and basically camping on the water.  Whenever Dad and I would launch one of our the cabin cruiser projects in the Spring we would always sleep aboard the first few nights, hands hanging over the side of the bunks waiting for the feel of the rising water or floorboards in the cabin to wake us up and get to pumping the bilge. It always took a few days for those boats with double planked mahogany hulls to swell up enough to keep the ocean at bay. Believe me you don’t depend on a little automatic bilge pump to handle the initial swelling of planks. Later when you check the bilge you would always give the water “just a taste.”  Fresh – all good,just rainwater but salt- oh no, salt water comes in via a leak somewhere. I think over the years we bought and fixed up and sold at least eight cabin cruisers.

I am certain that I would not be where I am today without my Boy Scout experiences.  I learned to safely and accurately shoot firearms. I started shooting with a passion in sixth grade and was a pretty good shot with the semi-automatic 12-gauge on the skeet range at Fort Leavenworth.  Dad and I shot so many shells we even became experts at reloading those shells ourselves.  One time when I was in sixth grade, we were hunting geese down on the Missouri River on a cold November morning.  I was lined up to take a shot at a goose just sitting there in some reeds when he gave me a shoulder bump and said “Hold your fire, that’s somebody’s decoy.” Besides that error, I did not realize that it’s not etiquette to shoot a sitting goose.  I got to drink coffee that morning like a grown-up but all I had was a Dixie cup.  Did you know when you pour hot coffee into a Dixie cup the wax on the cup melts and floats on top of your coffee? I kept my mouth shut and drank coffee, wax and all.

But the .22 caliber Remington Nylon 66 rifle was my first personal weapon and was my pride and joy.  As a youngster, I could break down that rifle and clean it well enough to pass inspection by a veteran soldier- Dad that is. If you have never experienced cleaning rifles in the Army you might still appreciate that this is an ability that serves a person well when they show up at boot camp. I have many NRA marksmanship badges from my Scout experiences with their little ladders of skills improvement. Scouting even led me to the college varsity rifle team at Carnegie Mellon. We competed against all the colleges around Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and even Slippery Rock State Teachers college.  Our rifle team was a force to be reckoned with. The Army bought us match grade ammunition and we spent a couple hours on the range in the basement of the ROTC building every evening. I couldn’t begin to count how many holes I have punched in targets.  Our range would probably be considered a hazard today with all the lead dust we kicked up.  I even became the primary campus instructor for the Pistol Club, teaching other students how to safely handle weapons.  It’s a far cry from 1970 to now though. I guess much respect for weapons has been lost since then. I had no trouble qualifying with the 5.56 mm M-16 and .45 cal. M1911a1 pistol in the Army.

I still have all the small metal pins that show progression through the Scout ranks, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star. As Scouts we were proud to wear our uniforms to school often and in ROTC in college, even though it was the protest years of the Vietnam War, I was still honored to wear my U S Army uniform every week.

It was great to hear that the Cape Cod Genealogical Society sponsors the scouting Genealogy merit badge.  I don’t think that was available when I was pursuing badges.  Besides, I focused on all the badges that had to do with water.  Swimming, sailing, power boating, fishing, canoeing and others. Since my Dad and I were so involved with boats, we also took the Coast Guard Auxiliary Small Boat courses.  I excelled at taking their certification tests and could even sometimes beat Dad’s test scores.

Our scouting Explorer Post in Virginia was sponsored by Bell Telephone Company which led me to computer programming and electronics courses in high school and a degree as an Electrical Engineer in college and on to the US Army Signal Corps providing extensive communications for the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery at Fort Bragg and for US Army Europe in Germany.  Did scouting get me where I am today? I should say so.  Have you done your good turn today?

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A Rumination by L. Ray Sears, III

In his novella, Ur, Stephen King says that in a parallel universe, Hemingway wrote about dogs –

“A man’s life was five dogs long, Cortland believed. The first was the one that taught you. The second was the one you taught. The third and fourth were the ones you worked. The last was the one that outlived you. That was the winter dog.”

Les and ray and Cappy
The dog that taught me was Cappy, a beautiful tri-color collie. Collies are described as protective, gentle, loyal, friendly, and active and Cappy had all of those qualities in spades. Cappy went everywhere with us as we grew up. He went with us on Dad’s transfer with the Army to Germany. I don’t have a first hand memory of those three early years in Germany but I learned the words heiß (hot) and kaput (broken) and when I said, “I’m fursty,” our German maid would say “Ray you are not fursty, you are dursty.” Ich habe durst! (I have thirst!) In post-war Germany in the early 50’s, my Mom was told to keep a close eye on Cappy so he didn’t end up as a fur coat. Here you can see Cappy, Dad and me sitting on the Nürnberg Sportsplatz wall. On our return to the USA, and assignments to Indiana, Massachusetts and Virginia over a ten-year period, Cappy was there. He would make summer trips to Cape Cod riding in the back seat of a VW bug with the three of us kids. We had a special whistle, a sort of warbling that would bring Cappy running, usually for dinner. I never remember him on a leash. He was always charging ahead, exploring the paths through the woods before us. In my mind, I was Timmy and he was Lassie on endless adventures of intrigue and rescue. I carried a picture of Lassie in my wallet and told everyone, “this is my dog.” There are too many wonderful memories to recount of the dog that taught me.

Cape Cod must be famous for its wood ticks. After any venture into the cedar woods behind Grandmother’s house in East Dennis, we would spend hours picking those ticks out of Cappy’s fur and ears and dropping them into a jar of kerosene. Kerosene seems to be a favorite solvent of choice for nearly any purpose on the Cape. There was always a drum of kerosene in Grandmother’s barn to fill hurricane lamps, lubricate clocks, and even remove tar. I once saw it used in Russia by applying it to head rags to control a lice infestation in an orphanage.

Dogs are a natural for the beach. Wide open spaces to run, birds to chase, tide pools to splash in and waves to dodge. There were even clams to dig. In days gone by it was not such an issue to take your dog to the beach. I remember our dogs helping us dig clams during those extreme low tides. They would dig furiously and the clam would be disturbed and squirt some seawater out of the hole right in their face. The dogs would then renew their furious digging and enjoy carrying the salty, “smelly” clams around in their mouths.

The dog I trained was Barney. Barney was a Basset Hound and was a great hunter. My wife gave him to me for Valentine’s day and he also made the trip to Germany with us in the belly of the plane when the Army sent my wife and me on another three-year tour. Our family seems to take our dogs everywhere. My niece even took her dog, Beakon, hiking on the Applachian Trail over many hundreds of miles. Well Barney Magoo II was “my dog!” Barney the Basset was a great ice-breaker and could always get a conversation started, even with my halting German. The language seemed to come easily to me the second tour. Everyone loves to talk about their dogs and that is especially true with the German people. In Germany dogs are welcome everywhere as long as they are well behaved. Barney would lie quietly at our feet just like the other German dogs when we ate out at a local restaurant. He would make the 10-kilometer weekend Volksmarch as we strolled through the villages in the area where we lived. At the end of the “people’s walk,” where everyone gathered under a tent at picnic tables to drink beer and listen to the Oompah Band, he would mooch bratwurst from the other walkers with a just look from those sad droopy eyes, his short legs and extraordinarly long ears making the sale. One fellow told me that Barney had enough skin to make two dogs! When we decided to travel to France we had to take Barney to the vet to get him a doggy passport. You would think the French would welcome a Basset, passport or no?

I had never seen a dog cry until one afternoon my wife and I were sitting on the back porch of our house at Ft Bragg, NC. Barney suddenly started crying with big tears running down his jowls. We could not figure out what was wrong with him until we started crying too! We lived near the artillery range and the wind had blown a cloud of tear gas from the impact zone into the backyard and had all three of us in tears, two of us laughing our heads off at the discovery. Barney was also a great sailor. He had a special doggy life jacket and if left on shore when the boat went out, he would swim after us and force us to hoist him aboard. He would walk the deck of the Wind Rose, proud as can be.

After Barney came Betsy and Minnie. Both rescue dogs that needed foster care and worked hard to be the center of attention. Our daughter and her dog, Reggie, live with us at the moment. He is the smartest dog I’ve ever seen, another rescue dog from the pound. I don’t want to claim him as my dog though because then he would be my winter dog. I am not ready for my winter dog yet? How about you?

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