If you mention the carousel, to anyone on the island, you will first get a smile, and then a story.
I remember when I took my first ride…
The Flying Horses Carousel is the oldest operating platform carousel in America. For 140 years children have ridden, round and round on these gorgeous steeds, in the little red barn, in the town of Oak Bluffs, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
With music from a 1923 Wurlitzer Band Organ, the smell of popcorn from the refreshment stand, the brightly colored hand-painted signs, (thank Skip for those), the original painted placards that revolve with scenes of far away places, and the laughter of children enjoying the ride, there is a circus-like atmosphere when you walk inside, out of the blazing summer beach scene, and into the cool throwback in time, and the world turns at a slower, happier pace.
On the cool crisp October day, when we met Wendy and John outside the red building, the horses were gearing up for the last race of the season.
Walking in, before the doors were open to the patrons, it was eerily dark as we waited for John to throw on the lights. I wandered around to the back of the barn, following a shaft of bright morning light, that was streaming in from the topmost windows.
The strong raking light caught the tip of an ear, and the edge of a saddle, the ginger flank of one horse, and the flowing blond mane of another.
It cast the long thin shadow of a stirrup, on the circular green floor, and then popped up to reveal the brilliant red arm, and slid silkily down to the very end, which was, ever so gently, holding one shiny brass ring.
Just as the sunlight winked on the edge of that brass ring, while their caretaker John was still fumbling for the switch, I felt a breeze, and heard a distant whinny… and off they went.
It was a breathtaking sight… riderless and free, they took to the wind, and, for one more time… those beautiful horses…flew.
You can read more about the Carousel here from the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust website.
And I can thank Wendy and John for the inspiration, and the ride.