As any of my regular readers might know, I grew up on Cape Cod. My father was a fisherman, for a time he even had his own commercial fishing boat and dragged for scallops out in Buzzards Bay.
Growing up down Cape, I’ve always been fascinated by the sea and by stories of Olde Cape Cod.
As a result of this, my intimate, long-steeped ties to the people and places of Cape Cod, my own experience of Provincetown is somewhat different from those in the LGBTQ community who think of it solely as a gay resort destination. I remember hanging out there as a Punk Teenager and being fascinated by the juxtaposition of “Here and Queer” gay people and “Salty Old Fishermen”.
This story I came across recently in a book called, “A Treasury Of New England Folklore”, published in MCMXLVII (Arabic numerals being apparently too new-fangled for the good Yankee editors.), aptly combines both perspectives on old P-Town. And it goes a long way to show how little the town has changed in it’s spirit!
It’s a tale of Olde Cape Cod called…
“Provincetown and the Devil”
PROVINCETOWN from it’s earliest days has been freer, richer in life than it’s neighbors. Back in 1727 Truro asked to be severed from Provincetown because of the goings-on there. Provincetown gloried in this separation and laughed to itself. Truro sitting discreetly in the folds of her moors looked down her nose at Provincetown and still does. The Cape early wrote, in legend, it’s opinion of the folk on Land’s End.
Captain Jeremiah Snaggs lived up the Cape and he did not die in the odor of sanctity. The story is he tried to escape the devil by various devices. He dodged the devil in Barnstable, he eluded him in a hollow tree in Orleans, he escaped from him in Wellfleet by putting a jack-o-lantern which looked like him in a tree, but in Provincetown the devil caught up with him.
“Well,” said Captain Jeremiah, “you caught me fair and squar’. Whar do we go from here?”
“Go?” Said the devil. “Nowhar. Ain’t we to Provincetown?”
Yep. Hasn’t changed a bit!