There’s Never Enough Sand

“he or she had sand,”

The old expression was “he or she had sand,” meaning fortitude, and I think, seeing as how it was obviously a very old expression, “sand” referred to endurance or vitality, as in plenty of time remaining in the hourglass.

This came to mind on Labor Day at the beach. Walking west in the afternoon as the stronger-than-usual tide of the past week licked its way toward its high point, I noticed a number of walls in the works. Fathers with shovels, their kids with smaller shovels and pails, heaping bucketsful of sand onto battlements meant to stave off the encroaching sea.

It was obvious that these last stands were being repeated, the endangered beach positions having been claimed a day or two before for the duration of the wonderful weekend. A game? Yes, but with a capital G for gravity.

I’ve been reading “Moon Maid,” a science fiction classic by Edgar Rice Burroughs. As most people know, Burroughs invented “Tarzan of the Apes,” but before Tarzan began swinging through the trees, Burroughs wrote about space travel, otherworldly worlds that fired young imaginations, including my father’s. I inherited a number of Burroughs’s books including “Moon Maid,” an Ace paperback edition that sold for 40 cents in 1926. It’s a doozy.

“In 2015 Mars had dispatched a ship for Earth with a crew of five men provisioned for ten years. It was hoped that with good luck the trip might be made in something less than five years as the craft had developed an actual trial speed of one thousand miles per hour.”

Seems Mars and our planet had been communicating for some time. The Mars vessel flew off course, however, so the “Peace Fleet” of the United States (having prevailed in a war that had lasted many years) launched a mission to the red planet. But one of the officers aboard the ship Barsoom — the name the Martians called their planet (you might have observed, as I did, that the name the indigenous people of Mars gave their planet rhymes with, and is only one letter away from spelling, bar room, which might indicate where the author found his inspiration) — sabotaged the flight by destroying the Eighth Ray that would have kept the Barsoom away from the moon’s gravitational pull.

It was liquor combined with a case of professional jealousy that caused Orthis to take such action. The ship sinks to the moon’s surface and is then sucked into one of its deep craters, where the crew of the Barsoom discovers fabulous plants, a sea, freshwater rivers, flying toads, four-legged snakes, forests, and centaur-like creatures — in other words, the stuff of a successful Labor Day weekend with kids. And yet, the gravitational pull of the moon is irresistible, and on Monday the Eighth Ray was about to be hijacked by the return to work, to school.

The tide was rising and no amount of digging and piling was going to hold off the inevitable. The guys with shovels ordering their children into the breach didn’t have enough sand and they knew it. Their Labor Day redoubts were being drowned by the moon, the Long Island Expressway beckoning. You could see it in their eyes.

Harvey Bennett, owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, will appreciate this extraterrestrial reference, I think. He swears that aliens have genetically engineered a horseshoe crab that has begun to grow to huge proportions in Accabonac Harbor. He also reported the “first” false albacore catch of the year last week. Maybe so, maybe not.

I’m surprised I’m not hearing more reports of false albacore. It’s about the right time — maybe a little early — for them to be showing up, and yet there seems to be no great schooling activity. It won’t be long before the “mosquito fleet” of small boats will be ranging about looking for their “trifectas,” tangling with bluefish, striped bass, and false albacore on light spin tackle or fly rods all on the same outing.

It is an exciting time of year for light-tackle aficionados, or anyone else who ventures out to witness the whirlpooling swirls of prey fed upon by chomping bluefish, by striped bass waiting under the schools for scraps, and the false albacore charging through the middle of the swarms like luminescent rockets.

It’s also nearly time for the start of the annual Montauk SurfMasters tournament for striped bass. The deadline for entry is Friday, Sept. 18, but surfcasters are encouraged to sign up early, by Monday, to take advantage of “the back side” of this month’s new moon. There’s that moon again. The tournament runs until Nov. 29. Would-be contestants can visit Paulie’s Tackle shop in downtown Montauk to get the particulars.

The commercial fishing season for black sea bass ended on Tuesday. The “black gold” can still be mined by sportfishermen, however. The fluke bite has eased some. A commercial pinhooker said he believed the flatties had begun to move offshore. The recreational fluke season ends on Sept. 21.