Chincoteague Island is home to many talented artisans, creators, storytellers, and guides. Their contributions to the history of Chincoteague Island are what keeps its rich history alive. If you are visiting us this fall or winter, we encourage you to seek out ways to connect with the locals who make our way of life possible. As an installment of our Legacy Series, we would like to recognize two of those talented people:
Crab Pots, Hunting, and Clam Fritters
Andy Linton was born in Sanford, Virginia. As he tells it, “a stone’s throw from Saxis.” At nine years old, Linton became the 54th case in the world to have heart surgery. His doctors told the family they should move to a warmer climate. The Lintons chose the Florida Keys, and Linton remained there for 13 years.
“I lost my home to Hurricane Donna and moved back to Chincoteague in 1965. I started guiding my first year,” he recalls.
Linton wasn’t planning on becoming a hunting guide, but a friend from out of state wanted to know if he could take him duck hunting. He agreed, and that first season he only took one man out. Now, he takes between two and three hundred. In previous years, he has hunted every day from Christmas until the end of January. This year, he plans to take off on Sundays. The weather is cold, and the work is hard, but Linton was built for it. “When my tears are frozen on my cheeks, that is my element,” he adds. Many of his hunters stay with us here at the Refuge at our special hunters’ rate.
Linton has a healthy respect for nature, and he positively contributes to the relationship between the islanders and their home in more ways than one. At one time, Linton owned Sea Coast Manufacturing, near Ray’s Shanty on the mainland. There, he made zinc anodes that the commercial crabber put in their pots to protect them from the saltwater. When he started the business, he met a man who made crab pots, and Linton learned the art from him. He started coming up with some of his own designs and made them for many years to sell at Ace Hardware on Chincoteague Island. He was also invited each year to make them for entertainment at the Museum of Chincoteague. Although he has stepped back from this art form due to carpal tunnel surgery on his right hand, his creations have served people both on and off of the island for many years.
As a Chincoteague Fireman, Linton also cooks and serves clam fritters each year at the carnival and the seafood festival. This is a practice Linton hopes will continue, but he is concerned about the lack of interest in cooking and serving fritters posed by the younger generation.
“There’s not a lot of new young blood coming in. We have two who have started helping Ron and I will cook for a couple of hours, but sometimes you have 40-50 people in your line. When I’m cooking, I cook two dozen at a time. It takes 9 minutes to cook a pan of fritters. After a couple of hundred, I’ll put one of the younger boys on my stove. They can cook them as well, but they can’t cook as many at a time as I can,” he explains.
Andy Linton may not be making crab pots, but he is planning to take hunters out this year! If you want to get on his books, please visit www.chincoteague.com/alinton.
Nancy West came to Chincoteague Island in 1974 alongside her husband, Jerry, who began practicing law here. She operated an art gallery called Island Arts for 17 years, and she was part of the group who formed Chincoteague Cultural Alliance.
“The salt marshes and ocean and birds provide an unending source of ideas for my paintings,” she explains.
At the early age of 10, West began to study art through a talented and gifted program in Pittsburgh Public Schools. She studied every Saturday at Carnegie Museum, and moved on to Carnegie Tech (Carnegie Mellon University) at age 13. When she entered college at William and Mary, she was introduced to oils. That has remained her preferred medium ever since.
Through this medium and her passion for the environment around her, West has created oil paintings that stop audiences in their tracks. At this year’s Easter Decoy & Art Festival, many viewers crossed the room and spent time engaged with the artist in conversation. Lucky buyers took home breathtaking recreations on canvas of the unique moments West has witnessed on the island and elsewhere. Her favorite painting, though, is not for sale.
She describes, “a young Mennonite girl standing at the edge of the ocean holding her infant brother on her hip. She said she was introducing her brother to the sea. The breeze gently blows her long dress against her legs and lifts the strings of her bonnet. Her image is reflected in the wet sand at her feet, and the ocean provides the simple background.”
Out in the Community
This work tells a story all its own, but sometimes the work creates the story. Communities keep art alive by engaging with artists even if they cannot experience the work the way the artist may have originally intended. At a street fair a few years ago, a blind man came to West’s booth and asked her to describe a few paintings.
She recalls, “I used temperature (warm and cool colors), sensations of touch, and music to describe paintings of egrets and herons, birds he had never seen. It really made me think differently about my art, and the man bought three paintings for sighted visitors in his home to enjoy.”
You can find work by Nancy West online at www.nancywest.com. Each piece lists the gallery in which it is displayed. Her work is shown on Chincoteague Island at Bad Ponies Gallery, Flying Fish Gallery, and Chincoteague Cultural Alliance’s Kitchen Gallery. In Onancock, you can find her work at the Red Queen Gallery. She has artwork in Turner Sculpture in Onley and Lemon Tree Gallery in Cape Charles.
This blog is the second in a “Legacy Series” that aims to tell the untold stories of the Leonard Family, the Refuge Inn, and Chincoteague Island. It was created as a joint effort by Hayleigh Bradbury, writer, Donna Leonard, past owner of the Refuge Inn, island historian, and tour guide, and Cynthia Leonard Wilder, representing the third generation of the Leonard Family, who own and operate the Refuge Inn on Chincoteague Island, Virginia.