“Please come meet my horses,” said Jeanann Alves, late this gorgeous Mother’s Day afternoon on Peaks Island. The gracious Alves takes me from horse to horse introducing us. She tells me their stories – and each horse, donkey and pony has its own story. All twelve of them, although this blogger did not meet all of them today in what was a spontaneous interview.
There is Mercury, a 32 year old horse who formerly raced at Scarborough Downs and came from Kentucky. She has a “bow tendon” which made it impossible for her to continue to race. Her future looked grim. Alves took her in years ago. Now, because of her advanced age, she has few teeth and the ones she has are well worn down. So, she is afforded a special patch of nearby green grass that is more digestable for her. “She’s still the fastest horse I have,” said Alves. Alves, who has lived all her life on Peaks, is one of nine children. She lives close to the Camp with many of her siblings.
After the introductions to Jerome, (a donkey), Black Duke, Boo Boo Bear, Mr. Dumplin’, Chicklotte and a couple of others whose names escape me are over, it’s time to return to the Peaks Taxi for the short ride to catch the next Ferry back to Portland before the afternoon has disappeared at the end of a beautiful Mother’s Day.
This Camp is back off the main road and so it was most helpful to have Melanie, my tour guide extraordinnaire, take me there. It’s an active day camp where kindness and animal appreciation are emphasized. Activities for the day are voted on by the campers. The input of each camper is valued in a setting where learning about horses and having fun is the priority!
A well-known scenic drive for cars, bikers and golf carts is the Back Shore drive also known as Seashore Avenue. At one place, Peaks Taxi driver Melanie stops to point out a spot where someone dug out a watery path that awaits a private dock to be installed for summer use. A lovely spot on the popular Seashore Avenue; an especially popular (and for some controversial) drive when golf cart traffic arrives later in the season, as well. (See below right photo.)
“This is one of the Island’s most popular places to explore,” Melanie, a long-time resident of Peaks tells this blogger. “People love to walk down the path and sit on top of the roof,” she said referring to Battery Steele. Shown above is the back side which was approachable on foot. The walls were covered with graffiti. The front side was not approachable today because of the “swampy” land in which it’s located. Wooden planks try to make the wet and muddy path passable, but not enough for this blogger who aborted the effort part-way in. The land on which the fortification is sited has been made into a preservation so the property will always be accessible to the public. No private development permitted here!
Over the years, occasional reports have surfaced of the spotting of German submarines off the Maine coast during World War 11. “One Nazi submarine was sunk in the Bay,” said Melanie, who was a delightful tour guide this afternoon. The Battery was built on fourteen (14) acres of land to protect Casco Bay – from Kennebunk to Popham Beach. There are still other coast defense structures on Peaks as well.
“Casco Bay became the northern base of the Atlantic fleet. This meant tight security.,,,,,,Two artillery batteries were built on the back shore, Battery Craven had two six-inch guns and Battery Steele had two sixteen-inch guns……A six-story tower was built as an observation post for Batteries Craven and Steele and a second one added later. A mine observation station was added. Seven hundred troops were barracked on Peaks Island.” according to “Peaks Island An Affectionate HIstory,” a book written by John K. Moulton.
“This is a very close community. We stick together and look out for each other,” said Melanie, who has lived on Peaks for twenty-three (23) years. There are roughly 1,000 residents during the winter months. For more information on Peaks Taxi, please call 207 518-0000 or go to peakstaxi.org.
For more information on the Horse Island Day Camp, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jeanann at 207 838-7652.