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Combs Decoy Shop & Hallockville Museum Farm - TravelStorys

East End Back Story

Location Trip Time Travel Type
New York 1 hour

Combs Decoy Shop & Hallockville Museum Farm

Kevin Rogan: Welcome to the East End Back Story tour. Jack Combs grew up on Great South Bay and later moved to Southold. The Combs Decoy Shop was given to Hallockville by Jack Combs. He comes from a long line of baymen and decoy carvers. Jack has won many awards for his decoys. In this story you will hear how he learned some of the traditions passed down to him from his grandfather and father. Jack Combs: My grandpa, Uncle Wink Carman and dad, they had a thing. They only tell you once down in the bay, this is how you do it. We're not going to tell you four or five times because your life depends on it. And it was very strong learning from those men, because they've been through everything from shipwrecks, and God knows what. So when you talk, you'll learn a lot from the water and I'll tell you, it's 68 when I left the bay and I went with Moran tugs for 20 years, I would see these deckhands come on board have no idea what they're doing. And they'd say, Jack, can you go over there and kind of help him out. And I'd say I'm going to tell you just once this is how you do the line, make sure they don't get corded or anything else. Some learned, some didn't but the baymen, they tell you once and you better know. The only fishing story I remember as a kid when I was nine years old, grandpa and Uncle Wink and dad had a bait house down on Swift Creek, and once a month in the summer, Uncle Donny Montross he, he had a boat called the Gladys B. He'd go to the Redeemer church, bring out the Mother Superior and four or five nuns for a day's fishing. So they come out there to us and she, the Mother Superior would say "Captain Jack is this a safe boat?" He says lady it's the safest boat in the world, the captain's too old and the mates are too young. A lot of times we'd be up in a harbor New England somewheres with a barge ready to leave and the weather got real bad especially going for the Cape Cod canal. So the crew would not want to go and the dispatcher would always pushed the boat "You gotta go You gotta go for the customer." So then they would do is, they send out what we call a Viking, a Norwegian captain. Because when you come on the boat, the first thing they said is "Ya, the boat we go." We said we will not go. Dad and I were going down a bay. We usually go down in the winter time go down about 10-11 o'clock in the morning to go gunning for the afternoon tide. You never went down early because it's freezing is cold blowing. We're going down the bay and we see off this point is a guy in a rowboat, way the hell out there by Squaw Island. Dad says that man is in trouble. Well, we went out to him and sure enough, he's sitting in a boat full of icy water, his guns there. He got on canvas gloves. His motor wouldn't work and he was going to be a goner. So Pop said to him. I'll tell you what, we'll anchor your boat and we'll take you with us. We'll put you in a cabin with a stove on, but we're going gunning. You're not going to ruin our gunning. And at the end of the day we'll take you back to the homeland." So Pop raised hell with him. He says you have to have good equipment. Well, four years later this boat comes down the bay and he come up to us. He says to my dad, you know who I am? Pop's says no. He had a beautiful gunning boat, life jackets, the whole nine yards. He says "I'm the guy that you saved." Pop says "Well you know that I feel good because you took my advice." Kevin Rogan: Jack Combs and his ancestors were also avid duck hunters. Listen to this story about the ducks they supplied to a local restaurant many years ago. There was this one restaurant, and he dealt with game. And he always used to get a lot of mallards. And he couldn't get any more. So he come to us, and he wanted to buy some birds. So we wouldn't shoot the birds. We trap the birds. And what happens, there is a special trap. So we gave him a whole mess of birds. I think we got $2 apiece a bird. We got, I think 15 to 20 birds one day. "What was this trap?" It's a special trap. So big. That's all I'm gonna tell ya. We'd catch them alive. And you'd catch as high as 30 or 40 of them. "Is it a box?" Yes. It was a cage. And so you would catch them. So anyhow, we would bring them next and then we pick them and clean them and we would give them to him, to the restaurant owner. What would happen was he come back to my old man a week later he says "George I don't understand it. He says I'm used to game birds with shot in it. None of these birds had shot." The old man said we shoot them over the head. So the old man said I'll fix them. The next order of birds we had, we had 40 or 50. The old man cleans the birds, takes a nice picture, puts a few holes in the breast and stuff, and it looks like shot marks. The owner comes back a month later. He says "I don't understand it" he says. We seen a shot in the bird but we don't find a shot. They couldn't figure it out. Kevin Rogan: Ready for more stories? Continue on our East End Back Story journey. This program is funded by the NY State Council on the Arts and the Robert Gardiner Foundation.

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