Beston was there for veterans
“Support the Troops.” It’s heard a lot these days. Henry Beston, author of the Cape Cod classic, “The Outermost House,“ knew what it was like all too well for the soldiers — he was an ambulance driver for the American Field Service in France during World War I and later became a correspondent for the U.S. Navy after the United States entered the conflict.
While the acts of war disgusted him (retreating to the Cape’s Outer Beach was one of the stops in his post-war soul-searching journey during the 1920s), he always held those who served in the military close to his heart. For years, he marched with the city of Quincy’s Memorial Day parades alongside his brother, George Sheahan, and his children, clad in Coast Guard whites. He also volunteered for the American Legion Post in Quincy, and, as a keynote speaker, often told the story of his war experiences to local organizations.
In the “An Inland Stroll in Spring” chapter of “The Outermost House,” Beston noted how he turned south on to the main road “at a boulder commemorative of the men of Eastham who served in the Great War.” He also spoke at Armistice Day ceremonies in Eastham in 1928.
Still, Beston, who longtime friend George Rongner said “hated war with a vengeance and the political world that caused such conflicts,” often insisted that becoming out of tune with the earth and the increase in warlike activities were on the same level.
As Beston wrote in "Northern Farm": “In a world so convenient and artificial that there is scarcely day or night, and one is bulwarked against the seasons and the year, time, so to speak, having no natural landmarks, tends to stand still. The consequence is that life and time and history become unnaturally a part of some endless and unnatural present, and violence for some becomes the only remedy.”
Don Wilding is a lecturer, tour guide, and author of two books: "Henry Beston's Cape Cod: How 'The Outermost House' Inspired a National Seashore," and "A Brief History of Eastham: On the Outer Beach of Cape Cod." His "Shore Lore" column appears weekly in the Cape Codder.