Unexpected connections here often take the form of discovering who is related to whom — that the furniture maker who lives down the road is the cousin of the guy with the quirky art gallery in Provincetown. But there’s another kind of discovery, perhaps even more pleasing, that is also revealing about the history and character of these small and seemingly isolated towns.
In last week’s Arts & Minds section we published an article on Stephen Duncombe, an N.Y.U. professor who lives part-time in Truro. His new book, The Activist Angler, is about the connections between fishing, which he likes to do on the Outer Cape’s ponds and beaches, and activism for social change, which he has practiced in Africa, the Balkans, and on New York’s Lower East Side since the 1990s.
“Duncombe, 57, started coming to the Outer Cape to spend time with his activist mentors,” Liz Wood wrote. “Over dinners, they would reminisce about their work with Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s.”
Also in last week’s Independent, we published an op-ed column with the title “Mercy: A Canine Tutorial,” by Stuart Ewen. It’s about Finn, his unusually perceptive dog, and what happened when a small bird crashed into their window.
“I’ve been in Truro part- and full-time for more than 50 years, beginning in 1969,” Ewen wrote in a cover note. “I am an author of numerous historical books, but I’m sending you this short story, based on actual events that took place at my home. Let me know if it interests you.”
He signed his note: “Stuart Ewen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus.”
I had to look him up, of course. I found he is indeed a distinguished professor emeritus at Hunter College and the City University of New York, where he taught history, sociology, and media studies. His 1989 book about consumer culture, All Consuming Images, was the basis for a Bill Moyers series, “The Public Mind.”
In the 1960s, Ewen was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which registered and mobilized Black voters in the Deep South and became one of the most important organizations of the Civil Rights Movement.
When I called Ewen to say we would publish his story, I asked him if he knew Stephen Duncombe.
“Of course,” said Ewen. “He was my student at the City University. He came in the summers to visit us in Truro. That’s how he ended up with his own place here.”
In this way, the wide world and great social movements come to us in this remote place.
“Living in our little town, working in our secluded office, we can have taken a voyage nowhere,” wrote Henry Beetle Hough, editor of the Vineyard Gazette, in his 1940 memoir, Country Editor. “How, then, can it seem that we have done so, that we have been comrades with so many different souls who have come from so many far places of the world by so many different paths?”