Cape Cod’s Most Interesting Man

He once led the California Highway Patrol on a 3-county chase at the end of which the officer bought him an Arbys Roast beef.

He told US Senator Edward Kennedy to get a real job while they stood side by side on the half-deck of The Mayflower.

He schooled famed archaeologist/anthropologist James Deetz on the sociological ramifications of The Brady Bunch

He is Cape Cod’s Most Interesting Man.


Hey how are you. You got your pants on?

With a name harkening back to colonial times and a wit as droll as any yankee who has ever scratched the earth, Dave Wheelock is an authentic throwback. Shipwright, timber-framer, archaeologist, author, museum curator, historian and part-time farmer and fisherman, stories flow from beneath his Newman’s Own mustache in a soft spoken, southeastern Massachusetts lilt. Women have written him fan mail about his dreamy blue eyes. Dudes want to have lived out even a small percentage of his stories.

I don’t always restore house frames, but when I do, it’s for a good cause.


Needless to say, it’s been nice to be able to work with him.

We’ve been moonlighting at The Benjamin Nye Homestead, replacing sills, post bottoms, joists and a few studs. It’s quiet on this little jog off of touristy route 6-A. You should visit the place. They’re open for the season.


It’s a charming little house–quintessential Cape Cod, really.



The ghosts of Benjamin and his family watch our comings and goings-

Digging out old sills gives Dave a chance to sift through the debris for artifacts on this rich site:



He’s found coins, the obligatory pottery sherds, and pre-colonial evidence of a Wampanoag settlement–a storage pit in the front hall of the house, dug well-before the Nyes’ built their home.

A woman’s hand-

 The other day, while fetching out the rotted end of an old joist, Dave also found this:


To the untrained eye, this would appear to be nothing more than the random remnants of a rat’s nest.

But Cape Cod’s Most Interesting Man knew better–

This is the coolest thing I’ve found in the last 20 years, he said.

If you knew Dave, you’d realize how significant this statement was.

It was flax–expertly, patiently arranged by “a woman’s hand”, as Dave said. The detail of such a delicate and fragile artifact somehow surviving for centuries beneath the floor was astonishing, once Dave put the rarity of such a find in context.


Each strand arranged and the whole work tied up loosely in a knot.

Think of all the steps which led to this, Dave reminded us: The growing of the flax, its meticulous combing and dressing, and the rat which unbelievably did so little damage to it. Perhaps the Nye’s sprinkled a little more arsenic around the rat-hole when the original thievery was discovered sometime around the Revolutionary War.

All this drama played out on a little stage here on Cape Cod, fleshed out centuries later by an expert eye and a sublime storyteller.


John (left) a Nye descendant, great guy and keeper of the house, takes in the find with Dave.

Another day another find:

Our man Dave picked up a sash-sawn floorboard the other day–it came up from near the hearth of Nye House’s parlor.


The shallow burn marks are just above Dave’s hand.

Those divots, he was sure, represented the shallow burning of the legs of hot kettles being put down on the pine. They looked a little like cigarette burns to me, but we always influence our perceptions of “history” with our own experience, don’t we? It would be interesting to see if any of the house’s kitchen tools fit the profile of the burn marks.

Oh, he carves gravestones too-

Thanks to Tonia Deetz Rock for the reminder about this little gem of a video which The Heritage Museum in Sandwich produced a few-less gray hairs ago:

Jethro’s got a goat playing a fiddle inside his head–and you know what they say about goats–they’re hard to catch.

-Dave Wheelock


Poor Kevin (right). He just met Dave and is not sure what to believe. Been there, Kev.

The stories flowed while we cut new oak to replace the old: Tales of eccentrics who hurled angry epithets at rocks in the woods, tales of ground penetrating radar and whether to exhume or not to exhume, and a characteristic chuckle from Dave when he realized he didn’t know his own cell phone number–

I’d call myself but I wouldn’t pick up for that asshole.


Vintage Wheelock.


The Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum is off route 6A at 85 Old County Rd in Sandwich, Mass.

They’re open Tues – Sat, noon-4:30. (508) 888-4213


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15 thoughts on “Cape Cod’s Most Interesting Man

  1. Having spent much of eight summers sharing a scrap of plank staging with the guy while painting Mayflower II, I can attest: the man IS a phenomenon. Thanks, Rick, for reminding me of all those hours spent scraping and giggling.

  2. Linda Master says:

    Thanks for another very interesting fun post—

  3. Jack says:

    “All this drama played out on this little stage here on Cape Cod, fleshed out centuries after by an expert eye and a sublime storyteller.”

    A notorious storyteller indeed.

  4. Could it be that Nye is Friesian? If so the woman has tied up her bunch of flax in the same way we are still doing it out here, I could recognize it immediately.

  5. Cricket Deetz says:

    I grew up with Dave and I can only echo what has been said… he is an amazing individual.. sharp witted, quick mind.. and most of all a warm heart. much love to you

    • Rick says:

      Thanks for checking in, Cricket. Those were some legendary and heady times. I’m glad there are people like you and Dave who survived to tell the tales.

  6. / Lisa Joy : If I remember correctly, wasn’t this interesting man struck twice by lightening while in the working top of the Mayflower?

  7. Martha says:

    There are numerous tables, stool seats, plates and trenchers with similar burn marks made by cooking pot feet in the repro collection at P.P.

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