I Want To Be Where The People Are

Natl Geo Nov 68
Natl Geo Nov 68

Petey the harbor seal is sad. He has slithered across shells and seaweed to watch the widow Stella once again fry up eggs for one. Ever since Galen went to be with the Lord, Stella has been very lonely. When she looks out the window, she sees Petey watching her.

So she decides to make a friend. But when she has eaten her breakfast, Petey is long gone. Determined, she ties a kerchief ’round her noggin and gallops into the cold Atlantic Ocean until she retrieves Petey.


“Catch of the day,” she yells into the salty air, and a shiver goes down Petey’s spine.

Stella is so, so lonely. Petey has second thoughts. Stella doesn’t understand personal space.


Petey decides he doesn’t want to be where the people are. He is totally cool being where the sharks are.

But Stella invites him to visit with her and her neighbor Bruce. Doesn’t Petey look happy?


Petey learns that hind flippers are of no use on a cheap throw rug. Still, he is determined. At dawn, he rolls himself onto the original hardwood floor and off the sun porch into the sand. A trio of nuns spots him as he enters the water.


But Petey doesn’t need their blessing now. He is home free. Godspeed, Petey. Godspeed.



Note: All images are from National Geographic. The seal is actually named Shag, and he was adopted by the Horstman family in Longport, New Jersey. Not that that makes it any less weird.

15 thoughts on “I Want To Be Where The People Are”

  1. I was already laughing at Petey preferring sharks to the woman who invades his personal space and then I read that Petet was actually named Shag and I lost it. Just in case you don’t know, in the UK it’s also a seabird but shag is also a crude word for sex. Puerile, I know, but it made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve had a small amount of interaction with wild animals and as cute as they can be, they are still wild and I wouldn’t put my face up to theirs for any reason.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey on the otherside of the Great Egg Harbor Inlet where the Horstmans lived in their log cabin at the very south end of Longport. Then, as a child, I remembered the living legend of how the Horstmans took care of Shag during the two or three summer seasons when he would visit in the mid-1960s.It was claimed that Shag ventured down from the Nova Scotia area to take his summers with the Horstman family at the Jersey Shore. From my house in Ocean City, I longed for Shag to make his appearance on our side of the inlet but there was never an account that he ever did. The log cabin itself where the Horstmans lived was a bit of a marvel to my neighbors who would often admire it from across the inlet as log cabins are rare in this area. After the summer of 1969, little of the legend of the visiting seal was discussed and I always wondered how the Horstmans coped by Shag’s disappearance never to return.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, what a connection you have! I’m sad that Shag never made his way to your area. It would be hard to establish a relationship with him like the Horstmans and then not know what happened to him, as you say.


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