Then there are the tracts of untouched forest, and houses with sweeping views of Gardiners Bay or Three Mile Harbor. On a midsummer day, when the Village of East Hampton is clogged with Land Rovers and the beaches are overrun, you can still find some empty sand at Barnes Landing or watch the world go by from the porch at the Springs General Store.
But that's changing, too. Dee Raley, a chef at the store, points out a pack of passing cars one Saturday afternoon. "That's the Pollock traffic," she says, referring to the tourists who, inspired by last year's Jackson Pollock movie, flock to the artist's former home nearby. And as the world of the Hamptons noses its way north into the Springs, as the BMWs of the summer people and the pickups favored by the Bubs come grill to grill, tempers sometimes flare.
Ask local real-estate broker John Wiltshire. The six-foot-four former model hopped out of his Mercedes to argue a point of vehicular courtesy and ended up gushing blood from a Bub head butt. "There's a lot of anger out here," Wiltshire says.
No place in the Springs seems farther from East Hampton than Wolfie's -- sometimes called Club Bub -- where the menu is simple but the social order is not. The rising prices haven't driven the artists out of the Springs because most of them own their own homes, but it certainly has driven them into the arms of the Bubs at Wolfie's, where a beer is still $3.25. The summer people who do wander in here keep their voices down and give wide berth to the chortling contractors, flush from the rousing building boom.
Everybody gives wide berth to the Bubs. Wild Bill, a handle bar-mustached follower of the famous Maidstoners softball team of artists and local builders and landscapers, puts it this way: "The Bubbies have lived here for centuries. The Millers, the Lesters, the Kings. They got streets named after them. Somebody in a Mercedes is gonna cut them off on the road? C'mon." A local recommends I talk to Ed Hults about the area's history. A block away from his Shingle house, I pass Ed Hults Street.
The Bubs have a style all their own. They eat Bub burgers (peanut butter and butter on a hard roll), drive trucks with black Labrador retrievers in the back, and even have their own Bub salute on the road. "It's a sharp nod, like this," demonstrates Raley, who owns a house on the Springs' windswept Gerard Point.
The truest locals are the baymen, or Bonackers, fishermen who have given the area its character and the East Hampton High School sports teams their nickname, but whose livelihood has been strangled by commercial-fishing regulations. Many of the baymen have been driven to bankruptcy and drink. Most have given up the water, moving into the building trades. Less than a dozen die hards still motor onto the bay each dawn.
Most residents ignore the tension and revel in the mix of people. "This is the real Hamptons, "announces an elderly woman at the eighteenth annual Springs Improvement Society's Members' Art Show in whitewashed Ashawagh Hall on Old Stone Highway. "Those other people," she continues, jerking her head toward the Village of East Hampton, "they're not from the Hamptons. They're from . . . Hollywood, I think."
Indeed, Hollywood may be coming to town. Billy Joel has been looking to buy a place on Three Mile Harbor.
A couple hundred yards down the road from Ashawagh Hall and the Presbyterian church, past the library and across a small bridge that separates Accabonac Creek from Pussy Pond, Sharon McCobbp resides over the General Store. "People pull up and ask me, 'Where's the town of Springs?' " says the winsome, dark-haired store owner. "I tell them: 'Right here.' "
Built in the late 1800s, the General Store looks like it hasn't changed much since Jackson Pollock traded one of his paintings there for groceries and beer. In the parking lot, three rusted, inoperative gas pumps stand beside six weathered barrels festooned with pink verbenas and pale yellow petunias, and the sprawling front porch supports half a dozen Adirondack chairs. Out back, a snowy egret steps through the marsh grass. Inside, McCobb's blonde 5-year-old daughter, Lena, grins from the back room, where a counter holds a coffeemaker and a tray of freshly baked cookies.
When McCobb took over the store five years ago, it was a true Bub joint like Barnes Country Store a block away, where the shelves are lined with cans of baked beans and the most popular items are hot coffee and cheap Budweiser. A couple of years ago, though, she began catering to the burgeoning second-home crowd, serving up veggie burgers and curried chicken salad. Recently, Raley offered a tofu sandwich to a Bub friend of hers and he waved it away in disgust. "Where's the real food?" he wanted to know. Now the homemade corn chowder is better than any south of the highway, but it's harder to get change back on a $20 bill.
People show up at the store in shifts. At dawn, a convoy of vans and pickups sits in the parking lot while a line of sinewy men pour themselves tall Styrofoam cups of coffee. Some are Latino laborers drawn by the well-paying construction work, others subcontractors, local men riding out the biggest economic swell of their lives.
An hour later, John Griffith passes through on his way to his job at a building-supply company. At 47, Griffith displays none of the Bub irritability but speaks with a lilt that tells you he comes from the old stock just the same. He refers to Accabonac Creek as a "Crick" and remembers the days when a boy could drive at 14 and make a dollar plowing a field in the Springs while eating handfuls of fresh strawberries.