Sunday, May 30, 2004

Cooler Weather Today

Overcast skies and cooler temperatures suggest impending rain later today, maybe even thunderstorms. Not too many folks out and about yet this morning, but we're anticipating more people stopping by as the day progresses, especially if a light rain keeps them off the beach!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Memorial Day Weekend Greetings

It's hard to believe, but June is almost upon us. Summer vacations have already started, although it won't be until mid-June, after high school graduations, that the season really picks up.

The island's next big event is coming up the first weekend in June -- our annual Ocrafolk Festival of Music & Storytelling. If you're on the island, stop by and say hello.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Graduating Seniors

On Wednesday, May 26, "Green Tuna" inquired, "I'd be interested to many people have graduated from Ocracoke [School]...ever?"

Two weeks from now, on June 13, four seniors will receive their diplomas -- Jimmy Wrobleski, Amara Wollerman, Tucker Payne, and Brandon Lawson. They will make a total of 446 island students who have "walked down the aisle" since the first graduating class in 1931. That's an average of just over 6 seniors each year.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

A Distinctive Island Expression

Today is another virtually perfect day with sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's.

Every now and then I will be sharing a distinctive Ocracoke Island word or expression. Today's word is "fladget." It means a small piece or chunk of something, generally food, as in "Cut me a fladget of meat, please." It can also be used in other ways, as in "I tore a fladget of skin off my finger when I was opening clams." Look for more words in the future.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Island Trivia

With High School graduations approaching I am reminded of those many T-shirts that list all of the graduating seniors on the back of the shirt. Ocracoke School has a T-shirt that lists every person who has ever graduated from the school!

Kevin Cutler reminded me that twice in Ocracoke's history the graduating class consisted of only one senior: Walter Potter Garrish in 1947 and Elmo Murray Fulcher in 1957. In 1946 & 1955 there were no graduates.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


On May 24, 1921 the schooner "Mary J. Haynie" wrecked on Ocracoke's beach. On today's date, May 25, in 1884 the steamer "Glasbolt" from Scotland wrecked at Ocracoke's South Point.

Relatively small portions of a few of the many shipwrecks along our coast can still sometimes be seen on the beach. Most of them are covered by sand but may be exposed after storms and hurricanes.

Within the last couple of months some old coins were found on the beach. Metal detectors are illegal in the National Seashore, but keep your eyes open!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Ocracoke Character, Al Scarborough

A couple of days ago two folks who joined me for my Ghost & History Walk (I know this is another blatant and transparent plug for my new venture), stopped into Cathy Scarborough's shop, "Over the Moon."

Cathy's daddy, and my good friend, Al, was working the counter when Myrna & Marilyn commented on how wonderful the Tuesday evening tour was. They talked about Rob Hanks who, in the mid 1950's, would "tell the story of Ocracoke" for a dime. I like to point out that property values have risen about 1000 times in the last fifty years, and at the same rate of inflation my tour should be worth $100.00 (so, of course, it's a terrific bargain at only $12.00).

Al, being the curmudgeon that he is, reminded these two very nice women that a soft drink which sold for a nickel in 1955 could be bought today for only 65 cents. That, he asserted, would make my tour only worth $1.30!

As I was waking up this morning it occurred to me that Rob Hanks' "Story of Ocracoke" only took about 10 minutes to relate. So even by Al's reckoning my 95 minute tour is still a bargain at $12.00.

On your next visit to the island be sure to stop by Cathy's delightful shop. You might even have an opportunity to meet Al. He personifies the characterization of Henry Ellis, Second Royal Governor of Savannah (1757-1760), of whom it was said,

"His deductions and conclusions are always logical, plausible, stimulating, and delivered with clarity and pungency. Unfortunately they are nearly always mistaken."

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A Seafood Dinner

Lucky me! My neighbors (neighbors for the week that is -- down from Maine for a little vacation) have invited me over for fish and fresh clams that they gathered out in Pamlico Sound this afternoon.

At noon our family met at Cafe Atlantic for brunch to celebrate my daughter, Amy's, birthday. Life is good!

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Finally, last night, the village was treated to rain. It came down in torrents to water our yards, trees, and gardens. By morning the sky was bright and sunny again.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Good Morning Mr. Froggie

Every morning, when I turn on the water in my outdoor shower, my tiny green neighbor who hangs out behind the shampoo bottle, starts a-croaking. He's a friendly fellow, and I enjoy his early morning singing.

Here are two of his photos:

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Summer Approaches

Signs of the season:

Sunny days with temperatures in the mid 80's,

Ocean water warming up to bathtub temperatures,

Bright red skin from too much time in the unrelenting sun,

Cleaning and organizing to make homes welcoming for summer house guests,

Plans for summertime activities -- the Ocrafolk Music & Storytelling Festival, Ocracoke Opry, Porch Talks at Ocracoke Preservation Society, History Talk for an FAA Safety Seminar.....the list goes on,

Launching boats for fishing, clamming, or just to be out on the water,

And, of course, streets & shops bustling with visitors.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

And For All This, Nature is Never Spent

In the late 1800's Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote,

"And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod."

I think of this poem often when I walk along the beach barefooted. To be sure, the village of Ocracoke, like so many places, is constantly threatened by development. As beautiful as it can be, it also "wears man's smudge" so to speak.

But Ocracoke still retains a vibrant sense of community, a strong connection with it's 275 year old history, and is a tranquil respite from so much of the rest of the modern world.

And as I stroll barefooted along our pristine 16 miles of undeveloped beach I know that here is one place where foot can feel. The water is cool, the sand soft under my feet. At places I feel the rough "gravel" of thousands of tiny, broken pieces of shell. Elsewhere I feel the silky, fine grains of sand push up between my toes.

Sometimes the sand is searingly hot. It burns at the bottom of my "winter feet." I find relief in the shade of a cedar tree along the path that leads back to the road. Today I avoid the "pickle pears" that line the path, but I encounter a lone sand spur that lodges under my big toe.

I still can feel the earth under my feet.

And so I am reminded of Hopkins' next two lines, ones that call us to hope and optimism, especially here where bare feet are commonplace:

"And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

An Evening of Spooks

I just came home about an hour ago, after a wonderful Ghost & History Walk. It's so much fun to do. I've decided to call my walk the "Rob Hanks Tour" after a man who would "tell the story of Ocracoke" for a dime back in the 1950's. Here's his photo:

Monday, May 17, 2004

Beautiful Weather Continues

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80's again today under sunny skies. Chance of rain is a slight 20%. But the price is wilting plants and parched lawns.

Island visitors continue to enjoy the pleasant weather and warming ocean.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

An Afternoon at the Beach

Imagine walking down a narrow path, through wax myrtles, yaupons, and cedars. The path opens into an open sandy expanse where prickly pear cacti (referred to on the island as "pickle pears") are just beginning to open up into bright yellow flowers.

Through breaks in the dunes you can see the ocean sparkling in the distance. Once on the beach the water is divided into three distinct hues -- darker and slightly murky near shore where the breakers churn up sand from the bottom, deep rich blue at the horizon, and a magnificent aquamarine (almost emerald) color just beyond the breakers.

Such a view I had this afternoon on my daily walk along the shore and dip in the cooling water.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Nature Abounds on the Island

A few little seasonal pleasures associated with island life:

-- bright green tree frogs hiding out behind the shampoo bottle in my outdoor shower,

-- six inch long lizards scurrying along the roof or up the side of the building; one early this morning puffing out his bright red throat, to impress the ladies I'm guessing,

-- turtle tracks tracing an uneven line across the sand on my walk across the dunes,

-- graceful dolphin fins cutting through the water close enough to shore that it wouldn't be very difficult to swim out to them.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The days have been so beautiful for so long that inside work just piles up, neglected. Oh well....., I guess that's one disadvantage of living in a great community just minutes from one of the best beaches in the United States.

Congratulations to all the Spring graduates out there. Don't forget your trip to the island this summer. Everyone needs time to "wind down" now and then, and Ocracoke is the perfect place for that.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The tide was low late this morning as I walked along the surf, and dolphins were swimming just beyond the breakers. The water is still cool, but incredibly refreshing, especially since the temperature is in the mid-80's.

What a wonderful day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

It's beginning to feel like summer on the island. Not so many visitors yet, but the temperature is in the 80's today, under bright, clear skies. Folks are already enjoying ocean swimming, as well as biking, kayaking, & sailing.

In case you don't know about the Ocrafolk Festival coming up the first weekend in June, click here for information, and make plans now to join us for a wonderful weekend of music and storytelling.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Although there aren't as many gardens on the island today as there were in years gone by, gardens have always been a major part of life on Ocracoke.

Here Dale proudly displays two of his extra large cabbages:

In other news, tonight is the annual pot luck dinner and general membership meeting of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. We recommend that you stop by the museum on your next visit to the island. You can learn a lot about island life & the history of Ocracoke (and your donation, large or small, will help preserve our island heritage!).

Monday, May 10, 2004

Ocracoke is a wonderful place to live, and definitely no longer as isolated as it once was.

Today 7 Buddhist monks from Thailand visited the island and offered a meditation/blessing on the deck at Thai Moon restaurant.

Certainly an Ocracoke experience my grandparents never had!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy Mother's Day!

A special greeting to Snee (my daughter-in-law), the mother of Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza; and to Amy (my daughter), the soon-to-be-mother of my fourth grandchild. These younguns are the 10th generation of our island family.

It's a quiet day on Ocracoke -- the perfect opportunity to relax, work in the garden, take a dip in the ocean, or lie in the hammock and read a good book. No community meetings, or other responsibilities, and the temperature is in the mid-70's again, under clear skies.

Island life is pretty wonderful!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

It's another beautiful Spring day, with temperatures in the 70's, bright skies, and a light breeze.

Ocracoke Preservation Museum's featured 2004 exhibit includes paintings & sketches by JoKo, well-known Outer Banks artist of the last half of the 20th century. Some of you may remember when JoKo spent much of his summers on Ocracoke in the 1960's through the 1980's.

The Museum's off-season hours are Monday - Saturday, 10 - 4.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Today at 11 am the British War Graves Commission and the US Coast Guard will hold their annual memorial service at Ocracoke's British Cemetery.

Between January and July, 1942 nearly 400 ships, mostly merchant vessels, were sunk or damaged by German U-boats. About 5000 people were killed or injured.

The British Cemetery is the site of four graves of seamen whose bodies washed ashore on Ocracoke's beach in May of 1942 -- Lt Thomas Cunninglham, Stanley R. Craig, AB, and two unknown sailors. All were from the ill-fated British ship, HMS Bedfordshire.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Three photos from today's lighthouse "open house (see the earlier post today for an explanation):"

Visitors to the island often ask if they can climb the lighthouse. Unfortunately, this is not allowed. There are, of course, good reasons for this.

-- The lighthouse (built in 1823) is more than 180 years old.
-- The final 8 feet of the climb is by means of a narrow, steep ladder.
-- The access to the light is nothing more than a hatch in the floor.
-- The light & the fresnel lens take up most of the space at the top of the tower, leaving little room for visitors.
-- The door onto the balcony is only about 4 feet high.
-- The railing around the balcony was not designed to keep toddlers or small children from slipping off the edge.

In short, the Ocracoke lighthouse was designed for a lighthouse keeper, not for visitors. However, on special occasions (most notably, July 4) the base of the lighthouse is often opened to the public by the National Park Service.

Today, between 10 am and 3 pm, the lighthouse will also be open for public viewing. Gail Fox, one of our newer rangers, realized that many local residents had never been inside the lighthouse (most islanders work all day on the 4th of July). So she arranged to have the door open today for the general public, and especially for Ocracokers.

Many thanks to Gail for her thoughtful consideration.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Another beautiful, but cool, Spring day.

In case you haven't been to the island yet this season, you might be interested in knowing that the graveyards across the street from Village Craftsmen have a brand new fence. In the last few days it's gotten several coats of white paint:

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

It's cooler today (in the upper 50's) and breezy, but sunny and beautiful, after a bit of rain yesterday.

We published our latest Ocracoke Newsletter yesterday, the story of aviation and Ocracoke Island. The Newsletter also has information about Phil Platt's new air service connecting the island with Norfolk, Virginia and New Bern, North Carolina. To read the Newsletter just click here.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Today, tomorrow, and Wednesday are important days for island residents. A driver's license & vehicle registration card with an Ocracoke address will entitle islanders to a renewed Hatteras Inlet ferry priority pass.

There may be times when you are waiting in line for an hour or more in the sweltering summer heat, hoping to board the next ferry, only to see someone pull up in the priority lane and be loaded before you are.

As frustrating as this can be, please understand how it was for island residents before priority passes were isssued. I remember well how difficult it was to spend 7 or 8 hours making a round trip to the dentist, and then to sit for several hours waiting in line just to get home. It's even harder on elderly residents and small children, especially if they're coming home from a doctor's appointment, or even the hospital.

Because so much of our "routine business" (clothes shopping, appointments with eye doctors, a trip to a large convenience store, grocery shopping, certain automobile repairs, school basketball games, jury duty, etc,) entails lengthy round trips "off-island" we are all thankful for this small concession to our local needs.

Thank you for understanding.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The Ocracoke Journal resumes today.

I'm home again, after spending a week in Indiana visiting a dear friend who had eye surgery. She is doing well and looking forward to enjoying the summer on Ocracoke. Her eye patch will be stashed away by then, but maybe she'll bring it out now and then in remembrance of Anne Bonney, Mary Reed, and assorted other pirates.

I arrived home yesterday to discover everything outdoors covered with oak leaves (live oaks shed in the Spring, not the Fall) and debris from polinating cedar trees. It's quite a mess, and there's occasional light rain, but the days are warm and pleasant (Indiana was beautiful, but it actually snowed there last week!).