Saturday, September 25, 2004

Last Journal Entry for About 2 Weeks

I've traded houses with friends in the mountains of NC, so I will be gone for about two weeks. I will also visit my son and his family (I have three beautiful grandchildren near Asheville), and see my good friend Lou Ann.

We will drive over to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, TN, and then head for the mountains of east Tennessee. We'll hike a couple of days to Mt. LeConte near Gatlinburg and then go back to our friends' home for a few days.

So, we'll be without a daily journal until I return home. (Friends staying at my home on Ocracoke declined to write journal entries.) I'm sorry I won't be here to provide a report on hurricane Jeanne, but given it's current track I don't expect much more than rain. Actually it's been beautiful on the island all week. Cool and clear, no bugs, and just delightful.

Please check back in a couple of weeks for more news from Ocracoke.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Lachlan Photos

At the risk of being one of those grandparents who can't resist showing photos of his grand-younguns, I'll bow to pressure from folks who have asked to see more recent pictures of Lachlan. He is now 7 weeks old. I hope you enjoy them.

(To view a larger image, click here.)

To view a larger image, click here.)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Old Diver, Old Diver, What Do You Say?

On this date in 1913 Augustus Abner McQuire, a diver on board a Norwegian vessel, died in an accident at sea off of the Outer Banks. He was buried on Ocracoke. Ever since, islanders have periodically reported seeing his ghost (in full diving gear) wandering slowly through the old Howard and British cemeteries.

You can read the full story here:

Next time you're on the island walk up British Cemetery Road after dark and look for Old Diver's ghost yourself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's Pretty Some Today

Ocockers use the word "some" in a very distinctive way. It means "very" but is used after (not before) an adjective, and is usually (but not always) employed with one or two syllable words. So an Ococker would probably say that he was "cold some," not "very cold." Each word is given equal emphasis (unlike the more common word "lonesome"). Expressions such as "tired some," "fussy some," and "confused some" are common on the island. Occasionally you might even hear something like "Dey Jeeminny Criminny, that's complicated some, that is."

So, now you'll understand me when I say that today, like yesterday, is pretty some. That it is, Bucky!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Bluest Blue

Today is the perfect day. Temperatures in the low 70's, a mild breeze, sunshine, and sky of the bluest blue. It's a day to rejoice in being alive, just drinking in this wonderful weather.

Lots of little details took up my time today, but mostly I was outside on my bike. Went to the bank and the post office, checked on the progress of my house rehabilitation, visited with friends and neighbors, and examined the old house "down point" where we're getting windows and floor boards. The house project is moving right along. You can read the latest report here:

Monday, September 20, 2004

Dental Appointment & Homemade Soup

I left this morning at 7:30 to catch the 8:00 ferry. My dental appointment wasn't until 11:30 in Nags Head, but I had a few errards to run on the way up. I just got home at 5:30 this evening. It was a long day, but it was overcast and cool, so the drive was tolerable.

The best part was that no sooner had I stepped into my house when my neighbor brought over a plate full of ham and a large jar of homemade vegetable soup. What a nice surprise!

Oh yeah, no cavities. So I won't have to go back up for six more months. That was a nice surprise too.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Ahoy there me heartys.

Now listen up you scurvy dogs! Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and you'll be paying the King's ransom (so to speak) if ye pass up this opportunity to impress your fair-haired beauty with pirate talk. (If you're a lass yourself, keep in mind ole Anne Bonney and Mary Reed, some of the fiercest lady pirates ever to sail the seven seas.)

You land lubbers might need a bit of instruction, but it's really not so difficult. A tankard of grog should help, for sure. Just step up to the scuttlebutt and lend an ear. In no time at all your fellow buccaneers will help you learn the lingo. Or, if all else fails, check out the official "Talk Like a Pirate Day" web site:

Avast now, you bilge rats. There's no time to loose, or ye might end up keel-hauled just off Teach's Hole!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

It Feels Like Winter

You never know what to expect here. Yesterday the heat and humidity were almost oppressive. It was breezy, but hot. By this morning a cold front had moved through and all day it's been downright chilly. And very windy. I guess it's the eastern bands of the remnants of Ivan.

I think I'll go sit on the front porch and welcome in the evening. Maybe I'll even play a few tunes on my harmonica. Right now it seems like the perfect way to end the day.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Hurricanes & Babies

Everyone on Ocracoke is concerned for all of the folks who bore the brunt of Ivan's wrath, and we hope that Jeanne has minimal impact on the East Coast. This week seems to be a favorite of tropical storms & babies. The hurricane of 1944 battered Ocracoke on Sept. 14, which is also my son Stefen's & his wife, Snee's birthday.

The storm of 1933 hit the island on this date, Sept 16, 71 years ago, with winds of 120 mph. Today is also the birthdate of my very good friend Lou Ann's first grandchild, Jonah. Congratulations! I understand that baby, mama, and papa (and Lou Ann, or should I say "Granny"?) are doing fine. We wish them all well.

Tomorrow is my 3rd grandchild's birthday (Eliza will be 4 years old), and Saturday, Sept. 18 is the one year anniversay of hurricane Isabel.

Let's hope that hurricanes will soon be over for this season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Ocrafolk Opry

I just got back from an Opry show at Deepwater Theater on Schoolhouse Road. As usual it was a wonderful show, full of outstanding local talent. We were entertained by Martin Garrish (a terrific guitarist), Marcie & Lou (also known as "Coyote"), budding musician Aaron Caswell, old-timer Roy Parsons, several others, and, of course, Ocracoke's own Molasses Creek (Gary Mitchell, Kitty Mitchell, Katy Mitchell, & Fiddler Dave Tweedie).

Be sure to put the Opry on your "schedule" next time you're on the island. Shows are every Tuesday evening at 8 o'clock all summer long (and into the Fall, through October). Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sixty Years Ago

On this date in 1944 Ocracoke endured one of the worst hurricanes to hit the island. Winds were over 100 mph with 14 foot tides. The island was completely under water. Six houses were demolished. If I remember correctly what the "old-timers" have told me, only seven houses were spared the flood waters.

In contrast, today is another fine day, even if overcast with a light breeze. Of course, we're all hoping that Ocracoke's brush with tropical storms is over for this season.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A Day for Rejoicing

Some would say today is just an ordinary day....sunny, breezy, cooler than it has been.....a quintessential fall day. I guess it's enough to rejoice about though. It's the perfect day to work or play outside. So I suppose I'll take a walk on the beach later this afternoon. Yesterday the waves were big and powerful, but the current was slight. I'm hoping the water will be at least as inviting today.

We're hoping you are having a wonderful day, as well. All of us on Ocracoke are concerned for the folks in Ivan's path, and we're watching and hoping that this storm ends its rampage before it causes any more major damage.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

One More Question

Ocracoke is often known for what we do NOT have. The list isn't quite as long as it once was, but it's still pretty impressive. Among other things, we don't have

Traffic lights
Movie theater
Fast food restaurants
Chain stores
Shoe store
Racoons & Possums
Squirrels (OK cross that one out!)

We do have squirrels now. For about two years we've had squirrels. I won't name names, but SOMEONE on the island let loose two squirrels. So now they're running all over the village. Which obviously prompted our 7th reader question:

"I've heard on the grapevine that you have an aversion to squirrels. Did you have a nasty experience as a wee lad, or did they perhaps get into your moonshine one time?"

Sqirrels are actually cute. Of course, they are basically just little furry rodents with bushy tails, but they are cute. I must admit. But now we'll never get rid of them. They're kind of like fast food restaurants. We don't have any (and don't want any!), but if they ever gain a foothold they'll probably be here to stay.

So I say, take the squirrels as a warning and a metaphor, especially when they start invading attics and out buildings. We're best off without the invasions -- whether it be squirrels or fast food restaurants. But at least the squirrels are cute!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Sometimes You Just Gotta Work

No beach walk for me today....but yesterday was terrific, in spite of the wind. The ocean was not quite wild looking, but almost. The waves were big and full of white water. I entered the water tentatively, thinking the current would be strong. I was mistaken. It was warm and inviting. Maybe not perfect, but quite pleasant. one in sight in either direction! Almost like Ocracoke used to be. Not a bad place to live, especially in 2004, even if I've got to work now and then.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Creekers & Pointers

Our sixth reader question is:

"Why was the name of Ammunition Dump Road changed? Names such as this reflect the history of the island......Also, where exactly is "down point" vs "the point"? And where exactly did (do) the "creekers'" live vs the "pointers"?"

Place names & street names often naturally change over time like so many other things. In the late 1950's a man named Harcum (I believe his first name was Lloyd, but everyone just called him Harcum) came to Ocracoke from Norfolk, Virginia. He purchased from Ocraacoke native Maurice Ballance the building that is now the Variety Store. Maurice had put the building up several years before as a dance hall. Harcum turned it into a furniture store.

Whether or not he also sold groceries and general merchandise I can't recall, but Harcum eventually sold the building to Henry Rogers who made it into a grocery store. Harcum had also purchased & developed property along the old one-lane concrete WWII Navy Ammunition Dump Road (a portion of Ocracoke's first paved road, & directly across from the Fire Hall). At that time he renamed the road Sunset Drive. Although locals still refer to the road as Ammunition Dump Road, the official street name is now Sunset Drive.

Of course, the name Ammunition Dump Road dates only to the mid-1940's. Prior to that time this road was actually an extension of the Point Road (now renamed Lighthouse Road). This seems to have been the very first thoroughfare on the island, running from Springer's Point (formerly Howard's Point), past the lighthouse, along the right hand side of the schoolhouse, up Ammunition Dump Road, past the O'Neal family cemetery, along a high ridge near the Sound, and thence all the way to Hatteras Inlet.

Creekers live "'round creek" or on the north side of Cockle Creek (renamed Silver Lake in the late 1930's, but still referred to as "The Creek" by Ocracokers). Pointers live "down point" or on the south side of Silver Lake. The Point is Springer's Point, near where Blackbeard was killed, and where some of the very first dwellings in the village were located. The Point is currently uninhabited and is a wooded area now mostly owned by the NC Coastal Land Trust.

To really understand the difference between Creekers and Pointers (to say nothing of Trenters, Cat Ridgers, or Nubbins Ridgers) you need to understand about the two guts. You can read about them here: I hope this helps (and is not too confusing!).

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Cloudy & Rainy

It's been cloudy for days; however we've had little rain until this afternoon. Just a couple of brief showers today, but then it poured. The streets were full of big puddles this evening as I took my daily 2 mile walk. There are still tree frogs around; I could hear them croaking in the low spots along the road.

And work stopped on my roof this afternoon. Luckily the house is protected from leaks. Now we'll just have to let it dry off before shingling the porch roofs.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ocracoke & the Arts

Our fifth reader question about Ocracoke is:

"I'm wondering when Ocracoke became a hub of sorts for Fine Arts Craftsmanship? It must be a far stretch from its earlier days when mere survival would have been the name of the game. Were there any fine artists or craftsman in the early days? How about in that Howard family?"

Ocracoke has always had a number of fine craftsmen, but not exactly like we have today. Traditionally, the handcrafts associated with the island were related to everyday life. These included house carpentry, boat building, quilting, sewing, and decoy carving. These, in turn, often spawned related crafts such as furniture making and cabinetry, model boat building, and decorative bird carving.

My grandfather and father, for example, were part-time boat builders. My father also was an excellent craftsman. He has made beautiful ship's wheels, platform rockers, and other furniture. He also occasionally made rope boat fenders and did other knot-work, as did many of the older men. Like most island women, my grandmother sewed quilts. My Aunt Tressie make quite a few slat bonnets which were used to keep the sun at bay while gardening or otherwise working outdoors.

Music was also an important part of Ocracoke's social life. Fiddlers, quitarists, banjo players, and triangle players turned out for the weekly square dances, or just sat on front porches or in parlors entertaining family and friends.

With its spectacular natural beauty and picturesque village, Ocracoke has, not surprisingly, been a favorite of artists for many decades. Interestingly, Ocracoke had a small "artists' colony" that flourished for a couple of summers in the late 1930's. This is a fascinating, but little-known, story that I will address in a future monthly newsletter.

However, I think it's fair to say that the early 1970's probably ushered in the current proliferation of artists and craftsmen who have come to Ocracoke to open shops and studios. Today we have woodworkers, fine artists, musicians, glass workers, jewelers, blacksmiths, carvers, and other craftsmen living and working on the island.

It all makes for a wonderfully creative environment. Thanks for asking.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Brunch Potluck

Today is Caroline Temple's 6th birthday. But yesterday her parents (Sundae & Rob, captain of the schooner Windfall) celebrated with a potluck brunch for friends and neighbors. It was also Frank Phelp's last day before returning to Washington, NC. (Frank was Capt. Rob's mate on the Windfall this summer.) So it was also a good opportunity to bid him farewell until we see him again.

We ate egg & artichoke casseroles, bread pudding, broccoli dishes, beans, fig cake, and much more. It was quite a feast....and Caroline is quite a cutie!

Sundae had a postcard on her refrigerator with the message "How to Build Community." One of the suggestions is "Have Pot Lucks." As I read down the list I realized that many of us on Ocracoke are committed to all of the suggestions (e.g. "Sing Together," "Greet People," "Put up a Swing," & many others). I guess that's why we have such a strong sense of community on the island.

I have contacted the creators of the list and hope they will give me permission to publish the entire text sometime. In the meanwhile, why not plan a pot luck for your neighborhood? They are great for building and maintaining community.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Rough Seas & Question #4

The beach is beautiful today. Blue skies and puffy white clouds, with just a light breeze. But the ocean is formidable. Large waves, foamig white, and spreading high up onto the beach, with a strong current. Threat of rip currents is high so it was a morning to walk, look for shells, and just wade.

On another subject, our fourth reader question is:

"I first went to Ocracoke as a child of 9 in 1975.Recently in 2000 and 2001 I came back for vacations and was somewhat taken aback by the development that has occured there.Still a beautiful place,but the density of new housing concerns me,which brings me to my question.Are there any housing density restrictions in place? If not are there any on the horizon? signed,Kevin from Atlanta"

Ocracoke has a development ordinance. I don't have the details in front of me, but there are height & setback restrictions, as well as minimum lot size requirements and other regulations. Also builders must conform to local and state building codes as well as adhere to CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act) and other environmental regulations.

Of course, Ocracoke has always been a very independent place, so it has been difficult to draft a development ordinance with "teeth." There are so many competing influences here, and a strong local distrust of rules and regulations that often benefit the rich and powerful rather than the native islanders. As you all know, Ocracoke village is small and well defined. As a result, development pressure can be strong, especially with escalating property values. The issue is very complex and we wish there were an easy answer.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Ocracoke Peninsula

Happy Labor Day Weekend! The weather is absolutely beautiful today. Temperature is about 79 degrees under sunny skies. But the village is so quiet. If you live close enough, come on out for a terrific holiday. It's a great time to relax and enjoy the peace of Ocracoke.

On another topic, our 3rd question from a reader is:

"I recently went on one of your ghost and history walks (which by the way, was wonderful!) this summer. I have been trying to re-create some of the stories, but I wondered if you could (in a few words, of course) share with your readers your prediction on Ocracoke becoming a cape. Thanks again for all your stories."

And I thank you for your kind words.

According to Alton Ballance in his excellent book, "Ocracokers," East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs maintains that "Ocracoke Village is an old 'chunk' of island, similar to Roanoke Island, that has existed in its present location longer than the barrier island which migrated up to it."

Ballance explains that "when the beach finally reached what is now the village [in a process of rising sea level that may have begun 17,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age], it [the "sandy banks"] 'bumped into it [the area of the village]' and got 'hung up,' forming basically the present-day shape of Ocracoke."

He goes on to show that "capes have formed as migrating barrier islands bumped into chunks of old islands." He points out that Cape Hatteras is an ancient island "being wrapped by a migrating barrier island," and that "Ocracoke Village, as well, is about to be wrapped by the same process."

All of this speculation is confirmed by Jonathan Price, who, in 1795 published "A Description of Occacock Inlet." He states that "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank. It continues to have its former appearance from the sea; the green trees, that cover it, strikingly distinguishing it from the sandy bank to which it has been joined. Its length is three miles, and its breadth two and one half."

Clearly, Price uses the term Occacock to refer to the area which corresponds to the present day village of Ocracoke (about three miles long by two and a half miles wide). Formerly an "inside island," Ocracoke is now connected to the "sandy banks" and has become a peninsula.

Of course, today we consider the entire length of the island (between Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets), including the village area, "Ocracoke Island." Eventually, it seems, Ocracoke village will become a shoal after it is left behind as the sandy barrier islands wrap around it and migrate further west, but I don't expect this to happen anytime soon!

I hope this helps, and thanks for asking.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Beautiful Weather

Skies are clear and the temperature is 78 degrees. A truly wonderful day. We are so lucky that hurricane Frances is not heading in our direction, although we are concerned for all the folks on the east coast of Florida.

On this date in 1913 the George W. Wells, one of the largest schooners ever built, wrecked on Ocracoke's beach in a heavy gale. This disaster resulted in one of the most daring and courageous rescues ever recorded.

According to an article in "The Story of Ocracoke Island" "a strong tide was sweeping the beach and was so deep that before the rescue crew had gone two miles the water was washing into the pony carts and the horses balked and refused to pull them any farther. So the surfmen hitched themselves to the pony carts and dragged the carts with their heavy equipment for six miles along lthe coast in water that was up to their waists, to the scene of the grounded ship."

Exhausted, working in waist deep water and in hurricane force winds, the Coast Guardsmen succeeded in rescuing all 16 crewmen and 5 passengers.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

School Question

Our second question is:

"How many children attend the school each year and how many teachers are there? How big was the graduating class? Do they have any of the extra curricular activities or special education classes like the larger schools?"

Ocracoke is the smallest school in North Carolina, with 101 students this school year (grades K - 12). The senior class will have 7 students. I just learned that the state has recently allocated one teacher per grade level for K - 8th grade. In the past Ocracoke classes were often combined. Now, with the addition of four new teachers, combined classrooms will be a thing of the past. The school has 19 teachers and a total of 29 on the staff.

You no doubt have seen t-shirts printed with the names of all the graduating seniors from a particular school. Ocracoke has a t-shirt printed with the names of every person who has ever graduated from the school!

Ocracoke school will be adding some new classes this year, as well as classes that have not been offered for a while (e.g. botany and local history). In addition, students can take advantage of classes taught on line. Interestingly, Ocracoke is the first school on the East Coast to offer surfing as an elective.

You can read more about Ocracoke School here:

To ask a question just click on the "Comments" link below.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Rainy Day Question

Yesterday I offered to answer your questions about Ocracoke (if I can).

The first question is "What percentage of the island population is made up of Ocokers as opposed to move ins? Do you have a rough estimate?"

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that about half of the current population consists of folks who have a long family history of living on the island. One of the old names for the island was Ocock. Thus the term "Ocockers," which is generally used to mean someone from an historical Ocracoke family who was born and raised on the island.

Until about 50 years ago, there were only a small handful of folks who had moved here from elsewhere. Often they were a little eccentric. Actually, they usually fit right in and helped make this quite a colorful place.

Look for an answer to tomorrow's question about the Ocracoke School. And if you have another question just post it here.