Monday, January 31, 2005

Not Frank Lloyd Wright

This afternoon Amy, Lachlan, and I visited with Mac & Sally Allen. They have been regular Ocracoke visitors (and part-time residents) since the mid-1950's. At that time Mac worked for Arve Sven Wikstrom, a native of Sweden, and an engineer and businessman from New York State.

In 1956-1958 Mr. Wikstrom built the clean-lined U-shaped house near Northern Pond. Situated on a large tract of land, nestled in a grove of beautiful old live oak trees, and overlooking Pamlico Sound, the Wikstrom home was a striking example of modern architecture.

Mac assured me that, contrary to popular opinion, the house was built neither by Frank Lloyd Wright nor by one of his students. Nevertheless, the house suggests the influence of the famous architect.

Mr. Wikstrom was killed in a plane crash more than thirty years ago and the house has stood empty for most of the years since that tragedy.

Today the house is owned by Billy Hegamyer, a direct descendant of William O'Neele who purchased land on Ocracoke Island in 1780. Billy Hegamyer has restored the house which has become a popular location for local weddings and wedding receptions.

Although the house is secluded, accessed only by a long private drive, and unknown to most visitors, it is a reminder of Ocracoke's eclectic history.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

It's windy, wet, and overcast today....a good day to stay inside and curl up with a good book. So that's just what I am doing. I am reading "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen. Subtitled "Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong," this 383 page book published in 1995, is, as various reviewers have noted, a "plea for truth in education," "delightful and unsettling," and "engaging."

If there's any news from the island I'll hear about it tomorrow. Right now I'm going back to my reading.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Sad Report

Ocracoke is not immune to tragedy. On Thursday, January 27, Charles Culbertson, from South Carolina, drowned while duck hunting with his friend and part-time island resident Mike Neaves. At this writing we do not know what caused the drowning. Reports indicate that he had waded out into the sound from his blind to retrieve a duck when the mishap occurred. The Village Craftsmen staff joins the rest of our island community in extending our sympathies to family and friends.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Future Bridges Replacement

The NC Department of Transportation is planning to replace four bridges on Ocracoke Island. The bridges to be replaced span Island Creek (the one closest to the campground), Old Hammock Creek, Molasses Creek, and Old Quawk's Creek. Although no specific dates seem to have been set yet, the work will be done in the off-season (perhaps in the winter of 2005-2006).

Ocracoke citizens turned out for an informational workshop yesterday to voice our strong position that the work should be done as "staged construction," allowing at least one lane of the bridges to be kept open at all times. Officials at the meeting seemed aware of the concern and pledged to do everything in their power to honor this reasonable request.

The bridge construction will also include shoulders wide enough to accomodate a bike path. Word is that the National Park Service has approved an initial plan to add a bike path from the village of Ocracoke to the Pony Pen, with future plans to extend the bike path all the way to Hatteras Inlet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

House Project Update

Finally the weather has warmed up again (in the 50's), making it so much easier to connect the last few electric wires in my old house rehabilitation. The carpenters are back also. There's not much in the way of "good photo ops" right now (it's just re-nailing the old floor boards, putting insulation around the windows, and replacing old bead-board here and there).

Replacement lumber for floors, walls and ceilings (where the old wood was too compromised to re-use) should arrive in the next few days. Lucky for me the carpenters are planning to work even though the temperature will be dropping again for the next several days.

I'll post more photos sometime in the future, when there's more to see. Right now I'm ready to walk over to Amy, David, & Lachlan's for homemade quiche, salad, a glass of wine, and time to play peek-a-boo.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Judgment Day

It was New Year's Eve, 1929 (or maybe it was 1930). Captain Bill Gaskill ran the Pamlico Inn "Down Point" at the end of Lighthouse Road (it washed away in the 1944 hurricane). On the docks he had large oil and gasoline tanks. One of his children was helping a guest pump fuel late at night when a spark from a cigarette ignited some of the gasoline fumes.

A conflagration ensued. Eventually the tanks exploded, sending huge flames and plumes of smoke into the night sky. Eyewitnesses reported that hammers and screwdrivers were thrown into the air which then came raining down around the bystanders.

"Creekers" who heard the explosion got out of bed and headed Down Point, only to be met by panicked "Pointers" running away from the fires.

Captain Bill's brother, Ben, woke up when he heard the noise. He shook his still sleeping wife by the shoulder. "Sarah Ellen, wake up," he pleaded. "I think it's judgment Day."

"Oh, go back to sleep, Ben," she said. "It can't be Judgment Day. It's the middle of the night."

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Cold Day in January

Clear skies and a bright full moon will accompany cold temperatures again this evening. Nighttime readings in the mid-20's, and daytime temperatures near freezing have been the norm lately. My afternoon walk on the beach today was sunny & crisp. Strong winds have finally subsided. No dolphins were in evidence, and only a couple of local folks were braving the cold. It feels good to be inside.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

For Molasses Creek Fans

Ocracoke's own Molasses Creek Band will be touring from the end of this month until early March. Many readers of our journal enjoy the band while vacationing on the island. Now is your opportunity to hear them in a theater near you. They will be performing in Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Below is their schedule as of the present. You can go directly to their web site (Molasses Creek Calendar) at any time for additions or changes.

January 29 -- Concert at the Alden Theater, McLean, VA. Details TBA. Contact the Alden Theater at (703) 790-0123 for more information.

January 30 -- The Mainstay, Rock Hall, MD. 4:00 PM. Contact (410) 639-9133 for more information.

February 11-12 -- Concert/Residency in Walton, NY sponsored by Music on the Delaware. Concert is Saturday at the Walton Theater. Details contact Jim Richardson (607) 865-6829.

February 16 -- Fundraising concert for The Reformed Presbyterian and Methodist Youth Group. 4:30 Workshop. 7:30 PM Concert. Delmar Reformed Church, 386 Delaware Ave, Delmar, NY. Details contact Barbara Hoffman at

February 19 -- The Sounding Board Coffeehouse, 8:00 PM, The Universalist Church of West Hartford, 433 Fern Street, West Hartford, CT, reservations contact Brent Hall at

February 25 -- Concert/Residency with the Ashe County Arts Council, Jefferson, NC. For more information, contact Jane Lonon at

March 12 -- Six String Cafe' and Music Hall, Cary, NC. 8:00 PM. 919-469-3667

March 17 -- Patchwork Storytelling and Music Festival, Baxter Hood Continuing Education Center, Rock Hill, SC. 2:45-4:45 PM w/storytellers. Diane Williams (803) 981-5840.

March 19-- Stecoah Valley Center, 8:00 PM. 121 Schoolhouse Road, Robbinsville, North Carolina 28771. Contact Lynn Shields, 828-479-3364.

March 24 -- Falany Performing Arts Center, Reinhardt College, Waleska, GA, 7:30 PM. Details contact Sue Tennant (770) 720-5562.

March 26 --Otherlands Coffee Bar, 641 South Cooper, Memphis TN, evening concert, details, TBA.

March 27 -- Joining Easter Service at Balmoral Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN. 6413 Quince Rd., Memphis, TN 38119

March 30 -- Patrick Henry Elem. School, Tulsa, OK. 9:00 AM

March 30 -- Academy Central Elem. School, Tulsa, OK. 1:30 PM

March 31 -- Springdale Elem. School. School, Tulsa, OK. 9:00 AM

March 31 -- Disney Elem. School. School, Tulsa, OK. 2:00 PM

April 1 -- Hoover Elem. School. School, Tulsa, OK. 9:30 AM, 1:15 PM

April 1 -- Hoover Elem. School's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Tulsa, OK. 7:00 PM, 2327 S. Darlington, Tulsa, OK. Contact Barbara Mc-Bride-Smith, 918-746-9128

April 21-May 7 -- Residency with the parrishes in Northeast Louisana who are members of the RUPAR consortia. Details contact Naomi Cordill (888) 338-1501.

April 22 -- Bernice Historical Society, Bernice, LA, April 22, 2005 7 PM

April 23 -- Schepis Museum, Columbia, LA 7 PM

April 24 -- Rose Theatre, Bastrop, LA 2:30 PM

April 25 -- Morehouse Schools, LA

April 26 -- West Carroll Schools/Library, Oak Grove, LA 7 PM

April 27 -- Madison, LA School and evening concert.

April 28 -- Franklin Schools, LA

April 29 -- POPS Concert, Byerley House, Lake Providence, LA 7 PM

April 30 -- POPS Concert, Princess, 6 PM Hatfield Home, LA

May 1 -- St. Joseph Arts, St. Joseph, LA 2 PM

May 2 -- St. Joseph Schools, St. Joseph Arts Studio, LA

May 3 -- Jackson Parrish Events, LA
2 PM Forest Haven Nursing Center
7 PM Veteral Memorial Park, Jonesville

May 4 -- Biedenharn, LA (details, TBA)

May 5 -- ULM Recital, LA 7 PM

May 6 -- Richland Arts Council, Rayville, LA 7 PM

May 7 -- Kiroli Park, West Montroe, LA, 7:30 PM. Symphony Under the Stars" featuring "Molasses Creek" as guest artists at the Monroe Symphony Orchestra's Family Pops Concert

Friday, January 21, 2005


By popular demand I share with you another round of Lachlan photos. Actually, my son-in-law, Fiddler Dave, saved me a lot of energy by posting a number of photos on the Molasses Creek web site. Here's one:

You can see the others by clicking here. As Ocracokers would say, he's cute some, don't you think?

January Newsletter

I'm sure there must be a few folks who read this blog who don't subscribe to our Village Craftsmen monthly newsletter. I just published a biography of my father, Lawton Howard (1911-2002). You can read it by going to our Ocracoke Newsletter, and then clicking on the shell. Once on our site you can click on "Home" at any time to go to our main page.

The story touched a lot of people. Here are a few comments I've received so far from readers:

"What an inspiring story about your father! Thankfully you put pen to paper to record such an interesting life!"

"Mr. Howard, I SO enjoy your newsletters! This one was especially touching! I had the honor of meeting your dear father on one of my mother/daughter trips to Ocracoke w/my daughter 2 or 3 years before he died. What a delight he was! I know you miss him dearly, but what a lovely tribute you've written about him! Thank you for the insightful Ocracoke history I get to enjoy each month; it helps me get over "island homesickness" tlll I can once again make my sojourn to your magical piece of the world!"

"I loved the story this month about your father (especially the part about his hearing aid!!)."

"Thank you for this most interesting and well - written biographical account of Lawton Howard! I read it with myriads of reflections on my Portsmouth and Ocracoke days. His dedication to home, genuineness, sense of humor, and love of life are the qualities that stand out most in my memories of outer banks days."

"I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed the article about your father. I met him around 1988 on the porch of the Community Store and practically every trip till his death I talked to him at the store, and some years while my daughter lived on the island (that would be 8 or 9 times a year). He never forgot that I was a Mayor from a 2 stoplight town near Charlotte.Although I was an outsider he always was ready to talk and fuel my curiosity about Ocracoke and its people!"

Thanks to everyone who wrote to tell me how much they enjoyed this newsletter.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


On January 18, 1893, the schooner, "Adder Henry" was stranded at Hatteras Inlet after being pulled from her mooring by a buildup of ice.

On today's date, (January 20), 1921, the five-masted schooner "Caroll A. Deering" was grounded on Diamond Shoals. All sails were set. Days later, when the US Coast Guard was able to board the ship, they discovered not a single member of the crew. Curiously, the galley tables were prepared for dinner and food was in the oven. The only living thing aboard was the ship's cat.

Immediately the Deering came to be known as the "Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks." To this day no one knows what happened to the captain and crew.

For years portions of the Deering lay on the beach on Ocracoke. In the 1970's what was left of the schooner washed over to Hatteras Island. Keep your eyes open for spirits of the crew if you walk along the beach on the northern end of the island (especially after dark!).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Winter Weather

OK, it's not always warm and pleasant here. Yesterday and today the temperatures have been in the lower twenties. Some people even reported readings in the upper teens. Ice has formed on all the puddles, but it hasn't been cold enough long enough to freeze Silver Lake.

The biggest concern right now is frozen (and then broken) water pipes. Nobody on the island has a basement, of course, so most pipes under houses are exposed to some extent. I am generally prepared for this kind of weather, and haven't had any problems yet.

It's slowly warming up today, so the outlook is improving.

In other news, the carpenters are back working on my old house rehabilitation, and Jerry Ricks tells me someone brought in his dog (dressed in lingerie) for a boudoir photograph. Life on the island is seldom dull.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Ocracoke Revealed

Whether you've been visiting Ocracoke for years, or only recently discovered the island, you've probably fallen in love with our pristine beaches, our picturesque village, and our close-knit community. But there's another, more private side of Ocracoke that you may never have considered.

Yesterday, while shopping for milk, eggs, and butter I noticed a new sign on the Community Store bulletin board. Jerry Ricks at QuayHaul Productions is offering something very special for "that special someone for Valentine's Day." His classy, sensuous poster advertises "Boudoir Photography," & "Fine Portarits traditionally of women in a dressing room, bedroom, or private sitting room."

Although the advertisement is sophisticated and tasteful, it is on the suggestive side. Don't click here (this is a photo of Jerry's ad) unless you're sure you won't be offended! (What would my grandmother have thought?) On the other hand, you might want to contact Jerry or his staff for your next visit to the island. I'm sure this isn't only for Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Winter Busy-ness

Ocracoke displays a very different type of "busy-ness" in January & February. There are virtually no tourists on the streets, shops are closed, and the beach is cold and deserted. But much is going on. A few selected examples:

-- The Boyette House has been completely gutted and crews have begun converting the property into comdominiums,

-- Carpenters are busy replacing the roof at the Anchorage Inn,

-- Chris Styron has moved the Creekside Cafe, and is now developing his small lot across the street from the Boyette House,

-- Valerie has moved Village Print into her sister's building, the former Albert Styron Store,

-- New gas pumps are being installed at the Community Store (to serve the docks), and at the Texaco Station,

-- A number of houses are being raised (to prevent flood damage in future storms), including three on Howard Street, and others throughout the village,

-- Darlene Styron has taken over the Fig Tree Deli and is remodeling it and merging it with the Sweet Tooth,

-- The Blue Door Antique Shop is moving up the street towards the Island Inn (Paula & Michael and family will be restoring the former location as their residence),

-- Island Gifts & Christmas Shop has closed, and the property is being converted into an office for Captain's Landing.

This is also the time of year when residents are building new homes, remodeling old ones, making small additions to their businesses, repairing boats, building out buildings, catching up on long-neglected details, and starting to get ready for the next season.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What Do We Do All Winter?

Not much going on here on the island this time of year -- unless, of course, you live here! Last night I spent a pleasant evening at Leonard & Beverly Meeker's home (the rather large home with the semi-circular roof, just across the "ditch" from the Coast Guard station). Also present were Donna Helen Boor (owner of "Sandy Shores Realty"), Tim Fields (of "Cat Ridge Deli" fame), and Cindy Fiore (local massage therapist and artist).

During dinner Leonard related a wonderful tale from the 1970's when he was assigned as the newest ambassador to Romania. In January Romania's dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, hosted his annual hare & pheasant hunt. In the late afternoon, after returning from the fields & woods, Leonard (who was more comfortable with a camera than with a weapon), was slated for his initiation.

The corpses of the bagged rabbits and pheasants were laid out on the dirt floor of the tent, and Leonard was instructed to prostrate himself on top of them. Directly Ceausescu appeared with a birch switch which he employed to thwack Leonard's behind in perfect cadence with the firing of military rifles.

Somehow I had always envisioned a very different picture of the duties of international ambassadors.

Tonight's entertainment will be quite different. Jubal Creech called about an hour ago and invited me to the Deepwater Theater on School Road for an impromptu "drumming circle." Jubal is an accomplished drummer and undoubtedly will bring an assortment of percussion instruments to share. Let's just hope he's turned the heat on. It's only 46 degrees at the moment, and very windy.

So, there might not be much happening on the island if you're visiting, but life can be varied and much fun if you stay here long enough to meet our eclectic group of islanders.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cold Front

What a delight to have my daughter and her family right here in the village. This morning we had a pleasant walk to the Post Office. The only downside is that Lachlan is so cute that all of the women totally ignore me whenever he is nearby! Today Agnes walked right past me, without even a hello, on a beeline to pinch Lachlan's rosy cheeks. (OK, I did tap her on the shoulder and remind her that I was also present....and I got a hug besides.)

This afternoon there was a "shift of wind" and the temperature dropped twenty degrees. It was accompanied by strong winds and heavy rain. So I guess our "Summertime in January" is finally over. Lucky for me, I've just about finished the electric wiring in the old homestead. Let's hope I can now cajole the carpenters into returning.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

An Evening Stroll

Offshore the sky is gray just before sunset, clouds hanging low above the horizon. The sun peeks through a hole and the cloud ahead of us shimmers. The day is warm, in the mid 70's, but a stiff ocean breeze makes the surf choppy. A lone surfer battles the waves. We put a knit hat on Lachlan. He rides in his carrier, bright-eyed, and smiling. I wonder, Does he know how lucky he is?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Windows Wide Open

I reluctantly passed on a dinner invitation tonight, and on the monthly Civic Association meeting. It was an evening for mundane domestic tasks -- laundry, dishes, vacuuming, straightening, & organizing -- jobs neglected all week in order to take advantage of the warm weather so I could work outside.

In fact, today was another gorgeous day with temperatures near 70. Right now I'm sitting at my computer with all of the windows open. Even so, it's warm inside. Dare I confess?? I was tempted to turn on the A/C earlier today.

This afternoon Amy & Lachlan joined me for a walk on the beach. I thought about jumping in the water for a dip (though I'm sure the water is rather cool!). At any rate, the numerous dolphin just beyond the breakers seemed to be enjoying the day as well. "How long can this last?" is on everyone's mind.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Music & Birthdays

For all of you fans of "Molasses Creek" and Fiddler Dave (aka my son-in-law), I thought you'd like to know that Dave is working on another album. I joined him and Amy (and baby Lachlan, of course), along with another Dave (can't remember his last name, but he's a pianist from Delaware), Jubal Creech (a drummer who grew up on the island), and Jubal's mother, Merle Davis (she lives on Ocracoke) for dinner tonight.

It is always a treat to be around such creative people. I didn't get to hear any of the music yet -- the three musicians rode off to Soundside Recording Studio soon after dinner, but I am looking forward to this next offering from Fiddler Dave.

After dinner, Amy & Lachlan & I went over to wish Dave Frum a happy 55th birthday. Dave was a park ranger on the island years ago. He now works for the water plant and is the head ranger on nearby Portsmouth Island. He commutes to Portsmouth in an open boat 3 - 4 days a week, year 'round. There's never any rush hour traffic for him, but sometimes it does get a little cold out there on the open water. Somehow I don't think he'd ever trade for a more conventional job though.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Old Homestead

Several folks have asked me about the rehabilitaion of my grandparents' home. As you may remember, Jim O'Brien and his crew have finished all of the exterior and structural work. Before the holidays I began putting all new wiring in the house. Since I returned home earlier this month I have spent many hours crawling under the house pulling wires. The weather has been perfect, with temperatures in the 60's & 70's.

I have just a few more wiring details to complete, and the house will be ready for an attack on the interior. Already, Jim's crew has put down a new subfloor upstairs, and he told me today that carpenters may be back as early as this week (probably in the evenings) to begin working inside.

Sometime after I catch up on other details I'll update the web pages detailing the house project. In the meanwhile, I'm refurbishing antique light fixtures, ejoying the front porch swing, and looking forward to moving into the house sometime before the summer season.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Gun Metal Beach

Although it is only moderately cold today, the beach seemed bleak & desolate. A lone park ranger was patrolling, though I'm not sure to what end. I was alone with the gulls and cormorants, the latter all flying south except for one flock moving resolutely in the opposite direction. I wondered what information they had that the others didn't. Were they wise and innovative, or just plain misguided?

The wind carried small streams of sand across my path and into the cold choppy water the color of gun metal blue. I pulled my hood tight around my head and turned around. And there ahead of me, a bit farther out than usual, was a pod of dolphins. I watched as they surfaced and dove again, moving in many different directions. Feeding, I supposed. It was time for me to go home and have a mug of hot chocolate.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Last night after dinner, talk turned to hitchhiking. Al Scarborough, always a source of entertainment, shared a story. Al, whose family has lived on Ocracoke for generations, went away to college and "made good," landing a position with the prestigious Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC.

About twenty years ago Al moved back home with his family to run the old Trolley Stop restaurant. He continued to work as a consultant with the Center for a few years. One winter he was offered a lucrative speaking engagement in London.

At the time Al was without a car so he decided to hitchhike to the airport in Norfolk. The first ride he got was with Monroe in the garbage truck. After he arrived at the London conference, surrounded by high-powered corporate executives, he was reflecting on the different pace of life on the island. "I might be the only high-paid speaker who's ever arrived at a conference by garbage truck," Al muses.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Parties & Dinners

I've not even been home 48 hours and my island social schedule is full. Yesterday evening I joined several dozen people at Lisa Landrum's home for a birthday party for Leslie Lanier, owner of "Books to be Red." All of our island gatherings are rather informal. After all, we know each other pretty well. Introductions and "small talk" are seldom necessary. We can go right to the essentials with ease. One of Ocracoke's unofficial mottos is "We don't care what you do; we just want to know about it." It was good to catch up on island news.

Tonight I'll have dinner with a dozen or so other folks, along with old friend and former island resident, Tom DeTitta. Tom assures me that even though the village has changed some since he lived here (more buildings & businesses), we islanders are still as eccentric and odd as we were twenty-five years ago. I'll take that as a compliment.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back Home Last Night

I'm back, after nearly three weeks of winter vacation. And winter it was in the mid-west. Although it was unseasonably warm for a few days in northern Indiana, Lou Ann and I had our fair share of snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures. Let's just say it felt like winter. We decorated our tree (we painted the white twinkle lights with colored markers), wrapped our presents, filled the stockings, and sat back to watch the plow trucks lumber through the otherwise silent streets with their blinking orange lights.

We walked in the snow, visited antique shops, went to the neighborhood theater, visited friends, cooked delicious meals, and even read some. It was a wonderful visit. I called home now and then, and delighted in telling Lou Ann & her neighbors that it was "73 degrees back on the island." To be honest, Ocracoke had a cold snap right before Christmas (I believe the temperature dropped below freezing), but otherwise it seems to have been a warm December.

I left the mid-west just ahead of the most recent winter storm. By the time I crossed the border into North Carolina I was driving with the windows open and folks along the way were outdoors in t-shirts and halter tops.

Of course, I've come home not only to gorgeous weather, family, and friends,......but also to piles of mail, a full in-box, bags of dirty laundry, a car full of Christmas paper and bows (you can get these things cheap in malls after the holidays!), and numerous chores to catch up on. I did get to see Lachlan (and Amy & David) last night. He is, naturally, growing fast -- full cheeks, bright eyes, alert, and interested in grabbing anything bright and shiny within his reach.

I wasn't home to write payroll checks right after Christmas so I need to catch up on that also. It's funny how employees like to get paid on time. But it really wasn't a problem. This is, after all, Ocracoke. I just called home and told my staff to take some money -- about what they thought they'd earned. We'll settle up in a day or so.

Of course we were shocked and saddened when we heard about the devastation & loss of life in Asia. The relatively minor damage we had from hurricane Alex in August just pales in comparison.

There's more to report, of course. But I'd best set my mind to the task of unpacking and organizing. And then I'll take my first stroll along the surf while it's still warm.

Here's hoping you had a wonderful holiday season, and that 2005 will prove to be a year of peace, hope, and reconciliation.