My grandmother, Aliph O'Neal Howard, always kept a conch shell on the cistern. In those days Ocracoke's only source of fresh drinking water came from rainwater that ran off the roof, through the downspout, and directly into a large round wooden (or brick) cistern.
There was, of course, a cast iron pitcher pump attached to the cistern. But the conch shell was there if you just wanted to lift the cistern lid and dip water out for a cool drink.
Conch shells grow either with the aperture on the right (as in the photo below), or on the left (these are less common). Any shell book will identify the shell below as a "right-handed" conch. The others are said to be "left-handed."
Not if you ask an O'cocker, however.
The shell pictured below makes a perfect dipper for a left-handed person, as you can imagine. The other configuration is just right for a right-handed person. So we on the island almost always call these two varieties by the opposite names of those listed in "official" shell books.
Just a little Ocracoke trivia.
An Ocracoke "Left-handed" Conch:
You can read our latest newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news041506.htm. It's the story of Old Kade.