Just about every old island home had a shell pile. Out back by the shed, or in the side yard, the pile of clam shells grew year by year. Often there was a fish cleaning table nearby. Fish heads and such were buried in the garden. The ubiquitous island cats made short work of the remaining discards.
However, when it came time to open clams most of the shells were tossed to the side. Some were spread at the bases of fig trees. Others were put in the soft sand lanes. Over time the roads were hardened and fewer and fewer automobile drivers found themselves stuck in the sand. Nevertheless the shells in the yard accumulated. Some of the old deeds even identified property corners as where "so and so had his shell pile." Thankfully, the tradition continues. Here are photos of two shell piles, the first about thirty years old; the second much more recent.
A note about this month's newsletter: Astute reader, Warner Passanisi, pointed out that the link on the last several postings is inaccurate. I have made the changes and the link now works properly. I had wondered why we had not received any comments or questions about the bridge replacements scheduled for the first two and one half months of 2008. If you are thinking about making a trip to Ocracoke in early 2008 please read the newsletter carefully. You will need to use the Swan Quarter or Cedar Island ferries, or have a vehicle capable of driving on the beach. You can read the newsletter here.