Sunday, September 16, 2012

Such Foolishness

Islanders have always enjoyed playing tricks on each other...and they enjoy just as much telling the stories over and over. Back in 2004 Maurice Ballance told me a story he had heard from Edgar Howard (1904-1990). 

The main character is Arcade Williams (b. 1842). In the mid-1950s Edgar's brother, Walter, wrote this about Arcade: "Kade lived in an old house framed entirely from the beams of old shipwrecks. [She] could 'cuss like a sailor' and woe be unto anyone who 'ruffled' her feathers the wrong way, or should by any chance, be the recipient of her caustic, venomous tongue lashing. She is still remembered today for her biting wit and vitriolic sarcasm. Aside from those human weaknesses she was a good soul and didn't have an enemy in the world."

In the late 1800s several young men decided to play a prank on Arcade Williams. They enlisted the help of Perry Coleman Howard, the village magistrate. Somehow they convinced Kade that her neighbor, Caswell Williams, had filed charges against her for trespassing on his property. They brought her before the magistrate. 

Kade called Mary Louise Williams ("Miss Med") as her witness, but Miss Med didn't show up for the hearing. A runner was sent to fetch her, and he came back with the news that Miss Med would be there "as soon as her collards were finished cooking."

Perry Coleman declared that he had actually heard enough evidence and ruled in favor of Caswell.  He "fined" Arcade $5.00.  

With that Arcade turned her back to the magistrate and hobbled away.  When she reached the door she leaned on her cane, turned her head back to the court, and announced "If you want that five dollars, Coleman, you'll have to get it out of this." And with that she slapped her rear end and marched outside. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of midwifery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:



  1. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Oh my that is so funny I can't stop laughing. I love a good travesty of justice story.

  2. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Well, NC Mainlander is laughing so hard that I don't know if I can even blog!!!!

    Wow! What a good, ole, rip-snoring story, Philip.

    You "told" it wonderfully, too!