Sunday, May 12, 2013


Visitors to my house, as well as folks walking down the lane, often ask me about the old iron mattock head that hangs near my yard gate. It is part of a gate closing mechanism. Islanders have used similar items for generations to effortlessly close their gates. Common items used were old window weights and heavy flat irons. In colonial days small cannonballs were often employed as gate closing counterweights.

Gate Closing Mechanism

Closeup of Mattock Head

The weight hangs from a cord that runs through a small pulley screwed into a horizontal 2 X 4 attached to the top of the gate post. From there the cord extends to the far side of the gate. The gate can be easily opened, and when the gate is released the counterweight slowly pulls the gate shut. It works great!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of our island Post Office. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:27 AM

    I wonder how many was Y2K folk went to museums to learn how every day physics was practiced. I would love to hear of an other example of everyday physics. In review I will include the cistern in this chapter. or should I lets see that would be gravity now the gate closure mechanism is potential energy right? oh help me out here. Cleopatra.

  2. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Dahhhhh...simply magical. i think a lot of people around the world use this dark ages gate must be running out things to write about

  3. Anonymous9:18 PM


    Not previously familiar with this innovation, on Ocracoke or anywhere else--a matter of simplicity and utility made all the more charming by the gate owner's selection of counterweights. As always, thanks for sharing.

  4. Julie S.8:55 AM

    Love your very interesting blog! Do have one question though - seems you have a consistent "Debbie Downer" who has nothing to do but complain or insult - is it Anonymous 2:07 pm? Anyway, can't you block these unhappy people? Freedom of speech is one thing but..... Anyway, hope your day is as bright and sunny as it is starting out to be here in East TN!

    1. Julie S.,

      The only comments I delete are from commercial establishments that have no connection to Ocracoke, and are just looking for free advertisements...and the occasional, very negative rant. Otherwise, I figure my readers can just ignore comments they find unpleasant.

      Thank you for being a faithful reader. I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

  5. Anonymous2:01 PM

    a fair comment Philip. It's always good to get a round of comments - positive or negative. Sometimes things that are common here are not so common elsewhere and vis versa. Other people might have wierder things than we have here on ocracoke.
    Carl (off island home owner just visiting his house here)

  6. Anonymous2:48 PM

    Philip-Thanks for keeping the journal interesting. I also would like to express my appreciation for the public service you perform with your liberal comment policies, thus providing a place to go for those who LOVE to complain.