Tuesday, November 30, 2004


"I've come a-bumming," my neighbor, William, said as he poked his head in the door. I was wiring a ceiling light. William was looking for just enough mortar to finish a job he was working on. Unfortunately I didn't have what he needed.

On Ocracoke you can't just run out to the shopping center for whatever you want. So we rely on each other. I've had Jason's extra long drill bit for a couple of weeks now. No point in buying something I may never need again. Rob, Al, Frank, and I own a power washer together. Why buy four when one will do?

We trade lumber, tools, lawn mowers, outboard motor parts, electrical supplies, what-have-you. We're resourceful, and it builds community.

I'm sure William will find enough mortar somewhere on the island. And in the process, he'll get to know his neighbors just a little bit better. It's a good thing we have here.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Days Growing Shorter

Puddles are still standing throughout the village after heavy rainfall on Saturday night. But the days are mild and the sun is peeking out now and then. The village is quiet today. Most of the Thanksgiving holiday visitors have returned home. We islanders are settling in for the winter season. But all is not dull.

Coming up in the next couple of weeks are another music & storytelling concert, as well as holiday get-togethers & celebrations at the local churches and the Preservation Society Museum. Of course, there's the big community party at Jimmy's garage on the 11th. Look for more information in the weeks to come.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Car Thief!

Recently I heard this story about one of my island neighbors:

He was in Norfolk, at a car dealer's and had just purchased a brand new vehicle. He had traded in his old clunker amd was driving his new car out of the lot when, in his rear-view mirror, he noticed the salesman flagging him down.

The salesman wanted to know how to get the trade-in's key out of the ignition. It seemed to have oxidized and was stuck. "I don't know," was the answer. "I've never had the key out of the ignition."

Oh, by the way, I found my pick-up truck. I should have guessed. My son-in-law had borrowed it. He just didn't return it to where he'd found it. The scotch bonnet is still on the dash.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Such is Life on an Island

Imagine this -- you walk home near midnight from an evening out, and you notice that your car is gone. What do you do? (Think about it before you read on.)

Here's what I did tonight -- I thought, "Oh, someone must have borrowed it."

So we'll see tomorrow. No panic. No late night phone calls to the sheriff's department. No lost sleep. I'm confident it will turn up tomorrow with a good explanation. This is Ocracoke, after all.

Check back tomorrow for the update! In the meanwhile, good night.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Happy Birthday Zoe!

Thnksgiving Day on Ocracoke was sunny and beautiful. It was all the more wonderful because all of my family was here, including my three grandchildren from western NC, Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza, and my island grandchild, Lachlan. We ate heartily, took walks and bike rides, drew pictures, read books, built an Ocracoke birdtrap, and played games.

Overnight the weather turned cold. It's only 48 degrees today, but it is sunny and clear. Tonight we'll celebrate Zoe's 9th birthday and then go to the benefit concert for the Ocrafolk festival. Molasses Creek will perform, and so will Donald Davis, Martin Garrish, Roy Parsons, Marcie & Lou, Rob & Sundae, and Aaron Caswell. Oh yeah, and I'll tell about Ocracoke's first automobile accident (there were only two motor vehicles on the island at the time!).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another wonderful day on the island. It was so warm today that we turned on the air conditioning in the Village Craftsmen. It's raining now, but still very mild.

This morning Amy called me over to witness Lachlan's first spoonful of rice cereal. He liked it, but wasn't ready to give up his mama!

My other three grandchildren (Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza) are also visiting all week. Ranger Gail was kind enough to open the lighthouse for them this morning, and after lunch we built an authentic Ocracoke Island bird trap.

We are looking forward to a large, old-fashioned family Thanksgiving tomorrow. And we wish you all a happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.

Several readers have requested more recent photos of Amy & David's youngun, Lachlan. What luck....David just posted photos on the Molasses Creek web site. You can see the pictures here: http://www.molassescreek.com/lachlan.htm. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Springer's Point

The temperature this evening was a balmy 60 degrees. It was a pleasant bike ride under partly cloudy skies and a waxing moon. Dozens of people had gathered at Sue & Ed Norvell's home to celebrate last year's acquisition by the NC Coastal Land Trust of 31 acres at Springer's Point and the recent purchase of 91 adjacent acres of the McWilliams tract.

Springer's Point, on the western edge of Ocracoke village, with its hummocks of twisted old live oak, yaupon, red bay, and red cedar trees hosts one of the largest and most diverse nesting rookeries in the state, featuring eight species of ibis, heron, and egret. The dunes beside the sandy beach are covered with flowering yucca, sea oxeye, and seaside morning glories. Biologists consider this spot to be of statewide significance because of its maritime forest and importance to wading birds.

The NC Coastal Land Trust is seeking financial support for Springer's Point forest restoration, preserve amenities, educational materials, & annual maintenance. You can read more about Springer's Point here: http://www.coastallandtrust.org/pages/current_campaigns.html. You can make an on-line contribution here: http://www.coastallandtrust.org/pages/join_us.html.

Springer's Point is truly an Ocracoke treasure. We are delighted to know that it will be preserved and protected for us and for future generations.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Downfall of Piracy

On this date in 1718 Ocracoke's most notorious part-time resident was killed just off of Springer's Point.

On hearing the news a young Benjamin Franklin composed a "broadside ballad" commemorating the event. The full title of his poem is "The Downfal of Piracy; being a full and true Account of a desperate and bloody Sea-fight between Lieutenant Maynard, and that noted Pirate Captain Teach, commonly call'd by the Name of Blackbeard; Maynard had fifty Men, thirty five of which were kill'd and wounded in the Action: Teach had twenty one, most of which were kill'd, and the rest carried to Virginia, in order to take their Tryal."

Following is Franklin's ballad, designed to be sung to the tune of "What is greater Joy and Pleasure."

Will you hear of a bloody Battle,
Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
How he lov'd all ill got Gain.
When the Act of Grace appeared,
Captain Teach with all his Men,
Unto Carolina steered,
Where they kindly us'd him then;
There he marry'd to a Lady,
And gave her five hundred Pound,
But to her he prov'd unsteady,
For he soon march'd of[f] the Ground.
And returned, as I tell you,
To his Robbery as before,
Burning, sinking Ships of value,
Filling them with Purple Gore;
When he was at Carolina,
There the Governor did send,
To the Governor of Virginia,
That he might assistance lend.
Then the Man of War's Commander,
Two small Sloops he fitted out,
Fifty Men he put on board, Sir,
Who resolv'd to stand it out:
The Lieutenant he commanded
Both the Sloops, and you shall hear,
How before he landed,
He suppress'd them without Fear.
Valiant Maynard as he sailed,
Soon the Pirate did espy,
With his Trumpet he then hailed,
And to him they did reply:
Captain Teach is our Commander,
Maynard said, he is the Man,
Whom I am resolv'd to hang Sir,
Let him do the best he can.
Teach reply'd unto Maynard,
You no Quarters here shall see,
But be hang'd on the Main-yard,
You and all your Company;
Maynard said, I none desire,
Of such Knaves as thee and thine,
None I'll give, Teach then replyed,
My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.
He took the Glass, and drank Damnation,
Unto Maynard and his Crew;
To himself and Generation,
Then the Glass away he threw;
Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him,
Tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten:
Teach a broadside quickly gave him,
Killing sixteen valiant Men.
Maynard boarded him, and to it
They fell with Sword and Pistol too;
They had Courage, and did show it,
Killing the Pirate's Crew.
Teach and Maynard on the Quarter,
Fought it out most manfully,
Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter,
Losing his Head, he there did die.
Every Sailor fought while he Sir,
Power had to weild [sic] the Sword,
Not a Coward could you see Sir,
Fear was driven from aboard:
Wounded Men on both Sides fell Sir,
'Twas a doleful Sight to see,
Nothing could their Courage quell Sir,
O, they fought courageously.
When the bloody Fight was over,
We're inform'd by a Letter writ,
Teach's Head was made a Cover,
To the Jack Staff of the Ship:
Thus they sailed to Virginia,
And when they the Story told,
How they kill'd the Pirates many,
They'd Applause from young and old.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Good Day

After a long day yesterday crawling under my house running electric wires I was rewarded at 6:30 when the Cedar Island ferry pulled into the slip with my son Stefen, his wife Snee, and my three grandchildren Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza. They will be here all week.

After brunch this morning with good friends Jimmy Creech and Chris & Natalia Weedy I will take my beach walk with the grand-younguns. It's such a treat to have them here in the off-season. The weather is still terrific even if it is cloudy today. Temperatures are in the mid 60's and the island is quiet, so I'll have plenty of time to spend with them.

Last night Bryan Bowers played to a full house at Deepwater Theater. Everyone agreed -- it's amazing what he can do with the lowly autoharp! As an added treat, Merle Davis had baked a half dozen delicious and exotic desserts for intermission. It was a great evening's entertainment.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A Busy Day Friday

No journal entry yesterday. I had breakfast with cousins Eddie & Betty early on, then went right to the old homeplace to continue replacing the electrical wiring. So far I've completed circuits in the dining room, kitchen, & living room. Everything is working perfectly, but it can be quite a challenge fishing wires through existing walls. The building inspector was pleasantly surprised. He said he's always prepared for the worst when a homeowner decides to do his/her own wiring. But everything passed (with flying colors, as they say) on the first inspection.

After work I joined friends for dinner, then played poker until midnight (I lost $2.00 -- not too costly for an evening's entertainment).

I'll continue work on the electric today, while looking forward to seeing my son and his family this evening. Tonight at 8:00 pm Bryan Bowers, autoharp artist on the traditional music circuit, will be performing at Deepwater Theater. Bowers, whom I recently heard perform at the National Storytelling Festival, can do some truly amazing things with the autoharp.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Answer to a Post

My cousin Nora posted this message recently: "Hi Philip! Your journal helps me get through many hectic days, until I'm able to get back to Ocracoke. I'd love to get a copy of the Muzel video. Is it available? Also, how about another photo of Lachlan?"

I understand that the video will be available from the Ocracok Preservation Society Museum. Cost is $14.50. You may have to email your request to the museum.

I am trying not to be an overbearing grandfather. However I will post another photo of Lachlan sometime soon. He really is a cutie!

In other news, the weather is back to being phenomenal. Just slightly cool, but sunny and pleasant. My walk on the beach yesterday was delightful -- a light jacket to begin with, just shirtsleeves after 10 minutes. The ocean was gentle and calming. Just the right way to end another wonderful day on Ocracoke.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Muzel & Lachlan

Last night at the Ocracoke Preservation Society potluck my grandson, Lachlan, and I sat at table with Muzel Bryant. Muzel, at 100 years old, and Lachlan, at 3 & 1/2 months old, were the oldest and youngest folks attending.

Muzel's mind is sharp and she remains in very good health. After the dinner and business meeting, Walt Wolfram, sociolinquist and friend of Ocracoke, introduced a documentary video that was produced by him and one of his students, Drew Grimes. The video, "Celebrating Muzel Bryant, 100 Years," documented Muze's long life and her community birthday party last March.

It was fun to visit with Muze and enjoy her quiet company.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Potlucks, and More Potlucks

A reader recently wrote, "You folks on Ocracoke really know how to 'Build Community'..we should all take lessons from you."

Sunday night Julie & Gary hosted a potluck dinner. About 35 - 40 folks (ages 3 months to late 60's) showed up with a bodacious assortment of delicious dishes. Two travelers from Vermont joined us and shared food and stories with islanders. I even received their "Most Hospitable Storyteller & Square Dance Caller Award." Quite an honor, I'd say.

Last night Amy & David got a group of about 20 people together for another potluck and a game of Werewolf. Again, the food was outstanding (especially the apple crisp!). Laughing & carrying on dominated the evening as we behaved like medieval peasants caught up in an irrational fervor.

Tonight a large group will gather at the Community Center for the annual membership meeting of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. One highlight of the evening will undoubtedly be Walt Wolfram's video presentation documenting Muzel Bryant's life and recent 100th birthday party. We're all hoping Muze will join us. Ann Ehringhaus will also show slides of this year's July 4th parade.

I've said it several times before -- Visitors often ask us "What do you do all winter?" If only they knew how busy (and it's a good busy) we are!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Neva May

On this date in 1886 the 3-year-old schooner "Neva May" (George Howard, owner and master) was stranded in Pamlico Sound, near Hatteras Inlet. $3,000.00 worth of pine lumber was removed from the deck. The six crew members and one passenger remained on board. It took four days and many hours of hard labor for the station crew to refloat the vessel.

Interestingly, the "Neva May" was stranded in almost the same place two years earlier.

Today the weather is cool, but sunny and clear. No signs of shipwrecks. No signs of much of anything today. Just beautiful fall weather and lots of quiet.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Flat Cat Cafe

Last night there was live music at the Community Center from 6:30 to 10:30. Our local teen band, "Mitchell & the Mumfries" played rock & roll to the pulse of colored lights for two hours. The center was hopping as natives and tourists & senior citizens and kids danced, clapped, and whooped it up.

At 8:30 electric guitars gave way to acoustic intruments -- mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass. Dozens of couples took to the floor for an old-time Ocracoke square dance. Young and old as well as visitors and old-timers joined hands to form a big circle. We twirled to the call of "Swing Your Partner" and shuffled to "Promenade."

"Four Hands Around," "Ocean Wave," & "Dive for the Oyster, Dig for the Clam" (everyone's favorite) kept everyone on their toes. "The March" & "Wind the Clock" were fun for all even if we did get a little tangled up at times.

It was quintessential small town America at it's best.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

52 Degrees & Windy

People are here for Village Days. Not hordes of folks, but enough to notice. In a couple of hours we'll be listening to music at the Community Center, and then enjoying a traditional Ocracoke square dance.

The weather is cold and windy, but everyone seems to be having a good time.

Friday, November 12, 2004

What a Deal!

Yesterday Cindy posted a question, asking, "I wonder if anybody has record of how much William Howard paid for the island?"

William Howard paid 105 Pounds for Ocracoke. Not a bad deal, I'd say.

There is some question about exactly what he purchased. In 1759 the island was only about eight miles long (inlets come and go over time). Also, "Ocracoke" (the area where the village is located) was apparently a seperate island from the "sandy banks" until late in the 18th century. With rising sea level the banks have migrated toward the west, and have "bumped into" the more stable "inside island" of Ocracoke.

Today, of course, "Ocracoke Island" encompasses the entire 16 mile stretch between Hatteras & Ocracoke Inlets. Interestingly, however, even within my own lifetime the tidal flats and ocean overwash that were common prior to the 1950's (and even into the 1970's) attested to the earlier separation of the village from the banks.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

John Lovick

John Lovick is a name connected with Ocracoke Island, but not often remembered. On this date 285 years ago, in 1719, the Lords Proprietors granted to him the entire island of Ocracoke. John Lovick, an Irish Quaker, never made Ocracoke his home, but apparently did use the island for raising livestock. Fourteen years later, in 1733, he sold the island to Richard Sanderson. In 1759 William Howard purchased the island and moved here with his family.

Thank you William!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Too Many Parties?

Ocracokers love community parties. Last night Leslie & Bill Gilbert hosted an End-of-the-Season party at the Community Center. I had other commitments so I missed this one, but I'm told the food was excellent and the music (Ocracoke Rockers) wonderful.

This weekend (Ocracoke Village Days) will be a two-day party of sorts, with music, dance, history/ghostwalk, yard sales, artist tours, and other special events.

We still have Thanksgiving, Jimmy & Linda's Christmas garage party, and various pot lucks to look forward to.

I guess we can't have too many parties!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I know that 50 degrees may not seem cold to all of our readers from the northern states, but last night we had our first cold snap of the season. It was the only time since last winter that my heat has come on. The day is bright and clear, but Fall is definitely in the air. My outdoor shower has two shower heads. It was so nice to turn them both on and let the hot water cascade over my shoulders.

If you live close enough, consider coming out to the island this weekend for Village Days (http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/villagedays.pdf). Lots of fun activities have been planned. Hope to see you here.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Red Skies

Last night as Tom Pahl and I walked down Lawton Lane to pick up my bike Tom noticed a red glow in the northern sky. It was a deep barn-red hue that spread wide above the trees. Intrigued, we abandoned our bikes and took Tom's truck to a dark spot on the sound.

By the time we arrived at the shoreline red had given way to pale blue. Two wide horizontal bands traversed the sky above the horizon. As we watched over the next half hour the colors compressed and then spread out again. Red reappeared along with more blue. Colors radiated upward in feathered bands.

The sky above our heads was crystal clear so thousands of stars and the Milky Way stood out prominently. The pole star was brightly shining directly above the colorful display. No doubt this was the Northern Lights. More commonly seen in northern latitudes, the Aurora Borealis is occasionally visible at Ocracoke. It was a thrill to experience this rare celestial display last night.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

An Island Day

For those of you who wonder what we islanders do in the off-season I present my day:

Went to breakfast at the Pony Island Restaurant with Amy & David (Lachlan stayed home with grandma). Friends joined us at our table, so there were about 10 of us there. Lots of other locals there today. Vince O'Neal, owner, gives free breakfast to locals on his last day of the season.

After breakfast we biked over to the Boyette House to visit with Karen Lovejoy on her last day of work (the motel will be renovated and converted into condos this winter).

Gave the Mitchells and Sundae Horn a tour of the house I'm restoring.

Walked to Springer's Point with Pam Smith (writer & editor with North Carolina Sea Grant) & her husband Doug.

Came home and worked the rest of the afternoon wiring my new (old) house with my son-in-law, David.

I'm going out now to listen to music at the Jolly Roger with Tom Paul, new owner of Ocracoke Restoration.

Unfortunately I didn't get to the beach today. What a shame. It was a gorgeous day again. Temps in the mid 60's under clear skies. This evening, in my outdoor shower the stars were spread across the heavens in grand profusion.

Not such a bad life, I'd say.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Sharon & Roy

Sharon Miller (former owner of Sandy Shores Realty, and now owner of Harbor View Motel) and Roy Sjoblom were married a couple of months ago in the Caribbean. Tonight they threw a party for all of Ocracoke at the Community Center. Close to three hundred folks showed up to wish the couple well; enjoy each other's company; share a fabulous spread of shrimp, barbecue, fresh fruits, cheeses, and drinks; and to dance under a whirlwind of colored lights. "Everyone" was there -- old folks & children, natives & transplants, Republicans & Democrats (even a couple of Libertarians!).

Ocracokers love a party. As we say, "No Fools, No Fun!"

Friday, November 05, 2004

A Little Self-Promotion

Many of you may know that New York Times Bestselling Author Audrey Penn has recently had a new book published. "Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove," an adventure novel for young people, is set on Ocracoke. I had the honor of providing a number of the book's illustrations.

Yesterday I added this delightful book to our web site. You can read about it (and order it) here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/islandbooks.htm#mystery. I've autographed the books, so they make an even better holiday gift.

Also, an alert reader pointed out to me that several links on our pages chronicling the restoration of my grandparents' home were not working. I have fixed those links. You can read about the most recent work, and link to earlier pages, from here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/howardhome1004.htm.

I would be much obliged if readers would let me know whenever links on our web site are not working. Just email me at infor@villagecraftsmen.com. Thanks!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ocracoke Election Results (Unofficial)

I understand that 510 votes were cast in this year's election (458 at the polls, 52 absentee), plus 11 provisional ballots. 68% of Ocracoke's 755 registered voters turned out to vote. John Kerry garnered approximately 60% of the votes, and President Bush about 40%. Four ballots were cast for the Libertarian candidate, and one for Ralph Nader. Nathan Sears was reelected as Ocracoke's county commissioner.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election Comments

Unofficial reports indicate that more than 500 island voters turned out yesterday to cast their ballots. I understand that the previous high turnout was only 384 voters. I have not yet heard a tally of Tuesday's Ocracoke votes.

Our county (Hyde) has five commissioners. Each one serves a township, but is elected at large. This means that Ocracoke's representative can easily be determined by voters on the mainland who outnumber islanders about 5 to 1. Even if our commissioner wins a majority of island votes, he or she is still outnumbered on the board of commissioners (again, 5 to 1). This is a constant cause of frustration and concern since Ocracokers and mainland Hyde County residents often have very different outlooks and interests.

My hope is that all of our elected officials (national, state, & local) recognize that effective leadership means working for the best interests of all of our citizens, regardless of whom they voted for.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day

Ocracokers showed up early at the polls (the Community Center) this morning. I'm told that a line had formed 30 minutes before the doors opened at 6:30 am. All indications are that there will be a record turnout on the island this election day. Islanders are keenly interested in our local county commissioner's race, as well as the presidential contest.

We'll keep you posted as we get word of local results.

In other news, the weather continues to be outstanding. It was so nice yesterday that I jumped into the ocean on my daily walk along the beach. It was refreshingly cool, and the air was warm so I continued my walk barefooted & shirtless. Ah, November on the Outer Banks!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Ollie Baughm Styron Mutro

Our thoughts have been with Dale and his family these last few days. You may not know Dale. He works at the Village Craftsmen, but only part-time and "in the back" unpacking and pricing inventory. For several years Dale has been the primary care giver for his Granny, Ollie Baughm Styron Mutro. Ollie died last week, at the age of 83, after years of medical problems.

The funeral was this morning in the new Assembly of God church. Ollie was remembered for her love of children and animals, and for her devotion to her family. Dale spent much of his childhood with his grandmama, listening to her tales of "old Ocracoke." A line in a poem by J.K. Bulock in the church bulletin says it best: "And in the wintertime remember me in the stories that are told."

I'm sure Ollie will live on in the many and wonderful stories that Dale carries with him, as a younger, but valuable island "tradition bearer."