Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Official Hyde Co. Advisory, 8 am Today

...Hurricane Irene was a category 1 hurricane that made landfall near Cape Lookout Saturday morning. Sustained winds were recorded at 90 mph. There are still reports of power outages, downed lines, fallen trees, and impassable roads in Hyde County. We have resources and recovery plans in place to continue restoration efforts.

Hyde County officials continue the limited reentry to Hyde County. At this time, mainland Hyde County is open to all traffic. On Wednesday, August 31, vehicles with a purple sticker and vehicles with a green sticker (residents) will be allowed on the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries to Ocracoke, in that priority order. Residents with a current, valid drivers license with an Ocracoke address are also allowed. This will allow infrastructure, utilities, and essential personnel to get in place and residents to get back to their homes.

Access to Ocracoke is only allowed via NCDOT ferry traffic from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island. There is no reentry to Ocracoke for non-resident property owners or visitors until utilities and infrastructure are in place which is estimated to be no earlier than one week. There is no access to Hatteras Island through Ocracoke Island.

The Ferry Schedule for Wednesday, August 31, 2011 is as follows:

Leaving Swan Quarter: 7 am, 10 am, 12:30 pm, 4:30 pm
Leaving Ocracoke: 6:30 am, 9:30 am, 12:45 pm, 4 pm

Leaving Cedar Island: 7 am, 10 am, 1 pm, 3:30 pm
Leaving Ocracoke: 7:30 am, 10 am, 1 pm, 3:30 pm

Communications and county services are limited at this time. There are still flooded roads and downed power lines. Please be respectful of roadside crews doing clean-up. Please be aware that rescue operations and debris removal are still happening. Residents are encouraged to wait, and if you enter, you are entering at your own risk.

...All Hyde County Schools are scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 1 unless otherwise announced.

Clean Up

I discovered yesterday that Evan (he works at Village Craftsmen) was on the island. I called him, and he was happy to come over and help me clean up. We cut up more limbs and trees, and carried five more pickup truck loads to the chipper. We will probably have four or five more loads before we're finished. It looks like a mini-tornado touched down next to the gypsy wagon. Cedars, live oaks, yaupons, and vines were all tangled and twisted together.

I have also heard of some more serious structural damage on the island -- roofs stripped bare of shingles, water damage from torrential rain, trees on houses, and, of course, portions of Highway 12 damaged and covered with sand.

Residents were permitted to return to the island yesterday (Amy, David, & Lachlan are home), but I'm not sure when visitors will be allowed back. Much depends on repairing the main power line that runs down Hatteras Island. Power on Ocracoke is now being provided by the large emergency generator at the Tideland Electric plant behind the Island Inn. Different sections of the village are given power for several hours, then shut off for a couple of hours while another section is provided with power. Many thanks to all of the employees at Ocracoke's plant for their hard work and dedication!

I will publish more information whenever I hear anything official.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


We've had power for some time now. And finally I am able to access the Internet (the battery in my back up system had died).

I spent most of the day yesterday cutting up limbs and carrying 6 pickup truck loads to the chipper. I probably have 4-6 more loads before I'm finished. As you might imagine, my 67 year old body is rebelling today! Maybe I'll take the morning off.

As almost all of our readers know, Ocracoke fared extremely well in hurricane Irene -- a few trees and limbs down, shingles blown off here and there, and other fairly moderate damage to boats, windows, and roofs. But no tidal flooding! Unfortunately other Outer Banks communities and towns elsewhere in Irene's path had significant damage. We send heartfelt thoughts and wishes for a speedy and full recovery their way. As I learn of concrete ways to help I will post that information on this journal.

Many thanks to all of our readers who kept up-to-date information flowing through various social media resources. I am sure it was very helpful.

I am expecting Amy, David, & Lachlan...and other friends and neighbors...back this afternoon. By the time visitors return to Ocracoke there will be few signs that Irene ever made landfall here.

Please check official sources (NCDOT, realty offices, etc.) before returning to Ocracoke. I expect Highway 12 to be impassable for quite a while, but Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries should be running normal schedules soon.

In a day or two I plan to write a few words explaining my reasons for remaining on Ocracoke as hurricane Irene was approaching.

Again, many thanks to all of our readers who let us know you were thinking of us, and wishing us well during this major storm. We hope to see you on the island soon!

Heartfelt thanks also to Lou Ann for keeping everyone informed with frequent posts. What would I do without her!

Monday, August 29, 2011

From Indiana...

Dear Friends and Family,

The best I can report is that Philip was tired tonight on the phone. Even though Ocracoke came through Hurricane Irene remarkably well, there are trees and tree limbs down all over the village. Debris is littered about and lots of small incidentals that add up to the bigger picture.

The electricity has been so spotty that most of the time it is not on. He does not hear or see the news. Luckily Philip has a small generator so that he is able to plug in his refrigerator and a small lamp.

He is able to shower, however, he called me to check on the storms on the Outer Banks because he doesn't even know the weather. I advised him not to shower til after 11 when the warnings were canceled.

I think he is lonely...and tired.

Folks should be starting to come home tomorrow which will be wonderful to have friends and neighbors over to share their stories while also sharing gin and tonics.

Hopefully the electricity will be on as well.

Personally, I am back in northern Indiana but will leave in the morning for Texas as I drive my mom to Houston. It will be a quick trip and I will be back within three days. I will, however, continue to help out with the blog til he has electricity and is able.

I think that the best thing for all of you wonderful friends is to let him rest a bit when he gets back on line. He plans on writing an essay for his blog just to share his thoughts.

If you need answers, such as aerial shots or views of Hatteras...that can all be found on line. I know my Facebook pages are full of such.

I am attaching my weekly column at the bottom. Read if you would like, but my feeling aren't hurt if you just pass it by. We have all been through a lot.

Thanks for letting me share my feelings as well as Philip's. He does thank you for all the concern.

Lou Ann

Click here for story:

New Footage

Dear Family and Friends,

By the time you read this another day will have dawned on Ocracoke. Sunny. Warm. Clear skies.

As I write to you tonight, it is cool in the midwest. The windows are closed and I will actually toss on another blanket as Autumn begins to seep into our bloodlines.

I have been watching as the damage reports are rolling in. It is amazing that we know more than Philip or other folks on Ocracoke as their news sources are limited.

I am greatly saddened by the videos and reports of those folks around Ocracoke who are in such distress. With the road out, we can only speculate on what will happen to folks trying to get home...tourists with plans...or just getting supplies like milk or bread.

Time will bring stories with her, but in the meantime, there is great hardship ahead.

Here is a photo and a video that I could not stop watching.

Until morning,
Lou Ann

Sunday, August 28, 2011

News on the Inlet

Dear Friends,

Warner just sent this to me on the Inlet. Just click on below:

Lou Ann

Good news and other thoughts...

Dear Friends and Family,

Just talked with Philip so the cell phones are working now! He is fine, actually Ocracoke is fine. He spent the day walking around looking at the houses of friends and neighbors. Deep Water Theater is fine as well.There is no flooding although their are branches down, which is to be expected. Highway 12 is under water at this time however.

Yes, there is a new inlet cut, it has been confirmed, but not much other news on that. Electricity is coming on sporadically. He had a little at the Village Craftsmen, but then off again.

He hooked up his generator to his refrigerator and is dining on steak and egg salad tonight. Blanch is fine as well.

I am getting most of my information from Facebook (yea Warner and Ed!) and other Internet sources. I am now watching the horrific mess in Vermont.

I was thinking today during those 20 hours of no contact with Philip how we, in this time that we live, need all of this instant information. I often talk about women left at home while their sons, fathers, brothers, husbands go off to sea in the ghost walks. The widow's walk was designed for these women who waited, who held on to family, chores, and love. I know many women must have gone to their graves without ever knowing of their loved ones.

I think of families in Europe sending their children to America to have a better life knowing they may never see or hear of them again.

What hard lives our ancestors lived to make sure we arrived to where we are. We certainly owe a lot to those who came before us to live good lives and do good deeds in our own communities and families.

Anyway, Ocracoke is well and alive, I hope you all are fine as well.

Again, thank you for your love and interest. Take care of yourselves and let's send our thoughts of good wishes up the seacoast.

Lou Ann

No Contact

Dear Friends and Family,

I know you are waiting for a update on Philip and Ocracoke, and the truth is there is no update.

It has been a long week for me being in Indianapolis staying focused on my work, all the while keeping up with Philip and the news.

He sounded a bit weary when I last talked with him, but wouldn't you know he just wanted to hear all about my show!

I tried calling last night him several times last night and this morning. I talked with Amy and she confirmed the fact that all phone service is out on the Island.

The news that I know is all from Facebook and the Weather Channel. Unconfirmed report from Amy is that a new inlet has been cut by Rodanthe and the NCDT is working on establishing ferry service from the Bonner Bridge to Hatteras to get folks home.

No word on Swan Quarter. She also said Manteo took a hard hit. We have friends there with small businesses and know what a struggle this will be.

It is difficult being out of contact. Who knows how long that will be?

I realize I am not much help to all of you who love this blog, but I will drop a note now and then when I know information or just need other friends to talk to!

Thanks for all your love of the Island and the community that lives there.

Lou Ann

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Being One with Nature...

I just talked to Philip...all is still well. Lots of blowing wind, but he sees no damage or flooding except from the heavy rains.

He is cheery and wanted me to share a quote with you that will help explain why he stayed.
This is from Henry Beston's book The Outermost House. The quote goes like this , "The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things."

I read that book myself this summer and loved the lonely writings from this man. It is very similar to Henry David Thoreau.

Philip is also surrounded by the walls of his grandfather. Those walls have survived hurricanes and now will have more stories from Irene.

He thanks you all for your comments, as do I. And yes, Zoie, Opa lives!!

Lou Ann

Morning News

Good Morning!

I just talked with Philip. He slept until 8:00 so that is great! He has no power so I will try and keep you updated with the news.

He said that it is 'blowing a gale' with dancing trees all around him. The only damage he can see is that the road is flooded and parts of the fence have blown off across the lane.

He is in good spirits. I am sorry I am not there with him as I think this day will be long for him.

I am watching the weather channel and then I can update him from the news here in Indiana. I know he has talked with Amy and Rob as well this morning.

Thank you for all your comments, thoughts, and prayers.

Lou Ann

Friday, August 26, 2011

9:30 PM

It is beginning to look and feel like a tropical storm outside! The wind must be gusting to 25 mph or more, and the rain is coming down harder as the evening progresses. I will be going to bed early tonight (and I sleep I might not know what is happening until morning). If I do wake up and there is anything to report, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I'll be back Saturday morning.

8:30 PM

Rain has been falling steadily since late this afternoon...but the wind speed, though increasing, is only about 10-15 mph.

Many thanks to all of our readers who have sent wishes for our safety. Unfortunately I have not had the energy to answer questions. Please be assured that all is well as I write. Of course, we are expecting hurricane force winds and high tides sometime tomorrow. I will keep you posted as I am able.

Hurricane Irene : Storm-Centered Satellite Image : Weather Underground

Click on the link below for a pretty impressive satellite image of Irene:

Hurricane Irene : Storm-Centered Satellite Image : Weather Underground


Rain started falling about an hour and a half ago. Not much...and not hard...just a gentle shower. A harbinger of things to come.


Everyone is concerned about their boats. Below is a photo I took around noon of two charter boats tied up in the middle of one of the canals in the Oyster Creek area.

Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Stacy Howard would have been proud.

"Spider Webs"

Blanche has often told me the following story about the '44 Storm (also called the Great Atlantic Hurricane).

Blanche's papa, Stacy Howard, had a heart condition, and his doctor advised him against getting stressed. When Aycock Brown went through the village posting signs warning of an impending storm hardly anyone took him seriously. The sky was clear and blue; barely a whisper of wind could be felt.

But Stacy decided it would be better to prepare for the storm while everything was calm, and when he could take his time without anxieties. Blanche says he tied a "spider web" of lines to his fishing boat in Silver Lake.

The storm pummeled Ocracoke, casting the mailboat and other vessels onto the shore in front of the Island Inn. Other boats were scattered around the shoreline. The bow of one was driven through the upstairs window of a house.

Stacy's boat remained right where he had left her, secured by a dozen or more lines. All of the other fishermen vowed that they would pay attention in the future whenever they saw Stacy adding more lines to his boat!

This morning I walked down to the Park Service docks. Several boats were tied to pilings just like Stacy's. I counted 14 lines on one sailboat. Lessons have been learned.

Click on either photo to see a larger image.


A sure sign of an approaching storm -- cars parked on every small knoll and hammock throughout the village.

Click on either photo to see a larger image.

Beach at 8 am

I took a couple of photos at the beach this morning. The surf is getting rougher...and creeping up toward the dunes.

Click on either photo to see a larger image.

Friday Morning

Ocracoke continues to be quiet. An occasional walker or jogger passes by; cars are parked on every small rise throughout the village, silent reminders of the impending storm.

Clouds moved in overnight, but they are barely moving. With only a slight breeze (maybe 2-4 mph) trees are almost still. But I can hear the ocean getting restless.

I heard last night that water was coming up closer to Highway 12. I haven't been to the beach yet. After breakfast I'll take a look.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Afternoon

This morning started almost eerily quiet. There was no breeze at all, the streets were empty, and a hush blanketed the village. As the day progressed, islanders appeared here and there, as they continued working on last minute preparations for Irene.

Amy, David, & Lachlan were packed and ready to make the trip to David's parents' place in Carrboro, NC.

By 11:30 they were in line waiting for the 12:45 ferry:

Lachlan (in the orange shirt) joined in a picnic with his friends Gretchen, Nicholas, & Charley.

As I write, there is still hardly any wind (less than 5 mph), but Irene is still a long way away. I think I'll go read a book.

Thursday Morning

About a dozen friends stopped by last night. We told stories, laughed, and carried on until about 10 o'clock. Most of us had completed the majority of our hurricane preparations and we just needed to relax and enjoy the company of friends. There is not a lot that needs to be done right now...just time to wait and see.

I will post updates as I hear or see anything of interest.

Many thanks to all of our readers for expressions of concern for Ocracoke and its residents. If history is any indication, Ocracoke will survive and recover from whatever Mother Nature throws at us. I hope I am correct. My house has been here for over one hundred years...and since the rehabilitation project it is sturdier now than it has ever been.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I am finished for the day. Trimmed branches around my property, secured lines to my boat (stern tied to my outbuilding, bow secured with two anchors in the sand), took a load of limbs to the chipper, and put my car up on a hill behind my house (see photo really is a hill; small but a hill nevertheless).

(Click on photo to see a larger image.)

The village is quiet this afternoon. Just us locals, plus a few stragglers.

I have invited a few friends by after dinner just to relax, visit, wind down, and chat. In case I didn't get a chance to invite is at 7 o'clock. Come on over!


As you can imagine, hurricane Irene is on everyone's mind. We are watching the forecasts and tracking the storm. We are also making preparations. One of the most wearisome aspects of a major hurricane like this is the days of waiting, watching, preparing, and uncertainty before the storm passes by. It can be very exhausting.

As frequent readers of this blog know, I enjoy sharing island history, stories, and glimpses into everyday life on Ocracoke. For the next few days I will be suspending my usual focus as we concentrate on the weather and how islanders are responding to the forecasts.

Keep checking and I'll keep you updated as often as there is news to report, or as long as I am here, or as long as I have power and Internet access. I may publish several reports in one day...or I may not. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day of Preparation/Evacuation Notice

Many thanks to all of our readers who are concerned about Ocracoke as hurricane Irene approaches. I have been working all day hauling old bicycles and other clutter to the dump, taking lawn mowers and other equipment out from under my house and storing them inside, pulling my skiff out of the water, trimming limbs around the hill wher I'll put my car, etc.

I am planning to relax for about an hour or so before friends come over for a glass of wine and dinner (I made deviled clams). Then Amy & I have ghost and history walks tonight. There will be plenty of time to get my plants and a few other items inside tomorrow.

I just received the following notice from Hyde Co. Emergency Services:

"[A] state of emergency [has been] declared for Ocracoke and Hyde County mainland effective 5 AM, Wednesday, August 24, 2011. A mandatory evacuation has been issued for all visitors and tourists of Ocracoke/Hyde County beginning at 5 AM on Wednesday. A voluntary evacuation has been issued for all residents of Ocracoke/Hyde County beginning at 5 AM on Wednesday. There will be a mandatory evacuation for everyone for Ocracoke/Hyde County beginning at 5 AM, Thursday, August 25, 2011. Note: The mandatory evacuation starts for tourists and visitors on Wednesday at 5 AM and will continue on Thursday.

"During the state of emergency, the NC Ferry system will be on a first-come, first -serve basis for all vehicles open to Hatteras, Swan Quarter, and Cedar Island pending road conditions in those receiving counties. Schedules and toll collections are suspended during the evacuation order."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

How To Be A Valued Visitor

Recently a reader asked, "can you pass along some constructive suggestions (or perhaps your own pet peeves) to help us all be better guests of the island?"

First, a couple of comments: Most visitors to Ocracoke are considerate and respectful of our beaches, our community, and our private property. And anyone who asks the question above clearly already understands how to be a valued guest of the island. However, here are a few suggestions for all of our readers:

--Please follow NC state law and bike with traffic...and walk facing traffic. In addition to being our law, it is also safest for everyone.

--When walking along our narrow streets, please try to stay out of the traffic lanes as much as possible. Probably the most annoying behavior is walking in the traffic lane with backs to oncoming vehicles. I am constantly amazed at how many parents with small children walk like this. Thankfully there are very few injuries because cars are moving so slowly.

--If you rent a golf cart, please pay attention to the rules and regulations. We have already had serious injuries...and one a result of misuse of golf carts. I have seen several people racing down Howard Street in golf carts. They are not amusement rides.

--Be kind. This applies to everyone -- visitors and residents alike. Visitors often need a little extra time to figure out where they are, or where they are going, or how to find a parking space. Slow down, relax, and be courteous and considerate.

--If you see litter while walking on the beach...or along our roadways...stop and pick it up. If everyone picked up just a few pieces of litter it would make a difference.

--Please carry a flashlight, or use a bicycle headlight when biking after dark. This, too is our law, and will help prevent injuries. (I must confess that I sometimes ride without a light when my batteries die...shame on me!)

--Please turn off your cell phones when entering stores, restaurants, and music concerts. It is really not necessary to be connected to the rest of the world at all times. In fact, one of the gifts our island has to offer is a respite from the outside world. Take advantage of it.

These are just a few suggestion, "off the top of my head." Maybe some of our local readers have more comments to add.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Price is Right

Many of our readers (especially those on Facebook) have already seen the YouTube video titled "The Price is Right Lyrics." If not, please click on the link below (if you have an aversion to clicking on links in blogs, just search "Price is Right Lyrics"), and pay special attention at 41 to 43 seconds:

The only reason I am posting this Jay Leno video is because of the cameo shot, not necessarily because I think it is funny. I hope you enjoy the celebrity appearance!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ocracoke Newsletter

We have just published our latest monthly Ocracoke Newsletter. This month I share an article (courtesy of the North Carolina Journal of Medicine) by Dr. Martin Rozear about the mid-1800s marine hospital on Portsmouth Island. It is a fascinating story of sailors and coastal North Carolina. You can read it here:

Saturday, August 20, 2011


A reader asked about the six women listed as "head of house" in the 1810 Ocracoke census. This is what I have learned:

Abigail Howard Williams (c.1770 - c.1811) was the granddaughter of William Howard, Sr., and the widow of Robert Williams. One girl under 10 years old (almost certainly her daughter Comfort [b. 1805]), and one slave were living with her.

Susannah Howard Jackson (b. c.1835) was the daughter of William Howard, Sr. and the widow of Francis Jackson, Sr. Living with her was one boy under 10 years old (a grandson??), and one female 26-45 years old (a daughter or granddaughter??).

Elizabeth Jackson O'Neal (1756 -1813) was the daughter of Susannah & Francis Jackson, and the widow of John O'Neele, private in the American Revolution. They had eleven children. The four boys and two girls living with her in 1810 are probably her children and/or grandchildren.

Mary Salter Wahab (1780 - c. 1845) was the daughter of Henry Salter, and the widow of Thomas Wahab. Two boys and two girls (probably her children) and four slaves are living with her.

Elizabeth Scarborough (I am still researching this woman. I'm not sure who she is. If I find out I'll publish a comment.)

Ann Howard (1724 - 1841*) was the widow of George Howard (son of William Howard, Sr.). One boy 10 - 16 years old (perhaps a grandchild??), and five slaves are living with her.

*To the best of our knowledge these dates are correct. Her tombstone (in the George Howard graveyard near the British Cemetery) even reads "Aged 117 years."

I do not know how these women's husbands died. Some may have been lost at sea. That was all too common. However TB was a terrible illness that killed many people on Ocracoke in the 1800s.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Friday, August 19, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, as I was stepping onto my back, screened in porch, I noticed movement near the screen door. Immediately I recognized a small green lizard scurrying around. It was trapped inside, and became agitated whenever I approached too close. It took me a little while to catch him and put him into a container.

I carried the anole outside and released him against the siding of my outbuilding, thinking I could get a good, clear photo against the white background. Unfortunately the anole darted under the building before I could get a picture. However, I did get of shot of him earlier when he was pinned against the screen.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

They sure are cute...and they help control summertime pests like crickets, spiders, and cockroaches.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gypsy Wagon

Several days ago I mentioned my gypsy wagon...and received several comments asking about its provenance.

In the late 1960s I worked on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in north central Montana. Rocky Boy's is a small reservation of Chippewa and Cree Indians. While there my wife and I were inspired to make an 18' Cree tipi. The tipi became the first home of the Village Craftsmen when we returned east and settled on Ocracoke, my ancestral home (it was the 70s, after all!).

On a subsequent visit to Montana in the early 1970s I met a family who were living in a sheep herder's wagon. I have always been interested in out-of-the-ordinary people and quirky lifestyles. The wagon so intrigued me that I decided to build one of my own (I needed a challenge since I already had a tipi!). However, I was also influenced by my mother's Hungarian heritage, and stories of gypsies.

In the mid 1980s I began construction of my gypsy wagon. It is built on the chassis of a Ford pickup truck. (You should have seen me carting fenders, a cargo bed, seats, and other parts to the dump.) I designed the superstructure myself, based on other vardos (the gypsy word for wagon) and photos I had access to.

Inside, the wagon was fitted out as a camper. It originally had a wood cook stove, satin curtains, and elaborate decorations. The fire engine red outside sported brass lanterns, etched glass windows, decorative iron braces, and carved vertical strips with bright yellow pin striping.

It was quite impressive, though it was too heavy and unwieldy to serve as a practical camping vehicle.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

After more than a quarter of a century the gypsy wagon is showing its age. It was repainted once, and the iron braces & lanterns were not reattached. Nor were the yellow decorations repainted. Some of the wood has begun to deteriorate.

The gypsy wagon still serves as an occasional spare bedroom, and gathering place for interesting people with quirky lifestyles. I will continue to enjoy it as long as it survives the depredations of weather and age. It rests behind the Village Craftsmen.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Do Your Best

Blanche and I were sitting on her pizer a few days ago, chatting about the weather, current events, and island history. Talk turned to Essie Mae O'Neal (1915-1999). In spite of growing up on Ocracoke before the introduction of most modern conveniences, having only the most basic public education...and raising eleven children (all boys!) Essie somehow found time to wax philosophical, and to write poetry. Following is one of her poems, "Do Your Best" (spelling as in the original):

Just do your best in whatever you do.
Although it may not be easy for you sometimes.
Half heartindness never accomplished a goal, but positive thinking is good for your soal.
Just do your best that's all one can ask, in spite of the odd's whatever the task.
So what if you work up a sweet, you first have to give before you can get.
Do your best with whatever you have, wheather it's good or wheather it's bad.
You will know in your heart when each day is through, you have done everything that God expects of you.

Life changes, time marches by, and the old folks pass on. I like having some of Essie's poems to remember her by, and to share with others. Enjoy.

Essie did her best!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

1810 Census

I still haven't had time to peruse all of the census links several readers shared in recent comments. But, relying on Ellen Fulcher Cloud's transcriptions, today I will share details of the 1810 Ocracoke census:

172 whites (90 males & 82 females), and 44 slaves were living on Ocracoke. Only 19 of the white residents were 45 or more years old (ages of slaves were not indicated). There were 45 boys & 39 girls under the age of 16. 37 families are represented (4 Jacksons, 5 Howards, 5 Williamses, 7 O'Neals, 3 Gaskins, 1 Garrish, 1 Dayley, 2 Scarboroughs, 4 Gaskills, 1 Bragg, 1 Harvey, 1 Salter, 1 Wahab, & 1 Grace).

Six women are listed as "head of house." Four households have just one member -- Simon Howard, Caswell Gaskins, William Grace, & Thomas Gaskill (the only single person household to have slaves...six, the most in any one house).

(See the posts for August 9 & 12 if you want to compare any of the data for 1790, 1800, & 1810.)
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Awakened From An Afternoon Nap

Sunday afternoon Lachlan and I biked down to Springer's Point to swim and play in the water with friends. We came back home and read books until Lachlan's mama came home from work. I eventually fell asleep in the hammock...and was awakened by the sound of music wafting through the woods. I wandered through the path and discovered five young people gathered around my gypsy wagon. Brian was playing his fiddle, Christian was on guitar, Nick was strumming the mandolin, and Lilly was playing her trombone.

Many of their tunes were played in a minor key; a few were even a tad mournful. Somehow the slow, lilting music fit the mood of a quiet Sunday afternoon.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

One of the many benefits of living "on the edge" (on the edge of the continent, on the edge of civilization, on the edge of creativity) is serendipitous opportunities like this one. It was a beautiful scene.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pot Luck

After a particularly hot and humid several weeks on Ocracoke the weather has finally moderated. Temperatures in the last several days have been in the mid 80s, with low humidity...the perfect time for an outdoor gathering!

Yesterday evening Brian Carter and Jamie Tunnell, along with Jamie's parents, hosted a potluck dinner at their home on the old Ammunition Dump Road. Brian and Jamie are getting married in September in Swan Quarter (where Jamie grew up), and they wanted to get together with island friends before the wedding.

The weather couldn't have been any better, the food was delicious, everyone was enjoying pleasant conversations...and several people brought their musical instruments (guitar, fiddle, & banjo). It was a great way to celebrate Jamie & Brian's relationship and to look forward to cooler temperatures and a quieter, more relaxed season.

Best wishes, Brian & Jamie!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Farewell…for Now

Even though Lou Ann has retired from teaching, she continues to have storytelling performances in the Midwest, and needed to return. This coming week she begins a ten day show at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival. If you are in the area be sure to stop by to hear her perform. You can read more about the festival here.

Amy, Lachlan, & I carried Lou Ann and Julie, Amy’s mother, to the train station in Newport News on Wednesday. Lou Ann was heading to Indiana; Julie to Washington state.

Because of the festival, Lou Ann left Ocracoke earlier than usual…and because she has a number of other performances scheduled this fall, she won’t be returning to Ocracoke until mid December. But at least when she comes back she can stay longer, since she won’t be teaching school. I am planning to make a trip to see her in the meanwhile, sometime this fall.

We had a wonderful, and busy, ten weeks. Lou Ann (I should say Mad Mag) contributed her storytelling talents to the island once again as she led Ghost & History Walks. She also volunteered at the Preservation Museum, opened the lighthouse for visitors, produced a Friday night show, and performed at the Wednesday evening Opry.

But chatting on the pizer (before breakfast, and late at night) are among my fondest memories. This summer we also lay in the yard looking for shooting stars, walked on the beach in the moonlight, biked around the village, visited friends and neighbors, enjoyed meals together, and took several quiet rides in my skiff in Pamlico Sound.

It is quieter in the house as I write…and lonelier…but I look forward to spending more time together as Lou Ann transitions from there to here! As Elizabeth Parsons once said to Lou Ann, “You are one of us!” No accolade from a native O’cocker is sweeter.

Farewell…for now. Your Mad Mag Studio is just as you left it...ready for your return!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann’s story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

Friday, August 12, 2011

1800 Census

As promised, here is a summary of the 1800 Ocracoke Census (according to Ellen Fulcher Cloud's transcription):

Total population: 113 whites, 9 free people of color (these people were not listed), & 16 slaves.

Family names:

  • Gaskill (1 family, 14 members, 4 slaves)

  • Gaskins (2 families, 12 members, 1 slave)

  • Bragg (1 family, 1 member, 0 slaves)

  • Williams (25 members, 3 slaves)

  • Scarborough (1 family, 4 members, 3 slaves)

  • Wahab (1 family, 6 members, 1 slave)

  • Howard (5 families, 14 members, 0 slaves)

  • O'Neal (3 families, 23 members, 4 slaves)

  • Jackson (3 families, 11 members, 0 slaves)

  • Garrish (1 family, 3 members, 0 slaves)

  • Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Hatteras Inlet

    If you have ridden the Hatteras Inlet ferry you may have noticed several pilings on the beach on the north end of Ocracoke Island. This is all that remains of the US Coast Guard Station that was built there in 1917. It washed into the sea after a series of hurricanes in the mid-1950s.

    The Hatteras Inlet Station during WWII:

    (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

    This was the second station built at Hatteras Inlet. The first was a US Life Saving Station constructed in 1883. In 1915 the Life Saving Service joined with the Revenue Cutter Service to create the Coast Guard. A second station, in Ocracoke village, had already been put into service in 1905. That building was replaced after WWII, and is now the campus of NCCAT (the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching).

    The US Coast Guard still maintains a presence on Ocracoke. They and their predecessors have been an important part of island history for more than 100 years. We salute the "Coasties" and their contributions to Ocracoke and our nation!

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Swimming Lessons

    Ocracoke is surrounded by water...but it's not always easy to learn how to swim here. The ocean is a great place to enjoy body surfing, boogie boarding, surfing, or just wading and playing. But it is difficult to learn to swim there. Years ago, when Silver Lake was cleaner, all of the children dove and swam off the end of the docks, or in the "ditch" (the narrow channel connecting the harbor with Pamlico Sound). For many years the Coast Guard allowed passage through their property, to a sandy beach on the edge of the ditch. Those options are no longer available to island children.

    Lachlan is lucky to have two lifeguards, Travis & Ashley, who have access to one of the island swimming pools, teaching him to swim. Lachlan is so comfortable in the water, that part of their job has been to teach him a healthy respect for deep water. He has never minded putting his head under water. In fact, he swims like a seal under water. But now he is learning to execute a strong kick...and learning rhythmic breathing.

    We are all more comfortable on docks and around boats. Every week his skills improve. Many thanks to Travis and Ashley!

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    1790 Census

    I have still not been able to locate a legible copy of the original 1790 Ocracoke census. However, I do have Ellen Fulcher Cloud's transcription: "Ocracoke Portion of the First Census of the U.S. 1790."

    According to Ellen Marie's summary the population consisted of 135 whites, 2 free persons of color, and 31 slaves. Adding her columns I get 29 free white males 16 & up, 28 free white males under 16, and 69 free white females (29 + 28 + 69 = 126, not 135). She lists 31 slaves, as in the summary, however she does not specify any free persons of color.

    I located an on-line transcription of the 1790 census for Carteret County (Ocracoke was moved to Hyde County in 1845). All of the names and numbers that Ellen Marie lists are included in the Carteret transcription, although no free persons of color are noted, and Ocracoke is not listed separately from the rest of the county.

    Only nine surnames are present on Ocracoke in 1790:

  • Bragg (2 families, 10 members)

  • Garrish (1 family, 3 members)

  • Gaskins (5 families, 39 members)

  • Howard (4 families, 20 members)

  • Jackson (2 families, 13 members)

  • Neale (3 families, 18 members)

  • Salter (1 family, 3 members)

  • Scarborough (2 families, 9 members)

  • Williams (3 families, 11 members)

    • Ten families (Gaskins, Howards, Salter, Scarborough, and Williams) owned a total of 31 slaves. The Braggs, Garrishes, Jacksons and Neales owned no slaves.

      I will share more census information in future blogs.

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Monday, August 08, 2011

      What I Was Going To Do

      This morning I had intended to share some information from the 1790 Federal Census of Ocracoke...but discovered that in the transcription I have the summary of the population (168 residents) and the sums I came up with (157 residents) didn't match. There were other discrepancies also.

      So I have been trying to locate a readable copy of the original document. It is taking me longer than I expected. I will share my research (surnames, numbers of white males, white females, and slaves) whenever I can gather reliable figures. I think our readers will find them interesting.

      In the meanwhile, enjoy your day!

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Sunday, August 07, 2011

      Copper Lanterns

      For more than forty years, Village Craftsmen has offered an outstanding assortment of quality, American made hand crafted pottery, glassware, kitchen items, wooden products, jewelry, and much more.

      Recently we have begun taking orders for handmade copper lanterns. We have three different designs. Two are reproductions of antique wall-mounted ship's lanterns. The third, our "Virginia Lantern," pictured below, is similar to the one Thomas Jefferson designed for use in the gardens at Monticello.

      The craftsmen, Walter Howard, Jr. and Dalton O'Neal, make every effort to be as accurate as possible in the crafting of each lantern, hand bending and soldering them with traditional irons. Walter is the son of the late native Ocracoke islander, Walter Howard, Sr., vaudeville performer, consummate storyteller, and accomplished writer.

      Click on the photo, or this link,, to read more about these exquisite lanterns.

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Saturday, August 06, 2011


      Every now and then I mention our Friday night poker game. A few days ago a reader asked for more details.

      Poker has a long history on Ocracoke. Years ago island men would often gather around a table in someone's net house, or in a clearing in the woods, drink homemade meal wine, and play poker.

      Nowadays there are usually several different games going each week. Although meal wine is only occasionally passed around, beer and a little whiskey sometimes appear. Some groups play Texas Hold-Em; others vary the games. Some are no limit games; others are low stakes games.

      Our group has gathered nearly every Friday night for about 12 years. The dealer calls the game. Sometimes it is a traditional poker game -- seven card stud, five card stud, or five card draw. More often we play variations -- follow the queen, spit in the ocean, low Chicago, low hole card wild, Jacks to open; trips to win, etc. Sometimes we play more esoteric (often peculiar to our group) games -- Granny Hemmler, Shifters, Bundles, Tom's Draw, etc. Occasionally we even play non-poker games -- e.g. three-toed Pete or stacks.

      Our group always plays low stakes games. Most of us buy $5 worth of chips to start (chip values are nickel, dime, quarter, and half dollar). We can buy more chips any time we need them. Maximum bet is 25 cents (50 cents on the last round of betting). Only three raises are permitted per round of betting. I always arrive with just $20 in my pocket. In the twelve years I have been playing I have only twice lost all $20. (Last night I lost $11!). I figure I've probably not won or lost more than $100 in the twelve years.

      Friday night poker is a great way to spend time with friends and neighbors. We laugh a lot...and tell stories now and then...but mostly we just play poker!

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Friday, August 05, 2011

      A Glimpse Back in Time

      Lou Ann recently discovered this undated photo from a coastal newspaper. I am guessing the picture was taken in the 1940s on Hatteras Island. I thought our readers would enjoy seeing what travel conditions were like on the Outer Banks three quarters of a century ago.

      The caption reads, "Every man is a road builder on the Banks. Here the first car off to the ferry in the morning blazes a trail across the beach. Others follow in the tracks he makes."

      Click on the photo to view a larger image.)

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Thursday, August 04, 2011


      Several days ago discussion on this blog turned to porches. I thought our readers might enjoy reading more by clicking on the following links.

      I learned of the first link from a comment by one of our readers. It is a review of a new book by Margaret Ruth Little, "Carolina Cottage: A Personal History of the Piazza House." The author writes about the distinctive Carolina cottage design, and the very real possibility that the American front porch, or piazza, originated in the Old North State. She even mentions the eastern North Carolina transformation of the word "piazza" into "pizer." I have ordered the book from Leslie at Books to be Red on School Road.

      Lou Ann alerted me to the second link, "The Evolution of the American Front Porch." I haven't yet perused the entire web site, but what I have read is quite interesting. I hope some of our readers will enjoy it.

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Wednesday, August 03, 2011

      Ships in Bottles

      Tomorrow at mid-day...11 am until 2 pm...Jim Goodwin, master artisan, and creator of ships in bottles, will be demonstrating his craft at Village Craftsmen on Howard Street.

      Jim has been recognized both state-wide and nationally for his work. He spends many meticulous hours hand-crafting his creations. Jim's ships in bottles are even featured in "The Lovely Bones" a popular film based on the best selling novel by Alice Sebold.

      You can click on the photo below to see a selection of Jim's work.

      We hope you will stop by if you are on the island. It is fascinating to watch Jim at work. Only a handful of people worldwide are engaged in this nautical craft. If you are not on the island tomorrow, be sure to take a close look at Jim's handwork on your next visit to Village Craftsmen.

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:

      Tuesday, August 02, 2011

      Happy Birthday Philip!

      Happy Birthday Philip!

      Dear Readers,

      Today is Philip's birthday, and I was sure he would not put it on the Blog! He shares this day with his grandson, Lachlan.

      Thanks for being such faithful and interesting bloggers, and thanks for wishing him Happy Birthday on this day that was set aside for Philip!

      Shhhh.....I didn't do this!

      Lou Ann


      This summer Lou Ann has been volunteering at the lighthouse every Wednesday afternoon from 1 - 3 pm. She opens the door and lets folks walk inside to see the spiral staircase, look at the six foot thick brick walls, and gaze up to the base of the lantern room. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was not made to accommodate visitors, so climbing the stairs is not permitted. The stairs are narrow and old, the lantern room is just barely large enough for the Fresnel lens, the door to the balcony is only 3 feet high, and the railings would not prevent a small child from tumbling over.

      I believe this will be Lou Ann's last Wednesday to open the lighthouse. If you are on the island tomorrow please stop by, say hello, and enjoy a rare opportunity to view the inside of the 1823 beacon.

      Here is a photo of me last year, climbing the stairs at the invitation of the restoration specialists who spent several months working on the lighthouse:

      (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus by Lou Ann. You can read it here:

      Monday, August 01, 2011

      Shipping Update

      We have fixed the glitch in our shopping cart software. All orders of $25 or more, placed in August & September, qualify for free standard ground shipping. Click here to go directly to our on-line catalog:

      Scroll down to today's early morning post for information about ordering authentic Ocracoke fig preserves...and for our traditional Ocracoke Island fig cake recipe!

      Many thanks to all of our faithful readers and customers!

      If this experiment works well we may extend this promotion.

      Village Craftsmen Shipping

      I just placed a mock order from our on-line catalog and discovered a glitch in the shopping cart software. During the months of August and September we are offering free shipping on orders of $25 or more. However the software is not yet properly configured.

      Please be assured that you will not be charged for standard, ground shipping if you are placing an order that totals $25 or more. We will have the software fixed as soon as possible. In the meanwhile the shopping cart may display a shipping fee. Thank you for your patience.

      Fig Preserves

      Figs are ripening all over the village! And we now have authentic Ocracoke Island fig preserves for sale. At this time we only have pint $12.50 per jar.

      You can order these Ocracoke fig preserves on-line at

      Place your order of $25 or more during the months of August or September and get free shipping. But remember, there is a limited supply. There is no guarantee that we will be getting more.

      Below is the traditional Ocracoke Island fig cake recipe. This is my favorite cake!

      Ingredients: 1 cup salad oil; 1 1/2 cup sugar; 3 eggs; 1 tsp. soda, dissolved in a little hot water; 2 cups flour; 1 tsp. nutmeg; 1 tsp. allspice; 1 tsp. cinnamon; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 cup buttermilk; 1 tsp. vanilla; 1 cup preserved & chopped figs; 1 cup chopped nuts.

      Beat 3 eggs; add sugar and oil. After sifting dry ingredients, add to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla and fold in figs and nuts. Pour into greased oblong pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or in a well greased tube pan at 350 degrees just a little longer.

      Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here: