Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Carnival

Ocracoke School sponsored its annual Halloween Carnival Friday afternoon. There was a children's parade around the circle in front of the school at 3:30 (do any of our readers remember "Rockin' Rhonda's" outlandish costume a number of years ago?). Hot dogs, Mexican food, and soft drinks were available for sale. At 5 o'clock the new gymnasium was opened for a variety of games (bean bag toss, duck pond, shooting gallery, quarter name it!). Later on the gym was packed with folks playing Quizo (just another name for Bingo!). I think a Spook Walk is scheduled for sometime soon (maybe one of our readers has details).

If you would like lots of information about Halloween click on the link below:

Happy Halloween!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by my Uncle Marvin written in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Folk School

On Friday morning everyone who was involved with our 5th annual OcraFolk School gathered at the Soundfront Inn for a delicious breakfast of quiche (several varieties), scalloped potatoes, sausage, bacon, sweet potatoes, shrimp, several types of biscuits & corn bread, and cobbler. After breakfast we walked or biked to Deepwater Theater for a morning wrap-up session and "show and tell."

There were five classes this year, and each group shared memories and stories from the week.

The Music Appreciation class played two recordings that the students produced...professionally sounding CDs with guitars, vocals, and various percussion instruments.

The English Paper Piecing class (quilting) showed off their work, an impressive assortment of needlecraft that combined intricate designs and vibrant colors.

Our Ocracoke Sampler class entertained the school with poetry and funny comments as they told about sailing, Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke history, kayaking, clamming, & fishing. The entire school had an opportunity to see the fish we caught in gill nets, and taste our homemade meal wine!

Ann Ehringhaus's Photography class presented a slide show with many striking photos of pelicans, historic houses, people, close-ups, and nature.

The Cooking class provided not only the Friday morning breakfast, but the Thursday evening shrimp boil, complete with side dishes and scrumptious desserts.

Speaking of food, the entire school savored breakfasts and dinners all week long that were provided by the Cafe Atlantic, Pony Island, Jason's, and Flying Melon restaurants. The food was incredible!

Thanks to all the instructors, staff, and students who made the 5th annual OcraFolk School another rousing success!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, October 29, 2011


One the best Ocracoke cookbooks was put together by the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. It is called "Hoi Toider's Recipes and Remembrances." What makes this cookbook so memorable is that it includes short vignettes about island life.

My father, Lawton Howard, contributed a recipe for rowladen which he and my mother learned about while living in the northeast. Below the recipe is this story:

"Lawton left Ocracoke when he was 16. He and Calvin O'Neal went to Philadelphia where Calvin's father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. Lawton worked for a month on a tug as a temporary employee. Then he was transferred to another tug and mistakenly, his status wasn't changed. Lawton was a temporary employee for 18 years. However, the mistake was discovered and after taking a load of tests, his status was changed to make him a permanent employee. Things were not all bad during his years as a 'temporary;' he met and married Connie and together they raised two half-way decent sons."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Friday, October 28, 2011

House is Haunted!!

That's what the woman scrawled across the top of the guest book page in one of Ocracoke's oldest houses -- "House is Haunted!!"

Then she added the following:

"No kidding!! Seriously, the last night we were dad saw a tall gentleman dressed in an old fashion 3/4 piece suit (probably the 1900 or late 1800 era). He [the father] was in the bedroom upstairs.... He woke up at about 3 am to use the bathroom and as he opened the door...he saw a man dressed as described above. He froze! All the hairs on his arm raised and then the man just vanished!.... My brother, who slept in the very back bedroom (next to the graveyard) said he felt someone pat his leg/hip one night."

Ocracoke is full of ghost stories, especially related to old island homes and late night strolls along narrow paths & down Howard Street. The creepy stories add spice to the lives of residents and visitors alike.

If you look forward to encountering ghosts at Ocracoke, read no further.

On the other hand, if you would like to read the article, "Catching Ghosts," by skeptical paranormal investigator Joe Nickell, click on this link: As Mary Roach, in the last paragraph of her book, Spook, put it, “The debunkers are probably right, but they’re no fun to visit a graveyard with.”

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Freight Boats

Today, eighteen wheelers and other trucks bring groceries, gasoline, hardware, beer, store inventories, UPS packages, and all manner of other items to Ocracoke. Of course, they ride the ferries just like residents, visitors, Park employees, sales representatives, and anyone else coming to the island.

How did Ocracokers get supplies before the 1950s, when the first ferries began crossing Hatteras Inlet?

For more than two centuries Ocracoke's main connection to the rest of the world was across Pamlico Sound. By the mid-1800s, bugeyes, two masted, broad beamed, flat bottom sailboats about 60 feet long, served to carry freight and supplies (store inventories, building supplies, cook stoves, pony carts...and later, refrigerators, bathtubs, and automobiles) from merchants in Washington, NC to Ocracoke; and fish from the island to outlets on the mainland.

A typical bugeye, the Edna Lookwood, from the Chesapeake Bay (photo courtesy NOAA):

Prior to 1938 when Ocracoke village was electrified, 300 pound blocks of ice were among the most sought after commodities brought to the island by freight boats. Now and then dead bodies were carried off the island on the freight boats. At those times the vessel's flag was flown upside down at half mast.

The Annie was one of the first freight boats to serve Ocracoke. Later, the Nellie, the Preston, the Relief, and the Russell L brought freight to the island. By the time the Dryden took over the route, gasoline engines were being installed in the bugeyes.

The Bessie Virginia was the last freight boat to serve Ocracoke Island. She was a gasoline powered, 65 foot vessel that was capable of carrying ninety tons of freight. Van Henry O'Neal was captain; Powers Garrish was mate. The Bessie Virginia was retired in the early 1960s after the Oregon Inlet bridge was built, making car and truck connections to the north much more convenient.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Photos...Too Funny

Several years ago, soon after my father died, Amy and I went through his pictures. He had written on the backs of many of them, with names and dates. Then we found this photo:

On the back my father had written "This was taken the same night."

Amy and I have laughed and told this story many times since. Luckily I recognized all of the people in the picture. From left to right they are my Aunt Thelma, Aunt Agatha (pronounced a-GAY-thuh, by the way!), Grandmama Aliph, Uncle Marvin, and Uncle Enoch.

Later on we discovered the following picture of Uncle Marvin fooling around with a mop wig and twig mustache. It was the same size photo as the previous one, with the same coffee table and vase in the foreground.

We looked on the back. My father had written, "This was taken the night before Garland run us out." 

I couldn't remember who Garland was, so a few days ago I stopped by to visit Blanche. I showed her the pictures. She not only reminded me that Garland was Aunt Thelma's second husband; she knew when the photos were taken...because she remembered when Garland ran them all out of his house!

It was 1947. My grandfather was in the hospital in Norfolk, and my grandmother and my uncles and aunts (and my father) were staying with Aunt Thelma and Garland. I guess they got too rowdy for Garland and he made them leave. Uncle Marvin does look like he was having fun!

Blanche told me that Aunt Thelma ran Garland out shortly afterwards!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Legged Lump

On October 18 I quoted a passage from Alton Ballance's book, Ocracokers, and it mentioned the Legged Lumps. A reader asked, "Where--and what--are the 'Legged Lumps'?"

First off, isn't that a great name!

And here is the answer. The Legged Lump (or Legged Lumps...sometimes even the Leggedy Lump or the Two Legged Lump) is a shoal in Pamlico Sound. It is 4 miles NW of Hatteras Inlet, and 8.8 miles NE of Ocracoke Village. For those of our readers with access to a chart, the coordinates are 35 degrees 11 minutes, 58 seconds N, and 75 degrees, 50 minutes, 30 seconds W.

Another way to visualize the Legged Lump is to start at the Pony Pen and drive 2 1/2 miles "north" (remember you are not actually driving north; you are driving northeast). From that point the Legged Lump is about 3 miles due north.

You can find the Legged Lump indicated on "The Complete Illustrated Map of Ocracoke Island" by Len Skinner and Debbie Wells (you can purchase this wonderful map from Village Craftsmen, although it is not listed in our catalog).

You can also search Google maps for "'Legged Lump' Ocracoke" to see its location. A word of caution: if you do a Google image search for "Legged Lump" be prepared for medical pictures!

"Lump" is a term used on the Outer Banks, especially from Ocracoke, south, for a small island, hammock, high piece of ground, or shoal. I suppose this particular lump was named for its shape.

Now, aren't you glad you asked! We are just full of obscure information about Ocracoke.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Until the Butter Melts"

As I mentioned yesterday, OcraFolk School classes begin today. I always include a study of early North Carolina maps in our Ocracoke Sampler class. I am particularly interested in John White's maps of 1585 and 1590 because they clearly show Wokokon (Ocracoke) and Croatoan (the island that includes the northern part of present day Ocracoke and the southern portion of present day Hatteras). The ships on Raleigh's voyages of exploration and colonization stopped at Wokokon and Croatoan (where they were befriended by Manteo). Croatoan is where the "lost"colony indicated they had moved, according to a carving on a tree on Roanoke Island.

I have always found it difficult to interpret those early maps even though at least one of them lists lines of latitude. Of course, all of the inlets except Ocracoke have changed (either opened or closed) in the last 450 years. But I wondered how faithful the maps were regarding the shape and length of the islands of the Outer Banks. In preparation for the class this year I asked Captain Rob how accurate he thought those early 16th century maps were. Without a moment's hesitation he told me that sailors of that period navigated across the Atlantic by just heading south "until the butter melts," then sailing west into the sunset.

I guess that answers my question, I said.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

OcraFolk School

More than 30 students from several different states will be arriving on Ocracoke later today to register for the 5th annual OcraFolk School. The School is a week long immersion in island life, handcrafts, group solidarity, and shared meals.

This year five classes are being offered -- English Paper Piecing (a form of lap quilting), Island Cooking, Ocracoke Music, Island Photography, and Ocracoke Sampler (history, culture, and seafaring traditions of Ocracoke Island).

You can read more here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jeopardy Redux

Most of our readers know that Ocracoke High School English teacher, Charles Temple, was the Jeopardy TV program's $100,000 winner of last spring's Teacher's Tournament (see our blog for May 14, 2011).

Just a few weeks ago, at the end of September, Charles flew back to Los Angeles for the taping of Jeopardy's "Tournament of Champions." He was competing in the program's ultimate contest of the minds for the top prize of $250,000.

Be sure to keep the dates open, so you can watch as Charles goes head to head with past winners this coming November 2 - 15.

As usual, Charles keeps a tight poker face. I saw him immediately after he returned home from the taping...and I have no idea how he fared.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Friday, October 21, 2011

November on the Banks

We have just published another of our Ocracoke Newsletters. This month I share an article written 57 years ago by my Uncle Marvin Howard (1897-1969). Entitled "There's Nothing Like the Glory of November on the Banks," Marvin shares his love affair with his island home while wondering what the future holds for Ocracoke.

Although Uncle Marvin never had more than a sixth grade education, he was a voracious reader and autodidact. He served as a ship captain in the Navy in WWI, and was commodore of a fleet of dredges sent to Europe in WWII. After retiring as a Lt. Colonel with the US Army Corps of Engineers he returned home to Ocracoke where he was active in civic affairs. In 1956 he established the nation's only mounted Boy Scout Troop.

Uncle Marvin loved to hunt...and the freedom he felt when he was outdoors. He was also an accomplished horseman. He had a deep emotional connection to Ocracoke and wanted to preserve and protect whatever made his island special. In the early 1950s Marvin knew there would be changes when the National Park Service established the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. He understood that change would bring more people to Ocracoke...and more economic security to its residents. But he also worried that it would bring more rules and restrictions.

He was prescient in many ways, but I doubt he anticipated the extent of the changes. I am certain he would be shocked at the number of people who visit Ocracoke every year. And he would be surprised at how many businesses his island community now supports. And, although there are more regulations today, he might see how necessary some of them are, while delighting in the establishment of the Working Watermen's Association and the continuance of hunting and fishing guide services.

When you read his article you will get a sense of life on the Outer Banks on the cusp of change.

In the interest of readability I have done some minor editing. You can read Uncle Marvin's article here:

Thursday, October 20, 2011


It rained quite a bit Tuesday night and most of the day yesterday. Wednesday around noon I looked out my window, and the trees across the lane were dancing in the wind. Very suddenly the wind had picked up. Powerful gusts were pounding against the side of the house. "Has Irene come back to taunt us?" I wondered! I know the wind was gusting to at least 35 miles per hour, maybe even a little bit more. It did feel like a hurricane was descending upon us.

After half an hour the wind died down to about 5-10 mph. Then came a downpour...with thunder and lightning. That continued for an hour before it settled into just a steady rain. By 4:30 the rain had stopped, but the sky was still overcast...with a hint of sunlight in the western sky. By 5 o'clock I even saw small patches of blue sky. What strange weather!

 But then, we're used to unpredictable and sometimes severe weather out here so far from the mainland. Nature, and nature's forces, help keep us connected to the real world.

For today and the next several days we're expecting steady sunshine to dry up the huge puddles all over the island.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skeeter Hawks

For several days now dragonflies have been darting through the air around Ocracoke in great numbers. Intrigued, I did a little research on these beautiful creatures. I learned that Alfred Lord Tennyson described the dragonfly as a "living flash of light." Definitely an appropriate appellation. Their iridescent wings make them look like creatures from a childhood fairy tale.

Pat Garber's book, Ocracoke Wild, relates folklore about dragonflies from Arizona, South America, and medieval Europe.

Dragonflies are insects belonging to the Order Odonata. I did not know that they are the oldest surviving order of flying insects. As Pat explains, "300 million years ago giant dragonflies with wingspans approaching three feet hovered over swamps and bogs, the largest flying insects of all time."

I also did not know that as larvae (called nymphs) they spend two to five years as aquatic beings, moving along the bottoms of marshes and creeks eating small creatures. They spend only a few weeks as flying insects, but as aviators they are amazing, sometimes reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour or more.

Ocracokers love dragonflies because they are voracious eaters of small "bugs," especially mosquitoes. Hence the local name "Skeeter Hawks." As larvae they also consume great quantities of mosquito "wrigglers."

You can read more in Pat's book.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Doctoring" on Ocracoke

An excerpt from Alton Ballance's wonderful book Ocracokers:

"Uriah [Garrish (1905-1988)] was stung [by a stingray] before drugs and doctors were so accessible to the island. 'The first time I got stung was the worst,' he recalled. 'We were fishing down on the eastern end of the Legged Lumps, and when the stingray stuck me he rammed it right through my heelstring and it came out the other side. He didn't leave it in me. Anyway, your Uncle William brought me home in the old Kingfisher. There was a doctor here for a while, and he took one of these small swabs and put Mercurochrome on it and pulled it through the hole on a string. Somebody gave me a fifth of liquor to kill the pain. He [the doctor] told me not to drink it, and he took the bottle and wouldn't let nobody in the room with me. Sometime later that evening after I woke up, he was there drunker than a bat. He had drinked all my liquor. I was laid up a month before I could walk. The other two times weren't too bad. I only missed a couple of days of fishing.'" (pages 71-72)

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

History & Stories

I recently had the following question re. my post about the Spanish Raids in 1741-1748:  "Phillip, where do you get your information?"

My personal library includes more than 4 dozen books dedicated to history and stories about Ocracoke and the Outer Banks. In addition, I have accumulated numerous journals, pamphlets, doctoral dissertations, magazine articles, school yearbooks, newspaper stories, etc. I also have file drawers filled with snippets of paper, charts, maps, genealogical trees, and notes I keep while chatting with neighbors and relatives. Of course, I also have access to the Ocracoke room at our local library. It has many North Carolina reference books as well as old scrapbooks filled with photos, newspaper articles, letters, etc. The Preservation Society library also has an extensive collection of books, articles, and vintage photos.

Sometimes I use the Internet to research island history. This is especially useful when island history is part of a larger story (e.g. the Doxsee Clam factory, the life of Sam Jones, or the career of General Ira T. Wyche...see our Ocracoke Newsletters for more information).

Occasionally I discover mistakes and inaccuracies in my sources. Here are four examples:
  • One excellent book of local island history states that "approximately twenty-five surfmen" manned the nineteenth century life saving station on Ocracoke near Hatteras Inlet. In fact, life saving stations were manned by one keeper and six to eight surfmen. Because the surfmen typically brought their wives and children to live near the station there were probably about twenty-five people in a small community near the station, but only six to eight surfmen. This mistake probably resulted from a misunderstanding of a local informant.
  • A recently published book identifies the ship Blackbeard was captain of when he was killed at Ocracoke as the Revenge. Blackbeard's flagship was the Queen Anne's Revenge, but he scuttled her prior to his final battle. At one time another ship called the Revenge (originally captained by gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet) was among his flotilla. But Blackbeard's last ship, the one he was on during his final battle, was the Adventure.
  • The US Lighthouse Service specified a recipe for the whitewash used on lighthouses. A number of Internet sites list one of the ingredients as "one half pound of powdered Spanish whiting (fish)". Spanish makerel is a fish, as is whiting...but Spanish whiting is calcium carbonate (lime)...not fish!
  • My own book, Digging up Uncle Evans, includes a village map that shows the Big Gut, the Little Gut, and the old wooden bridges. I was relying on the memory and descripion of the guts and bridges by older residents. Just last year I discovered a 1939 US Corps of Engineers Survey map of Silver Lake Harbor. It clearly shows the configuration of the guts and bridges. I discovered that my map is close to being accurate...but not quite!
There are many vaulable sources for Ocracoke history, stories, and information...but be aware. Not all of the information is accurate. As you can see, we all make mistakes occasionally.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Deviled Clams

In several recent posts I have mentioned deviled clams. I thought our readers might like to have the recipe. This is from the old "green" Ocracoke Cook Book published by the Woman's Society of Christian Service of the Ocracoke United Methodist Church. It sold for $1.00 forty years ago. It included such classic recipes as Stewed Diamond Back Terrapin (...remove claws, cut off head."), Stewed Swamp Turtle ("boil it until it starts to leave bone."), Beaten Biscuits ("Use...blunt end of a hatchet...and beat until it blisters and pops....") and Snow Cream ("...add snow last, serve immediately.").

Deviled Clams Recipe, by Mrs. Hilda Scarborough [my mother's notes in brackets]:

24 clams -- large -- ground [about 2 cups of clams, with juice]
2 cups bread cubes (crust removed) [1/2 cup bread crumbs]
1/2 cup butter [3 tbsp butter]
1 small onion
1 tbsp [1 tsp] Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 [1] eggs -- slightly beaten
1 cup rich milk or light cream [no milk unless it is too thick]
[1/4 tsp mustard]
[a little salt, pepper, & paprika {my mother was Hungarian!}]
[celery & green pepper]

Melt butter in heavy frying pan, saute onion till soft. Remove from fire. Add clams, bread cubes and W. sauce, dash pepper, add eggs. Return to fire (medium, not too hot). Gradually add milk. It may not take all of it as you want it fairly thick. Keep stirring till cooked through.

Put in buttered shells or casserole. Sprinkle with fine bread crumbs and dot with butter. Put in fairly hot oven and brown (about 375 degrees) [bake at 350 degrees until brown].

If you have access to fresh clams, try this recipe. Deviled clams are delicious! Or...print out this recipe and bring it to Ocracoke on your next visit. Be sure to get some clams and try it out. You won't be disappointed.

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eakin Howard

I have four wonderful grandchildren. Lachlan lives on the island with his parents Amy & David. Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza live in Asheville, NC with their parents Stefen & Snee. Amy and Stefen both grew up on Ocracoke.

Stefen just sent me a newspaper article about Eakin, who is in the seventh grade, and his campaign to collect and send soccer balls and equipment to children in Haiti. It is a great story that makes a grandparent proud. I just had to share it with our readers. You can read the story by clicking here or on the photo of Eakin, below:

If you would like to donate equipment or money please follow this link:, then click on "Donate and Contact." It would be nice to mention Eakin's name if you make a donation. Thanks!

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blanche & Blanche

All winter long, and all summer long, I've tried to get Blanche to go out with me to take a look at the old fishing boat being restored behind the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum. The boat was begun by Mr. Tom Neal more than 80 years ago for a neighbor, Mr. Warren Scarborough. Before the boat was finished, when she was just a keel and ribs, Mr. Warren decided to sell her. Blanche’s daddy, Stacy Howard, traded one of his boats, the Lela, plus some money for the boat…and had the unfinished boat hauled over to his yard by truck. It was about 1929.

My grandfather, Homer Howard, with help from Stacy, added planking, gunwales, decking, and a cabin. When the boat was finished Stacy named her the Blanche. She was launched about 1934. Stacy used her for long hauling, sink-netting, and to take out fishing parties.

According to Blanche, “papa loved that boat.”

Finally, last Saturday I convinced Blanche that the weather was just perfect for making a visit to her namesake. She was delighted to see the boat . She said how happy her papa would be to know the Blanche was protected and in the process of being restored.

You can read more about the Blanche here:

Philip & Blanche by the side of the Blanche:

On your next visit to the OPS Museum be sure to walk around back and take a look at the Blanche, an important part of Ocracoke's maritime heritage.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harriet Tubman

Come out to Deepwater Theater tonight at 7:00 pm for a one woman performance of "Harriet Tubman" by storyteller, actress Joyce Grear. Ms. Grear has been performing in our region for several days. This show has been getting rave reviews!

This free event is sponsored by the Beaufort County Arts Council, the North Carolina Arts Council and the NEA.

Click here for more information:

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

Liftoff Leadership

My neighbor, Betty Shotton, has just had a new book published, Liftoff leadership, 10 Principles for Exceptional Leadership.

Betty and her husband Chris spend much of the year in "the little yellow house" on Howard Street, but I have never known much about her 35 years of experience as an entrepreneur, business leader, and pilot. I have just always known her as a friendly, upbeat neighbor. According to a description of her book, Betty is calling on business leaders to demonstrate more than financial acumen. In the true spirit of the best of island living, Betty is encouraging business and economic leaders to develop and project strength of character and unshakable principle, especially vision, accountability, and altruism.

Come on out to Books to be Red this Saturday from 4 - 6 pm for the national launch of Betty's book. Debbie Wells is catering...and Zillies is providing the spirits!

"LiftOff Leadership is grounded in the author's far-ranging experience as a leader, full of sound guidance for professional growth, and wonderfully well-written. In a market crowded with leadership books, this one deserves special attention."

-Parker J. Palmer, Founder and Senior Partner of The Center for Courage & Renewal; Author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach

For more information about Betty Shotten and her book click here:

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Raking for clams is a time-honored tradition on Ocracoke. Whether you take your boat out to Hog Shoal, or just wade along the sound shore, clamming is an activity that can feed both your stomach and your soul. Out in the water, under blue skies, with pelicans and gulls overhead, you walk along slowly, pushing your rake. When you hear that distinctive "clink" you dig your rake deeper, then pull back and up. You toss the clam into your basket.

Between clams you think and reflect. It is a good time to put life in perspective. Maybe you share a thought with your companions...maybe you keep it to yourself. Sometimes you stop simply to watch the ferry coming down the channel, or to follow a fishing boat motoring back to port with today's catch. That is enough.

When you have your legal limit you reluctantly head back home to open and cook your catch. More than likely your fellow clammers and their families join you that evening for steamed clams, clams casino, or deviled clams. However you fix them they will be delicious.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Picture... worth a thousand words. Lou Ann took this photo when we were out in the boat this past summer. It is one of my very favorites. Enjoy!

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

NC Highway 12

The following comment was posted on the NCDOT blog:
"Highway 12 will reopen at 5pm today. [Monday, October 10]..according to the Dare County web site, there will be no travel restrictions. 

Incoming visitors please know that Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo and some Avon residents are still dealing with the aftermath...two houses were being torn down even today. You may see some trash along Highway 12. There are huge mountains of debris in the NPS campground just south of Salvo. Emotionally, most people are not even close to recovery; they are still in survival mode. 

Thank you for respecting the locals' right to privacy (by not driving down side streets just to look at people's lives being torn apart.) Thanks especially for your thoughts and prayers, donations and good wishes. 

Welcome back! :) "

Tire Swing

Every kid should have a tire when Lachlan decided he wanted one we looked around to find the right tree. It wasn't easy. Neither his parents nor I have the perfect tree. But in my back yard there is a cedar that leans over (a long ago hurricane almost blew it down). I propped it up with a 4 X 4, and tied a long rope around the trunk high up.

Lachlan and I went to the dump. As luck would have it, they had just that morning hauled off all the old tires. So we went to Jimmy's garage. Jamie took Lachlan out back and let him pick out a used tire.

Back home we trimmed off a few dead branches from the cedar and tied the tire to the rope. We had found the ideal spot.  

Lachlan ran up the lane to tell his friend Gretchen. In a matter of minutes they were back, playing on the tire swing.

"'Tis a gift to be simple."

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

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Spanish Treasure Ship

On page one of his small book, Pieces of Eight, Coins, and Ocracoke, Paul Mosher relates the story of the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe a "Spanish treasure ship laden with a million pieces of eight [that] limped into Ocracoke [on September 3, 1750] as the result of storm damage."

Mosher continues, "As if by a miracle, two empty sloops suddenly appeared and offered to take for a modest fee some of the chests of pieces of eight to the Spanish consulate in Norfolk for Commander [Don Juan Manuel de] Bonilla. He agreed and the two sloops were loaded. That evening they cut their anchor lines and slipped silently toward the inlet and were never seen again."

John Amrhein of Kitty Hawk, NC has devoted a new 396 page book to unraveling the mystery of this story. In the introduction to his book, Treasure Island, the Untold Story, Amrhein writes, "It happened in 1750...that a wealthy Spanish captain named Juan Manuel Bonilla and two Englishmen, Owen Lloyd and his one-legged brother, John, would chance to meet at sea... A huge treasure would soon change hands [at Ocracoke] -- involuntarily.

"The incredible chain of events that began to unfold in the aftermath of this fateful encounter would lead to the burial of Spanish treasure on an uninhabited Caribbean island, and...the most famous treasure map in the world, dated August 1750, would become the inspiration for a tale that would entertain millions of youngsters and adults alike for the next century. The map would also propel a struggling unknown writer to the limelight, making his name one of the most recognized in literary history: Robert Louis Stevenson."

Amrhein's book is divided into two parts. Part I traces the story of the treasure from the time it was loaded onto Bonilla's ship. He recounts the days when the crippled Spanish galleon wallowed helplessly near Ocracoke Inlet, during which time the Lloyd brothers absconded with the treasure. Amrhein then follows the stories of Bonilla's efforts to recover his chests of gold and the Lloyd brothers' flight, burial of the treasure in the Caribbean, capture, imprisonment, escape, and disappearance.

Part II connects the Guadalupe, Ocracoke, and the Caribbean with Robert Louis Stevenson, his classic book, Treasure Island, and the author's search for Owen Lloyd. Amrhein, with the help of various researchers, has pieced together a fascinating story with a remarkable snippet of history in which Ocracoke was a key player.

I was most interested in Part I because of the pivotal role that Ocracoke played in this often complicated drama. Although I sometimes had trouble keeping track of all the characters (ship captains, crew members, colonial governors, various officials, and others), I consider Treasure Island, the Untold Story a valuable addition to my Ocracoke Island library.

Amrhein has clearly done his homework (he has 44 pages of endnotes, many referencing original documents) and made numerous trips to the Virgin Islands for first-hand investigations. Some of his speculations (particularly regarding Owen Lloyd's last days), however, are suspect as the result of relying on visions from a psychic investigator. I could have done without that. Nevertheless, I know of no more comprehensive account of this amazing story. You can order a copy of the book at Ocracoke's Books to be Red.

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

Saturday, October 08, 2011


October 9th to 15th is Fire Prevention Week. We salute Ocracoke's Volunteer Fire Department. Many thanks to all of our dedicated fire fighters!

I remember a fire on Ocracoke in the mid-1950s. An outbuilding was in flames. There was no fire department back then. Neighbors formed a bucket brigade. If I remember correctly, they weren't able to save the building, but they did prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings and trees.

Ocracoke got its first fire truck and fire department building in the 1960s. It took a while to form a well trained and disciplined team, but today we have an outstanding group prepared to protect our community whenever a fire threatens.

The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department is holding an open house this Sunday, October 9, at the firehouse from 2:00 to 4:00. Everyone will be able to look over the trucks and equipment - maybe even sound a siren or blow an air horn. There will be a display of safety ideas, videos, drinks, fire helmets for the little Fire Fighters, and more. The little Fire Fighters can even have some nozzle time with a real fire hose and spray some water!

Everyone is invited to come out and take part in the open house. All ages are welcome.

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

Friday, October 07, 2011

Next Tuesday...

...or maybe sooner. That's what the NC Department of Transportation is reporting about re-opening NC Highway 12. The road should be open no later than Tuesday, October 11. You can read more here:

Spanish Raids, 1741-1748

With England and Spain at war (the War of Jenkins' Ear, 1739-1748 & King George's War, 1744-1748) Spanish privateers appeared off the coast of North Carolina, and terrorized inhabitants of Ocracoke a number of times. Sailing vessels were captured, and cargo confiscated. A Spanish tent city was established on Ocracoke Island in June of 1741. In addition to controlling ship channels, the Spaniards burned several island homes and killed a large number of cattle.  Shortly afterwards the tents were set on fire and the intruders were driven off the island. Depredations were sporadic for several years.

In the summer of 1747 the Spaniards returned to Ocracoke and "killed all their Cattle and Hogs, and done a great deal of mischief."

By 1748 the Colonial Assembly made plans to build a large fort on Ocracoke, but it never came to fruition. With the signing of a peace treaty between Great Britain and Spain, relations between the two countries (and their colonies in the New World) gradually improved.

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

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fall on Ocracoke

About the only vegetation that changes color in the fall on Ocracoke is the poison ivy. Cedars, yaupons, live oaks, and pines stay green all year. But autumn is usually glorious...and this year is no exception.

Several days ago, as I was walking along the beach late in the afternoon I picked up four beautiful, near perfect scotch bonnets. Only one had a small hole; all of them had the distinctive scotch plaid pattern.

For days the temperature has hovered between the low-60s and the mid-70s during the day. Bright sunshine has dried up all of the puddles. Some days the clouds have been phenomenal, piled high and gleaming white against the cerulean sky. At sunset the edges of the clouds glow like hot iron on a blacksmith's anvil.

Neighbors are taking advantage of the fine weather to prepare boats for the winter, paint steps, wash windows, make minor house repairs, walk their dogs...anything to get outside and enjoy these last days before we close the doors and crank up the heat.

On Tuesday John & Joan invited me to join them for a morning fishing in Ocracoke Inlet. It couldn't have been more beautiful out in Pamlico Sound. Even on the open water it was not cold. A long sleeeved shirt and lightweight jacket was all I needed to stay comfortable. And we caught several blue fish. I fried them up that evening and Amy, David, Lachlan and I enjoyed a fresh fish dinner. As my grandfather used to say, we eat good in America!

Yesterday afternoon I went sailing on the Windfall II. The sunset was spectacular -- even a tinge of green as the sun slid below the horizon; not exactly the emeral green flash, but a hint of green. And I am planning on doing some clamming later today or tomorrow, before the weather turns cooler.

What more could I ask? Family, friends, good food, fantastic weather, and a phenomenal place to live!

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Another Mailboat Story

Dorothy Byrum Bedwell has another paragraph about the mailboat Aleta in her book, Portsmouth, Island with a Soul.

The Aleta at Jack's dock. Click on photo to view a larger image.

"Persons who wanted to sleep on the trip or avoid the brisk wind outside chose to stay in the passenger cabin. I can recall a few unpleasant times on winter trips when we had to stay in the passenger cabin, feeling almost nauseated by the fumes of the engine room and the portable kerosene heater in the middle of the floor. We liked the upper deck where we could chart our progress, feel the wind and taste the salty spray as we plowed our way across the sound."

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mailboat Aleta

Every now and then I mention the old mailboat Aleta that carried passengers and mail to and from Ocracoke in the 1940s & 1950s.

I recently re-discovered the following account of a memorable trip aboard the Aleta in Dorothy Byrum Bedwell's book Portsmouth, Island with a Soul.

"The mailboat was not designed for partying, and safety requirements were not as critical then as they are today. Those who imbibed while underway caused real hazards. Once...when my mother and brother were making the trip to Ocracoke, a tipsy lady, trying to walk the narrow strip of deck around the cabins [see photo above to picture this!], tumbled overboard as the mailboat was traveling abreast of the inlet where the tide is most powerful. My brother, an expert swimmer, dove in after her and pulled her back aboard. The mailboat captain was so genuinely grateful for the rescue of his passenger that he assured my brother free passage up and down the sound from that time on."

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

Monday, October 03, 2011


John Crowe, friend and part-time Ocracoke resident, sent me the following photos yesterday. These are just two of the nine Drum he and his wife Joan caught in Ocracoke inlet on Friday. They also caught four on Saturday. All were between 40 & 45 inches. You can see the excitement in their faces. John says "the action was fast and furious. Nine fish in 90 minutes before we ran out of bait."

Of course, all of the fish were released after being caught.

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

Sunday, October 02, 2011

From the Food Bank of the Albemarle Web Page

The following announcement was placed on the official web page of the Food Bank of the Albemarle (

"The Food Bank of the Albemarle is very pleased and proud to announce that we came in FIRST PLACE in the Tyson Foods Facebook campaign .... The announcement was made today (October 1), and more inforamtion about the delivery of the generous donation will be posted here and on our Facebook page as it becomes available. MANY THANKS to all those who supported us are very special people, and all the credit for this successful campaign goes to YOU!"

Many thanks to all of our readers who supported eastern North Carolina in this campaign. We appreciate your concern for the people of our area, including those impacted by Hurricane Irene.

NC Highway 12

According to an article on the web site, "NCDOT officials estimated Friday [September 30, 2011] that the roadway [NC Highway 12 on the Outer Banks] will be fully reopened by Oct. 15."

This means, of course, that the 662-foot, two-lane, temporary causeway which spans the new inlet at Rodanthe is scheduled for completion by mid-October. NCDOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty is quoted as saying, "When we say temporary, that means it can last years and years. Temporary does not mean, like, six months. It can mean a decade if it has to. What we mean is it's made of metal and it's in a coastal environment and, after a series of 10, 20 years, metal will corrode with the saltwater. So it is not a permanent solution for that location."

Nevertheless, this is good news for Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. 

You can read the entire article here:

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

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sea Squirts

While kayaking in Pamlico Sound, or just exploring the shallow waters close to shore, you might encounter an odd-looking creature attached to a piling or other submerged object. If you pick it up and it squirts water at you, you've almost certainly discovered a sea squirt.

As Pat Garber writes in Ocracoke Wild, A Naturalist's Year on an Outer Banks Island, sea squirts appear to be "primitive, dull organism[s]." In truth, however, they "are among the most highly evolved animals in the sea."

Sea Squirts are Tunicates or Urochordates, organisms that evolved in the early Cambrian Period, beginning about 540 million years ago. I was fascinated to read that they are members of the phylum Chordata (a group that includes fish, birds, humans, and other vertebrates). It is difficult to imagine, but sea squirts, in their larval stage, are mobile and posses a primitive backbone, a spinal cord, and a primitive brain.

Pat points out that sea squirts' development curiously stops abruptly...and they "grow backwards." She says "their tails are absorbed, their body shapes alter, their stomachs and hearts migrate to the bottom, and their mouths enlarge into spout-like openings." It is during this time that they become immobile and attach themselves to stationary objects, sometimes living in clusters.

What an amazing, awe-inspiring world we live in! Look for sea squirts on your next excursion into Pamlico Sound. I believe Pat's book is out of print, but you can borrow a copy at the Ocracoke library.

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

Early Morning Thoughts Re. Food Bank & Tyson's

I learned only yesterday of the Facebook voting campaign to direct 30,000 pounds of food from Tyson's Food to one of ten US Food Banks. Food Bank of the Albemarle, an eastern North Carolina organization, was in the running, and I promoted it on this blog.

When I went to bed last night I fully expected our local Food Bank to "win." It looks now as if the Yuma Food Bank will receive the gift. Regardless of the outcome, I have a few comments.

"Congratulations" does not seem like the appropriate response to the "winner" of this campaign. In fact, the entire promotion initially reminded me of that old 1950s TV show, Queen For a Day. The studio audience listened to pitiful stories of poverty and misfortune from a number of women, then voted on which homemaker was most unfortunate, and therefore should receive gifts of cash and appliances. Many people agreed that this was both emotionally exploitative and a poor way to help people in need.

On further reflection, the Tyson's Food/Food Bank voting campaign seemed more like a personality contest. The area that had the most fans was most likely to receive the prize.

All in all, this campaign does not appear to me to be a very appropriate method of distributing food to needy areas. Why did the donors not simply decide (based on research and statistics) where and how to distribute the food?

I have no objection to corporations or individuals gaining recognition for good deeds, but this campaign seems as much about enlisting Facebook and Facebook members to promote Tyson's Food as about feeding the hungry. When we consider that Tyson's Food has also come under attack for cruelty to animals the entire affair is unsettling.

Next time I don't believe I will be so hasty in promoting something I haven't researched and thought about more carefully.