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: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm.


  1. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Wonderfully colorful story as usual, Philip, and--like so many of your tales--one that begs a question: can you offer any clarification re. the term stingray?

    As a kid, the only such creature I ever read about was the large, graceful manta ray, with its several-feet-long wingspan (like a creature I once briefly glimpsed flashing just beneath the surface of the deep water at the end of an NC fishing pier)). It wasn't until as an adult, fishing at the mouth of the Connecticut River, that I learned what a skate was upon reeling in one of the foot-wide creatures on my fishing line.

    Subsequent visits to the North Carolina Aquarium at Manteo, on Roanoke Island, afforded multiple occasions to get up close and personal with skates, but I never thought about any distinction between skates and "stingrays."

    Though I understand that skates can "sting," striking a threatening object with a sharp spur embedded in their whip-like tails, I suspect the term stingray is a general term for all rays and skates. But perhaps you know better.

    Also, while crabbing in the sound many years ago, wading in the calf-deep water at the end of Dump Station Road, across from the NPS campground, a rather large skate approached to within 10 feet or so in the shallows. It darted off a bit when I splashed/feinted toward it, but it returned once or twice too, as if either curious or perhaps territorial.

    As a lover of Ocracoke, I'm nonetheless a landlubber with limited experience exploring such waters and around such creatures.

    Charming as skates may be in the well-lit, crystalline waters of the gentle-touch tank at the aquarium, having one "sneak up on me"--more than once--in the dim, expansive waters out there in the Ocracoke "wilderness" was just a shade creepy.

    Many have heard of famed naturalist Steve Irwin's fatal encounter with a large ray while diving in the ocean.

    In your experience, Philip, are these creatures generally benign, or something that a person like yourself keeps an eye open for on occasions when you wade in the sound, to go clamming for instance?

    Hope you don't mind the long post. And always a pleasure to "explore" Ocraoke, whether eye-to-eye--even in the sound--or here in the virtual world. You always keep it interesting.

  2. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Nothing has changed much. Pill pushers are still the biggest drug abusers to this day. sad dr has as many problems as his patience. what was the time period for the first hit by the sting ray was it during prohibition? Ken Burns recent documentary on the subject allows for the question of how was prohibition handled on OI. Was rum running an occupation and how about in the 70s were customs agents busy in the area. were there hippies on OI during the 60s and 70s??

  3. Re. stingrays and skates: I am not a biologist, but rays and skates are similar species of cartiglaginous fish related to sharks. Sting rays have venomous spines and can be dangerous, although they usually avoid humans. Skates are harmless. Unfortunately I have never been able to tell them apart. Swimming in the shallow waters of the sound is generally safe because movement and splashing keeps stingrays away. When clamming we push our rakes in front of us and walk slowly. That is enough protection from stingrays. I occasionally see critters that I believe (or hope!) are skates. I've never been stung, nor do I remember hearing of anyone who has been.

    You are correct, Pamlico Sound is a "wilderness," but don't let a few wild critters scare you away!

  4. Ocracoke certainly had its share of illegal booze during Prohibition. No surprise there!

    Hippies on Ocracoke in the 60s? -- Ocracoke has always attracted folks on the edge.

  5. debbie s.1:55 PM

    on the edge, philip? hmmm i prefer the term walking to my own drummer ;) i dont live on the edge but i certainly dont care what others think of me or what i do ;)

  6. Anonymous3:19 PM

    Where--and what--are the "Legged Lumps"?

  7. Great question about the Legged Lumps! And I've decided to answer the question in a future blog post. I have several posts scheduled for the next several days, so look for this information in a week or so.