I almost forgot -- today is Old Quawk's Day!! I wrote the following story 14 years ago. Enjoy.
In the late 1700's or early 1800's a man of indeterminate origin made his home on Ocracoke,
but not in the area of the present-day village. Several miles north,
on a small hill, or hammock, he built his simple home of bull rushes and
He had arrived on the island, some said, on a schooner from a distant
land. Others claimed he had been shipwrecked on the beach and had
decided to remain here. It was even rumored that he had once been
a pirate. At any rate he was different from the other residents.
Not only was he dark skinned (some think he was of African, West Indian,
or perhaps Puerto Rican descent), he was not a friendly sort of fellow.
It is said he was often surly and disagreeable, preferring his solitude
to interaction with the rest of the island community. When he got excited
or argumentative people thought he squawked like a night heron. Hence
the nickname, Old Quawk, or Old Quork. No one knew his given name.
Like the other men of the island, Old Quawk fished nets in Pamlico
Sound. On March 16 many years ago the weather turned nasty.
Storm clouds formed on the horizon, the wind picked up and the
sea was running rough. All of the fishermen were concerned about
their nets but more concerned still for their safety. It was agreed
among them that the day was much too stormy to risk venturing out in their
small sailing skiffs.
All agreed, save Old Quawk. His nets were too important to
him and he had no fear. Cursing the weather, his weak-kneed neighbors
and God himself, he set out in his small boat to salvage his catch and
his equipment. He was either very brave or very fool-hardy, or both.
At any rate, he never returned and he and his boat were never seen again.
For more than one hundred and
seventy five years seafarers from Ocracoke
and even farther north on the Outer Banks paid healthy respect to the memory
of Old Quawk by staying in port on March 16. Superstitions pass with
time, however, and nowadays many islanders do not even note the date, let
alone pay it any heed.
Nevertheless, Old Quawk lives on in the names of landmarks near where
he made his home: "Quork Hammock" and "Old Quork's Creek." Next
time you cross the bridge that leads across the creek that bears this colorful
character's name think of him on his last tempestuous day, his fist raised
to the heavens, cursing and inveighing against God and Mother Nature.
Perhaps you will even be a tad more cautious if you decide to go boating
on March 16. Or maybe you will wait for another day, when the forecast
is a bit brighter!