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Friday, April 29, 2011

No. 33 "They grew so fast ... they were keeping me awake at night."

It’s growing season on the Island! On the map it may look like just another sandbar of the lower Outer Banks, a large shoal at the junction of Core and Back Sound. But the Island has a surprisingly rich soil. Just look at the lush vegetation that covers both the virgin and developed plots. I don’t know that there was ever anything large enough to have been considered a farm, but there were lots of gardens – a whole lot of them – and they were all over the Island, from Red Hill and Oak Hammock to Academy Field and Shell Point.

Summer gardens had a little corn, and maybe a few beans, but they were mostly for tomatoes and cucumbers. A few sweet potatoes were planted in the early fall, and some “Arse” (Irish) potatoes in the early spring. Winter gardens were an almost exclusive domain for collards, and after the first frost you could smell them being cooked with fatback everywhere you went.

Will Odie (Willie O.) Guthrie had one of the biggest gardens. It was beside his house nested at the foot of Red Hill, and it seemed as if something was growing there year round, as he could be seen in his garden almost every day. Aaron Moore, just up the path from our house, also had a large garden and nurtured as if it were a baby. He spent many hours either bent over pulling weeds or chopping with a hoe to cultivate the soil. His efforts were well-rewarded, for him and the whole neighborhood, when his potatoes and corn were ready for digging or picking.

The same shad and pinfish that were used to bait crab pots, or thrown to the gulls, were often used for fertilizer. I recall seeing Aaron with a shovel, opening a small crease in the soil next to his plants, and then dropping a small shad into the hole just close enough to the root as not to “burn it” with nitrogen when it decayed. He must have known what he was doing, because his garden was always green and grew so tall that we children could hide inside the rows.

While it was true that many families had a garden, almost every home had a chicken coop (pen). The sound of hens cackling and roosters crowing in the morning was at least as familiar as the squawking of gulls and shore birds (see post no. 32). As a child I was often sent to the coop early in the morning to gather eggs. Several times each year Mama would allow the hens to “set” and soon there would be a bevy of “biddies” following close behind their own mama as she scratched around our yard. It was while observing this phenomenon that I came to appreciate a saying that I would hear or use all of my life. Once you have ever been around one, you will know exactly what is meant when someone is said to be “as mad as a wet setting hen.” Even having experienced that first hand, I came to enjoy being around chickens so much that I eventually had both a Bantam and a Warhorse Game rooster of my very own.

But chickens were kept for more than their eggs. I can’t say that I ever got used to the ordeal of watching my father trap and capture a hen, and then “wring it’s neck” so that Mama could clean and cook it for supper. In fact, I tried really hard not to watch, and vividly recall running to the landing, or hiding behind my Daddy’s “little house” (shed) so that I would not have to see it. But my reservations must have been limited, because I was usually there to watch as my mother plucked or else “singed” away the feathers, and then cut the torso, legs, and wings into enough parts that all of us had at least one piece of fried chicken that night for supper.
My Uncle Loue (Big Buddy), my father's oldest brother

My Uncle Louie, Big Buddy to us (see posts nos. 6 & 14), had both a large garden, and small chicken coop. Especially after he married his second wife, Verna, who had been raised on a farm at Core Creek, he and she seemed to have something to eat out of that garden for every meal. The chicken coop was filled with a dozen or more “Rhode Island Reds” that would lay at least a dozen eggs every day, and they cackled so loud you could hear them even when the windows were shut. His plot was just to the west’ard of his house, and the chicken coop was to the south’ard of the garden. In early summer, the garden and chickens, along with several large fig trees, a grape vine, a silver maple, a persimmon tree, and an old hand pump on the edge of his porch, turned the southwest part of his yard into a bucolic dream-

Uncle Louie's house as it sat between ours and the landing.
Eventually, after both he and Verna grew too old to “mess” with the chickens any longer, he got rid of the coop and extended his garden to where the chickens had been for more than two decades. In that small plot, maybe six by ten feet, but no larger, he planted some peppers and tomatoes. Anyone who has ever struggled to grow either of them can imagine what those tomato plants looked like as they took root in soil that had been organically fertilized for such a long time. They grew so fast that my Daddy would go by there every evening to see just how they had grown that day.

Ultimately, on one of his visits he found the tomato plants laying on their side and piled together for the garbage. My uncle had cut them down. When asked why, he explained that,  “They grew so fast, and were making so much noise, they were keeping me awake at night!”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

No. 32 "Just look at you crowd ..."

Anyone who lived on the Island before the days of thermostatically controlled heat and air conditioning can recall the sounds of seagulls in the morning. When windows were left open, the cascading sounds of the gulls announced that fishing or shrimping boats were back at the landing. Large flocks would gather as the fisherman cleared or culled their nets, waiting anxiously for the refuse – pinfish, shad or “tongues” – that were thrown or shoveled o’er board as they sorted through their harvest.

As the process concluded, and the fisherman used his big flat-head shovel to pile together his scraps, the gulls could sense that their booty was ready. Especially then they circled and squawked, anxious to pounce on what would soon be thrown over the boat’s stern or side. The noise was so loud that it could be heard far away, up on the shore and even through the paths that dissected the vines, yaupons, cedars and oaks that still were abundant just above the tide line.

All of us recognized the sound, and even if we had no need to hurry and help in lifting the baskets or shoving the skiffs, we had been there enough that in our mind’s eye we could see it as clearly as if we were standing on the shore. Seagulls, in both sight and sound, were as much a part of our environment as the sand and the water. Indeed, we were so accustomed to them that we could describe people or things by ascribing to them the traits we saw most often in these scavenger birds. Soaring like a gull, hungry as a gull, mouth open as wide as a gull, and lots of other similes, were so much a part of our language that they needed no explanation.

Thr family of Joe Wallace Willis. A younger
Mary Willis is standing at the far left.
So it was that no clarification was needed when my mother’s Aunt Mary one day made just such an allusion to express her exasperation. Mary was what might be tactfully described as “simple.” She never married and spent her entire life in the care of her parents. She was opinionated and loud, and as she grew older, according to my father, was “just as wide as she was long.”

During the lean years of the Depression, and the beginnings of the social services that most of us now take for granted, Mary learned that the local “welfare office” was offering handouts for those who where in dire need. Along with many others, she stood in line at an office in Beaufort for the chance to explain her predicament and, hopefully, get some of the food or other supplies to be handed out. Unfortunately for Aunt Mary, because she had no dependents and lived in the home of her mother, she was deemed unqualified for anything.

Obviously disappointed, and just as much frustrated, she walked out of the office to where she was obliged to stand face to face with the long line of others who were awaiting their own chance to plead their case. Having already told the interviewer in graphic terms how she felt about his decision, she now placed her hand on her hip, leaned a little to the side, and then hollered at all those who were still standing between her and the door. “Just look at you crowd. You look like a bunch of d*** gulls!”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No. 31 ... disappointed at her proofs ...

Sometime in the mid 1960s the local power cooperative sponsored a fund raiser and asked  a photo-portrait company to use the REA building as their studio. Families were invited, even encouraged, to sit for portraits that would be sold at a discounted price and the co-op would share in the proceeds. Appointments were made and a schedule was posted. Early one Saturday morning a line of families, young & old, small & large, dressed-up and casual, all made their way in front of the professional cameras to make a family keepsake that would last forever.

All that day, as well as the next afternoon, the parade continued. Each family wanted to do their part to support the small co-op that was the pride of their community, and at the same time to show off and preserve an image of what their nuclear family had been like. The excitement of the moment was only slightly diminished by the realization that they would have to wait several weeks to see the results of their efforts. The company planned a return visit, with a schedule similar to the original sittings, for each family’s representative to review their “proofs.” The final product, usually a package that would include at least one 8 x 10, several 5 x 7s, and several sheets of “wallet size” prints, would have to wait a few more weeks.

It was while those proofs were being sorted and chosen that there ensued a conversation that has become a part of the consciousness of Islanders ever since. The final response of the frustrated “picture man” has been repeated so often that most of use it anytime we are confronted with a similar scenario, and especially when we are asked to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Late in the evening, after a long and arduous day of sorting through hundreds of packages for people who talked funny and shared many of the same names, the company representative sat down with an older lady who was unhappy with what the camera had recorded of her and her family. The photo expert mentioned several alternatives to resolve her concerns; a touch up, an air brush, more or less lighting, and anything the technology of the day would allow to come up with something the lady might find acceptable.

But as the conversation ran on and on, and he sensed that other customers were growing restless after waiting long past the time of their appointment, the exasperated salesman finally reached his breaking point. When the matriarch insisted that she would not buy any of the photos until and unless she and her family were made to look “purty,” he concluded the conversation by shouting loudly enough that those waiting in the hallway could hear.

“Listen lady,” he exclaimed, as she made toward the doorway with a face that showed her disappointment, “I can’t undo what God Almighty has caused to be done!”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No. 30 How Sea Scallops changed the shoreline forever

For as long as anyone could remember the only scallops harvested by the Island “proggers” were the “bay scallops” that were found on grass lumps and shoals all along the sound side shores of Shackleford and Core Banks. But in the mid 1960s local fisherman uncovered large mounds of “sea scallops” just off of Cape Lookout, and there arose a new industry, mostly for local women, of opening and preparing them for market.

Before the sea scallop supplies were totally depleted a few years later, there would be as many as six “scallop houses” on the Island shore that were dedicated almost entirely to opening scallops and packaging them for resale. The walls of the scallop houses were lined with benches and tile chutes that fed through the outer walls. Through them the scallop openers (for some reason, they were never called “shuckers” by the locals) could deposit their empty shells after they had scraped off the gut and cut out the heart (meat).

The cleaned scallops were placed in quart plastic jars and eventually into a one gallon tin container. The guts were dropped into a bucket and usually poured overboard. In fact, so many scallop guts were discarded that they overwhelmed the natural food chain of pin fish and sea gulls that generally served as the disposal system for the marine waste that Islanders had been throwing into the sound for as long as anyone could remember. In the midsummer heat, the decomposing scallop wastes that washed up on the shore would let off a pungent odor that was as identifiable as it was odorous. Smelling “scallop guts” became an accepted, albeit dreaded, part of the dog days of summer.

Most of the openers got into their place not long after sun up, and in the mid summer that meant 6:30 am or earlier. Some of the more skilled openers could average opening a gallon an hour. At $2 a gallon, they could earn as much as $15 to $20 a day, which often was more than what their husbands were making as laborers or as fishermen. Others, like my mother and sisters, would open one or two gallons every day to supplement the family income. Hard as it is for my children to comprehend, $2, or $4, or $6 a day could make a real difference in how a family lived. I distinctly recall that the $10 that bought my first pair of Converse AllStars (basketball shoes) came directly from five gallons of scallops opened by my mother on David’s Dock.

Another by product of the scallop boom of the mid 60s on the Island was that the many thousands of harvested scallop shells began to pile up along the shore all the way from Shell Point to Red Hill. Before long, the sandy beaches that had lined the shoreline since the dawn of time were replaced by what looked like clabbered lanes of sand mixed with calico ridged sea shells. The new pavement was much too prickly for the bare feet of fishermen, and especially for their children who for a hundred years had run along the shore pulling toy boats or chasing after shorebirds. The sandy and unbroken shore line that I had know was suddenly gone, and would never come back.

By the time that the scallop houses fell into disuse, the bed of shells was deep enough that it would take a generation or more for the sand and waves to disperse them, and by then, the shore itself had been dissected by breakwaters, bulkheads, and piers built on long rows of pilings. The unbroken and unhindered pathway that had once been the “shortest distance between any two places” on the Island, had morphed into an obstacle course that has made walking on the shore more a dream than a pastime.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Posts so far ...

Posts so far...

No. 1 "You'll freeze to death this winter!"
No. 2 "Have you ever been to Chicago?"
No. 3 "A mattress made of seaweed
No. 4 “Billy Hancock ‘soaks’ Sam Windsor” (c. 1870)
No. 5 "That ball was high!"
No. 6 "The closest I ever come to having a job."
No. 7 "... if you wait until tomorrow morning, most of 'em will be gone!"
No. 8 "Prince" and the fudgesicles"
No. 9 Ole Pa's House
No. 10 "Has there been a blow or something?" The Storm of '33
No. 11 "We didn't even get a chance to bat!"
No. 12 You ain’t gonna ‘mount to nothin’
No. 13 Manus Fulcher was headed home ...
No. 14 "The sweetest sound in the whole world"
No. 15 Danny Boy Lewis, "I know twice as much as my father!"
No. 16 "... I want one so bad, I’ll take a pack of them.”
No. 17 "Mullet fishing, an old man, and World War I"
No. 18 The "Booze Yacht," a journey, and the "sweetest fumes I ever smelled."
No. 19 "Bittersweet Memories of Grade School on the Island"
No. 20 "Miss Ollie & Dr. Moore"
No. 21 "... as much as anybody else in this graveyard!"
No. 22 "What about that oak tree over there ..."
No. 23 Some unforgettable lines that may someday be forgotten ...
No. 24 The Boats that lined the Shoreline
No. 25 Horsepenning
No. 26 “All I wanted was a chance.”
No. 27 The Silver Maples are Turning
No. 28 “... we ain’t gonna get nowhere if you keep stopping ...”
No. 29 "It just weren't meant ... to see no mountains!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No. 29 "It just weren't meant ... to see no mountains!"

My brother, Tommy, holding my nephew, Anthony (with me in the cowboy
suit in the corner) not long after his "trip to the mountains."

One of my family's most often told tales is of Tommy and several friends (all of them cousins, either first or removed) on an aborted journey "to the mountains." According to the story, one Friday afternoon and after a particularly good week of shrimping the group made an impromptu decision to use Lester (first cousin) Hamilton's new car and go on a trip to where none of them  had ever been before. With Donald Guthrie (see post no. 28)  driving, Lester riding shot-gun, and Tommy, Grayden Moore and Kerm Guthrie in the back, the young voyagers headed for Asheville, some 500 miles away in the Smoky Mountains.

Up to that point none of them had ever seen a hill much larger than the sand dunes that dotted the Banks. They were determined to lay their eyes on real mountains and then to be able to tell about it to their family and friends. Grayden, whom they called “Gray Boy,” was especially excited and punctuated every conversation by repeatedly saying, “I can’t wait to see them mountains!”

The trip began to turn sour near Goldsboro when the car, a 1952 Mercury, began to "run-hot." A check under the hood revealed that one of the car’s two water pumps was leaking. After applying a quick fix, the journey continued as far as Durham when the other water pump went bad. This time they sensed that their repair job was only temporary and the group was forced to alter their route. Rather than the mountains, they would head for Wrightsville Beach and see what a “real beach” was like.

But even those revised plans didn’t work out as the car simply refused to cooperate. The group spent much of that night and morning trying to fetch water for the overheating engine out of road- side ditches. Lacking a bucket or even a bottle, they used the hubcaps they pulled from the car’s wheels. Sometime just after midnight on Saturday and near the town of Burgaw, they gave into the inevitable, cancelled their plans for Wrightsville Beach, and headed for Harkers Island.

They rolled over the Island’s wooden bridge just before sunup the next morning, with Grayden no longer restating his hopes to view the Great Smokies. By now he was only nodding his head and quietly lamenting that "... it just weren't meant for 'Gray Boy' to see no mountains!"

Friday, April 15, 2011

No. 28 “... we ain’t gonna get nowhere if you keep stopping ...”

One of the most colorful, and best-loved characters of our neighborhood was a distant cousin, Donald Guthrie (b. 1923). Some folks called him by both his first and middle names, “Donald Eukirk,” but even more referred to him as “red-headed Donald.” By the time he reached middle age his red hair had turned mostly white, but even then he was known by the color of his youthful hair.

Donald’s parents, Willie and Carrie Guthrie, lived just a few houses up the path from us, but his paternal grandmother, Evoline, was our next door neighbor. For whatever reason, Donald spent as many nights with her as at home, and thus he was very much a part of my family’s everyday lives.

He was one of the generation of Island boys that had the privilege of running horses on the Banks (see Post No. 25 “Horsepenning”) and it was said that no one was better at it than he. He had a reputation for being able to run fast and for long distances without rest. Beyond that, he had acquired a keen sense of how to think like the horses as they galloped freely along the Banks. So it was that as he chased behind them, he was often shouting out directions to others, and was able to herd the galloping ponies in exactly the direction he wanted.

His running came in handy for more than horses - he was equally adept at herding sheep. On one occasion he was put out of a sailskiff at Drum Inlet, almost twenty miles north along Core Banks from Cape Lookout. His job was, by himself, to run a small herd of sheep along the beach towards the Cape. The plan was for another runner to meet him off Davis Island, the mid point of the journey, and there relieve him and pick up the chase. But Donald was so good at moving the sheep that he reached the juncture even before the boat and crew, and thus just kept on moving to the south'ard. When the rest of the group finally got to their destination near the Lighthouse, they found the sheep already safely in their pen. Donald was sitting alone on the railing, his feet swinging in the wind, and nothing left of the shoes he had been wearing but the strings still dangling around his ankles.

Even more endearing to most of us than his speed afoot was his flare for saying some of the funniest things you could ever imagine, even when it was not intentional on his part. An oft-told story is of the summer morning when he went to his father’s small boat (“The Ram”) that was moored close to the shore at the landing. In those days, the late 1930's, battery-powered starters were not yet available for the gasoline engines that had all but replaced sails and oars. In lieu of mechanical starters the boaters used metal hand cranks and jerked the crankshaft of the engine to cause ignition. On this particular morning, when Donald reached for his crank and prepared to head out on the water, it was nowhere to be found! He searched all over his boat to no avail, and the harder he searched the more annoyed he became.

Finally, reasoning that further searching was useless, and assuming that someone had pilfered the crank, his frustration reached a boiling point. In the southerly breeze, the stern of his boat pointed directly at the shoreline where it was not unusual for scores of people to be gathered as they worked away on the boats, nets, and net-spreads. Hollering to get their attention, he climbed on the gunwale of his boat and screamed at the top of his voice, “Whoever stole that crank is a dern liar, ... and I can do it too!”

When he was drafted into the US Army shortly before the invasion of France in 1944, his talent as a runner was immediately made evident. And it was also clear that he carried with him his penchant for making others laugh. Donald loved to tell that after the first week of basic training, as his company set out on a twenty mile hike, the drill sergeant called his boys to a halt at the midway point to give them a rest. When Donald, who was leading the company and setting the pace for the march, heard the order to stop, it is said that he ran up to his sergeant. Then, while pumping his arms and legs to remain in motion, he exclaimed, “I’ll tell you sergeant, we ain’t gonna get nowhere if you keep stopping every ten miles!”

Because of his experience as a waterman, after basic training Donald was deployed on the coast of France and assigned to a unit that ferried soldiers back and forth from the staging area. An important part of that job was keeping the boats running by servicing and repairing mechanical equipment. His sergeant there was not nearly so experienced in working around the water, and Donald grew increasingly frustrated at having to be instructed about things he already knew. Eventually, he went over the head of his sergeant to the commanding officer and asked to be transferred to the infantry,

“Why in the world,” he was asked by a startled lieutenant, “would anyone want to leave the safety of a motor pool and ask to be sent to the front lines of battle?

“Because,” Donald replied, “I can’t stand to stay in a job where I know more than the one who is giving me orders!”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No. 27 The Silver Maples are Turning

If you look closely you will see that the “silver maples are turning,” meaning that as their leaves blow in the wind, you can see the silver under-bellies of their leaves. To my father’s generation that meant one thing more than any other – “there are sea-mullets schooling at the Cape.”

Noticing the maples reminded of the following that was penned by my oldest brother, Ralph. He  lived most of his adult life on the west coast – mainly on Mercer Island, WA, overlooking Lake Washington. A few years before returning to live at the Island in 1992 he penned the following and sent it to me.

The Silver Maples
 Ralph Hancock (at about age twelve)

One day this past summer I was driving east on I-40. As I left Mercer Island and crossed the Mercer Slough, I looked to my left and noticed a silver mass enveloping the Woodridge area. It was only the Maple trees showing their silver color in the breeze.

Suddenly I was in the summers of my boyhood, when if you stood down at the landing in the summertime and looked up toward Bet's and Tom Martin's house you would see the same Silver Maples as I saw that day.

In the afternoon, and with the wind from the southwest, if you stood at the comer of Old Pa's house and looked over toward Whale Creek Bay and Wade's Shore woods, the warm breeze would come straight into you face.

Look at the boats swinging at the their stakes with their bows into the wind. Dad's boat is there proudly showing the name "Ralph." Big Buddy's boat is there, smaller than the others and you knew her name was "Best Bug," even though it was never painted on her bow or stern. Old Pa's boat is there. Her stake is a little closer in than the others. Calvin's boat, Uncle Danny's, the "Ram" (the name known only to insiders of Aaron Moore's boat), and too many others to count are there as well.

The fish house is standing idle. It's kind of a sleepy afternoon. The tide is up and small waves are washing the shore. In the air there is a faint smell of salt and sea weed. The skiffs are hauled on the shore and the nets are on the net spreads drying.

Up at Old Pa's store he, Old Pa that is, is saying to Big Buddy and Daddy, "Louie and Charlie, it will be low water about 8 0'clock in the morning and unless I miss my guess this wind will calm down on the ebb tide. "Sterling says that those Davis Shore people say there is a good sign of mullets along the eastard (Core) Banks. If you will get your nets on them skiffs and come with me, I promise you we'll catch some mullets in the morning.

Ralph, "Lou Helens" (Old Pa's name for Louie Hallis, my cousin), and "Hess" (Old Pa's name for Creston, my cousin) will come with us. And anyway, there are always mullets in Epham's Camp Bay."

Can you believe, all this passed through my mind, and in living color, while driving at 60 mph on the freeway? I still get good feelings when I see the silver maples in the wind. How beautiful those days were how I loved the small world I lived in. How I loved the people around me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

No. 26 “All I wanted was a chance.”

Calvin Rose had a big trawler, the “EsCal,”with lots of nets and the finest equipment. In late fall and winter the EsCal was used for sink netting off of Cape Lookout. Calvin was good at what he did, and made a very good living in those few months when croakers, spots and sea-mullet schooled on the back side of the breakwater. So it was that there were always plenty of men and boys who wanted to join his crew and earn a part of the money that he shared out on just about every Saturday.

One of them (nameless for now) approached him one evening as Calvin was leaving Cab’s store. He explained that times were really hard for him and that he really wanted and needed  a job on Calvin’s boat — and the sooner the better. But Calvin was wise to the habits and the history of the man, and knew for certain that he was not what he wanted as part of his crew.

Still, Calvin was friends with his family and unwilling to offend either him or them. So he knew he couldn’t just turn him down right there on the spot. Instead he came up with a scheme that would allow the job-seeker to retain some dignity, and the boat to have only the crew the captain wanted.

“Here’s what you do,” he told the man. “Tomorrow morning at 6:00 sharp you come down to the dock where we keep our boat. If the boat is there, it means ‘we’ are not going. If the boat is not there, it means ‘you’ are not going!”

“Thanks,” the man said as he headed toward home. “I’ll be there. All I wanted was a chance!”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

No. 25 Horsepenning

(The video clip shown above is taken from the "Vernon Guthrie Collection." Vernon was the Island's first videographer, starting in the late 40's and continuing until the mid 50's when he moved with his family to Murray, UT.)

Some strangers called it “pony penning,” but we always called it “horsepenning” (one word). Every summer, on or close to Independence Day, Islanders would cross Back Sound in multitudes, in a mass exodus, headed into Banks Bay and the shore of what used to be Diamond City. There, on Shackleford Banks, they would gather by the hundreds in their boats, along the shoreline, and around a small pen, maybe 25 ft. square.

Men from the Island, and a select few teenage and twenty-something boys, would have arrived there hours earlier to begin the celebration. Under the direction of a chosen leader, Allen Moore when I was a child, the young boys and men would fan out all over the Banks. In groups of five or more they would herd the scattered groups of horses from the various nooks and crannies of the island towards the pen at Diamond City. Running, often on their bare feet, they would poke at and otherwise spook the horses to get them moving, and then, in concert with their friends, head the ponies in the right direction.

This was long before the days of motorized vehicles like the three and four wheelers that later overran the whole expanse. The ground was much too jagged to allow for cars or trucks, even if there had been any there (there weren’t) to have negotiated the terrain. And, for whatever reason, I don’t recall ever having seen someone actually riding a horse to help in the roundup. It was the speed, stamina and savvy of the Island boys, and that alone, that was responsible for finding and bringing in almost two hundred horses from the far corners of the Banks. Keep in mind that the distance from the Mullet Pond at the east end of Shackleford to Diamond City in the other direction was as much as four miles. But in a matter of only a few hours the horses; colts, mares and studs, would all be herded together in that small pen near the shore of what was called Banks Bay.

By the time the horses were corralled, the crowd would have grown to several hundred. As many as a hundred boats of all sizes would be anchored in the bay, and scores of small skiffs would be pulled up on the beach. Men, women, and lots of children were gathered in lines and in bunches to watch and await the arrival of the horses. Adding to the festivity were the many small fires that were started near the tide line, using driftwood and dead marsh grass, to roast oysters, conchs, and hotdogs for the swelling crowd.

Because of the numbers of people involved, and the relatively small space in which we gathered, the event could sometimes verge on the chaotic. Now and then one of the studs would get startled and break free, causing a panic among the onlookers until it could be restrained. Slightly less threatening were the men who celebrated the morning of horsepenning by getting drunk. It was usually the same ones, and most people knew who they might be and that they were to be avoided, especially by the kids.

One other risk was that if someone got too near the back side of a horse while it was restrained it might resort to “kicking.” I was made aware of that when one of my father’s horses, a beautiful tan colored stud, kicked me in the chest one 4th of July morning and I was carried to Beaufort in a boat to be checked out by Dr. Fulcher. There were no lasting effects except for a large bruise in my sternum and a lifetime of respect for what can happen when you approach a horse.

Once the horses were all secured, either in the pen, or tethered to a post or by a holder, the primary work of the day ensued as their numbers were noted, new colts were identified, some were branded, and many were traded or sold on the spot. My sister, Lillian, still has and displays my father branding iron of a large “H.” My uncle Calvin had a special skiff, with a very high freeboard, that was specially made for moving stock, including the horses, to and from the Banks. He might be charged with carrying as many as four at a time back to the Island where they would then be moved to their new home. Two of my older brothers, Bill and Mike, were allowed by my father to have ponies of their own, and to keep them at our home during the summer. But they were always ferried back to the Banks in the fall so that they could fend for themselves for the winter.

After the counting and trading of horsepenning day had been completed, the gates of the corral were opened, and the herds scurried away just as fast as they had arrived. Even before that, the cavalcade of boats that come from the north headed back in the opposite direction. By suppertime, many of the same boats, and their passengers would be at Academy Field on the Island to watch the boat races there that concluded the day’s celebration. It was always fun to be a boy at Harkers Island. But it was never better than on those special days when it seemed everybody was together as part of one big family, even the horses.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No. 24 The Boats that lined the Shoreline

The sound you hear in this short clip is that of Vernon Guthrie, who made this video in the mid 1950's. His voice was part of the recording process when the old 8mm film was transferred to VHS tape in the 1980's.

More than a hundred vessels used to dot the south shoreline of Harkers Island stretching eastward from Red Hill to Shell Point. This is a list of some of them. Many of the smaller boats, and even some of the larger ones did not have a name, only the "numbers" assigned by the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. This list is not exhaustive --- in fact I hope it will spur others to share the names of some of those that have been omitted.

If, indeed, "every picture tells a story," then every one of these names also tells a story of family, or friendship, and even of circumstance. A worthwhile venture might be someday to tell the story behind all, or even some of these names.

Aaron Moore & Willie Guthrie “The Ram"
Alan Guthrie "Roseanne Brian"
Andrew Guthrie “Edith"
Arthur Lewis "Violeta"
Ashton Styron “Two Brothers”
Bennie Brooks “MalBen"
Bonnie Guthrie "We Four"
Bradford Nelson “Seven Brothers"
Brady Lewis “Cool Breeze”
Calvin Willis "Barbara"
Carl Gaskill “Beatrice"
Charlie Hancock “Ralph”
Charlie Lewis “Miss Lewis”
Charlie Lewis “Rambler"
Clarence Willis “Ronnie"
Clayton Guthrie "Verona Joyce"
Dallas, Telford & Ed Rose “Rose Brothers"
Dallas Rose “Wasted Wood"
Dan Yeomans “Sara Lee”
David Lewis "Jimmy"
Donnie Lewis "Eva Martin"
Doyle & Adrian Willis “Lettie"
Duncan Willis "Sophie Ann"
Earl Johnson "Doug Blaine"
Elton Willis “Eleanor"
Fred Guthrie "Wades Shore"
Fred Lewis “Wanda Lewis”
Gray Willis “Edith Gray"
Harry Lewis “Jean Dale”
Howard Gaskill "Steve"
Ivy Gaskill “Four Sisters
James Guthrie "Miss Ann"
Joe Lane Lewis "Wades Shore"
Johnnie Lewis “Dana Kay”
Johnny Boo Willis “Rosalee”
Kelly Willis “The Pet”
Leslie Rose “Connie Marie”
Malcolm "Red" Brooks "Patches"
Mart Lewis “The Boys"
McKinley Lewis "Miss Lewis"
Raymond Guthrie “Sea Mullet"
Roosevelt Davis “Millie Dawn”
Stacy Guthrie “Old Sow"
Stacy Guthrie “Anne Clyde"
Stacy Davis “Rebecca"
Telford Willis “Francis"
Thomas Rose "Norma Lee"
Thomas Lewis “Sea Ranger”
Willie O. (Odie) Guthrie “Wanda S" & "Ethel R"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No. 23 Some unforgettable lines that may someday be forgotten ...

A newlywed Island husband walked out of his wedding at the Methodist Church with his new wife and crossed the road to Carl Lewis’ store, at that time the largest and busiest enterprise on the Island. The new couple sat down at the counter near the front of the store and the groom excitedly ordered himself a bottle of Coca Cola. Noticing that Carl seemed to glance toward the bride and motion as if to remind him that he not mentioned ordering anything for her, the man sheepishly looked her in the eye and asked, “You didn’t want nothing, Did ya?”

It is said that Marshall Lewis once reported to his friends that he had wrecked his car. When asked what had happened, he explained that he had “backed her head first into a ditch.”

A Harkers Island boy who had grown homesick while working on a scallop boat off the coast of Florida decided to hitchhike home. Arriving at the Island a few days later he was asked what was the biggest city he saw while on his way home. Without hesitation he responded, “Baltimore.”

Two Island fishermen were working their nets along the shore one morning when they began a discussion of the news that they had gleaned from the radio and newspapers about the war in Europe. One of them began by stating, “I heard that a lot of people got killed last week in a place called Normandy. I heard it was almost two thousand.” His friend responded, “I heard it was more than that. I heard it was eighteen hundred.”

After a church group went to New Bern to donate blood, they were rewarded with a meal at one of the finer restaurants in town. One of the Island boys ordered a plate of baked ham, and reviewing the menu, asked for a side order of “yams.” When the meal was delivered he looked it over and then complained to his waitress, “Mam, I ordered yams, but I hate to tell ye, —  that ain’t nothing but sweet potatoes.”

Lib Brooks once told me of being awakened at night by the sound of sirens on the road near his father J B’s home at the westard. With his father they went out to explore and found that there had been a bad car wreck at the sharp curve on Red Hill. By the time he got to the scene, the State Trooper had arrived and was in his patrol car writing a memo in his file. It appeared that when called to the accident he already was carrying a sleeping “drunk driver” in his back seat that he had arrested earlier. While the patrolman was preparing his report, his prisoner slowly awoke and began to ask questions about where he was and what was going on. “What is it?” he asked. “It was a bad wreck,” the officer responded. “Who was it?” the captive continued. “Someone driving drunk,” the officer replied. With a sudden look of fear and concern, the prisoner grew aroused and shouted, “Oh me! Was I hurt?” 

Sheriff Hugh Salter once drove to Raleigh to pick up an Islander who had been released from prison after serving time for domestic issues. Because the sheriff was good friends with the man and his family, Hugh volunteered to take his charge out for a nice lunch before beginning the long trip back to the Island. Accustomed to fine eating while in the state’s capital, Hugh carried the parolee to the Velvet Cloak Inn, one Raleigh’s finest restaurants. After taking the sheriff’s order for a plate of prime ribs, the waitress turned to his companion and asked what he wished to order. Anxious for something that was familiar after eating prison food for several months, he anxiously proclaimed that he wanted “two hot dogs.” The waitress was more than a bit startled by the request, and condescendingly informed the Islander that “this restaurant does not serve hot dogs.” Looking up with his own expression of surprise he responded, “you mean to tell me that a cafĂ© this big don’t have no hotdogs?”

Monday, April 4, 2011

No. 22 "What about that oak tree over there ..."

After the Hurricane of 1933 (Jimmy Hamilton Storm - See Post No 10), Federal Disaster workers visited the Island to offer help to those who had lost their homes. The inspector looked at what was left of Ed Russell's house and, observing that it might have been in disrepair for quite a while, remarked, "Your house seems to have been in pretty bad shape even before the storm!" To say the least, Ed was a little offended by the observation. Taking a look at the devastation that was everywhere around him he eventually responded, "What about that oak tree over there laying on its side? Was that in bad shape before the storm?"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

No. 21 "... as much as anybody else in this graveyard!"

Back in the days before widespread social services were offered by the government, political parties and their leaders often stepped in to help their supporters who were down on their luck. In return, they expected loyalty, especially when it came time to vote. Myriads of stories have been told about the “political machine” of the Democratic Party in Carteret County and how it demanded and received the fidelity of voters on the Island. As with some other tales of the Island’s more colorful people and events, these accounts may or may not be real, but they do help to convey the aura that surrounded elections when Harkers Island was part of the “Solid (Democratic) South.”

Polling procedures at that time allowed voters, many of whom may have been functionally illiterate, to have someone accompany them into the voting booth to help them in marking their ballot. Even those who voted on their own often carried a “sample ballot” that included circled or checked names of the candidates endorsed by the party, or by one of its local leaders (bosses).

By the early 1950's Hugh Salter from Sea Level had become the Sheriff of Carteret County and was much loved by many people on the Island - so much so that two of the Island’s most storied characters, Archie & Honeybean, vied with each other to show who was the most faithful when it came to voting the party line. Asserting both how much he cherished his privacy and his relationship with the Sheriff, Archie asserted that, “nobody in the world knows how I voted except for me and Hugh Salter.” Determined to show that he was at least as faithful, and perhaps ever more so, Honeybean quickly responded, “Hell, ain’t nobody knows how I voted but Hugh Salter!”

Another story is told of Tilton Davis, son of one of the Island’s most prominent and demanding bosses, Cleveland Davis. Years after the passing of his father, Tilton accompanied his widowed mother, Mattie, into the voting booth to help her mark her ballot correctly. Once inside, and with the curtain pulled to assure their privacy, Mattie took the occasion to explain to her son that  she could not vote for Gerhmann Holland. Gerhmann was sheriff at that time and was the local party’s “boss of bosses.” He had earlier served as the State of North Carolina’s “Fish Commissioner.” In that position he had overseen the enforcement of fishing laws and regulations, and had also been responsible for the hiring of many or most of the Commission’s officers, including Tilton Davis. It was for that reason that he had incurred the ire of Mattie Davis. She felt he had not been the help he should have been in getting her son assigned to more local duty rather than farther up the Pamlico Sound, causing him to be away from his home, and her, for weeks at a time.

Not wanting to contend with  his mother, but at the same time unwilling to forego the loyalty that he still had to Sheriff Holland, he explained lovingly to his mother, “What we’ll do is put a big ‘X’ in the block right next to his name,” to show the poll takers that we have “Xed him right out!” Doing as he suggested, and after depositing her ballot in the wooden box that lay by the door, the two walked back outside. Mattie then began to express to Tilton some misgivings about having voted against the party leader who had been her family’s good friend for many years. “Don’t you worry,” her son consoled her, “Gerhmann won’t hold it against you, and I won’t either!”

Finally, there is the story told of Tilton’s father, who along with my grandfather, Charlie, was scouring the graveyard one night before an election to get the names of deceased voters who might still be showing on the polling books. This was an oft-repeated ritual done to determine if any “extra” voters could be added to the next day’s tally. When they came across a headstone that was so weathered that neither the name nor the dates could be clearly read, my grandfather suggested to his friend that they leave that one alone, and move on to the next one. Showing his truly egalitarian sentiments, Cleveland retorted, “Not hardly! He’s got just as much right to vote as anybody else in this graveyard!”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

No. 20 "Miss Ollie & Dr. Moore"

You didn't take kids to the doctor just because they weren't feeling well. Everyone, young and old, had days when they didn't feel well and it was just considered a normal part of life. Every mother had her own repertoire of home remedies that applied to almost any malady and these were the first line of defense against any illness or injury. If a condition persisted or worsened dramatically, the next option was to call on the neighborhood "specialist" whom everyone recognized as the best thing short of a real doctor for diagnosing and treating common ailments. At "Red Hill" that somebody was Marianne Willis, while at the "Eastard" it was Annie Rose. But in our neighborhood that was most certainly "Miss Ollie." Ollie Willis, sometimes called "Big Ollie" to distinguish her from her daughter of the same name, had predetermined remedies for anything that could be imagined. More importantly, most of them seemed to work.

Miss Ollie used to be especially gifted at dealing with skin problems such as "ground itch," hornet stings, and the ever present boils that were associated with spending at least half of your life in and around salt water. She even concocted her own "black salve" that was known all over the Island as the most potent balm anywhere to be found for dealing with such problems. In the normal hyperbole of Island talk, I have heard my parents claim that Ollie's salve could "draw an iron nail out of a piece of heart pine."

Walking barefoot on the Island's shore caused lots of cuts and scrapes. The bottom of my brother Telford's feet sometimes looked like the plat for a city map, and one that was laid out with no concern for straight lines and easy access. The most painful "foot ailments" most assuredly were those associated with stepping on the exposed nails, usually rusty ones, that were the excruciating by-product of discarded boat timbers and planking. Almost always the wound would swell and harden and cause almost unbearable discomfort. Finally, someone would send for Ollie, or at least for a spoonful of her salve, and within hours, or so it seemed, the infection would ease. Her magic potion would cause the offending particles and fragments to rise to the surface of the wound so that loving hands could wash it clean and allow the healing process to be completed.

Yet there were times when even Miss Ollie's salve couldn't help and a real doctor was needed. But because any expense was often "too much," my parents made sure that all other avenues had been explored before taking us children to Beaufort to see Dr. Moore, Dr. Fulcher, or Dr. Salter. One way to avoid official visits was to wait until word came that Dr. Moore was spending the weekend at his camp on Shackleford Banks. For some reason it was assumed that going to see him there was a "personal" call and hence there was no obligation to offer any payment. As I grew older and came to know him better I realized that Dr. Moore probably would not have accepted any money even if offered on those such occasions.

Dr. Laurie Moore lived in Beaufort but had grown up in Marshallberg. His family, the "Tyre Moore crowd," named after his father, had earlier lived at Shackleford Banks before the exodus that followed the great hurricane of 1899. Most of the family settled at Harkers Island but Tyre and his sons took up residence at Marshallberg. Dr. Moore's camp on the Banks, near the mouth of Whale Creek Bay, was situated very near where the old family home place had been generations earlier. His Harkers Island cousins would attend to his needs while there, running back and forth across the Sound several times each day as he might need them. It generally was from them that everyone knew when he was at the Banks and open for "company."

Dr. Moore was considered a bona fide hero among most of the people of the Island. There were many reasons for that respect and affection but two special ones come to mind most frequently. First, he was the very first of the Banks crowd to go off to college and come back a doctor. I was always told that it was while pulling in a net on a cold fall morning that he made up his mind that fishing was not for him. Within weeks he had moved to Winston Salem where he eventually earned his medical degree. So to downeasters he was one of their own who had made it in the world doing something other than living out of the water.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, he never "forgot where he came from" and was always willing to care for the poor people of Down East with no consideration for their ability to pay him. Dr. Moore always seemed to be just another one of the ordinary folks, but one with extraordinary compassion and an ability to help.

So it was that I can well remember those times when my father would take me in his boat, across Back Sound, to Dr. Moore's camp. His attention was needed most frequently to deal with the ear aches that were so frequently a part of my youthful experience. Mama would wrap my head with warm towels and blankets and Daddy would secure me in the front of his open boat, just under the forward deck to shield me from the wind and the spray as the boat broke through the "seas" (people on the Island refer to cresting waves as "seas.") He would head due southwest across back sound into the mouth of "Bottarum Bay." He would then weave through the marshes to the shore where Dr. Moore's camp sat some one hundred yards or so up on the land.

Daddy would carry me to the shore in his arms and together we would walk up to where Dr. Moore was usually resting out on his porch. "Hey, Charlie Bill, which one of your youngerns is that," he would ask, referring to the fact that Daddy had ten. Daddy would tell him my name but I don't think Dr. Moore really listened. He had no hopes of ever knowing all of us by our first names, the mere fact that we were Charlie and Margarette's children was all that mattered to him. He would ask about Mama and the rest of the kids and then about Louie, Daddy's brother, and several other of the old people in the neighborhood. But as he was talking to Daddy he would be pulling me towards him and beginning to diagnose the problem that must have caused Daddy to bring me with him.

Should I live to be a hundred, I will never forget the gentleness in his soft hands as he explored around my sore ear. Because of the swelling that usually accompanied such infections, my ear and neck would be so tender that I could scarcely allow even my mother to touch it. But Dr. Moore's hands seemed to be endowed with some special soothing aura that allowed him to explore and examine without causing even the slightest of pain.

After just a few moments, he would assure my father that there was no need for undue concern, and tell him what medicine and treatments he wanted to have started. Sometimes he would write out a prescription to be purchased from the drug store, but more often he pulled something out of his little black bag and gave it to us with only his oral instructions.

"Now, go ahead and get him home and out of this wind," he would say, signaling to my father that the checkup was over and allowing us to leave gracefully with no mention of any payment or obligations. Then we would make our way in reverse order of how we had come, but with daddy, and later mama, now relieved that they had done their part to make sure nothing more than an "ear ache" had been the culprit.

Many others of my generation, and the ones before me, have similar memories and stories of Dr. Moore. In the days before "Social Services" and the County Health Department, he and others like him cared for the families of eastern Carteret County with a depth of feeling that made him more than just a doctor, he was a part of the family.

No. 19 "Bittersweet Memories of Grade School on the Island"

From "Livin' & Learnin', the 25th Anniversary of Harkers Island Elementary School," remarks given by me in 1982

... there were some bittersweet memories. My most painful recollections are of those days we were obliged to line up for the seemingly endless array of inoculations that the State inflicted on all public school students. Standing in line and watching your compatriots suffer was almost as bad as the needle itself; but not quite! Invariably, one of the nurses or parents who were helping to administer this "mass torture" would try to calm our fears by saying, "It feels just like a mosquito bite." But who would stand in line for a mosquito bite? And besides, the sensation was much closer to that of a yellow jacket sting to me. And if that wasn't punishment enough, the shots would stiffen your arm so much that you couldn't throw a baseball for a week.

Also, It should be pointed out that a paddle was as much a part of education as was a pencil. Especially for us boys, a "paddling" now and then might be dreaded, but it positively could not be avoided. By the seventh grade it was almost an everyday occurrence. "Come to the front and bend across my desk!" was repeated at least as often as "get out your English Books." After a while a few of us developed calluses over the afflicted area that served to lessen, but not completely eliminate, the sting. The near demise of "paddling" as a form of punishment is one development that part of me wholeheartedly applauds.

Another bittersweet memory of those years is of the many operettas and plays that each class had to stage every year. Practicing and learning the lines was ok. But it was never easy to stand in front of a packed auditorium and recite those lines. And it was even worse when you had to sing them. Because I had been cast as a dwarf named "Squeaky" in a second grade production of "Snow White," some of my friends, or rather enemies as I then supposed, continued to call me by that name for years.

But mostly it was fun. We were living and learning in a school that sat by the banks of a tranquil sea. We were being taught by teachers who were genuinely concerned for us and for our futures. Each one of my teachers left an indelible imprint on the young boy they tried to help build into a young man. I can still hear Ms. Gaskill telling me that only I myself ever could stand in the way of my becoming all I wanted to be...

Friday, April 1, 2011

No. 18 The "Booze Yacht," a journey, and the "sweetest fumes I ever smelled."

Almost everyone who has grown up in Carteret County has heard. the story, and nearaly as many know the song. The late Grayden Paul helped to preserve and popularize them both. "The coming of The Adventure,” two weeks before Christmas in 1923, gave birth not just to Ralph Sanders' song, but to such a host of stories that it has assumed the status of legend. For that very reason, some blithely assume the whole account to be anecdotal, dismissing the fact that there are real men and women who can still recall the event, and especially its aftermath.

My father, Charlie William Hancock. was fourteen at the time, and vividly recalled the real thing. It was assumed that he was too young to go with the others to the scene, but he still tells of watching as older-men dropped overboard sacks full of illegal whiskey attached to buoys for hiding and safekeeping. He described how he stood on his father's shoulders to reach overhead and stash bottles between the attic floor and the bedroom ceiling. He recounted how his uncle dug holes in the ground of his chicken coup, deposited his bottles, and then allowed the chickens to scratch over the fill to hide all traces. He could even recall the name of those unlucky ones who were caught with the illegal contraband and ended up serving time for violating prohibition.

My uncle, Louie Hancock, who died in 1985 at the age of 95, was another of those who-had lived through and "enjoyed”  the Booze Yacht experience. One of the stories he loved most to relate was of how he, then in his twenties, gathered his own cache from the booty left by the rum-runners.

Like many of the other Islanders, “Big Buddy" as we called him (see Post no.6 "The closest I ever come to having a job"), scurried to get to the Cape as soon as he heard from Clayton Guthrie that some lucky fishermen had hauled in a net full of whiskey. Along with Clayton, and his uncle Dankey (Dannie Willis), they dropped everything they were doing and made for the Banks. In his little boat, the Best Bug, they hurried across Back Sound and into Banks Bay and on to the shores of what had been Diamond City. He knew the area like the back of his hand, for his father, Charlie, still had a fishing camp there, very near where the homestead had been before the storm and exodus of 1899.

The spot was as practical as it was convenient. Once ashore, it was a mere half-mile walk across the banks to the Cape shore where burlap sacks full of liquor now lay awash in the surf under the late fall sun. This was about the best that the scavengers could hope for. Barden's Inlet as a quick water access to the Hook of the Cape and the south shore of Shackleford was still a decade or more from reality. A boat trip all the way down the Banks toward Fort Macon channel and back east to the Hook was nearly as impractical. The cargo of The Adventure was illegal, that's why it had been dumped overboard in the first place. Loading and hauling that stuff back through Beaufort Inlet and under the nose of local, state, and federal officers, would have been foolhardy, even for rugged and carefree fishermen.

But the most compelling reason for the straight-shot route that necessitated walking across the Banks was that neither Big Buddy, nor most of the other pillagers, had more than enough fuel to make only the shortest of excursions. In fact, it was customary, when time was of no essence, for the watermen of the Island to turn off their newly acquired gas engines and hoist a sail, just to save their precious fuel. So substituting a fifteen minute walk for a two hour boat trip was no great concession for the eager young explorers.

Arriving at the shoreline of Diamond City the group found the bay already crowded with the boats of others who had come with their same intention. In fact, Big Buddy would often remark, the trip across was almost like a parade, as an ever increasing flotilla headed for the Cape, either to claim their share of the booty or just to watch others do the same.

The Best Bug was left anchored far enough off shore to assure that she would not be stranded by the ebbing tide, and the eager young pair ran off swiftly across the banks and through the sand dunes. As the made it to the Cape Shore they found a veritable circus as the throng rummaged through the strewed bags and sacks to find just the cache they were looking for. Louie and his companions picked up the first two unopened containers they could find and headed swiftly back northward towards their boat. About halfway across on their return, Dankey decided to open the sacks to inspect, and sample what they had collected. To their disappointment they saw that they had picked up "quarts," rather than "pints" as they had supposed. They immediately decided to leave the bags right where they were and return to the shore to get what they had wanted in the first place. So large had been the stash of bottles that even by the time they returned, there still was plenty to choose from. This time they made sure they had the size they wanted and once again headed for their boat.

Within a less than an hour they were back aboard the Best Bug. But to their disgust they learned that their boat had been relieved of its fuel supply, most likely by one of their fellow travelers who had come along without checking that he had enough for the round trip excursion. If necessity is the mother of invention, it can also be the mid-wife of improvisation. For having sampled the whisky in the quart bottles an hour earlier, Big Buddy had noted that it was some of the strongest he had ever drunk. "If alcohol can light a flame he thought, "why can't it power an engine?"

Thus began his experiment with the combustion powers of distilled liquor. With Dankey at the helm, Big Buddy held his thumb over the open mouth of a bottle of Caribbean Rum and allowed it to seep into the down-draft carburetor of his six horsepower Bridgeport engine. Sure enough, the engine fired up, perhaps from the residue of gas left in the fuel line. the trio made their way back across the Sound towards the Island, the motor held its fire and never cut off, not once! As Uncle Louie stood to the back of the engine box holding the bottle, he could feel and smell the exhaust as it fumed from the straight iron pipe that extended from the manifold. He said that he positioned himself so that the exhaust vapors would blow directly into his face. He did so, he insisted, because it was "the sweetest smelling fumes he'd ever smelt in his life!"

So they made it back with their booty, except for the two bottles they had been obliged to use as fuel for their engine. Big Buddy never found out who had stolen his gas tank that day, and really didn't much care to investigate it. But he never forgot how he had improvised to make it home, nor the smell that lifted from the pistons of that six horse motor as she "put-put-putted" across Back Sound. The "Booze Yacht" was much more than a legend to him, and to those of us who heard him tell his stories. It was just another part of what life had been like in the early days of Harkers Island.

Originally printed in "The Mailboat" 1994 Annual Edition