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Sunday, February 5, 2017

No. 138 "A Damn Otwayer"

"A D@&# Otwayer!"
Being a Harkers Islander, or more specifically a "real" Harkers Islander makes you part of a fairly exclusive fraternity. It's not that the group is so small; there must be thousands of us who claim club membership both here and in hundreds of other places all over the world by now. It's that the entry requirements are so specific and so rigid. Official membership requires that you actually be born here to parents of whom at least one is a native Islander, or born somewhere else to parents, both of whom are already members of the club. My children would be examples of the former, and the children of servicemen born to two Harkers Island parents anywhere in the world would be examples of the latter.
There may be exceptions to this standard, but I can't think of any examples at the moment. Short of that, no matter how long you have been here or how involved or intertwined with native family and friends you have become, you remain someone "from off," a newcomer, or even a dreaded "dingbatter" or "dit-dot." Like it or not, there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it.

Two cases to illustrate my point: My wife, Susan, has lived here uninterrupted since the summer of 1976. So for more than forty years she has been part of an extended family, raised six children of her own, served on the school advisory council, been active in her church, prepared meals for hundreds of bereaved families, and done countless other acts of quiet service throughout our community. But when recently she was elected to the board of the local museum there were some who complained that she was not a "real Harkers Islander."
Believe it or not, there is an even more telling example of this phenomenon. Recently I was talking to an older man who was born in our sister community of Otway but who has lived on the Island since he married an Island girl and moved here all the way back in 1957. Since then he has been a community leader and an organizer in his church. His children attended the Island school and he has been one of the most successful commercial fishermen the Island has ever known. Be that as it may. He recently told me that after all these years and at a stage in life when he is older than almost every other local fisherman who can still claim that label, he still doesn't feel that he is fully accepted.
This is how he explained it. "If I park my truck too close to somebody else at the harbor, or if my net drifts in front of someone else's net on a set, the first thing I hear is someone pointedly and emphatically reminding me that I am still a 'D@%# Otwayer!'"