Category Archives: history

Hunting Guides I Knew

Life has had a funny way of taking me to unexpected experiences. Back in the 70’s I was drifting from one job to another. They were diverse and interesting. So when my landlady’s husband, Raymond, asked me to help out at Gull Island Gunning Club, I signed on.

Over the years, quite a few locals had worked at the lodge, and Raymond Midgett was one of them. The club was owned by Norfolk businessman Alex Kotarides and operated out of Salvo. The island is about 5 miles to the southeast in Pamlico Sound and is a unique spot on the edge of a reef that drops off into deeper water. It was and still is a haven for all kinds of waterfowl.

For $5.25 I bought a hunting guide’s license at Charles Williams Store in Avon and became an official waterfowl hunting guide. Up to that point, my only hunting experience was stalking birds on Pea Island with my camera.

I had heard stories about the good old days of waterfowl hunting on Gull Island when Ed Hooper was the head guide. I never met Ed but knew his sons well. Burt Hooper was the eldest and took over guiding after his dad passed away. Burt’s next door neighbor was Raymond who helped with the chores of running the club. For about 5 years I learned the ropes from Burt and Raymond and developed a common bond with them.

This beautiful day in 1977, I rode Falcon, a Willy Austin built boat, with Burt on the engine box and Raymond at the helm. We were on our way to Gull Island with two brush-laden skiffs to build some shore blinds on the island.

Burt Hooper showed me the art of concealment in blind construction.

I rode with Raymond to and from the island countless times. We performed maintenance and stockpiled supplies for hunting trips lasting 3 to 4 days.

In 1979, Alex asked me to restore his decoys with new paint jobs. There were hundreds of them and it took me about 8 months to complete. They were Herters decoys made of balsa with pine heads. It was then that Burt showed me how to tie a bowline knot. One knot was on the decoy end and another on the anchored end.

For me it was gratifying to watch waterfowl pitch in to my paint jobs, especially around the sink box blinds. It was an effective combination.

Picking up all the decoys after a day’s hunt had to be done in an orderly fashion. It took a while, especially in adverse conditions. Here Mark McCracken hands canvas goose decoys to Burt stacking them in the skiff.

Cap’n Raymond, as I affectionately called him, was a consummate story teller and loved to play his electric guitar. He passed away in 1988 at the age of 69.

Burt Hooper was a pillar in the Salvo community and passed away this year on March 7. He was 85. Raymond and Burt both had a lasting effect on my life and helped steer me where I am today.

 

 

 

Bridging the Gap

No matter how you look at it, the new bridge over Oregon Inlet is an engineering marvel. For the past few years, driving over the old Bonner Bridge, we witnessed the construction progress, going together like a humongous tinker toy.

Last Saturday, NCDOT opened the new thoroughfare just for pedestrian and bike traffic. It happened to coincide with 40° weather and a northeaster, making it somewhat more challenging.

The Bonner Bridge is well past it’s life span, so it’s out with the old, in with the new.

At 10:15 we began our walk on the north side, heading south, downwind. Dozens of folks had already begun the 2.8 mile trek.

With a 30 mile an hour breeze at their backs, bikers hardly even needed to peddle.

Everyone was bundled up.

Equipment was still in place.

Following a curve, the new road rises to the peak about 90 feet above the water.

The high point of the old Bonner Bridge is about 70 feet.

Hitting the uphill grade, I felt the wind intensify as if the bridge created a Venturi effect.

Facing into the wind from the rise, I saw more approaching troops braving the elements.

On top the wind seemed to accelerate even more, as tide boiled through the inlet.

Photo ops were everywhere and everyone became photographers.

This crew got the shot and then in a gust…

… almost got blown away.

Three quarters into the walk, the south end of the new bridge converges back toward the old bridge landing.

Looking back I could see hundreds of people still underway.

A cyclist coasted to the end of his downhill run.

Welcome to Hatteras Island, home of Highway 12, probably the most expensive road to maintain in the entire state.

 

 

 

 

The Liberty Memorial

Last year when Denise and I visited relatives in Kansas City, Missouri, we were treated with a great tour of downtown. There were so many interesting things to do and see.

One of the finest museums that I’ve ever visited is prominent in the landscape. The National World War I Museum was opened in 1926 and features a 265 foot stone spire as a tribute to those that served in the First World War.

One can spend days, weeks or longer going through the complex. Our second day visit was on a rainy morning and as we went in, I was attracted by the glass ceiling over the lobby entrance, so I went back out in the drizzle and made two exposures over the wet glass panels. One was vertical and another horizontal. They were quick, handheld shots with my current camera of choice, a Lumix mirrorless body with interchangeable lenses.

One of the most prestigious local art shows here is the annual Frank Stick Memorial Art Show hosted by the Dare County Arts Council. It began 41 years ago and I’ve entered a piece in nearly every one.

This year I decided to print the above mentioned photograph and apply an age old photo technique. I remembered experimenting with solarized prints in my darkroom around 1980 and the results were usually surreal and unpredictable.

Tones are often reversed resembling a negative. Photoshop made this easy to accomplish and turned a drab day into one looming and dramatic. I entered a 16×20 print and was given an Excellence Award. There were over a hundred entries and ribbons for me have been rare in this venue.

This year’s show was poignant in that it was dedicated to my friend and prolific Nags Head artist Glenn Eure who passed away last September at the age of 86. He was a well-known and gifted artist. A Purple Heart recipient, he served combat tours in Korea and Viet Nam. I think he would have liked my print entitled TRIBUTE IN KC.

The inscription on the monument reads: IN HONOR OF THOSE THAT SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY AND OUR COUNTRY

 

Forty One on the Outer Banks

Recently I read how George Bush, as a young Navy pilot, would see the Hatteras lighthouse from the air during flight school training out of Norfolk.

It made me recall our forty-first president returning years later as a visitor in 1997, then in 1998 for the rededication of the Wright Brothers Monument.

In the Fall of 97 I had a chance to meet him fishing at Harkers Island. The Core Sound is a fisherman’s paradise and President Bush arranged to go with Sam Sellars, a guide who would take him fly fishing for false albacore.

Before getting underway, Sam demonstrated some new tackle for the former president.

After an hour of tedious casting, the president finally hooked up near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Of course, Sam and the president were elated when he boated a nice one, and released it.

The weather deteriorated with some passing rain squalls, but the president still managed to pull in a few more. At one point he noticed a styrofoam cup floating by and directed Sam toward it. President Bush then leaned over and plucked it from the water. That little gesture really impressed me.

The following May, President Bush flew in to Manteo Airport and was greeted by local resident Andy Griffith and his wife Cindy. I was given the responsibility to take pictures for the First Flight Commision, and rode with them to the Wright Brothers Monument for the rededication ceremony.

There were other dignitaries present, including our State Senator Marc Basnight.

Senator Basnight and astronaut Buzz Aldrin were seated together on stage as speakers addressed a large audience.

The highlight was hearing President George H. W. Bush deliver the keynote speech.

The event culminated with relighting the beacon atop the monument and a spectacular fireworks display. It was the first time the beacon was shown bright since being cut off during the Second World War.

 

Mirlo Commemoration

Cape Hatteras is well known for it’s proximity with the offshore waters known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Over the centuries there have been numerous documented shipwrecks and loss of life. Most of these have been weather related incidents, but some were a result of German U-Boat activity off our coast during both world wars.

One of the most notable was the daring rescue of 42 British sailors by personel from Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station in Rodanthe. On August 16, 1918, the tanker Mirlo, carrying a load of fuel for the war effort in Europe, was struck several miles offshore by a torpedo fired by the U-117. The explosion split the tanker in two, setting the sea aflame.

Hair-raising details of the event can be found at www.Chicamacomico.org

The Mirlo Rescue was led by Captain John Allen Midgett, the officer in charge at Chicamacomico. He was accompanied by 5 surfmen: Zion Midgett, Arthur Midgett, Prochorus O’Neal, Clarence Midgett and Leroy Midgett. They were all awarded Gold Lifesaving medals from the British Government and the American Grand Cross of Honor. It has gone down as one of the most heroic rescues in the history of the United States Coast Guard.

As a former president and board member of Chicamacomico Historical Association, I attended the recent centennial commemoration of the Mirlo Rescue.

The day began with the raising of colors of Britain and the United States.

Chicamacomico Station was all decked out.

Dignitaries representing the British Government, U.S.  Coast Guard and descendants of the rescuers and were on hand to pay their respects.

The newly restored Bebe-McClelland Surfboat used in the rescue was on display in the original 1874 station.

The event was culminated, as reenactment surfmen carried a wreath on the beach cart out toward the ocean.  At the same time the U.S. Coast Guard out of Elizabeth City Air Station conducted a flyover.

The wreath was then transferred to the Chicamacomico Water Rescue Team’s jet ski, and handed over to an awaiting Coast Guard vessel.

The Coast Guard then committed the commemorative wreath to the sea, miles offshore at the site of the famous Mirlo Rescue, a hundred years to the day.

In a final tribute: Left to right.                                                                                                               David Hallac, Superintendent Cape Hatteras National Seashore.                                                     Admiral Todd Sokalzuk, Deputy Commander U S Coast Guard Atlantic Area                         Colonel Laura Fogelsong, U S Air Force retired and great grand daughter of John Allen Midgett Commander Richard Underwood, British Royal Navy                                                               Matthew Shepard, Chaplain U S Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City