Category Archives: history

Mac Midgett

Hatteras Island has produced a unique breed of people. The isolation, especially before a bridge was built, required residents to be particularly resilient. To say they are interesting folks is an understatement. Among the most colorful characters I ever met was Mac Midgett. He was a big man with a heart of gold.

His stature could intimidate people, but once you got to know him those feelings faded. Born and bred in the village of Rodanthe, he was a part of the place. Everyone knew or knew of him.

With his wife Marilyn, he built a business that was essential for providing goods and services to locals and visitors alike. He was a caring person and that became more evident when he ran for county commissioner and won a seat on the board. He got things done because he put his heart into it.

I took this picture in 1978 when Mac had been fishing his nets with Dalton O’Neal. They were just arriving at the Creek in Rodanthe to unload their catch.

In 1984 I caught him taking a break in his dory after beach fishing.

                                The Old Christmas celebration in January of 2000 found Mac leading Ole Buck around the dance floor. It was unusual in that Ole Buck’s normal caretaker John Edgar, was indisposed that night.

It was a sad day in 2006 when Mac passed away. He was iconic. I thought he’d be here forever. In a way, he’s still around, because he was so much larger than life.

 

 

The Writing on the Wall

Growing up as a Navy dependent, I was almost always near the ocean. Yet I never met a commercial fisherman until I moved to Hatteras Island. My first encounter was in 1974 when a new found friend, Bruce Midgett, took me along to fish his gill nets off Bay Landing, south of Salvo.

I brought my Yashica camera along and took a few shots. I’ve always been excited looking at this picture of Bruce holding a speckled trout. It revealed another world to me and I’ve embraced the small commercial fisherman ever since.

Early one morning in 1978, 65 year-old Burgess Hooper took me fishing on the Pamlico Sound. I was impressed at his knowledge and vitality out on the water.

                                My favorite shot came later that morning while Burgess hauled in his favorite cotton net, made for catching bluefish. He always took Princess with him. She was just as anxious to see what was caught. Burgess passed away about ten years later, and a week after that Princess died.

In 1977, my good friend Roger Wooleyhan was also fishing the Pamlico Sound and he always took his faithful black lab, Moose.

Calm water usually means not much of a catch, but the glassy conditions always make for a pleasant boat ride.

                              A 1985 assignment for an Outer Banks Magazine story, hooked me up with crabber Scott Bridges pulling his pots near Hatteras Inlet.

The labor of a commercial fisherman never ends. Maintenance of gear is a constant. I happened to visit Bruce Midgett at home in 1982 as he was mending a pound net.

In the Fall of 1982 I was driving by Bay Landing and stopped to watch Raymond Midgett and his son Robin, also known as Tater, hauling in after drifting a gill net.

The Spring of 1980, I tried a stint at commercial fishing and did okay. As I was fishing a net, Burgess Hooper dropped by to say hello. A week later my motor broke down and he had to tow me in. The commercial fishermen looked out for one another and generously gave fish to their friends and neighbors.

Today with commercial fishing, the writing is on the wall. Times have changed. They are being more regulated and eventually their livelihoods will be jeopardized, if not gone. I’ve been a witness to something that will not happen again as it did decades ago.

 

Days of Old Christmas Past

When I first moved to Rodanthe, I heard about Old Christmas. It took me a while to understand the roots of this tradition and it’s anachronism to modern times. Dating back perhaps 200 years, it has much to do with the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar and the isolation of the Outer Banks.

I’ve enjoyed Old Christmas over the years and have never seen anything quite like it. These days it consists of an oyster roast, dinner, music, dancing and anything that might come with it.

Decades old photographs that I shot at the event have become windows into a vintage past. Most of the pictures shown here were taken in 1985.

j-henryLocals gathered at the Community Building parking lot to begin celebrating. Anderson Midgett is on the far right checking out a shotgun. Jim Henry, the grey-haired man in the middle who did much at Chicamacomico Station, loved mingling with the crowd.

timIt almost took a village to start a fire for roasting salty oysters. Tim Merritt looks on as Larry Midgett and Rudy Gray get cooking.

dbBill Midgett, DB Midgett and John Edgar Herbert tailgated at the oyster shoot.

larryLarry Midgett took aim to win a bushel of oysters.

jobob“Jobob” Fegundes and Bruce Midgett shared responsibilities over the fire.

macEveryone enjoyed the oyster roast, including Mac and Steve Midgett.

old-buckAnd of course the culmination was the appearance of Old Buck, here being led by John Edgar. There are 2 well-known photographers in this shot too. Drew Wilson, a staff photographer for the Virginian Pilot is on the right wearing a brown hat. David Alan Harvey, a staffer for National Geographic, is behind the man in the tan sweater sitting on the stage. David was loading more film. So I was shooting in good company that night.

This year Old Christmas will be on January 7th, beginning with an afternoon oyster shoot, and continuing into the night.

In Rodanthe, Christmas is celebrated twice a year.

Salvo Relics

There were some things  around in the 70’s, remnants of folks living in Salvo long before me. In retrospect I wish I had taken a lot more pictures of those relics. Each year that goes by brings change. In with the new, yet the old ways deteriorate and eventually are gone. I always enjoyed the rural feeling, especially in the village of Salvo. There were remains there that I saw nowhere else.

mr. perry's                                            The old homesteads were simple and functional. Mr. Perry Farrow’s place was a hundred yards from a trailer that I rented. Cisterns were a common source for water. They called it sweet water.

whidbee houseAt the south end of town, the Whidbee place sat in a gorgeous, well sheltered maritime forest. Years later when the surrounding property was sold to a developer, most of that pristine forest was cut down.

outhouse                                        Nearby stood an outhouse that no longer served a purpose.

fire truckThe Salvo fire truck was parked in a lot next to the long-abandoned Community Store that was beginning to fall apart.miss kitty'sI never met Miss Kitty, but her old home next to Dan Leary’s store was covered in briars, honeysuckle and poison ivy.

church                                      One of the most well-maintained buildings in town was the “Little Church with a Big God”. I remember hearing about Lucy Hooper salvaging timbers from shipwrecks to build it. She was a pillar in the community and by the time I met her, she was getting quite old.

hattie creefIn the old days, the Hattie Creef was a mainstay of Outer Banks travel, and even played a role in bringing the Wright Brothers to Kill Devil Hills for their first flights. The boat was brought to Salvo and made into a most unusual restaurant.

fishermen                                    Fathers fished for a living and passed it down to their sons. One day in 1975, I watched as I D Midgett was getting underway from a Salvo creek in a wooden skiff with his sons. This just doesn’t happen here any more.

 

 

 

 

Winter Storm

Last week, forecasters predicted a low pressure system to develop into a major winter storm for the east coast. Things turned out as expected with snow dumped to the north of us in dramatic amounts. At home, we had just over an inch of cold rain backed by some gale force winds. Oceanfront properties were threatened by large waves but little damage. Sound front properties saw tide surges of about 3 feet as west winds kicked in.

houseOn Saturday the seas were still running with strong westerlies blowing into the swells. This house at Mirlo Beach was awfully close to the action.

wavesThe surf and clouds were stunning.

offshoreWave tops were feathering nicely.

cemeterySadly on the sound side, seas were once again beating the shoreline at an old family cemetery in the Salvo day use area. Headstones and crypts were inundated and falling in the water. Other than that, this winter storm posed no serious problems.

The biggest winter storm I’ve seen here occurred 35 years ago in March of 1980. A coastal low was right on us as temperatures plummeted below freezing, accompanied by a foot of snow with northeast winds gusting to a hundred miles an hour. The blizzard brought white out conditions with zero visibility. Sea tide mixed with floating ice and snow flowed through Rodanthe.

hwy 12Bruce Midgett rescued Robin Gerald from his old house surrounded by 3 feet of tide and drove him to higher ground.

cottageThe Queen Cottage was one of the few oceanfront houses in north Rodanthe. I took this picture from the roof of my place with a 400mm lens. The cottage was eventually washed away in a later storm and no longer exists.

oceanAs seas washed around the Queen Cottage, I shot this picture from the deck. The ocean was breaking all the way to the horizon.

my houseLooking back from the Queen Cottage I photographed my house amid streets of sea water and ice.

I had never seen a storm like that before, nor have I seen one quite like it since.