Category Archives: People

Beach Walker

Charley was a minimal hurricane that went up the Pamlico Sound in August of 1986. Hatteras Island was evacuated and the sound tide rose to a moderately high level. It wasn’t devastating at all. But like many storms it gave me an opportunity to shoot a series of photographs, hoping to get at least one that might be memorable for me.

As Charley passed, I hit the Rodanthe oceanfront to encounter a strolling beachcomber. He didn’t notice me and I waited for a good set of waves to record a moment in passing.

A Legacy of Bravery

Moving to Rodanthe decades ago, I noticed how common the name Midgett was. Businesses were owned by Midgetts or their descendants. My first 3 landlords were Midgetts, and ultimately the property that I bought to build my house, was purchased from the Clarence Midgett family. Many of my friends have had, or descended from families with, that same last name. It’s believed that the first Midgett to arrive here in the 1600’s was likely a shipwreck survivor.

The family is engrained in local history. Many enlisted in the early US Lifesaving Service, and later the Coast Guard. Heroic deeds of the Midgetts on the Outer Banks have been well- documented. Most renowned is the Mirlo Rescue of 1918 led by John Allen Midgett, Jr. from Chicamacomico Station.  For this act of valor, Midgett and his 5-man crew were awarded prestigious Gold Lifesaving Medals and Grand Crosses of the American Cross of Honor. In 1921, the British government bestowed Gold Lifesaving Medals to the men as well as a silver cup to Keeper Midgett from the Board of Trade.

In 1971, to honor the former keeper at Chicamacomico, a 378-foot Hero-class Coast Guard Cutter was launched, named John Allen Midgett, Jr. Since then it has served the varied missions of the modern day Coast Guard. It continues to do so, currently using the name,  John Midgett.

Earlier this month a new US Coast Guard Cutter was docked at Nauticus in Norfolk for a pre- commissioning ceremony. Midgett descendants and friends were invited to tour the newly christened John Allen Midgett, Jr. At 418 feet, it’s a Legend-class cutter whose mission is maritime homeland security, law enforcement, marine safety, environmental protection and national defense. It is the successor to the first Midgett Cutter and is to be based in Honolulu where it will be commissioned next month.

Everything about the John Allen Midgett, Jr. is strictly business.

A 57 millimeter gun turret sits on the foredeck.

Gunner’s Mate Patrick Reinholz displayed a mounted machine gun and took questions on the port side.

Maritime Enforcement Specialists Francisco Rubio (in front) and Michael Midgette explained their roles and weaponry. Midgette, originally from Manteo, is a descendent. There have been several spelling variations of the Midgett name going back to common ancestry.

The stern launch held one of two cutter boats. This is the 35-foot Long Range Interceptor.

A state-of-the-art control panel on the bridge reminded me of a powerfully sophisticated video game.

Captain Alan McCabe addressed visiting guests and crew on the ship’s helicopter pad.

The ship’s Sponsor is Jazania O’Neal, granddaughter of Captain John Allen Midgett, Jr. She initialed the keel plate as the  John Allen Midgett, Jr. was being built. Jonna Midgette is Jazania’s daughter and Matron of Honor. They will travel to Hawaii for the commissioning.

From the bridge, I photographed the assembled family descendants and crew. At 98 years old, the eldest was Lovie Midgett of Rodanthe. She attended the commissioning of the original Cutter in 1972.

Despite the new Cutter’s actual namesake, it is a tribute to all Midgetts with connections to the Coast Guard, as well as all Outer Bankers who take pride in local history and lifesaving.

Touring the ship was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

 

Belle Swell

The first week of August 1976, as a tropical system was approaching Hatteras, I was living in a flimsy mobile home behind the dunes in Salvo. By the 8th, the storm had developed into a major hurricane with winds peaking at 120 mph. Hurricane Belle was the first storm, since I’d moved to Hatteras Island, that had people suddenly evacuating.

My neighbors, Johnny and Linda Hooper, welcomed me into their brick home where I spent the night as the center passed within 60 miles offshore. The next day as Belle sped northward, winds shifted more westerly as huge swells poured ashore. Conditions were favorable for some great surf.

With a board and photography equipment in the microbus, I headed to the lighthouse, the only spot to handle such radical conditions. It was tumultuous and defied my skill as a surfer. Not many were able to paddle out past the giant breaking waves. Discouraged surfers washed in on the beach and only watched. Not many were successful in making waves at all.

From the dunes I took a few pictures with a 650mm Century lens attached to a tripod-mounted Nikon.  The best ride I saw was when Terry Metts of Frisco, dropped in on, what some would call, a solid ten-footer. Tall and lanky, he was barely halfway down the face and it was still well over his head. He had the skill, stamina and the board to pull it off. Brian Jones also a Frisco surfer, lay prone on the face of the wave, hoping for the best, while another paddler punched through the cresting lip. It was chaotic with constant, relentless swells. By the end of the day, Belle swells were pretty much gone.

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. The Herters decoys were made of balsa with pine heads. It was then that Burt showed me how to tie a bowline knot. There were two knots per decoy, one knot on the decoy end and another on the anchored end. After a few hundred decoys, I could do it without even looking.

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 was done in orderly fashion. It took a while, especially in adverse conditions. Here Mark McCracken hands canvas goose decoys to Burt stacking them in the skiff. Beyond is a 24-foot workboat called the Anytime. It was built in Avon by Willy Austin and featured an air-cooled 4-cylinder Wisconsin engine. It’s flat bottom had a tunnel astern to tuck the prop neatly underneath. It could run in a foot of water, and had a beautifully shaped sheer profile!

Cap’m 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. Burt and Raymond both had a lasting effect on my life and helped steer me where I am today.

 

 

 

No Shark Fishing

Back in the seventies shark fishing was relatively popular, but as time went on there was less and less of it. One thing for certain was that you could walk out on the Rodanthe pier and count on seeing some friends. They were usually fishing for king mackerel, cobia or red drum. Throw in an occasional Budweiser and everyone was happy.

The  steamy Summer day I snapped this picture in 1987 was no exception. Russell Warren on the left  was in good company with a shirtless CE Midgett. The other three guys I recognize, but don’t recall their names.

Even to this day, Russell can still be found at the end of the pier.