Category Archives: People

Old Christmas 2021

Where I live, the celebration of Old Christmas has been a certainty every new year. I’ve heard that it’s been going on for over a hundred years, and probably longer. This year it would have been on January 2nd, except for the pandemic. It was cancelled for the first time ever.  

The festivities normally take place from the afternoon and into the night. I have to admit my favorite part of it, other than the appearance of Old Buck, is the oyster roast.

This year to compensate, I collected a bucket of oysters from Pamlico Sound and had them on my front porch. I gave some away and ate the rest.

I shucked a panful for the oven.

The flavor of a chilled, raw Pamlico Sound oyster is unsurpassed.

I missed sharing them with my friends, like this feast from 2009.

I also missed greeting Old Buck.

The next day I went to an empty community building where Old Christmas would have been celebrated. It was stark with nothing to clean up after what would have been a night of revelry.

I visited a monument nearby dedicated to our working watermen and thought about my friends that have lost their lives to the sea.

Eddie O’Neal, Dennis Midgett, Ed Corley, Russ Privott and Mike Midgett came to mind.

Eagles

October has long been my favorite month to live on Hatteras. The weather and waves are an important part of this feeling, but another reason is to experience bird migrations. You never know what might show up.

Recently I heard of a bald eagle in Salvo, so I went to have a look. Across the Pamlico Sound the area of Mattamuskeet is a prime nesting ground for these majestic birds, so it’s no surprise that some of them find their way across the water to Hatteras Island where they can find an abundance of fish.

In my years living here, I’ve seen eagles perhaps a dozen times. My first sighting was one that had been injured, then rehabilitated and released on Pea Island.

In August of 1981 I shot this Kodachrome of Refuge Manager Ron Height, as he released this immature bald eagle.

Buoys

Exploring the coast one may notice some curious artifacts. Some are natural and others are manmade. People collect shells, driftwood or beach glass. They’re all brought in by the sea. Some of my favorite collectables are the buoys from fishing nets and crab pots. They’re usually derelict from lost fishing gear and can be found at any time, but especially after storms.

I like displaying them from trees in my yard.

Some hang from an old trawl net that I found years ago.

Some of them are very special to me, like this one that belonged to Mac Midgett.

I D Midgett is my next door neighbor and has fished all his life.

Another buoy belonged to my good friend and neighbor Eric Anglin. He still brings me fish.

Recently this gem was given to me by Steve Ryan. It was Les Hooper’s buoy. Les and Steve were neighbors. Les is gone now, but his spirit remains.

I also have a buoy from Rudy Gray of Waves. He no longer fishes commercially, but is still an accomplished angler.

A few months ago I got a call from Roger Wooleyhan who fishes commercially in Delaware. His fishing buddy, Layton Moore has another fishing friend who came across this buoy in his net near Ocean City, Maryland. It’s a crab pot buoy that belonged to my friend Asa Gray also of Waves. Asa passed away about 2 years ago, and he was Rudy’s brother.

I can only imagine how this arrived so far away. It’s reminiscent of a message in a bottle. It must have flowed from Pamlico Sound into the Atlantic, up the coast and through Ocean City Inlet and on to Isle of Wight Bay. Maybe it hitched a ride snagged to a rudder. At any rate, that’s some journey!

 

Stumpy Point Oyster Feast

The town of Stumpy Point is the southernmost village on the Dare County mainland. It borders Pamlico Sound and it’s earliest inhabitants may have been Native Americans involved in fishing. Even today, well off the beaten path, Stumpy Point has deep roots in commercial fishing. For 35 years, the town has become known for hosting what has become one of the most popular oyster celebrations in the area.

Last Saturday, the Stumpy Point Oyster Feast began at noon, while visitors from near and far lined up outside the community building.

The line was long, but moved quickly.

Inside volunteers dished out a traditional dinner of fried fish and oysters.

An adjacent building was set up with long tables, paper towels and condiments to cater to the most enthusiastic connoisseurs.

The star of the show was bushels of oysters going into a highly efficient steamer.

Each steamer box held two bushel baskets.

After a mere seven minutes they were perfectly cooked.

The hot oysters were dumped onto trays ready to serve the masses.

It was an “all you can eat” affair.

People could’t get enough and the steamers kept coming.

In the end, all the spent shells are recycled back to the sea where new ones will hopefully attach and grow. Providing substrate for new oysters is crucial to their survival and to our enjoyment.

 

 

Old Christmas 2020

For most, the holiday season ends with a celebration of New Year’s Day. But in the villages where I live, many of us extend the festivity to  another lesser known holiday. Old Christmas is a remnant of the Julian carried over to the Gregorian calendar. In Rodanthe it occurs the first Saturday after New Year’s Day, has a local history dating back a couple hundred years, and is celebrated at our community building.

Originally an early 1900’s schoolhouse, the building has been renovated and expanded to serve the community.

Festivities start with the oyster shoot where participants fire shotguns at paper targets. Whoever has a pellet closest to the bullseye wins a bag of oysters.

Folks mill around and wait for their turn to shoot.

Young Owen O’Neal tries his luck at a bag of oysters. Old Christmas has long been part of his family heritage.

                                        Santa wants a bag of oysters too.

Skating is an activity recently added to the events.

 Joey O’Neal shovels oysters roasting on his homemade grills.

  Eddie O’Neal and Eric Anglin are some of the first to shuck a few.

Empty shells begin to pile up under the table.

                                      Phillip Beck shucks one out for a youngster.

Cooks in the kitchen prepare a traditional meal of stewed chicken and pie bread.

The deserts are to die for!

   By the time night falls, the shells continue to fall.

Joey has gotten his groove on the grills. I’d give him an A+.

Back inside, the band Chicamacomico plays on in anticipation of Old Buck.

Justin O’Neal prepares the legendary bull before entering. Like ancestors before him, Justin has become Old Buck’s latest caretaker.

The appearance of Old Buck is an evening highlight.

Kids love meeting him.

Briggs McEwen sets his son on Old Buck’s back for a fun ride. But as soon as he came, he’s quickly gone for another year.

    In the end, I asked if Old Buck needed a ride home, so we loaded him into the back of my Toyota. It was another Merry Old Christmas!