My friend Eric caught this horseshoe crab in his nets. In order to grow, it was shedding its hardshell to temporarily become a soft-shell. Island life constantly reveals wonders in nature.
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.
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.
The deserts are to die for!
The appearance of Old Buck is an evening highlight.
Kids love meeting him.
One of the best things one can experience is companionship. As pets, dogs are cherished and devoted to their owners. Years ago when I became associated with locals that fished commercially, I noticed a number of them taking dogs out on the water.
The harbor at Rodanthe was a pretty busy place back then. There were gill-netters, crabbers and long haulers working out of that spot, better known locally as The Creek. In the Summer of 1980, brothers Collins and Belton Gray ran their long haul rig out of Rodanthe. In this photo Belton, Sr and son Belton, Jr contemplate after packing out their day’s catch. I don’t recall the name of their black lab standing on the bow.
Dale Midgett ran the fish house and packed out the daily catches for Jimmy Austin Seafood Company with his loyal companion, Titus.
Another fishing friend of mine was Roger Woolyhan. He worked out of The Creek and had just begun a career in commercial fishing after moving here from Delaware in the 70’s. He bought an old wooden skiff and learned to hang his nets. I went fishing with him a number of times and got one of my favorite shots in Spring of 1977.
His female black lab was named Moose. She went everywhere with him fishing, surfing or shopping. It made no difference to her, as long as she was close.
By 1987 after I had finished building my home in Waves, a regular visitor was a young boy named Brian Midgett. He and his extended family lived on property adjacent to mine, and still do. My Chesapeake Bay Retriver named Boca loved Brian and they frequently played in the creek behind his grandparents’ place. Boca always wanted to be in the water.
Boca was a big, beautiful Chessie and I took him whenever I foraged the sound for oysters. When he found a terrapin trapped in this abandoned crab pot, we released the poor struggling critter.
Another creek in Salvo belonged to Burgess Hooper. He was born, raised and fished there all his life. With his wife Zanovah, they owned property and rental units. I used to help him on maintenance and building projects. We were pretty close and he loved his canine companion, Princess. She fished with him every time he went out on the Pamlico Sound.
Burgess was an old school Hatterasman and still fished with traditional cotton nets.
Princess anticipating catches from the bow, had sea legs. She was truly a man’s best friend… unconditionally!
About ten years ago, I began nurturing an oyster garden. It has not been without some pitfalls like high wave action, sedimentation and algae blooms. But despite that, the oysters have thrived and grown into a series of small reefs. The reefs attract a myriad of other organisms, not just oysters. As the oysters spawn and grow, so does the size and complexity of the reef.
I take water quality data around the reefs twice a week and submit the information to researchers at UNCW and ECU. I see shrimp and fish interacting with the reefs. One day measuring salinity, I stood in waist deep water with a school of taylor blues swimming circles around me. I’ve also seen green sea turtles feeding there.
Some critters live inside the oyster itself, like the pea crab in the oyster on the right. In it’s protected environment, the crab feeds on plankton brought in by the oyster and it’s relationship is parasitic. Locally, the pea crab in an oyster is deemed a culinary delicacy.
My next door neighbor is responsible for these hideously cruel abductions. Being a commercial fisherman, he sets his traps, baited with lots of fresh fish, on his property, within 80 feet of my house. He says that he’d never kill a cat, yet two weeks ago he admitted to have caught 7 or 8 cats, and releasing them miles away. We are still hopeful of recovering our precious felines. I am circulating another poster and have lots of folks in the community on the alert.