Category Archives: Animals

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!

 

 

Dogs Gone Fishing

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!

 

Critters

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.

barnacles                                      Barnacles grow abundantly on the reef.

anemone Sea anemones wave arms in the moving current.

eggs A blenny laid it’s eggs in an empty oyster shell.

oyster toad Reef inhabitants include young oyster toads.

mud crab Mud crabs find a bountiful food supply in and around the reef.

spider Spider crabs are common residents.

stone crab I’m also finding some stone crabs in the system.

snappers One of the most interesting critters in the mix are the snapping shrimp. About 2 inches long, they look like a small lobster.

butterfly One late Summer day, I caught and released this butterfly fish.

shucked 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.

 

 

Another Abduction

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.


Missing in Action

Just recently, a neighbor did something that I could hardly imagine. It involved the trapping of 2 of my cats. Fortunately, after a week’s absence, we recovered one. Another cat is still at large.

I am circulating a poster throughout the tri-villages, in hopes of finding him. You should note he’s a polydactyl, meaning he has 6 toes on his front paws. If you know anyone in the area, please forward this to them.

We thank you.