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Three Curious Children

Ocracoke Island Journal - Wed, 05/28/2014 - 04:50
I recently discovered an interesting newspaper article re-printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, dated January 10, 1879. Originally published in the Tarboro (NC) Southerner, the article was titled "Three Curious North Carolina Children."

The article is about three children of my great-grandparents James Howard (1839-1904) & Zilphia Howard (1841-1919). The three children are my grandfather, Homer Howard, (1868-1947), Sabra Howard (1870-1951), and Wheeler Howard (1874-1940).

Herewith the article:

"A remarkable case of defective vision is that of three children of James Howard, a seafaring man, whose family live on Ocracoke Island. They become totally blind each day, immediately after the sun goes down. If by chance they happen to be in the yard playing when the sun sets, their playthings are instantly laid aside, and efforts made to reach the house, when they soon after retire, and sleep soundly until sunrise, after which their sight is described as being restored, and to all appearances perfectly unimpaired. The youngest is three and the eldest ten years old -- two boys and one girl, all of light complexion. Their eyes are light blue and there is nothing about them that appears at all strange."

On first reading I thought this an extremely odd story. I had never heard about anything of the sort. Nor had cousin Blanche. She thought perhaps the children were playing a prank on their parents, or maybe my great grandfather was playing a prank on the reporter. We laughed about other mischief the Howards were known for.

However, after a bit of research I discovered that a deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to a condition called "nightime blindness." This is what Wikipedia has to say:

"Nyctalopia (from Greek νύκτ-, nykt- 'night'; αλαός, alaos 'blind, not seeing', and ὄψ, ops 'eye') also called 'Night Blindness' is a condition making it difficult or impossible to see in relatively low light. It is a symptom of several eye diseases. Night blindness may exist from birth, or be caused by injury or malnutrition (for example, a lack of vitamin A). It can be described as insufficient adaptation to darkness."

Given Ocracoke's remote location and the difficulty islanders sometimes had obtaining fresh vegetables, I wouldn't be surprised if the children had a Vitamin A deficiency.

Remember when your mamma told you to eat your carrots to help you see better? Carrots are a good source of Vitamin A.

The connection between night blindness and vitamin A was not made until 1925. L. S. Fridericia and E. Holm figured it out.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

Poison Ivy

Ocracoke Island Journal - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 05:10
It is that time of year again! Poison Ivy has erupted in various places around the island...along footpaths, climbing on fences, in overgrown lots. This photo of a thriving patch of the dreaded weed was taken earlier in the month along the Hammock Hills Nature Trail (across from the NPS campground).















As long as you can identify this luxurious, bright green, three-leafed plant, and don't go tromping through the woods in short pants, you probably needn't worry about breaking out in a rash. Even on the Nature Trail it is easy to avoid the poison ivy if you simply keep your eyes open!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

Don't Believe...

Ocracoke Island Journal - Mon, 05/26/2014 - 04:42
...everything you read!

Many readers of this blog may be familiar with Ben Dixon MacNeill's 1958 book, The Hatterasman. One on-line reviewer described it as "a history of the Outer Banks" written in a "journalistic style."

MacNeill does include much Hatteras and Ocracoke history, but be wary of his facts and details. This is what he wrote about Edward Teach and the Ocracoke Island Howards:

"Howard was quartermaster aboard Captain Edward Teach's Queene Anne's Revenge when she had her misfortuned duel with Lieutenant Maynard [actually former quartermaster William Howard was in jail in Williamsburg, Virginia at that time] in what has become Teach's Hole at the western end of the second Island, just beyond Ocracoke village. Howard went over the side when his captain fell, traditionally with a silver goblet containing grog [a fanciful tale if there ever was one]. He swam ashore and lost himself among the native population [as far as we can tell, no one was living on Ocracoke when Blackbeard's final battle took place, in 1718].

"Henry [?] Howard lost himself but not his silver cup, which is preserved, after 238 years, by his descendant who owns also the High Point of the Hills [this is a dune 4.5 miles south of Buxton, on Hatteras Island, not Ocracoke], and there is nowhere a more satisfying vessel [unfortunately, I've never heard of it] than this when its outside is fretted with cold sweat and inside it is a compounding of ice, fresh leaves of mint, and some ancestral rum that has lived its long and respected life in a wooden keg [a mighty elaborate beverage for islanders who traditionally indulged in nothing more sophisticated than homemade meal wine]."

Oh well, MacNeill does preface his book with these honest words: "This is not a history. I am not a historian...."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

A River of an Ocean

Ocracoke Island Journal - Sun, 05/25/2014 - 04:28
A while ago I mentioned Simon Winchester's book, Atlantic.

Celebrating the magnificent diversity of this colossal body of sea water, Winchester pens these stirring words:

"[T]he Atlantic Ocean [is] a sinuous snakelike river of an ocean, stretching thousands of miles from the Stygian fogs of the north to the Roaring Forties in the south, riven with deeps in its western chasms, dangerous with shallows in eastern plains, a place of cod and flying fish, of basking sharks and blue-finned tuna, of gyres of Sargasso weed and gyres of unborn hurricanes, a placed of icebergs and tides, whirlpools and sandbanks, submarine canyons and deep-sea black smokers and ridges and seamounts, of capes and rises and fracture zones, of currents hot, cold, torrential, and languorous, of underwater volcanoes and earthquakes, of stromatolites and cyanobacteria and horseshoe crabs, of seabird colonies, of penguins and polar bears and manta rays, of giant squid and jellyfish and their slow-and-steady southern majesties, the great and glorious wandering albatrosses."

Such it is!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

A Memorable Musical Week

Ocracoke Island Journal - Sat, 05/24/2014 - 05:00
Recent island buzz has centered around Julia Howard's musical, A Tale of Blackbeard. Revived after a two-decades-long hiatus, the play, with a new cast under the direction of Charles Temple and Desiree Ricker, delighted audiences with four outstanding performances last week, redefining community theater for islanders and visitors alike.

The musical will continue with Monday night shows from June 9 - August 11. More information is available here: http://www.ocrafolkfestival.org/blackbeard. To read Susan Dodd's review please click here: http://www.ocracokecurrent.com/87933.

Below are a few photographs of a recent performance taken by island resident Brenda Kremser.

Matthew Tolson, Blackbeard
Derek Gilliam, Pirate
Bill Jones & Trisha Davis,
Mr. Farthingham & Miss Euphemia

Mariah Temple & Samantha Styron,
Katherine & Elizabeth
Waylon Underwood & Kade Nagakane,
Richard Evans & Pirate
Ezekiel & Marjorie,
Bill Cole & Katy Mitchell
Sierra Winstead, Chrisi Gaskill,
Lori Masaitis, Caroline Temple,
& Callie Davisson,
Village Girls
Blackbeard & Richard Dueling

































































































































Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

Dance

Ocracoke Island Journal - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 04:52
I recently discovered The Square Dance History Project.  I even submitted a contribution: my booklet describing the traditional Ocracoke Island Square Dance. Curious about the connection between our island dance and Appalachian Big Circle dances I explored the site.

I soon discovered a 1987/2013 article about "Set Running, a Southern Folk Dance," by John M. Ramsay. 

Ramsay's article is titled SOUTHERN FOLK DANCE, and may be found here: http://squaredancehistory.org/files/original/283940993da3e0bbe509b292bb29ad58.pdf.














So much about the dances that Ramsay describes are identical or very similar to the format of the Ocracoke dance. Ramsay's final words echo our sentiments about why we continue to keep our island dance tradition alive:

"On the [modern] dance floor, the circle has given way and dancers have become lonely dots often in a grid formation.

"There are signs that people are beginning to realize the price which has been paid for 'do your own thing.' There is growing interest in the dances of our ancestors which can teach us to join hands again. The message of the circle is still strong. It can speak to us again. It is interesting to see the reaction of pre- teenage boys and girls to an opportunity to run a set in the old way. In that unsure age, between the openness of childhood and the acculturated world of adults, youth at first resist the circle as an alien experience. But, within five minutes of creating the circle, propelled through society's hangups by natural curiosity and by traditional music, their faces begin to relax, smiles break out and they understand, more readily than adults, the powerful and wholesome message of the circle. Our dance circle is still there, a cultural residual which has weathered many changes of society. It is ready to help us put community life back together. 'All hands up and circle left!'"

If you will be on the island during the upcoming OcraFolk Festival be sure to grab a partner, join us on the dance floor, and swing your partner!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm
Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

Firemen's Ball

Ocracoke Island Journal - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 05:02
The ninth annual Ocracoke Volunteer Firemen’s Ball will be held this Saturday, May 24.

The Firemen's Ball was started years ago when a couple of talented musicians who love Ocracoke gathered to play music and raise some money for a good cause. Since then the original group (The Dune Dogs) out of Raleigh, NC, with the help of local band The Ocracoke Rockers, have come together every year to make this fundraiser a huge success.

Bidding at the Auction















Not only is it a good time, it is an important fundraiser for the fire department. Thanks to the continued support of sponsors, donors and volunteers, last year’s ball was again very successful. Together it raised $76,220 – and netted after expenses over $68,000 for the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department Building Fund!

Come on out to the Community Center on Saturday, and help support our Volunteer Fire Department.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
  •  4:30-6:30 Silent Auction 
  • 5:00-6:30 Pig Pickin' Or until food runs out, which it always does - plates are $12, and include a drink. Inside, donations accepted for cold beer generously donated by City Beverage Co. 
  • 7:00 Live Auction 
  • 8:30 Live Music (Donations to get in accepted at the door)
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Vera....

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Wed, 05/21/2014 - 04:55
    ...or Charlie?

    In 1921 & 1922 the curious story of Charles Irvin Williams, Ocracoke Island native who was raised as a girl (for 21 years family, friends & neighbors knew him as Vera), was published in newspapers across America, including North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York.

    You can read the whole story in our latest Ocracke Newsletter: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Wococon

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 04:27
    In 1585 John White drew a map of the New World. A small island along the coast is labeled "Wococon."

    On subsequent maps, until 1706, the island was variously called Wokokon, Wococock, Wosoton, and Wocoton. Two maps, in 1672 & 1675 respectively, used the unusual spelling "Okok."

    By 1709 the "W" had been permanently dropped, resulting in Ocacok, Occacoke, Occeh, Ocreecock, Oakerccok, and a few other variations.

    The first instance of our current spelling that I am aware of, Ocracoke, dates to an 1852 map by A.D. Bache. By the end of the Civil War that spelling had become standardized. Nevertheless, native islanders can still be heard referring to our home island as O'cock or Ocreecoke.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Clam Rakes

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Mon, 05/19/2014 - 04:51
    A reader recently asked about clam rakes. When I was a youngster we used iron rakes like the one in the photo below. The tines were an eighth of an inch thick, and rusted easily. After several hours they became a burden to push.

    Old Clam Rake


















    Nowadays almost everyone uses rakes with tines fashioned from stainless steel table knife blades. They are less than half the thickness of the old tines, and are resistant to rust. The table knife blades cut through the sandy bottom almost effortlessly. Clamming is much easier now!

    New Clam Rake


















    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.

    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Oxalis

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Sun, 05/18/2014 - 05:15
    In1942 the Navy dredged Ocracoke's harbor (Cockle Creek/Silver Lake) in order to create a navigable basin for their vessels. In the process, they pumped many cubic yards of sand into adjacent yards and wetlands. This created what some of us jokingly call "nice high land."

    My yard is the farthest extent the sand was pumped toward the southeast of the harbor. As a result, I have to dig down ten or so inches to find darker, richer soil, so it is difficult to grow much in my front yard.

    Nevertheless, these hardy oxalis plants are thriving beside my fence.  















    They go to sleep every evening, then wake back up in the morning to welcome the new day.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Instructions

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Sat, 05/17/2014 - 04:39
    In 1921 the US Government Printing Office published "Instructions for United States Coast Guard Stations." The duties and responsibilities of surfmen included the following:

    "A surfman on lookout...shall not sit down, lie down, sleep, read, entertain visitors, or do anything else that will tend to interfere with the proper discharge of his duties... He shall not take into the lookout any book, paper, pamphlet, or other reading matter, or any chair, stool, bench, or other seat, nor shall he permit any such article or articles or any person not connected with the service in the lookout while he is on watch."

    US Coast Guard Station, Portsmouth Island














    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    The Atlantic

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Fri, 05/16/2014 - 05:10
    Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008, science fiction writer, past Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the Academy of Astronautics & the Royal Astronomical Society) is purported to have said, "How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean."

    Living on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, as we do here on Ocracoke Island, does not always impress us with the true immensity of this vast body of water. Our daily lives are centered around the village, and only a few of us venture off-shore. Those who do, generally go to fishing areas in the Gulf Stream, about 25 miles from land.















    Simon Winchester, in his 2010 book, Atlantic, reminds us how "incalculably large the Atlantic happens to be."

    Winchester observes that "A big ocean -- and the Atlantic is a very big ocean indeed -- has the appearance of a settled permanence. Stand anywhere beside it, and stare across its swells toward the distant horizon, and you are swiftly lulled into the belief that it has been there forever. All who like the sea -- and surely there can be precious few who do not -- have a favored place in which to stand and stare...."

    My favored place, and perhaps yours as well, is right here on Ocracoke.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.

    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Decoys

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 05:08
    Waterfowl hunting has been a part of island life since the arrival of the first settlers. Of course, hunting is a fall and winter activity. But even in the warmer months you can see evidence of hunting if you look closely. These decoys hang on a fence on Howard Street.














    Only waterfowl hunting is permitted within Cape Hatteras National Seashore...and only those species which are in season may be taken. For more information please click here: http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/waterfowlhunting_2013b.htm.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Spider in the Shower

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 04:08
    Lately I've had a tiny creature accompanying me in my outdoor shower. At first I didn't notice him; then when I turned to dry off I saw the web glistening in the morning light.

    Follow Directions on Right to Enlarge


















    I'm not sure how long he intends to stick around, but I'm careful not to disturb him. As long as the rest of his family doesn't move in with him I am happy to share the space.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    USLHE Line Post

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Tue, 05/13/2014 - 04:38
    On your next visit to the Ocracoke light house, keep your eyes open for the line marker.




















    The marker has the letters, US LHE carved on it. The line post is on the edge of the marshy area a short distance from the end of the boardwalk. The letters stand for United States Light House Establishment.

    The U.S. Light House Establishment was created by the First Congress in 1789 to manage the twelve colonial lighthouses that were put under the care of the federal government. The Light House Establishment was also empowered to oversee construction of new lighthouses.

    Ocracoke light house was built in 1823, and is the oldest operating light house in North Carolina.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Blue Bloods

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Mon, 05/12/2014 - 04:24
    According to Ronald G. Hellman and Janis A. Roze, in their paper, The Resilient Horseshoe Crab: Guardian of Time, "On one of his expeditions to the New World, Sir Walter Raleigh came across strange creatures on the coast of North Carolina, and named them ‘horseshoe crabs’" (http://web.gc.cuny.edu/sciart/0102/rhsc/page.htm).















    Horseshoe crabs (in spite of their name, these creatures are marine arthropods, not true crabs) spawn in the spring. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, "Spawning usually coincides with the high tide during the full and new moon. Breeding activity is consistently higher during the full moon than the new moon and is also greater during the night."

    Although Delaware Bay hosts the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world, North Carolina has its fair share of these "creatures from the past."

    The April 14, 2014 issue of The New Yorker has an informative article titled Blue Bloods about horseshoe crabs. The author, Ian Frazier, writes, "Horseshoe-crab blood is blue. I had never seen it before; unless the heart is pierced, the structure of the animal's anatomy generally keeps it from serious bleeding. The blue comes from hemocyanin, a copper-containing protein that transports oxygen in the blood, like the iron-containing hemoglobin in red blood."

    Fascinating creatures, these horseshoe crabs! Take a few moments to appreciate these amazing animals the next time you spy one washed up on the beach...or encounter one in Pamlico Sound.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Onions

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Sun, 05/11/2014 - 05:08
    Look at vintage photos of Ocracoke yards, and you will see well-tended gardens. Nearly every house had a garden. Many also had chickens...and several had pigs. It was the custom years ago for houses to have two fences around their property. The outer fence kept the wild horses from tromping through the yard, and the inner fence kept the chickens away from the garden.

    Nowadays there aren't quite as many vegetables grown on the island, but you will still see a number of beautiful, well kept gardens throughout the village.

    A few days ago Michael brought a fistful of fresh onions for Amy & David. The aroma was heavenly!



















    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Clamming

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Sat, 05/10/2014 - 04:09
    Spring is here...the water in the Sound is warming up...and clamming season is upon us. All you need is a clam rake, a clam basket, and access to the clam beds!



    Last month I shared information about Marcus Lawson and his new venture -- Clam Digger, Flounder Gigger Charters. Check out his web site for more information: https://www.facebook.com/clamdigger.floundergigger.

    Clamming is a great way to experience the tranquility of a few hours in Pamlico Sound...and to gather supper for you and your family.

    You can contact Marcus at clamdiggerfloundergigger@gmail.com or by phone at 252-921-0279.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs

    Shards

    Ocracoke Island Journal - Fri, 05/09/2014 - 06:57
    Lately I have noticed certain areas of the beach covered with pieces of broken seashells.This photo may not look terribly impressive, but I find it fascinating that ocean currents deposit so many shards in one location, and, just a few steps away, hardly any.


















    If I had the time and talent, I would consider fashioning a mosaic from these shell fragments. As it is, I will simply enjoy nature's art work.

    Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042114.htm.
    Categories: Outer Banks Blogs
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