The Plate

Yearly rituals.  Don’t you have some yourself, like cleaning out your attic after Christmas as you repack all those decorations or knowing spring is too hot to do that spring cleaning so let’s do it in January!!  I actually do that sort of thing when the mood strikes – which isn’t very often – but it does happen occasionally. 

But today I decided I needed to do a little of that purging thing.  It’s really hard for me because I think about memories, what if I need this next week, and trying to convince myself to keep some things when that “thing” was something the boys had when they were kids.  The excuses go on and on and on……

This morning I found an old plate that belonged to my grandparents, Ira and Lillie Chadwick, and that my parents used for ourselves for many years.  I remember seeing that plate off and on throughout the years but today it struck a cord in me.  It’s an old, hard plastic type plate and today it reminded me just how simple life was when I was a child and how I miss some of that simplicity. 

 We lived in the old home place where my grandparents raised five children.  We didn’t have a real “bathroom” until I was probably 6 years old.  The bathroom was once a bedroom.  The house consisted of three bedrooms, living room and a kitchen.  That was it!   Seeing that old plate this morning brought back those memories of that small house.  How did a family of seven live there?  Of course, my father’s oldest brother was 21 when he was born, so I guess it never really accommodated all seven at once.  But it was small.

So it struck this morning – ya know – we were rather poor folk back then.  But as so many relate about their pasts – we didn’t know we were poor.  Poor really didn’t seem to matter because we had family around us all the time.  There were fun times – happy times. 

We had the first tv in the family so everyone came over to watch!  We shared Christmas together and everyone came over to celebrate.  We took family pics on holidays, like Easter, and everyone came over to enjoy each other.  We celebrated birthdays together.  Christmas Eve was a special holiday when all the family came over, we exchanged gifts, ate great food and we all had fun – as a family.

I washed the dust off of that old plate this morning debating its future or possible demise.  We’ll never use that plate for our dinners; there’s only one and it certainly doesn’t match anything we have.  But that one old, cheap plate reminded me this morning of so much more than material possessions; it reminded me of the value of family and relationships.  It reminded me that happiness doesn’t come with expensive furnishings, clothes, or novelties.  The happiness I remember comes from the modest and humble experiences with family and friends.  

There are many things in our home I need to take to the trash – things with no meaning or use.  This Christmas I hope to reflect on that which truly matters like memories from my childhood that provided me with stability, love, and a true appreciation for what is really important.  I’ll never throw that plate away.

Throughout this holiday, make lasting memories by enjoying your family and friends.  Take time to slow down and remember the reason we celebrate, remember those that shaped your own lives and pray for how you are shaping the lives of those around you. 

Merry Christmas to all!! 


Vacation at the Cape

According to my sister our family had never taken a vacation. My father decided he would take us to the cape the summer of 1953. He made arrangement s to stay in Worth Davis’s fishing camp. Worth’s brother was Joe Davis who was our neighbor. The vacation was planned to last two weeks, or fourteen days whichever came first. My father had carried enough groceries, gill nets, and clam rakes to endure the stay. Food was not a problem at the cape. He even took a rocking chair in case I had to be rocked to sleep. On the third day there came up a terrible thunderstorm (no warning of weather events). My father and brother had to stay with the boat to keep it from sinking (no bilge pumps). My mother got afraid of another storm would come up again, so she wanted to come home. The picture is taken on the west side of the breakwater. From left to right is my sister Zina, Nancy Doris, my mother Dorothy, myself being held by my father Chauncey. My brother Will took the picture with a Kodak Brownie Camera. Nobody knew I turned my head at the snap of the picture until it was developed and a copy was made (no digital technology back then). My sister Zina had some conch shells in a cloth bag, and on my right arm was a band-aid where I was cut. My sister said most people lived along the shore and knew the sound of everyone’s boats as they approached the landing. When we came ashore they all came to see us, as if we had been away for years. What a time that was.


No Harbor in a Storm

Many fishermen on Harkers Island lost their boats in storms due to no safe harbors. In my neighbor, they would fill a #2 washing tub with concrete, set a large chain in it, and wash it down in the sand, then sink it in the sand. Everything depended on this mooring. They would stand along shore and watching their boats, hoping she wouldn’t break loose from the mooring. I remember James Guthrie’s boat came ashore, and all the neighbor boys and men gathered around to push her off before the waves busted her sides in. I remember Reginald Lewis swimming off to his father, McKinley’s boat, the Miss Lewis in a hurricane. As her swam through the waves he would disappear, and then come up for a breath. Finally he would climb over the stern and wave at us on the shore that he was ok. He pumped the water out and swam back ashore. What a time.


That Morning At The Landing

 For centuries fishermen have awaited for this time of year for none other but the big mullets.  When the season comes it’s hard to stay away from it. The fever is so bad that many a fishermen have left a good paying job to go mulleting.  It’s in their blood to run hundreds of yards of gill net around a school of mullets. That’s just the way it is. I wasn’t fortunate to go fishing with either of my grandfathers, Joe William Willis, or John Henry Guthrie, but I have been plenty times with my father Chauncey. He learned from his father where they go, when to go, and of course the size mesh makes the difference. Most of my father’s fishing days was done from his father’s sail skiff “ Old Hicks”. 

 With the outbreak of WW II Daddy like many others left fishing, and found employment with the government. He worked as far away as Holly Ridge. He finished up at Cherry Point in 1970. After retiring he went to work with his son Will. Working on the shore side he could turn his attention back to mullet fishing as a sport not a livelihood. Nets were purchased, juniper, and bronze nails were abundant. A new skiff was built, all for the sole purpose to catch mullets. By now cotton, and nylon nets were obsolete, and monofilament was the way to go. Daddy liked a fine net meaning the mesh was made of very lightweight material, like five-pound test. He had a mold to pour his own leads; he made wood staffs, and poured lead in the foot of them so they would stand upright in the water. The light in his net house burned sometimes till midnight. Beginning on Memorial Day, and then most every Saturday after we were somewhere along Shackleford Banks hauling for a mullets. This brought to him more fun, and enjoyment than you can imagine.    

Some times he would invite a guest to go along. If you were invited to go with him your were special to him. I only know of six maybe ten people he invited outside of the family. Day by day he would study the tides, winds, and he had it down to a science. It was something. An old timer from Morehead told me one day, time, tide, and mullets wait for no man. Daddy didn’t wait for you either if you were late. He wore long kakis pants, a white shirt, and cloth shoes.  

At the very beginning he had a tradition of coming ashore and offering mullets to the neighbors. Many times he didn’t even keep any for himself. Once the net was surrounding the mullets he loved to leave us on the shore pulling while he milled around the back of the net. Daddy loved to see a mullet hit the back of the net. He always would give us a yell, and say, hold her down, tighten up on the leads, slack up on the corks. By the time you got your hands coordinated he would change the pulling method to slack on the leads, and tighten on the corks. All this time you’re setting on the edge of an oyster rock. Mullets are experts at illusions. When one jumps the net it appears to be ten, and even more than ten. When they don’t marsh the net they looks twice the size they really are.  

This particular morning we got lucky and made a good haul right in front of Staten Moore’s Camp. We cleared the fish, and was on the way home, when I said, daddy let sell these here fish. He was setting on the thwart cleaning a few mullets, washing’em off with salt water as he always does coming home. With a surprised look, you want to sell these fish. This idea was against his tradition, and knowing full well the neighbors would be waiting along shore for fish, looked up at me and said, say that again. I said we need to sell these fish; it’ll help pay the gas bill. How much do you think we’ll make. We got a skiff load of mullets, fifty or sixty dollars easy.

I guess he figured now is a good time to teach this younger a lesson. We had a fish market right down the shore, so it was a piece of cake. We tied up the owner came out, what your crowd done caught some mullets. Like I said mullets are experts at illusions. When they were weighed we only had one hundred pounds, and the best bargain we got was twenty-two cent a pound. Do you ever get that feeling when you know you’ve made a terrible mistake?   

Get the line in, and let’s go home before anyone sees us. As we came by Joe Lane’s Landing, then E, and Perry’s Landing, and rounded Joe Boy’s Dock there they were. It was going to be a disappointment when we came ashore with no fish. More important what would they think of my daddy. By the time the money was cut into shares nobody would have more than seven dollars. There was Sadie, and Walter, my uncle Walter, Sally, Sarah Gray, William, Author, Jimmy, James, Reginald, Roosevelt, and Essie. No mullets, daddy said, I decided to sell them, so we could buy more gasoline. I whispered to him, what are you doing, it’s my fault. It’ll be all right, no harm done, they’re our friends, they understand. Let’s pull the skiff up, and go to the house. That was it. It was never mentioned again, but I sure can’t forget that morning at the landing.                        

~ Heber

The Pilgrim
— Heber Guthrie

It might be Harkers Point on a chart, but we always called it Knuckles. On that point was once a steel sailing yacht resting high on the shore.   Steve Goodwin had an article in a publication in 2002, “The Researcher,” that tells the story of this yacht.  Her name was Pilgrim.  She was built in 1893 at Wilmington, Delaware for the sole purpose of competing among three other yachts for the right to defend the America’s Cup.  She was 124 feet long and 23 feet wide, and had a sail area of 10,261 sq ft.   She would lose to the yacht Vigilant which went on to win the cup in 1893.  She was sold and converted to steam power, later became a floating hospital, then a private yacht, and then a menhaden fishing vessel.  As shown in the picture she had two masts, a fish hole, and purse boats.  She also served as a patrol boat during WWI along the East Coast.  She was sold several times, and then in 1935 she as listed as being abandoned.  Her new owner, Mr. Van Wye, who owned the property at Harkers Point had her towed there and placed on the shore as a breakwater.  After all these years of saltwater, wind, and storms, nothing remains of the Pilgrim.  

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                   The west end of Knuckles Point on Harkers Island.


X in The Sand
— Billy Merkley

As I sit here and wait for the storm to pass by, I was thinking of a past hurricane adventure. Back before Landon, when Alison and Alan were little and Tracy was the baby, we had hurricane Bonnie. It was the same old usual routine - roads were flooded, temperature was smoldering hot and, of course, the electricity was out. Everyone was hot and sticky we had no water and everyone was miserable; so, we decided we were going to head to the Cape.

We got the boat overboard and then got the children wrapped up in there life vests.  As we were getting ready to leave, Tracy looks up at me and asked, "Daddy how come you always want to go to the Cape after a storm?"  I replied back to him, "son, there is a lot of undiscovered treasure that has been buried from the ole pirates that roamed our banks years ago and a lot of ships full of gold that have never been found.  You never know, Blackbeard's treasure just may wash up in a storm and you need to get there first."  He answered me real quick and said, "Daddy I already know how to find treasure."  I replied back and said "Well just how do you find treasure?"  Without hesitating, he said,  "All you have to do is just look for the 'x' in the sand."

As we headed towards the Cape, I thought real hard about what he said. We got over to the Cape and the dock was all torn up, the dunes had been beat down, and then I spotted something down the beach just down from the lighthouse.  Heidi and the children got out of the boat and went one way and I headed towards what I thought could be our retirement.  Then I got close enough to finally realize that my dreams had been shattered and I would need to go back to work because what I had found was just an old busted up tote full of sand and grass.  And then it dawned on me about the "x in the sand."   I scrambled around and found a branch and marked a great big "X" in the sand. I then covered my tracks and made my way back to Heidi and the kids.

After I got back towards them, I kinda shewed them towards the mark I had made in the sand. As we headed that way, everyone was feeling the same as I had when we got off the boat - we were going to find treasure!  About that time, Tracy walked up and saw the huge "X" I had drawn. His eyes lit up as if it were Christmas morning.   He threw one hand on his hip and pointed with the other and he started yelling, "I told you that I knew how to find treasure and there it is right there!"  He then started to dig with excitement but I had to break the bad news to him that I had drawn the "X" in the sand.

We didn't get rich that day, but we as a family made a wonderful memory and I always think of this during a storm. Advice:  If you get to the Cape after a storm and my boat is already there and you happen to run across a X in the sand, could it be a real treasure or did I get you!

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