There’s Nothing Like the Glory of November
on the “Banks”
Capt. Marvin W. Howard, Ocracoke,
N.C., originlly published in the Coastland Times,
November 12, 1954, re-published with minor editing (click on the links
at the end of the article to view images of the original article).
Beauty is Everywhere
November is here, come again to
visit us with cold, blue, raw days, where, if one is not careful, one may catch
cold from extra efforts because it’s cool, yet not realizing it is still warm
enough to perspire freely and thus we catch a cold. These cold, blue, raw and
cloudy days bring falling of the leaves from all the trees along the Banks
except the evergreens. As one follows the shadows along the winding trails or along
the sandy roads so familiar to the Banks, one sees bushels of acorns lying on
the ground. The many golden-yellow, serrated seeds of the sea-oat likewise lie
in the lee of the sand hills, and the purple flower of the wild-pea has almost
vanished, while the pods are bursting, letting their seeds fall for the use of
wildlife. As one feels the bite of the blustery, windy day, particularly if a
hunter, the urge to take gun in hand, call Rover or Brando or Nipper, and go a-hunting,
is strong. It would not suffice alone to hunt birds, but rather to take in the
wonders of autumn’s beauty among the woodlands, the salt grasses and the sand
hills. All of this, if properly viewed, presents a beauty unexcelled anywhere.
Our freedom to hunt, to play, to be
able to enjoy these wonders are ours only because of our Democratic Government
or Republic, whether you judge it by the pony you ride, the old jeep you go
fishing in, the speed boat you own, the limousine in the garage, the freedom to
worship at the church of your choice, the school you attend, the food on your
table or the freedom to speak in public without fear. You are fortunate by the
fact that you are living under a system of government based on the dignity and
freedom of the individual, that derives its powers from the bottom up rather
than the top down. The four freedoms*
were brought to the public by the late Franklin D. Roosevelt. These freedoms we
enjoy in the U.S.A.,
and especially along the Outer Banks, where thus far the land has never been
posted to any great extent. The hunter can stroll with his dog “heeling” or
watching the “retrieve” as the hunter kills a dove or other wildlife in
rare can be seen along the hills, through the lonesome woods, and in the wide
open marshes where the green salt grasses are interspersed with another salt
grass or wood, blood-colored. A marsh hen or rail cackles and jumps, flies
away, apparently laughing at the lover of nature, too far away for the kill.
So, too, the slow moving heron or bittern hides, camouflaged by reeds or cattails.
wonderful classic, In Praise of Blue Grass**,
can well describe the flat openings at the head of creeks where cattle feed,
and horses wild accompany them. Along these openings, or flat prairie lands,
nesting between the woods and hills, a creek wanders through the marshes to the
sound. The salt sage is turning purple and shows brilliantly in northern winds.
The grass is still green in the pocosins and adds to nature’s beauty, and so
I’ll add to this writing words from In
Praise of Blue Grass:
“Grass is the forgiveness of Nature -- her constant
benediction. Fields trampled with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts
of cannon, grow green again with grass, and carnage is forgotten. Streets
abandoned by traffic become grass grown, like rural lanes, and are obliterated.
Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal.
Beleaguered by the sullen hosts of winter, it withdraws into the impregnable
fortress of its subterranean vitality and emerges upon the first solicitation
the winds, by wandering birds, propagated by the subtle horticulture of the
elements which are its ministers and servants, it softens the rude outline of
the world. It bears no blazonry of bloom to charm the senses with fragrance or
splendor, but its homely hue is more enchanting than the lily or the rose. It
yields no fruit in earth or air, yet, and should its harvest fail for a single
year, famine would depopulate the world.”
Keep ours a Land of Freedom
this is what will happen or be the result if another war comes and the atomic
and hydrogen bombs are released on the world. Not only the people but nature’s
wonders of beautiful woodland, sages, marshes, meadows, fields of grain and the
grasses will be ultimately destroyed. We must be serious about these thoughts
for we could easily lose it all. However we also must be able to get along, and
forget long enough to enjoy November’s beauty
and to remember what the years, the months the weeks and days hold for
us, for summer is past, therefore soon we’ll be to the Christmas songs and will
bundle up considerable when out of doors we go.
We would do
well if we could keep this good land, America, a land of riches,
opportunity and freedom.
part of the good land – the good America - was over 200 years ago to
be used as a site to establish a new colony. It is still practically without
change because the people here or living here were more or less like the
Hispano-Californians. They have been reluctant to change. Lots of people do not
want change, for it is so primitive that it is a real pleasure for those that
realize what freedom really is, yet perhaps selfish in a sort of way, not
realizing the non-productive end.
We know and
feel assured that “nothing can stop the gentle hand of progress” but since this
part of America
is to become part of the National Park Service, it will still remain in its
infant form (except for people) as it was several hundred years ago. Therefore
if the laws which are a part of progress, and result from increasing population
and the variety of minds in our human element, do not become too stringent,
then, and then only, can we ever hope to retain any part of that rich heritage
with which we are so bountifully supplied, that is nature without change,
freedom and a chance to stroll along the hunting paths to enjoy the crisp
November days, free. A chance to meditate, on the other hand to reap the
harvest of better things and better economical living, with the coming or
advent of perhaps several small businesses and the ingress and egress of
numerous people which will expand over the years. We would perhaps wish for the
National Park Service.
Enter the Wildfowl
along the wild honkers, the black ducks, teal and a few other species such as
the American widgeon or bald-pate, the bufflehead, brant and others that add
spice to our days afield. Along the surf
can be seen people casting for the red drum, and as we watch the excitement a
young lady in fishing togs reels in a 30 or 40 pound drum. The sand whipped up by the north winds, like
snow, sails along across the beach, over the high water mark and is deposited
in the rolling sea.
rides along the beaches, birds like the willet, godwit, yellow-leg and other
varieties feed as the sea rolls down. Along the openings or draws, on the sand
rills or browsing on briar or bamboo, one can see cattle, which have been a
part of this free country for years. In the woods and high marshes now the wild
horse is also browsing on the briar leaves and other flora.
scampers across the open space and enters our vision. Wild domestic cats,
hunting birds or field mice, are occasionally seen creeping slowly along, fat,
shiny and sleek in there winter coats.
sheep, the only remnants of a large flock, full of dirty wool, having not been
sheared in ages, scamper in excitement across the foot hills as the hunter
rounds a hill and jump shoots a dove.
The dog gets the dove, delivers it to hand. The hunter pauses and
wonders what the changes of the next few years will really bring. Along the
reefs in the sound, visible to the hunter on the hill, is a haul seiner, or
perhaps in the sea a shrimper or flounder fisherman dragging, or a menhaden
porgy boat bailing menhaden from the seine.
Again in the sound a box blind is discernable, set out, ready for the
goose hunter. Across the hills are the serrated golden brown fronds of the sea
oats, leaning over with the winds like sheaves of wheat. The close of the day brings
a chill, the waters roughen, gulls fly toward their roosts. The shrimpers and
the porgy boats and the seiners are sailing homeward with their catches. The
hunter who has been blessed with the privilege of viewing all these wonders of
the Outer Banks trudges homeward with perhaps a rabbit hanging on his strap, or
his pocket bulging with birds in their season. Lights begin to flicker, the
wind lulls, bringing a host of changes to make November more enchanting. November beauty along the Carolina Outer
Banks is the fruit of all the things we see and picture above.
Service may preserve this free way of life (insofar as the law will permit) and
provide the general public, as well as the local residents, an opportunity to
view and share a place that was first but yet last.
and boot-worn paths on the Banks villages will vouch for the Norwegian legend,
“On the roads between the homes of friends, no grass grows.”
* The “Four Freedoms” were goals articulated by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941 in his State of the Union address
(also know as his “Four Freedoms Speech”). The four freedoms he sought for
“everywhere in the world” were Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship,
Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. As I write, four framed posters
depicting these freedoms hang in the hallway of the Sunday School rooms of the Ocracoke Methodist Church.
** ”In Praise of Blue Grass,” an 1870s speech to the Kansas Senate
by Senator John James Ingalls (1833-1900).