SI Vault
Virginia Kraft
October 06, 1958
Off the North Carolina coast lies a ribbon of islands called the Outer Banks. Here was founded (and later lost) America's first colony. Here pirates lured unsuspecting merchantmen onto the treacherous shoals of Cape Hatteras, and on these blue waters rendezvoused to divide vast spoils of bullion, gold plate and jewels. This is still rich treasure country, but today both the seekers and their quarry are of a different sort. As this remarkable photograph by Richard Meek shows, the decoys bobbing in Pamlico Sound are bringing in a great flight of Canada geese. Waiting for the geese, behind the camera, are some of the handful of sportsmen who have thus far discovered the joys of autumn hunting on the Outer Banks. Turn the page for Virginia Kraft's detailed report on this newly accessible treasure house of waterfowl and fish.
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October 06, 1958

Down The Banks To Ocracoke

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Few sharks, however, are brought to gaff because a hooked shark has a habit of doubling back and cutting the line, much to the satisfaction of the mate who may be heard muttering to himself: "Too bad, but them big ones sure can mess up a boat."


Down the road from the Blue Marlin Dock, the HATTERAS INLET FERRY pulls out four times a day for the quaint little island of OCRACOKE. Until a year ago, there was no road along the 16-mile strip of sand, and bsach-buggy jeeps were the chief means of reaching OCRACOKE VILLAGE at the southern tip of the island. Today the drive from Hatteras Inlet to the village can be made in under a half hour, and the visitor may even encounter another car along the way.

The northern half of Ocracoke is a flat, unprotected desert where, in stormy weather, the ocean sweeps across the island and into the sound. Farther south, where sand dunes form a wall against the ocean, vegetation covers the shore and thickens into a small jungle at the tip of the island. Eleven different kinds of pines grow among water oaks, wax myrtles, yaupons, oleanders, fig trees, ivy and philodendron. The most northerly palm tree on the Atlantic Coast grows here, standing alone before the Ocracoke Village home of Floyd Styron. Nobody really knows its origin, but any native will be happy to give the visitor his theory. It will more than likely involve pirates and plunder because pirates are an integral part of the history of Ocracoke.

Such notorious figures as Ann Bonney, Mary Read, Calico Jack Rackam, Charles Vane, Joe Lawson and Big Jim Braham are all reported to have plied the harbors and coves of Ocracoke at one time or another. But Ocracoke's favorite pirate is Blackbeard, who, according to local legend, gave the island its name during; his disastrous last encounter with the British navy. Trapped by darkness and treacherous tides, he is reported to have paced the deck invoking a speedy coming of dawn—and escape—with shouts of "Oh crow, cock! Oh crow, cock!" When the cock did crow, his cheerful call proved a death knell for Blackbeard.

That the island more likely was called Ocracoke after the Woccos Indians years before Blackbeard was born doesn't bother the natives very much. They like their legend better.

Nor do they pay much attention to outside civilization in general. The inhabitants of Ocracoke Village are an independent people, content to live peacefully with the sea. In their little island world there are no policemen, jails, hospitals, doctors, dentists, lawyers, drugstores, banks, funeral homes, brick buildings or bookstores. George Guthrie Jackson sometimes cuts hair if he's not doing anything else. Kermit Robinson knows how to fix cars and marine motors.

When somebody dies in Ocracoke, expenses are paid from a community fund and the deceased is usually buried the same day (there are no undertakers) in his own yard. Almost every home has a tiny cemetery within its picket fence, and all the homes are fenced. This is not to keep people out, because there is no crime in Ocracoke, but to protect property from wild horses which roam freely about the island.

The horses have been there for as long as anyone remembers. Legend claims that they are descended from Arabian steeds which made their way ashore after the vessel carrying them was sunk—by pirates, of course. Every Fourth of July Ocracokers take part in a great village celebration during which the horses are rounded up from all the far reaches of the island and corralled briefly so yearlings may be branded. But at any time of year it is not uncommon for a visitor fishing a lonely stretch of beach to come upon a wandering horse foraging on the shore.

Along Ocracoke, there is excellent channel bass fishing in a number of sloughs. Charlie Williams, C. F. Boyette of the WAHAB VILLAGE INN. and Jake Alli-good, who rents jeeps with drivers at $3 an hour, all cater to sportsmen and are happy to show visitors the best spots for the big ones. They are not an optimistic crew, however, and the visitor should be prepared for dire predictions about the unsuitability of the day for fishing.

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