I now wake in the darkness. The shortness of daylight appears more noticeable as we move into August. I grind the coffee beans and wait for their scent to fill this old house. With coffee made, I sit out on the porch with the early breeze of dawn to keep me company. The first few rays of the morning sun send droplets of gold down into the village and I decide it is time to take a morning stroll. This time I am on my cherry-red bike. It feels good to ride my bike again after weeks of letting it sit outside my writing studio. The purple cast still adorns my left arm, but by now the cast is no more than a giant blister or a bracelet that is too tight.
With my camera bag tossed over my shoulder, I head toward the harbor where I saw a shrimp trawler pull in last evening. I am hoping the crew is awake and will give me a tour, or have time for a chat.
I park my bike and walk through the fish house where I find a group of local fisherman chatting on the dock in the early morning light. Without hesitation or asking if I might join them, I take a chair and become part of this early morning tradition. I ask if they meet here every morning, and they all nod in agreement.
“What do you talk about?” I ask.
“Women,” they say laughing. I laugh as well.
They keep the conversation going and I contribute now and then. The group consists of four men, although others stop by now and then. They are all O’cockers, and their brogue is so thick I need to listen very carefully. We talk about the half- priced watermelons down at Tommy’s. We move on to discuss cheap wine and I tell a story of wine that I recently heard about on National Public Radio.
They offer me coffee, but I decline on this morning. One fisherman tells me he brings his coffee beans back from Costa Rica. He likes his coffee strong. I do as well, I tell him.
The talk turns to the serious nature of fishing, crabbing, shrimping and clamming. I listen intently knowing that the laws change frequently and their future is always cloudy. They talk about the poor weather we have experienced this summer on the Pamlico Sound. I ask them if they can predict the summer weather ahead of time. They all nod in agreement saying they already knew what the summer would be like. I ask how they knew, but couldn’t get any clear examples.
I tell them about Indiana. “Where I am from in northern Indiana,” I say, “we have lots of signs announcing hard winters. There is always the caterpillar, and on a certain day, if you have six black crows on a clothesline, it means six white snows.” OK, I am not sure about that one. I mean what day? Whose clothesline? But it does get their attention.
“How about the nuts on a hickory tree?” I say. Well, that sets someone off talking about the pecan tree and the cycle of stories continues. James Barrie is there, and I ask him about his son, Morty. I wrote a story on young Morty years ago. Now he is in college and will someday work as an advocate for commercial fishermen. He spends his summers working on the salty seas.
The sun is higher, and it is obvious that the trawler folks are just going about their own business. The guys and I talk about the beauty of the trawler. It is named the Marla Brooks and is from Georgetown, S.C. It is majestic in Silver Lake. I take a few photos and bid farewell to the men of the sea on Ocracoke. I chastise myself for not visiting earlier, years earlier.
This is my last week on Ocracoke. I have prepared myself for the “lasts.” The last time in the lighthouse, on the stage of the Opry, and leading ghost tours around this quaint village. I have to say farewell to friends and respond to those back home who want to know when I will be arriving.
But the time is still present for me and maybe the sea turtles will begin hatching this week, and who could miss National Lighthouse Day on Aug. 7?
Back on my bike I am so grateful to feel the winds of Ocracoke.