Archive for July, 2006

Hot in August

Monday, July 31st, 2006

I have a personal policy not to say the word “hot” when describing the weather until August. Prior to that, I use “warm” and “quite warm.” So, it will be another quite warm July day today with temperature pushing 100 degrees. I suspect that tomorrow, however, will be hot.
Weather Service says cool it.
Here’s the run-down of forecasts: Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, Carrboro
Ozone is at yellow statewide.

My advice:

Right after you read this go get a glass of water and drink it down. In this kind of weather, if you’re thirsty it’s too late. Lay off the heavy meat helpings as well (not a bad idea in other seasons, too). Most importantly, though, practice sloth. It is the art of only moving when you have to. If you’re having trouble with this concept ask the dog to explain it.
I have a third degree rope belt in sloth—honed on the shag-carpeted floors of Midwestern rec rooms where one could while away entire lifetimes listening to records and burning hardly a calorie in the process. My grandfather was at least a third degree as well, but he earned it the hard way—working the tobacco fields of Kentucky and southern Indiana as a migrant laborer. That man could sit motionless on his front proch for hours, only moving enough to take another slug from his water jar, wave at someone he knew traveling down U.S. 50 or to drop more masticated tobacco into a coffee can by his rocker. He had a garden the size of Canada and each year put up a freezer full of beans and strawberries, yet I can barely recall him working in it.

Bog heaven Rhodo hell

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Posting from near West Jefferson.


Well, coulda sat around and listened to the end of the legislative session, but I had one of those rare opportunities to crawl around through a rhododendren hell with a couple of botanists in search of rare plants populations in a soggy, thick mountain bog. The official description of where I was is a Southern Appalachian Bog (typic shrub sub-type)—an amazing place, really. We were at about 4,300 feet. The place was very wet, not very open and difficult to get around in. Not quite as difficult as that rhodo hell, though, which I am told was somewhere between category 2 and 3. Felt higher on the Dante scale.

Jellyfish on the coast

Monday, July 24th, 2006


Apparently, Beryl stirred up a mess of jellyfish, which happens from time to time along the Carolina coast. So far reports are from Carolina Beach and Wrightsville. Having been stung a few times myself I can say it really smarts, especially if you get caught up with one and get multiple stings. There’s good—and creepy—jellyfish radio in NPR’s recent story from the southern Africa coast.

NC Aquarium’s jellyfish page and their advice for stings:

Basic first aid for stings should include:
• Carefully removing any remaining tentacles; do not rub the area with sand since rough treatment could result in additional stings.
• Washing the injured area with diluted ammonia or vinegar.
•If symptoms are severe, such as respiratory distress, muscle cramps or dizziness, seek medical attention immediately.

Let's talk about croakers

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Occasionally nature, or at least how humans relate to it, solves its own mysteries. So it was when I first encountered a croaker. I was fishing in the ICW behind a little place on the sound side at Wrightsville Beach. This was back when there still were little places on the sound side at Wrightsville.
When I asked a young fellow who happened by what I could expect to catch he told me “croakers.” He’d no sooner said that when I hooked into one–and a mighty, fighting beast of one at that. Absorbed in the battled that ensued, I didn’t have time to ask my onlooker why these fish were called by such a name.
When at last I landed the leviathan—a good eight inches of scaly demonhood—and grabbed the thing to unhook him, he let out a sound that took me back to late summer nights of childhood sitting up with relatives and a collection of northern Indiana automotive factory workers who were occasionally expelling air in great belches induced by cheap Wisconsin beer. Said croaker’s name was a mystery no more. I have landed a few since.
The festival at Oriental devoted to the croaker, which when fillet right makes a tasty frying fish, is due to the species presence around Oriental’s confluence of river and sound. It’s a kind of drum. And it’s said you can hear their mating rituals beneath the waves even from shore.
One odd thing about the Croaker Festival mentioned by Jerry Bledsoe in his book Carolina Curiosities is that the Croaker Festival was created by the Junior Women’s League of Oriental, but that they set the date without checking in with those who knew when the Croaker were at their peak. As a result there are no real Croaker at the Croaker Festival.
I can attest that I saw only representations of Croaker and wondered both days where the actual Croaker were.
In truth, though, I didn’t think that hard about it.
The 2005 comments on the Fisheries Management Plan for the Atlantic Croaker
Croaker stew and chowder
USS Croaker

Croaker Festival — Oriental

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Editor’s note: This post begins a long term project to document North Carolina festivals dedicated to fish, bivalves, crustaceans and mollusks. You get the idea.


Croaker Festival, Oriental, North Carolina, June 30 through July 1
Got in too late to see the crowning of the Croaker Queen and the Croaker Minnow Queen, but their bios in the Pamlico News gave us a hint of who might be atop the lead convertible at the parade Saturday morning.
Starting near the post office, the parade, attended in this election year by such dignitaries as Sen. Jean Preston, Rep. Alice Underhill and every judge running, proceeded down Broad Street where we stood impressed by the precision of the Sudan Shriners. The golf cart work was more agile, yes, but the mini big rigs of the Sudan Truckers stole the show in my opinion.
The parade continued toward the water, turning left at Hodges Street and after passing the town dock ended up at Wall Street. Somewhere around in there is where Captain Lou “clumb the tree” and saw that this rise in the land on the Neuse River at the edge of Pamlico Sound had good fishing and a good harbor.
HarborCam: Here’s a link to the harbor cam. If you look you can see the summer dragon.
The street music began shortly after the parade, ending with a rather quirky big band called the Southern Aires swinging it not far from the town dock until it was time to head down to the Highway 55 bridge and watch the fireworks. Here, the Greens, Kershaw and Smith creeks flow into the Neuse and the intercoastal (Dawson Creek is a little up stream).
The firework display was evenly paced, plentiful and varied enough. The vista, though, may be unsurpassed.
The bridge, closed for the celebration except for pedestrians, has a vertical clearance of 45 feet according to my unofficial nav. charts. We would have been delighted with bottle rockets. To one side was the town, its lights poking through a canopy of live oaks, and the harbor with its working boats and sailboats. Extending from there was quite a fleet—nearly board to board in place—spread out in a big arc around Dewey Point where you could see three people with flares setting off the works.
The crowd on the bridge—black, white, latino—came from all over the area and spoke the universal language of oohs and ahhs. A patrol boat circled around to keep the fleet from getting too close. A cooling breeze was steady off the river.


Oriental, was settled in the 1870 by the aforementioned captain and his tribe. With the ICW running through it, the town has become a big spot for blowboaters both transient and resident. Our hosts at the festival were a midwestern couple who happened on Oriental some 25 years ago and pretty much decided to move there on first sight. Our host said he still runs into people who ask him if he likes there OK.

The town, historically, is a fish town, and only in the later half of the last century acquired its sailing capital title. The Garland F. Fulcher fish house is still humming as a nighttime tour of its dockside facilities evidenced an extensive crab operation—two steamers at the ready and crates for crabs to be gathered, steamed and picked. The smell was the smell of a working waterfront. The few boats moored nearby bore the blemishes of hard-worked craft.
But Oriental with its balance of sailing enthusiasts and fishing is feeling the pressure of the land rush in the east as well. Just off the harbor the half-million dollar condo and slip combinations are starting to spring up. And the old hotels, the kind of two story L-shaped places you’d see about anywhere in North Carolina—are being converted to condos. The town is lucky enough, though, to still have a good bit of cohesion and a dedication in principle to the idea of public waterways. From the intercoastal, to the docks and creeks where people moor their sailboats, access is a guiding ideal. As you can read on the Town Dock, there is concern about changes in land use ordinances that would affect density and height rules. Pamlico News on the same (not a permalink, unfortunately).
Visit Oriental homepage and history site

The Shipping News—Town Dock’s blog
The Pamlico News