Wednesday, April 17th dawned as another beautiful day and, like clockwork, I was on the beach with my camera at the ready for another fantastic sunrise. I never get tired of watching the sun rise over the Atlantic for each one is slightly different from others. It might be due to sea conditions, more or less clouds in the sky or even the addition of birds flying out to sea, but they are all beautiful and they bring back fine memories of my days of youth on that unique and fragile shore. I stretched out the early morning hours by taking a walk and enjoying the flight of the birds, vying for whatever scrumptious morsel they might find in the water below with their keen eyes.
Next, I enjoyed a hearty breakfast after working up an appetite in the briny sea air, then got my things together for the afternoon book signing, for I knew when I left this morning I wouldn't be back to the hotel until after the gathering. I headed north, deciding to check out what Duck and that general area looked like now. All I can say is wow! The quaint little town that I visited not long after the Great Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, a tiny place with a few duck carvers and a shop or two was now a boom town. It no longer carried the charm that unique small villages have but now resembled so many other tourist spots up and down the coast. I had to keep reminding myself that this is now and not what I remembered but I had to admit that was difficult to swallow. I guess I'm just getting too old and set in my ways.
And talking about change, I even rode down to the approach to the Wright Memorial Bridge and it looked like a different world. All of the pines and live oak trees that made a forest along the road from Currituck Sound to the oceanfront was built up with shopping centers and much more where there had been beautiful trees. And as I returned to the point where we used to look down at the sea and smell the salt air it was now a beach city, crowded with heavy traffic even in April. Somehow the joy that overcame me as a boy as I smelled the salt air for the first time each season while trying to keep our Laddie, the family Collie shepherd, from hogging the window was lessened. The luster was gone but again, that was a long time ago.
Just after noon I walked into Muse Originals OBX and introduced myself to the shop owner and hostess for the afternoon, Ami Cannon Hill. What a quaint and beautiful little shop she has in the old historic Kitty Hawk Fire Station. Ami is in the picture above, on the left side looking over at me and probably being blinded by my chrome dome. She and her family were so gracious and helpful, things couldn't have been better and I am very thankful.
Those wishing to meet me and either get the books already in their possession signed or buying one started trickling in around one in the afternoon. It wasn't a big crowd but there was a steady flow spread out until after three and I just talked from my heart and answered questions that they might have. I'll highlight a few who came since in many cases I felt like I already knew them from my Author Page on Facebook. Traveling the longest distance for the signing was Wendy Rose Boice and Gary Gaunt, both from my native Virginia. Wendy lives in Front Royal (I believe that's correct) and Gary in Warrenton. The two of them work together on the Lovin' the OBX page on Facebook and clearly love the place and my old stories as well. Also coming early on was Penny Mingee Crawford and her husband from my hometown of Newport News. They are also beach lovers and frequent the Outer Banks often and I was honored to have someone from the old hometown make the trip. I also met for the first time my cousin by marriage, Fay Beasley, who lives on the Banks and is the granddaughter of that wonderful couple who were right next door to our cottage, Sherman and Evelyn Culpepper. While I didn't know Fay in my youth since she was considerably younger, she brought some pictures of her grandparents to see if I recognized them and yes, I did, and I believe I teared up a little. Belinda Miller, an artist in her own right who paints Outer Banks motifs on glass and is an avid fishing enthusiast, stopped by on her way to Ocracoke. Lynn Wagner stopped by on her way (I believe) to Ocracoke as well as did Bill Hinkle and his son from Manteo. Bill is an excellent photographer and I love his work. And I can't leave out Carolyn Riggs and her husband from Camden County who really got me laughing with what she said when we met. She reminded me of my story in "Summers at Old Nags Head" about my mother's prowess as a point guard for Manteo High. Back in those days in the late 1920s, the girls played basketball outside on a court lined with oyster shells and Mom said she always came home with torn up knees after playing Camden. It seems the had a very strong and big girl on that team who, when the referee wasn't looking, would throw Mom down in the shells if she was guarding too well. Carolyn wanted me to know that the folks in Camden don't routinely act that way and we had a good chuckle together. I was also pleased the Bobbie Murray, the lady who bought the Culpepper and graciously let me park and visit my old stomping ground was there with her business partners, Barry and Emily Bourne from Richmond, another wonderful couple. And there were others who came throughout the afternoon but those mentioned are highlighted since they just stuck out as we talked.
At the end of the day, I was tired but I had one more important thing I wanted to do. My Aunt Sylvia's grandson, Bobby Culpepper, who she raised from an early age was still living on the beach and we got together that evening for a nice visit. The last time I saw him previously was at her funeral at the Nags Head Baptist Church in 1991. Bobby was a young man then, fifteen years my junior, but when we met we recognized each other, hugged and spent the next couple of hours updating each other on our comings and goings. It was a great way to end a long day, the last full day I would spend at Nags Head.
Tomorrow I will close out the saga by covering the trip home over the next three days for things happened that forced my plans to change but, as I think you will see, the changes resulted in a most positive result. I'll see you again tomorrow right here as we close out my living version of "The Long Road Back." I just thought using my book title made sense for this series of blogs. Now go have a marvelous day and be blessed.