Of all the places I have ever spent extended periods of my life, none ever captured me the way those "Summers at Old Nags Head" did. I think the reason is pretty clear. After all, I spent so much of my summertime there from the year of my birth in 1947 until graduating from high school and what young boy of the time wouldn't feel that way? There was so much beauty, such a peaceful blending between mankind and the sea, and such a glorious aura about all things it represented that it likely would have been impossible for me to have not had such impact. Despite all those memories and what they mean, however, many of the things I most remembered were not captured on film.
Oh, I have lots of pictures, but the lack of one about those wonderful fishermen of the day has especially bothered me. During most of my years there, usually at least twice a week if the weather allowed, local fishermen would put their nets out in the ocean directly in front of our cottage and then retrieve and empty their catch the following morning. It is a story I tell in “Summers at Old Nags Head,” for the leader of the fishing group was none other than the Commander in my book, Sherman Culpepper, our next-door neighbor and a retired Coast Guard officer and Outer Banker by birth. Mr. Culpepper was like a father to me after my dad died and I spent considerable time picking and sorting fish with other boys in the area to help gather his catch. When they were pulled ashore in the early light after capturing the goodness of the sea overnight, time was of the essence. So, we all went to work so that the catch was sorted in baskets and taken to the shade of the cool garage before sun could spoil the sea’s bounty. When the fish market truck came, they were quickly loaded and taken away and we boys went home with our morning’s breakfast to the delight of Mom.
So, this morning when I awoke, I went to see what had taken place over the evening hours via the internet, and there waiting for me was the picture shown above and it’s one I didn’t have. It was sent by Mr. Culpepper’s grandson, my childhood pal at the beach, “Frankie,” now Frank, also growing older like me, but I’m glad we keep in touch. We had good times together helping out on the sandy beach and now I have the real deal of a picture of what it was I dreamed about. The man shown in rowing position is "Bubba," Sherman Culpepper, Jr., son of the fishing leader. The man with back to the screen, on the starboard side near the stern and looking forward is Eldon Culpepper, brother of Sherman, Sr. and the Commander from my book, Sherman Culpepper, is at the stern in the cap, trying to direct traffic over the wave. On the port side next to him is Pete Poole. Both Sherman, Sr. and Eldon were brothers to my Uncle Hal, so the connection is a strong one. What a great picture it is to have and what memories it gives of a simpler time and the simpler pleasures that filled our lives in those “Summers at Old Nags Head.” And thank you, Cousin Frank, for sending it this morning. Another little empty niche in my picture book to go with my memories is now in place.
So, you see, my stories are very, very real indeed and if you take them into your heart, you'll likely have dreams about them, too. What could be a better place or time to place in a dream than "Summers at Old Nags Head?" I'll just add that the event as captured by picture was in 1950, not in summer but probably later fall from the looks of the clothing worn. It was take the same year that my portrait, drafted on the beach with my guardian dog, Laddie Boy, was painted. I was too young to pick fish back then but there were many years to come until it was banned. Glad I wasn't there for that.