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“Mostly magazines and newspapers,” I replied. “Well, let me throw in my two cents worth about fishing around here,” he said. “I’m from Williamsburg up in Virginia, and I’ve been coming down to the Banks to fish for years and it’s not the same. I’ve got friends over in Richmond who are primarily surf fishermen who have stopped coming at all. Too much of a hassle, they say. If you don’t have a boat and depend on surf fishing, you’re out of luck.” The lady behind the counter nodded her head in agreement. Linda and I left Buxton not feeling too encouraged about our morning information jaunt and decided to stop for lunch at a small deli, the same one from a year ago. I didn’t recognize the lady who helped us but I said, “We love your deli. We were here a while back and your sandwiches were great. The gentleman who owns the place was also a charter boat fisherman. Is he around?” “No, as a matter of fact we just bought it in July. The previous owners moved to Asheville.” “How about the gift shop next door?” Linda asked. “They went out of business last fall. There’s a beauty shop there now.” The more we talked to people, the more we realized how hard it is to run a small retail business, especially on the Outer Banks. Ferries are supposed to leave Hatteras for Ocracoke every thirty minutes. On this day, we had to wait for almost an hour-and-a-half for our turn. I counted about one hundred cars waiting in seven lanes for the trip. One of the security guys told me that most of them are day-trippers, staying somewhere on the Banks and riding the free ferry over to the island to check out the scenery. They were tourists from all over the country, looking to have a good time. That afternoon as I sat on the little front porch facing Ocracoke’s small Main Street, I watched as the tourist traffic paraded along. Rental golf carts were in the mix, along with bikes and hikers. The atmosphere was almost circus-like. I watched for a while until five loud motorcycles rattled the windows as they rumbled by. Fortunately, the motel has a private dock area behind it, facing Silver Lake Harbor, and I headed back there for some peace and quiet. I was the only one on the patio and kicked back in a weathered Adirondack chair. It was almost peaceful but I could still hear the hubbub from the street. I remembered the early days on the Outer Banks and reflected on how it used to be a fisherman’s haven and restful retreat. Now I’m afraid, if things don’t change, this place is well on the way to becoming just another beach town. b Tom Bryant is a lifelong outdoorsman and Salt’s Sporting Life columnist. The Art & Soul of Wilmington
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November 2013 •
The Art & Soul of Wilmington