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Stories from
The Old Gray House

  1. Her Name Was Irene

  2. Where Did all the years go

  3. It Is No Laughing Matter - My New Years Resolution for 2011

  4. What Facebook Means To Me

  5. Hurricane Earl and Bonner Bridge Build the Bridge Now

  6. A Hatteras Lift

  7. My New Years Resolution Thoughts on Old Age

  8. Hatteras Beach Rock Update

  9. Feeding Birds is a Priority At The Old Gray House

  10. The Outer Banks Bike Week

  11. In Loving Memory of Buster

  12. The Unwelcome Visitor

  13. Christmas At the Old Gray House 2008 Hard Times Can Be Good Times

  14. Quilting

  15. Hatteras Exercise Program for Young and Old

For More Stories Go To

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hatteras island has a unique history and that our goal Is to preserve the history and to keep our reader's informed of the many changes occuring here on the Hatteras island.
Old Gray House Gifts and Shells

Her Name Was Irene published on: September 6th, 2011

Her Name Was Irene
By Dewey Parr

Over the years I have known a few nice ladies named Irene. Two that I am thinking of are Irene Young and Irene Nolan. Irene Young was the mother of my good buddy, Jack that I palled around with as a teenager. Jack and I had a lot of fun together. He is moved to California and made a fortune selling appliances. The other Irene is probably the one Irene that has enhanced my life more than any other. She introduced me to the joy of writing and expressing my thoughts on paper. The first time I met Irene she was the editor of the Island Breeze. Before that she was the managing editor of the Louisville Courier Journal. It was a lucky day for Hatteras Island when Irene brought her talent here. She is not a native of Hatteras, but she loves this Island, and the people who live here probably more than anyone has ever done. Over the years her editorial pen has been unsheathed many times in defense of the Island and the Islanders. She now edits the Island Free Press, an Internet newspaper. Because of her efforts, the Island is no longer without instant news of the events or changes that occur on a daily basis. Before new news was old news before we became aware of it. If you have not done so you need to check out her newspaper and blog. Click Here to go to

When we heard Irene was coming to visit us our first impulse was to leave town so that we would not have to put up with her. Her reputation was already well known. When our friends over at the Cape Pines Motel, Bill and Angie Rapant heard of our dilemma they suggested we just come and be with them until Irene went away. We accepted their invitation and while there we came to realize why Gourmet Magazine had stated that the Cape Pines Motel was the cleanest place they had ever stayed. That place is so clean you could eat off the floors. The mirrors and windows were absolutely spotless with no streaks, which was a miracle. At our house we have tried everything to clean our windows and glass tabletops and yet they streak as a result of the ocean salt spray. We asked Angie her secret and she was kind enough to share what she uses. With her permission I will share her secret inexpensive formula with you so you can see if it works for you. Angie uses ½ cup of ammonia, 1/3 cup of vinegar and about 3 cups of water and a few drops of food coloring for identification purposes. She puts this in a spray bottle. We tried it and it works. Hopefully it will work for you. It saves a lot of money too..

When you stay at the Cape Pines Motel walk the Path to the Old Gray

Click on picture to go to Cape Pines Motel

I had lots of company going and coming before Irene was scheduled to arrive so my refrigerator and freezer were full of goodies that I really did not want to share with Irene. Now I love company. But I must say living in a tourist area that we have learned never to say to every one you meet, “Now you’ll come see us”, for you can rest assured they will. The problem with this Irene was that I never invited her in the first place but she took it on herself to barge in anyway. After meeting her there is no way I want to be involved with her again.

The way I feel about Irene is in the Lyrics by Steve Earle in the song Goodnight Irene.

“Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I'll see you in my dreams

You cause me to weep, you cause me to mourn “
You cause me to leave my home

Of course you know the gal I refer to was Hurricane Irene. I met her on Friday August 26, 2011. She definitely will never be one of my favorite guests in the future. She ranted and raved all night long and continued to do so all day Saturday and throughout the night on Sunday. Finally she went away on Sunday morning.

When we heard Irene was coming we made up our mind we were not leaving Hatteras Island unless it was absolutely necessary. This decision was prompted by the ordeal we experienced after Hurricane Earl, which I wrote about previously. Click Here to Read about Hurricane Earl. We decided it was safer to ride out a Hurricane than to sit on top of a shaking Bonner Bridge. I cannot figure out why the environmental groups are fighting so hard to stop the tourists and residents of Hatteras Island from having a safe access to the Island. Guess it is the same flawed reasoning they have for wanting to stop everyone from enjoying the beach.

It is not easy to leave the Island knowing that when you return all earthly treasures could be in rubble, exposed to the elements or ravaged over by others, before you can get back to tend to them. Mary and I know what it is like to be out of town and have your property destroyed. When our home of thirty-five years burned we were out of town and before we got back to tend it looters came and stole some of our possessions. Once you leave you may not be able to return for days or even weeks so it is a hard decision to make. When you listen to the news media they dramatize the approaching hurricane and pull up footage from previous hurricanes showing all the destruction and recount the number of deaths that occurred. The average person is traumatized long before the hurricanes arrive due to all of the media attention. Seems like poor little old Ocracoke and Hatteras become the blunt of most of the hurricane news casting due to the way the Islands extend out into the ocean.

It is no easy job getting ready for a Hurricane. Everything has to be removed from the yards and things inside have to be moved off of the walls and shelves to prevent the winds beating against the walls from causing them to come crashing down. There was so much talking about the extreme danger of water engulfing the Islands, Mary even took the time to take things off the floor and lower shelves. Can you imagine the efforts and time it took places like our neighbors Connors Supermarket, to raise all of their products up high. Connors and the Old Gray House were fortunate not to have water damage. Not every business and homeowner was that fortunate.

Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded

Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded

When Irene finally arrived we were behind boarded up windows and unable to look out which gave us a very uneasy feeling. You had no idea what was going on outside your door. The howling wind and water seeping around the bottom of the door made you wonder if it was merely the driving rain or the floodwater was rising and if there was floodwater waiting you if you should open the door. Irene howled and rain battered our room all night long. At one point during the night as I watched Mary sleeping my thoughts went back to my experience while in Navy when I was aboard the old battleship Mississippi in Norfolk, Va. in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel.

Battle Ship Mississippi

Battle Ship Mississippi  Battle Ship Mississippi

When our ship came into hurricane anchorage we lost our anchor and they were unable to retrieve it in time so the ship was sent out to sea to ride out Hurricane Hazel. Hazel hit us broadside. I was a Hospital Corpsman in charge of the ship’s pharmacy. Sick bay was three decks below the water line. During the storm our compartment took on water due to a damaged air vent and we were sealed off. Every time the ship would list the water would wash us from side to side. We had a couple of patients in sick bay so we tied them to the upper bunks for their safety. To say the least it was night to remember especially for me. I tend to be a little claustrophobic when I am in a confined area. The lack of light makes it even more noticeable. I had that same feeling come on me during Hurricane Irene due to not being able to open the door and see outside. I overcame it by doing my exercise even though I did not have my weights. Friday night was a very restless night for me but Mary seemed to sleep much better. As I watched Mary sleeping I recalled during Hurricane Hazel we were living in Norfolk in a garage apartment. Now that was some apartment. I could sit on the coach which was along one wall and stretch out my feet and touch the other wall. To get to the kitchen and bathroom below you had to climb down a ladder. It was a small place that housed two happy people. When I got back home from the ship, after enduring the wrath of Hurricane Hazel I was surprised to learn that even though Hurricane Hazel raised havoc with Norfolk Mary had slept through her first Hurricane. Now this night was much different for we were witnessing this hurricane together and we no longer were newlyweds but hurricane veterans of fifty-eight years together. Now we both fully understood the devastation and loss of life that can occur with even a minor hurricane.

At last daylight arrived and the wind and rain began to diminish so that I could open the door and peep out. Much to my surprise there was no water outside just wind and rain. The first part of the Hurricane was over. Could it be we are in the eye and the second part will soon come I thought. I was soon to learn that was not the case thanks to radio station Beach 104. While they were able to stay on the air they provided information by making it possible for people to call in and share what was happening where they were located. It was a great comfort to hear an occasional voice of an Islander reporting what they were experiencing.

We learned that the eye was not over Hatteras as predicted but had moved inland over the Swan Quarter area and that the water had all blown out of the sound and land was exposed. All Islanders knew what this meant. There would be a calm period and the wind would swing around and all that water that went inland would come rushing back towards the Islands. It also meant that it was time to head to the sound with feed sacks to collect as many clams as possible before the water came rolling back. In my memory I can hear my Uncle Ken, saying, “Sonny, lets go get them clams.” Off we would head for the sound, filling as many sacks as possible and run them back to shore before the water came rolling back. I also recall that there were a few times that we had some close calls. We stayed too long and had to run fast to get back to shore before the rolling water overtook us. Those days are no more on the Island. Our economy is different and we do not live off the land as we did back then. We are spoiled. Even during a hurricane we have creature comforts that our ancestors never dreamed existed.

Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded Hatteras Toy Store Located in Avon Was Flooded

The Electric Company Is In Front of the Old Gray House

Thanks to the Efforts of our Electric Company the majority of the island was only without electricity for three days and nights.

When the calm came I took the opportunity to venture out and chat with friends and neighbors as well as check on my property. Bill and I walked around the Cape Pines Motel, my home, and the Old Gray House to look at our roofs. Much to our relief our roofs were in better shape than anticipated. Bill lost a few shingles and the tin on the Old Gray House looked ok. Our next chore was to help our neighbor, and her dog Otis, get back into her trailer. A tree had come down across her porch blocking the door. With wind starting to pick up again, and Otis refusing to cross over the tree branches, we gave this up and Mary and Otis returned to their safe place to ride out the second half of the storm.

Helping Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Bill and I returned to our safe areas to ride out the second half of the hurricane. Mary asked how was the roof. I told her it looked pretty good but I had not gone inside to check it. I decided I would go to the Old Gray House to be sure the roof was not leaking. Told Mary I would be right back. My right back was a couple of hours later for once I got inside the Old Gray House the wind and rain came back. I knew better than to try to get back to Mary so I just stayed in the Old Gray House. The worst thing you can do during the high winds of a hurricane is go outside. That is why there are not even emergency vehicles on the road during high winds.

I watched the old tin roof hoping it would not rip off

I watched and listened to the rumbling of the tin roof as the wind gusts hit it. I thought for sure one gust was gong to take it off. A section actually rose up about two inches with a loud whap. Thanks be to God, the old tin roof held fast and the merchandise inside was not destroyed. Should the roof go the wind and driving rain would destroy everything inside in a heartbeat. Finally there was a lull in the wind and I made my way back to Mary, dodging flying debris and we rode out the storm together waking up the next morning to a beautiful day.

The weather after a hurricane seems to be a beautiful day. Now it is time to assess your damages and those of your friends and neighbors. It is time to rejoice if there is no loss of life on the Island. It is time to reach out to others that might not have been as fortunate as you were. One area of concern is always the loss of electricity. During a hurricane you learn just how much electricity has changed the way we live. Our ancestors did not have the luxury of refrigerators, TV’s, computers, and that precious air conditioning. I often wonder if our modern Americans could survive without electrical power.

Our losses were minimal in comparison to what many suffered. We lost the food in our freezer and refrigerator. Food was not an issue for the village of Buxton. Connors. Supermarket has a generator and was able to provide food. On Sunday the Connor family even provided Barbecue for everyone. Over my 80 years I have met a lot of generous people but I have never met anyone that cares more for the needs of others than the entire Connor family.

Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue
Visit Connors Website

Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane
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Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane Connors Supermarket Provided A Barbecue after the Hurricane
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Inside the Old Gray House Mary was blessed with little or no damages to her merchandise. Her biggest job is replacing the merchandise that she had moved off of the walls and shelves. She says the hurricanes provide her with the opportunity to dust the shelves and give serious consideration as to how to rearrange her merchandise.

Mary Cheerfully Putting it Back together

The worst enemy to our personal property and the Old Gray house is the wind. It is amazing what wind can do during a Hurricane. It can tear the siding off your house, toss trees on your roof, even pick up boats and set them ashore. It literally strips the leaves off the trees and shears off the tops of all fragile vegetation such as flowers and shrubs. At the Old Gray House it removed fencing, and trimmed our treetops. Many of our annual visitors to the Old Gray House remark to me that I must spend a lot of time rearranging my garden as it looks different every year when they return. Now you know the secret. The Hurricanes change it for me. I must admit it does take a lot of time and effort to clean up the mess. There is a plaque I keep in my garden to remind me with every hurricane that comes there is hope it will not destroy all of my efforts and the gifts of plants given to the Old Gay House Garden.

Hope Never Dies

All in all we are thankful for the fact that Irene did not do serious damage to the Old Gray House during her short visit. We attribute this to many prayers that were being offered for us by our faithful guest who visit us.

We are Sorry, however, that she was not so kind to many of neighbors and fellow businesses. After the storm passes then comes the heartache that lasts a long time after Hurricane Irene is no longer news worthy. This heartache entails loss of income for businesses and employees that become unemployed. Business owners are faced with the problem of how to keep going. Their expenses continue on even though they are closed. Mortgages, rents, insurances, taxes, and utilities must be paid regardless.

Put yourself in the shoes of a businessperson dependent on the tourist trade, who owns or rents business space on an Island, cut off from the mainland with a 6 PM to 9 AM curfew, and no one allowed to come to the Island.

Homeowners suffer the same experience dealing with the trauma of loosing their earthly possessions and seeing their dreams for the future washed out to sea. Take time to look at the slide show of the devastation that occurred in the communities of Rodanthe, Salvo, and Waves. It will be years before these communities are healed from human suffering that occurred there.

We thank all who took the time to contact us and let us know of your concern for us. We feel it was your prayers that helped us through the fury of Irene. The Old Gray House is requesting that you now join us in praying for those who were less fortunate that we were. God bless you and thank you for contacting us and praying for us.

Story Information Sources

News About Hatters Island:

Buxton Motel:

Hurricane Earl Story 2010:

Friendly Buxton Family:

Outer Banks Radio Station:

Hurricane Hazel in1955:

USS Battleship Mississippi:

H"atteras Electric Company :

Diamond Shoals Restaurant :

Hatteras Island Toy Store:

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Where did all the years go? published on: June 9, 2011

Looking Back


Dewey Parr

Mary and Dewey Parr

Picture by Bonnie Thomas

Dewey and Mary Parr Owners of the Old Gray House
Thank You for 20 Wonderful Years

Where did the years go? That is what we are thinking at the Old Gray House. It is hard for us to fathom that it was 20 years ago we opened the Old Gray House Gift and Shell shop. It is even harder for us to accept the fact Mary and I will both be 80 years old and married 58 years this year.

Mary had always dreamed of having a gift shop where she could display her crafts and greet the tourists who visit Hatteras Island. With her retirement years approaching, my son and I set out to help her fulfill her dream by working on my grandparent’s old house. I was already retired so I had time to devote to getting Mary’s retirement playhouse ready.

As you can see from the pictures of the Old Gray House below, it was no easy task for my son and I to whip it into shape so that it could withstand an inspection to be designated as a business.

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Pictures of the Old Gray House before renovation.

Our first and scariest effort was to jack up the back corner of the house that was almost touching the ground. The house was sitting on stumps. Most of the stumps were still in place but the centers had rotted out. In order to make the house safe we had to re-block the entire structure as well as jack up the back corner. We left the good stumps and added reinforcement next to them. While under the house it was interesting to notice the difference in the floor joist between the two sections. On one side the joists were made of logs with the top flattened and the other side it was logs that had been hued square with an axe. It was also apparent that at one time there had been a fire under the house as the floor was blackened. I realized that unless we were able to correct the problem with the foundation there was no hope of being able to fulfill Mary’s retirement dreams. So we set out to raise the corner of the house. As my son began to jack up the old house I held my breath thinking it and the old chimney could tumble down any minute. Was I ever relived when the final blocks and reinforcement timbers were in place and the old house was still standing. With that job completed we moved on to many other things to be done.

It was my goal to try to keep it as original as possible rather than to modernize it. My son repeatedly told me, “Dad, don’t worry. No matter what you do it will still be old”. I still chuckle when I think about his remarks to me when I cautioned him not to use any mitered corners or modern methods in the trim work. I wanted it to look just like it did years ago. Over and over he would tell me dad, “Please don’t tell anybody I helped you with this job. It will hurt my reputation as a builder.”

There where many things that had to be done. It had to be completely re-wired and a new electrical service installed. It had an old 60 amp box with four fuse slots with only one fuse being used. There were no electrical switches in the house. It had bulbs hanging from the ceiling on old-fashioned twisted cloth-covered wire with an off and on switch at the bulb. Running wire throughout the building and setting a new electric box took time. Drilling in the old timbers that had been rescued from old ships was like drilling iron.

One big inside project was replacing sagging beams in the upstairs floor. The beams sagged because of the weight of that Uncle Ken had caused by storing sheets of plasterboard that he had retrieved from the dump. The beams were not long enough when they built the house so they toenailed them by zig zagging and then wedging them together. They were pegged on both ends. We also had to put in another floor upstairs. The original floor was composed of odds and ends of lumber including shipping boxes that had been collected from the beach. My only regret was that we did not keep parts of the flooring as it had writing on it.

The other big expense was installing an adequate septic system, which I did not feel was necessary. We were not providing restroom facilities or water for the public. The house is on a well rather than city water because my uncle refused to pay for it. He said, “God never intended for anybody to pay for water”. The old house did not have a full service bathroom. It had an outhouse. It was not till later that a little room was attached onto the end that had a sink and a commode. There is no hot water, bathtub, or shower. The septic system was a fifty-gallon barrel buried in the ground. When it got full another barrel was buried. How well I remember the barrels. I pulled my four by four into the backyard and down into a barrel I went. Cousin Gary, next door, got a good laugh out of it as he helped pull me out of the barrel. One thing I can say that was good about the row of barrels was that for the first few years I sure had some beautiful flowerbeds growing on top of them.

You might ask, “If they had no bath tub or shower did they take a bath?” The answer is yes. They warmed water on the stove to wash, filled the wash tub out back so the sun could heat it, or stretched out the garden hose in the yard and let the sun heat the water. If the well went dry they took a dip in the sound or ocean.

The next big item on our list was trying to fix the leaks in the old tin roof. Now I am not sure how old that roof is. It has been there all of my 80 years. It originally had an old-fashioned long plank shingle roof on it. My son double coated it with a silver coating and that helped to stop most of the leaks. Over the years in order to stop the leaks they would whittle a stick into a cone shape and push it up from the inside. As the rain water rolled down the roof it would cause the stick to swell and it would stay lodged in the hole and act as a stopper. Many of the sticks were still present when the coating was applied. Don’t knock it. It worked for them.

After the big items came the never-ending chore of scrapping, painting, and replacing damaged wood as well as clearing the yard. Three sides of the house were not as bad as the backside. My Uncle Kendrick had removed the old shingles from the Walter Barnette house where Fox’s Water sports sits now before they tore it down. He pulled each piece off and saved the nails. Some way, some how, he put those shingles on the Old Gray House over the original siding. He did not have enough shingles to finish the back side so he put roll roofing that he had found in the dump to serve as insulation to keep the north winds from blowing into the house. As a result of the shingles on the three sides many miss-date the house thinking it was built in the thirties when it was actually constructed in sections some time in the early 20’s.

On the top of the chimney my Uncle had attached a TV antenna. Before cable and satellite TV came to the Island there was little or no TV reception to be enjoyed. I recall my father's frustration trying to watch TV at his home on the Island. He had his antenna attached to a tall metal pole on the side of the house with brackets so that he could turn the antenna to get better reception. Every time he would try to watch a program, stuff back then like Milton Burl, the picture would fade out and go to snow. He finally got so aggravated with it he took the antenna off the house and tossed it over the hill into the Muddy Marsh Ditch. Do you recall those days when we sat in front of a TV and watched shadows in the snow? Our biggest fear of removing the TV antenna at the old house was that the old chimney would come tumbling down.

Getting the TV Antenna off the chimney was no easy task for there was a wasp nest in the chimney

Finally, after three years of working of and on the old house we completed the project in 1991. With Valentines Day approaching and Mary approaching 60 years of age, which was her earliest retirement option from the University I decided to surprise her with her fantasy gift of having her own gift shop on our fantasy Island we both loved so much. The conditions of the gift were she had to be willing to join me in her retirement. She happily accepted the gift and that was the beginning of the 20 fabulous years we have shared together.

The first year we opened the shop Mary only had two rooms in the house for her gift shop. We were living in the remainder of the house. It was an interesting and a fun experience living in there. We furnished it with make shift pieces. Our dinning room table was a round wire spool the electric company had disposed of. We made a sitting room on the loft using furniture we bought at a rummage sale.

As we look back, those years were probably the happiest time we ever had, especially sitting on the screen-in front porch every morning sipping our coffee and watching the neighbors pass by.

Over and over, we are asked how old the house is? I don’t rightly know. When asked I just say it is older than the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Dare County. From my research I estimate the original section to be one hundred and sixty years old or better. Aunt Nellie Gray said, it was old, old when my grandparents moved in after losing their house on the Buxton Back Road. She also said the original kitchen, which is missing, was pulled in sections from the beach after it washed up during a storm. The old kitchen was destroyed in 40’s during a storm that twisted it. At that time it was just Grandmother Gray and Uncle Ken in the house so he took lumber from it and built the little kitchen that is there now. It was then he moved the water pump inside.

The family moved to Buxton Back Road from Kinnakeet, (Avon), after their home was destroyed by floodwater from a storm in the late 20’s. The house they lived in on the Buxton Back road fell victim to an unfortunate situation in the family and they were forced to move. At that time the only one in the family who had any money at all was their oldest son Alfred Gray, so he helped them out by buying the Old Gray House from the county for back taxes. He kept ownership of it until he turned it over to his brother Kendrick Gray. Kendrick sold part of the land, which included the garden across the Dark Ridge Road, before he sold the property to me in 1975.

The age and historical significance of the Old Gray House is of little importance. What is important to me is that the old house has brought Mary and I twenty years of happiness and enjoyment. When I gave the old house, ready to go as a gift shop on Valentines Day, to fulfill her retirement dream little did I realize I would become involved with it as much as I have? The method to my madness was to provide Mary with a place of enjoyment and to free me to roam the beach. As time progressed I found that the Old Gray House and the tourists were as exciting as being on the beach all day.

I have always had a passion for seashells, plants and teaching, so it was only natural that I gravitated to the Old Gray House where I could enjoy these things. Little by little over the years, the shop became divided into two domains. Inside was Mary's world of crafts and outside was my world of seashells and plants. The one thing common to our two areas is the wonderful people that visit our shop.

From the onset, we began to realize the people who come down the side road to our shop are different from many that frequent other businesses. They not only are interested in the history of the old house and our different type of products. They are interested in us personally. Over the years we have developed closeness with many guests who visit. Each summer we look forward to seeing them and we are concerned if they do not return. One of the extreme pleasures in the last 20 years has been watching the babies grown up. The little ones that came twenty years ago are now coming back to visit us with their families. Probably the single most thing Mary and I would miss should the time come when we close the Old Gray House will be getting to visit annually with all of our repeat guests who come to the Island.

What will be the future of the Old Gray House? At this moment we don't rightfully know. Mary and I want to keep it going as long as possible but we are accepting the realities that age is taking its toll on us as well as on the Old House.

The one thing we do know for sure is that we thank everyone who has taken the time to visit with us at the Old Gray House and giving us the best twenty years of our lives.

Twenty years of changes to the Old Gray House.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

It Is No Laughing Matter - My New Years Resolution for 2011 published on: January 26, 2011


Dewey Parr

In times past I have made many New Years Resolutions. Each time I did so it was just a matter of time. I was either too busy, or just realized I was not going to accomplish it so I just gave up. I did accomplish one that helped health wise. While I was in the service I smoked and tried to quit over and over and was not successful. e The yearning for a cigarette was always there and every time I attempted to quit a Navy buddy would offer me a cigarette knowing I had resolved to quit. I did not fulfill this resolution until the day before my wedding when I smoked my final cigarette with my long time buddy and best man at my wedding. I made up my mind then and there I was quitting permanently out of respect for the girl that I was marrying. I admit I did light up one time on our honeymoon, but that was my last. I am sure she knew. Stop smoking is on the top of many peoples New Years Resolutions, but few keep the resolution. Smoking is an addiction whether we want to admit it or not. I can appreciate what our smoking President underwent to finally quit.

Since I have retired I have been more successful in keeping my New Years Resolutions. I now have time to work on them. When you are working and raising a family you have little time to spend worrying about keeping a resolution. New Years come and go, and making a resolution becomes something you just do along with everybody else.

I have made three resolutions that I have kept that have really been beneficial to me. One was to change my eating habits. I did it gradually by giving up sugar in my coffee and eating a bowl of cereal, "Total", and a banana for breakfast. Will admit at first it was like chewing cardboard daily and I did miss those eggs, bacon, cheese, sausage, biscuits and pancakes. Also gave up drinking colored water and sugar commonly known as "Soda Pop" or just plain "Pop" and drinking water for meals. This I have continued for the most part except for an occasional treat. Even with these minor changes I found I was still putting on weight. So with the help of a friend a few years back, who introduced me to the world of daily exercise programs, I made a New Years Resolution that I would exercise daily. I set up a home exercise program. I have kept this Resolution faithfully even though it entails getting up early every morning before everyone else gets started. It works. Not only do I feel better and have more energy but I have cut my waist size down from 38 to 36 and 34. It fluctates depending on how may buffets dinners I go to and bowls of ice cream that my friends set in front of me. You know what I mean.

Last year I made a resolution and kept it faithfully without much effort. Learning something new everyday has not been a hard resolution to fulfill with all the knowledge floating around on TV and the Internet. Another constant source of new information for me has been all the interesting guests who visit us at the Old Gray House. I keep a list of new ideas, web-sites and things to look up on my computer. If you want an easy resolution to fulfill I suggest you try Learning Something New Every Day. I guarantee you in this age of instant communication, and social networking, you will never run out of something to learn. And what's more it is fun.

My New Years Resolution I made for 2011, surprisingly to me, is not the easiest one I have made. I did not realize just how little I do in that area. I remember when I was teaching school and much younger it was not a hard resolution to fulfill. I did it automatically every day. I guess age, environment, and circumstances change what used to just come naturally. Now you will probably laugh when I tell you what my resolution is that I having trouble fulfilling. Little did I realize I had so little of it left in my life. I read some place where the average person does it 17 times a day. When I clocked the number of time I did it I was shocked to learn my average was way below that. I wonder just how your average is? Laugh as you may, but to me it is no laughing matter. My New Years Resolution for 2011 was to laugh every day.

Mary and Dewey Parr
Dewey and Mary Parr
Laughing At A Family Gathering
Laughing Together Makes A Happy Marriage

Before you laugh at me, ask yourself how much do I laugh a everyday? Have circumstances changed in your life that there is little or no humor. Do you find the pressures and stresses of life have removed a lot of the laughter? When I was around children all day in the school system as well as raising my own there was little problem when it came to have something to laugh about. Kids kept me laughing. Theirs is a happy playful world. Now that my kids are gone and I am no longer surrounded by hearing their joyful laughter as a part of my daily life there is not as much to laugh about.

Everybody has a different sense of humor. What one person perceives to be funny another one does not. I have had many friends over the years but probably the ones I remember the most are those that made me laugh. I have two Hatteras friends in mind that I used to see daily and they always brought me laughter. One passed away a few years back. He always had a joke or two to share that was tailored made to appeal to my sense of humor and I found myself laughing. When I would see him pulling onto the Old Gray House parking lot it put me in a jovial mood. Have you ever had somebody like that? Another one is still around but I don't see him as often as I would like to. Health problems have taken a toll on him. He is still jovial but that spark that was once there that could generate laughter is slowly beginning to dwindle. It is so sad to say goodbye to such friends or to sit back and to see the laughter fade away.

Now I don't know your circumstances but if you are encountering difficulties where laughter or the opportunity to laugh is no longer prevalent in your life then you need to join me in my New Years Resolution. In fact this New Years Resolution has been recommended by Solomon when he said in the Bible, "Laughter doeth good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22 It has been clinically proven that laughter has a therapeutic value. We have all heard it said, "An Apple a Day Can Keep the Doctor Away". It just as easily be said that, "A Laugh A Day Can Keep the Doctor Away".

Laughter releases endorphins that are produced by the pituary glands into our blood stream. It is endorphins that give us that feeling of well being. Let me say this is one medicine you will enjoy taking. There is a lot to be said about laughing your troubles away. Anyone that has been in the service knows how important laughter can be when you are facing stressful moments. A single laugh can ease the tension and give your that extra energy to continue on. I was surprised to learn that laughter is being used in the treatment of cancer patients.

One of the things I remember growing up on the Island was the laughter. My days were filled with laughter and fun. It was a laugh a minute roaming the woods, playing in the sound, and running the beach with my buddies and dog. I lived on the Buxton Front Road now Hwy 12 across from Mr. Holloway Gray's General Store. There was always somebody coming and going that would kid with me. You could hear the laughter fill the air as folks gathered in front of the store to swap stories and yarns. They told jokes and made humor out of things that happened to them. Many of the strories that brought laughter where their encounters with nature. Things such as the time I was in the sound bare footed pulling my boat along and dipping up crabs and dropping them in a bucket in the back of the boat. When got back in the boat unawares to me a crab crawled out of the bucket to the bottom of the boat. You can guess what happened? That old crab grabbed my big toe. I did a dance and sang a song loud and clear in that boat and after my dance ended up falling overboard with a dip net in one hand and a crab hanging on my toe. After I hit the water that crab let go. Now to you that might not be humorous but my buddies laughed at me all the way home. Time after time they would imitate what they called Sonny's crab dance. Island people just naturally seem to always find something to laugh about. They laughted with each other, at each other, and at themselves. When they laughed at each other it was good natured and never in a condensending fashion. They did not have TV programs to laugh at. They had something better. They had each other.

I recall times when storms where approaching we all gathered to ride out the storm and the fear of the storm was lessened by laughter. It became a time for the sharing of humorous stories that brought laughter rather than tears of fear of what might happen as a result of the storm or hurricane. The howling wind outside was often overiden with the laughter inside. It was these moments that bound us together and created a lasting respect for each other.

One member of the family in particular that could make you laugh was my Aunt Thelma. Aunt Thelma was not a joke teller. I never remember her ever telling a joke, What I remember most is her response to other peoples jokes or something that struck her as funny. Usually she would burst out in laughter after everybody else had laughted and then you found yourself laughing again with her. Her husband, Uncle Alfred Gray, would take us to Hatteras village to the movie house. After the movie we bounced our way back to Buxton as he made his way up the sand road laughing with Aunt Thelma. Everytime I pass the building in Hatteras village, across from the fire station where the movie house used to be, I think of laughter.

I also think about those times when I have laughed and it was not appropriate. I recall one time in Church I got tickled and no matter how I tried to hold it in I could not keep from laughing. Aunt Mateilda, Isaac Gray's widow, and I where in Church when the laughter bug bit us. The church we were attending was in a huge warehouse full of people and the benchs were long planks of wood with concete blocks holding them up on each end. When offering time came they were using straw hats to take up the collection. As the usher approached our aisle he accidentally tripped and was juggling to keep from dropping the hat. After scrambling to catch the hat he got his composure and passed the hat. Aunt Mateilda and I were sitting in the middle of the bowing bench and she looked at me and started snickering and I joined in with her. We tried to keep from laughing out loud and that made it even worse. The bench started shaking up and down. Finally her serious faced husband, Uncle Bill turned to us and said, " If you two grown children don't stop it I am going to take you outside, Now hush". Hush we did. My wife has a close friend she grew up with like that. There are times that they can just look at each other and start laughing. Makes you wonder what they are laughing at. Have you ever had moments like that?

Aunt Mateilda married Uncle Bill after her husband Isaac Gray drowned while claming in the Palmico Sound. When Uncle Ike drowned he left Aunt Mateildia with a baby boy named Chester Gray. It was a sad day at the Gray Family House when he drowned. It was sometime before the laughter began to fill the walls of the Gray family house again. Laughter has a way of easing the pain even in times of grief. I guess God planned it that way.

Let me share briefly with you just how important laughter is to our health and the well being of others who surround us daily. It is said when we laugh we use 51 muscles. Think about that. One little laugh can give you a good physical work out. Also think about how that laughter can generate pleasure to others around you who might laugh along with you. When you laugh you spread happiness. Others around you just naturally feel good when they see or hear another person laughing. Laughter is contagious. Laughter disperse seeds that grow and produce good feelings to others. The seeds sown by laughter brightens up your life as well as others that see you laugh.

Two Views of Jo Bell's

Jo Bell's Close-Up of Jo Bell's

Jo Bell's

Close-Up of Jo Bell's

We have a good example how spreading seeds can brighten up our world and the lives of others. As you drive our ocean highway you will see an abundance of bright reddish-orange flowers. Time after time I have people ask me at the Old Gray House what are those reddish-orange flowers along the road. I tell them they are gaillardia or beach daisy, blanket flowers or Jo Bells. Then I share with them the legend of how they got there. I start by saying, "Those flowers you see along the road have not always been there." As the legend goes there was a man named Joe Bell who lived on Ocracoke Island is responsible for spreading the seeds on the Islands. He came to Ocracoke from Washington, NC hoping to heal his broken heart as the result of an unhappy romance. He was remorseful but he also wanted to perputate the memory of the joy she brought to him. So he collected seeds from the flowers in his yard and spread them throughout the Islands. Some say he threw seeds in air and the wind dispersed them along the road. Others say he took the time to plant them like Johnny Appleseed did with the apple trees. It is said he wore the flower in his lapel and gave out seed to all that he met and encouraged them to plant them. No one really knows for sure if the story is true but we do know that a man by the name of Joe Bell did exist and is buried on Ocracoke Island. Regardless of how true the story is we credit Joe Bell with spreading the flower seeds that reminded him of his true love and to bring joy to those who come to the Islands and see the Jo Bells blooming. You know in a way that is how laughter is. It is spreading seeds of joy and happiness that brightens the lives of others.

It has been clinically proven that laughter has a therapeutic value. We have all heard it said, "An Apple a Day Can Keep the Doctor Away". It just as easily be said that, "A Laugh A Day Can Keep the Doctor Away". Laughing causes our organs to create healing enzymes that spread throughout our bodies and saturate our brains with good feelings. There is a lot to be said about laughing your troubles away. Anyone that has been in the service knows how important laughter can be when you are facing stressful moments. A single laugh can ease the tension and give your that extra energy to continue on. I was surprised to learn that Laughter is being used in the treatment of cancer patients.

This resolution is not the easiest I have ever attempted to fulfill. So far I have found I am having to work hard at be sure that I have at least one good laugh a day. In order to be sure that I get a good laugh I have found myself resorting to situation comedy programs on TV. Admittely some of those programs can generate a good laugh such as the father on Everybody Loves Raymond, or the antics of the old re-runs of the Golden Girls and Three is Company. These types of laughs are ok, but nothing will ever replace a laugh that is generated by interaction with a friend.

Every year we have two friends that visit with us on the Island for two weeks and then we go to visit with them in the winter. Every evening we play games and laugh. One game we play that generates loads of laughter is one called Attack Uno. I guess the reason I like the game so much is that you don't have to think to play it. It moves fast and your situation changes so fast that about all you can do is laugh at each other. There is nothing that can replace laughter that comes from interaction with another human being.

That is why I asking you to help me fulfill my News Years Resolution. Next time you are in the area come by the Old Gray House and share a laugh with me. If you can not come down our way then e-mail me a laugh. I think you will find by helping me you might be helping yourself to lighten up and laugh your troubles away.

Check out these website about laughter.

Laughter is used to treat cancer

Laughter relaxes the whole body ... Laughter boost the immune system ... Laughter pritects the heart ...

Laughter is the best medicine for staying healthy ...
Why is that funny (or not funny, as the case may be)? Human beings love to laugh, and the average adult laughs 17 times a day."

Laughter releases endorphins ...
"One of the first to document the healing power of laughter was Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness. Later research found that powerful, ribald laughter triggered the release of endorphins which not only relieve the pain of accident or illness, but can actually enhance the healing process by helping us develop greater optimism and joy. "

Laughter is good for you ...

What Facebook Means To Me published on: January 26, 2011

While here this winter we came to realize how wonderful it is to have access to a computer and be able to be in touch on a daily basis with our friends who keep us informed what is going on back home on the Island. Hereto before, our main source of information had been watching TV. There is little or no interaction between those on TV and yourself. You sit passively while the TV pours planned impressions into your head through entertainment, commercials or biased news casting. On the computer you express yourself or interact with those with whom you are communicating. Every morning we go to the computer to check our e-mails. My wife is not an internet browser so what little browsing there is I do and occasionally send her an e-mail to share information I discovered on the internet I feel would be of an interest to her. This activity has been a great help in overcoming boredom of being confined.

As the result of a suggestion from a friend, and the constant mention of facebook on TV, I decided to try to understand what benefit there was being on facebook. My previous understanding of facebook and all social networks was that their only function was to provide a platform for chit-chat among the young. I had been led to believe it was mostly of a sexual nature.

Let me deviate here by saying what I think is wrong with many people in my age category. Number one, we are afraid to face the world we live in and hide our heads in the sand not willing to look at anything new or take the time to try or learn anything new. We are set in our ways and over judgmental without taking time to investigate the facts. Most of us in this age category are busy thinking about dying rather than living. It is not entirely our fault we are that way. Every time we turn on the TV or go to the mail box we are reminded we don't have enough life insurance to cover our burials or we need to prepare for the nursing home. Neither do our younger friends or family help our situations for they set a level of expectation for our age. They assume because we are old that we are to act different or act our age. I learned from teaching school that once you begin to allow yourself to accept the level of expectation set for you by others that you become boxed in. Many children do not soar to great heights because somewhere along the way some teacher knowingly or unknowingly led the child to believe in the limits set for them. We have a tendency to talk about the good ole days, or like it used to be. When we talk about the generation gap we forget that the things that are going on today are no different than the things that transpired when we were younger. The major difference today is that nothing is swept under the rug. It is all out in the open so you as well as your children can see it. There are no taboos today. Any and all subjects are openly discussed. I have always prided myself on being up to date on what is going on in the world. After being confined this winter and watching day time TV talk shows and Soap Operas I now realize anything goes. The cast in the daily soap operas are like dogs in heat hopping from one partner to another. If that is not enough commercials are blasting away continually telling you how to make your body over, increase your size, staying power and stamina. They also tell you the dangers with every medication you take. Need I say more? It is not like it was when I was growing up on the Island. Then when a bad word was spoken or topic came up that had a sexual connotation, my mother would say "hush your mouth or I will wash your mouth out with soap". We who are older all know this to be true we just do not want to accept the reality that our world has changed and it will continue. It is just more comfortable for us live in a fantasy world when men rode white horses rescuing frail damsels in distress. We also seem to forget that our grandchildren have probably seen and heard more before age five as a result of their TV exposure, overhearing adult conversations, and who knows what else, than we have in a life time. This alone makes me realize that parents need to reevaluate their child rearing practices when it comes to raising children in this age of open communication. After a career working with children I have my opinions how I would raise my children in today’s world as you probably do, so I will keep them to myself unless asked. Enough said

I definitely did not envision anyone my age being interested in facebook or social networks. After signing up for facebook, and struggling to understand the mechanics of how it works, I came to change my opinion. Facebook can be a challenge to anyone who does not adapt to changes readily. Every time you turn around they change their format. Now I realize that social networking and facebook in particular are tools of the future that transcend all age barriers and when properly used can revolutionize the way the world communicates. In times past I had to wait for my morning newspaper to tell me of the events of the day. Now I can get on facebook and look at my news feeds from friends and receive first hand information about what is going on. I know who is happy, unhappy, sick, died, or even who has a birthday coming up. It is true that sometimes they tell the world more than it should know, but that is personal choice. I will say it does make for good reading and helps to dispel boredom. You always have something to talk about. Since I am the only one on facebook in my household I get the pleasure of sharing interesting things that come floating across my news feeds. The most enjoyable thing is the pictures friends post from the past and present.

Pictures alone are a good reason for being on facebook. Being away from my Island home pictures from friends posted on facebook during and after storms that hit Hatteras Island have been helpful. In many instances you feel like you are actually there and are sharing in the excitement. You get first hand information from many different facebook friends who are witnessing the storm surges and ocean over washes from different locations on the Island. You get the whole picture rather than a short news clip on TV. Most of the pictures are from armature photographers that show like it really is.

No longer does anyone have to be alone. They can find friends of similar interest’s world wide that they can reach out and touch. In the short time I have been on facebook I have not only acquired new friends, but had the privilege being united with former friends. I have been contacted by students I taught in the fifth grade, neighbors from different locations, school mates, and even a College roommate I had lost contact with. On a daily or hourly basis I am in communication with my limited number of facebook friends. They share with me their moments of sadness as well as their times of joy.

Over and over I have heard it said, "No man is an Island unto himself". Maybe that needs to be re-phrased in this age of social networking. There is no excuse or need for anyone to feel they are all alone. To me Social Networking and Facebook in particular is one of the greatest gifts you could provide anyone one that is despondent or lonely regardless of their situation. Should they be in a nursing home or bed-fast if they are mentally capable, they need to be provided with a laptop so they can communicate or be in tune with the communications of others on a daily basis. If nothing else they could communicate with other bedfast patients. As big as this old world is there has to be someone out there that would request to be their friend. I know I would welcome the opportunity to be a friend.

I am grateful for those who chose to be my friend on facebook. They have made what could have been a very lonely winter, while my wife and I have been dealing with our health problems, an enjoyable time. If you have not done so I would recommend you take the time to investigate facebook. Not doing so you are depriving yourself of a lot of fun. If you decide to go on facebook I would welcome the opportunity to be listed as one of your friends.

Mark Zukerberger co-founder of Facebook
Mark Zukerberger co-founder of Facebook.

When he and his friends launched facebook from a Harvard University dormitory it is doubtful they ever envision facebook being the vehicle that opened a free flow of information encompassing 500 million users. Take time to read about him on another dynamic source of free information.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Hurricane Earl and Bonner Bridge
Build the Bridge Now
published on: October 11, 2010

Hurricane Earl and Bonner Bridge
Build the Bridge Now

Dewey Parr

Along came Hurricane Earl, and once again we were faced with the decision, stay or go. Stay or go is a decision all Islanders have to deal with during Hurricane season. For some it is an easy decision. For others it is a decision they make with mixed emotions. In our case health is a factor. Staying can mean you are at the mercy of the elements, without electricity, and medical assistance.

For many the storms surge or flooding is a problem. Our friends in Hatteras village can attest to the trauma that they encounter when the ocean washes their homes away, or cuts an inlet separating them from the rest of the Island. During these horrendous times we all pitch in and do whatever we can to make life easier for them.

The decision to stay or go is never easy for Mary and I. When Hurricane Earl was approaching the Island we began our hurricane preparation by removing everything that might become a missal flying through the air from hurricane-force winds from the yard at our home and the Old Gray House. This is a huge task. We have many items for display in the yard at the shop. In times past I had a large amount of cement ornaments. One year I moved them in and out five times. “Enough of that”, I said, so I discontinued having cement statuary for sale. While I am dashing back and forth between our home and the shop, clearing the yards, closing shutters and boarding up, Mary was covering everything inside the Old Gray House that might be damaged by leaks in the old tin roof. That tin roof has been there all of our lives. Eighty years coming up. In between making hurricane preparations our ears are glued to each and every new detail about the approaching hurricane and we are dealing with tourists still wanting to come into the shop. By the time we get through hurricane preparation and dealing with tourists who can’t seem to understand the dangers of being on a barrier island like Hatteras during a hurricane, we are both totally exhausted.

There are many ifs to consider when a hurricane is approaching the Islands that enter into your decision to stay or go. What if the roof blows off? What if a tornado strikes? What if the electricity goes off and the storm hits during the night? What if the surge from the ocean covers the Island? What if we have a medical emergency and no one can get to us? What if highway 12 is flooded? What if the island is cut in half by an inlet? What if the bridge falls? What if? What if? What if? On and on it goes.

When a hurricane like Earl is approaching it is a guessing game as to what extent the damage can be. All you can do is listen to the reports from the weather channel and await the final decision from the county to issue hurricane evacuation. If they say clear out to the tourists you know they are anticipating something bad. They hate to give up the revenue received from the tourist trade. If they issue mandatory evacuation for locals as well, it is, “Katie Bar The Door, and Batten down the hatches”. That is when if you decide to stay, the officials will say to you, “In the event of your death who is your next of kin we can notify”.

In the case of hurricane Earl we had decided we would stay. That is until the weather channel began saying this was going to be a monster category four hurricane and after the tourist evacuation the county called for a total evacuation. Wow! We thought should this thing be the upper end of a category four or even become a category five Hatteras Island would be a sand pile. Finally, at the last moment, we decided that we had better leave. I decided I should find a place to go before leaving. After several unsuccessful attempts to locate a motel I found one in Rocky Mount, NC that had a vacancy. Finding a place to stay is never easy. If you wait very long after an evacuation is called everyone is fleeing the area. As we made our way up the beach, we were surprised to see that there was hardly any traffic and no water on highway twelve as we had anticipated. We remembered what a mess it was leaving the Island 17 years ago during Hurricane Emily. It took us three hours to get from Orgeon Inlet through Manteo.

After getting off the Island we realized it would be nightfall should we continue. Neither of us are much on driving at night so we found a Motel in Manteo at a cost of $139.00. Next morning we proceeded to the Motel in Rocky Mt., and spent the night there. We decided rather than sit in front of the TV waiting and wondering if our home and the Old Gray House would be no more, as we did in a motel in Greenville, NC during hurricane Emily, we would try to occupy ourselves by doing a little sightseeing. We drove out to a place called Wilson that had a row of antique shops. One in particular that helped to ease our minds was an antique shop called Boones. Wow, they have lots of stuff. You know it is not easy for Islanders to leave their property during a Hurricane. Mary and I know what it is like to loose your home. It was a bitter pill for us to swallow, when our home of thirty-five years burned and destroyed our family memories. Even thought years have passed , during hurricane season it pops into our minds, “what if we loose our Hatteras House.”

As we made our way back to the Motel how happy we were to learn that Hurricane Earl was not the big one that would completely wash away Ocracoke and Hatteras. Allen Burrus, our County Commissioner won his bet with Jim Cantore of the weather channel that the village of Hatteras would not be washed away. The next morning we headed back to the Island anticipating to be first in line as residents to gain access to the Island as soon as the road was open. We were in for an unexpected surprise.

We arrived at the Oregon Inlet parking area about noontime. It was loaded with motor homes, vans, and cars of tourists waiting for the signal to cross Bonner Bridge. No longer was precedence being given to locals who left as a result of a mandatory evacuation. So we went to end of the long line. We waited. We watched emergency vehicles, and one after another news media vehicles cross the bridge. Finally one of the news media pulled up and began interviewing people. As he was starting to put up his equipment I asked him if he had heard anything about when we would be able to go home. He asked me if he could interview me and I said, “ok”. When he asked where I was from he said, “You know you are the only local I have talked to. All these other people are on vacation. Of course you know me. I told him what I thought. At around 5 p.m. we noticed the cars and campers up front starting to pull out. At last we thought we are headed home, but were soon to learn that was not the case. We learned from others as we followed the crowd that there was water still on highway twelve and entrance would be delayed until the next day. What a mess. Here we are with no place to stay. Nightfall is coming. I said, “ Mary let me have your cell phone so I can see if I can find us a place quick. Everybody will be searching for a place and you know we don’t want to be on the road at night hunting for a motel”. Luckily the Motel we had stayed in at Manteo had an opening so we took it. Others, I learned, where not as fortunate as we were. Not only did they not have the money to pay for a motel, but they could not find a place. By this time our little forced evacuation vacation was now costing us around $500.00

Mary asked me, “What older people who have no transportation or money do who live on the Island in times of mandatory evacuation”. I replied, “I guess they do what we did when I was growing up. You stayed and never thought about leaving”. Usually families gathered together and rode the storm out hoping and praying for the best. When it cleared you thanked God for no loss of life, and went out and started helping each other put back together what was left.

The next morning we headed back to Bonner Bridge. A couple of miles before we got to Oregon Inlet the traffic was backed up. It seemed like it was forever before we got a glimpse of the bridge. Sure enough, the traffic was crossing the bridge very slowly bumper to bumper. Mary looked at me and I looked at her and I knew what she was thinking the same thing I was thinking, “Bonner Bridge bumper to bumper”? Now let me remind you that NC bridges safety records are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best and Bonner Bridge has a rating of number 2. Ever so slowly we were like a creeping cat, until we were on the raised portion of the Bridge. Then the traffic stopped completely. We could feel the vibrations from the bridge and it seemed like we were there for an eternity. I knew Mary was thinking what I was thinking, “Silver Bridge”.

Silver Bridge

We were in Huntington WV when just up the river from us at Point Pleasant, WV the Silver Bridge fell on December 15, 1967. The chairman of our Church building project was in the process of putting the finishing touches on a cross to be hung in the center of the new auditorium, when the word came that his mother and father had died. As he waited for the recovery of his parent’s bodies with tears in his eyes he completed the cross. What a sad time this was for our entire church and community. Forty-six people went down in the icy waters of the Ohio River with the Silver Bridge. Two of the forty-six bodies were never recovered. The Silver Bridge was like the Bonner Bridge. It had out lived its usefulness. No body was thinking the Silver Bridge would fall but it did. You can rest assured that was not the case with us as we sat bumper to bumper, in stalled traffic on top of the Bonner Bridge. I thought to myself I would have rather taken my chances with Hurricane Earl than be sitting here on top of this constantly repaired bridge that was built in l963 with an expected life span of thirty years. One bump from a barge and Mary and I might become crab bait as the bridge comes tumbling down in the Atlantic Ocean.

I ask you what will it take for the politicians and the environmentalists to get together and stop the continual bickering about the replacing of the bridge. Will we have to wait until the bridge collapses and there is loss of life before something is done. Long bridge, short bridge, who cares. Just build the Bridge Now. We do not need any more hundred of thousands of dollar studies about the environmental impact of the new bridge. Divert the study money to building the bridge. What we need to do is gather up all of those that are stalling replacement of the bridge, and confine them on top of it, and let them sit there so they can think more clearly about the necessity of getting the bridge built soon. From that vantage point, I am sure as they look down at the Oregon Inlet’s churning waters they might come to a hasty decision to build the bridge NOW! I think if President Truman were in the White House, and he was presented the facts about how many lives are dependent having an access to the mainland in times of medical emergencies and storms he would say, Build the Damn Bridge Now. Shame we no longer have politicians in Washington like that.

Will we evacuate the Island again, probably not. Since Dare County has changed its reentry policy and we no longer have access to our property before non-residents have a chance to come in and plunder it, we will remain to protect our property. As far as determining what is safer, withstanding the forces of hurricane winds, or sitting on top of Bonner Bridge, I will take a hurricane any day.

If you have not done so take time to visit the web-sites:

Click Photo to checkout
Check out Bridge Moms on facebook. They are to be commended for their fantastic efforts to get the bridge built. You politicians better wise up. Never under estimate the powers of angry mothers fighting for the safety of their children.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

A Hatteras Lift published on: October 11, 2010

Preface to Hatteras Lift

What prompted me to think about charity and charitable organizations on Hatteras Island is the sudden influx of non-profit tax status organizations. Constantly we are being bombarded with requests in our mailbox or on our phone for a donation to help some worthy cause. Everywhere we look we see storefronts for tax-free organizations. In times past the majority of these services where provided by the churches or benevolent individuals without any emphasis on amassing huge sums of money for operational costs. The major difference between these services is that the bottom line is to make money. We now have thrift stores, volunteer fire fighters, counseling services, museums with gift shops, bingo games, police, schools, churches, community gardens, farmers markets, emergency services, food pantries, meals on wheels, and a host of other organizations which seek tax free donations. Hatteras Island is now blessed with tax free organizations where you can have an evening of entertainment or buy groceries including meats, clothing, household items, and gifts. The big question for the consumer is whom profits from the proceeds received from these organizations. The other question is do local non or not-for-profit organizations infringe on private enterprise. This is what led me to think about how we approached helping others in times past.

A Hatteras Lift

Dewey Parr

Having served for a period of time as a board member of one of the large charitable organizations, I came to realize that most of today’s charitable organizations are big businesses that spend a considerable amount of time seeking donations to perpetuate a beau racy. As with all big business organizations you need a Director and staff, with benefits, building, and supplies. The Director of the organization I am referring to made over $100,000.00 per year plus a huge benefit package. This requires lots of money therefore most charities spend huge dollars and time soliciting funds to keep their organizations going. I was once offered a job to serve as representative to assist in fund raising. The job came with benefits, a car, expense account, country club, and civic organization memberships and health insurance and retirement benefits. Part of my job would be to not only attend all types of social functions, but to wine and dine potential givers at the organizations expense. I think the philosophy with most charitable organizations seems to be that it takes money to make money and you have to put on a big front to reel in major donors.

` One major problem of today’s charity operations is to determine who is worthy to receive assistance. You have to be on guard as to who is fleecing the programs. The fleecing can be from the inside as well as outside. We read about those who administer the programs who get caught stealing form the organizations, but we seldom hear about the abusers who are recipients of benefits from the programs.

My father, who was a career Navy man, shared with me what he witnessed during World War II while stationed on a South Seas Island. He said at that time the American Missionaries had set up Churches on different ends of the Island to convert the natives to their particular brand of religion. In order to do this they provided food, clothing, and some medical assistance to entice the natives to hear their messages. At that time they received their supplies by boat. He said, every time a boat docked with supplies for a particular Church, most of the natives changed their religion. As he put it, “the Island tilted with each boat landing because all the natives ran to get what they were handing out.”

Who you help is a problem. How do you decide? I haven’t figured that one out yet. I recall what happened to Mary and me many years ago. I was a preacher in a mountain community. There was a family who never attended my church who walked the railroad tracks with a string of little children to their home up the “holler”. Usually the mother had a baby in her arms. They began coming to my door seeking food. When Mary and I looked at those little children standing there our hearts melted. Of course we gave them food even though momma and daddy were often seen walking the tracks with a cigarette dangling from their mouth, and a bottle in one hand. As a general rule we drove into town to go to the store on Thursday. When we would arrive at home it, as we were taking our groceries into the house, mother and children would appear at our door seeking food. We still gave them a little, but at that time we didn’t have much for ourselves and we had two little ones of our own. The problem began to ease up when I suggested I would take the family to seek governmental or charitable organizations help. In so doing I became aware they had already run the gambit of this route and were using the children to milk unsuspecting soft hearted people of everything they could get. It was this incident that brought to mind the statement that my mother used so often, “Charity begins at home.” Over the years Mary and I have helped many people who probably didn’t deserve our help, but we have lost nothing by doing so, because in our hearts we did what we felt was right.

I am not saying organized charitable organizations are all bad. I think we need to realize that any time we make a donation to any of our modern day charitable organizations that an extreme amount of that donations goes to maintain organizational expense. Sorry but I just don’t feel that those who solicit funds for charity need to be making huge salaries with all expenses including fabulous retirement packages while the people they are supposed to be helping do good to eke out a living. I also feel that just because we give to a charitable organization this does not frees us from being charitable to other individuals that might need help within our own community.

Another area concerning charitable donations that disturbs me is when a person is pressured or forced to give, by their employer, to a particular charitable organization. During my tenure as a teacher, every year we underwent pressure to give to a particular charitable organization. It wasn’t just a matter of giving a donation but being coerced to give a percentage of our salaries by way of payroll deduction. After becoming a member of the board of directors of that organization I learned the main motive behind this was so that our big boss, superintendent of schools, could be recognized at the big banquet held at the end of the charity donation drive. To me this practice is in violation of right of an individual to decide for themselves who they desire to help.

A truly disgusting miss-use of the concept of Charity is when you see many hiding under the non-profit or not-for-profit federal classification to rake off money from others or avoid paying taxes. Some religious leaders and community organizations have been quite successful in doing this. Not only does it hurt the honest charitable organizations but it often turns off a lot of people towards religious groups and sincere organizations It leads them to believe that all Church leaders and charity workers want is your money, and not to trust charitable organizations.

What was Hatteras Island Charity Concept like in the world of yesterday? They had few, if any organizations, to collect money other than Churches. Usually in the Churches a simple announcement that a Brother or Sister could use our help is all it took for individuals to help. Organized efforts consisted of getting together to restore houses after fires or storms. Little money crossed hands, because there was little money available. There were no large sums of money available for scam artist to steal. There was no governmental help.

The Hatteras form of charity was that you did something for somebody not expecting any form of compensation in return. You just did it from the bottom of your heart. A thank you was nice, but if they didn’t give you one you still were glad to have had the opportunity to help.

I recall a couple of minor present day incidents where no money crossed hands that have made me feel good inside. One example was of two students without any money, from Chapel Hill who decided to dash down to Hatteras Island to see the famous Cape Point for the first time. At daybreak they drove their new truck, which was not a four wheel drive without letting the air out of their tires, all the way out to the end of Cape Point. How they did it I will never know. When they started back guess what. They got stuck. I came along and seeing the two young men frantically trying to dig out offered to help. First line of duty was to explain they needed to let the air out of their tires. While forming a path with my hands to help get them out a Hatteras Island Professional who earned money hauling people off the beach came by. Seeing me on my hands and knees he asked what is the problem. I told him these two students without money decided to come see our beautiful beach got stuck. Without saying any thing he got out of his buggy and got behind the wheel of their truck. Using his Hatteras knowledge he drove them non-stop to the hard road, without charging them. After giving them instructions to get air back in their tires together we watched two thankful young men drive off. Simple as this act was it brought me and my friend who helped a feeling of joy because we did something to help others without expecting anything in return. To me that is charity.

I am happy to report that the old-fashion form of charity is still prevalent on the Island today. We have organized efforts such as the meals on wheels program, Methodist Men and other programs that provide assistance to others. There is even a program that gives relief to caregivers so they can have some free time to themselves. Within every Island Church you have outreach programs that are extended to every one in the community who needs help. These organizations do not have paid employees and all funds received go directly to helping others. Others practice charity constantly. If you are in need they do whatever they can without expecting any praise or money in return. Islanders don’t wait for some organization to come along and collect up a bunch of money to help others. Their help is extended to everyone regardless of their religion or race. They just jump in and do whatever they can to help those in need

In our community there was a little boy with cancer, from a family drained financially, who needed medical assistance. So a store owner instituted a collection jar, and lunches for a donation, to help raise money. This person went to great lengths to make the community aware of the need of this family.

When the people in New Orleans needed help after Hurricane Katrina, person after person went there time after time at their own expense to help destitute families rebuild. The list goes on and on. Time after time Islanders out of the goodness of their hearts have helped others. This is what I remember as a kid growing up on this Island, to be the true and unadulterated form of the word Charity.

Hatteras Island charities are acts of kindness that begin in a person’s heart and culminate into some form of kindness extend to another person, without any intention of receiving anything back, or recognition for doing so. No two people express this kindness in the same way. Some who are financially sound might express this through making money donations. Others express it by lending a helping hand or providing food.

What is Hatteras Charity? Charity is love. It is sharing your love for all mankind regardless of race creed or color expecting nothing in return. It is helping friends and strangers in need.

A reminder of the depth of Hatteras Charity came to me not long ago when without even thinking I used a forgotten old Island term. While headed home from the Old Gray House on the corner I spotted an old-timer standing on the other side of the road. I yelled out the car window to him, “Hi there, can I give you a lift.” He walked across the road and leaned over and said to me, “It has been a long time since anyone took the time to offer me a lift. You will never know how much it means to me to have someone take the time to speak to me like that. I thank you for the offer but I am waiting for someone.”

I didn’t think much about what he said at the time, but some time later after reading that he was in a nursing home it came back to me what those words meant to him. He was old and alone. He had outlived the rest of his family. No one took the time to speak to him or recognize his existence anymore. I also recalled the many times while growing up I heard other Islands speaking about giving someone a “lift” without referring to a ride. The lift he needed was to know someone cared about him.

Now where the term “lift” came from I am not sure but I do understand its significance when applied to charity. This being a storm-centered area where you are often surrounded by water I can envision the derivation of the term “lift” arising out of a person’s need to seek higher ground. Hatteras Charity is giving someone a lift. Helping them get to higher ground.

Next time you see someone lonely or in need don’t hesitate to provide them an old fashion Hatteras Island Lift. The same lift you give them will be the one that lifts you to higher ground.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

My New Years Resolution
Thoughts on Old Age
published on: Friday, January 01, 2010
My New Years Resolution

My wife prompted me to write this. During the night she woke me to ask if I was all right. I replied, “What do you mean”. She said, “You stopped breathing”. TV has been blaring for the last couple of days about those who died in 2009. This coupled with the fact that a neighbor, much younger than I, suddenly died and another friend my age suffering from Alzheimer’s is now requiring hospice care has not helped. Or could it be we attended a birthday party for a ninety year old friend.

What will the world be like when you celebrate your 90th Birthday?
What Year Will it Be?

Can you believe it? The year 2010 is here. What is better yet, I am still here. The odds that I might be here for 2011 are unknown so I would advise you not to place a bet on it. I am doing my best to make it possible but who knows what the future holds for any of us.

As I listen to the annual recount of last years events I realize there is nothing concrete in this world. Nations rise and fall, and the rich and famous disappear from the scene. You can be on top one minute and hit bottom the next. Tiger Woods, Ted Kennedy, and Michael Jackson are 2009 examples of how flimsy fame and fortune can be. It is an accepted fact that man is born to die. Death is the one constant that never changes. Death is no respecter of persons. Some would put taxes in that category, but taxes are only there because, “we the people”, allow it. All our efforts to prevent death are futile. The Good Book says, “It is appointed unto man once to die”. We can slow it down by putting into practice proper diet, exercise, medical check ups and good grooming. After that there is not much else we can do.

Some hunt for the elixir of life, or the fountain of youth all of their lives. All the things we do to make our bodies appear to be young still do not change the fact that we all age. Probably the greatest thing we can do is take the advice, “Why worry about life, you will never live through it.” Truer words were never spoken.

So if I cannot change the fact I am going to die what I can do about it? Who has the answer? Religious leaders tell us to put our trust in God. The Holy scriptures tell us to, “Take no thought for tomorrow”.

What is my remedy for a long and meaningful life free from worry about dying? The answer is summed up in two words, “Mental Exercise”.

Years ago on the advice of a friend I started a physical exercise program that I feel has not only prolonged my life but made life much more enjoyable for me. Click Here to read about my exercise program. Now I realize that there is another phase to a proper exercise program that is overlooked. It is Mental Exercise. A well balanced exercise program is a two phase program incorporating physical and mental.

My wife and I are now in the stage of life where our number one threat is the terrible deliberating disease called Alzheimer’s. At our ages, it is only natural there are times we wonder if we will be next. Alzheimer’s is like death in that it is no respecter of persons. Even a President of our nation, Ronald Regan, did not escape it. We joke about it because of the many blunders we make, but it is a possible reality that awaits us. At this time there is no know elixir for long life or cure for Alzheimer’s so until that time all people our age can do is to attempt preventive medicine.

My Preventive Medicine for Worry About Alzheimer’s and Death is Mental Exercise.

When I go to my favorite spot on the Hatteras south beach and look out over the ocean and view the sky above, I am aware that somewhere out there is a pool of knowledge unimaginable to mankind. It is this pool of knowledge that we will merge into at our death. Death is a transformation from a physical body to a spiritual body. It is the knowledge or the ability to know and learn that gives us the power to rise above our fears and human frailties.

My New Years Resolution is to Learn Something New Everyday. By doing this I do not have time to think about death. Learning is what will keep you youthful. Learning is what separates you from those classified as old people. Old people generally stop learning and looking to the future. Old people spend their days reliving and talking about the past. They often speak about things that happened yesterday, rather than today or hopes for the future. They live up to the level of expectation set for them by the world in general. They are like race horses that are no longer useful and sent to pasture.

I implore you who are older to stop listening to those who want to put you into a little box because of your age. Don’t fall for the constant reminder that your body is getting old by those who constantly tell you it is time to slow down. So you can’t do the things like you used to. It is not time to hang it up or crawl in a box waiting for someone to shut the lid. It is time to change courses.

Nowadays when I head to the beach the Cape Hatteras Light House reminds me that there comes a time in life when it is time to change your course. In times past it sent a light streaming out into the ocean to warn the ships at sea to change their course so they would not run aground on the dreaded diamond shoals. In all of our lives regardless of age there comes a time when we need to alter our course.

For we who are older it is time to seek new adventures that require less strenuous physical activity. The greatest enjoyment I had as school teacher was opening the lid of “the boxes” that children had been placed into by other teachers. By the time many of them came to me in the fifth grade their level of expectation had already been set and they accepted it as a fact. The biggest problem with our school system today is that children are not challenged to seek a higher level of expectation.

I could not but help but notice recently at a Church I have been visiting they have set aside a special parking close to the door for people over seventy. Evidently they assume if you are over seventy you are old and need to be treated different and act the role. In no way would I want to change the concept of respecting the elderly. I enjoy the senior citizen discount. I definitely enjoy the Senior Citizen Menu at the Buxton Captain’s Table Restaurant. I am not saying do away with all the goodies for we who have been fortunate to live longer. I am simply saying don’t put us in a box and say now this is the way we expect you to act and live. I am not ready for the lid to be shut on the box. I hope you are not either.

The body can be old and yet the mind can be young. It is mind over matter. The secret to a long happy productive life is Learning Something New Everyday. We who are older need to free ourselves from the darkness of the past and walk in the light of the new age. When I was a child growing up on the Island in the 1930’s my access to knowledge was limited. Books and a set of encyclopedias were not the rule of thumb in our Buxton home. My exposure to the outside world came primarily from the Buxton School at the end of the Dark Ridge Road or (Light Plant Road). Most of the knowledge I was exposed to was my own experience with nature and overhearing adult conversations in the general stores.

Just as we set up a scheduled time for exercising the body we need to do the same thing for exercising the mind. I have scheduled a time everyday to learn something new. Since I started seeking new knowledge the biggest problem I have encountered is to know when to cut it off. There is so much knowledge floating around as a result of the computer that you become overwhelmed. It would take a thousand life-times and then some to exhaust the pool of knowledge.

Regardless of your age, be it 1 to 100 acquire a computer. I encourage anyone that is bored with life to engage in learning something new everyday. If you are confined to a bed ask your family to get you a laptop. Standard equipment for every nursing home should be a laptop. Better yet get a hobby. Go on a quest to seek information about it. Mine is learning all I can about shells and the animals that live inside of them. Nursing homes should be buzzing with senior citizens talking about the new knowledge they have learned rather than their aches and pains.

My Computer Has Become My Primary Access to the Pool of Knowledge

Wake up world. With the advent of the computer and the World Wide Web, things will never be the same. Never again will anyone be deprived of learning. You are only limited by your desire to learn.

There is one other important feature of my new year’s resolution I forgot to mention. Learn Something New Everyday and find someone to share it with. Knowledge has little meaning if you cannot share it. I love living on an Island, but I realize no man is an Island unto himself. Everybody needs somebody. If you have nobody, once again the computer can help you relate to others as well as increase your knowledge through social networking. This is an area I have not fully learned how to navigate but I am finding it has unending possibilities for making new friends from all over the world. I say, to all who have allowed others to put them in a box and classify them as Old People, remove that title by becoming a part of a social networking group. Join these youthful groups. Stumble your way through them and learn with millions of others the joy of sharing. Become a Twitter-Bug. Show your face on Face Book. Reserve your Space on Space Book.

If you have taken time to read my New Years Resolution to Learn Something New Everyday, I want to thank you. I thank you for feeling my thoughts are worthy of your time. I would welcome hearing from you.

As I look over the ocean from my favorite spot on the South Beach of Hatteras Island I can visualize my final access to the unending pool of knowledge that will take me into the Eternal Pool of Knowledge. Until that time comes I will be content with dipping into the limited pool of knowledge in this world.

One of the best places I have found to begin dipping into the pool of human knowledge is Wikipedia. I am thrilled that through the efforts and dreams of the founder of Wikipedia, The On-line Encyclopedia, the children of Hatteras Island and the world are no longer limited to acquiring knowledge as I was as a child.

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge."
                                                                                                                                           Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

I too have a dream. It is my dream.

“Never will there be a time when every single person on the planet be denied free access to looking over the ocean from the South Beach of Hatteras Island and visualizing the Eternal Pool of Knowledge that awaits them.”

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Hatteras Beach Rock Update published on: Thursday, November 06, 2009

Hatteras Beach Rock Update

By Dewey Parr

Pictures of Rocks Brought To Me

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As you stroll through my garden you will see Rocks brought to me
by visitors to the Old Gray House

I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who have been bringing rocks to the Old Gray House since the first article I wrote that was published in the Island Breeze in June of 1999. I now have rocks brought to me from many different states including Canada. In that article I revealed my love for rocks and visitors to the Island are still bringing them to me. I guess you would call this new story on rocks and an update to that story. I will do my best in this up date not to repeat what I said previously about rocks. One sure sign of old age is when you start babbling over, and over about the same thing, and never talk about something new. A lot has changed in my life since then, but there has been no change in my fascination with rocks.

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I call theses Beach Rock. Why? Because I found them on the Beach.

Since my first article I am a little more sophisticated in my terminology and classification of Hatteras beach rocks. When you walk our beaches you find five types of rock. Coquinite, Marl, from the continental shelf, Ballast Rock from ships, Lightning Rock, and Black Rock, (Coal) from ships. As s child on our beach even finding a piece of coal created excitement for me. I envisioned slaves on ship stoking a coal furnace. My main experience with coal was when I went to College in Kentucky. It was there I experienced what it might have been like to be a slave aboard a ship on the end of a shovel. I shoveled coal all winter long to feed the school furnaces in order to help pay my tuition. Occasionally you will find a piece of rock that has been brought to the Island for fill or even a piece of rock from the old lighthouse that was blown up, like the two rocks at the entrance to the Old Gray House.

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Red Rock From First Lighthouse After Blown Up

Finding a rock, coal, or a brick on the Hatteras sand beach, no matter how small it might be, has always been a treasure. I am not a rockologist and have a very limited knowledge of how to classify rocks with the exception of what a learned at a very young age on the Island. I was told there are three basic forms of rock: Soft (Sedimentary), Hard (Metamorphic), and Harder (Igneous). Each one was associated with heat, pressure and depth. I was also told the inner core of the earth was hot and the deeper you go the hotter it gets. I guess that is why in our Buxton Churches they always referred to Heaven as being up and Hell being down.

Sedimentary Rock
As you walk the Gray House Garden Path You Will See Sedimentary or Coquinite Rocks Found on the Beach. Many of these Rocks Are Gifts From Visitors To the Old Gray House Who Find Them On the Beach While Vacationing.

When I walk the Hatteras beach the majority of the rocks I find are Sedimentary or Coquinite Rock. They are a conglomerate of bits of shells, whole shells, and anything else that is cemented together with sand. It is stuff that falls to the bottom of the sea and is bound together with heat and pressure. It is like what my Mary does in the kitchen. She takes some of this and some of that tosses it in a bowl and sticks it in the oven and out comes something good to look at and eat. Now that is creating a conglomerate. If you look closely at the coquinite rocks you find on the beach they will reveal clues to the past history of the many types of shells and sea life that has been available at Hatteras.

Coquina is the Spanish word for cockleshells or shell fish. It is a rock composed of shell fossils, and minerals bound together as a result of wave action, pressure and low heat not much more than 100 degrees C. Often you will find whole shells incorporated into this rock formation. When you look in some of the shells you will notice crystal formations taking place. It is fun to see how many different types of shells are within a rock formation.

My knowledge of the technical terms for various rocks I have found over the years is limited. I just know from looks and experiences that there is definitely a difference between the two major rock formations you find on the Hatteras beach. In addition to Sedimentary or what I call common beach rock, you find a heavy dense gray rock that has fossil impression in it. This rock is called Marl or Marlstone.

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Chunks of Marl that broke off the Continental Shelf

What is Marl? This definition is provided by my favorite encyclopedia, Wikipedia the free encyclopedia.

Marl or marlstone is a calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud or mudstone which contains variable amounts of clays and aragonite. Marl was originally an old term loosely applied to a variety of materials, most of which occur as loose, earthy deposits consisting chiefly of an intimate mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, formed under freshwater conditions; specifically an earthy substance containing 35-65% clay and 65-35% carbonate. The term is today often used to describe indurated marine deposits and lacustrine (lake) sediments which more accurately should be named marlstone.

The thing that sets Marl apart besides its weight and clay appearance is that it is not flat like the common beach rock. It is often in oval heavy chunks with fossils or imprints of fossil formations. This rock is composed of soft clay dating back to the Miocene Age (23.7 to 5.3 million years ago). It breaks off of the continental shell and washes up on our beach after intense storms. Think of the stories this rock could tell if it could talk.

Lighting Rock (Fulgrite) found on the beach

Another rock like formation is what we call Lighting Rock. This rock formation is of such a nature that I feel it merits a little more attention than I gave it in my first article. The best place to find it is near or on the sand dunes. I guess the reason is that when lightning strikes the beach it usual hits what ever is the highest. This is one reason why when you hear thunder it is best to clear the beach because you are the tallest structure on the beach, which makes you the number one target for a lightning bolt. In times past we have had individuals killed on our beach as a result of lightning. The scientific name is Fulgrite. Some people confuse this freak rock of nature with that of our common beach rock. In fact I have seen crafts in the stores mounted on our common beach rock with labels on it describing it as Fulgrite. There is no comparison between the two formations.

Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia provides this explanation of Fulgrite

Fulgurites (from the Latin fulgur meaning thunderbolt) are natural hollow glass tubes formed in quartzose sand, or silica, or soil by lightning strikes. They are formed when lightning with a temperature of at least 1,800 °C (3,270 °F) instantaneously melts silica on a conductive surface and fuses grains together; the fulgurite tube is the cooled product. This process occurs over a period of around one second, and leaves evidence of the lightning path and its dispersion over the surface. Fulgurites can also be produced when a high voltage electrical distribution network breaks and the lines fall onto a conductive surface with sand beneath. They are sometimes referred to as petrified lightning. The longest fulgurite found is approximately 4.9 meters (16 ft) to 5 meters (17 feet) in length, and was found in northern Florida

Should you be fortunate enough to find a piece of fulgrite while walking the beach come by the Old Gray House and show me.

Ballast RocksOf the different type of rocks you find on the Hatteras beach the most historical is that of the Ballast rock. What are Ballast Rocks? Ballast Rocks were used by sailing ships to stabilize the ship. Rocks, gravel, sand, iron rods, barrels of wine or water, old cannon balls, or whatever was available was loaded in the hull of sailing vessels to equalize the ships depth in the water. It is similar to what the Chamber Nautilus animal does with the empty chambers in the Nautilus Shell. These rocks did not always indicate a given area from which the ship came from. The rocks were discharged from the ship, or added from different ports throughout the journey. Without accurate scientific testing of these rocks it is impossible to determine their origin or how long they may have been on the ocean floor. One can only come up with mental pictures in their minds of what ship or country these rocks originated from. We cannot even be sure that the ballast rocks we find on our beaches are from a sinking ship, Many times they were thrown overboard to stabilize or correct the draft of the ship during storms or entry into ports.
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Ballast Rocks

I found it interesting that ballast rocks were being used to determine if the discovery of the shipwreck in the Beaufort Inlet, NC is actually the pirate Black Beards ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Scientific testing is being used to determine if the ballast rocks found at the wreck site came from known ports visited by Edward Thatch know as Blackbeard the pirate. I was not aware that rocks had DNA tracks that were traceable similar to human DNA.

Large ballast rocks are not found often on our beaches today except for bits and fragments. In times past it was not uncommon to find good size ballast rocks as a result of an angry ocean that tossed them up on the beach from shipwrecks. As a general rule, they were round or smooth without rough edges except irregularities caused by erosion and wave action. The reason they chose round smooth rocks to place in the ships was that it was dangerous to have rocks with sharp points that might cause damage to the ship’s hull due to shifting in rough seas. Islanders collected ballast rocks to use around their yards and even incorporated them in foundations or their chimneys. Each rock was considered to be a treasure to talk about. There was always much speculation as to what shipwreck or what country these rocks might have originated from.

Much can be learned about stabilizing the balance and level in the water of ships and how this affects our ocean ecology today. We have replaced ballast rocks with ballast water. This has led to problems throughout the world due to the discharge of ballast water from ships. Often this water is contaminated and it releases alien creatures as well as harmful bacteria into our waters that cause severs ecological problems as well infecting our food chain. This is especially true throughout the Great Lakes and parts of Canada that are suffering from an infestation of such creatures as the Zebra Mussel, Sea Lamprey, European Green Crab and the Chinese Mitten Crab which is a host to the lung fluke (Paragonium Westerman) and who knows what else has its origin in the release of ballast water from foreign ships. Once alien creatures are released into the waters unless preventive steps are taken immediately, they spread throughout the waterways of the entire nation causing billions of dollars of devastation. It is estimated that Zebra Mussel alone is responsible for losses of millions of dollars annualy to the fishing industry. People who swim love to see crystal clear water but they are not often not aware that many fish such as the Wall-Eye along with some plant life prefer cloudy water. If you are interested in the problems created by ballast water and the Zebra Mussel clearing up cloudy water and clogging intake valves then check out this web site.

Click here to learn more about Ballast Rocks.

My explanation of the different types of rock that I find on the beach may not be as accurate as yours might be but it satisfies me and my curiosity. Until someone like you takes the time to correct me I will continue with my unscientific classification of rocks I find while walking the Hatteras Beach. Should you know better I will remain in my little world of limited knowledge of rocks until you supply me with more up to date knowledge? Don’t hesitate to let me know if I am mistaken, I have been told that many times before and it never has offended me if you supply me with correct information.

I am indebted to Andrew Alden for all the information he supplies on concerning rocks. He sure knows his subject even though I am not able to fully understand it. I thought it was quiet commendable that he took the time to promptly answer my questions about the rocks I find on the beach. Below is his reply that substantiates what I have said about Hatteras Beach Rocks.

Hello Dewey,

Those rocks would definitely be sedimentary. Marl is an impure limestone that would be typical of the continental shelf, ripped up by heavy surf and carried onto the beach. Lightning strikes upon sand would create fulgurites:

Thanks for writing.

Andrew Alden
Guide to Geology

If you have any questions about rocks you definitely need to take the time to check out what Andrew Alden has to say about them. Click here for rock information.

WV Rock
Picture of WV Bowling Rock

Thanks again for bringing me rocks for my rock garden. Someone from WV brought me the bowling ball and sign you see in my garden. They called it a WV Bowling Rock. I guess it is some kind of Hill Billy joke. Now you know what to do with old bowling balls. Bring them to me for my rock garden.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Feeding Birds is a Priority At The Old Gray House published on: Thursday, November 05, 2009

Feeding Birds is a Priority At The Old Gray House
By Dewey Parr

As you can see from the pictures, I have a small area that I have designated in my garden to let all birds know they are welcome. With the help of my friends’ everyday I try to provide them with feed and water. Others feel the same way I do about birds. Recently when I went to put feed in the bird feeder there was a $20.00 bill stuck in it. I and the birds thank whoever left it. It went a long towards purchasing better bird seed.

Notice the twenty dollar bill stuck in feeder.
The Birds and I Thank You

I love all birds. I have always loved all birds. Regardless of what our National Park, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Audubon Society do to our Island as a result of their stupid ideas to protect the piping plover. I will still love all birds including the Piping Plover. I am not like the environmentalists who are selective when it comes to birds or people. I do not believe in putting one bird or person above another. We are all God’s creations and should be respected and treated alike.

After a long summer of not being able to walk or drive to my favorite spot on the Island, finally the Park Service opened limited access to South Beach. When my friend Clarence and I approached our favorite place on South Beach we spotted a sea gull in distress. As you can see from the pictures the poor little thing was doomed to die without any help.

My first thought was what we can do to help this poor bird. As I was getting ready to call the Park Service office I spotted a Park Service vehicle coming down the Beach. As they approached they spotted the bird and stopped.

Hooray! Help Is on the Way. Here Comes the Park Rangers

I walked over to them and asked what could be done to help this sea gull. They said, “We have a program with a person designated to take care of wounded birds and we will call it in.” After they called we talked for awhile and I discovered they where summer employees. Before they left they asked if we would hang around to help the person coming out to get the bird locate it. We gladly said we would.

At last, I thought I was going to have the opportunity to praise our Park System, but once again I found it was not the case. What a disappointment.

We waited and waited so I called the Hatteras National Park Headquarters three times asking when they where coming to get the wounded sea gull like the two rangers said they would. The person on the other end of the phone acted like it was a joke. After a long time, and the Bird Ambulance did not arrive, we had no other alternative but to leave the poor little sea gull on the beach and head back home. Before doing so I made one last call to the Park office and with the comment, "Why don't you admit it you don't care about a wounded bird unless it is a piping plover".

It Really Hurt Us to Leave That Little Bird to Die
Because of the Park Service’s Lack of Concern

The rest of the evening and that night all I could think about was the picture of that Sea Gull sitting there helpless left to die. The more I thought about it the more I decided to find out just what the Park Service did to help birds other than Piping Plovers so a I sent an e-mail to the Park Service Superintendent's Office. Much to my surprise after 12 days they did respond. Evidently my request precipitated some discussion. You will notice copies of the e-mail were sent to other park officials. Read it and you will conclude what the Cape Hatteras National Park’s attitude is about wounded birds or animals that are not declared as endangered.

My e-mail to the Cape Hatteras National Park


To Cyndy

Does the Cape Hatteras National Park have a formal policy on how to take care of injured birds. May I receive a copy of what is done for sea gulls that are found on the beach that have been injured? Are sea gulls classified as predators? If you have a written policy may I receive a copy of it?
Dewey Parr - P.O. Box 1002, Buxton, NC - 27920

Reply From National Park


From Cyndy
      CC Thayer

Mr. Parr,

I've checked service-wide and with our park Resource Management staff for a policy regarding injured birds. Neither the National Park Service nor Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a formal written policy regarding the care of injured birds, including gulls. In general, at most units of the National Park System, the long-standing informal policy is to let nature take it's course. The exception to thisis that in some cases involving rare, threatened or endangered species, if there appears to be a chance for the injured bird's survival, park resources management staff may deliver an injured bird to a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. In most cases, as with other agencies, we let nature take it's course for injured seagulls. The Roanoke Island Animal Hospital in Manteo has taken injured birds of special interest in the past.

Gull are native species that are generally considered to be scavengers since they eat dead fish or other animals, human food, or other items that they consider to be food. They can prey on small live fish and animals such as crabs, bird chicks, which could be construed as being a predator.

The park does not have a formal written policy on how to care for injured birds. I hope this is helpful in answering your questions.

Cyndy Holda
Superintendent's Assistant &
Community Liaison
252-473-2111 ext. 148


Our Park Service is definitely not practicing what it preaches. If you let nature take its course then you don't kill off all the other animals you feel are undesirable. If you check out the mandate of the National park you will find it is their obligation to protect and preserve all wildlife in their natural state. I would also question their concepts of putting the protection of outside species above native species. Their argument for removing all the foxes is that they are not native to the Island. That is baloney. I am 78 and foxes have been here all my life and the life of my Island ancestors.

To me this picture I took of a sea Gull is the biggest joke on Hatteras Island

Our National park has probably killed and maimed more animals in the last few years than anyone. Look at the Chart that Barbra Ackley prepared of their recent activities.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Predator Removal
  2002-2007 2007
Species Wildlife Services NPS Resource Mgt. Staff 2008 Totals
Feral Dog 1 0 0 1
Feral Cat 26 38 53 117
Raccoon 133 101 77 311
Mink 0 1 31 32
Opossum 46 57 60 163
Muskrat 0 1 1 2
Otter 0 2 5 7
Grey Fox 30 3 6 39
Red Fox 70 6 9 85
Nutria 0 23 49 72
Total 305 232 291 828
Source: 2007 & 2008 CHNS Piping Plover annual reports

I am sure there are hundreds of destroyed animals we know nothing about. What are the real statistics of how many animals the Park Service has destroyed or removed from the Island?

I recall a few years back the park service brought in a special person and paid them to eliminate all the feral cats. Maybe that is why this Island is become overrun with mice and rats. Don't mess with Mother Nature. Our National Park needs to take a look at the lesson learned from the attempt to alter nature by removing all the cats on Macquarie Island as reported by CNN.

(CNN) -- Efforts to remove cats from Macquarie Island, a sub-Antarctic island and World Heritage Site, have indirectly led to environmental devastation, according to a report published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Take time to read the full account by Dean Irvine for CNN how messing with mother nature led to trouble just like it is here on Hatteras Island. Click here for the rest of the story.

I keep asking myself how can the members of the Defenders of Wild Life and the Audubon Society condone the unjust killing and maiming of innocent animals. It is gross to walk our woods and see bits of animals in traps where they have gnawed off a foot or other body part to escape.

I along with other Islanders grew up under the policy, “LET NATURE TAKE ITS COURSE”. To us it means try to help anything, animals, birds, or people in need. We did not show preference to one species above another. .In our world only God had the right to decide who should live or die. Not the National Park…. To walk away from one animal and let it suffer in preference to another is cruel and inhumane. Everything has a purpose for living. Sea gulls are classified as scavengers and predators to Piping Plovers the “Royal Bird”. When I look at a Sea Gull I see a bird that has a purpose for its existence. Scavengers are important. They clean up the mess left by others. If it was not for the sea gulls our beaches would be a stinking mess. The Park Service should be protecting them. They do the job for them. What does a Piping Plover do to help?

In no way am I an authority on Birds or anything else. The bases of my conclusions about managing birds are based on nothing except my personal observations from walking our beaches and watching the birds on my property. If you Let Nature Take Its Course the birds will take care of themselves and work things out. It could well be that Nature has decided it is time for some birds to become extinct just as it did concerning the dinosaurs. Of course if our environmental friends, who are hell-bent and determined to destroy Hatteras Island, lived back then they would probably want to enact laws to protect Tyrannosaurus Rex.

What Would This Sea Gull Say To the National Park?

If this sea gull could talk to us from Bird Heaven I am sure it would have something to say about our National Park such as: Why does the Park Service say I deserve to die? Am I not a bird? I thought the National Park was dedicated to preserving and protecting me and all other wildlife. Why, oh why, did you look the other way and let me die?

If I had known then what I know now, I might have been able to save this poor little bird. I would have called Lou Browning. He is trying to help all birds. I e-mailed Lou and asked him, “Do you consider a sea gull a predator not worthy of being helped if it is injured?” He replied, “I rehab lots of gulls. The only ones that I think are very predatory are the black backs, but I rehab them too. I don't figure they had any choice as to what they were born as.”

What Lou Browning is doing is commendable. He is preserving the Island Tradition of helping to preserve all life. My advice to all the members of the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife is stop sending your money to support their efforts to destroy the economy of Hatteras Island and remove all predators (that includes people). Send your money to Lou Browning to help out with his efforts to preserve all wild life, including the Piping Plover. Take time to check out Lou Browning's web-site. He is doing what the National Park System should be doing. Send a donation. I am doing it today.

Click here to visit Lou Browning's web-site:

Once again I say to the Cape Hatteras National Park, “It is time to practice what you preach. "LET NATURE TAKE ITS COURSE." Stop your meddling with Mother Nature.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Outer Banks Bike Week published on: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Outer Banks Bike Week


Dewey Parr

V- - - - R - - - - O - - - - - O - - - - - O - - - - - U - - - - - -M is the all day and late evening sounds you hear on Hatteras Island as groups of Bikers pass through going and coming from Ocracoke. To many Islanders it is an unpleasant sound but to others it is a welcome sound. It leads to another sound the K- er – chinging of cash registers. This year in particular it was a welcome sound to local businesses that have been suffering from the economy and the closure of the beaches. To our little shop, off of highway 12 on Light Plant Road, the sound had no meaning for no bikers darkened our doors.

Neither the sounds of bikes passing, nor the fact no bikers came to our business bothered us. It is easy for us to understand why the bikers do not take the time to visit with us. We are a Mom and Pop business located off the main road. We do not advertise nor do we have the type of merchandise that the average biker is seeking. Our business consists of shells, nautical gifts, and homemade crafts and gifts. Regardless of the absence of Bikers at our business we are happy that the Bikers have chosen to visit our Islands annually.

We heard that in Myrtle Beach Biker week has been banned because of complaints from the citizens because of the noise. To us that is selfish on the part of the people who should be thankful for the help bikers give to the economy of the area. It is our hope that the Outer Banks will never do likewise.

The noise bikers make during the Annual Outer Banks Bike Week is a happy sound that brings back memories from eighteen years ago. That was the first year we opened our retirement hobby, The Old Gray House. One day suddenly a loud sound erupted that sounded like the walls of our old house where tumbling down. Mary and I rushed outside to see what was happening and lo and behold we were blessed with a group of bikers coming to visit with us. It was a friendly fun loving group of people, which we have found to be the case with most bikers.

I remember that day well. I had placed a huge box of shaving lotions and colognes on a table outside that had been given to me as Christmas presents by my students when I taught school. Even though I requested no presents every year students would give me bottles of cologne and shaving lotions. After all, what else can parents think of to have the kids take to a man teacher. It would have taken me five life times to use it all. Besides that when you live in a mosquito and green fly infested area it is not wise to be smelling sweet like a flower. The sign on the box said, “FREE TAKE ONE”. The box had been sitting there for weeks and no one took any. It was not that we did not have customers it was they were leary of anybody giving anything away free.

As our biker friends were getting ready to leave I said to the men, “I have what you guys really need to make your girls happy”. Then I turned to the ladies and said, “I know your girls will agree with me. After riding on those bikes all day long in the heat I imagine these guys don’t have the sweetest smell.” The gals all said, “You can say that again”. I jokingly said, “Ladies here is the solution to your problem”. I offered them my huge box of shaving lotions and colognes. It was fun to watch them divide with the ladies laughing and dobbing different smells on their men. As they went on their way it was no longer just sounds that preceded their arrival but smells as well.

                                   Pictures I Took Of the First Bikers That Visited the Old Gray House
Bike Week
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Bike Week
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Bike Week
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Bike Week
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Notice the Oak Tree By The Ramp Going Into The Gray House. There have been a lot of changes at the Old Gray House since the day of the visit by these bikers eighteen years ago. Raging storms and hurricanes have made a lot of changes. Lightning struck the tree three times and is no longer there. I also wonder what types of changes have occurred in this fun loving group of biker’s lives.

Not only have things changed at the Old Gray House since that day but attitudes about Bikers have changed. Years ago when you saw a group of bikers roaring down the road you conjured up pictures in your mind of a wild unruly group. You associated them with wild wicked living. Bikers in the past have been considered to be dangerous and to be avoided.

Today you will find that Bikers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are average hard working family types of people. The bikes many of them ride cost more than your automobiles or even the home you live in. They are often professional people such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, business owners, and the trades. The bikers I have been associated with over the years go out of their way to be helpful.

When my daughter was married her wedding took place in the Hilton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. while a Bikers convention was being held there. It was the bikers who helped us tote things in and out for the wedding. When it came time for picture taking a bridesmaid went into the hall and rounded up a biker to pose with my daughter for fun. The bikers also joined in when it came time to send off the Bride and Groom. It was a fun time for all of us.

                                                        Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Pictures of Bikers at My Daughter’s Wedding
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Since the visit by bikers that first year we opened, we have only had an occasional visit by a couple of bikers such as the one this year. Each time it is always a joyful experience. Just getting a close-up look at the bikes and talking with their owners is a pleasant experience. When I see a motorcycle I just naturally think of adventures and marvel at the many experiences bikers have to share. With gas prices the way they are today those who ride bikes are the smart ones. It is not often these days we see Bikers at the Old Gray House but when we do it is definitely a time to enjoy.

                                                    Our Most Recent Bikers to Visit the Old Gray House
Our Most Recent Bikers to Visit the Old Gray House
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Our Most Recent Bikers to Visit the Old Gray House
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Our Most Recent Bikers to Visit the Old Gray House
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We felt honored to have Bill and Janet Bartsch from Wantage, N.J. to swing in off Highway 12 to visit with us at the Old Gray House.

Even though we at the Old Gray House will probably never be honored with a visit from those who participate in the Annual Outer Banks Bike Week we want to thank them for their annual noise that brings back fond memories to us of that first year we opened our Gift Shop.

Outer Banks Bike Week
Click Image To Logon to

Island Business that profited from the 7th. Annual Bikers Week
need to thank the following Harley Davidson Dealerships for sponsoring the event.

The 7th. Annual Bikers Week


Kitty Hawk Harley-Davidson

Nags Head Harley-Davidson

Bayside Harley-Davidson

Outer Banks Harley Davidson


Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

In Loving Memory of Buster published on: Thursday, July 23, 2009


Dewey Parr

Busters Home It was lonely walk this morning from my house to what I called Buster’s House. Buster’s house was my garage which is about forty feet from my house. It is not the average type of garage. My son and I had remodeled it and turned it into a workshop for crafts and a hangout for my wife, Mary and I. Every morning, for seventeen, years my close friend Buster was waiting for me at the door to walk with him from my house to his house. When we arrived at his house it was his practice to scratch on the molding beside the door prior to entering. After his short scratching session we would enter his world and I would prepare his morning meal.

After I prepared Buster’s morning meal he and I did our exercises together. As I went through my morning routine Buster would lay on the floorhen I laid down to do my floor exercises he would reach a paw over and tip me and then I would scratch under his chin.

Next I would go to my computer to check my e-mail and Buster would join me. He would lay his head on the left side of my keyboard and occasionally tap the cap lock buttons causing me problems which I enjoyed. I soon learned over the years this was his way of getting my attention so I would scratch under his chin so he could go to sleep. His method of sleep was keeping one eye slightly open so he could watch my every move. When I moved he moved.

This morning it was not easy for me to go through the steps of my exercises and check my e-mail without my close friend Buster. It seemed like things were hollow or un-natural. At first I thought I would skip exercising, but then I recalled the advice that I had often given to others when I was a minister that when you loose a loved one it is important that you continue your regular routine. Buster’s body was not with me this morning but his spirit was with me every where I looked. I told myself that Buster was not really dead and he would want me to and carry on as usual. You are only dead when no one is left to remember you. As long as I am alive Buster will always be alive. I will never forget him.

With these chores finished it was time to continue on with our routine. Together we walked from his house back to my house and he went inside and crawled up on Mary’s lap while she was drinking her morning coffee. He usually fell asleep while she petted him and scratched his ears. They stayed there together until Mary began her morning.

I guess it is time I tell you Buster Gray was my feral cat. Otherwise you might be wondering who was sitting on Mary’s lap. Buster came to me the second year we opened the Old Gray House Gift Shop. Larry Bates and I were doing repairs on the Old Gray House when a cat appeared out of nowhere. The cat hung around, disappeared, and kept reappearing. Of course I did what I often told my kids not to do with stray animals. I fed him just as my ancestors had fed feral cats. I cannot stand to see anything hungry. It is a Hatteras thing. The people on the Island did not have much in the way of material things, but they always had food to share, especially fish, with anyone who came along. Fish and cats just naturally go together. Over the years I realize that feeding strays has led some to take advantage of me. I recall when I was minister in Bluefield, Va. we had a family that lived up a holler who walked the railroad tracks to their home. The mother always had a baby in arms with little children following. Mary and I went to the store on Thursday and it became a habit for the mother to be at our door with those sweet little children looking at us as she asked us for food. We did not have much to share with anybody in those days. It was all we could do to feed our own babies, but we always managed to find something to give them even though we realized that mother was taking advantage of us. We knew that same mother could find money for cigarettes and beer. We shared our food anyway. As I look back I don’t think we were none the less for having given her food for the kids. At least we felt good about it.

I felt good when I fed the feral cat that later became Buster. This cat seemed to be different than other strays I had met in the past. This one did not meow. Never did I ever hear him make sound until his last few days on earth. I realized after feeding him I had made a tactical mistake for he decided to adopt me and the Old Gray House as his home.

The first major problem I encountered with him was the minute the Gray House door opened he would dart in and run up the stairs and plop himself on Grandmother Grays old iron bed. It began to create a real problem for Mary because she was using the bed to display handmade fabric products for sale. Time after time Mary would find him snoozing away in the middle of the bed on top of her merchandise. It was amazing how he would sneak in right past her with the costumers.

Seeing the problem, I decided this cat has got to go so I decided to let him take a little ride with me when I went down the road. We took three rides together and each time he came wandering back looking at me with those big eyes. Larry laughed and said, “He has decided you are it.” It was after the third trip Larry said, “Let’s name him”. Larry started calling him Buster so I did likewise. I guess Buster knew he was working his way in now. In order to solve the problem of him getting in the middle of the bed at the Gray House I moved him over to my house.

I told Larry I really did not want to be tied down with a pet so he said he had a solution. A friend of his a hundred miles away was looking for a cat to replace his cat that had died. He wanted a cat that would be compatible with his wife’s cat. I said, “That would be great”. Larry contacted his friend and he came to Buxton to meet Buster. The friend liked Busters friendly attitude and he thought it would work out so he took Buster on one condition. The condition being if things did not work out that I would agree he could bring him back. Of course I agreed for I figured now Buster would have a good home and that would solve my problem.

Well, guess what? A week later here came Larry’s friend bringing Buster back to the Old Gray House. He said, “That is the wildest cat I have ever seen.” He chased and attacked my wife’s cat constantly. Finally my wife said, “Either that darn cat goes or you go”.

Buster is back. Larry is laughing. Mary is frantic. I am perplexed. No way is Buster going to stay over at the Gray House. With Buster gently rubbing around my legs it is decision time. I looked at Buster and said, “What am I going to do with you?” In my heart I already knew the answer. I think Buster did too.

Now here it is seventeen years later and I am reminiscing over the many hours of enjoyment Buster and I had together. There were times during those seventeen years Mary and I would look at Buster and say to ourselves who are you. Now I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I were to do so I would be led to think Buster was the reincarnation of someone that loved Mary and I. Or he could have been a guardian angel sent to comfort us as well as protect us. He had traits that reminded Mary of her father as well as mine. His ever watchful eyes of our every move were uncanny at times. It was like he was our parents protecting and caring for the both of us.

Buster was primarily an outside cat. During the day he spent his time wandering and checking the premises that he had staked out to see if anything had crossed it. I watched him walk his boundary lines daily. When I was working in the yard or walking on my back lot he was never more than five feet from me. In the mornings when I would walk to the road to get my paper he would strut in front of me scanning the path ahead to be sure all was safe. For that reason I dubbed him my, “Secret Service Cat”. At night time Buster would stay up on the roof of my house so he could watch over the property. Many were the times you could hear him come plopping down the steps to my lower deck as he ran down to drive away any intruder such as mice, snakes, deer and raccoons. Buster did not seem to known the word fear.

Whenever Mary and I would leave the property he would plant himself near our drive way waiting for our return. If either one of us was away he would not rest until we returned. No matter how late we would be out at night he was there waiting for our return. When we started down our drive you would see Buster running to greet us as we stepped out of the car.

Two of the many memories I recall of Buster I found very unusual. My son and I, with a group of friends, were working on an addition to my house and my son’s dog kept leaving our property. My son would scold his dog for doing so in the presence of Buster. The dog paid little attention to my son, but he started encountering trouble every time he left our property. Buster would follow him and chase him back. We all watched this over and over in amazement. It was this same time another strange thing occurred in regard to Buster. My daughter who lived away had a cat that died and her heart was tender over the loss. She came home to visit with us. The day she arrived here came Buster bringing a kitten. This was very unusual for a male cat seldom tends to kittens. I had noticed Buster disappearing from time to time. What he had been doing is tending to this little female kitten that was probably from a litter that he had fathered. My daughter took one look at the little kitten and that was all it took. The kitten became known as Hattie, short for Hatteras. Hattie, who is the spitting image of Buster, now resides happily in Charlotte, NC with my daughter.

Over the years I have heard many speak of the nine lives of a cat. If there is such a thing, Buster used his up many times over. Time after time he came limping in from the battles he had engaged in with some animal. Mary would watch me treat his wounds in amazement that he would allow me to do so even though it was painful for him. Never did he ever offer to scratch or snarl at me as I did so. It was due to two of his older wounds that led to his final demise.

A snake bit him right above his eye. It became infected and I would clean it out every day and apply ointment until it healed. As time went by his eye began to cloud and it was apparent that he was losing the sight in the eye. In no way did this deter Buster from continuing on with his protective services to our family. Toward the end of his life he encountered another bite only this time it was near his other eye. This finally led to him being totally blind. Even in that state Buster carried on. Being a male cat he depended on the scent he created to mark his trail. If you have never known what it is like to be without sight it is probably hard for you to realize that those who become blind find ways to adapt to their situation. Having been in a similar situation as Buster for three years of my life I learned to appreciate Buster’s circumstances. I related to Buster and he related to me. For a period of time, especially after a hard rain that would remove his scented trails, I had to direct Buster to the door of his house and his food.

As I watched Buster through these hard times I recalled how he watched over Mary and me. When we had physical problems and returned home from the hospital Buster seemed to sense our needs. He stayed even closer to us than before. It was during these times that he would snuggle up to us as if he was attempting to comfort us.

Is there a Heaven for animals and Buster to go too? I do not have the answer for that. Buster is gone, but he is not dead. For you see in Mary’s and my heart he will always be alive.

Buster The Cat
My Buddy Buster

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

The Unwelcome Visitors published in: April 18, 2009


Dewey Parr

I remember the good-ole-days on Hatteras when every stranger that came down the sand road was a welcome guest in our house. The word stranger was not a word that carried any connation of fear with it. Strangers were viewed as someone that brought us information from the outside world. Today children are told over and over to beware of strangers. As an Island kid I never feared a stranger. Strangers brought excitement and fun to my life.

Hatteras, at that time, was a world to itself. It was as if our customs and way of life had been frozen in time since the days of our forefathers. The rest of the world was racing as fast as it could go to be a part of an industrialized society and here we sat happy with our slow-paced way of life. Yes, I remember well hearing my father say, "Welcome stranger. Come on in. Supper time is coming soon and we would love to have you put your feet under our table and eat a bite with us."

As an adult today I still enjoy meeting and greeting strangers. Granted the times we live in call for being careful not to be taken in by strangers, but it still does not interfere with meeting and greeting new people. My joy in my retirement years at the Old Gray House Gift Shop has been greeting strangers and then watching the stranger become a Friend. It is an entirely different relationship when you say, Welcome Friend.

In our business we have people that never get out of the category of being strangers. These are people who think Islanders are naive and try to take advantage of us or steal stuff from us. Not long ago Mary and I had a stranger visit our home that turned out to be one of the most unwelcome guests that ever entered our home. This stranger turned our lives upside down and we are just now putting the pieces back together. This stranger is called Cancer.

Cancer is the unwelcome visitor that I hope and pray never enters your home. You need to do everything possible to keep this stranger from coming to your house. There are some things you can do to help prevent him from visiting you such as annual physical exams, a proper diet, rest and exercise. Even so you still can not prevent him from entering your life for he will even enter your home when you least expect him. Some times he announces his arrival by little signs such as a sudden loss of weight or a little inflamed or changes in the appearance of mole on your body. Other times the only way he can be detected is through x-rays, body scans or other tests. This is why it is ever so important that men and women have yearly checks ups. Early detection is the difference between life and death.

Probably the most nerve racking portion about Cancer's arrival is when it is suspected this unwelcome guest is on the horizon. When the Dr. is suspicions he will begin to order additional tests. This can be a trying time for the family as well as yourself. The waiting and wondering can be a traumatic period for all concerned. Restless nights, longs days of wondering what will be, can wear everyone down.

Once the news gets out to family and friends that there is a possibility that Cancer might make a visit to your house it becomes story time and a renewed awareness of how many people have been visited by Cancer. Seems everyone has a story to tell about others who were visited by Cancer and how they came out after his visit. Every time you pick up the paper it seems like the headlines are screaming at you about the many victims of cancer. You cannot help but notice that Cancer is not a respecter of persons. He claims the lives of the famous, rich and poor. It seems like waiting to get the final word of cancer's arrival goes on forever. Surely there must be a way to shorten the time period between suspicion of cancers visit and the diagnosis that he has entered your life.

At the time the unwelcome guest visited our home the tourist season on Hatteras Island was well under way and our little shop, Old Gray House Gifts, was in full swing. When the Doctor gave us the final report I remember how hectic it was for Mary and me. Being an understanding person he took the time to go over all the alternatives concerning the surgery before us and left the final decision to us. Those couple of days before we where to give him our final decision were even more traumatic than all the other things that had preceded the final diagnosis. Not fully understanding about this unwelcome visitor I sought any information available. We listened to friends who had similar problems and I contacted the American Cancer Society who provided me ample information concerning the particular type of cancer we were dealing with. They talked with me at length and sent me helpful literature. With their help we made our decision. I say we because when you are dealing with this unwelcome visitor it becomes a family matter.

Prior to scheduling surgery our doctor discussed with me our situation with our little shop and it was his opinion that we should not close but keep it intact. From what he said to me, I concluded that the greatest weapon one has against the unwelcome visitor is to continue living a normal active, positive life. After the surgery I continued running the shop until Mary was able to return. As you know our shop is different from others in that over the years those who have visited with us have become friends. They all wanted to know, "Where is Mary"? Their genuine concern led to some of the most amazing and revealing stories I had ever heard. They shared with me how the unwelcome visitor had visited to their homes and how they had defeated his attempts to steal away happy lives. Some of the ladies in particular, with tears in their eyes, related to me how cancer had led to divorce. Each evening I came away from the Old Gray House with joy in my heart for those that had defeated Cancer, and tears in my eyes for those whose happy marriages had been destroyed as a result of his visit.

When dealing with Cancer surgery is not the final solution. There are many emotional aspects after surgery. The type of follow up that takes place to prevent a reoccurrence of the cancer, and the downsides of the treatments, such as chemo, radiation, and medication are in themselves problems that have to be continued for years.

What a happy day it was for me when Mary was able to return back to the counter at the Old Gray House. There is no doubt in my mind that the following advice given to me by our doctor, friends, and the American Cancer society in particular is the right way to go in dealing with the unwelcome visitor

Accept the reality of cancer and don't hide from it. Openly talk about it and don't isolate yourself or feel like a freak. Bald is Beautiful

Support and participate with Support Groups such as the American Cancer Society. Hopefully in time a cure will be found to keep the Unwelcome Visitor Away.

Be Positive. Enjoy every day to its fullest attempting to squeeze out as much enjoyment as possible. Be willing to laugh at yourself and with others.

Decide, no matter what, you will not let the Unwelcome Visitor disrupt your life and those around you. Be a Survivor and be proud to share it with others.

A good example of all of these ideas I gleaned from the guests at the Old Gray House, and with the professional advice I received, is that of one of our crafters, Jeff, who is a cancer survivor. Jeff sent me this e-mail that I would like to encourage you to read and then check out his page on the American Cancer's Society Relay for Life. Click Here for Jeff's story.

Hello All,
Just wanted to let you all know that I will be participating in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life coming up on May 8th. I wanted to send you the link to my personal Relay page and hope that you may consider supporting not only my team, but all of those still fighting their own battles. I am truly blessed to be able to say I am 2 years, 6 Months, 1 Week, 6 Days Cancer Free. I am hoping that in some way my participation in the Relay for Life will help others be able to one day say they are cancer free.

Thank you all..... Jeff

What can you do to help destroy the Unwelcome Visitor? Find someone in your community like Jeff and Help them. If you have no one then I know Jeff would appreciate your help in fighting cancer by sending your support, in his name, to the American Cancer Society.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Christmas At the Old Gray House 2008
Hard Times Can Be Good Times
published in: January of 2009

Christmas Eve Day 2003 at The Old Gray House
The Old Gray House Covered in Snow
A White Christmas is a Rare Thing On Hatteras Island
Snow like this one is very unusual.
Picture taken by Old Gray House Friend Charlotte Rooney

Wow, what a year this has been for me, my family, and many families of Hatteras Island and all of America. On Hatteras we have suffered a double dose of economic woes, not only due to the nationwide problems, but the heartless efforts of the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife to shut down our beaches.

Ocracoke and Hatteras businesses have suffered tremendous losses. In my immediate family, due to the economy, my son, daughter and her husband, and my grandson have faced unemployment problems. Things have been bad for the majority of the working people in America. Those who have jobs are worried that they will be next to be laid off. As I look around I see families loosing their homes and moving in with other family members who still have their heads above water. Yes, these are bad times , but in some ways they are good times.

Christmas At the Old Gray House 2008
Hard Times Can Be Good Times

Mary holding quilt rack designed by our daughter and built by our son-in-law Howard.

We learned early-on the rules of the island. You did not bother the other person's property, such as boats, nets, or oyster beds. The code of the island was ingrained in all of us at an early age. We were taught to respect one another and to accept all people for what they were and not what they had, and most of all to keep our mouth shut about the other person's business. There was no class system, for we were all in the same boat.

The good is, that in many ways, this has brought families closer together and made us all realize what is really important in life. It has made us aware that things or possessions are not what it is all about. Our possessions are here today and gone tomorrow. We brought nothing into this world and we will carry nothing out. I can recall when Mary and I first got married we could not rub two nickels together, yet we were happy. When our children came along we still had nothing yet our children lived happy, normal lives. I guess our treasures back then were just the joy of being together and sharing our time with each other. When Christmas came our presents to each other where usually composed of things we made with our own two hands.

Christmas At the Old Gray House 2008
Hard Times Can Be Good Times

Christmas At the Old Gray House 2008
Hard Times Can Be Good Times

Our son Dewey is working on the wall for the
entertainment center that was built by our son-in-law Howard.
The Checker table built by our son-in-law Howard.

I remember growing up on Hatteras during the Great Depression of the 30’s that my Christmas presents were all handmade objects with the exception of a bag of fruit and hard candy they gave us after the Christmas program at the Buxton Methodist Church. Some adults talked about the fact the country was in a Depression but on Hatteras nobody really knew much about it. Things stayed the same year after year. Guess it was because nobody had much of anything to start with.

As time went on, and we became more affluent, we began buying things for each other rather than making them. This year, for the first time in a long time, we received handmade gifts. In my family I am blessed with a daughter who is a great planner, and a son and son-in-law who are gifted when it comes to wood crafting.

Thanks to the hard times our country is facing this has probably been the best Christmas Mary and I have had in a long time. Our son-in-law donated his labor to build us an entertainment center. Our daughter Marilyn, designed a quilt rack for him to build for Mary’s quilts. She also designed a special game table to sit under the oak tree at the Old Gray House for the enjoyment of the guests who visit us to play checkers. Our son not only gave us useful, meaningful gifts but donated his time to help complete our family entertainment area. The things they did for us this year reminded me of those joyful times I spent each year making thing with my own hands for those I loved at Christmas. I have instructed my kids if they feel they must give me something for Christmas I preferred they make something , or donate their time to a special project

My heart bleeds for the people who, through no fault of their own, are suffering as a result of the poor planning of our government, greed in our financial markets, and the cruel efforts of the Audubon Society and The Defenders of Wildlife. I realize that many have lost their jobs. Others will loose all of their assets. Hopefully that even in their losses they might find some form of a blessing.

You’ll come play checkers under the Old Oak Tree.

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Quilting published in: January of 2009


by dewey parr

Picture of Snow in Ohio
Two Husbands View of Quilting

Visiting with my friends Clarence and Pat in Columbiana, Ohio this winter made me realize the true significance of what making quilts is all about. For two weeks my wife and Pat pieced quilts. Everything they did centered around quilt making. They finally finished piecing five quilts they had been working on together for three years. After completing them they vowed never to start another one like it Each block was different and it was a real challenge.

Picture of the Never Again Quilt This is a picture of the five Identical quilts of
the Bible Block Quilts they
worked on for Three Years

They attended the ladies quilting group at the church and they went with the quilting group to the public library for a demonstration of a new computerized machine that takes the toil out of cutting quilt pieces. All you do is choose your design, place your fabric on the cutting plate, and it automatically cuts up to 180 pieces all at once depending on the pattern chosen. To say the least they were excited about this new innovation. Even with this new machine however, true quilt making is still a long, tedious effort. Click Here to see this amazing quilt block cutter.

Priscilla Circle Quilt Group of Columbiana, Ohio
The Columbiana, Ohio Ladies Quilt Group and some of their quilts.

Prior to my visit in Columbiana , Ohio Mary and I had visited with our friends the Smoots in Huntington, West Virginia. You will never guess what was the main topic of the day discussed by Mary and Penny. You guess it quilts and fabric. Pat, Penny, and Mary have a slogan, "She Who Dies With The Most Fabric Wins". No matter where we go some where along the line there will be a mention of quilts. When we are traveling if there is a quilt shop or fabric shop along the road my car has been programmed to stop in front of it.

Now mind you, I have always been associated with quilting but I never really paid much attention to it. But for some reason, I guess because my buddy Clarence and I were confined due to the weather (below zero and snow covered roads), in the house with our quilting wives, we could not help but notice how important making quilts is to them. A couple of years ago they talked Clarence and I into going on a quilt cruise with them in the Eastern Caribbean aboard a luxury liner. Because we love them so much we made the sacrifice. They attended quilt classes all day and we had nothing to do but to use the steam room, sauna, hot tub, exercise room, and sit around the pool. Did I forget to mention eat and go to shows. It was a hard sacrifice to make but we were willing to do it so they could learn more about how to make quilts. We realized it is not just a hobby with them, but an infectious disease that seems to spread to their kind. We found this poster posted outside a door that describes our wives ailments. It is called Quilt Pox. Clarence and I have decided we need to post it outside our homes as a warning to keep other men's wives from becoming infected with this costly disease.

for Quilt Pox Poster

Clarence and I thought back to our first real experience with quilts as kids. Clarence said, where he grew up in Washington Courthouse, Ohio every house had homemade quilts. On Hatteras Island I slept under handmade quilts. Now these quilts were not like the ones made overseas that you can buy in stores for $19.95. These were quilts that every inch was hand stitched by a member of the family. Often the material was scraps available from old clothing, not even lined , while others were lined with feed sacks. They were not always colorful like they are today but they were a welcome addition to your bed on a cold winter night when the winds were howling . As we reminisced about our early days we concluded what lucky kids we were to have a homemade quilt to snuggle under. I still have the last quilt my mother made, completely pieced and quilted with loving hands for our family. This is one of my treasured keepsakes.

Picture of Quilts for Orphans

As Clarence and I watch our girls working to coordinate the colors on the quilts by laying them out on the beds floor, and tables, we realized this was serious business to them. Occasionally we would hear them moan and groan or complain about a mistake here and there, and they would rip blocks out and start over. These particular quilts they were working on had to just be so. They were making them to send to children in an orphanage in the Ukraine. Every year a group of ladies from Louisville, Ky. take a trip to the orphanage to hand deliver the quilts, hoping to make life a little better for the orphan children. The government there does very little to maintain the orphan children, and they are at the mercy of caring people. In two weeks Pat and Mary made eight quilts for the children .

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Watching Pat and Mary making quilts in the setting of a winter wonderland has really made me think a lot about what kind of people make quilts and what is it that motivates them to continually do so. It seems everywhere you go are there who make quilts. As I reflect back on my days as a young minister, prior to launching my second career in the field of education, I met many who quilted and they all possessed similar traits. I recall many quilts I saw while serving as a country preacher on the ridges of Kentucky and the hollers of West Virginia. There was big difference between the two areas but one thing they had in common was that the art of quilting.

When I walked the ridges of Kentucky it seemed like each house where I stopped the women folks were engaged in making quilts. The particular town I lived in at that time was like a hub on a wagon wheel and the ridges extended out into the country like the spokes on a wheel. Each Ridge was on a telephone party line and when I left one house, headed for the next, the lady of the house was waiting for me, not only with food, but a display of her quilts to show me. I learned very quickly to start my ridge-walking on an empty stomach. Kentucky women love to feed the preacher.

When I got to the mountains of Virginia things were not much different except rather than ridges I walked in the hollers. The main difference between holler-walking and ridge-walking was that most of the time those that had more means seemed to live at the bottom of the holler and those with less lived at the top. Nevertheless, quilts were a prominent part of each home and they always seem to know the preacher was coming. Even if they did not have a phone, food and quilts were waiting .

What really got me to thinking about what making quilts means was observing a sweet little lady who lived at the beginning of one of the hollers. I was in her home often. She had a large family with many grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was her goal to hand make a quilt for each of them. Seemed like she would just complete her task when along would come another baby in the family. While working on a quilt for her new great grand child she became very ill. It was determined that she was terminal and had little time to live. I visited with her often during that time and always she was working diligently on that final quilt. It was her goal to finish before she died. Finally, the quilt was finished, and within a week the Good Lord called her home. Over the years I have lost contact with that family, but I wonder how many still have, and cherish, the quilt that was made for them. Could it be some of them do not truly understand the significance of the quilt they received and are like a young man I saw working on his car. He was laying under the car on a quilt that had grease on it. I cannot help but wonder if it was a quilt his family had made for him. It is doubtful that he fully understood how many hours went into producing that quilt just for him.

Thinking about this has made me realize that all who make quilts have certain traits about them that are common. They want to share their love. They want life to be cozy and comfortable for the whole world. When you are given a quilt, made especially for you by someone, you are the recipient of their love. It is not just love you are given, but a true work of art.

We all admire the work of artists who paint beautiful pictures on a canvas. When we view their works we are often left in awe at their creative abilities. People pay thousands of dollars for a single painting. When we view quilts we are also looking at the work of a talented artist. The medium used is not oil and paint. It is fabric. Quilt makers take pieces of cloth and blend them together just as an artist does paint on a canvas. Each little piece of cloth is carefully selected to compliment the surrounding pieces. Some of these pieces of cloth have a history in themselves. Many are gifts from friends. Often they are pieces of material that came from clothing , or fabrics, that are reminiscent of family members. Those who quilt are masters at coordinating colors. Some times their search for these tiny pieces of cloth might entail collecting for years before they assemble them into a quilt. An artist might complete his picture in a day or a week whereas a quilt maker picture might be years before it is completed.

If you had waited in as many fabric shops as Clarence and I have over the years you learn that fabrics represent many people and geographical areas. It would be fun to trace the origin of each piece of material used in a completed quilt. Also, don’t forget to include the hours patient husbands waited inside and outside fabric shops to bring about the completion of a quilt.

People who quilt are caring people. They look around them and see all the suffering in this old world and want to make things better for others. They use their talents to produce quilts to send to the less fortunate letting them know someone cares for them. Often they freely give their quilts to others helping someone get back on their feet. A good example of this is the ladies that meet weekly at the Anglers Club in Buxton who make quilts to send to the hospitals to cheer up the patients. This same group of ladies produce quilts to be raffled off to raise money for scholarships for our young people graduating from high school. It is because of their efforts many young people on the Island have had an opportunity to obtain an education. These ladies are like those who produce handmade quilts for others all over the world. They ask nothing in return for all the good things they do. Their reward is knowing they have helped someone.

These are pictures of queen-sized quilts made by the Hatteras Island Quilt
Guild for the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Scholarship Fund to benefit our
community high school graduates. Members of the Guild raffled off each year
a quilt with chances of $1.00 each or 6 for $5.00. Each year their quilt provides a $2,000.00 scholarship to a deserving student to the college or university of their choice.

Hatteras Island Quilt Guild
Pictures Supplied by members. More pictures might be coming

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2009 Raffle Quilt made by Hatteras Island Quilt Guild
Proceeds go to provide scholarships for Island Students.

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After having lived with a quilt makers all of our married lives, Clarence and I have made an observation that many who quilt have over looked. The majority of those who quilt make a personal quilt for every member of their family except one. That one being their husband. I know their excuse is that the quilts they make are for both of our use. It is true on our beds we have beautiful quilts that our wives have produced, but as of yet neither of us have that personal quilt that was just produced just for us. Even little Linus in the cartoons had his own little security blanket that was his and his alone. Ladies don’t you think it is time you make that man who loves you ,and waits patiently for you to browse, his own little security blanket.

Note To Our Readers : If you have a favorite picture of a quilt or a quilt block that you would like to share we would appreciate you sending to us so we can display it. Please provide us with your state and city. It is not our policy to put full names or address. Click Here to e-mail your quilt pcitures

Friends of The Old Gray House:  If you have any comments you can contact us at

Hatteras Exercise Program
for Young and Old
published in: Summer of 2008

By Dewey Parr

What are the two types of exercise you will find on your visit to Hatteras Island?

When you think of your Hatteras exercise experience you need to think of fun exercise and programmed exercise. Both can be free of charge or you can purchase them. We have an excellent health fitness center know as the Spa Koru (Click Here) for exercise idea's as well as other activities sponsored by the County.

The Dare County Fessenden Center

The Dare County Fessenden Center Offers
An Abundance of Exercise Programs

When you are at the beach you are surrounded by fun activities that call for using those muscles that have been lying idle all winter. It is definitely fun in the sun. It is the programmed exercise that most do not practice on regular bases that makes the difference. These exercises are designed to keep you healthy and in-shape year around. We have had many incidents of people coming to the Island who are not used to exercising regularly and overdo it in their fun activities. Not only have they injured their bodies but died from over exertion. Just as the ocean can fool you so can over exercising. You can get carried away not only by the ocean currents but also by over exerting your body without realizing it. Be careful but have fun. After all, that is why you are here.

Hatteras Fun

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Hatteras Fun Exercise

Now let’s talk about programmed exercise, which is designed to reach specific core muscles and promote healthy bodies. To better understand the goal of an exercise program you need to familiarize yourself with a muscle chart. When you look at it you become aware you are nothing more than a rack of bones held together by a mass of muscles and ligaments. Closer scrutiny will cause you to realize that when these muscles and ligaments are not working properly the bones do not function properly. Programmed exercise is designed to strengthen specific muscles. It helps to lubricate the joints, strengthens the tendons, and keeps the organs working in harmony with the total body. Enough said, so let’s move on to establishing a personal exercise program.

Are You Willing To Accept The Facts?

America is overweight. We are stewing in our own juices. Our young people are not getting enough exercise. If you want to live longer you had better start eating right and exercise. Our number one health problem in America is obesity. On and on it goes. Every time you turn on the TV, everyone has an immediate solution. Try my special pill, diet program, and newly designed exercise machine and life will be wonderful again. Your better half or girl and boy friend won’t be able to keep their hands off you. Look at these examples and listen to these testimonials. I went from 240 pound to l20 pounds in 60 days. It will only cost you two payments of $29.95 or $14.95 plus shipping. “Buy one bottle of my magic elixir, or pills, and I will give you two for the price of one.” “Purchase this special machine or the latest gadget that will make you look like a Hollywood model or acquire the bulging muscles of a wrestler and you will get a 90-day money back guarantee.” The only guarantee they can offer you is that you will definitely loose something, your money.

Who Did This To Me?

There is no quick fix for the obesity problem. You do not overcome years and years of bad eating and exercise habits overnight. To right the wrong of what we have done to ourselves we first of all have to admit we are the guilty party that created the problem. It is not the fault of our mothers who are credited with cramming food down our throats or the fast food places. It is our own fault. We did it to ourselves. We and we alone must correct the problem. The beginning place for solving the problem is accepting the fact I did it and only I can solve it. Once we do that we are on our way to recovery.

Why Am I The Way I Am?

We have to come to the realization that the way we live today is entirely different from the way we lived yesterday. On Hatteras it was work from Sun-up to Sun-down day in and out. Everywhere we went we walked. We had no need for treadmills to simulate walking up inclines. When you walk in the sand it is double the stress you put on your muscles. We did not have the luxury of paved roads for cars. Our life was centered on the Beach and the Sound that provided us with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Our diet consisted primarily of fresh seafood, fowl, and garden fresh vegetables. Our foods where not wrapped in plastic, snap open cans, or boxes with labels telling the ingredients that we cannot pronounce.

What goes around comes around. The Hatteras Diet and Exercise Program is the same thing that is being advocated today. All these advertised programs are nothing new. The diets are things that every Hatteras Island mother practiced daily when she prepared a meal for her family. The only difference is it is being printed in a book or on a CD and being sold under many different names. It is nothing more than the marketing of common sense things we already know. It has been turned it into a billion dollar industry to line someone’s pocket. The process that burns off fat is just like the same process that consumes fuel in our automobiles. You put the fuel, (food - calories) inside and then you drive or run it off (exercise). When the tank gets empty you put more in. The problem is there is, not enough running it off and it is seldom anyone’s tank gets empty.

This picture was taken in 1945 of Hatteras Mothers holding fresh fish they selected from the Hatteras village docks to prepare the evening meal. Fresh fish, shellfish, poultry, fruit and vegetables was a regular part of the daily diet of Hatteras Islanders over the years. They call it the Mediterranean diet today.

Why are our children overweight, suffering high blood pressure, stress, diabetes, and other ailments that where unheard of before. In the early history of Hatteras the children were active participants in helping the family with the daily chores. They were not objects to be spoiled rotten, showered with toys, and stuffed with food. They spent their leisure time outside playing. Now you find them curled up on a couch snacking on fat foods in front of a television or playing computer games all hours of the night. The parent who takes the attitude, “I want to spare my child from having to work like I did” by giving them everything they can is creating problems for their child. In the words of a friend these parents are enablers. They enable their kids to be obese.

Throw out your books on parenting and take command of your household and let the kids know who rules the roost at your house. Teach your kids about the real world by giving them chores to do that will help burn off the fat. Limit the television watching and computer games and put their little butts outside to run and play like Hatteras kids did in the past. Encourage them to participate in organized sports activities. Not only will they not get fat, they will be free from stress and be healthier and respect you more.

We definitely need to recognize we are the way we are because ours is no longer a survival economy. In a survival economy you get plenty of exercise and you burn the calories off. If you didn’t work you didn’t eat.

Is It Too Late For Me?

No it is never too late regardless of your age or physical handicaps. So you stripped down and looked in the mirror and you where shocked at what you saw. After looking closely at yourself you probably said, “There is no hope for me.” Keep this picture in your mind. I guarantee you once you begin to be serious about exercise and diet you will see an entirely different image of yourself. Not only will you look better but also you will feel better about yourself. In the first place you should never exercise with the thought in mind it will make me look better or more desirable, but that it will make me healthier and feel better. It is not looks you are after. It is better health. I have a friend when he is asked why he exercises so much he says, “I do it so that when I am lying in my casket, they will say, Oh! Doesn’t he look good” rather than “Didn’t they do a good job on him”. I am 77 and didn’t start serious exercise until I was 73. Believe you me, there isn’t much exercise can do to help my looks at this age. I consider myself doing well, if I can just keep what I have working. When it comes to exercising the body muscles, the old saying applies, “If you don’t use it you loose it.

What Can I Do About It?

No it is never too late regardless of your age or physical handicaps. So you stripped down and looked in the mirror and you where shocked at what you saw. After looking closely at yourself you probably said, “There is no hope for me.” Keep this picture in your mind. I guarantee you once you begin to be serious about exercise and diet you will see an entirely different image of yourself. Not only will you look better but also you will feel better about yourself. In the first place you should never exercise with the thought in mind it will make me look better or more desirable, but that it will make me healthier and feel better. It is not looks you are after. It is better health. I have a friend when he is asked why he exercises so much he says, “I do it so that when I am lying in my casket, they will say, Oh! Doesn’t he look good” rather than “Didn’t they do a good job on him”. I am 77 and didn’t start serious exercise until I was 73. Believe you me, there isn’t much exercise can do to help my looks at this age. I consider myself doing well, if I can just keep what I have working. When it comes to exercising the body muscles, the old saying applies, “If you don’t use it you loose it.

When and Where Do I Exercise

One of the biggest obstacles for some is how to work it into their busy schedule. Take time to decide what time is best for you. Make up your mind from the beginning that you will do your exercise at a set time for a set number of days each week. Don’t hesitate to let others know this is your personal exercise time at a work out center or at home. Approach this special time like it is an appointment you made to a Dr’s office that you are obligated to keep. If you do this you will find that should you skip a day you will feel like something is missing.

My exercise is a six-day home-based program. I have designated a specific place in my home. I exercise early morning before the rest of the family or visiting friends get moving. If I have pressing plans for a particular day and it requires getting up earlier than usual I do it. My exercise takes precedence over all other plans. My family now has come to realize that I am serious about my exercise and they do not disturb me or put demands on me during this special time. I go to my designated area and it is understood I am not to be disturbed. When I am traveling my exercise program goes with me.

I have an advantage that you might not have. Weather permitting; I move my exercise area to the beach. If you live on Hatteras Island you are only minutes from the beach. There is nothing like doing your exercise in the early morning just after the sunrise along the oceans edge. After you do the programmed portion of your exercise you can walk the beach instead of a treadmill. When you finish this you have the ocean in front of you for a morning swim. During my morning swim I have an exercise program I like to do in the water. I float and kick my legs 100 times without sinking. Then I do 100 arms rolls without sinking. Try it. It is harder than you think. There is absolutely nothing more refreshing that exercising on the beach. Once you come to Hatteras and try it for a week you will go away a new person and long to come back.

My wife still gets a kick out of reminding me about my floating antics while she was sitting on the beach watching me. There are not a lot of things I cannot do, but I can float. Guess it is because I am hollow inside including my head. Living at the beach before boogie and surfboards I naturally learned to float. I did what most kids did back then. I did body boarding. Our bodies were our surfboards. I love to float to face the incoming waves feet first and float up to the top of them right before they crash. I never paid much attention to this being anything unusual until a large group of Japanese tourist came out on the beach and spotted me doing it. They were all pointing and clapping, laughing and chatting in Japanese as they ran back forth on the beach watching me. It was nice for me to know my floating skills brought so much enjoyment to so many people that day.

How Much Time Must I Devote To A Exercise Program

The amount of time required depends on how much time you can spare. If it is a home based program you can do it in 30 minutes. If you only have 15 minute to spare that is better than nothing. If you go to a workout center you will need an hour or more plus travel time. The old excuse, “I don’t have enough time to do it”, is nothing more than a flimsily excuse for the fact that you don’t want to do it. When you take that attitude my suggestion is forgetting it and continue on the way you are going, but don’t gripe about being overweight or not having the energy to do anything. No one wants to hear you complain about something you could correct but are not willing to do anything about it.

What Kind Of Exercises Should I Do?

The type of exercise program should depend on your age and health. I am older with health problems so it would be ridiculous for me to attempt to do the exercise of twenty year old in good health. You need to start very slow. Otherwise you will become discouraged from the beginning. The best way is get professional help to set you up a program you can handle. If you don’t want to pay a trainer then talk with friends that you know who exercises daily and ask what type of program they would suggest for you. They might even suggest you exercise together. It is much easier if you have someone to share your exercise experience with. You learn from each other.

I have a friend I visit every year that is a member of a workout center. As a gift to me, he arranged for me to go with him. Not being familiar with a workout center, I was reluctant to go. Being a “paid for gift” I went with him. After I got there I saw people of all ages. People my age, including one ninety year old, were exercising. This made me felt more at ease. The younger set paid little attention to me in my feeble fumbling with the exercise machines. As my friend took the time to introduce me to a few here and there I realized nobody was here to watch the other person but here to help one another achieve the same goal of having a healthy life. In the three years I have been visiting this particular center I have found that those who work out on a daily basis are bound together with a common interest. While there I became familiar with all of the machines and how they are geared to reach specific core muscles. I also picked up new ideas to add to my home-based program. It is because of my friend, and the attitude of those in his workout center that I became serious about engaging in a regular daily exercise program.

The next year when I came to visit he arranged for me to have a teaching session with the owner, Jerry De Jane who is a professional trainer. The first thing Jerry did was to find out what my health problems were and what kind of daily exercise I was getting. He took into consideration my age and health problems including the areas on my body where “Arthur” had inflicted me. You know who I am talking about. If you are over fifty I know you have met “Arthur Ritis”. After evaluating my needs, he came up with a simple six-day homebased program consisting of upper body one day and lower body the next day. He cautioned me to begin slow and gradually increase to more strenuous exercise. It takes approximately thirty to forty-five minutes per day and the only cost to me was purchasing two barbells, a 50-inch inflatable ball and a couple stretch bands. If cost is a problem you can do the program without purchasing anything. With the help of my friend and my annual visit to Jerry’s Work Out Center, I have added new ideas to my program. By doing this the routines do not become boring but more exciting. You learn as you go along there are many different ways to accomplish the same goals. If interested in my simple little program, visit me at the Old Gray House and I will be glad to share it with you.

This is a picture of my friend who started a personal workout program at age 72. He went from 198 pounds to 158 pounds. This picture appeared in a publication telling of the changes in his life that are a result of going to Jerry DeJane’s Work Out Center in Columbiana, Ohio.

Over the years I have a lot of gifts given to me, but none any nicer that the one my friend gave me when he introduced me to the world of working out. From experience he realized what this could mean to me as well as my family. For me to remain in good health and live longer not only would benefit me but my whole family as well. What my friend did for me with his gift has not only enriched my life by making me feel better but will add years to my life.

What Are the Benefits Of Walking?

Any good exercise program has a walking session included. Jerry advocated I walk at least a mile per day. The purpose of the walking accompanied with the lower body exercises is to aide circulation, burn off calories, and to prevent the old age shuffle. When you watch old-people walk many of them shuffle their feet as if they were glued to the floor. The Hatteras Exercise program has an added benefit that you probably will not have. It includes a mile-a-day walk on the beach. That is a steady pace for twenty minutes. When you walk our beach for twenty minutes, and inhale and exhale the fresh air, it will invigorate you beyond belief. The major problem is that you just don’t want to leave the beach. I end up getting additional exercise by strolling the beach, and bending, and stooping over to pick up shells.

Is Diet Part Of The Exercise Program?

Of course it is. Surely you didn’t think you could continue eating all that fat food every night before you go to bed, and expect to get any results? You know, without having to contact a dietician, what to eat and how much. You have to start your day with a good breakfast. Breakfast is the number one meal of the day. This is the meal that sets the tone for the whole day. You have been lying in bed for eight hours or more and your body has absorbed what you dumped in your stomach before you went to bed. This is why you need to avoid eating anything after your evening meal, such as ice cream, chips and dip, and so forth. It will go to fat and flab. Early in the morning your whole body is in need of nourishment and your brain says feed me. I taught school for years and I could detect which children in my class did not eat a good breakfast. Their brains acted like a wind-up-clock that began to run down before the morning was out. No parent should send a child off in the morning without a good breakfast. A good breakfast does not consist of donuts and coffee. You know what to eat. So do it.

My personal diet consists of a banana, cereal (Total with no sugar) and milk. Once a week I treat myself to something different. Reminds me of Johnnie. Johnnie the teacher said spell banana. Johnnie began spelling – bananananananana. Teacher said, you don’t know how to spell banana. Johnnie said, Oh! Yes I do I just don’t know when to stop. Don’t stop eating a good breakfast. Eat wholesome lunches and dinner and nothing after the evening meal.

Will It Make Me Feel Better

You bet it will. This is the only thing I can guarantee. You will not only feel better physically, but you will feel better about yourself. Before I started I had a problem with my left arm that prevented me from lifting it over my head. After the first year that problem disappeared. In the three years I have been doing this simple cost-free program I have gone from a 38-39 waist to a comfortable 36. Now I am fluctuating between 34-36. Not only do I feel better but my energy level is up. Now I don’t really look much different but I feel good. That is what it is all about.

what is the best weight for me?

I weigh myself daily and the weight factor remains constant. You need to establish bench marks when it come to loosing weight. Crash diets and medications are dangerous to your health. I did that once and it almost devastated me. My check bones were showing and my rib cage was visible. It got to the place everyone was asking me if I was ok. I asked my heart specialist what he felt was a sensible weight for me to maintain. Together we decided on an appropriated weight for my age and height. What you have to remember to take into consideration is, muscle weighs more than fat. Establish what you feel is the proper weight for yourself and try to maintain it.

How should I View My Vacation On Hatteras Island?

When you visit Hatteras you should view it as going away to world’s best health resort. I have a friend that makes an annual trip to Hatteras to visit and roam the beach with me. He views his trip to the beach as a time to get away from it all and rejuvenate his body and mind. He feels when he is at the beach he is full of life and raring to go. Willing to try anything. It is his chance to start life anew and be like a kid again even if it is only for a week. It seems to him that the ocean is calling out to him to be young again. When he goes home after being to the beach for a week he is almost in a state of depression knowing he has to go back into the real world.

Isn’t that the feeling that keeps you coming back year after year to the ocean’s edge? That’s a similar feeling I get when I go to the beach and view the marvels of the ocean. If you don’t exercise, try my suggestion of establishing a programmed exercise program for yourself. See if it doesn’t help you continue that same feeling you get when you visit the beach. So it might even hurt a little when you start working those old bones. Think no pain, no gain. I will be sitting under the old oak tree looking forward to seeing you fit and trim next year when you come back to Hatteras for a refresher course in beach fun and exercising.

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