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The Old Gray House

  1. New -- Whisper in the Wind
  2. New -- 'Drift' seeds find their way to our beaches from afar
  3. New -- Hatteras Island History Repeats Itself
  4. New -- How did you come to believe in God?
  5. New -- Health Hint for Men
  6. New -- Taking Time to Re-invent Ourselves
  7. New -- Remembering Merry
  8. New -- Persimmon Tree Pranks and Legends
  9. New -- Keep It Simple
  10. New -- UPDATE on SAGA Construction and Development Dewey Parr III SAGA Challenge
    to place a Defibrillator (AED) in all police patrol cars in Dare County.
  11. New -- Ferry and Buoys
  12. New -- Second Honeymoon
  13. New -- Magical Moments
  14. New -- Presidential Election 2012
  15. New -- My Hatteras Home Garden Memories
  16. New -- HATTERAS WATER PEARLS   Science in Action
  17. New -- The Day I Thought I Was a Goner
  18. New -- Social Security and Stuff
  19. New -- Be a BloggerSay What You Mean and Mean What You Say

  20. New -- New Year’s Resolution for 2012

  21. New -- Warning To All Skinny Dippers Skinny Dipping Days Are Over On Hatteras Island

  22. New -- Air Plant At The Old Gray House

For More Stories Go To

RMS Stories:  Stories 1 - 15

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

Whisper in the Wind published on: April 10, 2017

Whisper in the Wind



Dewey Parr

Momma, where does the wind come from? This a question I asked my mother one day. I was a curious kid about everything occurring on Hatteras Island. What prompted this question was that the wind blew day and night for a week. No rain just wind.

Wind in many ways governs the lives of all who live along the ocean’s edge. There are days in the summer months that the gentle ocean breeze is welcome. Nothing can compare with being on the beach with a mild breeze blowing and watching the waves splashing. There are other times when it is not a pleasant experience to be on the beach. The wind is blowing so hard it sends the sand sailing like needles piercing your skin. Living on an Island surrounded by water and subject to high winds you learn at an early age to respect the damage the wind can do.

You learn not take your boat out to sea on days of high winds. You learn to be careful when you are outside during windy days. Who knows when a limb off a tree or an electric line might come tumbling down on you. The wind can do some strange things that all Islanders could tell you about. One I recall is what happened to my Uncle William Alfred Gray’s metal garage. Wind raised it up 30 foot in the air, crossing over a power line, and then sat it down undamaged about fifty feet from where it was. Another time the wind lifted the Ignatius Gray house, that we lived in, located on the Buxton Front Road now, called Hwy 12, and turned it upside down in the air and then sat it back down. One incident I will never forget is when I was aboard a battleship at sea, during Hurricane Hazel, the wind twisted the metal coning tower like it was a pretzel.

Wind related damages along the coastal areas has become such an issue that insurance companies have cancelled wind coverage on home owner’s policies or raised rates. My insurance company for example raised my wind coverage to $2,000.00 per year. With all the climate changes that seem to be occurring it appears that the wind might not just be accredited with blowing our roofs off but be responsible for providing us energy for our homes. Who would ever have thought that on Hatteras Island consideration would have been given to the development of a windmill farm in the Pamlico Sound to harness the wind to provide electricity for our homes.


This is something like what we might have seen in the Pamlico Sound if the project had not been abandoned. The very thought of it had environmentalist standing on top of their heads. Others were concerned over the aesthetics a well as the disruption of the migratory habits of birds. The final demise of the project was the cost factor as well as the inaccessibility of barges to the site. Who knows. The project might come to pass in the future? Regardless what happens the wind will continue to blow.

Knowledge has changed regarding the wind since that day I asked Mom, where did the wind come from? I recall another wind conversation I had with Mom one day that got an answer that I have often thought about. I came in the house angry and was mouthing off about my buddy that I had an argument with. I was really saying some bad things about him and Mom looked at me and said, “You better hush your mouth for all those things you are saying will come back to hurt you. Everything you said is in the wind. If you sit quietly and listen you will hear whisper in the wind. You better hope one of those whispers will not be your voice saying those things you just said.” Now my mother’s concept back in the 1930’s that the things you say are recorded in space might seem a little farfetched to you.

The reality of it is that the mothers of today need to be saying the same thing to their children my mother said to me. You better be careful what you say and put on Facebook, Twitter, I-Phone or anywhere for it might come back to hurt you. Like never, this was borne out during the 2016 Presidential Election. Things that the politicians had said and done years and years ago, were brought to the forefront for all to hear and see. Things I am sure they wish they had never whispered. It is such a shame to see our youth of today possibility destroying their future happiness by making the mistake of saying and putting things on the internet that will be there forever and can be retrieved in the future to be used to discredit them.

Our school systems need to be instructing our youth not only about the many perverts that are monitoring their on-line activities but future employers checking their posting. In today’s work world one of the first things employers do is to check the social media history of those applying for employment. The internet is like the voices in wind for the things said or placed there are there forever. The big difference is that man has figured out how to retrieve them. Who is to say, that the time will come when man will figure out how to retrieve all the voices that are in the wind. For some that could be happy day but for others it could be a sad day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear the voices of our loved ones that have gone on.

Even today I think about the Whisper in the Wind. Sometimes when I am sitting alone in my garden at my Hatteras home or on a beach I imagine I can hear sweet voices in the winds of my loved ones from the past. You can call it crazy or whatever you want. To make this happen you must open your heart and accept the reality that with God nothing is impossible.

As for my original question, I asked my mother, where did the wind come from, I never did get a complete answer. Do you know where the wind comes from? If so share it with me on my Facebook pages. https://www.facebook.com/ShareOBX/  or   https://www.facebook.com/dewey.parr

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

'Drift' seeds find their way to our beaches from afar published on: December 12, 2016

These drift seeds were found on a Hatteras Island Beach

Picture By Dewey Parr

These drift seeds were found on a Hatteras Island Beach



Living on an isolated island as a child, I was fascinated with all the different aspects of nature. We had little to distract us from the beauties that surrounded us each day. I learned to love and respect the different habits of each creature that roamed the woods or lived in the ocean. With each change in the seasons, there came new and exciting things for me to observe and learn.

As fall approached, the one thing that took center stage was the formation of seeds on the vines, grasses, shrubs, and trees. It was a happy time for the birds and the animals. Squirrels could be seen flitting from tree to tree. Flocks of birds fed on the seeds. Cooler days and nights also led to a change in the sounds that echoed throughout the day. The chatter of the squirrels and songs of the birds seemed sharper and clearer in the fall.

With the coming of each fall, I still find myself collecting seeds to dry and store for spring planting. To me, it is still is a joy to observe the different kinds of seeds produced by plants. It is even a greater joy to have someone give me a seed that I am not familiar with, and to plant that seed and wait eagerly to see what kind of plant it will produce. Nothing gives a gardener any greater joy than to have someone give him a seed, or to provide another person seeds. Seed-sharing has a way of bonding people.

When Mary and I operated our shop -- the Old Gray House on Light Plant Road in Buxton -- the Wahls family from Athens, Ala., would come to visit with us every year. One of their boys, Ethan, would bring me either a plant or seeds. Even though Ethan and I were miles apart in distance and age, our seed-sharing became a bond between us. I looked forward to his visit each year and was always prepared to have something to share with him. Mind you, our annual meeting was only for a short time, but our plant- and seed-sharing memory lasted for the entire year until his next visit. Ethan’s memory will always be with me when seed time comes.

Living on the ocean, we have an extra joy -- it's not just island plants that provide us seeds. It is the ocean itself. To obtain these seeds, you walk the beach. The best place to find these seeds is in the wrack at the high-water mark, where you will see the seaweed or trash that has been deposited after the tides recede.

I hate to mention the word "trash," for it shows how little respect many people have for the environment. Lots of people, sorry to say, would not take the time to put their trash in a garbage can if it was within an arm's reach from them. Some even toss out their bottles and cans as they drive along the beach. Little do they realize the damage they do to the environment when they recklessly toss their trash on the beach. Their actions are responsible for the death of much of the sea life that gets entangled in the trash. There is no excuse for anyone to trash our beaches or waters. Severe punishment should be imposed on them.

Anyway, if you should see me walking along the beach and kicking the seaweed, it is not because I am mad. It is because I am searching for seeds that came riding in on the ocean waves. Kicking is one way of seeing what is concealed within the seaweed. A better way is to gently rake through the seaweed to find seeds.

Seeds you find on the beach are called drift seeds. They are seeds that are carried to our beaches from faraway places, such as the Caribbean or even South America. Some of these seeds have been traveling the ocean highways, or currents, for long periods of time or maybe even years before they are deposited on our beach as a result of the wind and waves. If you have not done so, I recommend you obtain a map of the ocean currents so that you can understand where some of the treasures you see originated.

The sea bean is a good luck charm

Picture By Dewey Parr

The sea bean is a good luck charm

Part of the fun of scouring the beach for treasures is to try to determine the origin of the objects you find. Seeds are a just one of the things that come to us by way of the ocean currents. We even have such items as refugee boats from Cuba wash up on our beach, which is what happened during hurricane Matthew.

Islanders of old understood the value of the ocean currents. After every storm, they dashed to the beach to collect all types of articles, such as lumber and buoys. Many of the old homes on the island were built out of lumber and even had furnishings made out of things that washed up on the beach after storms. Crews from ships passing by the island sometimes threw building materials overboard, which provided another source for residents to use.

In the 1930s, most of the yards on the island were dotted with things found on the beach. It was common to see big buoys, ship's wheels, bells, driftwood, and sand walkways lined with large horse conch or whelk shells. Even gravesites were lined with large shells. All this was soon to disappear as sand roads became hard roads and access to the island no longer was dependent on a small wooden ferry.

With the coming of the Cape Hatteras National Park in 1953 and the building of Bonner Bridge in 1963, life changed dramatically for all who lived on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Thousands of tourists poured onto the islands. Many of those who made day trips from the mainland to the Hatteras Island just naturally assumed things people had collected on the beach that was in their yards and along the roads was theirs for the picking. And picking they did. No longer was island life the simple life it was. Now the new norm became "What is yours is mine for the taking." Before the bridge, it was "What is yours is yours, and I honor and protect your property rights."

Now it is seldom you see beach treasures displayed in people’s yards unless they are bolted down to keep them from being stolen. Even then, residents have to be careful as the things they display might result in a visit from the National Park Service. It is illegal to collect artifacts from the beach.

I recall when an organization on the island first began they asked for donations of artifacts or information about things and the location where people had found them on the island. An islander showed them some of the things he had found, not intending to donate them. He had items such as cannon balls from the Civil War and Indian relics he had found before the National Park Service owned the land. He was told it was illegal for him to have those things in his possession. As he put it, “They kept my stuff.”

Incidents like this have led the islanders to whisper only to the closest of family members and friends about items they found over the years and the locations where they found them. It's a shame that because of such an air of distrust, many secrets of the past hidden in the woods and items washed up on the beaches will probably never be known.

As far as I know drift seeds are not classified as artifacts. You can still enjoy collecting them and dreaming about the faraway places they came from. I am not an authority on drift seeds, but if you want information on these seeds that fall in the ocean from some plant along the water’s edge and float on the currents to our beach, you can readily find it with the aid of the Internet The fun in collecting these seeds is to identify them, learn where they came from, and learn about the plant that produced them.

I will mention one drift seed that is my all-time favorite. It is the drift seed or sea bean known as a "Sailor's Good Luck Charm." Its other names are the Monkey’s Ladder, Sea Heart, Columbus Bean, and Entada gigas. I wrote an article about them years ago and gave away and sold thousands of them as good luck charms to friends and visitors to our island.

You might want to read the article about my daddy’s sea bean that was published by Irene Nolan, now editor of the Island Free Press, in May of 2002 -- http://www.outerbanksshells.com/rmsArchives4.html#RMS5

Should you have one of my sea beans, rub it for good luck and wish Mary Parr and I good luck as we begin our new adventures in life.

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

Hatteras Island History Repeats Itself published on: December 19, 2015


Dewey Parr

God works in strange ways. My heart was broken over the death of my son. Seemed like I could not find peace and then along came a young man when I needed to have my roof replaced. He did something for me more than put a roof on my house. His name was Kristopher J. Mueller. He had recently moved to the Island and needed the work and I needed someone to roof my house and repair water damage to my ceiling from winter storms.

Kristopher had a successful roofing business for years in Ashville, NC. He had recently moved to our Island and was wanting to get his roofing business established on the Outer Banks. Until then he was willing to take any job available. The first thing I noticed about him was that he reminded me of my son in that he was a free spirit and honest. Having been hooked many times in the past by roofers and others who did repairs for me I decided this time to put them to test by having them make their presentation to my wife Mary. Now that is the acid test. If Mary Parr says you are ok you are a good risk. At the appointed time he met with Mary. Mary and I were impressed with his professionalism and presentation. He did something my son would do that was almost unheard of on Hatteras and that was to provided you in detail a breakdown of all supplies needed, time allotted for getting the job done, and a firm contract outlining all cost factors. I remarked to him it was obvious he was not on what I called Hatteras time. Not being familiar with the term “Hatteras Time”, I explained to him what it meant and related my previous experience with a Hatteras roofer. I also shared with him about another roofing company in the area that I had contacted about doing the job and the treatment they had given me. He passed the Mary Parr “acid test” so I gave him the job which was quiet extensive. It entailed my entire house and outbuilding.

He was just like my son in that he arrived early every day and knew exactly what he was going to accomplish that day. Before his two helpers arrived he had everything ready to go and he stayed a little longer after they left checking to see that everything was cleaned up and put up. As I watched him work I though he was my son reincarnated. The more I was around him less was the pain I was suffering from the loss of my son.

Every day when I came from the Old Gray House for lunch it would be about the time his helpers left for lunch and he would be alone eating a sandwich. It was these moments and the early morning and the end of each day that we began to communicate. I began to treasure each moment. It reminded me of the chats my son and I had. I began to realize that he too was enjoying our time together. It was as if he was waiting for me to arrive so we could sit at lunch time together and eat. He shared his dreams and hopes for his new life that he was beginning on Hatteras Island with his wife and new baby. He told me about his wedding on the Avon beach. Said he could see where the wedding took place on the beach from his house. As he talked you could see and feel the joy he was receiving from living on the Island, and the love he had in his heart for his wife and new baby. It was the same joy my son and I enjoyed when we would meet each week when we would be together in the Gray House Garden or working on projects at the house together. Kris told me all about his inventions and other tool patents that he was working on.

There was a twinkle in his eyes as he demonstrated to me one of his patented tool inventions. He had come up with the idea of putting a utility knife on a wheel. It was a simple idea yet unique in that you could hold the knife in your hand and it would glide easily over the roofing. He called it a multi-function heavy duty utility knife with a stabilizer pivot structure. I tried it out and I was surprised how easy it was to use. He shared with me that he was preparing for an upcoming presentation of some of his tool ideas in Las Vegas with a major tool company.

The more I observed Kristopher as he worked the more it became obvious to me that he like my son loved his work and took pride in doing a good job. I let him know from the beginning that I was not trying to get by cheap and wanted to end my roof problems once and for all. Once we started the job it became aware that the majority of the wood in the ceiling of the big room had to be replaced and that the interior had to be repainted. Much to my surprise he offered to do the job of painting the interior after the roof was complete even though that was not his expertise. I realized it was not going to be easy for me to find someone on Hatteras to do the job for not only was the ceiling high but due to the open rafters it was going to entail an extreme amount of taping and time. It was at this point that Kristopher shared with me that in order to fulfill his dream of having a life near the ocean he had been taking any and all odd jobs he could find while waiting to get his roofing business established in the area and his tool business off the ground. He let me know that he appreciated the opportunity to get a sizeable job like mine for he was grateful to have work on Hatteras rather than to have to run back to Ashville or another area and be away from his wife and baby. When he shared this with me it made me think of all those times during the recession when my son was grateful to find any kind of work. I also thought of the many time that unscrupulous employers took advantage of him because they knew he was needing the work. I took time to let him know how well pleased I was with his work and that I would do whatever I could to recommend him to others. In order to do this with his permission I took pictures of him on my roof to put on my Facebook page to let my friends know of his good work. Not only was I pleased he offered to do the extra job of painting but down deep I was grateful that we would have a little more time together. Little did he realize that my time spent watching him work and briefly chatting with him eased the pain from the dagger that was in my heart from the loss of my son.

Kristopher J. Mueller Roofing my Roof

Kristopher J. Mueller Roofing my Roof

True my time with Kristopher J. Mueller was short-lived but it came at a time in my life when I needed someone that could divert my attention away from my grief even if it was just for a brief moment. After Kristopher’s departure I slowly began to accept the reality of my son’s death and that it was time for me to move on and live my life to its fullest. It is never easy to loose someone that you love and cherish. It is even harder to break away from being in a state of constant sadness that does not do honor to them. It is not something my son in particular would ever want for me and his mother.

It has been awhile now since Kristopher J. Mueller put my roof on my house but once again his name has entered my thoughts. It seems like the Gray family history has repeated itself. As you walk up the steps in the Old Gray House you will see an oval shaped picture with three of the four Gray family brothers standing side by side. The three brothers in the picture are William Alfred, Isaac James, and John Gray. The brother in the middle is Isaac. Isaac James Gray was born on Hatteras Island on January 27, 1895. Isaac was a young man full of life and ambition just as Kristopher. He too had a wife and new baby, Chester, which he loved very much. One day Isaac decided to go up to the Oregon Inlet area and go clamming. The clams there were thought to be bigger and better as well as more plentiful. That day was a day that the Gray family nor Isaac’s wife ever forgot. Isaac did not come back home so his brothers and father made their way to Oregon inlet hunting for him. They found Isaac’s body floating in the water at Oregon Inlet. It was thought that maybe he had been caught in the changing tides and he was pulled under by the currents as the tide rolled in. This they felt accounted for his body not being carried out to sea. Isaac’s young wife, Matilda Ann left the Island broken hearted with her baby boy, Chester Gray, and went back home to her people in New Bern, NC. The memory of Isaac remained constant in the hearts of the Gray family through his son, Chester. Chester, in later life as a young man, visited the Island annually to his father’s grave in the middle of the Jennette Cemetery located across the road from the Buxton Post Office. How Isaac James Gray, along with his mother and father, and little brother Litton ended up being buried in the middle of the Jennette family cemetery is another story in itself.

Isaac James Gray Drowned at Oregon Inlet

Issac James Gray

Drowned at Oregon Inlet Aug. 27, 1928 at age 33

With much sadness while away from the Island for medical reasons I learned through Facebook of the similarity of what happened to my Uncle Isaac James Gray was repeated in what happened to my roofer friend Kristopher J. Mueller. They both were in the prime of their lives with new babies. Isaac was 33 years old and Kristopher was 38. They both went up to Oregon Inlet to enjoy the pleasures of the waters. Even to this day many are lured to the inlet by the feeling that fish, clams, oysters and crabs, which come from inlet waters are bigger and better. Isaac sought bigger clams and Kristopher bigger fish to spear.

Kristopher J. Mueller Drownedat Oregon Inlet Spear Fishing

Kristopher J. Mueller

Drowned at Oregon Inlet Sept. 19, 2015 at age 38

They both drowned without any of us knowing all the details of their death. There were major differences as well as similarities in the events surrounding their deaths.

The first was that things were a little different at Oregon Inlet at the time of their deaths. When Isaac went to the Inlet it was not an easy task for him to get there from his Buxton home. There were not any paved roads from Buxton to Oregon Inlet and it was not an easy task to travel 45 miles up a sand road or by water. On the other hand when Kristopher left his home to answer the call of the inlet it was a short trip up a paved road called Hwy 12.

Another difference was that when Isaac went to the inlet there was not a bridge there and the only access to Hatteras Island at that time was by boat. The 2.7 mile Bonner Bridge was not built until 1963. During Isaac’s time there was not any ferry service to Hatteras Island. It did not begin until the mid-1920's. At that time Cpt. JB Tillet began a tug and barge service across Oregon Inlet that later evolved into our present state funded free ferry service to Hatteras Island.

One major difference between Isaac and Khristopher, that I am sure that is hard to comprehend, was one’s body was reclaimed for burial and the other was not. Christopher’s Muellers body was nowhere to be found. Only his kayak was present.

Kristopher’s Empty Kayak

Kristopher’s Empty Kayak

“Kristopher Mueller, 38, of Avon was reported missing Saturday around 5:30 p.m. after he had not been seen for more than hour while in the water around Bonner Bridge bent number 166, where his kayak was discovered tied to the pilings.”

After days of searching by the Coast Guard the search to find his body was abandoned. Kristopher was victim of the swift currents that flow through the Oregon Inlet with every tide change. Those swift currents have been flowing day in and day out since Oregon inlet separated Hatteras Island from the mainland during a hurricane in 1846. It behooves all who go in the waters near Oregon Inlet, or any other inlet, to be aware of the danger of being swept off their feet or caught in the changing tide currents.

None of us know or understand the ways of God or what he has in store for us. At this stage in my life I have learned to not try to-out think God or question Him in any way. The only thing I know is that a young man by the name of Kristopher J. Mueller made his presence in my life at a time when I needed someone. He was that someone that took the time to talk to me when I felt all alone after the death of my beloved son. He helped me get ahold of myself and on the road to recovery from my grief. Yes, in my mind God sent Kristopher to me and I will always thank him and keep him in my memory.  

As I said in the beginning God Works in Strange Ways. One of the strange things he does is that he puts things in our memory that causes us to have flash backs of our past experiences and about other people. Since my son died there are many things on our Island that cause me to have flash backs of my beloved son. Things such as the many house that I pass that he helped to build or items that he brought me. At first after my son died these flash backs brought me sadness, now as I see them they bring me joy for they bring back the good times we shared together. When I pass the many places on our beautiful Island my son, the builder, worked on such as: the Slash Creek Condominiums, Buxton Catholic Church, the two houses along the road in Avon, the beach house with the blue roof as you approach Waves and his last project, the two huge beach house in Kill Devil Hills I joyfully thank God for the time we spent together.

This is the same feeling of joy I know have when I cross the Oregon Inlet. Now I think not only of my Uncle Isaac Gray, but about the those treasured moments I shared with a young man by the name of Kristopher Mueller who God sent to me not only to repair my broken roof but my broken heart as well.

P.S. I like to think that Christopher and my son Dewey are busy working together building something for God.

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

How did you come to believe in God? published on: August 24, 2015


Dewey Parr

God is … God was … God will be … God is the Past … God is the Present …God is the Future

How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Each of us has a different experience when it comes to the knowledge of God. In most cases it is a result of our family’s personal belief in the existence of God. This belief system is passed on from generation to generation and is usually centered in a particular dogma. From early childhood most children just accept their forefathers belief structure without question because that is what you are supposed to do. To deviate from the family’s particular faith structure is considered heresy so their thoughts never stray from what they have been told. In fact they are led to believe that to question the tenants of their faith is a sin in itself. Thus they never question anything about their faith structure.

As with everything we encounter in this life there are downsides. The downside of this type of belief structure is that in, later life, should we get out of our comfort zone, we are not prepared to handle situations that cause us to question our inherited beliefs. When we are no longer surrounded by those who protect us from those who would cause us to think for ourselves, we have to make a decision to hear, or not hear, thoughts contrary to what we have been taught. Once we begin to question even the slightest tenant of our inherited belief in God and the system of worship surrounding it, then a flood of questions begin to overwhelm us that can lead to a variety of attitude changes about our basic beliefs. Sometimes this is good and other times it is bad. It can lead us to become skeptical about what we have been taught or those who taught us.

The worst scenario is that we cut off all outside thoughts as well as individuals that would dare question or makes us uncomfortable concerning our belief structure.

Little did I suspect that my basic belief in God would be challenged when I volunteered during the Korean Conflict to serve in the Navy? At that time I had a 4-D classification as a Bible College Student that would have freed me from the draft. After my boot camp training and additional training as a hospital corpsman I was stationed in a medical research unit (NAMRU-4) at Great Lakes, Illinois. My duties were in a biometrics department side by side with a civilian doctor to compile and interpret the data concerning the research being done in conjunction with the research on acute respiratory diseases and rheumatic fever. He and I shared a huge room with chalk boards all around the walls, and full file cabinets that held all the data collected from the research that was centered on tracking the results of the experimentation that was being done using troops in the Great Lakes boot camp. It might be of interest to note in1954 NAMRU-4 would be the first microbiology lab to ever isolate influenza virus in tissue culture. In the same year they would be the first lab to ever identify influenza B virus.

A short time after I began working with him he brought up the fact that I had been attending a Bible College prior to enlisting in the Navy and began to question my belief in God. Once he established I believed in God he would try to convince me that a belief in God was not only unscientific but a waste of time. Often he would use the chalk boards to display his theories as to how this great universe and life came into existence without the aid of any outside force. It became an obsession with him to spend his time trying to convince me that God was a myth of the mind. Now, as I look back at that experience, I realize the reason he was so consumed with the subject was that with each one of his theories he presented to me why God did not exist I blew them out of the water with simple sayings that would send him back to his books to come up with something else.

In many ways the time with him was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. It strengthened my belief in God. I came to realize the true meaning of the phrase “We walk by faith not by sight”, and “Faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things unseen.” I remember one thing I said to him that really got his attention. “What if I am right and you are wrong”? The other thing that seemed to baffle him was my insistence that if for no other reason my belief in God made me feel good and that in itself was a sufficient reason to do so.

This Wall Plaque Says It All

This Wall Plaque Says It All

The Good Book tells you to “Be ready to give an answer to every man that ask you a reason of the hope that is in you”. I think the reason my belief in God is unshakeable is the way in which I acquired it. My belief was not one that I inherited from my religious background or family origin. During my formative years my family was not involved in any church. That happened later due to my efforts after we left the Island during World War II. Religion was not a topic around our dinner table. Mom would have been classified as a protestant as her name was on the books at the Buxton Methodist Church but she did not attend nor encourage me to do so. Most of the Islanders at that time had their names on the books. It was the practice to have a christening ceremony down at the Church for the babies.

My christening ceremony was delayed by the manner of my birth. Dad who was in the Navy had left Hatteras Island after my conception to go back aboard ship. Within five months after he left the Island his ship came into the harbor at Newport, Rhode Island for extensive repairs. Knowing that his ship would be there for a few months Mom left the Island pregnant carrying little unborn Dewey with her to Newport, Rhode Island. While there she gave birth to me on April 6, 1931 in the Naval Hospital. Within two months after my birth Dad’s ship returned to sea and my mother and myself returned to Hatteras Island. Following the tradition or rituals of the Methodist Church I was christened on June 14, 1931 in the Buxton Methodist Church and my name was added to the book. I guess that made me a Methodist at that time without my knowledge or approval. In many instances this appears to be the way many acquire their religious beliefs.

Does a Name one a Piece of Paper or a Roll Book Make You a Believer in God

I remember how upset later in life that Mom and others Islanders were when they got a letter from the Church telling them they were removing their names from the roll books because they were not active members. Membership no longer constituted a once a year visit to the church on Easter Sunday, or the kids Christmas program. Mom, along with others on the Island, didn’t think it was funny when they were kidded about not being able to sing, “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder I Will Be There “. We found out later the reason for this was because the assessment of the dues paid by the local church to the conference was dependent on how many active members they had on the roll books. From the churches standpoint it didn’t make sense for them to keep sending money to support the hierarchy of the church for people not in the pews when the offering plates were being passed.

Originally Buxton had one church but in my time it had two Churches, the Methodist and the Pentecostal. These two Churches served as the social centers of the community. The thing I remembered most about them was the good food they had at their all day meetings and their test of fellowship was your belief in God, not your adherence to their dogma. Sorry to say that does not exactly hold true in all cases today. I wrote about the two churches in an earlier story entitled, Give Me That Ole-Time Religion. http://www.outerbanksshells.com/rmsArchives4.html#RMS3

Dad was the oldest of 12 children from a staunch ultra conservative Roman Catholic family who had migrated to Houston, Texas from Franklin, La. When he came, as a young sailor, to Hatteras Island and married Mom, a protestant, he was no longer in contact with his family due to religious differences and the distance from Buxton to Texas. What’s more there was no Catholic Church on Hatteras Island at that time. Attitudes concerning relationships have changed today for the best between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. When my son died, who was not a Catholic, something happened that was unheard of in times past. Father Fred from the Buxton Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church attended his funeral and extended his condolences to my wife and me.

Something happened that day between father Fred and myself that made me realize all this division between religious groups over incidental matters is of little or no importance. What really matters is are we kindred spirits who love one another and believe in the same God? When Father Fred came to me that day at Sonny’s funeral I was stricken with grief, grabbed his hand and began to hug him for coming and he pushed me aside. At first I did not know what he was doing and thought maybe he was rejecting my gesture because I was not a Catholic. Then he gently said to me, no not that side and pulled my heart to his heart and said, “It is heart to heart” as he consoled me in my grief. That has stuck with me since that day. It makes no difference what our denominational beliefs are or, whether we are protestant or catholic it is the common bond in our hearts we share about our belief in God. It is truly heart to heart.

While I am on the subject of division between Church people in regard to their religion, I would like to share with you and incident that happened to me. It was this incident that really brought it home to me just how deep seated religious prejudices can be. As I was in the final week of my boot camp training at Great Lake, Illinois an officer came in the barracks and said out loud,” Which one of you is Dewey Parr?” My impulse was to think what I have done now. I saluted and said, “Sir, I am Dewey Parr.” As it turned out it was the base Chaplain and he wanted to talk to me about the possibility of my being one of his assistants. This was the result of my records showing I was in a Bible College when I enlisted in the Navy. His main interest was the location and type of Bible College I had attended. He asked nothing about what my views were on anything. Once he satisfied himself with what he wanted to know he looked directly at me and said loud enough for all to hear, “You are one of those evangelicals,” and walked away. Up to that point I had been stupid enough to believe that I was just one of those people that believed in God and wanted the best for everybody I met regardless of what brand of religion they had. That Navy chaplain needed to understand what it meant to have a religion that was based on heart to heart. As a result of his prejudice I had to endure being called the “Evangelical” by my buddies.

There is one place in particular I feel this heart to heart relationship with all I meet. Surprisingly it is not in a building or Tabernacle built by man. That place is on the Hatteras beach. It seems like when you meet and talk with someone on the beach all personal differences such as politics and religion disappear. In all the years I have encountered people on the beach they have never asked me my politics or religion. I guess the reason is that we are all aware we are in God’s Tabernacle and to busy enjoying the grandeur of his creation.

Picture by Nancy Hall

When You Are On the Beach Watching the Sunrise You Are In the Tabernacle God Built

At an early age while growing up on Hatteras Island I came to the conclusion there was a God as a result of the beauties of nature that surrounded me each day. When I looked at the ocean and watched the waves roll in, depositing all the unique shells, I knew here was someone or something that made all this possible. When I saw the many creatures of the sea, the birds, fish, and the animals I knew these things didn’t just happen. Someone made it happen.

Every day when I saw the sunrise and the sunset over the ocean and sound I knew in my heart God was a reality. I ask you, how anyone can deny there is a God when they view a Hatteras Island sunrise or sunset? It was sometime later that others began to structuralize my acceptance that there was a supreme being that created all things into their own concepts and interpretations. This is where the problem lies. This is what divides us from one another.

As I look around I see that some, men in particular, seem to just hang in limbo when it comes to their belief in God. Much of this has risen out of their disappointment with the actions of the leadership in the Churches. Some Churches in many ways have become bureaucracies or corporations. Bureaucracies perpetuate themselves at the expense of those who support them. Bureaucracies are controlled by a select group of bureaucrats. In churches these are sometimes known as, popes, priests, rabbis, ministers, preachers, bishops, cardinals, board members, council members, elders, deacons or whatever you call them. Those that do not pledge themselves or support the total goals of the bureaucrats are expendable. I am sorry to say the major goal of most bureaucratic churches is to raise money and build big elaborate buildings. Success is based on how many attend and how much money is received in the offering plates. Little or no emphasis is put on the needs of individual or lives changed.

It is not just the example set by the pulpit, but those in the pew, that tends to discourage others. A good example of this is a recent incident I witnessed while visiting an off the Island ultra conservative church. The format of the service was the choir sang the opening song then came from the platform to sit in the audience while the audience stood and greeted each other. A choir member took her place in the pew I was sitting in and immediately took her I-pad out of her bag and played a card game throughout the service. At the end of the preacher’s sermon his policy was to have all of the church family come to the front of the church to kneel for prayer and then return to their seats for the remainder of the service which included singing, and taking up the offering. The card playing choir member and others got up and went forward for the prayer session. At the end of the prayers all arose and returned to their pew seats and the card playing choir member resumed her card game until the service ended. As I watched this I was not just reminded, but understood more clearly, the statement that was attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “I can accept your Christ, but I cannot accept your Christianity”.

It is not just the actions inside the Church building but that those of its members within the community and work world that send confusing messages to on-lookers. How well I am reminded often of my late son’s observation of one of his bosses when he was working in South Carolina that was considered a highly religious man serving as an elder in his Church. Over and over his boss would make comments about those dam (N-word). My son could never comprehend how anyone could claim to be a Christian and hold hate or prejudices in their hearts against another human being because of their race. I am proud to say that when he was growing up in my home he learned from our example that all people are the same regardless of their race creed or color and deserve to be respected and treated equally.

No matter how much of this type of thing goes on in the name of God it should in no way diminish a person’s belief in God. A basic belief in God is not influenced by the action of others. To belief in God and his Supreme Power empowers us to live every day to its fullest. It re-charges our batteries and makes our life worthwhile.

At my Hatteras home I am an early riser. Up before daylight. Every morning I step out on my deck and look in the sky to the North toward the Pamlico Sound. When I look that way there are no manmade light towers or structures that pollute the night sky. I remember well the glory of the night sky before electricity came to Hatteras. Many mornings the sky is astronomical. You can see all the stars, constellations and even an occasional a shooting star as well as the light from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse flashing over the trees on my hillside. I always look to see if the little dipper is still pouring into the big dipper. It is these moments that I sense an extreme closeness to God. When I gaze into the night sky it is enough to tell me there is a God. I can’t help but wonder just how far-reaching the universe is and all the wonders there are for us to behold. It is my hope that someday we will all be granted the privilege by God to view first hand all the mysteries of his universe and to dwell in His Tabernacle.

Admittedly, there is no way I can prove or disapprove there is a God. Nor do I feel the need to attempt to do so. I just know in my heart God is real and that is good enough for me.

Now I ask you, how did you come to believe in GOD?

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

Health Hint for Men published on: May 19, 2015

Health Hint for Men


Dewey Parr

Dewey J. Parr

Why is Dewey Parr wearing his hunter’s hat? He is flipping his flap to show you.

Health Hint for Men … Cover those ears from the summer sun’s rays. A ball cap doesn’t cut it. The fact is a ball cap makes your ears a prime target for damaging sun rays.

In October 2012 I went to my dermatologist to look at a growth under my eye and much to my surprise that was not the major problem. Before I went my sweet wife said to me, “While you are there have him look at that black dot about the size of the point of pencil head behind your ear.” He took one look at it and said, “We need to take care of that right now.” After he did he said, “If this had gone unchecked three months or more I might not have been able to help you.” How well I was reminded what happened to my uncle Kendrick Gray who lived in the Old Gray House. Ken had a small spot at the base of his nose that he did nothing about for years. That little spot resulted in his death. The cancer went to his brain and killed him.

Dewey J. Parr

One Dot behind My Ear Resulted in This
Let This Be a Warning to You
Go to Your Doctor before it is to Late

Little did I know something called Melanoma had been eating away at me for a long time?

Now here I am again three years later June 18, 2015 back to my dermatologist because my dear wife, Mary, spotted another black dot in the same location. This time hopefully it has been caught in time but it has entailed much more flesh removal.

Dewey J. Parr

The second dot behind my ear resulted in this.

When I taught cursive writing to fifth graders I would always check to see if they dotted the letter i. I explained to them that a single dot made the difference. Now here I am 84 years old learning just how important a single black dot can be. Never did I think one dot the size of a pencil point could be the difference between LIFE and DEATH.

Did you wash behind your ears today? Better yet did you have someone who loves you check for black dots.

I realize there is a lot of warnings about the signs of prostate cancer, but all men need to be aware that what is behind your ears is just as important as what is between your legs.

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

Taking Time to Re-invent Ourselves published on: March 13, 2014

Taking Time to Re-invent Ourselves

Dewey and Mary Parr


Dewey Parr

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Wow! Where did this year go? Watching the annual re-cap on TV brought home a lot of memories to me.

Hard to believe all that has happened worldwide this year. It is even harder for Mary and me to accept all the things that have happened in our lives this year. Things that have made us begin to think about not only what is ahead for us but what changes we need to make in our lives in the coming years. Changes that will not only affect us but those around us. Changes that all who walk this earth must someday undergo as a result of age and failing health. Changes that are often misunderstood by others.

This winter away from Cape Hatteras Island has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate what season we are in as well as what is our purpose under heaven. Mary and I have come to that place in our lives that we now must make some changes. Those changes involve slowing down a taking time to smell the roses. Our aging bodies are beginning to let us know it is time to do some rethinking and re-inventing.

We call it a season to re-invent ourselves. Mary and I do not view this new season approaching our lives as an ending but as a new beginning. In this season of our lives we are merely seeking new adventures, innovative, and creative activities, in which to engage. The only difference is our new activities will be less strenuous and time consuming. We will no longer be hemmed in by a must do schedule. I guess you would have to say we will truly be in our second childhood. Many of the days ahead we will just whittle the time away and whistle while we do it. If we take a notion we might even just play hooky from all of our responsibilities and go to take a dip in the ocean. You can rest assured it won’t be skinny dipping for we would not want to scare everyone away from the beach. By the way did you read my article on Hatteras Island Skinny Dipping? http://www.outerbanksshells.com/rms63.html

When we open the Old Gray House Gift and Shell Shop this spring it will be a new adventure for us and all of our faithful tourist friends who have visited with us. There will be less emphasis on the commercial aspect of the shop and more time devoted to just sharing the joys of getting to meet and greet those who wander down Light Plant Road to visit with us. We will still have unique and quaint gifts and shells. Our main purpose for the Old Gray House will continue to be a place to share with one another.

One change you might see is that our hours of operation might be shorter. Another change might be less commercial products and more homemade stuff. Whatever the changes will be we do our best to keep you informed by posting them.

In the 24 years we have maintained our shop the one word that best describes what we remember most about the our experience has been SHARING. Mary and I have had the joy of sharing our retirement years with others. Others in turn have blessed us even more by sharing their lives with us. I am sure that many who visited with us have no idea how the things they have shared with us have enriched our lives. Often in the evenings and early mornings we sit sipping our coffee and recapping the day’s activities. We share with each other the things you have shared with us. It is this sharing of each other’s life experiences that has motivated us over the years to keep the Old Gray House open.

I am far from a computer genius but as a result of the computer I discovered that sharing is a two way street. Little did I realize that while we thought others were sharing with us we were also sharing with them? My neighbor, who knew we did little to advertise our shop, said one day, “You don’t need to advertise. You are all over the internet”. I asked what she meant and she explained to me about forums and reviews. After that I went to Google and keyed in the Old Gray House, Buxton, NC. Much to my surprise I found many different web-sites with information that visitors had posted about us. Some had even written stories about us and the Old Gray House. I loved the one post that described our shop as that magical quirky little place. Viewing all the nice things that have been written about us and our shop has made us swell with pride in knowing that others have appreciated our efforts to share with them.

Someone asked me recently what have you enjoyed the most about your adventure with the Old Gray House? My answer was those visiting with us treating me like their family and taking the time to chat with me. They come back year after year just to see me and to share with me their joys and their heartaches. I have also enjoyed many conversations we have shared about their travels, jobs, and all the innovative things that are going on in their lives and in the world. Some of the conversation have involved me being asked my advice on a variety of subjects. Often at the end of each day I feel like I have had a refresher course in all the new advances in the work world.

Dewey Parr
My Most Memorial Moments Have Been Talking With Guest of the Old Gray House

If you ask Mary what has been her greatest pleasure she will say getting to hold the little ones in her arms. “It has been thrilling to see the new babies and other children and then later when they grow up and come back to visit with me to show me their babies.” Another of her pleasures has been knowing that many of those little ones were wrapped in one of the baby blankets she made.

Mary Parr
Nothing Gives Mary Parr More Pleasure Than Sharing Her Love For Little Children.

In all of our lives there comes a time when we realize we need to give consideration as to what season we are in. We seek your understanding and patience with us as we take the time to adjust our lives and the Old Gray House and Shell to meet the demands of this new season in our lives. It is our goal as we re-invent ourselves and the Old Gray House that it will become that quirky magical place on the Outer Banks where anyone can come to relax and be refreshed. A place where you can share creative and innovative ideas along with hopes and dreams. A place after you have visited you are inspired to re-enter your chosen world ready to meet all the challenges you confront.

To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

I ask you, “What season are you in. Is it time to re-invent yourself”?

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

Remembering Merry published on: December 13, 2014

Remembering Merry

Dewey and Mary Parr wish you a Merry Christmas as
they place a white dove on their Christmas tree In memory of Merry.


Dewey Parr

Mary and I have been blessed with many happy times. As with all who walk this life, those happy times are also accompanied with some sad times. It is the sad times that have made the happy times even seem sweeter.

We thought we had endured and bounced back from the worst of our sad times. It was a sad day for me when I lost an eye and even a sadder day when Mary was stricken with Cancer. Another sad day was when our home of thirty five years caught fire and was declared a total loss. Sad as these days where we were able to endure them and move on to happier times.

In our 61 years together Mary and I have come to realize that you need to live one day at a time and endeavor to squeeze as much enjoyment out of that day as possible. You don’t know what the next day may bring.

Never did Mary and I every think that On Sept. 13, 2013 a telephone call would come in the early hours of the morning saying, Dewey “ Sonny” is dead. Our son of 58 years had suffered a severe heart attack.

What we though had been our worst of the sad times had now been replaced with something that was totally unbearable. I had known pain and grief before but never like that of losing a child. When he died our world crashed.

For days after his funeral we were totally devastated and it seemed nothing could bring us any peace. Then along came a friend by the name of Elizabeth “Liz” Browning Fox who offered to release her peace doves in memory of our son. We accepted Liz’s offer so she set up a time to come to the Old Gray House and release her doves. It was there we had our son’s funeral service. The Old Gray House was the one place our son loved dearly. It was because of our son’s efforts we were able to have the Old Gray Houses as our retirement hobby. He not only helped us prepare the building for the shop but over twenty two years he was the driving force in keeping the shop going by doing all the major repairs. In the last few years as age began to creep up on us he was silently in the background watching over us and always ready to cheerfully step in and help out.

Now I want to share with you that my acceptance of Liz’s offer to release her doves in memory of Sonny was more for Mary’s sake than mine. I have always been skeptical of the idea that those who have gone on to the other world are sending signs to we who remain in this world. I did have an experience I wrote about in a previous article about my son entitled, “Keep it Simple”. I am taking the liberty of repeating it here as well as providing pictures. I feel it has merit. It is my personal experience with a bird the day after Sonny died that was hard for me to explain. The incident did caused me to wonder. I will share it with you as it occurred and leave it at that.

The morning after Dewey died I made my way stumbling with tears in my eyes to my work shop which is about fifty feet from my home. When I opened the door and turned on the light much to my surprise a little bird was flying around the room. Never had this occurred before. Sonny was always bringing me all kinds of things and lots of them were sitting on the shelves. The bird flitted here and there landing on the things This went on

for a length of time. I spotted my camera and picked it up and took a few shots of the bird. It seemed as if the bird was sending me a message which I did not understand. I opened the door for the bird to get out but it didn’t make any attempt to go. Finally it landed on a curtain and just sat there. I reached up and picked up the little bird in my hands and it did not struggle but just stayed there quietly and peacefully. There was a feeling that came over me that is hard to explain. It was a feeling of peace as if the bird was consoling me. Strange as it may seem I began to connect the bird with my son. I talked to the bird kissed it as if it were my precious son and said, I love you son. Then I took the little bird to the door and opened my hand and slowly raised it so it could fly into the sky. The bird raised itself up in the palm of my hand and sat there for what seemed to be an unusual long time and then slowly it opened its wings and began to soar high in the sky. As I stood watching the little bird fly away there was a feeling of peace within my heart that I have no explanation for. Was this a message from my son or was it God helping me to ease the pain I was suffering that day or was it just something that happened? I don’t know I just know it happened and it helped get me through another day without my boy. With this as a background even in my skepticism there was slight curiosity how that the releasing of doves could have any significance in dealing with grief.

Pictures I took of the little bird in our work shop

Knowing how much this meant to Mary I asked our Gray House Crafter and friend Sharon Crislip to do me the favor of taking picture of the dove releasing so Mary would have them to remember. By chance there was a customer at the shop by the name of Vickie who overheard what we were going to do and we invited her to be present for the releasing of the doves. At the appointed time Liz arrived with her doves, which turned out to be a single dove by the name of Merry. The reason for a single dove was that Liz was concerned about hawks that were in the area that had a habit of attacking groups of flying doves. Now Merry was not just any dove. She was Liz’s treasured dove. Elizabeth talked with us about the significance of releasing doves in honor of our son while holding Merry in her hands. Then she gently placed Merry in our hands. I must admit there is a calming sensation that seems to come over you as you hold this gentle creature of the air waves in your hands. It is hard to explain but as I felt the smooth velvety feathers and warmth of Merrys’ little body it was if some of the hurt in my heart from the loss of my boy was being transferred from my heart to Merry. True or not it began to bring me peace. Seeing the comfort and look on my Mary’s face as she whispered something to Merry and then hugged her and gave her a gentle kiss before holding her high up to release her was worth it all to me. It was the first time since our son died thanks to Merry I had seen a smile on my Mary’s face. My skepticism was taking a back seat to the joy that Merry was bringing my Mary.

Pictures our friend Sharon Crislip took of Merry

Another strange thing happened that made me wonder if there was any connection between Merry and my son’s spirit. Elizabeth had told us that Merry would soar high in the sky circle and then head back to the roosting place at her home. In this instance Merry did something out of the ordinary she had never done before according to Liz. She flew to the oak tree in the yard of the Old Gray House and sat high in the tree overlooking the Old Gray House. We waited and waited but Merry did not budge. She just stayed in the tree looking down at us. It was if Merry hated to leave us and the Old Gray House. At this point my mind was racing with the thoughts of how much my son loved the Old Gray House. I thought of all the good times we had over the last twenty two years playing together there. I could envision us sitting together in the bamboo hut he was building laughing and joking. I could see him on top of the roof of the Old Gray House repairing it. We waited and waited for Merry to leave that tree and head home but it was to no avail so finally Liz left and I lingered awhile longer looking up in the tree at Merry. Liz was not worried about Merry. She said she would eventually head back to her home base. When we left Merry was still in the tree. Later that evening I returned to check on Merry and she was still in the tree. I had a sense of inner peace when I learned from Liz later that Merry returned sometime in the late evening.

Look close and you will see Merry sitting in the Old Oak Tree at the Old Gray House
In my mind’s eye not only did I see Merry in the oak tree but I saw Sonny on top of the Old Gray House repairing the roof.

After that eventful day with Elizabeth Browning Fox and her cherished dove Merry it seemed like my grief was becoming more bearable. Before it was almost consuming me. My thoughts began not be so much centered on my loss but good memories. I am in no way a grief counselor. I can only share with you how a little bird sitting in a tree overlooking the Old Gray House began to warm the cockles of my heart with thoughts of the happy times my son and I had together. It has been a year since that day I met a white dove called Merry. Each of those days have been filled with happy thoughts about my son for I am surrounded with all of the things he did to make mine and his mother’s life more enjoyable. At first every time I saw something he had done, or thought of him, my heart became saddened and tears flooded my eyes. Now I am able to give thanks to God for the good times he and I shared. It is not that I miss him any less. It is now that I appreciate him more because of a lesson learned from one of God’s creations, a little bird by the name of Merry.

Elizabeth Browning Fox Holding Merry at the Old Gray House
On the day of Merrys’ Flight in honor of Dewey Parr III

It was a year ago my son’s spirit embarked on a new journey. Now a year later the spirit of a little white dove of peace called Merry has flown away to new land. While standing in the same spot at the Gray House where Merry was released in memory of my son Elizabeth shared with me the fate of her precious dove named Merry. Liz, with eyes filling with tears, related the story how she had released all of her doves for a fly. They soared high into the sky circling over the Pamlico Sound. Suddenly out of nowhere a hawk appeared and started chasing them. When this happens they close up their ranks and stay together flying high and head for home. Often she said, one dove will break away as a decoy to lead the predator away from the others. Merry took it on herself to become the sacrifice to save the others so as to give them the opportunity to return home to safety. Merry was last seen flying inland towards the woods with the hawk in pursuit. Most times the single dove is able to escape but in this case Merry did not return to the nest. Liz said later she was walking the path to the dove house and there on the ground was little Merry with deep wounds in her side. Merry had tried to return home but was unable to do so. She was severely wounded. Once again Merry had given herself to help to lessen the suffering of others.

Only God knows if there is a bird heaven but if there is one I am sure Merry is there. Many years ago as a teacher who taught in a fifth grade classroom that had windows overlooking a cemetery, I came to the conclusion no one is dead as long as they are remembered. Just as my son is alive every day in my heart so will a little soft white dove named Merry be in my thoughts. I will never forget Merry who taught me to be thankful to God for the happy times my son and I shared together. I also thank Merry for bringing our new friend Vicki into our lives.

To all of you I wish you a MERRY Christmas

Mary Parr says, "There will always be a Merry on our Christmas tree."

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

Persimmon Tree Pranks and Legends published on: January 30, 2014

Persimmon Tree Pranks and Legends


Dewey Parr, Jr.

Tall tree with persimmons covered in vines

Persimmon Tree in Old Gray House Garden

American Persimmon Tree (Diospyros virginiana)

Grows to about twenty five feet tall

There are trees in the Old Gray House garden I call the initiation and weather trees. At one time or another we have all endured some type of initiation. How well I remember my college days when I was initiated into my fraternity. That was before they clamped down on hazing and all the indignities heaped on individuals. Years ago if you were aboard ship and it was your first time to cross the equator there was an initiation ceremony that all sailors went through to welcome them to the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. According to my father, Dewey Parr, Sr. who was a career navy man, this was the initiation when he crossed the 180th. Meridian for the first time while aboard the USS Cape Isabel. It is a ceremony you never forget.

Crossing the Equator Aboard the USS Cape Isabel

Crossing the Equator Aboard the USS Cape Isabel

Domain of Neptunus Rex Dragon Imperial Domain of Golden Dragon

Dewey Parr - Domain of Neptunus Rex

Imperial Domain of Golden Dragon- Dewey Parr

Certificates Received by Dewey Joseph Parr for Crossing the Equator

Have You Crossed the Equator?

All young Jewish boys age 13 and girls at age 12 are familiar with the Bar Mitzvah rituals they undergo to announce to the world they are now responsible for their own actions. In many areas pranks are played on all new comers to initiate them into either the adult world or the brotherhood. In some rural areas the snipe hunting ceremony is played on the new comers to the area. I recall moving to West Virginia when a group of new found friends decided it was time I be initiated into the ways of the mountains. They told me all about the mysterious snipe that only came out at night. They wanted me to go out in the woods and hold a sack while they went in the woods to drive the mysterious snipe towards me to catch in the bag. Have you ever gone snipe hunting? This Island boy was not as stupid as they thought for he too had participated in initiation rites when he played pranks on unsuspecting kids on Hatteras by introducing them to the persimmon tree. We didn’t have snipes on Hatteras but we did have the persimmons.

Close Up of a female tree with fruit

Towards fall the persimmon tree begins to produce round fruit about the size of a fifty cent piece. At first they are green and later ripen to a golden orange color. The fun was to trick a friend into eating a green persimmon. If you have never gone through the initiation rite of the persimmon tree you cannot imagine what happens when you bite into a green persimmon. Once you do your lips pucker up like a dried prune. It is an experience you never forget. Once you have been initiated you understand the meaning of the island phrase, when it refers to kissing, he or she “puckers up like a persimmon.”

To the Islanders the persimmon tree had more value that just being used as an initiation prank. It also served as a food source. Ripe persimmons plucked from the tree were peeled and eaten. Some used the persimmons to make cakes, pudding, preserves, and pies. A few have been known to dry the seeds and grind them up and make a brew. Not sure about the toxicity of ground persimmon seeds.

Ripe Persimmons on the Ground
Ripe Persimmons on the Ground

Persimmon trees at one time were plentiful on the Island. They are not as abundant as they once were as a result of being cut down. Most homeowners remove them from their property due to the mess they make when bearing fruit. The ripe persimmons fall to the ground and if you walk on them they stick to your shoes. When we were kids roaming the wood in our bare feet we would come across a patch of ripe persimmons on the ground and not only would they stick to our feet but cause us to slip and fall. It wasn’t any fun to pick yourself up off the ground covered with the slime from ripe persimmons. Another problem was the ripe persimmon attracted insects and snakes that came to feed on the birds that eat the persimmon seeds.

One of the good points of knowing where the persimmon trees were located in the Buxton woods was that in the fall it was good place to locate a deer. The deer love to eat the persimmons. The moral of that story is if you like deer or are a deer hunter plant persimmon trees on your property. When you plant persimmon trees you need to know what kind you are planting.

Male Persimmon Tree Female Persimmon

Male Persimmon Tree

Female Persimmon

Mixed Up Tree Not Sure What Sex it is

Mixed Up Tree - Not Sure What Sex It Is

In my Old Gray House garden I have two different kinds of persimmon trees. One bears fruit and the other one does not. However, I do have one tree that isn’t sure what sex it is for it only bears one persimmon per year. Many are not aware that persimmon trees have sexes. The female tree bears fruit and the male tree does not. The male persimmon tree is a good one to plant around your property. It is a hardy tree that can withstand the harsh weather like we have on Hatteras Island. The other good point is you are not bothered with ripe persimmons all over the place.

Persimmon Seeds Cut Open

Persimmon Seeds Cut Open

Do You Believe Persimmon Seeds
Predict the Weather?

There is one last thought about a persimmon I want share with you. Its seeds are supposed to be great predictors of the winter’s weather. According to the island old-timers if you cut open the persimmon seed it will reveal to you what the winter weather will be like. You need cut open at least five or ten of them. A persimmon seed is not easy to cut open so be careful you do not slice your finger instead of the seed.

Look at the core of the seed. It will have three possible shapes. You will see either the shape of a spoon, knife, or fork. There is a chance you might see more than one shape with one being more predominant than the other.

The spoon tells you to be prepared for lots of wet winter snow. As you know this is unusual for Hatteras but it has happened in the past as you can see from this picture of the Old Gray House.

Snow at the Old Gray House
Snow at the Old Gray House

The knife says get prepared for north east winds that will cut through you like a knife. This is not unusual on Hatteras in the winter. The houses were nestled in the woods. The trees acted as a wind break. Remember, prior to President Franklin Roosevelt, we did not have sand dunes to protect our houses. Many were the times that the ocean met the sound in Kinnakeet, now called Avon. There was not a government backed-flood insurance that would rebuild our houses if they washed away so building on the edge of the ocean or the sound was unheard of. Over the years I have been amazed at the lack of knowledge of people moving to the Island about the wild winds we have here. They buy a lot, and the first thing they do is clear all the trees and underbrush. The smart thing to do is to preserve every tree possible along with the underbrush to serve as a windbreak.

If you see a fork then you can expect a mild winter with an occasional dusting of snow or no snow at all. This is usually the type of winter we are accustomed too with the exception of knife type winds.

If you decided to become a persimmon-seed winter weather forecaster you have to remember use persimmons that grow in your own area. If you want to know what the weather will be this winter don’t hesitate to ask me. Hint, get out your shovel.

One of the reasons I have revived my interest in the persimmon is that I recently became aware that a lot of the visitors to the Old Gray House have no knowledge of a persimmon. I have Pink Conchs in my shell shack that have been cut to blow as a horn. I made a small display giving instructions how to blow the horn. The instructions said, Pucker up your lips like you just ate a green persimmon and blow it. Many of those who read the instructions ask me what is a persimmon?

Now you know what a persimmon is. The next time you come by the Old Gray House you can pucker up and blow my shell horns. That is if you have enough wind to do so.

 Keith puckering up like he ate a Green Persimmon and Blowing Pink Conch at the Old Gray House.

Keith puckering up like he ate a Green Persimmon and Blowing Pink Conch at the Old Gray House.

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

Keep It Simple published on: November 19, 2013

Keep it Simple


Dewey Parr, Jr.

Before I begin this story my wife, Mary and I want to thank Sumit Gupta, CEO of SAGA Construction and Development for dedicating the SAGA AED Challenge to the Dewey Parr III Memorial Challenge. I also thank him and his staff for the kindnesses they extended to our son and us. His words and those of Amit Gupta in the SAGA Press Release on Sept. 12, 2013 brought great joy and comfort to us knowing our son had touched their lives as he did ours and others around him.

"When we asked Dewey if he would help raise funds for the Automated External Defibrillator (AED's) there was never any doubt or hesitation, he jumped in with both feet, the way he did everything else around here" ... said, Amit Gupta, President of Saga."

"It is unlikely anyone could forget Dewey Parr, but to make sure that's not the case, SAGA is changing the name of the SAGA AED Challenge to the Dewey Parr Memorial Challenge, a program that Kick Starts a Heart" .... said Sumit Gupta, CEO of SAGA.


Dewey Parr III

September 12, 2013
Tammy E. Petersen, Office Manager 252.441.903 x124



Kill Devil Hills, NC .... DEWEY PARR III, Construction Superintendent passed away this morning." He was an outstanding person who brought zest and quality to the job site every day rain or shine", said Ali Amini, Construction Executive Officer.

Dewey, became the focus of The SAGA Challenge in June of this year, following the May 28th incident when, he was revived by Captain Mark Evans of the Kill Devil Hills Police Department. "the last thing I remember for six days was going down the stairs on my walk thru until I woke up in intensive care" said Dewey.

Shortly thereafter Dewey, taped a video produced by the Kill Devil Hills PD and when posted on YouTube it gained significant number and is still growing from a combined total of 466 hits, ..... said Detective Sergeant, John Towler ofKDHPD the video's Producer and Director.

Please note that we don't refer to him as Mr. Parr, "he would have been offended, since he prided himself on just being one of the guys around here, said longtime friend and coworker, Construction Superintendent Tommy Woods.

"When we asked Dewey if he would help raise funds for the Automated External Defibrillator (AED's) there was never any doubt or hesitation, he jumped in with both feet, the way he did everything else around here" ... said, Amit Gupta, President of Saga.

"It is unlikely anyone could forget Dewey Parr, but to make sure that's not the case, SAGA is changing the name of the SAGA AED Challenge to the Dewey Parr Memorial Challenge, a program that Kick Starts a Heart" .... said Sumit Gupta, CEO of SAGA.

The Dewey Parr III Story

Dewey Parr III

Take time to view this video. It might help save your life.


Contact Your Police Department and Ask Them
If Their Patrol Cars Are Equipped With AED Equipment

Three hundred fifty nine persons die annually of sudden heart failure. That is 1,000 people per day according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. http://www.sca-aware.org/about-sca These are often healthy active people. The major difference between sudden and a regular heart attack is that it comes with no warning signs. The heart just stops beating. Without instant help the person becomes clinically dead within minutes. The survival rate for a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is less than10%. Think about it. Three hundred thousand people die annually from SCA. Most of them are people who appear to be in perfect health. It can happen to me or you at any time. For those who do survive often the picture is not a pretty one. There can be severe damage to the brain because they did not get sufficient help in time. When the heart stops beating within in minutes the oxygen supply to the brain is cut off resulting in permanent memory loss or disabling effects on the body. This why it is imperative that the first responders to a 911 call, usually a police patrol car, have AED equipment available.

It was Tuesday morning when Mary and I were getting ready to leave for Elizabeth City for an appointment when a phone call came from Thomas Woods. “Dewey has had a cardiac arrest and he is at the Outer Banks Hospital and they are getting ready to medevac him to Sentara Hospital in Norfolk.” My quick reply was thanks Tom we are on our way as quick as we can get there. I turned to Mary and said lets go, Sonny need us. Go we did conversing all the way wondering what awaited us. An hour later when we got there, the first to greet us was Tom and the management of Saga Construction. While waiting to see our son, who was being prepared to be medevac, we learned that a police officer who had an AED machine in his vehicle had saved his life. This particular police officer, Captain Mark Evans, happen to have one of three AED machines in town of Kill Devil Hills police department. Had he not had the AED machine our son would have died.

Before long they came in to take us to say goodbye to our unconscious son whose body temperature had been lowered before they flew him to Norfolk. Having been a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy, when I looked at him I realized that his chances of survival where slim so without hesitation I said to the Dr. “I am going with my boy”. Guess there was such determination in my voice that the Dr. requested I be allowed to go. The pilot granted permission. After saying goodbye to Mary, whose concern was now not only for my son but my welfare also, they prepared me to board the helicopter to sit by my son with two attendants on each side who constantly monitored his vital signs and administered medication as needed. Within a half hour we arrived at the hospital and they ushered my son and I to the Trauma ICU unit. This is the unit that use for the most severe cases.

Immediately a team of doctors were waiting to do everything possible to save my son’s life. Based on my previous medical experience in the Navy they were kind enough to allow me be present for all procedures and discussions as to his possible prognosis. Of course one concern was if he survived what could be the damage to his brain due to the lack of blood flow. Once the blood stops supplying oxygen to the brain it is only a matter of 3 to 6 minutes before severe damage to the brain occurs. Would his memory be intact? Would his motor skills be affected to the place he would never work again? Needless to say it was a long day waiting and wondering if he would survive and what would be the outcome when he became conscious.

What a wonderful sigh of relief when he finally awoke that evening even though his memory was not completely intact. His vital signs were of such a nature that the Doctors felt that he would not be one of the 90% of people that never survive a sudden cardiac arrest. They also thought in time his memory would be restored. Now that he had crossed this threshold it was time for me to think about other things such as a place for Mary and me to stay the night. The hospital has a floor dedicated to family members with patients in the hospital but they had no rooms available. They provided me with a list of Motels nearby that offered a discount.

Don’t forget I had left Mary alone with our car standing with Tom Woods watching Dewey and me soaring away in the sky to Norfolk, Va. With the assistance of two friends, Chris and Sharon Crislip, Mary arrived at the hospital that evening to be with our son. It was after 11:00 pm. when we left the hospital to find the closest Motel available which was the downtown Norfolk Marriott. Without my GPS which was at home it became quite an ordeal for us to find our way. After all you have to remember we live on an Island that has one road. I stopped along the way and asked a young couple I saw sitting at a table in an outdoor restaurant and they tried to give me a sense of direction. Still wandering around and getting nowhere I happened to spot a police car with two policemen in it, so I pulled over and flagged them down. As they approached me not thinking, I did what no one should do when dealing with the police, I opened the door of the car, stepped out, and they both went into an attack position. The proper protocol is to remain in your car and let them approach you. I immediately put my hands up and said, “This old man and woman, are lost and need help in finding the Marriot Hotel. A smile came on their faces and they gave me directions. As I pulled out and started down the block they pulled in front of me staying there until they led me to the front door of the Marriott and waved goodbye. Now the reason I took time to share this with you is that in one days’ time it was the police who saved my son’s life and helped us find way. You hear so much about police brutality but seldom do you hear about the good things our police do. All the news media tells us about is the bad apples in the barrel but seldom mentions all the good deeds performed by the remaining 99%. I think we all forget the police are people just like us.

When we checked in at the Marriott the rate they present to me was $153.00 per night. After I enquired about the hospital discount rate it came to $115.00 per night. That did not include $20.00 parking or food. Didn’t even include free coffee. Can you compute the cost factor of a week or two’s stay? At that time of night and after the long day Mary and I had endured we were thankful to have a placed to lay our heads, but I knew this was not going to work out for our extended stay at the hospital so the next day I began to enquire about an alternative place. A nice lady at the at the hospital told me of a place in a Church that was located directly in front of the hospital that offered rooms with free parking for people with families in the hospital for $25.00 a night. I headed immediately over to see if I could make arrangements for Mary and I to stay there. Stay we did and again we found out this old world is full angels of mercy.

Now I hope you will bear with me long enough for me to share with you what these good people are doing to help families to be with their loved ones when they are in the hospital in Norfolk.

The facility is called the Caring Center and is a program of the Ghent Central Baptist Church. It is on the third floor. You enter a side door from a gated parking lot. As you go up the steps to the third floor you cannot but help but wonder what awaits you at the top. It is nothing fancy. The stairway has a mural and encouraging words along the way. Once you get to the third floor you find a long hall with rooms on both sides and three sitting rooms with comfortable chairs and televisions. It reminds me of my college days living in a dorm. There are no private bathrooms in the bedrooms. On one side of the hallway are located separate bathrooms and showers for men and women. Towels are supplied. One area has a small kitchen supplied with free foods. The bedrooms are clean and neat. The facility is manned by friendly volunteers. The preacher’s son and his wife occupy an apartment on the floor and are available to assist you at any time. It is a quiet and peaceful place for weary people who want to be by the side of their loved ones in the hospital who otherwise could not afford to do so.

While there I met a family that had a daughter who had been in the hospital for a lengthy stay and had to return often for treatment. They shared with me their experience of how it was about to devastate them financially until they stumbled, as I did, into this place. I cannot say enough about these good people who give freely of their time to make it possible for people of average incomes from out of town to be able to be near their family members in the hospital. This worthy project is a ministry of the good people fron the Central Baptist Church in Ghent. If you would like more information check out The Central Baptist Church in Ghent https://www.facebook.com/pages/Central-Baptist-Church-in-Ghent/144932261199


Pictures I took of the Central Baptist Church in Ghent Caring Center.r.
The Center is run by volunteers. The two volunteers in the pictures are Tom Rogers (in Office), and Maria Gonzales (makings beds).

Now that I have shared with you about how helpful the police and people of the Ghent Central Baptist Church were to us let me share with you about our son’s recovery and the good things that resulted as a result of his Cardiac Arrest. As soon as he was able to be removed from the ICU unit he was moved to the Cardiac Unit. It was determined that his cardiac arrest was caused by an electrical malfunction in his heart and a defibrillator needed to be installed in his body. As I understand it our heart is a little like the electrical system in our homes. Sometimes there can be a short circuit in the electrical system that cause it to malfunction. Living on Hatteras Island where we have to deal often with severe weather I can understand how the power can go completely off or it might be for just a brief moment. This is why many people and businesses are equipped with automatic generators so that electrical flow will continue. It is sort of like that with the heart. So in order to assure that the electrical system is safeguarded a backup system needs to be installed to keep it functioning correctly.

After the unit was installed in a matter of days Dewey resumed his job as Superintendent for the Saga Construction Company. He was finishing up the construction of two rental beach houses side by side in Kill Devil Hills. Dewey loved his job and lived to build. As you drive up and down Hatteras Island you can see many houses he worked on. I made it a point to visit each job he worked on and let him know how proud I was of him. Part of our fun together was collecting odds and ends out of the trash containers to use at the Old Gray House. We called it dumpster diving. There is a real art to dumpster diving on construction sites. If it has a lid you definitely want to be sure it doesn’t come down on your head. One of the things I will miss is Dewey dropping by the Old Gray House with odds and ends he collected out of the dumpster for me. He loved to drop off stuff often unawares to me and wait to see what I would do with it. Now mind you this was stuff that would be hauled off to the dump that he and I had the fun of dreaming up some way to use. Even now I enjoy walking around the Old Gray House and recalling Dewey’s job site junk that contributed to our retirement happiness.

My son soon found that that what happened to him was about to result in an effort by his construction company and the Kill Devil Hills Police Department to save lives by equipping all of their patrol cars with AED equipment. Being the private person he was Dewey did not even share with me that he was participating in the program. I found out from his friend about it. Tom told me he was embarrassed about all the attention that was being given to him.

Without even trying for a brief moment, four months, in his life my son Dewey Parr III who had always shunned publicity became a public person. His name was being attached to an effort to help others by a campaign to equip all police patrol cars with AED equipment. Only for the cause of helping others would he allow his name to be used. During these four months he made a few public appearances besides the U-Tube Presentation. There were also newspaper articles and the Constant Use of His Name on Local Radio Stations about the Saga Construction Dewey Parr Fund to equip all patrol cars with AED Equipment.

Things seemed to be going well for Dewey. He had finished up the construction of the two Beach Houses in Kill Devil Hills and was getting ready to start another project for Saga Construction. He had his motor home parked at his friends campground and was preparing to move it to his new job. He had even accepted the limitations that had been placed on him as a result of the implant that was in his chest. I marveled at the fact in no way did he try to conceal the implant or allow it to interfere with his fun loving nature.

Dewey Parr III Dewey Parr III

Dewey Parr III Having Fun at Canadian Hole, Buxton, NC

You can see him having fun with his friend’s children in his pirate garb that he wore when he was showing off his “Kinnakeet Kayak” that he built. It was something to see him or children paddling around at the Canadian Hole or Haul Over, at Buxton.

Dewey Parr III Dewey Parr III

Dewey Parr III Kinnakeet Kayak.

The Kinnakeet Kayak was a one of Dewey’s Masterpieces that he created from a discarded wind surfing board that he and I pulled from the dump. It is now the property of his son, Michael Parr who lives in Kinnakeet.

Then out of the blue came that second telephone call early in the morning from Tom Woods. “Dewey is dead. He is lying in the shower room.” Within minutes I was there. He had slipped and fallen hitting his head on the faucets in the shower and suffered a massive heart attack. It was not determined which came first. The fall or the heart attack. The implanted defibrillator was not activated which indicated this was something not related to his previous problem. There was a long wait for sheriff to arrive to determine if there had been fowl play and for the funeral home to come out of Manteo. Tom and I stayed with him until his body was removed.

It was a sad, sad time his mother and I, but it was also a sad time for his cat named Pettie Pie. Dewey’s motor home was next to the bath house and it sat up high with long double ramp going to it. Pettie Pie was on the ramp slowly making his way to the top to get to Dewey’s body. They call them dumb animals. This is a misnomer. They know. He knew that his longtime friend was gone. I held Pettie Pie for a longtime trying to console him but in reality he was consoling me.

Yes, Dewey Parr III died of a massive heart attack but his participation in an effort to help others did not die with him. For immediately the Saga Construction changed the name of their campaign to raise funds to equip all patrol cars with AED machines to the Dewey Parr III Memorial Fund. To continue with this cause we requested in lieu of flowers that a donation be given to the Saga - Dewey Parr III Memorial AED Fund.

Dewey Parr III

Dewey Joseph Parr III

Dewey Joseph Parr, III, 59, of Buxton died Thursday, September 12, 2013, in Buxton. Dewey was born in Portsmouth, VA Naval Hospital and was a construction superintendent for SAGA Construction Company. Dewey served his country honorably in the U.S. Navy. He was the son of Dewey J. Parr, JR and Mary Evelyn Breesawitz Parr of Buxton. Also surviving are his son, Michael Lee Parr of Avon and his sister, Marilyn Boyd of Charlotte, N.C. Dewey is also survived by his companion Joan Adkins. An informal service of remembrance will be at The Old Gray House on Light Plant Road in Buxton, Sunday September 15, 2013, at 3:00 p.m. by Rev. Paul Flythe. Parking will be available at the Cape Hatteras Electric Corp. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Dewey J. Parr, III Memorial Fund for the purchase of AED Defibrillators to go in all law enforcement vehicles c/o SAGA Construction and Development, P.O. Box 90, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. 27948.

Dewey’s Memorial Service was out of the ordinary. I fulfilled his wishes by having an informal service outside at the Old Gray House. About a year ago one of Dewey’s schooldays buddy, Gary Morrison, died. He was cremated and rather than have a traditional funeral with a viewing and all the other trappings that accompany a funeral they had a brief moment to remember him and then had refreshments and time for those present to greet and chat with each other. Dewey talked to me about it and said, “Dad that is what I would want if something happened to me I would want you to Keep it Simple .” I honored Dewey wishes as you can see from the photos of his funeral service.

Slide Show Pictures of Dewey’s Memorial Service

Unawares to us again Dewey, had agreed to participate in a campaign by four radio stations to raise money for AED equipment. He died in the meantime so the radios stations named it the Dewey Parr III Memorial Fund. I know it brought him much pleasure in knowing they exceeded their goal and as result other lives might be spared.

The Dewey Parr III Kick Start a Heart Memorial Skydiving Campaign Article in
Outer Banks Voice --- Click Link to Read the Article


Quote from Article:

“Dewey Parr III had family, friends and co-workers who loved him. He didn’t seek notoriety. When the local spotlight was thrust upon him, what we saw was a shy, humble man who wasn’t really comfortable being at the center of attention.

And he probably never dreamed four local personalities would be jumping out of an airplane in his honor to raise funds that will most certainly save lives.”

Dewey Parr III

Dewey Parr, left, with Capt. Mark Evans and KDH Mayor Sheila Davies. Evans received a lifesaving award for reviving Parr after a heart attack. (Rob Morris)

It is consoling to Dewey’s mother and I to know that his legacy will live on in the future as a result of lives that will be saved as a result of the continuation of the program to equip police patrol cars with AED equipment. We are especially happy that the program has now been expanded to cover all of Dare County which includes Cape Hatteras Island where Dewey was residing at the time of his death. It is our hope that the program to provide all police patrol cars with AED equipment will spread nationwide and many families will be spared the loss of a love one.

Dewey Parr III Dewey Parr III

Dewey’ death devastated his mother and I. Everywhere we looked we saw his presence. When we drive out to the Cape Hatteras Light House we see him dangling over the side of it when he worked with the International Chimney Co. Or when we look at the steps going up to it the lighthouse we see him and his sister sitting together there.

Dewey Parr III and his Sister Marilyn Joy Parr

Dewey Parr III and his Sister Marilyn Joy Parr
Sitting on the Steps of the Cape Hatteras Light House

But then the sadness began to be overshadowed by the memories of all the good times we shared together. The majority of those good times were centered on the last twenty five years of enjoyment we have had together working at the Old Gray House Gift Shop. It was because of him our retirement years have been nothing but a joy. He not only helped us get the business up and running but he worked diligently to help us keep it going. Everywhere we look at the Old Gray House as well as our home we see Dewey. I can visualize him on top of the Old Gray House tin roof coating it. I can hear him telling me to calm down as I worried about the chimney falling the day we jacked up the corner of the Old Gray House. When I look at the paint I see him. As I walk the yard I see him. All the fun things such as the box that houses the baby rattlers, face on the trees, and the unfinished bamboo hut, are the handy work of our boy.

I can still hear him telling people at the Old Gray House when they asked him a question he did not have the answer too replying as looked at me saying, “Ask the Old Pirate he will tell you. If he doesn’t know the answer he will make up one”. Another thing that will long reverberate in my mind is what he would say to me when I started a long discussion on how we should do something as we worked together on projects, “ Keep it Simple , Dad” or, “Dad when I build for you I should use Velcro, for you are always changing things”.

Everybody grieves the loss of a loved one in many different ways. Some become continually depressed as well as obsessed. Others look for signs or signals from the beyond. Now I personally have not been much for believing those who have crossed over to the other side communicating with us but a few things have occurred that seemed to assist me in my grief. While racking my mind what to do about Dewey’s Memorial Service in the middle of the night Dewey’s voice came to me loud and clear, “ Keep it Simple , Dad.” That morning when I went to the work shop Dewey and I built together a bird was inside. It was a strange experience. The bird flitted here and there and sat for a length of time on the things Dewey had brought me. As I watched the bird my thoughts went to Dewey. I opened the door thinking maybe the little bird would fly out but it seemed to be content to flit here and there and look at me. Finally the little bird flew over to sit on a curtain. I extended my hand and without showing any fear the bird allowed me to pick it up and hold it in my hand. As I held it I began to feel a sense of relief and felt as if it was trying to console me. I held the little the bird for a few minutes and talked with it as if it was my son. I walked slowly to the open door and gave the little bird a kiss on its head saying I love you son and opened my hand for it to take flight. The little bird sat in my hand looking at me for a few minutes and then began to soar high in the sky. Who knows if these things are just figments of our imaginations or real? In any event this incident was helpful to me in my moment of grief. Grief can be a good thing in that it leads to closure or temporary relief of the pain one feels. On the other hand for one to remain in a state of grief can be detrimental to their health and those who are around them.

There are many different degrees of the pain one feels when a family member dies. When I lost my close friends, mother and father and other family members there was pain but never like the pain of losing a child, my only son. It just didn’t’ seem right that a he would proceed me in death. I have had friends who lost their children and I thought I understood their pain but now I know that I really did not. It is a pain that supersedes any other I have known.

After Dewey died I was working on putting hangers on the driftwood crosses we have at the shop when a thought crossed my mind about a favorite scripture I have often heard over and over in Churches.

Dewey Parr III

As I Worked on the Driftwood Cross I thought About John 3:16
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.

Time after time preachers have told us about the suffering of Jesus the Son at his death, but little do they ever say anything about the suffering of the Father. Since my son died I can relate to the anguish and suffering that was in the heart of God the Father as he watched his Son die unjustly on a cross for all mankind. Now I don’t know if God the Father cried like I cried but I know and understand what the almost unbearable pain of losing a child is like. I have no knowledge of what the relationship between God and his Son was like prior to his death and suffering. I can only imagine the joy and fun they shared as they created the universe. The same fun Dewey and I shared as we worked and planned together.

I will deviate here and share something that I think all fathers and mothers need to do in regard to their children once they attain adulthood. They need to stop viewing them as little children that need our constant care or advice but begin to cultivate a friendship. In other words we need to start treating them like we do our regular friends. Hard as it might be we need to view them as adults. For years my son and I were on two different wave links. About 25 years ago I made a change in my attitude and began to view him as a close friend or buddy. I learned to accept him for the talented man he was. I began to listen to him as he told me of his hopes and aspirations.

To all who have lost a child I say the best thing we can do to honor them is to move on. Dewey would want his family and friends to live every day in joy and happiness. He would want them to laugh, work and play.

Someone ask me recently what I wanted of my son’s assets. My answer is nothing. I already have everything. I have the memory of the happy times we spent together working and playing at the Old Gray House. I have locked in my mind the simply joys we shared together and his reminder to me to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

We have one other memory we will always treasure and that is the memory of all of you who have gone out of your way in honoring our son’s memory by donating to the Saga Construction Dewey Parr III Memorial Fund. We appreciate the support, kind words and many deeds too great to mention here that have showed your compassion. You have made the path easier and we are grateful.

Dewey Parr III

Now Dewey Parr III Knows the Answer
Dewey Parr III At Cape Point on Hatteras Island Looking and Wondering What is Beyond the Horizon.

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

UPDATE on SAGA Construction and Development Dewey Parr III SAGA Challenge
to place a Defibrillator (AED) in all police patrol cars in Dare County.
published on: November 21, 2013

UPDATE on SAGA Construction and Development Dewey Parr III SAGA Challenge
to place a Defibrillator (AED) in all police patrol cars in Dare County.


Dewey Parr, Jr.

Dewey Parr III

Dewey Parr III

Dewey Parr III shaking hands with Cpt. Mark Evans of the Kill Devil Hills Police Dept. who saved his life by using an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)


Take time to view this video. Pass it on to your friends, local Police Department, and City Government. Request they provide all Police Patrol Cars with Automatic Defibrillators (AED).

Robert Schiffer, SAGA Community Outreach Advisor of the SAGA (AED) Fund reports that 31 AED units have been donated for placement in police patrol cars. Bob feels with the help of the generous people of this area and many civic organizations that this goal is attainable in the near future.

Bob points out tha this project is of the utmost importance to this area because the Outer Banks (OBX) is a popular tourist area bringing thousands of visitors annually. Police Patrol Cars are the first responders to any emergency. In the event of a Cardiac Arrest like, Dewey Parr III had, the window for survival is a matter of minutes. Without immediate CPR or the use of an Automatic External Defibrillator death can occur within minutes. Bob is hopeful that this effort to supply police patrol vehicles with AED equipment will not just be confined to OBX but will become a nationwide effort. For additional information contact Bob Schiffer at either SAGA office 252-441-9003 or his cell phone 347.219.3888.

Dewey Parr III

Robert “Bob” Schiffer, SAGA Community Outreach Advisor

Automatic External Defibrillator … This Machine Could Save Your Life

Dewey Parr III

We would appreciate your donations to help to purchases AED equipment for police patrol cars.

Checks should be payable to

SAGA Community Fund

On memo line note – Dewey Parr III Memorial AED

Donations mailed to the following

SAGA Community Fund

P.O. Box 90

Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

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

Ferry and Buoys published on: February 05, 2013

Ferry and Buoys


Dewey Parr

Leaving Rodante Stumpy Point

Emergency Ferry Boat Ride from Rodanthe to Stumpy Point

The problems we have encountered getting on and off Hatteras Island as result of Hurricanes has reminded me of my time in the Navy. It is strange how little things like a buoy can jolt your memory. In order to get off the Island we have had to take the emergency ferry from Rodanthe to Stumpy Point. Once you leave the landing the first things you notice are the buoys marking the harbor. Many of these buoys are merely poles with markings on them. Nautically speaking, the term buoy is used to designate a marker. It does not have to be floating. It can be stationary. As you are leaving the harbors you will also notice other stakes and small floats or buoys bobbing back and forth in the distance well away from the path of the ferries. These are put their by locals to identify the location of their crab pots. Sometimes these markers are mere plastic containers like a bleach bottle with a rope and a crab pot tied to it. The farther you get away from the landing the more significant each buoy becomes. Soon all you see ahead of you is another buoy in the far distance. Once you pass that last buoy you are in open waters and the land behind you soon fades away. As you approach the other side the first clue that land is ahead is a floating buoy in the distance. The closer you get to land the more buoys you see creating a path to the next landing.

Buoys Buoys Floating Buoy

The Sight of a Buoy can be an Emotional Thing to a Sailor

The buoys along the way bring back memories and emotions I felt during my tour of duty in the Navy each time our ship left or returned to port. The sight of a buoy brought me joy as well as sadness. When my ship was headed out to sea and I saw that last buoy marking the harbor there was a feeling of sadness in my heart for my loved ones. I could not help but wonder if Mary and my baby boy would be okay while I was gone. On the other hand when I returned from a long stretch at sea and saw the first buoy telling me it would not be long and I would be back home with my family there was great joy in my heart. There is no greater joy to a sailor than to have someone waiting for him when his ship docks.

Dewey Parr

Dewey Parr

Picture of me Getting Fat
and Toasty Brown in Cuba

One reunion I remember well was the time I was returning from Cuba to Cheatham Annex in Virginia aboard and LST. Mary was waiting for me at the docks. Not only was it a happy reunion but it was a little humorous. When I boarded the ship to go to Cuba I was thin and had a 29 inch waist. At that time Gitmo was really a fantastic duty station. It was like being in a luxury resort with lots of food, sunshine and entertainment. There where two large outdoor theaters with shows nightly. Small thatched huts where dotted throughout the base providing refreshments both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Cuban venders with push carts where here and there with fresh fruits for sale. One in particular I remember well would take a fresh whole pineapple and slice it with a machete and hand it to you ready to eat. You had all this plus mess halls serving good food with tanks of fresh tropical juices available all day. While stationed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base my job was in charge of a sickbay way station of the hospital high on a hill overlooking the harbor. My duties were of such a nature that I had sufficient free time to soak up sunshine, swim, and partake of good food. Rest and relaxation was the first order of every day. As a result my 29 inch waist disappeared never to return again and I was a toasty brown from the all the tropical sunshine. After we passed the last buoy and the ship began to dock I spotted Mary waiting for me in the crown at the upper end of the dock. When I started down the gang plank much to my surprise she did not head towards me as was the custom of the wives waiting to embrace returning sailors. In fact she just stood there as if I did not exist. Finally I made my way through the crowd towards her and she still did not respond until I got in a few feet in front of her and then she recognized me came forward with that long awaited kiss. We still laugh about it today. My appearance had changed so much she did not recognize me coming down the gang plank and was worried I had not returned.

Buoys can be a symbol of joyful reunions as well as sad departures, but they are more than that. Man has recognized the importance of buoys to navigation as early as the thirteenth century when a buoy was placed in the Guadalquivir River to assist boats approaching Seville, Spain. Many of these buoys were made of whatever was available. The ones used in Holland were wood boxes held together with metal bands and chained to rocks placed strategically in the harbor. The history of how our present day navigational aides came into being is unique in that it began with mariners themselves. It took hundreds of years before the establishing of a world wide effort to provide a safe journey. Mariners realizing the importance of establishing safe navigational routes in and out of ports began to organize into guilds to collect funds to maintain buoys that insured safe water road ways. Thus came into being the concept of having buoy tenders. Individuals had the specific duties to see that the buoys remained afloat and were properly marked. This later led to designating ships with crew members that specialized in caring for the buoys and seeing to it that pirates did not relocate them to cause ships wrecks. As time went on even kings became aware of the importance of buoys or permanent markers that would insure ships bringing cargo to them would have a safe journey. Some were known to have secret markers coming into their harbors to protect their interests and keep intruders out. As time progressed governments not only financed the tending of buoys but began building permanent buoys called lighthouses that sent out beams to warn ships at sea of the dangers ahead. Our government in particular created the Coast Guard whose chief function was to keep our waters safe for mariners. Ships were designated as tenders whose main function was to maintaining or even act as floating buoys by remaining constantly in one location. One of these ships was stationed off the shore of Hatteras Island to warn the ships at sea of the dangers of the dreaded diamond shoals. Governments even began to cooperate with one another to standardize the markings and designs of buoys so that mariners would recognize the buoy markers in whatever port they entered. To mariners battling the storms at sea the beams from these lighthouses became symbols of safety and security. The song writer P.B. Bliss alludes to this in his famous song when he penned the words, “Brightly beams our fathers mercy from his lighthouse evermore, but to us he gives the keeping of the lights along the shore. Some poor fainting seaman you may rescue you may save.” He is saying we are buoy tenders. We are the ones that provide the oil as the buoy tenders of old did to keep the lights burning so that others will find their way safely through the harbor that leads to a joyful reunion.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Stands as a Stationary Buoy
(Note: My favorite picture of the Lighthouse I took after Hurricane Sandy)

We who have lived on Hatteras Island know first hand just how important these navigational markers can be. Not only has the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse beams that shone night after night over our homes brought us a sense of security and hope but it along with all other types of buoys has boosted our economy. Even today our biggest buoy, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, brings thousands of tourists annually to our Island.

In times past our Island life was centered on the concept of the buoy. Our Island was dotted with seven Life Saving Stations from Oregon Inlet to the Ocracoke Inlet that acted as buoys in that they were manned by men dedicated to providing a secure passage and rescue service to ships at sea. In every Island family you will find a family member who was in some way a buoy buddy. Some served as lighthouse keepers, as did my grandfather. Others served as members of a life saving station or were even on the Diamond Shoals Lightships.

L S Diamond 1917 Unkown Photographer
Diamond Shoals Light Ship LV71

The Diamond Shoals Light Ship LV71is a history in itself. Those aboard it witnessed many rescues at sea and even endured the hardship of watching a German submarine, the U-140, attack a freighter and then force them to abandon their ship and sink it on August 6, 1918. Even though it became a common thing for Hatteras Islander’s during World War II to witness’s battles between submarines and the ships, many in our nation were not aware the enemy came so close to our shores.

National Weather Center Buoy
We are living in an ever changing world. The Diamond Shoals Light Ship has been replaced with a
3- metered discus buoy, owned and maintained by National Data Buoy Center, that transmits weather and wave information.

Times have definitely changed as to the need for buoys and buoy tenders. No longer is there a need for tenders to transport oil to maintain the lights for lighthouse or floating buoys. Today we use batteries, solar power, and electricity. Much of the navigational needs are met by computers and satellite transmissions. Ours is a world of ever changing technology that will in time probably replace all channel markers.

The buoys or markers that we are more familiar with than any others at the Old Gray House are crab pot buoys or buoys that the locals use to hold up their fishing nets. Even these over the years have undergone tremendous changes. At one time they were made out of wood, metal, glass, and cork. Some were even hand carved. I recall in the Pamlico Sound many strings of cork buoys floating on the top of the water holding up the fish nets below. Sometimes it was like navigating through a maze there where so many nets strung out in all directions. Should you be fortunate enough to have an original cork or glass buoy in your possession you need to treasure it, They are classified as an antique. There were also single round and bullet shaped buoys with identifying markers floating back and forth with each wave that marked the spot where a crab pot was. There were even buoys to designate family oyster beds. It was engrained in us as children never to touch or move a buoy that belonged to another person. We were also warned never to move a channel marker because if we did so we might be responsible for causing someone to loose their life or sink a boat. I also recall the stories when we gathered together around the wood burner in the Old Gray House. Stories were told of pirates who would sneak ashore and move the channel buoys so they could plunder the ships that ran aground. There where also stories about what happened to others who dared to steal or mess with another person’s buoys or markers.

The buoys we find today after hurricanes along the sound and on our beach are made from synthetic materials. It is also interesting to notice how the shapes of the buoys have changed over the years. Some shapes even designate different areas or different types of fishing. A good example is a distinct difference between the northern lobster pot and the southern crab pot buoy. The cages and the buoys attached to them are different.

Regardless of what they are made from or their shape, all buoys have the same purpose wherever they might be. They serve to mark a spot that has a message to tell you. That message might be beware of imperiling danger. The message could be that below the water there is something that belongs to another person, or it could be here lies something of an historical significance such as a sunken ship. Whatever the message, when we see a buoy we need to take heed of the message it emits to us.

Because of our love for buoys we have designated and area in our garden with a wall lined with buoys for picture taking. We call it Buoy Buddies. The concept is when you have your picture taken here you are emitting a message of love to others just as buoys emit messages. When you take a picture in our buoy garden you are sending a message to others that says, whatever your destination in life might be it is my desire that you will have a safe journey and smooth sailing into a harbor of peace and contentment.

Buoys Buoys Bouys

When You Come to the Old Gray House Be Sure to Visit Our Buoy Garden

Take a Picture and Become a Buoy Buddy

Now there is one buoy at the Old Gray House that I would like for you take notice of when you visit with us. It is the large metal buoy marker that sits in the front yard greeting you on your arrival. I am not aware where it originally came from or what its message was. All I know about its history is that it washed up on Cape Point some time in the early 30’s and my Uncle Kendrick Gray some how some way transported it to the Old Gray House. The message it is constantly emitting is at the Old Gray House is you will always find a cordially welcome when you visit with us.

If you are interested in learning more about the role buoys have played throughout history you might take the time to check out this internet references:

History of Buoys and Tenders

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

Second Honeymoon published on: February 05, 2013

Second Honeymoon


Dewey Parr

When we get old, and are sitting side by side in our chairs, rocking on the porch of The Old Gray House we would rather be talking about the things we have done rather than the things we wish we had done.

It is not every man who gets the opportunity, after living with a woman for sixty years, to take her on a second honeymoon.

How well I remember my first honeymoon with my honey. It definitely was not as elaborate as a second one will be.

When we got married in June of 1953 neither of us had the means to have an elaborate wedding or honeymoon. At that time I was in the Navy on leave for two weeks while changing duty stations. I was being transferred from Camp Lejeune, NC to the USS Rowe, a destroyer operating out of the Norfolk, VA. My transfer is a story in itself and one that probably resulted in my being alive today.

We had a simple wedding in Mary’s parents home located in Huntington, WV. This is the same house we later purchased, and lost, as the result of a fire. Our wedding was small but meaningful. Our close friends and families were present. In order to prepare the house for the wedding Mary painted the room and decorated it. I recall even the day of the wedding we went together to pick up a mirror to hang over the fire place.

I didn’t have enough money to buy Mary a big diamond ring so I purchased her a small one and charged it. After we got married she helped me pay it off.

My Bride
Mary Evelyn Breesawitz Parr

As you look back at your wedding day I am sure there are things you recall that marked the day for you. I really had nothing significant happen except while waiting on the back porch for the ceremony to begin. My best man and buddy at that time, Phil Ling, reached over and put his arm around me and said, “Dew Dar”, that was what he called me, “See that door, it is your last chance for freedom”. I looked at that doorway, but rejected that as an option. As I look back over the years how glad I am I did not go out that door. These years with Mary have been happy times even during hard times.

Dewey and Mary Parr
Wedding Day June 6 1953

Dana Eynon, Mary & Dewey Parr Jr., Phillip Ling, and Dan Eynon, Minister

William W. Tapp, Rella (Grimes) Tapp, Dewey & Mary Parr, and Stella Tapp


Albert H. Bresawitz, Ruby (Tapp) Breesawitz, Dewey Jr. and Mary Parr, Melissa (Gray) Parr, and Dewey J. Parr Sr.


I will never forget my friend Buck McCrory, at a gathering of friends in my Buxton, NC home, recalling what transpired the day he and Bobbie married. Buck was in a side room in the church getting dressed for the wedding. When he went to zip his tuxedo pants the worst of all things that could happen to a man happened. You guess it. It got caught in the zipper. His best man and he struggled to get it loose but with no avail. They could hear the organist giving the signal over and over for the best man and the groom to appear. Finally in desperation with one last firm tug it came loose. Red, swollen and bloody Buck stood before the minister and said “I Do”, but he thought tonight “I Can’t”. Laughter prevailed that evening every time we looked at Buck and Bobbie. Golly, I miss those two friends who have moved on to a better place.

After our wedding and home reception, when it came time to leave in our old decorated car, we headed for our honeymoon. Our budget was $75.00. After one night on the road we went to the Glenn Ferris Inn which was at the base of the Hawks Nest Mountain in WV. To us it was big deal. The Inn was an old colonial house located next to the New River. It was built in 1810 and served as a private residence until it was transformed into an Inn in 1839. They provided us a room, breakfast, and dinner in a dinning room, which I assume was their sitting parlor at one time. The thing I recall the most was during the whole trip was we dared not buy anything for fear when it came time to checkout of the Inn we would not have enough money to pay them.

To Us the Glenn Ferris Inn was a Big Deal

Our honeymoon was really our greatest instructor as to what should be the foundation for a true marital relationship. It definitely should not be influenced by money. It should be that desire to be with one another. A love and appreciation for each other should transcend all other things.

Let me say this was not the last time over our sixty years together we were concerned about money. We have had plenty of that worry as I am sure you have had. I recall many times at the grocery in the checkout line and wondering if I had enough to cover the cost of the groceries. There was also a time like the night I was on the side of a mountain in Kentucky and ran out of gas. With Mary’s help I backed down to a gas station and borrowed enough gas to get over the mountain to my home. The biggie in my mind was when my baby girl Marilyn Joy was born. They would not let me take her and Mary out of the Owenton, KY hospital until I paid them. I guess if it had not been for Mary’s mother loaning me the money they would have kept them. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had told that hospital administrator you can keep them and walked away.

That experience with the hospital made us aware of the importance of medical insurance. It had only been a short time before when our son Dewey III was born in Portsmouth, VA while I was in the Navy. The cost to us was .75 cents per day. Times sure have changed for the price of a single aspirin in a hospital today far exceeds that.

Yes, we had our hard times together but as you probably well know each one of those times is what binds you together even closer.

Now here we are headed out for that second honeymoon. We have a little more money In our pockets than we did for that first one. Everything for this one is pre-paid including tips so we won’t be worrying or being embarrassed at check out time. We feel we have paid our dues by gladly depriving ourselves of many luxuries over the years as we raised our family. We have no regrets for the things we did or continue do to see to it our children have a happy life. If I started going down that memory lane it would be a long one as I am sure yours is. Occasionally our children zero in on some of the things we did to ensure them of having a happy childhood. We have been careful not to share much with them for we do not want them to feel like they have deprived us of anything. It has been our pleasure as it has been your pleasure, and still is, to provide for your children. I guess you would say on this trip we will be spending our children’s inheritance. Seems like to me we have got this money thing all wrong in America, the time a couple needs the most money is at the beginning when they are raising a family not the end when the children are gone.

Our sixtieth wedding anniversary is not until June 6. As we are tied up with operating the Old Gray House Gift and Shell Shop during that time I decided we would begin an early celebration. I also had an early 50th Wedding Anniversary. The circumstances that led me to that were different from now. I did that one two years early. I was having health problems at the time and was not sure I would be on the scene for our fiftieth. These anniversary celebrations seem to mean a lot more to the gals than we men so I didn’t want Mary to be deprived of that celebration to remember. The Good Lord had other plans for me so I made it to 50 and now with his help I hope to be here June 6, 2013 for our 60th.

This anniversary celebration is going to be our last big fling. That is unless I make it to our 70th. My advice to every warm blooded male who still has a few sparks left in him that he rekindles it by doing something out of the ordinary for that gal he married. When I walked into the Old Gray House and announced to Mary, “Start packing your bags. We are headed for a cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary”, her first reaction was a negative, “Yeah!” After she realized I had already made the down payment she began to think this is for real and not the blubbering of a senile old fool her, “Yeah”, changed to “Hooray!”

The Pictures I

Handed Her Changed

“Yeah” to “Hooray”

Before the day was out she began planning what to wear and take on the trip. Trust me guys, the only way to commit is to let go of the cash. So you have to give up a few things for yourself. It will benefit you in the long run. One of the big problems I view in long relationships is the danger of taking each other for granted and no longer doing anything unexpected for each other. Those little things like we did when were dating: flowers, candy, jewelry, and so forth are what kept the flames of our love lives burning. I think the same thing goes for the gals as well. They need to be reminded of those little things they did for their man had deep meanings to him as well.

Can you think of some of the little fun things you have done for each other over the years that have helped to foster a better relationship between you and your partner?

I recall one time when Mary was working in an office with several others I brought her a big container full of red roses and set it on her desk, gave her a big kiss without saying anything, and walked out. The reaction received from her co-workers along with her shock had a lasting effect. Of course her co-workers wonder what I had done for her to merit such attention.

There was another time on a valentines day that much to my surprise Mary had sewed a big red heart on the seat of my underwear. For fun I wore the underwear to work, at the board of Education which was housed in an old school house with a large boy’s restroom. It was the habit of we men to gather in the restroom and lean along the opposite wall and chat each morning. For fun I lowered my pants as I faced the urinal so the guys could see my big red heart. Mary’s little gesture brought a lot of laughter and comments. Little did I realize the guys would go back to their offices and tell all of their secretaries about the red heart. As I went about my job that Valentines Day, in and out of different offices, the gals looked at me with smiles on their faces while others all giggled and had comments. Wow, did Mary’s sewing skills change my image on that Valentines Day. I am sure you probably have some good Valentine Day stories you could share as well.

What started out as a simple celebration taking a seven day cruise has now developed into an extended three month adventure for Mary and me. We left the Island the first of November by way of the emergency ferry to Stumpy Point. That in itself was a wonderful way to begin our second honeymoon trip. It reminded Mary of her first trip to Hatteras to meet my family. The cruise ship leaves from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The day we get off the ship we are scheduled for seven days at Disney with our friends. I guess our visit to Disney would definitely indicate we have both entered that time that has been called a second childhood. I in particular am looking forward to the youthful feeling that you just naturally get when you are surrounded with Mickey Mouse and his buddies. This is the same feeling that being on the beach at Hatteras provides as you watch the children laughing, playing, and enjoying all the water sports.

Advice is cheap, as you well know. If you have been around me you are aware I don’t hesitate to share it with you. Should you have taken the time to read about my second honeymoon story, I would like to share a little of my Hatteras Island wisdom with you on what I think is the single most important item in maintaining a long relationship with someone you love. It can be summed up in five words. Never Take Them For Granted.

This opportunity to go on a second honeymoon is not something that came out of the blue. It has been provided for us by all who have supported our efforts at the Old Gray House. You, our faithful guests, who come by the Old Gray House to visit with us year after year have helped us in more ways than you will ever know. We both have outlived all of our immediate families with the exception of our children. You have become our second family. For that we are thankful.

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

Magical moments are always just ahead of you, yet they are not hard to find on Hatteras Island. If you would like to share your magical moments that you had on Hatteras Island contact us at OuterBanksShells.com

Magical moments published in: April of 2009

magical moments

By Dewey parr

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Thanks to a friend in September when other plants are preparing for the winter single stalks of green begin to sprout in my garden announcing that a magical moment is about to occur. In a matter of days these stalks burst forth in a dazzling display for it is magical time in the Old Gray House Garden.

Magic Lilies (Lycoris squamigera)

Today, as I was transplanting magic lilies in the Old Gray House Garden, I suddenly realized what makes life meaningful and why Mary and I love the Old Gray House and Hatteras Island so much. Those magic Lilies given to me by Jane Newby many years ago have brought me great joy as have the many plants brought to me by Friends of the Old Gray House. The lilies also remind me of an incident that occurred one day while I was working in my garden.

A little girl came walking my garden path with her daddy. Wide eyed she looked all around and then she excitedly said to her daddy, “Daddy, this is a magical place.” I guess this is probably the greatest thing that has ever been said about my garden.

To us the Old Gray House and Hatteras Island are magical places. They are full of magical moments that inspire us. It is the magical moments shared with us by guests who visit us that provide us with those warm fuzzy feelings that have enriched our lives since we opened the shop. Mary’s magical moments occur constantly inside the shop and mine are mostly outside while roaming the garden. In the evenings we have the joy of sharing the magical moments of the day.

Often when I am working outside I have the pleasure of meeting and greeting many different people from a variety of places in America and foreign countries. Each one has new and exciting information to share. Not long ago I had the pleasure of meeting a Singing Lobster Man from Maine. Then there was the silversmith story teller from New Mexico. www.JerryFaires.com On another occasion a lady from Sweden was overcome with tears. My garden brought back memories of her mother’s garden. I especially appreciate the visits from many guests from Canada who share information about that beautiful country. Their visits always bring back memories of the magical moments Mary and I had as we toured Canada.

Sometimes I am amazed at the generosity of guests who come bringing me plants and ornaments to display in the garden. I will never forget the first plant that was brought to me seventeen years ago. Right after we opened the shop a car drove up and out stepped a lady holding a plant she wanted to give me. Now I don’t remember her name but I remember that she was a psychiatrist who had a farm that grew herbs. I have not seen her since but each time I look at the plant I remember that magical moment spent with her discussing the medicinal value of herbs as well as the dangers of misusing them.

As I look over my little garden I see it filled with Magical Moments. One I recall was the day a man from Ohio came bringing me a wisteria plant. He said his daughters name was Wisteria. The Wisteria blooms are hanging from the tree and right below it are two other magical moments, the banana and the ruella plants. Everywhere I look I see magic in my garden. It might be a rock, buoy, fishing pole, bird house, bird feeder, shell, plant, or even a bowling ball that someone brought to place in the Old Gray House Garden. It is not the gifts to the garden that is the magic. It is joy I received from talking and sharing of life’s experiences with those who have visited me. I have no explanation why people continue to share so much with us. Could it be the magic of the Island?

Hatteras Island has always been a Magical Place for Mary and me. I will never forget the magical moment I had with my beautiful bride when I brought her from the hills of West Virginia to my home on Hatteras Island. She had never seen the ocean. As we made our journey from Nags Head to Oregon Inlet to the ferry I watched the look on her face begin to slowly change to a sense of concern. It was a windy rough day and the waves were clashing. When she saw Toby Tillet’s ferry that was to take us across Oregon Inlet the look of concern began to change to one of fear. Boarding the little ferry was a frightening experience for her. We were placed right up front with just a small chain in front of the car. Listen as she shares this Magical Moment with you in her own words.

“I will never forget my first trip to the mighty ocean and Cape Hatteras Island in 1953. This little girl from the mountains of West Virginia thought the end had come when she finally arrived at Oregon Inlet. As we waited to board the wooden ferry holding eight cars and, as I gazed across the inlet watching the waves splashing, I figured my time had come and this would be my burial at sea. At that time when you crossed the inlet you went straight across.

When we finally boarded what I called a wooden barge we were right up front with nothing between us and the wind and water except a thin chain. I knew they put something under the wheels, but I figured nothing could save me from the sea.

As the engine began to roar and we headed out I resigned myself to the fact that nothing could save me from the sea and my family in West Virginia would only have bones to put in my casket, because the flesh-eating fish and crabs of Hatteras would pick my bones clean.

The journey across the inlet was even worse than I had anticipated. With every splash of water on the windshield of our car my fears became greater and greater. I hid my eyes, afraid to look while Dewey held me close. He occasionally laughed at me as I know you may, but remember, you are used to the sea, but to a young girl who had never seen the ocean to suddenly find herself in the middle of it, on a bobbing piece of wood could be a frightening experience.

Well thanks to God, we arrived after what seemed like an eternity, to the other side.

The trip down the beach to Buxton was the greatest adventure of my life. Never had I seen such natural beauty. The tall dunes and some areas where you could see water on both sides of the road were fantastic. Vegetation like I had never seen before and birds of all descriptions. Miles and miles of nothing except things untouched by human hands, and fashioned from the finger of God. I thought this had to be my Fantasy Island. Even to this day, every time I travel the beach I still experience that same beautiful feeling I did the first time I saw our beloved Hatteras Island.”

Hatteras will always be a magical place full of moments that make life meaningful. Here you can find healing from the wounds of the world. This old world is full of turmoil and unrest but once you cross the inlet if you will force yourself to leave all that behind you can regain the magic in your life.

Magical moments on Hatteras do not require elaborate planning or huge expenditures. They can be simple little things like reading a book on the beach or just feeling an ocean breeze on your face. One of my favorite moments is in the evenings is when Mary and I grab a can of Pepsi and a bag of pretzels and head for Cape Point to just sit there chatting about nothing in particular and observing the waves and watching people enjoying themselves. It grieves me to think as time goes on we will be deprived of that opportunity as a result of those who are determined to stop access to Cape Point.

Another magical moment for me is to go to the south Beach early in the morning to walk the beach and take a morning swim as the sun is announcing a new day. There is a feeling of awe that comes over me as I stand in the water and watch the suns rays streak across the sky. Often this Magical moment is made even more fantastic as the result of a rainbow, or a group of dolphins, or birds passing by. Magical moments such as this seem to make all worldly cares seem minor and help recharge your batteries.

If you want a real magical moment, place yourself at Canadian Hole at sunset with someone you love and watch the magic in the sky. So far I have not been able to find words sufficient to describe the scene being painted in the sky. Nor have a seen any artist able to reduplicate this scene. It is something you must witness first hand to appreciate. It is Hatteras Magic. There is enough magic on Hatteras Island to fill any void you might have in your life. Magic is everywhere you turn on the Island if you only will allow it to happen in your life.

I can not thank all of you enough who have brought magic in our lives by your visits to the Old Gray House. It is our hope that we have in some way added a little magic to your life. We would love to hear about your special Hatteras Island Magical Moment that we might put it our website to share with others. If you have a magical moment or pictures you would like to share then e-mail it to us at OuterBanksShells.com

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

Presidential Election 2012 published on:
October 19th, 2012

Presidential Election 2012


Dewey Parr

The Election Is Over For Me. I voted today. Thursday October 18, 2012 nineteen days before the final voting polls close. What a relief. Now I can try to tune out all the election commercials and try to empty my mind of all the garbage that has been thrown at us during this election. What a shame that elections in America today are nothing more than an huge expensive stage show with little substance except two candidates digging up dirt on each other and publicly slinging it out for all to see. I guess the real shame is that we the public are like those in times past who sat in the arenas shouting with glee as the gladiators gored each other to death. Yes, I ask myself often anymore, “what has happened to the American Public?” Have we totally lost our respect for one another and our country? Where is our dignity?

I view this election like my latest experience with a Dr. I went to my dermatologist to look at a growth under my eye and much to my surprise that was not the major problem. Before I went my sweet wife said to me, “While you are there have him look at that black dot about the size of the point of pencil head behind your ear.” He took one look at it and said, “We need to take care of that right now.” After he did he said, “If this had gone unchecked three months or more I might not have been able to help you.” How well I was reminded what happened to my uncle Kendrick Gray who lived in the Old Gray House. Ken had a small spot at the base of his nose that he did nothing about for years. That little spot resulted in his death. The cancer went to his brain and killed him

One Dot behind My Ear Resulted in This
Let This Be a Warning to You
Go to Your Doctor before it is to Late

Little did I know something called Melanoma had been eating away at me for a long period of time. Now that appears to be what has been happening in America. America has a cancer. That cancer has manifested itself in this election. A host of things have come to the surface for all to see. Many of these things were brought on by our government, just as I am sure I brought my problem on myself by not avoiding the sunlight. In my defense I will say that when you live on Hatteras Island where fun in the sun and the allure of the beach awaits you daily, it is hard to avoid exposure.

It is still debatable who is guilty concerning the crisis America is now facing. That is not really what is important when you are facing something as grave as a cancer. There should be little time spent in blaming yourself or others for your problems. The major thing is to find a solution for the problem before it consumes your total being. America will never solve it problems until our elected leaders stop their battling one another and sit down together in harmony and peace. It is time they start thinking about what is right for America and the future generations. Now is the time for Washington to look closely at what is eating the heart out of America and to be as skillful as a surgeon and eradicate it as quickly as possible.

I am sorry to say that the perception that some people have today of politicians is that they are a bunch of thrill seeking scum bags using their offices to feather their own nest. I thank God; this perception does not apply to all of our leaders in both parties. I am confident there are enough good politicians left in Washington who can solve our problems once they are reminded why they went there in the first place. The Good Book tells us, “Pray for Kings and all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all Godliness and Honesty.” We need to pray for them like we have never prayed before. I pray every day they will do something to help all those who are hurting in America. In the last three years I have roamed the yard at the Old Gray House Gifts and Shells talking with hundreds of annual visitors. They have shared their concerns for America with me. Many grown men with tears in their eyes have told me how they lost their jobs or homes. Some found jobs that no longer provided benefits or sufficient pay to continue the quality of life they once had. Others gave up entirely and became dependent on an income from a working wife. As I listened and looked at these individuals I could tell their hopes and aspirations for better way of life for themselves and their family had gone by the way side.

Yes, I voted. Why did I vote? Not so much for myself, but for my family and your family. I voted for that unborn child that will follow after me. I voted in hopes that the candidate I chose will do what my doctor is doing for me now that cancer has been detected. He is checking me thoroughly every three months to be sure this old body does not have another undetected cancer eating away at it. Hopefully the candidate of my choice will keep a constant check on America and take swift action to eliminate the threats to our Nation be it economic factors or terrorist threats.

It is no secret. America has a Cancer. Some say it is too late as there will be a complete melt down. But I say that if our leaders and nation as whole turns to God for help he will pull us through these trying times.

Never forget it is no Secret What God Can Do. The big question still in
my mind is what the person I voted for will do.

My Hatteras Home Garden Memories published on:
August 5th, 2012

My Hatteras Home Garden Memories

Dewey Parr

Pictures of Deer In My Garden

There are two words in my vocabulary that have the same pronunciation yet produce two different emotional feelings. One is dear. When I use that word I am usually having warm feelings. It reminds me of wife Mary who is dear to me, or a dear friend. It is a word that carries a feeling of love, appreciation and affection. There is another word that sounds just like that word that does not provide me with warm feeling but leaves me with cold chills when I think of the devastation to my garden.

That word is Deer. Many of my dear friends who walk with me on the Old Gray House garden path ask if we have deer. Happily, I share with them we do not have deer in the Old Gray House Garden. I wish I could say the same for my home which is a hop and a skip from the Gray House.

I am not sure what is happening concerning the deer population on the Island. For some reason they have decided to come visit me in force. What was an occasional intrusion by a deer in my garden has now become a daily and nightly affair. It is as if all the Hatteras Island deer have decided my home is their home. I have tried everything possible to discourage them from eating my plants. One person after another has provided me with ideas and I have yet to find one that works to keep the deer away.

Probably the wildest one was provided to me by a florist friend who found a way to keep them away from her unfenced garden. She told me while blushing about her secret. As she put it, every evening prior to retiring, she sent the men folks in her house out to sprinkle the premises around her garden with their body fluids. Trust me. Not even that worked for me.

I found out the hard way what deer like to eat… Everything. I had planted ten of the most beautiful Indian Hawthorne bushes and six gorgeous Knock-out Rose bushes in my garden. Don’t make this mistake. They consider them dessert. Every annual-blooming plant I had they chewed the flowers off and ate them to the ground. It is not just the money involved it is the heartbreak of seeing all your hard work going down the drain. Finally, in desperation, I have concluded that if you cannot lick them, join them. Instead of trying to figure out how to get rid of the deer I have decided to change the menu in my garden and plant only things the deer do not eat. I have also changed my attitude toward them. Now I view them as pets rather than pests.

It has been lonely for me at my house since my long time friend Buster, my outside cat, and dear friend passed away. Every morning when I went outside Buster was waiting for me. Now when I go outside the Deer are waiting for me to say Good Morning. They have no fear of me or my wife. They will stand four feet away from us and look at us while we talk with them.

It has been interesting for us to watch how domesticated they have come. One of the mother deer just lies down and watches over her baby fawn as it strolls around our yard. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I my yard would turn into a refuge for deer.

I may have made a mistake in revealing this. I know some of you keep your bows and arrows ready and guns loaded to go deer hunting are now salivating. The urge to kill a deer seems to be in-born in many. I can recall, as a school principal, when deer season began all the school district’s male custodians got sick at least three days and required time off. Of course that same situation was repeated during the Christmas shopping season for the female teachers.

Another incident that sticks in my mind was when some Hatteras locals could not control their appetite for deer meat. They took it on themselves to slaughter deer in the Cape Point Camp Ground. Everyone on the Island remembers that one. It is what led to blocking off the road through the Camp Ground to access south beach for many years. As usual the national Park Administration punished all of us for the action of a few. This attitude is what I objected to the most concerning the harsh, idiotic Consent Decree Law that was imposed on us as a result of the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wild Life lawsuit that was set up to protect the Piping Plover. Under that law, we the public were punished every time someone violated a closure. With every violation came additional closures that were to remain in place until we the public turned over the culprits who violated the closures. This archaic way to handle things reminds me of Medieval Times when the Lord of the Manor punished the villagers for the actions of a few. Hard to believe that in this day and age a federal judge would enact such a law. Guess times really have not changed that much.

When a deer presents itself to a young warm blooded male it brings out the primitive instincts. He envisions himself as being a pioneer loading his musket and going off to forge for food. On the other hand, when a deer presents itself to a female she fantasies it as Bambi and needs to be showered with love and affection.

The deer now see a gate when they approach my private garden at night. It remains to be seen if the fence and gate will keep them out. Notice the Moon Flowers they don't like to eat.

The latter is what has happened at my house. My yard is full of Bambi’s and if I would dare zap one of them with an arrow or a bullet I might be washing my own clothes and cooking my own meals.

My only recourse is to build a fence or find plants to put in my yard that deer are not fond of eating. In order to do this I have been observing what plants they do not eat. If you happen to come down the road and see me gazing into the distance think nothing of it. I am seeking out deer proof plants to put in my garden. Should you know of any don’t hesitate to share with me. I am really at a loss in knowing what deer do not like for dinner. I have just about concluded when hungry they will eat anything.

Silly as it may seem I am now planting Island weeds in my deer garden. One plant I found that evidently the deer don’t digest is what we call Dog Thistle. I am not sure of its proper name but I found deer don’t like it. When clumped together it makes a good screen so I am planting a row of it along my fence to replace the golden gaponica shrubs the deer ate.

Dog Thistle
Named, Dog Thistle, because Island
Dogs Like to Raise Their Hind-leg to it.

Another plant they find distasteful is the ole-fashioned Polk berry bush. So in my garden it goes along with plain old sticky thistle.

So far a sure winner has been the moon plant. Years ago a friend gave me some seeds and I have maintained a few plants over the years. Now I am replacing my row of knock-out rose bushes with moon plants. So far the deer have not eaten them but if they run through them they break the branches off. I read that Moon plants are classified as toxic. They were outlawed one time in Nova Scotia. It was thought the witches used them in their ceremonies to get high.

I am thankful they decided not to eat my rosemary, camellias, ligustrum bushes, Russian olive and lellina pines. They enjoy hiding or camping out behind my pines. I guess that is why they decided not to chew the bark off them in order to protect their hiding place. As of late I have noticed them nipping at my azalea plants and the flowers and berries on the lantana bushes. It will be interesting to see what the outcome will be with their sudden interest with these two plants.

I am not really sure there is any plant that deer will not eat if they are hungry. It will remain to be seen if the plants I put in my deer garden will have any chance of survival, but I will give it a try anyway.

My last recourse has been to encase a section of my yard behind an eight foot fence so I can have plants that deer love to eat. Why eight foot? I have a friend who says deer can jump a six foot fence. Even though I don’t believe it I decided to go two more feet. Now really, how high can a deer jump? Be interesting to see how long it takes for them to figure out how to come through the barrier. Wonder if they will dig under it?

Picture of My Son Building a Deer Fence

I recently heard from a friend that the new Bell and Howell sun powered animal repeller is working for her so I am going to order two of them and mount them on top of my fence to see if that helps to keep them away. Will let you know how that works.

For those who do not know, there is no hunting of deer within the boundaries of the Cape Hatteras National Park. This really complicates matters. Our small villages are surrounded by park land and it limits our ability to remove the deer. Hatteras Deer are smarter than fifth graders. They have figure out when hunting season begins all they have to do for protection is move from the villages onto park service land. Shame they don’t eat piping plover eggs. Should that be the case the National Park would eliminate deer as they have everything else, including humans, that they consider being a predator to the piping plover.

North Carolina Hunting Season

Archery September 8 - 28
Eastern Muzzleloader September 29 to October 12
Gun (All weapons) October 13 to January 1

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

Science in Action
published on:
December 14th, 2011

Water Pearls

Science in Action

Water Pearls

Come Play With Magic In a Test Tube


Dewey Parr

When I was child on Hatteras Island my buddy would come to the house and say, “Sonny come out to play”. Now that I am in my second childhood I say to you come play at The Old Gray House.

When I first started gardening at the Gray House twenty years ago the first problem I ran into was water retention in the soil. Living on an Island surrounded by water you would naturally think that moisture in the soil would not be a problem. This is far from the case. What you forget is that our soil is sand. If you take a shovel and scoop out the soil the depth of the shovel in all probability you will come up with sand. Dig a little deeper and you will still hit sand and more sand. Dig little deeper, about 13 to l6 feet, or less depending on your elevation, and you will hit water. The strange thing is that the water is fresh and not brackish saltwater. The reason is fresh water is lighter than salt water so it floats to the top. That is why in the low lying areas in the maritime forest the deer scrape the surface to get fresh water to drink. Sand is wonderful to run through your toes as you walk the beach but it is not the best ingredient for gardening. When it rains the water drains through it immediately. The natural mulch that drops to the ground from decaying matter is either blown away by our constant wind or is filtered through the sand.

When it comes to gardening on Hatteras Island you need to classify the Island as a humid desert. What do you do? You can haul in rich soil from the mainland or buy bags and bags of mulch to replenish the sandy soil.

I tried that on a small scale and found that it was to no avail. The mulch disappeared and I had to repeat the process over and over. My son came up with a solution for small scale water and rich soil retention that worked for him. He bought plastic bags of rich soil punched a few small holes in the sides of the bags and buried the bags in the soil. At one time at the Gray House I even scooped out a trench two feet wide and ten foot long and lined it with double black plastic and put the sand back in the hole with a mixture of peat moss.

I had totally forgotten why I had such great potted plants that first year at the Old Gray House. Becky, our village florist, remarked often about them and finally I shared my little secret with her. I had bought a bag of agricultural polymer from Southern States Farm Supply while off the Island. It consisted of clear crystals you could add to your soil. When water hit the crystals they absorbed water and expanded almost a hundred times their original size. When activated the crystals did not have a particular shape. Not only did the crystals absorb water but it absorbed fertilizer. I discontinued using the crystals beause they were no longer available and I felt it was too costly. The concept was that as the plants needed water and fertilizer they could acquire it from the water being released from within the expanded crystals. Each time it rained, or you watered, the crystals would reabsorb the water.

I had not thought much about these magical crystals until this year when I ran across a new use for them. Like everything else there is always someone that can take an established product and use their imagination to discover a new use for the product. At the Old Gray house our greatest enjoyment has been working with creative crafters who are constantly developing new ideas. When you surround yourself with those types of people there is never a boring moment.

Much to my surprise someone has developed a way to take the garden polymer and develop it into one of the most fascinating home décor item I have seen in years.

From this to This
This new Product When Activated Makes a Round Water Pearl

Not only does the new product retain water and have fertilizer retention properties but when it expands it forms marbles or what I call Hatteras Water Pearls. Another improvement is that it comes in many different colors that are colorfast. In times past if you wanted to color it you added colors in your water prior to hydrating the crystals and there was always the danger of staining whatever it touched. Now the colors are in the membrane that surrounds the crystals and they do not stain or leak out. You can combine many different colored Water Pearls without them mixing into each other.

Probably the greatest accomplishment is that the product has been declared non-toxic, which is a plus if you should use it in a home setting around children. Even though it is not poisonous to children I would advise you to keep it out of the hands of little children. They might confuse it with candy beads.

This is a new fun product. You can do so many creative things with it. It looks good in glass containers or you can add plants or displays mingled inside the containers. If you are having a dinner party you can create a centerpiece that will be the talk of the table. You can add candles, fresh flowers, live plants, shells, or whatever you desire.

Water Pearls

You Are Only Limited By Your Imagination
When You Use Hatteras Water Pearls

Another plus with the product is the life expectancy of the Water Pearls. They will last for about two years. And you can use them over and over. If you desire let them dehydrate. You can reactivate them again by soaking them. After you are finished with them pour them on a towel or burlap bag and let them dry and revert back to beads. When dry collect them and put back into the container until you are ready to use them again.

Should you damage the round shape or should they loose their color rather than throw them away just add them to the soil in your potted plants. It will last for 7-9 years.

Broken Water Pearls

Add Broken Pearls To Potted Plants

Another innovation with this product is the addition of being able to add water based scents to it. Not only will your creation look good but you can make your house smell good.

You have to give the developers credit for even going a step further in that they came up with way to add lights in the water pearls that creates an awesome effect. Little water proof LD lights with batteries are available that you can submerge in the pearls that will lighten up your displays. Can you imagine the effect this would have on a dinner table or the tables at a wedding reception?

Cut flowers in a bowl of water pearls makes a beautiful display on any dinner table.  One of the nice things is you can let them dehydrate and go back to beads.  You can use them over and over.  They last for years.

Cut flowers in a bowl of water pearls makes a beautiful display
on any dinner table. One of the nice things is you can let them dehydrate
and go back to beads. You can use them over and over. They last for years.

Another big, big plus I did not mention is that Water Beads can be a great teaching aide. When you hydrate the beads and turn them into water pearls and then dehydrate them you are seeing science in action. The beads are a by-product of the scientific development of polymers. Polymers surround us daily in nature as well as in the many products man has developed to benefit society. Polymers are even in baby diapers that claim to have better moisturizing absorbent qualities. If you would like to learn more about polymers and how they benefit mankind then investigate this comprehensive web site that is dedicated to explain all about polymers in understandable terms Click Here

As a former teacher and a school administrator I have nothing but praise for this organization and their efforts to help our youth find their way in this age of technology.

We have been having a great time at the Old Gray House learning about polymers and exploring all of the possibilities for use of this new product. We consider it a privilege to be a member of the Sciene44 team and to offer you an opportunity to be introduced to this new decorator’s product. . Come play with us and share in the fun of learning innovative ways to use Hatteras Water Pearls.

We would appreciate receiving pictures of your Water Pearl creations to share with others. I am sure others would welcome seeing your ideas. Send your ideas to the Old Gray House Gifts and Shells. CLICK HERE

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

The Day I Thought I Was a Goner published on: May 6, 2012

The Day I Thought I Was a Goner


Dewey Parr

Driftwood Along The Old Gray House Garden Path

It was cold windy winter morning when I arrived at Cape Point just before sunrise. Now if you have never been all alone on Cape Point right before the sun rises out of the ocean let me explain to you what you are missing. The first thing you see as you approach the point are the waves clashing or should I say crashing against each other as they come together over a narrow point of sand. It is an awesome sight to behold two major ocean currents, the Labrador and the Gulf Stream, coming together. It is because of these two currents, and the famous diamond shoals that lie off of Hatteras Island, that many shipwrecks have occurred.

On this particular morning I was bundled up and had on a pair of high rubber boots. The purpose of the boots was that if I spotted a shell rolling in the wash I could wade out and get it without getting my feet wet. It had been my habit to drive the beach as close to the waters edge, or wash, as possible collecting shells. I called this my Conch Run. My practice was to go as fast as I could from Buxton to Frisco picking up the large shells first and then back-track to seek out the smaller ones. Many times I did not even get out of my beach buggy. I merely opened my door, reached down, and picked them up. I learned early on if you are going to collect shells the best time is to do it is at the break of the day before others start hitting the beach. Once they come they pick it clean.

On this particular morning something caught my eye off Cape Point. It was a piece of driftwood bobbing back and forth in the crashing waves. The more I watched it the more fascinated I was. As I watched it intently I noticed that the waves would toss it onto the sand, retreat back, and then come back to scoot it around and then go back out. I don’t really know why I was interested in that hunk of wood but the more I looked at it the more I began to want it. I could picture that beauty in my yard for display at the Old Gray House.

Now I knew better than to do what I was about to do but that doggone piece of wood bouncing back and forth in the wash had cast a hypnotic spell over me. I just felt the desire to outfox Mother Nature by dashing between the waves to get it. I had told my kids and grandson time and time again to never go swimming alone in the ocean so I really knew better than to do what I was about to do but I did it anyway.

The waves retreated and there was bare sand between me and the driftwood. So out I ran to grab it. Grab it I did. As I turned back it happened. An unexpected wave grabbed me and down I went in that cold water while still holding the driftwood. I tried to regain my upright position only to find that my boots were full of sand and water. Before I knew it here came another wave and another one and each time I could feel myself being pulled out deeper and deeper. As I struggled to get myself back together I thought this is the end of me. I did not yell. There was no need for I was all alone on the beach. All this time, first with one hand and then with two hands, I am holding on to the driftwood and we tumbled together. I guess it was not my time to go that morning. What I call a miracle happened. Suddenly a huge wave hit me and the piece of driftwood and it deposited both of us on the sand. Without hesitation I pulled myself up on my feet still holding on to that piece of driftwood and to the shore we both went.

When I look at that piece of driftwood in my yard at the Old Gray House I cannot help but be thankful that on that morning I lived to see another sunrise come up over the beach. As I think back about what lead me to do such a silly trick as risking my life for a piece of driftwood my thoughts lead me to think of Miss Annie Hooper who helped me develop my love for driftwood.

Dewey Parr

Picture by Nancy Hall

Dewey Parr holding his favorite piece of driftwood.

There is something wonderfully mysterious about driftwood. It seems to have an appeal to all who see it and it conjures up images that are interpreted in the light of their own personal life experiences. I guess you would have to classify driftwood as a unique one of a kind art form that is multicultural. It conveys a different meaning that is influenced by the person’s ethnic background or personal interest. As with any great art form there is a keen interest in learning about the artist who created it. Probably the most astonishing thing about these art forms that wash up onto our shores is the knowledge that the mighty ocean is the artist who meticulously carves each piece over a long period of time. Sometimes they are years and years in the making. Another thing that makes driftwood fascinating is that little is know of its origin. One can only guess where it came from. Some have been riding the ocean currents for years from far away places or released from sunken ships by storms. When we familiarize ourselves with ocean currents and their movements we become aware of how the continents are linked together.

Whenever I find a piece of driftwood on the beach I investigate closely to see if there are any clues that might give me some inclination as to how long it has been in the ocean or where it came from. Often if you look close enough you might see the remains of exotic shells, nails, bolts, or even pegs or peg holes. Pegs and peg holes indicate the possibility of a sunken ship from the past. Sometimes pieces of driftwood have an air of sadness about them. They might well be pieces from someone’s house that was washed out to sea. According to Aunt Nellie Gray part of the old kitchen at the Old Gray House was just that. It was pulled from the beach after a storm washed away a house.

Each time I pass the former home of John and Annie Hooper I am reminded that no two people see the same thing in a piece of driftwood. Miss Annie lived in Buxton just a hop and skip from my home on the Buxton Front Road, now called Highway 12. For years she worked to turn her home into a Driftwood Bible right up until the time of her death.

Miss Annie
Annie Hooper (1899 - 1986)
Buxton Driftwood Artist
Holding Her Driftwood Serpent

When I look at driftwood I think of my friend Miss Annie who taught me,
You Are Only Limited by Your Imagination

When you entered her home you saw all the Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation fashioned from driftwood collected from the Hatteras beach and sound. She enriched her driftwood pieces by merging them with cement, paint, beach rock, shells and such things as pine hearts collected from the Buxton woods. Miss Annie gave me a great gift. Each time she took me on a tour of her home, which became a living Bible, she inspired me to use my imagination. It was Miss Annie and her driftwood Bible that taught me you are only limited by your imagination. How thankful I am that I had the opportunity to watch and listen to Miss Annie share with me time after time the many Bible adventures that she brought to life by using bits and pieces of driftwood. It is also wonderful to know that her driftwood works of art are still available for all to see. Thanks to Roger Manley they are now located in the Gregg Museum of Arts and Design at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

One day I dropped by to visit with Miss Annie with my friends who had a camera. She met us at the door with her cheerful greeting. Sonny come on in I want to show you my latest story. This trip was a little different in that I said to her, “Miss Annie I brought my wife and some friends. Would it be all right to take some pictures?” She not only gave her consent but she led us through the entire house and took time to tell in detail each story that was associated with her creations. I had heard Miss Annie’s story many times, but on that day she was at her best. It was a day that my friends and I will never forget and are happy we had this once in a lifetime experience. Little did we or others who had the opportunity to have Miss Annie take them on a tour of her 2,000 and more driftwood creations realize we were in the presence of a sweet little lady that would become know after death in 1986 as the Queen of the Outsider Art World. I am so happy that I am able to share with you the pictures my friend took on that day. My only regret is we did not take more. Each time I look at them I am reminded of the great lesson taught me by Miss Annie. YOU ARE ONLY LIMITED BY YOUR IMAGINATION. Thank you Miss Annie

Miss Annie Hooper Hatteras Island Driftwood Artist
Sharing Her Bible Stories

If you would like to learn more about Annie Hooper Driftwood Outsider Artist
check out these sites.





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

Social Security and Stuff published on: February 24, 2012

Social Security and Stuff


Dewey Parr

I had a couple of recent situations that not only provoked me but have led me to question why many businesses think it is absolutely a requirement for you to provide them with your Social Security Number. You hear so much these days about identity thefts by thieves and why you need to guard your social security number and checking account numbers from being stolen. Yet, companies require you to provide your Social Security Number. When you release your Social Security number it goes into a computer for anyone to see if they have access to the computer. In fact the person you give your number to, or the company that receives it, could well be the one that would misuse your information or even sell it. If you look at your Social Security card you will see it says it is not to be used for identification. For we who are on Medicare that caption is not there. It is understood that this is our identification to receive medical services.

Prior to my situations I had not given much thought to the illegal ways our Social Security cards could be used. I found this article by Diane Dimond very interesting. It points out how babies Social Security Cards and numbers are often duplicated and used by thieves.

Click the Card to Read Diane Dimond's Article

Thieves Target Your Child’s SS Number

I also thought it was interesting that when you use Google Images to see Social Security Cards that Elvis Presley’s original card pops up and the website attached to it gives you wonderful insight to his history.


Before I get into this subject let me share with you a couple of interesting things about our Social Security Card, not that it makes any real difference.

In accordance with §7213 of the &9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004   Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, there is a limit to the number of replacement Social Security cards one may receive: up to three replacement cards per calendar year and ten in a lifetime.

That should be great news for those who are always losing everything or those who are waiting to find lost social security cards for resale or illegal purposes. Wonder how they arrived at the number of ten in a lifetime?

The government has been so concerned that terrorists could use our drivers’ licenses as a means of acquiring our Social Security Numbers they enacted into law that it was illegal for states to put the number on a driver’s license. Think about it. Not only would they have your license but other facts about you that would enable them to hide safely in our country.

Section 7214. Prohibition of the Display of Social Security Account Numbers on Drivers' Licenses or Motor Vehicle Registrations

If you really want to know when you are required to divulge or show your social Security Card you need to check out this website. It simply states there are many governmental agencies that you are required to provide your Social Security Card and there are other times it is optional. It also makes it clear it is not illegal for a business to ask you for your Social Security Number.


“If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and other services ask for an SSN, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means.

Giving your SSN is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask why your SSN is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours”

Now with this as a background let me proceed to share with you my personal experience with a Cable company with whom I had a package composed of TV, Internet, and phone.

I called a cable company to get television service. I gave them my credit card number to pay for the service and then they requested my Social Security Card Number. When I bucked on giving it to them they informed me if I did not do so they would not provide me service. Even though I objected and asked if there was any other method they offered rather than my card number. They insisted it was either give them my social Security Card number or no service. I finally gave in and gave them the number.

Shortly afterwards one of my favorite channels was no longer available so I called to ask why. As usual I battled my way through the automated system and listened to commercials while waiting for a real live human voice. Finally, a person asked me what the nature of my call was. I told them that the Home and Garden Channel was no longer on my TV and I wondered what happened to it. She said before she could answer the question I needed to answer some questions. She put me through a barrage of questions as to who I was. She requested my account number, address, birth date, and the last four numbers of my Social Security Number. When I gave her the final four numbers she said that one of the numbers did not match and she could no longer talk to me. I said, if it is wrong it was the person I gave it to did not enter it correctly. From that point on you could imagine my dismay. I was holding in my hand my bill which showed I had paid $226.00 which included an unreasonable setup fee. To make a long-long story short she wanted me to drive 30 miles one way to their office with my Social Security Card to prove who I was. I informed her in no uncertain terms I was not going to make a 60 mile trip to prove who I was so I could get an answer to my question. Normally I never play the “I am old and feeble” game, but in this case I did. I requested to talk to a supervisor and was informed there was none available and she had the final say. Finally after wrangling with the person on the phone she did agree to tell me the answer to my question. The Home and Garden Channel had been moved to another channel. My comment was, “Why you didn’t just tell me that in the first place instead of wasting over an hour”. Even though I was disgusted with the incident I let it go not thinking it would ever occur again.

Well guess what. I may have let it go but it came back to haunt me again. I was getting ready to leave the area for a period of time so I called to ask if they had a short term rate. After fighting my way through the automotive service for the second time I was connected to a gentleman who asked what the nature of my call was. I told him, I would like to know if they had a short term rate that I could use rather than to discontinue service and resume it again. Guess what he wanted before he could answer my question. After all the other stuff he requested the last four numbers of my Social Security Card. Again I was informed he would no longer talk with me or provide me any information. I requested to talk with a Supervisor, not once but several times. Each time he refused me by saying there was no supervisor to talk to. He was the highest authority. I requested the phone number or address of the corporation. He said there was none. (((All this time I am was at my computer looking up the company name on Google))) I told him he might be interested in knowing the location of his corporate headquarters that didn’t exist. Once again I decided for the fun of it to play the “I am old and disable” game. He had no response from that point on but began to change his tactics a little by telling me if I gave him the information from my last statement he would continue to talk with me. Not having it available I told him to hold on and I would go try to find it so we could continue the conversation. I ask him if he would wait for me to do so and he said he would. After about ten minutes we found it and I read it to him line by line right down to the Taxes and Government Authorized Fees. By this time he was getting tired and so was I. I sensed he was ready to answer my original question. Now I said, “Can you answer the question I called about in the first place. Do you have a temporary cut off rate”? Lo, and behold after over an hour he answered my question. I ended the conversation by letting him know that I was going to that “higher source” that he claimed did not exist.

Now I got to thinking about this so I decided I was tired of all this stuff you have to go through every time you call anyone anymore about the services we pay for. I also thought about those who are heads of these corporations probably do not have any idea what is going on down in the ranks below them. If you have watched the Undercover Boss TV program you are aware that most bosses really are surprised to learn how their operations are being managed. It might pay the boss of this huge corporation to go undercover. As a result he might decide to make some policy changes.

After diligently searching the internet I finally found the telephone number for the boss of the corporation. Isn’t it amazing what you can find in on the internet in this new age of technology? I was surprised when I placed a call to the Corporate Headquarters. The President’s Secretary answered the phone and was willing to talk with me. She was one of the most understanding people I had talked to in the whole operation. Not only did she listen to me at length but she took time to outline company policies and provide me an understanding of their rules and regulations. She also explained there were other options available to me without having to divulge my Social Security number that had not been explained to me. She even pointed out that if it was needed an employee of the company would come to my home to verify my Social Security Number. Even though she was aware that I would in all probability not be a future customer again because their seasonable or short term policy did not fit my needs she took time with me. When I hung up I figured that was the end of that and at least I had my say and an opportunity to prove there was someone higher up to talk with even thought I had repeatedly been told there was not.

Guess what. Before the day was out I got a telephone call from the head of the local office in regard to the e-mail that had been sent her from the cooperate office. She was equally as pleasant as the Presidents Secretary.

Did I have to give them my Social Security Number? There are other options this particular company would probably work out but it would be so complicated and troublesome that it would not be worth the effort to pursue.

The last caller’s suggestion was that when I turn in all of my equipment to leave the area I give them my Social Security Number so they can put it in their records correctly so when I reactivate my services with them I will not have to go through the hassle. You can rest assured it will be a “cold day in Hell” before I do it.

I say to you it is time we all let the guy at the top know we are tired of all the junk they throw at us and if there are other options to obtain service we will seek them.

My final advice is:                                 "illegitimi non carborundum"

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

Be a Blogger Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say published on: January 30, 2012

Be a Blogger
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say


Dewey Parr

Irene Nolan, in her Blogs, has summed up the heartbreak and turmoil that we who reside on Hatteras Island have endured over the last three years. It is true that much of the problem of businesses has been the decline in the economy. You cannot discount the extreme financial loss to small family owned businesses because of a lack of customers due to the beach closing controversy. Our little business at the Old Gray House was a happy flourishing business prior to beach closing. The majority of those who took the time to venture off of Hwy 12 and come down Light Plant Road to our shop over the last twenty years became our friends. Each year when they visited the Island they returned to see us as if we were family. Mary and I watched many of their children grow up. We have also had the pleasure of having those same children return to visit with us with their families. It has been Mary’s pleasure to hold and hug their babies. This closeness is the difference you find between small businesses on Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and other tourist areas. When you visit us you become part of our Island family. At the Old Gray House we have come to love each and everyone who has come to visit with us. Now to watch that family of friends go away and say they will never come back to the Islands has hurt us even more than seeing our free and open access to the beach taken away by the National Park Service.

It is true that I have been very vocal about what the Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and the NPS have done to the Islands. My outcry was prompted, not so much about driving on the beach, as it was the eroding of our freedoms and breaking past promises by our government officials to maintain free and open access to the beach and to maintain the dune system on the Islands. I will also have to admit my displeasure was prompted by the fact the National Park took away my greatest pleasure in life when they closed South Beach. Everyday of my life when it was possible I made my way to a designated spot on the South Beach at sunrise. It was there I viewed what I considered to be the most magical moment on earth. I sought counsel from my Creator to carry me through the day. In all of my travels I have never witnessed anything to compare with the secrets of sunrise on Hatteras South Beach. It almost broke my heart at the time to know that I will not be able to enjoy that summer time pleasure again.

Now I have concluded that the beach access issue is all over. I am resolved to making the best of what I have left to enjoy. You know folks there comes a time to fold or a time to stop riding a horse to death. It is over. It was a done deal. From the start we all knew it but we did not want to admit it. Through it all we have learned what we knew from the beginning. Our government no longer represents the wishes of the people and the majority of politicians have sold their souls to the highest bidders. Am I cynical of our leaders? Yes. But even so I still believe in the American system as instituted by our founding fathers and feel it is worth fighting for. Our only hope is that someday those babies Mary has hugged at the Old Gray House will restore our great country back to what it used to be, the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

I would like to say to those who are spewing out hate for the Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the Administration and employees of the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Park that there is nothing to gain by doing so. The employees of the National Park System in particular are merely pawns on the chessboard of life. They are individuals who are working for a living. Those on the local level either do what they are told to do or they do not have a job. They should not be blamed or held accountable for the actions of the hierarchy of the NPS. To treat them unjustly is not the proper thing to do. They are friends and neighbors and if they had their way things would be different. It has been our policy at the Old Gray House from the beginning of this issue to welcome all who walk in our doors. We have never denied anyone access to our small business nor do we ever intend to do so because they are in disagreement with our views. Nor have we intentionally picked a verbal battle with anyone concerning their beliefs on any subject especially beach access.

I learned a long time ago, as a child on Hatteras Island, that the mark of an educated person was their willingness to listen to the others person’s views on any subject. We do not have to be in agreement to be friends. This has always been one of the codes of the Island. To let our individual views of beach access be our criteria for friendship is not in accordance with the code of these Islands that have always been known for their freedom of expression.

After reading all the comments in Irene Nolan’s Blog, from those who have been our friends over the years, saying they are not coming back to the Island I am not sure how much longer Mary and I will continue to keep the Old Gray House up and running. Even though we are a small business it takes money to pay our bills and when we can no longer do so we will be forced to close our doors. One thing you can rest assured is what time we have left with our business we are not going to spend our time discussing what is wrong with the Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. At the Old Gray House we will be ready and willing to share with you all the wonderful things that are still to be found.

It was many years ago that I wrote my first thoughts about the changes occurring on the Islands and submitted it to Irene Nolan who was editor of the Island Breeze at that time. It was because of Irene encouraging me to continue writing that I occasionally take the time to share my thoughts with others. Since that time I have been called a few names, such as an ignorant in-bred islander, even in Irene’s Blog for my comments. I am not thin skinned as a result from exposure to Hatteras sunlight and saltwater. Therefore, I will continue to say what I think regardless of any names called me by others. I hope you will never let anyone intimidate you or stop you from your right to freedom of expression. If you have not done so I would encourage you to express your feelings about the beach issue or any other issue you desire. Do not sit idly on the side-lines and let others speak for you.

To you who have decided to never come back to our beautiful Islands I can only say we will miss you. If you should change your mind we will be waiting with open arms to welcome you back.

You might want to take the time to read the first article I wrote about changes on the Island for the Island Breeze when Irene Nolan was Editor. http://www.outerbanksshells.com/rmsArchives.html#RMS1

Be a Blogger … Say What You Think
Click Irene’s Picture and Start Speaking Out

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

New Year’s Resolution for 2012 published on: December 28, 2011

New Year’s Resolution for 2012


Dewey Parr

Keeping with the New Year’s tradition in America I sit here on the eve of a new year asking myself all the usual questions. What will the New Year ahead of me be? This is an election year. I wonder who will be the next President. Will it really make any difference who wins? Will the spiral downwards continue for the American economy? Will the rich continue to get richer? Will the middle class continue to get poorer? Will taxes and the cost of living continue to increase? Will social security and Medicare be caught up in Washington politics? What will be there for our younger generation coming onto the scene? Will the cry continue, “Where are the Jobs”? Will the real-estate market bounce back? Will more and more dreams of a better life be destroyed? Will America continue the policy trying to police the world? Will this great country continue to slide away from the concept of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Living on Hatteras Island my final question, last but not least, will there be a repeat of another Hurricane like Irene? As I ponder these questions I know only God knows the answers so I will leave it there.

The big question is what I can do to improve my life in 2012. What is my resolution and how have I done with my previous resolutions. So far my track record has not been bad with some of my resolutions such as exercise more. Probably the one that I have had the least success with is last years, which was Laugh More Every Day. It is not easy to laugh when the Drs. Office calls ands says your test came back showing you have a problem and you need to make another appointment. It is even harder to laugh when you receive the news that you have lost another friend.

I lost a dear friend last year who stood by me through the years. He was always there standing ready to help me anyway he could. I remember well the many times he came to my rescue. There was time the hot water heater went out. Not only did he bring his truck to get the water tank. He installed it for me. Offering to pay him for all the things he did to help was a waste of time. He felt it was joy to help. While I was preparing the Old Gray House for our retirement hobby he was there. I hope you have a friend like that.

Richard K. Smoot Sr.
Richard Smoot, Sr.

Dick is seen here working in the loft at the Old Gray House.

Like father, like son, Dick’s son Richard, Jr. has stepped in to carry the traditions of his dad by helping me with the Old Gray House. Rick is our webmaster.

Richard K. Smoot Jr.
Richard Smoot, Jr.

Rick Has Enriched My Life by Sharing His Computer Skills

Yes, there were sad times last year, but there were happy times. I guess the happiest moment for Mary and I was the day, after five years of treatment for cancer, the Doctor pronounced her cancer free and removed her from medication. Now that was a Happy Day. That alone was enough to make us look forward to this coming New Year.

What is the void in my life that I need to fill this year? There is one thing that is uppermost in my mind that I need to work on. I am not sure how it has happened to me but I am finding that more and more I am not participating in community functions and activities. There was a time in my life when I overdid community involvement. I remember well on one occasion when a mid-life-health crisis came in my life. My family Dr. gave me a good old-fashioned talk. Dewey, he said, “I read about you and your activities in the newspaper constantly. I think it is time for you to slow down.” Slowing down I did. In one week I resigned from about ten different positions: President of the Teachers Organization and my school PTA, Board Member of the Municipal Parking Board, Local United Fund, Area Literary Council and school and church related positions that required my presence and additional meetings. I took my doctors advice and began to curtail my attendance at the monthly meetings and programs of other organizations that I felt it was my civic duty to attend. Much to my surprise I found those organizations went on, full speed ahead, without my presence. I concluded from that experience the reason I was selected for positions in those organizations was because nobody else really wanted the jobs. I began to concentrate on the most important activity of all, spending my extra time with my family. Since that time I retired.

The word retirement means different things to different people. To many it means time to travel, doing nothing, or engaging in activities you always wanted to do but never had time to do. Mary and I chose travel and engage in things we always wanted to do. We opened up a seasonal gift shop, a place to meet and greet tourists, to serve as our retirement hobby. Ours has definitely been a dream retirement. We have had the luxury of working with our shop in the summer and traveling in the winter.

Over the last twenty years we have been so busy with our retirement hobby we have neglected community involvement. Time has not really been our only reason for not doing so. We are usually exhausted after a day at the shop, and we are not in the frame of mind to attend community functions. Then there is that thing called age creeping up on us. We are running back and forth to entertain doctors with our creaking joints. Of course that is a poor excuse, but it sure comes in handy in getting out of having to serve on jury duty.

Since retirement both of us have attempted to be involved in community affairs. For a period of time I broke over and served as a Director of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club. As in times past, I found when you assume a position in any organizations it entails additional meetings. I have always been one of those people who felt if you are going to serve as an officer in an organization that you should fulfill your obligations. I also became aware that when other groups see you are active they seek you to serve in leadership positions in their organizations. When I began to see that history was repeating itself and I was becoming over involved in local affairs I decided to keep my retirement pledge. I would not be an officer of any organization.

Age and health problems have a way of setting one apart from the real world. The danger I see for myself and others who do not have many more rungs left in the ladder of life is that if we do not guard against it we will no longer be a part of the real world. The easy way out for many to handle old-age is to crawl in a cocoon. Not wanting to separate from the realities of life I have elected to make my New Years Resolution to be Mingle More.

Mingling more means becoming more mindful of your neighbor and your surroundings. It requires making an effort to be present at some functions, especially those that are centered on helping others. Mingling more does not mean we have to hold active leadership roles in community organizations or attend all of their functions. Mingling more without holding official titles in an organization to me is a contribution in itself. It provides others the opportunity to serve in those capacities. It clears the way for younger people to serve who have fresh, new, creative ideas to come on the scene in capacity of leadership. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if many of the members of Congress would adopt my Mingle More Policy? It would be an easy way to empty out the some of the dead heads, and moral misfits who forgot years ago why they were voted into office. If they would remove themselves it would save us a lot of time and effort to get them out of office.

When you live on Hatteras Island Mingle More is a resolution that should not be hard to fulfill. Hatteras Island is blessed with worthwhile organizations that help others. It doesn’t mean that we have to make big money contributions to every community cause. It requires, if nothing else, giving moral support to worthwhile efforts being put forth by the leaders of organizations who work diligently to perfect positive changes. I have found it is best to refrain from getting involved with organizations whose sole purpose is to dig their hands deeper and deeper into your pockets so they can maintain a beauracy.

Mingling more dispels feelings of loneliness. When we mingle with others we not only rub shoulders with others who have similar likes as well as problems. It is through mingling with others that we find new friends who help make the lonely feelings melt away.

New Years is the time to look at oneself. Take a good look. What is that one thing that will benefit you more than anything else this year? Is it exercising, losing weight, or quit smoking? What is it?

Now I have told you what I need to do to improve my live in 2012. Why don’t you tell me what you can do to improve your life? E-mail me

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

Warning To All Skinny Dippers Skinny Dipping Days Are Over On Hatteras Island published on: December 19, 2011

Reprint from Island Free Press
Warning To All Skinny Dippers
Skinny Dipping Days Are Over On Hatteras Island


Dewey Parr

Picture from www.islandfreepress.org

Now you might think this is a strange subject for me to approach. But not really. Skinny Dipping has a long history on the Outer Banks. I don’t really understand what the allurement is to walk the beach or swim naked, but to many it has been a long time tradition. I recall years ago there was uproar in the news media about a Congressman that was seen walking the beach naked in Florida. In one of my stories I wrote years ago entitled the Secrets of Sunrise I gave a first hand account of a gentleman walking the beach naked. Some who visit the beach are little more discreet. They wait for the cover of night before they drop their clothes and plunge into the ocean for a midnight swim.

You might, but I don’t feel skinny dipping has a sexual connation. The kind of skinny dipping I am referring to is same sex. I was surprised to learn from talking to my wife that the desire to skinny dip was not just a male thing. Groups of girls have been known to go skinny dipping as well. Of course she claims she never engaged in such an illicit activity. After all she grew up in West Virginia. I have a feeling that even in WV and states not near the ocean there has been a lot of skinny dipping.

I define skinny dipping as a mischievous act that conjures up the feelings of being free. When you go to the beach you just naturally feel free and adventuress. There is something about the roar of the ocean and the waves splashing on the beach that makes you want to throw all your worries and cares to the wind. This is the feeling that causes some to toss their clothes aside and jump in the water.

Now I will ask you a personal question. You don’t dare openly answer this for it might incriminate or embarrass you. You surely would not want your kids or grandkids to know. That might destroy your saintly image. Have you ever skinny dipped?

I think the answer to that might have to do with the environment in which you grew up. If you lived on a farm that had a pond or a creek or river nearby the answer might well be yes. TV programs like Little House on the Prairie and the Walton’s are a good example of a way of live that lent itself to skinny dipping.

My other question have you ever dropped you clothes and gone skinny dipping and had someone take your clothes. This seems to a favorite theme in some of the Western Movies. It can be an embarrassing moment even if done just in jest by your friends.

I am going to share a personal secret with you that I hope will not make you think any less of me. I have skinny dipped at Hatteras in the sound and the ocean. What’s more I enjoyed it and would do it again. My skinny dipping days were while growing up on Hatteras Island. In those days we did not have tourist on the Island. You could go to the sound or beach and seldom see anyone there.

Many were the times we boys skinny dipped in the sound. Captain Ballance's boat was one of our favorite places to swim to in the sound. He kept the boat anchored out in the sound. I can remember well the fun we had jumping off his boat into the water. Occasionally, not often, someone would hide our clothes as a joke. I do recall one time I had to sneak home naked because of it. Of course back then there were times you could even walk the sand roads and not see a person. Far as that goes it is doubtful if anyone saw you they would get over alarmed or run and tell. There was no calling the police for we did not have police on the Island. We policed ourselves. They would probably just get a good laugh out of the fact someone played a joke on you and hid your clothes when you went skinny dipping.

Let me say it again, Skinny Dipping days are over on the Outer Banks.. Nudity in any form on the beach, no matter how innocent it may be, can lead to serious trouble for the offender. No longer are we free to enjoy the simplest pleasures like walking the beach, shelling, fishing, sunbathing, and driving without being constantly watched.

In the last three years we have witnessed the Gestapo tactics of the National Park in administering their program to protect a handful of birds. They even set up a Beach Watch Program in which they solicited to people, armed with binoculars, cameras, and cell phones, to take turns watching to report anyone on the beach they though were violating the rules. These people had no power to enforce the rules. It was only their job to serve as spies to watch others. I wrote about this in a previous article in which I said we had a new kind of bird on our beach called, “Stool Pigeons”.

In the name of protecting endangered species the Cape Hatteras National Park has mauled and killed much of the wildlife that once roamed our forests with their predator program. This program uses tax dollars to pay the salary of an animal exterminator.

They have cajoled, criticized, and divided people into two major camps. One group favors closing the beaches to all vehicles and limited foot traffic. The other which, is in the majority, favors keeping free and open beach access as was promised in writing at the beginning by the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Park.

Now, adding insult to injury, a paid permit system to drive the beach is being instituted that places limits on how many can be on the beach at a time, and how to park. No longer will groups be allowed to cluster on the beach or stacked one behind another. It will be interesting to see how this new rule pays out on the famous fishing area know as Cape Point. During special holidays and the fall fishing season 4x4’s are stacked deep. Tourists as well as locals will have to make a personal appearance to undergo a training session on how to drive the beach and what is required equipment. After completion of their training session they will be asked to shell out money for a permit to drive the beach. At this time the price has not been officially announced but it will be somewhere between the range of $45 to $90.00 annually. The paid permit, weekly or annually, will not guarantee access to the beach. It depends on the number of allowed vehicles in an area. Additional closures will occur at the whim of the National Park Superintendent will limit access to the beach even further. In the last three years walking and driving access points to the beach have fluctuated from day to day. Can you imagine a person spending their precious vacation time waiting in line at a check point for a spot to open up so they can go to the beach? This type program could only be designed for one purpose. That is to discourage people from coming to the Islands. There is no doubt that this new program will entail check points being established for entrance onto the beach. At the check points drivers as well as the contents of their vehicles will be under scrutiny. A constant patrolling the beach and monitoring the activities of all who are there will occur. For those who had the freedom in times past to collect shells, driftwood, and other items that wash up on the beach I am sure will be watched and limits will be put on that activity. There has even been mention in the NPS literature that a shuttle service could be implemented to places like Cape Point. Of course this will be for a fee. So far I have not seen anything in their literature about providing porta-potties. Could well be this is another way they can generate more money for their coffers by issuing tickets to those that Gotta-Go. Not sure if, “I had to go”, excuse will stand up in a federal court before a judge who is in favor of closing the beaches to all traffic.

With this as a background about the mentality of the Cape Hatteras National Park administration and their staff, I would definitely discourage anyone from ever thinking of Skinny Dipping again. Those days are gone and it would behoove parents to instruct their children to be careful how they conduct themselves on the beach. I base this on some of the things they have done over the last three years. Silly things like issuing tickets for tossing a cracker to a sea gull, ticketing a child for reaching hand under rope to pick up a shell, harassing a person for picking up a stick on the beach, and ticketing a family for coming early in the morning to watch the sunrise by claiming they were sleeping in their car. The list goes on and on of ridiculous things done with the obvious intention of discouraging people from coming to the Island.

As far as I know there is no federal law on the books in regard to nudity in a National Park. I would assume the charge would be based on based on state law. I would advise everyone to check out the nudity laws within your state and how they are being interpreted. Every region and different cultures have different interpretations on the subject. In some areas some of the bathing suits seen on our beaches would be classified as violating the nudity laws.

Probably the next move by the National Park will be to issue a statement what type of swim wear you will be allowed to have on the beach. Be interesting to see what they come up with. Now there is a study for you! The history of swimwear.

My advice is to keep your bathing suit on for the good-ole-days of Skinny Dipping on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are gone forever.

Skinny-Dipping in a lake in 1942

Below is the law in regard to being nude in North Carolina. I would advise you not to give the Stool Pigeons or do-gooders who now roam our beaches an opportunity to report you. Who knows you might end up on Facebook.

North Carolina Code 14-190.9 Willful exposure of private parts in public place and in the presence of others of opposite sex or aiding, abetting or procuring another to do so. Breastfeeding of infant exempted. Fine is 6 Months in jail and $500.00.

No requirement that exposure be “obscene” or indecent” – simple act of exposing one’s private parts is sufficient and there is no requirement that viewers be unwilling. State v. King 285 NC. 305, 204 S.E.2d 667 (1967) Skinny-Dipping in a lake in 1942 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nude_swimming

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Air Plant At the Old Gray House published on: December 16h, 2011


Dewey Parr

What are these things known as air plants, Tillandsia or Epiphytes? Are there plants that grown on air? The answer is no. There are plants that have roots but the roots do not extract nourishment from the soil or the host plants they are attached to. Their existence depends on nutrients that float in the air to them. They are not parasitic like the ivy that is climbing my oak tree at the Old Gray House.

Little did I realize when I planted that ivy it would become so aggressive. I have tried to stop it by trimming from around the base of the tree but it is to no avail. Eventually the Ivy will kill the tree if a Hurricane doesn’t get it first.

A couple of years ago, I made a New Years resolution that I would learn something new every day. CLICK HERE  to read about the New Years Resolution I made in 2010. I did this as I began to realize that the older we get the less we exercise our brains. Guess we get to the place we think because we have lived for a long time we either know it all, or because we are old why waste time thinking. It is sad to see many of my friends becoming couch potatoes in front of the boob-tube waiting for the grim reaper to come get them. Not wanting to join the old-age-crowd I have tried every year to pick something to investigate. So last year I chose to learn first-hand about air plants, and venus fly traps. I had a little knowledge about air plants because at the Old Gray House we have an air plant that is hanging in our trees. It is called Spanish moss. Spanish moss at one time was common on the Island. It is about to fade away due to climatic conditions and clearing trees for development. With every hurricane the moss at the Old Gray House becomes less and less. Hurricane Irene just about devastated our supply. CLICK HERE   to read about Hurricane Irene.

Spanish Moss Grows In The Gray House Garden

Air plants and moss absorb nutrients through their leaves from drippings. When it rains or the wind blows debris falls on the moss. This debris could be composed of bird drippings, and decomposing bodies of insects. This is what I try to explain to those who continually pull the moss out of the trees at the Old Gray House. It is not sanitary or safe to do so. There is a difference between the Moss that you buy in craft stores and that which is in a natural state. Craft Moss has been sanitized and doesn’t house harmful insects or bacteria.

Air plants re-produce through seeds and offshoots. The off shoots are called pups. One plant could have as many as a dozen pups. Many of them are monocarp. After they bloom the mother begins to die but she leaves offshoots or pups which develop into new plants. In my Gray Houses Garden I have a spider that does the same thing I call it the Dooms Day Spider. Momma dies annually but leaves her babies to carry on the species. CLICK HERE   to read about my dooms day spider. As a general rule air plants bloom in the fall and winter months. In some species when you see their green leaves begin to slowly turn red and signs of blooms begin to appear you know this natural process of nature is about to begin. If you look close at the base of the plants you will notice offshoots beginning to form. Each offshoot will produce a new plant and the process of nature will repeat itself. God set it up that way. This is a similar situation with mankind we are here for a short time and then we leave another generation. Hopefully every new generation will profit from the experiences and mistakes of the former generation.

The amazing thing about working with air plants is the many different ways you can display them. You can leave them loose or mount them on virtually any object you desire. All you have to do is glue them with something like liquid nails to rocks, pottery, and wood.

My preference is to leave them loose in shells or mount them on driftwood. For some reason I just associate air plants with the ocean even though many of them grow in tropical forests and deserts There is nothing that reminds me more of those wonderful sunny days on the beach than that of a shell or a piece of driftwood with an air plant mounted on it.

The number one rule with all Air Plants is never using chlorinated water or water from a water softener. Preferred water is rain or distilled water. If you use regular tap water let it sit overnight so that the chlorine will evaporate. I have a five gallon bucket that I collect rain water in that I use to fill my spray bottle. A friend of mine says, “They will love you for using rain water”.

The second rule is to spray them or even bathe them twice weekly. You can submerge them in water for a short period.

The third rule is to provide them bright filtered light. They do not like the direct sun. In their natural habitat in tropical climates they grow among the leaves in the tops of the trees. In the summer feel free to put them outside under your trees. They will enjoy the rain and the drippings from the trees. When the weather begins to cool move them inside in an area were they get bright filtered light.

The fourth rule is to fertilize them. Air plants are just like we are. They get hungry so in order to keep them healthy you should fertilize them at least once a month by using a half strength water soluble fertilize. Use something like Shultz, Miracle-Grow or Peters. You can do as I do. Put a little fertilizer in your water each time you spray. A great fertilizer I was recently introduced to by a friend for air plants is Jack’s Classic Water Soluble All purpose 20-20-20 Water Soluble Plant Food.

Never did I realize when I began this study it could be so overwhelming or rewarding. With over 500 different species of air plants, or epiphytes, it is impossible to fully understand the requirements of each plant so I have narrowed down my collection to a favorite few species which do well in shells or mounted on driftwood that I have available at the Old Gray House.

Some air plants are members of the Bromeliad family. Two dwarf species in particular that I have learned to appreciate are Neoreglia fireball and Neoreglia ampullacea.

Larger Image

Larger Image

Larger Image

Neorgelia fireball

Notice the Off-shoots

Neorgelia ampullacea

Fireball does well in shade or the sun. If you want it to live up to its name “fireball” and turn red, put it in bright light and refrain from over-fertilizing it. Ampullaceal has variegated green leafs. When you group the two species together they make a striking display. I find they are the easiest air plants to care for and propagate. They have their own reservoir for holding water and nutrients. There is a simple secret for the care of bromeliads. When you look in the center of the plant you will see what I term the cup. The secret for success is to keep the plants upright so that moisture and nutrients will not spill out of the cup and to keep the cup filled with moisture. If you do this and spray the leaves and roots twice a week you will not have any trouble. At least once a month spray with half strength liquid fertilizer. It helps me to remember to spray them drenching wet and fill their center cups by thinking about the scripture in the Bible that states, “my cup runneth over”. Run its cup over and let it go down and then refill it. Every time you fill the cup take time to count your blessings.


I like to put the Neorgelias in shells as you can see from these photos.

Neorgelia fireball and ampullaceal in Shells
Neorgelia fireball and ampullaceal in Shells

One plus about these two air plants is that they can also be planted in potting soil if you so desire. Leave room for them to spread. They will send out new shoots and soon fill your container.

Tillandsia streptophyllia, hybrid

Tillandsia streptophyllia, hybrid

Another species I am fond of is the Tillandsia streptophylla, hybrid. What I like about it is that it is big enough to sit comfortably in a Chambered Nautilus Shell. It also looks great when you display a couple of them together in a large melon shell.

Tillandsia streptophylla Displayed in Shells

Tillandsia streptophylla Displayed in Shells

Probably the most common of all the air plants is the small Tillandsia, ionantha (Blushing Bride) or the larger version called Tillandsia fuego. The reason it is called blushing bride is because when it begins to bloom in the fall the tips of the leaves turn a pinkish red.

Tillandsia ionantha (Blushing Bride) and fuego

Tillandsia ionantha (Blushing Bride) and fuego

This is the inexpensive air plant you see so much of in beach area gift shops. I am sorry to say that this little plant is the most abused of the air plants by gift shops for they don’t know how to take care of them. I see this same scenario with shops in the beach area that sell hermit crabs. If you love plants it probably bothers you to see plants not being properly cared for. Plants are like animals. They need someone to love them and take care of them. Maybe we need to set up a humane society for plants.

Tillandsia Ionantha (Blushing BrideMakes a Great Gift When Placed In a Shell

Tillandsia Ionantha (Blushing Bride)
Makes a Great Gift When Placed In a Shell

If you observe this little plant close you will notice that the mother plant begins to put our numerous off-shoots or pups. Once the pups look developed you can break them off and you will have new plants. The mother plant will soon die but her babies will live on. Sad but that is the law of nature. This little plant can easily be fitted into small sea shells or mounted.

There are three other air plants that I feel are worth of mentioning. They are Tillandsia stricta , bulbosa, and cyanea.

Tillandsia Stricta
Tillandsia Stricta in Sea Shells

Tillandsia Stricta

Tillandsia Stricta in Sea Shells

Stricta has a delicate bloom and a sturdy leaf base. I have found it is adaptable to being placed in shells or glued on any surface. One of the things I like about it is that it forms clusters which can be very attractive. You can either leave it in a cluster or break off individuals that in time will begin to produce another cluster. The clusters are very attractive mounted on broad base shells such as flats or abalone.

Tillandsia Bulbosas

Tillandsia Bulbosas

Bulbosa has an appearance all of its own. It does resemble a bulb with tentacles. At first I was not really appreciative of this little air plant but the more I look at it the more I like it. In its native habitat in Guatemala it can grow to be quiet large. It does create conversation to all who love plants.

I save what I consider the best for last of the air plants that caught my attention It is Tillandsia cyanea. I named it the Paddle Plant. Indeed, it is a strange and unique plant.


What makes it so different is not necessarily the paddle or as some say a fan shape but the strange way it blooms. The paddle is green and little blue blooms shoot out along the edges of the paddle. Numerous blooms will appear and in time the paddle will begin to fade and eventually fall away. While all this is happening new shoots will begin to spring forth from the base of the plant. My practice is to cut the decaying paddle off. The plant is very versatile in that you can mount it like any other air plant or plant it in potting soil. When you put it in potting soil you need to allow room for it to spread out. I found that using a soil mixture that is recommended for orchid’s works well for this plant.

I hope that in some way by sharing the standard type of air plants you will find at the Old Gray House you might be inspired to seek more information about tillandsia, bromeliads or epiphytes. Many of them will mystify you and make you wonder if maybe they were experiments gone wrong by the Master Architect that created all things. Others of them leave you in awe when you see the magnificent flowers that come from unusual stems and foliage. One that we all have come to appreciate is the orchid.

Tillandsia cyanea

Tillandsia cyanea

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

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

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