#982. A Twenty-Year Visit (to Pamlico County) in Twenty Photos

By Bob Kruger | Travel Photography

Mar 23

As the locals would say, “You ain’t from around here.” But Pamlico County, North Carolina became my home, off and on, for twenty years. I’m Irish by birth; East Coast, USA by upbringing; and, a bit confused by nature.

During my tenure in this small, rural part of the world, I took a few photos. I’m a bit profligate when it comes to camera equipment. I’ve tried just about everything over the past few years, so this post will not be about camera equipment, about which I’ve learned little. Instead, I’ve distilled my twenty-year experience into twenty photos that imprinted this part of the world onto my consciousness.

 
The Ditches of Pamlico County
 

Pamlico County lies on the North Carolina coast about no feet above sea level, a reclaimed swamp if you will. A great deal of family farming takes place, for the fields are flat and the land is fertile. Ditches are carved along the edges of fields so that these fields are adequately drained.

 
Tommy’s Shed
 

People in the rural South have learned to rely on themselves moreso than urban dwellers. In my experience, they are more self-sufficient and resourceful, certainly compared to myself. This is a photo of Tommy Lupton’s shed, originally built by his father, Sigmund. Tommy can fix anything in that shed.

 
Everett’s home
 

I don’t think I saw Everett, Tommy’s uncle, more than ten times over twenty years. Yet I remember him bringing over some freshly caught and cleaned Blue Point crabs one day. On my only visit to his home, he expressed doubt over the biblical account over Lazarus being awakened from the dead. “Wouldn’t he stink after three days?”

 
Oyster-Shucking House
 

For the longest time I could not image what the purpose of this structure once served. Chicken coup was the best I could come up with. But after a bit of digging around I was told it was used for shucking oysters. People used to stand behind the wall and remove the oyster meat from the shell, one oyster at a time (shuck) and drop the shells into a bucket below. The lower openings were used to replace filled buckets with empty ones. (Or maybe the buckets were used to carry away the oyster meat.)

 
Fish House
 

This fish house used to process fish caught in the Pamlico Sound netted by boats that docked here. Fire engulfed the fish house a decade ago. Unfortunate that. This is all that remains.

 
Hoary Frost
 

Every once in a great while, a winter ice storm descends upon Pamlico County. Around the corner from my home I took this picture of ice adhered to the grasses lining this small creek on Pamlico Road. (This image made a great carbon transfer print.)

 
Preparing the Field
 

Fields are prepared for planting in the spring. The long line of white specs trailing from the tractors are sea gulls ravenous for the morsels being unearthed. Pamlico County is home to many, many sea gulls.

 
Soybean Field
 

Here we see a soybean field almost ready for harvest. I find the distant tree line interesting as all trees are nearly the same height, their height ultimately limited by their ability to siphon water against the pull of gravity.

 
Silos
 

I photographed this group of grain silos on the Spruill Farm one wet, spring day. (I printed this photo on brushed aluminum, which hangs in my office. It came out quite nice.)

 
Galilee Church
 

They say the most segregated hour of the week in America takes place on Sunday. Pamlico County is no exception. The congregation of this church is all black.

 
Methodist Church
 

This church, whose congregation is exclusively white, lies just around the corner from the previous church. Members of both congregations are friendly, but they worship in two different ways at two different venues.

 
Family Plot
 

A curiosity of Pamlico County is the plethora of family cemeteries that dot the landscape. I don’t believe such family plots are still used, but many from the past survive.

 
Outdoor Cathedral
 

Oriental is a fishing village and home to many retired people from “up north”. It is home to, among other things, grand, old, oak trees. Here lies a stand of such proud guardians that keep watch over the town.

 
Artesian Well
 

Many, many years ago, this spot, memorialized by two deteriorating concrete benches, marked the location of an artesian well that once provided water to the Oriental community. (I’ve gotten a bit “arty” with this one.)

 
Sears Modern Home
 

At the beginning of the 20th century (1908-1940), it was possible to order a “Sears Modern Home” from Sears, Roebuck & Company, a mail order retailer. Primarily shipped via railroad boxcars, these kits included most of the materials needed to build a house. They were then assembled onsite. This is one such home, probably 100 years old, give or take.

 
Porch
 

Before these days of ubiquitous, centralized air conditioning in American homes, porches provided a means to cool off in summer, especially in the South. This home boasts the quintessential southern front porch, where one could relax with friends, gam a bit, and drink some sweet iced tea on humid summer evenings.

 
Oriental Harbor
 

No tour of Pamlico County would be complete without a photo of a fishing boat, this one sitting at rest in the Oriental Harbor. It lies at dock in front of a fish house where predominantly shrimp are cleaned and packed for shipment to market.

 
Travel Lift
 

This mechanical contrivance is used to lift boats out of the water, where they can be cleaned, serviced, and repaired. This particular one can be used to haul boats as heavy as 60 tons.

 
Day Markers on the Neuse
 

This photo peers out over the Neuse River, which borders Oriental and Pamlico County. Photographed on a very calm day, one can just make out a pair of navigational aids in the distance that mark the center of the river. Here the river is at its widest and the tree line on the opposing shore is barely visible.

Broad Creek Sunset

I know that sunset photos are a dime a dozen, but this one is a bit special to me. It is one of the many I photographed from the deck of my home in Pamlico County where I lived off and on for twenty years. It overlooks Broad Creek and the dock (not shown) I had built and rebuilt four times following various hurricanes that frequent this part of the world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief peak at life in a part of the world that is slower and simpler than other places where I’ve lived. I left Pamlico County five years ago, but it is a place I remember fondly. And these photographs help me keep that memory alive.

 

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  • Lad Sessions says:

    Bob, Thank you so much for these evocative photos–I should say these lovely evocative photos! I admire your mastery of so many different techniques, including the judicious use of color (I especially liked the one of Everett’s house). Technical data would have enriched my appreciation, but they are just fine to look at without thinking about such secondary things. I’ve been to SC a number of times, and you’ve captured a way of life as well as beautiful images. Lad

    • Bob Kruger says:

      Thank you for the kind comments. You know, it’s funny. Many years ago I was an avid sailor, which originally brought me to North Carolina and Pamlico County, where I owned and sailed a variety of sail boats, and sailed them as far south as Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and as far north as Connecticut. Yet when I looked back on my time there, it is the land and not the sea that I most remember.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Thanks for sharing your twenty years/twenty images from Pamlico County, Bob! About twenty years ago I was in North Carolina for a wedding and all I remember from that trip was the crushing humidity, magnolia blossoms as big as your head, a church potluck supper arranged on tables that stretched at least 30 feet, and the lovely hospitality of the locals. Your images are showing me a much wider view! I especially like “Broad Creek Sunset”, “Outdoor Cathedral” and your arty “Artesian Well”.

    • Bob Kruger says:

      Indeed, It is humid in the summer. Each small town in the US hosts some sort of idiosyncratic celebration. Oriental, NC has the Croaker Festival. Croaker is a fish for which you must have an acquired taste to enjoy. Once a year I sat a long table with so many others and enjoyed croaker “cuisine” served up hot and crackling from a deep fat fryer. (They fry everything in the South.)

  • Loved every image and every description. I could feel myself there. If I had to pick a favorite I suppose it would either be Porch or Tommy’s Shed. I’ve spent a lot of time in both environments.

  • jean pierre guaron says:

    Reminds me of the treasure trove we found on the family farm, after my great uncle died. One of his uncles was a passionate photographer and travelled hundreds of miles from the farm, with a horse and a two wheeled cart that had his tent and all his provisions and equipment – stopping to set up and make collodion wet plate glass negatives, which he then proceeded to put in a gigantic wooden framed camera – leather bellows – the lot. Actually he might have had two of them, because some of the plates were 10-x12 and a few were 16×20. They covered a period of 50 years. And they were fascinating. They all ended up in the state archives, and are only accessible to the general public by microfilm copies, now.

    Your photos are fantastic, Bob. Thanks for sharing them. I must Google a map of America now – from the name, I’d always thought of North Carolina as being inland and South Carolina as being on the coast. 🙂

    • Bob Kruger says:

      Thanks for your kind comments. Your great uncle must of been quite a passionate photographer. All we do now is press a button and load a bunch of 1’s and 0’s into a computer and look at the result on a computer screen. BTW, If you go to Gibraltar and head due west for about 3000 miles, you will run into North Carolina. Can’t miss it 🙂

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