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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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