The world I grew up in was different in many ways from the world today. In the 1970’s, there was no Internet or email. There were four — maybe five, if the weather was just right — channels on TV. The environmentalists hadn’t yet stumbled upon the concept of “global warming,” so the best they could do to scare folks into submission was a Native American crying about litter along the roadside and Woodsy Owl exclaiming, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute.”
My parents’ house was located in a relatively rural area, and there were some definite advantages to that; I spent a lot of my spare time walking in the woods and fields, and fishing along the rocky shores of the Sandusky Bay. But, there was often a real sense of isolation and, well… boredom, especially in the summer when the long, hot days seemed to drag on endlessly. So, it was with great anticipation that I convinced my Mother to let me join the Young Model Builders Club, as advertised in Boy’s Life Magazine. This would have been around 1974, when I was 12 years old. The Young Model Builders Club was a mail-order affair in which you paid a flat monthly fee of $1.98 (yeah, seems ridiculously low to me, too, but that’s what the ad says) and received a plastic model kit in the mail each month. Continue reading
Walking along the boardwalk, I happened upon a band of pirates led by none other than Captain Jack Sparrow. This was the second Jack Sparrow I’d seen in the past 20 minutes, but this one was a good bit more convincing than the first. He had the half-staggered walk down pat and greeted me with a spot-on, lilting, “Hello, Mate.” I was in the town of Beaufort (that’s Bo’ Fort) for a weekend class on wooden boat-building at the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the weekend of the Beaufort Pirate Invasion. I was completely unaware of this fact when I registered for the class and only figured it out when I started calling around to book a room and found the first four or five places I tried were full — some 30 days in advance.
Beaufort sits at the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks near the deep-water port of Morehead City. Settled in the 1700’s, largely by New Englanders, the town has a distinctly northern coastal vibe similar to the small fishing villages I have visited in Maine and Massachusetts. Furthering this connection is the local whaling history. While not as productive or well-known as places like New Bedford or Nantucket, the Southern Outer Banks region was a modest contributor to the whaling industry of the 19th century, a legacy documented in great detail by a display at the wonderful North Carolina Maritime Museum on Front Street. Continue reading
When I recruit companies to North Carolina in my “day job” as an economic developer, the state’s temperate, four-season climate is often a major selling point, particularly for folks who have just come through a long Michigan winter or a broiling Texas summer. I don’t usually mention our “Fifth Season” though; the one that starts around the first of August and runs through mid-September. Different people know this season by different names. My fishing buddy calls it “Nothing Biting” season. I call it “Brown-Out” season; the six week period when the Spring/Summer plants have lost their oomph (as my Mother used to say), but it’s too early yet for the Fall planting.
One sure sign of Brown-Out season is the color of my lawn. Like many in the Carolina Piedmont, I plant tall fescue, a type of grass that Winters well and pops brilliant green in the Spring. Alas, it tends to whither under the unrelenting Southern Summer sun and by the first of August, even irrigated, well-manicured fescue lawns look a bit worse for wear. Beyond a little sprinkling if it’s a REALLY dry period, I don’t irrigate, so by August my lawn is, to be charitable, looking a little ragged. This really concerned me the first couple of years down here: I was afraid I’d somehow killed my grass. But now, I take it all in stride, knowing that a little fertilizer, a good core aeration and a bit of overseeding will bring back the lush green carpet by the end of September. Continue reading