Bland Simpson and Scott Taylor at Harkers Island’s Waterfowl Weekend

This weekend is Waterfowl Weekend at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center at Harkers Island, North Carolina.  Our authors, Bland Simpson and Scott Taylor will surely be there.  Their book is The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country.  What it is, it seems to me, is a love letter to the southern part of the NC coast—its history, artists, workers, and natural beauty—so it’s perfect that Bland and Scott will be there.

One big part of Waterfowl Weekend is the 23rd Annual Core Sound Decoy Festival—no this doesn’t mean there’s another festival hidden somewhere else.  Held at the local high school, it’s a gathering of artists, community members, churches, and other organizations.  Proceeds will support local schools, churches, artists, and other local businesses.

carving by Dan Williams.

The art of decoy carving Down East spans generations and the decoy guild on Harker’s Island aims to teach people about this folk art, make art, and pass an appreciation and even the art itself along to the next generations.

men mending nets.

A portion of the day will also be devoted to remembering menhaden fishermen and factory workers.  Until the 50s, when mechanized means were developed, menhaden fisherman—made up mostly of African American crews—sang chanteys to help pace the great labor of hauling the fish out of the sea.  At 2 pm on Saturday, the Menhaden Chanteymen will perform some of these traditional work songs.

<br /> Other events include storytelling, a boat building demonstration, a quilting exhibition, other waterfowl art, community history, local music, and Down East cooking.

It seems to me that this is all about infusing an already beautiful and wild place with the experiences of the people who have and still do live there.  It’s about loving the place, but really about the love of place that arises from experiencing life there, of course.  That’s what makes their book more than a book of beautiful photographs (which would be enough, by far, even if it were just that).  But it’s much more.  It captures Bland and Scott’s experiences together from that first meeting, where a man with a boat met a man with a motor.  And their love of the place is evident both in Scott’s images and in Bland’s language.

And now, some words from The Coasts of Carolina:

This text is beside a photo of a dock on a windy day.  There are peaky waves, shaggy grass, and houses on stilts.  Below is another beach landscape, this one with tall sea oats and a rising moon.

“At Don and Katie Morris’s Kabin Kamps on North Core Banks, in tarpaper and tin and crusty-screened fish-shack #13, our daughter Cary took her first steps.  This was where Ann had grown up, learning to drive an old stick-shift Peugeot in the sand, casting a line out in the surf, drift-fishing Drum Inlet, and pulling in two flounder at a time on a high-low rig.”

Now, imagine those pictures again, or look at them, if you have access to page 74 of the book.  Everything changes, doesn’t it?  And in the landscapes, we have daughters and wives, fishers, artists, factory men, quilters, cookers-of-chowder, sportsmen, and singers-of-chanteys.

So, all this said, this weekend, there will be a gathering of people who love this place and who have loved it through generations.  They’ll be celebrating their livelihoods and traditions.  They’ll be eating good food, listening to good music, doing some Christmas shopping, and also doing the good work of keeping a little community alive.

Of course, you’re invited too.