Gig Line: If you were asked, what stories would you tell?

Published 9:16 am Saturday, July 2, 2022

If you were asked to give a speech to an auditorium full of people on any topic of your choice, what would it be about? What would you want others to hear from you?

Would your speech be about this incredible place – the Outer Banks – where we have roots, history, memories, a proud heritage and the privilege of living? Would it be about growing up here, much of the time barefooted, sporting sun-kissed cheeks and wild hair that nor’easters styled for you? Would it be about white “Wanchese slippers” and a fish net or crab pot laid up in the back of your dad’s old pickup? Or about the thick, caked-on mud that had splattered up from mud racing while in your 4-wheel drive? Would you talk about hunting in the East Lake woods, fishing on the banks of a canal or dock behind your house or from a charter boat in the seemingly endless deep blue Atlantic? Would you conjure up recollections of casting a net from your skiff or the incredible skill of “beach fishing” using a truck and a net in the ocean’s surf?

Would you talk about “back in the day” when you applied for the part of a colonist child for The Lost Colony outdoor drama at the north end of Roanoke Island, hoping to be cast? Or would you tell chilling stories around a campfire of spooky things you heard about growing up from relatives and friends – after all we are nearly on top of the Graveyard of the Atlantic! Would you find it worthy of mention or recall walking downtown as a kid with your “bestie” on Halloween night, bagging up the hoard of sweet stuff you gathered from house to house and once home, you sat down and sorted through the sticky papers and got down to the morsels of sweetness that drove you to wear that crazy costume – you know, the one that came home tattered, half of it left on the bushes and sidewalks in downtown Manteo?

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Would you share how we used to sit on mama and daddy’s front porch swing and talk about our hopes and dreams for the future? Was it feasible that you would go away to college if your parents could afford to send you? Or even if money were no issue, would you talk about your deep, abiding love for fishing, crabbing, shrimping and just living the salt life in our villages and towns? Would learning how to cull fish, mend a net and make a sea witch be of interest to your audience? Would your audience like to hear about the hearts of our watermen, what they go through to feed their families with all the fishing regulations and restrictions, not to mention weather challenges and rough seas? I bet they would.

What if you told stories about how walking on the beach after a nor’easter had blown through, finding beach glass, sand dollars and keepsakes of all kinds was a blast? If by now, you’d held your audience’s attention, is it possible you would brag about our dedicated law enforcement, firemen and EMT/paramedics who work tirelessly in the heat, through storms and all hours of the day and night to protect and save lives of our “home grown” and visitors alike? Would you remember to tell them how they are first-class professionals and how they’ll rarely see the heartache of our first responders when they investigate or deal with terrible vehicle accidents or house fires or when a cancer patient draws his/her last breath and moves on to Glory Land? Would you describe how they hold it together, especially when a child is their patient, and how our heroes stay the course to exert the best care, help and comfort they can for the suffering and mourn privately on their own time for lives that just couldn’t be saved?

Is there a chance you would describe the beauty we wake up to each day, the waters that surround us, the wildlife – everything from the wild horses to black bears and red wolves – and how about the egret and blue heron we see standing all prissy on the shoulders of Highway 12 or in the marshes at Pea Island? If your audience isn’t yawning by now or their heads aren’t resting on the shoulders of the people sitting next to them, would you tell them how spectacular the area’s marinas really are with their impressive fleets of charter boats encompassing a history of experience, hardship, notable catches and stories of rescue connect each marina and each boat, captain and crew to the other – they are a “brotherhood” of the best of the best and that, my friends, is a fact!

But if you had a speech to make, it wouldn’t be hard, not really, not when you consider all there is to tell that is good, happy and rich about where we live and what we do as Outer Bankers.

And what about the cream of the crop? Our veterans? What about all the Coasties who chose the U.S. Coast Guard as their military service branch or the U.S. Navy, since so many learned to navigate our waters growing up here. Gee, they’ve known their “rules of the road” on the water since they were little fellas, so it seemed only natural, but then consider all the men who were drafted into the U.S. Army and were called to serve in Vietnam? What about our U.S. Air Force who flew over enemy territory, also not sure they’d make it back home? And our awesome U.S. Marine Corps? What about all those who have served with the National Guard helping during hurricanes and overwashes/floods and all kinds of natural disasters? Our Space Force is new, but will no doubt do extraordinary things for our country too! All, I repeat, all our service men and women who have sacrificed for our country, our homeland, our towns and families and friends are due so much respect, honor, pride and love.

By this time during your speech, perhaps it re-energized everyone to stand to their feet in salute of our mighty veteran heroes, clapping, cheering and saluting the most beautiful icon of patriotism there is – our U.S. American flag standing over in the corner of the stage, sometimes shamelessly overlooked. Maybe, just maybe, everybody would break out in song – off key (like me) or not – with “God Bless America.”

And be sure to describe the landscape of our pretty old painted-white churches, red and brown brick churches and single-story houses of worship that resemble what might have initially been a home or a business but over the years converted to a church, like the empty souls that have converted to faithful believers in God Almighty – our Father in Heaven. Remind your audience that souls and no doubt lives, too, have been saved because men, women and children went inside and found a living God, who extended His hand of love and forgiveness; where one sinner met another and realized that none of us are better than the other. We’re all created as God made us and even when we fall short of our potential sometimes, “because He lives, we can face tomorrow” and on these Outer Banks, we’ll do it together.

Men and women throughout the extraordinary history of these Outer Banks have seen war, extreme hardships, storm after treacherous storm and we have survived. We have witnessed knock downs, but we stand right back up, wring out our soaking wet clothes and then we look next door to see if our neighbor is all right, if they’re okay, then we look across the street, up and down our road and we gather together in a strong, unified bond to help each other that is the absolute truth.

Until next week, be healthy, be safe, be happy and be kind. Pay goodness forward, take the time to smell the roses, hear the sea gulls call, inhale the fresh salty air and thank our good Lord you are alive. Keep your eye out for veterans to thank, shake their hand or give them a much-deserved hug and give from your heart the love God gives to each of us every day.

If you’d like to chat, please call me at 252-202-2058 or email me at giglineheroes@aol.com. And if you’re new to Gig Line, you can read a bunch of earlier writings at giglineheroes.com and thecoastlandtimes.com. In the meantime, I’ll be thinking about you and praying for you and your family. I love you! Stay tuned.

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