View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR
View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Busman's Holiday

(Saturday, February February 6, 2016)

I used one of my off days from volunteering at Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges to volunteer at an Oyster Feast put on by The North Carolina Coastal Federation.  My friend, John Thomas, first invited me to come down  to Hatteras and eat all the oysters I could hold for only $15.00, then mentioned I could even do it for free by volunteering to help out.  After I also negotiated that he would pick me up and drive me down, I went over the the Manteo office of the Federation and signed up.  I told the lady, I'd be happy to do anything, but would particularly like to do whatever John was doing.  She said we would probably be washing the oysters and to bring my boots.


Their banner was already up when we arrived

I packed up my boots, camera, water, and a snack and got in my morning walk before John picked me up near the Bodie Lighthouse.  I found that two more of John's friends had hitched rides to come help. We enjoyed about an hour of conversation on the way down Highway 12 to Hatteras.

When we got there, about eleven o'clock, people were just starting to figure out what needed to be done to be ready for the feast to start at two o'clock. People were unloading items needed for the party, including, tables, drinks, and ice.  I stood around a lot, because there were no oysters yet, then helped ice down drinks. This seemed to be a little excessive, since the day was going to be mostly cloudy with temperatures in the forties.


Decorating the table where the tickets would be collected and bracelets given to the participants


Bill, another of John's friends, waiting for a job


Fellow workers meeting up

I stood around some more,  then noticed some loons in the marina and went back to enjoy the birds. Then all of John's group were assigned the job of hauling oysters shells off after they lost their oysters. The Federation had made some very interesting shell collectors that consisted of big PVC pipes, about thirty inches long and eight inches across with holes  drilled in one end to add rope handles.  We stretched tubes of nylon netting that were tied at one end over them, with the tied end at the bottom.  When the pipes were full of shells, we just pulled them out of the netting and replaced it. Then we tied a knot into the top of the shell-filled tube and hauled it off to the waiting trailers.  John was one of two people who brought trailers so, after we finished cleaning up, he pulled it back to the headquarters and unloaded all his load to be stored until this summer when they will become part of a new oyster reef.


Finally decided these were both common loons


A volunteer sets out cups of lemons  - an oyster shell collector is beside her

As soon as the oyster soup was hot, I grabbed a cup to keep me fed and warm over the next few hours. Then it was time to monitor the many shell collectors and keep the shells moving to the trailers. We had a band that made eating, waiting, and working all more enjoyable.  And I had time to snatch some pictures.

People turning their tickets for bracelets


This group played for about three hours straight without a break


The drink and dessert table


I was able to climb some stairs to get pictures of the early crowd and the drink/dessert
and soup/cornbread tables


The drink and dessert dispensers


The crowd got bigger and tighter as they waited for the appearance of the stars of the show


Oyster shucking time

Not sure, but this woman might have gotten so excited over finding a little crab in with the oyster. These were considered great delicacies by some of the diners.  


This was serious business - the biggest affectionados brought their own oyster knifes


At our peak, we had more people waiting to eat oysters then we had oysters ready, but as the numbers started to die down, the volunteers had time to grab some oysters for themselves. Near the end of the day we still had ten bushels of oysters and when everyone was full, there were still about five bushels left. All the volunteers that wanted them got to take home oysters. John filled up two bins of oysters, then gave me a big pot full when I got home. I think I had about six dozen.  I had them for a late supper, then for breakfast, midmorning snack and afternoon snack before they were finally gone. John planned to shuck all of his and then make an oyster stew with them.



Bill doing his job


And me doing mine - after first putting new nylon tubes over the PVC pipes


This was a little less than half the ultimate oysters- and 5 or 6 bushels went home with volunteers


After the people were mostly gone, I helped clear the tables, wash them and haul them to the trailers for their trip back to Manteo.  I also gathered up the PVC tubes as soon as they were no longer needed.

It was a fun day, even though we had high winds, cool air, and clouds.

As I was writing this up, I received a message from the Nature Conservancy with this picture that helps explain the important work oyster reefs do in the ocean.  So this summer those oyster shells will go back to helping to produce fish and seafood.