Everything I Need To Know About Ocracoke I Learned On Howard Street

Slow down.

Speak to everyone, especially young people and dogs.

Eventually, someone will bring you a cake, a fish, shrimp, or deer. Stay hungry for life.

Walking through cemeteries can teach you how to talk to the living.

Living next to a graveyard helps you to stay in touch with your mortality by reminding you to live fully.

There are always forks in the road.

When you’re lost, someone will come along and tell you where you are.

You should ask a neighbor for help. Islands are isolated but people don’t have to be. Connect with the others around you.

A small light can brighten the darkest places.

Community has a distinctive sound. When all else fails, listen – someone will be singing or playing your way home.

Look out for golf carts and look both ways before you cross the street.

We are custodians of the island. We pass everything on to someone else.

Richard Bryant


Three Chickens and Two Dogs

We have three chickens and two black dogs. The chickens, in alphabetical order, are called Enelle, Mayzelle, and Vernelle. They are all hens and sisters. The dogs, self-appointed protectors of the chickens, are oblivious to social constructs and hierarchy of the English language. So we call them Ruby and Hurley.

While I cannot prove it, I believe the chickens talk to the dogs. I’m not sure the dogs respond or understand. This, however, does not keep the chickens for trying to speak. The chickens have a perpetual need to be recognized. As grandmother said, “An unheard chicken is akin to killing a dead mocking bird.” The dogs lived to listen, not to speak. Yet, if you asked them, they might tell you everything you needed to know. The trick is knowing how to pose the question.

Enelle was the youngest of the chicken sisters. She is in the 10th grade at the Hen House school down the street. Her older sister Mayzelle, by only two years, is also there and about to graduate. Because our farm is remote and their school was small, many of their classes were taught remotely. They watch computer screens displaying hens in faraway places, sitting on eggs, and learning eggonomotry.

Mayzelle’s eggspertise is taking her to Chicken U in the coming months. She won a scholarship from the Friends of Kentucky Chicken Children to attend a program for gifted chickens. This endowment enables her to have full nest and hay in a hen house on campus as well as pay her tuition.

Did I forget Vernelle? No, how could I miss Vernelle? She’s the only chicken within fourteen miles who has dyed her Rhode Island Red Blue. She’s a blue-haired chicken. You can’t miss her. Vernelle is home in the hen house and working at the Feed Shack. I don’t know what they put in the stuff but chickens from around the world keep coming back to peck in their yard.

Peck. Peck. Peck. I’ll have a mocha seed latte with milk.  To go.

Richard Lowell Bryant