Diamond City, NC Community Leaders

The Day Old Ma Left the Banks

David Murrill

Written in 1960 for Mrs. Rosalie Dowty's English class.

At dawn the day was bright and clear. It was on a Monday in April in the year 1890. And, if everything went well, it was also moving day for Ma and her brood of four little girls and baby boy. They were going to the mainland across the big sound.

Old Ma arose earlier than usual this particular day because she had a thousand and one things to do. As was her custom she went to the door, opened it, and scanned the skies and water. Had it not been so calm and peaceful, she would rather wait. Sudden clouds and squalls could make the sound mighty rough and, in a small sharpie, awfully dangerous ... So she decided this was the day.

"Uncle" Kib (her brother-in-law) would soon come in his sailboat after her and the children and their meager belongings. He was moving his family that day and had offered her this opportunity to go live with them in their new home. She had recently lost her husband, and there was no way to make a living here on the Banks. He had been a follower of the sea and had died while serving in the Life Saving Station at Cape Lookout. Since his death she had earned enough to buy food and a few other necessities by knitting fish nets, helping to mend nets, and curing yaupon for tea.

There were many thoughts going through her mind as Old Ma turned towards the part of the house where she cooked their meals in the fireplace. Slowly she walked over by the hearth, gathered a few sticks of wood that were nearby, and started a fire. She put fresh coffee in the coffee pot and hung it over the fire to boil She put the iron spider quite close to the fire and placed dough she had made the night before in it to bake. "Now," she thought, "I'll go call the young'uns and by the time they have their clothes on, breakfast will be almost ready." Just as she was going to get the children up, a loud jolly voice called through the doorway, "Julia, honey, are you about ready?" It was Uncle Kib, and he had come in time to eat breakfast with them.

Hurriedly, she managed to help the smaller children with their clothes while the larger girls helped each other and soon came running to the kitchen to see their dear old Uncle. Making himself useful, he watched the bread, turned it over, and smelled the coffee to see it had brewed enough. The girls set the table, and when all of them sat down for the meal, Old Ma came in with the young baby and took her place at the head of the table.

This was the last meal they would have in this small home they loved so well, and because she could hardly speak, with sadness she asked Uncle Kib to ask God's blessings on all of them, the few things they possessed, and to ask that they would have a good life in their new home.

Soon afterwards, several women who lived nearby came in to help get the moving underway. They packed the dishes, pots, and pans in tubs. They folded all the bed quilts, sheets, and pillow cases and tied them together with a piece of rope. Uncle Kib took the beds apart and stood them outside the door so the women could take them down to the shore. Soon everybody had something under their arms and went down the path where the sharpie was waiting. It wasn't long before all the household items and personal belongings were secured in the boat. Most of the children were eager to get started and began calling, "Come on, come on."

However, Old Ma was not very anxious to hurry away from the home and people she loved so well. Her heart was heavy as she called Uncle Kib to one side and whispered something in his ear. He took her by the hand, and they walked slowly towards the old family cemetery where both of them had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and where old Ma's husband was buried. For awhile they stood silent -- just looking at the graves. I think they must have wept.

The children's calling and yelling aroused them from their thoughts, and so they began walking towards Uncle Kib's boat; a long trip on the water -- a new beginning for all of them, and nobody looked back at the place they had left and loved.

Reprinted from “The Mailboat,” Vol 2 No. 4

From "Our Shared Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August 1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the story of the Banks communities.
Copyright 1995, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
All rights reserved.

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