Outdoors Column

I was up in eastern North Carolina

By Bill Howard | Jul 17, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

I grew up in Eastern North Carolina. In my very young days, we did not have daycares or early public schools. In fact, the way kids grew up then could be considered child endangerment now if the wrong people tried to push the issue.
My summers consisted of making rounds. My parents worked just a few hundred yards away from the house at my granddad’s manufacturing plant. During the morning I would walk down to the plant and visit with them at work as well as the other employees.
At some point just before lunchtime, I would make my way over to the Silver Lake Oyster Bar seafood restaurant which was directly beside Howard Enterprises. There I would talk with Buck and Mr. Dixon as I called them. While I was taught my manners and behaved very well, it just did not seem right to call both of them Mr. Dixon, so Buck gave me an out by having me call him Buck, and call his father Mr. Dixon.
After hanging out there I would go home for lunch with my parents and then head over to the Wilson County Wildlife Club. The activities grew exponentially there, whether it would be making hopscotch games in the sand, rummaging through the john boats looking for hooks, lures, corks, and split shot weights, or getting the line wet and trying for bream and crappie.
We did not have much of a neighborhood, and before I started school these were about the only people I knew besides cousins. You could say Silver Lake was my best friend.
While the lake has become more beautiful during the last four decades, time has not been kind overall. The Wildlife Club moved from one side of the lake to the other and eventually disappeared. The lake was drained and fish were moved in order to repair the dam that began showing the effects of age and hurricanes Fran and Floyd’s battering and flooding. All public access to the lake vanquished as well, with only lake front land owners keeping any access to the waters.
My grandfather had lake front land in which we even had a pier, but after his death, the land was sold.
As best as I can remember, the last time I fished the lake was between 25 and 30 years ago. I could not get the thoughts of how grand one last time on the lake would be.
Today’s world is much different than those years. With avenues such as Facebook, our connections are greater and easier to obtain. All it took was a single post on my Facebook timeline asking if anyone knew who I may contact to make that one last trip.
The summer sun was pounding with fury, but I was determined to make this visit. Instead of a john boat I would be taking my kayak for the paddle. I wanted to start fishing and touring near the dam area. As I approached that small corner of the lake memories washed over me. On the shore line to my right my friends and I would take wiffle ball bats  and pretend be playing in the All-Star game while swatting rocks out into the water. Bobby, Mark, Scott, Pat and myself, sometimes just two of us, sometimes more, hitting rock after rock into the water. We wore those plastic baseball hats; mine proudly emblazed with the NY of the Yankees.
Near the corner of the restaurant and the dam there stood a water fountain. We would hook a minnow that we caught with a net near the Wildlife Club’s boat ramp and bring in crappies, or fish with crickets or worms and reel in shellcraker.
At the base of the dam, where the foundation of the restaurant met the churning waters below was the prime spot for catching huge robins. It was all in the cast. With experience, we learned to bounce the cork off the side of the restaurant and have it land where the rushing water only made the bait seem more alive enticing fish after fish to strike with a vengeance.
While these memories took me back to a long forgotten time, the day had just begun.

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