Some Ancient History - of Sorts

August 30, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I like this photograph.  No, it's not my favorite of all that I've shot, but there are two points to be made about it.

1) Compositionally, the eye is led across the picture from the shadows and cypress trees on the right, past the lighter, drooping boat house to the brightly-colored house and the bridge.

2) I can see past the image, to a time when the scene was different - the ancient history part.

This is the Perquimans River as it flows from the swamps further north past the little town of Hertford, North Carolina.  Beyond the bridge the river widens as it flows toward the Albemarle Sound.  There's much history hidden the area's past, including the deed forged between George Durant and the Tuscarora chief, Kilcocanan, and the Newbold-White House that hosted some of the earliest legislative meetings in the state.  One of our relatives lived in an 18th century home held together with wood pegs rather than nails.

We spent many an hour on this blackwater river, water skiing, swimming, fishing for bluegills, crappie, bass and white perch, duck hunting, etc.  Our grandparents lived along this shore, and we sat on their screened back porch and enjoyed the summer rains, whose sounds were amplified upon falling on the water and the nearby lily pads.  And the bull frogs were prone to form a chorus during those rains.  Singing in the rain, for sure.

Our grandfather's boathouse, which sheltered a Chris Craft inboard motor boat, and the pier leading to it are long gone.  The large, sagging boathouse once protected Dr. Davenport's yacht, a boat large enough that, as you might surmise, necessitated opening the bridge whenever he went for a cruise.  And he had to go through that bridge opening.  Going in the opposite direction would take him to a railroad bridge that could only accommodate small motor boats.


The bridge is S-shaped, the only one in the state.  It's old and slated for replacement.  Before four-lane highways and big trucks, the river was a "highway" for commercial goods and perhaps a little moonshine.  I remember tugboats pulling logs single-file up to the lumber mill, and a tanker, the Paul Dana, and a tugboat-pushed barge bringing fuel supplies to local distributers.  We fished for crappies among its fenders with our grandfather.  It was operated from a cupola-type structure above the bridge's road bed.  I "rode" it once with the operator, Leroy White, as a tugboat was pushing an oil barge through.  The day was windy, causing the barge to solidly bump the main support structure.  Not a good feeling!

The shoreline has changed and the town is typical of many rural ones - old, sleepy and hanging on for life.  Retirees have settled on individual plots or in communities along the river outside of Hertford because there's little space for the town's waterfront property to expand.  So for me the photograph is a cover story for times past.  It might be better than actually visiting.


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