down the eastern coast of our country,
there, where the continent turns in on itself,
and the string of island beaches face south,
is one of the pearls on the barrier necklace,
It’s where my wife and I,
another pair of migrating Yankee Snow Birds,
keep a beach house just back from the dunes,
where wind, wave, storm and surf
have scoured and scraped the shoreline bare of sand,
leaving a hard packed, damp, low tide beach,
where the high tide surge washes up against
the violable, endangered dunes,
behind which we must wait for the receding sea
to grant us another few hours of
beach books, boogie boards and children’s frivolity.
The island needs the tourists and their winter dollars
so the town council put their heads together,
then hand in hand, marched inland to beg for their beach.
But the elected gentlemen of Raleigh
denied their desperate plea.
Defeated, they retreated
to stand on depleted dunes to watch the Atlantic’s assault
on what remained of their dreams.
one bright, young town official,
of the same ilk as
a Calhoon or a Lee
thought of three words which
brought the full weight
of the Federal Government
and the Army Corp of Engineers
onto the besieged island:
turtles; eggs; sand.
If no sand, no dunes.
If no dunes, no turtles.
If no turtles, no eggs.
No place for the wandering leatherback ladies to end
their laborious journey back onto their birth beach,
to shovel their fan legs into the sand to bury
and incubate their soft, white brood of offspring,
just a little part of Natures cyclical battle for self regeneration.
And Oh! How the Environmental Protection Agency
moves when it is motivated.
Onto the island came the Corps,
stretching three-foot wide pipes, football fields long,
from the yellow sand walls of the Intra costal Waterway,
under the canal, up over the narrow inlets and sloughs
where we fish, kayak and watch dolphin pods
chase bait fish schools among the channels,
from there across Beach Drive out onto low tide mud.
Then, flat bottomed scows and huge dredging pumps
sucked sand from the Intracoastals banks
and in a slurry stew of water, rock and sand,
blasted it onto the dunes,
met by huge tractors
shoveling the mix onto and over the beach,
pushing the shore line back into the ocean,
restoring our wintering grounds
and the turtles nesting places
and the towns bank account.
It was grand and expensive industry we witnessed
the migrating Northern species,
the towns board
and the turtles
were well pleased by the governmental largess.
there is a rage burning deep and bright in the
blood lines of the Confederacy which despises
governmental interference from anywhere, for anything.
And I was brought up short by it in the form a
gnarled, scruffy bearded denizen of the island
from generations back, long before the guns
blasted from Fort Fishers bastions.
I walked toward him as he stood,
rumpled like an old Live Oak,
staring down at this new incursion from the Washington,
so reminiscent of Lincoln’s
slaughter of States Rights
and the Gentlemen’s Club
during the late unplesantness.
In my enthusiasm for the good work being done
I exclaimed, in my New York Yankee accent,
“That’s some job they’re doing out there. isn’t it!!”
I waited for his reply.
I waited, staring at his stooped shoulders,
his straggled gray hair.
He turned on me.
I saw burning in his eyes.
I swear I smelled cordite and gunpowder,
heard minnie balls wiz past my ears,
the Rebel Yell echoing through the years.
And there, amidst all that Federal beneficence,
saving his island
and their finances
and Gods turtles,
flipped his thumb back at the stream of sand and mud
erupting from the cannon barrels along the beach.
his thick drawl slowing his reply.
“They wouldn’t do it for the People,
but they’d do it for the God damned turtles!”
He stomped past me, climbed into his pick-up,
drove off, angry sand
spitting in my face,
leaving me, just another
damn Blue Belly
standing on a beach that doesn’t,
“You know damn well it doesn’t”,
belong to him,
leaving another Union Army trying to
save the South