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North Carolina's Ocracoke island has produced a remarkably cohesive community of islanders. For more than two centuries, these Ocracokers lived in relative isolation, enjoying the beauty and battling the destructive forces of the Atlantic. In the past two decades, tourists discovered this "unique fishing village by the sea," and the tiny island was forever altered. Alarmed at the dramatic changes in the island's character over the past generation, Alton Ballance set out to capture the story of Ocracoke and its people from the unique perspective of a native.
Ballance accompanies the people of Ocracoke on their everyday activities--fishing, hunting, boating--all the time recording their stories about events and people that have shaped the island's history. They have lived through hurricanes, and they remember their ancestors talking of the shipwrecks and daring rescues that occurred off the treacherous coast. During the many years when no doctor resided on the island, Ocracokers delivered each other's babies and attended to their own illnesses, sometimes with local cures.
When Ballance was growing up on Ocracoke in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of year-round residents hovered around 500. Now Ocracoke is a major tourist attraction visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. As tourism has flourished, the island has become less isolated, and Ballance discusses the consequences of this development for both islander and visitor. The modernization that accompanies tourism has provided many benefits for the island, among them better health care and schooling and more jobs. Nonetheless, the Ocracoke of old is rapidly disappearing. This book is a tribute to that Ocracoke and her people.