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A Courtyard For Crows


Those of you who either lived or vacationed on the Outer Banks may recognize this house or at least this type of house. This was a Flat Top, a popular local style designed by artist and developer Frank Stick, who created a simple design that could be made with local supplies. He knew that adding a house to the properties he owned for retail would add value and popularity, so be built several across Southern Shores. The design was duplicated across the island for years. This one, Dunn's Dune, is sadly no long with us, falling to the wrecking ball and replaced with the typical McBeachHouse that now dots the coast. Now, all these old homes had a history, and I'm sure there were several comfortable ghosts who were sad to become homeless when this was torn down.

Since I have been writing some more recently, I thought about these houses, and others, too. For good reason. There is another Flat Top, the Clark House, that had a rather unique resident. Robert Knowlton. Knowlton was a writer, mostly short stories, but he had friends who arranged for him to rent out the Clark Cottage for the summer to be able to write his novel, Court of Crows, a murder drama set in a fictional part of the Outer Banks, back in 1958. I've read the novel, a well put together tale of drama, not Hemingway, but a good read nonetheless. The title deals with local women who unfairly judge a woman accused of murder. It wasn't the story so much that made me think about this place, but more the sense of place, along with the sense of writing, creating, and the homes in which we exist.


The house here, also now gone to dust, was originally the boathouse for the old Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station. The Wright Brothers may have walked the floors of this place at one time.






And this house to the left, recently destroyed, was infamous for being The Haunted House. So much so that I never knew any other name for it. The house just always was there. It never looked like it was new, or repaired, but never seemed to fall into a worsening state, as if it was frozen in arrested decay.

These are just a few of the many houses I have seen in my life on the Outer Banks. I really had no idea that they would ever not be there. I would have taken more pictures if I had ever thought they would be gone. Some other houses exist only in my mind, with no evidence that they were there. I think of the wonderful Flat Top next to my family's old beach house, itself now long gone as well, and our neighbor having been plowed over, replaced with three story twin rental houses, which in turn were recently destroyed to build even bigger rental homes.

I think back to learning about Robert Knowlton, and how at the time, he had friends willing to help him write a novel, to find the money to support him, believe in him, even though he never wrote another, nor did he really make a serious mark on the world with his book. I'm not trying to belittle the guy, and it's a good book, but there are so many works out there. His was an accomplishment, a good book, just that it was one of many. Not that I'm in any place to judge. None of my friends are getting me a beach house for the summer.

Which I think brings me to my point. It isn't that there aren't friends around to support creativity, art, writing, but there seems to be almost no one who is altruistic, beautiful enough, to do this. Actually, to be fair, there are lots. They are the same people who want to rescue every cat from the animal shelter. But they are probably closer to having a need to be rescued rather than in in any position to be a benefactor. And I get that, too. I'm probably one of the cat people.

I'm helping to publish two books by other authors. It's a small but difficult and time consuming set of steps, all part of the bureaucracy of writing, the other side that no one knows about, the part that isn't the fun creative side, but has to be done. And I don't mind. I'm getting history down on paper in one, and another is a wonderful set of creative tales, short stories with great expression, clean, crisp writing. I'm happy to get a book out to people, whether to read the history or to read for entertainment, I just want people to read, as well as write.

I'm also working on, like most writers, about four other books, maybe more, they keep piling up. When I write books, after I'm done, I usually pick a need to make donations to from some sales of the books. Admittedly, thinking karma will help might be part of the reason, but it's also just the right thing to do. I have donated to a camp for people with autism, a group home for adults with specific needs, a weekend and holiday food program for people in need, among some others. Now, I'll admit, most of the profits go to my bank, which will go to my family, and very little actually reaches me as a reward. I have long expressed the desire to repair my family home, the one I grew up in, the one my father had built for us, my mom, my brothers, and me. And yes, I still want a pinball machine. But I'm thinking about others here. There's another house, a tiny one, in Kill Devil Hills. I'm going to mention it in my social media, hopefully to drive some people here to read this. It's just a little one room shack, one that people used to stay in. I even remember a little salt box of a house that sat out in front of my neighbor's home at the beach, where occasionally I would see young couples staying as they vacationed at my then quiet, empty beach.

Now, I know that in addition to all these big coastal beach houses, full of noise and ten families, miniature hotels in most ways, there are an abundant and growing number of shacks and sheds converted to quiet bedrooms for the occasional couple wanting to get away for a night from that big house and all the noise. But they still live day to day. I'd love to see something like that for a writer. Just an escape, a place to go for a few weeks, or a couple months, to write, to be free to do something, and free from all the other somethings. Because that's what we need. I'm wondering if I can dedicate a book to that, to the idea of building a home for creation, to empty out the other thoughts of life, to vacate the mind, a real vacation, re-creation time for an author. An open area, free to fly, like the Outer Banks are, and a place to perch. A courtyard for a crow to land and caw, to tell their story of where they were, and where they are going.

Again, the realities will creep in, because the likelihood of this ever coming to fruition is incredibly small. I admit that. Asking, begging, pleading for altruism does about as good as haystacks against a torpedo, but I feel like if I stop trying, I don't know, I'll just stop everything. I can't do this all out of greed.

So, with that, I must get back to work.

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