Saturday, September 23, 2023

Twice-told tale

Up Front: September 2007

Twice-told tale

Maury Faggart drove some 1,300 miles, from Charlotte to Carteret County’s Down East extremity, then up and down the length of the Outer Banks twice, to take the photos that accompany this month’s cover story. Part of his trek was retracing Ed Martin’s trail reporting the piece, but when conditions weren’t right or the people Ed had talked to weren’t available, Maury had to double back to be there when they were.

For Maury, it was all in a week’s work. In the more than two decades he has freelanced for Business North Carolina, he has logged far more miles across the state than all of our staff members and other free-lancers combined. It’s not unusual for him to snap a picture in the mountains, then head straight for the coast to shoot another one. There can be few others who know firsthand what a big, beautiful place this is, which is probably one thing that has anchored the Concord native here. (By the time you’re reading this, he will be embarking on his annual trip to the Grand Canyon and other points Out West.)

You might say, when it comes to North Carolina and the changes our state is going through, he has seen it all. In fact, the story he illustrated this month harks back to one he photographed 20 years ago for our October 1987 issue — and, if the ending of Ed’s story holds true, might foreshadow one we write 20 years hence. I just pray these people and their heritage prove so resilient. But it was something that Maury witnessed — but could not capture in an image — that sticks in his mind this time.

It’s in Harkers Island, on Back Sound, that Maury sees him. The man won’t let his picture be taken, but there he sits astride a lawn mower, a burly guy in work clothes, probably in his mid-40s, though sun, wind and worry have etched an old man’s wrinkles on his face. He’s a captain, owner of a trawler that sits rusting in the harbor. “It isn’t economical to take it out,” Maury says. “You can feed your family with fish, but you can’t pay the electric bill with fish.”

He’s mowing a lawn around the waste-treatment plant of one of the subdivisions springing up in this fishing and boat-building town. “He’d rather do this than, even if he had the chance, go to some air-conditioned office at 9 o’clock in the morning. He’s mowing grass for a living, but he’s still self-employed.” Astride his mower, as everything around him shifts more than the stormiest sea, he’s still the master. But for how long?


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