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Memories in clay ~ An interview with Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning

Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning with clay Coast Guardsman statue she created.

Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning, grew up in a small island village known as Hatteras. She has fond memories of a childhood spent fishing and exploring what she considers today, a place that belongs to it’s people. The stories I heard today, she has passed down to her children and they to theirs. But her stories have not solely confined themselves to spoken words. No…glimpses of them are present in the years she spent as a romance writer. Her novels are mainly based on places she has been and the place she calls home. And then…there is her art.

One can tell by studying her water color paintings that she truly cherishes the marshes and beaches that make up the Hatteras landscape. The various shades of blues, greens, and browns lead one down winding paths to scenes that can only be painted by someone who has studied their characteristics and kept each detail, consciously or subconsciously, in that special corner of their mind that only harbors the memories that are solely meant for safe keeping.

This past year Ms. Dixie’s daughter, Elizabeth “Liz” B. Fox, donated to our society, another type of artwork her mother created sometime in the 60’s. The painted clay bust is that of a Coast Guardsman. Liz believes that it’s eyes and ears are reminiscent of her Father’s, Leonard L. Browning Jr. But after Ms.Dixie gave a quick side view glance of her profile, I can definitely state that yes…the statue does have a Burrus nose.

I asked Ms. Dixie what inspired her to create the piece. The answer was quick. She didn’t know. At that time she had been doing a lot of painting and teaching art and it was quite a bit later that she sought out making a living from her talent as a writer. She never examines why she writes or paints. “The inspiration is just there and it just bubbles to the surface”, was her only explanation. It was the only one I needed.

We went on to discuss the Coast Guardsman’s hat, which is real by the way. She had painted it with metallic paint and gave it a tilt as she placed it on his head. Memories of where she bought her paints and what she made them out of came back to her. As a child she would buy them from Sears. But she also found natural sources as well. Moss and poke berries were often used and she would have used Mercurochrome, if she’d of had it.

Our visit lasted about an hour. It is always a pleasure to sit and listen to the stories told of how things were on the island by those who were born many years before my time. Ms. Dixie is one of our most fascinating treasures and I am very fortunate to be able to call her my “kin”. The history of this place fascinates her as it does most of us. She feels an undeniable connection to this place and it’s people. Just ask any butterfly that crosses your path (wink).

Thank you again, Ms. Dixie. Perhaps we’ll visit and chat again real soon.

Ms. Dixie’s original artwork and prints may be purchased at Indian Town Gallery in Frisco, NC.

Dawn F. Taylor

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From Hatteras to Ocracoke…

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum ~ Ocracoke Island, NC

There is a connection between Islanders of Hatteras and Ocracoke. No, I don’t mean the ferry that carries tourist across the inlet by the masses. Course, I do love that ride in the Fall of the year…once things have slowed down and it seems that the “island time” clock has been reset to normal.

The connection I am speaking of is one of blood. One of generations of islanders, whose ancestors left Hatteras to go live on Ocracoke, or vise versa. It’s surnames like Oneal, Fulcher, and Burrus, that can be found in census and birth, marriage, and death certificates, that prove our people…our history…are one.

This past Thursday, two friends and I decided it was time to head to Ocracoke, mainly to enjoy the day and soak up some Ocracoke vibes. Course the day was hot and humid. It was August, after all. But we still enjoyed meeting up with friends, making new ones, and visiting historical sites, as I searched for hints of the ancestral past of those who left Hatteras, a long time ago.

Phillip Howard and Dawn Taylor

Our first stop was at the Village Craftsman, which is owned and operated by Phillip Howard. Phillip is also a published author and local historian who takes villagers and visitors alike, on walking tours of the island. Check out his store’s website and internet journal for more info…

http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/index.htm

While at the Village Craftsman, Amy, Lesley, and myself, spotted a cemetery across the sand road from the store. Course I couldn’t resist and headed straight for it.

Howard Cemetery

Now any of you that know me, know that the first question I usually ask even before we leave the house is, “Where are we going to eat ?” Due to a friend’s recommendation, we took our chances on eating at the Flying Melon. Loved it. Especially the roosters ;p

The Flying Melon

After a lunch of Creole Shrimp and grits, we headed on over to the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s Museum. Had the pleasure of meeting DeAnna Locke, who is the OPS Administrator. What a wonderful job they have done with preserving the David Williams House. In 1989, it became their home office after they moved it from just north of the Anchorage Inn, to it’s present location.

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

For information on the Ocracoke Preservation Society and visiting their Museum, please follow the link below.

http://www.ocracokepreservation.org/

In all, it was a wonderful day spent on the island. For anyone that happens upon our blog and would like to share their Hatteras/Ocracoke family info, please check our group’s Facebook page out, or email HIGPS at the following address:hatgensoc@yahoo.com

Hope you enjoyed the journey.

Dawn F. Taylor

 

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