In the town of Oriental, large yachts and shrimp trawlers vie for space in the town harbor. During the warmer months, tourists who moor in Oriental, usually on their way to or from the Caribbean, wear bright waterproof coats around their waists and roam the town’s well-manicured streets. Many of Oriental’s residents are retired and came from out of state.
Today is the second Thursday in November, and the nights are cold. The tourists are mostly gone. It feels like the sun is setting too early. The leaves on the crepe myrtle trees have turned red.
At 5 p.m., Fay Bond, 98, steps down from the back porch of her house wearing a red windbreaker, yoga pants and bright pink lipstick. She grabs a plastic bag and a bin of table scraps from her shed and makes her way to the benches along the creek behind her house, as she does every evening, to feed the turtles.
“I counted 160 turtles when the tide was out one day,” she says, studying small bubbles popping in the murky water—evidence of reptilians below. “I don’t think they will come today. Too cold.”
Fay’s turtles are prehistoric-looking snapping turtles that can grow larger than a chicken. She says she has fed them for about 50 years. Her maiden name, Midyette, is well known in the county. Lou Midyette was the postmaster when Oriental was founded. His wife, Rebecca Midyette, named it after a ship that wrecked off the northern Outer Banks in 1862, the sailing steamer Oriental. Fay Bond, known for her local work on all things sports, charity and turtles, has been equally influential.
“Turtle, turtle, turtle,” she calls with a delicate Southern lilt, dropping green beans, celery and other slimy food scraps from the bin into the water. Many residents leave table scraps for the turtles at her house.
“Turtle, turtle, turtle,” she continues. “I see you down there.”
When the scraps are gone, she fills the bin with dog food. Two turtles float just below the surface, as if the air is too cold for them to peek their heads above water.
“Turtle, turtle, turtle.”
While the dog food floats away, Fay picks up her scrap bin and turns to go inside. She looks up past her house to where an old family cemetery lies between her yard and her neighbor’s.
“There are a few Midyettes in there, many children,” she says. The crooked tombstones date from 1885 to 1939.
On her way to her back door, Fay reaches to take her swimming suit down from the clothesline in her garden, where she hung it after teaching her daily water aerobics class at the Village Club Recreation Center. She invites me into her home to lend me a book, though she barely knows me. She finds it on a shelf in her living room, then sits on the couch and explains the importance of every book on her coffee table.
“Never know what you will find at Fay Bond’s house,” she says. She leafs through a tarpon tournament magazine, books about the water and the North Carolina coast and a hand-typed book of poems written by her late husband, John Bond, who passed 10 years ago.
She almost thumbs past an essay he wrote, one of many in a plastic binder. Then, she stops. “Love at first sight,” she reads. It is her husband’s account of the first time he saw her. She smiles.
“I wasn’t interested in that fool,” she says. At least not at first. He teased her by a harborside grocery store that is no longer there; that sparked an interest. He took her for a boat ride. They kissed. “Then, there was the war,” she says, referring to World War II. “He left for the Navy, and we did all of our courting by letters.” Before he finished his service, they were married.
The house is filled with notes of thanks, Bible verses and paintings of the water. There are photos of her family, her wedding photo, and a glamorous black-and-white of her mother, Irma Ross Midyette. Every memento conjures a memory or a person such that they are always fresh in her mind, without sadness. Feeding the turtles was something she always did with her husband.
The sun is down, and the house is dim. She is tired. It’s time for me to go.
“You never know what you’ll find at Fay Bond’s house,” she says again, by way of farewell.
If you have ideas for future bulletins, feel free to message or email me: downinthecountyPC@gmail.com