Silver Lake is still home

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On Oct. 8, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made its way through North Carolina. In total, the storm was responsible for 46 deaths in the United States, 26 of which were in North Carolina and four in South Carolina.

A total of $1.5 billion in property damage was attributed to Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina alone, giving North Carolina its second 500-year flood in 20 years.

There are many things that were forever lost, or possibly forever lost. One was the breaching of the dam at Silver Lake. The lake remains a muddy bed now with a small stream meandering through the now-cracking layers of sediment on its way to Lake Wilson and Toisnot Reservoir.

The lake was also what I will always consider home. While I haven’t lived there since I was in my early 20s, it remains special. The lake was a big part of my life.

Before there were daycares, I was practically raised beside the lake at the Wildlife Club. My parents worked for my grandfather, whose business was located beside the lake, roughly 300 yards from our home.

I didn’t catch my first fish there, as we had a pond that may as well have been part of the lake. During heavy rains, the pond would overflow to the lake anyway. But I did catch more than my fair share of fish there.

When my youngest son was six years old, I carried him to the lake to catch his first fish. My wife and I hyped the trip up for a week to the point he was about to burst that morning with excitement. He caught his first. He caught his second. In fact, he caught a lot of fish. And he was genuinely happy.

When I was the age of his first catch, actually even younger, I would often visit the restaurant during the early afternoon and talk to the owners. Buck Dixon would always ask me what day it was, and I would always respond with “it’s my birthday.” He would tell me to go to the back and grab a Sun Drop and a Marathon bar, which I would quickly do.

We do not always get snow during the winter in eastern North Carolina, but occasionally it would get cold enough to ice over the lake. One particular time, my friends and I ventured out onto the ice back in the swamp part, and as the ice began to crack, we froze more solid than the ice we were attempting to cross. Fortunately, we all made it back to shore, but we did learn a lesson.

Another ice over sent our dog out onto the ice chasing ice chips. A friend and I were skipping across the frozen top. One hundred yards out, and he fell through. My dad then lumbered through the ice, breaking it with his forearms to clear a path for the dog to swim back to shore.

My college roommate, who was one of my two best friends in high school, had ties to the land as well. His parents lived there when prior to my granddad purchasing the land.

Everything about the lake spelled out the words to my early life. And these were just my memories.

The lake may now be dry, but it will always be home.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.