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By Pat Garber
One of the first things I remember from my early years at Ocracoke was the presence of joebells, lovely red and yellow flowers that grew wild on the island. I loved the story folks here told about a love-sick, heartbroken man named Joe Bell who lived at Ocracoke in the early part of the 20th century. The legend said that he had brought the seeds to the island and scattered them in his yard and across the village in honor of his love, hoping to win her back. Sadly, she did not return to her lover, but the flowers flourished and spread. They still grow here.
After I bought my home Marsh Haven in 1995, I knew that I wanted to grow joebells in my yard. I had since learned that they are actually a strain of Gaillardia, known in other parts of the country as Indian blanket flower. I have since planted joebells in my gardens numerous times, either transplanting flowers that I found elsewhere or sowing Gaillardia seeds. I have never had any success, so I finally gave up.
After Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on my house and destroyed my yard and gardens, including flowers and shrubs that I had planted just the spring before, I vowed never to try to garden here again. Several friends offered to share some of their plants, but I shook my head adamantly.
Months passed as I tried to find ways to get my house repaired, but I did nothing in my yard. Then one day last week, my house still in ruins, I went into my backyard to find a piece of wood.
I stopped abruptly. I stared in shock and amazement. There, blooming luxuriantly between my house and my fence, grew a whole array of joebells–an extravaganza of brilliant red and yellow. Hurricane Dorian had planted joebells for me, a token of apology, perhaps for all the damage. Maybe even a token of love.