National Geographic : 1962 Feb
lush seafood-carrying era as the Mullet Line. I remember Southport for a young man who was dressed - and I'm not exaggerating - in peppermint-striped undershorts and a .45 automatic with live ammunition slung from his belt. He came ashore with some other men in a small green boat, and they marched past our oceanfront cafe. "Survival unit," the Army lieutenant in command said cryptically. Later we learned that trainees are dropped on Cape Fear sands to live on oysters, mussels, and whatever their ingenuity turns up. I can't help thinking that our trainee in the peppermint shorts survived very well. Our last coastal stop was Wilmington, the Tar Heel State's largest port. Since earliest times, the stretch of the Cape Fear River where shallow-draft plantation boats met deepwater vessels was the logical place for a seaport. Wilmington it became (page 151). The tar, pitch, and turpentine of the 1700's have given way to seed potatoes and tobacco leaf, bound for Pakistan or Hamburg, Ger many. Heavy gantry cranes tower above the docks. They lift unprocessed New Zealand sheepskins, which a North Carolina firm proc esses and reships as chamois. They lower away 450-pound bales of a dried wild coastal plant called deer tongue, destined for the fla voring in European cigarettes. But Wilmington has more than commerce.