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'I'm just a crazy, old hardhead,' says survivor

Ray Wilkinson considers himself to be the only one "stupid enough" to stay behind when Hurricane Ike  hit Surfside Beach, Texas.

Ray Wilkinson doesn't consider himself a hero for being the only Surfside Beach resident to ride out Hurricane Ike in his home.

Rather, the 67-year-old Marine Corps veteran considers himself to be the only one "stupid enough" to stay behind.

"I'm just a crazy, old hardhead," said Wilkinson, while sitting on the front porch of his Fort Velasco Boulevard apartment today. "I didn't say I had all my marbles."

The 30-year Surfside Beach resident said he watched the frenzy of Ike's arrival from the front porch of his upstairs apartment, which faces away from the beach.

"I just saw all kinds of goodies floating away, like my refrigerator downstairs," he said. "I watched automobiles floating by," like a Volvo that traveled for several blocks before ending up in a ditch.

Across the community, more than 90 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed as the storm pushed through.

On one home's screened, second-story deck that faced the water, a half-dozen potted plants seemed to have hardly lost a leaf. Just two blocks away, homes were ripped off their wooden pilings and crushed together. Still others were washed out to sea. A few were nearly obliterated and left in ruins on the shore.

Streets and yards remained partially under water this morning, and were littered with debris, from toilets and bicycles to paintings and children's toys.

A handful of cars were also submerged, including two that residents had to abandon after waters got to high to drive them out.

A curfew was in place and residents will not be allowed back in until at least Sunday, and only then after checking in and out with police. The beach town is without water and electricity.

It may take a few days longer before they can come in, said Mayor Larry Davison.

Davison had appealed to Wilkinson and a handful of other holdouts to get out of this town as storm surges hours before Ike's arrival. He reported that as many as 40 homes were completely destroyed and 50 or more had heavy damage. A formal assessment is in the works.

Wilkinson said that he felt his home shaking badly in the fierce winds as he sat there drinking beer, but the gusts were so loud he couldn't hear much else. "It was too much noise from the wind," he said.

He was never scared, just entertained. He did not pray for help.

"I figure I put me in this position and God couldn't get me out," he said.

Though he came through unscathed, Wilkinson didn't think others should follow his example.

"I don't advise it unless you're nuts," he said.

Wilkinson said he always evacuated in the past, a task that became cumbersome over the years.

"I ran from Beulah, and it was the biggest mistake I ever made," he said, referring to the infamous storm of the late 1960s. "I'm tired of running from these damn things. If it's going to get you, it's going to get you."

The disabled carpenter, who survived colon cancer 30 years ago, had planned to leave the island with his next-door neighbor Friday because he has no car.

But when his neighbor left and couldn't return, Wilkinson dug in his heels to stay.

Police officers made a last-minute visit, trying to change his mind after the island's electrical power had been shut off, but Wilkinson turned them away.

"They parked right out in the middle of the road and asked me if I was ready to go. I said, 'no,' " he said.

Wilkinson, who served in the military from 1968 to 1974 and still wears a Marine Corps ring on his bandanna around his neck, expects he'll live out his years in Surfside Beach. "I love it," he said.