Return to Slim’s

Where old tales warm beside the stove

By Tom Bryant

A frosty, late season cold front pushed us out of the rockers and off the side porch of Slim’s old country store and inside to the pot-bellied stove. “Hey, Leroy, put some more coal in this thing,” Bubba said, pointing to the stove. “The folks at the Weather Channel might say that spring is on the way, but they ain’t been sitting out there in the cold.”

A group of us, mostly old-timers, were visiting our ancient rendezvous spot to catch up with one another and remember the good old days. Bubba put the reunion together and was holding forth with stories about those days long gone when we were all a lot younger and a lot more, as Bubba put it, “interesting.” He owned the store named simply Slim’s Place after Slim, the former owner, passed away and the country store sat forlorn and sad on the side of the road. Bubba said he bought the place to give ne’r-do-wells and reprobates a place to go. He hired Leroy, Slim’s cousin, to manage the business, and he showed up whenever he happened to be in the area.

Bubba and I go way back. In our younger years, we had adventures all over the country. From hunting mule deer in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah to goose hunting on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to duck hunting at Lake Mattamuskeet here in North Carolina. Our adventures were only curbed by time and homestead responsibilities. As Bubba likes to say, “Bryant, you ought to write a book.” And I did.

The old stove began to glow red with the addition of more coal, and the group pushed chairs away in unison and got comfortable.

“Coot, do you remember that time on the Falls of the Neuse when we were duck hunting the West Bank of the lake before they filled it?” Bubba had bestowed the nickname Coot on me years before and, like a bad habit, it hung on.

“We hunted that lake a bunch before they closed the dam. Which time are you thinking?”

“The time Paddle was swimming for all she was worth after a wounded duck you shot, and you were running along the bank, trying to get an angle for the coup de grâce and you stepped off in that hidden creek and floated your hat.” The group broke out in laughter.

“Yeah, I do recall that day. And to add insult to injury, the game wardens, who just happened to be hiding behind some brush out in the middle of the lake, motored up laughing, wanting to know if I was all right.”

“Well, you were fine, and you did finally shoot that duck, or Paddle would have chased it to the coast.”

“I had to empty the water out of my gun before I could shoot, and it was a lucky shot. That mallard was almost out of range.” The gang broke out in chuckles again.”

“That was some dog,” H.B. Johnson added. H.B. was a quiet type, not open to much conversation, but he always seemed to be there taking it all in. “Somebody once said, maybe Bubba, there was a time or two when you had a couple of beers after a dove shoot that Paddle would drive you home in that old Bronco of yours.”

“She was smart, H.B.,” I replied above the laughter. “But I wouldn’t let her drive. She didn’t have her license, and I didn’t want to get in trouble with the law.”

The conversation moved on to more famous stories from the past, some true, but most embellished with just a breath of what actually happened.

Shadows were lengthening across the gravel parking lot of the old place, and all too soon, the reunion of the old group broke up as, one by one, folks said their goodbyes and headed home. I was the last to leave, along with Bubba.

“Coot,” he said as we were standing on the porch, “we’ve got to get together more often. Now that you’re famous with that book coming out and all, I hardly get to see you.”

“You know that’s not right,” I replied. “You’re always off in some exotic port fishing, like down in Costa Rica, or hunting sharp tails out in Montana. Bubba, you’re hardly ever home.” He laughed, and we shook hands promising to get together again before long.

On the drive home, I thought about the old guys and their dogs and our many experiences together, good friends all, including the furry ones.

The Paddle stories brought back a memory of the day she came to live with us. Jim and I picked her up at the Raleigh Airport. She had come from a kennel in Pennsylvania and was only 9 weeks old. On the way home, she rode in my lap, yawning and dozing while Jim drove, and as we pulled into the city limits, Jim said, “We need to take her by Coleman’s so Dicky can see her.”

Dick Coleman was a good friend who died too soon. His name and stories of his adventures came up several times during our gatherings at Slim’s. In our early years, he owned a men’s specialty store that was famous across that part of the state.

When we barged in with Paddle, all work stopped. Several customers were in the process of buying, and most of them came over to look at the new puppy with Coleman leading the group. We put her down on the floor and she started darting from customer to customer.

“OK, Bryant,” Dick said. “Let’s see if this little thing knows how to retrieve. He went in the back of the store and came out with a small canvas dummy used to train young retrievers.

“I used this when I was working Honcho. See if she knows what it’s all about.” Dick’s black Lab, Honcho, was famous in our group as a dog just right for Coleman — wild and headstrong, but a great friend and hunter. The dog fit.

Dick handed me the dummy and I knelt down, holding Paddle in my arms. Everyone got behind me to be out of the way.

“Here you go, girl.” I showed her the dummy, and she was instantly alert. When I tossed it 10 or 15 feet down the aisle, she leaped from my arms, tore across the room, and did a flip as she dove on it and grabbed it in her little mouth. She paused, looked back, then regally trotted back to me. The audience, Dick’s customers, laughed and applauded.

Coleman exclaimed, “Tom, this dog was born to do this!”

As usual, when it pertained to working dogs and most anything involving hunting and fishing, he was exactly right.  PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.

Birthday Battles

Hiding behind a piece of cake

By Renee Phile

Most of my life I have struggled with social events, but birthday parties are the worst. I admire people who can go to them, smile politely and enjoy themselves, which must include just about everyone. But me? My heart falls when one of my boys brings home a birthday party invitation accompanied with eager pleas of, “Can we go?” Sometimes, I’d try to hide it in the junk mail pile and hope they would forget about it.  No chance. I got the occasional reprieve if I could claim a work conflict but, most of the time, there was no excuse other than anxious-mom-who-thinks-talking-to-new-people-is-the-scariest-thing-ever.  So I went. Most of the time I’d try to hide in a corner, a bathroom or even my car, usually behind a piece of cake. Anytime someone talked to me, my sorry attempts at conversation would be something along the lines of, “I like bread. Bread is good.”

It was the best I could do.

I’ve been working on this, and have gotten better, although most birthday parties are still handled strategically with a plan and an escape route.

A few summers ago I was at a birthday party that I couldn’t avoid. Kevin had gotten the invitation three weeks prior and marked the birthday party on his calendar with a drawing of a big blue cake. Every day, usually multiple times a day, he would remind me of this event and that we should start preparing. If anyone mentioned doing anything else anytime near the party, Kevin would immediately shoot down the idea. “We can’t because we have a birthday party that day,” he’d say. I tried to keep my feelings on the back burner since 1) I was getting better; 2) Kevin was obsessed; 3) the whole family was invited; and 4) the party was within walking distance. The perfect storm.

So, that particular morning around 8 a.m. Kevin started reminding us about the 1 o’clock party. The reminding continued like a cuckoo clock. The presents were wrapped. The card was signed. We were ready. It was 1:04 p.m. We were still at the house. Kevin said with a bit of hysteria, “I feel like you all are acting like the party hasn’t already started!”  

So much for fashionably late.

We walked there. Water games, a bouncy house, a Slip ‘N Slide. Kids with drippy green and blue popsicles were scattered around the yard.  I told myself I did not have to stay, but I chose to. A few minutes in, I thought to myself, “This party will go down in the books as the first one I didn’t have to hide somewhere.”

The birthday fun was exploding through the yard.  Older brother David was standing beside me, and a dad and his kid arrived.  The kid, who I will call Jake, was a friend of Kevin’s at school. So, Jake and his dad walked up to David and me. Jake’s dad introduced himself as Jake’s dad and stuck out his hand. I froze. A few seconds passed and I finally said, “I’m Kevin’s dad.” He looked at me, but just nodded. “Nice to meet you,” he said. 

When Jake’s dad walked away, I realized what I had said. I turned to David. “Did I just introduce myself as Kevin’s dad?”

David laughed and said no, that he is pretty sure I hadn’t, because that would be funny and he would have remembered that, but he admitted he wasn’t really paying attention.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, about 75 percent sure.”

Great. I had a 1-in-4 chance of being a moron.

Maybe Jake’s dad didn’t notice. Of course, he did. He looked at you weird. David said you didn’t say “dad.” No, he said he wasn’t sure. You’re an idiot. You can’t even survive a child’s birthday party. Most people aren’t like this.

The birthday revelry continued. I watched the kids play, and ate some cake with fondant icing that tasted like plastic. I rebounded enough to have a semi-normal conversation with someone  that wasn’t about liking bread.

To make matters worse, David was invited to a birthday party that evening. Two birthday parties in one day. At the time David was 12, so my attendance was not required. Fine with me. As I was driving him to his friend’s house, he said, “Mom?” 


“The more I think about it, the more I think you did say ‘dad.’ In fact, I know you did, but I said you didn’t because I didn’t want you to worry about it.”

Mom got a present that day, too. PS

Renee Phile loves being a mom, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

“Ask Garden Guru”

Advice stinks — but only when unsolicited

By Jim Dodson

Spring is here. Garden Guru will now take your important gardening questions.

Dear Garden Guru,

I’m new to gardening this year and eager to learn all I can in a hurry. What would you suggest as a starting point? A bit worryingly, I hear hobby gardening can be kind of expensive. Is that true?


A Frugal Beginner from Biscoe

Dear Frugal,

Like keeping a mistress or owning a vintage British sports car, gardening is not for the faint of heart or weak of wallet. The proper handcrafted English tools, the glamorous plant seminars, the costly trips abroad simply to study the Great Gardens of the World — well, it all adds up so quickly. Pretty soon you’ll be dropping the mortgage money on rare fruit trees at the garden center, hopelessly addicted to spring catalogs (a somewhat philistine friend refers to these as “porn for gardeners”) or blowing through the kids’ college fund to turn your backyard into a Southern Gardens of Versailles. GG suggests you start small to determine if your interest is genuine or just a passing fancy, maybe with an inoffensive African violet in your kitchen window?

Dear Garden Guru,

A few years ago, following a dream golf vacation to New Zealand, my hubby Ralph and I met an intriguing couple, who shared their love of golf and gardening. Ralph fell hard for the concept of “natural gardening” they practiced and, in a nutshell, has taken it up with gusto. The guiding tenet of the NG movement, as I understand it, is for proponents to become “one with nature.” In his effort to get “closer to the source,” as Ralph puts it, he has quit playing golf with his buddies, refers to himself as “The Green Man,” and has taken to gardening fully in the nude save for a ratty old golf cap he wears on rainy days. We’re both grandparents in our mid 60s and happen to reside in a classy, gated golf community where everyone is beginning to avoid us at parties. This is so embarrassing. My golf handicap is in tatters. Any suggestions?


Worried (and still fully clothed) Wilma in Wilmington

Dear Worried Wilma,

Ralph’s unnatural attraction to the natural world simply reflects the addictive dangers of gardening. Clearly he’s gone “native” on you. Have you considered divorcing him and marrying one of his golf buddies? It could make dinner at the club so much nicer.

Dear Garden Guru,

My wife Brenda is an award-winning flower gardener. I’m a serious vegetable grower who has won numerous ribbons at our county fair. Every March we have the same argument over space allocation in the raised beds of our rather smallish condominium terrace. Her zinnias are always encroaching on my heirloom snap beans, and don’t get me started on the times she’s heartlessly flattened my tender artisan squash plants trying to prune her Sugar Moon hybrid teas. A reproachful war of silence has developed between us. We rarely speak between my first decent tomato crop and her final lace cap hydrangea bloom in late summer. Is this any way to grow a garden or keep a marriage?

A Brooding Veggie Dude in Durham

Dear Veggie Dude,

Botanically speaking, you’re a classic mixed marriage, a tale as old as Adam and Eve and their famous domestic squabble over the proper use of fig leaves. (Are they good in a stew or simply wearable?) Have you pondered getting a larger terrace or, even better, finding separate garden plots in adjoining counties? You might try moseying down to Pittsboro to find a patch where your Tuscan zucchini can roam free and easy. The happiest gardening couples, Garden Guru finds, are those who insist on separate bathrooms and growing spaces where cosmos and cucumbers never meet.

Dear Garden Guru,

I recently accompanied my son’s fourth grade class on a field trip to the White House and was pleased to see gorgeous camellias blooming in the East Room — until, to my horror, I discovered they were completely FAKE! A week or so later, I attended my great aunt Sissy’s funeral in Burgaw only to discover that the lovely spray of Easter lilies adorning her coffin were — you guessed it — FAKE! Honestly, how do you feel about FAKE flowers at important public events? I feel like our president and the dearly departed deserve SO much better than FAKE flowers!!! Don’t you agree?


Still Fuming in Fountain

Dear Fuming,

Sadly, we live in an age where many things are FAKE — news from the internet, bridges to nowhere and half the hairpieces in Congress. For all I know yours could be a FAKE letter, too. But assuming it isn’t, Dear Lady, one suspects neither your grade-schooler nor your expired great auntie gives a FAKE fig about the flowers in the East Room or silk lilies on her goodbye box. By the way, gardening is all about “faking” out Mother Nature — bending her wilder inclinations to your domestic desires. As a rule, a little fakery never hurts unless elected to Congress or performing a Super Bowl halftime show.

Dear Garden Guru,

Why do I keep managing to kill every fragile Bonsai plant I ever buy? I water them religiously every morning. Any interesting thoughts?


Herbicidal in Ahoskie

Dear Herbicidal,

GG has lots of interesting thoughts. But none he would care to share with you. Two possibilities occur, however. A) Always read up on proper maintenance, for every Bonsai plant has unique characteristics and needs, and/or B) You’re indeed an herbicidal maniac who has no business gardening.

Dear Garden Guru,

Remember the lady who found the face of Jesus in a taco and so went on TV? Well, my husband Bobby Ray has an incredible gardening talent. He grows fruit and leafy greens that look amazingly like all kinds of famous Americans! I can show you a Vidalia onion, for instance, that looks uncannily like the late Yul Brynner, and a head of curly endive that could be little Shirley Temple’s twin sister! (See enclosed Polaroids.) My question is, given America’s dual love of gardening and celebrities, do you think there might be a profitable business in growing celebrity look-alike fruit and veggies? I phoned up America’s Got Talent but they thought I might be some garden-variety crackpot. Whom should I contact next?

Signed, Betty from Browns Summit

P.S. Bobby Ray won’t reveal his growing secret but I think it may have something to do with the load of rhino poo he obtained from the state zoo last year. Also, I am not a crackpot!

Dear Betty,

Gardening is full of great surprises. A few years back, I grew a dozen Yukon Gold potatoes that looked uncannily like the Founding Fathers. They were a big hit at our cookout on Independence Day. The truth is, celebrity fruit and vegetables are far more commonplace than you might think. Just the other day at Harris Teeter I saw a head of organic cauliflower that was a dead ringer for Justin Timberlake. That being said, there’s also rumor that HGTV plans to replace decamped rehab goddess Joanna Gaines with a new show on — wait for it — celebrity fruits and veggies! So they may have some interest in Bobby Ray’s talents. Failing that, the Garden Guru thinks a much surer bet is his secret rhino poo. Any chance I can get a load of that for my spring garden?  PS

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at

A Tradition of Culture

The many lives of Campbell House

By Ray Owen

Surviving through myriad incarnations, Southern Pines’ Campbell House is one of the region’s most significant landmarks, owing its existence to the Boyd family. Once part of their Weymouth estate, for more than 100 years it has been a center of culture, informing, influencing and enhancing civic life.

It is an outstanding example of a Country Place-era estate created over time by a remarkable series of individuals who began settling in the region around the turn of the 20th century. The fledgling Sandhills resorts were rising from the dusty remains of a former turpentine and lumber industry outpost. The backdrop for this transformation was the greater social movement of the day, a reaction to the cultural upheavals brought about by industrialization and urbanization. The Sandhills fit perfectly within the country life paradigm, appealing to America’s growing fascination with vernacular culture and native folk.

The lives of Campbell House comprise four significant periods: first the home of James Maclin Brodnax, then expanded into the original James Boyd House with additions from local Colonial houses; next moved and enlarged at its present location by Jackson Boyd; later the home of General Motors heir Maj. William Durant Campbell; and now a municipal property, home to Southern Pines Recreation & Parks Department and the Arts Council of Moore County.

The first period opens with James Boyd’s 1904 purchase of a sizable portion of land on the eastern ridge above downtown Southern Pines. Within months, the matter of building a residence was altered by the death of his kinsman, James Brodnax, who had built a two-story Colonial Revival-style home for himself on the property. James Boyd, grandfather of writer James Boyd and his brother Jackson, enlarged the Brodnax House into an imposing mansion, incorporating building elements dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Brodnax-Boyd House was located 100 feet in front of present-day Weymouth Center.

In 1921, the Brodnax-Boyd House was separated into two blocks and both moved by mule teams across Connecticut Avenue, where they became the core of two new residences. One part was refitted as a residence for Jackson Boyd (Jack) and his family, and it remained their home, following major rebuilding in 1936 after a fire. Another part of the Brodnax-Boyd House is now the dwelling standing at 435 E. New Hampshire Ave.

Jack and his brother, writer James Boyd, founded the Moore County Hounds in the winter of 1914. They saw this aristocratic sport in democratic terms and felt that it should belong to the town. Proper dress or not, anyone who wished to hunt was invited to come along, so huntsmen in formal attire rode with farmers on horses more accustomed to plowing than jumping fences.

As a captain in the Marines, Jack was in charge of canine training at Camp Lejeune. Being from blueblood hunt country, he was a trainer, breeder, master of 70 foxhounds. Jack taught his war dogs to march in cadence, heel on regular intervals, and perform ordered drills. More training prepared them for track and attack missions and watch duty. His division’s canine records included letters of commendation, citations and a discharge certificate. In many instances, a formal photograph of the dog was included upon promotion of the dog to sergeant.

Jack’s eldest son, John Boyd, was killed in action at Guadalcanal, and the local VFW post is named for him. Those who knew Jack Boyd say that his son’s death was a severe blow and he left  Southern Pines shortly after the war.

In 1946, Major W.D. Campbell purchased the Jackson Boyd House and he made extensive changes, facing the unpretentious frame structure with ballast-brick from Charleston, South Carolina. The same brick was used in the formal landscaping and walled garden at the rear of the house. In 1966 the Campbell family gave their property to the town, asking that it be used for the cultural and social enrichment of the community.

Evidence of history can be found throughout the building, with a striking contrast between the formal entrance and the informality of the large pine-clad room on the east wing. This room, known today as the Brown Gallery, encompasses the most visible remains of Brodnax-Boyd House with its circa 1820s mantel and beaded hand-planed paneling.

In Jackson Boyd’s time the main staircase rose at the back of the foyer, but the Campbells reconfigured it to rise at the front, opening up the back wall with glass doors. The foyer and former dining room, now the White Gallery, remain unchanged from the late 1940s with marble-chip terrazzo flooring, marble staircase and decorative wrought-iron railing. A medallion graces the entry hall floor. Inscribed in Greek, it depicts an African antelope bagged by Maj. Campbell for the Museum of Natural History in New York.

The Campbells and their daughter, Margot, were active in many civic and community affairs. Mrs. Campbell was one of the founders of the Southern Pines Garden Club. Maj. Campbell’s interests included the Red Cross, Boy Scouts and model trains and he built the Train House to house his collection. An Eagle Scout in his boyhood, Campbell became a leader in the national and international movement, an activity that eventually called the family away from their home in the pines. Born in Flint, Michigan, Maj. Campbell was the grandson of William Crapo Durant, the co-founder of General Motors and Chevrolet, and the founder of Frigidaire. Campbell graduated from Princeton University in 1929 and initially pursued a career in banking. During World War II, he was a battery commander and retired from Fort Bragg in 1946 as a major. He became involved in Scouting as an adult at the suggestion of its British founder, Robert Baden-Powell. His travels convinced him that Scouting could do much for young people and he took a special interest in furthering the organization in developing countries with programs tailored to local needs. That philosophy and his personal commitment saw a doubling of the Scouts’ membership in the 1970s and 1980s, chiefly in the Third World. A philanthropist, Maj. Campbell was also on the executive committee of the Mystic Seaport Museum and a director of the National Audubon Society.

When the Campbells gifted the property to the town, a board of directors was appointed, bylaws were established, an on-site director was hired, and a vigorous program developed to put the property to use. The Southern Pines Information Center was installed in the main house, and the Stoneybrook Racing Association moved into its west wing office.

The Boy Scouts were among the early organizations at Campbell House, along with offices for the Humane Society of Moore County and Moore County Historical Association. In the late 1960s, a small golf museum was set up in the former dining room, and this collection was later turned over to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

In 1972, Southern Pines established a year-round recreation and parks department centered on the property. This program is now the biggest user of the site with its offices on the second floor of the main house. The first floor is the headquarters of the Arts Council of Moore County, where they maintain two galleries that display the work of different artists every month and a sales gallery that showcases the work of regional artists.

Thousands of visitors have enjoyed Campbell House, hundreds of volunteers have given time and energy to the fulfillment of its purpose, and a small, dedicated group has taken personal responsibility for its success.

Moss gathers on the ancient lawn as azaleas bloom late against fading bricks. Across the lot, live oaks keep the view — if they could speak, what stories would they tell, wide spreading boughs, nothing missed in their branches. Some say the house is haunted and at twilight the apparition of a woman drifts across the stairs, a lingering reminder of lives that have come before.  PS

Ray Owen is a local historian, who works for the Arts Council of Moore County.

Bunny Hop

The day chocolate rings hollow

By Bill Fields

Growing up in North Carolina at a time when holidays weren’t hyped in stores nearly as much — certainly not as soon — as they are these days, there still were a few things to count on as Easter approached.

There would be a trip to the barber, even if a forensic expert might be required to discern the difference between a crew cut before and after. You were expected to look sharp.

And looking sharp didn’t mean just how you were groomed but how you would be dressed on this particular Sunday in spring. This could mean a shopping trip to Belk or Collins in Aberdeen or the Style-Mart on the corner of Broad and Pennsylvania.

It never ceased to amaze my mother how the same boy who would play for hours without a pause and be mad when it was supper time would complain about being tired, or having sore feet, within minutes of setting foot in a clothing store and before a single pair of pants, seersucker suit, clip-on bow tie or shoes other than sneakers had been considered for purchase. My unease on these excursions didn’t make logical sense, because they didn’t last too long. But all I knew was that I would rather be back at home doing something — anything, even listening to one of my older sisters’ Johnny Mathis 45s — than loitering in Boys’ Clothes.

The Saturday before Easter, there would be the hard-boiling and dyeing of the eggs. This ritual fascinated, in part because I’d seen the women in our house change the color of garments with Rit in a bathroom sink more than a few times. They were smart and didn’t let me assist with the sweaters because they were trying to get more use out of them, not have them come to an unfortunate end thanks to a careless child. I was happily encouraged to help out with the eggs, probably for two reasons: Seeing a chicken’s work go from white to a pastel shade wasn’t very exciting, and eggs were only about 60 cents a dozen.

On Easter, before church and a delicious lunch of baked ham with the appropriate side dishes — a meal whose predictable ingredients year after year made it that much better — the Easter bunny would make a delivery, the basket lined with fake grass a color green not found in nature. There would be jelly beans, of course, but the main event was a hollow milk chocolate rabbit enclosed in a box with clear plastic sides.

I loved chocolate, but it would have been a blessing for humanity if these candy mammals had come in a box that couldn’t be opened. There are only a couple of tastes from childhood that still make me frown. A stuffed pepper is one. As for those rabbits, their taste was like that of the material on which they sat — not of the natural world. They had a sickly, chemical-like flavor, making a Hershey bar seem like a treat for royalty. And once part of a chocolate rabbit had been consumed, what was left wouldn’t get any better. Unlike sweets that were good and within reach, the rabbit would linger until being thrown away only to reappear a year later. I always thought they would taste better next time, but they never did.

The Easter egg hunt, usually occurring after our big meal, was a distraction from rabbit redux. Since we hid real eggs, though, and not plastic ones filled with trinkets that have become so popular, this practice had its drawbacks too. If a couple of eggs were hidden too well, the smell would let you know a few days later.

There was a point where I got too old for a traditional Easter basket, but there was a transition period. I had taken up golf by then, and Mom gave me a sleeve of balls from the dime store. They had the compression of a marshmallow and would cut if you looked at them wrong, but that was just fine because they had replaced the hollow rabbits. If I had sampled them, they might have tasted better too. PS

Southern Pines native Bill Fields, who writes about golf and other things, moved north in 1986 but hasn’t lost his accent.

Rosé and Chèvre All Day

The perfect pairing for spring

By Angela Sanchez

Spring is upon us. The colors are changing and the earth is waking up. The air is warmer and the days are longer. We want to enjoy nature and embrace the change of season. No matter if you are an old friend of rosé or meeting one of my favorite wines for the first time, it’s the perfect choice to embrace this time of year, representing something new, approachable, fresh, clean and light.

Rosé (France), rosato (Italy), rosado (Spain) — depending on what part of the world you are in — has been produced for centuries. It can be from a single varietal, like grenache or pinot noir, or a blend of two or more like cabernet and tempranillo. It ranges in color from a nearly clear pale pink to something darker, almost a fluorescent orange. In style, it can range from bone-dry, crisp and clean with a hint of minerality, to medium sweet or even sweet. The color will be lighter or darker depending on the amount of time — from just a few hours to no longer than a day — that the skins come into contact with the fresh pressed juice, a process known as maceration. Sometimes a less common method called saignée is used when lighter colored juice is removed from a red wine in the early stages of production and made into rosé. There is also a blending method where red and white wines are combined to make rosé, but it’s common only in the making of rosé Champagne or sparkling wine. A key component of rosé production is the lack of aging. It is made to be consumed young and fresh, perfect for spring when the new vintages start to arrive.

The history of rosé is long and varied. Until modern-day winemaking techniques were widely practiced, most of the world’s red wines were rosé in color rather than the ruby red we know today. One of the world’s most famous rosé producing regions, Provence, in the south of France, has been producing rosé for centuries. In the late 19th and throughout the 20th century Provence’s rosé production increased along with tourism and the culinary renown of the region. Today, the classic Provençal style of rosé is becoming more and more popular throughout the winemaking world. Extremely food-friendly, it’s dry, pale and almost skeletal in structure, with notes of dried apricots and brier fruit — strawberry and tart raspberry — with hints of thyme on the finish. Highly versatile, it’s perfect for a brunch of quiche and pastry; for snacks of cheese, olives and charcuterie; or with a dinner of spring greens salad with pea shoots, sweet peas, chèvre and mountain trout or young lamb roasted over a fire with new potatoes in bright green olive oil. This drier, cleaner, lighter-in-color style is currently the trend for rosé and it can vary widely in the varietal makeup of the wine. A decade ago a winemaker from a famous southern Rhône wine-producing family told me rosé should only be made from grenache grapes, or at least grenache should be the dominate grape in a blend. In the south of France, grenache yields those beautiful brier fruit, black cherry, dried herbs and spice notes and makes a great varietal for blending (especially with heavier varietals like syrah — also grown widely in the south of France), adding generosity and lightness to the wine. In Spain, tempranillo makes a slightly heavier style rosé on its own or when it’s blended with grenache. It’s dry and crisp with notes of orange and lime peel and different fruit markers like mandarin orange, kiwi and watermelon along with the familiar strawberry. In California the colors still vary from lighter to darker and varietals can range from grenache to pinot noir to cabernet sauvignon. Pinot noir-based rosés offer tart cherry and peach while a blend based on grenache will have a bit more acidity and notes of grapefruit and melon. Chile and Argentina are producing rosés from pinot gris to malbec. Varying widely in color and style, they range from light and crisp with a note of capsaicin to rich and dense with darker fruit notes like plum.

Of course rosé is great on its own but how much better and more fun is it to have with cheese? This time of year goat cheese, or chèvre, is at its best when sourced from small farms that let their herds graze on new tender grasses and leaves growing naturally. Spring means baby goats and baby goats mean milk. Mothers are birthing and feeding as well as providing for the farm to make cheese. The combination of a fresh spring diet and an abundance of milk makes for chèvre that has a tart, slightly herbaceous flavor with a light and creamy consistency. Rosé and chèvre are welcoming and made to enjoy while young and fresh. So grab a bottle of rosé, a bit of chèvre and find a blooming dogwood to sit under to enjoy the tastes of spring.   PS

Angela Sanchez owns Southern Whey, a cheese-centric specialty food store in Southern Pines, with her husband Chris Abbey. She was in the wine industry for 20 years and was lucky enough to travel the world drinking wine and eating cheese.

Nurturing Jefferson’s Garden

Peter Hatch’s journey from Moore County to Monticello

By Jim Moriarty

Equipped with a pair of hands weather-beaten as a potato farmer and adorned with a shock of gray hair as wild as a patch of weeping love grass, Peter Hatch spent 35 years faithfully tending the garden of a man who died 140 years before he was even born. The man was Thomas Jefferson. The garden was at Monticello. And Hatch’s path to Virginia went straight through Sandhills Community College.

Hatch had a self-described “privileged upbringing” in Birmingham, Michigan, a chichi suburb of Detroit. His father, Clarance, was an ad guy, a madman, a hotshot executive at the firm Campbell Ewald who had scaled the Mount Everest of advertising accounts, General Motors, in the days when what was good for General Motors really was good for America. Peter, the offspring of his father’s second marriage, was a six-year veteran of the exclusive Cranbrook Schools. At the age of 14, he took the only golf lesson of his life at exclusive Oakland Hills Country Club from the legendary Michigan professional Al Watrous, a PGA Tour player of the ’20s and ’30s who lost the 1926 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes to Bobby Jones on the last two holes.

Flowering dogwoods and pink azaleas led Hatch to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina. “How I ended up at Chapel Hill was serendipitous,” he says. “It was a pretty place in the springtime.” Packing the rigorous training of Cranbrook in his duffel, Hatch found a niche at UNC. “I kind of flourished because I had a lot of skills but I didn’t have any ideas. Then I suddenly got ideas when I went to college.”

He graduated in 1971 with a degree in English, a penchant for crafting poetry with a short shelf life, and a yellow Volkswagen beetle, the import he was given as a graduation present by his mother, Janet, the second of the three wives of the consummate Detroit pitchman. The first stop was Glacier National Park in Montana, where he spent nine months painting cabins, selling sporting goods and pumping gas. Then, echoing the advice of Horace Greeley, it was off to Santa Barbara, California, to find his college sweetheart, Jane West. “I drank tawny port in the afternoon and wrote bad poetry and just kind of sat around,” says Hatch. He read the voices of the day. Robert Bly. James Wright. Galway Kinnell. James Dickey. Kenneth Rexroth. John Berryman. Before long, West sent him back east.

“My girlfriend dumped me for the fourth time, so I rode around the country to try to find a job as an English teacher,” says Hatch. He landed an interview at another private prep school, Lawrence Academy, outside Boston, that needed someone to teach English and coach hockey, a reasonable fit for the former center of the Cranbrook hockey team. On the way, he stopped in Michigan, where his mother insisted he get a haircut. “She made me go to her Lebanese hairdresser to shave off my beard and give me a haircut,” he says. Depending on your generational frame of reference, the resulting bowl cut looked like Prince Valiant, Jimmy Connors, Moe or Lloyd Christmas.

While he was waiting to learn whether or not he was destined to be the new coach of the LA Spartans, Hatch stayed with friends in East Falmouth on Cape Cod, not far from Hatchville, where his ancestors disembarked sometime in the 1620s. Destiny had its own plan. “One of them started talking about the joys of organic gardening,” he says. “When I didn’t get the job as an English teacher, I decided to go back to Chapel Hill.” He earned a few dollars delivering the News and Observer and planted a garden. Enter Sandhills Community College.

During his senior year at Chapel Hill, Hatch had been a student teacher at Pinecrest High School, where he was assigned to Rick Lewis’ senior world literature class. They would both wind up at SCC, Lewis as the eventual head of the English department and Hatch as a 1974 graduate of the landscape gardening program that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. “It seemed like the kind of thing that would be useful to me, not really knowing the difference between a peony and a pine tree,” says Hatch. “Growing up I never did any labor. I never worked. I didn’t know how to do things. You learned a lot of nuts and bolts skills. It was a really valuable thing for me. I look back on it fondly.”

At the time the program was led by Fred Huette and Bill Hunt. “It was based on the Wisley school of horticulture in England,” says Hatch. “It had these two great kind of founding fathers.” Hatch describes Huette as “an old-timey English gardener” and Hunt as “the dandy, in his suit and bow tie, he seemed like he just walked out of the lecture hall at Oxford University.” Hatch lived in what he describes as “a little bit of a hovel” in horse country off May Street in Southern Pines on $100 a month. His car broke down and he couldn’t afford to fix it. “Peter would always wear these worn-out tennis shoes, holes everywhere, including the soles,” says Lewis. “I have a picture of the two of us standing at the rear of my Volkswagen bus.”

Hatch became exhibit A for continuing education. “Something we’re sort of proud of here at Sandhills,” says SCC President Dr. John Dempsey, “is that we have as many university graduates who transferred to us as we have our graduates who transferred to university. That’s because, believe it or not, some university graduates — who may be English majors — find that they cannot make a decent living, so they come back here to learn a trade. And that’s exactly what Peter did.”

It was a trade that transported him back in time.

For three-and-a-half years following his graduation from Sandhills, Hatch worked in Winston-Salem at Old Salem recreating the authentic landscape. “I was their first horticulturalist involved in restoring these 18th century Moravian gardens. There was a woman there who was in charge of the landscape restoration committee — Flora Ann Bynum. It took her five minutes to say her name: FloraAnnLeeBynum. She was this indomitable figure, a great fighter for historically accurate gardens. She corresponded with some of the great botanical scholars in the world. It was a controversial and radical idea to begin thinking of landscape as another reflection of the character of the times, in the same way that the architecture of the buildings or the artifacts found in the culture of the society were. It was an unusual idea for people. They hadn’t been exposed to the idea that these people had utilitarian orchards and gardens and that their yards didn’t have grass in them — they were swept yards — and they had woodpiles and weeds and bee skips. It was a fun thing to get involved with and what made Salem particularly unique was they had wonderful documentary records of what the gardens were like. These Germans kept really good records. They hired me in part, I think, because I was an English major, which was amazing. They looked at it as a job involving historical research and interpretation. It was a terrific first job.”

Jefferson’s Monticello was about to embark on a similar journey, and Hatch had a unique set of credentials for the trip. The first project would be the recreation of Jefferson’s grove. In consultation with Monticello’s architectural historian, William L. Beiswanger, a Connecticut landscape architect, Rudy J. Favretti, put together the plan to revive the 18-acre grove. “I was hired specifically to finish that and also with the assumption that the next big project was to be restoring Jefferson’s vegetable garden and orchard,” says Hatch.

The Monticello that Hatch first encountered was different than the one he left behind in 2012. “It was a tourist shrine. Slavery was never mentioned. The interpretation was very kind of 1950s,” he says. “I got to see Monticello evolve over the time I was there from sort of a mom-and-pop operation to a sophisticated and professional educational and preservation organization. There was a real tradition of scholarship that emerged and became more and more intense. Scholarship drove the mission. That was an inspiring thing that sent me on my way.”

Over his 35 years as director of gardens and grounds at Monticello, Hatch was responsible for maintaining the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s 2,400 acres; was the project manager for the Thomas Jefferson Parkway; wrote four books, the most recent being A Rich Spot of Earth” — Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello; supervised a large crew of groundsmen, more than a few of whom, hailing from Virginia’s hills and hollows, were a bit rough around the edges; and lectured in 38 states on Jefferson and the history of garden plants. “Writing books about Thomas Jefferson was easy compared to the challenges of keeping alive noble 200-year-old trees, preventing the deer from eating my cabbages, and sustaining irrigation water for the gardens through a long, hot Virginia summer,” says Hatch.

There is a rich nuance in viewing one of the faces on Mount Rushmore through the prism of his passion for gardening. “I described the vegetable garden as sort of an Ellis Island of new and unusual plants that came from the four corners of the globe,” says Hatch. “Jefferson documented planting some 170 varieties of fruit, 330 varieties of vegetables and some 140 species of shade and ornamental trees, and on and on. He had this really expansive passion for plants.

“There was a bunch of stuff we had trouble growing. The Arikara bean. It came from the Arikara tribe in the northern Dakotas. Meriwether Lewis spent the winter of 1803 in North Dakota near what is now Bismarck. They were all starving. They survived by trading trinkets for Indian corn. These northern Indian tribes had this really sophisticated agriculture and horticulture in that they developed a lot of bean, corn, squash, tobacco varieties to adapt to this harsh Northern Plains climate, where it’s incredibly dry and hot in the summer but incredibly cold in the winter. Jefferson was trying out a lot of these agricultural corn and bean varieties sent back by Lewis. We often had a plot exhibiting Lewis and Clark plants.”

Failure wasn’t frowned upon, it was part of the package. “There was this great clash of history versus horticulture in the sense that people expect a tidy, manicured place, but it really wasn’t like that,” says Hatch. “Jefferson planted a lot of things that died. The fact that he was doing all this stuff meant that a lot of things didn’t work. I loved that contradiction. I loved that ambiguity about my job. It would probably drive most people crazy. Jefferson had fun gardening. He had these wonderful enthusiasms for cultivated plants. ‘The failure of one thing is repaired by the success of another.’ Jefferson’s quote is not just a statement about gardening, it’s a life lesson.”

Jefferson’s gardening lessons travel as comfortably through time as his words. “There are a lot of different kinds of gardens at Monticello. There’s the grove, which is really an interesting idea — that America’s ideal garden is carved out of the forest, clearing and thinning trees, opening up undergrowth and planting hardy perennial flowers in ground cover,” says Hatch. “In Southern Pines they have those great longleaf pine forests that are kind of a natural grove. There are a lot of Jefferson conceits that people can use when they make their own garden. Try new things. Do successive plantings, growing things through the wintertime, which you can do in Southern Pines really easily. Grow some of Jefferson’s favorites. He had some greatest hits of fruits, flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs. In the vegetable garden there were things like tennis ball lettuce or tree onions or pineapple melons — you can get the seeds from Monticello. You can purchase plants at Monticello that are offshoots of original trees or things that Jefferson particularly cherished, a real tangible link to the past.”

Hatch’s days are no longer filled with supervising The Dukes of Bacon Hollow or chasing down Chinaberry trees to replace the ones killed off by a winter freeze. He lives 20 miles west of Monticello, where his wife, Lucile, still works, on a gravel road that winds through an apple orchard. Their two daughters, Rosemary and Olivia, one a hydrologist, the other a neurologist, are grown and gone. Hatch has a small garden, a creek in the backyard and a wood-burning stove. He plays the occasional game of golf, carrying his clubs at courses as distinct from Oakland Hills as a Queen Anne’s lace is from a Lady Slipper orchid. He tends to a hiking trail in the Shenandoah National Park for the fun of it. “In my new life I’ve been more of a botanist,” he says. “I go out into the mountains, spend a lot of time searching for rare colonies of plants growing outside the normal range.”

A job he seems to have come to naturally. PS

Jim Moriarty is senior editor of PineStraw and can be reached at

Our Blooming Mascot

An ode to azaleas

By Barbara J. Sullivan

Quick! Word association game. What comes to mind when you see the word “azalea”? Garden parties? Festival queens with long white gloves and tiaras? Augusta National Golf Club? The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event? Possibly not, but more about that later.

Azalea shrubs, for the most part, are evergreen, reasonably fast growing, sturdy and undemanding. What’s not to love? They can be counted on to bloom reliably year after year, providing floral skirts and crinolines for the clouds of flowering cherries and dogwoods — a tableau that never fails to dazzle for a few short weeks every spring. Azaleas are a mascot any town can count on. By and large boasting a good life expectancy, they’re going to stay where you put them like lamp posts and park benches. The open azalea blossom, with its hallmark five stamens flaring out, suggests nothing so much as fertility, new life, the future about to unfold. Not a bad subliminal message for any place that wants to appear vibrant and forward looking. For many good reasons, over a dozen towns all across the United States — from Hamilton, New Jersey to Brookings, Oregon — have hit upon the idea of luring people with azalea-themed enticements, and it works.

One of the advantages of living in the South is the broad spectrum of azaleas that are able to thrive. In the coastal regions, the size and lushness of the big, blousy indica hybrid generally makes an intense impact on garden visitors. If there’s one azalea that most people are familiar with, it would be the indica ‘Formosa’, an uber-dramatic magenta giant that tends to dominate wherever it’s planted. The other two classic indicas for the Southeast are the snowy white ‘Mrs. G.G. Gerbing’ and the unbeatable shell pink ‘George L. Taber’ with delicately variegated petals and a sprinkling of freckles hiding in the hollow of each blossom’s center. The indicas thrive in hot, humid summers, performing best in slightly acidic soil with moderate moisture. They will grow and bloom in full sun as well as full shade, a feat not many plants can claim — although the perfect spot would be dappled sunlight. In areas like the Sandhills, kurumes are a better bet. Some of the favorites tend to be ‘Coral Bells’ with their soft, pink color; the fiery ‘Hershey’s Orange’; and the pure white ‘Snow’. Encore Azaleas®, which bloom in the spring and repeat again in fall, and come in all colors from red through pink, coral, orange and red, also do well.

For reasons of stamen count and somewhat obscure botanical taxonomy, azaleas were stripped of their classification as a stand-alone genus back in the 1700s and have had to live as two sub-genera of Rhododendron ever since. To a non-botanist this may seem arbitrary and capricious because rhododendrons — those mountain-loving evergreens with broad leaves and showy clusters of lavender, pink or white blossoms — seem pretty easy to distinguish from their azalea cousins. But they both have a remarkable history in common — which takes us to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event which scientists say happened some 66 million years ago and wiped out much of the planet’s flora and fauna including, of course, the dinosaurs.

A couple of million years prior to that event, before the last ankylosaurus exhaled its final breath and at a time when Africa was drifting ever so slowly away from South America, the first green shoot of the family Ericaceae pushed its way up through the Earth’s surface and began the job of photosynthesizing and reproducing. And then, when just about everything else on Earth departed the planet for good, members of the Ericaceae family hung in there. As the planet once again became hospitable to a large variety of plants, the family grew and evolved, eventually branching out into over 100 genera. These now include modern-day heaths and heathers, blueberries, cranberries, mountain laurel, rhododendrons and azaleas (acid-loving lime-haters all). In particular, azaleas are part of a unique group of plants that use fungi called mycorrhizae, which colonize their roots and help them bring in water and nutrients in harsh and inhospitable conditions where other plants might not survive.

But how did we end up, 68 million years later, with these spectacular survivors in our backyards? The ancestors of most of our kurume, indica and other azalea hybrids originated in Japan, China or the Caucasus region, where they grew in the wild and were cultivated by gardeners for centuries before Europeans became aware of their existence. By the late 1600s, emissaries from the European continent had begun traipsing around Asia, sending home azalea specimens and seeds — and feeding the insatiable appetites of plant collectors in places like England, France and Holland. The love affair had begun, and by the 18th century it had grown into a serious trading enterprise.

Meanwhile, the American colonies were playing a major role in this transmigration of the Ericaceae family. From the Appalachians to the Southern swamps, amateur botanists like John Bartram and his sons were traveling by horseback and canoe, collecting native plant samples for their eager colleagues across the ocean. Prized among these were more than 25 species of native azaleas like the famous, fragrant, white “swamp honeysuckle” azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) and the “pinxter flower” azalea (R. periclymenoides), which were among the very first azaleas ever grown in England and became the basis for many popular hybrids.

And crisscrossing the Atlantic in the other direction, the first non-native azaleas (offspring of the original travelers from Asia) had already landed in Mobile, Alabama, by the mid-1700s and were brought to gardens in Charleston and New Orleans in the following decades. From Virginia down to Florida and all along the Gulf Coast, as it became apparent that these flowering beauties were perfectly suited to the local climates and conditions, azaleas became the backbone of the Southern garden, even venturing inland. It’s no surprise, however, that the favorites to this day remain the splashy, shameless indicas, which more than any other plant give us that hit of beauty, sensuality, abandon and luxury we welcome as we greet the rebirth of spring in our gardens.  PS

Barbara Sullivan is the author of Garden Perennials for the Coastal South and a frequent lecturer on gardening topics

The Long and Winding Bagel Trail

A talisman with veggie cream cheese

By Deborah Salomon purports to trace your genealogical map and provide signposts. Recently, while spreading the cream cheese, I realized that my signposts are bagels. In fact, were I Little Red Riding Hood, chewy bagel crumbs would mark my trail.

Bagels? C’mon.

There has never been a bagel like New York bagels of the 1940s. They arrived before dawn at little neighborhood deli-groceries, called commissaries, in huge brown paper flour bags. Such a commissary was tucked into the basement of the apartment building where I lived, accessed by a dark, spooky hallway. How proud I was, at age 8, when my parents trusted me to fetch the Sunday papers and bagels, which cost a nickel apiece. Back then, all bagels were plain with a hard glossy shell (dusty with flour from the bag) and chewy interior . . . fantastic, unmatched.

We moved to Asheville — land of the biscuit-eaters — when I was 10. Nobody knew what a bagel was. Lender’s poor excuse had not penetrated the South. I was devastated.

Lots of New York guys showed up at Duke. Parents of the one I picked lived in a fancy Manhattan neighborhood where lo — the corner apartment building had a semi-basement commissary. At dawn, a truck dropped off that heavy paper sack full of still-warm bagels, a quarter each, five for a dollar. Heaven. I was waiting, with the dog that was my excuse for rising early. I married the New York guy.

His employment took us to Montreal, now celebrated as home of the world’s best bagels, of a slightly different ilk: hand-rolled, softer crust, ultra-chewy, baked throughout the day the European way, in wood-fired brick ovens. These irregularly shaped bagels coated in sesame or poppy seeds were truly outstanding. The closest bakery was half a mile away from our apartment. Every morning, I pushed the stroller there, bought one for my teething toddler, one for me. “Bagel” was one of her first words, as she pounded the front door, demanding the walk. Rainy days were hell.

Meanwhile, New York bagels were also going to hell. They became softer, sweeter, sold by franchise bakeries with cute names — Bagel Broker, Bagel Nosh, Yagel Bagel. Add-ins like raisins and blueberries appeared. Green bagels for St. Patrick’s Day, heart-shaped for Valentine’s, pumpkin bagels for Thanksgiving. Heresy! Blasphemy!

Then I moved 90 miles south of the Montreal bagel shrines, to Vermont . . . and guess what? A local attorney of European lineage named Nordahl Brue founded Bruegger’s, which produced a creditable version of the real thing. Bruegger’s turned on-site bakeries into sandwich shops that spread down the Eastern Seaboard, including, coincidentally, walking distance from my apartment in Asheville, where I returned in 2007. By then, hummus, sprouts and asiago were the complements of choice.

Along the way, I researched bagel history. They originated as stirrup-shaped rolls Polish bakers made to shower King Sobieski returning victorious from battle. Eventually, the stirrup was closed into a circle. Jewish bakers brought them to New York’s Lower East Side, where they flourished and moved uptown. In brown paper flour sacks. Incredibly, I discovered a personal connection when my niece married Polish artist Jean Sobieski, a descendant of that same king.

Now, bagels cost almost a dollar apiece. Supermarkets and a few bakeries produce a sweet, mushy imitation in more flavors than Oreos. The only quasi-authentic ones I’ve found are baked at Lidl, the German supermarket chain in Sanford. I read that some fancy food emporium in the Big Apple has resurrected the “original” New York bagel but I doubt it, if they aren’t dropped off in a brown paper flour sack before dawn.

However, I refused to abandon this talisman. Every few months I visit my grandsons, in Montreal, where I buy three dozen bagels (seniors get a baker’s dozen) from a neighborhood bakery with a wood-fired brick oven. After they cool, I pack the 39 gems in bags, freeze and fly them back to North Carolina. One U.S. Customs inspector at the airport smiles when he sees “the bagel lady” approach his checkpoint. I thaw two dozen, warm them a bit, spread with homemade veggie cream cheese and bring to The Pilot/PineStraw office so biscuit-eaters can experience the real thing.

The remaining 15 I hoard, in memory of those long happy walks as a young mother, pushing the stroller through snowy streets, for the ultimate reward. Because, as it happens, this story isn’t about bagels. This story is about a life.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at



for Brenda Porterfield, on her 75th birthday

Each year

you surprise me

like the first taste

of joy

after long sorrow

has tamped down

even longing

into gray wood,

and I have

forgotten all the

colors but brown,

and all the sounds

but that of

dry leaves underfoot.

I look out

a frosted windowpane

and you appear again,

bold pink, standing out

like a girl overdressed

for a party,

perfection unfurled

and symmetric as

a baker’s cake-flower,

your center a sunrise.

You speak of more

that waits

in stillness, in want

of light and time

to wake it

into beaty,

buds of potential

turned to glory —

abundance that

defies freezing nights,

resilient, determined

to bloom.

— Laura Lomax