The Omnivorous Reader

The Delta Blues Legend Nobody Knew

A new biography of Robert Johnson comes alive with anecdotal details

By Stephen E. Smith

Biographers, musicologists and blues aficionados who’ve attempted to research the life and times of bluesman Robert Johnson have faced a daunting challenge: Not much is known about the elusive Johnson, who was born out of wedlock in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, in 1911, and whose lifeless body was found 27 years later in a ditch outside Greenwood.

All that remains of Johnson are a couple of photographs — and they don’t tell us much about his life — and a death certificate that lists only the date of his demise (Aug. 16, 1938) and the location of the body when it was found. And, of course, there are the 29 classic recordings, including 12 outtakes, of Johnson’s playing and singing what would eventually transform the man in a pinstripe suit holding a Gibson L-1 guitar into the definitive bluesman whose Delta style influenced a generation of guitar heroes.

Those are the available facts. The heart of the Robert Johnson legend, the details of how he lived and the appalling circumstances surrounding his death, are based on speculation, hearsay, rumor and outright invention, and despite a plethora of books, a feature film and a documentary or two, there’s been little primary source material available until the publication of Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach.

Annye Anderson is Johnson’s stepsister. She considers Robert “family,” although they weren’t blood relatives and were linked only by a convoluted mixing of broken relationships and communal living arrangements. Still, she managed to spend time with the great bluesman through her preteens, and she willingly supplies anecdotal details and insights into his life and personal habits. She also retells stories that were passed down to her from her extended family.

Given the dearth of information surrounding Johnson’s life, Anderson’s testimony is a welcome addition to the historical record, but the serious reader must be willing to take Anderson’s recollections at face value. Although there’s a chance of falling victim to a hoax, there’s no reason to believe that Anderson isn’t who she says she is. She supplies a summary of family relationships that link her to Johnson, and her intimate knowledge of the time and place in which Johnson lived is convincing enough. It’s reasonable to assume, or at least to hope, that Anderson’s collaborator, Preston Lauterbach, the author of three previous blues-related volumes, and the publisher, Hachette Books, have done their homework.

Anderson’s stated purpose is to “set the record straight.” Readers learn about Johnson’s daily routine in Memphis and details of his hoboing, his love life, his favorite foods, his preferred tobacco, and the divergent sources of his music.

Given the time and social circumstances in which he lived, Johnson was aesthetically middlebrow. “I know his (Brother Robert’s) repertoire pretty well,” Anderson writes. “He was blues, he was folk, he was country. Jimmie Rodgers was his favorite, and he became my favorite. Brother Robert could yodel just like he did. We did ‘Waiting for a Train,’ together. . . . And you name it. All the Irish songs he did, because in the South they used to sing lots of those songs: ‘Annie Laurie,’ ‘My Bonnie,’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne.’” Like many bluesmen of the period, Johnson played at juke joints, in parks, at rent parties and dances, and on street corners and front porches, but never achieved national recognition during his lifetime.

Typical of Anderson’s recollections is Johnson’s last visit at a family gathering on the evening of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight. Johnson, guitar in hand, was decked out in a white sharkskin suit, Panama hat and patent leather shoes. “He was razor sharp when he dressed,” Anderson recalls. “He (Johnson) did ‘Terraplane (Blues),’ ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’ ‘Kind Hearted Woman,’ he and Son (Johnson’s half-brother) did ‘44 Blues’. . . . That night of the big fight was the last time I saw him.”

Johnson died not long after the Louis-Schmeling bout. “Everyone was in shock,” she writes. “He was dead two weeks before we knew. . . . We weren’t going to sing Jimmie Rogers together ever again, or sing ‘John Henry’ together anymore.”

The second half of Anderson’s memoir is a predictable tale of music-biz skulduggery. Johnson’s recordings went unappreciated until Columbia Records released King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. In the early ’60s, Steve LaVere, a researcher and promoter of blues artists, began to focus on the Johnson legend, making himself wealthy in the process. Anderson sums up seemingly endless controversy in one paragraph: “People say Steve LaVere made Robert Johnson a legend. No. Steve LaVere didn’t tell Eric Clapton about Robert Johnson. He didn’t tell Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones. Musicians already knew Brother Robert’s work before LeVere got into the picture. That’s the whole reason LeVere got involved. Those big artists had covered Brother Robert’s songs that nobody had copyrighted. Brother Robert was already a goldmine fifteen years before he won a Grammy. Steve LaVere caught on before anyone else, and we never caught up to him.”

As for the oft-repeated myth that Johnson sold his soul to the devil and the melodramatic stories surrounding his death by poisoning or from the ravages of congenital syphilis, Anderson dismisses it all, noting that people will say “anything for a dollar.”

Despite endless legal wrangling, Anderson and her half-sister Carrie Spencer never profited from Johnson’s belated success, and a sense of bitterness shades her memoir. In addition to setting the record straight, money is surely one of the motivations behind Brother Robert. Claud Johnson, who was ruled by the Mississippi Supreme Court to be Robert Johnson’s son, received over a million dollars in royalties in 1998. “My family lost all we worked for during the past twenty-five years,” Anderson writes. “You know, I was born at night, but not last night.”

Anderson supplies blues enthusiasts with a few mundane but revealing recollections that help flesh out the character of Robert Johnson, but we still lack a fully dimensional portrait. The man remains a mystery, a mostly fictive figure whose 29 recordings have had a profound influence on an essential American art form.  PS

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press awards.


Where I’m From

I am from a two stop-light town; from sweet tea and Crisco shortening

I am from a house with one bathroom and six inhabitants; rocking chairs by dawn and cozy fire

pits by dusk

I am from muscadine grape vines, big oaks, and dandelions

I am from Purvis and Chriscoe, Jenny and Jerry; blonde hair and blue eyes, hard work and family


From don’t speak if you have nothing nice to say to no blood or no bones — dry it up, from corn

doodles and goo-goo bars

I’m a river girl of Scottish descent, vacationing on the ocean’s shores, from callused hands in a

textile mill and World War II

I am from places one only longs to raise their children, from a small town with a big impact, and

a calling to somewhere far away with hopes the feeling of this place will always follow

— Mallie Clara Purvis

Moore County Writers’ Competition First Place Poetry Grades 9-12

PinePitch: Virtual Edition

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many sites dropped their paywalls to allow unrestricted access. This likely won’t last forever, so don’t be surprised if the viewing at some of the destinations listed on these pages now comes with a price tag.

Casino Royale

Casino Guitars will continue its Musicians Matter series featuring local out-of-work musicians on Friday nights from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. To tune in go to the Casino Guitars Facebook page. Venmo usernames will be posted during the livestream concerts for donations.

Standing ‘O’ from the Cheap Seats

On Wednesday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m., Maestro David Michael Wolff will present his third concert in a live streaming series launched together by Sandhills Community College and the Carolina Philharmonic. To join the audience for the piano-centric performance from an otherwise empty Owens Auditorium at the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center, simply go to and click the “play” button. The series will continue on May 27 at 7:30 p.m. with Ryan Book on the guitar. SCC piano instructor Kristina Henckel will also be performing in May. Details can be found at

At the Sunrise

The Stay-At-Home Film Fest for locked-down Spielbergs has been extended for, well, about as long as we’re going to be locked down. Make a video re-enactment of a scene from your favorite movie or play and submit it. Keep it clean. For complete instructions, visit the Sunrise Theater website at At this writing, Good Shot Judy remains scheduled to give a live outdoor concert on May 23 at 7 p.m. The theater is also hoping to continue The Great Composer Series: In Search of Haydn at 10a.m. on Thursday, May 28. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” In addition, the Sunrise will be continuing its Virtual Theater in May. Go to

Museums Galore

You’d be hard pressed to find a museum that isn’t doing some sort of virtual tour. What follows is just a smattering of what’s available online.

Want to see the Rosetta Stone and a few Egyptian mummies? Go to

Interested in a trip to Paris? You can visit the Musée de Louvre as long as vous acceptez l’utillsation de cookies.

Join “Degas at the Opéra” or “Raphael and His Circle” at the National Gallery of Art by visiting

If you simply can’t resist Paris in the springtime, you can make a return trip to the Musée d’Orsay at to see “Whistler’s Mother,” Edouard Manet’s “Olympia” or Claude Monet’s “The Saint-Lazare Station” and more Degas, which is decidedly not the same as more cowbell.

So you think you are stuck in isolation? Have a look at “The Bedroom” in the Van Gogh Museum’s collection at Or maybe just stop by to check out the sunflowers.

What seems like about a hundred years ago, in April, all of America was worried about becoming Italy. But, even in these perilous times, you can visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Botticelli. Caravaggio. Michelangelo. Leonardo. will let you book tickets.

And, in L.A., they come and go and talk of Michelangelo (Sincerest apologies, T.S.) at the J. Paul Getty Museum’s “Michelangelo: Mind of the Master” exhibit at

Need more? Go to Google Arts & Culture for the motherlode.

Tar Heel Collections

Worried about being charged mileage on your gigabyte globetrotting tours of great museums? Stay right in your own backyard. At the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh it’s possible to explore the collection virtually by going to Another feature, “NCMA Recommends,” highlights film, music and art from the collection. The Reynolda House Museum in Winston-Salem is producing “Call-a-Curator” to anyone on its email list where team members share their view on art and all things Reynolda. The Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington is currently giving a virtual tour of the photographs of well-known architect Phil Freelon in its exhibition: “Structure in Space and Time — Photography of Phil Freelon.”

Culture in Quarantine

The National Theatre Live, long a staple offering of the Sunrise Theater, will be releasing an encore performance every week in May on its YouTube channel. Find the list at either or In addition, the Metropolitan Opera has promised encore performances while the opera remains dark. That list is also available on the Sunrise website or at And, if you haven’t maxed out on baritones, you can always visit the Royal Opera House via Facebook or YouTube.

Montreux Jazz Festival and Boomer Rock

The Montreax Jazz Festival made over 50 concerts available to stream at no charge for 30 days. Included were performances by Ray Charles, Wu-Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and Carlos Santana. To find them go to and enter the code FREEMJF1M. At a higher altitude, Neil Young has allowed access to some of his “Fireside Sessions,” filmed at his house in Telluride, Colorado, by his wife Daryl Hannah at

Take a Hike

Staying home is all well and good but if you feel the need to get out and explore you can do it safely by taking virtual tours — or watching live cams — at a number of National Parks, including Yellowstone at Other parks offering virtual tours are Yosemite, Denali, Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon and Dry Tortugas. Or, you can explore 35 of them on Google Earth. You’ll need a comfortable pair of boots and trail mix.

Get a Quick Art Fix

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has been running short daily pieces featuring one of its curators talking about one of their favorite pieces of art in the extensive collection of over 900 impressionist, post-impressionist and modern paintings that include works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Edgar Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and Georges Seurat. The collection also features African masks, Greek antiquities, Native American jewelry and more. The “Daily Servings of Art” are available in bite-sized portions by going to YouTube and searching for “Barnes Takeout.”

In the Spirit

Rainy Day Cocktails

Always seem to know when it’s time to call

By Tony Cross

As I’m writing this, our state is going into a mandatory stay-at-home lockdown for folks who do not fall into the criteria of jobs considered “essential.” If you work at a grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store or even a bank, you can go to work if you choose. A lot of other folks must stay home.

This is the hardest column I’ve ever had to write. All of my friends in the restaurant/bar business are clinging to hope that this passes soon; most of them know it will not. I’m at a loss for words.

To say that these past weeks have been devastating would be a huge understatement and, in a way, somewhat disrespectful to those who have had their world flipped upside down. With that being said, a lot of people are staying home, which is good. Be responsible. A lot of you are stuck inside with your significant others. I feel for you, too. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we’ll no longer be hiding from a virus. But, just in case we are, here are some cocktails to make at home, while we’re trying to stay sane and keep hope alive.

I’m going to pick two spirits this month (bourbon and agave) and give a drink recommendation for each. If we’re still asked to stay at home a month from now, I’ll pick two more, rinse and repeat. So get out your jiggers, measuring spoons — whatever you’ve got — and try to have fun together, before you claw each other’s eyes out. As for me, all I can say is, “Cheers to being single!”


Besides drinking whiskey neat, there are myriad things that you can mix up at home, but for now we’ll stick with a classic. For those of you who come back to read this mess month after month, I know that I’m reposting this, but we may have some new friends tuning in.


The definitive cocktail, right? Spirit, sugar, bitters and water. There ya go. Personally, I prefer a rye whiskey, but when you’re stuck at home, you play with the hand you’ve been dealt. By the way, I’ve been told that our local ABC stores are essential, so I guess things could be worse. Here’s how I build an old-fashioned when I’m home. I take my rocks glass and add a quarter-ounce of a rich demerara syrup. (To make that I stir together two parts demerara sugar and one-part water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.) After the syrup, I add three dashes of Angostura bitters, one dash of Regan’s orange bitters, and one dash of Angostura orange bitters. Why two different orange bitters? Because I’m complex. No. Because the Regan’s is dry and the Ango is sweet. Together they bring an orange balance. If you are tuning in for the first time, I completely understand that now is the time you turn the page and read something else. No offense taken.

Add two ounces of whichever whiskey you’ve got on hand and give it all a quick stir. Next is ice. I use a large cube and stir for 50 or so revolutions, until the glass is chilled, and you feel the drink has been properly diluted. Remember, water is an ingredient, so make sure you stir. Then I’ll take a swath of orange and lemon peels, expressing oils over the drink, and put them in my cocktail. If you feel it looks good enough to drink, then do it.


It’s warming up. My favorite time of year is here, and it’s almost literally the only thing I’m smiling about these days. Margarita season is upon us. If you’re new to this column, first thing’s first: no store-bought mix. Ever. Take it out of your mind. It doesn’t exist. Here’s how to make a somewhat-decent ‘Rita from scratch. Grab a cocktail shaker. If you don’t have one, maybe you have a protein shaker. Not ideal, but who cares; you want a margarita, right? Add 3/4 to an ounce of fresh lime juice (you’ll need to squeeze your own) into the shaker. Take a rich simple syrup (refer to the old-fashioned recipe to make it yourself, but use white or cane sugar instead), adding a quarter or half-ounce to the shaker. If you like your margarita a bit sweeter, opt for the half-ounce. Add roughly a half-ounce of Cointreau (orange liqueur). If you only have triple sec, that will do. If you have none of the above, that’s OK, too. I’ll give you an alternative in a few.

Now comes the tequila. You’ll want a blanco tequila — it’s clear and unaged; light and crisp; perfect for margaritas. If you have a reposado, that will most definitely work as well. If you only have an añejo, I wouldn’t dare. Pour two ounces of the tequila into the shaker. Before you add ice, make sure you have your drinkware ready. If you’re having it on the rocks, make sure your glass is packed with ice. If you’d like to have a salted rim, take a lime wedge, and rim it around the glass. I recommend only rimming half of the glass; that way you can switch back and forth from a salted sip to a non-salted sip. If you’re having your drink straight up, make sure your coupe or martini glass has been in your freezer while you’ve been preparing it. Now add a lot of ice to your mixing vessel, seal it, and shake the hell out of it until it’s nice and frosty (if you’re actually using the protein shaker, you bro-shake it hard for about 10-15 seconds). Strain your margarita over ice or in your coupe. If you didn’t have an orange liqueur to add, you can take the peel of an orange, and spray the oils over the cocktail like we did with the old-fashioned. You can also add a lime wedge on the glass for a garnish, but I usually drink mine instantly and forget.

Stay well everyone.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

The Legend of Eddie Pearce

How the “Next Nicklaus” found new life on the rocky road to the Sandhills

By Bill Fields

As things go in dating, once things have gotten serious, you meet the parents.

The first time Linette Smith visited the Florida home of Doris and Wes Pearce, she was struck by the contents of one particular room with a bunch of trophies. Linette knew her boyfriend, Eddie, as a car dealer at Larry Rigby Chevrolet in Abilene, Texas, who had sold her a new 1986 Camaro Berlinetta.

“Were you good at something?” Linette asked Eddie upon seeing the shelves full of silver curated by Eddie’s mother.

“Oh, yeah,” Doris interjected, “he was a golfer.”

In fact, Doris’ younger son was a very, very good golfer who before he had a driver’s license was being viewed as someone who not only could win on the PGA Tour but dominate it, a generational star in the making. Eddie played liked a man when he was a boy.

Gary Koch, a six-time tour winner and longtime television broadcaster, recalls a 1969 high school match in which he and Pearce, his fellow King High School star in Temple Terrace, Florida, were grouped with the No. 1 and 2 golfers of another team. It was a water-guarded par-5 that called for a drive, layup and third shot onto the green. But not if you had Pearce’s talent and strength.

“The three of us had layed up, and Eddie takes out his 1-iron, which he was so good with, and powers it up in the air, over a lake and onto the green,” Koch says. “I glanced over at the other two guys and they’re shaking their heads like, ‘Are you kidding?’ I would still put Eddie among the top 10 ball-strikers I’ve ever seen — and that’s when he was 18 or 19 years old.”

Pearce is 68 now, nearly a half-century removed from winning the 1971 North and South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2, another rung on his ladder to the greatness so many predicted.

He has been back in the Sandhills since late 2018 as general manager of Southern Pines Nissan Kia, where many customers know his name if not all the stories. “I make sure I meet as many people as I can when they come in because I know 95 percent of them play golf,” Pearce says. “They don’t know if I play or not. So, I’ll sit down with them and introduce myself to them and they say, ‘Oh, I remember you.’ It’s amazing how many people do remember me.”

Pearce has been a success in the car business for almost 40 years, closing sales instead of closing out tournaments, which never became a habit once he turned pro and grew too familiar with closing time.

“It was probably 8-to-5 that I was going to make it to 35,” Pearce says. “Now I’m 68. Man, it’s been unbelievable. What a ride.”

He played 195 PGA Tour events, most from 1974 through 1981, although he made an improbable return for an additional season in 1993. The player who turned heads as an amateur never won on the biggest stage, earning four runner-up finishes among just a dozen top-10s.

Pearce’s golf journey began in the Tampa area when he was just a toddler. Babe Zaharias, who owned Forest Hills Country Club with her husband, George, put a club in Eddie’s hands when he was 3. “It’s all I did,” he says. “It’s all I wanted to do.”

He was carrying a money clip and wearing alligator-skin golf shoes by the time he was 16, a success in money games with the grown-ups in Tampa and in formal competition with his peers. He won the 1968 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts — dispatching a handful of golfers who would become Tour standouts. “I knew I would win when I stepped on the first tee,” Pearce told his hometown newspaper that week. “I was brimming with confidence.”

Prior to claiming that national crown, Pearce was a dominant force for years at the Press Thornton Future Masters, a premier junior tournament in Dothan, Alabama, winning seven consecutive age-group titles between 1963-1969.

If Wes was in Eddie’s gallery, as he usually was, there was always a first-tee ritual. “I’d say to Dad, empty your pockets, because he always carried about three dollars worth of change in his pockets and he would jingle it,” Pearce says. “I’d put it in my golf bag and give it back to him after the round.”

Longtime Southern Pines resident Mike Fields, who played a lot of junior golf, was a regular at the Future Masters. “When I was 7, 8 and 9 years old, I remember watching Eddie play at Dothan Country Club,” says Fields, 60. “He had flowing blond hair and what I thought was a tour-pro swing. He was a legend in Dothan, always the talk of the tournament. All the kids talked about how far he hit the ball and that the ball sounded different coming off his clubs. I remember he was also very friendly to the younger kids who idolized him.”

Pearce’s contemporary, Ben Crenshaw, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, told in 2013, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with as much talent as him. Eddie had such a gorgeous, powerful swing. He could just hit the most beautiful shots you’ve ever seen.”

In his formative years, many of those shots were hit with plenty of cold, hard cash on the line. As a teenager, Pearce fell into a group of gambling golfers at Bardmoor Country Club in Largo, Fla. “There were money games with guys he perhaps shouldn’t be playing with,” says Koch. “But Eddie was always comfortable in those situations, almost weirdly so. He wasn’t too worried because he knew he was better from the standpoint of physical talent. Those guys would bet on anything — it was an interesting cast of characters.”

One of the regulars was Martin “The Fat Man” Stanovich. Once, after a week of thousand-dollar Nassaus, Pearce had won nearly $25,000 from Stanovich. Not long after that, Pearce was in a practice bunker working on his superb sand game. He had been warned to leave good enough alone when it came to further bets with Stanovich, but didn’t listen.

“Marty was watching me hit those sand shots,” Pearce recalls, “and he said, ‘Damn, you’re pretty good.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ He said, ‘Well, you want to hit some shots, $100 for closest to the hole?’”

The wagers grew. After 90 minutes, Pearce had lost $20,000 to The Fat Man. “I walk up to the clubhouse and I’m in a daze,” Pearce says. “Lloyd (Ferrentino, who ran the course) said, ‘He got you, didn’t he?’ Marty was a magician out of the sand. That was a hard, hard lesson. I know I had to play a lot of golf to get that money back.”

In the spring of 1969, Pearce, Koch and their King High teammates won the Florida state championship with a four-man, 36-hole total of 579. It remained a Sunshine State record for 30 years. Pearce was heavily recruited and went to golf powerhouse Wake Forest, where he stayed for two years before deciding to turn professional.

Sports Illustrated had referred to Pearce as the “Next Nicklaus.” With a powerful lower body and effective leg action, Pearce resembled the Golden Bear. “It was the time of the 1-iron and Eddie could really hit the long irons,” Koch says. “He had a bit of an upright swing, and he had big legs and could create speed and get the ball quickly into the air.”

Eddie’s personality was more King than Bear, outgoing like Arnold Palmer, the man who had convinced him to go to Wake Forest. Pearce never met a stranger, and his outgoing nature made late nights happen all too easily. Pearce was runner-up in his fourth tournament of 1974, the Hawaiian Open, but was never really able to build on that early promise. He safely kept his exempt status as a rookie, finishing 44th on the money list, but only improved to 39th in 1975.

Detailed statistics for that era aren’t available like they are now, but Pearce’s putting, particularly once he became a pro, didn’t match his long-game skills. “Back in high school we used to joke that if I could ever hit it like he did and he could putt like me, nobody would ever beat either of us,” says Koch, who was known as an excellent putter.

Pearce loved life on the road — too much — and didn’t have the self-discipline to practice more and party less. “A lot of guys talked to him,” says Roger Maltbie, a friend of Pearce’s in their tour days in the 1970s, “but Eddie was going to do what Eddie was going to do.”

An instinctive, natural golfer from childhood, as his career stalled in the late-1970s and early 1980s, Pearce got bogged down with mechanics. “I had always had a good swing and played by feel,” he says. “I never thought about my swing until the last few years on tour. And then I thought about it all the time when I was over the ball. The more I thought about it, the worse I got.”

In 1981, when he was only 29 years old, Pearce finished 210th on the money list after being 225th the previous year, failing to earn as much in a season as he had in a week of money games as a teenager. He had neither a winning lifestyle nor golf game. “By that point he was struggling personally and professionally,” Koch says. “Some of us were worried about him. Was he going to be able to get his life squared away? What was he going to do?”

Tired, frustrated and unhappy, Pearce packed it in after that lousy 1981 season, unsure what his future would hold. “When I quit playing, I gave everything away that had to do with golf,” he says. The inventory of discarded equipment included two George Low Sportsman model putters Nicklaus had given him, clubs that a decade later were selling for thousands to collectors.

Pearce had an endorsement deal, doing commercials, for Don Reid Ford in Orlando, and was good friends with Reid and his business partner, Cesar Prado. (Prado is godfather to Eddie Pearce Jr.) They turned out to be the gateway to his second career. “I asked Cesar, ‘What’s the deal with this car-selling thing?’” Pearce says. “Cesar told me I probably would be real good at it because of how I was with people, the way I took care of sponsors and guys playing in pro-ams.”

Prado was right. He got Pearce a job at a dealership in Lakeland, Florida, that needed to improve its numbers. “That’s where he got his start, turning that store around,” says Prado, now retired in Texas. “Eddie is very personable, very likable and he had a knack for it. I’m just glad I was able to help a little bit and get him on a track where he could be successful.”

Over the next couple of decades, Pearce would put in three-month stints at dealerships across the country, becoming a specialist at organizing their operation and improving sales. “We’d take the store over, do all the training and all the advertising,” Pearce says. “If we turned it around, we’d come back and give them tune ups.”

Pearce was a sales manager at a Chevy dealer in Abilene, Texas, in August 1986 when Linette Smith came in to buy a Camaro. “His closer was having a little bit of a difficult time with me,” Linette says. “So Eddie decided to come in and close the deal.”

Linette got her Camaro and, in time, a boyfriend. “We were really, really good friends for about 3 1/2 months — we didn’t really date, we just hung out,” Linette says. “And then we went down for a weekend in Mexico and the rest is history.”

Pearce still enjoyed the bar scene, but that wasn’t Linette’s. “After I came into the picture, he settled down,” she says. Pearce curtailed his drinking, imbibing only occasionally these days. The couple got married in 1990. “Third time’s the charm for both of us,” Pearce says. “She’s put up with me for 30 years, and it’s been an amazing trip, a lot of fun.”

Linette played an encouraging role in Pearce’s return to competition in the early 1990s. Inspired by watching Hale Irwin win the 1990 U.S. Open at age 45, Pearce set about getting fit, losing more than 50 pounds. He failed at Qualifying School in late 1991, but a year later, at The Woodlands outside Houston, 40 years old and wielding a long putter, he got his card. The bittersweet part was that his father had died of lung cancer nine months earlier.

He savored practice rounds with buddies he hadn’t played with in a long time. But Dewars was now just the name of his dog, not his drink of choice. Though Pearce applied himself in ways that he hadn’t the first go-round on tour, he couldn’t find the magic that had made him a can’t-miss kid.

He missed 19 cuts in 27 tournaments in 1993, shooting just six rounds in the 60s and failing to record a top-25 finish. He was unsuccessful at Q-School following the ’93 season and, a decade later, in trying to earn his way onto the senior tour.

“I’m very proud of Eddie and the way he dug into trying to make a comeback,” Linette says. “It wasn’t for lack of trying that he didn’t do better when he got back out there. But perhaps Eddie wasn’t mentally prepared for all of it.”

Her husband was content to return to the car business, where he enjoys mentoring employees in whom he sees potential. One such young man worked in the detail department at Pearce’s previous dealership in Henderson but was interested in sales. He has moved up through the ranks and is now general manager of a dealership in Lee County.

“When you get somebody like that and they do well, it’s like it’s your kid,” says Pearce, a father of two. “If I can latch onto a couple more folks like that before my career is over, I’ll be happy. It makes me feel good to do that, because this business is a great business, it really is.”

Pearce has played little golf in recent years, although he and Linette watch a lot of tournaments on television. “Eddie might reflect on a certain course that he played in the 1970s,” says Linette, “but we just enjoy the game. We enjoy watching the young players come up.”

It’s a different game than it was 50 years ago, but some golfers stand out as they always have, if not as much as Eddie Pearce did before he didn’t.  PS

Good Natured

Boost Your Happiness

Techniques to soothe the mind

By Karen Frye

The first quarter of the year has been a challenging time, more so than I can ever remember. We have ways to lift up our spirits when things seem uncertain and fear takes over our thoughts. Here are some suggestions that can make you feel better in just a few minutes.

Look at pictures of people and animals you love. Remember the enjoyable times you shared and send them a silent wish of happiness.

Exercise, even if only for a few minutes. Take a brisk walk, do jumping jacks — anything to get your heart rate up and, breathing deeply, more oxygen into your lungs. In one minute you will feel better.

Give someone money. Research shows that when we give money to someone in need, we immediately feel better about ourselves, and the other person will feel better, too, because someone cares.

Work toward a goal. It can be a simple task like organizing your desk (that always makes me feel better), or eating healthier foods. Feel good about your progress.

Remember the power of appreciation. Saying “thank you” to the people who work in public jobs — the grocery store checkout person, the server delivering take-out meals, the garbage collectors, the UPS driver — is a quick happiness booster.

Write down a few things that you are grateful for in your life. Your children, your pets, the food on your plate. When you write things down you have a visual reminder of all the goodness in your life.

Do a 90-second heart meditation. Take a deep breath and imagine exhaling from the center of your chest. Then close your eyes and imagine someone you love. Recall times you’ve shared with them and feel gratitude that they are in your life. This simple method can take you from stressed out to blissful in 90 seconds! It can reduce your stress hormones for up to five hours.

Play a song that you like, and sing along. This can lift you out of almost any bad mood.

Finally, the most effective way to quickly boost your happiness is to do an act of kindness for a stranger or a friend. Even the smallest acts have beautiful outcomes.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Golftown Journal

Splendid Isolation

Finding time to find the game

By Lee Pace

Long before COVID-, social distancing, tissue-hoarding and obsessive hand-washing gripped our very existences across America and beyond, I enjoyed a week of a self-imposed quarantine, specifically, the Thomas Wolfe Room at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines.

In June 2019 I was fortunate enough to secure a week’s stay at the Weymouth Writers-In-Residence program, which has been running since 1979, when Sam Ragan, the center’s director, conceived the program. Given that Weymouth was once owned by novelist James Boyd, Ragan thought the rambling old mansion would be an ideal venue for North Carolina writers to hole up and work on their novels, poems, short stories, screenplays, what have you.

There should be muse in abundance amid these rooms and acres “where sparks of creativity could be struck,” in the words of Katharine Boyd, James’ wife.

After all, in this house Boyd conceived and wrote his acclaimed and best-selling book, Drums, a Revolutionary War saga published in 1925, and others like Marching On. Curiously, he didn’t type them or scribble them by longhand; he dictated them at a stand-up desk in a study that now serves as the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame room. And on this sprawling estate he and Katharine entertained literary giants like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Green and Wolfe, who came for three days in January 1937. 

I had two golf books going at the time, so what better venue to percolate my thoughts? Five miles to the west was the first tee of Pinehurst No. 2, Donald Ross’ tour de force that has hosted three U.S. Opens, one Ryder Cup and a PGA Championship. One mile to the south was Southern Pines Golf Club, another Ross design with more than a century of history. Within a half-hour radius were nearly three dozen courses, from upscale private clubs designed by Tom Fazio at Forest Creek to idiosyncratic daily-fee designs like Mike Strantz’s Tobacco Road.

And just out my window was the land where over a century ago a nine-hole course called Weymouth Woods had been laid out.

“One of the finest private golf courses to be found in the state — perhaps the South,” it was described in 1910. “It is conveniently and beautifully located, a little east of the house, has a good turf and is as handsome as a framed picture.”

James Boyd was a noted Pennsylvania industrialist who bought the land in the early 1900s and created a 1,200-acre estate, naming it Weymouth in tribute to the seaside village in England. He commissioned the construction of the golf course (details on builder, designer and time frame are sketchy), but it eventually took second fiddle in town to Southern Pines GC, which was formed in 1906. In time the property passed to Boyd’s grandsons, Jackson and James, and James in the 1920s retreated to Weymouth and expanded the original home into the grand manor house that exists today.

The latter James Boyd was not a golfer, preferring equestrian and hunting sports, and founding Moore County Hounds, which exists today. He let the course go to seed.

“Golf is merely the most expensive and depressing form of pedestrianism,” Boyd wrote. “I know of no other practice, except the purchase and consumption of bad liquor, wherein good money can be spent for so pitiable a result.”

I beg to disagree, certainly, and spent my week at Weymouth reveling in the game to varying degrees, from spending the days with my fingers splayed across my laptop keyboard, and early mornings and evenings wrapped in this convergence of history, ambience and the spirit of golf. I brought plenty of reading material as well as a curious strap to work on keeping my arms and elbows connected should I hit some practice shots.

Early one morning I ventured down to Southern Pines GC with the idea of playing a quick nine before hitting the grind. I schlepped my bag on my shoulder and took off on the course completed by Ross in 1923, then remembered that the ninth hole doesn’t return to the clubhouse, a sure sign that the routing’s as pure as the land and architect’s eye would allow. No telling how many bad holes have been forced the last century by the purely American contrivance of returning the front nine back to the clubhouse.

It’s a brisk walk, the numerous inclines in the ground challenging my stamina, but the short distances from greens to tees of the vintage course giving some energy back. My game is properly tasked — trying to nail a draw on the par-5 fifth hole for extra carry, for example, and dial in short irons on the par-4 eighth and 10th. Nearly every green requires precision to imagine and execute a recovery if you’re off to the sides. The lake serving as anchor on the eighth through the 11th hole glistens in the early morning light.

At twilight several evenings I took a couple of golf clubs and balls out to the acreage where the golf course once existed, trying to imagine where the holes might have run, being mindful to hit away from the dog-walkers. Ah, that notch in the trees in the distance — what a nice spot for a putting green. Maybe a century ago that patch was covered with sand and clay before they learned to grow grass greens in the South.

And late into the evening I tucked into my copy of Michael Murphy’s 1972 cult classic, Golf in the Kingdom. The thesis of one of my writing projects was that golf is a game best played and enjoyed by walking, and though I’ve read the book a couple of times before, I wanted to re-read it with an eye toward catching snippets that might support my view.

I found this rant by Dr. Julian Laing, the town doctor in the fictional Scottish village of Burningbush: “For every theory ye propose about the improvement o’ the game, I’ll show ye how the game is fadin’ away, losin’ its old charm, becomin’ mechanized by the Americans and the rest o’ the world that blindly follows them . . .  I see the distorted swings, the hurried rounds, and now the electric carts tha ruin the courses and rob us of our exercise.”

And I uncovered these morsels from Shivas Irons talking about Seamus McDuff, the mythical figure lurking in the shadows along the Burningbush golf course. 

“Ye’re makin’ a great mistake if ye think the gemme is meant for the shots. The gemme is meant for walkin’.”

And, “‘Twas said tha he sometimes forgot his shots, the walkin’ got to be so good. Had to be reminded by his caddy to hit the ball.”

And finally, “If ye can enjoy the walkin’, ye can probably enjoy the other times in yer life when ye’re in between. And that’s most o’ the time; wouldn’t ye say?”

It was near midnight one evening when I turned off the lights in one of the upstairs rooms at the front of the house and made my way back to my bedroom, taking care that the old floorboards didn’t creak and disturb my fellow residents.

It was quite a splendid week, a couple of lunch appointments and evening rounds of golf with old friends, but it was mostly seven days of writing golf, reading golf and thinking golf. No news, limited outside engagement. Very quaint, indeed.

I was looking forward to returning to Weymouth in May, but sadly, the program has been suspended in the wake of the virus lockdown.

We’re certainly between shots at the moment.  PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace has written the histories of Pinehurst Resort, Mid Pines and Pine Needles, and has authored a centennial book for the Carolinas Golf Association.

Pleasures of Life Dept.

Flowers for Mama

Beauty floating in a coffee mug

By Katherine Smith

It was 3 a.m. on Mother’s Day. I was 19, driving home from a night walking through Weymouth with a certain boy my parents didn’t know about. On my lap, I balanced a bouquet of sunflowers, picked up from a 24/7 grocery store, hoping that my mom would be so delighted to discover them in the morning that she would forget to ask me where I had been.

I parked a block away from home, tiptoed down the driveway, and carefully pulled on the squeaky kitchen door. It was locked. The noise alerted my mom’s huge German shepherd, who was even more anxious than usual with my dad working out of town. Hoping to quiet Zulu before she woke everyone up, I ran around to the back porch doors, which were indeed open, and met my mom in her camo pajamas, holding a rifle. Despite my shielding myself with her favorite flowers, Mom did indeed ask me where on earth I had been.

These days, while I still often find myself driving to my parents’ house in the middle of the night, Zulu now sleeps in their closed bedroom, and I have a front door key. Somewhere between Interstate 40 and the back roads of Seagrove, I will stop to pick up flowers for my mama. Dogwood twigs, half a dozen daffodils, or a single magnolia blossom float intoxicatingly beside me in an unwashed coffee mug on the console the whole way home.

Beauty is my mom’s love language. We five kids were raised with climbing roses, azalea coves leading to white wicker dreaming chairs, beefsteak tomatoes bursting from their cages and onto our dinner plates, antique furniture refinished from someone’s roadside trash pile, and living room walls revived each year by fresh buckets of goldenrod, sienna and merlot paint. When Mom left her only home in Moore County to follow my dad to his new job in Texas a few years back, it was with wrought-iron hanging baskets of ferns, seed packets of kitchen herbs, and buttercups hand-painted on thrifted plates. We all knew Mom was terribly homesick, but she resolutely held beauty close, and it fed her straight from her senses to her marrow.

Only when I moved thousands of miles away to Alaska did I understand this necessity of homegrown beauty. All winter, I walked in circles around the garden section of Lowe’s Hardware, just for the home smell. I bought a new houseplant nearly every weekend, ordered more seeds than I’d ever be able to plant, built a growshelf from recycled shop lights, and a small greenhouse out of PVC pipe.

In the place where stark independence met the nostalgia of being cared for, I grew my first garden. Along with hardy Swiss chard and kale, I planted the marigolds I grew up with, trained sugar snap peas up willow tepees, and, against all odds, grew a few small tomatoes and jalapeños in my little greenhouse. When my first zucchini bulged from its papery yellow blossom and into my palm, my life was changed. I saw, as my mother must have years ago, that flowers are a necessary beauty, the archetype of potential, the very perpetuation of new, green, life. I saw my mother, just as she must have seen hers, in a pregnant bloom.

This Mother’s Day finds Mom and me both back in our Carolina home soil. In my small garden, I am growing up again, reared by the beauty that is my mother’s literal namesake. Motherwort spreads its bitter calm with blessed mint-family invasiveness. Matricaria chamomilla grows tall and feathery, “the herb for babies of all ages,” as my teacher likes to say. And when I get on the highway in the middle of the night to drive a few short hours into her arms, my mama no longer asks me where I’ve been. She just embraces me, as we have both learned to do with perennials on the first day of summer, and says, “I’m so glad you came.”  PS

Katherine Smith grew up swinging from ivy vines and hunting water lilies in Pinebluff, N.C. She’s returned to North Carolina to study clinical herbalism at the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine in Lowgap, calling Ireland and Alaska home in the interim.

Wine Country

It’s That Feeling You Get

Recreating those special moments

By Angela Sanchez

Ever wonder why, when you go on vacation and have a great meal or drink a new wine or try a food for the first time and you try to replicate it at home, it is never quite the same? When we visit beautiful places like Napa, California, or Tuscany, Italy, we’re in a beautiful setting, with great weather, wonderful food and wine, and people who share their hospitality and traditions. We’re transported to a place where you can’t help but feel relaxed and rested. Your mind is overtaken by scenery and stimulated by new adventures, new foods and new people. You lose stress and your mind settles down.

When we experience things from a state of calm and relaxation, and focus on detail, we get a completely different sensory experience. Our palate is heightened and opened in a way that it isn’t on a normal basis. A bite of handmade pasta with fresh, local olive oil and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano can be a whole new experience. The pasta’s texture is softer and richer, the olive oil taste ripe and bright, and the cheese sharp and salty-sweet.

In that moment everything is at its best. The pasta was made fresh just moments before the olive oil — that was pressed just a mile away — was drizzled over it. The cheese and the accompanying glass of wine were made with longstanding traditions, carefully crafted just moments from where you sit. Your mind and body, and therefore your palate, are at their best, too.

You have traveled to a place that is not only beautiful but has a history and tradition of agriculture. The wine, cheese, olive oil, truffles and vegetables are served to you in season, at their best. It’s an unforgettable experience that, unfortunately, cannot be easily replicated. You have created a memory not unlike the feeling you get when you smell something cooking or baking at Christmas, and you’re reminded of your childhood and Grandma’s cookies, her kitchen and her spirit. It’s the feeling I get when I smell sugar cookies baking during the holidays, recalling a sweet memory of my mom and me baking for Santa. Nostalgia, peacefulness, joy.

I get a similar feeling when I recall a glass of Côtes du Rhône rosé on a warm June afternoon in France, followed by a meal of all locally sourced produce and a bottle of deep, dark red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a three-tiered cart full of impeccable French cheese. Pure peace, heavenly flavors, fresh and ripe and set in my memory forever.

But how do we recreate these feelings? Having a glass of Chianti from Tuscany and a bowl of handmade pasta here at home is not quite the same. Same wine, same method of pasta making, same cheese and maybe even the same olive oil, but they just don’t taste as wonderful. Some things are missing. It’s the backdrop, the company, the body in relax mode.

While we may not get the Rhône Valley on a sunny afternoon or that “under the Tuscan sun” backdrop every time, we can get the cheese, wine and recreate a similar meal and experience. The key is not to rush it. Save it for a day off, when friends you haven’t seen in a long time are visiting, or your favorite aunt is coming to town. While the wine and cheese have traveled far, they are, at their core, still the same as when you experienced them in their home. If we allow ourselves to slow down and enjoy the moment while eating and drinking and reminiscing about our travels we just might recover a piece of that feeling we enjoyed so much.

Take a glass of your favorite wine from your travels — be it Sonoma, California, or Burgundy, France — and a cheese your fell in love with while you were there, and sit outside as the sun sets. Take some deep breaths, find calm and appreciate the moment. I’ll be there, too, with my glass of Champagne and Camembert on a Sunday evening with loved ones. For a moment or two, if we’re lucky, we will visit those places in our memory again.

Before long we will travel again, find a new favorite wine, a new favorite cheese, a new favorite meal — new memories to remember.  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 lucky enough to travel the world drinking wine and eating cheese.


Man on the Run

Life at a different pace

By Bill Fields

Wearing my orange slicker with the hood up, I must have looked like a large buoy that had escaped Long Island Sound. As I lumbered east toward the water on a chilly and rainy afternoon, my short, choppy strides weren’t earning any style points.

It was the last Sunday in March, and the inclement weather meant I had the street to myself. Social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t an issue. Whatever description fit what I was doing — running, jogging, slogging — moving at a pace faster than walking felt good.

This exercise was rooted in a hot afternoon last fall when I was walking near Southern Pines Golf Club on a route I used to run. A high school cross-country team appeared on my left, where they were beginning practice on the fallow Little Nine. I passed them as they stretched, but a minute later the teenagers — some in singlets, others in T-shirts but all as skinny as a young slash pine — glided past, their laughter and chatter receding as they crested a hill, leaving me to make a much slower, solitary climb.

As I continued a long walk through the Weymouth neighborhood and back to my rental car parked by Downtown Park, I surveyed my running life, meager at its apex and missing for a decade, replaced by workouts on the treadmill, climber or stationary bike at the gym.

I never was fast nor did I possess notable endurance, which explains why for many years a tiny red ribbon signifying second place in a first-grade race shared space in an envelope of Turkey Trot numbers accumulated as an adult.  I never entered anything longer than a 10K — and only a few of those to go with a larger number of the Thanksgiving Day 5-milers — and never exceeded 8 miles in a workout. Career highlight: finishing one of the Turkey Trots in 43:50 when I was in my early 40s.

But “having run” was still satisfying, a feeling of accomplishment. This was so whether the journey was from my Old West dormitory room to Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill to clear the head before a long night of studying; through a Georgia neighborhood on sticky summer evenings; along a windy seafront in England, wishing I’d worn another layer.

My most purposeful trips took place in the late-1990s when I set out to lose weight by running multiple laps on a nearly traffic-free perimeter road at a city park near my home. I kept at it each evening after work for months regardless of the weather, shedding pounds through my plodding routine, motivated by a fellow jogger who did his many laps wearing a headlamp at dusk and told me he had dropped 50 pounds after several years of running there.

While on a 45-minute walk in mid-March, after my gym had shut down, I remembered that guy. I turned my stroll into something more for a block or so, resumed walking, then jogged a bit more. I did this for most of a week before stepping out with a different goal — to go for a run.

I began at a shuttered restaurant that in a previous iteration had a tiny bar packed with folks after work. Later on, it was a sports-themed place with 25-cent wings on Tuesday nights, which ensured a big crowd.

It was dark, the parking lot empty as I began the first of three round-trips up a stretch of Riverside Drive, over Ash Creek and between the marsh. Others also had escaped the indoors, and we made our way giving each other a wide berth. There were as many paces as faces, some slow and some fast. I was solidly in the middle but exerting enough energy that after 25 minutes I was sweaty and winded.

On my calendar, over two weeks of canceled out-of-town work the second half of March, are times and distances denoting my new daily habit. As one month melted into the next, I was sure of very little, only that I would try to keep putting one foot in front of the other, running both for and from something.  PS

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