Memories of a Devoted Mother

A special family of fox squirrels

Story and Photographs by Todd Pusser

Dappled sunlight, filtered through a canopy of tall trees, danced across clumps of golden-hued wiregrass. The wind was still, and the scent of yellow jessamine and pine hung heavy in the air. Nearby, a pair of brown-headed nuthatches busily excavated a small cavity in a standing, dead pine snag, their incessant, squeaky toy-like chatter breaking the silence of an otherwise quiet April morning. The air temperature hovered around 70 degrees with zero humidity, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

I had been sitting in a small, makeshift blind for nearly two hours, pointing a large telephoto lens, mounted on a tripod, at a natural cavity about 20 feet off the ground in a tupelo tree. The tree stood along a tiny trickle of a creek at the base of a gently sloping hill covered in turkey oak and longleaf pine near the small Moore County town of Eagle Springs.

Two days prior, I had watched a mother fox squirrel move her four young pups to the tupelo tree from a large wooden nest box mounted in a pine along the edge of the yard of my childhood home. I had built the nest box, 20 years before, for course credit in my shop class at Pinecrest High School. I had hoped a family of screech owls would take up residence in the box, but was pleasantly surprised when a female fox squirrel chose to raise her family there instead.

Fox squirrels are among my favorite animals, and I have been fascinated by them since I was a little kid. I vividly recall standing at our kitchen window when I was just 5 years old, staring out into the backyard at a solid black fox squirrel, with a brilliant white nose, standing on its hind legs grasping a pine cone at the base of a tall longleaf. The squirrel, nearly the size of a house cat, proceeded to shred each and every sharp petal off the cone to get at the tasty seeds inside. It was like watching a scene straight out of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a popular television show at the time. I had never seen such an animal before, and the encounter left an indelible mark on my young mind, cementing a lifelong obsession with the natural world and all its marvels.

North America’s largest tree squirrels, fox squirrels come in a variety of colors, ranging from gray to reddish orange to solid black, and every combination in between. Most examples have a white nose and white ears. Fox squirrels are rather uncommon in North Carolina. Though they range from the mountains to the coast, the species seems most abundant in the Sandhills, where longleaf pine trees are prevalent. Tee it up on any of the area golf courses and you will likely see fox squirrels running across the fairways, their long flowing tails — a characteristic that gives the species its common name — bouncing up and down as they disappear. Over the years, I have seen many fox squirrels scampering around the links of Pinehurst Country Club, as well as those at Foxfire, Seven Lakes and Whispering Pines.

Though fox squirrels have a broad diet that includes acorns, persimmons and mushrooms, they relish longleaf pine cone seeds. A fox squirrel’s large size gives it a competitive advantage over their smaller cousin, the gray squirrel, allowing the species to easily rip apart the massive longleaf pine cones to get at the nutritious and caloric-rich seeds inside. 

Back in the blind, my mind was starting to wander and my lower back was aching from sitting so long in one position. Finally, I noticed a white-tipped nose sticking out from the cavity. Before long, a pair of young fox squirrels, one solid black and the other reddish orange, poked their heads out of the hole, soaking up the morning sun. Like youngsters everywhere, they were extremely rambunctious, and I found myself repeatedly laughing out loud at their antics. The pair would scamper all over one another, pushing their paws into each other’s faces and constantly grabbing at the other’s tail.

It was the young pups’ mother, a distinct black squirrel with a grizzled gray back, white nose and white ears, who led me to this cavity tree three years prior. That April, she raised four pups in the wooden nest box, and I spent countless hours sitting and watching their behavior. The following spring, like clockwork, she returned to the same nest box at nearly the same time and raised four more pups. During that particular year, the forest was overflowing with an abundance of acorns and pine cones, and I was surprised to see the mother fox squirrel return, yet again, to the nest box in October and raise three more pups.

Like mothers everywhere, she was extremely hard-working and diligent with the care of her young. Most days would find her stretched out on top of the nest box, patiently watching the surrounding area, while her pups crawled all over her back. Occasionally she would groom or nurse them out in the open. The raucous alarm calls of crows harassing a nearby hawk would cause the mother squirrel to issue a sharp warning bark and immediately rush her family back inside the safe confines of the nest box.

As the pups matured, they would scamper off the nest box, up the trunk of the pine, into nearby tree branches. It was at this point in their life cycle that the mother squirrel would move the pups, one by one, from the nest box in the yard to the natural cavity of the tupelo tree standing by the creek, a journey of nearly 200 yards.

When I first observed this behavior, I was intrigued, and did not immediately understand what was happening. It was early April, and I had watched the pups frolic around the nest box for nearly three weeks. One morning, the pups remained inside the box while mother squirrel was out foraging on her own. When she returned, she climbed up the tree to the top of the nest box and started waving her long black tail rapidly up and down while making a low, throaty, whirring sound with her mouth.

Almost immediately, a young squirrel stuck its head out of the box and then climbed up on top to join her. Mother squirrel gently grabbed it by the nape of the neck with her mouth and curled the youngster into a tight ball with her front paws. She then jumped off the box into a nearby pine and quickly scampered down, headfirst, with the young squirrel tightly clamped in her jaws. Once on the ground, she let the youngster go and moved a few feet away, still moving her tail rapidly up and down, and making that same, low, muttering sound.

It took some persuasion, but she eventually coaxed the young pup to follow her, and the pair navigated the edge of the yard and quickly disappeared into the woods.  She returned a half hour later and repeated the same behavior with the next pup and then the next. With just one pup remaining in the nest box, curiosity got the best of me, and I grabbed a pair of binoculars and waited quietly at the edge of the yard for mother squirrel to return. When she did, I followed at a distance, careful not to disturb her, as she led the last pup down the hill, through dense patches of wire grass, to the cavity in the tupelo tree, where its siblings waited.

The long journey on the ground from the nest box to the cavity tree seemed risky, potentially exposing the young to predators like hawks or coyotes, but the mother fox squirrel obviously knew what she was doing. She performed the same behavior with each of the four broods I watched her raise over the next three years. I can only assume the nest box became too crowded for the rapidly maturing squirrels, and that the natural cavity in the gum tree provided much needed space for the family to move around and grow.

By now, the pair of young squirrels that I had been watching in the tupelo tree climbed out of the cavity onto a nearby branch, where they sat quietly together. Still concealed in the blind, I slowly stretched out my stiff back and quietly adjusted the settings on my camera. As I did, another young squirrel with a mottled gray coat and white nose stuck its head out of the cavity, followed by a fourth, also gray-colored, but with a distinct black face.

The last squirrel to emerge from the cavity was the reason I had been patiently sitting and watching for over two hours. That the young pup was alive and healthy was a testament to the resiliency and resourcefulness of the mother squirrel I had come to know so well over the years. The gray pup with the black face was not one of her offspring.

Earlier in the spring, when the mother fox squirrel was raising pups in her usual nest box, a second female fox squirrel was occupying another box I had placed in a pine on the opposite side of the 2-acre yard. That female was light gray in color, and had a white belly and pale nose. Her frequent comings and goings led me to believe she also had young of her own. It was the first and still only time I have seen two female fox squirrels simultaneously raising families in the yard.

One afternoon, much to my dismay, I found the gray female lying along the shoulder of the road near the yard, a victim of a hit and run with an automobile. Her swollen mammary glands indicated that she was indeed nursing young. I immediately fetched a ladder and climbed up the tree to the nest box she had been using and looked inside. Curled up in a ball, on a bed of pine needles, was a single gray fox squirrel pup with a black face, so young, its eyes had not fully opened.

Instead of taking the orphaned pup to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabber, I decided to take it to the nest box of the well-known black squirrel on the opposite side of yard. It was a calculated risk, but I thought that the tiny pup’s best chance of survival would be better with an experienced female of its own species. Climbing the tree, I peered into the nest box, and saw three young pups, all roughly the same size and age as the orphan in my hands, curled up tightly together. As carefully as I could, I placed the pup inside the box where it quickly snuggled up with the others.

Descending the tree, I retreated to the far corner of the yard, to watch for the mother squirrel to return, anxious to see if she would adopt the orphan pup. She had been away from the box most of the morning, likely foraging for breakfast. However, there was no need to worry. In no time at all, she returned to the box and readily accepted the orphan as her own, and was soon nursing it along with her own pups.

Back at the tupelo tree, I continued to watch the young squirrels for the remainder of the morning and much of the afternoon. Mother squirrel returned about mid-afternoon, and I decided to pack up my gear when the family settled back inside the tree cavity.

The events of that day took place over 10 years ago, and it ended up being the last time I saw the mother fox squirrel. The following spring I waited with anticipation for her return to the nest box, but she never appeared. It was the same the following year.

On average, female fox squirrels live about 12 years in the wild. Perhaps those years I had watched her raise four different families of baby squirrels were near the end of her life. Perhaps she succumbed to disease or fell victim to a red-tailed hawk. Perhaps she simply found a different spot, another tree cavity, in which to raise a family.

After several years of not seeing any fox squirrels at the nest boxes in the yard, just this past spring a different female, solid black and lacking a grizzled gray back, moved into the old nest box. I like to think it was one of the old mother squirrel’s offspring returning home to raise a family of her own.  PS

Naturalist and photographer Todd Pusser, who grew up in Eagle Springs, is a regular contributor to PineStraw. He works to document the extraordinary diversity of life both near and far. His images can be found at

Harmony with Nature

In the fast lane at Slow Farm

By Claudia Watson

A chain saw-wielding woman wearing bold red lipstick might be the last thing you’d expect to see on a farm, but at Slow Farm, the untraditional is just everyday life.

“We break rules,” says farmer and co-owner Rachel Herrick, during a break from cutting a fallen oak destined for a grow-your-own mushroom workshop. “But there are some rules of farming that need to get broken.”

Farming has been in Herrick’s family for generations. She grew up on her family’s farm in Maine, where they raised cattle, hogs and poultry, and grew a market garden and orchard.

“All of it was done pretty old-school style,” she recalls. “Hogs in pens, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Those methods are not our methods.”

Like many people who grew up farming, Herrick was encouraged by her family to get an education and get off the farm. Farming was a financial dead end, and backbreaking to boot. “I loved the life, but it’s not easy or especially kind to farmers.”

Her education took her into the arts. While she was working on her master’s degree in contemporary art, farming remained at the forefront of her mind, and she struggled to try to create art that genuinely interpreted both her love and sadness for the declining American farm.

“I cared about food, animal welfare, pollution, land degradation and the loss of the American farmer,” she says. “Eventually, I realized it was nuts for me to make art about this when the best way for me to cause the kind of change I cared about was to go back and farm.”

As Herrick and her husband, Carl, waited for their perfect property to pop up in real estate listings, they researched sustainable farming, land regeneration, ethical farming, heritage farming and historical farming methods.

“I knew I wanted to do things differently from how I grew up doing them — to learn from the missteps of my predecessors while honoring them, too,” she explains. “We wanted a farm that was sustainable in every single sense of the word, and we wanted to go into this with our eyes open.”

They purchased their 47-acre Cameron farm in 2015. It had been in foreclosure for years, and the buildings were in pitiful condition. Still, Herrick says, “We knew this was our home about halfway up the driveway. It was beautiful, had a wonderful history, and loads of potential.”

Today, Slow Farm is a private regenerative farm that uses holistic and historic farming techniques to slowly restore a 150-year-old former tobacco farm to fertile, self-sustaining farmland. They are playing the long game through diversified rotational grazing, no-till over-seeding methods, and eliminating all use of herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.

“No chemicals, no short cuts. It’s the way nature does it,” she says. “The results are awesome and exciting, but incredibly slow, hence the farm’s name, but we’re good with that, too.”

The farm’s livestock — pigs, goats and a “flotilla” of poultry — play the most significant role in the project. Each species and breed were researched and matched to the land’s existing resources and deficits to bring the most benefits with as few inputs as possible.

They are especially excited about the regenerative potential of their breeding herd of Kunekune (“coo-nee, coo-nee”) pigs, a rare breed of docile, non-rooting, grazing pig from New Zealand.

“They are smaller, and their short little snouts are turned up just so for grazing,” she mimics with her upturned red lips. “They’re a perfect fit for sustainable farms, homesteads or as family companions. Easy on the land and their humans.”

Herrick says she was quickly impressed with how different Kunekunes are from the massive white pigs she grew up around. “I was an instant Kune convert,” she laughs.

They knew within months that they needed to go “whole hog” on the Kunekunes. They invested in quality registered breeding stock so they could be part of conserving the rare breed, which nearly went extinct in the mid-’80s.

Currently, Slow Farm is home to 22 adult Kunekunes and hosts workshops for wannabe Kunekune owners. “It’s one of the benefits of purchasing a Slow Farm pig. You get me for lifetime tech support,” Herrick says with a wink. “There’s always a mentorship component with my pig customers. I really want folks to succeed.”

For the past decade, Herrick has worked at an arts organization doing communications, design and event planning — creative skills she uses now to offer a personal and often humorous look into Slow Farm life. But beyond the cute animals and fun portrayed on their social media, it’s all about science.

Along the farm’s long driveway, there are acres of open meadows and woodlands supporting an abundance of seen and unseen life. If it looks more like a nature preserve than a farm, it’s all part of the plan. “When we bought this place, there were areas of just open loose sand. Nothing would grow there at all. So to us, a field of broomsedge is a triumph,” she laughs.

About half of the farm currently supports the Kunekunes, brush goats, poultry and gardens. The remaining acreage is mowed and seeded as pollinator fields, part of a slow process of creating topsoil and reviving the land to the point where it can function as pasture for future herds of sheep and cattle. This past year, they planted a variety of berry and nut trees and an orchard of local heritage apples, as they plan for a future of apple harvests and cider pressings.

“With regenerative farming, you can only build your farming business as fast as the land can progress, which isn’t very fast,” she admits. “This means thinking outside the box about products and income sources.”

In starting fresh on their land, she and Carl — both experienced educators — integrated agritourism into the business plan, recommitting themselves to educating and connecting with their community. In 2019, Slow Farm was awarded an AgPrime grant by the University of Mount Olive in a project sponsored by the North Carolina Tobacco Fund Trust Committee. That funding, as well as income generated through T-shirt sales and donations, allowed them to renovate the barn and build visitation areas for the public to interact with the pigs.

“Their support made it possible for us to have more people safely enjoy our farm,” says Herrick. Twenty-six workshops were scheduled for this year, covering topics ranging from growing your own mushrooms and greens, to building pollinator hotels, birdhouses and bat boxes, to painting decorative barn quilts based on historical textiles. But the workshop schedule, among other activities on the farm, was thrown into disarray with COVID-19.

The pandemic devastated the farm’s income, which is mainly dependent upon the sale of eggs to restaurants, workshops, and the breeding and sale of Kunekunes.

“We saw this coming and elected to put the brakes on the workshops and the breeding,” Herrick says, noting that the shifts in markets made them modify their business model. Still, it also gave them time to consider and plan expansion.

“We supplied restaurants with fresh eggs, but they’re not buying them now, or cutting back. We had a couple of weeks when we thought, ‘Oh, man, what are we going to do with all these eggs?’ When we announced the egg availability on our social media network, it was swoosh — they’re going, going fast!”

Herrick says direct sales to consumers have entirely erased the slack in the restaurant sales. Now, egg consumers come to the farm by appointment.

“We encourage them to take their time and look around, but not get out of their cars,” says Herrick. “Enjoy a slow drive up the driveway to the egg stand and watch our mini-safari of goats, pigs and poultry in our pastures.”

The couple also planted 600 asparagus seedlings, which offers them an additional product for direct sales or restaurant sales in future years.

Herrick reassures the workshops will go on, with some shuffling of the schedule, when the time is appropriate.

“We’re going to wait until we get the OK, then we’ll most likely do morning workshops to avoid the heat,” she says. The renovated barn, the site of the workshops, can comfortably accommodate each guest working at a separate table, to ensure the appropriate social distancing. “We’re putting an extra focus on helping and maintaining the community’s curiosity and interest in self-sufficiency with workshops that focus on gardening, backyard chicken keeping and the Kunekunes,” she says.

Each workshop combines farming with creativity in a way Herrick hopes people will find fun and empowering. “We offer unique hands-on opportunities to connect with nature, science, and the creative thinking that drives regenerative farming,” she explains. “Those experiences allow visitors to appreciate their power and relationships with farming.”

Slow Farm is not open for drop-in visits, although private tours can be arranged. Public farm days are held twice a year. In early November, the farm offers a lively Piggy Pumpkin Palooza, an event that welcomes visitors to retire their Jack-o’-lanterns by chucking them to the pigs. The farm was to be featured on this year’s Sandhills Farm Tour, but the tour was rescheduled to April 24, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. A full schedule of workshop opportunities is listed on the farm’s website: (classes fill quickly).

Slow Farm’s owners pursue their more abundant life with far less monetary compensation. Carl works off-farm, and Herrick, who runs all things “farm,” does freelance design and writing projects as time permits to stabilize the income stream. “Whatever it takes,” she admits. “You get creative when you’re flying without a net.”

She yanks the chain saw’s starter and eyes another log. “Farming in red lipstick is not a normal thing, but it makes every day farming fun. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel empowered when they’re rocking some red lipstick.”  PS

Claudia Watson is a contributing writer to PineStraw and The Pilot and can usually be found in a garden.

In The Spirit

Let’s Be Perfectly Clear

Juice porn for nerds

By Tony Cross

Six years ago, I purchased the book Liquid Intelligence, by Dave Arnold. When it arrived in the mail, I remember thumbing through the pages and quickly realizing that everything I was laying my eyes on went right over my head. “Ohhhh man, I’m dumb,” I thought. The book deals with the science of cocktails, and it’s laid out like a textbook. I failed chemistry in high school, so it’s safe to say this triggered scary flashbacks and my PTSD with, well, being dumb.

As insecure as I was, I still marveled at Arnold’s brilliance and passion for perfection chapter by chapter. There were some tricks I picked up right away — like how to properly milk-wash a spirit — but these little gifts were few and far between. If you’ve ever looked through the book, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The section that intrigued me the most was Part 3: Clarification. “Unclear liquids are actually suspensions, containing particles that reflect and scatter light in a random pattern that makes the liquid appear milky. Clarification removes these particles.” Pictured was a glass of cloudy, blended strawberry juice and next to it a glass of clear strawberry juice. Arnold goes on to say, “Why clarify? Why breathe?” I was hooked.

There are a few ways to clarify juices. I’m going to talk about centrifuging — the way I clarify — but feel free to check out Liquid Intelligence for others. So, what’s a centrifuge? Have you ever donated blood? When they take the tube with your blood, they put it in this machine that spins the tubes thousands of times the force of gravity. This allows the platelets and blood plasma to be separated from the other blood components. That machine is a centrifuge. For juices, centrifuges spin so fast that the solid particles in the liquid get thrown to the outside; this is called centrifugal force. But you know that, right? You’ve been on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

When Arnold’s book came out, the cheapest centrifuge (to produce large volumes) wasn’t. It came in at just under $10,000. Yikes. I was bummed. But then, a few years later, Dave made an announcement that he had created the first centrifuge for bartenders and chefs. The Spinzall was released in 2017, and to my knowledge, it’s still the only centrifuge on the market catering specifically to bartenders/home bartenders. A friend of mine got one for Christmas from his wife, and I was able to tinker around with it. (His wife told me that it was still in the box! Gimme!)

I was asked to give a science-based cocktail class around that time — hey, I told the committee I was completely unaware of what science is but they didn’t care — and was hoping that the centrifuge would come in handy. Following the directions and using the correct enzymes to break the solids down (more on that in a moment), I was able to clarify fresh strawberries.

When the Spinzall finished doing its thing, I was in love. This might not do it for you, but it is what it is. I was so excited I took pictures and live video of the clarified juice coming out of the centrifuge. Everyone I told or messaged smiled or texted back saying “cool,” but nobody really gave a rat’s ass. You’re into brunettes, I’m into blondes. Whatever.

Google this Spinzall thing and I’ll break down how simple it is to use. Let’s take strawberries as an example. You’ll need 400 grams washed and diced organic strawberries and an enzyme called Pectinex Ultra SP-L. You need this exact type. I found a knockoff version on Amazon, and it did not work. (What’s a counterfeit enzyme look like anyway?) You can get the Pectinex over at Pectinex Ultra SP-L is an enzyme that breaks down pectin structure. As Dave points out in this book, SP-L “is a mix of enzymes that are purified from Aspergillus aculeatus, a fungus found in soil and rotting fruit.” Basically, SP-L busts a cap in pectin’s liver. It’s needed to clarify most juices, so I always have a large bottle handy.

And just like using the centrifuge, SP-L is easy to use. Here we go: Put your washed and diced strawberries into a blender on medium for 30 seconds. Add 2 milliliters of Pectinex SP-L, and then blend on medium (or medium-high, depending on your blender) for another minute to two. Let sit for a few minutes and you’re ready to run it through your Spinzall. This is where I’m going to stop giving advice. Arnold provides online videos with detailed operating and safety instructions so you won’t put an eye out.

You may be asking yourself, “Why the hell do I want to clarify?” If you’re working in the kitchen at a restaurant, this centrifuge does way more than clarifying juices. It also makes herb oils, purees, no-churn butter, etc. If you’re a bartender, clarified juices can be used to make shelf-stable cordials (when paired with appropriate food-grade acids). Juices that are clarified are silky and smooth on the palate. Try making a daiquiri with clarified lime juice and you’ll see what I mean.

If you’re not in the business, I can see why you may be hesitant to purchase this for your home bar. But, if you really geek out on cocktails and love playing host for your friends and family, go for it. There are so many ways to put the Spinzall to use that you won’t get bored.

As for me, this centrifuge has been monumental for Reverie Cocktails. It’s allowed us to look at our cocktails in a whole new light. Making and distributing kegs of carbonated cocktails is completely different from making them one at a time, and this sucker has been a lifesaver. Even if you don’t gravitate (oh, geez, sorry about that) toward owning a centrifuge, or have zero interest in clarifying anything, I hope this high school chemistry dropout has shed the smallest ray of light on how science is everywhere, even in your cocktail glass. PS

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


Fine Young Cannibals

Beware the stealthy Cooper’s Hawk

By Susan Campbell

To some, a hawk is a hawk. Yet here in the Piedmont and Sandhills of North Carolina, we have 10 different species of these feathered hunters in our area during the course of the year. There are the fast-flying, powerful falcons. Also, you can spot large buteos over open terrain. Around lakes and along the coast, look for fish-eating osprey. And, in addition, there are the less understood, ultra maneuverable bird hawks, known to birders as accipiters (from the Latin “accipere,” to grasp or take).

Slender, fast-moving bird hawks such as Cooper’s hawks and the slightly smaller sharp-shinned hawk are tough to spot and even more difficult to identify. Both can be seen in our area 12 months of the year. Consider that anyone who feeds songbirds will, like it or not, be providing for these ubiquitous bird-eaters’ welfare. 

To differentiate the two species, one needs good binoculars and more than a little good luck in order to get a good enough view to make the call. A keen eye and being in the right place at the right time can, however, be very rewarding.

Adult Cooper’s are handsome with slate-gray back and fine, red barring along the breast and belly.  The large head is a dark gray and is set off by a paler neck. Feathers on the crown are often held erect, giving the birds an almost regal hooded appearance. The tail is somewhat rounded and barred with alternating brown-and-black bands with a narrow white tip. The legs too are relatively long and yellow with very strong and sharp talons. The sexes of Cooper’s hawks are identical in appearance with the exception that the females are approximately 15 percent larger than males. As a result, males must be cautious, even around their mates, since they are in the size range of prey that females may take. They will not only make submissive calls but listen for reassuring vocalizations from the female during the breeding season to be assured of their safety. Young birds have brown streaking on the breast and belly, which may take up to two years to be replaced by adult plumage. So as is common with the larger hawks, yearling Cooper’s may not breed until their second summer.

As with other accipiters, Cooper’s hawks are adapted to hunting in closed canopy forest. Their shorter, rounded wings and long tail make them well-suited to moving through forested habitat. They will commonly fly low to the ground and then precipitously maneuver up and over obstacles to ambush prey on the far side. They also hunt on the ground, walking about through thick cover looking for sparrows and other smaller birds hidden within.

Cooper’s hawks have one brood in late spring to early summer. The male constructs the large stick nest high in a mature tree during about a two-week period. Once the nesting begins, he will feed the incubating female as well as gather most of the food for the nestlings. The female Cooper’s defends the nest vigorously and broods the young birds until they are well feathered.

Although it is not uncommon for backyard birdwatchers to see one of these masterful hunters with a fresh kill, like all predators they miss more than they actually catch. Furthermore Cooper’s hawks eat a variety of prey including squirrels and other rodents. The birds they do catch tend to be the most common species such as mourning doves and,  in more urban  locations, rock doves (pigeons) and European starlings, none of which are at all in short supply even in our area.

Cooper’s hawks were one of the species negatively affected by DDT usage in the middle of the last century, but they have rebounded very well. And nowadays they are not averse to living alongside humans even in more open terrain if prey is abundant. Families of Cooper’s have been documented in the yard of folks in Whispering Pines as well as Southern Pines in recent years. Not too many people can boast of sharing a piece of woodland with one of the world’s most skillful fliers. So keep your eyes peeled and maybe you, too, will find these amazing creatures living in your neighborhood as well!  PS

Susan would love to receive your wildlife observations and/or photos at


Beautiful Places, Beautiful Faces

The Sandhills Photography Club and the Artists League of the Sandhills will hold an opening reception on Friday, Sept. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. for its show “Travels Near and Far.” The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 24 at the Artists League of the Sandhills, 129 Exchange St., Aberdeen. For more information call (910) 944-3979 or go to

Feasting on Weymouth

Reserve a Farm to Table boxed dinner created by Ashten’s Restaurant at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities on Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The dinner includes grilled chicken, grilled peaches, two side salads and corn bread. Picnic on the grounds or take it to go. The meal is $20 for Weymouth members and $30 for non-members. To reserve your dinner call (910) 692-6261, go to or book through

Live Music on the Green

On Friday, Sept. 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Darin and Brooke Aldridge will be appearing on the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center’s McNeill-Woodward Green at Sandhills Community College, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Masks and social distancing rules are in effect for this outdoor concert. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 26, The Contenders will be live on the green from 7:30 to 10 p.m. For information and tickets to either concert — or both — go to

The Virtual Jenna

Join Today Show co-anchor Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of George W. and Laura Bush, and acclaimed historian Jon Meacham at a book signing for Hager’s new book, Everything Beautiful in Its Time, sharing the moving stories of her beloved grandparents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush. The virtual event takes place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 9. For information go to

25 Years and Counting

Stop by the Southern Pines Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 10, to help celebrate its 25th Dedication Day. The first 50 visitors can enter a raffle to win a book-themed basket of delectable stuff and pick up a cupcake for the road. For more information call (910) 692-8235 or visit

Reflections of a Lifetime

In her just released book, South Toward Home: Tales of an Unlikely Journey, former Pinehurst resident Alice Joyner Irby leads you through decades of crises and joys, harsh realities and great kindnesses. Comprised of 26 separate stories combining intimate personal portraits with a pragmatic view of the world around her, Irby’s book describes her childhood in Weldon, North Carolina; the glass ceiling confronting women in the workplace; the creation of the Job Corps as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty; the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s; and much more. It’s available at The Country Bookshop, through the Outer Banks Publishing Group or on Amazon.


National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 22. If you have yet to register, stop by the Southern Pines Public Library, 170 W. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines to pick up a voter registration form.

As seen in The Sway

Photo by Ted Fitzgerald

Local Woman Imports Tropical Plants for a Living

No one taught Elizabeth Hadley how to love plants. Like the dozens of tropical babies in her greenhouse in Whispering Pines, her love grew from years trial and error, research and TLC. In February 2020, Elizabeth started her tropical plant import business, Whispering Vines.

Whispering Vines brings in greenery from places like Thailand and Indonesia to clients across the state. Elizabeth communicates with plant vendors overseas to obtain rare, tropical plants for nurseries and even reptile vivariums across the state.

Elizabeth’s collection consists of everything from aroids like monsteras and philodendrons to rare orchids, palms and African/southeast Asian flowering trees.

“When it comes to plants, it’s a matter of networking and doing a ton of research,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve focused on developing long term relationships with suppliers overseas, so I can have access to a wider range of plants and the rarer plants.”

When Elizabeth receives an order, she coordinates with the buyer to have them pick up at her greenhouse or she will take them herself.

In the future, Elizabeth hopes to extend her import business to the interior landscaping market. Just as interior designers provide insight in room design, Elizabeth would provide clients with ways to use plants to enhance a space.

“Aesthetically speaking, you have lots of structural elements to plants,” Elizabeth said. “Some are vase shaped. Some are more wild. I feel like plants can add such an incredible aesthetic effect to a room — instead of pieces of furniture that serve no purpose.”

To learn more about Whispering Vines, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Thinking about getting in the plant game? This local Facebook group serves as a friendly online community for plant lovers across Moore County.


In Tune with the Pandemic

When tuning my acoustic guitar,

the oxidized strings having gone

flat in the warm humid air,

the wire being wound to perfect

tension sometimes releases an

almost imperceptible chiming,

a tiny push of air outward,

the string immediately retreating

to form a momentary vacuum,

vibrating faster or slower subject

to the energy expended,

but rising to frequency.

The child in me believes

this spontaneous harmonic

relief is a sympathetic response

to the strings already in timbre,

like voices in a street choir

soaring to a single ethereal note

that might make you weep.

But this is not the case. The string

has merely snagged in the bridge

pin slot or has failed to slide easily

over the nut at the top of the fretboard,

a mechanical glitch that can be

remedied by applying a touch

of graphite from a no. 2 pencil.

So simple. So obvious.

Still I listen for the ping, hold my

breath in expectancy, believing

that believing is as essential

as complete understanding,

that when coaxed to proper pitch

the string will sing out with joy

as the tuner’s circular gear tugs 

perpendicular to the worm gear’s

rotation, the mechanical workings

there to remind me that given enough

time the delicate wire will break

sharply and never ring true again.

— Stephen E. Smith

Story of a House: Rosewood in Bloom

Rosewood in Bloom

Gatsby-era retreat honors the old, celebrates the new

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

The probable scenario: By the mid-1920s, Southern Pines rivaled Pinehurst as a winter destination for wealthy Northeastern urbanites. The golfing rich bought “cottages” built by the Tufts family while moneyed equestrians chose Southern Pines. With them came New York society architect Aymar Embury II. With Embury came engineer Louis Lachine. The two collaborated on the Highland Pines Inn. Soon, snowbirds enamored of Southern Pines’ climate and cachet wanted homes here. Embury complied. Lachine, it appears, tapped solo into the lucrative new market. The developer-at-heart bought land in Weymouth and built 10 spec houses.

Big ones. Brick ones.

However, Lachine was no esthetically-minded architect. Thus the patchwork exterior — irregular brick, stucco, wood, dormers, off-center front door, wrought iron Juliet balcony — of Rosewood, survives as a grand dame on two landscaped acres in the heart of historic Weymouth.

The total answers to Tudor Revival, gone rogue.

Or, as Alice would say, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Now Rosewood — named by first owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rose of Binghamton, New York — is in a third, maybe fourth, iteration designed for practicality (an L-shaped kitchen encompassing three distinct areas), with respect for the arts and crafts style (beams, dark woods), furnished respectfully in antiques, as in purchased, and heirlooms, as in inherited.

No less could be expected from Dr. Ellie Pack Marlow, an art history/design professional who, on a whim, left her job at a Manhattan auction house, enrolled in med school and now practices interventional radiology, primarily breast cancer procedures. Her husband, Cameron Marlow, is a validation engineer for a Maryland tech company. He ensures computers used to make vaccines (including COVID-19) meet FDA standards.

He also cooks, passionately.

How this multi-faceted couple stumbled upon Rosewood reads like the first chapter in a happily-ever-after novella.

Ellie grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with time spent in New Jersey horse country. Cameron comes from Baltimore. Since he is able to work from home, they lived near Ellie’s medical practice, in Fayetteville. Southern Pines’ equestrian community was a draw; Ellie still rides, and until recently, kept a horse. First they looked at horse farms, but found nothing suitable. Then, driving around Weymouth, Cameron spotted the unusual three-story manse on South Valley Road.

“I want a house like that!” he exclaimed.

Conveniently, Rosewood was for sale. Although the interior needed personalizing, major updates — including most systems — had been completed by previous owners. They purchased it in January 2018, moved into a rental house nearby, and commenced a sometimes bumpy renovation centered around a showplace kitchen, cobbled together from a sunken Carolina room and the smallish existing one.

“The kitchen is very important to us — the place we gather and spend time together,” Ellie says, remembering their first Thanksgiving/Christmas when the couple hosted 30. Many were houseguests. Rosewood, at about 5,000 square feet, has seven bedrooms, four full bathrooms, four outdoor seating areas (covered and uncovered) and a grassy yard.

“To see the family sitting around was just wonderful,” she recalls.

This favorite room, because of the merger, has two separate prep areas, a butler’s pantry, a 13-foot white quartzite island/bar seating five, and a unique tin range hood custom-made in Mexico. Its air flow required an engineering feat, which Cameron explains enthusiastically. From the blown-glass lighting fixtures to splash-of-red tabletop appliances and statuesque faucet, every detail illustrates the couple’s attention to . . . detail.

“I always wanted to invite local chefs to do a demo here,” Cameron admits.

Interior designer Shelley Turner made this happen. “They needed a wet bar-coffee area that flowed into the butler’s pantry, along with a small counter with stools, for breakfast.” Chef Cameron wanted the island located so he could talk to guests while manning the massive six-burner gas range. No propane here. The Marlows brought natural gas to the neighborhood.

Turner won first place in the 2019 Carolinas ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Excellence Award for Rosewood’s unusual kitchen.

After the glowing all-white (except for an old “pie safe” cabinet) kitchen, the dining and living rooms feel clubby, suggesting hunt box, with dark woods and elongated chocolate brown leather sofas flanking (but not facing) a brick wood-burning fireplace with mantel-height bookcases extending in both directions. Two of Ellie’s saddles are positioned along the back of one sofa. A corner table is actually Ellie’s grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine. An exquisite inlaid dining room service table, a memoir from growing up in France, is a gift from Cameron’s mother, Monique Marlow, as is a framed Hermes silk scarf covered in hounds.

An art deco lily wall sconce over the inlaid table is something Ellie spotted on “American Pickers.” She contacted the seller and bought it.

The china cabinet with faceted crystal knobs comes from Ellie’s family.

No ancestral portraits, per se, but lots of equine art, some hanging from the original picture rails. Especially precious, a painting of windmills done by Cameron’s Dutch grandmother.

The center staircase, also in gleaming stained heart pine, joins a back staircase that connects third-floor servants’ rooms, now offices and guest quarters, to the kitchen. The mudroom floor is laid in small black and white hexagonal tiles characteristic of bygone hotel bathrooms; here the tiles spell out 1926 — Ellie’s way of dating what lies inside. These same tiles are used in a powder room and some bathrooms (with original clawfoot tubs), which have been modernized but not glamorized, which would clash with the era.

“Ellie has an incredible eye,” her husband notes.

A new gas boiler was installed to service the white iron radiators, which Ellie appreciates for decorative period value. A guest bathroom with a flat wall-mounted radiator won second place for Turner in the ASID category for bathrooms in a historic house.

Wall tints in the second and third floor bedrooms (some now offices) are pale dusty greens, grays and sand. “Ellie wanted the space to be airy, calming, timeless,” Turner explains. “She wanted to maintain the integrity of the house.” A pinch of whimsy is allowed, as in the powder room with hundreds of tiny horses and riders against a striped wallpaper. Also calming: a rock-rimmed gurgling pond beside the covered porch, a pleasant place for morning coffee or evening wine.

Summation: Everything old is new again, which pleases Ellie. And Cameron got his culinary stage.

By any other name Rosewood smells as sweet. A plaque beside the front door announces House of O. Van Pack, Established Jan. 31, 2018. O is for Oscar, a spry 14-year-old poodle mix who has been with Ellie since med school. Inside, scattered amid the antiques, are boxes holding baby equipment. Within a year, rooms furnished in leather and heart pine will be cordoned by gates. Those pristine kitchen cabinets will require safety latches. A babycam already transmits images, while a motorized bassinet rocks to and fro. Because in July, a sunny corner bedroom became a nursery, welcoming this old estate’s new heir: Emerson Cole Marlow.

“Now, it’s a living house,” Ellie says.  PS

Golftown Journal

Deep Thoughts

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

By Lee Pace

I have a game Saturday morning with the regular guys. Shoes shined, clubs buffed, sunscreen in the bag. Now to work on my swing and my mental game through the week.

Today I’m going to hit a few balls with my bevy of training aids and gadgets I’ve collected over the years.

I have one device I pull over my left arm and elbow to keep them straight on the backswing. I have another that functions more as a sleeve and goes on the right arm to keep it from breaking down on pitch and chip shots. I have a strap that both arms are inserted into at elbow range to help me “stay connected.”

I have a special glove for my left wrist to keep it from cupping and a gizmo to put on my right wrist that will make an audible click if I hinge the joint properly.

I have one practice club with a tiny sweet spot and a thick flange that forces me to lean the shaft into impact with a descending blow, else the ball clunks off the bottom flange. I have another gadget that attaches to my driver and acts as a sail, using the wind resistance to improve my sequencing and strength.

Swing plane is ever so important. I have a laser light that attaches to the grip of the club and emits a light to show where the butt of the club is pointing at takeaway and throughout the swing. I have a maze of pool noodles mounted on alignment sticks stuck in the ground to provide landmarks on where the club should be on the backswing and then the downswing.

I have an impact bag (a canvas bag filled with towels) set on the ground to promote a strong left side upon ball contact. My metronome helps me develop a consistent tempo from start to finish — both full swing and putts. I have decals on my clubface that clearly show where the ball strikes the club — flush, high, low, heel or toe.

Finally, I have this cool rectangular board that sits on the ground, between my feet, and encourages proper foot pressure and movement throughout the swing.

(And don’t be silly. These gadgets are not a problem; I can stop anytime I’d like.)

My swing in proper fiddle, now I’ll work on my inventory of swing keys.

Flick your nose and go into a cool, dark room as you study your shot.

See the target.

Athletic posture.

Let your mouth relax (so says PGA Tour veteran
Keegan Bradley).

Flat back, beware of rounding.

Light grip pressure.

Left thumb on top of grip.

Let the arms hang.

Trust the hands (whatever that means, but it worked for
Tiger Woods).

Right shoulder low.

Chin up.

Splay the feet.

Watch the back of the ball.

A little forward press with the hands.

Low and slow.

Stand tall, stay down.


Swing easy, hit hard.

Hinge the wrists going back.

Stretch the right hand as far back
as possible.

Elbows close to the body (worked for Ben Hogan, at least).

Turn right shoulder behind.

Turn left shoulder under.

One, two, three back . . . one down.

The pause that refreshes at the top.

Let gravity begin the downswing.

Let arms just fall from top.

Get to my left side (once helped Adam Scott shoot 62 on the PGA Tour).

Pick a spot 12 inches in front of the ball and hit it hard (a Rory McIlroy favorite).

Keep right knee quiet.

Keep left heel on the ground. (Unless I’m feeling like Jack Nicklaus and will let that sucker fly.)

Stay behind the ball.

Turn in a barrel.

Back to the target.

Keep the elbows connected.

Drive left heel into ground on downswing (straight from the syrupy swing of Sam Snead).

Hit the ball with your right hip (i.e., fire the hips).

Put the right hand in pants pocket on way down (an old Byron Nelson trick to avoid the shank).

Compress the ball.

Belt buckle to the target.

High hands.

Hold the finish.

Come Saturday, if I want to shoot 77, I’ll pick one of those.

If I want to shoot 90 and lose 50 bucks, I’ll pick four of them and hone in on two on the backswing.  PS

Lee Pace has written ”Golftown Journal” for more than a decade and tries to focus on just one of those swing thoughts—the one from Tom Watson about “going into a cool, dark room” before hitting a shot. Results vary.


Relevance Is Relative

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

By Susan S. Kelly

If nothing else, these times have taught us that every 15 minutes everything changes: statistics, rules of (social) engagement, open restaurants. Staying relevant has gotten harder than ever. But I try. I do (is “do” the relevant verb?).

Venmo and Snapchat and Twitter. I was an early-adopter of email back in the dinosaur ages of dial-up. Facebook isn’t relevant anymore, ICYMI. I try to keep up with acronyms. LOL and OMG are way, way passé, ICYMI. They’ve been demoted to crossword puzzle clues. I admit to being less than a pop culture maven — I tried Game of Thrones, I really did, but there were just So. Many. Bad. Guys. But the degree of my deficit really hit home in a recent New Yorker cartoon by Roz Chast. She’d drawn a character whose dreams were compartmentalized and labeled with words like “existential threats,” “angst,” “unspecified anxiety,” and “fantods.”

Fantods? What the heck are fantods? Some New Yorker-y thing, I comforted myself, an acronym for uber-cool Manhattanites. But no, fantod is right there in Merriam-Webster: a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness. And just like that, my vocabulary relevance has been downgraded.

It’s hardly the first time my relevance has come into question. When my daughter looked at my country songs playlist, she rolled her eyes. “What?” I asked.

“The Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces,” she said with a sniff. “So predictable.”

Well, we all know how that turned out. The Dixie Chicks don’t even have a relevant name anymore.

A few years back I went to a performance of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer-prize winning play Our Town. Along with the cast biographies, the playbill listed a helpful glossary of terms used in the production. “To string some beans,” was one entry. “A process by which green beans are stripped of their ‘string’ seam by breaking the tip, usually with a fingernail, and pulling it down the length of the bean.” Hello? The audience needs a definition for stringing beans?

“Catch 40 winks” read another. “To take a short nap.” I mean, as if the play were in Russian. Who knew the expression “40 winks” was no longer relevant? Though to be honest, at our house we refer to 40 winks as a drop-down. I began to understand why as teenagers, my children looked strangely at me when I’d end an argument with the phrase my father always used: “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” To their credit, and relevance, most things they associated with pipes are illegal substances.

The relevance of graphic novels escapes me too. Comics belong in a twirling rack and portray Richie Rich in a 14-karat gold swimming pool, or Archie and Veronica at Riverdale High, not in an adult-reading genre. (Although I do vaguely recall reading a comic-book version of A Tale of Two Cities at some low point in summer-reading requirements . . . ).

But I’m glad to see Bless Your Heart lose all relevance. Anyone possessed of authentic Southern snark knew about Bless Your Heart long, long before it appeared on cocktail napkins. You’ll have to find another way to criticize and patronize what flies so low it’s undetectable by radar.

No one’s required to stay relevant, of course. My husband gets along just fine without knowing who Pharrell is. When I try to tell him what “meta” means, he nods and goes right back to The Wall Street Journal. The thing is, not being relevant is the same thing as not being at a party. No one notices if you’re not at a party. Think about it. They only notice if you are.

You know what else doesn’t care about relevance? College essay prompts. Year in, year out, the prompts are the same boring choices. What changes are the relevant words you have to use: Cooperation. Collaboration. Global. They’re the vocab biggies right now. But who am I to talk? If I had my way, we’d all speak in old English. “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote . . . ”

Why else was I made to memorize the opening lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales if not as a safeguard against the fearsome state of complete and utter irrelevance?  PS

Susan S. Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and a proud grandmother.

Sporting Life

Fields of Dreams

Remembering conversations with old friends

By Tom Bryant

I backed the old Bronco out of her resting place in the garage and loaded it with my hunting paraphernalia. The gear for this trip was negligible because it was just an afternoon chase, and I’ve learned after many hunting seasons to travel light. As far as that goes, most of my dove shoots over the last several years have just been an excuse to get to the woods, not much shooting involved.

The little farm I lease, ostensibly for bird hunting, is only 30 minutes from home and one of the prettiest pieces of property I’ve been on in a while. It’s about a hundred acres, maybe a little more, and used to be a tobacco farm. Two old barns are still on the property and provide a haven to escape bad weather when needed.

I pulled the Bronco into a grove of pines, shut it down, grabbed my dove stool out of the back and found a nice shady spot close to the field to set up and watch for doves. It was still hot. September always is. Not much different from August, maybe a little respite later in the day, but hot anyway.

I watched the field for a short while. I could see a few birds working toward the north end but not much on my side, where I had decided to hunt. So I wandered back to the Bronco, put the tailgate down, fetched some water from the cooler and perched on the back like my dogs and I used to do. I had two yellow Labs, not at the same time, but in different eras of my life.

My first, named Paddle, lived 14 years and hunted with me almost every time I went to the woods. She was with me in my early hunting days, the time of my life when I was still figuring out what the world was all about. She and I had many conversations sitting as I was now on the back of this vintage truck.

Mackie, my second Lab, came along right after Paddle went to her reward where birds flew aplenty and the retrieves are always successful. Mackie was different. Where Paddle could be described as laid-back, Mackie was a little uptight. It’s funny to see how dogs have different personalities, just like people. When we would pull up to a hunting area and I would let Paddle out of the truck, she would walk around slowly, stretch, wander away, do her business, come back, and look up at me as if to say, “OK, boss, let’s go do this thing.”

When I let Mackie out of the Bronco, she would hit the turf running, tearing about, nose to the ground, all business, as if birds were everywhere and she didn’t want to miss a one. Mackie was during my adjustment time when I had finally figured out that you couldn’t equate success with money. Money helped, though. It was the barometer used by just about everyone gauging achievement. As the old saying goes, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

I had many wonderful conversations with each dog sitting on the tailgate of this old truck. They were amazing companions, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of them, especially on opening day of dove season.

I walked back to the stool and stood next to an old pine on the edge of the cut cornfield. Doves continued to fly on the north end, but clouds had moved and the sun was now bearing down. Birds don’t fly in this kind of heat, so I sat on the stool, leaning against the pine and remembered a hunt that my old friend Bryan and I had many years ago.

It was the first week of the season and, man, it was hot. The kind of heat where it seems you sweat more water than you can drink. Our spot on the field was right beside an overgrown drainage ditch. The crop of corn had been combined the week before, and there was plenty of food for birds. Our problem, though, no shade.

A white-hot sun so bright that it looked as if it took up the entire western sky was slowly moving to the horizon. I had backed up the Bronco so it was facing west, which gave us a sliver of shade at the back of the truck. Bryan and I were hunkered down on our stools in the minuscule shadow cast by the tailgate. The hunt looked as if it was going to be a dud, but as the sun began to drop behind the tree line, doves started flying by the hundreds. In less than 30 minutes, we both had our limit.

A far off rumble of thunder broke my reverie, and I watched as cumulus clouds built up like mountains in the western sky.

“It’s gonna storm before sundown,” I said to no one in particular. I miss my dogs, I thought. When I had Paddle and Mackie, I always had someone in the field to talk to. It seems that over the last three or four years, I’m in the woods more and more by my lonesome. My old hunting buddies are aging out, for one reason or another, health problems, other interests, whatever. Now, most days out in the countryside find me a solitary fellow.

As the thunder persisted toward the west and it seemed as if the storm might be heading my way, another memory of a long-ago dove hunt, one that could have been deadly, came to mind.

I was hunting a cornfield that abutted a small tobacco patch and was walking the dirt tractor path in between the two planted fields. The Bronco was parked at the top of a small rise, almost to the trees, about a hundred yards away. Suddenly, a dove fluttered up out of the standing tobacco, probably having gotten grit from the plowed areas for its craw to help in processing food.

I shot and it fell somewhere in the rows of plants. Paddle had died the season before, so retrieving was up to me. While all this was going on, I noticed a squall line coming over the trees right toward me, so I stepped up the pace to find the dove. I had just spotted it and was bent over to pick it up when the hair on my arms and the back of my head stood up. I dropped the shotgun to the ground and hunched over to make myself as small as I could, and BAM! A bolt of lightning hit a giant white oak in a peninsula of woods jutting out in the tobacco field not 50 yards from where I was hunkered down.

The storm was closer now, so I picked up my gear and moved to the Bronco as the first big splats of raindrops pounded on the roof of the little truck. I turned it around to get a better view of the storm coming across the cornfield. Lightning was popping here and yonder and thunder rolled across the trees.

It was a sight that never grows old: Mother Nature showing the critters, me included, who’s boss.  PS

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