Cabin Confidential

Rough-hewn exterior belies the comfort within

By Deborah Salomon • Photographs by John Gessner


The image of a cabin as a lowly dwelling lacking basic amenities evolved long ago from 19th century shelter into 21st century mountain retreats, ski lodges and vacation hideaways. Abe Lincoln may have been born in one, but it bears no resemblance to the adaptation Kelly Rader has wrought in Pinehurst. Based on comfort and informality, her rebuild may look rustic on the outside but within, soft jazz wafts from a sound system. Half a dozen flat screen TVs hang from walls that remain log only in the living room. Mile-high duvets cover queen-sized beds except for built-in bunks awaiting grandchildren. A screened porch opens onto a stone terrace and, from the new second story, dormers look onto a quiet lane leading into the village.

There is nothing oversized, nothing pretentious. Everything is welcoming. Call it rustic elegance. It was a formidable undertaking for a woman who admits preferring her elegance rustic-free like her former homes — a stately Georgian brick built in 1913 with carriage house and pool in St. Louis, or an Upper East Side Manhattan apartment.

Kelly grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, a town known for its fine residences. Her mother, Pat Johnstone, was a golfer on the amateur circuit. When her parents retired to Pinehurst Kelly wanted to be near them. No better place than the village, a theme park for retirees from everywhere strolling the lanes, rocking on porches, eating at cafés, shopping at farmers markets, living the good life in restored 1920s cottages.

The most likely prospect was a small log home built about 1925 for glove czar Percy Arnold for $5,000 — at the time considerably pricier than its neighbors. Exterior and interior walls were logs, and the ceiling beams massive tree trunks. A stone fireplace dominated the living room. Streetside, Kelly recalls, “It didn’t look like it belonged.”


But it was for sale, and they were curious. Coincidentally, Bill Rader had noticed it advertised online three years before. Let’s take a look, they decided.

“We walked in . . . and fell in love with the fireplace,” Kelly recalls. Both appreciated the cabin ambience — Bill’s family owns a resort in Pennsylvania composed of 39 log cabins.

“My Cabin,” as it was known, had passed through many hands and undergone several upgrades, including a kitchen fashioned from a one-car garage.

They purchased the cabin in 2015. Planning the renovation took a year, construction two. According to town regulations, they could build up but not out. A full second story with dormers was added, giving the footprint more substance. Weathered logs were removed and replaced with new ones in the living room. Elsewhere, interior walls were faced with conventional materials. “It was too dark. I’m a white-and-beige person. I like a Ralph Lauren feel,” Kelly says.

Her desire for light is served by multiple small-paned windows, some with shutters, installed at various heights, most surrounded by wide moldings which themselves enhance the décor. Rather than depending entirely on lamps or ceiling fixtures, Kelly chose sconces wired directly into the wall, to avoid visible cords. Also absent: clutter.

Doors leading from the living room into the now light-walled master suite were sealed (to increase privacy), with the space retooled as built-in bookcases. Dutch doors to the outside were added, along with an old-fashioned manual doorbell and wood-framed screen door. A small garden is fenced and quiet.


They gutted the kitchen and raised the ceiling. Now a little gem — almost a culinary sculpture gallery — the modest kitchen displays statuesque Italian SMEG brand toaster and juicer, soaring glass-front cabinets, knotty pine floors, a tall, narrow refrigerator and a refectory table surrounded by banquette seating in front of windows facing the sidewalk.

“It’s like a fishbowl. We sit here and wave at people walking by, so much fun,” Kelly says.

Instead of stark white, kitchen walls and cupboards are painted a variation with the slightest tinge of green. There is no dining room. Eight can eat comfortably at the kitchen table. On holidays, an empty space at the end of the living room is filled by a hunter’s table with leaves that fold out to accommodate at least another eight.

Hallways are covered in rough grasscloth for texture and practicality. They wipe clean. Kelly devoted one hallway to framed clippings from her mother’s golf career. A larger-than-life portrait reproduction of legendary golf pioneer Old Tom Morris is visible to passers-by, through a front window.

All four bathrooms are light, bright and new, lots of white and glass with contrasting navy blue. Off the living room, a perfect little screened conversation porch opens onto a terrace.


But the upstairs bedroom with sliding barn door and four built-in bunks painted hunter green, covered with tartan plaid quilts, elicits the biggest smiles.

Furnishings defy period or classification but illustrate a trend popular with downsizing retirees: out with the old, start afresh, which doesn’t always mean new. Kelly haunts Design Market in Aberdeen, estate sales and other sources for tables, chairs and case pieces. In the living room two upholstered chairs swivel, allowing their occupants to grab hors d’oeuvres off the massive square coffee table, then spin back to a TV mounted over a breakfront. Bent bamboo chairs accent the master bedroom. A well-worn blanket chest from Bill’s childhood found a place along with an antique metal disc player and a painting by Bill’s mother.

For fun, leopard-print runners cover stairs and hallways. Waffle-weave carpets add more texture. Old golf clubs and bag anchor a corner of the living room. Deer antlers twist out of a vase. Happily, it hangs together beautifully, creating an atmosphere more livable than grand.


Kelly and Bill moved from St. Louis in 2018. A plaque on the fence announces their ownership: “House of Rader, established Dec. 10, 1988,” their wedding day.

“What I wanted was a gathering space for our family,” Bill says.

The cabin, now with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, is ready for Thanksgiving, when the Raders’ three adult children and other guests will number 22. At least 12 will bunk down at the cabin and the holiday feast will be there.

Mission accomplished.  PS

The Omnivorous Reader

Of Race and Justice

Two books with common cause

By Anne Blythe

Sometimes two books can sit far apart on the bookshelf and seem to have little in common. Then you read them and discover the themes they share.

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial is novelist and lawyer Corban Addison’s first work of nonfiction, a fast-paced legal thriller that reads like a novel about — wait for it — hog feces.

Addison tells the saga of Elsie Herring and hundreds of other residents in eastern North Carolina so disgusted by the stench and waste disposal practices of the industrial-style hog farms among their rural, mostly Black communities that they waged a legal battle against a pork industry giant. Through deft description of courtroom drama and artful portraits of the characters in this classic good-versus-evil narrative, Addison exposes the longstanding injustices of institutional environmental racism.

In Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt, Phoebe Zerwick, head of the Wake Forest University journalism program who used to work at the Winston-Salem Journal, delivers a thorough journalistic exploration of the life, wrongful conviction, exoneration and death by the suicide of Darryl Hunt. Zerwick shines a harsh light on a fundamentally flawed justice system and the institutional racism embedded in it.

Addison opens his book inside the federal courtroom in Raleigh where U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt has just been alerted that a jury has reached a verdict in one of a series of nuisance cases that hog farm neighbors brought against Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork producer.

The decision came quickly.

“The word spread like sparks from a brushfire,” Addison writes. “Smartphones emerge from pockets and handbags, thumbs fly across screens, and messages are cast across the digital wind, lighting up other phones with chimes and beeps miles away.”

Britt, Addison writes, is “a charming octogenarian with the oracular eyes of a barn owl,” who waits for the assembly of the necessary attorneys, paralegals, plaintiffs and others to take their places in the courtroom. Peering over his glasses at the lawyers, he motions to the bailiff to bring in the jury.

A quiet settles over the courtroom. The foreman, holding an envelope with the verdict sealed inside, tells the judge that he and his fellow jurors have come to a unanimous decision. “As the envelope makes its short trip to the bench, the plaintiffs in the gallery take a breath and hold it,” Addison writes.

His prose is poetic though, at times, a bit overwrought. “The pain and sorrow of memory, together with the labor of years and dreams of days yet to come, are at the altar before them. Contrary to the tale of greed and opportunism being spun by politicians and poohbahs across town, they aren’t thinking about a million dollar payday as they wait for the judgment to be delivered. Instead, they are whispering a simple prayer, the prayer of verdict day, of verdictum. Please, Lord, let them believe us. Let them believe that we told the truth.”

In the ensuing scenes he gives readers a sense of history about land in the coastal plain that has been passed down from generation to generation among Black families who are standing up against the nemesis they say is responsible for them being unable to enjoy the life they, and their ancestors, once had.

This thoroughly researched and reported narrative ends with a visit to Joyce Messick, one of the plaintiffs in the nuisance cases who saw the hog farm near her family’s property shutter.

While Messick told him she finally felt as if she could breathe clean air, others have not gotten to that point. “Most have yet to see the change, to fill their lungs with liberated air, to stand upon emancipated ground,” Addison writes. “The dollar is still the lodestar of Smithfield Foods, and the legislature is still its domain.” Nonetheless, Addison concludes, there are people who will be relentless until commitments by the pork industry are realized.

To open her book about Hunt, Zerwick explains why she felt compelled to revisit a case she had chronicled in a series for the Winston-Salem Journal, one that led to new court proceedings that resulted in his exoneration.

Beyond Innocence is my attempt to finish a story I began long ago,” she writes. “In 2003, when I wrote about the wrongful conviction of Darryl Hunt for the Winston-Salem Journal, Hunt was in prison then for the 1984 murder of a newspaper editor who had been raped and stabbed to death, not far from the newsroom where I worked.”

Hunt, who maintained his innocence throughout, was exonerated after 19 years of legal battles and the help of tireless advocates who refused to let the wrongful conviction stand.

“To the outside world, Hunt was the man who walked out of prison without rancor or regret,” Zerwick writes. “But the past haunted him, and the heroic narrative of a man who fought for justice masked a deep despair.” Zerwick decided to revisit Hunt’s story after he was found dead in the driver’s seat of a pickup truck that had been parked by a busy road with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

She was grief-stricken, as were many others. Then she went into reporter mode.

“I wasn’t done with the story after all,” Zerwick writes. “I started looking into his death soon after the funeral. Rather than tackle the big question about the failure of the justice system, I focused first on the facts.” Answers began to arrive as she interviewed the people around him, studied photographs and Facebooks posts, and pored over correspondence Hunt had with his lawyers.

“Hunt’s death taught me a great deal about the limits of journalism and forced me to question my motives,” Zerwick writes. “Does the public’s right to know, that righteous principle we journalists invoke, justify exposing the secrets I hoped to find? Does shining a light in the dark places really help, as we claim it does? Who am I to tell a story Hunt had not told himself?”

In the end, though, Zerwick brings new layers to the saga of Darryl Hunt, the heroic advocate for reform, and the often-told recounting of his wrongful conviction.

“Long before politicians began campaigning against mass incarceration, Hunt saw the system he had left behind for what it is, a trap that condemns millions of men and women, and their children, to living on the fringes, barred from jobs, housing, bank loans, food assistance and more, barred, in short, from a reasonable chance at a decent life,” Zerwick concludes, and she wishes Hunt was here to be a part of the reforms.

Both Zerwick and Addison have crafted new, nonfiction accounts of old cases that tested the justice of the justice system. They should be read from cover to cover. PS

Anne Blythe has been a reporter in North Carolina for more than three decades.


Charity on the Hoof

Take your horse-loving herd on a self-guided tour of six exquisite horse farms from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16. All proceeds benefit the Prancing Horse Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 the day of. Children 12 and under are free. Prancing Horse Center, 6100 Hoffman Road, Hoffman. Trot off to for information and tickets.

Photograph By Ted Fitzgeralds

Live After 5

Don’t miss the last concert of the 2022 Live After 5 concert series  on Friday, Oct. 14 from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. with entertainment experts Bantum Rooster. Wildfire Pizza, Jaya’s Indian Cuisine, and Sunset Slush will be on-site with a wide selection of food for all to enjoy. Beer, wine and additional beverages will be available for purchase. Bring your picnic baskets but leave the outside alcohol at home. Kids’ crafts ensure a good time will be had by all. Tufts Memorial Park, 1 Village Green Road, Pinehurst. Info:

Cabin Cool

Catch up on some upscale cabin coziness on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a tour of eight historic cabins in Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Carthage, taking them all the way from flannel to flawless. One of the cabins is featured in this edition of PineStraw beginning on page 90. Drop into the Woman’s Exchange before or after the tour for a complimentary dessert and drink the day of the event. Tickets are $25 and proceeds support the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, 15 Azalea Road, Pinehurst. Info: (910) 295-4677 or

Photograph By Ted Fitzgeralds

Handmade for the Holidays

There’s something for everyone at the 43rd annual Holly Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15 beginning at 10 a.m. and boasting the talents of over 100 crafters — from woodworking to glass, stitched art to lawn ornaments, jewelry to metal sculpture. Your favorite downtown shops and restaurants will be offering sales and specials, with food trucks on hand to ensure you shop but don’t drop while you cross names off that holiday gift list. Tufts Memorial Park, 1 Village Green Road, Pinehurst. Info:

Celebrating Iconic Female Leaders

Spend your Saturday with former governor of South Carolina and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as she discusses her book If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons From Bold Women. She joins The Country Bookshop’s Kimberly Daniels Taws in an intimate and inspirational conversation on Saturday , Oct. 8 from 2:30  p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bradshaw Performing Arts Center, Owens Auditorium, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. For information and tickets visit

Photograph By Ted Fitzgeralds

Moore Heritage, More Fun

Blend treasure hunting with history and fall fun for the whole family at the 14th annual Shaw House Heritage Fair and Moore Treasures Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, rain or shine. The Heritage Fair offers unique vendors, baked goods, live music, demonstrations of old-time crafts, treasure sales and farm animals for petting. The Shaw House, Sanders Cabin and Garner House will be open for tours. The tobacco barn and museum highlight historic agriculture of the Sandhills. The Moore Treasures Sale features collectibles, pottery, jewelry, art, antiques, vintage books, toys, glassware and much more. All proceeds benefit the ongoing efforts of the Moore County Historical Association. Admission is free. The Shaw House, 110 W. Morganton Road, Southern Pines. Info: (910) 692-2051 or

Have Hydrangeas, Send Help

Give your hydrangeas a fighting chance at survival by attending an hour-long presentation on the care and keeping of the colorful plants at the Sandhills Horticultural Lecture Series on Friday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. In addition to hearing from expert Wake County gardeners, attendees will also see a video of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival. Registration is not required, but seats are limited, so arrive early at the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Ball Visitors’ Center, 3245 Airport Road, Pinehurst.

The Big Easy

Join the New Orleans Masquerade Band for a Jambalaya and Jazz Fundraiser, featuring jazz and blues of the 1920s and ’30s, on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Fair Barn. There will be small bites by Southern Whey, delicious jambalaya and dessert served by White Rabbit Catering, and cider tastings compliments of James Creek Cider House. Hosted by the Given Tufts Foundation, all proceeds benefit the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives. Pinehurst Fair Barn, 200 Beulah Hill Road S., Pinehurst. Info and tickets:  

Charo in Class and Concert

Music and pop culture icon Charo may be best known for her signature “cuchi cuchi” phrase, but she’s also been voted “Best Flamenco Guitarist” twice by Guitar Magazine. Her bubbly personality and trademark 1970s expression have endeared her to millions of fans around the world. On Friday, Oct. 21, from noon to 1:30 p.m., Charo will host a master class on guitar and performance, a special opportunity for a small group to learn from a world class artist at BPAC’s intimate McPherson Theater. If you miss her master class, there’s still time to catch her on stage. She’ll be performing that evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at BPAC’s Owens Auditorium. Both locations are at 3395 Airport Road Pinehurst. Additional information and tickets are at:

The British Are Coming!

Make your way to downtown Southern Pines for the penultimate First Friday of the season with The English Beat, a UK band that fuses Latin, pop, soul, reggae and rock — all in support of your local theater. As always, leave the dogs and outside alcohol at home but enjoy the food trucks, along with some Southern Pines Brewery brews, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7. On the square at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. Info:

The Creators of N.C.

A Purpose-Driven Art

Scott Avett follows the mystery

By Wiley Cash

Photographs By Mallory Cash

For a man whose music I’ve been listening to for almost two decades and whose face I’ve seen everywhere from the Grammy Awards to the Today show to the 2017 documentary May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers by Judd Apatow, Scott Avett was surprisingly easy to reach. After a couple of calls and texts to mutual friends, my wife, Mallory, and I arrived to interview him one day in early August. He met us in the driveway of the small house he’d converted into an art studio in the country about 15 minutes outside of downtown Concord, North Carolina.

Most North Carolinians, as well as music lovers around the world, know Scott as the other half of the Avett Brothers, who, along with his younger brother Seth, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon, have sold millions of records and whose career has carried the band from small stages in college towns to the Grand Ole Opry to Madison Square Garden and beyond. But Scott knows himself best as a man whose purpose is to create, and painting is as much a part of his creative life as songwriting.

While his visual art has rarely been exhibited publicly aside from a 2019 show at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Scott has been a working artist since graduating from East Carolina University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art. His paintings and drawings most often speak to family life and the natural world in rural North Carolina, but his work is in conversation with the many cultural and artistic influences he encounters on the road and in his reading life.

In our time together, Scott will rattle off quotes from French Impressionist Edgar Degas and the Trappist monk and mystic poet Thomas Merton the way some of us might casually discuss Monday Night Football or the day’s headlines. It’s clear to me that while his work portrays what one could see and hear if one were to spend time shadowing him during his daily life on the land in Concord, there is a deeper spiritual mystery residing in the work that speaks to the same unseen hand that guides emotions and ideas like love, duty, purpose and one’s role in them all.

This mystery is perhaps what Scott refers to as “the revelation of meaning beyond the physical act of making” that informs his exhibition, “After the Fact,” which is running through October at the Greenville Museum of Art in Greenville, North Carolina. This exhibit will run concurrently with “Purpose at Random,” Scott’s show at the SOCO Gallery in Charlotte, which began in September and will run through November 2. The show in Charlotte features new oil paintings that Scott began working on in the early months of 2020, which means the work was created during the pandemic when he would have otherwise been on the road with the band. In a press release for the show, Scott says, “I’m not sure that it was easier to paint during the pandemic but it was certainly more available than playing concerts. Painting is a solitary activity. The more time alone the better, I think. The pandemic provided space.”

On the day we meet him, the only calendar space Scott has is a two-week break from touring, and so he’s at work completing a painting that will be featured in one of the upcoming shows. Inside, his studio reveals itself to be a place in creative flux. Paintings either hang on the walls or lean against them, some in various stages of completion. Hiding amongst them — and he will show it to us just before we leave in a few hours — is an early draft of a painting of singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, the final draft of which appeared on the cover of her 2018 multi-Grammy Award-winning album, By the Way, I Forgive You.

We follow Scott into an open space, past a low counter where his kids’ works-in-progress are waiting for their return. The studio is bright and airy. Morning light pours through the windows on the east side of the house. Scott stands in the middle of the room with a cup of coffee brewed by the Concord coffeehouse, Verb, in hand.

As Mallory unpacks her camera gear, I tell Scott that I grew up in Gastonia, which is on the west side of Charlotte, while Concord sits on its east. We talk about what it was like to be raised so close to Charlotte in the 1980s and ’90s without much awareness of what went on in what seemed to us to be “the big city.” We joked that the only time we went into Charlotte was to go Christmas shopping at SouthPark.

“That was the fancy mall,” Scott says, smiling. I tell him that once, when I was young, I spotted NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon with his first wife at SouthPark, and that leads us to a conversation about race car drivers as Sunday races served as the backdrop of our North Carolina childhoods, especially for Scott, given that Charlotte Motor Speedway sits just a few miles away from the place where he was raised. I ask Scott how he and his family ended up on this expanse of land where he has remained despite his world travels, his parents still living just a few miles down the road, and his own family’s home tucked into the woods behind his studio.

Scott’s father was born in North Carolina and grew up the son of a Methodist minister whose calling took the family around the state. Scott’s mother was an Army kid born on a base in Germany before being raised in Kansas and Virginia. Just before Scott was born, his parents and older sister moved to Alaska, where his father hoped to get work as a pipeline welder, but the job fell through, and on the way back south the family lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for about a year. That’s where Scott was born. But they eventually found their way back to North Carolina and to the landscape where Scott’s grandfather had touched so many lives. When the family decided to settle down outside Concord — his father traveled as a welder and his mother taught school — they were gifted 2 acres and an old house by an elderly couple who had long admired Scott’s grandfather. His father renovated the home, and Scott’s parents lived there until the house burned down last year. But fire can’t burn roots, and Scott’s parents rebuilt, and they continue to reside just down the road from him.

When Scott and his two siblings were growing up, his parents made certain that education was available to them, especially if the kids were hungry for it. “They were intent on that,” he says. “They said, ‘We will see to it that you have an opportunity to go to school. If we’re broke, we’ll rob a bank to pay for it. If you are interested in education, you will get the opportunity.’” All three children went to college.

It’s clear that Scott values his children’s education as well, especially in the arts. Aside from the makeshift studio set up for them alongside his own work, his daughter regularly participates in after-school tutoring sessions in creative writing led by the owner of the local bookstore, Goldberry Books, in downtown Concord. It’s easy to imagine a holistic education in art and outdoor experiences unfolding for children in a landscape like this. If I sound wistful when imagining such a childhood it’s because I am.

But our conversation turns toward what could be considered the more practical matters of being a creator, namely, what happens when your hobby — whether it’s painting or songwriting or writing novels — becomes your job. Is the mystery of creation compromised?

“As soon as you’re doing something to pay bills, I don’t know that you’re really following your heart,” Scott says. “We’re called to have a purpose, but you can slip off that purpose really quickly, and all of a sudden the purpose becomes to pay the bills more easily. I want to avoid that. There’s a mystery in creating. I want to follow the mystery and get as close to it as I can. But when I’m caught up in success or anything else it has nothing to do with getting close to the mystery. It just distracts from it.”

Jeff Gordon and NASCAR are still lingering in the corners of my mind, and I mention that Gordon retired from driving at the age of 44, and both Scott and I are now in our mid-40s. I tell him that I doubt Gordon’s physical skills were diminished at that age, but perhaps his awareness of the risks he was taking became more apparent the older and wiser he got. I ask Scott if he’s more aware of the choices he’s making at this stage of his career and if his skills are continuing to sharpen. 

“I feel like I’m in the sweet spot, ability-wise,” he says about both performing music and painting. “Physically, I can do it, and, mentally, my tools have accumulated quite a bit. I see evidence of that when I can make plans about what project I am going to execute. Ten years ago, I might say, ‘I hope I can do this. I hope I don’t flub it and get stuck on something.’” He pauses for a moment. “I think I hold it all a little looser than I ever did, and I’m not going to be blown away by whether it hits or doesn’t hit. I don’t know why, but there’s now a barometer, and sometimes it says, ‘Hey, enough, you have enough. Now, with enough, can you lean into your purpose?’”

I ask him how it feels to let go of a painting after someone buys it. After all, when he writes a song he can always perform it whether or not it’s on a record or in front of a live audience. “It rips pretty hard,” he says. “It really does. I see painting as me telling my life story, and as I do that, it’s kind of tough to imagine that some of it’s in Colorado, some of it’s in New York, some of it’s in Texas. But I haven’t gotten too attached to any of them so far. There are only three I won’t let go of. One of my wife and two of our kids that I painted in bathing suits. They’re just portraits of them, but I’ve said those aren’t for sale.”

I ask him if his art is a result of his being anchored to this land given his family’s history on it. He pauses as if painting an answer in his mind.

“We’re all bigger than our place,” he finally says. “I am in North Carolina, and I am making the things I’m meant to make. When you can settle that and not think that New York is better than North Carolina, then you can start getting to your work.

“You have to find a corner of the world,” he says. “I truly believe that on these 80 acres there is more to explore than I can do in a lifetime. There is so much work to be done here, and by work I mean purpose. To me, my purpose is realized here. My purpose is to create. There are a lot of leaves to peel back here, and there are a lot of experiences happening.”

He pulls his phone from his pocket and flips through his photos, landing on a picture he took the night before of his 7-year-old son just after he’d fallen asleep. “There’s nothing not timeless about this,” he says. “If my purpose is to recognize relationships and see things, this is a good place to be.” He laughs and puts his phone away. “But where’s not?”  PS

Wiley Cash is the Alumni Author-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, is available wherever books are sold.

Tea Leaf Astrologer


(September 23 – October 22)

It’s hard to find balance in a world so positively askew. Even for you, Libra. And yet, you make it look easy. Contorting yourself with such subtle mastery that no one seems to notice you’re bent out of shape. Let the plates fall. Draw yourself a bath. The Earth will keep spinning while you recharge. And with the blustery energy of the new moon and partial solar eclipse sweeping in on October 25 — a breath of fresh air — it may be time to unearth a hidden passion.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

In through your nose, out through your mouth.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Slow down and proceed with caution.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

It’s time to clear the cobwebs, darling.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

The door was never locked.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Two words: system reboot.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Butter won’t save the stale bread.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Try sweetening the pot.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

There’s an app for that.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Don’t leave yourself at the altar.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Opening a window might help.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Concentrate and ask again.  PS

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Thrones’ Starbucks cup mishap of 2019. While she’s not exactly a medium, she’s far from average. She lives in the N.C. foothills with her Sphynx cat, Lyla. 

Golftown Journal

Porking Out

A tradition like no other

By Lee Pace

Among the much-revered culinary traditions in golf are the pimento cheese sandwiches at The Masters, the “burgerdog” at The Olympic Club (essentially an elongated hamburger served in a toasted hot dog bun), the snapper soup at Pine Valley (thick with nuggets of turtle and finished with a dollop of sherry), and the peanut butter and bacon sandwiches at the halfway house at Mountain Lake in Florida.

And then you have the pork chop at the Pine Crest Inn in the village of Pinehurst.

“The pork chop is as much a rite of passage of visiting Pinehurst as four-putting one of the greens on Pinehurst No. 2,” says Steven Lilly, an annual visitor along with up to 28 fellow Davidson College graduates.

“At the ’99 U.S. Open, we had 1,600 pork chops go through that kitchen. That’s a lot of pork,” adds Marie Hartsell, a longtime cook at Pine Crest, which opened in 1913.

The 22-ounce porterhouse pork chop is among the “classic entrees” listed on the menu of the Pine Crest, which was owned in the early days by golf architect Donald Ross and has been in the Barrett family for six decades.

“Fork-tender served with mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and natural pan gravy. A Pine Crest Inn tradition for over 60 years!” the menu reads.

The pork chop was the creation of longtime chef Carl Jackson, who started in the kitchen as a boy in the 1930s, worked his way up to chef, and was an institution at the inn until his death in 1998 at the age of 77. Nephew Peter Jackson took over for Carl, and Carl’s grandson Kiyatta Jackson works in the Pine Crest kitchen today.

“The pork chop has been a leader on the menu all these years,” says Peter Barrett, son of Bob Barrett, the Ohio newspaperman who bought the inn in 1961. “Carl had a special pot, and he braised them in an old pizza oven big enough to hold the pan. He’d get about 24 in a pan.”

Lilly has ordered the pork chop three nights in a row for 30 years during his annual trip to Pinehurst. He estimates one-third of their group will order the pork chop every night at dinner.

“Over the years, we have noticed the presentation changes,” Lilly says.  “Sometimes a plate, sometimes a shallow bowl, perhaps differing ingredients in the au-jus vegetable medley. But the tender, slow-roasted chop, which seems to fall from the bone moments before the fork (never the knife!) even makes contact, remains a constant.” 

Pedro Martinez-Fonts is one of a dozen close friends originally from Cuba who migrated to the United States in the early 1960s to get away from the Castro communist regime. They have been meeting at the Pine Crest Inn every May for more than two decades.

“The pork chop reminds me of when we used to roast a pig, covered with banana leaves, on my grandfather’s farm in Cuba,” he says. “Not only is it a generous cut that can feed more than one Cuban, but it is also tender and full of flavor. Of all the times we have stayed at the Pine Crest, I have seen only one Cuban, the late Bobby Perkins, who could handle one of these pork chops by himself.”

Harman Switzer was part of a group of a dozen golfers based in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, who visited the Pine Crest annually from 1974 through 2019 until age got the better of them. “The people, the porch and the pork chop kept drawing us back,” he says. “And I haven’t missed a chop in that time. I must admit, at 78 years of age, one 22-ounce serving is sufficient for the week. But there was a time when one was not enough.”

On one occasion one of their members brought his wife to experience the pork chop.

“She was so rightfully impressed with chef Carl’s creation that she asked to speak with him, unashamedly in search of the recipe,” Switzer says. “Chef Carl immediately appeared from the kitchen and delightfully began to expound on the hours of marinade and slow cooking. Whereupon the lady politely inquired about the sauce ingredients. To which chef Carl also politely responded, ‘Oh sorry, that’s a secret sauce.’ Which, to my knowledge, remains a Jackson family secret today.”

Indeed it does, though snippets of the presentation have emerged over the years.

Jackson used to buy all his meat from a butcher shop in Boston, but now the chops come from an institutional distributor. They used to come with a layer of fat that’s now trimmed off. Barrett says Jackson cooked them at 225 degrees all day, but now they’re braised at 350 degrees for a slightly shorter period. The corn, okra, onions and carrots are visible dancing around the meat on the shallow serving bowl, but the broth is the finishing touch. Insiders will admit to there being salt, pepper and paprika, but no one is certain whether V8 Juice, tomato juice and/or Campbell’s tomato soup are part of the elixir.

In June 2022 I visited the Pine Crest for three nights with a group from Chapel Hill and mentioned to the guys as we sat down for dinner that the pork chop was the specialty of the house. All six of us ordered the pork chop, and an hour later were wheeled out to our beds, sated and happy. One in our group commandeered the meager leftovers (six bones with a little meat hanging about) to take home to his 75-pound dog, Ernie.

“Ernie was joyously grateful, especially to those who’d left a little meat on theirs,” Steve reported.

Kiyatta Jackson, known as “Yacht” and now a breakfast cook at the Pine Crest, says he’ll honor his grandfather’s wishes that his recipe remain a secret. But at least someone knows the ingredients and the process for generating the Pine Crest’s signature dish and, when a new chef comes through, they’re given chapter and verse about the most popular choice on the menu.

“We might have made our last visit as a group, but I’ve been back myself twice in the last year,” says Switzer, who lives on Callawassie Island near Hilton Head. “It’s always good for a special occasion — a birthday, anniversary, wedding. Or sometimes seeking sanctuary from a low country storm.

“There are lots of excuses for visiting the Pine Crest and enjoying a drink on the porch and savoring the pork chop — the latter being the celebratory culmination of the journey.”  PS

Lee Pace has written about the Pinehurst experience for more than three decades from his home in Chapel Hill. Write him at and follow him @LeePaceTweet.


In the Realm of Seadevils

Encountering wonders from the deep-sea

Story and Photographs by Todd Pusser

A crescent moon hung high in the sky over a sea as smooth as glass. The air was thick with humidity as our research vessel plowed slowly through the waters of the Gulf Stream 150 miles south of Cape Cod. Thousands of stars twinkled above while lightning danced across distant thunder clouds miles away. Below my feet, it was a mile and a half down to the ocean floor.

The steady sound of the massive winch suddenly stopped. The thick cable extending out from the stern, taut with tension, indicated that the deep water trawl net was close to the surface. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I could barely contain my excitement. You never know what you might catch when dropping a net far below the ocean’s surface. On this particular trawl, the net was towed around 1,500 feet deep. Chances are good you might catch something that has never been seen by human eyes.

The deep-sea is defined as waters below 660 feet, where sunlight no longer penetrates. At its most extreme point, the ocean is an astounding 36,201 feet deep — roughly 7 miles down. At those depths, the ocean is a pitch-black wilderness where temperatures hover just above freezing.


Left: Deepsea Shrimp.

Right: Black Sea Devil-humpback anglerfish. 

It is not hyperbole to say that more is known about outer space than the deep-sea. The ocean covers 70 percent of this planet, and on average, is nearly 2 ½ miles deep. As pointed out by author Helen Scales in her recent book, The Brilliant Abyss, the entire surface of the moon has been mapped to a resolution of 23 feet, while the deep ocean floor that blankets the Earth has only been mapped to a resolution of 3 miles.

As a kid, on family vacations to Cherry Grove in North Myrtle Beach, I would often find myself standing on the sandy shore and staring out over the ocean, trying to look past the horizon line and wondering what treasures lay hidden beneath. In middle school, I daydreamed of being Captain Nemo, from Jules Verne’s classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, piloting the wondrous deep-sea submarine Nautilus in search of sea monsters. Later, in college, I discovered real-life explorer William Beebe, who in 1930 became the first man to descend into the dark depths of the ocean, below the reach of light, using a large steel sphere lowered from a stationary ship by thousands of feet of steel cable. Beebe introduced the wonders of the deep to people around the world in a series of articles for National Geographic and popular books such as Half Mile Down. I never imagined at the time that I would be able to see some of the wondrous creatures Beebe described in his writings.

With a few final turns of the winch, the net was hauled onto the deck of the ship. Grabbing a hard hat and life vest, I walked out onto the stern to assist the fishery biologists in sorting the catch. Down on one knee, I began to pick through a cornucopia of our planet’s strangest inhabitants — creatures that look like they evolved from the mind of Dr. Seuss. Even their names evoke a Spielbergian science fiction epic: dragonfishes, greeneyes, lanternfishes, whalemouths, hatchetfishes, bristlemouths, star-eaters, gulpers. Many were velvet black with mouths full of huge teeth and possessed strange, glowing bioluminescent lures sprouting from their heads. There were bright red shrimp, glowing squid, and skinny eels with bird-like beaks.

I reached into the twine of the net and gently untangled a saber-toothed viperfish, which possessed a series of needle-sharp fangs that extended up from its lower jaw to just above its eye. A series of bioluminescent dots ran along its flanks while an elongated glow-in-the-dark lure extending from its dorsal fin dangled in front of its fearsome maul. When viewed only in a photograph, a viperfish would appear to the be most fearsome critter in the sea. Thankfully it grows only to a foot in length, as do the vast majority of the monstrous looking fishes from the deep.

Farther down the side of the net, I find another unusual fish, the fangtooth. Sporting a face only a mother could love, the 5-inch-long predator comes equipped with a massive mouth full of oversized teeth that are capable of tackling prey nearly as large as itself.


Suddenly, there is an exclamation of excitement from a biologist standing nearby. We all rush over to discover the ultimate prize in tonight’s haul: a small female humpback anglerfish commonly known as the black seadevil. Looking a bit like a demonic tadpole, she seemed to be all head with a rotund black body, huge mouth, big teeth, and a stout, rod-shaped lure that extended up from the top of the head, which was capped by a glowing, bacteria-filled light organ known as an esca. Scientists speculate the lure may be used to attract prey close to her vicious mouth — or perhaps to draw in a mate.

The deep-sea is vast, the largest livable space on the planet, and it may take years to find a mate. There are around 170 species of deep-sea anglerfish currently recognized by science, and many deploy a most remarkable reproductive strategy. Male anglerfish lack bioluminescent lures and are many times smaller than females. In several species, when a male finds a female, he literally latches onto her skin, like a tick. Once attached he never lets go for the rest of his life, taking “till death do us part” to a whole other level. Eventually, he fuses with her tissue and gains sustenance from her bloodstream. He is entirely dependent on the female for survival. In return, he provides her with a never-ending supply of sperm.

The abyss is unfathomable, a place beyond comprehension for us landlubber humans. Countless creatures that defy imagination still await discovery in its dark depths. I, for one, feel extremely privileged to have experienced some of its treasures firsthand.  PS

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

Truth & Tales

A Fresh Take on Blackbeard the Pirate

By Addie Ladner & Reyna Crooms

Illustration by Miranda Glyder


It’s 1715, just off the colonial North Carolina coast. A sloop flying a black flag decorated with a horned skull approaches. At its helm: Blackbeard the pirate, a gruesome sight with smoke streaming from his braided hair and a severed head in his hands. His crew swings onto the deck, swords in hand, ready to strike down any other ship in their bloodthirsty, unrelenting quest for treasure.

According to North Carolina research historian Kevin Duffus, very little of that is true. “Most everything you’ve ever read about Blackbeard is wrong,” Duffus claims. Read on for clues to sort between the truths and tales of this famed pirate — and for ideas to get out and do some exploring for yourself.


Revisiting History

An interview with a man who is on a mission to uncover the truth about Blackbeard.



Kevin Duffus first became fascinated by pirates as a young boy, when he watched the 1968 film Blackbeard’s Ghost. “At the time I didn’t understand that history can be fictionalized — I was just so interested in this Blackbeard,” says Duffus. Shortly after, Duffus’ father, who was in the Air Force, was posted in Greenville, North Carolina. Duffus started researching the area’s history and discovered that the infamous character he’d seen in the movies had died not far away, in Ocracoke.

So, at 17, Duffus and two friends hopped on their bikes to visit the barrier island and experience the history for themselves. “It took us over two days to get there. That was the beginning of my quest to find Blackbeard,” Duffus says. He explored the coast, looking for the landscapes he saw in the film, like the high cliff where, in the movie, Blackbeard had built himself an inn from salvaged timber. But when Duffus asked locals at a community store where to find that cliff, “they said, son, the highest point here is only about 8 feet,” Duffus says. “I began to realize you shouldn’t learn history by watching movies.”

Since then, Duffus, a longtime television producer who now owns a production company focused on history and tourism, has logged thousands of hours conducting primary research on pirates, and on Blackbeard in particular. He spent a week in England’s National Archives, going through log books and correspondence of Royal Navy ships stationed in Virginia in the early 1700s. He has also done research on foot: He once discovered a grave, covered in vegetation, along the banks of the Tar River. “Even trusted institutions like museums and park services have helped to perpetuate the historical fraud of the legendary pirate,” Duffus says. “I’ve been working to winnow out all of the unsupported claims, to weed out the three centuries of myth and legend.”

In 2008, he published The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate, which is now in its fourth edition and one of six books he’s authored about maritime history. In 2014, Duffus was honored as North Carolina Historian of the Year by the North Carolina Society of Historians. We spoke to Duffus to learn why he believes that Blackbeard’s story is more complicated — and more important to North Carolina’s history — than the popular narrative suggests.

Blackbeard as depicted on an Allen & Ginter cigarette card.

You say pirates don’t match up with what many of us have in our heads — Why?

Pirates were indistinguishable from the rest of society. They dressed the same, they talked the same. There’s no such thing as pirate clothing, eye patches, earrings or tattoos — that’s been largely invented.

So often, popular culture portrays pirates as living in their own little world at sea, without the external events and forces that would have shaped real life. Blackbeard’s world was complicated. It involved wars between nations, economic distress, social stratification, legal irregularities and lost or destroyed official records. In Colonial America in the 1700s, the era considered the Great Age of Piracy, it was hard to establish a life. People who lived here would do whatever was necessary to survive.

Around the town of Bath, North Carolina, the years before Blackbeard became a pirate were marked by political discord, drought, famine and yellow fever. Often, a group of down-and-out sailors would set out by boat to raid a merchant’s vessel to quickly raise some funds. They’d fire a gun or cannon, then they’d raise the black flag signaling they were pirates; the merchant ship would typically be outnumbered and surrender. Battles and bloodshed were rare. Usually, these pirates would simply detain their victim’s vessel for an hour or two while they searched their cargo for valuables like food, wine and shoes.


So pirates were everyday people?

Yes, they were everyday mariners. It was a way to make some quick money, then return to your family and normal life. And there’s some gray area, too: Some professional mariners were privateers, which meant they were authorized to attack enemy ships. England was gearing up for war with Spain, so they’d enlist these mariners to do their work. There were no police, there was no one preventing this pirating from taking place, so there was no real danger of being caught. It became so popular that there are records of hundreds of men doing it.

Blackbeard Buccaneer, a 1922 painting by Frank Schoonover.

When did the current version of a pirate become popular?

Only once people started making money off the legends. Around the late 1800s, there were a number of artists, like Howard Pyle, who began creating illustrations of pirates. Then came a number of films that romanticized the pirate life, starting in the mid-1900s. That’s when the distinctive pirate look and manner of speaking coalesced. No one said “Arrgh!” until Robert Newton played Long John Silver in the 1950 film Treasure Island.

What about the idea of buried treasure?

Buried treasure is also a ridiculous myth. If you took a small chest, let’s say 6 cubic feet, and filled it with gold, it would weigh 9,500 pounds! How would you move that, let alone bury it? The rumor probably came about because during that time, if you had valuables and didn’t have a safe, you’d bury them in your backyard.

What’s been your biggest revelation about Blackbeard?

A year or so into my research, some records showed that Blackbead had a sister, Susanna White, who lived on the banks of the Tar River near Washington where he’d visited. After searching this swampy area, I found the headstone of Susanna White near a bridge over the Tar River in Grimesland. When I read the tombstone, I realized she couldn’t have been his sister: She was born 37 years after Blackbeard died. For many years after that, I’ve been haunted by her identity and why folklore associated the two.

I finally proved her identity by poring over the deeds at the Pitt County Courthouse. It listed a transfer of property from a Salter family member to her “children and grandchildren,” including Susanna White. She was the granddaughter of barrelmaker Edward Salter, who plays a huge role in the narrative of that time. For a while, history told us Salter was a pirate with Blackbeard and was hanged. But after research in England’s National Archives and the North Carolina Archives, I discovered he wasn’t hanged. After he was pardoned and released from custody, Salter returned to Bath. He became a representative of Bath at the colonial legislature and a patron for the construction of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and had a productive life and a family.

A Bahamian stamp featuring Blackbeard.

What have your findings led to?

The majority of Blackbeard’s inner circle of officers were from Bath and the Pamlico region of North Carolina. He had close relationships with the colony’s collector of customs, Tobias Knight, an enslaved Black man named Caesar and John Martin, the son of the town’s founder. This leads me to believe that Blackbeard himself was from this area or had strong ties to the town.

That contradicts a lot of the accepted history. People believe that Blackbeard’s real name was either Edward Thatch or Edward Teach, and that he was from Bristol, England or the Caribbean. But it never made sense to me that an out-of-towner could sail to Bath and tell people what to do, or that even someone from Jamaica would have strong, trusting relationships with locals. These people were willing to fight and die for him.


What do we know about Blackbeard’s last days?

It was a time of great uncertainty, danger and betrayal. A number of Blackbeard’s former pirates left him to return to honest lives. I believe that he would have done the same, but by the autumn of 1718, Blackbeard had become notorious throughout the colonies for some of his acts of piracy, one of which was a blockade of the port of Charleston. By this point, his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, would have been crowded with as many as 400 pirates — he’d have had no choice but to continue committing acts of piracy to keep everyone fed and mildly intoxicated.

He tried to return to Bath, where colonial governor Charles Eden had given him a pardon. But it was worthless — he had violated its terms and everyone knew that, including Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Alexander Spotswood, who hoped to burnish his reputation as a vanquisher of pirates. About that same time, rumors were afloat that the King of England had issued a new pardon for pirates, with more generous terms, but no one knew when it would arrive.

So Blackbeard and his crew were laying low at Ocracoke, not sure of where to go or when or if they were being hunted.

They waited too long. They were surprised by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who Spotswood had hired to capture Blackbeard, with a crew of 60. Maynard shouted that they were there to take Blackbeard dead or alive. Hoping to stand his ground, Blackbeard fired the first shots — an act of treason! And in fewer than six minutes of hand-to-hand combat, the king’s men bested the pirates. A highlander with a broadsword was said to have slashed Blackbeard from behind, cutting off his head. Yet, Spotswood’s invasion of his neighboring colony was illegal: He had no authority to arrest or kill pirates within the inland waters of North Carolina. Three weeks after Blackbeard’s death, the king’s new pardon arrived in Virginia.

I reconstructed this based on three sources. One was a letter I found in the British National Archives written by Royal Navy captain Ellis Brand, who supervised the expedition — it’s the most detailed and reliable. Maynard wrote a letter to a friend that added a few more details. The third source, based on hearsay but reasonably trustworthy, was a news report published in a Boston newspaper that recounts eyewitness testimony about the battle at Ocracoke.


What’s next in your research?

I’m searching in Charleston and Philadelphia for more that could help us complete his story. A great mystery I’d love to pursue is what happened to Blackbeard’s log book. On January 3 of 1719, Maynard returned to the James River in Virginia with Blackbeard’s head. Letters found in my research say he recovered Blackbeard’s “pocketbook,” which would have been a diary with a list of receipts and other papers. When Blackbeard was killed, the Royal Navy took the log book from his sloop to London, but from there, it disappeared.


Who was Blackbeard to you?

After years of research and analysis, I still don’t know Blackbeard’s true identity or origins with absolute certainty. Despite being a hugely popular historical figure, he remains a silhouette in the fabric of time.

That’s the ultimate Blackbeard treasure: his identity.  PS

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Out of the Blue

Meds on Parade

Art for the heart — and everything else

By Deborah Salomon

Illustration By Miranda Glyder

We call PineStraw magazine “The Art and Soul of the Sandhills.” There it is, written on the cover. Soul is amorphous. Art, however, wears many guises. It’s called the “art” of politics — at least in part — because if candidates can’t put on a good show they ain’t goin’ nowhere. They deliver artfully crafted scripts often, per Macbeth, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” They choose well-tailored costumes in (except Nancy Pelosi) conservative colors. I almost fainted when she deplaned at midnight in Taiwan wearing a bubblegum-pink pantsuit.

But this art commentary doesn’t concern MAGA caps or power ties. Rather, the drama rampant in TV ads for prescription and OTC medications.

Now Pelosi’s pantsuit appears Pepto Bismol pink.

This dates from 1997 when the FDA relaxed rules governing direct advertising to consumers, as long as side effects receive prominent billing, along with “Consult a physician.” The U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries that allow direct ads.

Sounds like a win-win-win for patients, docs, ad agencies, drug manufacturers and “everyman” actors. Because, with a few exceptions, glamour-pusses don’t have eczema or hemorrhoids.

Truth be told, drug and health-related ads have taken over prime time TV once dominated by Tony the Tiger. To document this I sat down with pencil, paper and stopwatch. My findings indicate that a typical 2-minute ad break will have four or five commercials, at least three of them drug-related. No more white-coated “physician” or “pharmacist” dispensing advice. These are on-location productions with multiple actors, cartooning, music, special effects. Some are melancholy, offering cancer patients “more time” without suggesting a cure. Others push prevention or detection, hence the now familiar Cologuard logo. The toughest to watch are anti-smoking, where the spokesperson is missing a jawbone or larynx, followed by a black screen announcing “Joe Smith died in 2020.”

Pets help. A drug that renders HIV-AIDS “undetectable” avoids the click-off by showing a couple bathing a white dog. Most drug ads, however, feature healthy-looking folks at weddings and graduations, none experiencing the dire side effects listed by the voice-over.

Manipulative? Who cares? Big pharma’s goal is to have you clamoring for the drug by name — if you can pronounce and pay for it. Trade names lean on consonants, particularly X, Y, Z and Q minus the U. Pronounce Cibinqo for me, please. At least the trade name Rinvoq is easier than generic upadacitinib.

I finally found an MD willing to comment, albeit anonymously. Slick, unrealistic, exaggerated, providing false hope by innuendo was his verdict, although he chuckled at the one for a bone strengthener, where grannies narrowly avert accidents like tripping on a pine cone or falling off a ladder.

OK, so almost all’s fair in war and medications. I still draw a line below the belt.

Remember diving for the remote when Viagra burst onto the market? Now, usually around suppertime, the menu includes bent carrots, misshapen zucchini, wacky bananas and cukes simulating Peyronie’s Disease. Look it up. After that, a “stool softener” which compares the ailment to “passing a pineapple,” unpeeled, of course, seems tame. But I do laugh at the one where a woman opens the car door only to find a toilet replacing the driver’s seat, followed by the same substitution for her office chair.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time until Mona Lisa’s smile will be co-opted to confirm a satisfactory, uh, outcome.

As the evening wears on, hucksters hawk a battery-operated ear wax cleaner called Wush and a dainty ladies’ shaver for “down there.” The men’s version for “groin grooming” is called Lawn Mower. Ugh.

But is this ad art? Or are we creating culture icons? Will the Charmin bears join Pooh and Paddington?

Possibly, considering Christie’s sold Andy Warhol’s painting of a Campbell’s condensed soup can, painted in 1961, for $11 million. Today’s artist might immortalize a fancy organic brand.

Literature has its Pulitzers, Broadway its Tonys, films their Oscars. Ads earn statuettes at the annual Clios, which recognize creativity/excellence in advertising. Health care has its own category.

Clio usually takes the high road, honoring foundations conducting medical research. My vote still supports the nerdy Preparation H spokesguy who insists, coyly, that my derriere “deserves expert care.”  PS

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

Mending Fences: the Movie

Fiction by Daniel Wallace

Illustration by Mariano Santillan

I bought a car from one of those grassy roadside lots, paid in cash that arguably wasn’t mine and disappeared into the night like the smoky tail of a dying match. I was in the next state by morning, at a Waffle Shoppe full of truckers and farmers and dropouts, all of them wearing baseball caps, none of them backwards. I turned mine around.

I found a booth in the back. Waitress caught my eye and winked. “Be right with you, hon,” she said, same as they always do, like it’s from the handbook. Tangerine lipstick and penciled-in eyebrows, thin tinsel gray hair in a ponytail. She was my age probably but looked twice that, weary but indestructible, like she’d been standing up her entire life and be buried that way too. She walked over to me with the pot, veins like river maps beneath her skin, face that had been through a lot, too much, but she smiled with a warmth that was so real I felt it in my heart. Nametag: Kate.

“Morning, baby. Coffee?”

I nodded, she poured. “What can I do you for, sweetie?” Like she might take me in her arms and rock me to sleep.

I kept my face low reading from the menu but when I looked up to order her eyes were fixed on me. She blinked once, kept staring. I could see her tongue resting against the top of her bottom teeth, her mouth hanging open just that much.

“Good lord.” She gave me the once over twice. “You’re — aren’t you — ?”

I turned away. There was a TV on the wall and I wondered if I’d been on it already, but nothing I’d done would make the news. That’s what I told myself. I thought I was faster than my past. But maybe nobody is that fast.

She pointed at me.

“You’re Dustin — Dustin — lord, my brain has gone to mush. I just saw you.”

Impossible. Never in my life. And I’m no Dustin. “Sorry?”

“Last night. The movie, your movie. Oh, you know — San Francisco Nights! With Julia Roberts!” An exclamation point, like she’d just won a prize. “Dustin Evers. You are Dustin Evers and I cannot freaking believe it. Oh good lord.”

Her smile made her makeup flake and her lipstick crack.

I shook my head. “I think you have me confused with somebody else.” Matter of fact, a little gruff, putting her off without pushing too hard.

But her eyes wouldn’t let me go.

Dustin Evers, I thought.

Dustin Evers, the actor.


“You got me,” I said.

I’d seen that movie too. A pastry chef and a fireman fall in love when her bakery burns down. I shrugged and almost smiled and she shivered like a woman about to freeze. She motioned a cohort over, a girl who might have been her daughter, twins basically separated by 20 or 30 years.

“Lucy,” she said, in a whisper. “Get over here. Look at this.”

Lucy dragged herself over and looked at me with her dull dead sleepy eyes. “Hey, sugar,” she said. Then to Kate: “What am I looking at?”

“You’re looking at Dustin Evers,” Kate said. “San Francisco Nights?”

Lucy took a minute to fall into the magical world Kate made for her and then just like that she was all in. She opened her mouth but no words came out.

“Oh, oh, oh wow,” she said, finally. “Wow wow wow.” Then, blushing: “I’ve had a crush on you since I was 12.”

They laughed. I laughed. Like I’d heard it all before.

“Well, thank you, I guess,” I said. “The camera is kind to me.”

“God was kind to you,” Kate said. “That face of yours is a gift from God.” She looked at Lucy. “I can’t believe I’m saying this to Dustin Evers!”

“Dustin Freaking Evers.”

“What’s she like?” Lucy said. “Julia Roberts. They say she’s nice but I think, I don’t know, she might be full of herself.”

I sipped my coffee. “She’s an absolute angel,” I said.

“Is there a movie around here you’re making?”

“Yes,” I said. “There is. Right down the road.”

“Wow,” Lucy said. “Wow wow.”

“That how you hurt your hand?”

She was addressing the blood lines on my knuckles.

“Yes. I do my own stunts.”

“His own stunts.”

Lucy and Kate looked at each other, because did they ever have a story to tell now.

“What’s it about?” Kate said.

“Yeah,” Lucy said. “What’s it all about?”

“What it’s all about?” Philosophers now. “Well, I guess it’s about a man who did some things he wished he hadn’t done, tries to run away from it all, meets a woman on a farm who sees him for who he could be, deep down, then hires him on to mend fences, and they, well, you know.”

“Sounds like my kind of movie. What’s it called?”

“Mending Fences,” I said, and I saw it unfolding before me. The woman on the farm — tall, copper hair, a widow maybe, tough unyielding eyes at first but deep pools of goodness and almost spiritual power, me working the land for her, sleeping in the barn on a bale of old hay, her scraggly mutt my first best friend, that mutt follows me around everywhere, and I was milking cows, riding horses, saving her life from that snake — a rattler — that almost bit her, how we picnicked beneath that big old oak tree, the one her granddad planted 100 years before, and then how one thing led to another and I kissed her beneath a sickle moon, and finally I told her everything, everything I did leading up to the night I got that car from the roadside lot, all of it, I couldn’t live that lie a minute longer but figured when I told her she would leave me and she almost does, she almost leaves me but she doesn’t, and she says hon, sweetheart, sugar, baby, damn it if I don’t love you, but you gotta go back and make things right, have to before we can move into the next thing, into the rest of our lives, together. And so in the movie I do, I go back and I see the girl and I see the man and my mother and my father and I do what I can to make it right, and then I come back to her and she takes me in her arms and the music swells and finally I’m happy, we are happy, and that’s why it’s called Mending Fences. I told them the whole thing, and by the time I was done I was surrounded by all of them, the truckers, the farmers, the dropouts, and a short order cook to boot. They loved me so much. Someone even bought my breakfast. And then it was over: I told them I had to get back on set. But I want to thank the Academy and my great director and Julia for being the best costar a guy could ask for . . . but more than all of them put together I have to thank Kate and Lucy for that morning, for the greatest gift I ever got in my life, to be another man for just those few minutes, to be famous for not being me.   PS

Daniel Wallace’s memoir, This Isn’t Going to End Well, will be published by Algonquin Books in April, 2023.