Omnivorous Reader

Omnivorous Reader

Civil War: Pastand Present

Erik Larson’s The Demon of Unrest

By Stephen E. Smith

Books about the American Civil War sell themselves. Publishers know there’s a loyal audience eager to buy reasonably well-researched volumes about the most tragic event in American history, and that’s enough to keep the bookstore shelves stuffed with warmed-over and newly discovered material. But how does a Civil War historian appeal to a broader audience? Simple: link the events explicated in his book to the present or, even better, to the future.

Erik Larson’s The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War purports to do just that. Larson states in his introduction: “I was well into my research on the saga of Fort Sumter and the advent of the American Civil War when the events of January 6, 2021, took place. As I watched the Capitol assault unfold on camera, I had the eerie feeling that present and past had merged. It is unsettling that in 1861 two of the greatest moments of national dread centered on the certification of the Electoral College vote and the presidential inauguration. . . I suspect your sense of dread will be all the more pronounced in light of today’s political discord, which, incredibly, has led some benighted Americans to whisper once again of secession and civil war.”

The major news networks have been quick to focus on the book’s possible implications, and Larson has appeared on cable news, NPR, and at bookstores and lecture venues across the country to address the possible parallels between the people, places and events of the spring of 1861 and those of the upcoming presidential election.

Which begs two questions. First, is The Demon of Unrest a well-written, thoroughly researched history deserving of the intense scrutiny it is receiving? And second, does the history of the fall of Fort Sumter offer readers insights into the cultural and political divisions in which Americans now find themselves?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. Larson is a conscientious researcher, and everything he presents “comes from some form of historical document; likewise, any reference to a gesture, smile, or other physical action comes from an account by one who made it or witnessed it.” He has analyzed a myriad of primary and secondary sources and produced a narrative that proceeds logically from chapter to chapter, illustrating how a false sense of honor and faulty decision-making on both sides of the conflict facilitated the terrible suffering that would be occasioned by the war.

Larson accomplishes this by drawing on the papers and records of the usual suspects — Mary Chesnut, Maj. Robert Anderson (Fort Sumter’s commander), Lincoln, Edmund Ruffin, Abner Doubleday, James Buchanan, Gideon Welles, William Seward, etc. — but he also delves more deeply than earlier historians into more obscure sources, all of which are noted in his extensive bibliography. Much of what he discloses will be revelatory to readers of popular Civil War histories.

The disreputable activities of South Carolina Gov. James Hammond are a startling example. (Hammond is credited with having uttered the oft-repeated “You dare not make war on cotton — no power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is king.”) In May 1857, Hammond, an active player in the Fort Sumter narrative, was being considered to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate, even though he was a confessed child predator who molested his four nieces. Hammond wrote in his diary: “Here were four lovely creatures, from the tender but precious girl of 13 to the mature but fresh and blooming woman nearly 19, each contending for my love . . . and permitting my hands to stray unchecked over every part of them and to rest without the slightest shrinking from it.” Hammond not only recorded his misdeeds, he disclosed his indiscretions to friends and suffered no negative political consequences when his pedophilia became public knowledge.

Larson reminds readers that Lincoln’s election also occasioned a demonstration at the Capitol. The crowd might have turned violent, but Gen. Winfield Scott was prepared: “Soldiers manned the entrances and demanded to see passes before letting anyone in. Scott had positioned caches of arms throughout the building. A regiment of troops in plainclothes circulated among the crowd to stop any trouble before it started.”

In a lengthy narrative aside detailing Lincoln’s trip from Springfield to Washington, Larson reveals that the president-elect had to hold a yard sale to pay for his journey to the inaugural and that despite precautions to ensure his safety, an elaborate subterfuge had to be undertaken to sneak Lincoln into the District of Columbia. He was accompanied on the trip by detective Allan Pinkerton, who was determined to foil a supposed plot to assassinate Lincoln before he could be sworn in.

What readers will find most surprising is the degree to which the 19th century concept of “honor” held sway over events surrounding the fall of Sumter. As South Carolina authorities constructed gun emplacements in preparation for a bombardment of the fort, mail service continued with messages to and from Washington passing through Confederate hands without being opened and read. While attempting to starve the fort into surrender, the city of Charleston also attempted to accommodate the garrison with deliveries of beef and vegetables, which Maj. Anderson rejected on the grounds that such resupply was dishonorable.

After months of political finagling, the fort endured an intense 34-hour bombardment before being evacuated. Neither side suffered any dead or wounded; thus, the battle that initiated the bloodiest conflict in American history was bloodless.

The second question — Do the events that followed Fort Sumter’s fall suggest that violent consequences will likewise follow the 2024 presidential election? — is easily answered: No. Cliches such as Santayana’s “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” or Twain’s “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” short circuit critical thinking. Nothing is preordained.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who knows something about the Civil War, recently addressed this question in a commencement speech at Brandeis University. The text of Burns’ address is available online, and readers who believe we’re headed into a second civil war should read what Burns has to say.

The obvious message conveyed by The Demon of Unest is clear: Human beings are foolish, arrogant, and too often given to emotional irrationality that’s self-destructive. There’s nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes got that right.  PS

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

A Visit from the King

A Visit from the King

Arnold Palmer’s sentimental journey

By Bill Case

Feature Image: Stephen Boyd with the King (Photograph courtesy of Stephen Boyd)

There is no denying he was a magnificent player. Arnold Palmer’s glistening record of 62 PGA tour victories, including seven major championship titles, unquestionably ranks him in the highest echelon of golf’s greats. But it would be a stretch to place him at the top of that elite list. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead all outperformed Palmer in terms of winning tournaments. And though there was a period when the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, native was the game’s best player, his dominance was relatively short-lived. Arnold won all seven of his major championships from 1958 to 1964.

But even if he was not the greatest golfer of all time, Palmer achieved unique success in the sport in other ways. From his emergence as a superstar in 1958 until his death in 2016, he reigned as the most beloved figure in the game; a man whose endorsement of a product, be it motor oil or an eponymously named beverage, ensured its success. Palmer’s enduring marketability brought him wealth far beyond that of any player preceding him. According to a Forbes magazine article some years ago, Palmer earned an estimated $875 million in endorsements, appearances, licensing agreements and golf course design fees. And golf prospered with him.

Timing was a factor. The televising of golf was gathering steam just as Palmer arrived. Blessed with loads of charisma, Arnold’s good looks, blue collar background and go-for-broke approach exuded a telegenic presence that appealed to men and women alike.

Arnold Palmer and his father, Deke (middle back row), and friends at The Manor (Photograph courtesy of Tufts Archives)

Thrilling come-from-behind triumphs in two 1960 majors, the Masters and U.S. Open, enhanced his mystique. The “charge” to victory at Cherry Hills Country Club was particularly sensational. Palmer lagged seven strokes back after 54 holes. Prior to the final round, sportswriter-confidant Bob Drum (later a Pinehurst resident) told Arnie he had no chance, that he was “out of it.” Defiantly, an enflamed Palmer drove the green on the opening hole, and with a deluge of early birdies, mounted a historic comeback to capture his only National Open.

Even before this triumph, his ever-expanding legion of adoring followers was mustering to form “Arnie’s Army.” Whether he won or lost, his troops whooped, hollered and cheered Palmer whenever he hitched his pants or tilted his head. And they never stopped.

Doc Giffin, Arnold’s longtime friend and personal assistant, succinctly explained Palmer’s magnetic appeal. “Arnold liked people, and people liked him because they knew he liked them.” His broad smile when photographed with fans was genuine; he never rejected an autograph request, painstakingly signing with a crystal-clear signature. “No shortcuts, no scribbling,” Palmer admonished many a fellow professional. “Look everyone in the eye and take the time to thank them.” This fastidiousness extended to fan mail, which he never threw away. With Doc’s assistance, the appreciative Palmer answered every letter.

Palmer was the King, but no life is without its hardships. In 1997, then 68, Palmer was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On the same day in 1998 that he received a final dose of radiation, he learned that Winnie, his wife of 45 years, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He would call it the worst day of his life. Winnie died in 1999.

By the time Palmer played in the 2004 Masters tournament — his 50th appearance — he grudgingly acknowledged it was time to start saying goodbye. “I’m through. I’ve had it. I’m done, cooked, washed up, finished, whatever you want to say,” he said. “It’s time.” It would be his final appearance in a regular Tour event.

Palmer was not, however, the sort to do nothing. He spent considerable time and treasure in the fight against cancer, funding hospital facilities in Pennsylvania and Orlando, Florida. He thrust himself into his multifarious business ventures with renewed vigor, attending engagements throughout the country. To reach far-flung destinations, Palmer, an accomplished and passionate aviator, piloted his own plane — a Cessna Citation X.

And he still played frequently, almost daily, at Orlando’s Bay Hill Golf Club, rounds featuring good-natured teasing between the King and his playing partners. Most importantly, he found a new love, Californian Kathleen “Kit” Gawthorp. Winnie and Arnold had become friends with Kit and her first husband, Al Gawthorp Jr., when Arnold competed in tournaments at Pebble Beach. Palmer and Gawthorp would later become involved in Pebble’s ownership group. Kit and her husband would subsequently divorce, and following Winnie’s death, Arnold and Kit began seeing one another. The couple announced their engagement on Oct. 16, 2003.

“Kit loves to watch sports, she loves to be at home, and I think that’s really what my dad needs,” observed Arnold’s daughter Amy Saunders. “I think he needed someone who enjoys the things he enjoys, and I think that everybody embraced Kit.”

During Kit’s visit to Latrobe in early May 2004, Arnold suggested they fly south to Pinehurst for an overnight sojourn. Palmer revered Pinehurst and wanted to show it off. Spur-of-the-moment travel was not unusual for them. With co-pilot Pete Luster manning the right seat, Palmer could fly his Citation X to the Moore County Airport in just over an hour.

For arrangements at the Pinehurst end, Arnold turned to his jack-of-all-trades assistant Giffin. The former Pittsburgh Press writer and press secretary of the PGA Tour started working for Palmer in 1966 and would continue to do so until Palmer’s death in 2016. Described in Kingdom magazine (a Palmer enterprise), Doc’s wide-ranging responsibilities included dealing “with everyone: writers, broadcasters, paupers, pretenders, potentates and presidents, including Eisenhower, Clinton and George W. Bush, to name three.” When in Latrobe, the two men typically gathered around 5 p.m. at Palmer’s home for what Giffin puckishly referred to as a “debriefing” — the mutual imbibing of a cocktail or two.

Doc knew the person to call in Pinehurst was Stephen Boyd, the resort’s manager of media relations and special services. Boyd joined the resort’s employ in the mid-1990s, after departing a similar position with American Airlines. Giffin asked him if he could arrange to have Arnold and his fiancée met at the airport, and if he could make hotel and dining reservations for the couple.

“Of course,” replied Boyd. “When are they coming?”

“Tomorrow,” Doc said.

This was no problem for Boyd, who was used to last-minute requests. He asked which hotel the couple would prefer while in town and whether or not they wanted to play golf.

“I’ll let Arnold answer those questions.” Doc said. “He’s right here. I’ll put him on.”

Palmer told Boyd he had no intention of playing golf. “Arnold said he’d like to take Kit on a tour of Pinehurst,” recalls Boyd. “He wanted to share with her the things he had experienced here that meant so much to him.” He wanted to stay in the Manor Inn, a choice that surprised Boyd. At the time, the hotel was rather threadbare, lagging well behind the Carolina Hotel and the Holly Inn in the resort’s lodging offerings.

Arnold Palmer and Harvie Ward (Photograph courtesy of Tufts Archives)

(Photograph courtesy of Stephen Boyd)

Palmer had a sentimental reason for his selection. The Manor was where he, his father, Milfred “Deke” Palmer and his dad’s buddies bunked on their golf vacations in Pinehurst during the 1940s and early ’50s. Those visits became a lifelong source of fond memories for the King.

The first occurred when Palmer was 18, and he was immediately smitten. “I loved Pinehurst. I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. It was heaven, really,” said Palmer. Pinehurst’s No. 2 course bowled him over, too. It was “the best golf course I had ever played,” he said. “And this was in December, and it snowed about 6 inches. We had to go home because it was snowing so heavily.”

When Bud Worsham, Arnold’s close friend from junior golf, urged his buddy to consider joining him on Wake Forest University’s golf team, the young Palmer was all ears. Worsham persuaded Wake’s athletic director to grant Palmer a full scholarship, employing the clinching argument “Arnold’s better than me!” The two would transform Wake’s golf team into a national powerhouse, with Palmer carrying off two NCAA individual titles.

With Pinehurst little more than an hour’s drive away, team excursions to play No. 2 were frequent. Arnold won his conference’s individual championship on the storied Donald Ross layout, though he was less fortunate in the annual North and South Amateur, where his best finish was a 5 and 4 semifinal loss to a UNC star named Harvie Ward.

When Worsham was killed in a car accident in October 1950, the devastated Palmer dropped out of school and joined the Coast Guard. Following a three-year stint, he returned to Wake Forest for an additional year. After leaving college for good, Palmer won the 1954 U.S. Amateur, turned pro later that year, and joined the PGA Tour.

The tour did not hold events in Pinehurst during the first 17 years of Palmer’s professional career but, when it returned to the resort in 1973, Palmer was invariably in the field. And, in September 1974, he was inducted into the new World Golf Hall of Fame in a ceremony behind No. 2’s fourth green.

Thirty years later, Palmer and his fiancée weren’t coming to Pinehurst for a ceremony — they just wanted to experience the town’s unique atmosphere. Boyd selected a suitable room at the Manor and ordered it stocked with Ketel One vodka and Rolling Rock beer, both Palmer’s favorites.

The next day Arnold, Kit and co-pilot Luster took off for the Moore County Airport. Kit relished flying with Arnold in the Citation X, even toying with the idea of obtaining a pilot’s license herself. She recalled a moment during one of their early flights together when Palmer pointed out the curvature of the Earth. “That was so neat,” Kit said. “The sun was setting, and it created a mystical picture.”

Boyd already enjoyed a favorable impression of the man. In 1994, while at American Airlines, Boyd was invited by Pinehurst CEO Pat Corso to attend a match between Palmer and Jack Nicklaus on course No. 2 for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. On the evening prior to the match, Boyd attended a reception where he marveled at how Palmer painstakingly greeted and chatted with each guest as if there was nothing he would rather do and no place he would rather be.

After Palmer’s Cessna touched down at Moore County Airport around 1 p.m., as they exited the plane, he asked Kit to take a picture of him posing with Boyd. Giffin had arranged for Palmer to have a Cadillac available (another Palmer endorsement) on the airport tarmac. “My car was in the airport parking lot,” says Boyd. “I told Arnold what I was driving, and that he should just follow me into Pinehurst.” But Palmer had other ideas. “Stephen, you get in with us and sit up with me. You can show us around,” directed the King. 

As the luggage came off the plane, Boyd saw a set of golf clubs. “Mr. Palmer,” he said, “I thought you weren’t going to be playing golf on this trip.”

“I’m not,” replied Palmer with a broad smile, “but you don’t come to Pinehurst without your clubs.”

After first checking on the precarious state of the Carolina Golf Club, located near the airport, a course he had designed with associate Ed Seay in 1997, Palmer turned the Cadillac in the direction of Pinehurst and asked Boyd to provide an impromptu tour for Kit’s benefit. “I talked about the Tufts family, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the history of the village,” says Boyd. “I pointed out homes belonging to Annie Oakley, the Fownes family, Admiral Zumwalt, and others — just a quick historic overview.”

Palmer pulled up to the front door of the Manor by 2 p.m. He asked Boyd for a recommendation on a place to have a glass of wine. Stephen suggested the Pine Crest Inn, just a 200-yard walk from the Manor. “Of course,” responded the pleased Palmer, remembering the establishment. “That’ll be perfect.”

It was early in the afternoon, and the Pine Crest was empty of patrons except for Arnold and Kit, who sat at the bar. Andy Hofmann, wife of proprietor Bob Barrett, remembers their visit. The three chatted for a bit before Andy asked how Ed Seay was doing, knowing he was having health issues. Seay, Arnold’s course architecture partner, had stayed at the Pine Crest while designing Pinehurst Plantation, now Mid-South Country Club. The beefy former Marine had become a popular presence. Rather than answering Hofmann directly, Arnold looked to Kit to respond. “She shook her head,” says Andy. “I already knew Ed had cancer.”

Palmer took note of three stools at the bar displaying name tags of three renowned golf writers who had been entrenched regulars at the Pine Crest: Bob Drum, Dick Taylor and Charley Price. Palmer picked up his cellphone and called Giffin to inform him he was at the Pine Crest bar, sitting with Drum, Price and Taylor. “Doc knows those guys are long gone, and he thought I’d lost my mind,” Palmer told Boyd.

It was a beautiful spring day, and Boyd had arranged for the couple to have dinner around 5:30 p.m. on the outdoor patio at the Holly Inn. The Holly didn’t accept dining reservations on the patio — not even for a king — so Boyd stood in line for a table.

“I was watching for Arnold and Kit, who I assumed would walk up the hill from the Manor,” says Boyd. He caught sight of them right at 5:30, holding hands, as they rounded the corner of Cherokee Road with Palmer sporting his customary look — loafers without socks and a cashmere sweater, loosely tied around his neck.

Once the couple was seated, Boyd told them to have a wonderful evening and began stepping away. “Sit down!” Palmer ordered. “Have dinner with us.” Boyd stayed, but only for a drink.

Corso and his wife, Judy, happened to be dining on the patio that night as well. “What was remarkable is that everyone knew it was him, but no one chose to disturb them,” says Corso. Following dinner the couple continued their sightseeing. Among the stops was Taylortown, home of the resort’s African American caddies, several of whom — including the legendary Willie McRae — had carried Palmer’s bag over the decades.

Boyd joined them for breakfast the following morning at the Carolina Hotel, and afterward, the three sauntered slowly down the halls off the hotel lobby. Palmer inspected the historic photographs hanging on the walls as if they were treasured Rembrandts. Near the Cardinal Ballroom, one photo in particular caught his attention. “Come here, Kit,” he said. “That’s the guy.” He pointed to a picture of Arthur Lacey, the official involved in the most controversial rules dispute of Palmer’s career. 

Lacey had been the captain for the Great Britain and Ireland side in the 1951 Ryder Cup at Pinehurst and became a resident of the village after marrying a local woman he met during the matches. In the 1958 Masters, he was the rules official at the 12th green when Palmer’s ball became partially imbedded. Lacey denied Palmer relief. Annoyed, Palmer made a double bogey with that ball but also played a second ball with which he made a par. Tournament chairman Bobby Jones overruled Lacey, concluding that the score on Arnold’s second ball was the one that should count. Jones’ ruling proved crucial to Palmer winning his first Masters. Nevertheless, debate swirled for decades.

On the patio of the Holly the evening before, Boyd had mentioned to Palmer that his old friend Harvie Ward was a Pinehurst resident. Not only had Ward been a golfing rival, he’d dated Winnie before she and Arnold married in 1955. Boyd passed along Ward’s contact information and Palmer did, indeed, reach out, visiting Ward at his home on Blue Road. It would be their final meeting. Ward died four months later.

After he and Kit left Pinehurst, Palmer sent a message to Boyd, telling him their visit “brought back a lot of old memories for me and reminded me how much Pinehurst has always meant to the Palmer family.”

Three months later, at the U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Boyd was assisting in the media center. The USGA assigned him to accompany Palmer’s group, keeping photographers at a proper distance and otherwise making sure that the King could get from point A to point B without too much difficulty.

It was uncomfortably warm in St. Louis, and the 74-year-old-Palmer and his aching back felt the heat’s effects. At one point, he began veering off to the right of center. Boyd asked him if he was OK. Palmer assured him everything was fine. He’d spotted an old friend in the gallery and wanted to say hello. That old friend was baseball great Stan Musial.

Palmer’s trips to Pinehurst weren’t at an end after 2004, and every time he visited, Boyd was his man on the ground. On one trip, at Boyd’s request, Palmer recorded a video expressing his heartfelt feelings about the No. 2 course. When the King returned to Pinehurst in June 2007, for his induction into the North Carolina Golf Hall of Fame, Boyd’s connection with him deepened further. Palmer’s thank-you message was profuse in its praise. “Thanks for all you did from touchdown to takeoff for Doc, Pete (co-pilot Lustek), and me,” he wrote.

“Arnold went out of his way to make me his friend, not just someone who met him at the airport,” says Boyd. “For that I will always be grateful.”

Before passing away in 2016, Palmer made one final pilgrimage to Pinehurst during the 2014 U.S. Open. Reiterating his affection for the town and No. 2, he vowed, “I’m going to come back and play it again before I give up the game.”

The King would have if he could have.  PS

Pinehurst resident Bill Case is PineStraw’s history man. He can be reached at

Ice Cream & Company

Ice Cream & Company

Scooping out the world of frozen treats

Story and Photographs by Rose Shewey

Ice cream is by far the most enticing frozen dessert on hot summer days — no argument here. But Southern summers are long, and even the most lickable scoop can taste flat after months of indulgence. Why not shake things up a little and expand your freezable repertoire? For a simple icy cold treat, try granita — even the fanciest kind requires little more than a flavorful liquid and a freezer. Or dive into the world of sorbets — add a scoop of berry sorbet to your Prosecco and call it a float. For the youngest (and young at heart), coconut water turned into popsicles will not only cool you down but replenish and nourish your body. Get the scoop on how to add variety to your frozen dessert spread. Brain freeze guaranteed!

Apricot Honey Gelato

If you thought gelato was just a ritzy name for ice cream, you would be (mostly) wrong. While gelato literally means “ice cream” in Italian, American ice cream and gelato aren’t made the same way, and as a result, differ in texture and density. To make a no-churn gelato at home, prepare a custard, chill, and fold in whipped cream. Freeze for about one hour and stir; repeat this twice more before allowing the gelato to fully freeze. For a seasonal fruit take, mix in fresh apricot compote and drizzle with honey.

Strawberry Sorbet with Pink Pepper

If you’re new to making sorbet — which, in essence, is pureed fruit and sugar — start with strawberries. With lots of pectin acting like a thickener, strawberries will make an exceptionally creamy sorbet, reminiscent of regular ice cream. For an out-of-the-ordinary twist, fold in pink pepper, which adds a spicy, citrusy note. To make an instant, no-churn sorbet, try this: Add 4 cups of frozen fruit with 1/4 cup honey and a dash of lemon juice to a food processor (not a blender) and mix until creamy.

Cold Brew Frozen Yogurt
with Cacao Nibs

Cold brew coffee, yogurt and hazelnuts, sweetened with honey and a sprinkling of chocolate, is practically breakfast — and a healthy one, at that. Take your favorite frozen yogurt recipe (no-churn recipes are a good option if you don’t have an ice cream maker) and add a dash of cold brew coffee. Sweeten with honey instead of granulated sugar, and fold in dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs for a little crunch. It’s a fine way to start your day or a welcome pick-me-up in the afternoon. 

Coconut Water Popsicles

Get your dose of electrolytes on hot, sweaty summer days with coconut water popsicles. Add fresh or frozen fruit, such as pineapple, berries or kiwi; mix with a dash of fruit juice (lemon juice works well) for more flavor; add edible flowers for a whimsical touch. Coconut water is an excellent substitute for sports drinks, minus the added sugars and synthetic ingredients, and will keep you hydrated all summer long. These pops are even kid-approved — mix in a little honey if your babes have a sweet tooth.

Pink Grapefruit Aperol Granita

Granita is likely one of the most under-appreciated frozen treats outside of Sicily. This glittering, icy snow doesn’t require any special equipment — all you need is a shallow tray, a fork and a freezer. For a Grapefruit Aperol Granita, heat 1 cup of water with the zest of a grapefruit and about 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves. Chill, mix in 5 cups grapefruit juice and 1/2 cup Aperol, and freeze in a tray for about 1-2 hours, then start scraping with a fork from the edges to the center. Repeat every 30 minutes until the mixture has turned into sequined ice flakes.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website,

Flowers of Freedom

Flowers of Freedom

The patriotism of petals

By Emilee Phillips
Photographs by John Gessner

A rose is a rose is a rose.
And a flag is more than dyed fabric.
Together they can evoke emotions filled with
symbolism, lifting and carrying their
message with it.

“I wanted to show the strength of an American flag but in a softer, more feminine way,” says Katie Tischler, a military spouse with a love of the outdoors who creates botanical art she dubs “Blossoms of Patriotism.”

The idea wasn’t born overnight. An old scrapbook filled with papers, photos and a single rose cemented itself in Tischler’s childhood memories. Puzzled at first by their commonplace nature, it took her a moment to realize it was a flower her dad had given her mom, kept as a memento of love. “It was brown by the time I saw it,” says Tischler, “but it was sweet when I saw it as a young girl, to see that they kept that.”

Now a card-carrying, certifiable, sentimental romantic, Tischler’s trade elevates pressed flowers to an art form. Her business, Pine Pressed Flowers, preserves flowers from any occasion. She began the business in 2019 preserving bouquets from weddings, funerals or any milestone with deep, personal meaning. Some of her work is simply for aesthetic purposes, but roughly 90 percent of her business consists of custom orders arising from these watershed events.

“Life is short, and there are only so many big days,” says Tischler. Her philosophy: If you want to preserve a memory, just do it.

The process is simple. You pick your frame size and floral layout, be it bouquet style, deconstructed or abstract, then in a few months, voilà, you’ll be met with a work of art. “I love the less literal, more organic look,” says Tischler.

The craft of pressing flowers demands four to six weeks of careful handling and rotating. In a world of instant gratification, the slow, precise technique adds to its charm.

Tischler’s floral flags take months to construct, between scavenging for the perfect assortment of flowers, pressing them and delicately arranging them. Each part of the flag, like a flower, serves its purpose. Each has its meaning. Tischler is mindful in her construction and searches for flowers that are local, typically trying to add dogwoods — the North Carolina state flower — to her flags.

Start to finish, flowers undergo subtle color transformations in the pressing process, rendering the creation of her floral flags particularly challenging. Tischler doesn’t use dyes to achieve her red, white and blue hues. To date she’s made five flags, the first of which was donated for a charity gala for the nonprofit Shields & Stripes.

“Each of the flags are all so different, if you look closely,” Tischler says. Staring at one is like staring at a mesmerizing kaleidoscope and spotting something new each time you come back to it.

A typical week begins with the more mundane routines of processing flowers, documenting, collecting and labeling. But, later in the week, her creative headspace kicks in. Tischler doesn’t do layouts prior to constructing. She adopts the organized chaos of nature and just begins gluing. “I feel more free without a roadmap,” she says.

The routine in her home studio begins with a hot cup of herbal tea and noise-canceling headphones. The workspace is filled with hundreds of handmade wooden flower presses. “My husband cut wood for weeks,” she says with a laugh. The walls are adorned with glass panes of clients’ memories filled with every type of flower imaginable. Each flower takes time to deconstruct, keeping in mind it will need to be reassembled later on.

Tiny, delicate frames adorn one of the walls of the sunroom, each cradling a single pressed flower from a distant land. “Every time my husband deploys he brings me back a flower,” Tischler says, smiling. One of those “contraband” flowers found its place between the pages of a medical book that he had tucked away beneath his mattress until he returned. “He claims not to be sentimental,” she says. But the flowers say otherwise.

Thrifted books have become a favorite way for Tischler to press flowers, especially for personal projects, as the sturdy old pages drink in the essence of the blooms with their superior absorbency.

Each piece she makes includes a certificate of authenticity and a “best practices” guide for preservation — it’d be a shame for your art to brown from overexposure to direct sunlight. On the back of the guide is an Aristotle quote she includes with every keepsake: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

Included with each floral flag’s certificate of authenticity is a detailed list of all the flowers the frame holds. “I think it’s important to show your patriotism,” Tischler says. “I wanted to do it in a way that was my own.  PS

Emilee Phillips is PineStraw’s director of social media and digital content.

Poem July 2024

Poem July 2024

Cicada Rondeau

They don’t so much sing as plead

In their droning sound stampede.

I hope they find the love they need —

Something more than meet-and-breed.

Can that even be with insects —

To have sensations beyond touch?

Do they know joy as well as sex?

They don’t so much.

        — Paul Jones

Paul Jones is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of the collection Something Wonderful.

Dissecting a Cocktail

Dissecting a Cocktail

Feel Good Hit of the Summer

Story and Photograph by Tony Cross

I started a small series on Reverie Cocktail’s Instagram page that I call “Vibe & Imbibe.” In each clip I pull out one of my vinyl records, give it a spin and create a cocktail from scratch. Some drinks were classics, while others were my own creation. In one episode I whipped up one of tiki legend Jeff Berry’s cocktails, the “Pago Pago.” The cocktail has a Puerto Rican rum base, with a touch of crème de cacao, Green Chartreuse, lime and pineapple. I first heard of the drink scrolling through Instagram (oddly enough), where Leandro DiMonriva (The Educated Barfly) made one. It looked so good that I did my own video of it. After shooting it, I decided to tinker with the measurements. I split the rum base with two Jamaican rums and made every ingredient equal parts. In the Pago Pago created, I used Queens of the Stone Age’s “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” from their second album Rated R as the background music. The song title stuck as the name of my new sleight of hand.



1/2 ounce Smith & Cross

1/2 ounce Appleton Estate

1/2 ounce Green Chartreuse

1/2 ounce Tempus Fugit crème de cacao

1/2 ounce lime juice

3-5 chunks of fresh pineapple



Muddle pineapple chunks in a shaking vessel. Add remaining ingredients and ice cubes. Shake hard for 10-15 seconds and double strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. No garnish.  PS


Tony Cross owns and operates Reverie Cocktails, a cocktail delivery service that delivers kegged cocktails for businesses to pour on tap — but once a bartender, always a bartender.



My Life of Crime

Confessions of a petty thief

By Janet Wheaton

It began and ended in the summer of 1962. I was a skinny, freckled child of 10 when we arrived on the base in late January of that year and moved into a red brick, three-story apartment building, one of several in a cluster surrounded by snowy woods and rolling hills. My father, mother and I were still grieving the loss of my older sister, who’d passed away two-and-a-half years before in the bedroom across the hall from mine, following a long battle with cancer. I remembered little about that time, and what I did remember I could not bear to articulate.

Even before becoming an only child, I was an introvert, a hybrid variety that growing up military often produces: self-reliant and independent, but always looking to make that special new friend.

For a while, I thought that might be Denise. With curly dark hair and quick brown eyes, she sparkled with fun that winter morning when she plunked herself down in the seat next to me on the school bus. And — as well as a friend — I could use some fun. On weekends we took to the woods, careening down trails on our sleds, weaving between the trees and toppling into snowbanks. We hung up our sleds when spring arrived, bringing with it frequent rains that kept us indoors playing Clue on her bedroom floor. One afternoon in early May, a great volley of thunder seemed to announce the return of the sun. Temperatures climbed daily, and Denise and I grew restless waiting for the swimming pool to open.

Time never passed so slowly. On our treks down the winding road to the Post Exchange and movie theater, we paused at the pool complex, nestled into the side of a hill, to check the progress of the water flowing from giant hoses into the big concrete basin. When Memorial Day weekend finally arrived, we were up and out early Saturday morning, our new swimsuits rolled up in beach towels and tucked under our arms, our thong sandals slapping the pavement.

After a quick change in the locker room, we scampered down the steps and hurled ourselves into the deep end of the sun-dazzled pool and — in shock — scrambled back out of the frigid water just as fast. But not for long. Denise had a plan: We would stand under the cold shower for as long as we could take it, then jump into the pool. It worked — for a minute or so, the water felt warm by contrast. We were able to swim a length or two before we had to climb out and rub ourselves dry while the blood returned to the tips of our blue fingers and toes.

Wrapped in our towels, we headed to the snack bar, where the aroma of potatoes frying in sizzling fat awakened in me a hunger long gone dormant. When I became the only one sitting at the dinner table between my parents, I lost all desire for food and any pleasure in eating it. But that day, as Denise and I waited in line clutching purses heavy with coins, I couldn’t remember ever craving anything the way I craved those french fries.

Under a big red umbrella, we slathered our hot fries with ketchup and devoured them, two and three at a time. After wolfing down that first carton, my resurrected taste buds cried out for more. We got back in line and ordered another round. This time we carefully dipped each fry into our well of ketchup and savored the crispy outer layer, then the warm, mealy center, sharing not so much as a crumb with the sparrows scavenging under the wrought-iron table. Afterward, we beached by the pool for an hour. A sense of well-being settled over me as I lay beside my friend, the sun toasting my backside and the concrete warming my full belly.

After school let out in June, Denise and I went to the pool almost daily, tossing the brown-bagged lunches made by our mothers into the trash barrel at the gate. Economizing to make our money last, we drank water instead of soft drinks and limited ourselves to a single order of fries each day. By the end of the month we could afford only one carton between us, and we divvied up the fries as if they were precious jewels.

Come the first of July, our allowances made us flush once more. The water was warmer and we stayed in the pool longer, making us even more ravenous when we got out. Too often we splurged on two orders of fries apiece. Between that, our Saturday matinees, and PX-candy habit, we were bankrupt by the third week of the month. Denise’s dad refused her request for an advance, and I dared not ask mine. My father, a tall, barrel-chested lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, had been a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea. Our household was clearly under his command, and I feared that approaching him about my allowance might be regarded as insubordination.

Broke and with no chance to restock our coin purses before the first of the month, Denise and I tried to distract ourselves by jumping off the high dive, doing flips off the low one, and playing Marco Polo with other kids from school. But it only made us hungrier. Forced to settle for the lukewarm sandwiches and fruit slices our mothers provided, we grew churlish with each other and envious of the people with plastic trays laden with burgers, soft drinks, and those plump, aromatic, golden fries.

As we changed in the locker room, I noticed Denise eyeing a couple of women who laid their clothes on a shelf in their lockers, hung their purses on a hook, and closed the doors. Nobody ever locked anything. Down by the pool, she was silent as we settled in a shady corner. Six weeks of lying in the sun had given her a walnut tan. I was a rash of new freckles and peeling sunburned skin. Propped on her elbows, my friend glanced over her shoulder, then looked back at me.

“Those ladies . . . ,” she said. “They wouldn’t miss a dime or two.”

“You want to ask them for money?”

Asking was not what my friend had in mind. No, we would simply help ourselves. “They’ll never miss a few coins,” she insisted.

“That’s stealing. And if we get caught we’ll get in a lot of trouble.”

“Who’s gonna get caught?”

No way, I told her. But as morning turned into a french fry-less afternoon, her proposition began to seem less and less criminal. Walking home later on, we put together a plan: Denise would go into the lockers; I would be the lookout.

We committed our first heist the following morning, and it went off without a hitch. After entering the locker room together and changing into our swimsuits, we futzed around until the room was empty. Then Denise lingered inside near the lockers, and I dawdled outside the door while she carefully extracted a dime from one pocketbook, two nickels from another, until she’d collected enough for two orders of fries. If anyone approached the locker room, I yelled our coded alert: “I’m going down to the pool!”

My taste buds were initially unconcerned with the method by which they’d been satisfied, and those ill-gotten fries settled happily in my stomach that first day. And the second and third. But on day four I was dragging a fry around in my ketchup when a woman stopped at our table.

“Excuse me, girls,” she said. I caught my breath. “If you aren’t using this chair, may I borrow it?”

“Sure,” Denise said with her easy smile, but I found it hard to meet the woman’s eyes. As she settled with her two kids at a nearby table, I couldn’t stop thinking that it might have been her money that paid for the fries I’d been eating.

“I don’t want to do this anymore.” I pushed my half-eaten carton away and laid the rest of my pilfered coins on the table. “You can have these.” Denise stared across the table at me as she chewed. Then she shrugged and scooped the coins into her hand.

“Yeah, OK,” she said, her tone changing when she added, “but you can’t ever tell anyone.” I promised I wouldn’t and left her there alone.

I stayed away from Denise and the pool for the next few days and took long walks alone in the woods behind our building, debating with myself exactly how much the word of a thief was really worth. Not much, I finally decided and mustered the courage to go to my parents and confess.

They were shocked, and I could imagine what they were thinking: Your sister would never have done such a thing! No, my sister, beautiful, smart, honorable, and beloved by everyone, including me, would never have taken a penny that didn’t belong to her — not for anything, and certainly not for a stupid slice of potato. That daughter was gone, and I was what they were left with. A thief. My mother sank down onto the couch and begin to cry. My father ran a hand around the back of his neck, cursing under his breath, and sent me to my room.

When I was summoned back half an hour later, he was sitting in his chair. “Come over here, Pumpkin,” he said, using the nickname I hadn’t heard in a long time and pointing to a nearby chair. He told me they were disappointed by what I’d done, but proud that I’d come to them. There was no way to give the money back since we didn’t know who the victims were, so there was nothing to be done — except to give me a lecture about honesty and integrity and to detail the dire consequences had we been caught. He agreed to say nothing to anyone, not even Denise’s parents — if I promised never to do such a thing again.

It wasn’t necessary for my father to forbid me to hang out with Denise, but he did. The pool and movie theater were off limits too. I suffered my sentence without complaint and spent my remaining summer afternoons at the base library, reading books from the adult shelves. I’d turned 11 that August and wasn’t feeling much like a child anymore.   PS

Janet Wheaton taught herself to type on a second-hand manual typewriter that her father gave her at the age of 10, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She lives in Pinehurst with her husband, Bill, and is working on a memoir in essays.

Sporting Life

Sporting Life

Heroes Among Us

Some quiet thoughts in the woods

By Tom Bryant

“They ask me, ‘What do you think about in the woods?’ I tell them all sorts of things, but actually I’m trying not to think of anything special at all.”      — Gene Hill, A Listening Walk

Gene Hill, one of my favorite outdoor writers, once wrote, “The woods are where I go when I’m starved for quiet.” Easy to understand in today’s cacophony of noise in what we call civilization. Sometimes, for me, the urge to head to the woods is overwhelming. That’s when I grab my hunting bag, a dove stool, a couple of snacks and maybe a libation or two, and drive down to the little farm I lease for some restoration of my soul.

Like Hill, I try not to think about anything at all, but when I’m hunkered down in the stand of pines bordering the beaver pond, my mind just doesn’t stay still.

This last small-scale outing was different. Just as I was settling in, watching the pond, a pair of wood ducks splashed down right in front of me and swam to the far side. I don’t know why, but my mind cranked up like a runaway computer. With July coming, I started thinking about heroes. What the ducks had to do with that particular line of thinking, I don’t have a clue.

In my many years of watching and wondering, I’ve met numerous people I would place in the hero category. The most recent is Bill Berger, an interesting fellow I met at our breakfast club.

What I call our breakfast club is an assembly that meets at the Sizzlin’ Steak or Eggs restaurant at a table in the back, just right for a small party. A diverse gathering, this compact get-together would qualify in its own right for my list of heroes, but right now my mind was focused on Bill Berger.

Bill was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, home of the state’s first producing oil well, and it’s easy to see how he grew up in the oil business. His father was a major executive with the Phillips 66 Company, but according to Bill, it was not necessarily a good thing. The family moved quite a bit with his father’s responsibilities. Bill complained of living at one of the refineries when he was a youngster. “Naturally, Dad’s position with the company let us live in the largest, most ornate company house, but it was in the middle of the refinery’s tank storage area,” he says. “All I could see through our home’s windows were acres of gas holding tanks.”

Bill attended Oklahoma State University, where he met his lovely bride, Bonnie. They were married and after graduation, he entered law school at the University of Tulsa. Before finishing law school, as happened to quite a few young folks during that period of our history, he was drafted. He chose the Air Force and became a pilot flying a KC-135 refueling tanker plane.

After two tours in Vietnam, he mustered out of the Air Force and went back to law school. When I asked him about his experiences during the war, he merely replied, “Tom, let’s just say it was an interesting time.”

Bill finished law school, re-entered the Air Force and became a liaison officer to Congress. One of his duties included investigating military plane crashes.

He retired after 22 years of service, but not being the kind of guy to sit back in a rocker, he signed up as a consultant to the Federal Aviation Administration, where he accomplished such things as improving pilots’ working conditions in the cockpit, determining the best height for control towers, and helping to raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65.

Bill and Bonnie live in Beacon Ridge. Their son, Scott, is a surgeon in Winston-Salem, and their daughter, Megan, is in the travel business in Wilmington.

Bill has never met a stranger and can talk to you with rapt attention, as if you were the most interesting person he’s ever met. He even drives a happy car — a canary yellow Corvette.

The wood ducks splashed up from the pond and flew right at me. A wonderful sight, but my brain was already in running gear, moving about as quickly as those ducks, and I scarcely paid attention.

So who’s next on my impromptu list of heroes? How about the other guys at the men’s fellowship breakfast?

First there’s Bill Giles, a retired Presbyterian minister; then there’s Bill Dixon, a retired Air Force colonel; and Bill Hamel, a retired lawyer; and, of course, Bill Berger. A lot of Bills.

Next would be Fred Monroe, a retired construction contractor; Bob Harling, a retired oil man; Milton Sills, a retired educator; John Green, a retired teacher and coach; and me, a retired ad man and itinerant outdoor writer. If you combined all that time of living and experiences, you would have close to 800 years of practical knowledge and understanding of what makes the world go ’round, or so we would like to think.

As the sun slowly began its evening descent, a barred owl started calling from way back in the swamp. I could barely hear him. I picked up the dove stool, put my leftovers and trash in the pocket of the stool and headed back to the truck. I got to the field that the farmer had planted in corn. It was a little over knee-high, and the wind softly blowing across the newly planted stalks made sounds like ocean waves of a calm sea breaking on the beach.

I sat there for a bit watching another wonderful Carolina day come to an end and thought about Gene Hills’ quote from his book, A Listening Walk. I did more thinking today than listening on my impromptu visit to the beaver pond, but it did my heart good to realize that our country is full of heroes just like the ones I know in our neighborhood.

I cranked the truck just as the moon was coming up over the tree line. I felt good. My soul had been replenished.  PS

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



Photograph courtesy of Moore County Historical Association

Universe of the Mind

By Bill Fields

The address is 180 South West Broad Street, but I never needed a map to find it.

People pay their water bills there now. For many years, though, the building with the arched windows set back from the street was the Southern Pines Public Library. It was designed by well-known architect Aymar Embury II, who also was responsible for the structures on either side, the post office and a doctor’s office, and other homes, businesses and schools in the Sandhills.

It is difficult to imagine childhood without Embury’s creation, constructed in the late 1930s and expanded a decade later. The exterior is appealing. The magic, however, was inside.

I love libraries, and that affection began among the books and periodicals in that cozy space when I was a boy. We had some reading materials at home, of course, but the library offered a vast universe beyond the World Books and fiction on our modest shelves. And while the Greensboro Daily News landed in our driveway each morning and a couple of magazines arrived in the mail each month, there was a bounty of publications at 180 S.W. Broad: National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, TIME, Popular Mechanics, Field & Stream and many others.

I was always excited to go inside, even though in those days, more so than now, a library was a land of whispers. One’s enthusiasm had to be tempered. But I’m not at all sure I was using my inside voice when, as a third-grader, I pleaded my case to Mrs. Kathleen Lambourne, the librarian, to check out my first grown-up book.

It was Willie Mays: My Life in and out of Baseball, by one of my baseball heroes as told to Charles Einstein. The cover featured “Willie Mays” in large script in the orange and black colors of the San Francisco Giants. The autobiography had 320 pages between its hard covers, a lot of words for a kid.

But Mrs. Lambourne was on my side. For the next couple of weeks, I found out a lot about Mays. Before long, I was checking out another adult title, Paper Lion, by George Plimpton, about the journalist-author’s brief turn as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions. The English-born Mrs. Lambourne, who held the position in Southern Pines from 1955 through 1969, didn’t have a hard time figuring out that I loved sports.

The library was a regular destination in my relatively free-range youth in a safe small town, whether on foot or by bicycle. It would be a lie to say I went there more often than to the downtown park, a ball field or a golf course, but the library was an important aspect of growing up — a place that offered calm, rewarded curiosity, and fostered a love of words.

Growing older, the two public libraries in my larger town hundreds of miles north from where that serene spot existed are valued locations in my current life. Many things are available digitally, a great convenience, especially when traveling. Nothing beats perusing the shelves. I regularly roam the stacks of biography and memoir, my favorite genre, and always check the displays for new titles and staff recommendations.

Working from home for the last 10 years, I enjoy a change of scenery, and a day or two a week I’ll go to either my main or branch library and settle in at a table for a couple of hours or longer to write. Sometimes, words that are coming slowly at my residence come more easily in the library.

I’m typing this on the eve of a week-long stay in Southern Pines, where no doubt I will spend time in the town’s current library on West Connecticut Avenue, which opened in 1995. While enjoying that pleasant space, I’ll have memories of the hours spent blocks away, the library card with the tiny metal plate a ticket to a world beyond what I knew.  PS

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