Gram “R” Us

From hymns to Chips Ahoy

By Renee Whitmore

“I’m going to do some warsh. Do you need anything warshed?” Gram asked as she carried the laundry basket full of dirty clothes through the living room.

Even as an 8-year-old, I burst into giggles.

“You’re going to what?”

“Warsh clothes.”

“What is warsh?”

A familiar gleam highlighted her hazel eyes. “Oh, Naisy! You just like to laugh at your old Gram.”

One Sunday when I was a teenager, I was in church with Gram and Gramps. Standing beside her, I could hear her singing, adamantly and off key: “What can warsh away my sins?” I excused myself and went to the bathroom to get my face straightened up. The hilarity seemed to escape most of the faithful.

Gram always pronounced “wash” as if there was an R in it. And every single time, even though I knew it was coming, I would explode with laughter. She knew this, too. Saying “warsh” was just a part of her antics.

Gram, whose name was Audrey, was born in 1934. She was a child of the Depression and World War II and saved everything. I remember going through her fridge and pulling out ranch dressing, two years expired.

“Gram, this is old. I’m throwing it away.”

“It’s probably still good, honey.”

The intense mold spotting through the glass looked like an evil science experiment. “Bye, ranch.” I tossed it in the trash can.

You know what else Gram saved? Cookies. She loved cookies, especially chocolate chip ones, but any would do. As a kid, I would sneak them out of her kitchen drawers and, as an adult, it wasn’t unusual for me to find a dozen half-eaten cookies wrapped in paper towels hidden here and there in her bedroom.

Gram and Gramps (his name was Ray) had three kids. The oldest is my mom, and I’m the oldest of six grandchildren. Gram worked all her adult life as a nurse, and she was a good one. She spent her days taking care of patients and knew how to bark out orders like a drill sergeant.

Even as dementia darkened her mind, her wit shined. Once, when she was a patient in her own hospital, I found myself talking to one of the attending nurses on the phone.

“I asked her what her name is,” the nurse told me. “She said, ‘Puddin’ Tane ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.’ She never would tell me her name.”

Gram was an avid reader of this magazine. She always had the latest one, and my columns were bookmarked with Post-it Notes. She could never remember what I had written, but she knew it was her granddaughter behind the words. That made me smile.

In her final years, when dementia won the day, she would recite her favorite Scriptures and sing her favorite hymns. She spent her last days in hospice care, and I sang some of her favorites to her, even if I needed a quick YouTube tutorial first.

Gram passed away peacefully on August 9, 2020. When I was writing her obituary, I asked my Mom, uncle, siblings and cousins to describe her in one word. Here’s what I got:

Tenacious. Feisty. Punchy. Driven. Caring. Steadfast. Faithful. Strong.

After Gram passed away, we were going through her stuff, as family does, and in the bottom of her walker, we found a bunch of half-eaten cookies, carefully wrapped in napkins and tissues. The ants had found them, too.

If Gram had still been alive and I asked her why she had half-eaten cookies in the bottom of her walker she would have said, “I was saving them for later. You never know when you may need a cookie.”

And I would have said, “Gram, we need to warsh your walker.”  PS

When Renee isn’t teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she’s working on her first book.

Simple Life

My Wife’s Secret Life

And why I’m happily married, blissfully in the dark

By Jim Dodson

I recently discovered that my wife, Wendy, enjoys a secret life.

Actually, I’ve known about it for years. I just never let her know that I knew about it.

It’s also possible that she’s always known that I know about it (and has chosen to keep that a secret, too).

Either way, the woman is a master at keeping her husband happily married and blissfully in the dark.

Consider the high drama of our recent unplanned kitchen makeover.

One evening last spring, our fancy German dishwasher blew up like the Hindenburg and flooded the kitchen of the charming mid-century bungalow we’ve spent the last five years faithfully restoring.

I suggested we move to Scotland.

Within days, however, Wendy had rallied a small army of specialists with industrial driers, fans and blueprints for a complete renovation.

Curiously, they all seemed to know my wife by her first name.

Though I’m hardly the suspicious type, such fraternal bonhomie did make me momentarily wonder if Dame Wendy might have a private, second career as a kitchen subcontractor and home makeover artist.

One of her not-so-secret pleasures, after all, are the makeover programs playing around the clock on HGTV, brick-and-mortar dramas where — in the span of 45 minutes — unspeakably decrepit houses are transformed into suburban show palaces by clever couples who make witty remarks about shiplap and infinity tubs.

Not that I’m the jealous type, but my bride speaks so casually about home-rehab hosts Joanna and Chip Gaines or the dorky Property Brothers or that sweet, folksy couple redoing the entire town of Laurel, Mississippi, it’s as if she actually knows them. And I can almost picture the Good Bones gals whispering sweet nothings about rare Victorian beadboard or vintage crown molding in Dame Wendy’s wise conch-like ear.

Unlike the unreality of these home makeovers, our massive kitchen “reno” took nearly a year to complete, including endless delays due to COVID-19. We upgraded the subflooring, wiring and plumbing; installed a beautiful Tuscan tile floor; searched two counties for new granite counters; and outfitted the entire kitchen with new appliances. We also ordered so many takeout meals that I considered moonlighting for Grubhub.

I’ll confess, there were moments when I had beguiling dreams of misty Scotland — specifically a rather fetching one in which I am rowing a dinghy across Loch Lomond with a provocatively dressed (and pre-crazy) Kim Basinger sitting in the bow.

Strictly between us, I have no idea what this dream could mean. But I’m not dinghy enough to tell my wife about it because she’ll know exactly what it means, and I really don’t want to spoil the surprise if Kim and I ever reach the other side of the loch.

Besides, doesn’t a bloke deserve a few healthy secrets of his own?  Sadly, I don’t have many others. Unless you count the fantasy about being the first man in history to ride his John Deere lawn tractor across America. Of course, that dream died when Wendy sold my tractor at a yard sale in Maine right before we moved to Carolina. She claims there was no room for it on the moving truck, meaning I couldn’t at least drive it home to the South and make a few bucks mowing lawns along the way.

I recently heard a top marriage specialist on the radio insist that the secret to a long and happy marriage is “not having too many secrets, but enough to keep a marriage interesting.”

The specialist, a female psychologist, didn’t specify how many secrets keep a marriage interesting, or conversely, how many keep a marriage from collapsing like a $2 beach chair.

Fact is, I am perfectly happy operating on a strictly “need-to-know” basis. She knows that what I don’t know won’t hurt me, which may be the key to our own long and happy marriage.

Besides, we have an enviable distribution of domestic duties and responsibilities.

Wendy runs the house, pays the bills, makes most of the important decisions and never fails to find my missing eyeglasses/wallet/car keys or TV remote when it’s clear some thoughtless nitwit has mistakenly put them somewhere just to make me go crazy.

Suffice it to say, I know my proper place in our happy domestic realm, outside in the yard quietly missing my beloved John Deere lawn tractor.

On an entirely separate front, I have no idea how much money I earn from my so-called literary career. I simply put together words that amuse me, send them off to editors I’ve never met who (sometimes) like and (eventually) pay me real folding money for them.

It’s a sweet mystery how this magic happens. I frankly never know my precise material worth, year to year, but I assure you it’s no mystery to Dame Wendy how much money I make — or am due — down to the last farthing.

Home and family, however, are where Wendy’s secret life truly excels.

Our four fully grown and theoretically independent children constantly call up from faraway places to share their endless existential crises or ask her advice on all manner of discreet topics, confiding things they wouldn’t dream of telling the old man, whom they only call when they need more farthings to cover the rent.

But that’s OK with the old man in question. The older he gets, the less he knows and the happier he is.

For it’s all about perspective — i.e. my wife’s clever design for our happily married life.

One final example shall suffice.

The other afternoon, I popped into the house from trying to start up my walk-behind mower for the first lawn-cutting of the spring and discovered that my multitasking domestic Chief Executive was putting the final touches on our brand new fully renovated kitchen in a manner most unusual.

She’d just assembled an elaborate rolling cart she’d ordered from some chic West Coast design house and was dancing rumba-like to South African reggae music as she decorated Easter cookies for neighborhood kids.

“I’m thinking of painting the den a lovely new green for the spring,” she blithely announced, sashaying past me. “It’s called Mountain Air. What do you think?”

As our elegant new dishwasher purred away, she waved the sample color on her smart phone, which isn’t remotely as smart as she is but probably a good deal smarter than her husband.

After 20 years of happy marriage, I’m no April fool.

I simply told her that I loved it and headed back to my stubborn lawn mower, secretly dreaming about Kim Basinger riding a John Deere tractor through the misty Scottish Highlands.   PS

Jim Dodson can be reached at


Return of the Shaw House

The Moore County Historical Association’s Shaw House grounds and properties will reopen for tours beginning Thursday, April 8, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The gift shop containing unique items including books about Moore County’s history, vintage soaps and framed, pressed flowers will also be open. Tours will continue through April 30. Masks are required indoors. Please call the Historical Association in advance at (910) 692-2051 to book tours.

Authors in the Virtual House

Join The Country Bookshop for back-to-back, free virtual events featuring Kelly Mustian, the author of The Girls in the Stilt House, on April 5 at 7 p.m.; and Natalie Standiford, the author of Astrid Sees All, on April 6 at 7 p.m. For information and tickets go to

Art on Display

The work of local artist Jude Winkley will be on exhibit in a show titled “All That Jazz,” beginning with a reception on Friday, April 2, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Artists League of the Sandhills, 129 Exchange St., Aberdeen. For information call (910) 944-3979.

Charity on the Hoof

The auction of the Painted Ponies that have graced the streets of Southern Pines for over a month will be held live and online at ponies on Saturday, April 3 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Carolina Horse Park Foundation. For more information go to

Given to Go

Elliott’s on Linden and the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives are partnering for a Given to Go fundraiser on Tuesday, April 13, featuring smokehouse brisket, buttermilk mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley and dessert. Tickets are $22 and can be purchased by calling the Tufts Archives at (910) 295-3642 or emailing Meal pickup times are 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Given Memorial Library, 150 Cherokee Road, Pinehurst.

Hitting the High Notes

A victim of the Year of Covid, the Moore County Choral Society hasn’t been able to hold a concert since the virus invaded the Sandhills. Its commitments — including the annual scholarship given to a local, budding musician — don’t stop, however, so the society whose catch phrase is “may you always have a song” has organized an online fundraising auction from April 21 to 26 at There will be wines, antiques, rounds of golf, restaurant meals, paintings, crafts, gift baskets, home services, limited-edition prints and much, much more on offer, and all for a good cause. With any luck, the Moore County Choral Society’s Holiday Concert will return in December. In the meantime, bid like crazy. For additional information go to

Showy Chapeaux

Wear you finest hats, cocktail dresses and seersucker suits for the live stream of the Kentucky Derby at the St. John Paul II Catholic School Derby Gala on Saturday, May 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the Pinehurst Country Club, 1 Carolina Vista Drive. There will be an open bar, sit-down dinner, music and a silent auction. Tickets are $125 at

Dig This

The Pinehurst Garden Club will hold its annual plant sale fundraiser, including favorites like geraniums, vincas and begonias, on Sunday, April 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Green Haven Nursery, 255 Green Haven Lane, Carthage. For more information call (910) 420-8214 or go to


The Omnivorous Reader

Thriller Triumph

An evil character spices a Carolina plot

By D.G. Martin

Do you remember Hannibal Lecter, the psychotic doctor played by Anthony Hopkins in the film The Silence of the Lambs? Lecter was a brilliant but evil serial killer who dined on his victims.

We may have been horrified by Lecter, but we were mesmerized, too. Some publishers tell their authors that such over-the-top evil characters like Lecter can make a good story even better.

Kathy Reichs, one of North Carolina’s most successful crime fiction writers, uses the salt of just such an evil character to season her most recent book, A Conspiracy of Bones. In this 19th novel by the Charlotte-based and New York Times bestselling author, Reichs introduces Nick Body, who delivers conspiracy theories on a popular podcast.

Reichs is not new to designing intriguing evil characters. Her series of Temperance Brennan novels was the basis of the long running Bones television series. Brennan, like Reichs, is a brilliant forensic anthropologist. She uses her dead body-examining skills to solve complicated crimes perpetrated by her evil characters.

Nick Body’s ability to stir up his listeners reminds us of the late Rush Limbaugh, though Body goes to a whole other extreme. He kidnaps children and then stirs up his podcast listeners, who pay money to access his program and buy the products he offers that, supposedly, arm them against the coming violence.

Here is how Reichs sums up her character’s alarmist con games:

“Over the past decade, Body has been particularly vehement on two themes. Plots involving kids. Plots involving medical wrongdoing. Occasionally, his insane theories managed to combine both elements. Many of Body’s harangues focused on disease. Over and over, he returned to the theme of government conspiracy.

“A sampling: He claims that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was a biological weapons test performed by America. That SARS was a germ attack against the Chinese. That AIDS was created and distributed by those in power in the U.S. That the anthrax attacks following 9/11 were orchestrated by the government. That banning DDT was a scheme to depopulate the Earth by spreading malaria. That Huntington’s disease is caused by a microbe and the government is conspiring to suppress a known cure. And, my personal favorite, that chemtrails are responsible for mad cow outbreaks.

“There were numerous variations on the evils of vaccination.” She continued, “In the old tried-and-true, Body alleged that vaccination causes autism. In a somewhat more creative twist, he argued that Bill Gates was behind the plot to use immunization for population control. In another series of tirades, he insisted that the government was sneaking RFID chips into children via inoculation.”

Reichs has Brennan figure out Body’s deadly schemes and bring him down, though the beginning of the story seemingly has nothing to do with the evil podcaster. What gets Brennan’s attention is a mutilated, unidentified body found in rural Cleveland County and sent to the medical examiner in Charlotte for identification.

The fictional Charlotte-Mecklenburg medical examiner, Dr. Margot Heavner, and Brennan have a long-standing and bitter rivalry. So Heavner does not ask Brennan to assist in the official identification process. Brennan is miffed and decides to conduct her own investigation. With the help of old friends in law enforcement, she tracks down multiple leads in Cleveland County, Winston-Salem (an ashram), Mooresville, Tega Cay near Charlotte, and all over Charlotte from Myers Park to Central Avenue and modest developments in west Charlotte. At every stop Brennan and Reichs teach readers lessons in science and technology. They show how good law enforcement can use such learning to track down leads and bring the bad guys to justice. In the end, Brennan connects Body to crimes that go far beyond his conspiracy theory exploitations.

Even more satisfying for Brennan, her superior work results in putting a negative spotlight on Dr. Heavner, who has to leave her job in disgrace. All this gives us hope that the next fictional Charlotte-Mecklenburg medical examiner will value Brennan and put her great skills to work.  PS

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesday at 8 p.m.


Map Mysteries

Navigating the old-fashioned way

By Bill Fields

On a Golf World assignment in Nebraska in 2013, I procured something for the first time in many years. Not bubble gum, a baseball glove or bottle of Brut 33. I bought a road map.

I had decided, in addition to reporting on the action in the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club, to see some sand-green golf courses for the first time. There used to be a bunch of them in the Midwest and Southwest; only dozens remained. We were well into the GPS era by then, but as I discovered on my first late afternoon drive to explore the throwback brand of golf, a smartphone wasn’t so smart on the byways of rural Nebraska. The $6.95 map I purchased at a convenience store turned out to be as essential as my cameras and notebook as I drove hundreds of miles around the Cornhusker State.

Maps used to be free at gas stations for decades, of course, as anyone who remembers 40 cents a gallon or less is aware. From the 1920s through the 1970s, all the big brands — Esso and Shell, Gulf and Phillips 66 — offered them as a service and promotion. Sometimes an attendant dug them out of a drawer, but often they were in a display between the fan belts and the wiper blades. Put a tiger in your tank . . . and a map in your glove compartment.

They were tool and talisman, objects of both utility and aspiration. It wasn’t just about where you were going on this trip but where you might go on the next one if you twisted Dad’s arm just right.

A highway map was a neat 4 inches by 8 inches in its pristine state. Unfolded, the 16 panels would cover a lot of the backseat in the family Fairlane. A friend recently remembered how much of a master his father, an engineer, was in map usage, from pinpointing various routes to putting it away so the creases were like new on the next trip.

A map would not age as well in our possession. One trip from Southern Pines to Ocean Drive Beach and it would be rumpled and guaranteed to contain Toast Chee cracker crumbs and Salem ashes the next time it was put into action, perhaps accompanied by a line drawn in Magic Marker from the Sandhills to the shore. (When you got to Loris, South Carolina, you knew you were close.)

It was all there on the map, the size of towns and cities delineated by font and type size. As the state capital, Raleigh got boldface and all caps. Greensboro was bigger than Lexington, which was bigger than Thomasville. You knew Southern Pines had a bigger population than Vass. Hoffman, Candor and Tramway? Tiny places all.

Ours was a North Carolina/South Carolina map family because we rarely ventured out of the two states. But this edition, regardless of which gasoline brand distributed it, still provided for a bit of dreaming. The mileage chart always included Atlanta, a whopping 350 miles from Southern Pines. And there was some extra territory on the map’s edges: a tiny strip of Virginia, containing Danville; a wedge of Georgia denoting Augusta and Athens; a sliver of Tennessee showing Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport. Also, on the Volunteer State portion, on the outskirts of green-shaded Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg.

My father was a let’s-get-there kind of guy, especially if home was the destination. He once set out from High Point to Southern Pines during a heavy snowfall, convinced it wasn’t that bad. I got a call that evening in my freshman dorm room at college from the Holiday Inn in Asheboro, where my parents were lodging because the roads were impassable.

After an early 1970s trip to Nashville to visit relatives, “Gatlinburg” became code for Dad’s road ways. Traveling east after our visit, my mother and I pestered him about stopping in Gatlinburg. It would be great, we assured him. He grudgingly relented and made the detour so we could see the wonders of this mountain town he thought was a tourist trap with little redeeming value.

Dad wasn’t always right, but he was right this time. Gatlinburg was all trinket shops. It was hard to find a parking spot. The miniature golf course was poor and crowded. We didn’t stay long. Dad got out the map, took a long look, passed it back to me for folding, lit a cigarette and put the car in gear. We would visit other spots on the map, names in both bold and light type, but as for Gatlinburg, it was definitely one and done.  PS

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

Home by Design

Elbow Grease

Because the heart wants what the heart wants

By Cynthia Adams

Closing our eyes to our termite-riddled garage and a looming bathroom tear-out, we snuggled down by the telly, cuddling our dogs, and watched Escape to the Chateau

It is an ironic choice of escape from our to-do list.

The series offers comforting perspective from years of projects in our (almost) century-old home. These two do-it-yourselfers beavering away on an ancient, shuttered, abandoned chateau lend perspective to the months of sweat equity we poured into our own relatively modest abode.

This BBC program follows Dick and Angel Strawbridge, a British couple who bought a glorious French “pile” in 2015.

Pile is Brit-speak for a very large house. But the French call this a chateau. Larger than Sleeping BeautyP’s Castle (albeit smaller than the Biltmore), the couple’ ’s picturesque 19th century Château de la Motte-Husson is near the quaint village of Martigné-sur-Mayenne. They bought it for what they might pay for an unremarkable two-bedroom flat back in London: £280,000 pounds ($384,000) — a steal.

With 45 rooms, twin turrets, an actual moat and walled garden — all poetically set upon 12 acres of pristine countryside — it is a thing of singular beauty.

But one problem: this veddy beautiful chateau is in ruins.

No running water, heat or electricity. And after the purchase, the Strawbridges are left with an impossibly small budget for the kind of home improvements this pile will require.

Yet the couple dauntlessly ascribes to the motto “you eat an elephant one bite at a time” and rolls up their sleeves.

The Mister, 59, laughs like Santa and has the belly to match.

Meanwhile, the flamboyant and romantically inclined Missus, 40, twists strawberry-red hair into vintage curls and has a passion for red lipstick, arched brows, a hot glue gun, sewing, crafting and decoupage.

They are dauntless, energetic, cart-before-the-horse types — we were stunned by what they did with this moldering and long-abandoned property in just one season.

Years ago, I fell under the spell of an unusual Lindley Park home. It qualified as a “stockbroker Tudor” given that to afford its steeply pitched rooflines, many gables, brick and stucco features decorated with handsome half-timbers required a stockbroker’s bank account. As is unfortunately true of Tudors, the interiors were sunless. If the kitchen is the soul of a house, this one’s was dark.

The property was in a state of beautiful disarray that suggested its former splendor.

And I desperately wanted it.

Let’s just say, I should have a reality show titled, The Masochistic Homeowner: The Early Years.

One of the Tudor’s strangest interior details was a renovation gone wrong, so wrong you had to crawl out of an upstairs window and walk across a flat roof in order to access a room addition carved from an adjacent garage attic.

Whereas a smarter person would have viewed that matter alone as a deal breaker, I tried to figure out how to solve this dilemma, sleeplessly fantasizing about owning this home with a beautiful arbor and quirks. Which is why I so relate to Angel Strawbridge — sans her luridly done hair and turban.

When the Tudor’s home inspection report arrived, it, like the dour Strawbridge’s chateau analysis, filled a binder.

Leaking roof; problematic stucco; electrical and plumbing issues; even a terrifying problem with the fireplace and chimney.

If it wasn’t leaking, it was crumbling. If it wasn’t crumbling, it soon would.

I wanted it.

It took my practical partner to pry my fingers from the binder. My teary-eyed entreaties did not budge my engineer husband from NO to MAYBE.

Did I mention that Angel Strawbridge is an enchantress, 19 years younger than Dick?

Had she wanted my decaying Tudor pile, her besotted husband would have laughed nervously and followed her lead like a spellbound adolescent.

That is not my husband.

We did not make a counteroffer on the Tudor.

Which, by the way, sold anyway.

We found another house. One that had many issues that the inspection did not uncover, and which took all of our savings to salvage. It is the house we now live in and love.

This 1929 house renovation followed on the heels of a 1911 reno that was even harder and costlier. Yet, somehow, my husband was as taken as I was by its quietly stoic beauty including its thick windowsills, French doors, beautiful light and park view.

We both fell under its spell, even as we toiled.   

It was possible to bribe my husband into nightly work after our day jobs. He would plaster and paint; I would pick up pizza and bags of Twix bars before joining him. (If we carb-loaded, we could work till midnight, then do it all over again the next day.)

Like the Strawbridges, we undertook most of the work ourselves.

When the initial cosmetics were done, there was something . . . some indefinable something. As if the house warmly responded to our months of labor. It became a joy to step inside.

One day, my husband mused, “the house is smiling.” It liked being rescued from neglect; it reflected back to us the ministrations, the love.

No doubt, too, that Angel believes their French chateau is smiling at them having been liberated from decades of grime and neglect.

She is most definitely right.  PS

We agree that contributing writer Cynthia Adams should indeed have her own reality show. Go ahead and add The Masochistic Homeowner to your future Watch List.


Ruby Ready

Ladies and gentlemen, start your feeders

By Susan Campbell

It’s that time, folks! North Carolina’s smallest bird, those winged jewels that have spent the winter in the tropics, are now headed back our way. Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be returning to gardens and feeders by mid-April. So, it’s time to get ready!

First and foremost, in spite of what you may have heard, these tiny dynamos are mainly insectivorous. Bugs of all kinds make up the majority of their diet. Anything small enough to fit down the hatch will be consumed throughout the day — followed up by a nectar chaser every now and then. Therefore, it is critical to be judicious year-round in your use of pesticides and herbicides, so that the invertebrates hummingbirds depend on will thrive.

Consider planting for your hummers. There is a wide array of plants that are easy to grow that will get the birds’ attention. The best are obviously native species such as trumpet creeper, coral honeysuckle, cardinal flower, bee balm, columbine and even butterfly weed. There are loads of non-native perennials that are a wonderful (and not invasive) addition to your hum-garden, like many of the salvias, Mexican sunflower, sultan’s turban and lantanas. Do not be surprised if you see a hummer hovering around the vegetable garden when your okra starts to bloom or your basil goes to seed. Keep in mind that the thicker the vegetation is in your yard, the buggier it will tend to be — a good excuse to let things go wild in at least a section of the property. And dense vegetation will also provide the birds with necessary cover for roosting, as well as protection from the elements and potential predators.

Of course, many of us have augmented our yards with sugar water feeders that will bring the tiny birds into view. While there are many brands on the market — with more being added every season — they vary in quality and effectiveness. No matter what kind you choose, be sure it can be opened up for complete cleaning and that the ports are large enough (at least 3 mm) not to cause bill injury. Hummer feeders need to be cleaned with hot water (no detergent) at least every three days during the heat of the summer, so easy access for effective scrubbing and rinsing is critical. A 10 percent bleach solution is fine later in the season when mildew can be an issue. Just be sure to rinse all of the parts very thoroughly before refilling.

The best choice for offering homemade nectar is a saucer-style feeder, such as a HummZinger, that pops apart for easy cleaning and refilling. The beauty of these feeders is that they do not tend to seep or drip and, as a consequence, are less likely to attract the bees and wasps that reservoir-style feeders do. Also, many designs now have a built-in ant moat that creates an effective barrier to those even tinier sugar-loving critters that abound in our area during most of the year.

Please avoid store-bought mixes. They can contain additives and preservatives that may not be good for the birds. A simple mix of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water is all you need to use. Adding color to the fluid is not recommended, nor is it necessary. Red dye is usually a petroleum-based compound that the birds cannot digest. Besides, ruby-throateds have phenomenal color vision and can see the red components of your feeder from over a half a mile away.

Last but not least, although hummingbirds do not use conventional bird baths, they do need to keep their feathers clean. There are specialty fountains on the market that are very shallow and may attract them to bathe, though it’s more likely you will see a ruby-throated rinsing off by making passes through your sprinklers. You could even have a close encounter with an overheated ruby-throated if you happen to be watering with a hose during the heat of the day. PS

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

Golftown Journal

The Ross That Wasn’t

The lost links of James Barber

By Lee Pace

By the late 1920s, Donald Ross had designed seven golf courses in the Sandhills. There were Nos. 1-4 at Pinehurst Country Club, with the No. 2 course the annual venue for the North and South Open, and North and South Amateur. By 1912, he had designed 18 holes at Southern Pines Golf Club. And Mid Pines in 1921 and Pine Needles in 1928 were positioned on opposite sides of Midland Road on the outskirts of Southern Pines, the former serving as the linchpin of a private club and hotel, and the latter part of a combination resort and real estate venture.

Five of the seven remain today. Pinehurst No. 3 became half Ross/half Ellis Maples in the late 1950s when Maples built 18 new holes on the west side of N.C. 5 and arranged a new Pinehurst No. 5. The No. 4 course was abandoned during the Depression and World War II, later to re-emerge under various iterations, the latest a Gil Hanse redesign that opened in 2018. And Southern Pines, regarded by many knowledgeable design wonks as one of Ross’ finest routings, is under the restoration scalpel as we speak under new ownership and the design and construction acumen of architect Kyle Franz.

But there’s a fascinating story about the eighth Ross course for the Pinehurst area, the course that never was.

In 1927, Ross laid out a course on land now occupied by a housing development and The O’Neal School off Airport Road northeast of the village of Pinehurst. The client was designated on blueprints as “James Barber, Esq.”

Barber was a native of London who came to America at the age of 35 in 1887 and made his fortune with the Barber Steamship Lines, one of the world’s foremost shipping concerns. He loved golf and visited Pinehurst regularly from the early 1900s on, occupying a suite at the Holly Inn for the full winter season and then in the early 1910s building two houses just a short walk from the Carolina Hotel on Beulah Hill and Shaw roads. It was on the grounds around one of these mansions that he added a tennis court, formal gardens and a miniature golf course he called “Thistle Dhu,” which later was among the inspirations for Pinehurst’s immensely popular 18-hole putting course adjacent to the resort clubhouse.

Barber was among a group of prominent businessmen in the Sandhills who joined Leonard Tufts, the owner of Pinehurst and son of founder James W. Tufts, in developing thousands of acres of land between Pinehurst and Southern Pines known as Knollwood. As World War II ended and the 1920s beckoned, they envisioned a posh private club with golf and lodging, and a surrounding residential community. That was the impetus for Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club. The first official meeting of Mid Pines was held in January 1921, and Barber was elected president. Tufts was vice president and general manager. A.S. Newcomb, a real estate agent, was secretary/treasurer. Ross was a founding member, as was L.M. Boomer, a partner with the du Pont family in owning the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

“James Barber is a man not heard of as often as some,” The Pilot noted in 1921, “but he is one of the big forces in the development of the Sandhills. His holdings in Pinehurst and Mid Pines are huge, and between the two places he has a small empire.”

That empire in time included the land for his private golf course.

At the time what is now known as Airport Road was called Seals Road. The clubhouse was located on the southwest corner of the tract on land near what in the 1980s would become the 14th hole of Longleaf Golf and Family Club, later changed to the fifth hole when the nines were flipped. Seven holes were on the south side of Seals Road on what is now a housing development accessed by Tall Timbers Drive and Laurel Lane. The Southern Pines Waterworks lake was just to the east.

Both front and back nines crossed Seals Road, and the holes on the north side ran on ground that today includes homes along Chesterfield Drive within the Forest Creek community, and runs eastward to the baseball and soccer fields of The O’Neal School. Ross’ design indicates residential lots alongside some of the holes.

Bill Patton, the course superintendent at Forest Creek from 1994 to 2014, remembers hearing talk that parts of the Forest Creek property once included an abandoned Ross design.

“The president of the Donald Ross Society came sometime around 1996 or ’97, looked at the property near the entrance to The O’Neal School,” Patton says. “He thought it looked like an old golf course. Personally, I couldn’t see it.”

What is certain is that the course was routed on paper by Ross. What is not quite as clear is how much, if any, was actually built, though documents in the Tufts Archives indicate the clubhouse was, in fact, built of native stone and had “a prominent view” of what would later be two small lakes within the back nine of the Longleaf course. There are no remnants of that structure today.

“Mr. Ross has designed a picturesque tract on the summit of the hills which gives a constant outlook over all the country,” The Pilot observed in 1927. “Below the fairways the reservoir with its sixty acres of open lake spreads out along the whole west side of the course. From the high spots on the course, Southern Pines is visible, Carthage, the territory around Vass, Pinehurst and into indefinite distance in all directions.”

Two events derailed Barber’s vision.

First, his death in February 1928.

And second, the Great Depression that began with the October 1929 stock market crash. If his son and heir, Edward, had any designs on completing his father’s plan, they were scuttled during hard economic times.

Edward Barber had little insight into his father’s vision when the elder Barber died. Leonard Tufts wrote to Ross in 1928 and said he had corresponded with Edward, who was at a loss what to do with the land.

“He does of course want to know what his father had in mind in spending all that money out there in the woods,” Tufts wrote. Tufts then conferred with Ross and wrote back to Barber: “Your father’s idea was to build 18 holes of golf and use it for his private course where he could take his friends to play, and eventually to sell this property to a club that would have rooms, in a good deal the same way that we sold the Mid Pines property.”

Author Daniel Wexler included this Barber course in his book Lost Links: “Ross’ design for Barber was serious business, measuring over 6,500 yards and featuring strategic elements generally found only among the architect’s most prominent works . . .  In fact, it probably fell among the upper 10 percent of the celebrated architect’s massive portfolio.”

High cotton, indeed, and worth some mental marinating next time you’re backed up on the roundabout waiting to head for Airport Road.   PS

Lee Pace has written about golf in the Sandhills for three decades. His newest book, Good Walks — Rediscovering the Soul of Golf at 18 Top Carolinas Courses, will be available in May from UNC Press.

Pleasures of Life Dept.

The First Time I Saw Paris

A young man’s trip of a lifetime

By Tom Allen

April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom

Holiday tables under the trees

April in Paris, this is the feeling

No one can ever reprise

In the spring of 1975, I was there. April, in Paris, though I had never heard Yip Harburg’s lyrics to the hit song composed by Vernon Duke for the 1932 Broadway musical Walk a Little Faster. Wouldn’t have known a chestnut tree if I saw one. But the feeling that “no one can ever reprise?” That, I remember; yet my sojourn to the City of Lights almost didn’t happen.

The only foreign language offered at my high school in the ’70s was French. Not a lotta takers. Why I signed up escapes me. Perhaps I thought a language might look good on a college application. By the time I graduated, after three years studying French, I could conjugate verbs, sing a few Christmas songs, and even read a little Victor Hugo.

During my junior year, Madame Arnold, our teacher whose slow, Southern drawl made the language easier to hear and understand, organized a weeklong trip for members of our French Club. The trip would take place over Easter break. 

I wanted to go. More than anything, more than ever, I wanted to go. My parents’ initial response was “no.” It wasn’t the cost as much as the fact I was 16 and had never been out of North Carolina, much less the country. And I’d never flown. My dad was concerned the plane might crash, a carryover from his Army days in Europe 30 years earlier. My mom worried I might wander off, get lost, be kidnapped. My paternal grandmother, who lived next door, shared Dad’s concern. A farm wife who’d never seen the ocean, she questioned why anyone would want to fly across that ocean to someplace where “you can’t understand a word they say.” My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, thought it was a great opportunity: “You can bring me back a bottle of French wine.”

I recall pleading for days, a form of manipulation that rarely worked in my family. I would help pay my way, I promised. My meager checking account still had money from summer tobacco work. I think I even cried, just like I cried the year my buddy got a motor scooter for Christmas and I didn’t. Those tears, I recall, were wasted.

Eventually, my dad caved. Reluctantly, my mother agreed. One grandmother immediately started praying for safety. The other gave me cash for that bottle of wine.

On Easter Monday, five of us, under the watchful eye of Madame Arnold, departed Raleigh-Durham for New York, then an overnight flight to Paris. I savored every moment of the trip, from the plane ride and its preheated meals to the beauty of Paris by night from atop the Eiffel Tower. I was especially proud that I understood the language and happy the French could understand my Southern accent, even when I had to ask, many times,“Parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît.” Please speak slower.

We visited sites seen only in classroom film strips or 16 mm movies — the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées, the beaches of Normandy and Mont Saint-Michel, the Palace of Versailles, and the château of Chambord. I remember the grandeur of Notre Dame, still heavy with the scent of lilies and incense from Easter Masses, and the taste of éclairs and macaroons from hole-in-the-wall pâtisseries.

Our last night in Paris, we attended dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge, its cabaret and can-can dancers immortalized on canvas by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Only after pages of permission slips our parents had to sign, were we allowed to see the possibly provocative performances, accompanied by a half-glass of champagne with dessert. But the night was less risqué than we imagined, a classy and colorful evening of great food and lots of laughter.

When I returned from our grande soirée, I packed the small bottles of perfume and lace handkerchiefs I purchased for my mom and grandmothers, a wallet for my dad, and that bottle of Vouvray for Granny Pate. The only souvenir I bought for myself — my caricature by a street artist in Montmartre.

The next day I bid adieu to what had been the trip of my young lifetime. Others would follow — a summer in England during seminary, a honeymoon in Bermuda, a pilgrimage to Israel. But my taste for travel was sparked by that high school journey to République Française, a taste we encouraged in our daughters, both of whom studied abroad during college.

My own college days included more French because I simply loved the language. Sadly, I’ve had few opportunities to converse since. Like anything else, use it or lose it. Two occasions in ministry afforded me the opportunity to say the Lord’s Prayer in French. One was a small, private wedding for a lovely couple, the bride and her family from Québec. The other, the funeral of a parishioner, also French-Canadian, a friend with whom I occasionally conversed. The prayer, in the language of his childhood, was his request, and one I was honored to fulfill.

Every year, the week before Easter, I visit my parents’ graves. Sometimes I stand in silence, but other times I speak. Words of gratitude are always expressed, for their lives, their love, their generosity. And for the gift of giving into my pleas and sending their only kid to the other side of the world.  PS

Tom Allen is minister of education at First Baptist Church, Southern Pines.

Cedarcrest in Bloom

A free-spirited and romantic escape

By Claudia Watson     Photographs by John Gessner

The light snow clinging to the winter-into-spring camellias prompted her early morning call last March. “Oh, you must come and see these camellias before the snow is gone,” said an enthusiastic June Buchele. “The blooms look stunning against the clear blue sky.”

The first signs of spring are the sweetest in Barry and June Buchele’s garden. A warming sun peaks through the treetops as we enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of vibrant large camellia blooms dusted with snow. It’s a stunning prelude to an intoxicating buffet of things that start small. Nearby, winter snowdrops and hellebores peek out from under layers of leaf mulch, and the bright yellow stamens of crocus shout, “Spring is here!”

“Oh gosh, it’s my favorite time of year,” says June, an accredited American Camellia Society (ACS) judge and an energetic N.C. Extension master gardener volunteer. “I can’t wait for the daffodils to bloom,” pointing to the long green stalks reaching for the sun.

The Bucheles’ garden is a free-spirited and romantic escape with only a touch of discipline for Mother Nature. Just steps away from busy Beulah Hill Road, the sound of traffic falls silent. Their property in Old Town Pinehurst is obscured behind a thickly planted border of big old-growth trees and shrubs. “No one knows it’s even back here,” says Barry, who’s quick to share the history.

In 1916, James Wells Barber, an international shipping magnate, purchased the 1.24-acre property. He commissioned Leonard Tufts’ brother-in-law, architect Lyman Sise, to build the home for him and his wife, Kate. According to historical documents, they named the “two-story, weather-boarded, Tuscan-columned cottage, with two large stone chimneys” Cedarcrest.

Barber took a large portion of the property and built the “Lilliputian,” the country’s first nine-hole miniature golf course. Before they moved in, they commissioned Sise to construct a grander Federal Revival mansion across the street. Known as Thistle Dhu, it was the location of the country’s first 18-hole pitch-and-putt miniature golf course. Cedarcrest contributes to Pinehurst’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Barry and his late wife, Sarah, purchased Cedarcrest in 1987. An ob/gyn, he founded the Southern Pines Women’s Health Center in 1981. It was a solo practice for nearly three years.

“I was working 80 to 100 hours a week and couldn’t leave Moore County for nearly three years since I was on 24-hour call,” he recalls. “When I had time off, I was usually sleeping. Gardening was not on the top of my list, though I always had my tomato and pepper plants.”

After Sarah’s untimely death in 2012, Barry admits it was a rough time, recalling the empty house, the untended garden, and the loneliness. He met June through an online dating site, and they married 16 months later.

“When we talked about getting married, June said to me, ‘If we get married, I’d like to bring some color to the house and garden,’” he recalls. “I told her, ‘There is no if,’ and I promised her she could. Her love of flowers adds so much to our home and life.”

Now semi-retired, Barry and his bride of seven years share the love of the land and a passion for creating a beautiful space, though he admits he didn’t know what was outside his doors until he met and married June.

“June woke one morning and looked out the window,” he says. “She turned to me, asking, ‘Barry, do you know how many camellias you have out there?’”

He had no idea, so June pulled on her coat and boots and took the better part of the morning to count. She returned to tell him, “There are over 100 on the property.” His astonished reply was, “Huh?”

The Bucheles credit the previous owner for planting the garden’s bones with a collection of camellias (Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua), hollies and azaleas growing under a canopy of longleaf pines and live oaks, giving it subtle Southern charm. There is a comforting wildness to the place, with an abundance of deciduous trees and evergreen shrubs stretching to the sunlight, providing a secure habitat for a herd of deer, rabbits, an occasional fox and turtle, and numerous birds. When flocks of chattering cedar waxwings arrive in the winter to feed on the holly berries, June hangs out the upstairs windows to watch and photograph them.

With a degree in education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, she taught elementary and intermediate school science, English and Spanish. She also studied botany with Clifford Parks, a world-renowned camellia expert. That experience developed her knowledge of botany, propagation, and the advantages of good soil fertility. Still, she confesses she didn’t truly appreciate the beauty of camellias until she moved to Pinehurst.

June was raised in Charlotte, where the dark red clay there was not favorable for camellias. Instead, her father and grandfather propagated and grew boxwoods, her first love. Her mother enjoyed flowers and became a talented floral designer who won ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging) competitions. “Gardening is in my Southern heritage,” she says.

The Bucheles claim 80-90 varieties of camellias among the 100-plus they count today, providing a lush backdrop during the non-blooming months for other shrubs and continuously changing the landscape.

Despite the abundance of the broadleaved evergreens, last winter they built several raised beds for the exclusive purpose of growing new camellias for exhibitions.

“We planted 44 new, rare or unusual camellia japonica varieties,” June explains. “I keep them small and tidy — one plant, one bloom. You enter to win with a spectacular bloom.” She’s won awards two of the past three years.

The new camellia beds receive special care and are situated in six locations to determine the best one for growing each variety. Camellias thrive in the region’s acidic soil. Most prefer understory shade or part shade, but some have adapted to full sun. They grow best in soils high in organic matter, and the Bucheles fill the beds with a blend of Brooks eggshell compost and homemade compost.

Barry, now a seasoned gardener, is often up to his ankles in the compost, checking and turning it as it slowly develops under an ancient live oak. “This is fluffy, rich and ready to go into the beds,” he says while scooping a forkful into the wheelbarrow.

Late winter, they usually pack up their van for the busy camellia judging schedule, attending shows up and down the East Coast. But this year, the format requires photos of entries sent by email and then judged on Zoom. “We’re not sure how this is going to work,” says a dubious June, who’s volunteered to be a judge at the first ACS competition this year, in Fayetteville, via Zoom.

In normal times, Barry volunteers as a show “runner” — carefully delivering the fragile single blooms perched in small cups to the head table for further judging. “Dropping or damaging a bloom is not a good thing,” he says, noting an unblemished track record.

“We’ve learned so much,” adds June. “The people I judge with are very passionate about growing and showing camellias and sharing knowledge. We’ve all become good friends, which makes it enjoyable for both of us. Plus, we get to see a lot of beautiful places.”

The division of labor in their garden is simple, explains Barry. “My main thought about gardening is, ‘What can I eat?’ June is more of, ‘What flowers can I cut and bring into the house?’”

Raised in Texas, Barry’s father, also a doctor, would occasionally take Barry and his brother to their grandfather’s farm in southern Kansas. “Gardening and farming were in our blood,” he explains. “But Dad hated farming and didn’t want to do it. He’d take us there and work our butts off. He wanted us to gain an appreciation for a farmer’s hard work and to understand the importance of staying in school.

“So, now I’m in charge of the compost and varmint control,” he says, laughing as he readjusts his soil-smudged garden hat. Countermeasures used to keep the rabbits and birds out of the vegetable garden include colorful fake snakes hanging from the tomato cages and a chicken-wire fence. Still, he admits, the voles get the best of them, “They ate the entire shade garden last year.”

In addition to the busy camellia season, spring brings a multitude of requisite heavy maintenance and weekly garden chores, which they’ve handed off to Cooley and Co. Landscape. But they stay connected with the essence of Mother Nature.

June plucks wilted foliage and prowls for weeds as she walks. She stops abruptly, reaching for an antique climbing rose. “It’s a Pierre de Ronsard,” the name lilting off her tongue. “The color changes from a soft pink to a deep rose,” she says, inhaling its heavenly fragrance and passing it along for a sniff.

Continuing down the walk, June points out areas for ambitious cleanup and planting projects. “I move plants a lot. If they are not doing well, I dig ’em up and replant. That’s the fun thing about gardening — it’s all an experiment.” She laughs and tugs at a prickly-ivy greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) branch that’s entangling her beloved peonies.

She discloses her plans for the azaleas, which she despises. “They bloom once and are done. Then they look leggy and sickly, not at all like camellias with their beautiful thick foliage.” So, last winter she took matters into her own hands and did extensive renovation pruning. “They were this high,” she says, motioning to her shoulders. “Now, they’re a foot high. But they’ll grow out and be pretty again.”

A recent makeover of the front included replacing a forlorn wildflower garden with a chipping green. Carved out of lush Xeon zoysia, it’s surrounded by blossoming redbuds, pink and white dogwoods, azaleas, forsythia, and graceful bridal wreath spirea. A dramatic Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) with its profusion of large, white flower bracts and red berries provides an attractive and long-lasting display throughout spring and summer.

Nearby, a large oval garden graces the house’s entrance. It’s an exuberant mix of daffodil bulbs, hardy camellias, English lavender, mixed ranunculus, and clumps of Shasta daisies and gladiolas. Pollinator-friendly perennials include cheerful Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta L.), salvia, coneflowers, and a false wild yellow indigo (Baptisia tinctoria). The spreading habit of several Lantana ‘Chapel Hill’ plants act as groundcover to brighten the area. Free-flowering, ivory-colored calla lilies (Zantedeschia ‘Intimate Ivory’) create drama all season long.

Two towering pottery fountains anchor the bed while a long-legged, sharp-beaked stork poses quietly nearby. “Storks are rumored to bring babies, but Barry’s the one that does that,” says June of the counterfeit bird. “He’s delivered over 11,000 babies, so I had to put one out there in his honor.”

But it’s the back of the property that’s their private oasis. When the old brick patio began to heave from the pressure of nearby tree roots, they asked builder Ken Bonville to design and create an outdoor living space. “It’s functional with an outdoor kitchen, and it’s as welcoming and entertaining as a family room,” notes Barry.

“We made sure we had it screened so we’d enjoy it without being eaten up by the bugs,” he says of the covered space with patio-to-ceiling rolldown screens. The patio extends outside the covered structure to include a cozy fire pit. Twin big-screen TVs, mounted back-to-back, allow sports fans to enjoy the action inside or from the fire pit and pool area.

June enjoys dressing up the outdoor room with her artfully arranged freshly cut flowers. “To me, flowers make a house a home,” she says. “With this area and our pool, it fits how we live. We spend a lot of time together here. It’s relaxing and keeps us connected to the beauty and serenity of our garden.”

Native Bronze Dixie Sweet scuppernong grapes wrap along a trellis in a sunny portion of the backyard. “This variety is wonderful — big, sweet, and very juicy. Since June’s turned over the grapes to me, I handle the pruning, and when we get good grapes, I claim success,” Barry says.

Bordering the vineyard is June’s deer-resistant peony bed, which started with one selection from Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery, a favorite for plant hunters. That peony (Paeonia ‘Scarlet O’Hara’) led to yearly additions, and the bed now has over 30 peonies that bloom in time for Mother’s Day. Closer to the pool, there’s a collection of tropical-looking hardy ginger plants, including an exotic Hedychium coronarium with a fragrance similar to jasmine. Elephant ears (Colocasia), daylilies (Hemerocallis), and specimens of Amorphophallus titanium, known as the ‘Corpse flower,’ and Hippeastrum ‘Voodoo,’ add mystery.

Working side-by-side in the garden, the couple divide and conquer, with each taking on different tasks. Everything doesn’t always go as planned, but they take time to enjoy its beauty and peacefulness.

“A few years ago, I built the simple slate path that threads through the back of the property. It’s bordered by dozens of azaleas and camellias and it’s the most tranquil place when they’re blooming. I get lost in the flowers,” reflects Barry. “If it weren’t for June, there wouldn’t be a garden.”

Their garden — a changeable, renewable paradise that stirs the senses and spirits, igniting a love of life.  PS

Claudia Watson is a frequent contributor to PineStraw and The Pilot and finds the joy in each day, often in a garden.