Sandhills Photograph Club

Sandhills Photograph Club

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

In My Time Capsule

What would Indiana Jones say?

By Deborah Salomon

Old folks are guardians of the past . . . now, especially, when life moves at the speed of Google. I don’t mean important things like electric cars and ticket stubs from a Taylor Swift concert. Rather, everyday stuff that after surviving tag sales emerges valuable. Just read about a first edition Corning casserole with cornflower design bringing $1,000 at auction. Not all icons are tangible, however. Some are behaviors, norms, happenings that unless relegated to the cloud, risk extinction.

When archeologists/social historians sifted through Pompeian ruins they weren’t looking for fine art. Rather a pot, a chair, coins. Just as valuable, however, are ancient clay scrolls containing lists, recipes and correspondence. Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library keeps a collection.

Clay is more durable than thumb drives. The human brain is a likely repository but with an expiration date. Mine, approaching that date, has lately dredged up stuff from a life lived half “up North,” as New York and New England were once called, the rest in North Carolina.

Surely, if the Smithsonian Institution enshrines a Swanson turkey TV dinner I can have a go at . . .

  • “Y’all want coffee?” Only in the mid-20th century South would a waitress holding a coffee pot descend upon a just-seated table at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-betweens. I can’t remember if it was free. Probably, since coffee was all one flavor and cost about 25 cents. Folks with “Mr. Coffee Nerves” ordered Sanka or Postum, not “decaf.”
  • Comic strips: Bankers, senators and surgeons read them, sans ridicule. Whether Blondie or the more cerebral Doonesbury, which still runs in The Washington Post, nobody chided followers. Then, on Sunday, New York newspapers put the funnies section on the outside, so readers could pre-empt the bad news with Penny and The Katzenjammer Kids. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia read the K-Kids on the radio to children during a 1945 newspaper delivery strike. Why else would the Big Apple name an airport after him? Oh, Charlie Brown, we need your wisdom.
  • Cafeterias, another Southern delight pre-fast food drive-thrus, are now fewer, fancier, much more expensive. S&W, K&W, J&S once dominated the state. Some are making a comeback with seniors and lonelyhearts with their still-satisfying experience, especially the mashed potatoes, country-fried steak, biscuits, cornbread and pie. Get on it, Smithsonian.
  • Green Stamps have become collectors’ items: We got them at the supermarket check-out, then pasted them in books to be exchanged for housewares (like that thousand-dollar Corning dish) at Green Stamp redemption stores.
  • What could be more worth remembering than gas at 25 cents a gallon with a complimentary windshield wipe?
  • How I long for Saturday curb markets held in dusty vacant lots, where sun-wizened farmers in overalls sold produce from pickup trucks. The non-organic tomatoes! The corn! The runner beans! These days, too many farmers markets resemble foodie boutiques displaying herbs, baby zucchini, purple lettuce, white eggplant to fill shoppers’ French string shopping bags. Anybody for a grilled goat cheese sandwich?
  • I can no longer reconcile “personal” seedless watermelon, too often pale and flavorless. Mother Nature intended watermelon to be sized for a crowd, with sweet, deep red flesh and slippery black seeds. Nothing tops off a fried chicken picnic better.
  • Cash: Greenbacks. Two bits. Folding money. A fin. Modern shoppers can go weeks, maybe months, without “breaking” a crisp $20. Just swipe a card, read a chip.
  • We pride ourselves on time-saving inventions that make life “easier.” Long live the ones that cure disease, feed the hungry. As for the rest, thanks for the memories.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

May Almanac 2024

May Almanac 2024

May tucks her treasures gently in our hands.

For the young girl in the sunhat: her first ripe strawberry, bright and plump, just warm from the tender, loving sun. Before lifting the fruit to her lips, she studies its tiny seeds — 200 stars studding crimson infinity — and how its leafy top looks like a tiny fairy cap. When the sweetness hits her tongue, her eyes brighten; her lips pucker; her hands open for more.

In the same field, an elderly man is picking his last flat of berries, recalling the scratch-made shortcakes of his childhood. His eyes glisten as the memories rush in; as the sweetness hits his tongue, as his granddaughter reaches for a sun-kissed strawberry.

For the sisters at the park: early ox-eye daisies.

For the dreamers: dandelion puffballs.

Somewhere, a teenage boy slips a dogwood flower behind the left ear of his first love. By the creek, his brother plucks crawdads from the cool, trickling water.

In a neighbor’s garden, peonies and roses perfume the spring-fresh air. Yellow butterflies worship orange poppies. Bare hands worship worm-rich earth.

And what of your own hands?

Might they cradle magnolia blossoms? An empty bird’s nest? A palmful of seeds?

Might they stay open to give and receive?

May tucks her treasures gently in your hands, giggles as you hold them, then playfully resumes her grand unfolding.

The fair maid who, the first of May

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree

Will ever after handsome be.

— Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme

Mother of Flowers

The magnolias are blooming, their sweet, citrusy fragrance utterly commanding our attention.

Yes, and more, please.

The “Great Mother” of flowers, Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) blossoms can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. Despite the delicate, ephemeral nature of their creamy white blooms, the tree itself is quite resilient — and ancient. Fossil records suggest that magnolias are among the oldest flowering plants on Earth, blossoming among the dinosaurs 100 million years ago.

An icon of feminine grace, it’s fitting that our Southern magnolia should shine this month — and just in time for Mother’s Day. 

The Birds and the Bees

Named for the Greek goddess Maia (eldest of the Pleiades and goddess of nursing mothers), May is a month of growth and fertility — a month of flowers, birds and bees.

National Wildflower Week is celebrated May 2 – 7 (always the first week of the month). Let’s hear it for spider lilies, spiderwort, wild indigo and crested iris.

On May 4 — National Bird Day — take a quiet moment to honor the winged ones who live alongside us. You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the richness they add to our ecosystem and soundscape. Your presence is all that’s required.

On that note, World Bee Day is acknowledged on May 20. Consider the essential role these hard-working insects play in the health and abundance of our planet. Honor your local pollinators with the choices that you make. Have a garden? Incorporate native flowers and, for the love of bees, put the toxic sprays away.   PS

Pleasures of Life Dept.

Pleasures of Life Dept.

All You Knead Is Love

Confessions of a novice baker

By Tom Allen

“Avoid those who don’t like bread and children,” a Swiss proverb says. I’ll second that.

Two years ago, after 10 years in health care and 30 years in local church ministry, I retired. “Whatcha gonna do?” folks asked. Some assumed my wife and I would travel (I thought I’d be underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon — I was wrong), continue writing columns (yep), and most of all, spend time with grandson Ellis, born in April 2022 (you bet).

A chilly, rainy winter marked the first weeks of retirement, perfect for sleeping in. Mid-mornings I poached, scrambled or fried a couple of eggs, Googling various methods to find the perfect recipe. After showering and (sometimes) shaving, I might water houseplants in the sunroom, go for a walk, piddle in the yard, watch Sports Center, or catch up on episodes of Grantchester and The Crown. Afternoons I decluttered the garage and attic, a task I thought would take, maybe, two weeks. Two years later, I’m still decluttering but have mastered the art of selling on Facebook Marketplace.

I came to embrace sleeping late as a gift. But, with wife Beverly still working, other early morning risings became welcomed occasions, silently sipping coffee and watching light pierce our darkened sunroom. And I simplified. After summers of brutal heat and pesky deer, I did away with raised beds, opting to fill our deck with pots of herbs and grape tomatoes, zinnias and cosmos. We emptied and let go of a storage unit and finally joined the legions who ditched cable for streaming. 

I embraced coloring outside the lines, literally, and began dabbling with watercolors. Then, drawing on my years as a hospital laboratory tech, I started to bake bread. My first major in college was medical technology. I loathed the math part but thrived in chemistry and biology labs, mostly because you got to mix this with that and produce something that changed color, fizzed, oozed or lit up.

This baker set his sights high, thinking I would join the sourdough social media craze. That lasted about one week. I loved being a granddad to Ellis, not a jar of starter. I decided to have a go at baking yeast bread. I wanted to get my hands in dough, form it into a squishy clump, watch it double in size, then after a few hours, fill our house with that comforting aroma.

Thanks to the same social media that fueled the sourdough frenzy, I discovered a plethora of no-knead bread recipes, most of them variations of Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman’s 2006 no-knead instructions published in The New York Times. The recipe became one of the most popular the Times ever published, mostly due to its simple ingredients — flour, yeast, salt and water — baked in a screaming hot Dutch oven.

Lahey and Bittman’s recipe takes about 24 hours. Most of that time is spent waiting for fermentation and rising. After several trial runs, I settled on a variation that takes fewer hours and produces a round, rustic-looking loaf, a boule in French, with a crackly crust and airy texture. Along with another online recipe that makes two rectangular loaves of honey wheat bread, the Times variation became a go-to, sometimes twice weekly endeavor — one to keep and one to give. I used to think baking bread (and giving it away) imparted an aura to the baker, similar to folks who run marathons or complete The New York Times Sunday crossword before Monday. I don’t know if that holds true for a novice. I do know handing a freshly baked loaf to a neighbor feels good.

I wouldn’t call bread-making a newfound obsession, like my love of Carolina Hurricanes hockey, but there’s something about making bread that’s also comforting and life-affirming. Maybe because yeast, a living organism, leavens and gives life to plain flour and water. Maybe because mixing dough, especially with your hands, and watching simple ingredients morph from a blob into what the 19th century Congregationalist minister John Bartlett called “the staff of life,” is not only short of magic, but likewise sacred. Biblical images abound, from the unleavened bread of Passover to the Last Supper.

From measuring the dry ingredients to mixing the wet, sticky dough with your hands, I wonder if studies have been done to quantify the release of dopamine, one of those feel-good chemicals our brains dole out when we do something challenging, pleasurable or rewarding. Bread-making surely makes the cut.

James Beard once said, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods, and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

I’ll have a slice of that, along with a hug from Ellis.  PS

Tom Allen is a retired minister living in Whispering Pines.

Focus on Food

Focus on Food

Spill It!

Berry-infused herbal iced tea

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

This summer, I plan on adapting the most iconic of all Southern traditions. My goal is to have a jug of iced tea chilling in the fridge at all times, ready to be served to anyone knocking on the door of my screened-in porch, honoring that Southern hospitality I’ve come to appreciate so much.

As someone who is notoriously sensitive to substances of any kind (kombucha on an empty stomach has me buzzed), I had to lay off the caffeine recently which, naturally, disqualifies coffee, but also caffeinated teas. So, black tea is out for me. While everyone’s favorite champagne of teas —  Darjeeling — or any of the other black tea varieties have never been my top choice to begin with, I do enjoy caffeine-free herbal teas with a glowing passion. Not only have herbs helped me heal a number of ailments throughout my life, many herbal teas have the most delightful aroma and are just plain delicious in all their earthy, sweet goodness.

While tea — black, herbal or otherwise — isn’t for everyone, even the staunchest tea opponents (mainly devoted coffee drinkers) will come around to it when tea is served the Southern way: ice cold with a hint (or heaps) of sugar, preferably on a hot summer’s day. If the conditions are right, it doesn’t even matter what variety of tea is served. As long as ice cubes chink and tumblers glisten, bottoms will go up.

Apart from using the best quality leaves available to you, there is one other significant way to elevate your tea-brewing game: collecting water from a pristine source. My mom, to this day, will hike into the woods outside the village where I grew up to bottle the purest mountain spring water that comes spluttering down between moss-covered rocks. In lieu of that, filtered water will do the job. The bottom line is, quality ingredients will make a quality product. Whether you prefer a hot brew, cold brew or whimsical “sun tea,” pour it over ice, add seasonal fruit and enjoy a quintessential part of Southern living.

 

Strawberry Hibiscus Iced Tea

(Makes 2 servings)

Ingredients

1 quart filtered water

5-6 teaspoons dried hibiscus flowers

200 grams (roughly 1 cup) frozen strawberries

Sweetener of choice, such as honey, granulated sugar or maple syrup, to taste

Ice and fresh strawberries, for serving

 

Bring water to a boil. Place dried hibiscus flowers and frozen strawberries in a large jar (bigger than a quart). Remove water from heat and pour over hibiscus and strawberries. Mash strawberries and allow to steep for 6-8 minutes, then strain liquid into a pitcher. Refrigerate and serve over ice with sweetener of choice and fresh strawberries.

For a more intense strawberry flavor, steep the tea without strawberries for 6-8 minutes, strain, then add strawberries, mash and infuse for several hours or overnight, and strain one final time before serving.  PS

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

Creators of N.C.

Creators of N.C.

The Late Drive Home

The music of David Childers

By Wiley Cash

Photographs By Mallory Cash

One chilly evening in early March, I parked in front of WiredCoffeeEspress in Kannapolis, North Carolina. I waited in the car for a few moments, wondering if I had the right place. The coffee shop sat in a strip mall between a discount store and a supermercado, and it seemed like a surprising spot to find one of my favorite living musicians on a Tuesday night. But then I remembered that I was there to see Mount Holly native David Childers, a universally beloved songwriter who is as at home sitting in on an intimate showcase of local musicians in front of a weeknight crowd as he is performing with the Avett Brothers in the Greensboro Coliseum.

Inside I found Childers already seated on the small stage, tuning his acoustic guitar and adjusting the harmonica holder around his neck. He and two other men about his age spent the next hour-and-a-half taking turns playing original songs, each performing five or six numbers. I knew most of the songs Childers played, but I couldn’t help but be struck by their beauty and nuance, how he was able to create rich tension between two lines that revealed a complicated duality that most songwriters aren’t capable of reaching for, much less grasping.

“There are moments of greatness,” he sang during his last song of the evening, “but this ain’t one of those.”

He could’ve fooled me.

By 10 p.m. Childers and I were sitting at a table on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop as patrons loaded into their cars and trucks to head home for the evening, but not before several of them stopped by our table to say hello. One of them offered Childers condolences on the recent passing of Malcolm Holcombe, a singer/songwriter from western North Carolina whom Childers knew for years and who recently lost a long battle with cancer. Childers had honored his friend that evening by performing one of Holcombe’s songs.

“I’m sorry we lost Malcolm,” the man said.

“Yeah,” Childers responded, “but I think Malcolm’s in a better place.” He smiled a sly smile. “We’ll probably run into him.”

Holcombe and Childers came up together in the North Carolina music scene, two literary singer/songwriters who both seemed haunted by the South, its religious iconography, its mystery, and its hardscrabble economics. Both men released their debut albums in 1999 and spent the years before and after touring incessantly, making regular jaunts across Europe.

“I couldn’t get a gig around here in Charlotte,” Childers said, referring to a time when most bars wanted cover bands, not poets with guitars singing blue collar stories about mill closures and lost souls. “I was pretty much by myself, although I would get these bands together and eventually started getting gigs. One place was Dilworth Brewing. That let me get some experience because I started late.” Childers, in his mid-60s now, was around 38 years old when he began performing publicly while he and his wife, Linda, raised a young family, all while Childers worked 50 and 60 hours a week as an attorney in Mount Holly.

In 2007 he looked around and decided that life on the road wasn’t for him, especially when he realized that by the end of November he’d only spent four weekends at home during the entire year. There were things he wanted to do in Mount Holly: spend time with his wife and kids, work in the yard, paint.

“I’d been playing overseas, and there had been some good things, but there was a lot of disappointment, a very mixed bag. And I just realized, I don’t want to be in an airplane all the time or in strange hotels or riding in buses and cars. And Charlotte was changing, North Carolina was changing. The music scene was opening up, and I was getting more of a name, so I had more opportunities. Why fly all over the place if you can stay here and make a living?

“I don’t have the wanderlust anymore,” he said. “I don’t really want to go anywhere.”

And that makes sense if you listen closely to Childers’ more recent music, almost all of which is firmly grounded in the Mount Holly soil that rests along the Catawba River dividing Gaston and Mecklenburg counties. The songs from The Next Best Thing (2013), Run Skeleton Run (2017), Melancholy Angel (2023), and especially 2020’s Interstate Lullaby play like soundtracks of mill culture, zeroing in on the hope born in the post-war years of the 1950s and the despair felt once the lifeblood of local industries began to seep away.

“It’s there in those songs,” he said. “Those two emotions — hope and despair — they give you a conflict, and that’s a good thing to have in a song.”

A young man was standing nearby, and Childers looked up and saw him.

“Hey, man,” Childers said. He shook the young guy’s hand. “I’m glad you came out. I’ve seen you play.”

The guy seemed surprised and genuinely touched, and before walking toward the parking lot he invited Childers to an upcoming show. Childers promised to try and make it.

“That boy’s a hell of a songwriter,” Childers said.

We talked for a few more minutes, and then it was time for Childers to step inside the coffee shop to pack up his gear. I asked him how long the drive home to Mount Holly would take.

“It’s about 40 minutes,” he said. He stood from his chair and stretched his back.

I apologized for keeping him so long after the show ended.

“It’s OK,” he said. “It was a good show, and it was nice to chat.”

“I hope it was worth the late drive home on dark roads,” I said.

He smiled. “Hope and despair,” he said.  PS

Wiley Cash is the executive director of Literary Arts at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the founder of This Is Working, an online community for writers.

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Taurus

(April 20 – May 20)

While it’s true you tend to be a bit self-absorbed, who can blame you? Ruled by the planet of love, money, romance, art and beauty, your sensual nature is part of what makes you so utterly magnetic. This month, both Venus and Jupiter will amplify your charm factor, creating a “golden ticket” effect in relation to your wildest longings. Here’s the catch:
You’ve got to be willing to ditch your plans.

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) 

Choose a focal point.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

One word: hummingbird.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Just take the ride.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Step away from your comfort zone.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

Expect a miracle.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Try slowing down.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Mind your tone.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Read the care instructions.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Find your true north.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Dust the fan blades.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) 

Let the butterfly come to you.   PS

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

Sporting Life

Sporting Life

Trouble at Slim’s

Change at the old country hideout

By Tom Bryant

It was one of those early spring Sundays when the weather was doing its North Carolina thing, frosty in the morning, heading toward summer by sundown. Dogwoods were almost clear of their blooms, and the leaves on the hardwoods were about as full and green as they can be in what my grandma used to call God’s time.

I was still kinda out of sorts, tired of nursing along a knee replacement and ready for a road trip but knowing that it was still too early to hook up the little Airstream and head to the beach. I can take house arrest for a short time, but after a while I begin to get a little restless. Just ask my bride and caretaker, Linda. She jokingly said, “Why don’t you go somewhere, sit in the sun, find some of your good buddies to talk to?”

There. I had as good an excuse as I’ve had in a while to set forth on a little adventure. But where to go? Slim’s Store, if it’s still there, would be something I could handle, decrepit knee and all. The problem was I hadn’t visited my old country hangout in a couple of years, and it might not be the same as it used to be.

Located in the north central part of the state, Slim’s Store was almost a household name among the folks in that part of the country who are partial to the outdoors. Hunters, fishermen, campers or farmers, everyone was welcome at Slim’s.

Slim’s grandfather built the store in the early part of the last century, and it almost immediately became a huge success. Like stores at that time all over the country, it was a meeting place, a place to see what your neighbors were up to, and the place to buy the goods you needed around the homestead. Everything was there from a barrel of tenpenny nails to a pair of boots or coveralls. If it wasn’t in the store, you probably didn’t need it. It was also where local farmers could sell their goods, like H.J. Johnson’s Angus steaks and roasts, and fresh corn and collards from Aunt Mary’s garden. These amazing country stores came along way before the A&P or the city hardware store appeared downtown.

Eventually Slim’s grandfather passed away, and the store declined. It sat in disrepair for years until Slim made his fortune out West and decided to revive the business. He did it, as he put it, so all his “reprobate” friends would have a place to go.

It was more like a hobby than a place to make money, although I later found out that it did break even. More importantly, it did give his friends a place to go and be recognized, a place where everybody knows your name.

It became a proper store with everything that an enterprise of its day had. There were barrels of hardware stuff from nails to door hinges. Overalls, jeans and work shirts hung from racks toward the back of the open space. On the right as you entered were the counter and cash register. The glass-fronted counter displayed all the knickknacks, everything from pocket knives to reading glasses. On top of the counter were big gallon jars of pickled eggs, sausages and pigs’ feet, a gourmet’s delight.

A good example of the stock in the store was the white rubber boots, the kind coastal commercial fishermen wear. Slim had four or five pairs lining the top shelf behind the counter. We were a couple hundred miles from the coast, and when I asked Slim why in the world he stocked something he probably would never sell, he replied, “You never know when a fishery worker might show up and need a pair of boots.”

Nothing stays the same, though, and when Slim went on to join his grandfather at that Heaven’s gate store that never needs restocking, we regulars of the old country emporium were afraid we had outlived a favorite way of life. But thankfully, along came Bubba.

Bubba and Slim had a lot in common. They both had a lot of money. Slim made the store a hobby. Bubba, who bought the store from Slim’s cousin Leroy, who had inherited it and didn’t have a clue what to do with it, kept it going because he said, “I like the people, my favorite rocking chair, and the coffee. As far as I’m concerned that’s enough to be successful.” Leroy stayed on as manager.

That afternoon I gave Leroy a call at the store to alert him that I might pay him a visit and to see if he could round up some of the other regulars.

Leroy has never been very loquacious on the phone, so I was ready for a one-way conversation. “Hello,” he answered on the second ring. That alone was a surprise. Usually the phone will ring off the hook before someone, usually a customer, answers.

“Hey, Leroy. It’s Tom Bryant. How you doing?”

“OK, I guess.”

“I’m thinking on riding up your way this Friday and hoped you could call a few of the old-timers and we could have sort of a reunion.”

“Mr. Tom, I’ll try, but most of the old customers are dead or maybe dying.” If nothing else, Leroy always cut to the chase.

“How about Bubba? Is he back from Costa Rica yet?” Bubba had been saltwater fly-fishing in Central America.

“No, sir. I think he’s supposed to come back any day now. I do remember he said before he left that he wanted to talk to you.”

“Leroy, what’s the matter? You don’t sound like your usual cheerful self,” I said jokingly.

“Naw sir, things are pretty much a mess around the old ’stablishment. You’ll see when you get here.”

“Now you got me worried. I’ll see you Friday. Try and round up a few of the live ones.”

“Yessir.” He hung up leaving me wondering what was going on in Leroy’s environs. Friday couldn’t come soon enough.

About mid-week, before I was to head out to the old store, Bubba called. I could tell by his clipped conversation that he was in a disgruntled mood. It seems that a problem had developed with one of his businesses, and he had to make a fast trip to New York.

“Bryant, Leroy said you were coming up here Friday. Do me a favor. Check out things and when I get back from New York, we’ll get together up here with the girls for a steak dinner and talk about what you saw. I don’t know if I’m going to keep the place open.”

“OK, Bubba.” I had a thought that perhaps the ancient business wasn’t long for this world. We hung up after a short conversation with Bubba lambasting everything from the state of the dollar to the mess with foreign imports of every kind.

I told Linda about the conversation and she said Bubba was probably just tired from all his travels. “Yep,” I said, “but you know what? When I go up there this Friday, I’m gonna buy me a pair of those vintage white fishing boots and eat a pickled egg and maybe a pig’s foot while I still can. It’d make Slim proud.”PS

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

PinePitch

PinePitches

Come and Go, Talk of Michelangelo

Even if they’re not J. Alfred Prufrock, May is a busy month for authors at The Country Bookshop, 140 N.W. Broad St. in Southern Pines. Cheryl L. Mason, Stephen E. Smith, Mary Kay Andrews, Max Braillier, Tommy Tomlinson, Kristen Harmel and Mesha Maren will all be discussing and signing their books. For specific dates, times and titles go to www.ticketmesandhills.com or visit www.thecountrybookshop.biz.

A Night to Behold

Do yourself, and your community, a favor by attending the one-night only performance of seven-time Grammy Award nominee Nnenna Freelon for a concert benefiting the Southern Pines Land & Housing Trust on Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the West Southern Pines Center, 1250 W. New York Ave., Southern Pines. The incredible jazz vocalist recently starred in the show “Georgia on My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles.” She has toured with Charles, performed at the White House, and appeared with talents like Ellis Marsalis, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Earl Klugh and others. For tickets and information go to weblink.donorperfect.com/nnenna. (Photograph by Samantha Everette)

Garden Party

The Village Heritage Foundation hosts its Spring Garden Party on Tuesday, May 7, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Timmel Pavilion, 105 Rassie Wicker Drive, in the Village Arboretum in Pinehurst. There will be wine, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments. Guests will receive updates on the Woodland Garden design, one of the earliest developments in the park, and the dedication of the new Jim and Elizabeth Fisher Gathering Place. Tickets are $30. In the event of rain, the location will move to the Fair Barn. For further information go to www.ticketmesandhills.com.

A floral arrangement donated for the 2023 Spring Garden Party

A Touch of The Grape

The Women of Weymouth will hold their annual happy hour on Wednesday, May 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the Boyd House grounds at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. There will be appetizers and desserts by Scott’s Table, a wine bar, a wine tasting by Standing Room Only, music by Sam Thomas, raffles and more. Tickets are $55 for members, $60 for non-members. If you’re still thirsty the Farm Fresh Spring Wine Walk on Saturday, May 18, in the village of Pinehurst features 12 boutique locations offering spring wine and tapas. Tickets are $45 and start times are 3:30, 4:30 or 5:30 p.m. For info and tickets got to www.eventbrite.com.

Somebody Had to Do It

Release your inner Wookie at The Tyson Sinclair, 105 McReynolds St., Carthage, the planetary location for a “May the Force Be With You” costume party beginning at 6 p.m. on — what else? — Saturday, May the Fourth. There will be food, drinks and games. All you Lukes and Leias must be 21 or over to attend. That shouldn’t be a problem since Star Wars premiered 47 years ago. For more information go to www.ticketmesandhills.com.

First Friday, 2024 Edition

Come one, come all on May 3 to the first First Friday of 2024 to enjoy the music of The Wilson Springs Hotel, a Virginia-based band with a honky-tonk, folk rock sound, on Sunrise Square next to the theater at 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. We know y’all remember the drill — bring blankets, lawn chairs, dancing shoes, flowers for your hair and kids, but leave Cujo at home. Beverages are meant to be purchased, not smuggled. For additional info go to firstfridaysouthernpines.com, www.sunrisetheater.com or call (910) 420-2549.

The Phil

Maestro David Michael Wolff and the Carolina Philharmonic will be joined by the husband and wife duo of Josh Young and Emily Padgett-Young in a performance of “Broadway Brilliance: A Symphony Pops Spectacular” on Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. at BPAC’s Owen’s Auditorium, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Tickets range from $10 (students) to $60 (VIP). For more information call (910) 687-0287 or go to www.carolinaphil.org.

Sunrise Live

There will be six live performances of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (Female Version) beginning Friday, May 10, and concluding on Sunday, May 19, at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. For information on show times call (910) 420-2549 or visit www.sunrisetheater.com.

Southwords

Southwords

A Taste for Golf

Sometimes it just comes naturally

By Emilee Phillips

Golf and I go way back. My earliest memory of a golf ball was at my uncle’s wedding. It was held at a country club somewhere in Iowa. I assume it was flat and kind of cornfieldy. I was 4 and given the honor of being one of the flower girls.

During the rehearsal dinner, we were in one of the many swanky dining rooms in a confusing maze of swanky rooms that I’m still not sure were all dedicated exclusively to our party. Nonetheless, little ol’ me scouted out the place. After all, there were three flower girls, surely they didn’t need all of us.

Central to the decorating theme, there were golf balls on every table — but not just any golf balls. These were regulation-sized, pure white chocolate golf balls. There was one at each place setting in the room.

I’m not sure if someone suggested the idea, as kids do, or if I arrived at it all on my own, but I decided to lick one. Having once discovered the delectable goodness — of which there seemed to be an unlimited quantity — I made it my mission to taste as many as I could. 

Seeing teeth marks sunken into a golf ball may be something out of the fever dream of a high handicapper, but to my young eyes, the sight of my teeth carving a smooth path out of the dimpled outer shell was mesmerizing.

The trance was broken when my mother ripped a golf ball, a mere shell of its former self, out of my hand. By that point it was too late. I don’t know how many I had already bitten into, but I can tell you I know what it’s like to overindulge at the 19th hole. My “hangover” may have been sugar induced, but my head felt it all the same.

Looking out on the golf course the next day, I naturally associated feeling like garbage with the little white balls people seemed to take such delight in striking. Fists clenched, I said to myself, So that’s why they hit them so hard. And, yes, I still hate white chocolate.

My next run-in with a golf course wasn’t until high school, when I moved to Pinehurst. Like Starbucks in Manhattan, there seemed to be a golf course on every corner. 

While I still don’t know much about golf, I am learning. I know that there are 18 holes in a standard game of golf, and that the term “birdie” has nothing to do with fingers. Peak season in North Carolina is spring and fall, presumably because it’s not too hot or too humid. I’m also told that the tiny craters on a golf ball serve more than an aesthetic purpose and actually have aerodynamic properties to make the balls travel faster or farther, or whatever, through the air. 

I’m aware that being on a golf course is like being in a theater after the curtain has gone up. One should be mostly quiet and mostly respectful of those trying to focus on the task at hand. I’ll likely never understand what goes into a perfect swing. But I know it’s supposed to be repetitive, like eating every bit of chocolate in sight.  PS

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