Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

Batting Cleanup

Spotless . . . in the eye of the beholder

By Deborah Salomon

By June, “spring cleaning” should be done and dusted . . . right? The windows gleam, the carpet wafts shampoo. Begone dust bunnies that overwintered under the bureau. Same to soap scum ringing the tub and spilled jam glued to the refrigerator. The sofa has been moved, revealing kitty’s favorite toy and some petrified Halloween candy. All the shelves Swiffered, even the highest, uprooting a mosquito graveyard.

These tasks were accomplished on a sunny Saturday by family members, conscripted, cajoled or bribed.

Pizza for lunch, maybe?

Ah, spring cleaning, that archaic rite which, it seems, survives in name only. Because “clean” is a touchy subject — everybody wants clean surroundings, but nobody wants to do it.

I wanted to do it. Having three children in three-and-a-half years — then adding a rambunctious Airedale puppy — interfered. Nevertheless, every morning I gave the bathrooms a once-over, and late every afternoon, with most of the toys put away, I managed to vacuum, which gave the illusion of clean when Daddy came home to a hot supper. Then baths, stories, bedtime and collapse.

That’s just the way we did things in the ’60s.

Finally, I hired a “cleaning lady” who came every second Friday, from 9 to 3. Anna had emigrated from Eastern Europe to Canada after World War II. I assumed she flew in from heaven on huge white wings, to ease my travail. Anna, well into her 50s, was big, strong, energetic. She tuned her transistor radio to a Polish language station and attacked my house with a vengeance, I think in gratitude for the lunches: a big bowl of hearty homemade soup, rye bread for dunking, a meat sandwich, and garlicky coleslaw from a European deli. She finished off with a bearclaw (Danish filled with almond paste) and strong tea.

Food talks, even inspires.

After lunch I went out grocery shopping. When I returned, Anna was gone and the house smelled like Ajax and Pledge — more glorious than Chanel.

Anna demonstrated that cleaning isn’t just a profession or a necessity. It can be an art.

After she retired I hired helpers, since I was working full time, then gave up. They weren’t any more energetic than I was. Their clean didn’t squeak. They weren’t Anna.

Now, cleaning services are the mode. A crew of young men and women spill out of a truck with a snazzy logo. They bring supplies and implements, breeze through a big house in an hour or so, collect the cash and fly away, like Mary Poppins on her aeronautical umbrella.

They definitely don’t want lunch.

Some folks take clean to an obsession. I envy them, sort of. They are a ready market for Roomba (self-propelling vacuum) as well as Swiffer diversifications for wet and dry floors, blinds, hard to reach tchotchkes, et al. They remove stains with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and suck up spills with Bounty paper towels. The aromas wafting through their hallways come from plug-ins, not meatloaf.

Others are neat freaks, where everything has its place and the kitchen harbors no junk drawer spilling over with twist ties, rubber bands, birthday candles and packets of soy sauce.

How do you live without a junk drawer? I have two.

Age has sapped my energy. The kitty and I don’t make much mess in our small apartment. I’m still fussy about the (one) bathroom and (tiny) kitchen. I push the carpet sweeper more often than the vacuum. The oven cleans itself, and I don’t keep jam in the refrigerator. Maybe books and magazines pile up, but so what? Makes me look literary. True, sometimes the late afternoon sun reveals a film of dust on the coffee table where I keep stylized animal figurines, collected over many years, many miles. So I close the blinds and the dust disappears.

Spring cleaning? Never got around to it. I’ll wait till fall.  PS

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

Focus on Food

Golftown Journal

Cutting Corners

A quicker way to homemade croissants

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

The ink on my freshly issued driver’s license hadn’t dried yet when four of my friends and I piled into my newly acquired VW Polo to pop across the border for a casual breakfast in France. A swift hour-and-a-half later, we sat in the courtyard of a little boulangerie in Wissembourg, France, sipping café au lait while enjoying freshly baked, oven-warm butter croissants.

Ah, such sweet memories. These trips were a weekend ritual for many years with an ever-changing cast of friends, and while I no longer drink milk coffees (espresso macchiato all the way), I am still, some 25 years later, utterly obsessed with flaky, buttery croissants.

Fortunately, the Sandhills have ramped up their offering of artisan croissants, I’m happy to report. But not all croissants are created equal, and truly authentically crafted ones sell out faster than you can get out of your pajamas to drive across town to snag a few. So, what’s a girl with a passion for properly laminated butter croissants to do? Make your own, of course. But therein lies the rub.

If you read any recipe for traditional butter croissants, you could easily be led to believe that making these pastries is simple. Time consuming, perhaps, but simple. Make a dough, fold in butter, refrigerate, bake, done. Well, I am here to tell you that a decent amount of practice goes into making croissants (for the casual baker, that is), and every single mistake will affect the end result. Many years back (when cupcakes were the height of sophistication for me), my first batch leaked copious amounts of butter in the oven, and the croissants came out oily and sad looking.

While I have dramatically improved my baking skills, why invest two or even three days of your life when you can have the same delicate, honeycomb-structured butter croissants in just a few hours with a simplified method?

Necessity is the mother of invention. With a toddler taking up most of my time, I searched, tried and failed, and searched some more until I found the perfect shortcut to making perfect croissants. In a nutshell, you can make delicious croissants with one easy alteration: Instead of laminating repeatedly (folding butter into the dough), you spread butter in between layers of dough, which miraculously gives you the same flaky, pull-apart texture of the time-honored but decidedly more tedious method. The best part is, nobody will know you cut corners. Unless you tell.


Easy Butter Croissants  

(Yields 10 croissants / Imperial measures are approximate)

Basic Dough

500 grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour or T65 (preferred)

50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar

1 egg

5 grams (1.8 teaspoons) active dry yeast

20 grams (1.5 tablespoons) butter

10 grams (1.75 teaspoons) salt

210 milliliters (0.8 cups) water 

Butter Layers

225 grams (8 ounces) butter


Place all ingredients for the dough into a large bowl and knead until a ball forms and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size; about 1-2 hours.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface, shape into a log and cut into 10 pieces. Roll out the first piece to a rectangle, approximately 8×10 inches, and cover with a generous amount of butter. Roll out another piece of dough, set on top of your first dough-butter layer and repeat, alternating dough and butter to create a dough stack, ending with a layer of dough. Refrigerate the dough stack until fully chilled, about 2 hours.

Roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 10×20 inches. Cut dough in a zig-zag pattern to create 10 triangles and, starting with the base of the triangle, roll into croissant. Tuck the tip under so the croissants won’t come undone while baking. Refrigerate once more for at least 1-2 hours (or overnight), then allow to rise at room temperature for 1-2 additional hours before baking.

Preheat oven to 400F, apply egg wash if desired and bake for 20-22 minutes.  PS

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

Art of the State

Art of the State

Just Working

Antoine Williams forged his own path to bring his art to light

By Liza Roberts

Left: There Will Be No Miracles Here, printed material and acrylic on wood panel, 2021


Antoine Williams was in his early 20s when he made an important decision: If he wanted his work to be seen, he’d have to take matters into his own hands.

He’d earned a fine arts degree from University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2003 and was busy making mult-media work including drawings, paintings and collages that responded to the world around him: about politics, about the war on terror, about “how ridiculous all of it was.” But to Williams, the traditional gallery route seemed impenetrable. Not only to him, but to the other young artists he knew, many of them also young, politically active Black men without a network in the established world of art. “People were literally afraid of us. We were walking into galleries, and I remember one gallery. I asked: Can we do an art show? And they were like: We don’t have metal detectors,” Williams says.

His friends, including multimedia artists and illustrators Marcus Kiser, John Hairston Jr. and Wolly Vinyl, had another hurdle, too. Traditional art venues weren’t the obvious places for the audiences they sought. They wanted to connect with like-minded people who were also influenced by art, comics, music and culture. They were eager for dialogue and weren’t sure they’d find it in a traditional venue. “A museum can be a scary place if you’ve never been there,” Williams says.

Williams knew that from experience. A first-generation college student from “rural, working-class, conservative” Red Springs, North Carolina, Williams never knew an artist or much about art growing up — but his imagination was allowed to flourish. “It was cool to be a creative kid growing up in a place where you could run outside and go in the woods and play,” Williams says. “I was always daydreaming, and I was always either drawing or making stuff.”

He tapped into that wellspring when he cofounded the art collective God City in 2005 with Kiser, Hairston, Vinyl and a few other artists. The group rented industrial spaces, put together pop-up shows and got the word out with flyers. “We were really into hip-hop, politics and comic books,” says Williams. “We would do exhibitions . . . in any place that would take a bunch of young Black dudes.” Over a seven-year run, the group forged collaborations with poets, filmmakers, dancers and DJs. “It was all these groups of Black and brown people making art outside the major institutions,” says Williams. “It became a community in Charlotte . . . It was this really beautiful time.”

Left: There Will Be No Miracles Here, printed material and acrylic on wood panel, 2021


The establishment took notice. Kimberly Thomas, a curator at the Mint Museum, became a God City regular. In 2008, she included work by Williams and Hairston — as well as art from nationally recognized Black North Carolina artists like Juan Logan and the late Romare Bearden — in a 2008 exhibition about contemporary portrayals of Black masculinity called Scene in America. The exhibit included Williams’ I Wanna Kill Sam, a graphite and acrylic representation of a Black man shouting before a backdrop that could be part of an American flag. It’s about “the frustration of being caught within the system, the system that you don’t fully understand, but that you do know is not working,” says Williams.

Since then, Williams has not struggled to get his art seen. Addressing cultural identity, signifiers of class, race and power, and the stories and myths society tells about them, his work incorporates drawing, painting and collage. Most recently, Williams says, he is focused on “Black folklore and other narratives” and is making art that “relates to Black people and movement to spaces of liberation.” The works shown on these pages incorporate these themes and will be exhibited at the Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, later this year. Also in 2023, Williams will have four murals installed in Washington, D.C,. as a recipient of the National Academy of Design’s Abbey Mural Prize.


Left: Putting Breath in the Body #1, ink, printed material, transfer, acrylic, 23.5″x 28″, 2022

Right: Putting Breath in the Body #2, ink, printed material, transfer, acrylic, 23.5″x 28″, 2022


A Moment of Rest While Convincing Monsters That I Am Human, a drawn mural created for a giant wall at the entrance to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem last year, was made following the nationwide uprisings over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, an effort to depict both the injustice and the exhaustion of that fight. “Those marches were for the bare minimum, just so that the justice system would work,” Williams says. “Not that it would do anything extraordinary — just work.” The mural depicts a man hunched over beneath a mountain of clothes, which Williams says indicates “how absurd it is, but also how exhausting it is.” Hoodies, jeans and sneakers refer to the distorted, negative stigma society puts on these signifiers of young Black men; the enormous pile indicates how they “constantly have to deal with the piling on of these perceptions.” The burdened figure persists, but pauses, “needing to take a break, and reclaim humanity,” says Williams.

Williams’ work has been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum and at Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). He has had prestigious residencies and fellowships at Duke University and the McColl Center. Most recently, he was an artist in residence at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, where he created sculptural work inspired by a quote from the author Octavia Butler: “There’s Nothing New / Under the Sun / But There Are New Suns.” Last July, Williams took a tenure-track job teaching art at the University of Florida.  PS

This is an excerpt from Art of the State: Celebrating the Art of North Carolina, published by UNC Press.

Saving the White Rhino

King Trees

Using technology to defeat poachers in Kruger National Park

By Jim Moriarty

Photographs courtesy of Tough Stump Technologies

One of them is called Kokwane and the other is Nyeleti. They’re not characters out of The Lion King. Kokwane is Randy Roy, and his African name means grandpa. Nyeleti is Jimmy Larsen, and his African name means night star — the star used for navigation. Together, and with a little help from their friends, they’re doing about as much as two guys nearly 8,900 miles away can do to save the white rhino from extinction.

Last October, in the dark of the new moon, the pair visited Kruger National Park in South Africa to pass along some of the expertise they’d gained in the military to the park rangers who are the sole line of defense between the largest remaining population of white rhino in the world and the people who would destroy them for profit. Roy, a former policeman who worked as a dog trainer for Special Operations on Fort Bragg, made his first trip to Kruger in that advisory capacity in 2016 (though now he’s involved in drone mapping as well), while Larsen, recently retired from the Air Force, was attached to Special Operations and is an expert in telemetry.

It’s not unusual for advances of all types, be they technological or medical, made in war fighting to find peaceful uses, too. “The problem they have in South Africa is very similar to the problem we had in the military: Where the hell is everyone? Where should I go and what should I do?” says Larsen. The phases of the moon are critical because it’s during the full moon, and the days just before and after, when the barbaric poaching of rhino horns is most prevalent, so prevalent, in fact, that it’s called the Poachers Moon.

“Sixty percent of the white rhinos left in the world are located on Kruger National Park. The rhino horn is still the most lucrative commodity on Earth — more than gold, more than drugs,” says Roy.


Right: Employing and mastering new technology in Kruger National Park.


Rhino horn is coveted both for its rumored — though debunked — medicinal properties and as a status symbol, using the circular logic that possessing something so valuable is a value in itself. The poaching problem was particularly egregious during the pandemic. The national park was closed, but the poachers were open. “You’ve got the most expensive substance on the planet surrounded by some of the poorest places on the planet, protected by a few dozen people with a budget of next to nothing and a salary of about $500 a month. The fact that there are any rhino left at all is a testament to how good these guys are at their job,” says Larsen. “It’s a wicked problem.”

Kruger National Park is 7,523 square miles, 600 square miles larger than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The poachers generally work in teams of three. One carries a rifle, one carries an ax, and one is a runner who carries water. Sometimes they enter the park on foot, easily overcoming fences, and other times they come into the park in one or two private vehicles, pretending to be a family on a day’s outing, then jumping out of the cars to stalk the animals.

The park is not unprotected. Kruger has helicopters donated to it by Warren Buffett, and roughly 300 rangers work in shifts to defeat the poachers. There are sensors that alert the rangers to the sound of a gunshot and seismic cables that can tell them if poachers are in the area. Still, it all comes down to the rangers finding the poachers — hopefully before they’ve downed a rhino and cruelly chopped off most of its face — in the dark, over great distances, when they know the people they’re about to confront are armed.

Randy Roy and Jimmy Larsen


“The poachers are hardened bushmen themselves,” says Roy. “The park is full of lions. It’s full of leopards. It’s full of cape buffalo. Those are dangerous animals. They don’t care. They go in there on foot with the chance of getting a horn. With a poached horn, all of them will make more than they would working at the gas station or working at a restaurant for an entire year.”

During the Poachers Moon park rangers sleep in tents in the bush in teams of their own waiting for an alert. Their dedication to their work is legendary. Two years ago one of them was attacked by a leopard but managed to fight it off. “He shoved his COVID mask into his jugular, wrapped the seatbelt around his neck and drove two hours to a clinic. And came back to do his job when he was healed,” says Larsen.

Once the rangers have received an alert is when Roy, Larsen and the company they work for now — Tough Stump Technologies — come into play. “The way the guys were operating, they had the equivalent of a paper map on a table. They say, ‘Go to a point here, a point there,’” says Larsen. With the technology Roy and Larsen left behind on a trial basis, requiring neither Wi-Fi nor cell service, the operations center can send a specific point to a ranger on his cellphone, and he can navigate to it from his position. “Before, there was a guy who talks to another guy who has two radios and one of them is talking to the operations center and the other one is talking to the closest ranger. One is speaking English and one is speaking Swahili. They don’t have coordinates; they’re talking about reference points. Based on what we’d seen (with the new equipment) during a false alarm it went from about 90 minutes to 30 minutes for them to interdict.” In fact, in December, on an actual poaching alert, the response time was five minutes.

The technology leapfrogs language barriers — most of the rangers speak English, but it’s a second or third language to their native Shangaan, Tsonga, Swahili, Afrikaans, etc. — because it’s not necessary to talk. It also minimizes the risk of injury from friendly fire, since all the rangers know where all the other rangers are.


Gathering with the park rangers, their faces obscured for their own protection.


To prosecute the poachers in South African courts, the rangers need to retrieve the gun, the horn and, of course, the poacher. The technology makes the forensics easier, too. “There’s a rhino, there’s a weapon, there’s a horn. Picture, picture, picture. It plots it on the map. There’s no disputing anything,” says Larsen.

The project came about at the suggestion of Stephen Lee, a senior scientist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in the Research Triangle Park. Lee, who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Emery University, has traveled to and from Africa for the past 15 years engaged in educational projects and in research, mostly with elephants, whose acute sense of smell led to ways to detect the presence of explosives, narcotics and chemical and biological agents. He became active in both anti-poaching and animal conservation and, because of his Army connections, was aware of the technology Roy, Larsen and Tough Stump had. “I thought this would be ideal,” says Lee. “I thought it would revolutionize how they do counter-poaching.”

The entire technology kit fits in a backpack at a cost of roughly $50,000, money the national park doesn’t have to spare. Because of that Roy and Larsen have begun fundraising, with the help of Southern Pines Rugby Club, for both the technology and the rangers themselves. To help, go to their website, ruggersagainstpoachers.com, where contributions can be channeled through a nonprofit 501(c)3.

The illegal trafficking of rhino horns is done, essentially, by organized crime syndicates. As a result, park rangers and their families can be in extraordinary danger. Their children need to be educated far away from their villages. In this story, as in all communications about the park rangers, their faces are blotted out to protect their identities.

Just like the technology Roy and Larsen left behind, it’s a small step to protect the protectors. And maybe save one of the planet’s most needlessly endangered species.  PS

For more information about the poaching of rhino horns, watch the gritty, tough documentary Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War. Jim Moriarty is the Editor of PineStraw and can be reached at jjmpinestraw@gmail.com.

King Trees

King Trees

The champions of Moore County

By Tom Lillie     Photographs by John Gessner

This and above Photograph: Turkey oak (Quercus laevis)

Moore County has what it takes to produce champions. The environment is ideal for building endurance and dominating the competition. Four individuals currently living in the Sandhills achieved state, national or world recognition without ever leaving the very spot where they took root and blossomed. They did not seek this recognition. In fact, they were discovered by local admirers and nominated for the crown.

The individuals I am referring to are trees. Three are famous for their size, and one is legendary for its age.

When it comes to size, a tree’s height, trunk circumference and crown spread are used to establish its position in arboreal prominence. The nonprofit group American Forests has the final say. A different process is used to document and recognize the oldest trees. Scientists called dendrochronologists extract a core sample with a special drill bit and count the growth rings to determine a tree’s age.

The nation’s largest turkey oak (Quercus laevis) stands at the intersection of N.C. 211 and state Road 2077 in Aberdeen. Worn and weathered, the tree is 64 feet tall with a circumference of 126 inches and a crown spread of 41 feet. Most motorists drive past the deciduous standout every day without knowing they are within sight of a titleholder, but news of plans to widen the road put the tree in the spotlight. The State Department of Transportation considered various alternatives, including rerouting the road to avoid the tree, but decided removal is the only viable option.

DOT is in the process of acquiring the necessary right of way for the project, including land occupied by the champion turkey oak. As a mitigation measure, the DOT will remove and preserve a 10-foot section of the tree for documentation and study. This champion sustained decades of automobile exhaust and inclement weather, but it will be dethroned by human progress and the chainsaw.


Left: Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) 

Right: Florida maple (Acer barbatum) 

Our next pair of champions are about 15 miles north of the turkey oak on property near Carthage. Both trees are recognized by the North Carolina Forest Service as the largest member of their species in the state. One is a 105-foot Florida maple (Acer barbatum) with a circumference of 113 inches and a crown spread of 70 feet. The other is a Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) that measures 142 feet tall, 237 inches in circumference, and has a 110-foot crown spread. The future of the Florida maple and Shumard oak is relatively certain, since both grow on property that is managed by the Three Rivers Land Trust.

Another Moore County tree of special note is the oldest living longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) in the world. It sprouted in 1548 and became firmly rooted in the sandy soil of what is now the Boyd Tract of Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines. During 474 years of existence, this multi-centenarian somehow managed to escape predation, disease, recurring fires, storms, the ax, the chain saw, resin gathering and growth of a nation. Its age was determined by scientists from the University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2007. Each year, the state pays special tribute to the elderly evergreen by hosting an annual birthday celebration called Party for the Pine, complete with cake, games and other activities.


Left & Right: Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)

Last year had special meaning for the champion trees of Moore County and all native trees in North Carolina. The Department of Parks and Recreation designated 2022 the Year of the Tree. Displays and educational material recognized the importance of all trees to the natural environment. Details about champion trees can be found at https://www.americanforests.org/champion-trees/ and the North Carolina database of champion trees is posted online at https://www.ncforestservice.gov/Urban/nc_champion_big_trees_database_search.asp.  PS

Tom Lillie is a military veteran and resident of Pinehurst. He received his Ph.D. in medical entomology from the University of Florida and served 26 years as a medical entomologist in the U.S. Air Force.


In the Spirit

A Hardwood Homily

A gym is no place for badminton

By Bill Fields

I don’t look back on my days in the Southern Pines school gymnasium without angst. There were some miserable moments in physical education class. Activities like boxing, climbing rope, mounting a pommel horse and jumping on a trampoline weren’t my thing, regardless of how they were supposed to help me grow up and become a strong, upstanding citizen. I am not ashamed to have probably performed the lamest seat drops in Moore County history. Daydreaming classmates on the perimeter of the bounce mat didn’t inspire confidence that they would save the day if something went wrong. Nor did the limp of our wonderful teacher, Mr. Wynn, whose disability had been caused by a tumbling accident years earlier.

The pursuits of P.E. period would have been dreaded regardless of where they occurred — the only thing worse was tetherball during a cold recess. That they were forced upon me within those walls, on that shiny maple floor, made them more regrettable. Even badminton and volleyball, which could be fun, seemed miscast there. A gym was for basketball.

This was so because in the winter, in the land of the Atlantic Coast Conference, basketball was my reason for being during a good portion of childhood. Watching it on television. Listening to it on the radio. Playing it, as often as possible.

Most hoops time happened in our backyard on a dirt “court” whose dimensions were decidedly cramped on the left side due to trees and the property line. My first goal was attached to an old swing set. The backboard was just a grade above cardboard, and the rim wobbled after the first week. Then, one day after I got home from school, the old set-up was gone, replaced by a new goal with a backboard of thicker wood mounted on an honest-to-goodness utility pole. Dad didn’t volunteer any details about how such a sturdy support came our way, but I privately theorized that it was paid for with a case of beer or the largest bottle of Canadian Club sold at the ABC store on Connecticut Avenue. Whatever the payment, it was worth it, because the pole survived well beyond the afternoons when I dribbled a ball in its shadow.

But despite the upgrade, it was still outdoors, a far cry from the indoor surfaces played upon by my heroes in college and the pros. Once I got a little older, the hard surface courts at the downtown park were a better substitute, but the chain nets were a long way from the real thing.

Thanks to pictures in yearbooks belonging to my older sisters, I knew what the gym at East Southern Pines High School looked like before I started first grade in 1965. I dreamed of dressing for the Blue Knights in one of those uniforms with the short shorts and satiny material, the kind the players wore in the team pictures and the posed action shots.

I signed up for midget league basketball as soon as I was eligible. We had only colored T-shirts, but those Saturday mornings in the gym weren’t diminished by lack of a complete basketball outfit. With multiple games being played on the three-quarter courts, there was a cacophony of sounds: the thud of basketballs bouncing; referees’ whistles; sneakers squeaking on the hardwood; coaches yelling for a player to pass; a player who wanted to shoot hollering for the ball. When the games were over, stepping outside to walk home was as close to cryotherapy as I’ve experienced, so jolting was the temperature after hours spent in the cozy confines.

A few years later, I made a desultory exit from that building one weekday afternoon after being cut from the junior high team. The only times I would get to shoot at the competition goals on the fiberglass backboards was during half-court games in Mr. Fitch’s ninth-grade P.E. class and later when the gym would be open during Christmas break.

Not having a gymnasium when it opened in 1969, Pinecrest played in the Blue Knights’ former space for half a dozen seasons. The Patriots of Charles Waddell, Ricky Goldston and Dexter Pride rocked the place on their way to the state 3-A title in 1971 and a runner-up finish the following year. Those were great teams and good times. If there had been a home game the evening before us squirts showed for youth play, you could still smell the popcorn. If there was a better building in town, I didn’t know about it.  PS

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




The Woman with the Cure, by Lynn Cullen

In 1940s and ’50s America, polio is as dreaded as the atomic bomb. No one’s life is untouched by this disease that kills or paralyzes its victims, particularly children. Outbreaks of the virus across the country regularly put American cities in lockdown. Some of the world’s best minds are engaged in the race to find a vaccine. The person who succeeds will be a god. But Dorothy Horstmann is not focused on beating her colleagues to the vaccine. She just wants the world to have a cure. Applying the same determination that lifted her from a humble background as the daughter of immigrants, to becoming a doctor — often the only woman in the room — she hunts down the monster where it lurks: in the blood.

The Devil’s Ransom, by Brad Taylor

Conducting a routine cover development trip to Tajikistan, Pike Logan learns that Afghanistan has fallen, and there’s a man on the run — one who has done more for the United States in Afghanistan than anyone else. Pulled in to extract him, Logan collides headlong with a broader mystery: His covert company, along with every other entity in the Taskforce, has been hit with a ransomware attack, and there’s some connection between the Taliban and the hack. Given the order to track down the perpetrators, he has no idea that the problem set is much, much larger and more dangerous than a simple attack on his organization. That hack was just a test run, and the real one is coming soon.



All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me, by Patrick Bringley

Millions of people climb the grand marble staircase to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year. But only a select few have unrestricted access to every nook and cranny. They’re the guards who roam unobtrusively in dark blue suits, keeping a watchful eye on the 2 million-square-foot treasure house. Caught up in his glamorous fledgling career at The New Yorker, Bringley never thought he’d be one of them. Then his older brother was diagnosed with a fatal cancer and he found himself needing to escape the mundane clamor of daily life. He quit The New Yorker and sought solace in the most beautiful place he knew. To his surprise, and the reader’s delight, this temporary refuge becomes Bringley’s home away from home for a decade. We follow him as he guards delicate treasures from Egypt to Rome, strolls the labyrinths beneath the galleries, wears out nine pairs of company shoes, and marvels at the beautiful works in his care. All The Beauty in the World is an inspiring portrait of a great museum in the tradition of classic workplace memoirs like Lab Girl and Working Stiff.

B.F.F.: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found, by Christie Tate

After more than a decade of dead-end dates and dysfunctional relationships, Tate has reclaimed her voice and settled down. Her days of agonizing in group therapy over guys who won’t commit are over, the grueling emotional work required to attach to another person tucked neatly into the past. Or so she thought. Weeks after giddily sharing stories of her new boyfriend at Saturday morning recovery meetings, Christie receives a gift from a friend. Meredith, 20 years older and always impeccably accessorized, gives Christie a box of holiday-themed scarves as well as a gentle suggestion: Maybe now is the perfect time to examine why friendships give her trouble. “The work never ends, right?” she says with a wink. With Meredith by her side, she embarks on a brutally honest exploration of her friendships past and present, sorting through the ways that debilitating shame and jealousy have kept the lasting bonds she craves out of reach. But when Meredith becomes ill and Christie’s baggage threatens to muddy their final days, she’s forced to face her deepest fears in honor of the woman who finally showed her how to be a friend.



Evergreen, by Matthew Cordell

There comes a point in every squirrel’s life when they have to face their fears. So it is for Evergreen. Thunder, predators, hawks! Evergreen faces them all on the mission to care for the ailing Granny Oak. With the charm of the beloved “Little Bear” books, this one’s sure to become a classic. (Ages 6-8.)

Love, Escargot, by Dashka Slater

Oooh la la! Escargot, the adorable French gastropod, is back for another adventure. It’s Snailentine’s Day, and Escargot is (slowly) on the way to a très bonne fête with canapés, crudités, dancing and beautiful cards to exchange with the one who makes you feel magnifique! Silly, fun, and just a little French, Escargot is sure to become a giggle-inducing read-together favorite for any day of the year. (Ages 3-7.)

A Is for Aretha, by Leslie Kwan

Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross. Read through the alphabet with famous Black women in this history lesson disguised as a lovely picture book. Get it for Black History Month, keep it for an everyday reminder of the powerful women who shaped our world. (Ages 3-8.)

The Labyrinth of Curiosities, by Faye Moss Rider

Information junkies, listen up. This is the book you’ve been waiting for. From one fact-filled rabbit hole to another, The Labyrinth of Curiosities dives into everything from flying lemons to hidden salt mines in a clever new way. (Ages 7-12.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue

The Nose Knows

Sniffing down memory lane

By Deborah Salomon

Mmmmm — something sure does smell good.

That’s because the holidays extending from late January to late February maintain food links: Chinese New Year, Jan. 22; Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14; President’s Day, Feb. 20; Mardi Gras, Feb. 21. Black History Month is celebrated throughout February, often with soul food dinners, proof that food carves out a place in the brain’s memory centers.

The aroma of meatloaf or apple pie baking, coffee brewing or chicken frying might do the trick. Lacking the aroma, I have seen a grown man cry at the mention of his mother’s strawberry jam simmering on the back burner.

Olfactory memories die hard, or not at all. Who knows, maybe cavemen wept recalling wild beasts on the spit.

Of all the ethnic cooking in January and February, Chinese revs my engine the most. The memory is as clear as what happened yesterday — maybe clearer.

I grew up in New York City in the 1940s. My parents weren’t much for restaurants. However, since my mother was not an enthusiastic cook, I practically grew up at the Automat. PBS recently aired a two-hour documentary about these landmark cafeterias that, I’m sure, left a great many grown men crying.

Once a year, on my birthday, my parents took me to the original Ruby Foo’s, in the Theater District, not Chinatown. We had soup, rice and pressed duck. The French call these succulent ovals quenelles. To me, they were pure heaven, but what did a 7-, 8- and 9-year-old know about Asian cuisine?

I clearly remember wearing my dress-up coat and leggings (January is cold in Yankeeland), the dark restaurant interior with leather banquettes, how the waiters presented each dish with a flourish, especially to the birthday girl. I didn’t mind that I never once had a birthday party with friends. Nor did I figure out that going to Ruby Foo’s was so much easier for my mother.

She liked pressed duck, too.

For lunch at the Automat, it had to be a liverwurst sandwich and baked beans in a small brown crock. Weep, Boston, weep. This crock contained beans baked in a sweet, tomatoey sauce which formed a crunchy crust. Decades later, I spotted a similar crock in an antique shop. Everything came rushing back as the dealer ran for the Kleenex. 

My husband grew up in Brooklyn. We met at Duke. What fun, recalling our favorite Automat dishes, except his were hamburger steak and mashed potatoes, mine fried scallops and creamed spinach, not an encouraging sign.

I doubt subsequent generations display such emotional attachments to food. How could they, with such a variety? Where is the purism, the authenticity? The old aunties with specialties are dying out. The local Chinese buffet is an international smorgasbord of spring rolls, French fries, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, sesame chicken, apple cobbler and chocolate pudding. Pizza concocted from a cauliflower crust topped with kale has lost its Italian accent. Valentine’s Day may still suggest filet mignon and cheesecake, but fading fast are happy memories of chitlins.

Yet Groundhog Day felt the need to field a commemorative dish called Groundhog Pie, which, thank goodness, contains beef, not ground groundhog.

I almost threw up, learning that Turducken (chicken stuffed inside duck stuffed inside turkey) gets a boost at Thanksgiving.

What must that smell like, roasting?

No . . . I want my turkey stuffed with homemade cornbread laced with celery, onions and fresh sage. Ah, the aroma, the memories that smell triggers, both sad and happy. Make some this February; it’s never too late.  PS

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

Golftown Journal

Golftown Journal

Pick Your Poison

Everyone needs a go-to

By Lee Pace

Pick one: Beach or mountains? Charcoal or gas? Dog or cat? Coke or Pepsi? Thin crust or thick? Sweet tea or unsweet? Forged or cast? Draw or fade? I lean toward the former in each pair but admit to some negotiating room when Linville beckons in the heat of August. But certainly cast in stone are charcoal, dogs and the idea that a golf ball hit with a slight right-to-left flight pattern for a right-handed golfer is by far the Rolls-Royce of golf shots.

“You only hit a straight ball by accident,” the great Ben Hogan once proffered. “The ball is going to move right or left every time you hit it, so you had better make it go one way or the other.”

History and the Hall of Fame can present arguments on both sides of the issue, but without question many of the finest players in the game have preferred the fade, among them Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Perhaps it was not as much liking the left-to-right shape as it was abhorring the extreme version of the opposite curve — the snap hook.

“I hate a hook,” Hogan said. “It nauseates me. I could vomit when I see one. It’s like a rattlesnake in your pocket.”

Davis Love Jr. taught his son Davis III an upright swing, “and you’ll never have to worry about a hook,” he said. Bruce Lietzke won 13 times on the pro tour wielding a power fade that earned him the nickname “Leaky.” Lietzke prided himself on saying, “I play one shot. That’s all I need.”

Lex Alexander played collegiately at Wake Forest University in the mid-1970s and made friends with Lietzke, a University of Houston golfer. Alexander was a young assistant pro to Claude Harmon at Winged Foot Golf Club in the late 1970s when Lietzke would come through when the PGA Tour was in the New York area.

“The 17th at Winged Foot is a long par-4, dogleg right,” Alexander says. “I would give him the line and he would then unleash one of his long towering fades to that exact target, and I will never forget how far his ball went. With a good drive, I’d have 200 yards into the green. Bruce started his tee shot toward the left rough, it curved right-center and left him an 8-iron.”

In Pinehurst, for many years one of the great ambassadors of the fade was Harvie Ward, the two-time U.S. Amateur champion from Tarboro who spent the last 15 years of his life living in the village of Pinehurst and playing a lot of golf at Forest Creek Golf Club.

“One of the nicknames we gave Harvie was ‘Carvie Ward,’” says Chuck Cordell, one of Ward’s best friends and a frequent golf companion. “He had a very weak left-hand grip, and his duck hooks were in the left side of the fairway. Most of the time he hit it straight down the middle with just a whisper of fade. He had a very compact swing, but pound-for-pound he could hit it as far as anyone, only straighter.”

Ward began working with Payne Stewart in 1985, and they had a productive four years, but in 1989 Stewart said he wanted to master both shapes in the manner of Seve Ballesteros, certainly one of the great shotmakers of all time.

Ward didn’t agree.

“I told him I thought it was good to know how to work the ball, but you still needed to have the one shot that you could depend on,” Ward said. “I told him you don’t want to go around the golf course hitting one left-to-right and the next one right-to-left. You go down that road and one day you’ll come to the last hole and not have anything to depend on, that it would jump up and get you.”

To my personal sense of feel and style, there’s nothing like a draw. There’s nothing as mouth-watering as a left-side hole location or a dogleg left hole. There’s nothing like the crisp slice of turf and the tiny speck flying high against the blue sky, turning ever so lovingly and gently from right to left. A 3-wood picked off the ground is perhaps the litmus test of a well-oiled and precise swing, and a 3-wood cleanly struck with a gentle draw is golf’s utopia. Real men hit a draw. Drawers of the ball eat steak, faders get quiche.

A draw is the offspring of a good grip, an athletic address, an on-plane path, the proper closing of the clubface at impact and extension down the line afterward. Gads, man, but you’re standing inside your swing, so how else can you hit the ball?

Hank Haney, who began his golf instruction career at Pinehurst in the late 1970s and later acquired clients as diverse as Woods and Charles Barkley, says a perfectly on-plane swing can do nothing but produce a draw for that every reason.

“You want to contact the inside part of the ball with the clubface closing as it comes through in order to start your little draw to the right of the target,” Haney says. “This is a fact. I’ve never heard a teacher dispute this point.”

John Gerring won the Atlantic Coast Conference golf title in 1957 for Wake Forest and went on to become a longtime club pro in Atlanta, Detroit, Asheville and Spartanburg, and a well-respected golf teacher. He carried the nickname “Dr. Hook,” borne of his proclivity to play and teach a right-to-left ball flight.

“The hook has two advantages,” says Gerring. “It’s longer and it’s more forgiving. It’s more forgiving because the angle of approach is shallower.”

Jack Burke Sr. used to teach that “you only own the inside half of the ball,” that you had to find a swing that let you come from inside to square to the target. Harvey Penick once told Don Wade of Golf Digest that he thought it was a myth that a draw would not stop as quickly as a fade if — and it’s a big if — the ball was struck cleanly and properly and not pulled.

Of course, many will argue these points, mainly because if you over-cook a draw, you’re left with a screaming hook that is bereft of backspin and any sense of direction. Have more careers been sidetracked over too much Old Crow or too many duck hooks? It’s probably a dead heat.

“You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen,” Lee Trevino once famously observed.

Trevino was haunted as a young man on the hardscrabble Texas public courses by an out-of-control hook, and he marveled one day in 1963 when he was invited to Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth while watching Hogan hit practice balls. Hogan had exorcised the demon hook in the mid-1940s by finding what he called “the secret.” The essence of that mystical panacea has been debated for decades, but two elements certainly were a grip adjustment and the cupping motion Hogan developed with his left wrist, an action that put the brake on his lightning quick hand action that earlier produced so many hooks.

Trevino, a driving range attendant at the time and still four years removed from his first foray onto the PGA Tour, didn’t dare approach Hogan that day at Shady Oaks. But what he saw stayed with him for life, and he took the image of Hogan’s soft fades back to the practice tee.

“The only way I could figure out was just to grab the club and hold on for dear life,” Trevino says, inferring that the extra grip pressure from the middle two fingers of his left hand helped keep the clubface open at impact.

So there you have it, proof positive that either way works. It’s all a matter of taste. Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to pulling my 5-wood on a 185-yard par-3 with the pin hugging the left.  PS

Lee Pace has written Golftown Journal since 2008. Contact him at leepace7@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @leepaceunc and on Twitter @leepacetweet.

Poem February 2023

Poem February 2023

spring and some

the woman coming toward me

wears a red cape. she smiles

she likes my red hat and

she says so. the temperature

is dropping rapidly, the wind

is rising. they had predicted

rain and possibly snow; i

had not believed them. still

my red hat threatens to

blow away and her red cape

swirls about her. she says

i like your red hat, i smile

and say i like your red cape.

spring is coming by the

calendar, a red letter day,

but this day the temperature

drops, the wind blows up,

rain and possibly snow loom,

and we pass. red hat. red cape.

          joel oppenheimer