The Lost Colony

America’s oldest mystery gets a new look, a new life and a new vision

By Gary Pearce     Photographs by Joshua Steadman

A drive that takes 30 minutes to an hour from the Outer Banks takes you back 434 years.

Back to America’s beginnings. Back to the earliest English settlers. Back to America’s oldest mystery: The Lost Colony.

You start the drive on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You leave behind the beaches, the bars, the shops, the restaurants, the crowds and the traffic.

Cross over the causeway to Roanoke Island. Pass through the town of Manteo. Turn off the main road into the dark woods along the sound. Park and walk through the trees. It’s evening, nearly sunset. In the quiet, you hear only the wind and the water.

You’re standing where, in 1587, a band of English colonists abandoned a tenuous settlement they’d established less than a year before. They set off in search of a new home. And they disappeared.

You sit in an open-air theater where, on summer nights since 1937, the colonists’ story — and the mystery of their fate — have been brought to life by The Lost Colony, America’s oldest outdoor symphonic drama.

Last summer, COVID cancelled the production for the first time since World War II.

This summer, The Lost Colony is back — with new energy, new casting, new production techniques, a new script and musical score, and a new look at what might have happened when two cultures, English and Native American, came into contact and conflict.

This will be the 84th summer the drama is performed in Waterside Theatre, at the northern edge of Roanoke Island in Dare County. The theater is part of the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which preserves the location of Roanoke Colony. The colony was the first English settlement in the New World and the birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America.

The play itself is a historic dramatization. It began as a federally funded Depression-era project. The theater was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The Lost Colony was intended to be a one-year production. Then President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the show with a good deal of media fanfare on August 18, 1937 — the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth and a little more than a month after the July 4th premiere.

After FDR’s visit, the crowds came. The show was so popular that organizers decided to stage it every summer. They’ve been doing it for 83 years. World War II forced a four-year cancellation.

Last season’s cancellation in the pandemic was a financial blow to the Roanoke Island Historical Association, which produces the drama. The year-round staff had to be greatly reduced.

But Kevin Bradley, the association’s board chair, says, “The year off turned out to be a blessing. We had the time to reimagine the production, recharge our batteries and refresh how we tell this story.”

A new director/choreographer was recruited: Jeff Whiting, whose Broadway credits include Bullets Over Broadway (6 Tony Nominations), Big Fish, The Scottsboro Boys (12 Tony Nominations), Hair (Tony winner for Best Revival) and Wicked 5th Anniversary.

The New York Times called Whiting a “director with a joyous touch.”

Whiting says his goal is “to honor the history of what occurred here on Roanoke Island, and to honor the legacy of this important theatrical work. As the wind rolls off Roanoke Sound, it whispers the tale. It’s my job as director to listen to that breeze and bring to life what happened here so many years ago.”

Whiting has reduced the lengthy original script, written by North Carolina playwright Paul Green, allowing the scenes and story to move faster and providing more time for theatrical storytelling.

Additional theatrical devices will support the storytelling, including large-scale puppets, a military-style drum corps and a new symphonic score. The show will also feature traditional dances from both Native American and English historical cultures.

But Paul Green’s imprint remains.

Green was a Harnett County farm boy who became a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Green was the father of  “symphonic drama.” He saw it as the people’s theater, a way of telling Americans about their past.

Green had a deep concern about race relations. His vision of The Lost Colony reflects what can happen when different cultures and races come together.

In the past, the production didn’t always use Indigenous actors to portray the Native American roles in the play. Seeking authenticity, the association reached out to Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. He now serves on the board of directors. 

With the tribe’s help, Native Americans were recruited as actors and dancers. Auditions were held in Robeson County, in the Lumbee tribal territory.

“We are appreciative of the Historical Association’s desire for accurate and historical representation,” Godwin says. “With North Carolina’s American Indian population numbering more than 100,000, it enriches the production to see and hear their voices on stage.”

Kaya Littleturtle, the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Enrichment Coordinator agrees, adding that the new choreography, regalia, language accuracy and orchestration help to insert “more of an authentic and cultural American Indian perspective into the play.”

But the real test is whether the new production will bring back audiences, says John Ancona, general manager: “We want to give our audience an exceptional evening’s experience in an outdoor setting — an experience you can’t get many places. We want to inspire interest in a part of history that remains a mystery today.”

Ancona hopes that visitors will leave the theater intrigued by the story. Perhaps they’ll dip into the ongoing, unending research and archeological exploration that still seek clues about The Lost Colony.

Where did they go? What happened to them? Did they drown at sea? Were they killed by natives, or by Spanish raiders? Or did they quietly go live with a friendly tribe?

We don’t know. But we do know the colonists dreamed of freedom. They dared a dangerous ocean voyage. They sought a new life in a new land.

Take the drive back to their world. Walk where they walked. See and feel what they saw and felt.

Hear their story. Listen to the wind, the water and the trees. Feel the mystery of The Lost Colony.

The Lost Colony’s 2021 season launched May 28 and continues through August 21. For tickets and more information:  PS

Gary Pearce is a member of the board of directors of the Roanoke Island Historical Association. He and his wife, Gwyn, divide their time between Raleigh and Nags Head.

The Omnivorous Reader

Breaking the Code

The scientific revolution that changed the world

By Stephen E. Smith

What in the world just happened?

As the pandemic wanes, that’s the question many of us are asking. But a more immediate question needs answering: What are we going to do to prepare for the next pandemic? The answer, insofar as it’s possible to predict the future, is suggested in The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson, a quasi-biography that raises questions about nothing less imperative than our genetic destiny.

Isaacson, a history professor at Tulane University who has written biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, has a gift for explicating difficult scientific concepts. His biography of Jennifer Doudna, a 57-year-old professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, is the story of the development of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and the function of an enzyme (Cas9), a discovery that won Doudna and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier the 2020 Nobel Prize.

A Doudna biography could not be timelier. Her CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology has launched a scientific revolution that allows us to defeat viruses, cure genetic diseases and certain cancers (TV advertisements are already touting such treatments), and, perhaps, have healthier babies. She has changed our world, moving us from the digital age into a bio-life sciences revolution that will affect our lives to a greater extent than computers have or will.

Doudna was in the sixth grade when she read James Watson’s The Double Helix, initially mistaking it for a detective novel. Watson’s groundbreaking research into the human genome was a mystery so intense that it set her on a career path as a university researcher who would eventually develop an easy-to-use device to edit DNA. She helped discover a use for Cas9, a protein found in Streptococcus bacteria, which attacks the DNA of viruses and prevents the virus from infecting healthy bacterium and cells. She was quick to recognize the possibilities for controlling viruses that invade human cells by using Cas9. “These CRISPR-associated (Cas) enzymes enable the system to cut and paste new memories of viruses that attack the bacteria,” Isaacson writes. “They also create short segments of RNA, known as CRISPR RNA (crRNA), that can guide a scissors-like enzyme to a dangerous virus and cut up its genetic material. Presto! That’s how the wily bacteria create an adaptive immune system!” CRISPR allows us to create vaccines to defeat the ever-evolving structure of coronaviruses. (A new vaccine under development at Duke University has the potential to protect us from a broad variety of coronavirus infections that move, now and in the future, from animals to humans.)

Once she’d figured out the components of the CRISPR-Cas9 assembly, she knew she could program it on her own, adding a different crRNA to cut any different DNA sequence she chose. “In the history of science, there are few real eureka moments, but this came pretty close. ‘It wasn’t just some gradual process where it slowly dawned on us,’ Doudna says. ‘It was an oh-my-God moment.’”

As with most life-altering breakthroughs, ethical questions abound. Should we edit genes to make our children less susceptible to diseases such as HIV and coronavirus? Would it be morally wrong if we didn’t? Isaacson devotes a sizable portion of the biography to asking and answering the tough questions that go to the heart of the CRISPR quandary: “And what about gene edits for other fixes and enhancements that might be possible in the next few decades?” he asks. “If they turn out to be safe, should governments prevent us from using them? The issue is one of the most profound we humans have ever faced. For the first time in the evolution of life on this planet, a species has developed the capacity to edit its own genetic makeup.”

In November 2018, He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysics researcher, produced the world’s first CRISPR-altered children. His goal was to make babies immune to the virus that causes HIV, but his colleagues in China and the West termed his accomplishment “abhorrent and premature.” He was found guilty of conducting illegal medical practices, fined a hefty sum and sentenced to three years in prison. But in the wake of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the idea of editing our genes to make us immune to virus attacks seems a lot less shocking and a whole lot more enticing.

All of this is, of course, highly technical, but Isaacson explains much of what we need to know about CRISPR and its implications in terms that are apprehensible without dumbing down the science. Serious readers — and these days we all need to be serious readers — might peruse Doudna’s 2017 A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.

CRISPR will continue to change our lives — for the better, we can only hope. But science hackers are already employing CRISPR in unsupervised labs and neighborhood garages, and who knows what uses it will be put to. Will parents who have the financial resources enhance the health and IQ of their kids? Will we manufacture a class of humans whose superior strength and intellect allow them to dominate the majority? Given our history for employing new technologies, the possibilities are unsettling.  PS

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

The Kitchen Garden

The Abundance Time

Get ready, here it comes

By Jan Leitschuh

This is the time for reaping. The farm stands, markets and well-diversified KGs (kitchen gardens) are brimming with vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.

Even the non-KG-ers may have a plethora of plump, ripe tomatoes on their pet potted plant. Or perhaps it’s sheaves of fresh basil from that small solo planting back in May.

Maybe the branches of that trio of landscaped rabbiteye blueberries are sagging to the ground with their sweet, nutritious payload. Or the farm stand sweet corn is so good you just want to save a batch for a Thanksgiving corn pudding or cornbread.

And then there’s the zucchini . . .

It’s the abundance time.

We’ve waited for it, tastebuds watering. Those first few pickings of garden-fresh produce were sublime. But the garden goods are coming thick and fast now. Soon, the kitchen counters will threaten to disappear under each day’s harvest.

What to do? What to do?

The focus right now is not on planting, with the possible exception of a later crop of bush beans, zucchini, fall tomatoes, cukes or summer squash. It’s best to pass on new plantings of sweet corn, eggplant, bell pepper or okra.

Instead, the wise kitchen gardener prepares for the overwhelming bounty of late July, when the plants pump out the produce faster than you can say “ratatouille.” So, how do you capture summer’s bounty to use on those chilly winter nights? Do you can, or are you apt to avoid steaming pots in July? Perhaps freezing, dehydration or oven-drying will be your go-to this year. Whatever method you choose, these days there are internet resources galore to help you do it right.

If you’ve never canned, it’s worth a venture into this time-honored method of food preservation. It’s a steamy summer process with its own set of paraphernalia, and one needs to set aside a morning to do it, but it offers a tangible and satisfactory result — and one that connects me, at least, to my mother, aunts and grandmothers. Sentiment and steam go hand-in-hand.

Basically, a heavy-duty canning jar is filled up with food, covered with a fitted lid and boiled for a specific time to kill potential pathogens. There’s nothing like dumping a jar of your homegrown stewed tomatoes into a batch of winter chili or opening up a quart of local July peaches for a holiday peach pie.

Jars and lids are in every supermarket this time of year. Canning kits are inexpensive and readily available and include a large pot, a jar rack, jar lifters, a wide-mouth funnel and a little magnet on a stick for picking up boiled lids and rims. My kit is over 20 years old.

If you plan to can low-acid tomatoes, beans, corn and other lower pH veggies, you need good resources and possibly a pressure cooker. Read up on how to prevent botulism spores and any other harmful organisms. Canning is not hard to do, but the process must be respected.

Jams and jellies are a good entree to canning. Jams make nice gifts, and allow for some creativity with added spices, liqueurs and flavorings. Think fig-habanero jam, blueberry Chambord or peach bourbon preserves.

How-to jam directions are very clear on the supermarket pectins that ensure the jam “sets” up. If making hot jams are not your thing on 90-plus degree days, some people freeze summer fruits to jam during cooler months when a warm kitchen is welcome. There are also easy, no-boil freezer jams. Recipes abound on the internet.

Freezing is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to preserve your harvest — if you have the space. You can also lock in nutrients from fresh produce by freezing at the peak of ripeness. Herbs, fruits and vegetables each have simple processes for preserving taste and texture when thawed.

Most fruits can be frozen raw. Blueberries and blackberries can be spread on a cookie sheet, frozen, then placed in labeled and dated heavy-duty freezer bags for winter snacking. (Spreading them out first for freezing prevents them from clumping.) Peaches can be frozen in a simple syrup, or puréed with some lemon juice to discourage discoloration, then frozen in ice cube trays for drinks or future smoothies. Don’t forget to make a few natural peach popsicles, while you’re at it.

Bell peppers and onions are easy — just chop, bag and freeze. Many vegetables freeze better if you blanch them first. Blanching involves a quick dip in boiling water to set the color and deactivate the natural enzymes that will further break down or discolor the food.

Transfer blanched veggies to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and freeze in a single layer to prevent clumping, then bag, date and label. To prevent freezer burn, press out all the air, or use a straw to suck out extra air.

For sweet corn, you can freeze cobs whole but remove husk and silks first. Blanch cobs for four minutes then cool in an ice bath. Since bulky cobs take up space, you can slice the kernels off the cob when cool, then bag, date and label.

Blanch green and wax beans for three minutes. Zucchini and yellow squash slices are also three minutes. To remove the skins of peaches and tomatoes, blanch for 30 seconds or so, then put them into an ice bath. Tough tomato skins peel easier if you cut a small “x” at the bottom before plopping in hot water.

Cherry or grape tomatoes are easy to freeze. Pick out the green stem end and then freeze on trays like berries. Toss them atop winter casseroles.

Melons? Don’t keep them for long, but try a refreshing frozen granita or slushie of honeydew, lime and mint or one of cantaloupe, orange juice and Grand Marnier.

I’ve also dehydrated watermelon for hikes. Truly. You don’t end up with much but the chewy little slices are as sweet and flavorful as candy. Thin peach slices dehydrate well too. Purée with lemon and make fruit roll-ups for the kids.

Sun-dried plum tomatoes are my favorite. Slice in half, drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Dry on a baking sheet in the oven at lowest heat until leathery. Freeze, or pack in oil and refrigerate. Use in pizzas, casseroles, salads, or eat as an intense, flavorful snack.

Herbs can be dried or frozen. Summer basil is probably the most popular herb to preserve for the winter. Whip up your favorite batch of pesto. I usually rinse off my basil then process it with a little good olive oil. Poured into ice cube trays, frozen, then bagged, I have a little burst of summer sunshine for any winter Italian dish, pasta or soup.

Drying is easy, just cut herbs before they flower. Strip the leaves from the stem and dry on a paper towel on a sunny table with good air circulation. Dump in a jar when absolutely crisp-dry. I dry catnip for the cat, fresh oregano and lemon thyme for seasoning, and my chocolate mint leaves for winter teas.

If you can’t eat and preserve it all, share your garden love with neighbors, friends or food banks. After all, it is the abundance time.  PS

Jan Leitschuh is a local gardener, avid eater of fresh produce and co-founder of Sandhills Farm to Table.

In the Spirit

Grab ’n Go

Your cocktails need a vacation, too

By Tony Cross

When I go to the beach on vacation, the last thing I want to do is spend my time whipping up drinks. Who wants to pack a bunch of cocktail tools with the beach towels, the sunscreen and the latest John Grisham? Other than throwing together a margarita, I’m not doing anything besides laying out in the sun and sipping. So, here are a couple of punches — the non-violent variety — that you can throw together before you shut down the laptop and head for the coast. Consider portioning them out in small drink containers: Think 8-ounce water bottles. Keep in mind that you may still want to bring a hand-held juicer. Even though you’re traveling light, you may want to add the fresh lemon and lime juices à la last minute.

Planter’s Punch

This classic punch is one of my favorites, because it’s easy to make and delicious. As Shannon Mustipher explains in her book, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, “The ingredients are simple and echo an old Barbadian recipe for a rum punch in rhyme form: ‘One of Sour/Two of Sweet/Three of Strong/Four of Weak.’ This is the holy trinity plus the addition of spice.”

8 ounces pot still Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross)

3 ounces grenadine

2 ounces fresh lime juice

2 ounces still water

6 dashes Angostura bitters

(Serves four)

If you’re batching this before you hit the road, combine all ingredients except for the lime juice; you’ll want to add that on the day of consumption. Also, if you are making this for more than four people, add your bitters last. When batching large amounts of cocktails that call for bitters, you don’t necessarily want to add the multiplied number of bitters into your batch. Start with half the amount, and then add more to taste. Lastly, make your grenadine from scratch, unless you’re buying from, let’s say, Small Hand Foods. It’s quite easy to make — equal parts POM pomegranate juice and demerara sugar; place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Keep refrigerated after the syrup cools.

Pisco Punch

Before you go any further, order pisco online now — it’s hard to locate a bottle on any of North Carolina’s ABC shelves, but much easier after a few clicks on the web. “What is pisco?” you ask. It’s a spirit made from grapes, indigenous to Peru and Chile. If you’ve never tried a pisco sour, you haven’t lived, and if you’ve never tried the punch, well, you’re about to be reborn.

My memory is spotty, but I do believe that in his book Imbibe! David Wondrich explains how pisco punch was the only drink bars served in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast during the Gold Rush. This drink is easy to make, incredibly tasty, and unique and likely foreign to your friends and family. Use Small Hands Foods’ pineapple gum syrup — it’s killer. Years back when I bartended, I kept the punch pre-batched in my bar fridge, minus the lemon juice, of course. In Meehan’s Bartender Manual, bartender and author, Jim Meehan explains: “Pisco punch became legendary thanks to Scottish barman Duncan Nicol, who purchased San Francisco’s historic Bank Exchange Saloon — with its house punch recipe — in 1893 and kept it a secret, despite fanfare and public prying, until his dying day in 1926.”

Some speculate that Nicol’s secret ingredient wasn’t just the gum arabic, it was cocaine. Meehan says that might “explain why he permitted only two portions per patron.” Better to stick with the recipe below and imbibe safely this summer.

8 ounces Campo de Encanto pisco (did you order it yet?)

4 ounces pineapple gum syrup

3 ounces lemon juice

2 ounces pineapple juice

4 ounces still water

4 dashes Angostura bitters (optional)

(Serves four).  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

Golftown Journal

Junior Achievement

Another national championship in the Sandhills

By Lee Pace

The second time the USGA gathered the best boys under age 18 to compete for a national championship was 1949, and the venue was Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Gay Brewer and Mason Rudolph traveled together from their homes (Brewer from Kentucky and Rudolph from Tennessee) and roomed together that July week at Georgetown University. Each advanced through his bracket to the championship match, with Brewer, 17 years old, taking a leisurely 6-and-4 victory in the championship match over Rudolph, who was two years his junior.

That week cast the die for both players. Each won multiple times on the PGA Tour, with Brewer collecting the 1967 Masters and playing in two Ryder Cup matches. Rudolph won the Junior Amateur the following year, collected the 1956 Western Amateur and won five times on the pro tour.

Since then, the Junior Amateur has staged an annual audition for many elite players to come, among them Johnny Miller, Eddie Pearce, Gary Koch, David Duval, Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Jordan Spieth.

“That was the first time I’d ever experienced the thrill and the chase of a USGA event,” Woods says of his three straight wins from 1991-93.

“You look at the names on the trophy and know what kind of company you’re in,” says Mahan, the 1999 victor.

“It was not as much about me winning as it is being a part of the fraternity with those guys,” adds Spieth, the champion in 2009 and 2011.

The U.S. Junior Amateur makes its debut in the golf-rich Sandhills in July with the 73rd rendition being staged at the Country Club of North Carolina, July 19-24. Yet another domino falls in the universe of elite competitive golf for Moore County, adding to the largesse of U.S. Opens (three already with one set for 2024 at Pinehurst No. 2) and U.S. Women’s Opens (three at Pine Needles with a return engagement in 2022, and one at Pinehurst No. 2). There has been a Ryder Cup, a U.S. Senior Open and three U.S. Amateurs.

And this national championship continues CCNC’s heritage of every decade or so opening its doors to some variety of high-profile tournament. Since its opening in 1963, the club has been the venue for the PGA Tour, the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Girls Junior, six Southern Amateurs, a national father-son tournament now more than half a century old, and a host of statewide and regional competitions.

Jack Nicklaus, Hal Sutton, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Webb Simpson and Scott Hoch have collected trophies at the 36-hole golf haven and residential community located off Morganton Road, halfway between Pinehurst and Southern Pines.

“The club takes a lot of pride in all the events it’s hosted over the years — from USGA national championships to the Carolinas Golf Association events,” says Robbie Zalzneck, a USGA staff administrator and also a CCNC member. “It’s a club that likes to give back. The members have rallied behind the Junior Am. Opening the club up to competitive golf has always been in its DNA.”

CCNC was designed in tandem by Ellis Maples and Willard Byrd and opened in 1963. It was one of the original members of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and was site of the 1971 and 1972 Liggett & Myers Match Play Championship on the PGA Tour (won by Dewitt Weaver and Nicklaus) and the 1980 U.S. Amateur (won by Sutton). It has remained among the best courses in the state, and in 2021 was listed No. 16 in North Carolina in both Golf Digest and GOLF magazine rankings of the best courses in every state.

The original course was so popular the club retained Byrd to build nine more holes in 1970. Then, in the late 1970s, the club acquired some land from Robert Trent Jones (who spent time in Pinehurst in the early 1970s doing a renovation of the original Pinehurst No. 4 course) and hired him to build nine new holes, working those into the first nine to create a new course dubbed “The Cardinal” in keeping with the state of North Carolina theme.

Greg Sanfilippo, the USGA’s director of the Junior Amateur, says the two courses set up perfectly to host the best junior players from around the country. Qualifying will be held for a newly expanded field of 264 players on both courses, and match play will be held on the Dogwood.

“We structure our championships as the ultimate tests in the game,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re identifying the best players through shotmaking, testing every club in the bag, controlling spin and distance, and having the mental and physical resolve and ability to work through various situations. The courses at CCNC will really force players to execute sound judgment through each hole.”

The Dogwood Course is now five years into a major renovation directed by golf architect Kris Spence. The club spent some $10 million from 2015-16 on a capital improvement program that included the Dogwood project, construction of a new golf shop, grill room and locker room, a tennis and fitness center, and various upgrades to the existing clubhouse.

The Dogwood project included converting the greens to Champion Bermuda, and the tees and fairways to Zeon zoysia grass, a heat-tolerant strain that doesn’t need overseeding in the winter and gives golfers an outstanding surface from which to clip iron shots and fairway woods. New drainage was installed, all bunkers were rebuilt, and some tees were expanded. The tree coverage that had grown up over time was thinned out, improving air flow and sunlight.

“Dogwood had been one of the top courses in the Southeast for half a century,” says longtime Director of Golf Jeff Dotson. “We needed to set it up for the next 50 years.”

Certainly, one of the favorites for the Junior Am and a young man playing with some “home game pressure,” will be Jackson Van Paris, a 17-year-old who just graduated from Pinecrest High School and will be enrolling this fall on the golf team at Vanderbilt. The Van Paris family moved to Pinehurst from Chicago in 2017 and lives in a house alongside the sixth hole of the Cardinal Course. The club has been Van Paris’ home base as he’s built a sterling resume in junior golf that includes two firsts in the American Junior Golf Association Boys Championship. His most noteworthy achievement was becoming the second-youngest player behind Bobby Jones to win a match in the U.S. Amateur, when he advanced to the Round of 32 as a 14-year-old in 2018 at Pebble Beach.

“This has been a great club to develop my game,” Van Paris says. “I really have access to anything I need as far as practicing, and a great range and great short game facilities. And the courses are two really good golf courses.”

He knows what to expect from the USGA in terms of course setup — narrow fairways, thick rough and quick greens.

“Hitting fairways is going to be super important,” he says. “I can’t let myself get lazy on the tee by thinking, ‘I’ve hit this shot a hundred times.’ I am treating it like I’ll be playing a brand-new golf course. And the USGA always puts a premium on short game. Driver and short game are the most important things to consider.”

That and the mental game. Does it help to have intimate course knowledge and sleep in your own bed, or hurt with the pressure to perform in front of so many friends and clubmates?

“I’ll probably be more nervous than I have been in any other tournament just because it’s at home and everyone expects me to play well,” Van Paris says. “But I also think I can embrace that if I handle it the right way. I keep telling everyone I see, please come out and watch. I want as many people out there as possible. It’s part of learning to play under pressure.”

The great ones learn to thrive under the microscope, leaving the Junior Amateur as another chapter in Van Paris’s evolution — not to mention the Sandhills as a mecca for national championships.  PS

Lee Pace has written about the Sandhills golf scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter at @LeePaceTweet and contact him at


Taking the Plunge

The belted kingfisher dives for prey

By Susan Campbell

Often heard before they are seen, belted kingfishers are a year-round fixture here in central North Carolina. Requiring water for foraging and steep slopes for breeding, they can be found along streams, rivers and ponds — of which there is no shortage in our area. Their long, rattling call is distinctive among our familiar birds.

One of three species of kingfisher found in the United States, the belted kingfisher’s range is extensive and year-round across most of the continent. Breeding birds from Canada may migrate southward in search of open water in winter. A percentage of the North American population winters in south Florida as well as Mexico. It is assumed that most local breeding birds simply wander to where the fishing is good in the colder months, not making any real migratory flight in the fall.

Belted kingfishers are top-heavy-looking birds with powdery gray plumage and a raggedy crest. They get their name from the swath of gray plumage across their breast. These birds are one of the few species in which the female has brighter plumage than the male. Females sport an additional band of chestnut feathers just below their gray “belt.” Otherwise, these birds have a characteristic large head, thick neck and heavy, long pointed bill. They are built for plunging headfirst into the water after prey. They often sit on a convenient perch above the water, such as a branch or electric wire, and then dive when they spot prey. However, they are also capable of hovering for short periods above potential food items before descending to grab a fish. They actually have a wide prey base, feeding on all sorts of aquatic organisms but also taking other types of food, such as small birds and even berries, if the opportunity arises.

Belted kingfishers require a steep, dirt slope for nesting. Although this is usually a riverbank, they may also use human-created habitat such as tall dirt piles, which can be away from water, if they are big enough, and have a sheer drop on at least one side. This type of nesting substrate makes it difficult for terrestrial predators to reach the kingfisher’s nest. The tunnel into the nest chamber is typically several feet long and is sloped upward, presumably to protect the nest from rises in water level along rivers and streams. The kingfisher’s tunnel opening is large, at least 3 inches in diameter. Also, there will be the characteristic fishy aroma from recent droppings, separating it from other bank dwellers, such as bank or rough-winged swallows.

In spring, the belted kingfisher pair will search out a nest site. The male will probe the dirt in suitable spots until he finds the right spot. Once he is satisfied with his choice, he will signal to the female by flying back and forth from her perch to the chosen location. After the burrow has been excavated, five to eight white eggs will be incubated in the nest chamber for almost a month. Once hatched, the young will be tended to by the parents for about another month before fledging occurs. While in the nest, the young kingfishers have highly acidic stomachs and will be able to digest scales, bones and other hard parts of what they are fed. By the time they leave the nest burrow, however, the birds will be regurgitating pellets made up of those typically indigestible parts, as adults do.

So, the next time you hear a loud rattling sound coming from on high, look up. You may just catch sight of one of these energetic, fast-flying fishers! PS

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted at


On an Okra Flower

On an Okra Flower

A pollinating wasp sliding

from white lip to purple darkness, 

the shadow-heart so deep inside,

the plant, itself, tall African

in the kitchen garden’s last row,

speaks of passage and endurance,

those far too common abstractions,

made real here in the summer heat.

Let it lead us, serve as a guide,

tell how each struggle leads to bliss

and what to bless when we decide

to see the past and present blend

into what we need to know

—a mind aware or in a trance?—

what to keep close, what to shun,

made real here in the summer heat.

What song can a wasp sing gliding

the flower’s dark throat? A long kiss

like winged tongues tangled deep inside—

a blind passion, an obsession.

I hear it as a prayer now,

music for the world’s whirling dance.

Sound, sight and scent. An orison

made real here in the summer heat.

— Paul Jones

Tea Leaf Astrologer

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

I once watched a squirrel attempt to drag an entire loaf of bread up an oak tree. Poor thing didn’t get very far. And you, who were born under the sign of Cancer, won’t either — unless you let go of what’s holding you back. Alternatively, that could be a metaphor about your relationship with carbs. Either way, it’s likely to be an emotional month for you. But you’ve been around the sun enough times to know at least one thing: Your softness is your superpower. Happy birthday, Crabcakes. 

Tea leaf “fortunes” for the rest of you:

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Do sunflowers mean anything to you? They should. Also, pay attention to your dreams this month.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Got your next breakup album ready? Just kidding. It’s time to lighten up.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

You’re taking one for the team this month. Deep breaths. This too shall pass. 

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Drink the tea before it goes cold.  You know what I’m talking about.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

Is there a special Virgo in your life? If so, draw them a salt bath. If not, probably for the best.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Just say you’re sorry — it’s not that hard — and move on.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

You’ve outgrown the shoes. That’s OK. You won’t be needing them.   

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Someone needs a hug. And a bubble bath. But don’t spill the nail polish this time.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

The missing piece isn’t actually missing. But you’re working on the wrong puzzle.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

A new flavor will be entering your world. Two words: Moderation, darling. 

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

This will make sense later: Wear the blue one. For now: Mind your tongue.

Zora Stellanova has been divining with tea leaves since Game of Throne’s 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.


The Show Must Go On

Lessons from the Barnum of baseball

By Jim Moriarty

I only have one story about fireworks that doesn’t reflect great discredit on me. That’s because it involves a member of the baseball Hall of Fame, Bill Veeck. If you don’t know who Bill Veeck was, buckle up. You’re in for a wild ride.

The hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field in Chicago and the ivy covering the outfield wall bricks? Bill Veeck did that when he was a 20-something front office executive for the Chicago Cubs.

Veeck lost his right leg to injuries he received as a Marine in the Pacific during World War II. He was so profoundly addicted to cigarettes he had an ashtray built into his wooden limb.

He owned the Cleveland Indians (1946-49), the St. Louis Browns (1951-53) and the Chicago White Sox, twice (1959-61 and 1975-80). In ’51Veeck sent Eddie Gaedel, 3-feet, 7-inches tall, wearing a uniform with the number 1/8 on the back and a strike zone the size of a buffalo nickel in to pinch hit for the Browns against the Detroit Tigers. He walked on four pitches, and the next day Major League Baseball banned little people. Veeck told the baseball reporters he hoped his tombstone would read, “He Helped the Little Man.”

Three months after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby to a Cleveland Indians contract to make sure the same thing happened in the American League. The next year he signed Satchel Paige, then 42. Someone wrote that if Paige had been old and white, no one would have given him a second thought. “If Satch were white, he would have been in the majors 25 years ago,” Veeck said. Paige was 6–1. The Indians won the World Series.

Even though he was a marketing and money-making machine, when it came to presidential politics Veeck cast his lot with Socialist Party candidate Norman Thomas, who ran for the office six times. He even voted for Thomas after the man had died. “I’d rather vote for a dead man with class than two live bums,” Veeck said.

Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch? It became a more recognizable trademark for Caray than his raspy, mouth-full-of-marbles voice and it was Bill Veeck’s idea.

Go ahead and Google “worst sports uniforms ever.” I guarantee you’ll find the flared collars and black shorts of the 1976 White Sox. People liked to blame Bill’s wife, Mary Frances, for those unis, but it was all Veeck.

The disastrous “Disco Demolition Night” promotion? That was Veeck.

Exploding scoreboards? That was Veeck, too.

The man wrote two autobiographies. Two. And he didn’t run out of stuff.

I was only in his presence once. It was during Veeck’s second stint as owner of the White Sox. I don’t remember how a kid reporter from South Bend, Indiana, managed to talk his way into the press box at old Comiskey Park on Chicago’s South Side, but it happened.

The Bard’s Room was then, and probably still is, a hospitality lounge near the press box where you could get a cold beer and a hot dog before the game. For all I know Veeck invented beer and hospitality, too. The day I was there, Veeck was sitting in the Bard’s Room surrounded by eight or 10 of the usual suspects, the baseball writers from AP, UPI, the Trib, the Sun Times. Guys I knew only by their bylines. Veeck had a telephone in front of him. He was calling the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and everyone was laughing.

A shipment of fireworks on its way from Mississippi to Illinois, meant to explode from the top of the centerfield scoreboard when Bucky Dent or Carlos May or whoever hit a home run, had been interdicted by ATF agents. The show couldn’t go on. Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were attached to the Department of the Treasury. So, Veeck gathered the local reporters, picked up the phone, dialed a number in Washington, D.C., and asked to speak to the secretary of the treasury.

And he got him.

Veeck demanded satisfaction. He paused long enough to accept the sincere apologies of the secretary, which he dutifully relayed to one and all. Funny stories were written. At least that’s the way I remember it.

Here’s the thing. None of us gathered around Bill Veeck actually knew whether or not he was talking to the secretary of the treasury. Hell, it could have been a hot dog salesman on the other end of the line. But it didn’t matter. The P.T. Barnum of baseball knew that, even when they take your fireworks away — no, especially when they take your fireworks away — you can still put on a show.  PS

Jim Moriarty is the Editor of PineStraw and can be reached at

Sporting Life

Waiting for a Ride

A close encounter with a hero

Jimmy, some of it’s magic,
  some of it’s tragic

But I had a good life all the way.

— From “He Went to Paris” by Jimmy Buffett

By Tom Bryant

The morning of June 24 was as promised by the folks at the Weather Channel. It was gonna be hot and humid. But after all, it was the first week of summer, and the way they talked, we should get ready for more of the same.

I was leaning against the fender of the old Bronco waiting for Sam to come out of the bank. Not knowing how long Sam’s business would take, I prudently grabbed a shady spot next to an old Ford pickup. He said he wouldn’t be long, but I took no chances.

He had called me the week before.

“Bryant, need a favor. Could you give me a lift to the VA up in Durham? Got to have an operation on my carotid artery. They say it needs to be reamed out.”

“Absolutely,” I replied. “When you gotta go?”

“Next Wednesday. You can drop me off, and the bride will pick me up when it’s time. I sure appreciate it.”

So, that’s how I ended up waiting outside the bank on the first Wednesday of summer. It would prove to be an interesting day.

Sam came out shading his eyes and ambled toward the truck. “I hope you left some money in there for me,” I said, chuckling.

Sam’s a medium size guy, losing weight to aging, but he always has a gleam in in his eye, ready for what’s next. On this morning, I noticed he walked a little slower than usual. I commented, “Hey boy, you slowing down in your old age?”

“Not on your life, Bryant. I’ve learned to walk around it rather than run over it. I thought I’d learned you that valuable lesson.” We laughed and climbed in the ancient truck and headed to Durham, where the VA hospital is located.

Sam and I go way back to the days before society became so transient. We met probably in the third grade and continued our friendship, always staying in touch over any length of time or distance. Age and circumstances weighed on us both, but more healthwise for Sam than me.

The old truck isn’t conducive to conversation when you’re roaring down the road at a blistering 55 miles an hour, but Sam and I were used to it. We carried on, shouting a bit when the wind noise threatened to shut us down.

“You gonna come outta this?” I asked, using the black humor we sported back and forth to one another all our lives. “If not, I hope you made the proper arrangements with your lawyer. I’m not driving you up here for nothing.”

“Don’t worry, Bryant, I’ll see you get a tank o’ gas out the deal. Find us a quick food joint and let’s get some lunch. I’m not hankering for hospital food for supper.”

I stopped at a Wendy’s right outside of town. There were a couple of picnic tables shaded under an oak tree, and we decided to eat outside away from the lunch crowd.

“What’re y’all doing on the Fourth?” he inquired.

“We always go up to Burlington. A group of friends get together every year to celebrate. It’s a good summer outing with folks we’ve known forever. What are y’all gonna do?”

“Don’t know yet. Depends on how this trip turns out.”

I could tell that Sam was feeling his age and also a little mortal. Who wouldn’t, going to a strange hospital for an operation that is supposedly routine but could always turn out not to be?

“Come on, Sam. This operation will be fine. You’ve got the best doctors in the country. The Duke docs run the show at the VA, I understand.”

“I know, but at my age, anything can happen. I’m not ready to get on that bus, you know, just in case they’re getting up a load,” he said.

The burgers were good, and we stowed our trash in the waste can next to the table and were on our way. In a short drive, I pulled up in front of the massive VA hospital, found a parking place again in the shade, and we got out of the Bronco.

“Thanks for the ride, partner. You don’t have to come in. I can handle all the paperwork.”

“Nah, I want to see the place just in case I have to come up here someday.”

And it was something to see. The building was huge, with large halls stretching from here to yonder. After a bit of searching, as directed by the lady at the front desk, we found where Sam was supposed to bunk. It was a ward, really, with six or eight beds in the room. He was the only one there.

“You don’t reckon they might lose you back here?” I asked, smiling as I was getting ready to leave.

“I hope not. But you better have your compass so you can find your way back to the Bronco.”

“All right, sport. You take it easy. Good luck in the morning. I’ll touch base with you tomorrow.”

I stepped out into the hall to find my way back to the entrance. Sam was right, I did need a compass. I immediately got turned around and wandered the halls right and left, totally lost. The amazing thing was there were no people. I walked past empty rooms, vacant corridors, nobody. Finally, I met a lady heading my way. She was looking lost, too.

“Ma’am, I’m trying to find the front door to this place. Can you point me in the right direction?”

“I think it’s down this hall,” she said, pointing to a long passageway to my right. “I’m new here myself, from the Duke hospital across the road, and I’m trying to find the floor nurse.”

“Good luck,” I said, and she walked away in the opposite direction.

Around the corner, down the hall, I saw a door opening outside. There was a parking area all right, but not the one where I had parked. A fellow was sitting on a bench right next to the sidewalk. He looked like he had been there for a while, so I thought I’d get directions from him.

When I walked up, he looked over at me, grinned and said, “You lost?”

“No, sir, but my truck is.”

“You came out the wrong door, Bubba. This is the back entrance. You probably parked around front.”

The man was of an indeterminate age, with iron-gray hair cut in a military brush style. He had on a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off and a faded Marine Corps insignia on the front. He wore crisp, ironed khakis and sandals. A cane was propped on the bench. His color had a yellow cast to it, and his breathing was short, as if he had to concentrate on it. A small tattoo showing the stripes of a master sergeant was on his right arm.

“Business inside?” he asked.

“My friend. I gave him a lift up here. He has an operation scheduled tomorrow. Marine Corps?”

“Yep, 28 years, retired. You?”

“Same. Short timer. Let me guess. Gunnery sergeant?”

“Good guess. Vietnam?”

“Same era. You?”

“Three tours.”

“Good grief. Couldn’t get enough of the good times, I guess.”

“There in the beginning, helping the ARVN build firebases. Sort of an observer. Second tour, more a participant. The Southern regulars weren’t up to the task. Meant well, but would scatter like a busted covey of quail at the first shots. Third time, realized it was a politicians’ war and a wasted effort.”

He looked out at the traffic slowly driving by, lost in his thoughts.

“You a patient inside?” I asked.

“Yeah, sort of a regular. They tell me I’m about done, though. Waiting on my ride. My niece is picking me up.”

I didn’t ask what he meant by “about done.”

“Here she is now.” He pointed to a pickup that stopped at the curb. “Good talking with you.”

He slowly got up from the bench, and with the help of his cane, shuffled down the sidewalk.

“Hey, Gunny,” I said as he neared the vehicle. “Have a great Fourth. Semper Fi.”

He stuck up his thumb in the universal gesture for “everything is OK” and slowly climbed in the truck. I watched as they drove away, and as I walked around the building to find the Bronco, I couldn’t help but think about the hero I had just met. He deserved better than a bench sitting in back of an almost empty VA hospital.  PS

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