The Creators of N.C.

Live from The Burrow

Roots duo Chatham Rabbits reinvent the dream

By Wiley Cash
Photographs By Mallory Cash

American roots music is rife with compelling and talented duos — think Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, June Carter and Johnny Cash — but few have been as charmed or charming as Austin and Sarah McCombie of the North Carolina band Chatham Rabbits. The two first met in 2014 at a concert they attended separately, and within a few years they were rattling around the country together in a 1986 Winnebago, headlining concerts of their own. It’s an old story based on an even older dream: start a band with your best friend, sell everything you own, make a living with your music. But for Chatham Rabbits, that dream came true, and the most genuine thing about that dream is the music itself.

In marriage and in music, Austin and Sarah blend their individual histories into a shared musical experience. Years ago, Sarah first took the stage as a member of the South Carolina Broadcasters, a musical trio that harkened back to the bygone days of the Grand Ole Opry and AM radio country classics. Meanwhile, Austin played keyboards and guitar for an electro-pop band called DASH. Given their backgrounds, how would Chatham Rabbits describe their musical marriage?

“We’re not purists,” Austin says.

“And we’re certainly not the hippest,” Sarah adds. “But we’ve been able to belong nowhere and everywhere at the same time,” which is to say that Chatham Rabbits have always been able to create a musical home, both for themselves and for their fans.

The duo’s first album, All I Want From You (2018), was written in Bynum, where Austin and Sarah could sit on the porch of their old mill house and survey the entire village of tightly packed homes, a vantage point that revealed their own ties to the close-knit community. The music — with Sarah on banjo, Austin on guitar, and the two splitting lead vocals and sharing harmonies — reaches out to the listener while reaching back in time in search of stories. Their latest album, last year’s The Yoke is Easy, the Burden is Full, is carried by the same gorgeous melodies, harmonies and delicate instrumentation, but it possesses a more introspective quality, which makes sense considering that the album was written when the couple moved to their 11-acre farm in Siler City. In these songs, the Rabbits use contemplation as incantation, inviting the listener to sit quietly with Austin and Sarah as they reflect on their shared life and their families’ histories. If their debut album was a means of reaching out to connect with a larger community, then their more recent album is a guided, dreamy meditation on turning inward. Whether they’re reaching out or looking in, Chatham Rabbits have always invited listeners to join them.

They’ve recently invited listeners to join them on their farm, too, where a new barn has been repurposed to host outdoor concerts that allow for the requisite 6 feet of social distance between pods of attendees. On a Saturday in early May, Austin and Sarah are both smiling behind masks as they move through the preconcert crowd, catching up with old friends and meeting new fans for the first time. The two are refreshingly approachable, remembering people’s names and asking after their children and families. He’s wearing a navy-blue button down and khaki pants; she’s in a navy-blue dress that once belonged to her great aunt. Although there are speakers hanging from the rafters and a lighting system illuminates the instruments and microphone on stage, there are plenty of reminders that this is still a working farm. Saddles and bridles hang on the wall. Chickens meander through the crowd. In the nearby pasture, a black cow named Petunia rubs her back against an old tree.

“The barn was halfway built when the pandemic hit and all of our shows were being cancelled,” Austin says. “At the time, the barn floors were going to be dirt, and the builders were about to enclose the walls. We asked about pouring a concrete floor, and we learned that it would cost the same amount to pour the floor as it did to put up the walls. We chose the floor.”

That kind of quick decision making has served the band well during the pandemic, which has rocked the music industry, but Chatham Rabbits have found ways to adapt.

“When the pandemic hit, we were about to release a new album, and we spent a week worrying about the world and feeling sorry for ourselves,” Sarah says. “Then we got busy figuring out how to make it work.”

The two used funds from their Patreon crowdfunding platform to buy a Sprinter van and a flatbed trailer. Off they went, playing outdoor shows in neighborhoods across the state and into Virginia and South Carolina in support of the new album that was supposed to have been celebrated in concert halls across the country. “We’ve probably played one hundred shows from the back of that trailer,” Sarah says.

Once the barn was finished and the state’s health restrictions allowed it, they decided to test the waters by holding six live concerts throughout the summer in the space they’ve named The Burrow. The tickets sold out in less than three days. As the state’s coronavirus numbers improved, Chatham Rabbits released more tickets, which sold out in mere minutes.

The resilience and flexibility required by the past year has influenced the song writing for their new album, to be released in coming months. “Many of the songs are reflections of us being at home together for an entire year,” she says. “It’s about our life on the farm, shifting friendships, and the way we had to come to terms with our foundations being rocked.”

As Austin and Sarah take the stage, the air is charged with energy and a giddy sense that something is returning to the world, whether it be live music or summertime or the feel of a cold beverage in your hand and the weight of a sleepy child on your lap.

After welcoming the crowd to the inaugural show at The Burrow, Austin and Sarah open with a song from their first album titled “Come Home.” Attendees take off their masks, settle into their beach chairs, and — for the rest of the evening — do just that.  PS

Wiley Cash is the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. His new novel, When Ghosts Come Home, will be released this year.


Polyester and Plaid

The ghosts of fashion don’ts

By Bill Fields

After retrieving the items from a box and making a cursory inspection, one thing was as clear as my vision after cataract surgery: Moths have better taste than I did.

This particular sweater and sport jacket are nearly 50 years old but, notwithstanding a few small stains, they have survived the decades intact, their synthetic fibers not even on the menu for a couple of generations of nocturnal insects.

These are not just any clothes. They were two of my go-to garments during high school, possessions I wore with pride despite their effect on my social life. I loved them.

The canary cardigan and tan, blue, red and white plaid coat weren’t exceptions but the rule for my 1970s dress code. Multiple photographs in my high school yearbooks are proof of these fashion crimes. Among plenty of denim and flannel there I am, over and over, ready for a tee time.

I blame golf for leading me down the polyester path, although I take full responsibility for my rust-colored corduroy suit (with vest). If what I wore led to where I was on Friday and Saturday nights — upstairs in my room, alone, reading and listening to the radio — I was OK with it, such was my obsession with the game.

Part of playing golf was dressing the part, and I did my best. I was aided and abetted in this pursuit. In ninth grade, by which time I had abandoned other sports to concentrate on making the tour, my social studies teacher was Mrs. Troop, a kind, young woman whose husband, Lee, was an assistant pro at the Country Club of North Carolina. Told of my golf habit, he gave me a trio of lightly used, 100 percent orlon, men’s size large Izod sweaters in blue, red and yellow. They were Crayon-bright colors with a green crocodile on the left breast, what cool golfers (as opposed to cool teenagers) were wearing in 1974.

I donned those sweaters regularly, in class and on the course, over the next several years. They were in my regular cool-weather rotation along with a zip-up crafted from velour, the poor man’s cashmere. Regardless of the season, chances are I had on a pair of polyester slacks, some of them in plaid or check patterns purchased with my employee discount in the pro shop at Mid Pines Golf Club, where I worked part time as a golf cart attendant. And I might have been wearing my casual deerskin shoes popular with the septuagenarian crowd.

The synthetic-fibered sport jacket (Andhurst by Belk) had padded shoulders and was of a sturdy hand. It was plain ugly, yet I often wore it senior year while delivering the sports on Pinecrest’s student-produced daily closed-circuit television show over a golf shirt with a wide, hard collar. The garish jacket is in the annual, too. I am telling the score of some Patriots’ game while sitting next to the weather girl, who that day was wearing a shirt with “Foxy Lady” inscribed on the front. At least I wasn’t the only one committing a fashion faux pas.

Besides playing much better than we did, I’m sure the golf-mad teenagers at Pinecrest these days dress better as well. Golf clothing still has its quirks — quarter-zip anyone? — but the game’s fashion doesn’t, for the most part, scream like it did during the Synthetic Seventies.

That said, there probably are a few Rickie Fowler wannabes who will feel about their head-to-toe Creamsicle-colored outfits the way I recall the days I looked like a goldfinch. At least my yearbooks were printed in black and white.  PS

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


June Books


The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, by Marianne Cronin

Lenni, 17, meets Margot, 83, while they are both in a hospital in Glasgow. They develop a friendship in an art class, where they decide to paint 100 pictures between them, one for each year of their lives, in this beautiful story of friendship at any age and how it changes us.

The Nature of Witches, by Rachel Griffin

For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch, whose rare magic is tied to every season. The Nature of Witches is a fierce, romantic YA story about a world on the brink of destruction, the one witch who holds the power to save it, and the choice that could cost her everything she loves.

Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It’s the day of Nina Riva’s end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings — the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva — are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark is lit, the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface.

Double Blind, by Edward St. Aubyn

Moving from London to Provence to California and back to a beautiful woodland entirely off the grid, Double Blind is a breathtaking, kaleidoscopic novel exploring friendship, love, consciousness and the natural world. Timely and expansive ecological concerns animate the novel as it follows three friends and their circle through a year of transformation, moving between London, Oxford, Cap d’Antibes, Sussex and Big Sur. It’s about the headlong pursuit of knowledge and the consequences of fleeing what we already know about others and ourselves.

Morningside Heights, by Joshua Henkin

An Ohio woman attends Yale, falls in love with her professor, and marries him. As she struggles to face her aging, a chance at new romance arrives. Morningside Heights is a compassionate novel about surviving a marriage wrecked with hardship, the love between men and women, parents and children, and living a life different from what we expected.

The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Belle da Costa Greene was born a light-skinned Black woman whose family moved to New York to live as white. She is hired by J.P. Morgan to be his personal librarian, changing not only her world, but her family’s, too. Belle was an exceptional woman with a love for rare books that matched Morgan’s. Authors Benedict and Murray, one white and one Black, have written a fabulous book that puts you in Belle’s shoes as you feel her daily fear of exposure.


The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World’s Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life, by Dan Schilling

In this compelling guide, Schilling uses stories from his Special Operations career, and from other experts, to outline six rules you can apply anywhere to improve your personal safety and situational awareness as Americans emerge from the lockdown of the pandemic.

The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman,
Her Horse and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America,
by Elizabeth Letts

It’s the winter of 1954 in rural Maine and Annie Wilkins is a 62-year-old woman living a hardscrabble existence on a failing farm. When she becomes ill and learns that she has just a few years to live, Annie buys a rundown horse, packs a few necessities, and she and her dog set out on a ride to see California — her mother’s dream. The story of this woman’s journey provides a lens to view the cultural shift in America as one era ends and another begins.


Last Gate of the Emperor, by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen

Yared Heywat, a flawed hero with a gift for gab, teams up with the mysterious Ibis to dominate the boards in the augmented reality game “The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk” and, as play progresses, they realize they are involved in something way more serious than a mere game. Rooted in the real-life history of Makonnen’s family, the last emperors of Ethiopia, Last Gate of the Emperor is a must read for all young adventure lovers.  (Ages 9-13.)

Freaky Funky Fish, by Debra Kempf Shumaker

A fish book with freakiness ratings really should be on the shelf of every young outdoor adventurer. From those that fly to those that climb, from those with invisible heads to those that can dance, there’s a fish for every weird attribute possible, and they’re all rated on a freakiness scale from 1-5. (Ages 5 and up.)

What Will You Be?, by Yamile Saied Méndez

“What will you be when you grow up?” A builder, a teacher, a leader, a student? Children are asked this all the time, and this stunning picture book answers in some surprising ways. This little gem is the perfect gift for graduates of all ages.

Darling Baby, by Maira Kalman

No day is ordinary when it’s shared between a grandparent and their new grandchild. This sweet story of just one of those days is illustrated by the brilliant Kalman and is the perfect read-together for grandparents and grandchildren. (Ages birth to 5.)

The Trillium Sisters 1: The Triplets Get Charmed, by Laura Brown and Elly Kramer

Nature themes, girl power and cute baby animals with amazing secret powers combine to make this new series perfect for readers who are looking for a new, fun and adventurous chapter book series. (Ages 6-9.)

A Father’s Love, by Hannah Holt

A father’s love, whether in the animal kingdom or the human one, is powerful and true and long-lasting. A fun look at the roles of fathers in the animal kingdom, this little gem is perfect for Father’s Day or every day. (Ages birth to 3.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

Out of the Blue

From Cover to Cover

When time was marked by magazines

By Deborah Salomon

Life’s steep and winding highway begs mile markers. On mine, look for magazines.

Because you are what you read, from childhood on. I remember more about Mary Poppins than Earnest Hemingway. But those are books, to curl up with on a rainy Saturday, or dissect in a college lit class.

Magazines, in contrast, provide quick reads: facts, opinions, critiques, humor, all au courant.

I grew up in a magazine-rich household. Highlight of the week was arrival of Life. What or who would rate a cover story? Eisenhower? Marilyn? Castro? Ali?

My mother rated Look a notch below Life, therefore unworthy of a subscription. Thank goodness she approved of Reader’s Digest. I beelined to the “Laughter, the Best Medicine” feature.

This affection began with Jack and Jill, first published the year before I was born. I aced the page where animals or objects were “hidden” in an illustration. Soon, much to the chagrin of parents, pre-teen girls developed “crushes” on movie stars. We passed around Photoplay and Modern Screen until pages, stained from Coke, went raggedy. A year or so later, we moved on to racy, fabricated confessions in True Story, purchased by older sisters and sequestered under the mattress. Pure trash . . . but a deliciously grown-up transition.

I was interested in food even then, probably because my mother wasn’t. I recall begging her to subscribe to Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping in the early ’50s, when anything cooked in cream of mushroom soup rated “gourmet.” Meatloaf was a hot topic. Garlic, not. Cakes had three layers; salads were “tossed” and fresh herbs, absent.

Never caught the Seventeen bug. Just too 17-ish.

As a Manhattan kid transplanted kicking and screaming to Asheville, I craved the edgy. With babysitting money, I subscribed to The New Yorker in high school, mostly for the cartoons and covers which, unlike now, were timely but gentle. From these pages printed in a recognizable font I learned about profiling, which helped later on when, coming full circle, I profiled my favorite New Yorker cartoonist, Ed Koren, for a news syndicate.

I continued that subscription for more than 50 years until the articles became too long and the covers, too mean-spirited. I tried skimming my husband’s Sports Illustrated after hearing that the writing was top drawer. Maybe, once you plowed through the jargon.

Then, the Newsweek mandate.

My mother was a high school math teacher and politics maven. She had strong opinions better expressed in Newsweek than Time. I had disappointed her once, by an indifference to math and disinterest in the teaching profession. She certainly wasn’t going to cede her only child to even a smidgen of pop journalism. So, after I married and moved far away, she gifted me with a perpetual Newsweek subscription. Our phone calls usually included a “Did you read about . . . ”

Still checking up.

The subscription ran out after she died.

Magazines in their original form also declined, victims to the internet, podcasts and 24-hour cable news. TV Guide, where my father checked off the week’s best ball games, became superfluous and The Saturday Evening Post a collector’s item. Playboy endured, as if anybody really looks like that naked.

This highway has a happy ending. When my older grandson was about 9, he displayed a keen interest in history, geography, outer space and other exotic destinations. So, for his birthday, I subscribed to National Geographic but had the copies sent to my address. That way I could skim the stories and discuss them with him. He already knew most of the stuff, but loved to argue facts and opinions, whether tribal cultures or marine life in the South China Sea. What a joy, to be out-litigated by a fourth-grader. I subscribed until he was 15.

“Nanny, you should see the pile of National Geographics I have stacked up,” he said, when moving into his first apartment. By then, he had traveled and/or studied in two dozen countries including China, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, Central America. He speaks three languages, graduated from law school and passed the bar, all by 23. I take no credit, except for sharing something beyond comic books and chocolate chip cookies.

I can’t remember a time when a few magazines weren’t stacked on my coffee table — always PineStraw, occasionally something else. Occasionally, I read The New Yorker online. My dentist gets an impressive array, including Our State and Southern Living. I arrive early, on purpose, to copy recipes that I never make. At the supermarket checkout I notice that magazines have become terribly specialized, more like grown-up picture books. And horribly expensive.

I don’t subscribe to anything anymore. The house where I wallpapered a bathroom with New Yorker covers is long sold. I haven’t the heart to ask my grandson if he discarded the National Geographics.

But the thrill endures because look where I ended up: writing about magazines for a magazine.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at

It Was the Week that Was

Erik Compton makes his mark at Pinehurst

By Jim Moriarty     Photographs by Joann Dost

We are captivated by winning. Utterly enthralled. Driven to distraction, or maybe delusion. To Vince Lombardi, winning wasn’t everything, it was the only thing. Twenty-five years ago, a boyish Tiger Woods offered the wisdom of youth: “Second sucks, and third is even worse.” But things are not always what they seem. Sometimes second can be mistaken for heartbreak when, in fact, it’s heartwarming, even life-affirming. That’s the way it was seven years ago, here, on Father’s Day, the last day of a most uncommon U.S. Open.

To some, the whole thing may have seemed a little boring. Soft-spoken Martin Kaymer shot 65-65 the first two days, the loudest whisper (and still the lowest 36-hole score) in the 120-year history of the championship. Taking a six-shot lead into the weekend, he played three-dimensional chess against Donald Ross across the great architect’s finest creation, Pinehurst No. 2, making whatever moves seemed prudent to keep disaster at arm’s length. Sudden catastrophe seemed the only thing that could prevent the then 29-year-old German from adding another major title to the PGA Championship he’d won in 2010. He put a sleeper hold on the field and won by eight, a performance as different from the magical drama of Payne Stewart’s knockout punch delivered in Pinehurst’s first U.S. Open in 1999 as a Buick commercial is from King Lear.

When the dust from the course’s newly restored natural areas had settled, the two players who were closest in Kaymer’s rearview mirror were Rickie Fowler, the then 25-year-old hotshot dressed in the bedazzling orange of his alma mater, Oklahoma State; and Erik Compton, the 187th ranked player in the world. Both Fowler and Compton knew that, barring a cataclysmic failure by the leader, they would spend Sunday playing for second, which is where they wound up, tied at one under par, joining Kaymer as the only players in red figures for the week.

Fowler had finished in the top five in the Masters in April. He’d been on a big stage before. Compton not so much. He’d been a seriously accomplished amateur. A Walker Cupper. An All American at the University of Georgia, where his roommate was an odd duck named Bubba Watson. Just about the biggest thing he’d ever won as a professional was the 2011 Mexico Open on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour.

Compton wasn’t supposed to be up there, sitting next to Kaymer at the prize-giving. Everyone who knew the story of his two heart transplants knew that. And yet, there he was, having earned his spot competing on one of the sport’s grandest stages, across one of its most demanding tests, with a pure silver medal as tangible proof to those he loved and those who loved him — and to himself — that, for a time, he belonged among the best. That the gift of life, bestowed twice, had been honored. That his third heart, beating with the thump of an athlete, had achieved a personal best. That he had climbed higher than anyone would have ever imagined possible. It was a most uncommon week indeed.

If getting there is supposed to be half the fun, Compton used up his full quotient finding his way to Pinehurst. After missing the cut in The Memorial and depressed about the state of his game, Compton sat down at a table in the Muirfield Village clubhouse with the host, Jack Nicklaus. “Jack said, ‘If you get into the Open at Pinehurst, you’re going to have a great tournament there.’ He said that to me,” Compton recalls. “It was weird.”

What was weirder was how he did it. One of the toughest U.S. Open sectional qualifiers is played the Monday after The Memorial, that year won by a young Hideki Matsuyama, this past April’s Masters champion. The qualifier is traditionally loaded with tour players. In 2014 there were 120 players for six spots over 36 holes at Scioto Country Club and Brookside Golf and Country Club. Compton got the last spot in a five-way playoff for three slots.

“We had a rules official come up to us with five holes to go and ask if we wanted to know where we stood,” says Victor Billskoog, Compton’s caddie. “We were two out of getting in. We get to 17 and we’re still two out. He hit a 4-iron 218 into the wind and it comes up an easy 60 feet short and I’m going, ‘Oh, boy.’ He drains it. Now, we figure we’re one down. Then he holed a bunker shot on 18. That was how we got into the playoff.”

Afterward, they celebrated in the parking lot. “It was dark,” Compton says. “It was the longest day I’ve ever played of golf.”

Billskoog, who now sells Miami real estate, had a simpler view. “It was a helluva ride to get in,” he says.

Almost from the moment Compton, Billskoog and Erik’s teacher, Charlie DeLuca, saw No. 2’s barren, natural areas and brown fairways, they had a collective, comforting sense of dejà vu. DeLuca is the director of golf at Melreese Country Club, a public course near Miami International Airport. “We had sprayed Melreese dead because they were getting ready to redo the greens and fairways,” he says. “So, for two weeks before the Open we were playing on burnt fairways and burnt greens, which very nicely resembled the extremely fast fairways and extremely fast greens at the U.S. Open. Everything was so glass fast at Melreese that when we got there it wasn’t so bad.”

Neither was Compton’s golf swing. In one of his nine-hole practice rounds Compton wound up in a money game with the South Africans, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, major champions all. “I told them I was the Mexican Open champion,” says Compton with a grin. At the end of the nine, it was the South Africans, including his friend Els, going to their wallets. “I remember them pulling out the 50s and 100s,” says Compton.

Martin Kaymer, Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler

Monday through Wednesday, Compton and DeLuca lasered their way around No. 2, plotting the landing areas that presented the least risk. “We really did a whole lot of game planning how we were going to go through this golf course,” says DeLuca. “Whether we were 10 under or 10 over we were going to stay in that game plan.” Central to the plan was hunkering down off the course. “We were going to stay in our group of the caddie, myself and Erik. We weren’t going to let anybody from the outside in our group. We were going to stay very quiet and try hard not to get distracted. His parents were there and we made a deal with them where they weren’t going to see him except while we were playing.”

Rest is a big part of Compton’s equation. It has to be. “We’ll do things like go practice real early, go home at the middle of the day and take a nap, go back at the end of the day and play nine holes. That’s what we did at the Open,” says DeLuca. “You go on a two-week trip with Erik, you can guarantee he’s sick three days. He just is, between the medication, the stress. The slightest little thing can send his body into a loop. And it can go either way. His heart can race up to 160 beats a minute for no reason and then it can flat out crash and burn for no reason. Physically, his body really isn’t supposed to be going through this adrenaline, up-and-down lifestyle he lives. He wasn’t even supposed to play golf after his second heart attack. The day he got out of the hospital he showed up on the driving range at our place and said, ‘I need to get playing again.’”

The entire Compton contingent, parents, caddie, teacher, were staying at the Springhill Suites on U.S. 15-501. DeLuca drove the courtesy car to the course every day. And every day he played the same song, volume up, on his cellphone. It was Aloe Blacc’s “The Man.”

Well, you can tell everybody

Yeah, you can tell everybody

Go ahead and tell everybody

I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man

“He’d blast it. It was like brainwashing,” says Compton.

“We played the damn song every single day,” says Billskoog. “It was like the gasoline to the boat that week.”

While Kaymer was hydroplaning across Pinehurst No. 2, Compton was puttering along. Two over the first round, two under the second. Even par is never bad in a U.S. Open, unless the leader is setting scoring records. “With the pressure situation, playing in the U.S. Open and the weather is hot, I’m just glad to be done right now,” Compton said on Friday night after comfortably making the cut.

So deeply was Compton into his cocoon, he couldn’t even recall who he played with on Saturday (Francesco Molinari), when he and Fowler posted the low rounds of the day, a pair of 67s. After playing his middle two rounds 5 under par, Compton was still five shots behind Kaymer but in control of his game. “He was striking his irons as pure as it gets. His distance control was just on fire,” says DeLuca.

His caddie saw something more. “He just had something I hadn’t seen before,” says Billskoog. “They have something special when it’s a week like that. He had a confidence that I’d never seen. I felt like he walked a little bit different, like he spoke to me just a little bit different. He was on and he had it every single day.”

Compton was to be in the next to last pair on Sunday, playing with Henrik Stenson. “I was a huge fan of his,” says Compton. “We’re good friends now but he probably doesn’t know that. I was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s a monster.’”

In an effort to kill time Saturday night, DeLuca and Billskoog talked Compton into hanging out at the hotel pool. “We had a late tee time and we purposely didn’t let him go to bed at 9 o’clock like he would like to do,” says DeLuca. “We spent a good hour, hour and a half down at the pool laughing and giggling like 12-year-old kids. It was just an incredible experience. It really was.”

On Sunday morning, one reporter was allowed inside the bubble. “I got a little upset with a bunch of the press because all they would ever ask him about was his second heart attack,” says DeLuca. “That’s his story. I know it’s very important, but I don’t need Erik reliving his second heart attack 10 times before we tee off on Sunday.”

Compton was readier than DeLuca realized. “Erik’s warm-up routine is about 48 minutes long. We got to the range and he hit about six shots with irons, didn’t even hit a driver or a wood, and he turned around and looked at me and said, ‘You know, I’m hitting it great, let’s go putt.’ My jaw about hit the ground. We just kind of hung out on the putting green and talked for about 30 minutes while he putted. It was the most nervous I could have been for him and he seemed to be ungodly calm.”

Kaymer played the first nine holes in 1 under par, effectively slamming the door on any chasers. Compton was keeping pace but No. 2 was never going to give up the kind of low round it would take to catch the German. For his part, Stenson was struggling. “He was pissed about his own game but at the same time, he was rooting for me,” says Compton. “I’ve found that twice in my career with different guys. I know he wanted to beat me and he wanted to win the tournament but he wasn’t going to win — no one was going to beat Kaymer.”

Birdies on the eighth and 10th holes had the gallery chanting “USA! USA!” At one point Stenson looked at Compton and said, “I can see they’re not here to watch me today.”

Compton bogeyed three of his last eight holes. “The pressure coming down the back nine on Sunday, it was immense. I made some bogeys, but everybody was making bogeys,” he says. At the 18th, however, he made memories instead, the kind that, for him, are every bit as magical as the ones Payne Stewart left behind on the very same spot.

Compton missed the 18th fairway to the right. “The ball was sitting in a depression so he couldn’t get any contact with the club on the back of the ball,” says Billskoog. “We said we were going to hood an 8-iron and basically try to top it, try to get in the front bunker on an uphill lie, which is exactly what he did.”

From there Compton had a long bunker shot. If he goes over the green, he’s looking at double bogey, maybe worse. He asked his caddie for a 9-iron. “I didn’t say anything,” says Billskoog. “I had sunglasses on and I closed my eyes for a good five seconds. Sure enough, he filleted that thing.”

The low, spinning shot Compton played confused the crowd. At first they gasped, then as the ball checked inside 10 feet, they cheered. When he made the putt, they roared.

Erik and his wife, Yessenia

All week, the player and caddie were doing a ballet on the greens, reading putts separately from in back of the ball, then behind the cup, then trading places. As they were walking past each other on the 18th green, Compton looked at Billskoog and said, “Hey, Vic, I got this one. Don’t worry.” Compton told him to look around, soak in the moment. “This is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” he said, and holed the putt.

When he came off the course, second place secure, Michelle Wie — who would win the Women’s U.S. Open the next week — was among the people congratulating Compton because he’d just gotten into the Masters, a perk and a salve for a runner-up.

Off to the side, some spectators with a sense of Southern hospitality had helped Peter Compton, Erik’s dad, push forward so he could watch his son finish. “He was in front of the crowd, the crowd went crazy. It was like a movie,” Peter says.

When Peter Compton couldn’t negotiate the zealous security surrounding the presentation ceremony, he wandered down to the player and family hospitality tent. “I walked in and I said, ‘You know, I need a beer.’” The staff was breaking down but they found one for him. There was one other person in the tent with the same idea. “I said to him, ‘I’m so happy, my son just came in second.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, my son came in fourth.’” It was Brooks Koepka’s father, Bob. His son would win two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships in the next five years. 

“I never thought I was going to win the Open,” Erik says. “I was just trying to play as good as I could on every hole. Obviously, it was a great week for me. It means a lot to me. It’s the biggest thing I’ve done in my golf career. It was just such a winning experience for me, my family, I think the transplant world.” A world of people made whole through the grace of others, a world helped by his eponymous foundation, his time visiting hospital wards, his example.

In moments of reflection, Compton honestly doesn’t know if he overachieved or underachieved as a player. He knows there’s world class ability in a body that’s been through world class trauma. Only Compton knows what it has taken to do what he’s done. There’s no template, no suitable comparison.

“I’ve had a decent, small career in golf,” he says. “It’s hard to know if I outdid myself with everything I’ve been through or if I could have done more. I’m one of the more recognizable golfers in the world with the least amount of achievement.”

He ponders the unknowable in a life that revolves around it. Compton is currently the 971st ranked player in the world. He’s got full status on the Korn Ferry Tour and would like to make one last run at the big tour, but he’s 41 now and has no delusions that competitive golf gets easier with age. He’s been divorced and recently remarried. He spends his days giving golf lessons at Melreese and shuttling his 12-year-old daughter, Petra, to school and to all those other things that 12-year-old daughters do, and wishing he had more time to hook redfish in the Everglades.

The Open will be back in Pinehurst in three years. Compton would like to be there but doesn’t know whether his game or his body will allow it. “Do I think the chances of my getting back there are stacked against me? Absolutely,” he says. “I’ll know more in a year and a half where I stand with my game. I’m prepared to play as long as I can.”

But the golf is only part of the equation. He had his first heart transplant when he was 12. That heart began to fail 15 years later. The attack came while he was fishing. He drove himself to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Ran a toll booth on the way. Called his parents to say goodbye. The doctors managed his condition until he received his second transplant in 2008, when he was 28. There is a shelf life for a transplanted heart, but the timetable is unknowable. One transplant recipient lived 33 years with a donated heart. The average is more modest.

“That’s always in the back of my mind, yeah, what’s next?” he says. “What can you do? You’ve just got to make the best of it. Nobody has a crystal ball. If we all knew what our departure date is we’d all live a different life, wouldn’t we?”

Or would we? On Father’s Day 2014, after all the prize-giving and interviewing was over, the Compton party partied on. Every day that week, Peter and Erik’s mother, Eli, had eaten at Fratello’s (now Napoli), just down the highway from their hotel. The owner then, and now, is Salvatore Doria. Sal’s a real Brooklyn paisan who moved from Raleigh to Pinehurst in 1979. He saved seats at the bar for Peter and Eli every night and, though he was supposed to be closed that Sunday night, he threw his arms and his restaurant open for their celebration. A painting of Frank Sinatra hangs on the wall like a monochromatic Mona Lisa. Peter Compton is a retired Royal Caribbean executive. He’s the guy who took the Ice Capades and Broadway shows to sea. He began his career as a cruise ship crooner. That night he and Sal belted out Sinatra tunes together.

That’s life

That’s what all the people say

You’re riding high in April, shot down in May

But I know I’m gonna change that tune

When I’m back on top, back on top in June.  PS


By Ashley Wahl

June is a waking dream, a dreamy wakefulness — a dream within a dream. 

Beneath the ancient magnolia, where the earth is cool as a stream and filtered light flickers across your skin like stardust, the crickets have lulled you to sleep. The summer air is a fragrant amalgam of magnolia, bee balm, rose and gardenia, and as you breathe, your dreamscape becomes a fertile garden, lush and vibrant, fueled by the essence of this sensuous season.

Chorus frogs and cicadas join the mélange. Butterflies arrive — a heavenly surge of them — followed by a procession of bees, a metallic troupe of beetles, a shimmer of ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Each breath is the thread of a gorgeous tapestry — an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of movement, color, sound and light. Each breath pollinates the garden.   

You open your eyes.

Were you sleeping, or is this all a dream?

A dragonfly hovers above your head before lighting on your finger like some kind of pet bird. In its stillness, you study those iridescent wings, that thin missile of a body, those monstrous, all-seeing eyes. Again, you wonder: A dream?

As it stares back, eyes like glittering mirrors, you think it could have dreamed you, too.

Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.
— Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

Tastes Like Summer

Strawberry rhubarb pie. Poetry, isn’t it? Imagine the baker who churned out the first one. 

Why? No need to ask questions. Just . . . thank them.

Reportedly, rhubarb was introduced to the gardens and pies of our continent in the 1700s, after a Maine gardener procured the seed from Europe. Although its leaves are toxic to humans, its celery-like stalks (petioles) are packed with health benefits and take on the flavor of whatever they’re cooked with. Strawberries, in this case.

So, is it a fruit or is it a veggie? Botanists call it the latter. And since its early years in the States, the rhubarb has been dubbed the “pie plant.”

June 9 is National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day. Yes, a whole day devoted to this seasonal knockout. If you’re making one from scratch, consider adding orange zest. But don’t stress over the lattice crust. Minor details.

Golden Days

Summer is here, and with it, honeysuckle and roses. Iced tea and pesto. Cucumbers and snap beans straight from the vine. Father’s Day lands on Summer Solstice — Sunday, June 20 — the longest day of the year. Soak up the daylight with pops. If he’s earthside, make memories. Go fish. Build a trellis. Fire up the grill. Alive in spirit? Plant a tree in his honor. Feel the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the soil, and remember him.

On Thursday, June 24, the Full Strawberry Moon rises in the afternoon. This month’s showstopper will be the last of three supermoons of 2021. Closer to the Earth, it may appear larger and brighter than usual. But such is the magic of Midsummer.


Map Fragment, on Clay

Who first thought of scratching here and there

on soft clay, instead of only giving

directions, must have wanted to keep close

the shape of all that lay between himself

and someone whose absence turned regular days

and nights into a vast terra incognita, a blank

that his mind filled with terrifying beasts, winged

serpents, who sang of other courses, other

islands, other ways. If he drew the place

he knew, and those distant places he thought

he knew, he could touch the map where she was

and say to himself, without leaving home,

if she is not here, she is there.

— Millard Dunn

Millard Dunn is the author of Places We Could Never Find Alone


A Day at the Open

Memories of a father’s gift

By Tom Allen

My father, decades ago, played one round of golf. Never again.

For Dad — a fisherman and dove hunter — golf was too tedious. He was, however, captivated by televised tournaments, especially the Masters and the U.S. Open. He was an armchair quarterback for college football and a recliner referee for ACC hoops, and a wannabe umpire for Braves baseball. He followed celebrity golfers from his generation — Trevino, Palmer, Nicklaus — and watched enough golf to know the names Mickelson and Els. And Tiger, like Michael Jordan, was a household name.

In 2005, I snagged two tickets for Friday’s U.S. Open Championship on Pinehurst No. 2. I asked Dad if he wanted to go, a Father’s Day gift from a son who broke a hundred once. He smiled at the chance. I smiled too. The day might be a bust — a 46-year-old and an 83-year-old, whose conversations over our adult years covered reminders from Dad to change the oil in my car every 3,000 miles to his chiding me for setting my tomato plants before the soil warmed while I, in turn, reminded him to keep his cellphone turned on and to get a flu shot. These conversations inevitably ended with my changing the oil every 5,000 miles and planting my tomatoes in cool, sometimes frosty, late March. He, likewise, continued to keep his phone off and never rolled up his sleeve.

We met that Friday morning at my home in Whispering Pines. I drove us to Pinehurst, remarkably without any comments from Dad about my tendency to drive faster and brake later than he did. We parked and took a shuttle to the main entrance, arriving as the gates were opening. I suggested a walk through the merchandise tent, not for want of anything but just to see Dad’s reaction to the prices.

A finance major in college, Dad was drafted in 1942, one of two in his graduating class at Oak Ridge Military Academy who wasn’t assigned to a combat unit. Dad ended up in the 109th Finance Disbursing Section, stationed for a few years in England. He received a Certificate of Merit from his commanding officer. The U.S. Army had no idea what a good decision they made by placing an adding machine in his hands instead of a rifle.

At 83, Dad was robust and thriving, but I knew he’d tire trying to trail certain players, so we positioned ourselves in a shady section of a grandstand, an ideal spot to watch approach shots and putts and to see Tiger birdie and tip his cap. Dad loved every minute though, like father, like son, he had to be shushed a few times by a grandstand marshal when players were putting out. Thankfully, she was a member of the church I serve and tempered her shushing with a smile.

By noon he was done. Walking out, we got a glimpse of a Mickelson fairway shot, long and straight. Dad showed no interest in paying U.S. Open food prices. Bojangles was the choice for lunch, his treat. At home, his garden needed tending and his bird dog feeding. It was a short but good day. Actually, one of the best.

Ten years later, at 93, weakened by an illness that caused a rapid decline, Dad and I watched the U.S. Open from his hospice room. A few weeks later, father and son were alone. I whispered I loved him, thanked him for being the best dad ever, told him Mom would be cared for, and gave him my blessing to go home. A few seconds later, as gently as he had lived his life, he left.

In April, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, reflecting on Prince Philip’s final moments said, “It was so gentle. It was like somebody took him by the hand and off he went. Very, very peaceful . . . ” Her words resonated.

Not a U.S. Open passes that I don’t think of that day in ’05 — sunny, warm, just enough breeze. At 63, I’ve moderated my speed and widened my brake time. Dad would be pleased. He would probably shake his head at automotive technology that allows for twice the mileage before an oil change. I imagine he would stick with 3,000. This year, unlike others, I waited to plant my tomatoes until the soil warmed and any chance of frost had passed. Those tomatoes, like Dad on that warm June day, have thrived. In the end, I guess Father really does know best.  PS

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

The Death of a Gambler

A son’s moving remembrance of his struggle to win the love of a father whose emotions were as strange as the life he led

By Charles Price

Photograph from the Tufts Archives

Charles Price was one of the greatest golf writers of the 20th century. I don’t know if he was at the very top of the mountain, but I do know he always worked above the tree line.

When he was in his late 20s, Charley spent a year driving Walter Hagen around Michigan’s back roads trying, unsuccessfully, to get a book out of him. Years later he became Bobby Jones’ legs during the Masters tournament, tracking down people who Jones, by then an invalid and confined to his Augusta National apartment behind drawn drapes, wanted to chat with.

Price got his start at Golf World when Bob Harlow, The Haig’s onetime agent, was still alive and Harlow’s fledgling magazine was located in the old warehouse building near the railway trestle in Pinehurst. He came back to the village to spend his last days, passing away in 1994.

Charley was a heavyweight writer but a bantamweight guy, thin as a hickory shaft and standing eyeball-to-eyeball with wee giants like Gary Player. My lasting image of him is striding up the neon green hill at the back of the Augusta National clubhouse as if the ghost of Jones had just summoned him, leaning into the climb, wearing soft shoes and a double-breasted blue blazer.

Price tried to play the professional tour as an amateur, in the days when such a thing was possible. One day on the putting green, Clayton Heafner — a very large man — said to him in his cozy North Carolina drawl, “Charley, have you noticed anything about the boys out here? Most of them are built like truck drivers with the touch of a hairdresser. You, on the other hand, are built like a hairdresser with the touch of a truck driver.”

Charley enjoyed telling that story, not so much because it was about him but because, I think, he admired the way Heafner put it together. He was kind to young writers, this young writer anyway, but didn’t suffer fools gladly. In that respect, he was very much like the man he writes about in this story, his father, published in the April 1959 edition of Coronet. — Jim Moriarty

My father was a gambler — a professional gambler. Among the people who came to his funeral were an ex-prizefighter, a strip-tease dancer, a millionaire, a cab driver, a farmer, a police captain, a nightclub comedian, our maid, a Sicilian with tattooed hands, and a bookmaker who couldn’t stop crying. There was also a man my father had once punched in the jaw.

I was surprised not at all that this man came to pay last respects to my father. I suspect he sincerely liked my father despite the fact he had once been humiliated by him. It was one of the oddities of my father’s life that everyone was always slightly terrified and mystified by him — even those he loved. I know I was. He was as inscrutable as the king of spades. I never really knew him until he was dead.

On the desk in front of me as I write is a photographic portrait of my father. I haven’t the remotest idea what he might have been smiling about. I was never very sure of anything about my father. We spent the better part of our lives together playing poker for our emotions, neither of us daring to tip his hand.

During the 1920s, when I was born, my father had operated backroom casinos in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Before that, he had been a bookmaker. (When my mother first got to know him, she had been under the impression that he was in the publishing business.) And before that, a croupier, a bartender, and a number of other things he refused to discuss about his younger years in downtown Philadelphia.

During the last 15 of his 63 years, he had been majordomo of a gambling house in Maryland, only a few feet outside the District of Columbia. It was the largest, most colorful casino between Saratoga and Havana. Of course, it was also against the law, a discrepancy to which, however, few persons paid any attention. The integrity of my father’s casino was so beyond question, even congressmen patronized it.

Many professional gamblers have declared that my father was the best card player they have ever known. He also knew everything there is to know about craps, roulette, bird cage and other games that are outside the law of most states.

He was also acquainted with every notorious hood, cheat and racketeer on the East Coast, and he was afraid of none of them. He was accustomed to being entrusted with large amounts of other people’s money. He always kept his mouth shut about other people’s affairs. And he was scrupulously honest.

These were the qualities that set him apart from ordinary gamblers, and that enabled him to walk the underworld, if need be, with no more armor than his pinstriped suit and the incongruously flamboyant neckties he always wore.

From the time I was a little boy I was aware that my father was a man apart, not only because he was my father but because he was a creature of peculiar habits. No other father in our neighborhood, for example, arrived home from work at dawn. Sometimes, if he were particularly tired, I would be awakened by his heavy footsteps as he climbed his way to the third-floor attic, which had been converted into a sumptuous bedroom for his strange hours of sleep. To protect him from the daylight, the room had been decorated with thick drapes and blackish wallpaper. There my father slept until noon, filling the house with his resonant snoring, which I could hear even when playing in the cellar.

My father always came downstairs to breakfast dressed in his pajamas and a splendid silk bathrobe, his eyes still half-filled with sleep and his thin hair spectacularly awry on his head, like a Hottentot’s. He never said good morning to anybody, not even to my mother. Indeed, he would not speak a word until he had been fed. His breakfast was always the same — a pint of orange juice, black coffee and a thick slice of chocolate layer cake.

As a small boy, I would sometimes sit quietly across the breakfast table from my father and stare at him, fascinated by his magnificence. When he caught me looking at him, he would stop eating and lay down his morning newspaper. Peering over his reading glasses at me, he would say, not unkindly, “Is there something you want?”

I would shake my head and then scamper off, embarrassed. My father would shrug his shoulders and then go back to his breakfast.

When my father went to work, he would put on his overcoat and a large fedora, whose brim he kept rolled upward, like a Homburg. Then he would light a cigar, puffing vigorously to get it burning. Just before he reached for the door, he would blow out a cloud of smoke so thick that it would hang in the air long after he had left. As he grabbed the doorknob, he would turn to my mother and me. “Well … ” he would say, and mumble something, which we had to assume was a goodbye. Then he would close the door behind him without another word, climb into his black car and roar off to work, not to be seen again until the following noon.

My father’s favorite form of recreation was the legitimate theater. A well-performed tragedy could leave him transfixed. At a performance of Death of a Salesman, my mother once told me, my father actually burst into tears. I was astonished to learn of this, because I felt sure at the time that in real life my father would have considered Willy Loman a fool.

After an accident I had when I was 13, my father failed to visit me in the hospital. Despite the many logical excuses my mother made for him, I was bewildered and hurt. Today I know that he didn’t come because he couldn’t bring himself to see me hurt.

My father never wrote a letter to me in his life. If he had, it would today be framed and sitting on my shelf. Correspondence between us was handled by my mother, who wrote at length to explain the many fond thoughts my father had of me when we were separated, thoughts he somehow couldn’t bring himself to express when we were together.

My father lavished gifts on me, but to my knowledge he never personally bought me any of them. He considered the giving of presents unmanly. But he could periodically give $10 tips to a blind news dealer. (I doubt that he could have given them to a man who could see him do it.) He could send $100 — anonymously — to a lifeguard who had rescued somebody. And he could send a girl, who had been disfigured for life in an automobile accident, through college without ever letting her know he had paid the bills.

To this day I meet strangers who, on learning whose son I am, tell me stories of my father’s extraordinary generosity. It will always be a mystery to me, however, how a man could be seemingly so generous yet be so parsimonious when his emotions were involved. While during all my father’s life he remained to me — and still remains to me — as heroic as a father should be, we were in truth as uncommunicative as a father and son could be.

When I was 12, for example, my father sent me to a golf professional at a nearby country club. “Teach him everything there is to know about the game,” he said. His instructions to me were just as simple: “Call all the members ‘mister.’”

When I was 13, I played in my first tournament. I won it, but my father did not congratulate me. He bought me a new set of clubs, instead. I have since played in more than 100 tournaments, but my father watched me play in only one that I can recall.

I saw him standing behind a tree overlooking the fourth fairway. Because the match was a final, it had attracted a small gallery. While it is not uncommon for spectators to stand within a few feet of a contestant, my father wouldn’t come within 100 yards of me. At the end of nine holes, I was two-down. My father got into his black car and drove away. I don’t know whether he felt his presence was making me self-conscious or that he couldn’t bear to see me lose.

When I arrived home, I found him pacing back and forth on the driveway. “Well?” he said.

“I won,” I answered.

At that, my father reached into his pocket, pulled out a roll of bills, and then peeled off a $50 note. “Here,” he said. He handed the $50 to me and then he turned his back, so I wouldn’t see the pride on his face. He wanted dreadfully to congratulate me, but he just didn’t know how. While his manner may have seemed heartless, it wasn’t. My father was willing to be a father, but he refused to act like one.

When I was graduated from high school I was given a watch which I purchased myself with money my father gave me. Childishly perhaps, I was disappointed that he had not purchased the watch for me himself.

After high school, I attended two different colleges. My father visited neither one, not even on the day I was graduated. Since nothing had been said about his attending the exercises, I didn’t bother going myself. My diploma was mailed to me. When it arrived, I showed it to my father. He glanced at it, and then he told me to go downtown and buy a car for myself. For a moment, I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly. The tone of his voice was so matter-of-fact. You might have thought he was asking me to go down and buy him a cigar.

I am certain that my father was proud of me. I am positive he loved me. But it was our misfortune that we could not bring ourselves to exchange this information.

When my father was drawing close to death, we arranged a bed for him in a second-floor living room. One evening when I was alone with him, he sat up and said, bluntly, “I’m dying,” and he looked straight into my eyes. I couldn’t answer. My father swore softly under his breath, then lay back in bed.

All that night, I held my father’s hand. A croupier from my father’s casino gave him his medicine and wiped his brow. Near dawn, I climbed to my father’s attic and threw myself exhausted on his bed.

While lying there, I knew for the first time just why I loved this man to whom even the ordinary signs of love had always been embarrassing. I understood then how unselfish he had been in never trying to mold me in his own image, unlike so many fathers who act the paternal role to its fullest.

I saw, too, that despite the fact his life had been carried on outside the pale of ordinary society, he had always conducted himself with personal dignity. I decided that when I awoke I would somehow force myself to tell my father how much I loved him. Our lives together had been largely spent trying to divine each other’s feelings, and I had grown weary of the game.

I had been asleep about two hours when the croupier aroused me. “Wake up!” he said, shaking me. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes.

“You’d better come downstairs,” he said quietly. “Your father’s dead.”  PS

Story of a House

The Upscale Downsize

Relocation at its best

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

According to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Old age hath yet his honor and his toil . . . ”

Maybe, but the inevitable task of dividing up possessions and moving from a beloved family home is usually more toil than honor. This process, now called downsizing, may cause trauma for elders and squabbles among children.

Not for Jane and Dan Clark. Heavens, no.

“I took all my pretty things,” Jane says, upbeat and with a touch of defiance.

This defiance created in a 1,500-square-foot Penick Village cottage a microcosm of the Clark’s 5,000-plus-square-foot manse on Massachusetts Avenue and, more recently, an Aberdeen home of equal size set on 12 wooded acres, suitable for the lifestyles of Dr. Dan Clark, a radiologist, and Jane, Southern Pines mayor in the 1980s. In addition, the Clarks retain a charming historic coastal home in Southport, which Jane calls her “happy place.”

Jane and Dan played marbles in kindergarten. Their friendship continued through school in the farming community of Everetts, current population 179. They married, were deployed by the Army to Texas and Japan, settled in Southern Pines in 1970. Dan established Pinehurst Radiology, and Jane took up politics. By the late 1980s she became Southern Pines’ Madame Mayor. 

This power couple needed space to raise four daughters and entertain. Jane filled it with lovely things found in the shops of Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans and elsewhere.

No auctions. “I might go over budget.”

Her method: “I see it; I like it; I buy it.”

Decades of forays resulted in sizable collections of “pretty things” like blue and white china; lamps to canisters; plates to pillboxes; brass candlesticks from mini to massive; copper pots; kettles; jugs; and heavy silver serving pieces.

But, like with many couples reaching their mid-80s, spatial requirements had changed. Their daughters were long grown and gone with homes of their own and little need to raid the family nest.

“We needed to downsize for me,” Jane says. “I had to do everything.”

They looked at apartments, which Jane dismissed as “like a hotel.” Instead, they chose an attached two-bedroom brick-and-shingles unit in a quiet Penick corner backing on Weymouth, where they watch equestrians through a fence or from a deck that Jane had extended 3 feet and painted mossy green. Their private garden is even sweeter since maintenance is provided.

The Clarks moved in on March 1, accompanied by most of Jane’s “pretty things.” The trauma was lessened by friends and professionals who packed and unpacked more than 100 boxes, arranged furniture and hung paintings, sometimes with Jane’s input, sometimes on trust.

“I’m not bossy. I just have better ideas,” Jane says.

At first glance it appears that Jane must have brought everything. However, this panoply of beautiful objects is arranged so as not to overwhelm, aided by a soaring cathedral ceiling with skylight that bounces sunbeams off the gleaming silver serving pieces. Interspersed are family photos, each telling a story, including one of Jane and President Joe Biden.

The spacious unit with an efficient little gem of a kitchen redone in white and stainless steel is a retirees’ dream, though Jane rarely cooks anymore. But she longed to leave her mark: Narrow-strip wood flooring was replaced with wider boards, stained dark, like the home she left. Ceiling moldings were added. A wall dividing living room from sunroom was opened up and shelved for books. Throughout, corners were filled with adorable small tables and cabinets.

Jane was adamant about bringing three large chest/buffet/sideboard pieces, one found in Cherokee, which she stripped and refinished. When she deemed their dining room table seating 10 too large, she replaced it with an elongated sofa table with drop-leaf panels.

Sentimental value supercedes price: She could not leave behind a table spotted long ago in Rhinebeck, N.Y., while on a bus trip. “That was when you could fold things up and put them under the bus.”

Paintings lean toward dark classical land and seascapes except for a large unframed still life of pears, hanging beneath the skylight.

For pure charm, however, nothing comes close to the breakfast nook with a small round French wine-tasting table, also a sunroom overlooking the garden, furnished in matching armchairs upholstered blue and white, a primitive pine TV table, footstools and a crate with a blue and white pad for Martin, their Yorkie. This sunroom also displays Jane’s prized and well-worn 17th century pottery olive jug from France.

Dr. Dan’s collection of antique ship’s clocks is secured in the second bedroom.

“I’m a blue person,” Jane says, describing her go-to color, not her personality, which remains as vivacious as in the good old days.

Set off by the dark floors, Oriental and other rugs combine Prussian blue with an intense red, picked up by high-back chairs found secondhand for $25 apiece, and reupholstered. The same colors continue into the master bedroom, with Chinese motifs outlined in blue on bed pillows, and lamps made from blue-patterned vases or ginger jars. A window with wide, wood slat blinds runs the length of the room, framing the garden, alive with birds, rabbits and squirrels.

“It’s so wonderful to wake up to that view,” Jane says.

Another view, for her eyes only. In the master bathroom, one wall is covered in photos of the Clarks’ grandchildren. “I spend a lot of time in there, so I like to look at them,” Jane says, smiling wickedly. 

This has to be relocation at its best. Who knows better than AARP?

“Downsizing tends to be more successful when the downsizers are making a conscious decision about how to live their lives,” an AARP publication states. “Considering it an adventure and being part of the process is key to a good outcome. When completed, the sensation of freedom can be quite powerful.”

Jane Clark, dressed in blue and white, flits from room to room pointing out details, recalling the provenance of each precious “thing” without bemoaning the few that were left behind. Long famous for one-liners, she sums up what could have been an angst-filled upheaval in two words,

“I’m happy!”  PS