Almanac October 2023

Almanac October 2023

October dares you not to look away.

These early days of autumn, deciduous trees edging toward full glory, you wouldn’t dream of it. Brisk mornings enliven your senses. You can nearly taste the crispness through your skin.

As golden light alchemizes a brightly colored skyline, yellow becomes more than yellow; red, sharper and truer; orange, otherworldly so.

The merging of light and leaves mesmerizes you. There is nothing soft about this symphony of color. Nothing subtle. The dance is as stunning as molten gold.

Trees become torches. Foliage laps against cerulean skies like ravenous flames licking silent blue heavens. This amalgam of color transforms your very being. You feel both awestruck and emboldened. Ancient and brand new.

Suddenly, a gust of wind sends a wave of leaves swirling earthward. Another gust follows, releasing howling, coppery flurries.

The wind goes rogue.

Wave after furious wave, the leaves descend with reckless abandon. As starling murmurations flash across a brilliant sky, the fleeting beauty makes you ache.

The paradox is arresting: The season has reached its full potential, and there’s nothing to do but watch it make a raging, riotous exit. 

Do not look away, you tell yourself. A shock of crimson shakes from open branches. Do not miss one glorious moment.

October commands your faithful presence. As the trees free themselves of all adornment, you soften to their naked truth. This, too, shall pass

Hold tenderly this precious knowing — this visceral aliveness — and, in the next breath, let it go.

There is a far sweet song in autumn

That catches at my throat,

I hear it in each falling leaf

And in each wild bird’s note . . .   

— George Elliston, “Mine Own” (1927)

Birds of Autumn

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers arrive; ruby-throated hummingbirds depart for warmer climes. Birds come and birds go.

This month, as nature dazzles us with her warm and glorious hues, keep watch for white-throated sparrows, pine siskins and yellow-rumped warblers — winter residents whose songs are as distinctive as their field marks.

Oh, Sweet Canada, Canada, sparrows whistle.

Warblers perform their soft, slow trills. 

Pine siskins stun us with their harsh and wheezy zreeeeeeet.

Winter is nigh, the birds seem to say.

In other words: Enjoy the show. 

Flower of the Dead

Nothing says autumn like a field of fiery marigolds. Or a tidy garland of them. 

Although October’s vibrant birth flower has long been associated with grief and loss, its uses have been — and continue to be — vast. Because their sunny orange and yellow hues are believed to dispel negativity — and to help guide wandering spirits to altars for the dead — marigold garlands are commonly used in religious ceremonies in Asia, Latin America and Mexico.

They’re also a choice natural dye, companion plant and, depending on the variety, edible flower. Bust out a batch of marigold-and-saffron shortbread this season and see if you ever crave pumpkin spice again.  PS

Over Yonder in the Down Under

Over Yonder in the Down Under

The story of a modern country house

By Jenna Biter     Photographs from Fiona & Matt McKenzie

Day stumbles ashore on the eastern coast of Australia in anything but a hurry. The sun’s groggy rays yawn over a country house perched up, up, all the way up on a ridge in the Blackall Range before sliding down into valley towns and still sleeping beaches.

Perched between cow pastures on a generational family farm, this is no ordinary country house. There are no hand-hewn logs for walls or rustic stone chimneys puffing away on the roof. No, Matt and Fiona McKenzie politely eschewed the trappings of a traditional country house for a modern one-floor home that invites the outside world in.

Similar to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the McKenzies’ house isn’t modern for modernity’s sake. With a 75-foot-long veranda and floor-to-ceiling windows gaping over the sun-soaked valley, the minimalist design seems to say: Don’t look at me, look at that view. Matt and Fiona even vaulted their rancher on stilts to maximize their line of sight to the Pacific Ocean, a 30-minute drive away.

Despite its dark, dark charcoal hue, the metal house almost disappears into the surrounding cow paddocks. The corrugated steel’s ribs continue the lines of the pasture’s lithe grasses and sinewy limbs of the gum trees just down the hill. Describing the house’s building materials, Fiona quips, “We joke that we live in a shed.”

Dissimilar to Fallingwater, the McKenzies’ 3-bedroom, 2-bath was built from a kit. Matt and Fiona selected elements from three or four blueprints — a laundry room here, a porch alcove there, pocket doors everywhere — then combined them into a 4,000-square-foot dream house. That meant a walk-in pantry for Fiona, a professionally trained chef, and an open floor plan easing guests between the kitchen and veranda, the two hearts of the home.

To flow between the twin centers, guests might start in the kitchen, where Fiona works diligently over the open flame of her beloved Falcon stove. Beside her, the McKenzies’ teenage daughter, Molly, sits on a countertop handcrafted out of old barn wood salvaged from Fiona’s dad’s best mate’s grandfather’s cow shed.

Across from Molly, and under the speckled light cast by a trio of egg-shaped mosaic pendants bought by a friend in India, a burled island anchors all kitchen conversation. Rivers of gray resin run through the camphor laurel panels, over the cabinet sides, and all the way down to the honey-colored hardwood floors.

“I wanted a space where people could hang out on the stools on the other side of the island while I’m cooking,” Fiona says. “That’s such a beautiful community thing.”

Inevitably, when it comes time for dinner, guests pulse out of the kitchen under a shelf of cheery, color-coded cookbooks, past hallways adorned with framed family photos and artwork, some by North Carolina author and illustrator Glen Rounds, some others by local artists, like Kay Breeden-Williams. All are backdropped by “agreeable gray” walls.

Under a few more mosaic pendant lights, through six floor-to-ceiling, all-glass panel doors, the house opens up to a Fiona-made Holly dining table standing on the veranda.

“Our houses have always been kind of eclectic because I love pieces with a story,” Fiona says.

Contrasted with the thoughtful curation of decor, the clean lines of the minimalist structure strike a visually pleasing balance. All the trusses, walls, windows and doors were precisely machined to size before delivery to McKenzies’ 30-acre lot in Hunchy, a friendly, rural area on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The McKenzies erected their home by hand with the community’s help, like an Amish barn raising.

Help started with Fiona’s parents, Dennis and Dawn Creasey. Every day, Dennis made his way up the ridge past his cattle grazing in the fields, the same fields that sometimes grew papayas, bananas and beans while Fiona was growing up. They’re also some of the same plots that Fiona’s grandfather worked as a 19-year-old sharecropper from England.

As the matriarch of the build and “the best baker in the world,” Dawn made daily deliveries of tea and fresh “whatever-she’d-made-that-morning” goodies.

In a family compound worth the label, Fiona’s sister, Julie, lives a knoll over and helped with the build when she could. The daily tea and biscuits fed many more than just family.

“The running joke here is Dad’s got a mate,” Fiona says, laughing at the communal teamwork. In a year-and-a-half, a consistent crew of four — Matt, Dennis, Glen the certified builder, and Julian from around the bend — completed the  house, rounding off a journey that moved the family from North Carolina, across the ocean to where there’s a good chance it’s already tomorrow.

For nearly two decades, the McKenzies raised Molly in Moore County, where Matt grew up and his parents, Don and Debbie, still live. For three of those years, Fiona worked at Elliott’s on Linden, and for another 14, she ran the culinary program at Sandhills Community College.

The McKenzies didn’t plan to move to Australia, at least not until retirement. Then came 2019. On a trip to Hunchy for Dawn’s 70th birthday, Dennis built a bonfire so big it could be seen from space. The fire was lit in the early evening; the family ate, drank, and told stories till the embers burnt low. Something felt right there in Hunchy, laid out on a blanket under the bright ribbon of the Milky Way. It was time for their next county in another country.

Matt turned to his wife. “What are we doing? Why don’t we live here?”

Jenna Biter is a writer and military wife in the Sandhills. She can be reached at  PS

The Champion Next Door

The Champion Next Door

Barbara McIntire reached the pinnacle of amateur golf

By Bill Case

Her golf resume is phenomenal: winner of two U.S. Amateur championships; a British Amateur; six North & South titles; two Western Amateurs. At 21, she electrified the golf world by finishing second in the 1956 U.S. Women’s Open, nearly becoming the first amateur to win that title. Labeled the “Girl Golf Star,” Sports Illustrated put the smiling 25-year-old on its cover in 1960. After competing for the American side in six Curtis Cups, she twice captained U.S. teams to victory. Among her many accolades is the United States Golf Association’s Bob Jones Award, its highest honor, which she received in 2000.

But only the most knowledgeable golf aficionados are familiar with Barbara McIntire and are aware she is in our midst. Long out of the limelight, this great champion resides in Southern Pines, approximately the distance of a long par-5 from the Pine Needles golf course. Barbara, together with standout amateur golfers Phyllis “Tish” Preuss and Judy Bell, acquired their single-level cottage in 2001. Initially, the three longtime friends used the property for a vacation retreat from their home and mutual business interests in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Several years ago, McIntire and Preuss decided to make the cottage their permanent home. Bell still spends the bulk of her time out West.

McIntire, now 88, has been unable to play golf for seven years and tends to stay close to home, enduring the typical ailments of her age group. “My friends are what keep me going,” she says. “Some I’ve known most of my life.”

One of those friends is local resident Pat Tiernan Johnstone. An excellent player herself, Johnstone came to know McIntire in the ’60s while competing in amateur tournaments. “Barbara has always been the type of person who is there for you, come what may,” says Johnstone. “And despite her achievements, she’s always been modest; never puts on airs.”

McIntire’s dearest friends are Preuss and the remarkable Judy Bell, whom she grew to know in the early 1950s playing junior golf. Not merely a standout amateur player, Bell rose through the administrative ranks of the United States Golf Association to become its first female president in 1996. Five years later she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Her opinion of her friend’s career is unwavering: “Without doubt, one of the best amateurs ever.”

McIntire and Bell were also business partners. Beginning in 1962 — a time when two women in business for themselves was something of a rarity — they owned and managed a number of retail stores associated with The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. The not-insignificant income they generated enabled the two trailblazers to afford playing big tournaments all over the country, indeed the world.

McIntire’s father, Bob — a successful businessman — and mother, Marie, introduced their daughter to golf after joining Heather Downs Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, in 1944. At age 9 McIntire tagged along with her parents during their weekend rounds. “I caddied for them, pulling their carts,” she says. “I got $2 a round.” Initially, she did not play, other than stroking occasional putts with an old wooden-shafted blade, but when her father furnished her with a set of cut-down clubs, the future was now.

Under the expert tutelage of Heather Downs’ professional, Harry Moffitt, McIntire won the women’s club championship when she was 13 and competed in both the Western Golf Association and United States Golf Association junior girls’ tournaments.

In 1948, Moffitt and his wife invited Marie McIntire and Barbara to join them for a month of winter golf in Florida. Moffitt figured his 13-year-old protégé’s game would benefit from playing against more seasoned competitors on the so-called Grapefruit Circuit — a series of tournaments for top female amateurs.

McIntire’s first Florida event, the Doherty Challenge Cup in Miami, ranks among her most vivid memories. Intimidated by the players warming up on the range, there was one in particular who stood out: a 27-year-old Findlay, Ohio, native named Peggy Kirk (later Bell), the reigning queen of female golfers in Barbara’s home state. Kirk had won the last two Ohio Amateurs and would achieve a “three-peat” in 1949.

“Peggy was my idol,” says McIntire.

In succeeding years, the two would play numerous rounds together and, despite their age difference, became close friends. “In one of my early rounds with Peggy, I actually whiffed a routine shot,” recalls McIntire. The faux pas caused Kirk to double over in paroxysms of laughter. “She never let me forget it,” McIntire says with a chuckle.

The youngster got over being starstruck and qualified for match play at the Doherty and a succeeding tournament in Palm Beach. “I was hooked,” she says.

During the next four years, McIntire became a presence at regional and national junior events even entering the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur at East Lake in Atlanta. For her first round match play opponent, the 15-year-old drew the legendary Glenna Collett Vare, then 47 and winner of six U.S. Amateur championships, arguably America’s greatest female golfer during the first half of the 20th century. Given the 32-year age difference between the competitors, it was definitely a match “of the ages,” if not for them.

Initially McIntire was  intimidated by Vare. “She gave me the impression of a strict schoolteacher. I was scared I would do something Glenna would consider an etiquette breach,” says McIntire. After trailing early, her jitteriness in the presence of the great champion dissipated as she rallied to win the match. “Glenna got tired,” she says. “I think she wore out.” It was as far as McIntire would advance but, playing the great Vare, it was far enough.

McIntire compiled an impressive record in junior tournaments, winning the Western Junior Championship and finishing runner-up in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships in both 1951 and ’52. In the latter event, she lost in the finals to Mickey Wright, perhaps the best woman player of the second half of the 20th century, whom she came to know well. “I worked hard on my game,” McIntire says, “but Mickey worked harder.”

Venturing outside the junior ranks, McIntire lost in the finals of the 1951 Toledo District championship to Peggy Kirk, but the next year, the 17-year-old captured the district title. McIntire followed Kirk’s footsteps in another way by enrolling at Florida’s Rollins College. Her idol was the school’s first great female golfer, and McIntire starred on the 1954 squad.

At 21 she entered the 1956 United States Women’s Open at Northland Country Club in Duluth, Minnesota. Her 36-hole score of 154 easily made the cut at the halfway point on the very difficult, heavily wooded course. She carded a 77 in the third round, which left her eight shots behind leader Kathy Cornelius. Though seemingly too far back to contend for the championship, she was well-positioned to finish low amateur.

When McIntire arrived at Northland’s 16th tee in the final round she was playing well — even par for the day — and had actually trimmed her eight-stroke deficit to Cornelius down to six. But no one, most of all McIntire, thought she could catch the leader. McIntire birdied 16, parred 17 and reached the green of the par-5 18th in two. Then, to the astonishment of the crowd, she drained her 30-foot putt for an eagle and a final round of 71, three shots under Northland’s par of 74.

The low amateur medal was assured, but there seemed no likelihood McIntire’s torrid finish would overtake Cornelius, who was still two shots clear when she came to the 18th. Feeling the pressure of the moment, Cornelius double-bogeyed the home hole. Stunningly, they were tied at 302. The two women would face off in an 18-hole playoff the next day.

“I was as amazed as anybody when I was told I was in the playoff,” McIntire says. “I went upstairs and practically hid in my locker. It was kind of like going to college before you had finished high school.”

In her autobiography, Breaking the Mold, Judy Bell wrote that the following morning, “Barbara was pretty keyed up so we hung around with her, trying to keep her relaxed just by being there. It was even more important to stay close to her because her parents weren’t there.”

A significant number of LPGA players stayed to root for Cornelius. It wouldn’t do to have an upstart amateur defeat a touring pro in the most important tournament in women’s golf. The pros’ wild cheering for Cornelius’ good shots stood in marked contrast to their stony silence for McIntire. This rudeness disturbed Bell, who wrote that the pros “came very close to cheering when (Barbara) hit a bad shot. Perhaps because of the way the pros reacted, we amateurs became more determined to make a point of applauding Kathy’s good shots as well as Barbara’s.” The LPGA players’ behavior did not go unnoticed by McIntire. Her bid to become the first female amateur to win the U.S. Open was foiled. Cornelius won by seven.

Despite her defeat, McIntire had become a prominent figure in women’s golf. Overtures came her way to turn professional, but she steadfastly resisted them. Eking out a living on the LPGA Tour was no sure thing. Cornelius received just $1,600 for winning the Open. The conduct of the LPGA players during the playoff also factored in. Moreover, close friends like Bell, Preuss, Anne Quast and Polly Riley had all retained their amateur status.

McIntire left Rollins College before completing her degree in business administration, intent on playing golf, just not tour golf. Her father, on the other hand, was not inclined to subsidize that pursuit. McIntire would have to get a job. She contacted Peggy Kirk Bell, who with husband Warren “Bullet” Bell had recently acquired the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. Peggy had no openings and advised McIntire to contact Frank and Masie Cosgrove, proprietors of the resort across Midland Road, Mid-Pines Inn and Golf Club. It happened the Cosgroves were looking for a receptionist, and they hired McIntire for the 1956-57 winter season.

Her time at Mid-Pines coincided with Julius Boros’ tenure as the resort’s head pro. Then in the midst of his career, Boros was on-site only sporadically. But when McIntire did encounter the syrupy swinging Hall of Famer, she got off on the wrong foot.

“I was a smoker and left a butt on the floor,” she recalls. “Julius happened to step on it and was not happy.” McIntire enjoyed a more amiable connection with Julius’ younger brother, Ernie Boros, an assistant pro at Mid-Pines. “Yes, we did have something,” says McIntire. “But things did not work out.”

However, her golf experience in the Sandhills did. In addition to regular rounds at Mid-Pines and Pine Needles, she often played Pinehurst’s No. 2 course. Her familiarity with the storied Donald Ross layout paid dividends in April 1957, when she won the North & South Women’s Amateur Championship, beating Ann Casey Johnstone 3 and 2 in the final match. The victory marked McIntire’s first important title in a non-junior event and proved a harbinger of success to come.

It was also the year that Bob McIntire sold his business in Toledo, moved to Florida, and teamed up with his father to develop Ocean View Ridge. According to one publication, the housing project was located “about a 3-iron shot from Seminole Golf Club.” Barbara came south with her parents, obtained a real estate license and dutifully showed homes to prospective buyers when not on the course. Her primary focus, however, was making America’s 1958 Curtis Cup team. A victory at the Women’s Western Amateur cemented her selection. She would acquit herself well in Cup matches at Massachusetts’ Brae Burn Country Club, winning in foursomes and halving her singles match.

The upward arc of McIntire’s golf reached its apex at the 1959 Women’s U.S. Amateur, contested in the August heat at Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C. She won her first three matches with ease but struggled mightily in the quarterfinals. Trailing 3 down to defending champion Anne Quast, McIntire cut into the lead but remained 1 down as the two women arrived at the final hole of their 36-hole match. Quast misplayed her tee shot, opening the door for McIntire to square the match and escape with a victory two extra holes later. McIntire survived another close call in the semis to reach the championship final against Joanne Goodwin. There, her clutch putting provided the impetus for a dominating 4 and 3 victory. Barbara McIntire was the national amateur champion.

When the 1960 U.S. Curtis Cup team ventured across the pond to Yorkshire, England, for the semi-annual matches against the Great Britain and Ireland side, the easygoing camaraderie exhibited by the seven women on the U.S. team (as well as their Bermuda shorts and knee socks) raised some British eyebrows. The players called themselves the Seven Dwarfs. McIntire was Grumpy; Quast was Bashful; Joanne Gunderson (later Carner) was Sleepy; and Bell was Dopey. Gunderson felt Bell’s nickname a misnomer because “Dopey never talked and Judy never stopped.” The close-knit U.S. team won easily.

The American players stayed over in order to play in the British Women’s Amateur Championship, that year held at Royal St. David’s Golf Club in Wales. Ancient and foreboding Harlech Castle overlooked the fast-running links below. Three of the four semifinalists were American Curtis Cuppers: McIntire, Quas, and Gunderson. The fourth was Irish champion Philomena Garvey. In the semis, Barbara dispatched Quast 4 and 3, while Garvey upset the powerful Gunderson 3 and 2.

According to Golf Illustrated, the 36-hole final between McIntire and Garvey “was disappointingly dreary for 27 holes,” as McIntire raced out to an 8-up lead. But then Philomena caught fire, unleashing a barrage of birdies. Garvey would eventually cut McIntire’s lead to three up with three holes to play. McIntire wondered whether any golfer in history with such an insurmountable lead had ever lost. To the American’s relief, Philomena’s improbable comeback ended after a 16th-hole bogey. McIntire had won her second national title, becoming only the eighth player to hold the women’s American and British Amateur crowns simultaneously.

McIntire’s place in golf’s pecking order skyrocketed as a result of her nine months of great play. No longer just a promising contender, she stood atop women’s amateur golf. “I guess I just figured it out,” she says with a Mona Lisa smile.

Media attention had already come McIntire’s way. Shortly before leaving for the Curtis Cup, ABC requested she compete as a contestant on the popular television show To Tell the Truth. Her appearance resulted in a minor dust-up. In answering a question posed by actress Polly Bergen, McIntire replied that she had never heard of a 7 1/2 iron. All the celebrity questioners chose an imposter as the “real Barbara McIntire.” A miffed Bergen, presumably led astray by the fact that some wood clubs (but not irons) had fractional numberings, protested to the network that McIntire had failed to “tell the truth.” But it was Bergen, not McIntire, who was mistaken.

More notoriety came when Sports Illustrated put the 25-year-old McIntire on the cover of its August 22, 1960, issue with the tag “Girl Golf Star.” The accompanying eight-page article by Alfred Wright, an example of writing that does not stand the test of time, paid particular attention to McIntire’s looks. Wright noted she seemed taller than her 5-foot, 6-inch height “because of her long, graceful legs” and that her “dark brown hair, precisely coiffured in what is known as a wind-blown bob, looks as brushed and combed on the golf course as it does at a dance.” Wright even mentioned his subject’s “long nails . . . lacquered in a pale red shade.”

Wright was far from being the only writer of the time to fixate on McIntire’s appearance. “I paid no attention to that at all, one way or the other,” she says. “My focus was on my game.”

That focus was especially sharp at Pinehurst’s North & South championship — an event McIntire would win six times (1957, ’60, ’61, ’65, ’69, ’71). She attributes significant credit for her eye-popping record on No. 2 to Jerry Boggan, who served as her caddie during her last five victories. Boggan, a member of the Pinehurst Caddie Hall of Fame, “dressed like a peacock,” with ensembles that included “a green suede sweater, green alligator shoes, yellow pants, and a yellow and green plaid cap,” according to golf writer Lee Pace. Boggan also toted for Billy Joe Patton in his three North and South wins.

In McIntire’s third North & South victory in 1961, her opponent in the final match was none other than Bell, whom she defeated 3 and 1. By then, the two confidants had already started a small business selling Bermuda shorts out of the trunk of a car. “A lot of women we met while we played in tournaments liked the shorts we wore,” wrote Bell. “We decided to call Gutsteintuck, better known as G.T. Inc. . . . and asked if we could sell G.T. shorts and slacks to various shops while traveling around the country.” G.T. did not want the women marketing its sporty attire at wholesale but OKed peddling it at retail. Given the go-ahead by the USGA’s executive director Joe Dey that the enterprise would not jeopardize their amateur status, the two pals were off and running.

The trunk sales proved successful and, in 1959, Bell and McIntire formed a mail-order operation, selling merchandise kept in a spare bedroom at Bell’s parents’ home in Wichita, Kansas. Then in 1962, Bell suggested to McIntire they expand their business activities by leasing a 500-square-foot store at The Broadmoor. Operating the store necessitated being on-site, so they both pulled up stakes and relocated to Colorado Springs. They named their new store A Short Story.

Outfitting the space’s two display windows for Short Story’s first Christmas turned into an outlet for their naturally competitive natures. In one window, Bell installed a fireplace with “burning” gas logs. McIntire countered with a winter wonderland window of snow, front door, and decorated lamppost.

As other commercial spaces at The Broadmoor became available, the women snapped them up and opened new stores, often hiring good female amateurs, like Preuss and Cindy Hill, to staff the operations. They took over the resort’s tennis shop and enlarged it; opened a men’s shop and then a Papagallo store that offered high-end shoes, designer clothes and jewelry.

In 1978, an enormous space of 5,500 square feet came open at the Broadmoor after Abercrombie and Fitch vacated the premises. The ever-confident Bell was determined to lease and renovate the space. The more conservative McIntire balked, concerned about the financial exposure attending such a commitment. But resolute Bell was all-in. “I’m going to do it,” she told her friend. “I don’t want to do it alone.”

McIntire ultimately went along, and the two moved forward with the lease and placed in the space an additional clothing store, The Second Story, and a restaurant, The Little Kitchen. Both establishments were hits. A second restaurant, Bell’s Deli, was subsequently opened several blocks away. By then the two entrepreneurs employed as many as 70 workers. They would own stores at the resort for 35 years, a run that ended after a new owner determined The Broadmoor would henceforward control the resort’s commercial spaces.

Though these various enterprises required McIntire’s daily attention, she did not neglect her golf. After all, Broadmoor’s championship courses were right at her doorstep. But work responsibilities inevitably left less time to tend to her game. Still, she managed to win the 1963 Women’s Western Amateur, held at The Broadmoor.

But by 1964, Joanne Gunderson had supplanted McIntire as the country’s top female amateur. “The Great Gundy” had already won three national amateur championships, and her 275-yard blasts off the tee intimidated most fellow competitors. When Gunderson smashed her way to the championship match of the ’64 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas, many regarded her as a lock to win her fourth title. She would face McIntire, who had surprised herself by making her own run to the 36-hole final.

Typically outdriven by 40 yards, McIntire fell three holes behind Gunderson in the morning segment of the match. She did not panic. “I always tried to ignore what my opponent was doing,” she says. “I concentrated on my own game and being consistent.” She began chipping away at Gundy’s lead in the afternoon. On the 26th hole, Gunderson hit the wrong ball, losing the hole and catapulting McIntire into the lead for the first time. She never relinquished it and closed out the match on the 34th hole to win her second U.S. Amateur.

McIntire continued to play at a high level throughout the 1960s, but her dominance waned as a new generation of talented amateurs, including Laura Baugh, Carol Semple Thompson and Hollis Stacy, rose up. But in 1971, McIntire still had enough game to defeat Stacy (later winner of three U.S. Women’s Opens) for her sixth and final North & South victory. Later that season, 36-year-old McIntire lost 1 up to the 16-year-old Baugh in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur. The exciting match provided an appropriate bookend for McIntire’s appearances in the national championship. It had been the youngster McIntire who bested Hall of Famer Vare in 1950. Now she was the legend defeated by a promising teenager. Baugh would proceed to win the title.

Over time, McIntire’s role in women’s golf segued into that of a senior stateswoman. She captained the 1976 Curtis Cup team to victory at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in England. She was a member of the USGA’s Women’s Committee from 1985 to 1996, serving as chair the final two years. At age 63, McIntire captained the 1998 Curtis Cup team to victory, a second appointment at the helm which was unexpected and gratifying. “It was a thrill to be asked,” she says. 

McIntire and Bell kept their hand in business by operating the merchandise tents at the 2001 and 2007 U.S Women’s Opens at Pine Needles, requiring extended visits to the Sandhills and enabling McIntire, Bell and Preuss to enjoy frequent lunches with Peggy Kirk Bell. A magnificent foursome indeed.  PS

Pinehurst resident Bill Case is PineStraw’s history man. He can be reached at

A Community Bright Spot

A Community Bright Spot

The Boys & Girls Club turns 25

By Jim Moriarty

It was a perfect storm, for good. Twenty-five years ago the stars aligned — money, advocates and a societal need — and the Boys & Girls Club of the Sandhills was born. That quarter-century will be celebrated at a gala event sponsored by Lin Hutaff’s Pinehurst Realty Group on Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Carolina Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Among those being honored that evening for their many contributions, then and now, will be Robert (Bob) Dedman Jr., Tom Fazio and Walker Morris.

The club officially opened its doors at the Southern Pines Public Housing Community Center on Feb. 1, 1999. Today the Boys & Girls Club of the Sandhills has grown to include four facilities — the Baxter Teen unit at 160 Memorial Park Court in Southern Pines, the Logan-Blake unit at 15 Dawn Road in Pinehurst, the Trinity unit at 255 S. May Street in Southern Pines, and the newest facility in Kennedy Hall on the campus of Sandhills Community College — and has served over 6,000 children and teens during its 25 years of existence.

The confluence of people of good will, coupled with the financial boon of the first U.S. Open Championship on Pinehurst’s No. 2 course, literally opened the new club’s doors. It was the policy of the USGA in 1999 to allow the host club to manage the championship’s logistics, essentially dealing with everything outside the ropes. “We did it all,” says Pat Corso, who was, at the time, the president of Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. “The USGA said, ‘Good luck, God bless. We’re not going to take the risk. You take the risk.’” The resort created its own tournament division to sell tickets, corporate hospitality, everything. What could have been a financial black hole turned out to be anything but.

“We had the ’91 and ’92 Tour Championships, the ’94 U.S. Senior Open Championship, and we always left money in the community,” says Corso. “The expectation was that we would do something in ’99.”

But what?

The world is never shy of worthy places to put charity dollars, and donating to existing causes would have been an easy choice. There were people who had other ideas. Among the first was retired Brig. Gen. Francis J. Roberts, a close friend of Corso’s who at the time lived in a house on Carolina Vista a couple of well-struck 7-irons from Corso’s desk. Roberts was a West Point graduate who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Silver Star. “He was quite a guy,” Corso says, “and he was persuasive, as you can imagine.” As a boy in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Roberts had been a member of a Boys & Girls Club, and he advocated for creating one in Moore County.

“The next thing I know, I get hit up by Tom Fazio,” says Corso. Fazio had designed Pinehurst’s No. 8 course, opening in 1995 to celebrate the resort’s centennial, and in advance of the ’99 Open, he was a frequent visitor to Pinehurst as he reworked the No. 4 course. He and his wife, Sue, founded a Boys & Girls Club in their home of Hendersonville, North Carolina, in the ’80s.

“I kind of twisted Pat’s arm a little bit,” Fazio says. “You guys are looking for a charity. It’s a good thing,” he told Corso. “They do good things for kids. It’s a great opportunity to help.”

Corso took the idea to Walker Morris, the president of Muirfield Broadcasting Inc., who picked up the phone and called Frank Quis, at the time the mayor of Southern Pines. The project was beginning to pick up speed.

“We were planning to move the fire station and expand it, which we did,” recalls Quis. “We knew we’d have a building available. The timing was good for everybody.” A committee was formed to visit Hendersonville, using that club as a template for Southern Pines. Eventually, they would even hire Hendersonville’s executive director, Hoyt Bynum, to take the same job in Southern Pines.

There was still the not incidental matter of seed money and, beginning from scratch, they were going to require a lot of it. “It became obvious we were starting to get into the weeds on it so I had to go to Robert Dedman,” Corso says of Bob Dedman’s father, whose company, ClubCorp, purchased the Pinehurst Resort in 1984.

“I said ‘Robert, if we can do it, we should probably peg it at, like, a half-million dollars to really make this work. The town is going to throw in, basically, a free lease on the old fire station in Southern Pines. We’d have to do the rehab of the building to convert it to a club. I think that’s the magic number.’ And he said OK,” Corso says.

“Locally, we had the inspiration through Fran and Tom and then worked hard together with Walker and Frank and the board we put together but, really, at the end of the day, it was Robert who said ‘yes.’ I think one of the interesting things is the Dedman family has stayed involved in it over the years. Boys & Girls Clubs became a key effort on behalf of the family, both here and in Dallas.” John Earp, the Boys & Girls Club’s director of development, estimates that, over the years, the Dedman family has contributed over a million dollars to the Sandhills club.

While former Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey wasn’t involved in the creation of the club in ’99, he became a Boys & Girls Club board member and was twice its chairman. “Next to Sandhills, it’s been the joy of my life to be involved with the Boys & Girls Club,” says Dempsey. “It’s one of the bright spots of our community. I can’t imagine this town without it. Honestly, it’s difficult to quantify why that is so, other than to say Boys & Girls Club kids, in addition to having a safe place to go — and we all understand the dynamics of quasi-urban living and having too much time on your hands — there is a confidence about these kids, a willingness to engage with adults.

“It’s just a fresher, more zestful approach to life. To see that in an organization that you’re involved in is just mind-blowingly satisfying. You can’t help but love the place. My parents gave me the greatest of all gifts, love and self-confidence and relative security in my own persona. And I never said ‘thank you’ to them enough when they were here. Anything I can do for the Boys & Girls Club is just one more way I can thank my mom and dad.”

Of course, finding the funding to support the clubs is a never-ending project, taking all forms from golf outings to person-to-person outreach by the club members themselves. The black tie gala on Oct. 19 is another opportunity to help. Tickets are $175 per person or $2,500 for a table of 10 and can be purchased on the Boys & Girls Club of the Sandhills website. For more information on the 25th Anniversary Celebration call Larry Smith at 910-692-0777, ext. 2231 or John Earp at ext. 2221. The link to the event with more details is: It’s one more way to say thank you. PS

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

Rising from the Crypt

Rising from the Crypt

Triumph of the Dracula orchid

Story and Photographs by Jason Harpster

If you think getting there is half the fun, then I submit you’ve never tried transporting a Dracula orchid across state lines. It’s not for the faint of heart.

In September of last year, I attempted just that, driving to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, South Carolina, in an SUV tricked out as a traveling hothouse. The idea was to show  my Dracula woolwardiae ‘Southern Pines Stalwart’ at the monthly Carolinas gathering of the American Orchid Society judges. The reality proved to be an emotional roller-coaster.

Because the Dracula orchid hangs in a basket and the flower comes out from underneath, cramming it into a box was a nonstarter. Instead, I strung a clothes bar — the kind you hang suit jackets on — across the back of the SUV and suspended the basket from it. Using the cigarette adapter on the car, I hooked up an AC inverter that allowed me to run a humidifier I had pirated from our living room. I even had a gallon jug of water in reserve in case the humidifier ran dry. The setup worked so well it created a cloud in the rear of the SUV that rolled toward the front like coastal fog every time I turned a corner. I felt certain I was going to be pulled over by a state trooper convinced he was busting Cheech and Chong.

While the plant was in pristine condition when I left Southern Pines at 8 a.m., by the time I arrived roughly three hours later, my Draculas looked like balloons with half the air let out of them. They had become limp and lifeless. What had begun as a good idea had morphed into a learning experience. Or so I thought.

Dracula woolwardiae is an Ecuadorian species found on the western slopes of the Andes in dense cloud forests between 4,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. It was first described by Friedrich Carl Lehmann in 1899 during the golden (and rather cutthroat) days of orchid exploration when rich European families backed expeditions to the jungles of Central and South America looking for new species to hang their names on.

Lehmann named it woolwardiae in honor of Florence Helen Woolward, an English botanical illustrator and author. They worked closely together for more than 10 years on the compendium The Genus Masdevallia, a work of over 400 illustrations commissioned by the ninth Marquess of Lothian that took Woolward two decades to complete.

As luck would have it, this particular meeting of the American Orchid Society judges included a guest speaker (a past president) and a PowerPoint presentation on the finer points of judging Vandas. Normally, if an orchid flower is damaged, it’s done. It’s never going to come back. Dracula flowers, however, are different. I moved the humidifier inside, plugged it into the wall and hung the plant over it. An hour later, when the PowerPoint was over and the lights came back on, the Dracula had come back to life. The flowers literally reinflated, fully open and beautifully displayed, and were perfect by the time the judging started.

My Dracula woolwardiae ‘Southern Pines Stalwart’ was given an award of merit. The flowers scored 83 points, which made ‘Southern Pines Stalwart’ the highest scored and, arguably, the finest example of the species on record in the world.

It’s comforting to know that, in Southern Pines, even our vampires are beautiful.  PS

Jason Harpster is an accredited American Orchid Society judge and works at his family’s business, Central Security Systems. He hopes to share his collection of 2,000-plus orchids by starting a botanical garden in Southern Pines.

Poem October 2023

Poem October 2023

Letting Go

Today the trees release their leaves. The wind

a breath that calls the colors down to earth —

wild dance with crimson, gold, and brown

aloft in death, unfurling flaming fields 

and forest floor. If I could hurl myself 

like this into each ending, long for nothing 

sure or safe, but celebrate the letting go, 

descend, a woman trusting the fall.

I’d release all claim to expectation, 

breathe the air of possibility, 

find beginnings everywhere. 

I’d settle down to loamy earth long enough

to nourish life that waits, growing still

in the summons from a savage world.

      — Pat Riviere-Seel

Pat Riviere-Seel’s latest collection, When There Were Horses, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing Company.



The Ancient Ways

The primitive art of pumpkin carving

By Jim Moriarty

There are things in the modern world into which far too much thought has been invested. One is pumpkin carving. Search the web long enough and you can find out how to etch T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” into your front doorstep decoration, backlit with electric lights and read by Jeremy Irons.

The array of hand tools necessary for modern pumpkin carving is slightly less complicated than a tray full of surgical instruments used in a heart transplant. Keyhole saw. Fleshing tool. Awl. Drill and interchangeable bits. Melon baller. Petroleum jelly — and I’m not at all sure I even want to know what that’s for.

Apparently in the 21st century, it’s not uncommon to make the initial incision from the back of the pumpkin, or the side, or however you want to describe the part of the pumpkin that is neither top nor bottom. Once you’ve cracked its chest and the outer pumpkin seal has been broken, the modern gourd is subjected to a form of liposuction. After all the icky stuff is removed with scooping devices — melon ballers, it seems, can be obtained in a great variety of sizes and grip options — the inner wall is then thinned to a thickness of no less than 1/2 inch but no greater than 3/4 inch by scraping away the orange flesh with some sort of diabolical loop instrument that looks as though it would have been used in medieval times to remove the tongue of the village heretic.

After you’ve hollowed out and squeegeed the interior to a lustrous sheen, you then apply the stencil to the outer surface using either industrial grade duct tape or T-pins borrowed from your child’s voodoo doll. This is where all right-thinking persons should draw the line. Did Picasso use a template to paint Guernica? Did Michelangelo stencil Adam onto the Sistine Chapel ceiling? Yet, they press on.

Once the stencil is in place, using some kind of  needle, puncture the outer skin every 1/8 to 1/4 inch along the outline of the design. Remove stencil, plug in and engage the three-speed electric drill or, if you’re etching, scrape the skin away with linoleum cutters. Work outside to in. This, as it turns out, is where the petroleum jelly comes to the rescue, applied to the bare flesh (the pumpkin’s, that is) the way you apply a poultice to a boil. Soon you’ll have a design more magnificent than, and equally as complex as, the four laws of thermodynamics.

There is, however, another way. You can go old school.

First, get you a pumpkin. Next, get you a knife.

I’m not talking just any knife. Go to the kitchen drawer and pull out the biggest, most dangerous carving knife you can find. Full-on Chucky.

Using a blue Bic, draw two equilateral triangles for the eyes — point up, naturally — and a mouth with two upper teeth and one lower. Then, insert your carving knife into the top of the pumpkin at a slight angle to the perpendicular, cutting all the way around the peduncle. (The stem, I’m told.) Lift the lid, trim the bottom.

Using your bare hands, scrape out the innards until your fingernails turn orange. Go in right up to your elbow if you must, scooping out handfuls of slimy, fibrous pumpkin entrails. Young children pressed into service may get the dry heaves. Pay them no mind. Put the slop into a big pile and begin separating the seeds from the goop. Place the seeds on a greased cookie sheet, sprinkling garlic salt liberally on top. Place the tray in the oven on broil. Cook until they’re turned to ash.

As the odor of burning garlic wafts through the kitchen, plunge the knife into the pumpkin, more or less following the Bic drawing for the eyes and mouth. Freelancing is allowed though not encouraged. When finished, use the butt end of your carving knife — being careful not to put your eye out — and tap the cutouts until they fall into the hollow pumpkin. Remove. Once empty, use the sharp point of the knife, employing the twisting motion of an assassin, to dig a spot in the bottom of the pumpkin’s interior. Take a candle from the dining room table, light it and drip the wax into the wound you’ve carved in the base. Place the bottom of the candle in the pumpkin before the wax hardens. The candle won’t stay upright long but, if you’re lucky, it’ll get you through one night. After that you’re just eating leftover candy anyway.  PS

Golftown Journal

Golftown Journal

Their Cup Runneth Over

But it wasn’t always that way

By Lee Pace

It was 40 years ago when the Ryder Cup pivoted from a sleepy, ceremonial tea party to one of the world’s most anticipated and watched sporting events. On Oct. 16, 1983, Lanny Wadkins nailed a wedge shot to a foot on the final hole at PGA National Golf Club for a birdie and the clinching point for the American team, nipping the Europeans 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.

Jack Nicklaus, the non-playing captain, went down on his knees to kiss Wadkins’ divot. He drank champagne from the Ryder Cup itself during a victory celebration that Wadkins recently said, “To this day, that was probably the best party I’ve ever seen.”

Meanwhile, European captain Tony Jacklin seethed. “We just missed this time,” he said. “But I promise you, when the Americans come to England in two years, it’ll be a different story.”

You think? 

Though it took four years for the effects to truly manifest themselves in the drama at Palm Beach Gardens, the decision in 1979 to expand the Great Britain and Ireland team to include all of continental Europe was the change that created the spectacle of the modern matches. This year, in a Ryder Cup contested in the countryside outside of Rome on a Marco Simone Golf Club course in the shadows of a castle built 1,200 years ago, Jon Rahm of Spain, Viktor Hovland of Norway and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy highlight a European team with an English captain and five co-captains that included a Dane, two Italians, one Spaniard and a Belgian.

Before the GB&I team composition changed, the Americans held an 18-3-1 record in the biennial competition. The tie featured the famous Nicklaus/Jacklin match in 1969 with the U.S. retaining the cup. America’s dominance through those years included a 9 1/2 to 2 1/2 lambasting of the team from Great Britain — as it was called then — at Pinehurst in 1951. Beginning with the matches in ’79 when the U.S. opponent was all of Europe, the record heading into the 2023 matches in Italy was Europe 11 wins, America nine wins, and one tie — a result that allowed Europe to retain the cup in 1989.

Two men with connections to the Sandhills and North Carolina were on the front lines in the 1970s when the PGA of America and the British PGA made the decision that changed golf history.

Henry Poe, a native of Durham and a Duke University graduate, was president of the PGA of America in 1975-76.

Don Padgett Sr. was a longtime club professional in Indiana and the PGA vice president and then president during that era. Padgett would later serve as Pinehurst’s director of golf from 1987-2002 and was instrumental in Pinehurst’s quest to land major championship golf that today includes U.S. Open number four coming next June and four more on the calendar through 2047. 

“To show you just how far off the radar screen the Ryder Cup was at that time, the 1975 competition almost didn’t get on television,” Padgett said in 2002. “George Love, the kingpin at Laurel Valley and the local chairman of the event, had to guarantee the commercial time to get ABC to agree to show the competition. Can you imagine that today? It’s gone from the club having to beg for TV coverage to today where NBC pays millions of dollars to televise the Ryder Cup.”

The 1975 rosters underlined the competitive imbalance in the two squads. The Americans had nine players who would win Grand Slam events — Billy Casper, Ray Floyd, Lou Graham, Hale Irwin, Gene Littler, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf and Nicklaus. By contrast, the GB&I team had only British Open champion Jacklin among major-championship winners on its roster. The score that year? The U.S. won, 21-11.

The 1977 Ryder Cup Matches were held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England. Poe, the pro at Redding Country Club in Pennsylvania, was chairman of the matches, and Padgett was president of the PGA. They were riding around the course in a golf cart, and Poe said, “Don, I’m really getting concerned about the Ryder Cup. Several of our players have said they don’t care if they ever play again. There’s just no competition.”

It was clear that some change was going to have to be made to strengthen the GB&I team in order to keep the players’ interest. Nicklaus said in a letter to Lord Derby, captain of the British PGA, that the Ryder Cup had become a social affair for the Americans — and little else.

“It is vital to widen the selection procedures if the Ryder Cup is to continue to enjoy its past prestige,” Nicklaus told Lord Derby, who was also president of Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.

Poe suggested that afternoon that he and Padgett try to get Lord Derby to sit down and discuss the issue. It was incumbent on the British to expand the boundaries of the GB&I team. They had breakfast with him the next morning, and Lord Derby seemed receptive to the idea.

“Henry was close friends with Lord Derby,” Padgett remembered. “That relationship helped him get Lord Derby to consider the proposition. By then the British PGA was conducting a true European tour, and we believed the team fielded by the British PGA should reflect that. I think Lord Derby and the GB&I team were tired of losing.”

When the 1979 Ryder Cup came to the Greenbrier in West Virginia, the American opponent was now a true European team, one not limited to the British Isles — and there were a couple of young Spaniards on the squad named Seve Ballesteros and Anthony Garrido.

“Seve was young and good-looking and had a slashing, charging game,” Padgett said. “He was like a young Arnold Palmer. And he had a wonderful short game. You could see things might be different down the road.”

The United States still dominated at the Greenbrier, 17 to 11, and won handily two years later at Walton Heath, 18 1/2 to 9 1/2. But new faces on the European team were spicing things up. Bernhard Langer from Germany and Jose Maria Canizares of Spain joined the squad in 1981. The British PGA now had a much broader pool of talent from which to draw, and the European players brought a more durable quality to their team. They played week-to-week on courses offering more variety and difficult playing conditions than the American tour. Travel was more challenging and amenities less in abundance.

“It all goes back to relationships, which are so important in all of business but particularly in golf, which is a fairly small world,” Padgett said. “Henry’s relationship with Lord Derby got the ball rolling. I’m sure things would have changed eventually had Henry not made that appeal to Lord Derby back in 1977. But I don’t think they would have changed as soon.”

Since then we’ve been treated to the “War by the Shore” at Kiawah in 1991 (Langer still wondering if that damn putt will fall), Justin Leonard’s 45-foot bomb at The Country Club in 1999, Darren Clarke harnessing the grief over his wife’s recent passing to go 3-0-0 at the K Club in Ireland in 2006, Ian Poulter’s birdie binge to fuel the “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012, and the steely Patrick Reed edging Rory McIlroy 1-up at Hazeltine in 2016.

“The European and the American teams are more patriotic now than ever,” Nicklaus says. “I think that’s great. It is the one week where one of the world’s best golfers is not playing just for himself. He’s also playing for 11 others, for his country and for an enormous amount of pride.”  PS

Lee Pace has written about the Pinehurst experience for more than three decades from his home in Chapel Hill. Write him at and follow him @LeePaceTweet.



The Fly in Wasp’s Clothing

The best costumes are made by Mother Nature

Story and Photographs by Todd Pusser

Staring through a macro lens at the critter resting in the center of my photo tent, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not going to get stung. With large eyes and striking black and yellow markings, it looks for all the world like a wasp — a yellowjacket, to be more precise. Only when it rubs its forelimbs over its eyes does it begin to reveal its true identity. It is a rarely observed type of hover fly and a perfect doppelganger for the venomous wasp.

The day before, Floyd Williams, a retired ranger from Merchants Millpond State Park with a keen naturalist’s eye, captured the fly in his yard in Gates County. Well aware of my interest in unusual animals, he phoned to inform me of his prize, the Sphecomyia vittata. Not being well-versed in the scientific names of flies, a quick Google search revealed a much more manageable common name, the long-horned yellowjacket fly.

Like most people, I have never given flies much thought, other than when I am trying to shoo one out the car window or when I slap a deer fly taking a nibble from the back of my neck. Aside from politicians, and perhaps the Duke men’s basketball team, flies are among the most detested of all living things.

Yet for all the public apathy, flies are vital components of a healthy ecosystem. Need something to break down that pile of dog poop in the backyard? There’s a fly for that. Need something to pollinate those bright flowers in the garden? There’s a fly for that. How about ridding insect pests that raid those same gardens? You guessed it. There’s a fly for that. Sporting an infinite array of shapes and sizes, flies provide a wealth of underappreciated environmental services.

As I fiddle with my exposure, the hover fly begins to slowly walk across the floor of the photo tent. Reaching inside, I gently prod the fly with a toothpick, in an effort to move it to the center of the tent, back into camera range. Upon feeling the nudge to its abdomen, the fly suddenly lets out a sharp and unexpected buzz. I marvel. Not only does this fly look like a yellowjacket, it sounds like one too! The buzz only adds to the illusion. As far as mimics go, this one takes the top prize.

Flies of every kind are eaten by a plethora of animals. Spiders, birds, lizards, small mammals, even wasps relish a juicy fly. If one is going to fly about out in the open, during daylight hours, as hover flies (aka flower flies) do, it pays to look like something unappetizing, or better yet, dangerous.

Defenseless organisms that masquerade as dangerous ones employ an evolutionary survival strategy that biologists refer to as Batesian mimicry. Named for the Victorian naturalist Henry Walter Bates, who spent years trouncing around the forests of the Amazon and first discovered the natural phenomenon, this form of mimicry is surprisingly common. Most of the 6,300 or so species of hover flies found around the world bear a striking resemblance to wasps and bees.

Finishing up my session, I take the photo tent outside and open the side panel. With the toothpick, I gently nudge the wings of the hover fly, coaxing it to take off. In a flash, the fly zips out of the photo tent and lands a few yards away on the purple flowers of a backyard butterfly bush, perhaps needing a refreshing sip of nectar after its glamour shots. A five-lined skink, lounging on the railing of our deck, next to the flowers, pays it no mind. Nor does a cardinal singing nearby.

Later, scrolling through the photos on my computer screen, I find myself full of childlike wonder, once again marveling at the extraordinary resemblance of the hover fly to a yellowjacket. Even zooming in on the details of the legs, antennae and body, I find it difficult to establish that it is indeed a fly.

The optical illusion serves to drive home an important lesson: One need not travel to some distant or remote tropical jungle to discover remarkable wonders in nature. The wild right outside the front door is just as full of extraordinary creatures, if one only stops and takes the time to look.  PS

Naturalist and photographer Todd Pusser grew up in Eagle Springs. He works to document the extraordinary diversity of life both near and far. His images can be found at