Almanac November 2023

Almanac November 2023

November opens our eyes to invisible worlds.

On a quiet morning, the soft trill of a single cricket coloring the darkness, you pull the old cookbook from the kitchen cupboard and cradle it by lamplight. Your hands know what to do, turning stained and cockled pages with gentle intention. Running your fingers over the food-smudged recipes, you think of the hands that held this relic before yours; all the homecooked meals; all the gatherings; all the love.

Slowing down, you delight in the soft rustling of each page, the fingerprints, the swell of memories. The journey is as sacred as the destination.

When you turn to the recipe — the one you’ve nearly memorized but could never forsake — your eyes dance from list to countertop, countertop to list. You tick off each item before dropping into an ancient, ancestral rhythm.

Your hands know what to do — measuring, whisking, mashing — and as you study each ingredient, you see them not as what they are, but where they’ve been:

Eggs warm from the hen.

Sweet potatoes buried in dark earth. 

Fields of wheat.

Cinnamon and nutmeg trees.

Sugarcane swaying in a spring breeze.

Yes, what you’re baking has a name. But it’s more than what you see. More than warm crust and vibrant orange filling. It’s sweetness harvested from darkness; prayers folded into faithful mixing bowls; the quiet song of summer’s final cricket.

Morning breaks slowly. Beyond the kitchen window, eddies of golden leaves gather and disperse, here and gone as quickly as the seasons.

An amalgam of spices warms the kitchen. As you place the cookbook on the shelf, your own hands sweeten the harvest — an eddy of unseen gifts folded into a family treasure. 


The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and exhilarating than any wine they tell of. The mite which November contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July.   — Henry David Thoreau

Days to Remember

The first frost is nigh. Daylight saving time ends on
Nov. 5. Autumn is edging toward winter.

Between Dia de los Muertos (Nov. 1–2) and Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) are a ton of lesser-known holidays awaiting their time in the sun. Below are a few them. Of course, Veterans Day (Nov. 11) belongs up here.

Nov. 5 – Pumpkin Deconstruction Day (yep, exactly what it sounds like)

Nov. 6 – Marooned Without a Compass Day

Nov. 8 – Dunce Day

Nov. 13 – World Kindness Day

Nov. 14 – National Pickle Day

Nov. 15 – Clean Your Refrigerator Day

Nov. 17 – World Peace Day and Homemade Bread Day (more twofers like this, please)

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Turn back the clock; turn the compost; turn your focus inward.

As the garden journeys toward dormancy, we, too, slow down. And yet, these darker days awaken the dreamer, guiding us toward unopened books, forgotten crafts, the stovetop, the woodpile and the hearth.

From these quiet spaces, potent questions emerge.

What are you willing to let go of? How might this foster your growth?

As you nurture the roots of your wildest longings, feeding the soil of what’s true, you are minding the very fabric of what’s possible.

Such is the magic of this fallow season.  PS

The Curated Estate

The Curated Estate

History rules in Homewood

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

The first quarter of the 20th century saw Pinehurst emerge as the “in” winter watering hole for the big city, big money crowd. They hired architects to build elaborate cottages and mini-estates from the village outward. Meanwhile, another group selected the rolling hills surrounding Southern Pines. Setting the standard, in 1918 Pennsylvania iron and steel tycoon W.C. Fownes commissioned a magnificent house on the corner of Crest and Midland — 10,000 square feet, surrounded by terraced gardens designed by no less than Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm.

The enclave would be known as Knollwood.

Just as the Great Depression took hold, a group of residents appointed a committee to build a showplace with hotel-worthy amenities, on spec, without regard to cost, next door to Fownes’ house. Hopefully, a family that had survived the stock market crash in ’29 might be tempted. Fine craftsmen needed work, and the best materials abounded. Bricks were hand-made to resemble those imported from England, pre-Revolutionary War, in payment for cotton and tobacco.

The result, with tennis court, goldfish pond and pool, became known as Homewood at Knollwood Heights. The mansion was first occupied by the Beckwiths, who were responsible for the original gardens designed by the visionary landscape architect E.S. Draper. They were followed by Dennison and Kaye Bullens and, in 1977, Homewood became the residence of renowned ophthalmologist Dr. Gale Martin, co-founder of Carolina Eye Associates.

“It needed considerable fixin’ up,” Martin, who would die at home in 2008, told friends.

Martin’s daughter married in the gazebo where, decades later, present owner Ted Owens and his bride, Dr. Queeney Tang, exchanged rings.

The estate, fronted by eagles atop brick columns framing the circular drive, remains rivaled in scope and presence only by Hollycrest, built on Linden Road in 1916 for U.S. Ambassador William Hines Page. The modern Homewood integrates the architecture of Westover of Byrd dynasty in Virginia while staying faithful to the original Homewood — the Maryland ancestral home of the Carrolls, a family that includes Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The result is both massive and intimidating. Some areas, like the stretch kitchen, have been modernized. The former three-room servants’ apartment (the chauffeur slept in the basement) has been combined into a media room with projection TV and computer central. The living room, off the patterned marble foyer, memorializes the past. But it is to this parlor that Owens, a retired attorney and self-described European and Chinese history buff, gravitates with Queeney, his cardiologist wife.

Owens discovered Southern Pines when he visited his parents, who retired to the Sandhills in 1981 for golf. He had grown up in Pittsburgh, in what he calls a middle-income neighborhood. “I loved the air, the blue sky here,” he says. “You only get that four or five days a year in Pittsburgh.”

He decided to move in 2018 but wasn’t looking for an estate. “My wife grew up in one room. I grew up in a nice house,” he says — but nothing like Homewood. Once inside the front door, the hidden historian prevailed.

“Welcome to the Oval Office,” Owens beams, opening doors encrusted with moldings as elaborate as icing on a wedding cake.

Creating an homage to the Oval was an ambition, with period-original furniture and reproductions in place during the George W. Bush administration. The oval shape could not be duplicated, but Owens researched and commissioned chairs upholstered in the correct fabric by the Kittinger Furniture Co. of Buffalo, New York, founded in 1866 — a longtime supplier to the White House. Tables, lamps, paintings — originals and otherwise — are the result of similar research. A white sofa reappears, as does a made-to-order rectangular carpet in the same colors as the oval one found at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

At one end, a grand piano is reserved for Queeney’s son, a concert pianist. Her other son, a restaurant chef, commandeers the kitchen during visits. Among its appliances is the largest side-by-side refrigerator made for residential use.

Off the marble foyer, the study/office displays a panel of hand-blocked wallpaper depicting New York harbor by Jean Zuber, a renowned French wallpaper artist, circa 1824. A sunny gallery connects the core building to space repurposed as the master suite, den and a giant dressing room for two with furniture-grade fittings. Throughout, ceilings approach 10 feet.

A long, steep stairway ascends from the marble hallway to the second floor, where the original master suite and family bedrooms are located, each with a bathroom. Dominating the stairwell is a weighty lighting fixture enclosed in beveled glass panels. Think space capsule circa Louis XIV. Owens believes only two exist, worldwide.

The third floor open space with dormer windows is a perfect rainy day playground for small grandchildren.

Homewood was fortunate to have been curated into another century by owners who have not imposed “great rooms” on the great rooms. On a quiet summer night, the voices of now-famous authors can almost be heard drifting out of nearby Weymouth. The horses whinny in their stalls. And at residences like Homewood, money is spent on things that endure beyond rainforest shower heads and kabobs sizzling on a grill bigger than a Volkswagen.  PS

Ben and Jerry’s Excellent Adventure

Ben and Jerry’s Excellent Adventure

When President Gerald Ford joined eight of golf’s all-time greats

By Bill Case

On Sept. 8, 1974, just 30 days after being sworn in as president, Gerald Ford stunned the nation by granting his disgraced predecessor, Richard Nixon, a full and complete pardon for all offenses, known and unknown, committed by Nixon against the United States. Facing certain impeachment and Senate conviction as a result of his conduct during the Watergate scandal, Nixon had resigned on Aug. 9, resulting in the elevation of Ford to the presidency.

Some cynical observers hinted at a corrupt bargain — perhaps Nixon’s resignation was predicated on Ford’s pardoning him. Prior to granting the pardon, Ford had been showered with praise for restoring public confidence in the wake of the Watergate debacle. Post pardon, his brief honeymoon was kaput as a cascade of angry diatribes batted the president about like a piñata.

Earlier, when Ford was still vice president, representatives of Pinehurst’s new World Golf Hall of Fame had invited him to attend the opening ceremony honoring the first class of inductees, and he had agreed. On July 17, 1974, an above-the-fold headline in The Pilot reported that Ford was coming to the Sept. 11 ceremony. However, the vice president’s acceptance contained a caveat that, in retrospect, foreshadowed the political shockwave ahead. “From time to time emergencies do arise which are beyond my control and which might prevent my carrying out this obligation,” he wrote.

Soon after being sworn in as the 38th president, Ford did cancel his appearance. Don Collett, a Houston businessman who had been hired to lead the new Hall of Fame, acknowledged being “crushed” by this development. Sometime later, he received a call from a White House aide who indicated the president was reconsidering. Getting out of Washington, D.C., for a non-partisan event in the Sandhills might provide a brief respite from the controversy swirling around him. Before recommitting, however, Ford wanted to know who was going to be in Pinehurst and what would be expected of him. Collett provided details, and then tossed in a lure he considered irresistible. If the president came he could play a few holes with all the living Hall of Famers.

The World Golf Hall of Fame event was right up the president’s alley. An avid golfer, the powerfully built former center for the 1932-34 University of Michigan Wolverine football team was a long driver, though his game tended to be erratic. At the time, Ford claimed an 18 handicap, proficient enough not to embarrass himself in periodic pro-am appearances. More importantly, the president revered the game’s legendary players, and eight of the greatest still living — Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Patty Berg, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer — were coming to Pinehurst for their inductions.

Ford was especially looking forward to hobnobbing with Hogan, one of his all-time heroes. By ’74, sightings of Hogan outside his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, were rare. The nine-time major champion had even stopped attending the annual Champions Dinner at the Masters — a tradition he originated. This vanishment from the stage only served to enhance his unique mystique.

Anxious days passed without further word from the White House. Then the aide phoned Collett again. This time he inquired, “Is Ben Hogan really going to be there?” When Collett replied affirmatively, the aide said, “That’s great . . . The president will be there.”

While it was a remarkable coup to attract a sitting president, Hogan, and the other golf legends to Pinehurst for its opening ceremony, the founding of the World Golf Hall of Fame itself was a notable accomplishment. The concept was one of several elements of a plan hatched by the Diamondhead Corporation, the Pinehurst resort’s owner during the 1970s. For a price of $9.5 million, the company had acquired the resort and accompanying 6,700 acres of undeveloped, mostly forested real estate from its founding family, the Tuftses.

The driving force behind Diamondhead was its creative founder and controller of 90 percent of the company’s stock, Malcom McLean. The North Carolina native made a fortune when he imagined a new and cost-effective way to transport freight across land in shipping containers on trucks that could then be transferred to ocean-going ships. After selling his trucking concern to R.J. Reynolds Inc., McLean founded Diamondhead, whose divisions included medical products, condominiums and resort properties.

Diamondhead’s top brass licked their respective chops at the potential windfall to be gained by subdividing Pinehurst’s forested real estate. Raymond A. North, writing for The Pilot, observed that “the land and condominium salesmen cluster with the intensity of ants on a piece of pie.” It took a lawsuit to derail company plans to erect housing alongside Course No. 2.

While many of the village’s old guard, including Richard Tufts, bemoaned Diamondhead’s approach, it was hard to fault the company’s avowed goal of making Pinehurst (without apologies to Scotland’s St. Andrews) the “Golf Capital of the World.” McLean entrusted the task of making that happen to Bill Maurer, Diamondhead’s president. Maurer, a former golf professional, believed dramatic measures were needed to ramp up the resort’s identification with the game, and his boss was willing to fund them.

For the branding to succeed, Maurer deemed it imperative to bring professional golf tournaments back to the resort. None had been held in Pinehurst since 1951, when Richard Tufts became disenchanted with the U.S. team’s behavior in that year’s Ryder Cup matches. Maurer was not content with hosting a garden variety PGA Tour event. As he phrased it, “If (Pinehurst) is the golf capital of the world, let’s really make it that. Let’s have . . . the World Championship.” Seeking prize money commensurate with the auspicious title, he persuaded McLean to bankroll the largest purse in golf history — $500,000.

To underscore its hoped-for importance, the 1973 World Open was set for a grueling 144 holes, double the usual 72. Intrigued by the prospect of capping off the PGA Tour’s season by crowning the “world champion,” Maurer secured dates for the event from Nov. 5 through 17. To his dismay, the World Open’s marathon length and late dates proved unattractive to several of the game’s elite, including Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf, all of whom declined to enter. Marred by these negatives — and freezing weather — the tournament fell far short of a true “World Championship” in the minds of golf fans, the media and tour players.

The following year, the second World Open was shortened to 72 holes, the purse reduced to $300,000, and the date moved to the second week of September, perfect timing for Maurer to showcase another piece of his branding effort: the World Golf Hall of Fame. In March 1973, Diamondhead had broken ground on a white columned building with a fountain and reflecting pools, costing $2.5 million, to house the hall and museum behind the fourth green of course No. 2. It would be ready for the ribbon-cutting on the day prior to the start of the 1974 World Open, Sept. 11. The contemporaneous scheduling would focus public and media attention on Pinehurst as the unrivaled world golf capital.

Maurer had first considered the concept of bringing a golf hall of fame to Pinehurst in 1971. Since neither of the existing halls of fame, operated by the PGA of America and the LPGA, included international stars, an edifice that included foreign players would be a perfect fit for Pinehurst’s new “world” image. Collett, at the behest of Maurer, conducted a feasibility study and subsequently urged Diamondhead to press ahead. Maurer, in turn, obtained McLean’s buy-in. They hired Collett to be both president of the newly christened World Golf Hall of Fame and assume a similar position at Pinehurst, Inc.

Among the dizzying array of Collett’s responsibilities was acquiring artifacts for the hall. In October 1973, he successfully negotiated the purchase of an unequaled collection of ancient golf clubs from St. Andrews professional Laurie Auchterlonie. Collett also rounded up President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s golf cart and other memorabilia previously belonging to the Duke of Windsor, Walter Travis, Belgium’s King Leopold and the great Bobby Jones.

Diamondhead hired Pinehurst resident John Derr to be the World Golf Hall of Fame’s executive vice-president. Derr, a noted radio/television personality, writer, and raconteur, would help publicize the hall and serve as a liaison with the Golf Writers Association of America, whose members were to be involved with the nomination and election process.

Derr’s involvement, however, did not eliminate the contentiousness between Diamondhead and the GWAA in the period leading up to Sept. 11. Writing in the November 1974 edition of Golf magazine, columnist John Ross summed it up this way: “The alliance between Diamondhead and the writers has been a stormy one, the problem largely being the unwillingness of the Pinehurst operators to give control of the voting structure and procedures to the writers. The two-year hassle was still unresolved right up to moment of the induction rites.”

In fact, many higher-ups in golf, including those at the USGA, deemed it a non-starter for a private, profitmaking corporation to own and control the sport’s Hall of Fame and museum. Notwithstanding these criticisms, there was growing, if grudging, respect for Diamondhead’s expenditures of time and resources to make the hall a reality. Hogan himself would praise the founders: “I think it is wonderful and I think it is high time that golf had a ‘world’ golf hall of fame,” he said in an interview upon arrival in Pinehurst. “There have been small ones around the country and I think it’s great that Mr. McLean and Diamondhead Corporation have done this.”

Hogan’s dislike of travel had caused Diamondhead execs to fear he might take a pass on attending his induction. It was common knowledge that he had little interest in being feted and, according to Curt Sampson in his biography Hogan, “hated his reduction to ‘ceremonial’ status in the golf world, which gave other graying golf legends a reason to hit the road.”

On the plus side of the ledger was Hogan’s abiding fondness for Pinehurst. Course No. 2 was the site of his first PGA Tour victory following a decade of struggles — the 1940 North and South Open. He would win that tournament three times. Hogan also played magnificently in the 1951 Ryder Cup matches on No. 2. Furthermore, a return to Pinehurst would permit him to reconnect with Derr, the legendary champion’s American confidant during the 1953 Open Championship at Carnoustie, his last major victory.

Maurer, Collett and Derr breathed a collective sigh of relief when Hogan RSVP’ed “yes” after McLean offered to send his personal jet to fly Ben from Fort Worth to Pinehurst. Byron Nelson, Hogan’s lifetime rival after growing up together in the same caddie pen at Glen Garden Country Club, also hitched a ride. 

But nailing down the president’s appearance was the biggest get of all. The maneuvering actually began in May of ’74 when Derr sought to invite Ford — still vice president — while both men were in Charlotte competing in the pro-am preceding the Kemper Open. Derr cajoled evangelist Billy Graham into greasing the skids for an introduction. The vice president expressed interest, but cautioned that before committing, an array of details needed to be worked out. After he succeeded Nixon as president and finally agreed to attend the opening ceremony, those details ballooned tenfold when frenzied preparation for the visit began.

The Secret Service descended on Pinehurst in early September, checking rooftops, motor routes and potential security issues. Longtime Pinehurst resident Peter deYoung, Pinehurst Country Club’s tournament coordinator at the time (and still active locally in organizing junior golf tournaments) made preparations for the president’s golf game on course No. 2. DeYoung recalls being advised by a Secret Service agent that aside from the first tee and the 18th green, no spectators could be permitted on the course. “With our limited resources, that’s impossible to arrange,” deYoung said.

The agent emphatically replied, “No, it’s not. And that’s what we are going to make happen.”

During the week, deYoung and the Secret Service agent established a congenial relationship, or at least deYoung thought so until just prior to the president’s arrival on Sept. 11. The suddenly hostile operative confronted him and demanded to know, “What’s that in your pocket?”

“A pack of cigarettes. I’ll take them out,” deYoung said, taken aback by the change in the agent’s demeanor.

“Don’t touch them!” warned the agent. “I’ll take them out myself.” A threat on the president’s life had been reported, and the agent was taking nothing, and no one, for granted.

The last nail wasn’t pounded into the new hall until the morning of the induction ceremony. The transfer of artifacts from a temporary location on West Village Green Road to the new museum continued right up to the 3 p.m. dedication.

Meanwhile, the honorees began arriving. Collett dispatched his young assistant at Pinehurst County Club, Drew Gross, to pick up Hogan at the airport. Gross, now resident manager at the Pine Crest Inn, was accustomed to meeting and greeting top pros, but shaking the hand of the legendary icon was nonetheless an electrifying moment. “When he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m Ben Hogan,’ all I could think to myself was, ‘No shit!’”

The festivities involved plenty of hoopla. Starting at 1 p.m., the living inductees and representatives of deceased honorees Harry Vardon, Babe Zaharias, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet would gather at the fifth hole of course No. 2. The 82nd Airborne Band would play, and the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights would stage a parachuting exhibition. On the descent from 4,000 feet, the paratroopers would display each golf legend’s national flag. After the Golden Knights touched ground, they would present the banners to the various honorees. Then, 200 yards away on the west steps of the new building, the dedication and inductions were to commence around 2:30 p.m. The Diamondhead men held their breath, praying President Ford would arrive in a timely manner. It was a blisteringly hot day, and prolonging the ceremonies would not be to anyone’s liking.

The White House diary for Sept. 11 reveals how tight Ford’s schedule was. He fitted four substantive meetings, including one of three hours, into his morning agenda prior to boarding a helicopter on the South Grounds at 12:38 p.m. The chopper transported him to Andrews Air Force Base, where he flew on the “Spirit of 76” airplane to Pope Air Force Base, arriving at 1:38 p.m. There Ford was greeted by a crowd of 2,000, including local congressman and great friend Earl Ruth. The president made a brief speech before climbing into another helicopter at 1:58 p.m. destined for the Moore County Airport. Making it to Pinehurst by 2:30 p.m. would be a close call.

The inductees had begun congregating in the lobby of the Pinehurst Hotel around 12:30 p.m. waiting to be transported to the ceremony. Gross, in charge of assembling a caravan of convertibles, noted to his consternation that Nicklaus was not present. He pulled deYoung aside and told him to stay behind with a driver and bring Nicklaus to the ceremony the moment he showed up. They stayed in touch by walkie-talkie.

“It seemed like an hour but it may have been only 10 minutes that I paced the lobby waiting for Jack,” remembers deYoung. “Finally, I went up to his room on the third floor and knocked on the door. I said, ‘Mr. Nicklaus, we have to leave right now.’ He said, ‘I’ll be there in a minute.’”

At last, Jack emerged, sportily donned in an eye-catching Hickey Freeman (Jack endorsed the brand) red sport coat. DeYoung escorted Nicklaus from the hotel to a home on Midland Road bordering No. 2. “I told Jack to walk past the rope line to the fifth fairway, then turn left and walk the 150 yards back to where everything was happening,” says deYoung.

Collett was also worrying about Jack’s whereabouts as the Golden Knights’ aerial exhibition got underway. It would be awkward if the Columbus, Ohio, native was not around to receive his flag from the paratrooper who was carrying it. At the last moment, Nicklaus came into Collett’s view, walking briskly up the fairway toward the tee. The Golden Bear, never tardy for a tee time in nearly 60 years of competitive golf, wasn’t going to miss the flag hand-off either. When the crowd, estimated at 8,000, caught sight of Nicklaus, it erupted into thunderous roars.

At 2:25 p.m. Gerald Ford arrived at the World Golf Hall of Fame, where he was greeted by Maurer, Collett and Gov. James Holshouser. According to Golf World editor-in-chief Dick Taylor, “The band struck up ‘Hail to the Chief’ and Mr. Ford strode down the steps from the shrine, trim, haggard and smiling, and was seated next to his hero, Ben Hogan.” Though this was Ford’s day off from politics, he could not entirely escape their grasp. A group of young baby boomers displayed signs asserting that draft resisters should also be granted pardons while another placard said, “I love my Lincoln but Ford is better.”

Collett presided over the ceremony. Derr and Maurer also spoke briefly, as did the inductees. A grateful Patty Berg proudly claimed this to be her “finest day, also the greatest honor I’ve ever been offered.”

Hogan reiterated his praise for the World Golf Hall of Fame founders. “I think we’ve needed this for some 50 to 75 years, but Diamondhead and Pinehurst finally did it.”

Byron Nelson humbly expressed gratitude for the “wonderful blessings in my life,” and that being inducted into the new hall of fame “is the top of it.”

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer gently teased each other, and Gary Player thanked the golf writers for selecting him, adding, “Ever since I was a young boy I practiced very, very hard on this tough, humble game. I always had the desire to achieve something.”

The venerable Gene Sarazen lamented the absence of rivals from his glory days: “All my colleagues are gone (Jones, Hagen, Tommy Armour); they’re up there in another Hall of Fame; they’re waiting up there on the tee for me to make a foursome, but I keep telling them, ‘You boys get started. I’ll catch up with you on the back nine.’” 

Ageless Sam Snead (the 62-year-old played in the World Open) spoke of his love of the game. “We go out chasing this little white thing for 5 miles, sometimes six hours, through high grass, no grass, water, trees, sand traps, through the air and everywhere else and come home singing.”

Gov. Holshouser introduced Ford, who gave credit to Dwight Eisenhower for doing “as much as any man in this century to make golf the world’s number one participant sport.” The president kept his remarks brief, saving his best stuff for the evening’s enshrinement dinner.

After unveiling a statue of Bobby Jones, Ford rushed to the Pinehurst Country Club and changed into golf attire. Astride the first tee of No. 2 at 4:15, he was accompanied by Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. The president outdrove everyone save Nicklaus.

Every few holes, the other inductees would rotate in to play with the president — all except for Hogan, who rode in the cart for a couple of holes with Ford — his sidekick through much of the day. Hogan’s golf was still good enough to hang with top pros, but the unbending perfectionist rejected all pleas to put his game on public display after his shockingly poor performance at the 1971 Houston Open. That included his day with the president.

After carding a respectable 48 for nine holes, Ford was whisked to the Thunderbird Villa adjacent to the hotel. Maurer came to the president’s door at 7:10 p.m., and the two men strolled to the Cardinal Ballroom, entering at 7:14. The president attended a reception in the North Room, and at 7:40 p.m. was escorted to the ballroom’s main table for the enshrinement dinner.

Given Ford’s presence, it was important that everyone at the main table be seated where they were supposed to be. According to documentation at the Ford presidential library, the plan was for LPGA President Carol Mann and Maurer to be on either side of the president. Name cards were placed at each setting in accordance with the prearranged chart. As a failsafe, Collett ordered Gross to make a final check of the cards to verify everything was in order. The Secret Service prevented him from approaching the main table, and the cards somehow got switched. Another main table guest — not Mann — wound up next to the president. “Don was angry, said I had ruined a perfect day,” Gross says. “I got fired, but I was hired back the next day.”

The enshrinement dinner was a hit, largely because the genial Ford was in top form, peppering his presentation with an array of self-effacing one-liners about his golf game. “You’ve heard of Arnie’s Army? My group is called Ford’s Few.” Regarding his wild shots, he said, “Back at my home course in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they don’t yell fore, they yell Ford.” The president acknowledged it could be dangerous to be on the course with him. “You know all these fine Secret Service men you’ve seen around me today, and elsewhere. When I play golf, I’m told they qualify for combat pay.” The president apologized to Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Snead, for ruining their chances of winning the World Open since they had all teed it up with him earlier in the day. “I’m known as the ‘Jinx of the Links.’”

The president concluded by saying, “This afternoon, quite unsuccessfully, I tried to make a hole in one; tomorrow morning, I‘ll be back in Washington trying to get out of one. We thank all of you for making this a delightful mini-vacation.” After the dinner ended, the president retraced his aerial path, arriving at the White House 22 minutes after midnight. Ford’s day included six flights, three speeches, four political meetings, and nine holes of golf. If it amounted to a vacation, it was a hectic one.

Back in Pinehurst, euphoria from the historic gathering was short-lived. On Sept. 13, Collett suffered a serious heart attack. His lengthy recovery caused him to resign as president of Pinehurst Inc. and relocate to Utah. Other executives left as well. On Oct. 8, the Wall Street Journal reported that Maurer tendered his resignation as Diamondhead’s president. Fast on the heels of Maurer’s departure came Derr’s dismissal from his position at the World Golf Hall of Fame, though he did remain on the board of directors.

Malcolm McLean had ordered an across-the-board tightening of Diamondhead’s belt. “We’re just trying to gear the operation to the times with the tight money situation and real estate sales,” he explained. “Money is tight, but we’re paying the bills.” Diamondhead’s cash flow problems, largely relating to its non-Pinehurst operations, remained intractable and the company teetered toward insolvency. By 1979, its Pinehurst assets had been placed under the management of an independent company, probably at the behest of Diamondhead’s lending banks. This marked an interim step toward Clubcorp of America’s eventual acquisition of the resort in 1984. 

The World Golf Hall of Fame experienced its own financial challenges. Ongoing maintenance problems dogged the museum, while attendance and donations dwindled to alarming levels. The ownership and management of the hall would pass from Diamondhead to a nonprofit foundation, to the PGA of America, and more recently, to the World Golf Foundation, spearheaded by the PGA Tour.

In 1998, a new World Golf Hall of Fame opened in St. Johns County, Florida, near St. Augustine. The building in Pinehurst was abandoned and ultimately razed in 1999. After experiencing its own financial woes, the Florida facility closed in 2023 following the announcement that the Hall of Fame would return to Pinehurst, this time on the second floor of the USGA’s new Golf House Pinehurst. The first induction ceremony at the new-old location will take place on Monday, June 10, 2024, during U.S. Open week.

Coming a few months shy of the 50th anniversary of the ’74 celebration, the ceremony — this time at the Carolina Hotel and broadcast on The Golf Channel — will be memorable, but it will be impossible to top the day that eight of the greatest golfers of all time and a president came together behind the fourth green of No. 2. Of that first induction, only Nicklaus and Player remain. Somewhere in the great beyond, Sarazen has caught up with his old cohorts on the back nine. And the men who originated the World Golf Hall of Fame are joyful their creation is about to — as the Beatles once rhapsodized — “get back to where it once belonged.”  PS

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

The Interpretive Art of Tailgating

The Interpretive Art of Tailgating

Parking lot delights for every occasion

Story & Photographs by Rose Shewey

Tailgating in the South, in all its splendor and glory, shouldn’t be confined to stadium parking lots before football games or auto races. You can enjoy camaraderie and shared meals under the open sky at concerts, steeplechases, or most famously in Moore County, the traditional Blessing of the Hounds — all of which call for truck beds or car boots filled with delectable spreads. Regardless of your reason for gathering together, there are must-have foods at every tailgate. If you want to be the envy of Lot D (for delicious), we have you covered with some simple twists on classic pre-game fare that have the potential to be the envy of the RV crowd. Goodbye fast-food wings and budget brews, we’re bringing our A-game.

Irish Stout Cheese Dip

Beer and cheese go together like pumpkins and pie, but instead of spiking your dip with the popular choice of a hoppy IPA, try a creamy Irish stout with a mixture of cheddar and Gruyère cheese. To boost the flavor, add minced garlic to the roux (or if you’re simply melting your cheese into a dip, add garlic powder) and store in a thermos to serve warm on chilly autumn days.

Honey-Apple Cider Glazed Chicken Wings

Wings are undeniably a fabulous addition to any tailgating spread. In the spirit of the season, and for the love of apple cider, change it up with an autumn-inspired sweet and savory glaze that has heaps of umami thanks to a generous splash of Worcestershire and soy sauce (try coconut aminos in place of soy sauce, but adjust the amount of honey to balance out the sweetness). Add a pinch of cinnamon to warm up the flavor and truly ring in the cold season.

Shepherd’s Pie Soup

Instead of a classic chili, try this hand- and heart-warming soup combining all key ingredients of a shepherd’s pie. In place of minced lamb, consider beef (or a mixture of mushrooms and French lentils for a vegetarian take) and add it to your mirepoix. Tip: If you puree about half of the potatoes going into the soup, you’ll get the best of both worlds — a creamy base with hearty chunks, all in one.

Charcuterie to Go

Portable charcuterie, also called “Jarcuterie,” is a natural progression of a meat and cheese board for all those who can’t imagine a holiday or festivity without this classic (and classy) spread. Combine your favorite cheese, meat, nuts and fruit in a jar for easy transportation and serve on location. For a fall-themed selection, add grapes, figs, blackberries and roasted pumpkin seeds or walnuts. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary to add a splash of seasonal color.

Butterscotch, Pear and Walnut Turnovers

Don’t forget to add a sweet treat to your lineup. Fall inspired turnovers are a handy and welcome tailgating snack. These stuffed puff pastry pockets can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer, to be baked the day of your big event. Fragrant pears paired with silky-smooth butterscotch sauce and chopped walnuts make for a spectacular filling and, best of all, these baked goods are kid-approved, for all the youngsters in attendance.

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

Blessing of the Hounds

Blessing of the Hounds

Illustrations by Matt Myers

Every Thanksgiving morning a unique and picturesque ceremony takes place when the Moore County Hounds invites the public to attend the annual Blessing of the Hounds. The ritual, which dates to the Middle Ages, gathers hounds, riders and over 1,000 spectators for the season-opening meet. The celebration of heritage, sport, and community takes place at Buchan Field on North May Street, presided over by Reverend John Talk. The riders begin assembling around 10 a.m. The leadership group wears scarlet-colored jackets while the rest of the riders wear traditional foxhunting attire. Led by their huntsman, Lincoln Sadler, the prized Penn-Marydel hounds — trained to follow specific scents and ignore distractions — arrive. After the blessing, the riders divide into three groups, each following a field master. The huntsman gathers the hounds, and the sound of the horn signals the beginning of the hunt. The hounds and riders depart from Buchan Field into the woods of the 4,000-acre Walthour-Moss Foundation, marking the formal launch of the foxhunting season.

The Moore County Hounds is the oldest recognized pack of foxhounds in North Carolina and one of only a few remaining private packs. It was founded by James and Jack Boyd in 1914 to enjoy both the sport and camaraderie of the hunt. During the foxhunting season the grand dinners hosted by Katharine and Jim Boyd at their Weymouth estate often included songs or poems delivering a good-natured ribbing to an honored guest. These roasts were preserved in a looseleaf binder entitled “Songs of the Sandhills” with the following dedication: “To those who came here to be Sandhillized and remained to be Scandalized — this book is affectionately dedicated.”

While it is impossible to say with 100 percent certainty to whom the following poem/song was dedicated, it’s a good bet the person whose 30th birthday was being celebrated is Augustine (Gus) Healy who was deeply involved in foxhunting with the Boyds and the Moore County Hounds. In recognition, his estate, Firleigh Farms, built in 1923-24, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Gus Healy was the son of one of the founders of Lyon & Healy, a music business established in Chicago in 1864. Its first advertisement selling sheet music was placed in the Chicago Tribune running alongside an account of Sherman’s March to the Sea. By 1900 Lyon & Healy was the largest publisher of music in the world. It also built pianos, guitars, mandolins, banjos and ukuleles. At one point it was the sole representative selling Steinway & Sons pianos in the Midwest. In 1889 Lyon & Healy built its first harp. The company continues to this day as the world’s gold standard in concert grand harps. As the riders and hounds depart Buchan Field, disappearing into the pine forest of the Walthour-Moss Foundation, one can only imagine James Boyd and Gus Healy being among them.

Jim Moriarty



Matt Myers is an award-winning writer and illustrator of children’s books. Titles include the New York Times bestseller Battle Bunny, the Theodor Seuss Geisel honor book The Infamous Ratsos, and Children of the Forest, featured in the Wall Street Journal. His fine art paintings have been shown in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Charlotte. He has been a guest exhibitor at the Mint Museum and is one of the 2023 ArtPop artists whose work is currently on display throughout the Charlotte area where he lives and works. To see more of his artwork, explore his virtual studio at

Ode to a Sportsman

On his Thirtieth Birthday by Katharine and Jim Boyd

There’s a fellow named Gus,

A most curious cuss;

No sportsman was ever so keen,

But each day that hounds meet,

He turns white as a sheet

And sings with a terrified mien:

O! we’ll all go a’hunting today,

All nature is smiling and gay.

I will join the glad throng

Though not for very long,

And we’ll all go a’hunting today.

The cause of his groans

Is the horse that he owns,

Who though seeming majestic and grand,

Has a curl to his lips

And a swing to his hips

That forbodes where Augustine will land.

Then we’ll all go a’hunting today.

The meet’s at the kennels, they say.

His bucks and his kicks

Are the least of his tricks

When we all go a’hunting today.

Then his wife says, “Now Gus,

I will not make a fuss,

But get off just as quick as you can.

I am frightened, my dear,

To see that horse rear.”

“So am I,” says the gallant young man.

But I must go a’hunting today,

Though I tremble to hear the brute neigh,

And his head is so high

That his ear’s in my eye,

I will still go a’hunting today.

Though he cannot abide

The horse he must ride,

And the horse is still less fond of Gus;

As he hacks to the meet

With a quavering bleat

He addresses the universe thus:

Here I go a’hunting today,

Though at home I would far rather stay.

If I dare to look round

I’ll go flat on the ground

And I won’t go a’hunting today.

Says this squire to his dame:

“Would to God he were lame

But as he is not

I will take one more shot

And repeat what I often have stated —

We’ll all go a’hunting today.

All nature is smiling and gay.

He will put me down flat

On my shiny top hat —

He will stamp on my chest

And my new yellow vest —

He will play rock the boat

On my fine scarlet coat —

He will dance till he drops

On my nice London tops —

He will caper and prance

On my white Bedford pants,

But I’ll still go a’hunting today.”

We’ll all go a’hunting today.

All nature is smiling and gay.

I will lead the glad throng

That goes laughing along,

And we’ll all go a’hunting today.

Poem November 2023

Poem November 2023

After Church

When the preacher’s son told me

my aura was part halo, part rainbow,

I saw him see me

saintly. God

appeared instantly and everywhere

that summer:

smiling in the pansies,

reflecting us in the farm pond,

beside us on our bikes,

in the barn fragrant with warm cows,

glinting from the hay chaff,

the slatted light.

God touched us as we touched,

electricity in our fingers,

we were shimmery and dewy,

our skin golden, hair sun-bleached.

Angels sang in our voices.

The moon rose in heaven, love,

heaven in the moon.

— Debra Kaufman

Debra Kaufman’s newest poerty collection, Outwalking the Shadow, is forthcoming from Redhawk Publications.



Window Dressing

A remarkable find

By Scott Sheffield

Normally I’m not one to believe in miracles, or the supernatural, or even coincidences, but on that day, in that moment, I could have believed in all three.

It was Thanksgiving and my Maine family had come to visit, as they had several times before. This time there was a difference, a big difference in a small package. In addition to my daughter, her husband and his mother (the usual trio), there was a baby girl — my granddaughter, Alaina, barely more than a year old.

As was our custom on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we went to Southern Pines for a stroll up and down Broad Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, admiring the Christmas decorations and popping into stores as we lollygagged. This time our route included The Little Toy Shop. It just so happened I had learned of a visit to this particular store by a certain gentleman from the far North. He was a quirky fellow by reputation, one given to sporting a hoary beard, wearing a bright red suit and exercising a penchant for giving gifts to children.

While my son-in-law waited dutifully in line for my granddaughter’s turn with Santa, the rest of us were fully engaged preventing Alaina, despite her being in a stroller, from “inspecting” (tossing on the floor) the vast array of toys and games on the lower shelves within what seemed like her 10-foot reach. Eventually, Alaina’s turn came with the jolly old elf, though she seemed less interested in him than the candy canes sitting in a jar just beyond her grasp. Requisite photos were taken.

With Alaina off Santa’s lap and fastened into her carriage, we headed back up Broad Street, slowed at times as Alaina tried to pet every dog we passed. Soon after crossing Pennsylvania, I saw the sign for Living on the Bliss, a store owned by the friend of a friend. As we looked in the window and I explained the personal connection, suddenly, I stopped. Inside on a shelf, snuggled into an array of specialty items, one in particular caught my attention — a gray pillow with large pink lettering stitched across the top. I confess, pillows in general are not something that would normally catch my eye. This one was different. The first name on the pillow was the same as my granddaughter’s. I was about to say something when I noticed that in smaller print below “Alaina” were names identical to my granddaughter’s middle name and surname. Sure, sometimes stores put personalized items on display so customers can see what a finished product might look like, but those three names? Not likely.

Then I saw a date and time printed under the name that were also familiar. It was the exact moment of Alaina’s birth, month, day and year. How could this be? While I was standing there dumbfounded, Grandma said she didn’t care how it got there, she was going to buy it. We went inside and she snatched the pillow out of the display and marched over to the check-out counter. Cassie, the daughter of the owner, Cindy Miller, was ready to ring up our purchase. I asked her how in the world my granddaughter’s name and birth information came to be on the pillow. (Her birth weight, length and the town where she was born were also there.) Unbeknown to me, my close friend Deborah — an honorary aunt to Alaina — had decided to make a gift of the pillow to my daughter’s family at Thanksgiving, but Deborah’s schedule prevented her both from being with us on that day and picking up her surprise. On a whim, the Millers decided to put the pillow on display in the window.

It was truly a special delivery.  PS

Scott Sheffield is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. He may be reached at

Golftown Journal

Golftown Journal


Making art in the golden hour

By Lee Pace

My stock-in-trade over four-plus decades has been the written word, but I admit the layering of subjects, verbs and adjectives pales in comparison to the display of a well-conceived and executed photograph. An advertising executive from the early 1920s is credited with coining the phrase “One picture is worth a thousand words,” and I say bravo to that. In the fat coffee table books I’ve crafted for golf clubs the last two decades, I strive for a mix of 50-50 words and images but admit that if not one word is absorbed, the photos make it worth the toil and tariff.

The Sandhills and its golf courses are evolving more and more today as an exquisite canvas for shutterbugs of all makes and models, and the ability to immediately display the visuals on social media and assorted blogs and digital venues multiplies their visibility a millionfold over the old days of weekly and monthly magazines.

John Hemmer, who had a 45-year association with Pinehurst back in the Tufts family days, took photos of the golf, racquet, shooting and equestrian pursuits at Pinehurst beginning in 1925 and dispatched them to newspapers and wire services. He also made prints in his darkroom and mailed them to the hometown newspapers of resort guests. Today the Tufts Archives has some 85,000 Hemmer images in its vast collection.

In 2012, John Gessner — a frequent contributor to this magazine — won the naming contest for the elaborate putting course Pinehurst built on 2.5 acres outside its clubhouse, suggesting Thistle Dhu in a tip of the cap to the pitch-and-putt venue that James Barber built on his Pinehurst property nearly a century earlier. Four years later, Gessner was the first photographer to capture the unique landscape of The Cradle, the resort’s nine-hole short course adjacent to the massive putting green. His early morning shot has appeared in Forbes, GOLF magazine and other outlets, and depicts the brownish wire grass in the foreground, green fairways and putting surfaces in the middle, and blue sky above, the backdrop punctuated by the classic columns and red roof of the south side of the Pinehurst clubhouse. 

Kaye Pierson began taking photos with her phone from her perch on a golf course mower while on her shifts with the resort maintenance staff and in 2013 snapped what she pegged “First Light at Pinehurst.” The Putter Boy statuette looms at dawn from its location within Thistle Dhu, enveloped by a dew-laden grass, fog and glints of sunlight to the east. The image caught fire on social media and has been featured on prints in resort gift shops.

John Patota has had careers as an engineer and a school system administrator, and all along has enjoyed photography as a hobby and avocation, though these days he’s available for hire. He bills himself on social media as “Pinehurst Photographer” and enjoys taking photos of “people doing the things they love.” He’s all over the North & South competitions at the resort and has a special niche capturing the golf course maintenance staff.

Matt Gibson is a native of the United Kingdom, growing up in London and attending the University of St. Andrews, and for two years has been on staff at Pinehurst as its “digital storyteller.” His background on the sandy landscapes of the British Isles provides excellent perspective to generate and curate a rich mixture of images and video clips.

“I think the best sports photographers are the golf photographers,” he says. “You think about an NFL game or a baseball game, you have the same feel essentially every match, right? There are only a certain number of lines you can find. But every golf course is different. The lines are infinite.”

The photographer who has most caught my eye of late is Chris Auman, the 41-year-old nephew of Clyde Auman, a longtime peach grower and state legislator from West End. Chris was among the thousands of spectators ringing the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2 when Payne Stewart sank his putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open, and he’s pictured in the lower right of photographer Rob Brown’s classic “One Moment in Time” panorama. Auman has generated numerous images of the village and the Pinehurst golf courses in recent years, finding particular fodder in the magical light of early morning and late afternoon.

Early one morning, he lined up six Adirondack chairs along The Cradle and captured their glow bathed in the orange of the eastern sky. Crisp fall mornings have provided the setup to capture the village at daybreak and a golf setting with the same technique Hemmer used nearly a century ago — framing the hole with the trunk of a pine tree to one side, and boughs of needles and cones hanging at the top. He’s snapped the 18th green of No. 2 from the veranda, dozens of purple tulips and yellow flowers in the foreground. The passing locomotives and freight cars of the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railroad as it skirts the western edge of the resort are a favorite prop.

The ideas are endless.

“I’m drawn to the golf courses in Pinehurst and the Sandhills because one, the nostalgia; and two, the natural beauty,” he says. “I love shooting low light around the village and the golf courses. It brings the dew and the haze into play. You get more interesting colors in the morning. The evening with sunsets can be great, but orange is the dominant color.

“Golf brings people together,” he continues. “Not everyone is into golf, but when I take a photograph of a golf course, people can appreciate the photograph. They can appreciate the beauty of the natural landscape. You are actually bringing people into the sport who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in it. A photo like the chairs beside The Cradle — it asks, ‘Wouldn’t you like to be sitting in those chairs right now?’ People always tell me, ‘Well, I’ve been by there a thousand times and I’ve never seen it quite like that.’”

Late one afternoon, Auman was walking with his camera up the sandy path between the 18th holes of course No. 1 on the left and No. 4 on the right. The light was perfect, just kissing the western edges of the tree trunks and the undersides of the pine needles hanging above. There is sand, wire grass, serrated bunkers and a soft sky.

“I looked up and I just thought, ‘Man, that’s the way this place used to look,’” he says. “That’s what James Tufts saw. That’s what Pinehurst is, and that’s what I was trying to capture.”  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.

Sporting Life

Sporting Life

An Ambitious Plan

And the ducks did their part

By Tom Bryant

The Old Man said you couldn’t set too much store by a fire; that a fire was all that separated man from beast, if you came right down to it. I believe him. I’d rather live in the yard than in a house that didn’t have an open fireplace.   —Robert Ruark from The Old Man and The Boy

The low grey clouds were close enough to almost touch, or they seemed that way as they scudded southeast before a gusty north wind. I was hunkered down in the first blind on the number one impoundment at our Whistling Wings duck club. It was mid-November, almost Thanksgiving, and I was all by my lonesome, escaping the chains of civilization. The plan was to do some writing, hopefully interspersed with some duck shooting.

There are six of us in the duck club, all of us seasoned in a lot of ways but more so in the mysteries of duck hunting. The varied group includes a couple of textile magnates, a lawyer, a judge, a textile broker and an itinerate writer, myself. I was behind on several writing projects, including a past-due novel, thus the reason I was holding forth alone at the club. The other members were planning to show up after Thanksgiving for a group hunt. Successful or not, anytime we got together it was a good time.

My plan was to get a little writing done after an early morning hunt, eat lunch and work a little more before the evening shoot. Then repeat that for three or four days and head home to enjoy Thanksgiving with the family. After that, I’d make it back to the club to meet up with the rest of the boys. An ambitious plan, but I hoped to make it work.

Our lodge is really a small two-bedroom house that sits right on the marsh where the corn impoundments are located. Impoundments are fields of corn that are flooded before duck season, their purpose being to bring in the ducks. The cabin and the impoundments are about a half mile from the Pamlico Sound. As the crow flies, or better yet, as the duck flies, our farthest blind is right on the water, and it is exactly 8 miles across the Pamlico to Ocracoke Island.

The day I arrived the weather promised a good blow out of the northeast. The temperature took a nosedive so things were looking just right to bring in a few early ducks. I hustled unloading all the gear and left most of it lying about in the kitchen so I could make it to the blind before sundown and the end of legal shooting hours.

Low clouds and a squally wind brought dusk on early. I missed a couple of fast-flying teal that came right at me, corn-top high. The gale added to their speed and I shot way behind them. I grinned as I unloaded my shotgun and slung my gunning bag over my shoulder. “Come back tomorrow, you little rascals, and give me another chance.”

I fast-marched back to the lodge, before black night settled in, to unpack and sort through the cooking box. I had bought eating utensils that needed to be stored in the right place. There is a gas fireplace in the living room, and I turned it on. With the northeast wind whistling around the cabin, it added a cozy feeling to offset the early cold of the evening.

I put a pot of venison stew on the stove to heat for supper and laid out items to take to the blind in the morning. It promised to be an interesting day. I was pretty tired, so I opted for an early evening, promising myself to catch up on writing tomorrow.

At 4:30 a.m. I eased the door of the little lodge shut and headed to our number one blind. The early morning wind still held out of the northeast, but the cloud cover was gone. It was clear as a bell, and a nearly full moon was settling in the west. Hopefully, the gusty blow was strong enough to keep ducks moving off the sound.

As I trudged down the dike that led to the blind, loaded with shotgun, gunning bag and a few more decoys to add to the spread I had put out the afternoon before, the thought occurred to me of the many times I had enjoyed this same adventure. Never, in all the many hours spent in a duck blind, have they been the same.

I could hear hundreds of ducks as they got up out of the corn and headed out to the sound. I swear, it’s almost as if they have a timer in their little duck brains that enables them to leave the impoundments just before legal shooting time — a half-hour before sunrise — and arrive back for their evening corn feast an hour after legal shooting time, sundown.

I’ve been fortunate on a few occasions to catch them confused about timing, but that always involved weather. Rain, sleet or snow and a dark sky with the wind blowing hard have sometimes made for a memorable shoot. Not this day, though. It looked to be one of those bluebird mornings.

And it was. By 10 o’clock I had seen a few high-flying snow geese. A couple of mergansers landed right in the middle of the decoys, swam around a bit, then swam on into the corn and disappeared. I figured it was time for breakfast.

After a morning in the field, breakfast is the best meal of the day, and I had come prepared. As I walked back to the lodge, I mentally put together the morning feast. Preparing it is almost as good as eating it. Not so, says my good friend John Vernon, our usual lodge chef. He’s the main cook when the group is together, and it’s a real grin just to watch him prepare one of his culinary masterpieces.

My breakfast on the first day of the hunt didn’t hold a candle to what John could fix. But even he, I think, would have smiled in appreciation. Six extra-large eggs, cooked over medium; a platter of link country sausage; biscuits, a half dozen bought from Biscuitville (I picked up two-dozen before leaving town. I’ve found you can’t have too many biscuits.); and a pot of yellow, stone-ground grits cooked slow and steady over a low heat.

After that feast, I settled in at the kitchen table with my iPad and did a little work on the never-ended novel and surprised myself with the amount I got done.

The rest of the week went by in a flash. The routine I had set worked, and on the last day, the lords of the duck marsh smiled on me. About noon it started raining — hard, so hard it blew sideways. I put on all my wet weather gear and sloshed out to the impoundment. Just as I crawled into the blind and loaded the shotgun, a flurry of teal buzzed the blind so close it seemed as if I could reach up and catch one. I hunkered down, knowing they would be back. Sure enough, they circled and came back, afterburners wide open. I led the group as far as I could, pulled the trigger and three teal splashed down right outside the decoys.

While wading out to pick them up, I looked up just as a pair of widgeons dropped out of the sky, wings folded, yellow feet fixed forward like landing gear. I snapshot at the lead duck and got him but missed his companion twice. I picked up all four ducks and made it snappy back to my hide.

The rest of the day was like that. I already had four ducks and the limit is six. I had to slow down so I just watched and waited. Ducks were everywhere. Just before shooting time was over, I shot my last one, a magnificent pintail almost the size of a snow goose.

Later, after I got back to the lodge and put on some dry duds and relaxed in front of my fireplace, gas logs blazing, wet hunting gear hanging everywhere, I celebrated with two fingers of good Scotch. I remembered Robert Ruark’s quote about loving an open fire and thought even he would put up with our little gas effort after the end of this wonderful duck hunt.  PS

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



Flying Under the Radar

The rarely noticed double-crested cormorant

By Susan Campbell

Overlooked by many, the double-crested cormorant is a waterbird found alone or in small groups across our state during the cooler weather. This large, black, gull-like bird has few admirers. It only gets noticed when sitting with wings outstretched, drying in the sun, on an exposed perch such as a low snag or bulkhead. Although cormorants are less waterproof than most, their lack of buoyancy makes it easier to swim after prey in deep water. They can be found in a variety of bodies of water, from retention or farm ponds to larger lakes and reservoirs. However, if you are at the beach during the winter months, you may see them in the open ocean, often foraging together by the thousands.

This bird is hardly a striking waterbird. Cormorants actually look odd — somewhat like a cross between a loon and a goose. Although it seems to be a dull black bird with a long neck and pointed wings, should you see it at close range it actually does sport some color. The bright orange-yellow facial skin and shockingly aquamarine eyes of adult birds are apparent. Furthermore, breeding individuals have two black and white tufts as well as a blue mouth from early spring through mid-summer.

Double-crested cormorants are widely distributed across North America. They breed on rocky outcroppings off the coast of Canada and Alaska as well as on islands in wetter portions of the Upper Midwest. They place bulky nests in stout trees or on the ground in colonies. Flocks migrate inland across the United States to coastal wintering sites. Some cormorants can be found farther away from the coast in wetter habitats of the Southeast.

Given that this species primarily feeds on a variety of fish, and can congregate in large numbers, it is sometimes considered a nuisance by fish farmers and fishermen. Double-crested cormorants have strongly hooked bills which, along with their strong, webbed feet, definitely make them good fishers. More often than not, however, their foraging goes unnoticed, especially here in North Carolina. Moving from place to place, like so many species of birds, they form skeins or V-formations. Significant flocks have been known to show up during the fall in the Sandhills. Flying low, they appear in the afternoon to drop in to feed on one of our larger lakes. Just before dark they will fly up into an older pine to roost.

It is hard to believe that double-crested cormorant populations were once imperiled. Widespread use of pesticides in the 1960s and ’70s impacted the breeding success of many birds, especially those high up on the food chain. Compounds such as DDT caused eggshell thinning and thus, a precipitous decline in breeding productivity until it was banned in the U.S. in 1969. Recovery was swift, however, and numbers remain high in spite of increased human activity throughout the species’ range.  PS

Susan Campbell would love to hear from you. Feel free to send questions or wildlife observations to