O.Henry Ending

The Fish Bone

Or, one of the most embarrassing nights ever


By Cynthia Adams

As a coastal weekend drew to an end, we stopped at Sandy’s, a fishmonger in Southport. With cruelly blue skies that made us reluctant to head westward, we decided that fish, fresh from that day’s catch, would extend our getaway. 

Eating outside as dusk fell, the tender, flaky fish pushed thoughts of Monday morning into the great beyond.

Suddenly, I felt a bone graze my throat.

I reached for my wine glass. The sensation — scratchy — was still there. Then I reached for bread to push the bone down. 

It was uncomfortable. But not unbearably so.

My husband suggested we go get my throat looked at, but I was unwilling. There were things to do for the workweek ahead. I busied myself, coughing, gargling and clearing my throat whenever he left the room. The clock ticked.

I put on my pj’s and climbed into bed. As soon as I was prone, I knew. This was not merely a scratch. When I got up to dress for the emergency room, my husband was unamused.

“Why couldn’t we have gone at 6:30 and not 10 at night?” he groused.

I was sheepish when checking into the ER at Moses Cone for the first time in my life. A fish bone lodged in my throat felt like an inadequate emergency.

At this point, my husband stubbornly believed there was no way a bone was in there. I glared at him as he instructed the staff to put dire emergencies ahead of us, and then we sat silently for what felt like hours on end as the waiting room grew steadily fuller.

When I suggested we leave and try our luck at Wesley Long instead, my husband grew more irritated but eventually agreed. Once there, we found an even busier ER.

When my name was finally called, they beckoned me to a curtained off bay. I noted my name scrawled on a white board: “Adams. FB.”  Wincing at that, I cleared my throat to test if perhaps the bone had moved. It was too late to bolt and go home.

Eavesdropping on the patients adjacent to me, I soon realized one of my neighbors was having heart attack symptoms. The other had attempted suicide.

These people, my husband’s expression said, have real emergencies.

When the young physician pulled back the curtain, I immediately apologized for being there. He pointed out that “95 percent” of people who think they have a fish bone lodged in their throat actually only have a scratch from swallowing it.

I felt about as ridiculous as I had ever felt in my adult life.

Then he examined my throat. “Hmmm,” he said. “I’ll be darned.”

My heart leapt hopefully. “There is a bone?” I asked, relieved for the first time in four hours.

“Sure is.” He left to get forceps. My husband looked stunned.

The doctor returned wearing a miner’s light and carrying what looked like long, skinny barbecue tongs.

“What if you can’t reach it?” my husband asked unhelpfully.

“We will have to prep her for surgery,” he replied.

“Surgery?” I squeaked, sobering.

He explained that the bone had to be extracted or else my throat could become infected and sepsis could set in. Any pleasure I had from being in the right disappeared.

But the doctor managed to extract it, and the relief was immediate, much like having a splinter release.

“Thank you!” I shouted, as he showed us the bone.

“It’s good sized,” he marveled. “Want to keep it?” 

I shook my head. 

Any questions, he asked.

I had one. “Why did you have to write Fish Bone?” I asked, pointing to the scrawled letters on the white board. “That was so embarrassing.”

The doctor was confused but turned to look.

“F-B?” He asked with a grin.

“Foreign Body.”

My husband began laughing and I feebly joined in. Back home, mere hours before our alarm would blare, I stretched out and felt — nothing.

“Do. Not. Tell. Anyone.” I muttered. But the bed shook as he lay there.

And, I will admit it, I laughed, too — in spite of my fool self.  OH

Contributing editor Cynthia Adams claims the fish was so delicious that her FB experience was almost worth it. Her husband still has a bone to pick over the experience.

March Almanac 2021

March Almanac

By Ashley Wahl


March is as harsh as it is hopeful. The earth is aflame with tender new grasses. Dead-nettle spills across the lawn like a sea of purple kisses. The birds are twittering on high and the dog is cradling something in its mouth, looking up as if to say you’ve got to see this.

You are equally relieved and horrified to discover that whatever she’s holding is pink and wriggling and very much alive.

“Drop it,” you say.

And so, she does. On a soft patch of earth dotted with dandelion. 

Blind and hairless, the newborn squirrel is utterly helpless. You look up to the fork of a nearby oak, hoping to see a wild, leafy tangle of nest. Back when the world was gold-and-rust, leaves rustling like starlings with each gust, you’d witnessed its construction. And by some miracle — because what held by sticks and faith is not — the nest is still intact. You scoop up the babe with a thin cloth, place it at the base of a tree like a sacred offering, back away and wait.

The dog is whimpering. She looks up at you with the worried expression of a mother, back to the squirrel, so pink and vulnerable, then back to you.

Patience, you tell the dog as a reminder to yourself. The earth beneath you softens, yet there’s a chill you cannot shake.

An hour passes. You have nearly given up hope that mother squirrel will arrive, but she does. And in an instant, she is gone, scurrying up the tree with the babe in her mouth.

March winds can be cruel. But dog was dog, not snake or hawk. And in spring, there is always hope.

Just listen to the birds.


I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, the sun was almost bright.
— Millard Kaufman


Princess of the Pea


Although the robin has been announcing its return for weeks, official spring arrives on March 20 — and with it, the glorious, flowering redbud.

Blue sky or gray, redbud blossoms are utterly electric by contrast, seemingly more vibrant by the day. The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), also known as the Judas tree, is a tree of the pea family. Christian folklore tells that this now small and somewhat dainty tree once stood tall and mighty as an oak and that, when Judas betrayed Christ, he hanged himself from one. But let’s talk instead of their delicate clusters of rosy pink flowers, shall we?

Yep, they’re edible. High in Vitamin C. And that they burst from bare-bone limbs before the tree’s first heart-shaped leaves never fails to dazzle. Pickle them or transform your spring salad into a work of art with a sprinkling or a sprig.

As for the seeds and pods? Edible, too. Eat the Weeds [eattheweeds.com], a blog for foraging newbies, suggests using the unopened buds as a caper substitute. 

Just add pasta, garlic and butter.


In the Garden


Mid-month, transplant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage into the garden. Ditto lettuce and spinach. And get ready for April. After the last frost, it’s time again to sow your summer garden. The earth is softening. But the birds tell you everything you need to know: spring is here.

Paradise Found

Paradise Found

How a funky house on Lake Jeanette became a fortuitous vision

By Ashley Wahl 
Photographs by Amy Freeman


Plan all you want, but life has a way of leading you where you were always going, even if you don’t yet know it.

This adage has been a theme for Jay and Julie Brennan since the day they met. Why would the story of their unexpected dream home on Lake Jeanette be an exception?

Eight years ago, merely by chance, Jay and Julie each found themselves at Starmount Forest Country Club, where neither was a member. Mistaking Julie for someone he knew, Jay tried to strike up a conversation with her and was promptly shut down.

“I had recently divorced,” says Julie. “‘Do I know you?’ sounded like a pickup line.”

It wasn’t. Jay, whose own marriage was dissolving, “actually did think she was someone else,” he says.   

You know where this story is going: They weren’t looking for love, but they found it. And two years later, when the newly engaged couple decided they’d like to buy a house together, they certainly weren’t looking for a full-blown project.

After their private wedding in 2015 — “we didn’t want to have to worry about re-titling,” says Julie —  the Brennans closed on a house in Lake Jeanette’s Southern Shores community that met their three requirements: abundant natural light, ample privacy and proximity to Sherwood Swim & Racquet Club, where Jay plays tennis.

Today, their lakeside home — a modern stone, stucco and cedar vision with dramatic, angular rooflines and a sweeping view to the water from nearly every room — is everything they could have ever wanted. The interior is a playful 4,000-square-foot exploration of colors, patterns, shapes and textures (yes, stripes and polka dots can unite) with no shortage of light or whimsy. Hidden from the road by a veil of hardwoods, the five-bed, four and one-half bath house opens to a spacious ipe (Brazillian walnut) deck complete with outdoor kitchen, weather-resistant furniture and hot tub.

It’s less than four miles from Sherwood’s tennis courts.

But it’s nothing like the house they bought.   

Built in 1989, the original house was designed by an architect who lived there with his wife until the bank took it from them in the early ’90s. The Brennans bought it from the second owners.

“It was unusual,” Julie says of the interior. Pink walls and handmade Mexican tile floors. But the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the water rendered the house utterly resplendent with natural light. She saw potential.

Julie is a retired art teacher who worked for Guilford County Schools for 10 years following her move here from Lynchburg, Va.   

“Light is very important to me,” she says.

Jay liked the privacy. Because the house is surrounded by trees and situated on a cove near a water main that keeps boats confined to the main lake, the Brennans would never need to draw another window shade again. Plus, the modern design reminded him of the house his parents used to own in Naples.

“I don’t think there were any right angles in the entire house,” says Jay.

It was funky, but they liked it.

And so, before they made an offer, Julie called up her tennis buddy, Marta Mitchell (as in Marta Mitchell Interior Design), to give the house her expert eye.

“It’s got good bones,” Marta told them. “We can make this place whatever you want it to be.”

Obviously, they would want fresh paint on the walls and new floors. (Many of the tiles were broken or chipped, Julie explains, and an uneven foundation would render all furniture askew.) But there were two major problems that the Brennans wanted to address: a lack of storage space — for all Julie’s dishes, Jay teases — and a fireplace obstructing the otherwise uninterrupted view of the lake from the living room. While they were at it, they figured, they just might be able to move that wall out a bit to invite even more light into the space. And they wanted to add a screened porch.   

Having decided to save up funds to tackle the projects “all at once,” the Brennans moved into the house as it was and lived there for four years. 

In spring of 2019, at long last, they were ready to move forward with the renovation. Their vision was simple enough. But following the discovery of water damage and mold in the walls, plans changed.

“Rip everything out,” said Jay.

Marta Mitchell drew up blueprints (there were none to be found), and with the help of Frank Chaney (architect) and Pat Parr of Classic Construction (contractor), the team got to work, making the best use of the space and taking full advantage of the opportunity to start from scratch. Not only would the crew resolve the storage dilemma and enhance the Brennans’ view to the water, but they would also transform wasted space into an additional bathroom (main floor) and an artist’s loft accessible via floating staircase through Jay’s second-floor home office.

“We were out of the house for almost 15 months,” says Jay, co-founder of a company that connects innovative startups with health care systems such as Cone Heath. Being displaced for over a year might have been disorienting enough in “normal” times. Never mind in the midst of a global pandemic. 

But in July of 2020, the Brennans moved back into their home, which was transformed from the inside, out.

White stone and stucco complemented by warm cedar supersedes original exterior siding — unremarkable and gray.

Inside, the eye dances across lively, polychromatic silk rugs and hardwood flooring, a miscellany of colorful art and sumptuous furnishings, then on through the back windows, which, original fireplace gone, make the deck and backyard feel like an extension of the interior. In the living room, abstract prints pop against muted walls and sunlight flickers through an avant-garde handblown glass light installation suspended from the vaulted ceiling like something straight out of a Chihuly exhibit.

“We commissioned those,” says Julie of the glass pendants created by Ohio artist Doug Frates, who she and Marta discovered at High Point Market.

An open floor plan allows copious natural light and seamless flow from living room to dining room, where a matching set of bird chandeliers hangs above a Hooker table with chairs upholstered in fabrics most designers only wish their clients would let them pair up.

“It’s quite unconventional,” says Julie of the prismatic polka-dot-and-stripe combo. But Marta Mitchell and Annelise Tikkanen, MMID’s design team on this project, were clear on what Julie wanted.

“It’s eclectic . . . it’s Bohemian . . . it’s just color and fun,” says Julie. “It’s . . . me.”

Marta Mitchell describes the interior as a “unique reflection of the Brennans’ vision.”

“Comfort and function being top of mind,” she adds, “this house is now open and airy and lends itself for everyday living and for entertaining large groups — hopefully in the not-too-distant future.”

The living-and-dining area opens to the “screened porch wing,” where a 60-inch flat screen is mounted above a modish gas fireplace that no longer obstructs the view of the lake.

“We get a breeze from both sides, so it’s comfortable out here even in the summer,” says Julie.

Plus, Jay adds, “We have one of those nice Big Ass Fans.”

The contemporary kitchen, sleek and minimalistic, is decked in a sea of blue tiles and backlit glass-paneled cabinets that showcase Julie’s crystal. The Brennans love their hideaway fridge, sub-zero wine cooler and Wolf appliances, but Jay will tell you that the ice maker is his favorite feature. For Julie, it’s easily the hidden pantry, which has “tons of storage for all my porcelain.”

In the master suite, where one of Julie’s paintings picks up colors from the abstract pastel rug, the Brennans now have His and Her walk-in closets, each with a window to let in natural light. But the best view of the water is from their bed — or the adjacent deck, where two orange rockers await coffee at sunrise.

Besides the den (dark by design) and fitness and laundry rooms, there’s only one other room (upstairs) that doesn’t have a lake view.

“That’s Nicole’s room,” says Julie, whose granddaughter lives here too.

Nicole, 18, and her dog, Omar (a German shorthaired pointer mix), occupy a purple bedroom with a built-in wardrobe, fringe pendant lights and a small gallery of her own bold and colorful paintings.

Actually, Omar has a bed in nearly every room.

And he’s not the only resident smitten with the entire house.

Although Jay admits the renovation was much more extensive than he could ever have imagined — “let’s just say the budget and I were no longer well-acquainted by the end of the project,” he says — he and Julie pulled out all the stops and couldn’t be happier.

So, there you have it. They weren’t looking for it — and this house found them, more than they found it — but the Brennans are convinced that the house at the edge of Lake Jeanette was always meant to be theirs.  OH

Our Crown Jewel

Our Crown Jewel

The evolving history of Greensboro’s Country Park


By Billy Ingram

I exit the cockpit of a F2H Banshee Navy fighter jet, walk past the 20 mm cannons mounted on the fuselage and, surveying unfamiliar surroundings, gaze across a pristine lake. In the distance, my brother and sister are waving me over from an approaching train, steam bellowing from its bulbous black smokestack as it chug-chug-chugs to a halt.

I am 7 years old, and I’m with my family at Country Park.

Many children of Greensboro have similar memories. And lucky for all of us, public parks and recreational facilities were central to the city’s vision of a 20th century urban center. The crown jewel of Greensboro’s green space has always been Country Park.

Located off North Lawndale Drive, Country Park is the nucleus of a 217-acre entertainment destination that encompasses the Greensboro Science Center (a science museum and zoo) and its OmniSphere Theater; Jaycee Park and its Stoner-White Stadium; and Spencer Love Tennis Center.

It’s almost hard to imagine Greensboro without it.

In 1901, a 14-acre tract of lowlands flanking North Elm Street was the first land set aside for an official city park. Today we know the space as Fisher Park, but at the time, it was merely a swampy patch of undeveloped land likely donated to the city in an effort to save the surrounding neighborhood from overdevelopment. In coming years, sinuous walking trails were installed, allowing the public to fully enjoy its bucolic environs at long last. Also in 1901, Douglas Park opened on the south side of town, transforming an 8-acre plot of woods into a vibrant gathering spot with walking paths, a playground and a basketball court. It even had a stream running through it.

In 1902, far outside of city limits, the Greensboro Electric Co.’s streetcar system leased what was known as Lindley Park, where a dance pavilion, man-made lake, bowling alleys, a Vaudeville theater and refreshment booths once drew happy crowds. The iron-and-stone entranceways on Spring Garden are all that remain of that ancient amusement park. Yet somehow, without all the flashy accoutrement (showgirls, candlepins and ice skating, for instance), Lindley Park endures as a sacred place for relaxation and solace.


PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum


This sudden turn-of-the-century mushrooming of public parks was Greensboro’s bid to join a national social movement. The idea was to provide places to contemplate nature and recreate, reducing the stress and strain of urban life. Following the lead of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in New York City, cities from coast-to-coast began adding parks to their urban landscapes.

Initially modeled after the grounds of manors and estates in England, these parks catered mostly to rich families. However, over the decades, parks began accommodating the working-class families with playgrounds and recreational facilities. The prevailing theory at the time was that public money was well spent on these projects because they could potentially reduce class conflict, socialize immigrants and get kids off the streets. Building parks was a laudable social goal and demonstrated a city’s sense of social responsibility.

And so it was in Greensboro. In an outstanding demonstration of civic pride following the Great Depression, volunteers, city workers and laborers from the Public Works Administration worked together to turn 79 acres purchased in part with cemetery bond funds into Country Park. 

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum


The result of their efforts opened in 1934. When temperatures sizzled that summer, the park attracted nearly 2,000 visitors per day. A wooden superstructure known as The Bath House, situated along the eastern edge of Lake Sloan, the park’s northernmost and largest body of water, is where swimmers could change and shower. Just a few feet away was a high-diving platform. A vertical aquatic merry-go-round was positioned in the middle of the lake, and there was even a sandy beach-like shoreline for sunbathing. Swimming was suspended during the polio outbreak of 1948 but resumed in the 1950s.

Around 1952, the park welcomed a one-fifth scale MTC G-12 train that maneuvered around on a 12-gauge track. That kiddie sized choo-choo was in operation every afternoon in the summertime. Nearby, a full-size Greensboro Fire Department ladder truck and a Southern Railway boxcar acted like magnets, attracting children who couldn’t wait to climb into, up on and around the stationary machines.

By the 1960s, two other man-made lakes sparkled on the property, where rowboats and pedal boats floated in endless, lazy circles, with mallards and Canada geese watching from the shorelines. Fishing was allowed with a permit, and seven picnic shelters were scattered around the lakes with free-standing grills. The park had an archery range, ball field and a craft shop where you could buy a bottle of Pepsi for five cents.

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection.
© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection.


A tram system shuttled motorless city folk about the park on weekends and holidays. Under the direction of Harvey West, the Municipal Band performed weekly Sunday night concerts from a pavilion located on the south side of Lake Sloan.

The Country Park train was replaced in the summer of 1959 by a much bigger attraction when Greensboro resident W.A. Cameron purchased a trio of railroad cars pulled by a 1,700-pound Crown steam locomotive nicknamed “The General.” Based on the design of an 1855 Western and Atlantic Railroad passenger train of the same name that had been commandeered by Yankees during the Civil War, the attraction was a hit. There was even a mini cowcatcher (exactly what it sounds like) up front.

The General was supplanted a few years later by a homemade contraption with faux caboose and a kiddie cage that looked like it might have been designed by the Merry Pranksters on LSD.

(The original Country Park railroad landed in the possession of a young, up-and-coming plastic surgeon, then was later purchased by a Climax couple who sold it on eBay in 2008.)

The first of two decommissioned Korean War-era F2H Banshee Navy fighter jets from Cherry Point arrived at Country Park in January of 1959, decades before playground equipment safety became a public-health issue. Donated by the Marine Corps, the jets were installed on the east side of the lakes; on one side of the planes, a ladder offered kids access to the cockpit, which they could (somewhat) safely exit via playground slide on the other side of the plane. That said, some residents still have scars from mounting those rusting artifacts, arms or legs singed from hot metal surfaces. And with less than adequate guardrails, I’m probably not the only kid that toppled off of those slides. The jet planes were removed in the late-1960s.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Greensboro History Museum


From day one at Country Park, the streets leading in and out of the park became something of a shortcut for drivers with a need for speed. Not ideal. Thus, in 1960, supplementary access was closed off in favor of a single entrance for automobiles. Around that time, the central body of water was filled in to allow foot traffic access to a 1.6-mile paved circle around the circumference of the park. That’s likely when swimming was discontinued.

As cities across the nation turned to more of a recreational-and-sports complex model for urban parks, construction of the Lewis Center’s multipurpose sports facility was completed on the west side of Country Park in 1964. Because the Greensboro Jaycees raised most of the money for the project, a 75-acre plot abutting the west end of Country Park was christened Jaycee Park in the 1970s, including three football/soccer fields, tennis courts, a Pony baseball field and volleyball courts.

Casey’s Bar-B-Q, a hometown favorite, operated a weekend concession at Country Park during the ’60s. In 1970, the Parks & Recreation Department’s Country Park Patio restaurant entered the scene, selling hot dogs, soft drinks, candy, snow cones and ice cream.

The original city zoo, located at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in the ’50s, featured a peacock, raccoons, an American bald eagle, two bison, alligators, a monkey, a vicious groundhog, several varieties of pheasant, an assortment of ducks and geese, five deer, a goose named Oswald and a black bear cub named Bruno.

As the zoo aged, concern mounted about the animals’ welfare and their being housed in “inadequate structures.” After a “Save Our Zoo” campaign in 1969, the idea of a new and improved zoo turned into a contentious, on-and-off-again affair, but thanks to a last-minute infusion of cash from the city, the new zoo finally welcomed their first visitors in spring of 1973. It was designed sort of like a big, rambling barnyard, with an indoor petting zoo and enclosures for miniature burros, coyotes, a cougar, an American Bison, two elk, black swans, cattle, opossums, turkeys, a llama and Bruno the bear, who had been a major attraction for 14 years at that point. Admission was 50 cents — 25 cents for children.


The Junior Museum, also commonly referred to as The Children’s Museum, got underway in 1957 — a collaborative effort of the Junior League, City Council and Greensboro Parks & Recreation. The staff (mostly Junior League volunteers) taught children about natural sciences, how to care for the small animals on site and how to help injured critters and birds. This facility would eventually evolve into the Natural Science Center, which now threatens to eclipse Country Park as a tourist attraction.

As a teenager in the ’70s, if friends wanted to have a backyard barbecue, Country Park was the preferred venue. (Who wanted to hang out with anyone’s parents?) In those days, the woods were so thick around the picnic areas that you couldn’t see past the tree lines. There was almost no foot traffic — a lone jogger, perhaps. It legitimately felt like you were luxuriating in the countryside.

About that time, ten cents of every dollar (up from 3.5 cents two decades earlier) expended by the city went into a system that included 109 parks, 86 tennis courts, 78 camp sites, 65 picnic sites, 42 playgrounds, 17 baseball fields, 11 community centers, 10 gymnasiums, five outdoor pools and two indoor pools.

Plans are afoot to make what might seem to be radical changes for the newly christened Battleground Parks District. Effectively erasing the largely undeveloped parcel between the Greensboro Science Center and Country Park, the overall concept proposes constructing boardwalks, viewing platforms, wooden abutments jutting into the water, weirdly-shaped climbing structures for kids, accommodations for food trucks, an amphitheater, a waterfall river, additional shelters, and — of all things — a zip line.

I don’t know what it says about our society that viewing stations would be requisite in order to ponder the existence of trees and waterways. Enticing to the zip line crowd, I suppose.

While neighborhood parks like Fisher and Lindley have remained virtually unchanged over the last half century, Country Park, on the other hand, has continually evolved with the times, following national trends about just what constitutes a park — and adapting to the recreational needs of each new generation. While the city’s footprint has stretched well beyond the park and its surrounding facilities, Country Park remains a tranquil oasis for fishing, exercising, meditation and socializing with friends and family. It’s nice to know that will never change.

And, who knows, I may even ride that zip line one day.  OH

The author of five books, Billy Ingram was born and raised in Greensboro. Thanks to Nollie Washburn Neill Jr. for pictures of his trip to Country Park taken by his father in the early-1960s.

The Wonder of Color

The Wonder of Color

Piedmont Photography Club delivers the whole, glorious spectrum

By Maria Johnson



Let us take a moment — here in this month of mud, bluster and bursting forth — to honor ROY G. BIV.

That’s not a person. It’s an acronym for colors along the visible spectrum of light.

Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

Throw in black and white, and you have the ingredients of every color that any human has ever seen — or ever will see — with unaided eyes.

That’s shocking when you think about it.

We see so few colors.

And yet, we experience such joy in our wee rainbow, in the gradations and textures and juxtapositions with other colors.

It’s all about how they’re arranged.

And — as any student of Monet knows — how much light falls on them. There is no true color, of anything, only constantly changing reflections of constantly changing light.

Here’s the freaky part: the color happens in our brains. Objects have no inherent color — just surfaces that reflect light in different wavelengths.

Basically, the reflected light — a kind of electromagnetic radiation — hits the photoreceptors in our eyeballs, which dashes them off in chemical telegrams to our brains, which decodes them as colors.

From this neurological basis, we discern objects, depth, movement and sometimes awe. Witness the pleasure prompted by these photographs provided by the Piedmont Photography Club.

The club, which has been around since the 1970s, holds quarterly contests for members. These images, gleaned from last year’s competitions, showcase the wonder of color.

So, photo buffs — and photoreceptors — rejoice as we prime our senses for spring and revel in the glory of ROY and company.  OH

Learn more about the Piedmont Photography Club at piedmontphotoclub.com.

“Atlantic Beach”

Renee Russell, Winston-Salem

It looked like the sky was on fire. That’s how Renee Russell describes the sunset the night she and her husband, David, got to Atlantic Beach to meet with family last summer. She loved the smoky clouds — “I can see a Viking boat in that bigger cloud,” she says — and bristling sea oats below. Renee, a home-health nurse, has been taking photographs for most of her life, but capturing images has become a passion since David, also a prolific shooter, asked her to join the photography club with him about 20 years ago. Stress dissolves, she reports, when she shifts her focus to captivating scenes and starts snapping. “It’s a challenge, at times, to get the shot that you really see or want somebody else to see,” she says. See the couple’s work at russellphotoart.com.


“Facing the Light”

Bet Wilson, Winston-Salem

Talk to amateur photographers, and a theme emerges: They squeeze in lots of pictures while taking vacations. Or, more accurately, they squeeze in lots of vacations while taking pictures. A few years ago, Bet Wilson did both while visiting Arizona in late summer, the best time to photograph Antelope Canyon, which is on Navajo land near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. She booked an excursion into the slot canyon with 10 other photographers. The guide drove them into the rocky hollow and threw up a handful of dust to accentuate the shaft of light that turned water-worn rock into cathedral. “It was one of the joys of my life to capture that,” says Bet. “I just feel so fortunate that I was able to time my trip so I could be there — and it was a sunny day.”


“Street Art”

Bill Cowden, Winston-Salem

Maybe Bill Cowden wouldn’t notice the masked character today, now that half the world covers its face to filter out COVID, but two years ago, the lithe figure stood out on an art-plastered corner in Austin, Texas. “It wasn’t just junky graffiti,” Cowden says. “It was a lot of interesting different scenes.” Cowden lifted his cell phone and documented the urban tableau. This frame ended up in a club contest. “The competition is friendly,” says Cowden, the group’s president. “Our goal is to help anyone who needs help.” In non-COVID times, the club organizes trips to scenic places around the state, including Lake Mattamuskeet, where snow geese stop during their annual migration.


“Peaceful Beauty”

Ed Haynes, Oak Ridge

Sometimes, the best photos lurk right under your nose. Or outside your breakfast nook. That’s where Ed Haynes saw this butterfly sipping lantana nectar at sunset. “The backlit wings are what makes that one so good,” Ed says, explaining the challenge of capturing quick-moving subjects in low light. “You gotta get your exposure right. It’s a balance between getting enough light and having a fast enough shutter.” Ed’s daughter, Edie, turned him onto photography a couple of years ago, after Ed retired as a maintenance supervisor at the former MillerCoors brewery in Eden. COVID makes him grateful for his new pastime. “I’m glad I can do something in my backyard,” he says.

“Munching Monarch”

Susan Hayworth, Bermuda Run

Susan was stalking Monarch butterflies last September when she took the Blue Ridge Parkway to Doughton Park, a stop on a migration loop that stretches from the northeast U.S. and Canada, down to south Florida and Mexico. She caught this Monarch caterpillar mid-chomp. Soon, it would make a chrysalis and emerge to stretch its orange and black wings and finish the trip south. No single butterfly completes the loop; the journey spans five generations. Some monarch lines, fluttering northward after their winter vacations, stop in North Carolina in the spring. Charmed by the moderate climate and milkweed, they might stay for a few generations (the Monarch lifespan is three to five weeks except for those that overwinter; they can live a few months). Others continue to press north for the summer. Come September and October, their progeny reverse course and stop at Doughton Park to gas up on nectar for the long trip to wintering grounds — no time for royal whoopee. Thousands of Monarchs migrate south during that time, but “You’re not guaranteed you’re gonna see anything,” says Susan. “So for me to go on a hunt and see this — and have it turn out as well as it did — that’s pretty special to me.”


“Jackson Fall”

Franklyn Millman, Winston-Salem

On the way from Jackson, Wyoming, to Yellowstone National Park, Franklyn Millman and his wife, Susan Von Cannon, parked their car and took a walk. “The whole road was covered with these yellow aspen leaves,” says Franklyn, “but finding a scene where you have a lot of vertical trunks that don’t interfere with each other . . .” It took some doing. Finally, Franklyn found the frame. “It had a certain rhythm to it,” he says. “I like the simplicity, and of course I liked the color.” A devoted shutterbug and recently retired internist, Franklyn has traveled worldwide. Once, in Iceland, he ventured onto a wind-whipped beach to shoot chunks of icebergs. A giant wave reared. “It knocked me down and submerged my camera,” he says, laughing. He grabbed a backup camera and kept shooting until he bagged a keeper. “Your pulse actually increases, and you say, ‘Man, if I can capture that before it goes away . . .’  Those moments are relatively infrequent, but sometimes conditions are just right and, boy, it’s amazing.”


“Egret in Carolina Blue Sky”

Boyd Rogers, Summerfield

Boyd was itching to play with his new toy, a 600 mm photo lens. An ideal opportunity came one morning at North Topsail Beach, when he spotted egrets coming and going in a bay behind the island. “You have to get them in focus, lock on and track them while you’re shooting,” he says. “It takes hundreds of pictures sometimes to get the one you’re looking for.” He likes this shot for its simplicity — “There’s nothing to distract your eye away from the bird” — and for the sharp focus on the bird’s pupil. “The eyes are the windows of the soul, I’ve read. Birds are not as much fun as mammals, but there’s a lot there, in birds’ eyes,” he says.



Sinh Nguyen, Winston-Salem

Painstakingly gorgeous. That describes this striking composition, which Sinh Nguyen pieced together at a workstation in his backyard. He snipped an unfurling frond of fern. He positioned a potted flower behind it. He used a syringe to apply drops of water to the fern. He positioned his camera, which was hitched to a Sony 90 mm macro lens, on tripod. He fired the shutter. Again and again. “I took it more or less one hundred times,” he says. “I picked the ten best ones.” Using PhotoShop, he merged the images, preserving the best of each. Thirty years ago, Sinh took a class at the New York Institute of Photography, but he had little money or time to indulge his interest. Now retired, he quenches his thirst for beauty. “I get bored and walk around with my camera and the ideas come,” he says. “I take whatever catches my eye.”


“Water Lilies in Sun”

Marinella Holden, Winston-Salem

The afternoon sun was tilting toward the golden hour at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, S.C., when these water lilies pinged on Marinella Holden’s photographic radar. “It was just a vivid little area,” she says. “The colors were gorgeous, and the light was right.” Marinella took up photography after her husband, Jerry, was well into it. “I wish we’d taken this up earlier,” she says. “It just makes you more aware of your surroundings. Sometimes you’re not focused, but when you’re taking pictures, you are.” See the couple’s work at jholden1.smugmug.com.



Karen Vohs, Winston-Salem

Karen went to the North Carolina Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary hoping to see hues of blue; the photography club was having a contest with one category reserved for subjects of that color.

This puffy pachyderm fit the bill. Karen crouched low and shot upward — “like a little kid looking up” — to include the pink orbs that popped hot against cooler shades. An avid photographer for the last 10 years, Karen enjoys the challenges of the art: the quest to find and frame subjects, as well as the technical process of digital editing. She has learned much from her snap-happy peers. “There’s a lot of really good photographers in the club who are willing to share their knowledge,” she says.





Poem March 21

Pairing Mantids


He has only one job to do. And she, with her hunger,

her need to feed the future without him by consuming him,

has a lot to get done before winter.

His head tilts slightly, like a sinner at communion,

like a teen expecting his first kiss to be like lightning.

Then his body starts to do the work it was built to do.

She turns toward him and wipes off his face.

He knows it’s all over, but his body keeps on, unknowing itself.

His is the kind of stupid happiness

you can only appreciate at a distance,

the kind you know cannot be as good as it looks.

Hers is the work of duty and a different devotion.

While he takes her from behind, she takes him

head first just like she took a yellow striped hornet

who would have taken her to his own hideaway,

just as she took the grasshopper who was tired of summer,

as she took the large green moth who had no mouth of its own.

She ignored those magnificent wings — just let them fall —

as she ignores the thrusting body that falls away from hers.

He dies two deaths at once, the deaths of love and of life.

But the moment between, the moment before it all ends,

is the moment of his glory and the beginning of her toil.

— Paul Jones

Paul Jones is the author of

What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common

Wandering Billy

Adventures in Television

How a hat and a T-shirt accidentally changed everything for a young Greensboro comedian


By Billy Eye

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your home. — David Frost

“Why are you contacting me now?” Dana Ralph Lowell texted me.

Good question. Lowell had reached out to me much earlier, but now that I was compiling a database of local children’s programming for my website, TVparty.com, I had finally gotten back to him — 10 years after he’d first contacted me. Whoops.

Perhaps you remember him as Billy Bobb?

Back in the early 1980s, when WGGT channel 48 (“The Great Entertainer”) entered the Triad TV market, its bread-and-butter were schlocky horror movies, “professional” wrestling and former primetime network shows.

Broadcasting from the Cone Export building near the Carolina Theatre, this small UHF (ultrahigh frequency) station struggled financially from the very beginning. Then, in 1987, due to the success of Elvira’s Movie Macabre in national syndication, WGGT tapped local comedian Dana Lowell to host horror features on Saturday nights.

And they wanted him in character.

“As a member of a comedy troupe in the early ’80s, Lowell created Billy Bobb — “Almost like what Paul Reubens did with Pee-wee Herman” — as a way of lampooning local kids’ show hosts.

And the station loved Billy Bobb, as did his growing fan base.

“It was a zero-budget situation,” Lowell tells me of Billy Bobb’s Action Theatre. The set was “actually the news set turned around backwards to make it look like a garage.”

Billy Bobb hosted kung fu movies, then low-budget sci-fi and B-horror flicks.

The popularity of Billy Bobb’s Action Theatre led to a daily afternoon kiddie show.

Just like Greensboro’s own beloved Old Rebel Show on WFMY, local kiddie shows winked off the airways by the late-1970s, to be replaced by syndicated cartoons, often flogging children’s toy lines. Someone at WGGT thought the time was right for a revival.

“I never set out to be a kids’ show host,” Lowell insists, but he suddenly found himself hosting a daily cartoon show with a peanut gallery of young children on set.

As a nightclub comedian,” he says, “I didn’t know what made little kids laugh. I was rating my work by how much I could make the cameraman laugh, or the director in the booth.”

For Billy Bobb’s Fun Club, afternoons from 4–5 p.m., Lowell converted a Pac-Man machine into a puppet theater. “Junior Prankster became a little sidekick buddy for Billy Bobb,” says Lowell. It was all off-the-cuff. “We were on almost five years and never had a script.”

Kids wrote in by the thousands to receive their fan club certificate and hear their name mentioned on their birthdays.

Billy Bobb began eclipsing Dana Ralph Lowell.

Lowell received the princely sum of $25 per episode and $25 an hour for public appearances. “I had a two-part act going,” Lowell says. “Doing Billy Bobb in nightclubs, then doing Billy Bobb during the day on television.” Even though, adjusted for inflation, $25 is worth $50 in today’s dollars, “the most I made for a year being that popular TV character was $5,000 [$10,000 in today’s dollars], so it was not exactly fame and fortune.”

He recalls an encounter in costume with a child at the mall.

“He screamed and he came running up to me and said, ‘How did you get out of my TV? Did you get out of the TV at my house and then come here?’ He thought I lived in the television set.”

Besides filming car commercials airing on other stations, Billy Bobb would turn up at baseball games, Soap Box Derby races, rodeos, shopping centers, parades, at the drag strip and anywhere a crowd gathered. “And just about everything that was happening around the county, we were there with our camera crew and it became subject matter for the show.”

Lowell benefitted from what you might call the “Clark Kent Syndrome.”

“As soon as I took off that costume, nobody recognized me. I just took off the red flannel shirt and the goofy hat and the T-shirt that said ‘Too Funny!’”

For the entire run of the Billy Bobb program, the station was under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “That’s another reason I had zero budget,” Lowell says. “Channel 48 was the clubhouse for a fraternity of folks having a blast making low-budget TV. It was a lot of fun.”

About a dozen professional wrestlers appeared on the show. “Household name types like Sgt. Slaughter and The Rock ’n’ Roll Express,” Lowell says. “They were such pros and such hams — we would have a blast. I remember Sgt. Slaughter picking on the puppet.”

The owner of a car dealership in Reidsville, Tar Heel Nissan, was impressed with increased sales resulting from a commercial campaign starring Lowell. “And I’m like, ‘Who drops 30 grand on a Nissan — makes major life purchases — because a guy on TV named Billy Bobb said to do that? Crazy!’”

After he had been doing the show for a year or two, “I found out that there was another Channel 48 in the late 1960s, early 1970,” Lowell says. “Very low-budget, even smaller than our Channel 48 was. This little station in the late ’60s had a kid show.” That show was called The Kiddie Scene with Mr. Green. (I, Billy Eye, actually appeared on it once as a 12-year-old in a skit I organized and (naturally) starred in with the neighborhood kids for a backyard performance.) A turning point in Lowell’s career came one day when he had a chance encounter with a tall, skinny old man working a concession stand at a ball game.

“He had also hosted horror movies as a ‘Shock Theater’ kind of character,” Lowell recalls.

“And here he is,” Lowell says. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, there’s my future. I’m going to be working in a concession stand when I get older, selling hot dogs at a baseball game. There’s my future in show business!’”

Today Dana Lowell operates a fine arts theater at a private college prep school here in Greensboro. “Since I did get my theater degree in scenery and lighting design, I’m teaching theater. It’s a dream job that’s different every day.”

Would a local kids’ show work in modern times?

“No, I think kids are too cynical today,” Lowell says. “I know we couldn’t get away with the humor because everyone’s so sensitive and politically correct. We would ruffle a lot of feathers. I can’t even imagine . . .”  OH

Billy Eye’s TVparty is — according to The Discovery Channel — “Hands down the best site on the Web for classic TV.”


Hardy Hummers

Rufous hummingbirds are midwinter guests


By Susan Campbell

It may sound odd, but this is a good time to talk about hummingbirds. I have been fielding reports of these tiny, winged jewels for weeks. So far, I have banded 17 and have details on almost 100 more — and counting! Yes, even in the middle of the winter.

Here in North Carolina, hummingbird lovers can find or attract these amazing little fliers any month of the year. And this winter has been a particularly productive season for hardy hummers across the state. Predictably, the bulk of the hummingbirds I have encountered in the Piedmont have been rufous hummingbirds.

Annually, shorter days and cooler temperatures herald the return of rufous hummingbirds from points far to our north and west. The species breeds from the Rocky Mountains up into southern Canada and across to southeastern Alaska. They begin nesting when there is still snow on the ground and vegetation is sparse. In the cooler months, the majority of rufous can be found wintering in southern Mexico. However, it has been discovered in the last few decades that a wintering population exists in the southeastern United States. Across North Carolina, dozens of rufous take up residence between October and April. Many go unnoticed unless they appear at late-blooming plants or sugar water feeders. These are extremely tough little critters.

These tiny birds that spend their summers at high latitudes are well adapted to cold weather. They can forage in below freezing temperatures, searching thick vegetation for insects with little difficulty. At night and during colder, wet periods, they will seek out thick evergreen cover and use torpor, a nighttime hibernation, to conserve energy. The pines, cedars, hollies and magnolias in central North Carolina make excellent winter habitat for rufous hummingbirds.

The male rufous is very distinctive, having rusty body feathers in addition to a coppery iridescent gorget. Females, however, are a different story. Their size and shape are not very distinctive. Aside from reddish-brown color at the base of their tail feathers, and perhaps a smattering of brownish feathers around the face and flanks, they appear much like immature male ruby-throateds. They also look very similar to a few other species of Western hummers such as the Allen’s, broad-tailed or calliope hummingbird. For those with a good musical ear, the vocalization — a loud series of “stick” notes — may give a rufous away.

It is interesting to note that some of these tiny marvels return to the same feeder from one winter to the next. In fact, some individuals are faithful to the same location over their lifetime, which can be seven years. To date, we have had three females that have done just that, proven by the tiny aluminum bands I placed on their legs the first year. Some individuals choose to overwinter in different locations in the Southeast. This year we have two “foreigners.” One of them was originally banded by a colleague of mine outside Mobile, Alabama, two winters ago.

Furthermore, there have been some extremely lucky folks, including hosts in both the Sandhills and the Triad, who have hosted not one, but multiple rufous over the course of a single season. Last November, both a hostess in Asheville and another at Riverbend County Park outside Hickory each had three female rufous coming in for sugar water. A friend and research colleague who runs that park is investigating a fourth female rufous who turned up on February 1.

And no need to worry: Winter sugar water feeder maintenance is straightforward. Hang it in an open location and simply rinse and refill every two weeks or so. In our area, a feeder hung close to the house will be protected most days and many of the nights. The regular solution (4 parts water; 1 part sugar) will not freeze unless the air temperature drops below 27 degrees.

So, go ahead and hang a feeder any time. It is absolutely never too late to get noticed. Who knows? It may be found by a passing rufous hummingbird or two. OH

Susan would love to receive your wildlife observations and/or photos at susan@ncaves.com.


Photograph by Mark Shields


Lenten Rose

A Winter Blessing


By Ross Howell Jr.

Not long ago, my sister, Becky DeHaven, introduced me to Lenten roses by giving me some.

Becky has a natural-born curiosity about plants. She inherited our mother’s green thumb, is a charter member of Greensboro’s Seeds ’n’ Weeds Garden Club and has as fine an eye for landscape as any professional you could hire. Her Irving Park garden is evidence.

I, on the other hand, did not inherit our mother’s green thumb. But the plants my sister gave me are thriving — proof that while Lenten roses may look delicate, they’re tough, hardy plants.

Sometimes called Christmas roses or winter roses, Lenten roses are not roses at all.

They’re hellebores — Helleborus orientalis, to be specific — members of an exclusive little club of some 20 herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering species native to Eurasia. The highest concentration of hellebore species in the world is found in the Balkans.

Decades ago, they were a rarity in American gardens. So how did my sister discover them?

“I was looking for something that blooms in winter,” Becky says. “And that’s hard to find.” Then someone at a Seeds ’n’ Weeds meeting mentioned Lenten roses.

“I liked the spiritual aspect,” Becky adds. “That they bloom during Lent.”

Lenten roses usually start blooming in January, though in established beds, they can start as early as December and bloom straight through to April. They prefer shade to partial shade in well-drained soil, though my sister tells me some of hers have spread into areas in full sun.

Hellebore hybrids display a variety of colors — white, pink, red, purple, plum, yellow, green, even nearly black. Petals can be smooth or ruffled. The flowers can be shaped like upturned stars or nodding bells. Some hybrids offer double blooms.

These blossoms are set off against deep-green foliage, welcome color for a winter garden. And florists like hellebores because they make such long-lasting cut flowers.

Lenten roses can be incredibly prolific.

About the same time my sister was planting her first winter roses for color in her Greensboro garden, Brenda and Bill Brookbank of nearby Julian decided to conduct an experiment.

They tell me their backyard is filled with mature hardwoods, and back then they were looking for perennials that would grow in the shade. They planted a number of different plants. Among them were five Lenten roses.

“Everything died,” Brenda says. “Except the Lenten roses.” A year later, they noticed bright green seedlings springing up in the back yard.

“We thought they were weeds,” Brenda adds. So they started digging them, until they realized exactly what they were.

As the hellebores continued to propagate, Brenda got the idea to start transplanting them into pots to sell at a local farmers’ market.

“And what did you say, Bill?” she asks her husband.

Bill chuckles and answers, “I said, ‘Ain’t nobody gonna buy those plants.’”

If you’re a husband, you know just where this story is going.

That day Brenda sold every plant she’d potted. She potted more and sold them too. Then she contacted a local nursery to see if they wanted to buy any. They did, but they told her she’d need to be a certified seller. So she got her certification. Later, the Brookbanks bought the lot adjoining their property — to grow more hellebores.

And B&B Lenten Roses became a business.

“All the plants we’ve ever sold have grown from the seed of those original five,” Brenda adds.

“Oh, there’s no holding a Lenten rose,” my sister adds. The first season she put hers in, she noticed green shoots springing up everywhere. Like the Brookbanks, she thought they were weeds.

Over the years the hellebores have spread into my sister’s pachysandra. In fact, Becky uses her lawnmower to keep her walking path open, so broadly have they spread.

My sister’s Lenten roses display another typical characteristic: Lenten roses are remarkably quick to hybridize, meaning they reproduce in colors other than the color of the original plants. Though she started only with light pink flowers, her beds now display nearly every color of the Lenten rose palette, from white to nearly black.

“You never know what you’ll get with a Lenten rose,” Brenda Brookbank says. She explains that it’s a good idea to purchase them when they’re blooming, so you can be certain about the color.

“The mother plant will continue to produce the same color,” Brenda adds. But once the cross-pollinated seeds begin to sprout, all bets are off.

As for the Lenten roses my sister gave me — they’re growing by the house in the partial shade of a big willow oak in our neighbor’s yard. When we’ve had some snow or ice, I like walking outside to have a look, their dark foliage serene in the snow, here and there a pink blossom peeking through ice.

But another neighbor has expanded his parking area, so where the Lenten roses reside I want to plant arbor vitae as a screen.

I’m going to move the Lenten roses to a garden in Blowing Rock. They can stand the cold, and I have a well-drained spot with enough shade that I believe they’ll do just fine.

Another great hellebore characteristic, especially for the mountains? They’re seriously deer-resistant.

And as for my sister, Becky? Lately she’s been telling me about a new find, Chinese paperbush.

I expect I’ll have another topic to write about, some season soon.  OH

For more information on Lenten roses, contact your local garden shop or garden club. You can also visit B&B Lenten Roses at bblentenroses.com or call them in advance for an appointment to see their selection.

Ross Howell Jr. is a freelance writer and geezer gardener. Contact him with your plant ideas at ross.howell1@gmail.com.

Food for Thought

The Soup Swap

It couldn’t be easier to share a warm meal with friends


By Bridgette A. Lacy

Southerners are known for their cookie swaps, but why not swap soup?

I fell in love with homemade soups during a 1994 La Napoule Art Foundation fellowship in Southern France sponsored by the North Carolina Arts Council. The chef, Malika, made a creamy, vegetable soup from scratch almost daily. Served with crusty baguettes and grated cheese for garnishing, I was in homemade soup heaven.

Soup is the ultimate comfort food, nourishing the body and soul. It’s a perfect remedy for the final bite of winter and, since scientists have predicted another surge in COVID cases, a soothing, comforting dish packed with fond memories.

A few years ago, my love affair with soup heated up when I heard Kathy Gunst, the resident chef for WBUR’s award-winning radio show Here & Now, talk about her cookbook, Soup Swap: Comforting Recipes to Make and Share.

I loved the idea of gathering a few friends and swapping jars of chowders or brothy liquids filled with fresh ingredients. “Soup fits almost any budget,” Gunst says. “Throw whatever ingredients you have in water . . . a little bit goes a long way.”

One of my favorites is a chunky stew-like black-eyed-peas concoction with fresh collards, carrots, ham and onions. It’s a savory and satisfying meal in a bowl. My friend, children’s book author Kelly Starling Lyons, often delivers a container to me on New Year’s Day to start my year off right.

My friend, Joyce, recently whipped up a batch of Ree Drummond’s Best Tomato Soup Ever. I drove over to her house with my recycled Talenti gelato containers. Once home, I washed my hands, grabbed a spoon and agreed that the silky smoothness was better than any tomato soup I’d ever tasted.

Good soup can be made with scraps, creating a peasant-like meal, or from pricey seafood, for a more sophisticated bisque. As long as the flavor is there, my spoon is ready. As Gunst says, “there are no limits on what can be defined as soup.”

So let’s get this thing started. And make the swap work for you — whether everyone exchanges soup at the same place and time, or you make your soup and tell your friends to bring their containers.

Here are Kathy Gunst’s Tips for Starting a Soup Swap:

Make sure the soup swap members are like-minded in terms of their diets. For example, everyone likes meat. Or everyone is vegetarian.

Email or text recipients a copy of the recipe.

Label all the soups and date them.

Use Mason jars or any containers you can recycle (I’m a fan of Talenti gelato). Let the soup cool down before packaging. Never ladle the soup when it’s boiling hot.

Use tea towels to cushion the containers you transport your soup in so they are not sliding around on the drive.

Generally, cream soups don’t freeze well. Leave out the cream until you are ready to eat it.

Drop the soup off in a safe manner. Leave it on your friend’s porch and call first. Consider including a crusty bread, crackers or a side salad.

Share the story behind your creation. “Every bowl of soup has a story behind it,” she says.  Sometimes it is inspired by a family member, other times it may be influenced by the produce selections at the Farmers’ Market.

Choose ingredients based on what’s available to you. According to Lee Mortensen, market manager at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, March and April come with lots of “first of the season” produce. “Look for greens of all shades, including a variety of herbs from mint to green onions,” she says.  Other ingredients perfect for soups are: fennel, asparagus, garlic, spinach, purslane, broccoli, mushrooms and ramps.

Spring Cream of Curried Asparagus Recipe adapted by Lee Mortensen from Perla Meyers’ The Seasonal Kitchen

“This is a simple soup bursting with flavor to hail the changing of seasons. It’s better if you make your own stock from chicken and veg if you can,” Mortensen says.


1 pound fresh asparagus

5 cups chicken stock


4 tablespoons sweet butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder

3/4 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground white pepper

3 egg yolks

Dash of lemon juice


Remove the woody ends of the asparagus stalks. Clean stalks with a veggie peeler; cut off the tips and set aside.

Place the chicken stock and asparagus stalks in a 3-quart casserole. Bring stock to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40–45 minutes.

While soup is simmering, drop asparagus tips into boiling, slightly salted water and cook for 3–5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

Purée the stock and stalks in a blender and reserve. Keep warm.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt butter, add flour and cook for 2 minutes without letting it brown.

Add the puréed stock all at once and stir while bringing the soup to a boil. Cook over low heat until mixture thickens and lightly coats a spoon.

Mix the curry powder with a little cream in a small bowl and add it to the soup with the asparagus tips. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, mix the remaining cream and egg yolks in a small bowl and add the mixture to the soup with a dash of lemon juice. Stir vigorously while reheating the soup without letting it reach a boil and serve hot.  OH

Bridgette A. Lacy, a feature and food writer, is the author of Sunday Dinner, a Savor the South cookbook by UNC-Press. Her book was a 2016 Finalist for the Pat Conroy Cookbook Prize, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.