When the Spirit of a House Departs

When the Spirit of a House Departs

The carriage house of Diane Stallworth

By Cynthia Adams  

Photographs by Amy Freeman

Diane Stallworth enjoyed matters of design, especially in her charming Fisher Park carriage house and its “sculpture” garden. Once settled in, she gave herself over to it, contentedly staying put until her last breath.

In a real sense, it encapsulated Stallworth’s external style and interior history. The carriage house was edited and re-edited, ultimately imbricating her past and present. This is in memoriam to Diane, who died January 14 this year.

Over the years, Diane Stallworth quietly hinted that she hoped her home would one day be featured in this magazine. On our last visit in her home, she took me upstairs to show a project still underway. 

“Once this is done, it will be ready for you to do an article,” she said, meaning worthy. 

It already was, I assured her. 

Stallworth never lost interest in the granular details of her charming historic Fisher Park residence, says her longtime friend, designer Terry Lowdermilk, who also became a longstanding sounding board, aide-de-camp and curator.

The carriage house, a once common sight but now a rarity, dated to 1913. Built on the grounds of the Prairie-style home of cotton broker and developer James Edwin Latham, both structures featured distinctively rock-faced granite, a construction that best explains how the carriage house also survived over a century beyond the era of horse-and-carriages.

Latham (also the namesake of nearby Latham Park) lived there until 1932, when the home was sold to R. W.  Baker, a Blue Bell executive, who died in 1956. Baker’s widow resided in the mansion until her death in 1980. 

“In 1982, Brown Investment Properties converted into 12 condos the main mansion and its large stone servants’ quarters and garage [the carriage house] in a joint venture,” according to the November 2011 Fisher Park newsletter, which included architects, JMD Contractors and Boone, Higgins, Chestaw, Dennis & Case. According to historic records, the carriage house was originally a barn for horses and carriage, housing servants upstairs. Later it became a three-car garage. Featuring three dormers and two chimneys, the roof was originally the same green terra cotta tile as the main house.

By 1982, the mansion, carriage house and condos became officially known as Baker Place. The carriage house was converted into its final iteration, a two-story, single-family home. Garage doors on the first level were replaced with three sets of French doors.

In the same issue, Stallworth recalled, “Now and then, people who remember when Baker Place was a single home [the Baker-Latham mansion] drive-up and they tell us how they visited or played in the back yard.”

At the time of the conversion of the Baker-Latham property into condos, Stallworth lived in the Lofts at Greensborough Court. Her apartment there was also in a historic building. It, too, featured ample charms only age can impart — exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings, a fireplace and architectural details new builds lacked. 

One day in 1987, Stallworth walked into Lowdermilk’s downtown studio to seek decor advice.

He remembers the day clearly. 

When they met, Stallworth was in her 50s and active. In her youth, she was peripatetic and athletic, becoming a Canadian Junior Ski Champion, thanks to regular skiing trips to Quebec with her family, who lived in Fitchburg, Mass. 

After graduating from Briarcliff College, Stallworth had moved to Bermuda, where she pursued work in fashion. (Her family vacationed there in their island home.) 

A few years after living in Bermuda, she moved near New Orleans’ French Quarter. There she met her first husband, William N. Crawford Jr., from Greensboro. The couple returned to the Triad where their daughter, Merrimon Crawford, was born. As a nod to her fashion background, Stallworth co-founded The Briar Patch, a children’s clothing store in Greensboro. 

After remarriage, she relocated to Charleston, West Virginia, throwing herself into designing her home and gardens, entertaining and traveling. Years later, she returned to Greensboro.

Stallworth was a longtime member of the Fitchburg Art Museum since childhood, attending programs and exhibitions. In Greensboro, she remained active in the Junior League, gardening and, always, fluffing her nest. She and Lowdermilk developed a connection beyond business, becoming fast friends. Lowdermilk admired his friend’s patrician manners. She was highly educated, he describes, traveled and curious.

Stallworth became a fixture in continuing education classes, many of which were hosted at Holy Trinity, her church. Here she met sculptor and UNCG professor emeritus Billy Lee, whose work she later collected for her home and courtyard. 

“She was there [in the downtown apartment] a number of years,” recalls Lowdermilk. 

He recounts how she became aware of the historic Latham-Baker property when the carriage house was listed for sale. Lowdermilk remembers she visited the property while he was on a vacation trip to the coast. She called him, entreating him to leave the coast and see it before she made an offer. He urged her to buy if she loved it. 

“The only reason she made the change was she tired of renting and she wanted something that would be hers,” he explains.

By the time he returned to Greensboro, she had bought the carriage house. According to property records, the year was 2003.

Truman Capote once told House Beautiful, “I have always been aware of rooms, their atmosphere, the emotions they induce,” after permitting the magazine to photograph his own home.

He went further: Capote preferred either the sterility of a well-cleaned hotel room, or a subjective room. He deplored rooms lacking the owner’s personal stamp, style and humanity — the things that imbue an otherwise attractive room with meaning. 

Stallworth’s home was the sort that Capote would likely have loved. When she liked something, she kept it. Her style was unwavering — she hewed to certain colors and a restrained, earthy palate, in both her home and her clothing, preferring neutrals and black. 

What was to become a grand passion unfurled — a creative collaboration and friendship between Stallworth and Lowdermilk that continued two decades as she threw herself into making the carriage house uniquely her own.    

“She was not the kind of person who you told what to do,” the designer stresses. “She knew what she wanted. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I liked the fact that she wanted to be involved” — even, Lowdermilk adds, in the granular details, from painting to plumbing. 

“She wanted to know the hows and whys of everything.” 

Neighbor Jayne Ericourt came to know both Stallworth and Lowdermilk years later, interacting with both socially. “She knew everyone here,” says Ericourt.

In 1982, Ericourt and her husband, Daniel, “went to see what they were going to do at Baker Place. There was nothing for sale but the mansion itself.” Brown Investment Properties was just promoting 12 new condos to be built on the mansion’s grounds. The concert pianists discovered they could plan their own design to accommodate two baby grand pianos and a love of all things Spanish.

In 1983, the Ericourts condo was completed. Twenty years later, Stallworth moved into the Baker Place carriage house directly across from the Ericourts and would become its longest occupant. 

Ericourt says that before Stallworth took ownership, previous occupants had done renovation work to the carriage house interior.

As she planned her new home, Stallworth began to refresh and recover upholstered pieces from her apartment. “She loved charcoal, white, taupe and beige with a little terra cotta,” says Lowdermilk. Having bought “the best,” he says, little needed replacing. 

“When she moved here, she changed the color of the walls, reupholstered the sofa and chairs, and did new bedding.” But much of what she had was repurposed, he points out. 

Stallworth chose art and antiques that remained with her for a lifetime, with occasional touches aided by Lowdermilk. Each room, by design, spoke to her life journey. 

The much-used kitchen features an unusual and custom-made piece, a kitchen island, fashioned around a panel of clear leaded glass. Using Lowdermilk’s design, Greensboro iron artist Jeffrey Barbour incorporated the glass into a functional piece. 

A collection by illustrator and political cartoonist Taylor Jones fills a kitchen wall. The syndicated artist, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide, is a former illustrator for U.S. News & World Report

“She bought the [entire] set,” says Lowdermilk. “He’s renowned for his caricatures.” He points out some famous subjects. “Diane was good friends with Jay and Sharon Rockefeller [former West Virginia Senator John D. ‘Jay’ Rockefeller IV and his wife]. The collection meant a lot to her.”

A few design tweaks were brand new, however, like a signature piece showing Lowdermilk’s sleight of hand. He created a leaded glass window featuring poppies for the downstairs powder room.

“I came up with a design that was kind of organic,” says Lowdermilk, who commissioned the Glass Art Studio to create the window. (The owners have since moved their studio to Virginia Beach.) After it was installed, Stallworth decided it was one of her favorite things about the new house.

The artists whose work she collected often became friends. Sculptor Billy Lee, who lives a few blocks away, recalls countless happy times “spent in Diane’s kitchen.” 

“She loved my work and was always very supportive. She was very curious about all forms of creativity and we had many long conversations about it,” says Lee.

“It must be at least 15 years since she first bought my work. She knew I made the black marble pieces in China and wanted to see them — and bought one.” Stallworth had noticed one of Lee’s pieces installed in the courtyard at UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum. 

“She liked the steel piece in Weatherspoon and asked if I had a smaller one for her garden.”

Lee did.

She kept things not only from her old apartment, but integrated family pieces. A bow front chest that once belonged in her parents’ historic home in Fitchburg, Mass., features prominently in the living room. Pointing to a sofa, Lowdermilk muses, “It’s still classic; this many years later. That’s 34 years old.” 

From her parents’ house in Bermuda are a pair of antique campaign chests that once furnished a room aboard a ship; “the real thing,” says Lowdermilk. They now serve as bedside tables in the upstairs guest room. In various rooms, she restored and used an array of wicker and rattan family pieces, emblems of quiet wealth.

On the wall of the upstairs study is a picture of Stallworth’s parents’ estate in Massachusetts. Displaying it in a private area versus a main room, she downplayed her family’s wealth.

“It sits on 50 acres. Right outside Boston,” says Lowdermilk.

Suddenly, standing in Stallworth’s private rooms upstairs, the power goes out and her study darkens.

“Diane, are you here?” Lowdermilk calls out, pausing. 

Quietly, almost whispering, he discusses framed pieces that Stallworth valued, including favorites by Merrimon Crawford, her photographer daughter.

“She really appreciated Merrimon’s work,” he says.

Stallworth’s main bedroom also contains family pieces from Bermuda. It’s an understated, peaceful room, with plantation shutters consistent with other rooms, also redolent of her Bermuda experiences. 

The collaboration between Lowdermilk and Stallworth even extended to her wardrobe. Every year, he helped Stallworth weed out her clothes closet, which is enviably organized and pristine. 

“I reminded her, look at the colors in your home.” When she bought an unusual hot pink piece, it remained in her closet unworn. He urged her to let it go. “We tend to wear the colors that we use in our homes.”

Over her lifetime, he continued with projects both inside and out. A hall bath was gutted. They changed or added wallpapers. Somehow, there were always projects, things being finessed. 

“I love to say that I live in a three-car garage and a barn!” Stallworth had joked in the neighborhood newsletter. The downstairs windows, historians noted, were where the horses once stuck their heads out. Lee’s larger sculpture was placed in the courtyard, where she could enjoy it while having coffee, cocktails with friends, or while reading.

Though she didn’t have a huge circle, and she had lost friends due to age, “she liked young people,” mentions Lowdermilk.

What would Ericourt say people should have known about Diane?

“She was a very good friend to her friends, I’m sure,” says Jayne.

“She would have been there for me if I really needed her,” adds Lowdermilk, who was at Stallworth’s so often he came to know many of her neighbors. “She was very particular about who became her friend,” says Ericourt. 

“She had her own set of rules,” Lowdermilk agrees. 

“Diane would size people up” before deciding if they could be friends or not. “But not in a snooty way,” he adds.

“That’s not stupid,” inserts Ericourt, who then laughs. “You can’t have everybody as your best friend.”

The two neighbors even shared the same cleaning lady.  “Carolyn — I found her first,” says Ericourt with a smile. They shared Nathan Herman, a gardener. Later Lowdermilk hired the gardener as well when he moved to a new home in Asheboro in recent years.

“She loved that man like a son,” they both say in unison.

But Ericourt and Stallworth had more in common than sharing services.

“We were never late,” says Ericourt, who recommended Stallworth join the Friday Afternoon Club, a social club. “We were ready ahead of time.”

Punctuality mattered to them, she says.

Yet when it came to her inner life, Stallworth’s past factored heavily into her present.

“One thing you can mention about her, which is certainly true, is that she talked a lot about her education in New England. Going to the tea dances, talking as if she was reliving it. And New Orleans. Every day, going on the Street Car Named Desire. She was tied to it [her New Orleans’ past]. A lot,” says Ericourt. 

On an unseasonably warm February day, roughly 40 people attended her service. A few were younger. “Her gym friends,” observes Ericourt. 

As a nod to her New Orleans past, a “praise band” played “When the Saints Go Marching In,” leading the grieving down the street from the chapel to Stallworth’s home, where abundant food and drink awaited. It was a proper New Orleans send-off, a party and Stallworth’s expressed wish. (She will be interred in a Fitchburg family plot this spring.)

Friends shimmied down the street to the music as police held back traffic and smiled, watching the procession pass as if it were a Mardi Gras parade and disappear into the carriage house. Her niece, Nadine “Dini” Price of Pittsfield, Vt., greeted guests with Lowdermilk. Stallworth’s daughter, Merrimon Crawford, son-in-law, Glenn Pladsen, and sister, Nadine Martel, attended virtually, given respective health issues, and extended family also watched online.

Stallworth’s home, made lovely with her favorite green-and-white flowers and welcoming trays of hors d’oeuvres, was ready for its last toast to its owner as the band played on.  OH

Crunch Time

Crunch Time

How Tanya McCaskill-Dickens went from hairdressing to homeschooling mom to the creator of the Crunch Cheesecake

By Cassie Bustamante  

Photographs by Mark Wagoner

When a fire caused extensive smoke damage to her Florida salon 29 years ago, Tanya McCaskill-Dickens decided it was time for a change. With no frame of reference for North Carolina except for what she’d seen on The Andy Griffith Show, she packed up her bags, kissed her parents goodbye and headed to her new place of employment, Dudley Beauty.

These days, McCaskill-Dickens is owner of Savor the Moment Dessert Bar downtown, known for its trademarked Crunch Cheesecake. Nevermind that she’s also mother and teacher to the five children she and husband James, Greensboro’s deputy city attorney, adopted. How does one go from working in the haircare industry to owning a confectionary shop?

“I seize opportunities,” she says. Owning a dessert cafe wasn’t always the plan, but neither was moving to North Carolina. Or adopting more than one child. “I told my mom I was going to have a newspaper route and I was going to buy her a house and everything,” she recalls of her childhood with a laugh.

Instead of pursuing a career in the newspaper biz, McCaskill-Dickens set her sights on studying prelaw after high school. Sadly and suddenly, her brother was murdered the summer after graduation. “It kind of threw me off a bit,” she says. Changing course, she opted to enroll in cosmetology school.

After completion, she opened her own salon and was soon bringing in an income of six figures at just 23 years old. But that building blaze set her in motion. “I would have never left otherwise,” she says. Accepting an educator position with Dudley Beauty, she walked away from owning her own business.

Just a year into her employment, McCaskill-Dickens says she missed being an entrepreneur and approached the company’s founder and CEO, Joe Dudley. “He increased my salary by $20,000, but it wasn’t the money.” She reiterates, “It wasn’t the money.” That entrepreneurial itch still needed to be scratched. A couple months later, she once again spoke to Dudley, who, seeing her drive, offered her a salon on campus, which held her over for a little while.

Dudley, who passed away in February, became her most impactful mentor, an integral part of her entrepreneurial story, she says. “He is essential to it.” In fact, she says with a chuckle, sometimes “I open my mouth and out he comes.”

As a child, Dudley was believed to have limitations and was held back twice in his schooling. And yet, he persevered, eventually earning a degree in business administration from N.C. A&T State. He went on to build an empire, creating a business that still thrives today in Dudley Beauty.

Even though he was by any measure highly successful, he still faced challenges. McCaskill-Dickens recalls a coworker saying to Dudley, “I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I am just so embarrassed whenever you go speak because you don’t speak very well.” And Dudley’s response? Jokingly, he quipped, “I’d rather say ‘I is rich’ than ‘I am poor.’” She laughs heartily at the memory.

“He was a great communicator,” she says. And he invested in the enrichment and education of employees. Every morning at 6:30 a.m., seven days a week, Dudley hosted voluntary reading and discussions sessions on campus. “We were reading Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success — all these amazing books —Think and Grow Rich.”

McCaskill-Dickens stayed at Dudley Beauty for just under four years, opting to once again own her own salon. At the time, her grandmother asked her, “You’re going to leave the company where you get a steady check?” But that confidence that had been instilled in her as a young entrepreneur — backed now by the mentorship of Dudley — made itself known. “There was something inside of me that said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I am going to do.’”

And that is exactly what she did do for another 12-and-a-half years until “retiring” in 2009, when she and James exponentially grew their family. At an early age, McCaskill-Dickens saw her grandmother foster lots of children and knew that when she married one day, she’d want to adopt a child. “We were going to have one kid,” she says. With James in private practice and her owning not one, but two salons, that was reasonable. “We weren’t trying to slow down like that.”

But the first photo Children’s Home Society sent to them for consideration was two little girls. And McCaskill-Dickens did what she always does — she seized the opportunity.

The couple then decided to add a boy to the family. “They called me and they said, ‘We have the perfect little boy for you . . . but he has a sister.’” So two children became four. And didn’t the singular boy need a brother? Of course. “That’s how that happened,” she says of their five adopted children.

In the role of stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, she put her entrepreneurial spirit to use in other ways. When her sons interest in robotics piqued and there was not a program to be found, McCaskill-Dickens started one, which went on to win two awards. And, after putting her leadership skills to use serving as president of a High Point homeschooling co-op, she started her own, plus a STEM co-op.

“We had a mission statement for our home school,” she says, noting the three facets of community service, entrepreneurship and faith. Why teach kids entrepreneurship? Confidence, she says, that can translate into anything.

While fostering that entrepreneurial spirit in her kids, something she’s written about extensively in her book, Raising Generational Entrepreneurs: Keys to Building a Legacy, she found herself cooking up a new business plan.

“I feel like God gives me these great ideas to do stuff, like in the middle of the night, and I don’t know how to turn that off,” she says. “So I just go with it.”

With her mom, who’d always been a baker and had moved here when McCaskill-Dickens’ father passed away, she launched Savor the Moment in late 2012 as a licensed in-home bakery, using her home’s second kitchen for business. “We started like that, kind of laissez-faire,” she recalls, setting up at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market and taking on enough orders that allowed her to continue homeschooling. But a brick-and-mortar? That wasn’t the plan.

When former salon client Teresa Crawford, who owned a bakery, called to say she was retiring, McCaskill-Dickens wondered what that had to do with her. “Your mom loves to bake and you’ve got a built-in staff with all those kids,” she recalls Crawford saying. Crawford wanted McCaskill-Dickens to buy her out, a purchase that would include everything from the supplies to the location. She went to James for his opinion, expecting to be shut down. Instead, he suggested she give it a go. “Even then, I didn’t fully understand what that meant,” she says. “But what I did know, it was an opportunity.”

In 2017, Savor the Moment opened its doors on Coliseum Boulevard at Crawford’s former location, which featured a great parking lot as well as a party room. Because the kids were homeschooled, McCaskill-Dickens utilized the space to create an environment that was conducive to their education, hosting a chess club, a 4H club around entrepreneurship and homeschool holiday parties. While there, she and a friend, Penn Griffin assistant principal Charnelle Shephard, whose daughter had started a business at 14 making a squishy goo similar to Slime, launched an annual kidpreneur expo they still run today.

At the time, Savor the Moment was a traditional bakery, peddling custom wedding and birthday cakes. But when COVID descended upon the country in 2020 and people were requesting small and individual cakes for virtual weddings, McCaskill-Dickens quickly realized that her business could not sustain itself.

“OK, we’re going to do something different,” she recalls thinking. That something? A product that would set Savor the Moment apart and could be sold by the slice: its now trademarked Crunch Cheesecake. Make no mistake, this is not New York-style cheesecake. It’s a fluffier, creamier base perfected by her mom, “a mad chemist when it comes to baking.” On top of that, a layer of Sundae Cream, a white sweet cream she’d already been using in strawberry shortcakes. And the pièce de résistance? An element of crunch, inspired by a cake that was popular at the time, Strawberry Crunch Cake.

“And I tell you, it took off!” she says, noting the “support local” push that was a result of the pandemic. She and her staff started with just four pans, which produced eight slices each. “We were up until 2 o’clock in the morning, baking for the next day,” trying to meet the demand of customers. Not to mention the supply shortage the pandemic brought on. “I was spending half of my day running around,” she says, in search of eggs, butter and cream cheese.

And yet, McCaskill-Dickens continued to pound the pavement every day. “Because I know we have a good product,” she says. “And I am telling you right now, I know this product will be successful.” By the end of that year, the “Home of the Crunch Cheesecakes” relocated to its current downtown Davie Street spot, where there’s more foot traffic.

All of this, mind you, was done while McCaskill-Dickens was enrolled at N.C. A&T State. With five teens approaching university age, she wanted to instill in them the importance of earning a degree — and that meant finally earning her own in cultural studies. In December 2022, she walked the stage, Summa Cum Laude.

Currently, Savor the Moment puts out 800 Crunch Cheesecake slices a week with an expanded menu of 16 regular flavors, including nostalgic nods such as banana pudding and peach cobbler. McCaskill-Dickens’ personal favorite? White chocolate raspberry.

Plus, she says, inspired by favorite haunt Coldstone Creamery, “Let them build their own!”

Even with such a unique product and a loyal following, the struggle is getting people to simply give it a chance. She’s often met with replies of, “Oh, I don’t like cheesecake.” But in those victorious moments where future customers succumb and take a bite, McCaskill-Dickens says, “I have never not had anyone say, ‘Oh my God, this is different.’’

Different enough, in fact, that aside from having it trademarked, McCaskill-Dickens imagines turning Savor the Moment into a franchise. That dream prompted her to open a second location in High Point, closer to her home. And, as mentors have pointed out to her, if you want to create a franchise, you have to first show that it can successfully be done. So, in creating the High Point location, she’s created the model of what a franchise could look like. Next, she’s got her sights set on Durham.

Will McCaskill-Dickens ever slow down? “I retired in 2009 from a business and never thought I would start another business like this,” she says. “So the goal has been to leave a legacy, something my kids . . . would want to continue.” And even at that point, she admits, she has dreams of going into politics and making strides in the state’s foster care system.

At 54, just a decade away from so-called retirement age in America, she looks back on all of the “yeses” she answered with when opportunity knocked. “You don’t know where it’s going to lead you,” she says, but sometimes you just gotta take the leap.”  OH

Running for Time

Running for Time

Thad McLaurin, Greensboro’s own RunnerDude, sets a new course

By Maria Johnson  

Photographs by Mark Wagoner

Greensboro fitness trainer Thad McLaurin sets his high-tech watch before springing into a “me run,” a jaunt just for himself.

Even after 40 years of running, he dislikes the beginning of each trek.

His breath feels ragged. His stride feels choppy. His aches feel achier. Until about mile two, that is, when his body settles into a rhythm, the hitches smooth out, and his mind — giddy on oxygen and adrenaline — is free to fly.

His maroon Sauconys tap the greenway at a brisk clip.


His footfall sounds like a metronome doling out double time, presto to a musician.

The pace is not as snappy as his personal best, but it’s fast enough for him these days.

He slows a smidgen as he climbs “Herbie’s Hill,” an incline behind a local diner. “It’s almost like the smell of bacon is hardening your arteries as you go by,” he jokes with an impish heh-heh-heh that sneaks out every chance it gets.

Spritely at age 59 — he tops out at 5-foot-6 and 147 pounds — he looks a lot younger than his age, but he has logged a lot of miles, figuratively and literally.

Right now his Achilles tendons, taut behind his heels, are unusually tight and sore.

They flared up last summer, and the discomfort lingers.

“I think the medicine I’m on for my cancer is causing a delayed recovery,” he says.



To many in Greensboro, McLaurin is — by nickname and profession — the RunnerDude.

He has introduced thousands to pedestrian success via the free Saturday runs and annual community-wide events organized by his business, RunnerDude Fitness.

Over the past 15 years, hundreds have signed on as private and corporate clients, some in pursuit of serious race craft, some simply looking to lose weight and get healthier.

To them, he’s the the man with the plan, the designer of routes, the counter of reps, the logger of sets.

He’s good at it. He’s been finding pathways for most of his life.

He was an overweight kid. That was hard enough. Plus he was a Methodist preacher’s kid, meaning his father was assigned to a different North Carolina church every five years or so.

He remembers doing the mile run in P.E. class in eighth grade.

“I ran an 18-minute mile wearing plaid stretchy pants,” he says. “They didn’t make anything but plaid pants for overweight kids. It was like, ‘How can we make you stand out even more?’”

A year later, he cut his time in half. He’d lost 40 pounds by doing Weight Watchers with his mom.

“That kinda showed me that I could be physical,” he says.

He ran sporadically in high school, but when he got to college — N.C. State and later UNC-Chapel Hill — he laced up regularly. He shed more weight, becoming downright skinny.

“It was almost like a new experience with a new body,” he says. “That really built my confidence to push myself.”

A job in educational publishing carried him and his young family to Greensboro in 1998.

He was deep into running by then. He’d done his first marathon, the New York City classic, in 1995. He cried when he crossed the finish line.

“I remember thinking, ‘Everyone is going to think I’m an idiot,’ then I looked around, and everyone was doing the same thing,” he says.

Why the tears?

He shrugs and offers a few explanations: Exhaustion, hormones, a sense of accomplishment.

Then another truth, specific to him, surfaces. He grins and jabs a fist into the air.

“It was probably that little fat kid in there going, ‘Yay!’”



He has just passed the halfway point.

Other runners and walkers speak to him with a twinkle of recognition. He’s been a regular on this trail, the A&Y Greenway, for about 25 years.

“Hey,” people say.

“Hey,” he tosses back.

He veers off on a mental detour when he notices a gravel swath that cuts through the Battle of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

In 1781, Gen. Nathanael Greene brought his patriots to these woods, where they clashed with the redcoats under British Gen. Charles Cornwallis, he notes.

The first county courthouse was located near the back of the park.

McLaurin, who earned enough college credits for a minor in history, loves stories of what used to be.

It’s one reason he created a favorite community sporting event, Run the ’Boro, in 2016. The free series, spread over every Saturday in May and June, sends runners and walkers on carefully mapped routes through different Greensboro neighborhoods.

The day before each event, McLaurin, a former fifth grade teacher, emails subscribers a newsletter with points of interest.

“It’s kind of a field trip for runners and walkers,” he says,

The event used to bring him business. He has lightened his workload in the past year, but he’s determined to keep Run the ’Boro going for would-be runners who think they’re not athletic enough to join a group.

“A runner is a runner is a runner, no matter what your pace is,” McLaurin insists. “That’s the bedrock of all my programs — that running is for anybody. I want to take the barriers away and make it so anybody can come,” he says.

He swaps nods with a walker on the greenway.

“Good to see you,” the walker says.


A nagging cough set in around Christmas 2022 and wouldn’t leave.

McLaurin video-conferenced with a nurse practitioner, who diagnosed a sinus infection and prescribed an antibiotic. McLaurin finished the pills and felt worse.

Fatigue consumed him. If he climbed the stairs at home, he had to lie down and rest.

A doctor suspected pneumonia and ordered a lung X-ray.

Fuzzy white spots on both lungs earned McLaurin a date with a pulmonologist, who performed a biopsy.

She called a few days later.

“Are you at home?” she asked.

“Yes,” McLaurin said.

“Are you alone?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

She broke the news: stage four lung cancer.

The words kicked him in the gut. He felt his consciousness floating, looking down at himself sitting in his blue leather recliner in the family room.

How was this possible? He was a runner. He taught other people how to be healthy. He never smoked, not even a drag in high school.

Later, an oncologist explained that 2 percent of people who develop lung cancer have no known risk factors — a history of smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, radon, asbestos, airborne toxins, or drinking water tainted by arsenic. Neither did McLaurin have a family legacy of lung cancer, which gives the disease a slight edge.

He was a 2-percenter, sick for no discernible reason.

The outlook was dim. McLaurin read, and tried to forget, the survival statistics.

He wallowed in “Why me?” for a while, then brightened at a bump of relatively good luck.

His cancer had a mutation that made him a candidate for targeted treatment with a drug that could arrest and shrink the cancer. The pills arrived at his home in a biohazard bag last March. He took one a day.

He got immediate relief. His body felt physically lighter. After a month of treatment, he began running again. He started with a half-mile. Every week, he added another half-mile until he reached five to six miles.

That’s what he’s doing today: five miles, starting in the parking lot at Spencer Love Tennis Center, trotting past the Lewis Center, up the A&Y Greenway to Lake Brandt Road, down to Fire Station 41 and back again.



Running has meant so many things to McLaurin.

It started as a way to lose weight, build confidence and calm himself.

He lapped up the self esteem that came with setting time and distance goals, meeting them, upping them again and exceeding them again.

The activity shredded calories and anxiety.

He found another payoff after moving to Greensboro. A guy at church invited him to join a running group.

McLaurin wasn’t interested. His wife, Mitzi, urged him to go.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you go once and be nice, and they’ll probably stop asking you,’” he recalls. “It was hard to put myself out there. I think it came back to being the kid who was overweight and didn’t want to be seen, but the group was very accepting and welcoming. I fit right in.”

The run, a nine-mile out-and-back along the A&Y Greenway, flew by because he was talking to his fellow runners. McLaurin coined a term, “runship,” meaning the friendship that comes from running with others and sharing snippets of life along the way.

He started an online journal, RunnerDude’s Blog, to document the group’s successes.

His web of routes and contacts grew. Those connections were vital after he was laid off from publishing in 2009. He was blogging when it dawned on him: He could turn his passion into his profession.

He started RunnerDude’s Fitness in 2010 and grew the business at a blazing pace.

He organized runs for people of all abilities.

He rented a studio for teaching fitness.

He launched workshops and boot camps.

He birthed Run the ’Boro.

He organized the Canned Cranberry Sauce 10K, a Thanksgiving Day run that has collected tons of food for Greensboro Urban Ministry.

All around Greensboro, he drove his white Toyota pickup truck wrapped with decals advertising his business. Most of the time, he was tending his sweaty flock, toting water-filled coolers to spots along his routes.

The hard-to-miss coolers, labeled with “RunnerDude’s Fitness” in black marker, spawned their own stories.

Of casual walkers taking a bottle and leaving a dollar in the ice.

Of a severely dehydrated man stumbling across the water just in time to save his life. He made a sizable donation to RunnerDude later.

Of a man who tried to sell the water to runners who were registered for a RunnerDude event through downtown.

“He tried to sell our water back to us!” McLaurin says.

He unleashes a heh-heh-heh and shakes his head in wonder.



Herbie’s Hill is tugging at him again, this time on the return leg.

Most people think Greensboro is flat, he says, but this city is full of hills.

His runners tease him about it — “This route is a Thad bit hilly” — but McLaurin loves the climbs. For most of this life, he has been able to top them by dint of fitness and will.

Cancer has changed things.

At the mercy of limited energy, he runs when he is able.

He takes longer to recover.

He can’t do what he used to do, no matter how much he wants to.

It feels like cancer has compressed the aging process, he says.

It’s tough to accept.

So McLaurin has taken the only available path.

He has let go of shaping every route, every step.

More than ever, the route shapes him.

A good run is one he finishes, one that leaves his body feeling good afterward.

His time?

That depends on how you measure time.

Back at his truck, run completed, he consults his runner’s watch.

His average pace was 10:48 a mile.

Ten years ago, he would have averaged about 7:30 a mile.

In 2007, when he pushed himself to go faster and farther than ever, he would have knocked it out in 6:30.

So, yes, he has slowed down a lot, according to the clock.

But he uses other gauges to mark time now.

The number of chocolate-chip pancakes he makes with his two grandsons.

The number of times he stops running to read a historical marker.

The number of times he invites his daughter’s cats to curl up in his lap.

Recently, Mitzi, a school teacher, was surprised to see that McLaurin had bought a set of steps so their Chihuahua mix could climb onto the sofa and join the cuddles without McLaurin having to dump the cats.

Every time Mitzi asks him if he wants to go for a walk with her, he says yes.

He makes her baked oatmeal for breakfast.

McLaurin took up baking as a pastime during COVID. Now, he’s way into it, making a loaf of bread every week.

Knead and wait.

Knead and wait.

The process will not be rushed.

He has taken to writing down his recipes by hand because, he says, looking at someone’s handwriting is a very personal way to remember them.


It feels different now.

Standing here in the parking lot, wearing a T-shirt splotched with sweat, sipping water and joking in the breeze, the RunnerDude has arrived in a place he never saw on his route map.

He is finding peace in slowing down.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.  OH

May Almanac 2024

May Almanac 2024

May tucks her treasures gently in our hands.

For the young girl in the sunhat: her first ripe strawberry, bright and plump, just warm from the tender, loving sun. Before lifting the fruit to her lips, she studies its tiny seeds — 200 stars studding crimson infinity — and how its leafy top looks like a tiny fairy cap. When the sweetness hits her tongue, her eyes brighten; her lips pucker; her hands open for more.

In the same field, an elderly man is picking his last flat of berries, recalling the scratch-made shortcakes of his childhood. His eyes glisten as the memories rush in; as the sweetness hits his tongue, as his granddaughter reaches for a sun-kissed strawberry.

For the sisters at the park: early ox-eye daisies.

For the dreamers: dandelion puffballs.

Somewhere, a teenage boy slips a dogwood flower behind the left ear of his first love. By the creek, his brother plucks crawdads from the cool, trickling water.

In a neighbor’s garden, peonies and roses perfume the spring-fresh air. Yellow butterflies worship orange poppies. Bare hands worship worm-rich earth.

And what of your own hands?

Might they cradle magnolia blossoms? An empty bird’s nest? A palmful of seeds?

Might they stay open to give and receive?

May tucks her treasures gently in your hands, giggles as you hold them, then playfully resumes her grand unfolding.

The fair maid who, the first of May

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree

Will ever after handsome be.

— Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme

Mother of Flowers

The magnolias are blooming, their sweet, citrusy fragrance utterly commanding our attention.

Yes, and more, please.

The “Great Mother” of flowers, Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) blossoms can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. Despite the delicate, ephemeral nature of their creamy white blooms, the tree itself is quite resilient — and ancient. Fossil records suggest that magnolias are among the oldest flowering plants on Earth, blossoming among the dinosaurs 100 million years ago.

An icon of feminine grace, it’s fitting that our Southern magnolia should shine this month — and just in time for Mother’s Day. 

The Birds and the Bees

Named for the Greek goddess Maia (eldest of the Pleiades and goddess of nursing mothers), May is a month of growth and fertility — a month of flowers, birds and bees.

National Wildflower Week is celebrated May 2 – 7 (always the first week of the month). Let’s hear it for spider lilies, spiderwort, wild indigo and crested iris.

On May 4 — National Bird Day — take a quiet moment to honor the winged ones who live alongside us. You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the richness they add to our ecosystem and soundscape. Your presence is all that’s required.

On that note, World Bee Day is acknowledged on May 20. Consider the essential role these hard-working insects play in the health and abundance of our planet. Honor your local pollinators with the choices that you make. Have a garden? Incorporate native flowers and, for the love of bees, put the toxic sprays away.   PS

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

A Souvenir

The best thing we brought back from Mexico didn’t come home in our suitcase

By Cassie Bustamante

The year I became pregnant with my second child, 2006, I wasn’t quite ready. My husband, Chris, and I knew we wanted two kids, a boy first and a girl second, as I’d always envisioned. But we’d just had our first baby — yes, a boy — in the summer of 2005. We were going to start trying again in the fall of 2006 so our kiddos could be almost exactly two years apart, just like my older brother and me.

Before we added another babe to our brood, just like Conrad Birdie, we had a lot of living to do. In April, we dropped off our infant son, Sawyer, with my parents and snuck in a Great Apple getaway, exploring landmarks, strolling Central Park and savoring the city’s finest cuisine — street-side pizza, slices so humongous and dripping with mozzarella that they had to be folded to be eaten.

Then, in May, came Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, thanks to Chris being a top performer at work. Again, Sawyer stayed with grandparents while Chris and I — with a group of his coworkers, bosses and plus ones — sipped Piña coladas and sangrias, complete with cocktail umbrellas, next to a glimmering turquoise ocean. Chris and I took an excursion into the city to savor authentic local fare, but also took part in resort activities with his work pals. 

A group of his coworkers wanted to hit up karaoke night and asked us to join them. When we got there, it was clear that no one in our group was actually willing to sing. Hold my margarita, I said.

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they’re OK, I began Madonna’s “Material Girl” nervously. But, after a beat, I was feeling it. What I lacked in singing chops I made up for in dramatic flair, sauntering around the room and gesticulating in a flirty manner. I didn’t win the night’s competition, but I did come in second, losing to a resort-goer who could actually carry a tune. Plus, I won the respect of Chris’ cohorts, who thought I was brave.

And I caught someone’s eye that night — my own husband’s.

A few weeks after landing back on U.S. soil, I discovered we’d brought home an unanticipated souvenir. Feeling a little funny, I purchased a pregnancy test kit, complete with three tests, just in case. I took the first one. No, this can’t be.

I guzzled a bottle of water so that I could try this again. Surely, it was a false positive. I took the second. Then the third. Positive, positive.

That evening, Chris sat at the computer desk in our home office, the beeping of dial-up connection sounding through the room as he prepared to email the latest photos of 9-month-old Sawyer to his parents. I paced the house, reluctant to spill the beans. Building up my nerve, I’d walk into the room, ready to burst, but instead hesitate and mutter something like, “What do you think about trying this new recipe tomorrow?”

Finally, my nervous energy got to him. “Is there something you want to say, Cassie?”

“OK, yes,” I said. The rest of the words tumbled out hurriedly. “I’ve been feeling a little off, so I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. Actually, I took all three tests and, well —”

I fanned them out in my hand, six pink lines glaring back.

“Are you upset?” I asked sheepishly.

“Upset?” Chris burst into laughter. “Why would I be upset? We’re having a baby — again!”

“Well, it’s a little earlier than we planned,” I sputtered. “I just thought maybe you’d be mad because this is not exactly on our timeline.”

His blue eyes twinkled as he got up and pulled me into a hug. “You never have to worry that I’d be mad about you getting pregnant, ever. Unless, of course, it’s not mine,” he deadpanned.

I wiped away tears, “Oh, it’s yours.”

Eleven months later, we left our 21-month-old and 4-month-old babies with my parents and jetted off to Puerto Vallarta again, and again it was on account of Chris’ job performance. As the president of his company spoke, he commended Chris, saying “And now Chris is going for a third!”

“Oh, no, he’s not!” I blurted out loudly. The crowd of colleagues erupted into laughter as I realized my blunder — his superior had meant a third year of top-notch numbers.

We never got that third trip. But, as it turns out, we changed our minds about that third child many years later and welcomed our incredible, “not-an-oops” caboose, Wilder. Still, there is one thing I know for certain: Any future vacation souvenir must come home in our luggage.  OH

Cassie Bustamante is editor of O.Henry magazine.

Party Animals


N.C. Zoo celebrates five decades

By Jim Moriarty

Photographs Courtesy of N.C. Zoo

Feature Photo: Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Bonnie, Abby and Nandi) and Fringe-Eared Oryx in background

It began with Sonny Jurgensen, Tort and Retort. None of them moved very fast, but all of them played significant roles in the birth of the North Carolina Zoo 50 years ago.

The zoo, built initially on 1,371 acres in Randolph County near Asheboro, is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world. It entertained over a million visitors last year, including nearly 90,000 students who attended free of charge. The formal celebration will be on Aug. 2, the day the interim facility was officially dedicated in 1974. Among the many promotions staged throughout the year will be the recognition, probably sometime in June or July, of the zoo’s 30 millionth guest, who will be showered with a lifetime membership, a Zoofari (an open-air trip through the Watani Grasslands), and every manner of zoological swag known to man.

Left to Right: Giraffe (Turbo), African Elephant (C’sar), Red Wolves (from left to right: Catawba and Pearl), American Alligators (from left to right: Liv and Gatorboy)

The seed money for the zoo came, in part, from a series of four preseason football games that raised money for the feasibility study to determine the location of the zoo. The first of those games was on Aug. 19, 1967. The Washington Redskins (now Commanders, though that’s likely to change) were led by their quarterback, Jurgensen, a Wilmington native, and linebacker Chris Hanburger, who was born at Fort Bragg (now Liberty) and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Giants had a Carolina connection of their own: Darrell Dess, a guard/tackle who had attended N.C. State University. The game was played at night, the first such event, at what was then called Carter Stadium in Raleigh. Washington won 31-13 in front of 33,525 who paid six bucks apiece to attend.

Left to Right: Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Linda and Jojo), Southern White Rhinos (from left to right: Linda and Jojo), Galapagos Tortoise (Retort), Galapagos Tortoise (Retort)

The location that was eventually settled on for the zoo was known as the Purgatory Mountain site, named, according to legend, for the fires from the moonshine stills visible at night. Randolph County donated the land, the state legislature earmarked $2 million for the project, and hiring began.

The interim zoo, today nothing more than a staging and construction area, became home to the first animals, two endangered Galapagos tortoises named Tort and Retort, who were sent to other zoos long ago for propagation, one of the zoo’s foundational purposes. “The interim zoo was chain link, that’s all it was,” says Diane Villa, the zoo’s director of communications and marketing. “But that’s not what we were going for. What sets our zoo apart from other zoos is the original vision for what they wanted it to be. They wanted it to be good for the animals.” Its creation marked a turning point from concrete, fenced facilities to the creation of environments as close to the animal’s natural habitat as possible.

Left to Right: African Elephants (from left to right: C’sar, Batir, Rafiki, Nekhanda and Tonga), African Lion (Mekita), American Bison (Calf), Red River Hog (Patience)

Bill Parker was one of the facility’s earliest zookeepers. A graduate of Pfeiffer University (Pfeiffer College at the time), he began in ’74 and retired six years ago this September. “When I started there were probably fewer than double digits of permanent employees, mostly in administration,” he says. “They started acquiring animals in the late summer and early fall of ’74.” And it was definitely learn as you go.

By the end of the decade he was working in animal care. “I was on the African grasslands, at the time we called it the African Plains,” he says. “We were riding on the back of a truck and we had an antelope, called a nyala, that was breach birth. So we called out the vets and we started doing what we could to help the animal deliver, but it looked like it wasn’t going to survive. So, in the back of the truck, the vet did an emergency C-section and pulled the calf out. The lady I was working with — her name was Nancy Lou Gay Kiessler — who was training me to be a keeper, immediately took the calf out of the vet’s hands, wiped the mucous off its snout, and she put the snout in her mouth and started giving it resuscitation. I thought, ‘Boy, if I’m ever called to do that, I don’t know if I could.’ What it demonstrated to me was the level of care and compassion she had for that group of animals, and that calf survived.”

Left to Right: Ocelot (Inca) Chimpanzee (Obi), Fringe-Eared Oryx, Zebra (Spirit), Grizzly (Ronan)

Part of the zoo’s commitment in helping to restore populations of endangered species involves transporting animals to facilitate breeding recommendations in a program implemented by zoos and aquariums called the Species Survival Plan. These days the animals are shipped FedEx, but Goldston has done it driving down I-85. “My first transport was in ’99. We had a recommendation to move our male gorilla to a zoo in Atlanta. Myself and another keeper, I think we were somewhere in South Carolina, we needed to stop to refuel. It was one of those combo stations where it’s a Wendy’s on one side and a fuel stop on the other. So I’m standing in line waiting to get our food and I’m just reeking with gorilla musk. People are sniffing and turning around. ‘Where’s it coming from? Who is it?’ We just sort of cracked up.”

Left to Right: Elephant (Tonga) & Rhinos (from left to right: Nandi and Bonnie), Red Wolf (Warrior), Western Lowland Gorilla (Hadari), Desert Dome

If the early days had its challenges, over five decades the zoo has grown, gazelle-like, by leaps and bounds. Today it manages 2,805 acres and broke ground on an Asia region in August of ’22 that will feature tigers, Komodo dragons and king cobras, to name a few species, when it opens in two years. There are currently 305 permanent state employees with a staff that expands to roughly 700 during the highest traffic months. The zoo has three full-time vets on staff and a number of vet techs. “They work on everything from Madagascar hissing cockroaches to African elephants and everything in between,” says Villa. The zoo won the 2021 World Association of Zoos and Aquariums sustainability award.

A monitoring and reporting tool called SMART, developed by the North Carolina zoo in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and several other zoos, is being used in over 80 countries to track animals and combat poaching. “A lot of animals are in trouble. African lions, African elephants, vultures. One of our signature programs here is vulture tracking,” says Villa. “They’re part of the circle of life. African vultures are one of the steepest declining birds in the world. One of our scientists, Dr. Corinne Kendall, is one of the leading vulture experts. If there was one thing that we try to let people know, it’s that just by coming to the zoo, your admission price helps support our conservation efforts. We’re trying to be a leader for our guests.” Man and animal alike.  PS

Simple Life

Simple Life

Poorman’s Guide to Domestic Bliss

Even unconditional love has its conditions

By Jim Dodson

Wives, does your husband suffer from RRBS, also known as Recurring Refrigerator Blindness Syndrome?

The symptoms are relatively easy to diagnose. Your husband is making himself the first locally-grown tomato sandwich of the season and opens the refrigerator in search of Duke’s Mayonnaise. He scans the refrigerator shelves for three full minutes, increasingly agitated as he shifts jars of pickles, and containers of mystery meat and cottage cheese hither and yon.

Finally, after shifting the contents of the entire refrigerator around and even checking the vegetable and meat bins for the missing mayonnaise, he straightens up and loudly declares one of two things:

“This is ridiculous! I know we have mayonnaise! I saw it in here yesterday!”

Or, alternatively, with a wail of wounded resignation, “Honey, where’s the G#%@* mayonnaise? You said you just bought a brand-new jar this week. Someone must have taken it!”

Commonly, what happens next is the victim’s wife calmly appears, opens the refrigerator, and, within seconds, presents the aggrieved spouse with a fresh new jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise. Turns out, the mayonnaise was partially hidden behind a carton of orange juice last used by said victim, apparently in plain view only to the average female person.

If you live in my house, this happens on an almost daily basis.

Yes, I suffer from Recurring Refrigerator Blindness Syndrome.

But I am not alone.

There are untold millions of us out here who suffer instantaneous blindness whenever we open the refrigerator in search of condiments, cold pizza, leftover mac-and-cheese or the last piece of chocolate meringue pie.

Moreover, according to the National Association of Endangered Domestic Tranquility, refrigerator blindness isn’t the only condition that strikes the average married American male, placing undue stress on relations with wives, visiting mothers-in-laws and elderly aunts.

Tranquility experts cite a commonly related condition known as DAS or Dishwasher Avoidance Syndrome that afflicts an estimated 87 percent of men married an average of 10 years or more. DAS is defined as a chronic inability to correctly load and unload (much less operate) a German-built dishwasher without proper supervision by someone familiar with the machine’s standard operating procedures, typically a married person of the female persuasion.

Sufferers generally avoid this normal everyday household task by poorly hand-washing dirty dishes and used glassware whenever the domestic partner is out of the house, not only resulting in suspiciously spotted dishware, but unnecessary use of precious water. A related inability to operate the average clothes washing machine and reach into a clogged garbage disposal have also been documented in some cases.

In addition, studies conducted on the average suburban American male reveal at least two other common stress-inducing habits that take place outside of the home.

The first is LGLP or Lost Grocery List Phenomenon, generally affecting mature to elderly husbands who volunteer to go to the store for their wives with a list of a dozen essential items and return hours later with chips, salsa, three or more frozen pizzas, a six-pack of craft beer, the wrong dishwasher liquid, a set of half-price blinking Christmas lights, four Tahitian patio sconces, a tub of rainbow sherbet, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Guide to Home Auto Repair (sixth edition) and only four of the 12 items on the original list, which was somehow lost in transit to the store. An unsupervised return to the store is sometimes undertaken with a revised shopping list safety pinned to the sufferer’s sweater.

Finally, there is the all-too-common domestic problem of UHIC, better known as Unfinished Home Improvement Complex, an affliction in which various do-it-yourself home projects have been sitting idle, unfinished or simply forgotten since the first Obama administration. This includes, but is not limited to, half-tiled bathroom walls; toilets that don’t properly flush; mountains of pricey hardwood mulch left in the backyard so long they’re sprouting young trees; doors that never quite close; suspicious sounds beneath the house; the broken doorbells; half-installed home security systems; and driveway sinkholes.

Curiously, in the interest of saving time and money, the typical victim of UHIC routinely stalks the aisles of Lowe’s or Home Depot, dreaming up ambitious new home improvement projects that will make home life easier but don’t stand a chance of ever being completed.

Yes, wives, you know these conditions all too well.

Sadly, there’s no known cure for any of these domestic maladies just yet. But there is hope in the form of a newly created self-help grassroots organization called Building Better Husbands, designed to afford hard-working wives like you the opportunity to network and share creative ideas on how to make their homes happier places and spouses more thoughtful and responsive. Look for chapters forming in your neighborhood soon. BYOB (or two).

A final word to my fellow sufferers.

This Mother’s Day, fellas, let’s give the little lady of the house a break by picking up the slack on normal domestic duties, finishing those pesky home projects, even reading the appliance operating instructions and learning to go to the grocery store only once without a list pinned to your golf shirt.

Meantime, it’s probably best to avoid calling your wife “the little lady” or, for that matter, never ever asking me to put my hand in a clogged garbage disposal. 

Some old habits die hard, I guess.  OH

Jim Dodson is the founding editor of O.Henry.

Sazerac May 2024

Sazerac May 2024


To Cassie Bustamante in response to her March 2024 feature, “Greensboro: A Cultural Herstory”

My name is Mary Walton, and I am one of Mary Nicholson’s nieces. Thank you so much for recognizing her as one of the eight amazing women you profiled in your article. And what great company she is in.

I thought you would find it interesting that my sister, Lauren, and her daughter, Anna, have both followed in Mary’s footsteps as pilots. She certainly paved the way for them as well as many others.

Mary taught my father — her brother, Frank Nicholson — how to fly, and he became one of the first pilots at Piedmont Airlines and later Chief Pilot. My brother, Tom, is also a pilot and is a captain at Hawaiian Airlines. Lauren’s youngest daughter, Ashley (in college now), is also interested in flying.

Lots of pilots in the family!! Ironically, I am not, even though I am the one named after my aunt. 

Anyway, I just wanted to reach out to say thank you on behalf of our whole family!



A remembrance by Phillip Jones spurred by Stephen E. Smith’s March 2024 “Omnivorous Reader” honoring the late Fred Chappell:

Our classroom was in McIver Building, on the ground floor. One class early in the semester, Fred called on a female student and asked her what she thought of the stories assigned for that day. She was quiet, hemmed and hawed a bit, then admitted that she had not, in fact, read the two stories assigned as homework. Fred’s face tightened a bit, then he looked at her and said, “Then take the time now and read the stories.” The class was immediately quiet — nothing like this had ever happened in our collective school experiences. 

Fred walked over to the window, opened it, pulled up a chair, and smoked several cigarettes very slowly. Time stood still, only the smoke drifting from his cigarettes showed that we were not frozen in place. No one shifted in their seats or made a sound. After giving her enough time, he looked at her and asked if she had finished the story. She nodded and Fred asked her what she thought. When class ended, every student left that room with a different appreciation of Fred, his class and education in general.

Students generally did their homework after that and contributed to class discussions. One day, perhaps a month later, Fred asked three or four students about the homework with no response, then he looked around. Most students stared down at their desk and at their books, afraid to look directly into his eyes. Disgusted, Fred turned, walked to the door, and threw his books violently into the trashcan, then walked out and away. Silence reigned. Was he standing outside the door waiting for a brave soul to sneak away before the bell ended the class? No one moved, no one left the room, and no one spoke. When the bell finally did ring, we filed out silently and left McIver Building as quickly as possible. Fred had put the fear of God, or the Fear of Fred and his disapproval, into our very souls.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

A Gold Star for Jamestown

Wrenn Miller Park in Jamestown offers plenty of opportunity for rest, relaxation and community with its picnic tables and sloped grass lawn, which provides plenty of seating for its amphitheater. But the park also offers a moment of remembrance. At its northern end, a Veterans Memorial features benches, dedicated bricks, trees, an evolving maze garden and a brick wall with the names of Jamestown residents who served in World War II. Thanks to Cedarwood Garden Club member Sharla Gardner, a Gold Star Families By-Way Memorial marker, which honors those who have fallen and offers hope and healing to families, is to be installed on May 25. This bronze marker, featuring a granite base donated by Hanes Lineberry, is the only one in Guilford County. Currently, there are four in the state of North Carolina, with three more being added this year. And across the entire United States? A total of 181. This Memorial Day weekend, head to Wrenn Miller park to salute the Gold Star Families By-Way Memorial and pay homage to those who have laid down their lives in service.

Calling All O.Henry Essayists

This year, we’re moving our annual O.Henry Essay Contest to earlier in the year so that you have all summer to meditate on it while you mow your lawn, swim your strokes or swat away the skeeters. The theme this time? “Furry, Feathered and Ferocious.” That’s right, we’re all ears for your animal tails — oops, tales — and we’ll be accepting entries May 1–Sept. 30, 2024. Got a wild hare? Submit a story about it! From beloved pets to snake encounters, we want to get our paws on your story.

Of course, there are some rules:

Submit no more than 1,000 words in a digital format — Word or Pages document, a PDF, pasted into an email, or tattooed on your body and sent via photographs. Essays over 1,000 will not be considered. After all, as Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (Why were your plays so long, Willy???)

One submission per person. Email entries to cassie@ohenrymag.com.

Deadline to enter is September 30, 2024.

Winners will be contacted via email and will be printed in a 2025 issue.

We can’t wait to hear the clickety-clack of keyboards across the Triad as you type your stories — stories that are sure to make us laugh, cry or rush to the animal shelters to bring home even more rescues. What’s one more at this point?

  — Cassie Bustamante, editor

Sage Gardener

In 1971, my wife, Anne, and I got turned on, tuned in and then dropped out of UNC grad school to become full-time hippie farmers in Pfafftown. We raised chickens, ducks and rabbits, grew our own produce and, equipped with Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, foraged the fields and forests for tasty edibles. We made wild strawberry jam, Carolina cherry wine and ate lots of blackberry cobbler. We enthusiastically gathered chickweed, dandelions and violets to spice up our salads. Though I admit, a lot of things we ate just once.

The other day, I came across a copy of the recently published and marvelous Edible Wild Plants of the Carolinas: A Forager’s Companion by botanists Lytton John Musselman and Peter W. Schafran. Suddenly my enthusiasm for eating what comes natural was revived. Lavishly illustrated, it provides very sensible guidelines for what to eat, what not to eat and what’s best left in the field with the mice. Here are some of the choice tidbits I picked up from it.

A vital caveat, however: Please do not eat wild plants before consulting their book or some other reliable guide. There are look-alikes. Some plants have delicious edible fruits but deadly leaves and stems (and vice versa). And there are allergy concerns.

So . . . did you know?

All wild violets are edible, though, as the authors concede, “The taste of most species is underwhelming.” However, “field pansies are pleasantly flavored and make a good — and unique — snack.” And how about Johnny-jump-ups in your next Hoppin’ John?

Wild violet plants and flowers can easily be candied, sugared rather than shrinking.

Lamb’s quarter “is one of the tastiest of wild greens.” Raw or cooked, they hint of umami and were favored by Native Americans. Don’t like ‘em? Spit them out and use as a poultice for minor abrasions.

The taste of Pokeweed “is unremarkable — not surprising since it has to be boiled into submission to be eaten.” The berries make good ink and a mediocre poison.

Orange daylilies, both tubers and buds, are edible. “Fresh buds are tasty with an appealing crunch.” The flavor is mild with, again, a hint of umami, which translates to a pleasant savory taste.

Silver maple seeds, aka whirligigs, are edible raw. And, sautéed in olive oil, they  have a peanut flavor.

Field garlic is four times stronger than store-bought bulbs.

The pink flowers of the eastern redbud “have a sweet flavor . . . and make an interesting topping for ice cream.”

Elderberry flower heads, when soaked an hour or two in water, make a tasty beverage. The bees aren’t the only ones buzzing over these blooms. You can also make an alcoholic drink from the flowers.

Not only are American beech nuts tasty, you can munch on the foliage.

Chickweed, quite edible, has a bitter and soap-like taste. What’s not to like, say our chickens.

Green amaranth is “one of the tastiest of greens.” Best when cooked.

You can eat the tender young shoots of greenbriar, aka blaspheme vine, though the authors caution that the shoots from one plant may taste pleasantly like asparagus while the shoots of the plant right next to it may be too bitter to eat.

Stinging nettles taste like chard.

The young, tender rosettes of dock leaves are “pleasantly sour and lemony.” Don’t eat a lot of them, though, they say. And don’t bother with the roots.

Glassworts at the beach are tasty and are called “haricots de mer” in France. You can buy them bottled in Spain and they’re delicious.

Mulberry leaves are edible but taste “mediocre.”

Devil’s walking stick is a “tasty vegetable.”

Finally — and again — don’t go rushing out there, gobbling down fruits, leaves and stems without properly identifying the plant. O.Henry doesn’t want to lose a single reader.
          David Claude Bailey

Unsolicited Advice

The season of brunches, baby sprinkles and bridal showers is upon us! You know the rule: Never show up empty handed. Instead of the tried-and-true, aka tired-and-trite, bring your party-thrower one of these alternatives to the classic hostess gifts.

A bottle of wine says “I’m a classy guest,” but a six-pack of unfiltered, craft beer? That says, “I’m chill and easy and will likely stay to help clean up after the party. In fact, you might have trouble getting rid of me.”

Elegant serverware? That only lets your host know you enjoy being served and it damned well better be fancy. Instead, give ’em a massage. Well, not literally — awkward! A gift card to a spa shows that you want your host to have a turn at being served.

Upscale and hard-to-find seasonings might leave your host feeling salty. Sprinkle ’em with a dash of home delivery meals: DoorDash gift cards, so they don’t have to think about cooking again just yet.

Flowers die. But lego bouquets are forever. Plus, putting together their plastic posy will be a great distraction from cleaning up after the party.

Candles are cozy, but what they really need once the last guest (that idiot who brought the six-pack!) leaves is an air purifier. A scented candle masks the lingering B.O., but an air purifier cleans the air. What is that smell? *Sniffs* . . . aaah, nothing.

Just One Thing

(Minor White Photographer by Imogen Cunningham)

Much of renowned American photographer Imogen Cunningham’s 93 years on Earth were spent behind the viewfinder of a camera. Her father, Isaac Burns Cunningham, though not enthusiastic about her going into the arts, supported her education in both academic and creative fields from a young age. When she showed a developing fascination with photography, he built her a dark room in a woodshed on the family’s Seattle property. However, at the time, photography was not a subject one could major in, so she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in chemistry. Her thesis? “Modern Processes of Photography.” She is credited as the first woman to photograph a nude man, but it was her 1931 image of dancer Martha Graham that caught the eye of Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield and launched her career in portraiture. In this black-and-white 1963 shot of fellow photographer Minor White, we see a stark contrast between the dark background and the light bouncing off of his white hair and shirt. Shadows accentuate the lines on his face. “She likes to photograph anything that can be exposed to light, I remembered her saying,” White said of sitting for this photo. “Only then did I realize that it was her own light — whether she admitted it or even knew it.” Shortly after this photo was taken, White devoted an entire issue of aperture magazine to Cunningham. Strangely enough, both White and Cunningham died within hours of each other. An exhibit entitled Seen & Unseen: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham is currently on display at Reynolda House Museum of American Art and can be seen through June 2.

Got plans? Book Bound

If you’re not into books, jump to the next page or maybe another pub, but we can’t wait for the authors we dream about meeting, panels that stun our views of the world and all the people we meet at this year’s Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, May 16–19 in downtown Greensboro. Like previous festivals, this year’s lineup brings to our not-so-humble literary scene over 60 writers from across the country. The opening keynote event with best-selling author James McBride (Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, The Color of Water, Deacon King Kong) will get things going on Thursday, May 16, at UNCG, thanks to the generous contribution of the University Libraries (registration required: greensborobound.com/event/james-mcbride/).

Other highlights include our favorite NPR Weekend Edition Sunday host Ayesha Rascoe — in person! — with her book HBCU Made; a special event around an essay collection on video games called Critical Hits, featuring writers Carmen Maria Machado (In the Dream House), Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Chain Gang All-Stars), J. Robert Lennon (Hard Girls) and Ander Monson (Predator: A Memoir, a Movie, an Obsession). Again, thanks UNCG.

Naturally, conversations will swirl around immigration, climate change, mean girls, diaspora and disappearing, apples, and romantic entanglement as poets, essayists and fiction writers argue about the issues of the day. Family friendly? Greensboro Bound also brings back a robust collection of children’s and young adult authors on Saturday, May 18, to coincide with the various adult events at the Greensboro Cultural Center and Greensboro History Museum.

All of this is a prelude to Sunday, May 19, with a special celebration of author Randall Kenan as the closing event of Greensboro Public Library’s “One City One Book” season. Kenan, who died in 2020, was a North Carolina literary legend and the editor of Carolina Table — the library’s choice for the city-wide read in 2023—24. If you’re a serious foodie, you won’t want to miss the panel discussion (AND FOOD!!!) at The Historic Magnolia House with his friends and colleagues Marianne Gingher, Daniel Wallace, Gabriel Calvocoressi and North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green. As always, all programming is free. The question is are you?