O.Henry Ending

A Thing of Beauty

Azaleas bring joy forever

By Ross Howell Jr

Greensborians sometimes take for granted the azalea’s riotous profusion of color and blossom in April. Not me.

The Blue Ridge winters where I grew up were too harsh for azaleas. I remember becoming aware of them on a high school band trip to Myrtle Beach. We stopped for a tour of Brookgreen Gardens.

A boy of 14, I was initially more interested in the size of carp in the ponds, the nude bronze statues and the budding charms of a certain female flutist in the band, a senior.

But as I passed a brick wall, the afternoon light was bending, infusing everything with gold. There, before me, was a bank of pink azaleas so bright in color they seemed to have been plugged into an electrical socket.

Here was a plant I had never seen before. Here was a plant whose purpose wasn’t utilitarian, to be eaten by livestock or by man. Here was a plant whose only purpose was beauty.

That was the first time I got why my mother labored on her knees evenings among her flowers after a long day’s work milking cows, washing clothes, cooking and tending her vegetable garden.

I’ve planted azaleas before, and after a couple of shaky years — they faced the full force of the summer sun in a southern exposure — they thrived. But my real azalea responsibilities lie with three old plants in Fisher Park, inherited from our home’s previous owner.

They’re what I call old-school azaleas, woodsy and leggy, though they’re in bright sun, with trumpet blossoms and big deciduous leaves that turn reddish orange in the fall.

When my wife bought the house seven years ago, the azaleas were overgrown with morning glories and some sort of vine that had also conquered a substantial portion of the roof. After I cleared away the vine and morning glories, I pruned out the dead sections of the azaleas, fed and watered them, and waited to see how they’d respond to the reintroduction of sunlight to their lives.

Tentative at first, they sprouted aggressively, becoming even more misshapen. I let them go the first year, then pruned conservatively to shape them over a three-year span.

I’m writing this in March. The azaleas display no dead wood, their leaves look healthy and smooth, and the bloom buds grow fatter each day. I haven’t pruned in two years, so they’re all taller than me, one a good 8 feet in height.

Past Aprils, I’ve had my wife photograph me with our two dogs beside the azaleas when they’re blooming. Their blossoms are so bright they make your eyes blink.

My dogs tolerate these sessions, though it’s obvious they’re unimpressed. This spring we have a new rescue dog we’ve adopted. She has a gray coat, with a white blaze, socks and chest.

I think the color of the azaleas will complement her coat nicely. Maybe she’ll display more enthusiasm than her colleagues.

The flutist? We boarded the school bus for home the afternoon of the parade. After nightfall, she kissed me in the back of the bus, out of pity, I’d wager. The line of her jaw was accented by her cropped hair, and the fragrance of the azaleas reminds me of its fragrance.

I have no idea what became of her.  OH

Ross Howell Jr. is studying the native plants of the Florida Panhandle for a landscaping project. That’s his excuse for not making better progress on his second novel.

The Accidental Astrologer

Lunatics, Lovers and Poets

There’s never a dull moment in Aries-land

By Astrid Stellanova

Oh, the famously maddening, cuh-razy-making Ram! Famous Arians include maniacs like Hitler (OK, OK, der Fürher was actually born on the cusp of Aries, with his sun in Taurus). But it also is the sign of beloved actors (Marlon Brando), singers (Lady Gaga) and rap stars (MC Hammer). Poets (Robert Frost, Maya Angelou) and artists (Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh), too, share the sign of the Ram. We may curse you, Aries Star Children, but we will also follow you, to cliff or cliff-hanger.
Ad Astra — Astrid

Aries (March 21–April 19)

Sugar, you have it all: impetuousness, impatience. Usually, you are found stirring the pot in a very hot kitchen. Making action is your M.O., which is why your sign is common among generals and CEOs. But you ain’t common. Driven, affectionate, passionately loyal — also easily ticked off. You push, you pull, you press, you tug; you don’t relent. You have the combustible energy of a turbo jet.  But what you need most right now is a sugar-free cake and a long nap.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

How’s the view from the edge? If you keep raising the hackles of a foe, you could wind up wearing your tonsils as jewelry. Honey, I hope you wake up to the fact that you cannot keep pushing the buttons of some of your most important allies without losing them for good.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

I may not know karate but Astrid does know meltdowns. Juggling flaming batons has become your new normal. Sugar Pants, this is not a pace anybody could or should maintain. Even when you stop, you jog in place.  Don’t just do something — sit there till those hot pants cool off.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Drunker than Cooter Brown. Dishier than Smoky Bacon. This is a time of extremes for you. You have played your magnetism to the hilt, going all Zelda at the drop of a bra or jock strap. Honey, are you sure this is the plan — or is the plan in control of you?

Leo (July 23–August 22)

It’s been a donkey’s age since you told the most important person in your life you loved them more than a pack of Nabs and a Coke. They need to hear it. Sugar, don’t play it cool. Let them know they are your MVP and cement the deal.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

Something in the background of your life just ain’t reading quite right. And, I’d wager my bunions and white hairs that you have been kept out of a situation that deeply concerns you. It may be for your own protection, but I would prick up my ears and listen. If ole Astrid’s wrong, you can keep the bunions.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

Well, you can’t uncook a cooked goose, can you? And you can’t make amends if you don’t even recognize you had a hand in turning the oven temp up waaaay too high. You didn’t intend to create the situation, but if you own up, you can set things sorta, kinda right again. It is never too late.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Let’s say you have been obsessed with settling a score. Am I right?  Bet you a doughnut for a dollar that you ain’t gotten over an old feud. It’s been simmering for some months now.  Let’s say you might want to lie low, because this particular feud won’t be helped by throwing more fat on the fire.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

The lump in your mattress is not from stashed cash. Let’s say you’ve been a little extravagant, and you really and truly need some shekels that are scarce as hen’s teeth. Baby, austerity is the word for the month. But when you emerge from this dry spell, an old debt will be repaid and in the nick of time.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

Don’t give a hoot and a holler for what some stranger thinks of your idea? It really deserves a better opinion and another look. You are on the right track — no matter what you’ve been told. Your inspiration isn’t just all sweat — it’s a little bit of genius, Honey.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

Laying it on with a trowel, were they? Turned your head, huh? Well, that’s what people do when they sense an easy opportunity and a body in desperate need of an attagirl or an attaboy. Here’s the thing: Your reputation is solid as a Cadillac. Keep your feet on the ground. You don’t need that noise.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

Even if Sheriff Andy Griffith got pulled into your latest kerfuffle, he wouldn’t know what to do either. The situation you are in requires you to be your own good counsel. Go to the diner, get a good cup of coffee and a slice of pie, and think it through. You already know the truth, Sweet Thing.  OH

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.

Story of a House

Redo, Redux & Release

Thomas Buckley on artful designing — and turning — on a dime

By Cynthia Adams
Photographs by Amy Freeman

Last May, Thomas Buckley and his partner, Cecil Lockhart, left an 800-square-foot, renovated home on Roseland Street for a move of less than one mile. They had bought a Fountain Manor condo in the neighborhood and did what they enjoy most: They started all over with a clean slate. 

There was little to pack. The couple’s modus operandi is to take their artwork and a few personal effects with them, and dispense with the rest.

By September, their fifth and latest renovation was completed in just four months, with a few tweaks left in the kitchen. But by the time their newly befriended neighbors blink, the home makeover addicts will be gone again to embark on their sixth redo. (They already have an eye on a new fixer-upper.) Between them, they have lived in California, Connecticut, Colorado, South Carolina and now North Carolina.

A fresh design canvas is just the ticket for the designing duo. 

But back to last spring, and the previously sight-unseen condo they now call home. Before the partners bought the Fountain Manor condo, they already knew it was the right price and the right location. “We like a bargain,” Buckley confesses, which is putting it mildly.

But — once seen, the 1,700-square foot Fountain Manor abode (double the size of their former home!) featured dated wallpaper and flooring, and a blasé look. It was stuck in a 1980s time warp. The condo was, by any measure, clean and livable but read much too traditional for their tastes and eclectic artwork.

Buckley set out to do what he relishes, designing on a dime. He established an exceedingly small budget to make their new home hum. The couple’s renovation budget? They look at each other and smile. “$10,000, all in all, including new kitchen appliances.” 

Paint — the cheapest of tools in a designer’s arsenal — is also the most powerful. 

Buckley enthuses, too, at the Triad’s trove of riches when it comes to furniture and home furnishings! Greensboro offered unparalleled consignment choices, thanks to the area’s being at the epicenter of the furniture industry. Buckley says he can scarcely believe his good luck.

“The thrill of the hunt,” Buckley smiles, to furnish a new space, is his second greatest kick once he has plotted how to make a design fresh and refreshing. For this purpose, he goes right to the “incredible array” of consignment shops that populate the Triad. He points to a coffee table — like all the other furnishings, it appears to be brand-new. (Nothing in the condo appears remotely shabby, but polished and chic.)

“This coffee table is a $2,200 Baker table, and I paid $240,” the designer says with no small amount of pride. “I know high-end furnishings, and I love consignment. I’m totally into repurposing.” 

He is quite possibly as addicted to the next new thing, as some are addicted to collecting.   

As he explains it, Buckley truly likes cha-cha-changes.   

“I’m ready to do it again,” he grins. When working for a client, he occasionally sells something straight out of his home. “I’m very into creating good energies in a space,” he explains.  “But I’m not into the pressure to keep up with the Joneses.”

Buckley qualifies this. He likes small change with maximum effect. Meaning, when this designer takes on a new home interior, he enjoys the challenge of a very slim budget.    


“Anyone can design with a huge one,” he frowns. But not everyone can reuse, repurpose, reinvent and rejuvenate, all the while honoring the discipline of keeping things to, as he adds, “a very reasonable cost.”

The availability of beautiful things at a bargain still stuns Buckley. Taking advantage of that bounty is simply what Buckley loves, and he is slowly bringing Lockhart around to his point of view. Together, the couple moved from “a big house in Denver, Colorado, to Florida, then to a (N.C.) house, then a townhouse, then to the house on Roseland, and now here.”   

Buckley says he’s been designing since he was 10 years old. “After the first design job, I got the Carly Simon album, You’re So Vain,” he chuckles. It was thrilling, to source collectibles, especially art and high-end furnishings, and reinvent a space. And to make money doing it, he says.

Buckley still owns a painting he chose for his uncle when he was only 15 and later inherited. He keeps deeply sentimental things, especially the art that he loves, but all else is up for sale. Or else, he says, it is up for donation.   

“You shouldn’t get attached to anything,” Buckley says. Then, Lockhart quietly confesses, “But I do get attached to things.”

Buckley amends, “I did get attached to a Drexel Heritage sofa I once had.” He says this apologetically, as if he needs to explain.

How did this gypsy-spirited design philosophy develop? A growing awareness of mortality made Buckley realize how fleeting life and possessions are.

“I have had health issues. My former partner, Dan, had leukemia, and I took care of him.”  The entire experience was deeply affecting for Buckley.  It caused him to also redesign his own life, creating one that would not place possessions over meaning. He did not wish to be owned by his possessions.   

Furniture, furnishings and other material objects were no longer imbued with the meaning they once had. They simply could serve as a substitute for what he had lost. Buckley landed on the idea that he could approach each home like a Zen garden — one designed without attachment. Lovely and temporary. He could indulge a passion for designing new spaces and the all-thrilling hunt for treasures, without accumulating material objects that tied him down more.    

The answer was to design, decorate, and then polish a rough stone until it shone like a diamond, and move on.

“Who needs so much stuff?” he asks plaintively. As his parents aged and their health declined, Buckley frequently returned to their Connecticut home — large and stocked with treasures. He preferred to live simply, with far fewer things.

So, the couple has begun refining the art of moving in only a day when the whim hits them. 

Lockhart had to be converted to learn to redo a place, furnish it, then leave it and start afresh. “It became liberating. I resisted it at first, though. But I see the beauty of it now,” he admits.

He still works at various jobs through the week, which include real estate, retail and one day weekly as a hairdresser, his former profession. He likes the variety and freedom.

“When I lived in Greenville, S.C., people bought my house fully furnished,” Buckley says. “I sold it all, because I felt it wasn’t fair to Cecil not to start afresh in our new relationship.”

After the couple bought the Fountain Manor condo, they proceeded to change some of its more dated aspects in record time. They opened up space, removing, for instance, a half wall divider with pickets that impeded the flow of the room. They then claimed a closet, “Which we repurposed into a ‘dry’ wet bar,” Buckley jokes. It immediately upgraded the hipness of the living room. Their next inspiration cost a mere $300 and sweat equity.

“I found a fireplace insert on craigslist,” says Buckley. “I told them I wanted the electric fireplace only.” A new fireplace adds panache and visual interest upon entering the house — where there had previously been none. 

Next they undertook cosmetics, ending with the kitchen. Down came kitchen wallpaper that Buckley instantly recognized as a Waverly favorite he had used years ago on design jobs.


Using a color-saturated palette as a better backdrop for their art collection, replacing flooring, and a kitchen upgrade made significant impact for an insignificant investment.

“We had a $10,000 budget and we did it all — kitchen included,” Buckley says with obvious pride. “And that is, the kitchen and all appliances: $4,200 for the appliances. There was an appliance sale and I knew when to buy them.” They kept the cabinets, which were in good condition, except for one section, which was removed to expand the room. The cabinets were painted and given spiffy new hardware. Then, the couple replaced the countertop with a reasonably priced laminate and refinished the floors.

The kitchen is now more open, and a clean, fresh room rather than detraction.

Buckley does have a case of reverse snobbery.

One of the couple’s wing chairs was featured in the February issue of Architectural Digest.  Buckley proudly says it is the very chair he sits upon, a $3,000 chair, one he snagged for $300 on consignment.  (The thrill of such a deal excites him as much as the beauty of the piece. “I love the Red Collection, and also buy things at the Carriage House nearby.”)

But when it comes to bargain-hunting, it’s the art collection that shows their true colors. Buckley says he scored two framed sketches of the RMS Titanic and the Mauretania.

They also own a piece by James Austin, one of many designers to help originate the AIDS Memorial Quilt.  In addition to many others, the couple is proud of two works by Jim Hahn, an artist of note who began painting later in life.

Did Buckley buy these pieces of art retail?  “Oh, no,” he says, taken aback.  That, it happens, is against Thomas Buckley’s religion. Think of him, if you will, as the Warren Buffet of design. In this case, he’s actually the Design Oracle of the wealthy enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut, where most of his family still resides.   

But a true home, as Buckley will point out, is not an address. It is where you find meaning. A friend just called them about a house she hopes they will take on, and they are already twitching to do it. It’s smaller than the condo. Not a problem, says Buckley. 

“We eventually hope to downsize our way to live in a tiny home,” With this, Buckley  shoots a quick glance at Lockhart, who, unfazed, scarcely raises an eyebrow. “Well,” Lockhart points out, “at least this way our closets are always neat and our house is always clean.”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry and writes for its sister publication, Seasons.  She is convinced that style has little to do with money, and everything to do with imagination. 

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
Thrifty Design Ideas from Thomas Buckley

1. Buckley loves color and advises, “Don’t be afraid of color. Color is one of the cheapest, most dramatic ways to change a space. Also, no color is out of style!  So, choose a color you love, and run with it.”

2. Whatever you do, consider keeping your interior classic. “Timeless design is balanced.  And, it is a comfort to your heart,” Buckley says.

3. Stay well away from trends. Buckley believes trends may quickly date and limit an interior.

4. Making your house a true home “needs you in it,” says Buckley. Express yourself in your home and it will read as cozy and more distinctive.

5. Consider carefully what your interior actually needs versus what you want, making a distinction in order to control clutter.

6. When buying pieces, buy whatever goes best with what you already have. He advises that you know a piece of furniture or decorative object will work before you commit. “Don’t buy an item just because you like it,” he cautions.   

7. Make whatever you have the best you can make it. “I’ve designed a mobile home in Myrtle Beach, and it was great,” says Buckley.

8. Buckley believes that “all art goes together,” saying he doesn’t limit his collection to a single artist or style.  In his view, art has the advantage of having no floor space and yet it is transformative. 


Written in the Stars

For Ben Folds, his destiny was a foregone conclusion

Most national music pundits place the ascendant star of Ben Folds around 1993 in Chapel Hill, when he formed the Ben Folds Five with bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee. While there’s some truth to their assertions, most local music scribes of the era (of which yours truly was one) will tell you that Folds had every earmark of a star-in-the-making as early as 1988, and that it was just a matter of time before he would be playing on the international stage.

Back in those days, before “modern rock” was even a genre and guitar-driven power pop was de rigueur, Folds and Millard Powers formed a group called Majosha. Ironically, Folds was the band’s bassist, even though he is a world-renowned pianist (and is equally proficient on drums), while Powers, now the bassist with Counting Crows, played guitar. Their very first show was a Duke University Battle of the Bands — which they won, a harbinger of things to come.

Majosha was short-lived, but Folds’s next effort was even shorter. He, Evan Olson and Britt “Snuzz” Uzzell formed a group they dubbed Pots and Pans. In this one, Folds played drums, Olson (a vocalist-guitarist by profession) played bass and Uzzell sang and played guitar.

After only a few months they formed Bus Stop, which quickly became a hot commodity after winning Dick Clark’s USA Music Challenge — 1992, the American Idol of the day. With Folds’s brother Chuck on bass and Eddie Walker on drums, this is where Ben Folds became pianist-vocalist-songwriter-arranger Ben Folds.

Evan Olson, still a successful performer and songwriter after a brush with the big time, remembers it well.

“Ben made me a much better musician, better songwriter, better singer, better performer,” he muses. “Just being around him, he has this subliminal influence on people. He’s such a creative force and he’s so good at what he does, you can’t help but pick it up.” Olso says he’ll be forever grateful, “even though it was only for about a year.”

Next came the obligatory moves to Nashville, then New York, before returning to North Carolina and Chapel Hill’s fertile musical grounds.

Never a huge radio star, Folds has nonetheless forged a remarkable career marked by recording no fewer than 30 albums (including collaborations). Universal critical acclaim, has followed. Yet, his greatest exposure came as a judge on the NBC a cappella vocal group competition The Sing-Off from 2009–13.

Folds will make a sentimental journey back to his roots April 20 with a Command Performance at the Carolina Theatre. The show is billed “Ben Folds and a Piano.”

And that’s really all you need.  OH

—Ogi Overman

Earth, Wind & Fire

Wild Fired

The animal-inspired pottery of Charlie Tefft

By Maria Johnson

dozen years ago, Greensboro artist Charlie Tefft thought

he knew what being a successful potter meant.

It meant getting your work in big-city galleries.

It meant schlepping your wares to far-flung weekend
pottery shows.

It meant getting written up in pottery publications such as Ceramics Monthly and Clay Times. (Yes, those are actual, credible publications, not fake ceramic news).

Eventually, all of those benchmark things happened to Tefft, and guess what?

He wasn’t that successful. At least not monetarily.

So, spurred in part by the need to support his growing family, he shifted his thinking and his practices.

He simplified.

He cut expenses.

He came home.

He stopped spending so much time and money on the photography, correspondence and shipping required to land a few pieces in galleries that took
50 percent of his sales and, therefore, made him hike the prices of his work.

He sliced his travel bill by focusing on regional and local pottery shows where he sold directly to customers.

He camped out at the Catawba Valley Pottery & Antiques Festival in Hickory,

He became a regular at the spring and fall craft shows at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market on Yanceyville Street.

He signed up for Keep It Local, the twice-a-year art show hosted by friend and fellow potter Leanne Pizio at her Oak Ridge studio.

Tefft compiled snail-mail and e-mail lists of people who bought his work, and he notified them about upcoming shows.

His repeat sales climbed.

“How many people are in Greensboro?” he says. “Certainly not all of those people are interested in pottery, but even if 1 percent are interested, that’s a lot of people. . . Doing something that’s not prestigious, but local, that’s what built my business. It wasn’t getting in Ceramics Monthly. It was doing the Farmers Market every spring and fall, and building clientele through that.”

As he waded into a smaller pond, Tefft refined his signature techniques and style, including spray-on glazes, which pool in pockets of deep color. His tones stick close to the earth: tawny browns, creams, blues and grays.

He also perfected the delicate paintings of the wildlife that populate his work. Among his favorite subjects: Carolina wrens, black bears, polar bears, deer, opossums, foxes, owls, rabbits and squirrels.

Tefft — who briefly fancied a career as a veterinarian — paints the critters on his pottery using fine brushes dipped in washes and stains.

“It’s like a watercolor painting,” he says.

There’s a pipeline between what Tefft sees in everyday life and the designs that appear in his work.

The foxes? Inspired by a vulpine neighbor that Tefft unmasked when the animal got its head stuck in a Lay’s potato chip bag.

The black bears? Tefft, his wife and three kids, spotted one on a trip to Skyland Resort in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park three summers ago.

The squirrels? There are more squirrels than students under the oaks at Guilford College, where Tefft teaches.

The swimming polar bears? Saw them at the North Carolina Zoo
last summer.

The opossums? A friend in wildlife rescue showed Tefft a box of baby opossums at the Farmers Market, and Tefft was so charmed he made her a cup painted with the wee marsupials.

The wrens? They built nests in a shed outside a home where Tefft and his family lived years ago. The pert birds pop up all over his work, not only in image — they often appear perched on grasses and thorny vines — but in form. His wren-shaped pitchers beautifully suggest the birds’ beaks, eyes, breasts, wings and tail.

The pitchers predated the paintings.

“For a long time, I wanted to have animals on the pots, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it,” says Tefft. “That wren pitcher was really satisfying. I felt like I’d tapped into something. It’s just been a long explorations of how to incorporate animals in ceramics.”

His love of ceramics ignited in childhood.

Born in Raleigh, he moved with his family to Columbia, Maryland, outside  Washington, D.C., when he was a year old. His father was an early computer consultant. His mother was a gifted watercolorist. Their boy Charlie was drawn to art, too.

“Being dyslexic, reading was hard for me, so I was an art kid,” he says. “That was the place in school where I excelled the most.”

He discovered pottery in a class at his Episcopal elementary school, which led to a clay-themed summer camp, which led to an infatuation with the pottery studio in his Quaker high school.

“I always liked working with my hands,” he says. “We had this creek near our house, and I remember dragging this bucket of clay across a field with a friend of mine to make stuff.”

His bond with earthenware led him to another Quaker school, Guilford College, the home of a ceramics program that was started and nurtured by Lisa Young.

By his junior year, Tefft was basically living in the studio.

“I became a teaching assistant. We were given the keys. The growth during that time was amazing,” he says. “I’d go into the studio and do things I couldn’t do the week before.”

He moved to Atlanta after graduation in 1997, intending to work a day job and throw pots at night. His parents encouraged him to take a slightly different tack: to throw himself into his pots day and night.  “They said, ‘We really believe in you,’” he says. “That made all the difference in the world.”

He haunted a cooperative studio and lived on a trickle of income that allowed no TV or cell phone.

He banked experience instead, developing his hallmark eye-hand coordination.

Whatever fascinated his eye, his hands translated to clay. When he saw a photograph of a twirling dancer, her skirt an eddy of fabric, he reincarnated the image as a teapot. A picture of Whirling Teapot was published in a 1998 book, Wheel-Thrown Ceramics by Don Davis.

The picture got Tefft noticed.

A friend rang the following year. There was a temporary teaching position at Guilford College. The job was supposed to last one semester, while Tefft’s former teacher, Lisa Young, was on leave.

“A couple of weeks later, she said, ‘What about two semesters?’ Then it was ‘What about years?’” Tefft remembers. “She left the college and passed it to me.”

That was 18 years ago.

As the college’s only pottery teacher, Tefft leads two classes a semester, which leaves him time to work in his studio, a converted outbuilding in his side yard. He shares the space with apprentice Ray Knirs and another colleague: Tefft’s Australian Shepherd-St. Bernard mix, Walt. Accommodations have been made for Walt’s tail.

“You see there’s nothing wet on the lower shelves because of his hair,” says the 44-year-old Tefft, who looks and acts as you might imagine a potter would.

Lanky, bearded and unpretentious in a T-shirt, work pants and spongy black Crocs, he’s animated by a gentle spirit, but his keen eyes record everything.

He works on pottery daily, often at night after the kids are asleep.

He sweats the details, laboring to make the lips of his tumblers dribble-proof, the spouts of his teapots dripless, the handles of his mugs comfortable to adult fingers.

His pieces work, both functionally and aesthetically, a harmony born of long hours.

“I’m not a production machine,” Tefft says. “I do higher quality work. I touch these pieces a lot.”

But all is not drudgery. Tefft injects his work with humor, too. A plate titled Dreaming Fox shows a wily red veteran pondering rabbits that circle him like clouds. A mug shows a wren perched on the back of a snake that resembles a vine. By depicting animals in moments filled with prey-predator tension, Tefft makes them characters, not just decorations, and implies their lives beyond pottery.

“I feel like I’m capturing them in a small part of their world,” he says. “That’s the art side versus the merely craft side.”

Ironically, the big galleries call Tefft more
than ever.

He ships pieces to AKAR Design in Iowa City, Iowa, and to Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. He recently sent about twenty pieces to a three-person show at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.

“That’s a big deal,” he says. “They’re a major spot for collectors on the East Coast, a clay hub.”

Still, he cleaves to local collectors. Last year, he rented a booth at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro. He plans to do it again this year, the final chapter of the festival’s three-year run here.

He also entertains customers in a showroom that he built next to his studio on Hamburg Mill Road three years ago. He splits the 15-by-30-foot space, which is called Summerfield Gallery, with potter-friend Phil Haralam. They host twice-a-year sales. The next one will be June 16–18.  Shoppers can see the pottery by appointment at other times.

The cost of Tefft’s work ranges from $15 for a small, undecorated vase to $1,200 for a large animal vase. Most items are priced between $40 and  $150.

“I want my neighbors to be able to afford my pottery,” he says. “I want to be the local potter.”  OH

See more of Tefft’s work, as well as a schedule of his upcoming shows, at ctpottery.com. Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. She can be reached at

Earth, Wind & Fire

The Power of Wind

The unseen takes shape in Jim Gallucci’s wind-powered sculptures

By Jim Dodson     Photographs by Sam Froelich

To begin, a breezy pop quiz:

What do politicians and pump organs have in common? Not to mention pop singers and iron sculptors?

The answer, of course, is wind.

When Iron Sculptor Jim Gallucci heard a version of this somewhat lame joke one early spring afternoon while standing in the work yard of at his 7,000-square-foot studio and fabricating shop in South Greensboro, the acclaimed iron sculptor simply smiled and nodded.

“If you think about it,” he mused, “wind is a major force in almost everything around us in life. Wind brings weather, the change of seasons, provides a force for birds and seeds to fly over the Earth, moves everything in the world.  The wind shapes things, sculpts the Earth, propels sailboats over the water, moves people, ideas across the Earth! You name it.” As an example, he mentions a 50-ton airplane. “You think, oh my goodness, how can that thing possibly fly? The answer, of course, is engineers have learned how to use the wind. They can’t quite harness it — wind has a mind of its own — but they can utilize it to serve some amazing purposes.” Gallucci goes on to say that figuring out how to deal with wind is crucial to his job as an artist who creates large sculptures. “It’s called the sail effect,” he explains. “You have to find a way to work with the wind, not against it.”

As he says this, Gallucci — a cheerful, stocky, bearded artist  whose spectacular iron sculptures grace significant public spaces and private gardens all over the state and nation, and who looks, moreover, like a fellow who is gifted in the art of shaping steel to his purposes — stands near one of his latest creations, a monumental work called the Tree of Life. It is a spectacular tree made of structural steel with brass leaves of green that rises 40 feet into the air — i.e. wind — and will soon be bound for the Hebrew Cemetery in Charlotte.

Inside his large fabricating shop, a crew of two assistants is busy welding rebar together for the massive concrete footing that will anchor his stunning
Tree of Life. “Thinking about the wind and its effects is something I had to learn early in my career, which is why an understanding of engineering is critical in this kind of work,” Gallucci says. “Thanks to sitting with so many engineers, I’ve become something of an expert on such subjects as wind loads, sail effect and the other impacts of wind on my large-scale projects.”

The artist recalls a dramatic lesson learned of this expertise, remembering a frightening moment he and his assistants were just finishing the installation of two sculptural steel towers at Raleigh’s City Plaza in July of 2009. “We were welding the last pieces in place when suddenly, a large thunderstorm hit, bringing a microburst of wind that was later determined to be hurricane strength,” he remembers. “It flung three-quarter-inch plywood like pieces of paper through the air and actually moved our 38,000-pound boom truck several inches. But the towers didn’t budge. That was a relief — and not a small message about the importance of understanding wind. It comes from all directions, and it’s often unpredictable.”

Over the course of a distinguished 30-year career as an educator and sculptural artist, Jim Gallucci has made his share of chimes that rely upon the wind to produce sound. But he’s perhaps best locally known for his dramatic gates and bridges that evoke a palpable sense of place and offer a sense of earthy welcome, including Greensboro’s iconic Millennium Gate — plus gates at UNCG, O.Henry Hotel and First National Bank Field, where the Grasshoppers play. His extensive opera also includes gorgeously wrought bridges at Durham’s Duke Gardens and the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. Several of his more dramatic pieces with specific wind themes regularly show up at important civic and art shows around the country.

“Some of them travel, just like the wind itself,” Gallucci quips, leading his visitor over to a magical looking piece called Divine Wind featuring a circular vortex of iron with sculptural squares that resemble pages caught up in the cyclonic whirl of wind. “We’ve taken this piece all over the country,” he explains. “It’s symbolic of how everything in our lives is shaped in one sense or another by wind of some kind or another. I have hopes that this piece may someday wind up out at the airport, where the wind is very much part of life moment to moment.”


A similar piece, he notes, was created for the citizens of Greensburg, Kansas, the famous little town in Southwest Kansas, 95 percent of which was s leveled by an EF5 tornado May 4, 2007. The storm killed 13 and injured 60. Since that time, Greensburg has risen remarkably from the rubble of its devastation, rebuilding a town that is 100 percent Green and now a model of environmental technology that includes one of Gallucci’s rendering of wind’s destructive force called Wind Passage.

“The first thing the community did was rebuild its police station and an art center — realizing that art is something that can hold a community together through the winds of change,” the artist explains. “When the mayor first looked at the piece, he wondered what the little squares in it were supposed to represent. When I explained that those were papers caught up in the vortex, he simply nodded. It was very emotional but quite an inspiration how they’ve come back.”

Here in the Gate City – “a place that — tradition holds — earned it nickname for all the railroads that once passed through this city, though I prefer to think the nickname comes from the fact that we are a city of open gates where all are welcome,” he says — a trio of moving Gallucci wind sculptures connect important spots on the campus of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. A colorful butterfly sculpture that holds the name of children who were served by the organization’s Kids Path program (but have passed on) graces the entry of the garden adjoining the facility that counsels ill and grieving children. “Every child whose name appears has his or her own color,” notes Paul Russ, HPCG’s vice president of marketing and development. “It’s the first thing you see when you enter the garden — butterflies in flight — a symbol of the young lives we’ve served.”

A few steps into the garden sits Gallucci’s novel pipe organ bench, a multi-colored confection of iron encircled by foot pumps that send air and sound through genuine organ pipes the artist salvaged from a church. The whimsical sound machine was funded in memory of a Hospice patient named Bruce who loved music and sound of any kind.

“It’s playful and irresistible to almost everyone, and that’s the point,” says Russ. “You have to step on the foot pedals to make the sound. Everyone feels a little like a kid around it, if only for a little while. The families and children who use our services come for therapy or help in dealing with a serious medical crisis, something that makes talking difficult for many children and young people and even many adults. Bruce’s organ bench is a wonderful tool for us in our work. It brings people out.”

And so, in a quieter way, does Jim Gallucci’s plum-colored Whisper Bench that reposes in a small cove of trees near the rear of the garden. It’s a tubular contraption where visitors may sit on the bench and whisper into a trumpet-like cone placed at one end of the bench and be heard clear as a voice in your ear at the opposite end.

“Many of the children who come to Kids Path really can’t vocalize their fears or whatever else is on their minds,” Gallucci says. “But what the bench enables them to do is whisper and be heard, to communicate in a private way. The staff says the bench is very popular — a place many children gravitate to. Everyone loves to listen to a whisper.” A similar bench resides at the Greensboro Montessori School.

Whether it comes from a foot pump, the lungs of children, or the divine winds of the Earth, Gallucci says, “wind is simply a magical force in our lives. It really does shape our lives in powerful and unseen ways,” he explains to his visitor before heading back inside to check up on the footings for his Tree of Life and to finish up work on a brass eagle model he was preparing for
High Point University. 

Across the yard stands an equally massive but somber-looking metal sculpture that features cutouts that were clearly silhouettes of human forms standing beneath a structural girder that looks as it had been tossed and mangled by the wind. His visitor suddenly wondered. . .

“Yes, that steel came from the twin towers,” Gallucci explains somberly, “some of the 9/11 steel I was offered some years ago. I hope it may find its way to a proper place someday, a public setting where it memorializes the terrible events of that day. Talk about the winds of change,” he adds with a sigh.

But then, brightening, he adds: “That’s the thing about the wind. Its power is magical, terrifying, unpredictable. It may even be our future — once we learn to harvest and use it for the good of this world.”  OH

With the wind at his back, Jim Dodson manages to edit four magazines, write books and tend his garden.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Iron Man

Mark Green’s calling to ancient arms

By Ross Howell Jr.     Photography by Bert VanderVeen

Ask Mark Green — a landscape professional in Greensboro since 1986 — what he enjoys doing most, and you’ll get an unusual answer.

“I like making swords from dirt,” Green says.

A native of Rockport, Massachusetts, Green first came to North Carolina to train with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. After service in Vietnam, he attended UNCG from 1979 to 1983, studying business and art.

“Unusual fields of study to combine, I guess,” Green says. “But my dad was a builder, and as a kid, it seemed like I was always drawing or painting.”

He continues: “Art is something that stayed with me. Somehow I got interested in Japanese sword-making and started collecting them. Then I got the idea that I wanted to try crafting tsuba, the hand guards for the swords.” Tsuba are traditionally elaborate in decoration, often given generation to generation in Japan as heirlooms.

“So I started working with different materials to make these guards,” Green says. “Copper. Bronze. Iron. And that’s how I met Jesus Hernandez.”

Hernandez crafts exquisite swords and knives near Roanoke, Virginia. Once a physician with a successful practice, he decided to give up medicine and build a house near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hernandez taught himself how to smelt the iron and steel he often uses for his handmade blades.

Hernandez was Green’s introduction to a community of artisans he alternatively calls “smelt buddies,” “smelt-heads” or “wizards of bloom.” It’s a select community identified by arcane knowledge and arduous labor. Its roots go back at least as early as the philosopher Aristotle, who wrote a treatise on the use of charcoal to increase carbon in the smelting process, thus hardening iron and steel. (Additional carbon is what makes iron steel. The longer the iron is fired with charcoal, the more carbon it absorbs.)

And smelting begins with dirt.

Green will tell you the hills of North Carolina are laced with the kind of dirt you need — iron ore — and he should know. He’s been searching it out for two decades.

“The problem is, the ore is scattered, or it’s in veins,” Green says. “It’s not concentrated, like iron deposits, say, in Minnesota, or other states in the Midwest.”

It helps to know what you’re looking for. The first discovery Green made was at the Guilford/Rockingham County line.

“It was an old trench mine,” he says. “Hand-dug by slaves. The trench is overgrown with trees and brush, but it’s maybe 3 to 4 feet deep and runs for hundreds of feet. It looks like an old World War I trench, as much as anything.”

Here and there are loose rocks in the trench. Green picks one up. It’s brown and otherwise nondescript. Typically these stones are limonite, generally described as a mixture of hydrated iron oxide minerals. Limonite has been mined to produce iron, according to some sources, for more than 4,500 years. Green picks up another rock and points out darker veins. This is magnetite, another iron oxide mineral. It contains iron dense enough to be drawn to a magnet. Farther along the trench, there’s a big hole, maybe 12 feet deep. Around it are mounds of earth, some as high as 8 feet.

“There must’ve been a really big chunk of ore here,” he says. “You’ll find holes like this sometimes.” Slaves excavated the massive stone, breaking it into pieces for transport.

“In time these old mines were abandoned,” Green says. “But during the Civil War, they were reopened, because iron was needed for the war effort. That’s how I’ve found some of my biggest hauls. Slaves would stack dump piles of the ore they found. But when the war ended, they just left them, and walked away.”

“From one dump alone,” he continues, “I’ve taken out 1,600 pounds of ore. It’s a lot of work, I can tell you, but it’s less time-consuming than prospecting along the trenches.”

When Green shows up at landowners’ houses with his empty wheelbarrow, asking to cart away rocks from their property, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate him.

Then comes the next step, and it’s just as laborious, maybe even more so. Smelting.

First the ore must be roasted. Then crushed to bean size. Then a “bloomery” or “stack” is built. Green’s friend Hernandez began his smelting experiments with a relatively simple and small smelter called an Aristotle Furnace. But another friend, Lee Sauter, whom Green calls a “smelting magician,” has spent years researching and experimenting with ancient forging methods.

Sauter, who took up blacksmithing at the age of 12 in 1973, produces iron sculpture, and maintains his forge near Lexington, Virginia. He, like Hernandez and Green, might do as many as twenty smelts a year, traveling to festivals in Maryland, Louisiana, and other locations around the country.

The stacks they build are vertical cylinders made of about 55 pounds of clay. The “dragon” stack Green built at his home recently has an internal diameter of about 8 inches and stands 40 inches tall. Near the base of the cylinder one or more tubes — called tuyères — of metal or clay are introduced. These tubes enable the smelters to increase the air flow into the chamber using a bellows or other means and also to inspect the progress of the smelting. Openings are introduced at the bottom of the stack for the “slag,” or waste iron, to escape, and also for removing the molten “bloom” when it’s ready.

Once the clay cylinder has dried, charcoal is added to the top and fired to preheat the bloomery. Typically the “wizards” will include hot peppers from the garden or other “sacrifices” to the fire gods in the first charge of charcoal. Once heated, ore and more charcoal are added in stages for the smelting process. A typical “burn” might take four hours.

Once the ore melts and the molten slag drains away, a “bloom” is left at the bottom of the stack. The flickering, glowing bloom is removed with tongs and hammered atop a big wood stump to tighten the metal. Then the bloom is split in half using an axe and more hammering. The individual halves are shaped into bars with a cacophony of more hammering, often carefully choreographed, with wizards timing their individual strikes in precise sequence. It’s hot, backbreaking work, and watching, I understand why Green places so much value on the expertise and energy of his smelt buddies.

About five years ago Green started making blades for swords and daggers (he calls them seaxes) from the bloom iron and steel he produces. (For blades, the halves must be cut, folded, and hammered many times. But this folding and refolding brings out magnificent colorations and patterns in the iron or steel, and beautiful grain.

Green has studied the examples of Anglo-Saxon weapons found in the Sutton Hoo burial site in England. He has also pored over modern reference books, ancient chronicles, and the collections of various museums and private individuals. Some of the best examples of the designs of Viking and Roman swords, he says, can be seen in old frescoes and paintings.

“The Celts and the Romans understood the carburization process,” Green says. “So they had steel weapons. The Britons and Vikings, not so much. Their weapons were usually iron. And sometimes you’ll find an iron sword with steel edges.” The Franks, however, really understood steel: “In medieval times it was illegal to sell a Frankish sword,” he says. “Their swords were all steel, some of the finest weapons in the world.”

Making the blades is intricate and arduous. Sometimes metal from a meteorite is included in the smelting process for coloration and texture. The bar that will become vthe blade is folded on itself and hammered, folded and hammered again, as many as fifteen times. Watching the process brings a whole new level of respect for the village blacksmith in days of yore.

Interest in these ancient blades isn’t as limited as you might think. For years Green has been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The organization is an eclectic mix of professionals, blue-collar workers, artisans and others, including history geeks, of course. Dressed in full regalia, the group meets regularly for historical recreations and festivals representative of pre-17th-century Europe.

According to the organization’s website, the SCA has more than twenty kingdoms in the “Known World,” with a total of 30,000 members scattered in countries around the globe.

I’m the leader of the Barony of Sacred Stone,” says Green. “Sacred Stone covers western North Carolina, and is one of the larger baronies in the kingdom of Atlantia.” The kingdom of Atlantia includes Maryland, the District of Columbia, the Carolinas, and part of Georgia.

An online check of Atlantia spring events includes this call to arms: “Join your fellow Atlantians at the Barony of Ponte Alto’s Annual St. Paddy’s Day Bloodbath where the fighting is fierce and the lunch is free.”

Green grins and nods.

“Yes, we get together about every other weekend,” he says. “There are archery lessons and competitions. Medieval feasts. And full-contact, hand-to-hand combat competitions with rattan weapons. It’s good cardiovascular exercise! For some events there’ve been as many as 1,500 people reenacting a period battle.”

Green’s handmade swords and seaxes are sometimes part of the costume, pomp and circumstance of coronations or the conferring of a knighthood.

“Yeah,” he reflects. “It’s pretty cool to see a sword I’ve made by hand used in a reenactment ceremony. Especially when you remember it began as a lump of dirt.”  OH

Alliterative flowers, fruits and foliage are about all writer Ross Howell Jr. can produce successfully from dirt. Well, not always successfully.

April Poem

A Natural Petition

When cats go to Heaven

they rearrange the order.

First, who made God, God?

Who decided angels didn’t

need fur, tails and whiskers?

Consider tail as a talking point.

Consider tail as a tour guide.

Consider tail conversational mapping.

But whiskers — ah, they let you

nuzzle a nuzzle. Soft, sexy.

Whiskers are out there

antennae catching vibes.

Whiskers are words

translated into touch.

Fur. . . the grandest of all.

One is always dressed for any

occasion.  Every occasion.

Tuxedo, calico, Bengal, leopard,

Persian. Fur is what the world

would wear if it could.

— Ruth Moose

Wandering Billy

Endings and Beginnings

A lost garden on market, skateboard heaven, and a revolutionary rebirth

By Billy Eye

“Against her ankles as she trod; The lucky buttercups did nod.” — Jean Ingelow

To neighbors and passers-by she was a mysterious, reclusive 85-year old spinster in a red hat puttering around an implausible oasis. Clipping multitudes of boxwoods, taming nandina, trimming azaleas, rounding off the pair of 8-foot high bushy yews standing like leafy sentinels barricading one of the city’s grittier retail corridors, Rosemary Barker had known these lush surroundings since childhood. Hers was a Gaian struggle against the inexorability of time and limitations of old age, preserving what greenery she could at Greensboro’s own Grey Gardens, the last elegant home and grounds remaining on West Market Street just beyond Starmount Forest.

Rosemary Barker grew up in the 1930s scurrying around these very hedges, celebrating birthdays with her brother and sister under the pitched-roof gazebo that still stands resolutely beside a stone fireplace in the backyard. Her extended playgrounds were the untamed woods, creeks and fields cradling the lovely two-story decorative Craftsman-style farmhouse she grew up in, situated as it was well outside city limits.

After her parents passed away, Rosemary continued residing here while becoming known to generations of school kids as Miss Barker, a stern but fondly remembered 5th grade teacher at Allen Jay, Elementary School in the 1950s before transferring to Bessemer and Erwin Elementary in the ’60s then Lindley Jr. High in the ’70s. The home remained hidden in plain sight while all around, grocery chains, auto stores and fast food joints paved paradise to populate West Market’s retail runway. As a result, her 4-acre habitat found itself boxed in by the razor-wired USPS carrier facility on one side and a sprawling Colonial Apartments subdivision to the rear.

Today, unrestrained bushes and shrubs, amassing in mammoth proportions, shield the property’s deep backyard. Trees of nearly every indigenous species form a canopy over the gravel drive leading to a two-story garage that pitches precariously forward, enveloping on all sides the weathered house, its paint peeling, its inviting wraparound front porch warped and worn but still sturdy.

I was unacquainted with Rosemary Barker, never heard of her until my unexpected Wednesday wandering skidded a bit too close to trespassing after noticing the first floor of this once-splendid home boarded up. Sadly, I discovered Miss Barker’s memorial service had been held just weeks earlier. Given the commercial possibilities of this lot — after every trace of the gentility and charm of a forgotten era is bulldozed and carted unceremoniously away — it’s perhaps inevitable that this verdant locale where breezes once whistled softly through the pines, and the air was honeyed with the scents of wisteria and flowering pears, will one day reverberate with the words: “Welcome to Sonic.”

It wasn’t so long ago when skateboarders routinely shared stories of downtown police officers strong-arming them while they were in motion, sending riders and boards flying in opposite directions. Today, there’s a newfound respect for the sport. Once construction taking place on Hill Street between Green Hill Cemetery and Latham Park Manor is completed, our city will be home to two of the most impressive skateboard parks in the state. One of them is an open-air courtyard with enormous, treated concrete bowls. A sister facility in Glenwood offers upward sloping ramps augmented by permanently mounted rails for grinding on.

In the planning stages for more than a decade, the project was spearheaded and brought to fruition thanks to photographer Fabio Camara, who sought design input from young enthusiasts such as  Chris Roberts, who tells me: “The people who are building those ramps are all skaters themselves so they know how to design them.” He explains that “when you’re a 10-year old skateboarder, you’ll have this super nice facility to practice on for years and years. We’ll have a lot of professional level skateboarders come out of the area in the next ten, fifteen years for sure.”

The Cone Mills Revolution Mill first spun into operation producing flannel in 1898 but after business began unraveling in the 1970s, the majority of the property began its long decent into ruin and neglect. So much so, that it was used for a rave I attended to usher in the new millennium; promoter Michael Driver selected a hidden portion of the mill to fire up a generator to run lights and turntables for the night. As the sun rose over the rubble, I swear I could hear ghostly footsteps of a thousand workers from past decades trundling to work.

Revolution Mill has been quietly undergoing an amazing metamorphosis, the beginning of what will very soon be an all-encompassing $100 million multi-modal complex with office, shopping, dining, and luxury living. They’re setting the stage for an explosion of art, music and commerce with open-air event spaces and spectacular studios adorned in exposed brick, original hardwood floors and massive windows where everyone from sculptors to furniture designers are already creating worlds of excitement as you read this. As you read this, Cugino Forno Pizza has opened in the mill’s former machine shop, and it promises to be a spectacular dining experience. You were looking for something new to do, right?  OH

Billy Eye is convinced no one reads this fine print; that makes you the exception that proves the rule, right?


A Flash of Green

The stealthy green heron returns to N.C.’s waterways

By Susan Campbell

The green heron is probably one of the coolest little birds around — but one that I’d bet most folks have never seen. They return from tropical wintering grounds to breed across the state in early spring, migrating under the cover of darkness back to where they first hatched, beginning the cycle anew. Right now flocks are moving northward in order to pair up for the breeding season.  Although they are widely distributed, the green heron’s cryptic coloration and skulking behavior make them tricky to spot.

Standing a mere 18 inches tall and only about the size of a crow, this species is by far the smallest of about a dozen types of waders found in North Carolina. As with all herons, these birds have relatively long legs and a skinny neck, as well as a long, dagger-like bill. Given that green herons typically stand with their necks tucked in, individually they may seem smaller than they are. Their backs are a velvety green (hence the name), their bodies a handsome chestnut and their legs a pale yellow. The feathers on the head, in addition to the wings, are dark gray and often stand erect, giving the appearance of a shaggy crest. As with other herons and egrets, males are identical to females.

During the spring, males seek out thick shrubbery along the edge of a wet spot and begin building a platform of thin sticks as a nest. After attracting a mate, the male looses interest in nest-building, and it is the female that completes the shallow nest. Although the location may very well be along a creek or pond, it may also be man-made, for instance around a smaller depression adjacent to a water hazard on a golf course. Probably more important is whether or not there’s sufficient access to food and woody vegetation to support three to five chicks. Although other wading bird species generally nest in colonies, green heron pairs usually keep to themselves. But they, especially the males, are fiercely territorial when it comes to defending their feeding area. They will vocalize loudly and chase any bird that is perceived as a threat.

Green herons spend most of their time crouched completely still, alongside a wet spot, waiting for prey to appear. They will grab any moving creature that is small enough to swallow. Fish, frogs, crayfish, larger insects and even the odd hummingbird make up their diet. Occasionally, they may spear their food, but most often they grab what they catch with their powerful mandibles. And while green herons are very successful ambush-style predators, they sometimes show a cunning side, using objects such as sticks and insects very deliberately to lure fish to the surface. Surprisingly, they may also occasionally dive after prey. With partial webbing between their toes, they can swim short distances, if need be.

A few green herons lurk in the very southeastern part of our state each winter but most head to Mexico or Central America where food is more plentiful during the colder months. Our birds pass through Florida and head for the Caribbean on their way to marshlands in Central America.  There will be plenty of time in the coming months to spot one of these fascinating water birds. So the next time you’re passing a nearby farm pond or overgrown stream bank, carefully scan the banks and low branches — you may just catch sight of this neat little heron!  OH

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos at susan@ncaves.com.