O. Henry Ending

Beach Savvy

I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in, but I found my place


By Nelda Howell Lockamy

In the fall of ’65, I arrived farm fresh on the campus of App State, then called Appalachian State Teachers College. Having grown up 50 miles away, I felt that Boone was as far from home as I’d ever been. I knew from letters exchanged that all three of my assigned suitemates were worldlier and presumably wiser than I was, so contrary to my true nature, I resolved to listen more than I talked. These were sophisticates from Thomasville, Concord and Greensboro, after all. I didn’t want them thinking I’d arrived on a turnip truck.

I played it cool. I wound up laughing at a lot of things I didn’t get. But one word haunted me, and it came up all too often. The word was “beach,” as in “beach music,” or “last summer, at the beach.” No way was I going to announce that I had never been anywhere near a beach, so as we planned a pilgrimage to Cherry Grove after exams, I did my best to conceal my naïveté.

Our accommodation for this adventure was a rickety, $10/night apartment over a beauty shop. But whatever our place lacked in amenities was more than compensated for by the candy land right beside us — a yellow cinder block motel just teeming with greased up guys. The soulful grooves of The Tams blared through open windows, and the breeze carried a heady aroma of Coppertone and spicy Brut cologne. My listening skills had paid off, so I knew that the crème de la crème were the guys from Carolina who had graduated from high schools like Grimsley and Broughton — those fellas had big city class. But by sundown, the pickings next door had grown slim. There were only two targets left, and there were four of us gals. My suitemates decided to seek better hunting grounds, but the heat and the pretense had exhausted me, so I stayed behind.

I couldn’t help but notice that one of the guys was much more handsome than the other. Dressed in his madras shorts and sockless Weejuns, he looked like a model, all toned and tan and fine. He said he was just down for the weekend with his brother, who appeared to be his polar opposite in every way. He was short. Shrimpy, even. And since he seemed to idolize the big guy, I figured he must be the younger brother.

Anyway, when the hunky brother told me he was a SigEp from UNC and had graduated from Myers Park High School, I knew I was dealing with the full monty! But after 20 minutes of leaning over a splintered rail listening to his nonstop soliloquy — he never even asked my name! – I decided just to enjoy my own company. But as I turned to go inside, Little Bro came out, gingerly carrying a freshly starched and ironed shirt, which he carefully slipped on Big Boy, then buttoned up the front and the cuffs so as not to make wrinkles in the sleeves, he said.

Maybe I was a fast learner after all, for I vowed then and there never to look twice at a guy who was prettier than I was or required more maintenance. So later, when my roomies told me that they met the brothers on their way out of town, I just smiled.

Silly, gullible girls, I thought. Although I stayed quiet for a while, it wasn’t for fear of sounding foolish.  OH

Nelda Howell Lockamy is a retired educator and counselor. Although she resides in Greensboro with her husband, Tom, guess where they’re planning to go this summer? Yep, the beach.

July Almanac 2021

By Ashley Wahl

July spills her secrets to the night.

At twilight, as the earth exhales the sun’s hot kiss, the parish of crickets chants glory to the rising moon and a softness spills across the landscape.

In the garden, a luminous sea of moonflowers opens beneath the glittering heavens. Fragrant blossoms resemble tiny white horns — silent galaxies transmitting sweetness from the darkness to the great abyss.

A night bird calls out from the shadows.

Does he sing his own name — whip-poor-will — or does he sing of the muse? 



Hard to tell.

As constellations of fireflies rise from the tall grass, cicadas blurt out their shameless confessions. It seems that each moment is a dance between sound and light, and as moths orbit lamp posts like tiny winged planets, five deep, guttural bellows resound.

A bullfrog moans from an unseen pond. It’s not a siren song, per se — more like a trembling cellist exploring a single string — but enchanting, nonetheless.

Might it draw you to the water? Will you run your fingers along the pond’s silky surface, dip your toes into its coolness, hum a sonorous tune of your own?


Only the night will know for sure.

Edible Landscape

The garden is churning out summer squash and snap beans. Beefsteaks and Brandywines grow plump and heavy. And yet, everywhere you turn, edible treasures spill forth.

Blackberry patches at the edge of the woods.

Wineberries along favorite trails.

Mushrooms galore — boletes, leatherbacks, chanterelles and, if you’re lucky, chicken of the woods.

Red clover and dandelion, daylilies and chickweed, chicory and burdock roots.

Yet at the height of this summer abundance, don’t forget: Now’s time to sow seeds for the autumn harvest.

Something Sweet

Japanese wineberries:
delicious though invasive. So, if you are wondering what to do with your daily harvest (besides eat them by the handful or tuck them into your favorite cobbler), consider using them for a cool, summer treat.
Got lemon balm? A friend passed along this simple recipe:


Wineberry & Lemon Balm Sorbet


3 cups fresh-picked wineberries (rinsed and drained)

1/4 cup sugar

1 handful lemon balm leaves (rinsed and dried)

1/4 cup water

Additional ice water


Line wineberries on a cookie sheet to put in freezer.

While berries are freezing, make simple syrup by stirring water, sugar and lemon balm in saucepan over medium heat. Once mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and allow syrup to cool completely before straining out the leaves. Put syrup in a covered container; refrigerate.

Once berries are frozen, combine them with cold syrup in blender with a few teaspoons of ice water. Blend until smooth, adding more ice water if needed.

Enjoy immediately.


Mosquito is out,
it’s the end of the day;
she’s humming and hunting
her evening away.
Who knows why such hunger
arrives on such wings
at sundown? I guess
it’s the nature of things.

—N. M. Bodecker,
Midsummer Night Itch

Cheek to Cheek

Newly married, two young architects
infuse their historic home with a fresh perspective

By Cynthia Adams
Photographs by Amy Freeman


For architects Brian and Casey Cheek, there’s no place like the circa 1915 foursquare they’re enthusiastically restoring in High Point’s Johnson Street Historic District — especially now.

Casey, 28, can’t stop smiling. She’s standing in their newly renovated kitchen, where exposed brick, richly colored walls and wooden floors set the tone of the house.

Originally serviceable but small and confining — as in minimal counterspace and outdated appliances — the kitchen was hardly ideal for Casey’s vision.

You see, as a passionate cook and food blogger, Casey documents her culinary adventures on Instagram, drawing inspiration from the Italian dishes made with love and real butter by her grandmother, Nonnie. Because she shares her gourmet creations with followers, she needed a picture-perfect workspace.

Though she didn’t design it as a true test kitchen, Casey visualized how white, veined quartz counters (a resilient stand-in for Carrara marble) would look when staging food photos. She would need ample natural light, ample space and a fabulous gas stove — all of which now define the kitchen.

Brian? All he asked for was a bar sink, wine fridge and a stretch of counter reserved for entertaining.

“I have no power in this relationship,” Brian jokes, “but I held out for this,” he says, patting the bar sink. “I get to use this sink.”

The couple dissolves into laughter.

“You have power in the relationship,” Casey retorts, “it just does not extend to the kitchen.”

But for the time being, the bar sink has mostly served as a station for washing out paintbrushes. Brian and Casey have devoted much of their free time over the past year to painting and refinishing the home’s interior. They have done much of it alone.

Theirs is a compressed, impressive saga.

But it didn’t begin in the kitchen — it began in Nashville, where the couple cooked up a dream of relocating to North Carolina, where Brian had grown up. Less than two years ago, after interviewing with Freeman Kennett Architects, they found a two-story in need of all their talents and within walking distance of the firm.

Three leafy blocks of this residential corridor offer all the classic elements of Americana: generous, shaded porches; wide sidewalks; a variety of architectural styles; plus easy access to restaurants and bars. In other words: eye candy for architects.

It also felt like a lifestyle upgrade, going from “seven miles, but a 45-minute commute in Nashville to walking to work in a snap,” Brian says. (He does admit that he wouldn’t cross Main Street from his Emerywood family home as a kid. “It seemed too busy,” he says with a laugh.)

Brian’s father is a Triad surgeon, and his mother a lawyer and educator.  Casey’s father is in technology and her mother is a chemical engineer.

As anyone who has ever loved and restored an old house can understand, the biggest reach for the Cheeks was knowing that this was the house. Once decided, they had to figure out how to a) nab a historic house from “on the edge of foreclosure” that had languished in an estate for two years, b) plan a wedding and honeymoon, and c) reinvigorate an old house with new life.

With the help of friends, family and sheer good fortune, “We got the house a little over a year ago,” says a still smiling Casey.

But preceding that, a dizzying timeline unspooled.

The Cheeks were married on September 29, 2019, then sealed the deal on their new historic home while returning to the U.S. from a trip to Mexico. Or rather, Brian’s mother did.

“I got a text as we were in the airport in Atlanta,” Casey recalls.

She marvels at the cascade of events. “Brian turned 30, we got married, and we closed on a house all within two weeks.” With a grin, she adds, “It was so cool!”

In December, the Cheeks left Nashville, where they had worked for four years following graduation from architectural school at the University of Tennessee, which is where they met. After unloading their belongings at their new home, they took off for New York, where they would spend the next two weeks enjoying a culinary holiday with Casey’s family. There, Casey further mastered Italian dishes with her grandmother, Nonnie, an accomplished cook.

Next, they flew from New York to Prague for what they call their “big honeymoon.”

The newly married architects drank in the city’s splendor and enjoyed cocktails that were cheaper than bottled water.

They returned to High Point in January 2020, eager to begin new jobs and tackle a renovation. 

Given their architectural training, they had the remodel and design concepts in mind in no time. But as the crew began a partial gutting of the kitchen, and walls fell away between the kitchen and dining rooms, a revelation. The couple noted the “beautiful, organic look” of a fireplace and chimney that had been previously slated for demolition. 

“It’s going to stay,” Casey decided.  “I love the look of it.”

Brianagreed, they couldn’t destroy it.

They feverishly revised plans and set to work out how to make the most of what they unearthed while removing a minimum of walls. 

The dining room retained a built-in hutch and was reconfigured as a den/dining room, where Brian’s sketches hang on the wall.

The house had good bones.

“I love me some symmetry,” Casey playfully adds, which is one reason why she and Brian were drawn to the foursquare from the start. But to find just the right house, she began her search before leaving Nashville.

She noted one had been sitting on the market. The house had gone to auction and didn’t sell. Then a friend in town helped them navigate the issues with a house in an estate. They put an offer in before they were married, says Brian.

After their three-part honeymoon and moving into their historic home last January, they didn’t really delve into the renovation until March 2020, as COVID hit hardest. In sequestration, they worked at Kennett Freeman remotely. After the workday ended, they began remodeling.

“We have ‘before’ shots of the overgrown azaleas,” says Brian.

They hired a backhoe, and “went crazy” ripping out the front then backyards, which were choking in overgrowth. Suddenly, the house emerged from a wild tangle of greenery, thrilling them.

Initially, they tackled cosmetic things that were easier to do solo. Most of the rooms were a garish white, though the stairwell and one room were red. They focused on the three main rooms downstairs, and softened them with the most cost-effective, unifying change to come: a coat of Natural Linen by Sherwin Williams. 

Then they installed new kitchen cabinets. By using standard cabinet sizes, they were able to configure wood cabinetry at a hefty saving. 

The kitchen gained natural light, enhanced by being opened up. For the walls in the kitchen and dining room, they chose Benjamin Moore’s dramatic Bleeding Heart “to make things fade away a bit,” says Brian.  The color was forgiving, especially with areas where the plaster was irregular or repaired.

The trim and cabinetry were painted white.

“It gets so much light,” says Casey of the kitchen. They installed the long dreamed-of quartz surfaces.

“We were so proud of it, we were inviting all our friends,” Brian says, even as things were in flux. “Having a front porch! It was a different vibe.”

The house was ideal, too, for two large dogs.

“We saw them on Craigslist while living in Nashville,” explains Brian of their Great Pyrenees dogs, Dolly Parton and Del McCoury. “They were small enough to fit in my hand,” says Casey, but in two weeks they quadrupled in size.

“They’re like horses,” she quips.

In the Nashville house, the couple and dogs “were all on top of each other,” says Brian. There was no space, and therefore, sleep was challenging. Brian imitates Del’s heavy breathing, snuffling and laughing. 

Now, one dog sleeps on the stair landing, and the other sleeps on a downstairs sofa. “It’s wonderful,” says Brian.

But the happier fact was that Brian had long felt the tug of home and a desire to return to High Point.

“A lot of us are moving back,” says Brian. 

“Everyone’s leaving the big cities because of COVID,” adds Casey.

Commuting in a large city was crushing.

“Now we come home and let the dogs out and feed them,” he adds, without the stress of trying to get home yet being stuck in traffic.

At the end of the workday, the Cheeks rolled up their sleeves. They tackled a large patio area and paved it, using bricks found at the rear of the house, likely the remnants of a Charleston style garden. They reused both old bricks and pavers and other pieces excavated as they worked to create additional terracing, with a new seating/entertaining area.

“It was a rush to get all this done — the retaining wall and knee wall,” says Brian, pointing out their outdoor project.

“We were worn out,” adds Casey. A major holiday approached.

By Easter this year, they hosted family, and also held a best friend’s wedding after completing the patio. (The friend’s venue had been cancelled due to COVID. They invited them to have a small gathering in their newly re-done back garden.) 

Easter was the first test of their new kitchen and layout.

Casey’s family arrived from New York and Mooresville, North Carolina.

“We had 20-plus people,” Casey exclaims. Nonnie’s arrival completed the joy for her. “I think my grandma cooked on this stove the first time.”

They continued feasting and prepping food. Casey made mushroom risotto and chicken cutlets with Nonnie. “Pickled pepper, roasted eggplant and tomato pasta. The food was flowing that weekend.”

Casey immersed herself in the joy of Italian cooking and their newly blended families.

Casey shows a picture of Nonnie grating an enormous wedge of parmesan. It thrills Casey that her grandmother has now cooked in this very kitchen, a good glass of red on hand.

Nonnie likes Carlo Rossi wine; the couple laugh in unison. “Table wine,” Nonnie says.

“My grandmother was the one to pick us up after school. Dinner was ready. Our parents worked. She was at the house, cooking classic Italian, every single day,” Casey says, marveling.

“Instead of candy, we got chicken cutlets.”

Away from her grandmother at college, Casey would experiment in the kitchen on her own.  “She doesn’t cook with measurements,” she says of her Nonnie. “Everyone in our family gets so frustrated [trying to replicate her recipes]. So, I started recording her, making reels on Instagram.  Hers always tastes different.”

When Casey presses Nonnie, one thing is predictable. “Her answer is always, ‘you’ve got to use more salt.’ She’s from northern Italy, so she uses butter, versus olive oil.”

More salt. More butter.

Cooking ace Casey has summed up exactly why her segue from the North to the South was so seamless: Salt and butter, fundamental culinary staples of her adopted home.

“I thought I’d love the South,” she adds happily. And she does. 

Find Casey Cheek on Instagram @alltypesofbowls.

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor of O.Henry

Made in the Shade

As the heat of midsummer descends and blooms fade, these five leafy sanctuaries help their creators keep their cool

By Jim Dodson     Photographs By Lynn Donovan



Oak Ridge Hideaway

Fifteen years ago, Kathie and Paul Tiedeman found the perfect retirement home in the hardwoods of Oak Ridge. As the lively forest that surrounds their house has grown, so have the Tiedemans’ many shade gardens, including a serene moss garden highlighted by a dramatic sculptural tree root, autumn ferns and mountain laurel; lush borders of rhododendron and irises under overhanging maples; a newly installed terrace under dogwoods with beds of hellebores, trillium and Japanese ferns; even a whimsical blue bottle garden.

“The garden has been a work in progress,” says Kathie. “Every year we seem to lose a little more sunlight, so that’s why we have a yard that’s becoming moss and Paul raises his tomatoes in rolling tubs — tomatoes on wheels,” she adds with a laugh. “The thing I love about a shade garden, on the other hand, is that it quenches your thirst for nature on the hottest days, a perfect retreat that soothes.”

“This garden is like a sanctuary for both people and animals on a summer day,” agrees Paul, a retired electronics salesman who spent years traveling to Kyoto, Japan, explaining the Tiedemans’ botanical bent for Asian elegance. “We can sit here quietly on a summer day and listen to life around us in the forest. That’s very special.”



Enchantment in Shade

“Maybe the thing I like most about our garden is the wildlife it attracts,” says Dan Donovan. “The peace of mind it brings, especially on a summer evening when things begin to stir, is quite wonderful.”

Dan Donovan and wife, Lynn, O.Henry’s longtime contributing photographer, moved to the rolling countryside of Southeast Guilford County 18 years ago and immediately began planting a garden for all seasons around their new home.

Beneath a grove of hickory, white oak and mulberry trees out back, however, the winding paths of their enchanting garden eventually morphed into a splendid shade garden that makes for the perfect retreat when the temperature soars. Beds of Lenten roses, gardenia bushes, mountain laurel, hydrangea and shade-tolerant forsythia provide the cooling effect of a forest glen. A lone Lincoln rose even finds enough filtered sunlight to lushly bloom in early summer.

A defining element that helps tie it all together is the restful sound of running water from the small goldfish pond at the center of the garden, where whimsy rules in the form an old fashioned hand pump and actual city fire hydrant Dan transformed into a pumping station. A mature weeping cherry presides over the tranquil setting. Other whimsical elements in the garden include a moose-themed fire pit that Dan commissioned a local artist to make and a classic British red phone booth situated off in the verdure of the east garden. “The phone really works,” provides Lynn. “If a tornado hits, that’s where we’ll hide.”

It’s hard to imagine even nature disturbing this peaceable kingdom, where family dogs Fiona and Luna roam freely along the garden’s paths and their predecessors, Ollie and Summer, rest beneath tree peonies that never fail to bloom come early summer.

What a paradise in shade it seems.


A Little Zen Off New Garden Road

“I think of our garden as American zen,” says Celine Sprague with a quiet smile. “By that, I mean it’s a simple garden made up of broadleaf evergreens layered with other plants for a subtle effect that is both comforting and inviting, a cozy effect year-round.”

Over two decades, Celine and husband, Stan, have cultivated a classic shaded retreat behind their home in Woodland Hills. Leyland cypress trees, robust wax myrtles and several varieties of hydrangea form a verdant backdrop for mature camellia, azalea and laurel plantings. The combination produces a brilliant seasonal show of color highlighted by splashes of native bleeding heart and Beardlip penstemon.

“Essentially, this is a no-prune garden,” says Celine, a longtime gardener who helped shape the Greensboro Arboretum’s perennial garden. “My oldest daughter is an artist who talks about the importance of negative space, a place for your eyes to rest. That’s how we look at this garden, a tranquil place to rest on a summer day. A shade garden also saves a lot of water,” she adds. “That’s increasingly important these days.”


The Hosta Queen of Rabbit Hollow Road

When Kathy Rooney and husband, Doug Canavello, moved into their house on 27 acres in the woods of Summerfield back in 2008, she started her home garden with a few phlox plants. “Not long afterwards, a friend brought me several hosta plants from Lowe’s and, in a word, I quickly got addicted,” explains the longtime Rolfing expert. “When I learned that there are over 8,000 cultivars of hosta plants, they became my passion.”

Today, Rooney’s terraced woodland garden boasts more than 300 different cultivars, and, surprise, surprise, twice that many colorful and rare varieties of hostas, with names like “Marilyn Monroe,” “Great Expectations,” “Fried Bananas” and “Empress Wu.”

Her ongoing battle against native voles (that munch hostas from the underside) combined with loss of several large shade trees that fell when Hurricane Michael blew through the region in 2018 doesn’t dim her ardor for ever-expanding her domain of beautiful shade-loving plants in the least. “Hostas are hardy and endlessly interesting. I’m always out in my garden looking for new places to plant more hostas,” she adds with a hearty laugh. “Besides, it keeps me out of trouble!”


Jeanette Wyndham’s Sun and Shade Garden

Seven years ago, when Jeanette and Gordon Wyndham gave up their beloved 4-acre garden in Summerfield in favor of an independent living cottage at Whitestone Retirement Community on Holden Road, they didn’t give up their love of keeping a garden. Now, a spectacular private garden spans more than 100 feet above a retaining wall just out their back door.

The celebrated curator of the Arboretum’s perennial border — who earned the nickname “Whack’em Wyndham” from her volunteers due to her belief that perennial plants thrive by being cut down after blooming — has spent the past decade creating a living border. A mix of sun and shade elements range from the Japanese laceleaf maple she raised from a cutting to diverse planting of viburnums, mahonia, dogwoods, ostrich ferns and several unique native plants given to her by longtime friend Graham Ray.

“Shade gardens are very special,” says Dame Wyndham, who recently lost a couple large shade trees but — true to form — artfully rose to the challenge by planting more sun-loving plants. “That works out well,” she quips, “for Gordon’s tomatoes around the corner.”  OH

Jim Dodson is the founding editor of O.Henry.

Summertime Sips

Seven cooling cocktails crafted by the region’s top mixologists

By Jason Oliver Nixon     Photographs by Amy Freeman



With the world quickly returning to normal — well, a new normal — why not throw an impromptu cocktail to-do with those fun neighbors you haven’t seen since 2019? But let’s say you lack for creative inspiration. Maybe you’re bored with the usual liquor-laden suspects or embarrassed to serve that same old unremarkable rosé.

And let’s admit it, your martini is mediocre.

Lucky for you, we asked a handful of local mix masters to spill their easy-breezy summer favorites. The result? Seven tantalizing tipples sure to whet your thirst and spark your creativity.



At MACHETE in Greensboro, savor the gin-laden Golden Throne, a seductive mix of gin, lemon, honey syrup and chamomile bitters finished with a kicky burst of lemon oil. Sound complicated? It’s not. Charismatic bartender Andy Schools says, “It’s simple, and the crowd will go nuts. Just be sure to use a good gin such as English-import Sipsmith or Sutler’s Gin from Winston-Salem.” Per Schools, the Golden Throne pairs perfectly with just about anything — from a laidback BBQ to MACHETE’s signature “plates,” such as the Brussels sprouts with black garlic and charcoal. P.S. If the chamomile bitters have you flummoxed, fret not. Schools recommends an artisan-made brew that’s available online.

Golden Throne

2 ounces dry gin

1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

.5 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey/water)

5 dashes chamomile bitters

Pour into shaker and strain into a favorite glass.

For the lemon oil, express a fresh lemon peel on top.


Southern Roots

Jamestown, that charming bend in the road that has become something of a culinary destination, plays home to the always-bustling Southern Roots eatery. Here, owner Lisa Hawley celebrates the season with the Spring Fling, a light and refreshing cocktail that’s perfect for sipping. Think deep blue Empress gin, St-Germain liqueur, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a splash of club soda. “Just shake it all together — minus the gin — and then slowly pour the Empress gin over the top. It looks amazing and tastes so good,” says Hawley. “It’s our best-selling drink.”

Spring Fling

.5 ounce St-Germain 

Splash fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Splash club soda

1.5 ounces Empress gin

Shake all ingredients (minus gin), then slowly add the
Empress to the mix.



1618 Midtown

Max Barwick, the general manager of Greensboro’s 1618 Midtown, swears by the Classic Daiquiri. “It’s simple but never boring,” Barwick quips. “A daiquiri has only three ingredients, and most of them you probably already have in your home. Plus, it is a perfect balance of boozy, tart and sweet, and every sip makes you want to take another.” Even better, he says, is that you can make them individually or “scale it up for a big poolside pitcher.” Choose any type of rum (1618 Midtown serves Don Q) paired with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Et voilà! Let the festivities commence.

Classic Daiquiri

2 ounces rum

1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice 

.75 ounce simple syrup

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the glass of your choice.


The summery Felicity cocktail is bringing patrons back to Katharine Brasserie & Bar, the stylish watering hole at Winston-Salem’s Kimpton Cardinal Hotel. Basil-infused Tito’s vodka pairs swimmingly with ginger-flecked Domaine de Canton and elderflower-scented St-Germain, topped with a tangy lime juice kiss. But how do you infuse basil into vodka? No sweat, says Natalie Horne, The Katharine’s affable GM. “Simply add fresh basil to Tito’s and let it sit for 24 hours.” The cocktail’s spirited mix of basil, ginger and citrus pair perfectly with either chicken or fish.


1 ounce basil-infused Tito’s vodka

.75 ounce lime juice

.5 ounce Domaine de Canton

.75 ounce St-Germain


Shake and strain. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.  



98 Asian Bistro

At 98 Asian Bistro in High Point, co-owner Tu Sen cuts a glamorous figure as she oversees the bistro’s chic and moody dining room. She also serves up a far-flung selection of cocktails, including the fresh and fragrant Lemondrop Martini, a guest favorite. Pair vodka with sweet-and-sour mix, then add simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lemon juice — easy breezy. Notes Tu, “A summertime cocktail should be perfect for sipping by the pool or at a lovely dinner al fresco by candlelight.” And that, she adds, is what makes the Lemondrop Martini a flawless choice. Serve the beverage with a spicier dish (like 98 Asian’s lightly breaded calamari) or, perhaps, grilled salmon. Now sit back while your guests laud your mixologist masterstrokes.

Lemondrop Martini

1.5 ounces vodka

.5 ounce sweet-and-sour mix

1 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well before serving. Run a freshly cut lemon along rim of martini glass and dip into crystallized sugar. Garnish with thin wedge of lemon.


Dram & Draught

Dram & Draught, which began as a neighborhood bar in Raleigh before opening its Greensboro location in 2018, plans to open seven new outposts by the end of 2022. Despite its big plans, the establishment hasn’t overlooked the here and now, remaining fully dedicated to the details that make their hand-crafted cocktails so exceptional. Case in point: Strawberry Kentucky Buck. Says bartender Lentz Ison, “It’s clean, classic and modern. Pair the drink with tacos or anything you might have cooking on the grill.” Does D&D have a favorite go-to whiskey? “CB Fisher’s Bottled In Bond Bourbon Whiskey out of Greensboro is just fantastic,” says Lentz. “But also, very potent — so be forewarned.”

Strawberry Kentucky Buck

.5 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce lemon juice

1.5 ounces Fisher’s BIB Bourbon Whiskey

Ginger beer

Candied ginger

One strawberry

Add simple syrup to shaker and muddle. Add lemon juice, whiskey and ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into a Collins glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with candied ginger and strawberry.


Jason Oliver Nixon is one half of the High Point design firm Madcap Cottage. His favorite drink? Vodka martini — dirty and with olives on the side.

Poem July 2021

On an Okra Flower


A pollinating wasp sliding

from white lip to purple darkness, 

the shadow-heart so deep inside,

the plant, itself, tall African

in the kitchen garden’s last row,

speaks of passage and endurance,

those far too common abstractions,

made real here in the summer heat.

Let it lead us, serve as a guide,

tell how each struggle leads to bliss

and what to bless when we decide

to see the past and present blend

into what we need to know

—a mind aware or in a trance?—

what to keep close, what to shun,

made real here in the summer heat.

What song can a wasp sing gliding

the flower’s dark throat? A long kiss

like winged tongues tangled deep inside—

a blind passion, an obsession.

I hear it as a prayer now,

music for the world’s whirling dance.

Sound, sight and scent. An orison

made real here in the summer heat.

— Paul Jones

Wandering Billy

Brunch Every Day

Or at least every Sunday


By Billy Eye

My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order.

— Dolly Parton


Sunday Brunch is back! Over the last month, the lovely and talented Lauren Quinn and I have been crashing Sunday brunches at various local venues, genuinely gobsmacked at the savory-licious dishes awaiting us.

And so it was that one recent Sunday, Lauren and I sat down at Freeman’s Grub & Pub for Brunch No. 1. Despite the fact that Eye can’t recall ever having had a satisfactory experience with this peculiar combination, I ordered the steak-and-eggs. Here, I was pleasantly surprised. Freeman’s plated a sizzling and delectable sirloin, topped with two eggs fried to perfection and the crowning touch, the deep, nutty magic of brown butter.

In addition to being a superb photographer and artist, Lauren Quinn is a multifaceted bartender and manager, which is why I wanted her point of view alongside mine. She ordered the brisket omelet, infused with pimento cheese and brisket sauce, plus a side of gouda grits. In her words, the combo was “divinely inspired.” She was equally pleased sampling her friend’s Black + Blue Omelet, stuffed with chopped filet, bacon, tomato and, of course, smoked blue cheese.

Located at the corner of Spring Garden and Elam in what was originally Freeman’s Grocery in the 1920s, the pub has a bit of an Al Capone vibe. So one doesn’t get drunk there, don’t you know, just mildly inebriated. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sit inside or on the shaded patio, where you can order cocktails from a full bar augmented with house-made creations like rosemary-and-garlic Pinnacle Vodka (a house-blended liquor used as the basis for their Bloody Marys) and cranberry-and-lemongrass Beefeater Gin (just add tonic). Yum!

The following week, we moseyed over to The Sage Mule for Brunch No. 2, where Lauren and I were immediately struck by its young, attractive and engaging staff. Although the Mule’s brunch specialties looked amazing as they whisked by us — chicken-and-waffles, frittata du jour and avocado toast — they were out of my first choice, the short rib Benedict. We both chose from the daily breakfast menu, served Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m until closing, at 3 p.m.

Lauren dug into “The Sandwich” (cheddar omelet snuggled in a fresh baked brioche roll).

“Unbelievably delicious,” she managed between bites.

I happily grazed over their daily blue plate special — eggs with buttered toast, Neese’s sausage and light, crispy hash browns — simple is sometimes simply delicious. Judging by how packed the place was, it seems The Sage Mule has become the go-to morning spot following the 2020 closing of nearby Smith Street Diner. It’s a considerable upgrade. Everything they plate is made fresh in-house — pastries, cheesecakes, muffins, biscuits, bagels, as well as all of their breads, right down to the English Muffins.

And don’t think for a second that we didn’t try the Bloody Marys, which are served in glasses ringed not with salt, but a proprietary rub that Lauren suspects is some combination of lemon, garlic and turmeric, although they wouldn’t divulge the recipe. If you’re imbibing on The Sage Mule’s shaded patio, notice the fetchingly elaborate Gothic Revival house across Wharton Street that was built around 1888 for the gatekeeper of Green Hill Cemetery, just a headstone’s throw away. Recently serving as the offices for Samet Properties, the lot now displays a “For Sale” sign, which we noticed upon leaving.

Brunch No. 3? Chez Genèse, “The place of beginnings,” where Lauren and Eye dug into the ambrosial Eggs Benedict. Imagine three perfectly poached eggs atop layers of smoked salmon over homemade brioche and the most delicious Hollandaise sauce to have ever passed our lips. So what if we had to sit in the window? Being exceptionally good-looking individuals, it had to be great for business, which was brisk at 12:30, to say the least. This charming French bistro closes at 2 p.m. daily but offers brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Chez Genèse is back and better than ever. In fact, we both agreed, if this was the only place in town open for brunch, we’d be perfectly happy.

Next Sunday the two of us plan to dine at the elegant Double Oaks Inn on Mendenhall, the newest site for Sunday Brunch that we know of. Featuring scratch-made delicacies — like sweet brioche with bourbon-praline filling topped with a sweet-and-salty orange bourbon glaze from Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie — refreshments from Borough Coffee (also local) and a kitchen and bar that serves breakfast fare and mimosas, what’s not to look forward to? In my experience, the food is exquisite here. They don’t take reservations, but the surroundings are spectacular and the staff, super friendly.

Built as a private home in 1906, Double Oaks is a stunningly beautiful Colonial Revival house fronted by a breathtaking two-story, Ionic portico with a wrap-around front-to-back porch and a lush, bucolic backyard. Did you know the two oak trees on the front lawn are over 200 years old? Looking forward to studying them over my Bloody Mary.  OH

For someone who likes eating so much, it’s odd that Billy Eye weighs the same as he did when he attended Page High School. Photo by Lauren Quinn (told ya she was talented).


Taking the Plunge

The belted kingfisher dives for prey


By Susan Campbell

Often heard before they are seen, belted kingfishers are a year-round fixture here in central North Carolina. Requiring water for foraging and steep slopes for breeding, they can be found along streams, rivers and ponds — of which there is no shortage in our area. Their long, rattling call is distinctive among our familiar birds.

One of three species of kingfisher found in the United States, the belted kingfisher’s range is extensive and year-round across most of the continent. Breeding birds from Canada may migrate southward in search of open water in winter. A percentage of the North American population winters in south Florida as well as Mexico. It is assumed that most local breeding birds simply wander to where the fishing is good in the colder months, not making any real migratory flight in the fall.

Belted kingfishers are top-heavy-looking birds with powdery gray plumage and a raggedy crest. They get their name from the swath of gray plumage across their breast. These birds are one of the few species in which the female has brighter plumage than the male. Females sport an additional band of chestnut feathers just below their gray “belt.” Otherwise, these birds have a characteristic large head, thick neck and heavy, long pointed bill. They are built for plunging headfirst into the water after prey. They often sit on a convenient perch above the water, such as a branch or electric wire, and then dive when they spot prey. However, they are also capable of hovering for short periods above potential food items before descending to grab a fish. They actually have a wide prey base, feeding on all sorts of aquatic organisms but also taking other types of food, such as small birds and even berries, if the opportunity arises.

Belted kingfishers require a steep, dirt slope for nesting. Although this is usually a riverbank, they may also use human-created habitat such as tall dirt piles, which can be away from water, if they are big enough, and have a sheer drop on at least one side. This type of nesting substrate makes it difficult for terrestrial predators to reach the kingfisher’s nest. The tunnel into the nest chamber is typically several feet long and is sloped upward, presumably to protect the nest from rises in water level along rivers and streams. The kingfisher’s tunnel opening is large, at least 3 inches in diameter. Also, there will be the characteristic fishy aroma from recent droppings, separating it from other bank dwellers, such as bank or rough-winged swallows.

In spring, the belted kingfisher pair will search out a nest site. The male will probe the dirt in suitable spots until he finds the right spot. Once he is satisfied with his choice, he will signal to the female by flying back and forth from her perch to the chosen location. After the burrow has been excavated, five to eight white eggs will be incubated in the nest chamber for almost a month. Once hatched, the young will be tended to by the parents for about another month before fledging occurs. While in the nest, the young kingfishers have highly acidic stomachs and will be able to digest scales, bones and other hard parts of what they are fed. By the time they leave the nest burrow, however, the birds will be regurgitating pellets made up of those typically indigestible parts, as adults do.

So, the next time you hear a loud rattling sound coming from on high, look up. You may just catch sight of one of these energetic, fast-flying fishers! OH

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted at susan@ncaves.com.

Home by Design

Malcolm and Me

The road to Geekdom can be awfully lonely


By Cynthia Adams

Malcolm Gladwell is a fearless geek.

The bestselling author recently revealed that he is utterly fascinated by the army of researchers in Cincinnati — 1,000 to be exact — working to make Tide detergent even better. 

I would have so befriended Malcolm in my younger years — that is, if he hadn’t been in Toronto, and I hadn’t been stuck in Hell’s Half Acre, aka, my childhood home in Cabarrus County.

You see, as a high schooler, I spent an obsessive phase not in the pursuit of coolness, but geekdom.

A ruined bedspread was the catalyst.

Our Mom, an occasional redecorator, had mixed results that would have never landed her many followers on Instagram. She was a fiend for “antiquing” furniture, first slapping on a frog skin green paint, then adding the finesse, a grotesque looking wash that looked for all the world like a smear of French’s mustard.

She was also known to dye our bedspreads. To her dismay, the mottled outcome always resembled tie-dye. 

Being a nerd, I consulted my science teacher, Mr. Drinnen, as to why.

For many months thereafter, I came home armed with beakers, pipettes and fabric samples, and set to work, analyzing dye absorption in my kitchen laboratory. Rit fabric dyes replaced Jell-O packets on the yellow Formica countertop. Jell-O, the sole dessert I was permitted to make, suddenly felt like child’s play.

Mom was unimpressed.

Only Mr. Drinnen egged me on. Once, he even came to our house to explain to my family why wrecking the kitchen was in service to science.

After winning a science fair award, my face was rigidly serious in The Concord Tribune photograph. (Would Madame Curie smile, I asked myself? No.) 

This earnest nerdiness would disqualify me from the dating scene until I left home for college.

My social circle — which my friend Malcolm explains cannot include more than 150 people — shrank.

You may recall that the author also popularized terms like “tipping point,” and the “10,000-hour rule.” 

Well, that geeky photo was my tipping point: like 32 degrees, turning simple water to ice.

Bird dogging scientists, academics and researchers has played out well for Malcolm, who, by the way, is a guy. But science fairs and the Honor Roll were Napalm to a teenage girl’s social life.

As senior prom approached, my father stunned me, announcing that he knew someone who wanted to go with me. My prom date, Dad said enthusiastically, was Emmett, someone I’d never met. (Maybe he hadn’t seen the photo, I thought, but cringed at my father shopping me around.) I declined. My Dad was insistent.

My father even took me to shop for a prom dress. He liked one embellished with maidenly rose buds; suitable for a chaste, unsmiling virgin. 

He plunked down the money and we chugged back to Hell’s Half Acre.

When Emmett arrived on prom night, he and Dad discussed herd management. Of course, I thought. Emmett was into farming. Dad loved farmers.

Good humoredly, Dad reminded Emmett to have me home early.

Prom wasn’t Carrie awful — nobody dumped pig blood on me.  But even Mr. Drinnen, a chaperone, cast quizzical looks at me and Emmett, who seemed glued to the punchbowl.

I finally asked Emmett to dance, tired of sweatily clutching the warming punch. He declined.

A gallon of punch later, another hour had passed more painfully than my recent driving exam.

We returned to find my parents in the den watching Gunsmoke. Dad smiled warmly at Emmett, who proceeded to settle on the sofa beside him. Exasperated, I offered to make popcorn.

As I stood by the stove in my Cabbage Patch doll gown, I could have cared less if the roiling oil splattered my bodice.

The kernels popped; as always, some did not.

Tipping the popcorn into a bowl, I wondered. Why is that?

There just had to be a good reason.

Malcolm would have known who to ask.  OH

Contributing editor Cynthia Adams has yet to put Tide laundry detergent to the test, but says she’s got the vegetable oil ready. 

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Taste of July

A little bit of this and that


By Shannon Jones

You’ll notice that this issue of O.Henry is packed with culinary delights and summer beverages. Since the scuppernong grape is a food and a drink all in one, who better to talk consumption and its consequences than us? The following books will see the light of day this month and we’re here to help guide you through your gustatory excesses and excitements. Yes, pleasure can have its perils, but it helps to know ahead of time what portends. Use these tomes to avoid the pitfalls of delight.

July 6: The Science of Sin: Why We Do the Things We Know We Shouldn’t, by Jack Lewis (Bloomsbury, $18). Anyone who has ever wondered why they never seem to be able to stick to their diet, who marvels at how little work some of their colleagues get away with doing, who despairs at the antisocial behavior of their teenagers, who can’t understand how cheaters can juggle extramarital affairs, who struggles to resist the lure of the comfy sofa and the giant bag of chips, or who makes themselves thoroughly bitter by endlessly comparing themselves to others — this book is for you.

July 6: Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, by Erica C. Barnett (Penguin, $17). The pleasures of drink can, of course, lead to dark and unhappy places. As author Beth Macy says of this emotionally gripping memoir, “Quitter is both a warning and a reminder: If you can stop drinking after one or two beers, you’re not better than Barnett and the more than 60 million Americans who binge drink. You’re just luckier.”

July 6: This Is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan (Penguin, $28). Pollan is a perennial Scuppernong favorite. In this new release, he dives deep into three plant-based drugs (opium, caffeine and mescaline) and throws the fundamental strangeness — and arbitrariness — of our obsession with them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these substances while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness? And why do we fence that universal desire with laws, customs and fraught feelings?

July 27: A Chef’s Book of Favorite Culinary Quotations: An Inspired Collection for Those Who Love to Cook and Those Who Love to Eat, by Susi Gott Séguret (Hatherleigh Press, $12.50). Even though Julia Child, Irma S. Rombauer and other visionaries inspired us to think of cooking as a joy, most of us still need to be reminded that cooking and eating can be fun and inspirational as well as essential! A Chef’s Book of Favorite Culinary Quotations highlights words of wisdom from a wide variety of people, including those in the food world and beyond. Séguret was born and raised in the woods of Western North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. Today, Susi leads Blue Ridge foraging expeditions and teaches others how to blend the elegance of French cuisine with the simplicity of mountain ingredients. She is also the author of Appalachian Appetite.

July 27: Vegan Savvy: The Expert’s Guide to Nutrition on a Plant-Based Diet, by Azmina Govindji (Pavilion Books, $17.95). Veganism is one of the fastest-growing movements across the world, with a 600% increase in the U.S. from 2014–2017. This lifestyle choice, however, is not without its difficulties. This guide is a simple, flexible and nutritionally approved way to make it easier to explore a vegan diet.

July 27: The Rocky Road to Ruin: An Ice Cream Shop Mystery, by Meri Allen (St. Martins, $7.95). OK, I’m not vouching for the contents of this book, but I am giving four stars to the title. The main character, Riley Rhodes, is a travel food blogger and librarian at the CIA. Hijinks ensue.  OH

Shannon Jones is store manager and children’s buyer at Scuppernong Books.