Scuppernong Bookshelf

Light Reading

Brighten up the days with tales of lighthouses


By Brian Lampkin

Throughout this pandemic and isolation, the following lines from poet Allen Ginsberg have been echoing in my head: “Well, while I’m here I’ll / do the work — / and what’s the work?/ To ease the pain of living./ Everything else, drunken/ dumbshow.” At best, we’re all trying to ease the pain of living (and dying) as we struggle together through the COVID crisis, some of us very actively: nurses, doctors, of course, but also grocery store employees and all the other newly-realized essential workers in American life. As for the dumbshow, we’re not likely to forget the daily briefings.

For this column I tried to think of a job that epitomizes the work of isolation. What is the loneliest work on the planet? I settled upon a romantic notion: the lighthouse keeper. Now for the harder part: Are there books on lighthouses and lighthouse keepers that aren’t just coffee table showpieces? Enough for an entire column? We’ll see.

I can start with an absolute stunner. Jazmina Barrera’s new book, On Lighthouses (Two Lines Press, 2020. $19.95) has overwhelmed my pandemic-induced reading lethargy. Barrera’s work (part memoir, part essay, part story) is a thrill of passionately delivered lighthouse lore. It is also an example of literature as lived life — that reading and books and novels might infuse our daily existence with light and longing and mystery. “The lighthouse,” Barrera writes, “looks and searches, as a human being looks, a human being of stone.” She goes on to concur with 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet: “‘this guardian of the sea, this constant watchman’ is a ‘living and intelligent person.’” This short collection of lighthouses, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney, might convince you it’s true.

Barrera references the literary classic of the beacon field, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (Mariner Books, $15.99). If you’ve been waiting for the right time to read this essential work, that time is here. The lighthouse on the Isle of Skye is the focal point for this look at a family in crisis and an early, accurate take on the tensions gender difference demanded. But it’s Woolf’s use of language that drives this novel into the wild sea.

Closer to home, UNC Press’ North Carolina Lighthouses: The Stories Behind the Beacons from Cape Fear to Currituck Beach (Revised and Expanded) (second edition), by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts and Bruce Roberts (2019, $22), considers the nine beacons watching over 300 miles of coast. From Cape Fear to Currituck Beach, every still-standing lighthouse is lovingly described alongside their architects, builders and keepers.

And what of those keepers? Those lonely persons who exert powerful romantic longings over so many who indeed would marry a lighthouse keeper and live by the side of the sea. There’s the straightforward Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, by Elinor de Wire (Pineapple Press, 1996. $21.95), which provides stories of the heroism and fortitude of the men and women of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, who kept vital shipping lanes safe from 1716 until early in the 20th century. But it doesn’t capture the existential loneliness that a novel might.

For that we turn to Jeanette Winterson’s Lighthousekeeping (Mariner Books, 2006. $16.95). The setting is the ominously named Scottish Cape Wrath lighthouse and includes a character named Babel Dark. But these Dickensian touches don’t undermine the ancient tales of longing and rootlessness as a young woman learns the lighthouse work while mining her own personal darknesses. And if you think the gender unlikely, you’ll need to check out Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers, by Mary Louise Clifford, (Cypress Communications, $25.95). The book documents hundreds of American women who have kept the lamps burning in lighthouses since Hannah Thomas tended Gurnet Point Light in Plymouth, Massachusetts, while her husband was away fighting in the War for Independence.

Another historical fiction, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, by Hazel Gaynor (William Morrow, 2018. $16.99), closes our survey of lighthouse books. Gaynor tells two stories set exactly a century apart: 1838 Northumberland, England, and 1938 Newport, Rhode Island. It’s based on the real life of 19th-century heroine Grace Darling, lighthouse keeper and saver of souls in a ravaging storm, and explores the relentless longing of lighthouse life.

Two months into our experiment in social isolation, some of us have learned we could handle the lonely work of the lighthouse keeper and find joy. Most of us probably realize that it’s not the work for us. We must remain in this society and find our ways to be of use, to ease the pain, to be lights in the corona darkness.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.



Hey faithful O.Henry readers! Scuppernong Books remains open in these isolating times for all orders:, email ( or phone call (336-763-1919). Starting in June we will offer “appointment browsing,” which will allow a limited number of people in the store for 30-minute visits by scheduled appointment. We will still be shipping books out to you and in most cases you’ll get your literary survival kit within a week. Please try to remember all of our small and local businesses during this continued social distancing.


Corona Chronicles

Two local museums are collecting tales of the Covid—19 pandemic


By now we’re over all of it: deserted city streets; Zoom conferences; online school assignments; makeshift masks; the quest for toilet paper; TikTok dances. But today’s hackneyed themes of the global pandemic will be tomorrow’s objects of curiosity. Centuries or even mere decade from now, subsequent generations will regard this bizarre moment in time with the same fascination that we behold black-and-white photographs and newsreels from days gone by. Like it or not, we’ve been making history, and to quote the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is properly no history; only biography.”

In that spirit, Greensboro History Museum and High Point Museum are collecting, documenting and sharing the community’s stories from the Covid-19 era. Were you or a loved one afflicted with the virus? Have you been in the trenches among health-care workers, grocery-store clerks, truck drivers or delivery folks? Did you use the time off to paint a masterpiece, keep a diary, write a novel or tackle a home repair project? How did you and your family while away the hours? Working from a home office? Taking walks or bike rides? Cultivating a garden? Making sidewalk chalk drawings or streaming live concerts? Bingeing on a Netflix series or reading that stack of books by your bedside?

Whatever your story, feel free to share it by accessing Greensboro History Museum’s new Digital Engagement Nook, the Lion’s DEN (a compendium of archival artifacts, activities, podcasts and more) at, or visit High Point Museum’s website, and its social media pages for information. As you ponder your submission to one of these corona-inspired time capsules, pour yourself a “quarantini” — or now that lockdown restrictions are lifting, a “libertini” — and be sure to pass along the recipe.

— Nancy Oakley

June Poem 2020

We Trade Eggs and Olives

Salads arrive. We wince.

I do not like olives,

black or green, and you know it.

Sliced hardboiled eggs

seem to make you gag.

So we trade them. . . .

Citronella and burlap

both seize my breath.

You resuscitate me

with lilac and silks.

Me the morning person

and you wasting midnight oil.

You buried within books,

me searching for rhetoric.

Fault lines in our wiring,

timelines synchronized tonight.

Common ground tilled,

reseeded in one another’s gasp.

  Sam Barbee

O.Henry Ending

White Trash Banquet

A feast fit for a king


By Cynthia Adams

When I mentioned my long-held dream of a White Trash Banquet in an O.Henry editorial meeting recently, I got shushed. Shushed! And some fingers actually wagged.

“B-b-b-b—but,” I protested. “I am white trash! I can say it!”

I was shut down by the youngest among us who said, “You will die on that hill.”

As they say in Hell’s Half Acre where I was raised, “It don’t matter.”

Turns out, it don’t matter if I think I can say white trash even though I am white trash. Take my Georgia writing friend Lauretta Hannon, whose moniker is The Cracker Queen. Her beautiful memoir revolves around trailer park life and a mama who liked to buzz past chain gangs as Lauretta threw packs of ciggies out the car window. They may have been regarded as white trash, but they were lovable, thoughtful white trash.

But that was 10 years ago. And the name, “Cracker Queen,” probably won’t fly now either.

When Ernest Matthew Mickler’s White Trash Cooking hit the shelves in 1986, it was a publishing phenomenon. You could argue it was the equal and opposite reaction to the era’s Silver Palate Cookbook, and snooty restaurants that served up tiny portions — for big bucks. Sure, WTC had the support of local arts patrons Charlotte and Philip Hanes, but it wasn’t so much a rebuke as an homage to what most Southerners ate for generations. I had it for years until I lent it to someone. For the record, I want it back.

Garden ’maters on white bread? That’s a “Kitchen Sink Tomato Sandwich.” Who hasn’t bent over a sink with Duke’s mayo and tomato juices streaming down their chin?

One of my favorite observations about a tomato sandwich was when a farmer told me, “A ’mater sammich ain’t nothing but sunshine in your mouth.” 

He was proud of his ’maters that year. They were sunshine in the mouth.

Say “white trash cooking” and most Southerners realize it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may connote fat maters, fatback or lard. But white trash cooking encompasses a world of things that ought not be left behind. Beloved, if lowbrow. (Like Vienna sausages. Pork and beans.  Or a fried baloney or livermush sandwich. Nobody actually says bologna, as spelled on the pack. That would be pure-t baloney. And we know Vienna is a place but who doesn’t say VYE-ee-na?)

It is in the eye (and palate) of the beholder. My Mama thought frozen coconut pies were white trash. But she raised a daughter who loves them, along with honey buns and Little Debbie cakes. Little Debbie came of age during the Great Depression. Her oatmeal cream pie is unsurpassed. 

I kept brick-sized boxes of Velveeta in the fridge until my Charleston-born friend, Stephen Levkoff, ridiculed me into kicking my “liquid gold” habit. (“Liquid gold” is Kraft’s New South tagline.) I miss it. Velveeta was so handy for a grilled cheese sammich. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at White Trash Cooking’s list of ingredients for “Paper-Thin Grill Cheese.”

Also, Velveeta’s unrivaled shelf life could see you through a bad break up or a pandemic.

And if you think that’s gauche, consider my wealthy white trash friend who threw parties notable for the hors d’oeuvres: aerosol cans of Cheez Whiz served up bare as a baby’s ass with sleeves of Ritz crackers.

Far be it for me to get above my raisin’; I squirted and scarfed with the best of them. For all I know, Cheez Whiz was developed by NASA for the moon probe. It squirts more than whizzes, but like Velveeta, it is good.

So I stuck by my position on white trash vernacular until I read Chris Offutt’s buzz-killing essay in Oxford American, “Trash Food.”   

He made the excellent point that people can be hurtfully equated with trash because of what they eat or wear. That just saying white trash food can be hurtful.

Finger-waggers, I do see the point. 

I do not intend to die on that hill. Certainly not without Little Debbie or Mrs. Smith right at my side, a good ’mater sammich in my hand.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry with a perverse attraction to  pickled eggs and pigs feet bobbing in gallon jars on country store counters. At her white trash banquet, Little Debbie, Frito-Lay, Lance and Cheer Wine would take top-billing. 


King of the Forest

Listen for the unmistakable call of the pileated woodpecker


By Susan Campbell

One of the largest and most distinctive birds of the forest, the pileated woodpecker, is unmistakable. Its dark body, white wing patches and red crest make it seem almost regal, and it wouldn’t be wrong to call it the king or queen of the forest.

As with most of our woodpecker species, they are nonmigratory. In search of food, however, they do roam widely, sometimes in a footprint several square miles in size. Pileateds can be found all across our state, anywhere there are large, old trees. Whether you pronounce their name PIE-lee-ated or PILL-ee-ated may depend on what part of the state you come from. Webster’s says either is correct, with PIE-lee-ated being more common. Pileated, by the way, refers to the bird’s bright-red crest from the Latin pileatus meaning “capped.”

However you say it, such a sizable bird is bound to make a loud noise whether foraging or calling. Indeed pileateds do get your attention. You’re most likely, however, to hear the distinctive booming echo that comes when they work on a hollow tree or the thudding that comes as they pound their way through thick bark. Although pileateds do not sing, they make a distinctive piping sound, similar to a flicker, which tends to end in a crescendo. They may also employ a sort of “wuk” call as a way of staying in contact with one another as they move about the forest. Although males are the ones that typically make the most racket, both sexes let intruders know when their territory has been compromised. Pairs are monogamous and raise a set of up to five young in a season.

When nesting, pileateds create oblong cavity openings in trees that are quite distinctive. Males choose a dead or dying tree in late winter and do most of the excavation. Females will help, especially toward the end of the process. The nest is unlined, consisting simply of a layer of wood chips at the bottom of the cavity. Deep holes that pileateds create are not reused once the young fledge. So these openings into dead or dying trees provide key habitat for not only other species of woodpeckers but also for snakes, lizards and mammals that require holes for some part of their life cycle.

Pileateds, of course, tend to thrive when feeding on insects and other invertebrates in dead and dying wood. But they are opportunistic, taking fruits and nuts as well. In the fall, it’s not uncommon to catch a pileated hanging upside down on a dogwood branch, stripping it of berries. Given their large appetites, adults may divide the fledglings for the first several months as they teach the youngsters to forage. It may take six months or more before the young birds are on their own.

If your bird feeder is within a pileated pair’s territory, you may be lucky enough to attract one or more to sunflower seed or (more likely) to a suet feeder or mealworms. As long as they have room to perch or have something to cling onto, they may not be shy about becoming a regular visitor, especially during the late winter or early spring as breeding season gets underway and insects are less abundant.

These big, beautiful birds are, from what we can tell, doing well here in North Carolina. Sadly their extinct cousins, the ivory-billeds, who were more specialized and inhabited only bottomland forest, suffered a sad fate. They did not fare so well with the arrival of Europeans and the associated clear-cutting of their habitat early in the last century. But that is a different story for another month . . .  OH

Susan would love to hear from you. Send wildlife observations or photos to


Home Alone

Lost in quarantine


By Tony Cross

Welcome back for another installment of Solitary Confinement. I’ll be your host.

As I type, I’m still locked down, but it seems some restrictions will be lifted soon with three or four phases gradually reopening different types of businesses. If all goes exactly as planned, restaurants should be allowed to let guests come in and dine sometime early this month. That’s a big “if.” Since, realistically, we could still be fending for ourselves well into mid-June, I’m going to recommend a few more drinks that you can make at home with your spouse, or by yourself.

Please remember that our ABC stores are open, and they carry many local distilleries’ spirits. Although I’m only naming two for the recipes below, also look for the following: Durham Distillery, InStill Distillery, Fair Game Beverage Company, Fainting Goat Spirits, Doc Porter’s Distillery, Crude Bitters, Muddy River Distillery, and many more. They thank you. I thank you.


I’ve probably mentioned before about my first interaction with Campari. It didn’t go well. “That’s freaking gross,” I’m sure I said. Well, what the hell did I know? I was still smoking a pack a day, I flipped my hair (which I still had) up in the front like Tin-Tin, and fast food was dinner five or six nights a week. When I got my act together and started taking better care of my body (the hair was a lost cause), a few things happened: I felt better, and my palate expanded like you wouldn’t believe. I fell in love with certain vegetables that I never enjoyed before and started to fall in love with all things bitter. Bitter foods, bitter beer, bitter women and yes, bitter spirits, especially amari.

Author Brad Thomas Parsons says in his book Amaro that “the ingredients of Campari, one of the world’s most famous amari, remain a closely guarded secret, with the only two known ingredients being alcohol and water. Beyond that, the recipe is based on an ‘infusion of herbs, aromatic plants, and fruit in alcohol and water.’”

I think you either love Campari or you don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that’s in the middle. My favorite cocktail to make with Campari is the Negroni. In my opinion, it’s one of the best cocktails to have before dinner. It really wakes up the palate. This is an extremely easy cocktail to make. You’ll need three ingredients: gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Four, if you count ice. For the gin, I stand by Sutler’s Spirit Co. out of Winston-Salem. I’ve written about Sutler’s a bunch, so take my word for it, it’s a lovely gin that’s not juniper-forward. For the sweet vermouth, I recommend Carpano Antica from Italy (also available at Nature’s Own). Traditionally, the recipe calls for equal parts of all three ingredients, but I like to up the gin a touch, so here we go:

Take 1 1/4 ounces of gin, and put it into your rocks glass (yes, we’ll be building this cocktail). Add 3/4 ounce of Campari, and 3/4 ounce of the sweet vermouth. Add ice, and stir until the cocktail is nice, cold, and properly diluted. All that’s left is the garnish. You can take an orange wedge and drop her in, or you can take the peel of an orange and express its oils over the cocktail and discard the peel into the drink. Either way, it’s one helluva way to start the evening. Or afternoon. Or morning (you know who you are, quarantine champs).


This is one of the first cocktails I learned how to make when I was trying to make heads or tails of the cocktail business. Also extremely easy to make, it just has a few more ingredients. This drink is a spin on the classic Westside, subbing vodka for gin. The Westside was created at the bar Employees Only, in New York City. My first crush was with these folks — their whole ideology of creating drinks, setting the mood, etc. Anyway, before I start getting too awkward, here’s the drink:

The original recipe calls for a Meyer lemon-infused vodka, but this will definitely work with TOPO vodka (out of Chapel Hill). You’ll also need cold sparkling water (Mountain Valley or die), mint, a lemon, rich simple syrup, ice, and a cocktail coupe (or martini glass). Before you start making this drink, place your coupe glass in your freezer, so it’s nice and cold by the time you’re ready to pour. Take 4–5 mint leaves, and break them in half, putting them into a cocktail shaker. Next, add 1/2 ounce of rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water). You’ll take 3/4 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and finish with 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of vodka. Add ice to your shaker, seal it up, and shake hard for about 10 seconds. Take your coupe glass out of the freezer and place it on the table. Before you strain this cocktail into the glass (or double strain if you want to keep as much mint from entering the glass as possible), you want to add a splash of the sparkling water to your shaker. Bubbles! OK, now strain. You can garnish this drink with a very thin slice of lemon, or nothing at all. These go down pretty quick, so imbibe responsibly. Just kidding, you’re grown up; you’re in own house; the world is set on “virtual.” What have you got to do? Go to town.  OH

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

The Accidental Astrologer

The Accidental Astrologer

Ground Control to Major Tom: Control Yourselves!

June’s stars encourage restraint


Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Sugar, you really oughta seal those lips. You cannot stop yourself, and impulse control is the thing you need most. Try a glue stick instead of ChapStick. Itching to take a frying pan to your lover’s noggin? Pop some bubble wrap instead.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Aunt Tipsy and Uncle Toasted have not exactly modeled good behavior for you. Bonkers, Baby. So now that you’re all grown up, you are finding your own way. You are wiser and stronger than you know. 

Leo (July 23–August 22)

Just ’cause you’re a jungle cat, don’t mean you need to act like a house cat in the litter box. Right about now, you have dropped something stinky right in the midst of a situation that needs some air. Restrain from adding one more thing to a volatile mix, Pretty Kitty. 

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

What was it, Honey? A sugar rush to the brain? Did you two have a magical connection over Cinnabons? Sugar and cinnamon are sheer bliss together, but not much more than a passing fancy that will melt away.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

It ain’t all that deep, Sweet Pea. Truly, all who wander are not lost. Some are just looking for the restroom. It is not a month for you to play traffic cop and be a master of the universe. It’s a month for you to just master yourself.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Sugar, don’t be so judgy. Grandpa Hornblower used to say that even the good Lord had a great fish story. Someone close tells a lot of tall tales, but let it slide. They just want you to believe they’re worthy.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

Cornbread ain’t square unless it’s store-bought, and best made in a seasoned cast-iron skillet. You’re as country as hominy grits but nobody knows because you polished all the rough corners and are seasoned just right.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

Let’s pretend you go to McDonald’s for the carrot sticks. That you like dressing up for church. And that you love being a grown-up. Stop pretending. Time to kick a can, twirl a hula hoop, be a kid, and get down and dirty.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

Slim chance, fat chance, pick the difference, Sugar. It don’t matter. Do the thing that is true, and stop the BS.  If the virus taught us anything, it taught us that time is too precious to deceive ourselves. Risk something.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

You’ve made yourself humorless with rule-keeping. Lighten up! A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands. Honey, cut yourself some slack because the one who needs to control themselves ain’t affected when you don’t.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

If you could make everyone happy in life, you’d be a wine box. But what you are is not exactly an endless fountain of joy juice. Baby Doll, sometimes you get so intractable that you lose yourself in the argument.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

That thing that someone did really scrambled your eggs, didn’t it?  They messed in your business and you don’t know if you can forget it. Sugar Booger, let it go. You have a much bigger surprise coming.  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.

Wandering Billy

Bogg Man

Who is Bill Boggs and what was he doing here?

By Billy Eye

“Unlike productions in the other arts, all television shows are born to destroy two other shows.” — Les Brown

There’s a hilarious new novel Eye want to tell you about: The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog (as told to Bill Boggs). It’s a darkly absurdist sendup of the television industry, itself a nonsensical environment, written by someone who knows the ins and outs of the business like no other.

You may remember Bill Boggs as the host of Southern Exposure, a local morning talk show airing at 8 a.m. on WGHP-TV from 1972–74. I recently caught up with the author who, for 13 years after leaving High Point, hosted Midday Live on WNEW in New York City, picking up four Emmy Awards for his efforts.

He’s acted in movies like Trading Places, guest-starred on numerous comedy programs such as Spin City and Chappelle’s Show, and produced television shows and specials that include A Night With Lou Reed and The Morton Downey Jr. Show.

For several years he pulled double-duty jetting to Las Vegas to interview heavyweights on Showtime’s Boxing Report Update while also sharing kitchen space with celebrities like Richard Simmons, Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Rivers on Bill Boggs’ Corner Table for the Food Network. “I tell people, ‘I have more than one interest,’” Boggs says. You may have seen him more recently as the celebrity correspondent for My Generation on PBS.

His latest project, The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog, “follows the structure of my career, starting in High Point,” Boggs tells me. “The character of Bud is not exactly me in terms of how I am and how I act, but it’s Bud, no last name. And he has a beloved dog Spike.”

While none of the on-air talent at WGHP are represented in the novel, there are other characters who are inspired by people he’s known along the way. For instance, the character of Lombardo is based on WGHP’s former general manager. “Phil Lombardo went from being the first Italian-American to be general manager of a television station in America,” Boggs notes, “to owning seven television stations worth almost a billion dollars and now heads a huge philanthropical foundation. Buffy is inspired by Buffy Queen, my associate producer at channel 8. They’re jumping-off points.”

Before arriving in High Point in 1969, “I had an opportunity to do a local show in Philadelphia because Tom Snyder had left to go to California,” Boggs explains. “I was associate producer of the morning TV show where I was on the air once a week. After two years of that I learned a lot about producing.” In 1972, he made a New Year’s resolution that he would go anywhere in America in order to have his own talk show. Within weeks that wish was granted.

WGHP had been casting about looking for someone to shake up their morning show flop Farm, Home and Garden. “I auditioned for Phil Lombardo and he hired me,” Boggs recalls. “He was a brilliant manager, he gave me full rein. He really saw that I was highly motivated, that I had left a major market where I was on the air to come to High Point, North Carolina. People in Philadelphia thought I was nuts at the time but I wanted to do a show every day.”

Lombardo’s plan was to have Boggs on the air a week and a half after settling in. “I was replacing a show that was an asterisk, no ratings whatsoever. How are people going to know I’m on the air? I suggested we create a two-month teaser campaign — ‘Who Is Bill Boggs and What Is He Doing Here?’” This would allow the Philly native time to get to know the culture of the area and opportunities to pre-tape celebrity interviews.

“To his credit, unlike any other bosses I’ve met along the way,” Boggs says, “[Lombardo] listened with the intention of understanding and not immediately responding, ‘Nope, you’re going on the air in a week and a half.’” Instead, Lombardo leaned into the idea, instigating a media blitz ahead of the premier of Southern Exposure, culminating in a primetime one-hour sneak preview before debuting in its regular daily 8 a.m. slot. The show’s cohost was an English bull terrier named Spike the Wonder Dog.

“I had all of the freedom in the world in High Point. It was very successful,” Boggs reflects. “A month later I get a call from Lombardo. ‘Come to my office I want to talk about ratings.’ I got a lump in the pit of my stomach. He says, ‘You have done the impossible.’ We had beaten the Today show in the very first [ratings] book.” Southern Exposure continued to top the Today show for the next three seasons, substantially so.

Whenever a big-name act appeared at the Greensboro Coliseum, Bill Boggs was there with camera and microphone interviewing superstars, usually right before they took the stage. His gets included The Jackson 5, Sonny & Cher with Chastity on their lap, George Burns, David Cassidy, Duke Ellington and Glen Campbell, among others. Even at that early point in his career, he was an insightful interviewer on par with Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas, possessing a knack for asking questions no one else had thought of, resulting in amazingly engaging discussions.

“I also created a late night show called The Late Bill Boggs that was as progressive as anything that had ever been on television up to that point,” Boggs tells me. That program profiled the kind of guests not normally seen on local TV, like massage parlor workers and the like. “We had a guy who came on the show — this was 1972 — who went out, smoked a joint, then came back in and talked about what the experience was like. It was like R-rated television that came on at 1 o’clock in the morning. That went on for several months.”

Noticing this unlikely success percolating down South, Gotham came calling; Bill Boggs received an offer to host a morning program in New York City. “I went from being in complete control of what I was doing to constantly having to pitch my ideas like a salesman, so I wrote an element of that into the book.”

The concept behind The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog? “What if the dog, who had been so popular on the show Southern Exposure, hadn’t gotten killed shortly before going to New York and had come with me to New York and became a huge TV and Internet star in today’s world?” One of television’s funniest writers Alan Zweibel (Saturday Night Live, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show) calls the satirical novel “so smart, witty and inventive that I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t write it.”

Before somewhat reluctantly relocating to the No. 1 TV market in America in 1972, Bill Boggs confesses, “I told myself, ‘Never forget you can come back to something like this.’ High Point, WGHP-TV, was, no pun intended, a creative high point of my life. I loved High Point one hundred percent, I have not one single negative recollection of my time there.”

This laugh-packed, decidedly un-PC novel America needs right now, The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog (as told to Bill Boggs), is available wherever books are sold and at Check out BillBoggsTV on Youtube for video highlights from this legendary broadcaster’s storied career.  OH

Billy Eye is unapologetically O.G. — Original Greensboro.

The Pleasures of Life Dept.

Road Show

A postcard from the circus


By Ashley Wahl

The first time I heard my grandmother talk about her Uncle Joe running off with the traveling circus, I was 29 years old and in the midst of rewriting my entire future.

I didn’t know where I was going with it. And having stripped myself of nearly every role, title and attachment I’d identified with for most of my adult life, I needed time to reacquaint myself with myself. But if I knew one thing, it was this: The life I was born to live was going to require a heroic change of trajectory. I’d just initiated that. And with my grandma’s casual anecdote — I think it was over a cup of coffee — a league of dormant memories began awakening inside my cells.

My Great Grand-Uncle Joe was 14 when he joined the carnival and learned how to charm snakes. This morsel was all I had. And yet this tiny glimpse of family lore was, for me, the missing piece to an ancient puzzle.

Throughout my life, I have experienced what I can only describe as episodic bouts of nostalgia for the bizarre and fantastical. As if I’d once belonged to a troupe of prodigious misfits, and in some parallel universe, the circus train was beckoning me to come back.

Whatever you call that wild, magic spark behind all great tales of adventure — that ardent longing for a life untethered by doubt, fear or logic — it was alive inside my heart. And in that moment, for the first time in my life, I was ready to kindle it.

Let’s skip through time a bit. I’m 33 now and have, over the past few years, tried on dozens of winsome hats. Some have fit, some have not. But my life’s narrative began to crystallize when, two years ago, my fiancé Alan and I “ran off with the circus,” so to speak.

Our “circus” isn’t a menagerie of acrobats and clowns. It’s just the two of us, a small camper van, and a cargo trailer full of handmade art. We still keep our rental home in the North Carolina mountains, but if there’s a circuit of art and craft fairs in, say, Florida (winter) or Michigan (summer), we’ll take to the open road.

Last year, we spent a total of six months in transit. I wouldn’t call it glamorous living, but the van’s equipped with everything we need: a full-size bed, a roof vent fan, a 5-gallon water dispenser, sunshades for the windows, a single-burner camp stove, a portable fridge, a power inverter with enough watts to run a hair dryer or a rice cooker, and — this among our luxuries — an electric tea kettle. We’re no strangers to coin laundries or truck stop showers, and were our closets breadboxes, mine could hold four, maybe five loaves. Yet there is a freedom in this simple life worth more than gold; and as a wise friend observed during one of our quick trips home, it’s the richness of our experiences that we carry with us.

Not a day goes by on the road, for instance, that we aren’t improvising in some deliciously eccentric way, even when it comes to our most basic chores and self-care. And because life on the road demands spontaneity, a fair amount of magic happens.

Like meeting kindred souls who have welcomed us, at once, as family.

Back in November, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Florida at the table of a Vedic astrologer and his devoted wife who live just miles from the largest Hare Krishna community outside of India. In the 1960s, they told us, bored with drugs and in search of true and everlasting bliss, they hitchhiked from New York to San Francisco to meet their spiritual teacher, Bhaktivedanta Swami, and never looked back.

They must have recognized something within us — some wild, magic spark. We certainly saw it in them.

This past winter, before the pandemic sent us on the road home to Asheville, we set up our canopy tent for an art show in Sarasota, Florida, where The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus maintained its winter quarters for over 30 years. While we were there, we bought two tickets to Circus Sarasota and saw a dazzling troupe of circus artists from around the globe perform beneath a red-and-white Big Top that looked like something straight from a vintage postcard.

The performers were spectacular. Each one reminded me, in some way, how incredible it is to be human.

I thought of my Great Grand-Uncle Joe and how life is constantly gifting us with opportunities to answer our inner callings, however bizarre or fantastical they may be. It’s not always the easy path, especially at first. Yet the more we can trust that magic spark, the clearer it becomes.

Life also gifts us unexpected twists. Who knows if or when we’ll take to the open road again, for instance. But here’s the gold: Life demands spontaneity. Imagine if the trapeze swinger never dared to fly. When opportunities arise, we know what to do. That’s the spellbinding beauty of this circus called life, the greatest show on Earth.

All of this to say that I never missed the train. The circus was never outside of me, either; it was simply the road home. Thanks for the reminder, Uncle Joe. And if you’re listening beyond the veil — if you’ve got any wild stories from the carnival, I’d sure love to hear them.  OH

Ashley Wahl is the former senior editor of Salt and its sister publications, PineStraw and O.Henry. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she’s dreaming up her next grand adventure.

The Sporting Life

The Truth Is Out There

And so, I guess, is the wild turkey


By Tom Bryant

Ben Franklin once said the American eagle is “a bird of bad moral character, does not get his living honestly, steals food from a fish hawk and is too lazy to fish for himself.”

He described the American turkey as “a much more respectable bird, a true original native of America, a bird of courage.”

Old Ben was pitching the turkey as the nation’s national bird instead of the eagle, a bird with which he must have had an earlier conflict. I don’t know about eagles, since they were in seriously short supply during my years enjoying the great outdoors. But I have had some contact with the wild turkey, at some distance. Not planned by me, all the turkeys’ doing.

I grew up hunting the piney woods of eastern North Carolina, and the swamps and river bottoms of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In my youngster years, when I went hunting, I wasn’t a specialist. If it was in season, it could end up in my hunting vest. I was partial to squirrels, doves, quail and ducks, but turkeys? They were as scarce as, at that time in my school learning, an “A” in algebra.

I heard rumors that they were still around but in short supply. My granddaddy had a turkey tail feather mount hanging in his study in the old plantation house in South Carolina. He often would reminisce about the times when low country swamp turkeys were plentiful enough to fill many a hunter’s Thanksgiving table. “No more today,” he said. “They’ve gone the way of the ivory bill woodpecker.”

As I grew older and became a little more sophisticated in my efforts afield, I leaned more and more toward hunting waterfowl, mainly ducks and geese. Any sportsman can tell you that it’s very easy to go overboard on paraphernalia, especially if you’re a true connoisseur of the sport. And I was. I wanted it all: decoys, shotguns, camouflage clothing, waders, boats. It took me years, but if the gear pertained to duck hunting, I wished for it and usually got it. I was truly at home with the noble art of duck hunting, and I realized that to be practical, the sport was all that I had time for, or the necessary funds.

At the end of January the season for duck hunting is over. It’s too cold for fishing, and summer camping seems to be an interminably long time away. What was I to do in the fields? Bird-watch? Not for me, even though I hear it is a wonderful way to pass the time.

Then I read an article in Sports Afield about turkey hunting, and in the vernacular of salesmen everywhere, I was hooked. I thought, how difficult can it be? I’m familiar with the woods where I can hunt. I have a box call that should work. I think I’ll try out the sport in the morning.

My first effort would have made the Marx Brothers proud.

I was up and at ’em early, as prescribed in the article. Dressed from head to toe in camouflage, I drove out to the farm and found what looked to me like a great place to ambush an unsuspecting gobbler. I propped my dove stool next to an ancient pine, did a few yelps on my box call and waited for some action.

There was a small pond a few yards away that probably helped the mosquito population, which soon discovered they had some fresh meat. They were doing everything, including, I’m sure, making a plan to haul me away and lodge me in the fork of an old cypress to eat later. It was miserable. I quickly learned lesson number one about turkey hunting: Bring mosquito repellent.

The morning passed slowly with me sweating, scratching and slapping at hungry bugs. It seemed that the mosquitoes had sent out an invitation for deer flies to join the fun. Enough food for all.

Mama didn’t raise a fool, so before long I figured there was more to this turkey hunting than being eaten up by insects. I gave one more yelp on my call, decided to wait just a few more minutes, then headed out to breakfast, which seemed to be the only redeeming factor left in the entire morning.

I stepped out of the pine thicket onto a little sand road that led to the Bronco. The road wasn’t much more than a firebreak, and 40 yards away, in the middle of the small lane, stood a giant gobbler. Naturally, I had my shotgun slung over my shoulder. The big bird was like an apparition. I don’t know which of us was more surprised. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared. I stood there with my mouth open looking at where the gobbler had been, now long gone. I walked to where he had stood, muttering to myself. That really couldn’t have been a turkey, but his tracks confirmed he wasn’t a mirage.

It’s been years since I stared down that turkey on that little sand road, and I have been hunting numerous times since. I’ve seen turkeys, heard them gobble, and have followed their tracks to where they dusted. A turkey will roll around in the sand to get rid of mites, and I’ve picked up numerous turkey feathers from those dust baths. But as far as putting a wild turkey on the Thanksgiving table? No luck so far.

One morning at my Rotary Club breakfast, I was lamenting my bad luck in the turkey hunting department to several friends. I had heard that Rich Warters, an individual with quite a reputation afield (he even owns the National Champion of Field Trialing Bird Dogs), was proficient in the turkey hunting sport, having bagged several in upstate New York. Rich, who is also a loyal Rotarian, listened to my turkey complaints and volunteered to show me a few tricks of the trade.

Now, it’s not often that a good old Southern boy will take advice from a Yankee, but my back was against the wall, and heck, I had almost converted Rich to my slow way of talking, although his up-North accent does come back when he’s agitated.

We saw turkeys. They came up behind us, in front of us, and one morning sneaked up to us on the side of our blind. But we had no luck.

Unfortunately for me, Rich moved to Connecticut a year or so ago, and I’m on my own in the turkey hunting department again. We stay in touch, and he still offers invaluable advice, which I gladly take.

Last year I didn’t even hunt, and this year I’ve been out a couple of times. I’ve heard them gobble and have seen a couple at a distance, but probably if you get right down to it, I’m not that anxious to kill one.

I still remember the morning Rich and I were coming out of a swamp bottom after seeing a turkey just out of range. The turkey also saw me and was gone in a flash. It was a beautiful early spring sunrise. Dogwoods were in full bloom, and birds were singing and chirping as if they were auditioning for a Walt Disney movie. We stood at our vehicles finishing off leftover coffee and making plans for the next day when a ruby-throated hummingbird flew right between us, hovered for a second, as if he was checking us out, then buzzed away. We were awestruck, neither saying anything, and then laughing at the wonder of it all.

When I remember that morning, that beautiful day afield with a good friend, I realize that’s one of the reasons I make excuses to hunt turkeys. OH

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