Vine Wisdom

The Rise of Roussillon

Where red wine is roi

By Robyn James

Roussillon has been the redheaded stepchild of the French wine country for many years, a fact that is slowly changing due to the efforts of several ambitious and talented importers and winemakers.

This region connects Spain and France with the Mediterranean to the east and the Pyrenees Mountains to north, west and south.

The most important red grape grown in this region is carignan, accompanied by grenache noir, cinsault, syrah, mourvedre and some obscure local grapes. Red wine is king here, although they do produce about 25 percent rosé wines but only 2 percent white wines. Grenache blanc, roussanne and marsanne are the most popular white grapes grown.

The wines of Roussillon have been considered unremarkable for centuries, but 10 years ago, rock star importer Eric Solomon of European Cellars began to focus on the area. He previously imported wines mostly from Spain and other pricier areas of France such as the Loire Valley and the Rhône region. Ten years ago, Solomon met Jean-Marc and Eliane Lafage in Spain, where Jean-Marc consults with some Spanish wineries. Lafage suggested Solomon visit his vineyards in Roussillon, and a beautiful partnership was formed.

The Lafage family owns almost 400 acres of vineyards in various sections of Roussillon benefiting from the diversity of soil compositions. The knowledge and dedication of Lafage combined with the incredible palate and direction of Solomon have created wines that, in my opinion, raised the bar on quality/price ratio. An added bonus is that everything is farmed organically. Robert Parker, famous critic and owner of The Wine Advocate, says of Solomon, “I first tasted with Eric in 1991 and I have watched him grow as an importer to the point where he may be the finest in the United States.”

One of their projects in Roussillon is Saint Roch, a property in Agly Valley. The white they produce is Saint Roch Vieilles Vignes Blanc, a blend of grenache blanc and marsanne. It’s very rich and full-bodied with pronounced notes of tangerine and pineapple. As big as it is, it still pairs beautifully with food and usually sells for under $15. One of the reds from Saint Roch that I tasted is the 2014 Saint-Roch Chimères Côtes du Roussillon Villages. This wine is under $17 yet was awarded 92 points from Parker, who described it as mostly grenache, but including 30 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvedre. “Aged in a combination of concrete tank demi-muid (large oak barrels), it makes the most of this difficult vintage and has terrific purity in its raspberry, violet, licorice and olive-laced aromas and flavors. Ripe, nicely textured and with bright acidity,” wrote Parker.

The Lafage estate produces a Miraflors Dry Rosé that is an organic blend of mourvedre and grenache gris. It is a must-have for summertime quaffing. It has gorgeous notes of strawberries, framboise and rose petals. At under $18 it rivals the great rosés of Bandol that sell for $40-$60.

Two more reds they produce are the 2014 Tessellae Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre Old Vines, under $15 and 2014 Domaine Lafage Bastide Miraflors, a blend of syrah and grenache that is under $17. These two wines are the same blends that you would find in Châteauneuf-du-Pape selling for three to five times the price. Parker gave Tessellae 90 points and described it as a remarkable bargain from Lafage. Aged in concrete, this blend of 50 percent grenache, 40 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvedre “. . . comes from 70-year-old vines planted in limestone and clay soils. A delicious, dense ruby wine with notes of red and black cherries, earth, spice, pepper and a touch of Provençal garrigue. Fresh vibrant acidity is also present, and the wine is uncomplicated, but rich, fleshy and very well balanced,” writes Parker.

On Bastide Miraflors, Parker identifies the 2014 Bastide Miraflors, which is a Côtes du Roussillon that blends 70 percent syrah and 30 percent grenache — with the grenache aged in concrete tanks and the syrah in 500-liter demi-muids — as a particularly notable bargain. “Lafage makes more expensive wines than this, but certainly excels with his value lineup. He has really hit a home run with this 10,000-case cuvée,” writes Parker. “It is deep, ruby/plum/purple, with fresh notes of blackcurrants, plums, Provençal herbs as well as licorice. Deep, medium to full-bodied, with amazing fruit, the purity, authenticity and Mediterranean upbringing of this wine are obvious. Quite deep, round and succulent, this wine should drink well for another several years. This is one to buy by the case.”

Clearly, there is a bromance going on among Lafage, Solomon and Parker, but the proof is in the bottles. They are amazing blends. OH

Robyn James is a certified sommelier and proprietor of The Wine Cellar and Tasting Room in Southern Pines. Contact her at

The Breakfast Club

Every Wednesday morning at Tex & Shirley’s, fellowship and photography are served over easy

By Jim Dodson

On a drizzly late winter morning, a lively buzz of voices flows from the rear dining room of Tex & Shirley’s Friendly Center restaurant where nine members of the Bokeh Photography Club are catching up on each other’s adventures since their last Wednesday morning gathering.

The group, which has met weekly for more than two decades, can range anywhere from five to fifteen “members” on any given Wednesday morning. But as de facto spokesman John Poer quickly notes, “We never quite know who is going to show up. We’re just a bunch of people who share a love of photography and enjoy each other’s company over breakfast.”

“In other words,” says Doug Swanson, a retired CPA who spent several years working as Dale Earnhardt’s chief operating officer, “we have no rules, no dues, no bylaws — just a lot of great conversation and talk about photography.”

“We’re a diverse group who love breakfast and expensive cameras,” puts in Bob Poston, just back from a fishing trip to Costa Rica, where he caught two marlin and fifteen tuna and “took a couple thousand photographs.” Together with wife, Diana, Poston owns Greensboro’s historic Guilford Building. Prior to his retirement twenty years ago, Poston enjoyed a long career as a pioneering computer expert who ran, among other things, NASA’s Western Aeronautical Test Range in the early 1970s. Now his computer expertise serves fellow members of the Breakfast Club who often show up at his downtown office to tweak their digital photography.

Across the table sits Tommie Lauer, 74, a retired psychiatrist and former commercial photographer for Alderman Studios, who learned some of her early craft under Gerhard Bakker, the acclaimed American photographer. “I’m still something of a newbie to the club,” she explains, “only been in for four years. But I love these folks. The gab is fantastic. We all share ideas and learn a great deal from each other.”

Lauer is particularly drawn to photographing street people, iconic buildings and fast cars. “That’s one of mine right there,” she says, pointing to a dramatic portrait of a cowboy that hangs with the work of other Bokeh Club members on the meeting room’s walls and across Tex & Shirley’s entrance lobby. “I just happened to see him sitting at Starbucks at Quaker Village and asked if he would let me take his picture. He did. Splendid, isn’t he?”

Indeed he is, this urban cowboy. But equally arresting are the diverse photos of other club members (including O.Henry’s stalwart, Lynn Donovan; see page 56) who are on hand for pancakes and favorite egg dishes this morning. Their regular waitress, Susan Almazan, quips that she rarely has to write down an order. “Like their photos, every one is different. But I know exactly who wants what.”

To her point, the work of Cheryl Garrity and Doug Swanson’s bird photos are nothing short of breathtaking. Ditto Chicagoan Sandy Groover’s candid people shots, some of which she takes for the Rhino Times newspaper. “I’m just a point-and-shoot photographer,” Sandy modestly insists. “I shoot and hope for the best. The others are so technically savvy, I can’t keep up with them. Also,” she adds wryly, “I’m the only Canon user.”

But one look at her shots of her granddaughter mugging by a blue jean statue downtown or her photos of the Wyndham Championship or a group of costumed mermaids gathered poolside, and you realize what a gifted eye this former secretary for Jefferson Pilot possesses.

Groover’s Cannon quip provokes a good-natured groan from the others around the table — most, if not all, indeed, use sophisticated Nikons, some owning several.

Graphic artist and photographer Stephanie Thomas believes she might be the oldest member of the unofficial club, dating her arrival at the Tex & Shirley’s breakfast table from 2006, when much of her work was shown at several prominent galleries. One day several years ago she took a photo of a homeless teenage girl that changed her life. “I was so moved by her, I started shooting homeless women in Greensboro.” Eventually Thomas’s project developed into a photo documentary book called Pushed to the Corner, which she recently completed and is now in search of a publisher and literary agent. “Working in their world opened my eyes,” she adds thoughtfully. “The material things I used to value so much just fell away.”

Sharon Canter listens, smiling, just back from one of her famous wintertime shooting trips up at Roan Mountain in east Tennessee. “She’s the real star — our award-winner,” says her frequent travel pal, Cheryl Garrity, a retired elementary school guidance counselor and hiking enthusiast. Garrity once led hikes for the Sierra Club but got so frustrated trying to identify wildflowers and native plants that she began taking photos of them — which in turn brought her to a photography class at GTCC hoping to improve her craft. There she met Sharon Canter. For an anniversary present, Cheryl Garrity’s husband, Dale, gave her a very nice Nikon camera and soon she and Sharon were off on photographic expeditions to Roan Mountain, Lake Mattamuskeet and other unspoiled corners of the wild — often braving the most extreme temperatures.

“We’re usually up there well before sunrise and never come back until way after dark,” says Garrity. “Sharon is totally fearless. I can never keep up with her. We’ve spent a lot of nights searching for great photos in the dark.”

After one of their memorable photo jaunts in sub-freezing temperatures, Garrity wound up losing the tip of a finger to frostbite. But her photos of the mountain and night skies — especially the Milky Way — are stunning.

Garrity and Canter joined the photo group about the same time around 2009, making their first trip to the Smokies soon afterwards. “The group was such a pleasure — no competitiveness, just smart photographers happy to share their knowledge,” says Sharon Canter. “We both learned so much about lenses, for instance. We’ve been hooked ever since.” 

Canter grew up in Kernersville hoping to be a veterinarian but switched to conservation studies at N.C. State. Like many of the Bokeh Club members, she picked up photography as a hobby with the arrival of children. “Around the year 2000 my oldest son got married and my husband suggested that I get a really good camera to record the event. One thing just led to another,” she adds, describing how her family photos blossomed quickly into a full-blown passion for landscape photography. She talks of a “Bucket List” trip she still hopes to take to California’s Yosemite National Park.

Canter’s photos of Roan Mountain and other nature shots have found their way to the pages of Wildlife In North Carolina magazine, Backpacker, and collected a Best of Show award at the prestigious Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition in Boone, an annual photo contest that draws more than 900 entries from all over the Southeast.

Regulars Claude “Monet” Hutcheson, 77, and Ron Day sit eating and listening to these reflections, nodding in agreement. “I don’t consider myself a photographer,” says Hutcheson, a retired engineer who earned an M.F.A. degree in industrial design and worked for Xerox for more than two decades. “I’m really more of a painter who has seriously upgraded his photography skills thanks to being associated with these folks.” (Hence the affectionate nickname). His specialty is wildlife.

Ron Day’s photographic love is capturing weddings. An engineer who served as the last superintendent of Cone Mills’ Proximity plant before it shut down in the late 1970s, Day, 73, enjoyed the blossoming of a second career as a wedding photographer who has covered more than a thousand nuptials. “I also do some birds and landscape and always dreamed of being a photographer for National Geographic,” he adds with a wry smile. “Haven’t quite made it that far yet.”

But others associated with the Tex & Shirley club have done so, notably Paul Salazar’s daughter, Gabby, 29, who now shoots regularly for the internationally respected magazine and who got an early start on her career attending the breakfast sessions her dad organized — and named — more than two decades ago. At age 11, Gabby sold one of her photographs to Our State magazine, an image of a butterfly on a flower.

“A few of us used to get together at Tex & Shirley’s for breakfast and then walk over to the camera shop in [Friendly] shopping center to look at equipment. This was back in the dark ages of film,” Paul Salazar remembers. Salazar now resides in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he teaches photography to various skill levels at the Elliott Museum. The name “Bokeh,” he explains, is a Japanese word that simply means a soft focus of light, often a background. “The group just grew and grew by word of mouth. I’m guessing forty or fifty people have been part of it.” Many of them, he adds, belong to the larger Triad Outdoor Photographers organization that conducts seminars and stages shooting trips. “But the breakfast club was always a more informal affair,” Salazar notes. “It’s really as much a social gathering — but a great deal of sharing without any competitiveness goes on there. That’s something really special, and why the club is still going.”

Salazar passed the mantle of leadership on to the genial, John Poer, a longtime systems analyst for BP whose specialty is outdoor photography. “There’s really no leader in this group,” Poer insists, “or oversized egos. We share a love of shooting beautiful photographs, wherever that experience takes us.”

Poer, who was just back from a 10-day photo shoot to a game preserve near Glacier National Park where he shot snow leopards, tundra wolves and Arctic foxes in their wilderness habitat, notes that rapidly changing technology and constant innovations make sharing knowledge all the more important. Among other things, he’s become something of an expert on an Adobe digital darkroom system called Lightroom and happily shares his knowledge of the system with fellow members.

“Essentially,” Poer says, “photography is about the art of capturing light and the image that Henri Cartier-Bresson called the Decisive Moment when an action takes place, whatever its source. That’s why, no matter how digital and scientific photography becomes, there will always be the vital human element — the mind and eye of the photographer who sees the image even before the picture is taken.”

“And that’s why we come every Wednesday, rain or shine,” chimes in Sandy Groover. “For good friends, a good breakfast and a chance to learn even more how to take the perfect photograph.”  OH

Jim Dodson and his wife, Wendy, regularly have breakfast at Tex & Shirley’s ons Saturday morning before going to the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market.

Rising from the Ashes

Things Old Photo Specialists lost — and found — in the fire

By Billy Ingram     Photographs by John Gessner


Just as the bottom was falling out of the commercial photography business, Bill Heroy of Old Photo Specialists was surprised to discover that his side business, meticulously producing hand-tinted restorations of antique photographs, had mushroomed into a burgeoning enterprise. Moving seamlessly into the digital age, he is today one of the most sought-after artists in his field, as the images covering the walls of his shop attest. “There’s an interesting story behind every picture,” says Bill’s wife and partner in the business, Anna. Equally remarkable is the Heroys’s own story.

During the 1980s when other businesses and residents had all but abandoned the city center, Bill and Anna raised their family downtown. Setting down roots in a decidedly inhospitable environment, their arduous journey is reminiscent of those pioneers of old, something akin to the trials and tribulations associated with Little House on the Prairie but with more bums and winos.

To hear Bill tell it, he was perfectly happy in 1977 operating a photography studio out of his Victorian home on Spring Garden but, “I wanted to hire an artist,” he says. The city council had other ideas and refused to change his zoning from residential to commercial. “I said, ‘Well, I’ll move then,’” Bill remembers, and he called a Realtor. “Back then everyone was emptying out of downtown,” he recalls. “This building [320 South Elm] was in horrible shape but it was only $30,000, so I said I’d buy it. I had no idea what I was getting into. I made ten grand selling my house, and I’d only had it two years. I lost that ten grand in a week.”

What Heroy bought into was the Fortune Building, constructed for
R.G. Fortune Dry Goods and Notions during the aggressive modernization taking place downtown at the turn of the last century. It’s a study in resolute austerity, bucking South Elm’s architectural trajectory that generally favored European-inspired flourishes accented with marble. No. 320 South Elm was a revolving door of disparate businesses from the very beginning. The Schiffman brothers opened a department store there in 1905. During the 1930s, it was Rustin-Johnson Furniture. Advance Automotive occupied the building in the ’40s, various shoe stores in the ’50s, and after that, it was almost always vacant.

Bill Heroy was faced with the ravages inflicted by decades of neglect. “Back then I put about $80,000 that I borrowed and begged and went through hell and back with the banks.” With his studio in the back, the bachelor photographer devoted the storefront (which has since been split into two units) to a 3,000-square-foot art gallery in 1978 while he crashed in a makeshift man cave on the second floor. “What I found out is — art is one of the most unprofitable businesses you can possibly get into. But when we closed Elm Street Gallery in 1981 we had one of the largest parties they ever had in downtown Greensboro. We had over a thousand people in here.” He managed to keep the photography business afloat for another seven or eight years, but commercial clients were few and far between. “We did some work for companies like Ciba-Geigy and Western Electric,” Bill recalls, explaining that the bulk of his work consisted of portraits, weddings and a lot of Bar Mitzvahs. “That’s what propelled me through the Jimmy Carter [years]. I was working all the time,” he says.

Bill’s wife, Anna, remembers their first night out together, spent right next door: “We had our first date at the Mantelworks when it was a dinner theater. We went to see Inherit the Wind.” The Mantelworks was a cavernous, three-story former factory where lacquered wooden fireplace frames were manufactured in decades past. Beginning in the mid-1970s, a soda shop and artists’ enclave coalesced there in an effort to re-energize downtown, but Anna wasn’t impressed with the place that night, “The play was so boring,” she says with a laugh. “Afterwards, we all went to The Pickwick on Walker and Elam and that was fun so I agreed to go out again. We got married in ’79.”

It was Bill’s dream that the couple leave their Fisher Park neighborhood and reside in the Fortune Building, but Anna remained unconvinced. “Bill kept talking about how great it was downtown,” she says. He chuckles, thinking back on those early days, when Old Photo Specialists was directly across the street from Sam & Mack’s Newsstand, the city’s purveyor of porn mags and peep shows. “We would get up on the roof and watch these people go in. First they would walk past it, they’d look around, they’d walk this way and that way, then they would finally go in the shop and we would yell out, ‘Repent!’ and it would echo up and down the empty streets.”

The first time he brought me down I said, ‘Eeehh, I don’t know about this place,’” Anna says, describing the shop as “old,” its second floor a former warehouse “just one huge space.” Then there was Bill’s “horrible bachelor apartment up there,” she recalls. “He had to take a bath in his darkroom. The first time I came to check it out there was a wharf rat up there; he had promised me there were no animals! Anyway, that was the end of that idea for a while.”

They refurbished the entire second floor before moving in with their young son (with another on the way) in 1982. Anna recalls their Green-Acres-in-reverse lifestyle: “There was nothing going on downtown. It was us and the winos. My parents lived in Fisher Park so I picked the kids up every day and we’d go play at Mother and Daddy’s house and then come back. We did make a yard on the roof, put Astroturf up there and made a wall around it with a picnic table and we had a little swimming pool for them, that was fun.”

The lack of excitement in the Heroys’ environs changed around 11 p.m. on April 13, 1985, when a General Alarm was sounded summoning firefighters from every corner of the city to battle a blaze that would, in a matter of hours, lay waste to a significant portion of downtown Greensboro. Fire Chief Bobby Nugent has four decades’ experience taming flames in our city. A six-year veteran in 1985, he described venturing into a maelstrom that quickly devastated historic Davie Street business district: “We had a backdraft, kind of like a smoke explosion. The truck I was driving, Engine 8 on Chapman Street, we were actually on another fire and cleared that when the backdraft happened. That’s when they called for Second Alarm.” The backdraft, he remembers, was a source of confusion among the crew. “It blew a couple of people across the street, messed up the hose lines so they had to regroup after that and start getting back into firefighting mode.”

In less than an hour, seven multistory buildings were fully engulfed in a towering inferno fueled by century-old hardwood interiors, a battlefield growing more fierce by the minute as fireballs and thousand-pound chunks of brick and mortar rained down around emergency workers. Fire Chief on the scene R. L. Powell sent out word to his shock troops that, if the blaze were to spread into any of the antiquated buildings along the 300 block of South Elm, firefighters would fall back to Greene Street, at the Carolina Theatre, leaving Hamburger Square to burn unabated.

The Heroy family was driving home after an evening out when they encountered their neighborhood exploding in frightening light. “It looked like the whole city was ablaze so we just were freaking out.” Anna still recoils from the horror. “Our babysitter cancelled at the last minute so we had to take our children with us. I’m thinking, ‘My God, what if our kids had been in there?’ We weren’t allowed to go in our building.” Fire Chief Nugent recalled the smoldering wreckage revealed as the first rays of Sunday sunlight filtered through a thick cloud of soot: “It was by the grace of God that it got stopped in the alleyway behind where Greensborough Court backs up to the building that faces South Elm Street,” he says.

That was, unfortunately, a mere harbinger.

The Heroys moved to the country in 1988. By that time they’d constructed five rental units on the upper two floors, enjoying a 100 percent occupancy rate through the 1990s and beyond when adventurous folks started giving downtown another look. Meanwhile, that hulking tinderbox known as The Mantelworks had been left fallow, strung with frayed electrical wiring dating back to before the first radio broadcast. In the early morning hours of October 23, 2003, tenants in the Fortune Building were abruptly roused from their slumber by police officers banging on their doors. They found themselves fleeing into the freezing night air with only the clothes on their backs. It took more than a hundred firefighters to contain that blaze.

It wasn’t just the Mantelworks left in ruins: Bill and Anna Heroy were faced with near total devastation of the Fortune Building, with smoke and water damage from floor to ceiling. Bill still finds it difficult to talk about. “It destroyed our building, it destroyed our business. We were forced out of here.” A two-year court battle ensued before reconstruction could begin in earnest — to the tune of about $1.8 million. At the same time, the rapidly changing landscape of digital technology was resulting in dozens of local photographers being forced out of business. “There was a lot of work for everybody really, and then it just . . . dried up,” Bill says. That was when he noticed a trend. “Some days the orders for old photographs were bigger than the commercial jobs. We had customers keep coming in with old photos and we were able to build up the business.”

Ironically, when it comes to photo restoration, the more ancient the picture is, the more gray tones and contrast are hiding beneath the surface, waiting to burst through with astonishing clarity. That’s where Bill’s degree in chemical engineering at Duke came in handy. “Everything made through World War II had a fairly high concentration of silver,” he says. “And the older they are, the more silver they have. He points to some whitish pictures from World War I and explains how they became so faded. “We didn’t have air conditioning back in the ’30s and ’40s; it got hot in the summer, got humid.” He explains that the chemicals used on the photos got moist and absorbed dirt and water, causing them to look faded and colorless. “When we get them in here we can get the detail back like the day they were shot.” As for those washed-out snapshots from your youth? “Color, once it fades, back in those days it couldn’t be recovered,” Bill says. “Between our scanning system and the computer, we can get it back.”

This painstaking devotion to detail has led to the resurrection of some remarkable moments in time, captured on cameras with extremely long exposure times. Looking at a 1916 panoramic view of a contingent of soldiers positioned where the Carolina Theatre is today, one can’t help but be amazed at an image so crisp, so clear, you can read the lettering on buildings a quarter mile away, even make out the whites of the soldiers’ eyes. Bill retrieves another recovered image with local historical significance. “This is St. James Presbyterian. We didn’t even charge to do this. This original photograph of a groundbreaking for the church goes back to 1880s. It was white, you could hardly detect [any image] but I could see there was silver in it so I knew we were well on our way.” He picks up another image. “We had a guy come in that had an entire collection of pictures from the Holocaust. His father was there, he had pictures from the Battle of the Bulge all the way to Auschwitz,” Bill says. He says his most remote client was from South Africa, likely “a plantation owner with one of the native chiefs in the frame who had on a necklace made of teeth. It was in bad shape.”

At times Bill’s work reunites families with long lost ancestors. One of the more difficult aspects of this artcraft can be reconstructing faces. Bill is especially proud of one job: “This soldier had three children when he went off to Vietnam and was killed. This picture he had made with his wife before he left,” he recalls. When he got killed, the picture ended up out in a barn. “It was warped and nasty looking, [eaten away] with mold and watermarks. The kids were rummaging through the barn one day and they found this picture.” The wife had gotten remarried and then divorced, he says, “but she never forgot about her first husband, so we put this together the best we could. Now she can make copies for all the children.”

Anna leads me to the front of the studio where they have a minigallery, motioning towards a wide-angle 1916 photo of a line of soldiers from Canada’s Fort Gary Horse Regiment. In the background a soldier can be seen entertaining a small black bear, one of three that accompanied regiments from Winnipeg. “This was their mascot,” Anna explains, adding, “They were sent over to England to fight so they took their mascot with them. When they got to England they knew they’re going to get shipped over to France and they didn’t want to take the bear because they might be killed.” One of those three bears was left in the care of the London Zoo where he became their star attraction. That zoo was around the corner from the home of A.A. Milne, whose son, Christopher Robin, named his teddy bear after the furry mascot nicknamed “Winnie” after his port of origin. “This came from a lady from Canada whose great-grandfather is in this picture,” Anna tells me.

“You have to have a love for this kind of stuff, it’s a job that takes time.” Bill Heroy laments the art of rehabilitating ancient photographs is becoming a lost one: “I don’t know why there’s nobody in Charlotte doing it. Why is no one in Raleigh doing it? Or Wilmington?” he wonders but doesn’t complain since he gets work from all three cities.

Bill and Anna Heroy are not just in the business of restoring photos. What they truly enjoy is bringing stories back to life that have been lost to time: ““There’s tons of photos out there that have all kinds of stories to them,” Bill says. Which is why, forty years on, the customers keep coming.  OH

Billy Ingram moved to downtown Greensboro twenty years ago after a career in Los Angeles as one of the team the ad world has dubbed “The New York Yankees of Motion Picture Advertising.”


Harbinger of Spring

The blue-gray gnatcatcher heralds the seasonal migration in Central N.C.

By Susan Campbell

It wonít be much longer . . . the wheezy calls from blue-gray gnatcatchers will soon be echoing from the treetops, signaling the beginning of spring migration here in central North Carolina. But these tiny gray-and-white birds are not going to find you. You are going to have to find them. As they flit around searching for small insects, they tend not to stay in one spot long enough for a good look. But with patience and a sharp eye, a determined birder will spot the bird’s characteristic dainty bill, white eye ring and long black tail with white edges.

Some of these passing gnatcatchers will stay put and raise a family, or two, here in the coming months. The species is known to breed across most of the Eastern United States at lower elevations. Within the gnatcatcher family this is the only species that is truly migratory, although individuals that we encounter have not likely traveled northward very far. Wintering grounds may be as close as Florida though some gnatcatchers may wing their way back from as far away as Cuba or the Bahamas.

Despite their name, gnats do not form a more significant part of the bird’s diet. Foraging for any invertebrates they can find, a gnatcatcher will sometime capture insects and spiders that are too large to swallow. But this ingenious bird divvies its prey into smaller portions by banging the insects on a branch to dispatch them and then pulling their appendages off until they are small enough to swallow. Its secret weapon to uncover insects? A long tail that it will flick from side to side to disturb the vegetation and cause potential prey to fly into visual range.

The species is sometimes referred to as “Little Mockingbirds,” not so much for their plumage but for their tendency to incorporate elements and snippets of other birds’ songs into their own.  Short songs involve wheezy “spee” notes. But longer songs, meant to better advertise territory in the spring, involve a variety of sounds: chips, whistles and mewing notes that are typically very high-pitched. When they cannot get their point across, males will chase one another, sometime ranging abroad as far as 70 feet or more. If things get particularly fierce, the competitors may even rise up, chest to chest, high in the air, with snapping bills in what looks like an odd game of “chicken.”

Here in the Piedmont and Sandhills, blue-gray gnatcatchers can be found in any forested area where there is a significant understory. This is a species that thrives on woody vegetation and an insect-rich environment. Nests tend to be high up in hardwoods and are constructed with fine grasses and a variety of soft materials. Furthermore, they always include an exterior layer of mosses or lichens that camouflage the small cup-like nests from predators. As with the only slightly smaller ruby-throated hummingbird, nests need to be almost invisible. Adult blue-gray gnatcatchers have no other effective means of defending the next generation than the ingenious use of camouflage. As it is, eggs and young are often located by small mammals, as well as climbing snakes and other birds. But the parents will readily build a new nest, even incorporating old nesting material to speed up the process, several times in a season, if need be.

So if you keep an eye as well as an ear out towards the end of the month, you may spot one of these spirited and industrious little birds. Tiny blue-gray gnatcatchers are certainly one of the most overlooked members of our summer bird fauna. However, I guarantee they will be out and about if you take the time to notice in the weeks ahead.  OH

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos at

The Lives of Others

Echoes of the past in a College Hill treasure

By Nancy Oakley     Photographs By Amy Freeman

The past, as William Faulkner once famously wrote, “is never dead. It’s not even past.” And no one grasps this concept better than Bill Moore, who, as former director of the Greensboro Historical Museum (recently renamed the Greensboro History Museum) walked and worked with the past for forty years. For the last twenty-six, he and his wife Jane have lived with the past — a big distinction he’ll tell you, from living in it. The Moores, you see, reside in one of the oldest houses in Greensboro and one of ninety-some properties on the list of officially recognized Guilford County Landmarks. The walls of this stately structure on McGee Street in College Hill echo with the lives of those who came before — amid hustle and bustle of students and downtown denizens and athletic contests on the Greensboro College soccer field lying directly opposite.

On a warm day in early spring, Moore is deciding what to do about a portion of the front porch that has buckled. “Treated wood just does not like paint,” says the soft-spoken 78-year-old. A contractor had suggested using Trex, a wood alternative frequently used on decks and patios that’s impervious to the elements. “But the Historic Commission said, ‘no,’” Moore says. “That was three years ago.”

He doesn’t seem to mind the time it takes to patch and repair, considering the years of “constant maintenance” the frame structure has required, including, on one occasion, burst pipes. “My wife was very brave to accept my challenge to buy this house,” Moore says with a gentle laugh. That was in 1986, when it had deteriorated to the point of being condemned. By then, the city had taken ownership of the property, saving it from being razed so it could be converted into a condominium development. “They turned it over to the College Hill Neighborhood Association and put certain restrictions on the restoration, and encouraged people to bid on it,” Moore recalls. “We were the lucky bidders at that time,” he says, pausing to correct himself: “We were the only bidders, I should say.”

And little wonder. The house, as Moore remembers, “was in pretty rough shape.” The porch, which was added in the 1920s, was in much worse condition than today’s incarnation with its single wrinkle and had completely rotted. The gutters, supported by protruding eaves were rusted and “useless,” Moore says. Its grimy walls, painted white, were framed with dark trim. “Things had been stolen and destroyed,” Moore recalls. The entire back of the house, a later addition, had completely worn away. In sum? “It was a mess,” Moore says. “When my mother saw the house, she cried. She probably thought I’d lost my mind!” he says, with a chuckle.

But the pairing of the house with its new owner was “a perfect match,” says Benjamin Briggs, executive director of Preservation Greensboro, for the house was alive with history. And it ignited Moore’s lifelong passion for earlier times.

As a boy, he remembers collecting Indian artifacts near his home in Asheboro, with his father’s brother, a deaf mute, as his guide. “He may have lost his hearing and his voice, but he had keen eyesight,” Moore remembers. “And he could find arrowheads in the fields that I would have walked right over. So he taught me a lot right there.” His high school history teacher and a Sunday school teacher further fueled young Moore’s interest in history, as did another uncle in Washington, D.C. “My mother’s brother lived up there,” Moore says. “He was very interested in history and he would take me to places.” Ford’s Theatre, with an exhibit on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, was a favorite, and gave rise to Moore’s fascination with the nineteenth century and the sixteenth U.S. president.

By the time he was in college at High Point University (then High Point College), Moore had discovered Town Creek Indian Mound, whose archeologist told him about a new summer job opening. He applied and got the job. In the mid-1960s, Moore signed on with the Historical Museum. “There were no museum training programs like there are now,” he notes. “I learned on the job.” One of his first responsibilities was to restore the Francis McNairy House. “I had to do a lot of research and just got into it and thought, ‘Wow! This is what belonged here. This is the kind of corner cupboard they would have had — it’s not the greatest in the world, but it’s the kind they would have had,’” Moore says. “So I began, systematically, to put myself in those peoples’ place and say, ‘What would I have done? What kinds of things would I have had?’” His approach led to further restorations, of the Museum’s Christian Isley House, and the Hockett Blacksmith and Woodworking Shops. That experience “fine-tuned” his interest, not only in history, but in decorative arts, as well. It also helped him expand the Museum’s collections. “I probably overdid it sometimes,” Moore now admits, “But I wanted to be sure the Museum had a good quality of collections.” His work experiences prepared him, in the mid-1980s, to bring back to life the frame “mess” on McGee Street. 

“This is what you call an Italianate farmhouse,” Moore explains. “It was outside the city limits until 1911,” he posits. He has identified its origins as dating to somewhere between 1845 and 1855, and in tearing out its damaged walls during the course of the restoration he discovered parts of other houses used in its original construction. “I’m also getting closer to whether Gov. Morehead bought this house for his daughter Letitia,” Moore says, adding that there has long been chatter about the twenty-ninth N.C. governor’s association with the property. “Why would something like that just come out of the wood?” Moore wonders. His take is that Gov. Morehead likely owned the land and when his daughter was married to Mr. William Walker, the newlyweds occupied the house for a time, until Walker’s ferry business on the Yadkin River prompted a move. After his death, Letitia and the children moved back in with her father. “So the focus is on Blandwood,” Moore notes. Preservation Greensboro, where Moore has served as a board member, has been helpful providing clues suggesting Morehead’s ties to the property, but more sleuthing is required to confirm it. “It’s a wonderful, charming problem to have,” observes Briggs, and one particular to old Southern towns with rich oral histories, such as Greensboro. Still, Moore believes uncovering indisputable evidence of the Morehead connection “Is going to be a lucky find.”

A find as lucky as a single diary entry linking the house with another historic figure, Jefferson Davis, for instance. “I’ve never quite proven that,” Moore is quick to say. “That story started at least in the ’20s,” he recalls, a period of romantic revival for the Civil War. Moore does know that at the time of that conflict, the house was owned by Samuel Scarborough, a grocer, who rented the dwelling to a Col. Samuel Potts. Moore has also confirmed that by 1865, Jefferson Davis’s nephew and aide de campe, John Taylor Wood, had come to Greensboro with his wife and children. With the Confederacy disintegrating, it was a period of near chaos in the Gate City. “There were riots and people were stealing things,” Moore says. When a friend discovered a sentence in Wood’s diary, “Went to Potts’ to pick up Lola and the children today,” Moore surmised that the Scarborough house was where John Taylor Wood had installed his family and feared for their safety when violent outbreaks had overtaken the city. “And probably what happened was, when he went to get his family members, Jefferson Davis accompanied him.”

He would put his imagination to similar use in bringing back the residence, now commonly referred to as the Walker-Scarborough house (from which Walker Avenue takes its name, according to Briggs). In addition to tearing out the walls, removing the porch extension and replacing the rusted gutters with French drains, Moore had to replace the dilapidated rear of the house, where he and wife Jane would live for four years, from 1990 to 1994, before restoring the front rooms and upstairs bedrooms. For this back section, he chose an Italianate design, in keeping with the original style of architecture. The area contains a completely modern kitchen, painted slate blue, replete with granite countertops and a sunny sitting area where Moore keeps a number of his beloved books and one of the first antique pieces he acquired — a simple chest from New Hampshire. He stops and opens its lid, attached with original cotter pin hinges, to reveal a brownish stain on the underside. “This is where somebody set a candle down, and they closed the lid and they came back in and scooped it up before it burned,” Moore explains, relishing the human error forever imprinted in the chest fashioned completely by human hands — from a single piece of wood.

Joining the back portion of the house to the front rooms is a butler’s pantry with a “ghost drawer.” Moore playfully closes a recalcitrant drawer that automatically opens again. “For some reason, we have a ghost that likes to have it open all the time,” he says with a mischievious twinkle. But the focal point of the tiny room is not so much the drawer as the stained glass window above it. Bearing a grape motif, it was salvaged from a house that was being torn down across from the Museum. “It’s very comforting,” Moore says, “I knew the people who lived in the house. It was a brother and a sister. They were quite elderly and neither one had married.” He had an electrician configure the wiring so the window can be illuminated from either side — in the butler’s pantry or the adjoining front hallway. And it is here that one begins to see the full scope of Moore’s imagination and love of old things.

Where does the eye alight first? On the checkerboard floor — faux painting that Moore did himself, along with local artisan John Kraus? Or on the card table and chairs in the hallway that Moore bought on antiquing trips to New England (“because I didn’t want to create a conflict as much with the Museum’s collecting,” which he explains was primarily local and from Virginia)? Standing sentry by the door is a grandfather clock; on one of its ledges sits a tiny toy mouse. “Hickory, dickory dock,” Moore jokes.

Flanking the hallway are the two front rooms awash in bright hues, typical of the Federal period, a favorite of Moore’s. “We’ve always liked color, and we decided to do the ceilings white and the walls in different colors,” Moore says, explaining that he’ll experiment with swaths of color on a portion of wall before committing to a more permanent palette. The dining room, scene of frequent family reunions and holiday gatherings, is painted a deep rich purple that carries contrasting gold accents from pieces of pottery, many of them reproductions of Salem and Alamance styles. Golden hues also glint from and gilt picture frames, one of which encompasses a dramatic wilderness landscape reminiscent of the Hudson River School featuring tiny figures of Indians in the foreground. “It’s unsigned and I didn’t pay much for it,” Moore says. “But I like the scenery, and the Indians.” He stops by the sideboard and retrieves a glass dish with an imprint of Little Bo Peep.

It was a gift from his mother. He once suggested to her that it might be of some monetary value. “And she looked at me, and she said, ‘I wouldn’t sell it for anything. That belonged to my father.’” He laughs. “And I realized then what she said: It has no value; it’s priceless.”

Which is how Moore has come to view the objects scattered throughout and the house itself. “It speaks to me,” he says. “Everything has a story.” Such as the figurine of Gov. Zebulon B. Vance in the teal-colored living room —a plaster replica of the bronze sculpture by Henry Jackson Ellicott that stands in Union Square around the Capitol in Raleigh; Moore picked it up at an estate sale for $5 and had the dismembered arm repaired by a dentist friend. Or the box of tiny curios — a medal that Moore won in high school, his wife’s grandmother’s ring, an “Ike” campaign button and another one from one of Abraham Lincolon’s campaigns. Or the Kachina doll he picked up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Or the brass bucket by the living room mantel, a wedding gift from his Sunday schoolteacher. Or the model of the ironclad Monitor, from Dr. John Murphy, donor of the Museum’s collection of Confederate firearms. “I can look at something, and I can remember where I was when I got that, or somebody gave it to us for whatever reason,” Moore explains, insisting that his home is not a mausoleum to the past. “We sit in here sometimes and listen to music, and just talk, maybe have a glass of wine or something like that. It just sort of feels good. It’s relaxing,” Moore says. He likes to light candles in the evenings set them before a Moravian cupboard handcrafted in maple, and watch its curly grain fairly dance under the tapers’ flickering glow.

And he feels a connection to house’s previous occupants, appreciating their “hardships and their joys,” whether the 19th-century family of eight, who had no electricity or running water, or actor Donald O’Connor of Singin’ In the Rain fame, who lived upstairs while he was stationed in Greensboro at the Overseas Replacement Depot during World War II. “It’s a very personal thing,” Moore says. “I told my son, ‘When I’m gone, don’t worry about anything. You keep what you want to, that you remember growing up. But you can sell the rest.’” He pauses. “We’re only custodians for a while of everything. We have somewhat of an obligation to look after it and an opportunity to say, ‘Do you feel the same way about this that I do?’ And if they don’t, then so be it.” At this, Moore smiles, perhaps with the knowledge that those things will go on long after we will, absorbing the joys, sorrows, ponderings and imperfections of subsequent generations — the eternal human bonds that keep the past ever present.  OH

Over the years, Nancy Oakley, senior editor of O.Henry, has occupied a series of tiny but historic apartments.

Short Stories

Waggin’ Train

Crazy for canines? Then grab the kiddies and — heh — paws to check out UNCG’s North Carolina Theater for Young People’s production of Go, Dog, Go! March 21–26 at Taylor Theatre (406 Tate Street). Adapted from the popular children’s book by P.D. Eastman, the series of vignettes promises dogs of all sizes and colors, and “fanciful frolic and frivolous fun,” as actors zoom around the stage on various vehicles and wheels to give the sense of perpetual motion. Theatrical treats that will no doubt have you begging for more. Tickets: (336) 272-0160 or

Lady in Red

Most would agree that Kimberly Roberts, to borrow from The Talking Heads, “looks so cute in [her] little red suit,” but cuteness isn’t the point of the crimson-clad Roberts, vice president of Cultural Development for Crumley Roberts, attorney at law and the creator of the firm’s employee wellness program. As chair of the American Heart Association’s 2016–17 Guilford County Go Red for Women Campaign, Roberts is striking out across the state on her Little Red Jumpsuit Tour to educate women about heart health. And Roberts’s mission is serious business: cardiovascular disease claims the lives of one in three women every year, making it the second leading cause of female deaths. So jump start your heart and schedule a tour stop by contacting Ruth Darling Heyd, Executive Director of Community Engagement and Employee Wellness, at

Drawing Your Eire

Sons and daughters of Erin — or anyone looking for a good excuse for a quaff: Celebrate all things Irish at Otis and Wawa’s second annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl on South Elm Street (March 18). Check in at the pint — oops, make that point —
of origin, Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Company between 1 and 3 p.m. Then enjoy an afternoon and evening of fun and games, or craic as they say on the Emerald Isle, as you make your way to seven-odd watering holes in the vicinity. A portion of the ticket sales ($15 each) goes to benefit future projects in the Gate City’s blossoming downtown. Info:

This is Your Life

Sharpen your pens and your prose! O.Henry is officially calling for submissions for our August Summer Reading issue. The topic? “My Life in 1,000 Words.” Just tell us your life story or a story from your life — a mini memoir, if you will — in a thousand words. We’re looking for a variety of styles — comical, quirky, poignant, irreverent, or noir-ish  . . . Please send your submission no later than May 1st to, and our editors will select a handful for prizes and publication. Ready? Aim! Write!

Comedy of Arias

Single Turkish Bey Mustafa — bored with his harem, if you can believe it — seeks single, spirited Italian girl. And ciao, bella! Thanks to a shipwreck, the feisty Isabella arrives in Mustafa’s home of Algiers. Just one problem: She’s the girlfriend of his servant, Lindoro. Sit back and enjoy comic opera as only Giacomo Rossini (composer of The Barber of Seville) can deliver at Piedmont Opera’s production of Italian Girl in Algiers (March 17, 19 and 21) at Winston-Salem’s Stevens Center (405 West Fourth Street). Tickets: (336) 275-7101 or

You Can Take It With You

Any foodie coming home from Europe is envious of how small, independent grocers there enrich their neighbors’ lives with the most delicious freshly baked bread, seasonal vegetables, plus local meat and cheeses. The newly opened Market at The Traveled Farmer shares that mission, but adds a barista ready to pull an espresso and serve a just-baked muffin to a hungry commuter, as early at 7 a.m. The produce, though, is what catches the eye: Easter-egg radishes, plump little baby carrots and sweet taters galore, drawn from area farms that include Fair Share, PTB, Mighty Tendril and Schicker’s Acre. Picnic? Got the fixings — including Goat Lady cheese and mushroom focaccia — with some rustic tables in case it’s chilly outside. Or pick up a carton of Chef Jay Pierce’s signature collards, chili mac ’n’ cheese or hoppin John on the way home for a quick dinner. The Traveled Farmer, 1211 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro. Info: (336) 792-1999 or—DCB

Order of the Ginkgo

The sap is rising, greenery is sprouting  . . . what better time to show your appreciation for one of the world’s oldest trees? With origins in China and dating back about 270 million years, the gingko, whose fan-shaped leaves that turn bright yellow in fall, is one of the most recognizable trees. On March 16 at 2 p.m. you can learn more at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden (215 South Main Street, Kernersville) at “Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot,” based on the book by the same name by Professor Sir Peter Crane. The author will discuss the gingko’s cultural and medicinal importance, before signing copies of his book. To register: Call (336) 617-8344 or email For more

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Half a century ago, March 30, 1967, The Carolina Peacemaker, a Greensboro weekly, published its first issue. Founded by John Marshall Kilimanjaro in a period of deep racial tension, the paper was to provide a “journalistic vehicle through which the hopes, ambitions, fears, and aspirations of the entire citizenry regarding social, economic, and civic affairs might be expressed.”

Today, Kilimanjaro, who retired from North Carolina A&T as professor of drama, theater arts and language, is publisher emeritus of The Peacemaker — at the age of 86. Wife Vickie is associate publisher. Daughter Afrique is editor.

“For years I tried to run away from the family business,” Afrique says. “But my father kept calling, saying he needed help. I keep a box of letters, just as my father did when he was editor, from people all over, telling us how important The Peacemaker has been in their lives.”—RHJr

Ogi Sez

In keeping with the March weather — the old  “in like a lion” thing —we plan to have a roaring good time enjoying the gamut of this month’s musical offerings. The one thing they all have in common, though — and I ain’t no lyin’ king — is that they’re all top-shelf, A-list performers. If you don’t care for one, stay tuned, the next one will fix what ails ya.

• March 3, Greensboro Coliseum: Since his days with The Gap Band, Charlie Wilson has been the King of Cool. He has also amassed eleven Grammy nominations and a BET Lifetime Achievement award. His current “In It To Win It” tour also includes local fave Fantasia and Johnny Gill.

• March 4, Cone Denim Entertainment Center: If you’re a Guns N’ Roses fan but not sure who exactly might be in the band this week, take heart. The note-for-note, lick-for-lick tribute band, Appetite for Destruction, is coming to town. And they’ll be on time.

• March 11, Haw River Ballroom: For Americana, alt-country aficionados, the best news of the year so far is that genre pioneers Son Volt released a new album February 17. Even better is that they’ll be in the area promoting it this month. Can’t wait.

• March 28, Lucky 32: How many artists have a Master’s in ethnomusicology, play accordion, keyboards, musical saw, adunga, bombo, zheng, vihuela and tenor banjo, and have a vocal range that shatters glass and looks that stop traffic? There’s only one right answer: Crystal Bright. She is in a class by herself.

• March 31, Carolina Theatre: When Dobro legend Jerry Douglas put the Earls of Leicester together in 2014 to recreate the music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass world was poleaxed. Since then they have captured virtually every IBMA award available and the hearts of every bluegrass buff on the planet.

The Omnivorous Reader

Trail of Tears

The sorrowful history of Western expansion

By Stephen E. Smith

During the early-to mid-19th century, an unknown Native American warrior documented his life in pictographs on a buffalo hide. His early years were happy. He owned horses, took two wives, fathered children. Then white-faced figures appear pointing sticks that spit fire. Later, he painted his family dying of smallpox. His last pictograph illustrates the arrival of Jesuits in their black cassocks. There the narrative ends, suggesting, perhaps, that Jesuits are deadlier than smallpox.

Whatever the cause of the warrior’s demise, there’s no denying that the 19th-century collision between Native Americans and westward migrating peoples of European descent was one of the most shameful and tragic chapters in the history of the continent. Peter Cozzens’ meticulously written and thoroughly documented The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West is the latest offering in a spate of recent books that graphically detail how shameful and tragic the winning of the West truly was. (An American Genocide by Benjamin Madley and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, both published in the last year, are also well worth reading.)

Most of these recent Indian histories owe their perspective, at least in part, to Dee Brown’s 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a best-seller that transformed the attitude with which Americans regard indigenous people. Published three years after the founding of the American Indian Movement, Brown portrays the government’s dealings with Native Americans as an ongoing effort to eradicate their culture and religion. Cozzens adopts a slightly more balanced and analytical view of the Indian wars, taking into account the misjudgments and barbarism prevalent on both sides of the conflict.

From the opening chapter, it’s obvious the story Cozzens has chosen to tell is ghastly beyond the power of words. Government policy dictated that indigenous people be concentrated on reservations of ever decreasing size until their will to fight was broken and their cultural cohesion destroyed. The wholesale slaughter of the buffalo was intended to deny food and livelihood to the tribes, and with the arrival of the railroads, the hunting grounds native people had occupied for millennia were opened to white settlement. What resulted was a fight to the death in which the tribes had no chance of prevailing. For white politicians, soldiers and settlers, the primary motivations were greed and racism. Native Americans stood in the way of wealth and progress, and they were perceived as a subhuman species to be dealt with as quickly and as expediently as possible. Even generally peaceable tribes such as the Modoc and Nez Perce were treated ruthlessly.

“The whites were coming now, in numbers incomprehensible to Indians,” Cozzens writes. “They assaulted the Indian lands from every direction. Settlers rolled in from the east, while miners poked at the periphery of the Indian country from the west, north and south and simply overran it when new mineral strikes were made. In Westerners’ parlance, Indians who resisted the onslaught were to be ‘rounded up’ and rendered harmless on reservation land too miserable to interest the whites.” But Cozzens also notes that whites were not solely to blame for the dissolute loss of life and property. “. . . tribes had long battled one another over hunting grounds or horses. Indeed, fighting was a cultural imperative, and men owed their place in society to their prowess as warriors.”

The subjugation of Western indigenous people took place during the 30 years from 1861 to 1891, as the U.S. Army, acting under orders from Eastern politicians, pursued the policy of “mollification and eradication.” Beginning with the Dakota uprising in Minnesota and ending with the tragedy at Wounded Knee and the 1891 surrender of the Oglala Lakotas at Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota, the story is one of unremitting atrocity, suffering and death.

Former Civil War generals found themselves incapable of adapting to erratic and uncoordinated tribal uprisings. No less a national figure than William Tecumseh Sherman was inept at managing Indian affairs, and Winfield Scott Hancock, the hero of Gettysburg, found himself unable to negotiate with the Cheyenne and burned their villages in central Kansas. Phil Sheridan, who had swept the Shenandoah Valley clear of Confederate troops, found himself incapable of placating the tribes and conducted the Red River War, the Ute War, and the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, which resulted in the death of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and a sizable portion of his command. (For all his faithful service during the Civil War, Sheridan is best remembered for having said: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”) President Ulysses S. Grant, whom biographers portray as a friend to Indian people, convened a secret White House meeting to plan strategy for provoking a war with the Lakotas. In the late 19th century, the government, in an effort to eliminate further uprisings, outlawed Native American religious ceremonies, and altruistic white civilians established boarding schools where Indian children were required to speak English, study math and religion, and where they were punished for use of their native language and the exercise of their tribal beliefs.

Insofar as it’s possible to condense a 30-year period of national misadventure into 460 pages of carefully crafted text, Cozzens has produced an exemplary history that’s commendably objective, a reference book for the Indian wars. Beyond the intrinsic value of acquiring historical knowledge for its own sake, thoughtful readers may well gain a perspective on contemporary Native American issues — public health, education, gambling, discrimination and racism, the use of sports mascots, and the desecration of tribal lands. More than 100 years after the surrender of the last Indian tribe, suicide, alcoholism and crime remain serious problems on reservations.

Positive edifications notwithstanding, The Land Is Weeping, for all its detachment, allows for only one conclusion: The 19th-century sweep of “civilization” across the territories west of the Mississippi created for the Native American tribes who inhabited the region the cultural wasteland we now call peace.  OH

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press awards.

True South

A Sorry Yardstick

Regrets? I’ve had a few . . .

By Susan Kelly

Say what you want about the Golden Rule and its cousin, WWJD; file away Ann Landers’ famous chestnut, “Are you better off with or without him/her?” The axiom and adage and aphorism that trumps them all is this one: “How sorry will I be?”

How sorry will I be? applies to nearly every situation where you have to make a choice, a decision, or a judgment call. Watch this.

You’ve got to run to the grocery store for black olives for the taco salad. Your key fob is at the bottom of your bag. Your dry cleaning and a book on tape are the only things in the car. Seriously, who would want them? Why ruin a manicure digging, or waste precious minutes before Jeopardy! rummaging around for your keys to lock the car? Now is the time to ask yourself, how sorry will I be? If someone steals the book, right at the good part? How sorry will I be if someone steals the sweater that I wear every single week?

See? Endlessly applicable.

And again.

It’s Saturday night and you’re on to teach Sunday School at 9 the next day. Loving the convo and the gossip and the giggles. Waiter? Could I please — oh, wait. How sorry will I be if I have a third glass of wine? How sorry will I be if I just skip that funeral? How sorry will I be if I just wait until the next time the recycling truck comes around to take out the bin? How sorry will I be if I don’t shave today?

Granted, much of the motivation behind the question is the lack thereof, i.e., laziness, inertia. But its uses range from the merely mundane to the life-threatening to the existential. How sorry will I be if I postpone signing/renewing this contract/will/passport? How sorry will I be if I agree to this project/promotion? How sorry will I be if I let this relationship carry on even though I have no intention of marrying him/her? How sorry will I be if, just this once, I skip the colonoscopy/mammogram? How sorry will I be if I go to Costco/Best Buy/Trader Joe’s on a Saturday?

Works every time.  OH

In a former life, Susan Kelly published five novels, won some awards, did some teaching, and made a lot of speeches. These days, she’s freelancing and making up for all that time she spent indoors writing novels.

Simple Life

Sunday Man

’twixt Heaven and Earth

By Jim Dodson

Itís Sunday morning in the kitchen, two hours before the sunrise.

A welcome silence fills the house, and at this hour I often hear a still, small voice that may indeed belong to God but is more often than not the mewing of young Boo Radley, eager to be let out in order to roam the neighboring yards.

On the other side of the door sits old Rufus, balancing a universe, home from his nighttime prowlings, the crankiest cat of the known world, complaining to be let in and fed. The noisy one comes in, the quiet one slips out.

I am a butler to cats.

On the plus side, Sunday morning lies like a starry quilt over the neighborhood at this hour. A thin quarter moon hangs on the western horizon like a paper moon in a school play and Venus shines like a jewel in an Ethiop’s ear. Somewhere, miles away, a train rumbles by, a reminder of a world that is always going somewhere. But luckily I am here on Earth, a Sunday man beneath a hooked moon, for the moment going nowhere except the end of his driveway to fetch the Sunday paper for reading over the week.

Back inside, I sit for spell with my first coffee, reading one of what I call my Sunday morning books that run the gamut from the sonnets of Shakespeare to the essays of Wendell Berry, from Barbara Brown Taylor to Pierre Teilhard De Chardin — with a dash of Billy Collins and Mary Oliver for proper spiritual seasoning.

This particular Sunday is a gem long out of print, one man’s memoir of spiritual rejuvenation first published the year I was born, the story of a successful big-city writer who was forced by reasons of health and age to return to the small Wisconsin town of his birth. There he built a big house on ancestral land but initially struggled to find his place on the ground.

“A man, faced with the peculiar loneliness of where he doesn’t want to be,” writes Edward Harris Heth in My Life on Earth, “is apt to find himself driving along the narrow, twisting country roads, day or night, alone, brooding about the tricks life can play.”

Life is lived by degrees. Little by little, the author’s lonely drives along country roads yield a remarkable transformation of the angry city man. Heth gets to know — and admire — the eccentric carpenter who builds his house. He drops by a church supper and meets his neighbors, including the quirky Litten sisters “who play a mean game of canasta,” know all the village pump gossip “and have an Old Testament talent for disaster.” The ancient Litten girls both feed and inspire him to broader exploration.

His neighbor Bud Devere, a young and burly farmer who always shows up uninvited just to chat, insists that Heth see the Willow Road.

“I did not want to see what Bud saw. But the reluctance began fading away in me, that first time we went down the Willow Road. It covers scarcely more than a mile, but in that mile you can cover a thousand miles.” Traveling along it, the author sees spring wildflowers, undisturbed forests, a charming farmhouse with narcissus and hyacinth in bloom. He feels his pulse slow, and something akin to simple pleasure takes root.

“Bud kept silent. He wanted me to open my own eyes. . . . Since then, I’ve learned how many country people know and enjoy this art of the small scene and event, the birth of a calf, a remembered spot, the tumultuous labor and excitement of feeding the threshers, who come like locusts and swarm for a day over your farm and disappear again at night, the annual Welsh singing competition in the village — these are the great and proper events of a lifetime.”

Funny thing is, I have no idea how this little book, something of a surprise bestseller when it first appeared in 1953, got into my bookshelf, and now into my soul. It just magically appeared, a gift from the gods or perhaps a wise friend who knew I might discover it

Now the sun is up and so are the dogs. I am a butler to them, too. Despite a late frost, birds are singing and there is a new angle to the light — not to mention the first green tufts of daffodils rising like green fingers from the Earth.

Anticipating their Sunday walk, of course, the dogs think every day is the first day of spring. Mulligan, a black, flat-haired retriever I found as a pup a decade ago running wild along a busy highway, trots ahead off the lead, our tiny pack’s alpha girl, while Ajax — whom I call Junior — a golden retriever far too good-looking for his own good — lumbers along toting his own lead, deeply impressed with himself.

The neighborhood is old, with massive hardwoods arching like cathedral beams overhead. A man in his bathrobe steps out and shuffles hurriedly to the end of his sidewalk to fetch his Sunday morning paper. He gives a quick wave, bobbing a neighborly head, and hurries back inside to read.

The news of the world can wait. Because it never really changes, a story as old as cabbages and kings. Besides, we are briefly off the clock of the world all of Sunday, footloose upon the Earth, officially out of range, in search of an earthier divinity. Truthfully, I’m a bit sad to see winter’s cold and prospects of snow give way to the advance of daffodils. I am a winter’s boy, after all, but happy for a wife who is an endless summer girl dreaming of white lilacs in bloom.

“What is divinity,” asked Wallace Stevens in his lovely poem Sunday Morning

“if it can come

Only in silent shadows and in dreams?

Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,

In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else

In any balm or beauty of the earth,

Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?

Divinity must live within herself:

Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;

Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued

Elations when the forest blooms; gusty

Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;

All pleasures and all pains, remembering

The bough of summer and the winter branch,

These are the measures destined for her soul.”

By the time we reach the park, Lady Summer Bough and Lord Winter Branch, the strengthening sun has melted away the year’s final frost. Across the way stands an ancient oak I peddled by a half a million times as a kid on his way to the ball field; it looks like a lighted candelabra, limned with golden morning sun.

Funny how I only recently noticed this.

It is middle Sunday morning at church, our usual pew back right. The young preacher is named Greg. Not long ago we attended his ordination as a priest. My cheeky wife thinks Greg is almost too good-looking to be a priest. Lots of women in the parish seem to share this view.

The gist of his Sunday sermon is the need to look with fresh eyes upon Matthew’s Beatitudes. But the true strength of his Sunday morning message lies in the suggestion that we all should aspire to become our true selves and Christian mystics: “Don’t be scared by that word mystic. It simply means someone who has gone from an intellectual belief system to actual inner experience.” The journey from head to the heart, Greg says, means we are called to be mystics to chuck rules-based, belief-system Christianity in favor of something far more intimate and organic as the Earth around us.

To coax the point home, he mentions Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s observation that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of Hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.

And with spring on the Sunday doorstep, Father Greg provides the perfect metaphor directly from renewing nature — the mystery of how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, how becoming our true selves is not unlike the chrysalis that must crack open in order for the butterfly’s wings to gain strength and allow it to fly.

“And as we struggle,” notes the bright new associate rector, “it breeds compassion within our hearts. Just as the butterfly pressed fluid into its wings, our struggle enables compassion to flow through our bodies, a compassion that allows us to empathize with the suffering of others.”

I’ll admit I am a Sunday man who digs a good sermon. And this was a mighty thoughtful one. Young Greg is off to an excellent start, even if — like Junior — he is a tad too good-looking.

Speaking of digging, after a Chicago-style hotdog, I’m home for full Sunday afternoon working in my new garden, digging in the soil and delving in the soul.

Having pulled down an old pergola and cleaned out a handsome brick planter long overgrown with ivy, I lose complete track of time in the backyard planting Blue Angel hostas and a pair of broadleaf hydrangeas, repairing and raising a much-loved birdfeeder, hanging chimes high in a red oak and transplanting ostrich ferns. If one is closer to God’s heart in a garden, then perhaps I am a backyard mystic with dirty hands.

By Sunday sundown, my knees are aching but the healing is real. Renewed for a week of cabbages and kings, we settle down with the Sunday paper and a bit of Netflix before bed, though I tend to doze off halfway through the program.

Old Rufus goes out; Boo Radley comes in. The dogs follow us to bed. For some reason I seem to sleep so well on Sunday nights.  OH

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at

The Glory of Guilford

The largest and most fiercely contested battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign was fought in the small North Carolina hamlet of Guilford Courthouse. Almost 4,500 American militia and Continentals, commanded by Major General Nathanael Greene, defended the ground against 1,900 British veteran regulars and German allies commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis.

After two ½ hours of intense fighting, Cornwallis forced Greene to withdraw from the field. By retreating, the strength of Greene’s army was preserved, but Cornwallis’s victory was won at the cost of almost 25% of his army. Weakened, Cornwallis headed to Virginia where seven months later in Yorktown he would surrender to General George Washington.

More than 300 Revolutionary War reenactors from across the county muster at Guilford Courthouse Nation Military Park, the Colonial Heritage Center and Greensboro Country Park each March to reenact the battle and to live as the colonials did for the weekend. This year’s event takes place March 18-19.  OH

Lynn Donovan is a contributing photographer to O.Henry magazine.