O.Henry Ending

Yellow Fever

Or, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

By Cynthia Adams

I deviate from the Interstate, in search of relief from endless roads with nothing to offer but exits.

The town of Benson, with a namesake fruitcake that I, alone, apart from my mother, eat with gluttony, is a small town easily digested. A hint of quaintness; but mostly used car lots and fast food joints, and soon in my rearview mirror.

Tobacco fields, leaves curling yellow, stretch beside the road that leads to Wilmington. Then, a sign: Spivey’s Corner. My Honda slows. Where is the store? The store near a sign promoting the annual hollering contest? 

But it isn’t hollering that I remember; I remember a summer day in 1980. And an incident that scared me to the soles of a new pair of platforms.

We were jammed into an Oldsmobile wagon, a white Yank tank always thirsting for gas, returning from Wilmington. Our boss, the wheelman, swung into the country store. Two of us tumbled from the car. Our boss pumped as Jim and I took requests, then entered the store swatting at the heat.

The store was instantly familiar. Farmers gathered in places like this, escaping the endless demands of lands that gobbled all their time. They cupped salted peanuts into the throats of a cold Pepsi and debated the merits of seed and feed, and all the million ways that a farmer’s profits were nibbled to nothing. 

My father owned farmland. These were my people. And yet . . . the place fell unnaturally quiet.

Jim, his dark skin in high contrast to his starched white shirt, moved soundlessly. As a throat cleared, he disappeared behind a rack of Wise potato chips. My heart began thrumming. I wore a decent pantsuit, the one chosen earlier for a breakfast meeting. My shoes, however, were an indulgence. New, impractical, jonquil yellow platforms. 

The clerk at the counter stared, eyes never leaving me. I snatched up Nabs and fished bottles from the drink chest, placing them onto the counter with a ten. Our eyes met. Hers glared. I slid mine away, around the store; Jim was still somewhere behind the chips.  Apparently, black men were an uncommon sight in Spivey’s Corner.  A sight that was attracting uncomfortable attention.

“I just got one question,” she muttered, breaking a pin-drop silence. She of an undeterminable age; maybe 30, maybe 50, with graying worn teeth. I mustered one syllable, dropping my eyes to Alexander Hamilton, and smelling trouble more potent than her sour smell.

“Yes?”  The store door slammed shut.

“Hurry, Jim,” I whispered to myself, and stared down again as if I had borrowed my feet for a test walk.

“Whar’d you get them shoes?”

I did not breathe.  A frisson ran through me to the waffle soles. 

“Prago-Guyes,” I answered.  The wonderful Greensboro shop was where all my spare money flowed.

“Aw,” she answered, pushing my change across the counter. Change I pocketed without counting as I hurried out on the waffle soles to the Olds, gassed and ready, with Jim waiting, his breathing shallow.

We pulled away with Spivey’s Corner, home of the hollering contest, still much closer than it appeared in the rear view mirror.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry based in Greensboro. Her dear colleagues Jim Isler and David Atwood are long gone, as is Prago-Guyes.

The Accidental Astrologer


With the stars in level-headed Libra, balance is everything


By Astrid Stellanova

Librans are no airheads, even though y’all know it is an air sign. Libra is the sign of balance. A true Libran likes nothing more than a balanced bank account and a balance beam. But they also have a very off-kilter sense of humor. Funnyman Zach Galifianakis is a Libran (born in Wilkesboro). Susan Sarandon, Vladimir Putin, Lil Wayne, Serena Williams and Will Smith are Librans too. Imagine having that list of guests for a big ole Libra birthday party, Sweet Things. — Ad Astra, Astrid


Libra (September 23–October 22)

Sugar, last month you spent too many hours of your life rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Now, you’ve found a whole new (read: not lost) cause and that makes you happy. But do take a tee-ninesy bit of time to stretch out on a lounge chair and just look back over the past year. You’ve weathered some mighty storms, but paddled your way back to shore and survived those stormy seas. This is the month to allow yourself some time for friends and family although you feel pressured to keep your eye on work issues. You have got a good year ahead, with many of your biggest life obstacles faced and overcome.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

You’ve never seen a mirror you didn’t like — c’mon, you know there is a secret little part of you that does like your own reflection. You invest in yourself and it shows. But consider the hard fact that you cannot eat makeup and become a more beautiful person on the inside . . . that is going to require you to put somebody else ahead of little old you.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

Is Bigfoot real? As real as your windfall fantasies are. Honey, you can keep on buying those lottery tickets and spending your hard-earned cash like you already won, but it ain’t going to get you where you need to be. The truth is this: People admire you for your imagination. But use it to create, not to build castles in the air.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

You got a shock and a bad break. Things should have gone differently. Life can be a lazy Susan of crap cakes, and we all get a serving sooner or later. But here’s the nice part: The month ahead will not be more of the same. In fact, something you missed out on is gonna present itself again — a second chance, Sweet Thang.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

It has been a lonely chapter for you, and you went into full-on hermit crab phase and buried yourself at the home front. Look, Honey, your best friend is not your salad spinner. You have a lot of friends who miss their pal. If you only knew how many consider you a role model, you’d put the lettuce in the Frigidaire and get out more.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

Your never-ending urgency is like a 24/7 emergency. Are your pants on fire or is that just smoke you’re blowing? Have you noticed how often you ring the bell, crack the whip and sound all alarms, only to have bewildered looks or eye rolls follow? Maybe try being a little more sensitive; try meditating. Just keep your hands off the alarm.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

This is when the stars move into your complementary opposite, but you sometimes lack the gumption to appreciate it. October is when Aries will grow nostalgic for the green promises of spring, and miss out on the beauty of the fall. Balance in all things, if you want to be a sure-footed Ram. Look up to the night sky!

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

As much as you like to think of yourself as a trendsetter, a few people see it differently. Like, rumor has it that the last original thought you had was probably back when vinyl still ruled. That galls you, right? Ain’t fair, right? So prove the rumormongers wrong. How? Stop dragging out the same old same old.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

The crazy train had not even left the station before you decided to kick all the passengers off. Sugar, you are the conductor. The destination is sometimes to the town of Wonderful Madness and sometimes somewhere else. Don’t leave friends guessing — where exactly is this train going, and why are we all here?

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

The year has been so topsy-turvy you have had a tough time calibrating. This is a good month to chill and watch the leaves change, Baby. Take a road trip to some place you like and try and find solid ground. It isn’t possible to balance by standing on one foot and playing it all Zen, when you really feel Elvis-like and all shook up.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

The Leo nature can be melancholic. You call it philosophical. But, face it, Honey; some think you’ve just been in a bad mood for several years. If you decide to be less philosophical and more grateful, you would find that you have talents you haven’t used and friends who don’t even know you miss them.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

If this year taught you anything, it’s pithy things like have an attitude of gratitude. Stitch that onto a pillow where you can see it. When you take stock this fall, notice that it is life changing to let those who made your good fortune possible know you are aware. Unseen hands have helped you; now move your lips and say “thank you.”  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.

October Almanac

By Ash Alder

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne


It happens in October. The morning is charged with autumnal magic, and ancient memories of the circus awaken in our bones.

A yellow spider descends from the porch rafter like an aerial silk dancer, and a crow pivots round on the wrought iron rail between the fence pickets. In the garden, feathery muhly grass whispers a simple incantation, and winter squash and warty goblins embody the weird and the wonderful. The world is a carnival of texture and color, and spirited creatures remind us of stilt walkers and acrobats and mystical sideshows.

The spider ascends.

Inside, red and golden spirals fall away with each smooth crank of the apple peeler, and the dog-eared pages of the family cookbook mark applesauce; apple dumplings, crisp and tart; great aunt Linda’s brown butter apple loaf.

The crow caws madly in the garden, calls us back to the front porch, where sunlight dances in the spider’s web. She’s spun a message: You, too, are the magician.

The Stinking Rose

In ancient Greece, brides carried bouquets of garlic in lieu of flowers. In ancient Egypt, it was fed those who built the Great Pyramids. In addition to warding off vampires and evil spirits, garlic does wonders for sautéed turnip, beet and mustard greens. Break bulbs into cloves and plant them before the first hard freeze. Although it won’t be ready for harvest until next June, growing your own garlic means you’ll be well equipped for cold (and collard) season next fall. And wedding season, of course.

Brain Candy & Ivy People

In the spirit of Halloween, tricks and treats:

• Weighing in at over 2,600 pounds, the largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by a farmer named Mathias Wellemijns, who wheeled the monster from his home in Belgium to the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Germany last year to take top prize.   

• Master illusionist Harry Houdini, one of the greatest magicians who ever lived, mysteriously died on Halloween night in 1926. Among his first tricks: picking the lock on his mother’s cupboard to retrieve her fresh-baked apple pies.

• Egyptian farmers swaddled wooden figures with nets to create the first “scarecrows” in recorded history. Only they weren’t scarecrows, per se. They were used to keep quail from the wheat fields along the Nile River.

• During the pre-Halloween celebration of Samhain, a Gaelic festival that marks the end of harvest season, bonfires were lit to ensure the return of the sun. Druid priests offered bones of cattle to the flames. “Bone fire” became “bonfire.”

• The Full Hunters Moon rises just after sunset on Thursday, October 5 — a prelude to Mad Hatter’s Day on Friday, October 6. “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Ponder this and other riddles over tea in the garden — top hat optional.

• The ancient Celts looked to the trees for knowledge and wisdom. According to Celtic tree astrology, those born from September 30 – October 27 associate with ivy, an evergreen vine is known for its ability to cling and bind. Ivy people are charming and charismatic, but their compassion, fierce loyalty to others and ability to flourish against all odds is what sets them apart from other signs of the zodiac. Ivy people are most attracted to ash (February 19–March 17) and oak (June 10–July 7) signs. OH



The sweet calm sunshine of October, now

Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mold

The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough

Drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.

–William Cullen Bryant

Reverie Place

Richard Petty’s homage to the love of a lifetime

By Ross Howell Jr.     Photographs by Lynn Donovan

Imagine a love story.

Let’s say it begins in 1958, when a 21-year-old man marries his 17-year-old sweetheart and sets out to make his mark in the world. He wins fame and fortune in a dangerous game, his wife and children by his side. In time, our hero and his bride suffer setbacks and even tragedy. But these challenges make their ties to family even stronger.

Then, in 2014, the man loses his sweetheart to cancer. With children and grandchildren gathered, she passes away peacefully at the home the couple had built together.

So we close our romance and reach for the tissues, right?

Not Richard Petty.

Instead, one fine morning, after talking with his children, he walks out in the fields of the farm where he’s lived with his wife for 40 years and picks a spot to create a garden in her memory. A place he’ll fill with living things, where people can gather to celebrate and pray.

And that’s why I happen to be driving through Level Cross toward Randleman. I turn on to Providence Church Road, looking for the gate guards for the drive into “Reverie Place,” Petty’s 528-acre estate. I pull in, passing the brick guards with their black metal gates, a handsome gold “P” glistening on each one.

There’s a fenced pasture to my right and woodlands to my left. Ahead there’s another set of gate guards. Beyond them is a flagpole, an American flag stirring in the breeze. Lion sculptures stand post at the guards below a vigilant eagle and a pineapple, symbol of hospitality.

The drive forks, curving to the right toward a big, low-slung brick house shaded by oaks, or straight ahead toward fenced pastures and a horse barn. That’s where I spot O.Henry photographer Lynn Donovan and her husband Dan speaking with someone.

I park the car and Lynn introduces me to Rebecca Petty Moffitt, the youngest of the four Petty children. She serves as executive director of the Petty Family Foundation and has agreed to show us around the property today.

My attention is captured right away by a fountain opposite the drive. In its play of water are sculpted hummingbirds, some flying, some at rest. The fountain stands in the center of a circular basin of stone.

“The artist did four different hummingbirds to represent us children,” Moffitt tells me. “The fountain is the only place where you’ll find all four of them together.” A sign on a low stone wall lets me know this is the spot Petty and his children picked to honor their wife and mother.

The sign reads, “The Lynda Petty Memorial Garden.”

A circular walk around the fountain leads to an arched wooden bower set on stone foundations. Nearby are big stones with plantings of holly, hydrangeas and day lilies.

“Momma was a real gardener,” Moffitt says. “Vegetables, fruits, flowers, you name it. Daylilies were her favorites.”

As I look up at the bower, Moffitt explains that the structure was built to suggest the narthex of a church. Southern Pines landscape designer Mark Wesley Parson, a family friend, helped with the design of the garden.

I step through the narthex into an open circle of manicured lawn, perhaps a hundred feet in diameter. Bordering the circle are more plantings — crepe myrtle, Mexican sage, butterfly bush, white hydrangea, holly and more.

Straight ahead is another wooden structure built on stone footings. It rises to a peak, and above is the shape of a bell tower. I turn to Moffitt.

“The altar?”

She nods. There are wings, with plenty of room for wedding attendants.

I take a moment to enjoy the quiet here — a sanctuary carpeted with grass, walled in by living things, vaulted by the sky above. A good place for a soul to linger. The wind sighs in the pine woods beyond the altar.

“Mark wanted the design to direct you forward,” Moffitt says, “and up.”

“I see that,” I say. “It’s a beautiful spot.”

“Two of my nieces were married here,” she says. “You wouldn’t expect it, but inside the circle we can seat 150 people.”

And that’s where our love story takes a turn toward the practical.

Five hundred acres is a lot to keep up, and Richard Petty wants his estate to be self-sustaining financially. While he’s given 100 acres to Victory Junction, the camp for children with chronic or serious illnesses founded in honor of his grandson, Adam, there are still four people who work full time to maintain the place.

“Daddy’s proud of the success he’s had,” Moffitt says. “And he likes sharing it with people, having people on the property.”

So the family came up with the idea of making Lynda’s memorial garden and other places on the Petty farm available for weddings and other celebrations. They developed a website, www.reverie-place.com, where a variety of options for uses of the property, April through October, can be found.

“One weekend we had two formal weddings with big receptions,” Moffitt says. “Honestly, it was just too hectic.” They’ve learned in spite of demand, they need to limit the number of activities they book.

Down the hill from The Lynda Petty Memorial Garden is a pasture fence and just beyond, a trim horse barn.

“Oh, we have brides who’ll prefer something more casual,” Moffitt says. “Something country.” So staff at the farm will decorate the barn and put straw bales out for people to sit.

“We’ve had several weddings there,” Moffitt says.

We turn and head toward the Pavilion. As I drove in, I missed seeing a large stone fire pit with metal benches.

“This is a great spot for making s’mores,” Moffitt says.

The Pavilion is large, with a metal roof, and wooden, cantilevered supports set on stone footings.

“It’s a great place for receptions, parties, showers, company events,” Moffitt says. Canvas sides can be lowered if the weather is rainy or cold. White tables and chairs are still in place from an earlier event.

Moffitt tells me the Pavilion was built on what used to be the family tennis courts.

“This was such a great place to grow up as a kid,” she says, smiling. “We were always doing something, riding four-wheelers in the woods, whatever.”

Tall crepe myrtles line one side of the Pavilion. On the other side is a water garden shaded by big hardwoods. Water spurts from the trunk of a happy elephant sculpture into a two-stage spillway before splashing into a pool. There are cattails, horsetails, water lilies, hostas and rhododendrons. There are frog and heron figures. The sound of the water is soothing, tranquil.

We’re close to the Petty residence, and I notice here and there are painted hot-air balloon sculptures, metal bicycle sculptures, frogs and huge planters.

“Oh, that’s Daddy,” Moffitt says. “Sometimes he gets a little carried away.”

She smiles broadly. She tells me her father likes to look through direct mail catalogs, and when he orders something, he orders plenty.

“To tell you the truth,” she continues, “we try to get to his mail before he does, so we can pull out all the catalogs!”

As we’re looking at the Pavilion and water garden, we’re joined by Moffitt’s sister, Sharon Petty Farlow, executive director of the Petty Museum in Randleman and the event coordinator for Reverie Place. A kindergarten and elementary school teacher for 32 years, Farlow serves on the Randolph County School Board, just as her mother did.

Farlow is driving a golf cart, and asks us to hop on so we can ride down to see another attraction on the estate. We travel along a drive lined with cherry trees.

“They’re so pretty in the spring,” Farlow says. Like her sister, she has a wide, bright smile, and laughs easily.

“They alternate,” she continues, “one with white blossoms, the next with pink.”

We start down a slow grade, the road bending to the left. On that side beyond a pasture fence is a grove of oaks in a pasture. I see a couple of bison and a donkey.

“Daddy has longhorn cattle somewhere in the pasture,” Farlow says. “And peacocks at the barn. He always has something.” She tells me how she’ll sometimes see her father out in the fields in the early morning, looking things over.

Above the drive I glimpse a small grape arbor with apple trees beyond.

“Momma had those trees put in,” Moffitt says. “She loved making her pies.”

We start down the grade. Straight ahead lies a wide expanse of mown grass with a big pond stretching to an earth dam. A gentle point of land juts into the pond. There’s open pasture to the left, and river birches and woodlands to the right.

We pull into a circular drive next to a log cabin.

Farlow parks the cart and we pile out. The pond has a big aerator. We listen to the water. Spray refracts into little jewels in the sunlight. It’s a peaceful spot.

“Daddy had this cabin moved here,” Farlow says. “It dates from the 1800s. There was a barn attached, and he moved it, too. That’s where the kitchen and bath were put in.”

I comment on the johnny house behind the cabin, and Farlow chuckles.

“It’s actually a Porta-john for outdoor events,” she says. “We boarded it over for effect.”

We walk around to the front of the cabin, where a porch overlooks the pond. Big bears, carved by an artist in Wyoming, stand watch. We climb the steps and go inside the cabin, blinking at the change from bright sunlight.

Around us are antiques, racing memorabilia and quilts. A massive stone fireplace reaches from floor to ceiling. There’s an antique pie safe, a wooden ice box, and a “Country Charm” reproduction woodstove in the kitchen.

“At one time, Momma owned an antiques shop,” Farlow says. “Daddy always said the problem with the shop was Momma was its best customer.” Her bright smile flashes.

I step up a narrow stairway to a loft, where there’s a metal frame bed, quilts and antique dolls. I look down onto the main floor. The two sisters haven’t seen each other in days, so they’re sitting together, chatting about children and schedules and relatives. The sound of their voices is musical, comforting.

I step back to the main floor. The two sisters stand.

“Sometimes brides like to put on their gowns here,” Moffitt says. “Where it’s nice and quiet.” She tells me there’s a bower they can set up on the point of land by the pond. Several brides have had their weddings there. Sometimes people will rent the cabin for a weekend getaway.

“I’ll lock up behind you,” Farlow says. Moffitt and I start for the porch. By the window is a big round table. Moffitt stops for a moment.

“We brought that table from the house,” she says quietly. She tells me how the Petty family’s life in racing meant a life of weekends on the road.

“But on Tuesday nights,” Moffitt says, “Daddy would be home, with all of us, and Momma would always fix beans and cornbread.” She tells me about sitting around the table with her brother and sisters, with her mother and father. I can hear in her voice how special those meals were.

We walk out onto the porch and down the steps. I hear the door lock behind us. We step around to the golf cart as Farlow closes and locks the side door to the cabin.

She gets behind the wheel of the cart.

“There’ve been so many events for Daddy’s birthday,” Farlow says. “You know, sponsors, friends, fans. And family. He turned 80 in July.”

Moffitt smiles at her sister as the cart starts up the grade. Then she looks at me.

“I said to him, ‘Daddy, you keep going to all these events, you’re gonna wind up being 200 years old!’” We all laugh together.

As we pass the curve where Lynda Petty’s arbor and trees overlook the drive, across from the pastures where Richard Petty likes to walk alone in the mornings, I get the feeling the love story we imagined at the beginning of this piece isn’t over quite yet.  OH

When Ross Howell Jr. was a student at Floyd County High School in Virginia, stock car driver Curtis Turner was a hometown hero, the Wood Brothers were building race cars with their father Glen in nearby Stuart, and Richard Petty was on his way to becoming a legend.

Your New Cadillac Has Arrived

As another repurposed architectural gem is rescued by providence and sweat
equity, a nearly century-old monument to American ingenuity promises
to reignite a once vibrant neighborhood

By Billy Ingram     Photographs by Amy Freeman

In its heyday the south side of downtown, under the shadow of the King Cotton Hotel and bordered by the train tracks, was populated by venerable businesses such as the Gate City Hotel, New Baltimore Cafe, Greensboro Tavern, Harold Sykes’ Amoco, Weinstein Music, Cox Furniture, Bishop’s Record Shop and Groome Tire. Also flourishing were lodge halls, boarding houses, billiard parlors, union headquarters, barber shops, florists, alongside wholesalers in ice, dairy, poultry, produce, candy, feed and seed. Some of the finest homes the city has ever seen completed this tableau.

This epicenter of luxury and style during the first half of the 20th century, astonishingly intact, is the most concentrated pocket of historically significant properties outside South Elm. As the 1920s began to roar, situated on the southeastern corner of East Market and Forbis (now Church), was Carolina Cadillac, later called Adamson before becoming Black Cadillac-Oldsmobile in the mid-’50s. This was automotive row for many decades. Next door to the Cadillac dealership, now under the Graphica logo, was Lowman Studebaker. Trader’s Chevrolet was just up the block on East Market, now a parking lot, while Gate City Motors was a few blocks north on Church, now enjoying life as the Children’s Museum. Another survivor, on Hughes and Church, is the Art Deco inspired Ingram Motor Company’s Ford Truck headquarters, built around 1950 for my grandfather Bill Ingram Sr.

Automotive dealerships erected from the 1920s into the 1940s were often opulent castles, richly appointed with marble or terracotta columns and impressive ornamentations meant to assure customers that this business was a permanent member of the community. This Caddy Showroom is a primo example, with two-story–high ceilings, large picture windows and wide open spaces necessary for displaying those motorized behemoths Detroit was mass producing, like the 1957 Coupe de Ville land yacht, 5,000 pounds of hulking polished chrome and steel that seated six comfortably.

When Jay and Andrea Jung (pronounced “young”) embarked on a wall-to-wall reimagining of this showplace that once housed chariots of the industrial-age gods, the end result wasn’t what they originally had in mind. Jay explains what drove them, so to speak, to where they are now. “We bought the Studebaker building in 1997, then bought this one in 2007, but everything kinda crashed. Then Design Archives let us know a few months after we bought it that they were moving to Tate Street,” he says, adding that the place sat mostly empty until 2013. “People would come by and they would get excited about it, but they just didn’t have enough money to develop it.”

Then the Jungs were steered in an unexpected direction as Jay tells it, “Along came Zack Matheny, who had just joined DGI [Downtown Greensboro Inc.]. He put us together with Kathi Dubel in economic development and they are the reason we went ahead [with the event space]. We wanted to invest right here in Greensboro and Zack saw that.” For the next four years the duo, along with Jay’s brother and business partner Tom, made this their DIY project, “My brother and I, along with one artist here in Greensboro, built pretty much everything in here.” That meant acquiring a concrete mixer, welding equipment, a woodworking shop, then setting about to create a true work of art on a deteriorating canvas.

“We went through a lot of iterations as to what this might be before finally settling on it being an event space,” Andrea tells me. The Jungs considered a market at one point, then a restaurant. Regardless of the showroom’s ultimate intended use, the Herculean effort to revive it would have to begin with the unglamorous task of repairing flooded boiler rooms, modernizing bathrooms, restoring skylights and demolishing the antiquated offices. That alone took two years. In the meantime Jay says, “My brother and I were head of design for Panera Bread. The way the CEO put it was, ‘Figure out where we should throw the football. Don’t figure out where we should be right now, figure out where we should be in the future.’” Traveling all around the country, they had the good fortune to encounter creative artisans and explore some exotic materials Panera was using for a radical redesign of its 1,800 locations.

Back in Greensboro, concrete 9 inches thick was poured over the garage floor, then coated and polished; all the glasswork was replaced and reglazed, including the skylights. Modular lighting, both wall-mounted and hanging, was installed along with baffling to reduce echoing. A rounded concrete loading dock with a bent steel accent doubles as a stage that leads to an outdoor garden patio paved in recycled granite. Taking advantage of the exposed brick walls surrounding the spacious interior, the Jungs were determined to use only steel, concrete, stone, wood, chrome and glass for fixtures and furnishings to give birth to what they’re calling Cadillac Service Garage, as a hat-tip to the past.

An entire wedding celebration can be held under one roof, with the ceremony taking place in the garage, Andrea Jung explains. “Then we send everybody up front to the showroom for cocktails and appetizers, and we flip the back for the seated reception. So you can be divided up in the three spaces without feeling separated.” There’s a magnificent archway off the main foyer that flows out of the comfy bride and groom’s lounges so the couple can lace up before the face-up, then make their dramatic entrance in style. A nearby Mid-Century brick house, originally a paint and body shop, serves as the operation’s offices and staging area for seamless transitions.

The cozy mezzanine, which used to be nondescript sales offices, overlooks both the front showroom with the original black-and-white checkered tile and the former repair shop in the rear. One example of the meticulous attention to detail prevalent throughout this enterprise are the twin staircases leading to the upper landing. “On purpose, we built these at a 7-degree angle,” Jay tells me. “There are no 90-degree angles, which gives it a lot of visual interest.” The side railings came to them by chance, as Jay recounts: “We have a really good friend who called and said, ‘I’m standing in a dumpster and there are huge sheets of curved meshed metal. Can you use it?’ I said, ‘Send me a picture.’ He sent it to me, I said, ‘We’re coming right over.’” When the Jungs arrived at the dumpster, they pulled the metal out “and ran it through a rolling machine backwards,” Jay recalls. Once the sheets were straightened out, he says, “Then we blasted them and coated them.”

Clever touches are found wherever you look. In front of an upstairs wall, adorned with 5-by-10-foot slabs of Italian porcelain resembling copper, are heavy metal swivel stools with polished mahogany tops. Jay explains how they came about: “We drew them out, then had the pieces cut and we welded them together. The whole thing is designed to be a part of the railing, they swivel on the railing posts.”

Andrea points out the front entrance. “This was just a solid storefront,” she says. “When we started renovating the city said, ‘You can’t open up on the sidewalk, that’s a tripping hazard.’ But you can’t open the door to the inside because that’s a fire hazard!” A vestibule of steel with concrete overlays was crafted to support custom-made doors carved from reclaimed wood, sandblasted to deepen the grain. “When we fashioned this vestibule we wanted to make sure it wasn’t all hard and cold,” Jay says. “So this warm, beautiful wood kind of meshes with it. But we also take a lot of time in how we finish our steel. This steel, even though it’s hard and cold, it has a softness to it. So we would pick our metal very carefully. We rub it, distress it, finish it in a certain way.” Indeed, it never occurred to me that this wasn’t the original entrance, and I’d been here several times in the 1990s when this one-time derelict was the scene for rave parties. “Everything we’ve done in the place is of the character of the building,” Andrea notes. “Everything feels like it should feel, but it’s all cleaned up and new.”

The entire 13,000-square foot ceiling was paneled in stained heart pine slats rescued from a warehouse in Eden, giving this Industrial chic arena with Steampunk undertones a distinctly warm feeling. Even the dinner tables are manufactured from thick wooden beams. Jay explains, “We planed them to make sure they were functionally stable, then we painted them, rubbed them, painted them again, rubbed them again” to give the surface a distressed but silky smooth, ice creamy lusciousness.

How does this nearly century-old beauty fit within the surrounding neighborhood? Directly across the street from Cadillac Service Garage on East Market is Mitchell’s Clothing. Ninety-year old John Mitchell tells me he’s been haberdashering in this very spot since 1937. “I was 11 years old. The owner was my uncle, I used to come work here after school,” he recalls. A few years later his father bought the business. Mitchell’s is a living testament to how the area has changed. “You had the Hudson dealership next to Johnson Motors. Then you had the Clegg-King barber shop in the basement of the hotel. And Greensboro Barbecue, that man’s name was Al Kypris, they had good food,” John Mitchell remembers, before ticking off a list of area diners operating out of remodeled railroad cars. “There used to be a chicken place on Sycamore Street where they sold live chickens. Then you had Patterson’s Seafood on Davie; they had trays all the way around the store with different kinds of fresh fish on ice. You’d pick out what you want and they’d go in the back and clean it for you. These people would bring the fish in [from the coast] every Friday,” he says.

Referring to the charming,  ’20s-era, three-story brick apartment house next door to his shop at 313 East Market, Mitchell says, “Upstairs, back in the old days, a lot of Greeks, when they came from the Old Country, would live up there for a while. A Greek woman there used to scrub the steps every day and kept it clean and nice.” Dual ground-floor storefronts below the rental units once housed Dabbs Furniture.

Dating back to the ’20s, on the corner of Market and Lyndon, is another restored relic, the enormous Dick’s Laundry building with a decorative brickwork facade and large swatches of windows, unique for the period. Lost to “progress” was the two-story, block-long Arctic Coal and Ice facility that would have offered a world of possibilities today. On the 400 block of East Market is an old-school brick shopping strip completed in two stages, the first around 1951 for Eat Well Cafe and Guilford Dry Cleaners that now, fittingly, houses an authentic barbershop, itself frozen in time.

The railroad overpass that caps this district was the historical demarcation of what was euphemistically referred to in olden times as “the other side of the tracks,” with dual pedestrian tunnels underneath, one side designated for whites, the other for blacks. According to Mitchell, “From Church Street to the bridge was more or less a buffer zone between the black town and the white town.”

Around the corner on Lyndon Street are two of the neighborhood’s remaining single family homes, one of which has been Frankensteined into eight units, along with four San Francisco–style row houses from 1905. They are a very unusual design for our state, but another block of row houses used to exist nearby, at the rear of the News and Record property. These are followed on Lyndon by the Crane and Tomlinson Plumbing warehouses, the latter now an artists’ collective, and a distribution depot for Brinkley & Holland, all built in the 1920s and ’30s. Mitchell recalls that during Prohibition, “I’d see the lawyers and businessmen walk across the street and I always wondered where they went. I found out they had a bootlegger house over there on Lyndon where they’d sell whiskey. They’d have a couple of drinks and go back to work.” Also in sight, the palatial but underused Anderson Produce Market at Church and Friendly with a stark but sturdy Art Deco façade dating back to the mid-1920s.

Black Cadillac-Olds moved to their current showroom on Bessemer around 1966, leaving behind a cavernous cadaver. The southern edge of downtown went to seed as businesses fled the city center in general; that decline was hastened after our premiere hotel became a fleabag, as Mitchell witnessed firsthand. “The King Cotton got rundown, people got in there and they were rowdy. They used to throw bottles out of the windows on people walking by and stuff like that,” he says. That 13-story high-rise, once the city’s symbol of elegance and permanence, was imploded in 1971. Before that decade ended, even the train depot up and left. It wasn’t until another 40 years, with the restoration of the Studebaker dealership in 2007 to serve as offices for Jay Jung’s marketing firms Graphica and Think/Create, followed by the repurposing of Dick’s Laundry, that there was a glimmer of hope for this side pocket of downtown to experience a comeback.

Lit up at night, under its original metal sidewalk canopy, Cadillac Service Garage sparkles with the elegance and panache of a 1940s cruise ship. Accommodating a maximum of 680 people, this capacious event space can be scaled easily for big or small receptions. When First Bancorp acquired Carolina Bank they had their first big corporate meet-up here. And, if you happen to be in the area, by all means stop by Mitchell’s Clothing and check out his prodigious selection of hats and shoes, then you can say you shopped where your grandfather did. I couldn’t resist asking John Mitchell how he managed to stay in business all these decades. His reply came quickly: “I open the door.”

It seems every parcel of Greensboro has its own made-up moniker, most recently an area north of downtown was christened Midtown despite its being anything but. Jay Jung believes the neighborhood Cadillac Service Garage now anchors deserves its own nickname, “Zack and I were brainstorming about it and we thought it would be great to call it DUMBO, Down Under the Market Bridge Overpass, kinda like it is in Brooklyn.”  OH

Billy Ingram was born and raised in Greensboro but, for a period in the 1980s and ’90s, was part of the Hollywood team the ad world has enshrined as, “The New York Yankees of motion picture advertising.” He is the author of five books, as if anyone reads anymore.

The Craftsmen’s Art

The warmth and good energy of Michael Walker’s bungalow and greenhouse

By Maria Johnson   

Photographs by Bert VanderVeen

He went there three years ago, to the heart of Greensboro’s Irving Park, to give a quote for reupholstering a built-in sofa. That’s when the greenhouse came up. The homeowner said she was tearing down the steel-and-glass structure to make room for a bigger garage.

Mike Walker was startled.

As the owner of Murphy’s Upholstery, he’d driven past the white-ribbed bubble many times. Joined to the garage, it seemed like a fixture at the home that once belonged to Ralph Price, the son of Julian Price, long-ago chairman of Greensboro’s cornerstone Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company.

Though badly rusted in places, the greenhouse sported automatic pop-up ceiling vents and metal blinds that descended over Gothic arched sides.

“I just thought it was super cool, and I hated to see it destroyed,” says Walker, who dashed off a $1,000 check for the greenhouse. He and a couple of friends spent nearly two weeks disassembling it.

“We took it down rusty screw by broken glass pane,” he says. “It fought us at every turn. A screw that should have taken 20 seconds to remove took 20 minutes.”

Walker had the perfect place to resurrect the greenhouse: the backyard of a house he’d just bought, and planned to rent, adjacent to his own home on Mayflower Drive near UNCG. Maybe, he thought, he would build a potting shed as the greenhouse’s new fourth wall.

There was one hitch: He had no cash. So the glass and steel rested in pieces in the yard for a year until he sold Murphy’s Upholstery, which put the green in greenhouse.

Walker called on builder Larry Shaver and architect Carl Myatt to create a new companion for the glass nursery: an office from which Walker could tend the rental properties that he owns with business partner Jim Menius.

Less than a cottage but more than a shed, the 16-by-16 foot Craftsman-tinged-with-Victorian office features a copper-topped cupola crowned with a classic rooster-based weathervane; a four-gable roof with yawning copper leader heads and downspouts at each corner; and a flagstone patio to welcome visitors.

Inside, the vaulted ceiling snatches your breath with four deep wedges — the undersides of the converging gables — that peak in the middle with an oculus, or round window under the cupola.

“We wanted to expose the structure,” says Myatt. “The space was small, so we wanted to expand it visually.”

Overhead, tension rods sprout from the four corners. They’re anchored in the center by an iron circle that hovers over a compass rose laid into the vinyl hardwood floor. The repetition of circles from oculus to floor was intentional.

A structural engineer made sure the room was solid.

Walker made sure the room sang. He populated it with handsome furniture — barrister bookcases, a rolltop desk, a library desk, a red leather Chesterfield sofa, and a wall-mounted map case that houses 1940s Los Angeles schematics — population, road and utility maps — glued to fabric rolls.

A pencil sketch of Walker’s grandfather Logan Walker hangs on the wall. Mike Walker has dedicated the office, which he calls Logansprout, to his grandfather, who was a roofer. Mike Walker insisted that the building be roofed with Tamko shingles, the brand his grandfather sold.

More history literally drips from the ceiling here. Walker snared the cylindrical hanging lights from First Presbyterian Church during a renovation.

A white iron door — Walker bought it from antiques dealer Mary Wells, who said it came from a department store — leads to the greenhouse, which sports a new foundation and brick floor laid by mason Michael McKinnis.

Heated with a small gas unit, it’s a wonderful place for plants to sunbathe and for people to escape nippy weather. Last year, Walker hosted a Christmas party on the coldest night of the year. Guests gladly signed up for tours of the greenhouse, which shelters Walker’s plants, some of which he has nurtured for 30 years. Many were gifts from dear friends.

“There are so many pieces out here that tie into my history or Greensboro history that I never feel alone,” says Walker. “I call this my happy place. I come out here to work, but it doesn’t seem like work.”

The greenhouse office sits in the yard next to Walker’s, but because of a drain line that crosses the yards diagonally, the structure is oriented at a diagonal, facing Walker’s fours-square Craftsman bungalow. The home has an interesting backstory, too. It was built in 1927. The first owner was Southern Railway engineer Andrew Waynick.

“The home was built to a nice scale,” says Walker. “The bones were absolutely wonderful.”

A native of Pinehurst, Walker first happened upon the house when he was a student of international finance at UNCG in the 1990s. A friend lived there, and over the years, Walker left the house with oddities such as a wooden leg that he found in the attic and the metal door to a coal-burning firebox. For years, Walker used the door as a yard ornament at his home in Sunset Hills.

Then, one day in 2000, after he’d veered away from the world of international finance and into the upholstery business (by way of a catchall job at Tobacco USA and a cooking gig in the Cayman Islands), he drove by the Mayflower house and noticed it was for sale.

“All it needed was a little love,” he says.

He summoned his father, Donald, a building inspector who showed up with a flashlight for a look-see.

“He said, ‘Son, this house is built to the highest standards,’ then he wrote me a check for $5,000 and said, ‘I’ll help you buy it,’” says Walker.

Walker moved in and set about enhancing what was already there. He kept the radiators, which were tied to a functioning gas furnace. He added a forced-air system for extra warmth and chill, but the radiators steal the visual show, especially in the front room, where the grille harmonizes with antiques in a sanguine room that’s painted a color Walker describes as “Botticelli red.”

Among the eye-poppers is a huge brass censer with a coal-kettle base and domed, filigreed lid. In the same Middle Eastern vein is a brass lamp with a lacy metal shade with folds like bird wings.

Walker loves a curio. In his mind, finds are finds, whether they come from estate auctions, generous friends or curbside heaps.

“Certain things catch my eye. Sometimes, I don’t know if they’re worth anything or not, but it doesn’t matter,” he says.

He leans toward antiques but embraces modern amenities, which is why he upgraded the kitchen to include granite counters, custom cabinets, and coffered ceilings with removable panels for access to plumbing in the floor above.

As part of the makeover, Walker unmasked and embellished a nook that had been blocked by a double oven. He discovered the little room when he opened the door to a storage room and saw the backs of ovens.

The house contained more puzzles. For example, an exterior door led to a basement shower, sink and a toilet that Walker assumed had been for servants.

He later learned the bathroom was for the original owner, the train engineer, who came home from work covered in soot.

“He had to clean up before he came upstairs to the family,” says Walker.

The age of the house also meant a dearth of closet space in the bedrooms. Walker fixed that by fashioning an upstairs dressing room from a niche that once served as a sewing room. He added a cedar-lined closet, clothing racks, a copper sink and a vanity bathed in warm light.

He applied his upholstery know-how to make valances and curtains for nearly every room. You can see some of his handiwork from the street — curtains wrought from outdoor fabric, tied back in swags against the tapered porch columns.

The deep porch, punctuated with plants, is an appropriate bookend for the greenhouse in back. Beneath the overhang, foliage mingles with ceiling fans; Adirondack chairs that Walker made after disassembling and tracing a friend’s comfortable chairs (“I’ve always been handy”); and outdoor rugs from home-improvement stores.

Like many deft designers, he combines budget-friendly pieces with custom work. He and faux painter Jason Gammon, of Danville, Virginia, were scraping scaly white paint from the porch ceiling when they stepped back to admire the emerging pattern: the paint was sticking to parts of the heart pine. They decided to let it be, adding only light blue milk paint between the boards. The result is an artful sky over visitors’ heads.

“This is the best entertaining porch in the world,” says Walker.

He hired Gammon again to tone the pine paneling in the greenhouse office. Gammon brushed on similar hues: creams, blues and browns. Where the paneling stops, at the 9-foot mark, the walls turn to azure. The paneling picks up again at the ceiling, this time with a deeper blue tint.

Contractor Shaver did a command performance with the office, too. He’d already worked for Walker, constructing a 50-foot arbor, now heavy with Lady Banks roses, akebia and grape vines, to serve as a living fence between Walker’s home and a house that he rents via Airbnb.
Walker has a keen interest in preserving the homes and property values along his street. A
UNCG water tank is visible from his backyard. The university and developers have approached him and others about buying their homes. One day, Walker says, they’ll sell, but in the meantime, homeowners for three blocks have lawyered up and banded together as the Mayflower Area Neighborhood Association. They’ll hold out en masse for the best deal possible, he says. As a result more homeowners are sprucing up their properties because they know they won’t be stuck with a domestic island in a sea of development.

“We have this great little slice of neighborhood that we’re trying hard to keep together,” he says. “In this case, there’s strength as well as potential profit in banding together.”

At the heart of the union are Walker’s home and, now, greenhouse office.

“It just has a good aura,” he says. “I have friends who are much more ethereal than me, and they say this house has good energy.”  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry.

Design Lab

For Catherine and John Adcox, creating home interiors is an ongoing scientific experiment

By Kristy Woodson Harvey
Photographs by Bert VanderVeen














The house that Catherine and John Adcox share in Irving Park looks like something out of a storybook. With a white brick exterior, pale blue-gray shutters, a manicured garden and an idyllic picket fence, it is, in a word, charming. It’s the kind of place that you know people are lined up for, just waiting for it to go on the market.

Only, the Adcoxes weren’t among those waiting. They’d already contracted to buy the house next door, planning to undertake a complete renovation once their house down the street sold.

And yet, when the home belonging to Bradshaw Orrell and Douglas Freeman, both celebrated members of the interior design and art worlds, came up for sale, they did the most dangerous thing two people who are not intending to buy a house can do: They decided to “just look.”

I probably don’t need to tell you what happened next. John says, “We knew it was perfect as soon as we walked inside.”

While the couple had spent months planning their renovation on the house next door, they knew that, with their son, John Ross, not yet 2-years-old, and daughter, Peyton, a busy and bustling 9, moving into a house that was already finished to their standards would be far, far easier. “From the marble in the kitchen to the grass cloth with pagoda detailing in the powder room, it matched our aesthetic down to the last detail,” Catherine says.

The Adcoxes purchased the home immediately. From masterfully opening the floor plan to improve the flow to renovating the kitchen and bathrooms, Orrell and Freeman had already done most of the dirty work. The Adcoxes converted an upstairs storage room to a fun playroom for their children and made the outdoor space more of a dining than living room for entertaining three seasons of the year. “All we had to do,” John recalls, “was furnish and decorate and make the house work for our family.”

That was a task lovingly — and easily—undertaken by the Adcoxes, who conveniently own SOURCC, an interior design studio for, in the words of the couple, “people who are passionate about decorating their own spaces.” Now operating in 13 cities across the country, SOURCC says one of its real measures of difference is having a staff member who can help homeowners bring their visions to life by assisting in the curation process, providing scaled floor plans and design boards — all free of charge — and then ordering their items for less than retail or online prices, in most cases. From residential to commercial spaces, model homes to clubhouses and lighting packages, the couple and their cross-country team dove headfirst into the idea that there were people like them who wanted to decorate their own houses but needed a little help. “It has been such fun to watch the company grow so quickly,” Catherine says.

It was also incredibly convenient, when the couple went to decorate their new home, that their Irving Park headquarters boasts hundreds of designer fabrics, wallpapers, trims, finish samples, and luxury furniture and lighting catalogs typically reserved for those in the trade — all available to the public. “It’s a veritable playground for design lovers,” John confirms.

And it became the playground for the couple as they began their decorating journey. “We chose comfortable upholstery in performance fabrics and tailored slipcovers that could survive daily life with kids and two dogs,” John says. Then the couple layered in family antiques and favorite furnishings and accessories from their previous house to create the feeling that its interior had been collected over time.

“What we love most about the house,” Catherine adds, “is that it works just as well for a cocktail party with 100 guests as it does for our family of four on any given Tuesday night. It lives well and it entertains well. It’s hard to find a floor plan that does both so perfectly.”

As Catherine’s cousin and someone who has had the pleasure of attending a High Point Market or two with John and Catherine, I knew as soon as I stepped through the front door that this house was them. More important, it was their family. With a floor plan that strikes the perfect balance between open and intimately closed, it is filled with plenty of welcoming spaces for everyone to spread out, a one-of-a-kind brass stair rail, enviable architectural details and design elements that the couple loves. But, as you can imagine, the owners of a successful interior design company change their minds about what they love quite a lot.

Their friends joke that visiting the Adcoxes is like a scavenger hunt to find what is different.

“We are constantly reinventing and changing, using our house as a canvas to experiment with looks that we ultimately incorporate into client projects,” Catherine says.

“It’s like our version of a scientist’s laboratory,” John adds, laughing.

A beautiful, well-curated scientist’s laboratory.

As for the future, well, a design enthusiast’s work is never done. The couple hopes to add a pool and pool house to their backyard one day, once the swing set, ride-on toys and soccer balls have gone by the wayside.

“There is something magical about sparkling water reflecting the light at an evening party,” Catherine observes.

But the good news is, they have plenty of time. Will this be their forever home? I can’t help but wonder.

“We love our house and couldn’t be happier here,” Catherine says. “We feel completely settled and at home.”

Catherine and John turn to each other and smile, and I recognize it, that twinkle, that unmistakable feeling that, for the design lover, there will always be another renovation to tackle, another home to breathe life into. At that, John verbalizes what I have just felt pass between them: “But forever is a long time.”  OH

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the founder of the blog, Design Chic (mydesignchic.com) and the author of three novels, including Slightly South of Simple, published earlier this year by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Frills and Spills: Family-Friendly Decorating Tips from the Adcoxes

• Upholstery textiles are important. Choose durable fabrics that are rated as “performance.” This will help keep spills from becoming stains.

• Don’t overlook slipcovers as an option. Even if you don’t like the shabby chic look, there are lots of great upholstery lines that offer well-tailored slipcovers that look like upholstered furniture. You can easily create a sophisticated space that’s entirely washable.

• “We recently covered some beautiful antique dining chairs in a faux leather/vinyl. The result is a chic dining room that wipes clean with soap and water after family meals.”

• “It’s OK to have nice things with kids. In fact, we encourage it. Teaching them to appreciate and care for quality items in your interior from an early age definitely takes more work, but pays off in the long run. We hope we are bringing up children who will have an appreciation and respect for great design and beautiful things — and who know that a glass without a coaster does nothing good for great-grandmother’s side table.”  — K.W.H.

October 2017 Poem

Foggy Morning on 421


The fog is eating the mountains.

A thick white cloud covers pine trees,

rock faces, and wooden fences.

Then the road disappears,

with its helpful lines and warning signs.

I follow the lights of the car in front of me.

We’re part of an unwitting convoy,

inching down a mountain road

in zero visibility.

A runaway truck could hit us from behind

and send us careening off the mountain

or spinning like billiard balls.

This is what it’s like to grow old,

creeping along slowly,

losing your vision, memory, and friends,

no familiar landmarks to guide you,

the suspense building as you

wait for a sudden exit.

Karen Filipski

Wandering Billy

Remembrance of Things Past

A rolling farmers market, Pixy Stix and group fun at the Quakers’ final resting place


By Billy Eye

“If time flies when you’re having fun, it hits the afterburners when you don’t think you’re having enough.” — Jef Mallett

We called it the ‘Toot Toot Truck’ because its arrival was preceded with intermittent honking before parking in front of our home on the 1200 block of Hill Street. Twice daily in the 1960s, kindly Mr. (Wilbert) Sullivan would lumber with a slight limp from the cab of a slightly rusty, robin’s-egg-blue, ’50s-era Chevy truck to ring his brass bell summoning neighborhood kids to come running. In the bed of that pickup were crates of farm fresh vegetables, cold drinks and a wide array of confections.

Some of my earliest memories are of climbing up the side of that rolling farmers market, reaching across the produce for candy bars, grape Pixy Stix, Atomic Fireballs, Nik-L-Nips (fruit flavored water in miniature wax bottles), Wacky Packages, and Batman bubblegum cards.

This gray-haired, portly gentleman always wore the same outfit — denim overalls and a conductor’s cap with a red handkerchief tucked into his back pocket to wipe his brow between weighing out snap beans and collard greens on the hanging scales that would clank and rock slowly when he removed the goods. He arrived at least twice a week, 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I remember him rolling by six days a week in the summer. I could be wrong though. It’s not like anyone was paying attention.

After servicing our block, Mr. Sullivan would pull over in the middle of the 1100 block of Hill, where there would already be folks waiting, then park in the driveway of the last house on the left before Wendover. Where he went next was a mystery to me, but I understand now that he ventured into the College Hill, Sunset Hills and Westerwood neighborhoods, as well as Latham Park. I can’t tell you how many times his visits made the difference between us having homegrown tomatoes, lima beans or corn on the cob rather than some warmed over mush from a can (Mother’s signature dish).

At some point around 1970 his absence was felt. Days turned into months before we once again heard the familiar honking and ringing of Mr. Sullivan’s bell. But things weren’t the same. He’d been hospitalized, lost a lot of weight and obviously wasn’t able to stock the truck with much of anything that he probably didn’t grow himself. A few weeks later he stopped coming altogether, and we heard not long after that he had passed away. God bless that relic from another era, a hearty farmer right out of central casting, rapidly becoming an anachronism by the late-’60s, but a comfort nonetheless to Baby Boomers blessed to be experiencing the last gasps of America’s mom-and-pop economy.

What I wouldn’t give to have a produce truck loaded down with fresh veggies pulling up to my home every once in a while, although I’d like to think I’d avoid the diabetic-coma-inducing Pixy Stix, the most insidiously delicious processed sugar delivery device known to man.


Speaking of how times have changed, did you know that until the late-1960s, if you needed medical assistance in many communities, ambulances were dispatched from the nearest funeral home? Conflict of interest? You bet! Where the borders overlapped, they would actually compete at the scene of an accident for the opportunity to transport the most seriously injured individuals, just in case they’d expire before reaching the hospital. Eye kid you not!


This Halloween night I will reprise my role as holy rolling preacher Vance Abner on Max Carter’s lantern-lit yearly jaunt through New Garden Friends Cemetery at Guilford College, where the long-gone inhabitants have been resting peacefully (and quietly) since long before the founding of Greensborough. As visitors make their way from one landmark to another, actors are at the ready to bring history to life with the telling of the early days of the Underground Railroad; a hallowed tree from 1492 that shaded wounded Revolutionary soldiers brought down by a terrorist bomber in the 1950s; legendary ballplayers the Ferrell brothers; and the deep roots of our city’s proud Quaker heritage. As Max informed me, “While traipsing through the cemetery, you don’t have to be worried if you step on the graves because Quakers are as benign in death as they are in life.” There was a lively crowd last year and everything moves at a fast clip, surely one of the more entertaining ways to spend this most sacred of holidays. A 15-year tradition, the tour begins promptly at 8 p.m. on the 31st.  OH

Grand Ole Uproar is one of my favorite party bands of all time, a rolling thunderous New Orleans flavored musical Po’Boy with country psychedelic seasoning and just a sprinkling of cheese. Fronted by Josh Watson, you can always be assured of a great night out when he lays down that funky soundtrack. You’ll have an opportunity to catch Grand Ole Uproar live on October 6th at the Craft City Sip-in, 2130 New Garden Road. Eye plans to be there on the 26th when they perform at Wahoo’s Tavern

Billy Eye is really a great deal more sophisticated and debonair than his writing suggests.


Fast and Furious

In spite of its name, the nimble American redstart usually
appears as a flash of orange


By Susan Campbell

Whatís in a name? For one, misleading descriptors, especially where bird names are concerned. Take, for instance, the American redstart. Although it is indeed found in the Americas, it is hardly red. Nor is it related to redstarts found in other places across the globe. The adult male is mostly black with splashes of orange on its breast, wings and tail. Females and young birds have corresponding yellow patches but are a more muted olive and gray. Both males and females blend in well against the foliage of the hardwoods they frequent in spite of their striking plumage, it can be quite tricky to spot the males. Their rapid movement, as they flit to and fro after insects, certainly adds to the challenge.

American redstarts have an unusual strategy for finding food. These tiny insectivores display what appears to be nervous fanning of their tail and wings. But the flash of color is apparently an effective means of startling prey, which they will then swiftly lunge at and consume with incredible speed and precision.

Redstarts are common migrants through the Piedmont and Sandhills of our state. The rare redstart that breeds in North Carolina can be found as early as the first week of August. Migrants on their long way to Central America will still be trickling through in late October. 

You can spot them clustering in small groups or mixed with migrant vireos, tanagers or other species of warblers. As with so many of our songbirds that winter in the tropics, these birds follow the southern coast of the United States down into Mexico in the fall. However, come spring, they head out and cross the Gulf of Mexico on their journey back north. They need to almost double their weight to survive the trip. Twelve or more hours of nonstop flying over open water is certainly a grueling test. Although they may alight briefly on ships or oil rigs along the way, it is a long haul.

Interestingly, some American redstarts breed as far south as in the bottomlands of the Sandhills. But they are more likely to be found in open woodlands north of the clay line. In the United States, they prefer larger wooded tracts, which are increasingly harder to find. So it is no surprise that the bulk of pairs nest well to the north nowadays, across much of Canada. Another noteworthy detail: Some males of this species are polygamous, which means a lot of extra work since they may fly as much as a quarter mile between families during spring and early summer.

This species is one of a handful in which males do not attain adult plumage until the end of their second summer. Although they do sing prolifically their first spring, it is unlikely they will succeed at attracting a mate until they acquire the distinctive black and orange feathers of maturity.

So should you hear a high, squeaky chip note or catch sight of a tiny flash of color high in the trees this fall, take a closer look. It just might be an American redstart.   OH

Susan would love to receive your wildlife observations and photographs at susan@ncaves.com.