Wordsmith

I usually tell stories with my camera, but I write too.
Here are some of my most-recently published stories.

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The Pieces of Pinehurst
Our town, minute by minute
Photographic Essay by Cassie Butler Timpy
Click here to view the photos that tell this story, published in PineStraw Magazine

Open your eyes and the pieces tend to fall in place while strolling through The Village streets. A white-haired lady wearing tennis shoes walks her miniature dog as she hears trivia questions coming from The Darling House early Thursday evening. Once past the corner, the sweet acoustic sounds from The Magnolia’s patio fill the air. She continues to walk while dusk settles in. Laughter echoes as children play in their neighbor’s garden, unaware of how good they have it. Their innocence is infectious and by merely watching, she feels young again and her stride more brisk.

These glimpses into other people’s lives are intimate, almost invasive, and yet she can’t turn away. Life is bursting from every nook and cranny. She closes her eyes to feel the summer breeze on the back of her neck and to decipher the rhythmic crickets’ secret messages. She imagines herself as a child running through the same garden, and she wonders what her life would have been like if she had grown up in Pinehurst.

Other moments from the day stand out in her memory. Driving past the Harness Track, she caught a glimpse of a woman brushing a horse on the cross-ties. A cloud of dust appeared, then floated away and vanished. They were backlit and silhouetted, with their faces shadowed in the darkness. Who were they and will they be back next year to train?

It’s always a beautiful day in Pinehurst, just as the Carolina Inn promises. It began with caddies gathered at the first tee waiting for their eighteen hole-trek to begin not long after daybreak. The caddies scoped out the clubs and the bags that they’ll shoulder. After a quick swing and a last swig of coffee, they set off into the morning dew. The tennis courts were just as active as the famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course, and by 9 a.m., the croquet club was on the lawn playing a game of high-low in their crisp all-white uniforms. Just as a ball passed through a wicket and its player let out a sigh of relief, so too does a woman on the massage table at The Spa as a strong-handed masseuse gently tickles her back with locally harvested pine needles. The new treatment is called “The Heart of the Pines,” and when she left, she felt energized. But energized enough to join the kids at the pool, doing back flips from the water’s edge? Or will she want to relax on the sofa and have a complimentary cup of tea in the sunlit lobby?

The men were on the porch at The Pine Crest Inn, enjoying a Cuban cigar as the afternoon draws to a close. The smoke, like art, drifted out of their mouths as they congratulated themselves on enjoying the best view in Pinehurst. The orange tabby rolled onto his back in the window box, and someone rubbed his dusty belly.  His eyes closed ever so slowly, and he let out an exaggerated yawn.

Just around the corner, Pinehurst Elementary School’s special education course was out in their school garden. They tasted a radish leaf and buckled in laughter at its spicy flavor. Two men laughed over a late lunch at The Villager. Seated outside in the window front, the two friends caught up as they people watched. They talked of their schedules, their travels, their families and their businesses.

The bar scenes were plentiful: pick your poison. Trivia night at The Darling House or Dugans Pub with its doors closed to keep the sunlight out, but The Tater Barn’s doors were wide open to let the breeze in. Those enjoying the nightlife earned their evening relaxation, and someone was celebrating his birthday at the slot machines. Some regulars had come well before five, but by six, the scene was a bit more lively and next door to The Tater Barn, Maxie’s barstools were already full. The waitress with her flighty banter put a smile on her clients’ faces.

The pieces — all separate vignettes — form one picture. Pinehurst: a blur of morning dew, the sun’s rays, the shade’s relief, and then the miraculous evening breeze. Together, it’s a blur. Golf and horses. Tennis, croquet. Shopping, drinking, learning, thinking. But still one thing resonates much deeper than all else. The gaze of a child, mid-hammock swing. The sun has set and the sky is brilliant blue. Her glowing house behind her, she looks out of the fenced yard, heart at ease, and silently decides: I am truly home.

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Our NYC Kids
Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler Timpy

Click here to flip through PineStraw magazine and see Cassie’s 12-page story with photographs.

It’s slightly more than 500 miles from the heart of Moore County to New York City, but as any young person from the heartland aiming to make a splash in the “city that never sleeps” quickly discovers, the cultural and psychological distance can feel like a journey to another world.

Not surprisingly, undaunted by the challenge, thousands of young Americans head for The City after college looking to find a career and measure themselves against the busiest city on Earth — including the sons and daughters of the Carolina Sandhills.

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James DeMolet’s first trip to New York City was in middle school to see The Rosie O’Donnell Show. He fell instantly in love with the city, and he put New York’s tag line into effect. “I couldn’t sleep the whole time I was here. We stayed in Times Square, I think, so I just kept looking out the window.” After graduating from Pinecrest High School in 2004, DeMolet attended NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology for fashion merchandising knowing he wanted to work with fashion magazines. 

“I picked FIT because it was the cheapest school and I felt like from the degree program, I would have a lot of free time to start work immediately.” And that’s exactly what he did: DeMolet worked full-time at magazines at which he credits the majority of his education was acquired. His first two years at FIT, DeMolet worked five days a week at NYLON magazine. Then he held internships at GQ, Q, Italian Vogue, i-D and Lula

Now he’s the editor in chief and creative director of an independent fashion and celebrity magazine called The Block. He oversees all the content, commissions artists and develops overall themes for each issue. He interviews celebrities to gear their personal stories and experiences around the magazine’s theme to focus on things like political importance or social inequity. 

DeMolet really describes himself as a storyteller. “I get the different celebrities to be able to play a character that’s within them.” And by “play a character,” he means wear clothes for a photo shoot. “I try to keep our stories very tangible so they are easy to understand. Instead of having it be focused on trends or different items of clothing, it focuses more on different character ideas. The point is to tell stories.” The current issue is about teen bullying. “I think that, as someone who experienced it, I was curious to see how other people’s teen experiences shaped them as artists.”

To find celebrities that fit into DeMolet’s themes, he has to do a lot of research and be in constant conversation. “I’m obsessed with celebrities. I think that helps. I think getting on set with celebrities and to already be able to anticipate what the personality will be like is a gift. If you do not know what their personality is going to be like, it can be a very tough day. I’ve been on set before as an assistant where the celebrity will leave set because they didn’t like the clothes. To me it’s always, ‘How can I give this celebrity an experience they’ve never had before that is an extension of themselves?’”

DeMolet has styled and worked with countless celebrities: Alanis Morissette, Cat Power, Khloe Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Shirley Manson, Isabella Rossellini, Nicole Richie, and Courtney Love. He says the most challenging and rewarding job was working with Madonna. 

“We’d go into Dolce and Gabbana and we would say, ‘We want the body of this shirt but maybe the sleeve of this, and we’re just at the store and they’re cutting things apart to see how it would look for her. I’ve never seen designers give so much support for a celebrity and be so negotiable about what they’d create. But in that, it is challenging if an artist knows they can really have anything under the moon, because in order to fill that expectation, it is a lot of work.” 

Another rewarding point in DeMolet’s career was after he shot Lenny Kravitz. “I’ve always wanted to work with him― and afterward, he purchased all the outfits that I put him in, which is sort of unheard of because a lot of celebrities would like things for free. So, that was amazing to work with someone like that, who styles himself so thoroughly, and to be impressed by my work at that level. Then I saw that movie he was in, The Hunger Games, and he was wearing the jewelry that I had picked out for him. So that was amazing to me.”

DeMolet credits his on-staff position at Teen Vogue as a “game-changer” for his career. “I never would have been able to have those connections otherwise because Teen Vogue is a well-respected magazine in the fashion industry. It has its finger on the pulse on terms of up-and-coming celebrities.” 

Though DeMolet works full-time with The Block magazine, he also finds time to be a freelance stylist working with other magazines. In the Spring, he starts filming a reality show with the executive producer of The Rachel Zoe Project and What Not to Wear, which will follow DeMolet and four other freelance stylists. He also consults with designers to help them shape their line and work on their “look books.” 

DeMolet finds inspiration for characters, looks and themes everywhere in the city, but when it comes to really brainstorming and trying to shape ideas, he has to leave the city completely. “I find it difficult to find peace here. Especially as a freelance artist, there’s never a point where I’m not working because I could always be working and researching and developing.” So where does he go? You guessed it, North Carolina. Hendersonville, to be specific. 

“There is an artistic community in Asheville that I really like, and it’s a different idea of what an artist looks like. The artists just produce art and there isn’t that idea of grooming.” He finds peace in the North Carolina mountains about every other month, and he finds distractions in New York the rest of the time, like hanging out with his longtime friend, Helen Kenworthy.

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Helen Kenworthy is from the quaint town of L.A., as in “lower Aberdeen.” She graduated from Pinecrest in 2004 and then went to Tulane University in New Orleans to study English and art history. Her sophomore year, the deadly and destructive Hurricane Katrina hit. With the semester lost, she traveled abroad and spent some time in New York. “I didn’t really like it, I didn’t understand it.” But Kenworthy’s perspective of New York changed during her junior year when she studied in the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, Buenos Aires. Despite living in a sprawling city with a language barrier, she “mastered” getting around. Kenworthy figured, “If I could handle Buenos Aires, I could handle any other American city, obviously.” After college, Kenworthy wanted to stay in New Orleans, but there weren’t many job opportunities and a lot of her friends were moving to New York. “I decided that it would be good to move on and go somewhere else and get a new experience. Both my parents lived in New York and encouraged me to try something new. I think a lot of it was that my friends moved here and it was an obvious place to go.”

Kenworthy’s theme song could be “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” 

“I just sort of assumed that I’d be able to get a job and it would be great, and, it was! I didn’t really consider any alternative, I just expected it to work out. I didn’t know that I was going to move here in the largest recession the United States has ever known, and in that respect, too, I was really lucky.” Immediately, she got a six-month internship at The Met while also baby-sitting and working at a restaurant to keep herself afloat. Then through a Pinehurst friend, Kenworthy made the switch into ad sales for MTV. “I didn’t know a lot about it, to be quite honest, I just was ready to find a full-time job. It was just an entry level job that you’re just put into and expected to figure it out.” After a year with MTV, Kenworthy took a job with a small national arts network, Ovation, where she’s currently been for a year and a half.  

“I really enjoy sales; there’s a lot of positive things about it. You get to meet with your clients, there’s a lot of social aspects about it that I really enjoy, you get to go out and entertain. You foster a lot of relationships in order to make better sales, which I think is a really interesting science. I also chose this path because it’s pretty straightforward — ―it’s a straight shot to the top if you want to be the VP, president or CEO. I like that structure about the job, but I also like that you interact with marketing and PR and you get a lot of media experience.”

Kenworthy has lived in the city for five years now, and she calls it home. She even says she’s living her dream. “I don’t really see myself anywhere else now. I’m getting married soon.― Ken’s job is here, and my career path is here.” She loves where she lives, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The area is dense with restaurants, bars and live music venues, so she doesn’t have to go far to enjoy herself. New galleries are popping up around her neighborhood too, but her favorite place is the MoMA. She also enjoys jogging along the East River, where she’s been running almost every day since she moved to New York. 

“You have to have an open mind in this city; it can be really big and mean if you let it push you down. I’ve always tried to keep my chin up and think of creative ways to make it work for me, and I’ve made a lot of friends because of it.”

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Sarah Younger is as Southern as it gets, that is, if you can call someone who doesn’t like fried chicken Southern. After graduating from Union Pines High School in 2006 and UNC-Chapel Hill in 2010, Younger spent a year searching for opportunities in North Carolina. She had internships and a job that paid the bills while also finding time to muck horse manure at her family farm in Whispering Pines. Then she decided to complete a three-month graduate certificate course in publishing at the University of Denver. After that, “it seemed like all signs were pointing North or . . . Northeast,” Younger says, after mentioning that she feels like she ended up in New York through “divine orchestration.” 

Her first impression of New York was that it was hot and smelly. 

“I showed up in August and, getting off the subway, I was inundated with the smell of ammonia. Now it’s definitely grown on me.” 

Younger found affirmation shortly after her move to New York when she stumbled upon Central Park’s “Literary Walk,” which is now her favorite place in the city. The Literary Walk, found at the southern end of the Mall, contains statues of well-known literary figures such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. Younger’s life is overflowing with all things literary.

Younger now works as a literary agent, which she describes as a talent agent for writers, at Nancy Yost Literary Agency. 

“I get writers connected with publishing companies, so I am the middleman.” 

Younger hadn’t actually heard of Nancy Yost before she started working there since agenting is a behind the scenes aspect of publishing. You hear of the author and publishing company but not necessarily who the agent is. Before her first interview with her future employer, Younger looked up some of Yost’s clients and was pleased to see some of her favorite writers. “I went in to interview, not thinking that I’d get the job, but thinking that I’d just really get to meet somebody that I very much respected in the industry. During the interview, it went from a great conversation and good questions to, “Let me see your Kindle, who are you reading?” and over half the authors on my Kindle ―were people she represented. And next thing I know, I got the job.” That is, she got her dream job. “The dream could get bigger,” Younger says with a smile. “I’ll just add on lots of New York Times best-selling clients, and perhaps relocate to some place a little bit quieter.”

Among the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city, Younger finds peace and rejuvenation at church on Sunday mornings at The Journey, in Central Park when it’s a little bit crisp out, and in her bedroom with a good book. “I’ve learned what I want to get out of life, and the things I need to work on to get to my goals.” Though Younger loves her job and especially her boss, her home will always be where her family and horses are: Moore County. Younger’s mother, Beth, recently visited the city. 

“[My mom] said you couldn’t pay her enough money to ride the subway every day,” says Younger. “For me I’m not being paid a whole ton of money at this point in my career, but I definitely think it’s worth it. I’m doing what I love.”

And a decade from now? “I’m leaving the ten-year plan up to God. Every time I try to plan something, plans change.” Eventually she hopes to settle down with a family somewhere outside the city. “I don’t think I’d be
comfortable doing that in New York considering where I grew up.” In the end, she’ll always be a horse girl, and a Southerner. 

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Sarah Younger and Tyler Lea, of Carthage, are the best of friends. They go way back — ―all the way from Sandhills Farm Life Elementary School to high school drama classes at Union Pines. Younger lived on Lea’s couch in Brooklyn for four weeks before she found a place of her own in Manhattan. Lea went to North Carolina School of the Arts and got his BFA in acting. “For actors, the choice is slim: it’s LA or New York,” says Lea. After his end of the year showcase at college, he got a bigger response in New York than LA, so he made the move to Park Slope, Brooklyn, with some of his college friends, now his roommates. “It was the best decision for me since I had a network of people here,” Lea recalls. 

To pay the bills, Lea works with a catering company, Creative Edge Parties. The catering jobs are flexible and since he doesn’t have a set schedule with acting opportunities, he is able to work if he’s available, and if he has an audition or call back, he doesn’t. He works a lot of nights and on weekends. Meanwhile, Lea seeks out theater and commercial work, and he has an agent and a manager doing the same for him. “My background is in theater, but I audition and am comfortable auditioning for everything.” 

Not long ago, Lea allowed PineStraw to tag along for an audition call back. The room was filled with ten people waiting on benches for their names to be called. A young lad sat close by mouthing his lines with a script on his lap and a headshot on top. A girl in a short ’70s-style go-go dress and white suede boots was warming her vocals in the open room while three women sat conversing amongst themselves — gestures, laughter, smirks. Lea sat quietly in a bright red-painted metal chair. His head was down, his back arched. “ROSEMARY?!” a girl screeched from a nearby room marked 17A, the room where the auditions were happening. 

“If I’m prepared with my work, in the room I feel confident,” Lea admitted. “I get nervous, I do get really nervous, and I just have to remind myself to breathe. Because sometimes, I just forget to breathe.” 

Commercial auditions, he notes, are easier because they don’t require as much preparation. “A commercial audition is more impromptu. You don’t really know what they’re going to ask you to do. It could be improv, it could be read from a slide that you see for five
seconds.” Still sounds nerve-racking to me. 

One thing Lea hasn’t gotten used to is riding the trains. “I don’t like riding the subways. I hate it. I like getting in my car and doing my own thing because sometimes you just don’t want to be around people.” He’s used to the city, but he can’t call it home. “I like it enough and it’s fun, but I’m here because I’m chasing a dream and it’s where I have to be. I can’t do what I want to do in North Carolina.” 

Being in a big city can sometimes make Lea feel lonesome. “You feel secluded because there’s so many different cultures in New York that there might be five languages spoken on a train and not one of them is English. It’s a big city and there’s so many people here, but you do get feelings of being alone sometimes. But it’s good because I have my roommates and friends and stuff.”  

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Nolan McKew and Chelsea Scott attended Pinecrest High School. They both took choir and were the tallest in their class, which ultimately meant that they were always paired as dance partners. This is where their relationship began, in class and on the stage, and they became instant friends. Long-lasting friends. Now, they both live in New York and see each other about once a month, which is quite regular considering their busy New York schedules. 

Scott first experienced New York as a summer intern for Tommy Hilfiger. Her friends were trying to woo her into falling in love with the city, but Scott wasn’t impressed. 

“When I lived here over the summer, the majority of the city —― if you’re not walking by a fruit stand or a laundromat ―— smells like trash, like HOT trash. My first impression of the city was everyone goes on and on about how amazing it is, but the city does smell like trash.” 

Then it happened: “I was quickly overtaken by the overwhelming amount of things there are to do and people there are to meet and so many things that can enrich your life and things you can experience that you never thought about being interested in.”

At the end of her internship, Scott received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in consumer apparel retail studies from UNC-Greensboro. She graduated early, in December 2008, and her timing couldn’t have been worse. Facing a tanking economy and a deflated job market, she got a scholarship that paid for a flight to New York City and she beat the pavement looking for any opportunity out there. 

“I went on all the informational interviews that I could. Everyone was telling me, ‘Sorry, we just laid off a bunch of people, we can’t hire anyone new.’” But through a strange family connection, one short opportunity led to another opportunity with a private label design company for nine months, and then in September 2009, Tommy Hilfiger called and said they had a position. She hasn’t looked back since. 

Scott is an assistant designer at Tommy Hilfiger’s wholesale division. She works in the aspect of the brand that sells to Macy’s and Hudson Bay. “Being the assistant you do a lot of hands-on work, which I actually really like.” She picks out trims, buttons, zippers and follows up on color commenting on knits and sweaters. “Every print, every single color in a print is picked out, and― usually I do the pitching, then I have to say ‘this color is too red’ or ‘this color is too blue’ and give feedback to the factories. I also do a lot of basic things like sketching concepts.” They work a year in advance, and when it’s sweater weather, hours can get more intense.

“It’s hard to think about spring and T-shirts and lightweight jackets when you’re wading through knee-deep snow in the dead of winter,” Scott says, but one of her favorite parts about working late is the view of the Hudson River from the office. “We get this gorgeous sunset over the water and it’s just so beautiful — the clouds and the sky burst into a million different colors. It’s an absolutely phenomenal sight and it’s something that’s rare in New York —― to have THAT much natural sunlight in your day-to-day office.”

After four years of hard work, we wondered, how does she regard her Manhattan life and career now? “It unsuspectingly ingrains itself in you,” she says. “I think that New York is really good at making you addicted to it in the fact that there are so many amazing things to do. There are so many cultural events and just fun games and television shows that you can be in the audience of, you just run the gambit of fascinating things that are cheap or free or very spontaneous. The people that walk in and out of your lives is its own experience about New York. There’s something about that that becomes so endearing and something that you want to be part of, too. 

“But then there’s also the fact that it’s exhausting and tiring and life becomes very hard to keep up with, but you’re kind of caught in between these two worlds where you want to take a nap but you’re having too much fun staying up all night.” The bottom line? “Yeah, I like New York, but I LOVE Brooklyn. I come from a small town and Brooklyn is just a hodgepodge of small towns. There’s more sky, the buildings are lower and there’s more of a community feel.”

In quiet moments, Scott goes to the Museum of Natural History and spends
afternoons with the dinosaurs on the top floor. “Being among these things that have been around for SO LONG,” she adds, “puts your little crazy life here into a whole new perspective.” 

Scott’s tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed high school dance partner, Nolan McKew, on the other hand, finds peace among chaos at his favorite place in New York: the George Washington Bridge. McKew used to live right by the bridge in Washington Heights but now enjoys an incredible view of the Empire State Building in Manhattan. McKew is from Pinehurst and went to college at Appalachian State in Boone for music industry studies. He too completed a summer internship in New York during college, but with American Lyric Theater in 2009.  

McKew wears many hats in New York. He is a dancer with Roschman Dance, a modern dance company near NYU, and will be performing in The Westchester Ballet’s The Nutcracker this winter season. He does aerial trapeze at fancy events and instructs flying trapeze to beginners. He’s also a production assistant/personal assistant to several people: a director of ballet production, a screenwriter and an actress in the 2013 film After the Fall, which is based on a true story. 

“I pick gigs up here and there,” McKew says. He did a lot of things for Fashion Week as far as setting up lights for different runway shows in September and he was the Tin Man at the annual Autumn at Oz party in Banner Elk, North Carolina, last October. 

One thing New York has taught McKew is to be an efficient scheduler. “I can pack so many things into my schedule and make it work. There’s so much to do here, some part of me feels like I didn’t finish the day if I don’t do as many things as I possibly wanted to.” But there are compromises to city life. “You have to accept that there are all these amazing things and then accept, at the same time, there are all these crappy, crappy things. I came here thinking this is going to be great, but it’s going to be awful. More often than not, I have a really good day or a really bad day and there’s not many days that are really just level.” 

A good day in McKew’s city life would be getting a call that he’s been offered a part in a dance company and the same day finding out he’s going to get another month of free rent because “the landlords of your building are sketchbags and have been upping your rent even though it’s a rent-stabilized building.” A bad day would be getting yelled at by a deli clerk for not meeting the credit card minimum when buying breakfast, getting shoved out of the subway by an old lady with a cane and thus missing the train on your first day of work, almost getting hit by a taxi and being told by a homeless man who looks like Santa that he’s going to break your arm. This bad-day example was McKew’s first day in New York. “I wanted to cry. It was not fun,” he recalls. 

But McKew takes the bad with the good. “The good days you’re like, ‘This is cool, I’m glad this is working out,’ and there are the other days you’re like, ‘This SUCKS. I’m going to go home and go to bed now.’ But yeah, I like being here. I don’t think I would have even had half of the experiences I’ve had in the three years of being here had I been in North Carolina or really anywhere else. This is just a good place for me to be for my career goals and where I am in my life right now.” 

But he doesn’t see himself in the city in ten years. He’d rather be in some city abroad, like London, running his own performance venue. 

At the end of the day, one thing will never change for our determined band of young Southerners in the city: their roots will always be in the Land of the Pines, no matter who they grow to become or where they venture in the world. This December, when it’s all said and done, they’ll even be “home” for Christmas.  

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Twinkle Town
Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler Timpy

Click here to read the story and see the accompanying photos published in the December 2012 issue of PineStraw magazine.

When Linda Hamwi and her husband, John, moved from Aspen, Colorado to Pinehurst in 2001, their moving van was filled with two things: kitchen necessities and Christmas decorations. Eleven months out of the year, thirty plastic bins are full of decorations, which Linda has been collecting for more than forty years. “When we have the decorations down and put away, the house looks totally empty. The Christmas decorations fill it up.” But the weekend before Thanksgiving, Linda begins bringing the bins down from the attic, and the ten days following Thanksgiving, she works full time: dancing to Christmas music, setting up her forever expanding North Pole Village, and sprinkling glitter all around the house.

“I always say every year I’m not going to buy anything new, because I don’t have room, but then I see a new little village piece, a house or whatever, and I have to have it. A lot of times I’ll buy the little elves. Or trees. You can’t have too many trees or elves.” In reality, all Christmas decorations are Linda’s weakness. Her license plate is right: She is a born shopper.

The Hamwis were in the restaurant business in Aspen. They owned a place called Little Annie’s, famous for their burgers and Linda’s world-famous rum bundt cake. Linda was the bartender, and on Christmas Eve she’d dress up as an elf to cheer up the lonely folks at the bar. “In the restaurant business, there are no holidays,” says Linda. That’s why her husband isn’t particularly fond of the holiday. “My bah humbug is falling on deaf ears. I have one of Santa’s original elves here,” John says.

Linda, on the other hand, was born with an enthusiasm for Christmas, and she loves sharing her excitement. Last year Linda gave away 52 rum bundt cakes. “It’s an easy cake to make. I could make it in my sleep because I’ve literally made thousands of them, I truly have.” She bakes for eight days straight and then delivers the cakes — in an elf outfit — to the garbage guys, landscapers, postal workers, Pinehurst Country Club staff, all the service industry people who do things for them year-round. When her North Pole Village takes over her home, she has an open door policy. “Friends, friends of friends, whoever wants to see the decorations and get in the Christmas spirit can come. Just give me a call and I can turn on all the lights and get the smoke coming out of the chimney.

“My niece is going to get my Christmas decorations when I go,” Linda adds. Let’s just hope she acquires the room to fit the entire North Pole inside. 

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Four-Wheel Love Affair, For these vintage car owners, it’s all in the ride
Click here to flip through the magazine— this large-format magazine featured my vintage car story and photograph on the cover. See the 8-pages of classy portraits of people with their antique cars.
Story and Photographs By Cassie Butler

Learning how to drive a stick at 10 years old on a 1955 military jeep was an invigorating challenge — a staple memory of my childhood. Much of those memories still hold true to my adult life. Then and now, every Fourth of July, we get out the red jeep, which is now green but the name goes unchanged, and we drive to Aberdeen Lake to watch the fireworks with the top off and no doors or seat belts. We take it for a spin to get ice cream, this time with our Boykin spaniel on our laps rather than a German shepherd in the back.

My parents are recreational antique car owners, and I’m a recreational antique car freeloader. Owning an antique car is one thing, but owning and driving that antique car nearly every day of the week — without air conditioning — is another.

If you’re an early riser, you’re probably used to seeing a pair of vintage VW bugs parked outside Java Bean. Their owners, Bob Carhuff of Aberdeen and John Gagan of Southern Pines, call themselves “wanna-be hippies,” as they are actually military men who met in Japan in the ’50s. Both owned VWs in the past, and that’s their favorite part about their bugs — the nostalgia. Favorite memory? None that you could print, they say. “It’s fun but you miss all the modern amenities. It’s sort of like riding a motorcycle,” says Gagan. “It gets bumpy after a while.” Gagan never puts his top up on his blue convertible, so if it’s raining, you won’t see him driving around, but Carhuff drives his almost every day. He’s put 22,000 miles on it since he got it three years ago. Gagan’s ’72 bug has never been restored, Bob’s ’63 has.

In Cameron, Calvin Cornelius owns a handful of antique cars, but his 6-cylinder ’66 GMC Handi-Bus is his favorite everyday car. “It drives good and it’s good on gas,” he says with a straight face. “People are always tootin’ their horns — beep, beep! — and kids are crazy about it.” That’s really the response of nearly every antique car owner; they enjoy the attention their cars get. But Calvin’s Handi-Bus is truly unique, and anyone can see why it draws a lot of attention. On top of being red, it has graffiti painted all over it. “It was first green,” says Cornelius, as he begins the story of his Handi-Bus’ evolution. When New York-based artist David Ellis began an artistic collective called “the barnstormers” in his hometown of Cameron, the group of New York-and Tokyo-based artists found unlikely friendship with the locals, who gave permission to the artists to paint graffiti-style art on old tobacco barns. Cornelius was one of these unlikely friendships that formed. “Earl was letting them paint his barn and I was teasin’ him, ‘Reckon they’ll paint my van?’ And so I dropped it off and came back to pick it up.” Each image on the van has a meaning, including the tiger painted on the front, which was Cornelius’ high school mascot in Carthage.

Also in Cameron, Bill Thomason owns a rare two-tone Regal Orchid/Misty Orchid ’56 Dodge Custom Royal. The model, La Femme, French for “the woman,” was only on the market for two years as it was an attempt to gain a foothold in the women’s automobile market. The option to bump the hardtop Lancer to a La Femme model was $143. On the back of the front seats, a tailored compartment holds a rain coat, rain cap and umbrella, which of course coordinate with the interior. The year prior even came with a purse outfitted with a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb and other feminine accessories. Thomason opens up the umbrella, which is in perfect condition, as he tells me he’s got everything — the IBM card, original umbrella, rain coat and rain cap, and that he’s never trailered it and has gone to antique car shows and parades for nearly 30 years. “I just like the rarity of it,” Thomason says. And rare it is — Dodge dropped the 1957 La Femme and did not revisit the concept. Research suggests that less than 2,500 were made over the two-year period.

Twenty-one-year-old Hazen Warlick of Whispering Pines has a story much like mine. He has inherited his mother’s ’77 teal Bronco, “Sheila,” and nearly every memory of his childhood connects to it. “I remember getting dropped off at preschool in it. I went kicking and screaming. We lived in Nantucket Island until I was 6, and the island is only 7 miles wide and 14 miles long, so it only has 76,000 miles on it.” It’s been through the snowy winters of Nantucket, and Warlick says he’s never taken off the top, but says it’s his next step. He’d like to get a roll bar put in and install a soft top. One man waited all night for him to get off work from the Sunrise Theater and offered to buy his Bronco, “but I won’t sell it,” says Warlick. “It just has so many memories — my only memories of Nantucket. I remember listening to Neil Young while driving down the cobblestone main street. There’s holes in the speakers and I’d put my fingers in the holes and my dad would say, ‘What are you doing?!’” Soon Warlick will be off to UNC Charlotte, and he’ll have to leave Sheila behind, but he’ll be back for her.

Barry Bennett of Southern Pines drives a Chesapeake Blue 1961 Ford Falcon. Tink is its name, dubbed by the previous owner, who said that’s the sound it makes when it’s cooling off, an original 6-cylinder with a modern five speed. Bennett’s favorite thing about it: He loves the attention it gets. Second favorite thing, “It’s just fun to drive — it’s simple.” He’s owned three or four Falcons before, but he joined the Falcon club in Charlotte even before he owned one. This man clearly has a thing for Falcons.

Milton Pilson of Vass drives a 1962 VW Karmann Ghia to his business, Nature’s Own and 195, several times a week. He parks it out back — the beautiful lavender antique car on display like a work of art. The original owner paid $1,800 for it, plus $50 for the whitewall tires. She was a spy for the U.S. and after she died, she left her car to her best friend, who kept it in a garage until Pilson bought it about ten years ago. He put a new top on it and painted it the original color, which is his favorite part about the car. He keeps his driving cap nearby to shade the sun while he cruises back and forth from Vass to Southern Pines.

In Carthage, Amy Allen cruises around in her automotive“dream come true,” a teal and white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. She’s been fascinated with classic cars since childhood. “They’re just such beautiful pieces of metal sculpture. I’ve always felt like they’re rolling works of art,” she says with a grin. With her heart set on buying a classic VW, Allen went to a classic car dealership in Lillington about a year ago. “It was such an impulse buy,” she says. “I turned the corner and she just screamed to me — it’s such a girl car, isn’t it?” Indeed it is; her aunt even says it’s like riding in a jewel box. Allen’s put 5,000 miles on it in the past year. “It doesn’t matter who it is — young, old. People are drawn to it.” Her favorite memory might be when she rode to the top of Morrow Mountain in it. “It’s almost like driving a covered wagon, it’s exhausting,” but don’t take that as a complaint. “When I drive it, I just smile.” You could say Allen’s got a thing for antiques — she plays bass in a band called Cabin Fever, where they practice in her boyfriend’s 100-year-old log cabin, and among her collection of bass guitars, she owns a ’75 Fender jazz bass.

I’m thinkin’ I might need to go to Lillington myself, buy me a pretty antique car and start a band with my boyfriend. But for now, I’ll just keep my eyes peeled for the vintage beauties around town, a much cheaper option for me.

— Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler

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Dawn at the Track, A new day begins before the sun rises with laps around the track and a trainer who sings to his horse
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Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler

From the pre-dawn darkness, you can still hear their voices. The crescent moon is still high, and the only light comes from within a dozen stables ringed around the track. It’s half past five in the morning — the hustle and bustle of the harness track is well under way.

The 111-acre Harness Track has been a winter training center for Standardbred horses for nearly one hundred years. It was an undiscovered paradise to the Northern harness racers until 1937, when the Christmas issue of The Harness Horse magazine read: “Pinehurst, NC, Where Champions are Made.”

The melodic trotting of the horses circling the burnt orange sand track is continual, punctuated by the voices of conversing trainers as they pass in their jog carts on the first training exercises of the day. As dawn breaks, the sky is painted with beautiful colors — gold, pink and orange. The pine trees become backlit, and then everything is illuminated. Two love birds dance on a power line; a black barn cat wanders into a stable.

Inside, horses are being bathed, blanketed and tacked. Each horse needs a few laps each day, and with around thirty horses per barn, a total of twelve barns, the harness track runs like clockwork from 4 a.m. until noon.

“All right, where am I now? . . . Folding blankets,” Bud murmurs to himself.

Across the stall, Herman Cagle of Taylortown says, “It’s not a bad job,” while mucking manure with a cigarette in his mouth. He’s been working at the harness track for ten years, just during the season, which begins in October and ends May first. After dumping a wheelbarrow full of manure out back, he fires up another cigarette.

Wesley Franklin walks down the center of the barn counting his hundred dollar bills. “Oh, you forget to pay me or somethin’? Or if that wad of money is too heavy for you, I can carry it for you,” Herman teases before taking a big long sip of black coffee from a Styrofoam cup.

Wesley hails from Ohio. He’s wearing dark sunglasses, a black leather coat and a purple helmet. He is sure to introduce me to Trick Man, who has been a champion all his life and has won somewhere around half a million dollars. The 4-or 5-year-old stallion is about to retire; he is headed for stud, about to be a daddy.

Meanwhile, Fernando is just switching horses. One sweaty steed enters the barn and another perfectly groomed stallion, with ears straight up and eyes on the track ahead, is being harnessed. Fernando, a Mexican trainer everyone calls “Amigo,” hops onto the moving jog cart with a straw sombrero shading a big sexy grin. Wesley is on to his next horse as well. With a groom holding the horse for him, he mounts the jog cart and heads back to the track. This is his eighth horse this morning, and it’s only 8 a.m.

By now, the nearby Track Restaurant is overflowing with golfers wearing shorts and ordering eggs to their liking.

Back at the half-mile track, the horses going clockwise are jogging; those going counter-clockwise are training. Jogging is merely exercise for the horses, while training for harness racing is about speed. Harness racing has two gaits, trotting and pacing. A trotter moves its legs in diagonal pairs, with its right front and left hind hitting the ground simultaneously, while a pacer moves its legs laterally, with its right front and right hind moving together.

Traveling counter-clockwise, and trotting much faster than the rest, a singer’s voice is in full force. The song Gordon Corey sings while training his horses is swallowed up by the sounds of the track. But that hardly matters. “I sing to distract their minds from their work,” he says. Whose minds? — the horses or other trainers on the track — he does not specify.

The singer’s barn is tucked behind the Fair Barn, right by the entrance to the one-mile harness track. Mounted out front is a sign that reads — The Gordon Corey Institute of Equine Erudition. “I couldn’t spell stable so I had to come up with somethin’,” he says.
Gordon is wearing a ball cap, large sunglasses and a red wind suit with silver zigzag reflectors on the arms that looks like it’s straight from the ’80s. Red clay is speckled on his rosy cheeks, and his gray hair flips out over his ears. He has been training horses for nearly fifty years. Spending six months in the Sandhills and six months in Maine, “I have two springs and two falls — I live like a millionaire and I’m only a hundredaire,” he says.

Gordon is the perfect example of a horse trader and trainer. The horses come from owners up North and when it becomes too cold to train there, the horses and trainers move South. The Matinee Races at the Harness Track on the first of April is the calm before the storm. The real stake races up North begin shortly after their summer return. In truth, the Matinee Races are really about tradition; they have been running for 63 years in Pinehurst.

Of Gordon’s thirty-four horses, eleven are competing in this year’s Matinee Races. When comparing the harness racing business to used cars, Gordon says he’s on the design and engineering side of things, not the repair and maintenance side. “I’m interested in breaking and developing horses to create a hopefully long and successful career.”

Of the three hundred stalls that are typically filled between October and May, it’s anyone’s guess which horses will become champions. All I know is that Pinehurst will miss this beautiful commotion. The pitter-patter of the hooves on the sandy track, steam coming from the horses against the backdrop of the morning light, and carts and trainers making their way around the track like clockwork, marking the start of a new day, a new and brighter season.

— Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler

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Ladies of the Club, for more than sixty years, the Cardinal Book Club has delighted in its very select membership
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Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler

“Prepare the youth of today to be the good citizens of tomorrow.”

It’s only fitting that this is the motto of Aberdeen’s venerable Cardinal Book Club, widely believed to be not only the oldest continuously operating book club in the Sandhills, but among the oldest in all of North Carolina. A commonly expressed joke — one that holds a grain of truth — is that the only way to gain admission to the club is for a sitting member to pass on.

Even so, more than sixty years after the club’s founding, the ladies of the Cardinal Book Club assemble faithfully for refreshments, a book exchange and catching up on each other’s lives every first Thursday of the month. Today, only one of its original founding members, Doris Moon, 84, is still an active member. Moon joined the club as a young married woman and served as hostess at the first recorded meeting on July 7, 1949. She recalls that in the early years of the club, membership ranged from 18 to 24 members, but in the 1970s the club was reduced to 16 members.

Since the club does not meet during summer months, June through August, and does not exchange books in December, there are only eight months of book exchanging per year. Basically, each member only needs to purchase one book every two years for club purposes. The idea to provide a stream of stimulating reads that would appeal to other members of the club through a system of exchanging titles seems to work without a hitch, if longevity and member dedication mean anything.

“I’m a reader, and I certainly don’t get all my books from the book club, I get them from everywhere,” notes club member Juanita Auman, who admits by the time she gets a book near the end of the two-year rotation, chances are she’s probably already checked it out from the library and read it.

Ironically, the Cardinal Book Club was created for young mothers and wives following World War II by the older women of the Sandhills Book Club. Now nearly all the Cardinal members are in their 80s. “It’s pretty embarrassing. We’ve grown old together, and that’s a fact,” says Auman with a laugh.

“The club has changed as we’ve changed, but it’s always been a close-knit group,” Doris Moon points out, explaining how a shared passion for good books and friendship provided a welcome forum in which knowledge was shared and relationships blossomed. In its early days, reflecting a societal change that sent more women into the work force following the war, the book club met in the evening after some members got off work. “A number of us were the group after World War II who found work outside the home,” Auman explains. “Some of us even worked two jobs outside the home.”

“It’s always been a lot of fun and important for us,” adds Louise Buckhan, one of those who worked two jobs and yet is still a loyal member going on forty years. “Starting out we were all sort of in the same boat. We all had babies and young children, and we were all working yet trying to keep up with the world, be members of the PTA, have fun with our friends and keep up with what was going on in our area.”

“Our children grew up together,” Doris Moon says.

Now that almost every member is a lady of a certain age, members are free to meet in the afternoon at Bethesda Presbyterian Church, a private home or a local restaurant. Current affairs, church and family news, garden tips and favorite recipes are all part of the lively social exchange of a typical Cardinal Book Club gathering. Often so are specially arranged speakers and outings.

Good memories are the ties that bind, like pages in a book.

Member Marj Gschwind, 86, points to photographs that show the members of the Cardinal Book Club at Aberdeen Lake hard at work painting a public structure in the heat of the day. “We are fortunate to have people like Robbie and to get some younger members because we want the club to continue,” Marj says. Translation: new Cardinal blood. “We’re pretty seasoned,” she adds wryly. “But we’ve calmed down with our age.”

By Robbie she means Robbie Harter, a youngster of just 60, the club’s current youngest member, who was invited to join when her mother, Sue Buffkin, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was forced to drop out.

“There’s seldom a vacancy,” says Moon, confirming the commonly held view of the club’s closely held membership structure. “If someone happens to resign or move or. . . you know, . . . things that happen to older people, the club elects a new member to take her place. The spots are usually filled by a family member.”

Other old photos show club members dressed in mismatched clothes and big hats. Beautiful handwriting on the back of one photo notes: “Cardinal Book Club ‘Tacky Party’ Meeting — June 1961.”

Eldiweiss Lockey recalls her most memorable Cardinal Book Club experience, a club trip to New York City fifteen years ago. She describes it as a bonding experience “where we all had such a great time. Everyone liked the things we took in, the places we ate, the plays we saw,” she says with unwavering conviction.

By tradition, each hostess chooses the meeting site and a program coordinator chooses the entertainment, a program that can range from tea with a visiting author to a live concert of orchestral prodigies. If the program coordinator is Ruth Sinclair, for example, you can count on members being treated to piano performances by her brightest students.

As for books, well, here’s where the story gets interesting — and oddly charming.

The truth is, there’s rarely any discussion of a particular book — and never a formal review. Yes, the club revolves around members’ love of good books, with a book committee that assures that the books chosen are either current top-sellers or of topical interest to members. Once club business is dispensed with and the latest book exchange accomplished, a typical meeting quickly moves on to refreshments, a selected program and socializing.

True to the club’s founding motto, the ladies also enthusiastically support a community project. Last year, for instance, instead of exchanging Christmas presents, they purchased underwear, undershirts and socks for students at Aberdeen Elementary in Berkley, a low-income part of Aberdeen.

“We pull together,” Robbie Harter says. “We look after each other and keep up with everyone — the births and deaths, everyone’s sickness and sometimes travels too. Our social committee is in charge of sending out cards if someone is sick and sending flowers if someone’s in the hospital.” Not surprisingly, members pass around a blessing box, a basket where the members give their spare change to fund these thoughtful acts of kindness.

“You can learn a lot from books,” notes one of the longtime members. “But the real blessing of the Cardinal Book Club is that of the close female friendship that spans the years, as life goes by.”

— Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler
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Hidden in Plain Sight, Art is all around us, open your eyes and see
Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler

Not long ago on a seven-day visit to New York City, I managed to take in four famous museums and see several of my favorite pieces of art, including Van Gogh’s beloved Starry Night and Monet’s Four Trees.

In a word, I was amazed by what my eyes drank in, yet it puzzled me how some other museum-goers interacted with such world-class artwork — or, as it seemed to me, failed to.

A lot of people seemed to miss the glory that was right in front of them. They strolled by paintings with their smartphones out and snapped a picture here or there, lingering but a moment before moving on to the next famous piece of artwork for another quick snapshot. Why take the trouble to go to a famous art museum, I couldn’t help but wonder, and see it all through a three-inch LCD screen when you can Google the famous paintings in the comfort of your living room on a 17-inch computer?

Of course, as the saying goes, art really is in the eye of the beholder, a difficult concept to define at best, and museums in a sense aid and encourage such superficial viewing by classifying and categorizing certain works of art. Learning to look closely at a painting or piece or artwork is in itself a form of art, it seems to me, at least more art than science. As Andy Warhol once observed, “I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.” Perhaps this is why Warhol noted that everything and everybody would be famous for at least fifteen minutes.

Fortunately, great artwork doesn’t just exist in famous museums.

The truth is, look a little closer and you’ll realize its all around you — even here in the Sandhills. Maybe especially here.

I’ve lived here all my life, for instance, and never knew there was a magnificent 36-foot fox-hunting mural in First Bank on Southeast Broad Street. But I certainly do now — because I recently photographed this beautiful piece of art hidden in plain sight. Ditto to a Pinehurst-born astronaut who made Robbins his hometown and lives on in a vibrant mural on the side of a building in the quiet north Moore town.

Art is supposed to slow us down, and all the great masters believed this. “The principle of art is to pause, not bypass,” noted Jerzy Kosinski. “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls,” Pablo Picasso added.

Maybe if we weren’t busy texting in the line at the Southern Pines post office we would see the magnificent mural of our farming forebears spanning an entire lobby wall, or the beautiful and haunting paintings by famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth that hang mere feet from where locals are paying their water bills just one doorway up the street.

With my camera in hand, I set off recently to see what other treasures hidden in plain sight I could find.

What I found, I hope, will both surprise and delight you the way it did me — and maybe make you stop and take a closer look at the beauty that lies before our eyes.

— Story and Photographs by Cassie Butler