I had to use Google Maps in order to calculate the distance between my house and a school that I will be visiting this summer. Like I always do while using Google Maps, I decided to see if the satellite image of my house had been updated. Not sure why, but I decided to trace the creek that runs behind my house and started tracing the line of the creek. I noticed how it meandered and twisted its way through the landscape. I kept noticing that it never went in a straight line for any extended period. Why is it that this creek, nor any other body of water, naturally traveling on a straight line?
The answer lies in the ground beneath our feet. The variations in morphology and makeup of the landscape of where the water is flowing and the direction of the least slope guide the path. Gravity causes the water to choose the path based on the slope; but since the landscape is composed of so many different elements that erode in different manners, the capability for the body of water to flow in a straight line is impossible. As the water flows, the landscape that it encounters erodes differently. As it moves the landscape underneath it; and as the water deepens, each side erodes differently due to the makeup of the land. Whatever kind of material is there, it will erode at a different speed; and thusly will cause one side to erode more than the other. This causes a deviation from what would be a straight line.
As the body of water flows, it carries sediments with it that are deposited when the water slows down due to decreased slope. Larger running water bodies like rivers and creeks expand differently and due to the large quantity of water flowing in the event of rapid rainfall or in the case of Pages Lake which is fed by Mines Creek outside of Fayetteville, NC. Much like the creek, so named Island Creek, which flows behind my house; Mines Creek is fed by and is connected to a much larger body of water. Mines Creek is connected by the Cape Fear River while my creek is fed by an offshoot of that same river; the Northeast Cape Fear River.
Most creeks are formed by water flowing from a larger body of water (ie a river) and either never reaching another body of water. Sometimes these small creeks flow downhill until they merge to form larger streams and rivers; but sometimes when enough water is flowing, due to the land eroding in different areas, the water expands its banks irregularly and braided channels are formed. You see this a lot when lakes rivers and creeks run dry; as is the case with Pages Lake that lies behind Camp Dixie. The Lake was formed by the low lying water eroding away at the banks over many years but the creek still continued out the other side. The water will come back whenever they open the dam that is located down the road; but for now all we see is the braided channels and stagnant water that is left behind.
The journey of a body of water is much like the journey of a human life. We all start at the same place: a newborn baby; but due to a myriad of factors, we all go down different paths. If we are ever guilty of not trying to move forward. If we ever stop trying, then we will become stagnant and lifeless just like the lake that has no movement. So keep moving my friends. God bless.
Saying that the sun is setting on a certain part of your life is mostly an understatement. Most of the time we are frantically going here and there that we miss the small things; like a sunset. Before the era of smart phones with built in cameras, I used to carry around a cheap disposable camera and snap pictures of things. I would mostly take pictures of nature which included lots of pictures of the clouds, sunrises and sunsets. This picture is extremely significant because it signifies so much. When I got my driver’s license, my parents told me that I needed to get a job to help pay for gas, car payment, insurance, etc if I wasn’t going to play football; so I got a job at a local grocery store bagging groceries and stocking shelves. The job was not that labor intensive but my heart was not in it. I enjoyed the interaction with people; and I have made friendships and acquaintances that I value greatly. The downside was that when I walked out the back door to prepare a mop bucket or take a pallet outside, I saw that sunsetting over the wood line and I knew that I was stuck in a big brick building until my shift was over.
It has been almost 20 years since I started that job that lasted for 4 years of my life teenage and then young adult life. I still visit that grocery store as a customer. While going to get some groceries the other night my son Daniel noticed how beautiful the sunset looked behind the store. So I snuck behind the store to get a better look and take a picture. As we turned the car around to head to the front of the store, I noticed the back door that I would stare out of those many years ago. The sky was not bathed in an abendrot hue of an Arizona sunset; but as the sun that drifted down below the horizon line built a scene that made me think about the differences in that sunset and one that I would have seen some 20 years ago. I looked over to my son and thought about my wife. I couldn’t imagine that my life would have been where it is now 20 years ago. It is truly amazing what a sunset can do to betray the feelings that should be in our hearts at that moment.
There is nothing that is inherently elegant about a BBQ restaurant in the South. You won’t normally find a Roasted Pigeon with a Warm Foie Gras Sorbet like you would from the Villa Crespi in Orta, Italy. You won’t find fresh out of the water Langoustines as you would at Bjorn Frantzen in Stockholm, Sweden. You won’t find a $130 Waygu Tomahawk steak like you would at the EDGE restaurant in Colorado. You also won’t find the $115 Red’s Porterhouse at Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina; but if you travel an hour and 20 minutes Northwest to Orangeburg, South Carolina you will find a place that is worth its weight in gold to anyone who steps through the sticker-laden glass doors. You’ll find that that drive has led you to a place that lays out Southern comfort food at its finest. You’ll find the sweet and sultry taste of their Southern style pulled pork BBQ matched with their South Carolina style sauce, fried chicken, delicious BBQ chicken, fried livers and gizzards, all the fixins’ that you can imagine, and most importantly the hash and rice. The hash was something that I was unsure of when I was first introduced to Dukes BBQ but it is essentially somewhere between a soup and a stew. Despite the taste and texture being different than anything you’ve ever had; over some fluffy white rice it is absolutely delicious. Besides the meat selections you’ll find the Southern comfort food fixins’ on their all-you-can-eat buffet. Delicious macaroni n’ cheese, baked beans, collards, fried okra, fried potatoes, green beans, lima beans, rutabagas, yams, and almost anything that Southern part of your soul desires. The cold bar features homemade banana pudding, macaroni salad, pickled beets, potato salad, slaw and an assortment of pickles. Now pickles may seem like an odd pairing for fried chicken but just trust me; I’ve been down this road before.
Dukes BBQ is a South Carolina staple. After the Dukes recipe came from the Baltzingers who had Carolina BBQ in the mid 20th century, after Dovie Dukes married into the Baltzinger family. Dovie gave the recipe to all of his brothers and sisters, but it was his brother Earl who opened the first Dukes restaurant in 1946 outside of Orangeburg but later moved it into town. My last visit was to this location but all 7 of Earl’s brothers and sisters opened up Dukes restaurants. You won’t find one within a 30 mile radius of their kinfolks restaurant because that was the deal originally set forth by the family. As the years flew by, their children and extended family opened up restaurants and there are currently 14 locations across the state to enjoy the best Southern comfort food that South Carolina has to offer.
Their award winning restaurant has been picked by Southern Living magazine as one of the best BBQ restaurants in the nation, been given Trip Advisors Award of Excellence, was picked as best BBQ Restaurant and best buffet by countless magazines and organizations and has an accolade from this blogger who says that its the best BBQ restaurant in the state of South Carolina. You won’t be disappointed in the ambiance or the old fashion Southern recipes that are always prepared on site. So grab your jacket, pack up your kids, call your friends, and go experience down home, Southern comfort food at its finest. I’ll meet you there.
Living in eastern North Carolina doesn’t usually allow us to have a lot of snow during the winter; but thankfully a beautiful blanket of snow fell early this month. The snow reluctantly fell after a layer of wintery mix and ice so that made the roads somewhat impassable. This caused my wife to not be able to go to her antique/thrift store but the schools being shut down due to the dangerous road conditions allowed Daniel and myself to be home with her. Since we live on a small creek that leads to the Northeast Cape Fear; Daniel and myself set out on our trek the morning after it stopped snowing.
We walked our way through the inches of snow and relished in the site of the sun rising above the snow carpeted horizon. We meandered our way through the woods; walking on the grass that was smothered by the inches of snow. We walked down the snow kissed creek and appreciating God’s beautiful creations. We saw rabbits huddling in their underbrush dens and the melted spots of ground where deer had bedded themselves the night before. Daniel climbed fallen trees and laughed as he caused snow to cascade from the leaves on me as I stood below.
Daniel and myself finally found our way to a small tributary that leads to the creek. I used to sneak off to this spot when I was a child to draw, write or just to relax. Who am I kidding…most of the time when I was a kid, the dominant thought that shouted its way to the forefront of my thoughts was bouncing around the woods with a sword and pretending to be He-Man or Rambo; (I’m a child of the 80s…don’t hate. ;P) but most of the time I used that place to just relax. It brought a sense of calm to me to share that moment with my son. Daniel and myself found ourselves enjoying the solitude of the silence. The lack of traffic out on the road that runs about a mile from our house or maybe it was the fact that we weren’t being distracted by uselessness on our smart phones or wasting our time watching TV. We were just enjoying something that we don’t get to experience that often…and times like those are worth their weight in gold.
The passenger elevator ascended to the 18th story of the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The doors opened and we shuffled out of the open doors. We walked to the end of the hallway; hearing the metal doors of the elevator shut behind us. We were all exhausted from the non-stop drive from my mother-in-law’s house in South Carolina; but we were ready to explore the historic city. We were mere footsteps away from the historic French Quarter, within view of the mighty Mississippi River, and in the heart of one of the nation’s oldest cities.
When you stare out of a window onto the world that lies below, you can only speculate at the things that are to come. Over the years we have related old stories to new friends and narrated our lives like autobiographies; but every journey starts with a glance. But there is a certain level of separation that you feel when you observe the world below you through panes of glass. Despite being able to see what lies beyond the glass; those realities look very different when you’re face to face with them. Sometimes you just have to pull back that curtain and take a deep breath before venturing out into the world and showing up as just another speck from the view of someone else’s 18th story window.
It may not take a genius to sit in quiet contemplation while staring at a body of water; but you may be one for taking that time to do so. I think that Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu said it best when she said that she, “go(es) to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with the ocean. I would surf the waves when I was a teenager and the older that I get, the more I love just staring at the endless waves, cascading on the sandy shore. Being from Eastern North Carolina definitely has its perks because in my opinion, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But the beaches are not the only place that has been a place of quiet contemplation.
I have mentioned before that my parents house was built 50 yards from a creek that is a tributary to the Northeast Cape Fear River. This creek connected to another small tributary that flows from a wetland area south. These tributaries met behind my parents house and the smaller tributary had a small waterfall. Over the banks of the small creek lied a huge fallen oak tree. I would sit with my back against this tree for hours listening to the sounds of the waterfall and watching a beautiful aspect of nature. There was nothing pedestrian about the situation. The sensory overload was anything but lackluster. This spot in the middle of a wooded area was my secret oasis; my serenity. I would grow older and hurricanes would tame the landscape as they saw fit. Water erodes. Trees fall down and rot. The spot does not look the same anymore but there are other spots that I frequent to try to find a break from the mundane.
On the banks of the Hollands Shelter Creek (a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River) sits Hollands Shelter Creek Restaurant. My family took me there when I was a kid and now that I have a kid of my own; we enjoy taking him. Daniel has always been fascinated with the river that flows by the seafood restaurant, so it seems only logical that his favorite place to go is to sit on the dock on the river, eat some ice cream and hopefully spot an alligator.
The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.
The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.
Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.