The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:21 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Unlike Others

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Can you imagine a fire benefiting a tree?

And how about this – without periodic fire, a tree’s diverse wildlife and plant species become rare or endangered as well as the tree, itself. But it’s true – the North Carolina state tree, the longleaf pine, has genetically adapted to tolerate fire.

Did you know that at one time, pine forests were the most extensive forest ecosystems in the Southern United States? Historically speaking, pinus pilustris, or longleaf pine was the “king” of the southeastern coastal forest, covering millions of acres of land.

But not now.

Unfortunately, due to the naval industry, these pine forests have dwindled. These trees supplied an abundance of pine sap which was collected, distilled, and processed into glue, turpentine, rosins, and other shipbuilding industry products. Another reason for the decline was the conversion of longleaf pine forests to non-forest uses – and cleared for agriculture or development. Longleaf pines were also replaced with other pine species. Longleaf pine is now considered a species in decline across much of the South, including North Carolina. But even though the forests cover significantly fewer acres, the pine forests are still among the most diverse ecosystems in the world.

Today while primarily located among dry soil in the Sandhill region and parts of central and southern Coastal Plain, some isolated remnant areas of longleaf pines can still be found in the eastern Piedmont.

As far as the tree itself – it’s a pretty cool tree because it’s unlike any other pine tree in the South. The tree takes on a large thick clump of pine needles on the soil surface, following seed germination. This is called the “grass stage.” And looks like a bunch of needle-like grass. The grass stage remains for up to 5 years while the tree is growing its root system down in the ground. The green needles clump protects the terminal tree bud that’s located in the center of the tree – one of the reasons why the pine is considered a fire-adapted species. The tree tolerates and withstands fires. After the grass stage, the pine begins to grow quickly in height for another 5 years.

In the past, there were challenges in regenerating longleaf pine. The seedlings required precise handling and planting was necessary to guarantee survival. But important advances have been made in the cultivation of the genetically improved longleaf pine seedlings.

Today you can purchase and plant seedlings that have been field tested and quality checked for the highest quality. We can help restore our state trees. Research and learn more about the advantages of planting these trees and the benefits to our environment.

Neighbors: Part I

By Ellen Bishop

It was one of the worst winters in our state that year of ’77-’78, some of the coldest and wettest in a long time.  We had just purchased our first home together as a new couple, a stressful but very exciting time. It was a three bedroom one and a half bath brick rancher down a gravel road with very few neighbors; there was a nice yard and extra lot where I could have a garden.  It was a little farther out in the county that made for a longer commute to work for me, but at the time, it was what we could afford.  Many happy memories were made there.

But, that gravel/dirt road quickly turned into a mire making travel in and out of our small neighborhood very difficult that winter; almost impossible. So, the rich man in the big white house just up the street wanted to get the road paved and wanted us to pay $800 for our part of the road frontage paving.  We were poor; that was a lot of money at the time we did not have.  Of course, we figured out a way.  Then, the sparsely developed newly paved street exploded with new houses, new neighbors galore.

Don’t get me wrong, having families living close to you can be a blessing as long as they are friendly, respectful, trustworthy, considerate, etc. They can keep a watchful eye out on your property, offer support and in general be very helpful in a variety of circumstances. This was the case with our new neighbors who quickly became friends as well. We shared babysitting duties, had tupperware/makeup parties, played cards and had block parties.

One of the neighbors directly across from our house had a pool; the husband loved to cook, probably because his occupation was a meat cutter. They would provide the meat and the rest of us would bring something to share.  Extra chairs were borrowed from a local church. Their house was a great gathering place for these barbecues. One such gathering will go down in history. Many of us had already gone home, snug in our beds when bright red flames reaching for the sky were seen from across the street through our bedroom window. There would be no more chairs from the church up the road.

Not only was that first winter somewhat of a nightmare but writing this brought to mind another terrible memory along with the good ones.  One being when I was warming up our ’55 Chevy before going out to work (they weren’t so expensive back then) and did not put the  parking brake on.  Well, those split rail fence posts in our beautiful front yard nor the side of the car ever quite looked the same after that morning.  To be continued.

Tombstones

By Linda H. Barnette

Since I have been working on various family trees, I have become interested in the various types of tombstones, gravestones, and headstones, as they are usually called. They vary a lot, and so does the amount of information one can glean from them.

Tombstones were used to mark burial places as far back as 300 BC to the Celtic and Roman cultures. However, it was not until the 1600’s that they became popular in churches and cemeteries. Originally, they were reserved for middle- and upper-class people while poor folks were buried on their own property or wherever they lived.

It was only after the Protestant theology that spread after the Reformation that headstones became staples for almost everybody. Most churches have for the last few hundred years have had graveyards or cemeteries where church members are buried. This helps a great deal with genealogy research because most at least have the person’s name. date of birth and date of death.

Throughout history different cultures have used several materials for headstones. During the Civil War period, wooden headstones were used to mark the graves of those who died in battle. Eventually, marble became popular, and my Smith grandparents’ tombstone at Center is a beautiful white marble one. However, marble became too expensive, and it was also very soft, so most stones today are made of granite, a far cry from the early fieldstone markers that someone carved by hand.

In my work I have visited many cemeteries where my ancestors are buried, at least in the area, and it is impossible to stress the importance of how significant these are to genealogists. I’m sharing two extremes here, the old Dwiggins family cemetery on Boone Farm Road where they lived and the large monument of my 3rd great-grandfather at Sandy Creek Lutheran Cemetery in Davidson County.

Footnote:  I am so grateful for the efforts of all of those people who volunteered in the History Room at the Davie Library through the years. We have a great collection thanks to their efforts: Miss Flossie Martin, Jim Wall, Doris Frye, Nancy Murphy and all the others. They had a vision of how sacred history is and turned that vision into a fabulous collection.