This month, at the edges of woods, fields, and gardens in all 100 North Carolina counties, our state butterfly begins its seasonal flight period. Look above the trees: The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail brings spring on its wings.
When it flies: In the Piedmont and Coastal Plain, early March to late May, and early June to mid-September. In the mountains, mid-March to mid- or late June, and late June to early October.
Just after James Emory Gibson created the Fli-Back Paddle Ball in High Point in 1931, the popularity of the toy took off. Gibson didn’t invent the first paddle ball — patents go back to the 1920s — but he perfected it.
Yesterday’s play: Fli-Back, once the producer of tops, yo-yos, and rubber balls, shuttered in the ’80s. But you can see Fli-Back toys — including a paddle ball — at the High Point Museum.
The legacy of Carolina face jugs was nearly lost when potters took a hiatus from the form. But Catawba Valley’s Burlon Craig and Seagrove’s Sid Luck gave the vessels new life during the national craft revival of the 1960s and ’70s.
Face to face:See face jugs and other works by the Brown family potters at an exhibit at the N.C. Pottery Center in Seagrove, through January 24.
Cradles to caskets — “if you can’t buy it here, you don’t need it,” went the old slogan of the store that opened in 1883. That’s still largely true (except for the caskets). The original Valle Crucis location remains one of the best examples of a true country store.
Coffee, cubbies, and a coop: In Valle Crucis, get a 5-cent cup of joe, walk past the post office, and check out the chicken coop door in the floor — once used to keep dishonest barterers from re-trading their fowls.
Buzz City: There’s a lot of history behind the Charlotte Hornets’ name: It previously belonged to a minor league baseball team and, after that, a football team. Thanks to local fans, the moniker won out over the second-choice Charlotte Spirit before the team’s first season in 1988, “Hornets” being a nod to the city’s tenacity during the Revolutionary War, when British commander Lord Cornwallis supposedly referred to Charlotte as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion.” So it makes sense that the name is coming back to North Carolina, after having been relocated to New Orleans in 2002. It’s part of our identity. You could even say it’s ingrained: The Michael Jordan-owned reboot team will play on a hexagon-patterned floor reminiscent of a hive. Bzzz.
OK — they likely came from central Asia. But apple trees arrived here with the earliest settlers: The trees sustained the colonists, and our land sustained the trees. If apples don’t deserve honorary native status, what fruit does?
Apples of our eye: We learn to love apples at an early age: Granny Smiths, sliced and slathered in peanut butter. Galas, tucked into our lunch boxes daily. These are the year-round, grocery store-friendly offerings we know well, but there’s a world of fall-only fruit with which you may be unfamiliar. This year, discover the varieties our ancestors ate, the ones whose flavors have become foreign to us. Plan a trip to the mountains in search of roadside stands, like Hendersonville’s Mountain Fresh Orchards, that preserve the heirloom apples you don’t often see in stores: Rome Beauty (pictured), Stayman’s Winesap, Arkansas Black, and more.
Most people don’t realize that our state, a host of the U.S. Open, is also the birthplace of the only patented game of miniature golf: Putt-Putt. Back in 1954, insurance salesman Don Clayton sketched out the idea on index cards at his dining room table in Fayetteville.In pursuit of putting perfection: Don’t think fiberglass animals and windmills. Think clean, green turf bounded by smooth, orange rails. Think standardized courses and serious players. Putt-Putt rewards skill. Other games of mini-golf are designed to trip you up, but the simplicity of the obstacles on a Putt-Putt course means a strategic shot can get you a hole in one. It’s not exactly easy, though, and maintaining consistency is even harder. On April 9, 2011, Charlotte resident Rick Baird became the third person ever to play a perfect game, when, during a tournament in Richmond, Virginia, he made 18 consecutive holes in one. The sports and pop-culture blog Grantland made a short film about Baird’s 18 perfect putts; watch it below.
The black bear is our bear, the only one found in our state. Our black bears are among the largest, and biologists believe eastern North Carolina has some of the highest concentrations on earth.A legendary comeback: Black bears have a place in Cherokee legend, as spirit guides and keepers of dreams. At one point, the black bear in North Carolina nearly became just that — a legend. With the arrival of Europeans in the New World, the once plentiful bears were relegated to the most remote parts of our state, and the population dwindled. It’s hard to imagine that now: In the past several decades, the black bear has made a remarkable comeback. We’re glad to have it close by, this enduring symbol of our state. Just remember: Don’t feed the dream keepers.
This year, Britts Donuts celebrates 75 years of making glazed goodness on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. The landscape around it has changed, but Britt’s remains a sure sign of summer.A sweet story: Founder Harvey Britt sold his first doughnut in 1939, the same year current owner Bobby Nivens was born. Bobby worked for Britt for three seasons in the ’50s, and shortly after that, he met Maxine, the girl who’d become his wife. Life took Bobby and Maxine away from Carolina Beach and Britt’s Donuts, then it brought them back again. Britt sold the shop to Bobby in the ’70s, and he and Maxine have run it ever since — with help first from their daughter, Lynn, and more recently from their granddaughters, Halyn and Bobbi.
In North Carolina, summertime means bugs. Not all of them are a welcome presence, but we don’t mind the friendly-looking wood louse. We especially like its array of charming nicknames.What do you call this thing?: Remember summers as a kid, looking for bugs under logs and in gardens? Remember racing sow bugs, calling for doodlebugs (“Doodlebug, doodlebug, come to supper; I’ll give you bread and butter”), poking roly-polies and making them curl up? Back then, we didn’t worry too much about what to call our little critter friends, but the many names North Carolinians have for the wood louse — pill bug, sow bug, roly-poly, doodlebug — made us wonder: What do you call this thing? As it turns out, the nickname doodlebug is more accurately applied to young ant lions, which really do make trails — or “doodles” — in the sand. And even though the wood louse we found isn’t the kind that rolls up, we still think it’s pretty cute.
The hammock is an invention born of necessity: relaxation. It exists for the purpose of taking a break, of taking a nap, of rocking the hammocker gently, gently into summer.Leisure, Carolina-style: Our sturdy trees and mild breezes have long made hammocks a staple of Carolina yards and porches. Eastern N.C. companies Nags Head Hammocks and Hatteras Hammocks have each been making classic-looking models for 40 years. More recently, the two brothers behind Asheville’s Eagles Nest Outfitters saw a need for a lightweight, travel-friendly option. So they used their mother’s Singer sewing machine to create their own nylon brand.
They’re small in stature – standing only about 14 hands high – but the horses of Shackleford Banks are indeed horses, not ponies. They bring color and life to an isolated island no longer inhabited by humans.Historic Horses: As recently as 1986, these horses shared Shackleford Banks with wild cows, sheep, and goats. Efforts to return the island to its natural state meant removing the other animals, but the horses, descended from Spanish mustangs brought here in the 1500s, were so much a part of the landscape, they were allowed to stay. Today, about 120 horses roam the island.
Dogwood blooms are cause for celebration. The creamy white and blazing pink blossoms are so much a part of spring across the state that we’re kicking off our North Carolina Native page with flowers.What’s in a name?: Dogs love the trees as much as any other in the landscape, but that’s probably not where the name came from. Some folks swear by washing their mange-ridden dogs in bark-infused water, but the bath itself likely does as much good as the dogwood. Regardless of its origins, and with apologies to Shakespeare, a dogwood by any other name would look as wonderful.