Day 520: Midas’ Spy-Glass

Laetitia and her group headed northeast out of Raleigh. Their initial destination was Medoc Mountain. There are those who might quibble about whether a hill 325 feet above sea level can correctly be called a mountain. Medoc’s apologists claim that it was a high mountain 350 million years ago and that those quibblers should have visited before millions of years of erosion took their toll. Laetitia had chosen it not because she expected to see a real mountain, but because she wanted to take her group hiking and bird watching and have a picnic lunch under the trees.

After spending much of the day in the park they went off to Rich Square, their evening’s destination. With a population of about 900, it’s a relatively small community surrounded by woodland and farmland. The happy hour gossip late that afternoon was about a bachelor farmer with a swimming hole in the creek on his property that was not quite as secluded as some of its users thought.

A young lass from the town of Rich Square
Liked to swim in the creek while quite bare
On the farm of old Midas
Who kept his best spy glass
On the porch near his old rockin’ chair.

Day 519: Polly’s Folly

Laetitia and her group drove east out of Moravian Falls in the direction of the Piedmont Plateau, a band of low, rolling hills with red clay soil between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Their destination was the cluster of university towns called the Research Triangle. The triangle consists of North Carolina’s three major universities, Duke, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State, clustered close to one another in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, respectively.

They stopped first at Durham. Before it became known as the home of Duke University, the city was known for its bright-leaf tobacco. The combination of growing the tobacco plants on the relatively poor Piedmont red soil and a charcoal heat-curing process discovered accidentally in 1839 by a slave named Stephen produced a mild aromatic tobacco that became very popular. During the Civil War, soldiers from both sides confiscated it from the local farmers and developed a taste for it. After the war, national demand for the product led to the formation of the Bull Durham Tobacco Company. Its name came from a Coleman’s English mustard container labeled “Durham Mustard” that featured a bull’s head as part of the logo.

Durham is sometimes known as the “Bull City” and has a statue prove it. Laetitia and her group saw the bronze bull at the city center and toured the Duke campus before moving on to Chapel Hill. One of the stories repeated ad nauseum when Laetitia’s extended family got together was about the wife of a Charolais cattle breeder who died, so his wife ordered a tombstone with the figure of a Charolais bull on it. When the tombstone arrived modestly sans couilles, she sent it back and ordered them retrofit. Laetitia was pleased to observe that the Durham bull was anatomically correct.

A small Anglican chapel built in 1752 once stood on the site of what is now the town center of Chapel Hill. It’s primarily a university town. Laetitia’s group visited the campus and then moved on to Raleigh.

Raleigh is the state capital and the site of North Carolina State University. After touring the campus and dropping her guests at their lodging with instructions to meet later, Laetitia found a campus bar called “He’s Not Here” that was in the midst of happy hour. The gossip from a nearby table that became the limerick of the day was a cautionary tale about the perils of trysting al fresco in the Piedmont region with its red clay soil.

A wayward young housewife named Polly
Learned outdoor adventures were folly
For red clay on her back
From her tryst with young Zack
Created a scandal in Raleigh.

Day 518: Boomer Consumer

Laetitia and her group headed north out of Charlotte. Their first stop was Lake Norman State Park, on the shores of North Carolina’s largest man-made lake. They did a five-mile hike along the lakeshore. Afterward they took a semi-circular route, going northwest to Blowing Rock, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to where it joins U.S. Route 421 near Stony Fork, and then heading southwest to Moravian Falls, where they were spending the evening.

Moravia was a mountainous principality in what is now the Czech Republic. During the seventeenth century, it was part of the Hapsburg Empire. The Moravians were persecuted for resisting the efforts of the Jesuits to convert them to Catholicism, the Hapsburg state religion. Many Moravians fled to other countries in Europe, and some came to what is now North Carolina.

At a table near Laetitia’s barstool perch at happy hour, a woman named Jan was engaged in an animated conversation with friends, trying to squelch some gossip involving her and a salesman from the nearby farming community called Boomer. When she finished, the bartender leaned over the bar and whispered to Laetitia, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Jan said that it was a vile rumor
‘Bout that Kielbasa salesman from Boomer
They’d just met at a bar
Then she got in his car
To test his wares as a consumer.

Day 517: Monogram Scam

With almost two million residents in its metropolitan area, Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city. It was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the queen of King George III of England. Because of the size of the city and the relatively large number of tourist opportunities, Laetitia hired a local guide to do the city tour. The tour included the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Carolinas Aviation Museum, the Rosedale Plantation, and the Charlotte Trolley Museum. A member of Laetitia’s group asked the guide if residents of the city were called “Charlatans.” She was informed that they were called “Charlotteans.”

Laetitia took a coffee break while the local guide was leading her group around one of the museums. While in the coffee shop, she heard some gossip about a highschool girl named Annabelle Ames who made the mistake of wearing a sweater with a red monogram to school on a day when her English class was studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. It became the limerick of the day.

The gossip today around Charlotte
That Annabelle Ames is a harlot
Was told by some jester
Who compared her to Hester
When she wore her initial in scarlet.