Day 522: Bland Plan

Laetitia began the day by going to Kitty Hawk, the barrier island where the Wright brothers made their pioneering flight. Then they visited Nags Head and Cape Hatteras National Seashore before driving along the south side of Albemarle Sound on the way to Richmond, Virginia.

They stopped for lunch at a small café in Ford, Virginia. Laetitia’s booth was close enough to the soda fountain to overhear the conversation of two teenage girls who were perched on stools there. What emerged from the conversation was that both girls found life in Ford rather boring. One of them, Susan, was dramatically bemoaning the news she had just received that her parents were moving to Bland, Virginia. If there was any place on earth more boring than Ford, Bland must be it, she concluded. Of course, she hadn’t been there yet, but its name was certainly suggestive. Laetitia didn’t need to wait until happy hour today. She already had a limerick.

Young Susan was constantly bored
With life in the village of Ford
But when her folks planned
To move on to Bland
She simply went out of her gourd.

Day 521: Old Trap

Laetitia and her group left Rich Square and headed northeast toward Merchants Millpond State Park. The millpond was constructed in the early nineteenth century to provide waterpower for gristmills and a sawmill. Later other businesses were established in the area, and it became known as Merchants Millpond. Laetitia’s group went canoeing, following a marked route through the cypress trees that afforded excellent views of wildlife, including alligators. Later they moved on to Dismal Swamp State Park, where they went kayaking among the cypress trees and hiking on the extensive boardwalk trails. That afternoon they headed in the direction of Albemarle Sound and arrived at Camden, where they were spending the night.

Several local residents at the next table in the bar where Laetitia went for a pre-dinner drink were talking about the history of a nearby community called Old Trap. The gist of the conversation was this: Europeans settled the area that is now called Old Trap in the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century there was a church, and by the time of the Revolutionary War there was a store. The town’s location close to sea level just north of Albemarle Sound made a watermill impractical, so a wind-powered gristmill was built in the area for grinding grain. The local store sold liquor by the drink. Wives in the area often were irked when their husbands stopped to drink at the store instead of coming directly home from the mill. They called the store “The Trap,” and after it had been around awhile, it became the “Old Trap.” Laetitia condensed the conversation into the limerick of the day.

A small store that had liquor on tap
Very soon became known as “Old Trap”
A name that derives
From the disgruntled wives
Of the men who stopped for a wee drap.

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.