Friday, April 25, 2014

Storms Along Big Creek

The thunderstorm which rattled through an hour before daylight has trailed a legacy of rapidly shifting clouds

Winter-browned leaves from the magnolia tree dance across the lawn.

 Seed wings from the dooryard maples cling wetly to the windshield of the car. The spicy-sweet scent of fading viburnum blossoms is heavy in the damp air.

The cats huddle on the back steps or venture into the tall grass beyond the clothesline—wary or bold according to their individual natures.  At the slightest ker-fluffle of wind or distant growl of thunder they dash inside, skittering down the hall, flinging themselves onto the bed—the better to dry mist-dampened fur and soggy feet.

Grey skies brood over green darkness below; the air which stirs the heavy linen curtains at the sliding door has developed more than a hint of chill

The voice of the wind rises from a whisper to a fretful whine, subsides, rises again with a hint of powers held in check.
The stage seems set, awaiting the production of a Gothic drama.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday's Gift

The clematis vines don't seem to mind the caprices of early spring.
The leaves of roses and lilies have been visibly frost-nipped in the past week, while buds continued to swell on the white-flowered clematis--the earliest of the three.

The vines clamber as they will--sometimes I tuck one around a bar of the trellis.

This one is at the very top of the trellis.

Buds, a tangle of vines, blossoms behind greenery.

I love the green tints.

This one should be at its best tomorrow.

Each year, although I watch the buds, the first flowers take me by surprise.
I walked by the trellis a dozen times yesterday--no flowers.
Today this lovely gift.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farm Days

Monday blew in on a gusty wind. Still troubled with what I was determined to identify as pollen allergies, I spent much of  the day outdoors.
J. summoned me early on to tow a tractor around the dooryard.
This has been a recurring chore as he has struggled to start the latest refurbished tractor.
He replaced the starter and the fuel pump, the fuel filters, bled the lines.
The tractor would fire and then quit, starved for fuel.

I do not like towing a disabled vehicle!
I understand the process well enough:  one eases along watching the tow chain until it is taut, then accelerates to tow the recalcitrant tractor to the point where it starts and runs.
In actuality I often manage to do something wrong, be it mis-interpreting J.'s hand signals, choosing the wrong way to loop about the front field [if the dragged tractor hasn't started as we approach the end of the driveway.]  Then too, there is the possibility that I have 'my' tractor in the wrong gear, don't give it gas enough, etc.
Given the rate at which tractors arrive and then are sold on I am seldom driving one with which I am familiar.
Repeated sessions in the past week convinced me that the current tractor in running condition has a very touchy clutch action. No matter how cautiously I used the pedal there was a jerk and lurch as it let in.
Thus on Monday, having heeded my ultimatum that I would NOT be agreeable to using that particular tractor as a tow, I was taken aback to find that J. had hooked the 4-wheeler to his stubborn tractor and I was meant to steer it about the yard.
It was asking a lot of the 4 wheeler to tow the big tractor. It strained and scrabbled before the tractor behind began to move. The end of the driveway was upon us and still the tractor hadn't 'fired.'
I turned into the meadow, where-upon the 4 wheeler protested and faltered. 
I braked and looked over my shoulder at J. for assistance.
He came alongside, put the 4-wheeler in low range. 
It takes all the strength I can muster to maneuver the 4-wheeler in low range. Steering to the left in a wide curve to get back onto the drive I struck a deep rut which threw the tires to the right.
Braced as I was I felt a painful wrench in my back.
Grimly I gave the 4 wheeler 'all she wrote' and strained back to the top of the drive dragging my useless burden behind.
J. stomped inside to do some tractor research on his laptop, exasperated beyond words with the hours of tinkering to no avail.
I should have gone inside at that point, made a mug of tea, taken a break.
Instead I mopped my streaming eyes and nose, fetched my pruning snippers and tackled the winter-seared branches of the buddleia.
An hour later as I finished heaping dead twigs on the burn pile, J. emerged.
I was pleased to find that the tractor fiasco wasn't about to be discussed.
'I think we might as well go over to the other place.  I'll load the tractor and tiller and we can put in the blueberries."
He soon had the big tractor and tiller loaded on the trailer, and I carefully stowed the potted blueberries into the space behind the truck seats.
We arrived at the other place to find that the neighboring farmer had, per request of the former owner, plowed up half of the large garden space.
While J. chugged up and down, churning the soil to a fine tilth, I explored my soon to be new dooryard.
I walked the perimeter of the acre noting that honeysuckle vine had run unchecked for years, and that there will be a mighty job ahead to cut and pull down the strangling growth.
I discovered creeping phlox and candytuft  in a tiny 'garden' at the front edge of the lawn, decided there would be room for my treasured peonies in the existing circular bed in front.
I wished I'd thought to bring the pruners as the one rose under the front windows is badly in 
need of a trim.
I strolled back to the garden to find that J. had finished his tilling and was shoveling rich composted manure into the carefully spaced holes for the blueberries.
I lilted the plants tenderly from their big pots, settled them into the prepared spaces and firmed the cool soil around them.
We planted the strawberry plants next, hoping for the best--they've been held over for several weeks and looked frail and dry.

On the way home J. stopped off at the specialty tractor repair shop he favors.
I was tired, aching--content to sit still.
J. merged shortly, jubilant at the information he had learned.
"Tom says the problem is in the generic fuel filters I installed. They're sold as a substitute for the originals, but they're designed differently and don't let the fuel through."
So--we roared up through town to the MF dealership where J. purchased fuel filters.
A few turns of the wrench and they were installed.
The tractor obligingly started under its own steam and  J. ran it smoothly around the yard.
Days of frustration ended, the reek of diesel fuel on hands and clothing done with for this round.
I listened sympathetically to J.'s rant about parts that are sold as replacements and don't fit the
 intended application.
With the tractor now running well and ready for re-sale, J.has  turned his attention to bodywork on a
 car fender.
I finally admitted that I was coming down with a bad cold and retreated to my rocking chair with mugs of tea and a stack of magazines.
Outside--spring moves on.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jim's Sunday Photos

I was sneezing by the time I swung my feet to the floor this morning.
The cats don't like being greeted with snuffles and sneezes, so they marched off to the kitchen where J. was already making coffee.
I usually blow my nose a few times, get the kinks out of my neck, pad about collecting my wits and easing into the day.
The wind was blowing--and continued to do so all day.
I think with so much in bloom I'm being troubled with allergies.
Jim made us a grand stir-fry for breakfast--chopped onion, bits of an orange sweet pepper, half a tomato, steak cut in tiny strips, with eggs and toast served on the side.
He went out afterward to mow the grass.
I tidied the kitchen, talked on the phone with our son in Wyoming--where it was snowing heavily.

Jim went out about noon with his camera--I having wondered aloud if he had forgotten he owned one.
At that, the long dreary winter hasn't offered a great many opportunities for inspiring photos.
He came in quite pleased with himself and asked that I download the photos onto my PC and share them with the family via Face Book.

What should have been a simple task ended up causing more than an hour of frustrating effort.
I didn't install the Canon camera program on the new PC.
[That seems to be the option as cameras don't come with a printed 'manual' or an 
installation disc these days.]
I felt the program was a bit clumsy and had resorted to Picasa on my former PC.
I discovered that J. hadn't deleted any of his photos since early in January and I was being prompted to download nearly 200 of them--many of which are already in my files.
I decided to load them onto J.'s laptop instead and email the newest ones to myself.
Arggh!  Passwords, security codes, word verification boxes.
I stormed from my PC to his, trying to reset passwords and bypass all the code business--I do not keep pieces of paper with obscure strings of numbers I can't identify.

By the time I had that sorted--and I'm not sure how--most of the afternoon had fled.
I decided to turn to a clean page on my desk blotter and decipher my scribbled notes re passwords for places I shop online, passwords for google, microsoft, Roku, craigslist, J.'s reset email account. 
I'm sure I'll yet run into something which boggles my mind.

Not a productive day.
A day of feeling tired, stuffy.

Tomorrow I must do better.
Spring can't pass me by while I sit indoors sniffling into a pile of tissues!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Now It Can be Told

The century old pear tree in bloom.

There may be those few readers who have noted that my posts of late have been a bit sparse. There might have been a number of explanations if anyone cared to ponder my absence or the rather laconic nature of   my offerings. 
True, we went traveling for 4 days;  I had to buy a new PC. Spring finally arrived bringing both seasonal chores and the urge to spend hours out of doors.

All of these things have been factors, but there has been another of  which only our closest family and friends were aware.
I have a horror of 'counting chickens before they hatch.' 
To broadcast a plan or a possibility before all is in place can leave one feeling a bit foolish if plans go awry.

Now, with phase one of the project completed I can 'announce' that yesterday [Thursday] we 'closed' on the purchase of another property. 

About a month ago we made the decision to list our little farm with a realtor to sell.
Much as we have loved [and still do love] the 28 acres and its buildings which have been our home for 4 years, it has become evident that we are tending crops of hay and corn and grain with very little return for our investment. Haying is hot and labor intensive work, subject to the whims of weather. Frequently extra manpower is not available when needed. Similarly, the 'crop farmers' who lease up a patchwork of fields in this end of the county are often stretched too thin--working day and night at harvest when weather permits and inevitably unable to make the rounds to all the fields at the optimum time for harvest.
The alternative of neglecting the land, allowing fallow fields to grow up to weeds, isn't one we can justify. 
Too many fields in the county have come to that--overgrown with scrubby brush and tangled undergrowth where crops once flourished.

We toyed with the idea of selling the crop land, retaining the small house, the barns, the gardens. 
We've considered the possibilities for enlarging the little house a bit--[our living space seemed to shrink during the prolonged harsh cold of the winter past.]  The configuration of the house and the 'lay of the land' surrounding it don't offer easy options for expansion.

Both Jim and I tend to keep an eye on local real estate listings.  He has at times thought he might buy a place in need of renovation, refurbish it and offer for resale. Often we drive by those properties that catch our attention on the websites of the local agencies.
Early in December a listing caught our eyes: an already renovated farm-style house on the other side of town. We drove out and found it sitting tidily on 2 acres at the end of a lane.  There was a large garage/workshop building, a welcoming front porch, a small front yard with a neat white fence around.  The price was appealing. We phoned the listing realtor requesting  an appointment to view. Several days went by while he tried to arrange a showing--meeting with a strange variety of excuses from the owners: sickness in the family; some faults with plumbing and septic system which must be modified. Finally, sometime after the New Year, the owners admitted that they had decided not to sell, although they refused to sign off so that the realtor could remove the listing.

Feeling a bit disgruntled we laid aside the idea of listing our farm for sale and looking for an alternative that would provide a bit more house and considerably less land to tend. 
Early in March our realtor phoned and asked if we had decided whether to offer our farm for sale. A quick review of our thoughts and we agreed to list. We signed the contract and I began scrambling to tidy the house and take photos which would appear on the official listing.
[Remember the spurt of house cleaning and my 'house tour' photos?]

We began again to peruse area 'For Sale' properties. We drove by several that seemed promising in the listings--only to find that they were located at the far end of the county and/or were in neighborhoods that didn't appeal.
We viewed an older house that was utterly depressing.  The roof had leaked and although that had been repaired the interior damage had not. We looked at the photos of an upscale log house, seemingly similar to those we built in Wyoming.  On inspection, although the grounds were attractive and there was a huge garage, the house itself was carved up into small cramped spaces.  The kitchen was so inadequate that I would have felt claustrophobic merely standing there to boil a kettle for tea!

We viewed a house with admirable space, although it had been bizarrely decorated. The neighborhood and location at the other end of the county left us uninspired.
Lastly, we viewed a 10 year old house of graceful proportions and layout located at this end of the county in an attractive rural neighborhood.  There were no outbuildings. The price was at the very top of the range we felt we could manage. In spite of the inviting floor plan and copious amounts of storage we were troubled by the obviously poor quality of the interior work. The sheet vinyl floor covering in the kitchen lay in ripples. The kitchen work space was cramped and the cabinetry of mediocre construction. Chair rail moldings and window trim had been badly fitted.  The floors creaked with every step.
We pondered this one for a matter of a week or more. We considered the cost and the time to upgrade inferior fittings and workmanship, to build a workshop.

I worked myself into an anxious state of mind. I considered the possibility of a buyer for our farm appearing, expecting immediate occupancy--and we, with our elderly horse and our retinue of felines--to say nothing of our goods and chattles--being homeless! 

I began to fervently wish that we had never considered selling! 
It was at this point that J. began to consider a house which we had driven past several times, noting the 'For Sale" sign. It is in the country, surrounded by farm land, about 4 miles from the center of town.
I protested: the crop land extends to the very edges of the long narrow acre where the house sits.
Our realtor made an appointment for a showing.  I decided not to go.  

J. and our realtor went at the appointed time, only to make a hasty exit from the house when they realized someone was asleep in one of the bedrooms!  J. had seen just enough of the property to declare it appealing.
Another appointment was made for the next day and with G. in tow [she loves house tours] we made the 15 minute drive to the location.  
Homeowners are not advised to be present when potential buyers come to view. The owners were there--an older couple who invited us in as graciously as though we were guests expected for tea. We explored the semi-finished basement area [half bath, potential bedroom, a 'family room' a large laundry room with an outside exit, a tidy storage room] While J. went to acquaint himself with the land and the large garages, G. and I were shown about by the lady of the house. 
 G. by then was hissing in my ear, "This is a darling house!  I can see you living here!"

I fell in love with the kitchen. The cabinetry was custom made locally several years ago. The details of the kitchen were planned by a woman who loves to bake and to put up food from the garden. The window above the deep sink looks out into the back yard, the garden area, the surrounding fields.The adjoining dining area could accommodate a family gathering. There are three bedrooms--not large--but adequate. 
In the garden we discovered a pecan tree, a pear tree, clumps of iris, grassy areas, pockets of landscaped plantings, a large veg garden, room for our elderly horse to live out her days. J. was intrigued by the large sturdy shed divided into three bays. 
The price was astonishingly reasonable. We came away with a good feeling, a sense that we could 'fit' there very well.

It belongs to us now. The sellers have 30 days occupancy in which to pack and remove to their other property in Indiana. 
The dated wallpaper needs to come down. I've chosen paint colors for each room, not unlike the decorating with which we revived this house. 
It is a bit daunting to own two properties, but not burdensome as long as a buyer for our farm appears prior to another winter. I can only pray that will happen, as the expense of heating two houses could mount up. The finishing of the basement area will need to await funds from the sale of the farm. The price of paint to refurbish the upstairs living area is not prohibitive. I can still do a good job of painting--it merely takes me about three times as long and engenders a good deal more creaking and groaning than formerly.
With such a short distance we should be able to accomplish much of the move in reasonable increments. 

Meanwhile, I've been spending time in my gardens here, dividing perennials which have outgrown their space, but potting them up to move rather then relocating them within the existing gardens.

I disinterred the peonies I set in the strip beyond the clothesline: It was never a good choice for a garden;  hard rains send a torrent of water down the ditch in the back field to swamp the struggling plants and create a depressing wallow of mud.
Four blueberry plants set out mid-summer are now in large pots, as are 3 straggling roses which had not settled in happily. 
Some plants in the perennial strips appear to have succumbed to the freeze of January--likewise a number of things in the herb plot.
I've pruned and poked, felt daunted by the hardy growth of weeds already flourishing.
The daylilies that line the front porch are sturdy things, spreading apace.
Other plants can be divided to fill out the bare patches where plants have been lost.

I am assisted in my outdoor work by the boy cats who charge through any bit of soil which I spade up.
As I dig and gently lift roots, fill pots with soil, I hear the mockingbird rehearsing his latest repertoire. 
Robins chirp, the cardinal utters his sweet call.
Overhead the dark crimson buds of the crab apple swell in the heat of afternoon.
Silvery green returns to the winter-faded stems of lavender.
I absorb each familiar element of my home with that too familiar sense of impending departure, even as I sit with a mug of tea, paint sample cards fanned out on the table, plotting where to position my rocking chair--my Grampa Mac's favorite chair that has traveled with me so far from his New England home.
I fret over the perils of acclimating the cats to a new environment.
I wonder about the patterns of sunlight that will fall across the floors on a space new to me; I dread the exhaustion of sorting and packing my bits and pieces.
I feel already the wrench of leaving the loved and the familiar to move even a few miles away from the dooryard which has been a refuge and a delight.
I can do this!
I can do this--I think--one more time!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Closing of the Store at Whitehurst Station

Several attempts to create a link to the human interest story re the Kelly Whitehurst store haven't been viable.
I created a copy/paste doc of the text and reproduce it here for those who enjoy such items. Jim hoped to visit the area while Ralph and Dean Whitehurst were alive-they died in 2012 and 2010 respectively.

Whitehurst Store

By Mike Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Early Monday morning, before light hits the stretch of road between Bethel and Stokes, Dean W hitehurst may have to stop himself from walking out the door and over to the old, faded buil ing a few yards away.

He's been coming here "50-something years," along with his older brother, Ralph, to run the general store their father, W.K. Whitehurst, started in 1916. For years, they've hinted at closing Whitehurst Grocery, better known as Whitehurst Station by the locals, but keep coming i n day after day, week after week, mainly because those who walk through the screen door are like family and raise a fuss each time talk of shutting down pops up.

"They don't like it much, but times are changing," Dean says.

After today, closing becomes a reality. Dean is 75. Ralph is 77 and needs to spend more time with his wife, whose health is failing. Come Monday, when the door doesn't open, they're no t sure exactly what they will do.

"I'm liable to get up and come right here," Dean said.

The gathering place

By 3 p.m. each day, the seats are filled around a table near the back of the store, past th e counter and a rack of snacks. Retired farmers and businessmen drive from Bethel, Stokes an d Robersonville to talk about politics, sports, food, their latest doctor visits, the goings- on in Greenville, you name it.

"If you can think about it, it's been said or going to be said," says Marvin "Baby Ray" Butler, who lives about 3 miles from the store.

This has been a gathering place as long as they can remember. Folks like Butler, Billy Staton , William Earl House, Ed Jones, David Bryan, Kenneth Manning, Charlie Manning, Mike Keel an d Charles Jenkins still stop by. Several other regulars have died, Bull James and Melvin Hawkins just in the last couple of months.

Health problems prevent others from coming in. Thurston James from Stokes had a leg amputated after developing a blood clot; Robert Bright suffered a stroke and is in a nursing home in Greenville.

"We've lost so many," Dean says. "They've passed away."

In its heyday, this was the place for farmers to stock up on supplies. Whitehurst Station sold most anything the community needed: bib overalls, tires, batteries, feed, shoes, plows for mules, gas and general grocery items. A sawmill and blacksmith shop operated just across the railroad tracks not far away.

The trade these days is mostly cold drinks, snacks and blocks of cheddar cheese that Dean buys in round, wooden boxes and sells by the pound.

"We call it rat cheese," Staton says as he cuts off small chunks for an afternoon snack.

"He's got five dollars worth," Dean says.

The gas tanks have long since been pulled up, although one sits idle under the shelter out fr ont. The cost to upgrade the 10,000-gallon storage drum was too much, Whitehurst says.

"I remember selling gas for 13.9 (cents)," he says. "We used to sell right much gas."

"Gas went up to $2.21 today," Staton pipes in. "The sun don't come up right, gas has to go up ."

Friendly banter is never in short supply. Games of hearts and checkers once stirred the chatter around the small table in the back. Now, it's the news of the day.

"During the winter time, there would be 15 or 20 people out here (playing hearts)," Dean says . "When you lost, you had to get out. I loved to play hearts, but we don't play now because most of the old ones are gone."

Where to go?

Whitehurst Station will be missed. There's no debating that among the regulars. Their dilemma is where to congregate to pass the time when Monday rolls around.

For Charles Jenkins, this has been his lunch stop every weekday on the same 90-mile mail rout e he has driven for 28 years.

"I've got to find a new place to stop," he says.

Only, there are no other stores in the area.

"He's going to have to bring it with him," Dean says.

David Bryan has an idea what he might do.

"Bring me a drink from the house, get me a chair and sit out there under the shelter," he says, munching on a brownie and sipping a Diet Coke.

Bryan retired from Burroughs Wellcome in 1994 and from farming in 1996. He usually drops in every day, "twice a day sometimes."

"You bring any chicken livers out here to eat today?" he asks Billy Staton, 67, who worked in tobacco for 43 years and has been a daily visitor for about three years.

"No, I ate collards today in Williamston," Staton says. "Made a special trip. They cook the best collards I ever ate. They always taste the same."

"About time for Kenneth Manning to come back in," Dean said. "He came out and got a can of sardines and went back home."

The door swings open, and Marvin Butler strolls in. He settles into one of three connected black-and-yellow seats he picked up a few years ago at a yard sale.

"Smoke bother you?" he asks.

"Don't make no difference," Bryan says.

The door opens again, and Ed Jones heads for an empty chair. He and Staton were in the same grade in school, but he headed west at age 17, to Iowa, then Wisconsin, before coming back i n 1996. Staton asks if he has seen William Earl House, who has had "a case of walking pneumonia."

"I saw William Earl over at the Filling Station (in Robersonville) eating lunch today," Jones says. "I tell you what, he didn't look all that good, but he said he was feeling fairly well. Had him a great big bowl of chicken pastry, and he was working on it."

A few minutes later, House makes an appearance.

"How you feeling?" Staton asks.

"Right fair," says House, who lives in Bethel.

John Pritchard comes in, and Dean hands him a bottle of water from a rusting cooler that still works like a charm. Dean says it was used when he bought it from J.C. Kirkland in Stokes i n the late 1950s or early '60s. All he has done is replace the compressors.

"I believe it's one of the first one's ever made," Dean says. "But it keeps it ice cold. People get water out of there and say they've never seen no water that cold."

The talk then turns to the store's closing.

"What you going to do next week?" Staton asks Pritchard.

"I'll probably spend a little more time at Crawford Hardware Store," Pritchard says. "He's got the seats in there and all."

"I'll probably go to Crawford's," House adds. "Gotta leave home once in a while."

The rest of the afternoon gang begins filing in. Kenneth Manning, who will be 80 in January , grabs a Coke and sits on what used to be a school bus seat and now has cushion poking through in all directions.

"We've had them a long time," Dean says. "It takes a good, sturdy one to hold people such as them."

Charlie Manning walks in, orders an orange soda and joins the conversation. Mike Keel follow s him a couple of minutes later.

"What time y'all closing Saturday?" Pritchard asks Dean.

"Probably 6 o'clock," he answers matter-of-factly.

He and Ralph have had the doors open six days a week like clockwork.

"Never open on Sunday and never sold beer and wine," Dean says. "Not many places like that."

Each of the brothers has been robbed once. Dean was hit on the head with canned goods, and the cash register was taken on Dec. 12, 1997; Ralph was stabbed in the side with a long knife almost a year later and missed almost two weeks of work.

That knife still sits on a shelf in the back of the store.

"It's scary," Dean says. "I lock my door in the mornings when I come out about 6 and read the paper."

Dean will work the entire shift today while Ralph and his wife attend a reunion in Dunn. He expects his most frequent customers to stop by for at least one more visit.

"Well, I'll see y'all again before the week's over," Pritchard says as he leaves. "I got to g et out here at least one more time. But I've got to wait 'til Monday morning to see if it opens up."

Dean vows that's not going to happen. He has no plans for the well-stocked shelves of merchandise untouched for years and gathering dust. "I don't know. I might just leave it in here.” Or for the store itself ?
"I don't know. You rent it to somebody, they'd put in beer and wine and all. I might just leave it right here."

He does know it will be tough not to show up for work Monday morning

"I've got mixed emotions," Whitehurst says. "When you stay that long, you've got to kind of miss it."

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Journey In Time

Last week Jim and I took a journey that was first planned and hoped for and put on hold for a dozen years.
J.'s paternal line was well-established by the late 1700's in the area that became 
Pitt County, North Carolina. The Whitehurst family first settled in Virginia, immigrating from Dilhorne and Cheadle in Staffordshire, England. Several heads of households re-established in North Carolina. J.'s
 g-g-g-grandfather was born there in 1803.

The Kelly Whitehurst Store at Whitehurst Station, closed since 2006.

 The older building was opened as a store in 1890 by Samuel C. Whitehurst when the Atlantic Coastal RR laid a branch line from Greenville and Parmele into the hamlet then known as Grindool, from the proximity of Grindel Creek which was often cited as a boundary in deeds recording the land transactions of the Whitehurst families. S.C. Whitehurst applied for a post office and served as the postmaster. By 1892 the crossroads boasted the store and P.O. a sawmill and a cotton gin.
In 1916 William 'Kelly' Whitehurst opened a store on the opposite side of the road.
The store was manned by his sons Ralph and Dean until they closed it in 2006. Both men died within a few years of retirement. Perhaps a few of the 'regulars' at the old store would have remembered Julius and Roy Whitehurst who lived within walking distance as boys.
The store was never tided after closing.  the property is now owned by Clayton Everett who was gracious in sharing his memories when we stopped there.
 [See next post for a story written in 2006 by a local reporter to commemorate the closing of the Kelly Whitehurst Store.]

Th old depot once stood on the right side of the road just beyond the RR tracks.

I'm not a believer in coincidence. Therefore, it must have been 'meant' that the first person we encountered in Bethel, NC was a man who shares J.'s lineage. We stopped for directions at a hardware store, thinking we might first look for the Methodist church in town.
We didn't realize at the time that although J.'s g-g-g-g-grandfather had been instrumental in founding the church, the present day building is located a few blocks away from the earlier log chapel.
The timely meeting in the hardware store resulted in our being invited to follow Cousin F. to his office where he summoned Cousin C. to join us. 
We fell over ourselves for several delightful hours of questions and sorting out the various family connections.

It is a strange thing to go to an area where ancestors lived for several hundreds of years and to see that surname on buildings and road signs.

We spent the night at a motel in Tarboro and were back in Bethel the next morning, parking the car to stroll around a small town that would have been very familiar to my late father-in-law.
This weathered rusty bell is on display outside a white-painted church in town.

Jim was fascinated by this mural on the side wall of an empty building.
Bethel, NC is not exactly teeming with business at this time and many storefronts were empty.

A close-up of "Engine 97."

Sign on the Bethel station.
The crossing at Whitehurst Station a few miles away must have been a 'whistle-stop'--a place perhaps to unload freight for the store and the sawmill.

I don't know which 'Whitehurst' once conducted business here.

The present day Methodist church is an imposing building.
As we walked into the parking lot, a little old lady was emerging from her car, Bible in hand. 
Greetings were exchanged and J. introduced himself.
The woman seemed not a bit surprised to find a strange Whitehurst on the sidewalk. She calmly informed us that her 'grand daddy' had been a Whitehurst.
We were soon joined by another elderly lady who insisted we must go inside to the church office.
In the office we were introduced to the sister-in-law of Cousin F. and the youth leader who popped by informed us that he was married to Cousin. C.'s daughter.
This was the pattern for our stay in the area.  Seldom have we been more warmly welcomed.
Before we left the church we were given a booklet which compiles the early history of the church--with mention of names that are familiar from my research of J.'s family.

Jim's sister, Jane, and her husband, Chuck, were headed home to Ohio from a month in Florida. 
They were able to manage a detour of a few hours to meet us and explore this territory of deep roots.
Here Jane and Jim pose outside the Kelly Whitehurst Store.

Chuck and Jane holding down the sign.

We drove slowly along narrow roads that wound through the fertile farm land once owned by 
Whitehurst families.
Many of the old houses were torn down over the years.
The dilapidated farmhouse once owned by J.'s g-g-g-grandfather was demolished only a few years ago. The site has since been plowed and harrowed smoothly, indistinguishable  from the surrounding field.
J. later discovered that on the google map of the area, the imprint of the 2 story house could be recognized.

 Many families of the 1800's and well into the 20th century buried their dead in roughly fenced plots on the home farms. We trudged across a soggy field to view the tottering headstones behind a rusty iron fence.
Not J.'s immediate line, but one of the many branches of  'cousins.'
Some of the graves, perhaps never marked with a stone, have been lost, including that of J.'s g-grandfather.
Cousin D's meticulous search turned up his death certificate from 1920 with the notation
 "buried in the country."
We had with us a copy of the Whitehurst Genealogy researched and published by Cousin D, well marked with paperclips and scraps of paper. Later, wandering around the large cemetery in town we became bewildered by the many names and initials chiseled into gravestones. Everywhere we looked was yet another Whitehurst plot.
Many generations had a fondness for naming their sons, Richard, John, James, or William--with only a middle initial to help in sorting the inter-married lines. Favored names for the daughters were Elizabeth, Mary, Nancy and Caroline. 

Its seems a bit trite to state that these two days in Whitehurst territory were unforgettable--almost over-whelming with so many friendly folks encountered, the sense that we were following roads that would have been familiar to J.'s father, grandfather--so many generations back in time.
Our explorations were the more memorable because the time was shared with our dear sister and 
her husband.
Family matters.