Drive-thrus banned from Franklin St. yet UNC students crave Cook Out

By Caroline Bowersox 

If there’s one thing a college student loves, it’s a late-night meal. The beauty of greasy, salty, high calorie food after a long night of studying or bar hopping is unparalleled. In Chapel Hill most restaurants only stay open until midnight, leaving UNC-Chapel Hill students hungry when 2 or 3 a.m. rolls around.

One restaurant may exist as a beacon of hope. Cook Out is a North Carolina-based fast-food chain with a drive-thru that stays open until as late as 4 a.m. on weekends. So tired from studying for hours in Davis Library that you can’t fathom cooking a meal for yourself? Cook Out has your back! Tired of rushing to Cosmic Cantina before it closes at midnight and being stuck with eating another burrito? With an expansive menu offering hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, barbecue, quesadillas, wraps, many fried side dishes, and more than 40 different milkshake flavors, Cook Out has several options that can satisfy whatever your taste buds are craving. 

If only opening a drive-thru in Chapel Hill wasn’t so difficult.

Why isn’t there a Cook Out in Chapel Hill?

In 1998, Chapel Hill enacted an ordinance that barred new drive-thrus from being built without applying for the Special Use Permit beforehand.

Drive-thru restaurants have successfully been implemented in the Carraway Village shopping center and on Fordham Boulevard, but these locations are miles away from the university’s campus. According to Josh Mayo, a transportation planner for the town of Chapel Hill, it is unlikely that the town’s government will allow a drive-thru to be built in the 500 or lower block of Franklin Street, the section of the street that is closest to the campus.

“If I was going to put a fast food drive-thru on Franklin, that wouldn’t be in harmony with the area,” Mayo said. The town government values the walkability of Franklin Street, and putting in a drive-thru would disrupt that. 

The Special Use permitting process can take many years. The Dunkin’ Donuts franchise on East Franklin Street has been in the process with the Town Council to have its drive-thru plans approved since 2019.

 “It’s kind of long, it’s expensive, you have to get consultants and plans drawn up, and you have to have someone present in front of the council, and a lot of time and effort goes into it, so there’s a bit of a barrier there,” Mayo said.

As of 2021, there are no Cook Out locations in the entirety of Orange County, forcing Chapel Hill residents to travel into Durham (enemy territory!) for their late-night munchies fix.

“Bring Cook Out to Franklin Street!”

One night in the spring of 2018, Spencer Zachary was holed up in the library with some friends. The sophomore political science major was supposed to be studying for final exams, but instead he was focused on developing Chapel Hill’s next great business idea.

“I was just trying to pass an hour or two while studying,” Zachary said. That night, he created a Change.org petition titled “Bring Cook Out to Franklin Street! 

“It kind of just started as a joke,” he said, “But every good joke starts with a little bit of inkling of truth that maybe it could actually happen.”

Spanky’s Bar and Restaurant, located at the intersection of Franklin Street and Columbia Street, had recently closed its doors, leaving a prime piece of real estate available just a short walk from campus. Zachary saw an opportunity to provide what many UNC-Chapel Hill students had long yearned for: a walk-in Cook Out.

Zachary didn’t expect his petition to get many signatures. But as the semester went on, the petition amassed over 1,500 signatures. Students commented things like, “Now this is the change we all need,” and “Every college campus needs a Cook Out.”

After his petition picked up steam, Zachary was featured on the Carolina Insider podcast. Eventually, Cook Out, Inc. got word of the petition and posted about it on Twitter.

At the heart of it all was a nostalgia seeking, small town kid from Western North Carolina. “In the town that I grew up in, it was almost like going to Cook Out was a small event,” he said, “Everyone would pile in a car and we would go get Cook Out.”

Considering that Cook Out is special to the state of North Carolina, it is difficult to see why UNC-CH doesn’t have its own location.

 “It’s definitely a part of North Carolina lore that the big three restaurants are Cook Out, Bojangles, and Krispy Kreme,” Zachary said, “It’s like the Holy Trinity.”

A relationship built on milkshakes

When Emma Smith was a sophomore at UNC-CH, she and her best friend made a habit of staying up into the wee hours of the morning to study. After combing through page after page of biology homework, the two had a tradition to drive into Durham, for Cook Out milkshakes. Smith would always mix-and-match the flavors to make a chocolate banana pudding milkshake, and they would sit and talk for hours.

“Cook Out is sort of a liminal space,” Smith said, “That combination of talking with your best friend and being there late at night makes time fly by so fast.” 

After a year or two of making regular Cook Out trips together, the pair started dating, and have been together for three years now. Smith frequently jokes with her partner about the times they talked for hours over milkshakes in undergrad. “We should’ve known we were supposed to be together,” she said.

Smith’s relationship status has changed since her nightly Cook Out trips sophomore year, and her milkshake order has been updated too. “I get a caramel Butterfinger shake now,” she said, “The flavor is a game-changer for me.”

Edited by Katie Bowes and Jorelle Trinity

Community and friendship unite the UNC table tennis team

By Zachary Crain

Tucked in a corner at the bottom of the Student Union, down a few sets of stairs or a 2 o’clock turn just past Wendy’s, sit four tables.

Usually, students are able to rent a table and play ping pong here. But today, eight students brought their own paddles.

A few more sit in scattered chairs, part-watching while half-attempting to study with the backdrop of an entrancing show. Two more students rest a few feet away from the courts, leaning against pool tables covered by well-worn green billiard cloth.

This fluorescently lit corner is home to a team culture and community that differentiates itself from other club sports at UNC.

Despite being at a predominately white institution, all but four of the 33 members of UNC’s club table tennis team are either Asian American or Asian, and seven are Chinese international students.

One of the players, sophomore Warren Winfield, leaned against a pool table and spooned away at a Frosty while explaining the rules of the game. In tournaments, they play games to 11 — the best three-games-of-five wins the match. But now, everything rests on a single game.

When a game begins, slow bends on the serve and return quickly evolve into rapid-fire instinctual reaction. Players pinch their paddles in a penhold, back away from the table, and spin the ball out of sight and onto their opponent’s side.

The atmosphere is simultaneously relaxed and competitive. Some games are filled with compliments and conversations, others with trash talk and animated reactions. All games include laughter.

“It’s definitely a unique culture, and it’s really hard to describe,” junior Jasper Ou, the president of the club, said.  “It’s just a nice way to de-stress. I know that some sports clubs are super intense about it, and I don’t think that was ever our goal.”

After Ou chomps down on a Wendy’s chicken sandwich and disappears for a moment, a few players come over and make sure it’s known:

“He is the best player we have.”

From playing abroad to UNC

Ou’s journey with the sport started on a day he was too young to remember in 2006, on a trip to visit his grandparents in China.

His parents took his older brother, Jonathan, to a table tennis community center, and he immediately fell in love with the sport. A few years later, Jonathan was competing in the Junior Olympics. But compared to now, Ou’s approach to table tennis was much more relaxed growing up.

“I didn’t ever practice a lot, it was mainly just my dad and my brother,” Ou said. “The passion came during COVID. We just couldn’t really do anything outside, so we just unpacked the table in the garage and played with each other.”

Yi Pan discovered the sport as a primary school student in China. When she arrived in Chapel Hill as a sophomore more than 7,000 miles away from home in Shanghai she just wanted to find someone to play with.

Pan joined the club team and found more than just a few partners.

“It’s cool, I didn’t expect to make American friends when I first came to UNC,” Pan said. “I thought that was very tough, we didn’t have much to talk about. But table tennis kind of united us together.”

On the nearest table, Daniel Xie is engaged in a battle with his friend and roommate, Daniel Wei. Xie didn’t practice much growing up, except for an occasional game with his dad and sister. But in high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, high-pressure games at a community table and on the club team sparked his obsession.

“That competitive environment just got me into ping pong,” Xie said. “I would play three hours a day — not even exaggerating. I’d be in the ping pong room all the time trying to play, trying to get better. It was really fun for me, I liked to see that kind of improvement.”

Today, he’s drawn to the sport by trick shots, which are “crazy-ass” moves in the middle of the point.  Xie said it’s an adrenaline rush seeing his work pay off and inching him closer to being the best.

You can see it now as Xie plays against Wei.

One shot lands and Wei falls down on the ground. Another one lands and Wei tells him just how lucky he is. A few more, and Xie wins the match.

Ou transferred to UNC after his freshman year, and it wasn’t immediately clear if he’d find an Asian American community in Chapel Hill.

“It’s definitely unique in that aspect, I think it’s really helpful,” Ou said. “I can’t speak on behalf of other Asian people, but I haven’t really found that large of an Asian American community, so this is nice, honestly. That’s the best way I can put it.”

The team’s special bond

The closeness of the club’s members is immediately obvious when watching them play together. In every strike, friendly taunt, point, given pointer, giggle and Wendy’s product eaten — you can see the closeness is there.

One of the special shared memories the players have is their journey to Charlotte, North Carolina for the sectional tournament. The drive consisted of two hours driving down, three different cars, and many hours of table tennis. One hour was spent stopping nearby for pizza and another driving past Chapel Hill and down to Cary, North Carolina because Ou wanted to eat at a restaurant called Noodle Boulevard. In some cars people were singing karaoke, others were playing road games and others were sleeping. 

Winfield said this tournament road trip brought the players closer together. 

“Got to meet a lot of new people and bond with the people,” Winfield said.

All the players say this road trip is their best memory with the team.

During the trip, Ou won the individual title at the tournament and led UNC to its first National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Carolina Division team championship in club history.

At the end of February, there’s another road trip to look forward to — this time to the regional tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sometimes, the players reveal their closeness by talking in the club’s GroupMe chat. Other times it’s found in the friendly banter and boasts after winning points. Sometimes, they show it just by hanging out, playing music, studying, and talking in their locker in the Student Union.

But always, that closeness is there.

For Ou, it isn’t clear exactly where it comes from. It could come from the group’s shared heritage, or maybe their laid-back approach. To Ou, some impossible-to-put-your-finger-on aspect of the club is that it feels special, just unique.

“You’ll usually find me here all the time,” Ou said. “You’ll find them all just hanging around here. I think it’s really nice, actually, that we can all just have a place that we can all just collectively hang out in. I don’t know. I think it’s just really nice.”

Edited by Sabrina Ortiz and Julia Rafferty

Painting, snowscape, blue journal: substitute teacher for life

By Patricia Benitez

Eth Hyman is speed walking down the school hallway, dodging the traffic of students walking in the opposite direction. Tom Heggie is the substitute teacher in science class today, and Hyman can’t keep from smiling at the thought of his familiar presence.

As Hyman enters the classroom and finds his seat, Heggie saunters to the front of the classroom where a snowscape painting rests on the ledge of the whiteboard. 

The buzz of gossip quiets as the students lean forward in anticipation and lay their phones face down on the desks. 

They know Heggie never starts class with assignments. Instead, he pulls out a blue journal from the outer pocket of his leather suitcase. He flips through the pages and begins to read his philosophy of life, a poem by Emily Dickinson. 

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;”

He pauses to meet engaged eyes. 

“If I can ease one life aching, 

Or cool one pain, 

Or help one fainting robin 

Unto his nest again, 

I shall not live in vain.”

He doesn’t need the journal anyway. After years of reciting this poem, he knows it by heart.

Heggie isn’t like most substitute teachers. While most only teach the same students once and never see them again, Heggie teaches at the same schools several days a week to form relationships with students. 

For more than 20 years, Heggie has welcomed students into classrooms with a spirited “Yooo baby!” and hugs. Now 84 years old and 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Heggie doesn’t fit the typical appearance of a substitute teacher either. 

When class ends, Hyman approaches Heggie’s painting. 

Heggie chats with Hyman as he always does. Before Hyman leaves for his next class, Heggie hands him the snowscape as a gift. “This is for you,” says Heggie.

“Are you serious?” says Hyman with a smile. 

Hyman still has to trudge through the rest of his classes. But he knows Heggie cares about him, and that is enough. 

“You’ll need them someday”

In high school, painting became Heggie’s escape valve. He has ADHD, which is an asset when he paints. His brush diverges from one corner of the canvas to another until the pigments all harmonize into one. 

Heggie was also a talented athlete. When it was time to apply to colleges, he wanted to pursue football. After all, he was tall with broad shoulders and a malleable personality, ready to learn the techniques of any sport. But when Syracuse University offered him a football scholarship, Heggie’s mom, Evelyn, protested.

“You’re going to hurt your hands,” she said. “And you’ll need them someday.”

She knew that Heggie’s ability to connect with people wasn’t in athletics. It was in his art.

“You’ll find a way,” she said.

And so he did. 

“Art can help children feel hope in times of suffering”

Heggie believes art can help children stop, even if just for a moment, and feel hope in times of suffering. 

So when he retired at 63, he spent his summers at a camp for grieving children. He formed a bond with a 5-year-old boy in the program, Sterling, who loved to play the drums.

But Sterling’s spurts of rhythm and joy were short-lived. His younger sister, Maleika, was dying.

Heggie decided to create a timeless symbol of her. He spent days in his studio illustrating a colorful book about Sterling’s story and dedicated it to Maleika. 

Sterling read Maleika the story once before she died. Later, Heggie painted her as an angel for her family. 

Sterling thanked Heggie with a long hug, just like the ones Sterling once gave Maleika. 

That was more than enough for Heggie. After all, Jane, his wife of 59 years, taught him that everyone needs a hug to have a successful day.

“I will make you a promise”

“Do you have to leave us?” asked one of Heggie’s art students. His year as a teacher in Staten Island had come to an end. 

Heggie had just graduated from college and, at the time, teaching was an interlude before starting his career as an advertising illustrator. 

He wasn’t prepared for the trials he would face as a teacher that year. The students attacked each other with scissors and screamed vulgar language that Heggie had never heard before. They were accustomed to indifferent teachers. 

But Heggie refused to tolerate their violence. Instead, he talked to students individually and invited them to share their frustrations with him.

By the end of the year, the students were begging him to stay. They even collected money to buy him a cake.

Heggie knew the value of a dollar. When his dad broke his back, 14-year-old Heggie weeded fields alongside migrant workers to provide for his family. So he didn’t take their appreciation for granted.

“I’ll make you a promise,” he said to them. “I will teach again.”

And he never forgot his promise. When Heggie retired, he started substitute teaching.

“You really don’t know how much we miss you”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when schools closed, Heggie didn’t anticipate being out of the classroom for so long and missed the students. Charlotte Murphy, one of his students, missed him too.

In March, Murphy visited Heggie’s house to pick up a custom painting. She wanted to support him in any way she could. Though she only planned to stay for a few minutes, Murphy conversed with Heggie for hours, taking in his caring presence during a time of heightened loneliness and isolation. To Heggie, listening to people’s stories is a privilege, one that must be nurtured and never taken for granted. 

When she stopped to admire one of Heggie’s paintings, he took it off his wall and handed it to her, insisting that she take it for free.

“That’s kind of you,” she said. “But your paintings are valuable.” As a fellow artist, she knows the value of his paintings. 

“Mr. Heggie,” she said as she was leaving, clutching his painting close to her chest. “You really don’t know how much we miss you.”

Now that schools are open again, Heggie is back in the same classrooms, with his journal and a painting showing the students how much he cares. 

Edited by Ellie Crowther and Simon Tan

UNC student acting troupe is an ode to Shakespeare

By Rachel Crumpler 

It’s 31 degrees on a Sunday afternoon. Nine college students are bundled up in hats and gloves. They’re gathered at an outdoor theater, speaking 500-year-old words.

They are the Forest Theatre Players, the only group at UNC-Chapel Hill that delves exclusively into the work of William Shakespeare.

One by one, they take turns ascending five stone steps to center stage to rehearse their eloquent and metaphor-rich lines. Some are off-book. Others read from a printed script or from their phone.

The rest of the group, seated on the front two rows, focuses on every word, facial expression and movement performed by their peers. Each performance is followed by applause and friendly notes.

“Think about using your eyes as a tool of expression,” one person suggests.

“Build into the pace of your words,” another adds.

It’s less than two weeks until showtime, and they are working to hone the pronunciation, context and flow of every sonnet, monologue and scene. After all, they are an acting troupe composed of self-described Shakespeare nerds with an ambition to make his words come alive.

How the Forest Theatre Players came to be 

Elizabeth Wheless, a founding member of the Forest Theatre Players, thought Shakespeare was overrated in high school. She didn’t understand why teachers focused on his work so much, and believed there were plenty of other playwrights who deserved attention.

But her views changed after she took Shakespeare Acting last spring semester with Dramatic Arts Teaching Professor Jeff Cornell. She connected with the imagery, flow of iambic pentameter and universal themes in Shakespeare’s writing.

Although the class was online due to COVID-19, it did meet outdoors on a few occasions at the Forest Theatre, an amphitheater on campus. Those days left a lasting impression on Wheless.

“The more that I was in the space listening to my friends speak this extremely gorgeous, heightened language, I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I need to see more of this,’” she said.

As the semester ended, Wheless emailed her classmates with an idea. She asked if they were interested in forming an acting troupe — one focused entirely on a single playwright.

“I rarely see Shakespeare plays being performed by undergrads and I believe we should take that risk,” she wrote to them.

Responses came back and everyone was on board, including Cornell, who became the group’s sponsor.

They named themselves the Forest Theatre Players, after the outdoor amphitheater where the group holds all its rehearsals and shows. Located on the eastern edge of UNC’s campus, the venue fittingly echoes the outside settings where Shakespeare’s works were first performed in the late 1500s.

Obstacles faced by the troupe

However, launching a new acting troupe has also comes with challenges.

Last October, the group had to cancel its planned Halloween production of famous Shakespearean death scenes. The performance was intended to be a warm-up for the group before jumping into “King Lear,” a five act tragedy.

Adding to their disappointment, the troupe did not have all the lines to “King Lear” memorized for the November production and needed to pivot to a staged reading. They also only had seven cast members for what should have been a 15-person show.

After that show, the Forest Theatre Players realized they needed to expand in order to put on a more well-rounded show that was less stressful for all involved. The group held auditions and six more members joined this January.

Gwyneth Benetiz-Graham, a senior majoring in dramatic art, is a recent addition to the group. She had no prior experience performing Shakespeare’s work. In her audition, she was asked to cold read Shakespeare lines, where she encountered many words that she had not seen before.

“It just takes a lot of work to dissect Shakespeare, but it’s amazing once you figure out what you’re saying because it’s usually something that everyone can relate to,” Benetiz-Graham said.

Josh Wahab, a troupe member majoring in dramatic art and political science, said he doesn’t find Shakespeare’s words any more daunting to memorize than contemporary ones, as long as he understands the context.

“If you know what you’re saying, you can just put the emotion behind the words even if you don’t use those words in your daily life,” he said.

Cornell said audience members, who can attend all performances for free, shouldn’t be intimidated by Shakespeare’s complex language either.

“After the first 10 minutes, the audience’s ears start to tune in a little bit more,” Cornell said. “They’ll get used to maybe having the verb first and the subject second. They’ll pick up on the syntax.”

Looking to the future

Even in the chilly temperatures with hand warmers circulating amongst group members, there is a shared passion propelling the group to improve ahead of their Feb. 19 performance of famous Shakespeare love scenes. They are all focused on working out any kinks, such as scene partners having mismatched scripts and what body positioning works best in the “Romeo and Juliet” balcony scene.

While the performances are not full-blown productions with costumes and lighting, much time is spent preparing. For the two weeks leading up to a show, the Forest Theatre Players rehearse three times a week for about three hours.

The four remaining performances this spring are expected to be fully memorized. This way the audience can have a more intimate experience, basking in the eloquence of Shakespeare’s words delivered via the voice and physicality of student actors.

Focusing on one playwright may seem limiting, but the group finds it exciting. They have 37 plays spanning tragedy, comedy and historical works to pull from, as well as hundreds of sonnets and other poems.

“We spend as much time as we can with him and learning about him,” Wheless said. “We find something new and exciting every time that we rehearse, every time that we put on a show, every time that we’re in class.”

All you need to join is a love of Shakespeare.

“It’s fun to see the students get excited in this way, excited to the point that they want to do this on their own, and it takes a lot of work,” Cornell said. “The fact that a 500-year-old playwright can get us excited is pretty cool.”

 

Edited by Layna Hong and Emily Thoreson.

Opinion divided: Quad tents push students into opposing camps

By Bethany Lee

A new space

Perched between a fire hydrant and a water grate, this spot is her hub. She’ll watch lectures, hang out with friends, hit her vape, and almost always sip on a specialty Starbucks drink she found the recipe for on Twitter.

Isabella Chow has sat in the same place on the quad for the four years she’s been at UNC-Chapel Hill: directly in front of Bingham Hall, on the raised brick lining the quad sidewalk. For Chow, it’s the perfect spot to relax and admire the campus.

At least, it was.

Chow’s view changed when UNC-CH erected outdoor study spaces around campus, like a beachfront property that suddenly looks out the window at a brick facade. 

“They’re so ugly,” Chow said, looking up from her toffee nut iced coffee to wince at the giant canopy in front of her. “It’s this big, ugly structure in the middle of the quad.”

University Response

The university installed outdoor seating in 2020 to provide students with low-risk study spaces while COVID-19 occupancy and mask restrictions are in place. More spaces were added a year later, bringing the count to 15 outdoor seating areas with over 850 seats.

The tents are not difficult to find. From pretty much anywhere on campus, students can look up and see a white canvas tent with chairs and tables underneath. Not designed with aesthetics as the first priority, the tents are like KN95 masks: useful, but not beautiful.

From the inside, curb appeal is easier to ignore. Between the velcro carpet and steel-barred canopy, students tumble past. Birds flick between trees, a pod of dining hall employees laughs beside the flagpole. Occupants eat lunch or do schoolwork in the shade.

Tent Lovers Anonymous

On sunny days, Cassia Sari sets up a spot underneath the large tent on the main quad. If she’s lucky, she secures a table where the shadow parts enough for her to sit in the sun.

“I usually try to go to the big metal one because it overlooks Wilson Library, so I can see how beautiful the campus is,” Sari said. “I don’t think it really distracts from the beauty of the campus.”

Not only does Sari disagree that the tents interfere with the campus’ beauty, she thinks they’re essential to keeping students safe. Also, Sari thinks studying there is better than sitting in the fluorescent flooded rooms in a packed library.

While the tents work best in warm weather, even on a cold, rainy day, Sari can be found underneath a side tent by Murphey Hall.

“It just depends on the way that you’re looking at it,” Sari said.

Rough and Tumble

In late January, on-campus students returned from a long weekend to a frightening sight; the tents had fallen.

Winter storm Izzy had blown through Chapel Hill, dumping snow and ice everywhere it went. The buildup proved too much for the tents to bear; they collapsed in droves all across campus.

For weeks, students walked past study station graveyards: broken canvas scattered around overturned tables and chairs. Some thought it meant the end of the tents.

Construction workers were soon spotted rebuilding the spaces. A few tents were brushed free of debris and reinstalled. Others had to be reordered after the snow ripped them apart.

Stephanie Berrier, the interim director of marketing and communications for the UNC Facilities Department, said the tents were not built to withstand adverse weather. Though subject to fire and safety codes, the tents are temporary.

To each, their own

To Sam Dalsheimer, the outdoor seating areas are “pretty okay.” He sits in the enclosed tents behind Lenoir Hall eating Mediterranean Deli spinach and chickpeas when the weather is too cold or rainy. 

“They’re very nice when it’s raining, but that’s about it,” he said.

Sam prefers eating in the tents to eating inside the dining halls, where students sit elbow-to-elbow without masks. A big reason for Sam’s habits is his 1-year-old daughter, Margot, who he wants to keep safe as the pandemic continues. 

Hope for the future

For many students, the end of the tents would mean the end of the pandemic. Stop Zoom classes, end the mask mandate and take down the tents.

Hannah Kaufman, a sophomore, was on campus for a few weeks before the university closed residence halls in the fall of 2020. She hardly remembers a time before the tents. Although she has used the seating areas to study with friends, she’s ready to see them go.

“Of course, COVID is not anywhere near done, but I think for me the tent is a reminder of the really stressful, restrictive semester that I had last year,” Kaufman said.

Pack it up

The end might be closer than she thinks. Although mask mandates are indefinite and Zoom is ever-present, the tents will officially be removed after Spring Commencement, according to Berrier.

Kaufman imagines what the quad must look like when the tents come down. It’s the image she’s seen on advertisements for UNC, ones that don’t include masks, social distancing, or giant canvas tents. The open quad was covered with students, everyone exactly where they were supposed to be.

“I’ve seen beautiful pictures of the quad from years ago on a summer day. Everyone’s sitting outside talking with their friends in little groups,” she said. “I guess I’m just kind of hoping for that.”

 

Edited by George Adanuty and Tajahn Wilson

‘My buddy’: Rehabilitated turtle offers more than a cautionary tale

By Elizabeth Sills

A tiny, bloody flipper protrudes up through a cracked shell. The meager arm is illuminated by a blinding light. It’s only barely visible poking up into the air.

Based on the rest of the scene at Atlantic Beach, one would assume that this fin belonged to one of many dead sea turtle hatchlings scattered across the sand.

The culprit appeared to be an off-leash dog. The dog was intrigued by the small dark ovals moving around the shore, likely from a nest that was unmarked and had been missed by volunteers. So, the dog did what dogs do. It investigated.

When concerned condo residents noticed the carnage, they called the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Shattered bits of egg shells add a faint crunch under the soles of aquarium volunteers, who followed the turtle tracks. The small boomerang-shaped indentations in the sand lead them to an area under a  light source. But there are no baby sea turtles to be found beneath the light or its surrounding shadows. They had been eaten by ghost crabs.

All except one.

One turtle, the one with the tiny wing, survived, setting in motion a long rehabilitation journey, one that exemplifies the dangers of light pollution to North Carolina’s coastal wildlife.

An emergency surgery

The loggerhead was found by Michele Lamping, a turtle specialist at the Pine Knoll Shores. She assumed it was dead. Then, she saw the flipper move.

It was still attached to its yolk sac, a lima bean-sized bag of fluid that provides vital nutrients to hatchlings while they develop inside the egg. The yolk is connected to the membrane of the eggshell, and turtles typically remain connected to it for a few days after hatching.

The turtle was driven 11 minutes to the aquarium veterinary offices and delivered to chief veterinarian Emily Christiansen. Christiansen performed minor surgery, involving one small suture in the egg to preserve the yolk sac. However, there was no security this would keep him alive.

“I was very surprised that little hatchling survived,” Christiansen said. “He’s not the first one that’s been brought to me in a vulnerable state.”

From there, it was up to Lamping to facilitate the healing process. The turtle was transported to the Pine Knoll Shores rehabilitation facility, which resides in the center of the aquarium.

“(Christiansen) brought it back to me on Monday, the only survivor of the nest,” Lamping said. “But there were two human errors. One, letting the dog off the leash. Two, light pollution. That has not been fixed.”

The consequences of light pollution

Light and dark signal to animals when to eat, to sleep, to mate, to hunt and to migrate.

Light pollution, an artificial brightening of the night sky that causes disruptions in natural cycles, is an evolving issue on the North Carolina coast. Atlantic Beach has the highest amount of light pollution per square foot in the state. It can be caused by anything from hotel room fluorescents to street lamps to people donning headlamps while fishing at night.

When the time comes for baby sea turtles to hatch and scamper across the beach, their inclination is to head toward the luminous horizon of the ocean. But things get complicated when beach-front condos fire up their “No Vacancy” signs and tourists swing phone flashlights around during nighttime beach strolls.

“We say it’s misoriented, not disoriented,” Matthew Godfrey, a sea turtle biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said. “Disorientation means you’re just going in random directions, whereas misorientation means you’re directed to go the wrong way.”

Following this false sense of security leaves hatchlings stranded on the dunes and suffering from dehydration. Or they become roadkill after wandering too far off the beach. Or they become dinner for a ghost crab.

Based on these odds, the fact that the loggerhead hatchling survived is miraculous.

“It’s actually a pretty rare scenario where they’ve got a turtle in there for light pollution,” Godfrey said.

A happy, yet bittersweet, ending

Loggerhead turtle swims.
The loggerhead turtle hatchling, now nearly a year and a half, swims around his tank at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, the loggerhead is no longer a tiny, fluttering black hatchling. He’s a full-fledged juvenile, spending most of his day in a large white tank. He paddles within the tank’s turquoise interior. Occasionally, his brown spotted shell emerges at the surface and he pokes his head up for some gulps of air. When he does, he makes his way around the perimeter of the tub, nodding a quick hello to Lamping and Shannon Kemp, the aquarium’s communications manager, before diving down to glide along the floor.

Over the hum of the tank machinery, Lamping moves through the maze of temporary turtle homes. She spends the majority of her day in this room rehabilitating turtles. It’s a large space full of water tanks, each housing various sick or injured animals, the majority of which are turtles. Her job as hands-on rehabilitator encompasses a variety of important tasks: cleaning tanks, administering medication, monitoring body temperature and convincing animals to eat.

“There’s poop on your leg,” Kemp notices, pointing to the bottom of Lamping’s right pant leg.

“There’s always poop on my leg,” Lamping replied with a laugh.

That’s part of the job, she admits. And minor details like rogue turtle feces can be overlooked in the name of protecting vulnerable, usually endangered, animals.

This particular animal’s improbable genesis allowed him to claim the illustrious title of education ambassador for the aquarium. When he’s not being examined by Lamping or munching on lettuce, he receives visits from elementary schoolers and eco-interested tourists. He is a rare living example of the consequences of light pollution.

Lamping said that it’s likely this stalwart will be released sometime in May. He will be strong and healthy enough to return to the North Carolina waters and begin his lifelong migration journey.

It will be a bittersweet farewell. The pair have spent nearly every day of the past 18 months together. As she says this, the loggerhead resurfaces, pivoting his body to face Lamping head-on.

“I will miss this turtle. I love this turtle,” Lamping said, leaning over the side of the tub. “This turtle’s my buddy.”

Edited by Isabella Braddish and Maddie Ellis

How UNC students get themselves trapped after late-night studying

By Hannah Rosenberger

Patrick Dickinson had one minute and two multiple choice questions left on a timed assessment for his public policy class when his friend, Mikayla Cummings, popped her head back into their fourth-floor study room at the Health Sciences Library. 

“By the way,” she said, “we’re locked in the library.”

Dickinson didn’t even read the last two questions before clicking random answers and hoping for the best so he could shut his laptop and follow her back downstairs. 

A few minutes earlier, Cummings had taken the elevator down to the ground floor, ready to head out for the night. But she was stopped by a sign stating that unfortunately, the doors were now locked, and she would have to call UNC-Chapel Hill police to be released. 

The library didn’t look closed. There were some empty study rooms – but that wasn’t unusual in a space like the Health Sciences Library, where it’s always easy to find a seat, especially late on a Wednesday night. The lights were all still on, except for one dark fixture above the circulation desk. They hadn’t even heard the customary 30-minute warning announcement. 

The only indication that Cummings was now bolted in with the books was the absence of circulation supervisor Ernest Peters at the desk by the front door, telling her good night. 

Peters works evenings in the Health Sciences Library, making his rounds through the six floors of the library every hour or so. As he keeps track of the number of people in the building, he does his best to remind those deep in the thralls of their medical textbooks that it’s almost closing time. But he can’t always catch all of the straggling students before he shuts the doors for the night.

“It usually happens at the beginning of the semester, people don’t realize what’s going on,” Peters said. “And then they get locked in, and they have to call the number on the door and then (UNC-Chapel Hill police) comes in and gets them out of here.” 

‘Pushing it to the limit’

Just a few weeks after he and Cummings were shut in at Health Sciences, Dickinson was in a study room on the seventh floor of Davis Library when the warning announcement played over the loudspeaker: the library would close in 15 minutes.

Several floors below, the crowd of nighttime students began to rouse from their homework-induced dazes of concentration. Flocks of people pushed open the exit doors as the ground floor slowly emptied. A few last-minute loiterers jogged down the bottom few steps from the second floor as a librarian held the side door open. 

But Dickinson didn’t budge from his seat. He had an assignment to submit, and he wanted to get it over with before heading back to his room for the night.

“I was pushing it to the limit,” he said. 

He hit the button to call the elevator at 9:57 p.m., and just as he heard the rumble and ding of its arrival, he also heard the disembodied loudspeaker voice announce that the library doors were now locked.  

Dickinson’s elevator stopped on every floor to pick up another person or two. As the dozen or so students who had shoved their way in during its descent tumbled into the lobby, there was already a security officer waiting outside the doors to release the dawdlers.

UNC Police Sgt. James David said campus police get calls to let students out of the libraries — usually Davis — at least a few times a week. For years, there’s been a huge whiteboard sign by the circulation desk with a message — “Locked in? 862-8100” — written on it in slightly faded black Expo marker, for just these occasions.

“People will walk by, and they’ll laugh,” said DeMarcus Taylor, who works at the Davis Library circulation desk. “They’re like, ‘Oh, can you imagine getting locked in?’ But it happens.”

The number of lurkers lingering at the library until closing time has been higher so far this semester. Staff hours across most campus libraries have been limited because of COVID-19 employee shortages.

Pre-pandemic, the Undergraduate Library was open 24 hours a day for those dedicated souls who had the stamina to cram for their midterms at 4 a.m. Even last semester, the Health Sciences Library normally shut its doors at midnight — not 8 p.m., like it did on the night Cummings and Dickinson were locked in. Even Davis Library is usually open until 2 a.m., not 10 p.m.

“Seeing the swarm of people come out of the elevator from like now to 10,” DeMarcus said just a few minutes before Davis closed for the night, “It’s a whole lot more than at 2 a.m.”

‘Kind of our luck’

Half an hour later, Cummings and Dickinson watched through a double set of sliding doors at the Health Sciences Library as a security officer fumbled with a massive keychain. 

Dickinson had already gone to the bathroom and trekked back up to the fourth floor to grab a pencil he’d left behind before the officer arrived. Cummings could see the hazard lights of her boyfriend’s Toyota Camry parked across Columbia Street through the glass.

The dozens, if not hundreds, of keys jangled as the officer tried to find the one that opened the back door by the café. Eventually, the right key clicked into the lock.

Cummings and Dickinson made their way back out into the world, and with a nod, the officer left.

“It’s kind of our luck,” Cummings said. “Of course that’s what happened.”

Edited by Morgan Chapman and PJ Morales

Hooman Ghashghaei displays resilience, embraces Iranian roots in life in US

By Emery Summey

On the other side of a Zoom call sits Hooman (Troy) Ghashghaei, a neurobiology professor, former college soccer player and the father of my gymnastics teammate. Looking at his life today, few would guess the hardship and turmoil Ghashghaei endured to get to where he is now.

Ghashghaei grew up in Tehran, Iran, during the Iranian Revolution, which lasted from 1978 to 1979, and he permanently moved to the U.S. 36 years ago, where he created a successful life for himself, his wife, Mette, and their daughter, Tina.

Childhood defined by two cultures

Ghashghaei’s earliest memory is his family’s travels between Iran and the U.S. before the Iranian Revolution started. Ghashghaei’s grandmother lived with them and would take care of him while his parents worked and attended school. His mother worked in a burn unit in Iran as the head nurse, and his father was finishing his Ph.D. in Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up as an immigrant and balancing American and Iranian culture was a challenge, but Ghashghaei said he thrived in the U.S.

During the time his family traveled back and forth between Iran and the U.S., Ghashghaei was in primary school, and he noted the stark differences between the two countries’ school systems. He attended a Montessori school in the U.S. and noted that it was laid-back compared to his private religious school in Iran. The Montessori school allowed for considerable freedom during lessons and playtime, but at his Iranian school, the staff were strict about what students wore, how they walked, and how they learned. Ghashghaei also remembers that the level of math and science work he was assigned at his Iranian school was far more advanced than what American children were studying.

This was the largest difference that Ghashghaei noticed between the U.S. and his home country. He also recalls how every day for about a year in Iran, he and his classmates would be forced to line up outside and told to stand completely still. As the students struggled to stay still, the sharp “BANG” of a gunshot would cut through the morning air, and if any students broke formation or flinched, they were forced to stand there even longer.

Finding refuge from revolution

In Iran, Ghashghaei’s family did their best to hide the conflict from him and his brothers, and he said he didn’t feel the effects of the Iranian Revolution until a few years after the following Iran-Iraq War occurred. Ghashghaei felt privileged to live in Tehran since it was not at the forefront of the revolution, and the war between Iran and Iraq mostly occurred far from his home on the border between the two countries.

However, despite his physical distance from the conflict, he and his family were not completely safe. As a nurse, Ghashghaei’s mother treated victims of the war, and she developed severe mental health problems due to the traumatic cases she encountered. Ghashghaei, with fear in his voice, also recalls the family members who were kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned and executed after a civil war broke out and the Iranian government sought to push “Western-minded and progressive” citizens out of the country.

Meanwhile, a young Ghashghaei found soccer as a way to escape from this grim reality around him. Ghashghaei recalls watching the 1978 World Cup, which was the first time the Iranian soccer team had qualified to play. After watching his country play in the World Cup, Ghashghaei was inspired to pick up soccer as his new passion, and he started practicing every day.

Challenge and triumph in new country

In 1982, Ghashghaei’s parents decided to leave Iran and permanently settle in the U.S. They lived in several different states, including Massachusetts, Texas and Connecticut.

When Ghashghaei and his family first moved to the U.S., he was afraid of embracing his culture because of the backlash he endured for being Muslim. He was subjected to hate crimes and racist comments from Americans and said he felt ashamed to be who he was.

“I never felt like I fit in with my neighbors or peers in school. I was an outcast and it hurt to feel excluded for something out of my control,” Ghashghaei said.

While trying to hide his identity, he lost touch with his Irian roots and culture. Now, as a father, Ghashghaei seeks to carry on his family’s Iranian traditions. Ghashghaei’s family celebrates Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, with traditional food, clothing and music, and he taught his daughter Farsi, the official language of Iran, at a young age. He is now proud of his roots and his ability to embrace both Iranian and American cultures.

A difficult decision Ghashghaei faced in the U.S. was where he wanted to go to college. He was offered scholarships to play college soccer in the south, but he wanted to stay up north so he could be close to his family. Ghashghaei ultimately attended Boston University, where he was a walk-on for the soccer team. He was overjoyed to have gotten everything he wished for in a college experience.

However, Ghashghaei’s sophomore year brought a devastating turn of events when he tore his ACL and was not able to return to the soccer field. During this time, his grades and his motivation to continue his studies dropped. Once he was able to come to terms with the end of his soccer career, however, he decided to continue his education and get a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Ghashghaei found his new passion working in a lab and conducting research on the brain.

After graduating with his Ph.D., Ghashghaei completed his postdoctoral research at UNC-Chapel Hill. From there, he once again had to decide between staying and working in the south or moving back up north. This time, he chose to stay in the south, where he has lived ever since and now works at N.C. State University researching and teaching biology and neuroscience. There, he works alongside his wife, who is a math professor.

Ghashghaei has been back to Iran twice since moving to the U.S. In 2004, he went by himself to visit his parents, who had moved back to Iran in the early 2000s while he and his brothers attended college, and he visited again in 2008.

Since then, there has been devastating turmoil in the country, and Ghashghaei and his family haven’t been able to return, and they believe that they never will. While he may be unable to visit Iran again, Ghashghaei has built a life for himself in the U.S. that proudly embraces his Iranian roots.

Edited by Caroline Bowers

Folklore or falsehood? Gimghoul Castle remains a haunting legend at UNC

By Charity Cohen

 

According to popular legend, in 1833, at what is now the location of Gimghoul Castle, two UNC students stood ten paces from one another, waiting anxiously with pistols in hand. Filled with fear, but motivated by love, with hearts racing, palms sweating, and shallow breathing, they prepared for their pistols to be drawn at midnight.

Following a heated exchange earlier that day between Peter Dromgoole and another male student who has never been identified, it was decided that the two would meet in an open field at the eastern edge of UNC’s campus to duel for the love of Miss Fanny, a well-admired woman in the town.

It is said that both students were excellent marksmen, but this proved to be less true for Dromgoole, who was said to be fatally shot in the duel, and died on a large rock nearby that is rumored to still be stained with his blood.

The tragic story of this ill-fated love triangle is one that has been told throughout the town of Chapel Hill for generations — except apparently, none of it actually happened.

 It’s true that Dromgoole was a student at UNC, and he did mysteriously disappear around the time of the duel; however, not much can be confirmed about the duel’s existence. In fact, some have argued the folk story was based on a duel fought by Dromgoole’s uncle, George C. Dromgoole, years after in 1837.

 Liz Howard, a former UNC student, said she has always been puzzled by the uncertain nature of this legend. Each retelling of it made it even more difficult for her to discern what really happened that night.

 “I read that the spirit of whoever died in that duel still lives in that castle, but some say that no one actually died,” she said. “No one seems to be able to prove anything.”

 This legend hasn’t proved to be completely useless though, as it inspired the founding of the Order of Gimghoul, a historically white secret society for male upperclassmen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to a digital exhibit from the university, the Order was founded in 1889 by Robert Worth Bingham, Shepard Bryan, William W. Davies, Edward Wray Martin, and Andrew Henry Patterson — all undergraduate students at the university at the time. Membership was eventually extended to faculty members, and is now said to be comprised of students, faculty and alumni.

 Veronica Kirk, a first-year student at UNC, became obsessed with The Order’s mysterious history while she was researching interesting attractions at UNC.

To Kirk’s surprise, her search pointed her in the direction of Gimghoul Castle, which was built by the Order in 1915 after they purchased 94 acres of land to keep the land from development and to build a sacred meeting place.

 Housed at the end of the road of a quiet suburban neighborhood, the castle holds whispered stories of local lore, of a fatal love triangle and memories of a secret society. As the road leading to Gimghoul Castle transitions from pavement to dirt, the atmosphere shifts from warm and comforting to cold and sinister. It’s as if the curtain of reality lifts, allowing entry into the fantastical world of the members of the Order.

The castle is closed off for entry, but can be visited and viewed from the dirt road that it is situated on.

Kirk said when she and her mother visited the castle, they felt the castle’s heavy, eerie presence. For Kirk, part of this strange feeling comes from the looming presence of the Order’s members on the university’s campus.

“I know in some of the research I did, they talked about various people who UNC buildings are named after that might have been involved,” she said. “I feel like it’s a weird, kind of eerie presence on campus that does create some level of discomfort.”

Between the years of 1895 and 1946, members of The Order of Gimghoul would insert coded messages into the university’s official yearbook, along with images of the Gimghoul emblem, which features a grinning ghoul wrapped around a column holding the “Mystic Key” and the “Cross of Gimghoul.” The Gimghoul ghoul is depicted with a moon to the left of its head and seven stars to the right of it.

After their last recorded message in the university 1946 yearbook, the Order’s communication with the world beyond the castle’s walls was limited. 

Yet within the past few years, instances of their continuance have been seen. A fairly recent account of a sighting of members of The Order marching to the cemetery on Halloween sporting black hoods accompanied by a photo of this sighting can be found on the internet.

This is something that Kirk found to be disturbing.

“They say that sometimes the Order marches through the cemetery to the castle on Halloween with candles and in hoods,” she said. “Thinking of them marching around in black hoods and candles at night is scary.”

Alexis Jamison and Mykēl Yancey, two seniors at UNC, caught wind of this sighting and decided to see if they could see this ritual happening live. They visited Gimghoul Castle on the night of Halloween, but said they never saw any hooded figures entering the castle.

“It felt very spooky because it was Halloween,” Jamison said. “The thought of seeing people marching in hoods also gave me KKK vibes.”

Yancey said the castle seemed out of place and secluded. That alone was unnerving for him.

“I felt uneasy and terrified because it was a medieval castle in the middle of Chapel Hill,” he paused. “In the United States.”

The current status of The Order’s activity is unknown, offering another level of mystery to their history and status — but there’s little doubt that the Order is still around.

A zoning and development application visible on the Town of Chapel Hill’s website said the Order celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2014 and planned to commemorate the milestone with renovations to the castle and the property.

Beyond this record from 2014, there isn’t much to be known of the Order’s current whereabouts, or the capacity in which they operate — as to be expected from a secret society founded on the premise of a folklore legend.

Edited by Brian Rosenzweig

Remember your heritage (apples)

By Sarah Gray Barr

 

About a week past his 80th birthday, Tom Brown of Clemmons, North Carolina, plans another trip to find lost apples. He rises early, putting the sun to shame, and comes home late. He crosses many states in a day in pursuit of these forgotten fruits.

 

The type of apples Brown looks for are not the common Red Delicious, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp. No, he looks for heritage apples, the type of apples that served the palate of grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. The apples of the founding fathers and the first Americans.

 

Greasy Skin, Stump the World, and Rusty Gabe may not sound as appetizing as Lady Washington, Carolina Beauty or Golden Harvest, but all are equal apples of the eye to these fruit fanatics.

 

“I just want to get these apples back into circulation. It’s important to preserve our agricultural heritage, and these apples don’t live a long time. I might see a tree on one trip, and it’s gone by the next,” Brown said.

 

For over two decades, Brown has hunted for these Appalachian apples that have potentially been lost to time. Once a research engineer, Brown spends his retirement days organizing visits to fruit festivals and apple adventures. When he is not crossing the Virginias and Carolinas, Brown works on his orchard, which boasts hundreds of heritage apples.

 

Apple hunting is a word-of-mouth business. Many of Brown’s contacts are older, the remaining population who remember the days when families bragged about these heirloom apples. For them, the apples provide a source of food for the stomach and pride for the heart.

 

To date, Brown has discovered over 1,200 types of apples thought to be extinct, fighting bugs and blights that seek to kill these trees.

 

“The time to find them is running out,” Brown said.

 Keeping their memory alive

UNC-Chapel Hill senior Erin Owens reaps the fruits of these heritage trees. She cannot remember a time when these rare apples were not a part of her life. About 20 years ago, her family purchased property in Avery County, North Carolina. The property itself is wooded, but toward the back lies a secret meadow, forgotten in the past.

 

Blackberry brambles stand guard around the meadow. A little creek protects the acreage from the side. The land bears a crumbling homestead, abandoned by its former residents.

 

But the meadow’s boon is the scattered apple trees that brandish Erin Owens’ favorite sorts of apples. An American Russet, Yellow Winesap, Lowry, and a Mammoth Black Twig grow in the meadow, each tree several hundred years old.

 

“We have to keep these apples alive, their memory alive. They are the heart of America,” Owens said.

  Lost in time, or are they?

The Avery County Extension Service helped the Owens family identify these apples and graft them. One apple that was unidentifiable is both green and red and covered with spots. Owens dubbed the mysterious fruit the “Sweet Creek” apple after its flavor and proximity to the creek on the property. She said it was crisp, sweet, and a little tart and reminded her of the creek. A box of Sweet Creek, Lowry and American Russet apples made its way to her home in Chapel Hill after Fall Break.

 

The Owens family opted to have the trees grafted and new trees planted in front of their house. Doug Hundley, former agricultural extension agent and apple enthusiast, helped to both identify and graft the apples. He said that grafting is the best way to make sure that these apples live on for future generations.

 

“Old antique heirloom apples were just as good or better than commercial, but have been lost to the test of time. That’s why we have to save what we have left,” Hundley said.

 

Grafting takes the scion of an original plant and binds it to another plant stock within the same genus, allowing for apples that would otherwise die out to be recreated. The days of Johnny Appleseed have long since ended.

 

In the past, seedlings were used to create more apple trees, but apples are cross-pollinators, which means that cross-bred apples could potentially be weaker. Within the heritage apple community, mother apple trees are essential because they provide the necessary scions to reproduce the trees.

 

The Southern Heritage Apple Orchard at Horne Creek Farm holds 850 trees of 425 varieties of heritage apples. Horne Creek Farm works to recreate the lives of the Hauser family in the early 20th century. In 1989, a restoration project took place to restore the former Hauser family farm to its early 1900s appearance, including replanting the former apple orchard, which at the time ironically held only a pear tree.

 

Through the work of Lee Calhoun, a southern apple expert, Horne Creek was able to restore the Hauser family orchard and also create the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard. Through Calhoun’s donation, the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard is home to the last trees of nearly 200 heritage varieties.

 

“Once you lose an apple, you can’t just get it back,” Lisa Turney, the site manager for Horne Creek, said.

The “backbone” of Appalachia

Historically, American families in the 1800s and beyond kept apple trees that ripened at different times of the year. It was a constant food source that could feed large families. Apples could be eaten, turned into cider, or used as animal feed. The versatile fruit was the backbone and cash crop of southern agriculture. Apples ripen within a two-week period. Depending on the variety, heritage apples ripen as early as July and as late as November and can last through the winter.

 

When other crops failed, apples fed Appalachia.

 

“It’s not just about apples, it’s about the family stories behind them,” Turney said.

 

Today, commercial apples grace grocery store shelves. Gala, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith are the most popular choices. These apples cover acres of North Carolina. But these commercial apples are threatened by the same challenges that heritage apples face.

 

Kenny Barnwell is a seventh-generation apple farmer on one side of his family, and eighth on the other. Except for college, there has never been a time when Barnwell has lived without an apple tree 50 yards away. He knows apples. And he knows that in Henderson Country, the threats to his commercial apples are fire blight, microclimates, and urban encroachment.

 

One cold frost at the wrong time can kill an entire apple crop, and there were two bad frosts this past April. Barnwell has taken to spreading his trees across Henderson County. Heritage apples do not have this luxury. It only takes one bad frost, one rezoning order, one tree being cut down, to lose an entire heritage apple variety forever.

 

In 1905, there were at least 14,000 varieties of apples grown by Americans. Now, a grocery store is exceptional if it has more than 10 options.

 

To the apple enthusiasts and experts, losing the heritage varieties is losing pieces of history forever. But with enough dedication and enough time, these heritage fruits may be restored to their former glory.

 

How about them apples?

 Edited by Izzy D’Alo