Contributing Works Poems

Mama’s Hands

by Debra B. Vernon

My Mama’s hands are precious, there are no others to compare

For Mama’s hands have given me the very best of loving care.

They’ve put my hair in ponytails and sent me off to school

And they’ve been known to paddle me whenever I broke the rule.

They’ve been placed upon my forehead when a fever I would run

They’ve shielded my eyes when little to keep out the glaring sun.

Many times, they’ve reached down to me and brought me up into her arms

And there I was protected from any kind of harm.

They’ve made me many birthday cakes when that special day came ‘round

And when little legs did falter, they picked me up from off the ground.

They’ve helped me do my homework, made me pretty clothes to wear

And when burdens came heavy on me, they took them off for her to bear.

They’ve wiped the tears away from my eyes when things weren’t going right

They’ve held me when my fears would come in the darkness of the night.

I’ve seen them reach out to others to help in times of need

I’ve seen them toil in the garden and plant the tiny seed.

I’ve seen them clasped in prayer as she did service for her Lord

They’ve turned the pages of a Bible as she taught to me His word.

There are no mortal limits to what my Mama’s hands can do

Because she loves me very much, and I sure love her too!

They’ve done so very many things, all too numerous to recall

And that is why my Mama’s hands are the most precious of them all.

Contributing Works

What Mothers Really Want

by T. Hill

Growing up in a big family with many cousins, nieces, and nephews, I always looked forward to having children of my own when I was an adult. Fast forward 30 years, now a Mom of 4 I can’t help but look back at what seems like yesterday when I first became a mother. Seeing that little human for the first time, holding her, and feeling her little fingers for the first time. Every one of your senses is on high alert, making this a lasting effect on a mother that is just the hardest thing to ever be able to put into words.

I can say as a mother myself that once that little human being arrives, there isn’t anything in this world that can tear you away from him. No matter what challenges occur over the next 25+ years of their life, your deep unconditional love for that child never falters.

In the same respect, I am very blessed to still have my very own Mom living here with me. Everyday is an enduring bond of love, happiness and yes, sometimes the occasional frustration. I am very honored and have the utmost respect for her even more as a Mother, especially since I have experienced what she did for us. Fortunately I can thank her everyday for all of her sacrifices.

So when someone asks me what it means to be a Mother and why, the answer is quite clear and resolute. 

To feel so privileged to have been given these gifts, these lives, and entrusted to help create strong productive human beings who are not only beautiful on the inside, but who will be able to someday show and share the love and beauty we have passed on to them to everyone they come in contact with. My hope is that they will someday be able to feel and experience the same love that I have for them.

So as we approach Mothers Day this May 9th, I challenge each of you to look at the Mom figures in your lives, and see what beautiful things are in them, what sacrifices they have made over the years. Then after you thank them for all they have done (and warm their day with some pretty flowers or chocolates), ask them the same question:

What does being a Mother mean to you? Why?

You may be surprised and warmed by the answer you hear, and maybe it will change your life!


Mother: Being a mother means loving unconditionally no matter what, loving your child even when they’re at their most unlovable…why? Because my father God has loved me at my most undesirable, unlovable moments….it means leaving the door open no matter how many times they leave always making sure your home is open to them as a safe haven, a retreat to come and regroup, recharge and get back at it!! It means asking for forgiveness for the mistakes we make parenting along the way. We aren’t perfect. Our kids need to know that it’s ok but we love forgive and move on…using tough love when we have to.

Daughter: It means always being there for my daughter teaching her how to be a young lady, how to take care of herself, how to love and be kind. Why? Because my mom was always there for me and did/does all those things for me.

Mother: Being a mom means staying up all night to watch your child sleep just to make sure they are ok. It means having an aching pain in your heart when you find out something is wrong with your child and YOU can’t fix it. Then showing them how to be strong and remember that GOD isn’t going to give them more than they can handle. It means letting them make mistakes but still having your arms open to embrace them. It means never cutting those “strings” completely but loosening them enough to watch them grow into something amazing ❤️

Contributing Works Stories

Arrowheads and Stone Tools

By: WT Cox

WT Cox and his dog Brandy

The rich history of Native American Culture can be found almost everywhere among the rolling hills and countryside of eastern Randolph County.  One of my favorite past times growing up was looking for “Indian Arrowheads”.  I remember priming tobacco when I was young and looking along the rows for those hidden treasures. Most farm boys (and girls) that grew up here in Randolph County have a collection that was found on their land.  History tells us that there were several large Indian Settlements in western Randolph. The ones around Caraway Creek and the Uwharrie River are the most famous, but eastern Randolph had its share of settlements as well.  

I remember years ago when Deep River was at a drought stage and the water level was almost dry, evidence of a large fish trap that spanned over half the river could be seen just above the bridge on US 64. The settlements that were here may have been smaller, but some date to a time many consider to be much older, perhaps over ten thousand years old.  Now, most of the best land for hunting arrowheads is either in the pasture or not accessible on private land, so there are not many places left to look for these ancient relics anymore. I guess growing up in the ’60s had its advantages. My relic hunting nowadays is limited to roadsides and garden patches.  Occasionally a farmer will let me walk a field that has been plowed, but most are reluctant to let people they don’t know onto their land, and who can blame them.  I certainly found my share during my younger days.  Many of the items that I recognize today as tools and objects Native Americans used, were discarded when I was younger because I simply did not know what I should be looking for.  Even with my lack of knowledge and experience, I was able to find several axe heads and stone hammers.  I even found a mortar stone that was used to grind grain, and multiple drills and arrow points ranging from tiny bird points to spearheads.  Once when clearing land for a new home site, I ran across a hoard of “un-finished” points.  I could not understand why so many half-made arrowheads were in one location… there were chips of flint all over the ground, but in one spot, I dug up enough rough points to fill a 5-gallon bucket.  I later learned that Indians would bury un-finished points along hunting paths so they could re-claim them the next year and have most of the work crafting the points already done.   When I was young one of my hunting spots for relics was not far from my house.  My grandfather farmed, so his land was always accessible, but  It was on land that once was an old home site for the Cowards back in the late 19th century that was my all-time favorite.  In my time, it was owned by CH Burgess and we were free to walk the fields after they were plowed. There was an old “Indian Stove” carved into a large rock in the woods near a tobacco field, and evidence of another “stove” on a rock not far from there.  I have read that these were used to heat stones for medical purposes, but I had always been told that it was a stove and used for baking.  Whatever the original purpose was, it was a cool place to visit.  We used to camp out there with our horses when I was a pre-teen and tell ghost stories… Those woods and the stories that could be told about the past made that it an enchanting place.   The “stove” is still there today but in the middle of a cow pasture.  The trees have been harvested, but the old stove is still there on private land.

Contributing Works Stories

Reflections of Home – by Debra Vernon

Life is often characterized as seasons.  Birth, toddler-hood, school-age, and teen years are often seen as the “spring” season of our lives.  Following close behind is early adulthood, marriage, and children; regarded as the “summer” portion.  The years of watching children grow under our care, and then leave the nest might be considered our “autumn” season.  And then grandchildren, loss of parents, and ailments of old age come upon us in “winter”.  Right now, I am somewhere in the late autumn/early winter years.  It’s a good season in which to sit and reflect. 

Though not everyone had the same experience, I was blessed to grow up in a home where I was loved and felt safe and secure.  No matter what wreaked havoc in my little world growing up, I knew my parents had created a haven I could come to at the end of the day and all would be well, at least for a while.  I’ve heard it said many times that a church is just a building, the people inside make up the church.  The same is true for homes; a house does not make a home.  It’s the folks within the walls that make it so.  

I remember moving out of the house for the first time and joining a friend to become roommates in an apartment.  How excited I was to cut the apron strings, make my own schedule, do my own thing!  Free from the constraints of my parents’ oversight!  Then, I returned from an out-of-town work trip one day to find my friend had stolen my checkbook and had written bad checks all over town.  She had also taken a few items of my jewelry and pawned them.  I lifted the phone off the cradle to call home, only to find the phone had no dial tone.  Though I had given my share of the phone bill to my roommate weeks earlier, the bill had not been paid and the phone no longer worked.  I went to the corner gas station and made a collect call home.  My father answered, and as I tearfully explained what was happening, and expecting to hear his thoughts on the entire situation, he simply said to me, “come home”.  

Later in life, when a marriage I had intended to last forever didn’t, I found myself a single parent.  A couple of weekends a month and every holiday, I relinquished my hold upon my sweet little girl, so she could visit the other side of her family.  But occasionally, I would get a call saying, “mom, can you come to get me”?  And I would tell her I was leaving right then, would be there soon, and she could “come home”.

When daddy went into the hospital for what was to be the last time, it meant several weeks of ICU visiting hours, which consist of “hurry up and wait”.  One sibling lived out of state and could not visit as often.  When the dreaded day arrived when daddy passed over the river Jordan, and into the very presence of God, I was the one that called my sister to tell her, and to utter the words, “come home”.  

More years passed, and my sweet girl grew up and got married.  Soon after, a wonderful baby boy showed up and make me a grandparent for the very first time.  This MiMi was over the moon with happiness!  But, a few years into that marriage, my daughter called and said, “mom, things aren’t working out.  It’s more than you know about and more than I can handle right now.  I need to get out of this situation, but I don’t know where to go”.  And I did what most any mom and Mimi would do.  I said, “come home”. 

Then just this week, my pastor delivered a sermon on “the great I AM”.  He reminded us of how God was, is, and forever will be.  He talked about how we, the body of Christ, are to bring children into the fold.  As he reiterated these words from scripture, “well done, my good and faithful servant” my heart was pricked, and my tears flowed.  How will they hear if no one tells them?  I have fallen short and must commit myself to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ!  For if I nor anyone else shares with them how to accept Christ as savior, they will spend eternity without Him.  Instead, when their days on earth draw to an end, I want God Himself to say the words that have encouraged my weary heart and dispelled my fears so many times during this life, “come home”.  

Contributing Works Stories

A Christmas Promise by Nancy Sharpe Ellis

A child doesn’t see the hard times his parents face, but this little boy knew his father would keep his word.

This true story happened in 1942 in Liberty, North Carolina.

It was just before Christmas when the family harnessed the mule to the wagon for the trip to town. They were going to replenish farm and household supplies. The stores were displaying a few Christmas toys and winter clothing in the windows. Christmas was just a few weeks away.

There it was in the window of the hardware store, a shiny red wagon; one like a little boy could use to carry his valuable finds from the yard and fields and even haul wood for the fireplace.

The little red-haired boy’s eyes brightened as he saw the shiny red wagon. He told his father he wished he could have that wagon for Christmas. His father knew he could not buy the shiny red wagon in time for Christmas. He could only promise that he would buy it as soon as he could. A Christmas Promise was all he had to give the little boy.

Being the only child, he was the apple of his father’s eye. He was cherished by both of his parents. Later a sister would be born, but for now, it was just the little red-headed boy.

His father had been disabled as a child by polio, unable to stand and walk. He had worked in the fields while holding onto the plow being pulled by a mule in the foothills of North Carolina. He learned to walk with metal braces on his legs and a cane, but with great difficulty.

It was in these foothills that the little red-haired boy was born to Willie and Hattie, good God-fearing people.

The family had moved out of the foothills to Liberty, North Carolina, hoping for a better life. Still, times ere hard and material things were sparse. Hattie would scrub the floors and walls of the tenant house with hot water and lye soap to make it acceptable for her family. This helped rid the place of bugs and other pests.

The main meal of the day on the farm was called dinner, as the field workers came to the house to eat at the noon hour. Hattie would save a piece of fried chicken for her little red-haired son. She had a hiding place in the cabinet for his food, making sure he had food when the farmworkers went back to the fields to work.

There was no doubt that the little red-haired boy was loved by his parents. So when the boy asked his father for the shiny red wagon for Christmas, the father told him they would have to wait for the government subsidy check from the sale of their tobacco. Silently he hoped it would come before Christmas. A promise is a promise.

Time passed, Christmas came and went. No check came. Christmas was bare that year in 1942. But a promise is a promise of the shiny red wagon.

Finally, in April 1943, the check came. The father hitched the mule to the wagon and the family made the trip to the hardware store to buy the shiny red “Christmas Wagon”.

Not only was the wagon bought, but also a generous supply of candy. He ate so much candy that he was sick to his stomach. The mule pulled the wagon back to the farm carrying one happy little red-haired boy and his parents. Christmas Promised was fulfilled.

The little red-haired boy grew to be a successful farmer and cattleman. He is humbled when he tells the story of the promised shiny red “Christmas Wagon” in the hardware store window. Tears well up in his eyes, not because of disappointment, but because he remembers the love of his parents and the promise kept.

Christmas Promised came in April that year. Our Christmas Promise was foretold from Genesis to Revelation in the Holy Bible. This message is repeated during the Christmas Season across the world as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth is recorded in Matthew and Luke for all to read. Churches present the Good News of the Savior’s birth through concerts, plays, and special events.

In my childhood days, the Christmas story was performed by the children wearing homemade costumes. The choir sang songs, even though off-key, from the heart. It was a joyous sound. At the end of the program, everyone was given a brown paper bag with some nuts, fruits, and candy inside. They left with the feeling of peace and goodwill of Christmas. We even celebrated Christmas at school.

I wish you an old fashioned Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Contributing Works Stories

Icing on the Cake of Life

Everyone knows that family is important. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today, no matter the situation. We each have our differences, hardships, and struggles. We also have the good times, lessons that last with us for a lifetime, and things that connect us, even when we’re apart. Below is a letter from Teresa Canoy, proprietor of Harvest House in Ramseur, NC, to her late father, James “Boot” York, who was a fireman for Franklinville Fire Department.

Dear Dad,

Thirty years ago, November 10th was our last conversation about Christmas lights for the fire department. I wrote to you 19 years ago, that letter printed after 9/11. It being about your grandson, J.R. and him remembering you being a fireman, with his hopes of maybe one day becoming a fireman.

Dad, I tried so hard to be a son, always trying to prove myself of being tough, not just on the farm, but with many other life duties. When you became a grandfather, I saw the softer side. The overwhelming love you had for my son, and then my daughter, Jessica. You would be proud, Jessica has been a Jr. Fireman. J.R. now has a son of his own. Now I know how deeply grandparenting love runs. 

Dad, I was very wrong in my dislike of you and your involvement with the fire department. I know that you being a fireman and a grandparent was your Icing on your Cake of Life. Those were some of your best years. 

Dad, sitting here this morning, having just returned from a fire alarm and taking off turn-out gear, I’m understanding even more of the importance of all fire departments and what they do for the communities. Even though you are not here, I feel closer to you than I ever have. You leaving this earth at 46 years old was too soon. I’m proud to tell you at 56 years old, I’m working to have a brother-sister hood. I’m just a probie right now, but hope to honor what you started.

P.S. Hope I never forget the fire truck…I want to honor all of those who have given their time, talent, and their lives. When I look at the Senior Fireman, I’m humbled of all they have given. I look to the young fireman and feel so proud of them. I feel hope and pray not only for their dedication, but for their lives and all that they are giving. 

Dada, you taught me to be tough and to fight. I will not give up, I will stumble and I will fall. It will take me longer to stand back up than those younger ones, but I will stand and keep fighting. Thank you Daddy.

I want special thanks to all my loved ones that will be here to cover my ass and support me. I want to thank J.R. and Cortney for making me a grandparent. My cup runneth over. Thank you and love to Jessica and Josh for always being here for me. Josh, thanks for knowing how stubborn I can be, and talking to me about knowing my limits, so I don’t fall out and cause hardships on the team.

Thanks to the Ramseur Fire Department for making me feel safe, welcome, and allowing me a chance to be a part of your vital organization, that voluntarily helps others in time of need. I’ve been told there is always something anyone can do. 

I challenge everyone to check in with a local fire department. Volunteers are needed. 

P.S. I’m beginning to put the Icing on My Cake.



Contributing Works Stories

Lessons from Miss Lou’s

by Debra Vernon

Today, it seems as if there is a Dollar General on every corner.  Little islands of retail pop up in the most rural of areas.  It’s a place where you can run in and grab most necessities, and then quickly beat a retreat to the car and on back to your house.  But in the not too distant past, the local “country store” was a big part of any community, and it was no different at Browns Crossroads. 

The neighborhood of Browns Crossroads still exists among the gently rolling foothills of eastern Randolph County.  It is the type of place where anyone that lives within a 5-mile radius is considered your neighbor, and that’s a good thing.  Back in the day, there at the crossroads was Langley’s store, affectionately known by anyone in the neighborhood simply as “Miss Lou’s”.   

This was a place which was not designed for the quick stop.  This was a place where you were encouraged to stick around and find out the comings and goings of your neighbors.  The parking lot was composed of a little bit of gravel and a whole lot of bottle caps, which gave a distinct sound when you walked on them.  A Sunbeam screen door would slam shut behind you as you entered the sanctuary of the neighborhood retail chapel.  A long counter that ran along the back, with an assortment of items for display: ‘nab crackers, Vienna sausages, potted meat, saltine crackers, sardines and for the high-end diners, cans of beanie weenies. The coke machine was the chest type, and you could reach in and find the coldest coca cola ever, chilled just right and waiting for you to add salted peanuts.  Coble Dairy ice cream cups with the little wooden spoons occupied my childhood desires while there, but they were not housed in a fancy freezer like frozen items are nowadays.  Nope, there was an old white Kelvinator fridge that sat back in the corner, where milk and cheese occupied the cooling section, and ice cream cups and sandwiches occupied the freezer portion.  Loaves of bread sat out on a metal rack, and a few cookies and sweet things occupied another shelf.  There was not a lot of variety, and that was okay, as it was a simpler time and a simpler place, when just the basics was quite enough.  Red Man chewing tobacco, as well as Camels with no filter were available by the pack.  Chatham Dog Food was stacked in 50-lb bags over against the wall, and I spent many Saturday nights sitting on those, watching my mom and dad and our neighbors playing games of Canasta or Rook at the table in the corner.   I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye right now.  

Miss Lou was queen in that realm and ruled it accordingly.  I do not believe I ever saw her in anything but her “house dress”, standing behind the counter while ringing up purchases on that big old metal cash register with the bell on it, and dispensing the latest news of the neighborhood.  She was a fount of knowledge; and knew everyone near and far.  It was in this small space I learned some valuable life lessons.

If someone in the community was sick, the ladies would map out who would provide meals during the week.  On your assigned day, you cooked up a big meal and took it to them.  And it was an entire meal, complete with meat, a few vegetables, homemade biscuits, sweet tea and a dessert of some kind.  And it was all made from scratch.  None of that store-bought stuff.  You marked your dishes with your initials, and you were sure them get them back.  If it was an extended illness, house cleaning, as well as clothes washing, and ironing would be taken care of.  Men folk would take care of items such as planting or harvesting (depending on the time of the year), moving stock from one pasture to the next, or gathering/splitting wood.  

If the doors to the church were open, you were there.  You served whenever and wherever needed and did so with a glad heart.  Bible school was held each summer, revival services in the spring and fall, and the Christmas program with the kids was always a big hit.  You may not attend the same churches as some of your neighbors, but you supported their fund-raising dinners and gave generously to their projects.  It was just the Christian thing to do.  Some of those dinners were held at the Grange Hall across from Miss Lou’s store.  Fried chicken, green beans seasoned with fatback, homemade biscuits, sweet tea and some of the best desserts to ever hit your taste buds flourished at those dinners.  

You went to school with your friends at one school for all grades, and you were subject to the expectations of your teachers and the principal while there.  If you were not on your best behavior, discipline would be dispensed quickly and efficiently at school, and a note sent home to ensure another dose would be administered by mom or dad.  Even if you were not on the school sports team, you were still at any of the games you could get to.  School spirit was infused into everything you did, and it was contagious!  The smell of freshly popped popcorn still takes me back to the gymnasium at Ramseur Elementary school, and I am so tickled the gym I remember is still there and in use!

You also learned to respect your elders.  This was not just the older folk in the family, but anyone in the community older than you.  You respectfully listened to what they had to say and did not interrupt or argue.  And for those who were authority figures, such as police officers and firemen, a special measure of respect was due, as you knew they put themselves in harms way to protect and serve others.  

This was also during the time of the draft, so every red-blooded and physically able young man gave a minimum of 2-4 years of service to the armed forces.  And every mother gave a piece of her heart.  Because of this, it was instilled in you at a young age to stand for the national anthem with your hand over your heart, say the pledge of allegiance every day in the classroom while facing Old Glory, and always put God and country first.  It was the least you could do to signify how much you loved your neighbor and your nation.

Today, Miss Lou’s store no longer stands at Browns Crossroads, and the Grange building is long gone too.  Highway 64 is no longer a two-lane highway, but a divided highway with a convoluted intersection which now requires a trip either east or west just to go straight across (government intervention at its finest).  But you know what?  Even though time has marched on, this neighborhood still embraces the lessons I learned while sitting atop the dog food sacks.  Taking care of your neighbor, being at church worshipping God, doing your best in school, respecting your elders and showing compassion and concern for all people.  All of that still runs deep here.  So, I would say Miss Lou’s store provided the basics in more ways than one.  And no Dollar General can improve upon that.