Sweet birds and one-trick dogs of youth

April 22, 2012 

On a Sunday fit for the gods, my daughter, 9-year-old grandson and I drove to Chapel Hill to introduce him to the place. It was so beautiful, I half-expected someone to charge admission.

We visited the stadium, my old dorm and his mother’s and the arboretum. We each sipped from the Old Well where we stood in line to take his picture. Later, we visited the annual birdhouse display at the Carolina Inn.

A tall house made out of old pine included two small signs. One read “rent for a song.” The other cited scripture: Matthew 6:26.

The verse reads, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Later, we strolled Franklin Street and came across a fellow lounging in a chair, his handsome dog lying beside him. A sign read, “Dog tricks, $1.”

I handed the man a buck, which he gave to my grandson and instructed him to hide it, which he did, in a crevice at the foot of a metal stairway. He even covered it with a rock.

At the dog owner’s command of “Find!” the dog went directly to the dollar and carried it back to his master who ordered, “Say thank you!” Whereupon the animal barked.

“Say thank you like you mean it!” his master commanded. The animal, named Beans, barked more lustily, then gulped down his treat.

I waited for the next trick. When none seemed forthcoming, I asked why – I learned Beans was a one-trick dog that Sunday.

I resisted asking the fellow what had brought him to this unusual enterprise. I did inquire as to how much revenue it yielded.

“The most so far is $130 on a game day,” he replied.

Just before leaving for Raleigh, Wade and I sat alone in the car.

“Yes, I think I’ll come to school here,” he sighed with satisfaction.

I do dearly hope so, I thought to myself, remembering a recent news item that 29,500 students had applied for admission this year and 7,600 were accepted for next fall. I had not been to Chapel Hill for almost a year. The visit was rewarding, stirring the memories of my time there chasing the sweet bird of youth.

Language barrier

The column on my occasional ill-mannered practice of asking “Who’s this?” when I have dialed a wrong number inspired a reader to share this anecdote.

A British college professor teaching in Appalachia received a call from someone with a strong mountain dialect demanding: “Who’s this?”

The professor replied in a his native accent, “To whom did you wish to speak?” whereupon the caller answered, “Well, it shore hain’t chu.”

Incorrect limerick

Folks who read this column are not shy about correcting me. But Leonard Smith of Raleigh is the first to do it in verse. Smith qualifies as a critic since he’s written 1,600 limericks:

A.C. Snow ought to know

That’s not how true limericks go.

That “limerick”

Won’t do the trick,

As now I will patiently show.

Lines one, two and five must always rhyme,

As does three and four all the time;

And if it’s not clear

What I’ve written here,

Use this limerick as a paradigm.


I feel obliged to report to you that a distinct honor has come my way. I have been extended honorary membership in the N.C. Bluebird Society with all the rights and privileges, chief of which consists of loving and protecting these handsome creatures.

I accept the honor with gratitude and humility.

Two summers ago, heirloom tomato expert Craig Lehoulier named a tomato he co-developed after me. Dwarf Mr. Snow is listed in some of the best seed catalogs.

And a few years back, my friend Keever named a star for me, for what reason I do not recall. He is yet to point out the star’s location.

Strange and wonderful things happen to those who venture into the field of newspapering.

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