Jockey’s Ridge

“Wear shorts,” we were told. “It’ll be more fun that way.”

We barely had time to brace ourselves as a huge gust of wind caused each grain of sand to feel like a needle pricking into bare skin. Our faces grew numb. Sand poured from our nostrils. It was caked in the corners of our eyes, and each time we gritted our teeth, we could feel it wedging its way into the enamel. Sand scratched our throats whenever we attempted to swallow what little saliva we could produce. Our ears were becoming clogged with it as the sand threatened to fill every pore on our bodies.

One of the college students turned to me, her normally wide, brown eyes squinting against the sandstorm.

“WHY?” Jordon screamed. “JUST WHY!?”

It was the question we were all asking.

 

 

The Honors students of Gardner-Webb University didn’t arrive at the Outer Banks in North Carolina until one o’clock in the morning. It was an eight hour drive consisting of thirty-five college students, two professors, and one five-year old boy in four fifteen-passenger vans. Once the luggage was loaded up, though, there were roughly ten seats available per van. Needless to say, it was a tight squeeze for a trip lasting a third of the day.

When we arrived at the Wilbur & Orville Wright Court Cottages located in Kill Devil Hills on Nags Head Beach, students stumbled from the vans in a sleep deprived daze. We gathered our luggage and stood in the middle of the vast entrance, clumped together like a flock of confused sheep.

“I have to go check in next door at the Days Inn,” Dr. Jones informed us. “Stay here until I get back. Just be quiet because there are people sleeping, and we don’t want to wake our new neighbors.”

As soon as he disappeared, the noise level raised ten octaves. One girl was laughing manically at nothing in particular. Another cluster of girls gossiped, but even their hushed voices and giggles grew in volume. Of the thirty-five students in attendance, only eight were male. They stood in their own circle away from the rest of us. Only one attempted to calm the group, but he gave up shortly, too.

Fifteen minutes passed, and people began contemplating the option of sleeping on the cold, hard cement. But Dr. Jones returned, handed groups ranging from six to twelve students card keys to access the cottages, and sent us patiently on our way.

“Breakfast begins at eight o’clock… SHARP!”

Many of us felt the need to pretend we hadn’t heard him as the hour hand moved its way toward the two. Others prayed he meant eight o’clock in the evening. Several girls moaned or grumbled under their breath as we all maneuvered in the general directions of our weekend homes.

It was roughly half past two by the time Jordon and I had showered and crawled into our full sized bed. My head hit the pillow, my legs stretched out across the mattress, and I breathed a sigh of relief. As my heavy eyelids began to fall shut, Jordon turned to face me. I opened one eye and met hers in the dark.

“Sorry if I fart in the middle of the night,” she whispered. “I swear, it only happens at nighttime.”

“Oh joy.” There was a hint of sarcasm in my voice, but I laughed as she stared at me with wide eyes. A noise sounded from under the comforters, and I laughed even harder.

“Stop it!” she whined.

I flipped towards her, gripping my pillow with one arm. “My question is,” I said, “why don’t they have pillowcases on these pillows? I wonder how many people have used this pillow before me.”

“I don’t know, Liv.” Her voice was growing more and more tired. “Why do you have to think about that?” I rolled back over and shut my eyes in response, but the silence only lasted so long. “Dang it, Liv. I can’t sleep now.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I keep thinking about how many heads have touched my pillow! What if they didn’t shower? Or what if they had lice?” I could hear the worry creeping into her voice as it squeaked and raised pitch.

I flipped back the comforter and stood. “Flip on that lamp next to you,” I said. “When I stayed at this cottage on Myrtle Beach, they had extra pillowcases in the dresser drawers or in the closet. You had to put them on yourself. Maybe we were supposed to find them?”

I moved around the room at snail pace, pulling out drawer after drawer. Each one was sullen and hollow. I turned the knob on the closet door and discovered an extra fleece and a vacuum on the other side.

“I don’t know, Jordon,” I sighed. “I don’t see anything. Just try to sleep.” I crawled back under the covers and grabbed for my pillow. It was then that I noticed the thin white sheet encircling it. “Jordon, look.”

She was silent for a moment before she turned the switch on the lamp and turned her back on me. “I can’t believe you. Go to sleep, Liv.”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t know!” I laughed.

Five minutes of silence passed, and I thought we were going to fall asleep at long last. The clock on the other side of the room read a quarter to three. It was then that I heard a sound, a sound that reminded me of blinds being ruffled.

“Jordon,” I whispered. “Jordon. What was that? Did you hear that?”

“…excuse me,” she replied innocently as she stifled a laugh.

“Aghhhh!”

 

 

The following day began at seven in the morning when the girls in our cottage woke up to shower and get ready for the day’s events. Everyone at breakfast was still sleepy-eyed, but we were herded into the vans precisely at nine. We were right on track with Dr. Jones’s schedule.

First on the itinerary was the Wright Museum. Many of us struggled to stay awake through a presentation on the Wright Brothers, and the hour that it lasted felt like three. Afterwards, Dr. Jones sent us sightseeing on the property, and the group walked around in a daze, snapping pictures occasionally.

At noon, he rushed us back to the cottages for lunch.

“We’re heading to the aquarium right at one, and then it’s on to Jockey’s Ridge,” Dr. Jones informed us through bites of ham and American cheese on white. “Now, don’t forget. This is a giant sand dune. Wear shorts. It’ll be more fun that way.”

The next few hours felt like a blur as we were crammed back into the vans and chaperoned to the aquarium. We sat through a presentation on the world before we were let loose to touch stingrays and look at fish in tanks. By the time we were being steered out of the glass sliding doors and back to the parking lot, raindrops began cascading down from the darkening sky as the wind picked up speed.

“Maybe we’re just going to go home?” a girl by the name of Katie spoke in a hopeful voice.

“I sure hope so,” I replied. “I’m from the desert back home, and trust me. You do not want to be stuck in a sandstorm. Dr. Jones wouldn’t do that to us… right?”

I should have known better.

The vans did not head in the direction of home. Instead, Dr. Jones led our entourage to the parking lot of a kite shop. He beckoned for us to get out and get going. It was a long walk across a busy street and over several dunes until we were to arrive at the one called Jockey’s Ridge.

The minute our bare feet touched sand, I think everyone knew just what a bad idea this whole excursion was. The wind howled in our ears, the sand took flight and embedded itself in our soft top layers of skin. Girls screamed and whimpered at the pain while the boys attempted to “take it like men.” But even then, some of them were complaining and saying “ouch” time and time again.

“Let’s at least make it Jockey’s Ridge!” Delton told the group hesitantly before he and Sarah took off running up and down the dunes.

It got worse the further we traveled, and before long, the street had vanished from sight. Our vans which would protect us from the violent wind had disappeared altogether. Now the view resembled that of the Sahara Desert when one turned in a three hundred and sixty degree motion. But there was no going back until we reached the top of Jockey’s Ridge.

The group eventually made it, and we gathered together to try and block each other from the sand. Better yet, we were trying to use our friends as human shields for ourselves and our own benefit. Dr. Jones appeared before just over the edge of the dune before long, and he traipsed through the sandstorm up to us.

“Kevin,” he said gruffly. “Help me set up this kite.”

The groans were almost inaudible and lost in the wind. It took three people to hold the kite and two people to attach the string. Thirty minutes later, everyone’s skin was noticeably red and raw to the touch, but the kite was ready to fly. Dr. Jones backed up while Kevin held the spool. Everyone waited impatiently as Dr. Jones smiled openly, sand flying into his mouth. He tossed it up and we all watched as the wind immediately snapped the string in half and sent the colorful bird-shaped kite surging down the sand dune.

“Huh,” Dr. Jones huffed as he turned to me. “That string was supposed to hold up to fifty mile per hour wind.”

“That’s because this wind is stronger than fifty miles per hour, Dr. Jones,” I replied politely, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.

“We’re heading back,” Delton shouted as he and a girl broke apart from the group and began the descent down Jockey’s Ridge in the general direction of the vans.

“Me too.”

“And me.”

“Yeah. Sorry, Dr. Jones.”

“We’re leaving, too.”

The time that it took us to get up to Jockey’s Ridge was practically cut in half as we sprinted towards the vans. They meant safety from the wind, and better yet, safety from the sandstorm. We climbed over one another as we piled inside whichever van was closest and unlocked first. The excess of students waited outside until a couple of the student drivers appeared. Dr. Jones was one of the last to join the crowd of unpleasant college students.

Keys were turned in ignitions, and before long, we were rolling out of the parking lot. Sand clung to our bare feet and we attempted to brush them off inside the vehicles. We cleaned our eyes and blew our noses into tissues, pried grains from our ears with our nails, and swallowed down the gritty taste left in our mouths with water.

“We have to be going home now, right?” Katie’s voice was more strained than hopeful now.

It wasn’t long before the vans were pulling onto a dirt road and into a dust covered parking lot. A log cabin with a painted sign reading “Visitor Information” loomed to the left of us. Trees and moth covered water surrounded the other three sides.

Dr. Jones rapped his knuckles on the window.

“Everybody out!” he called cheerfully. “It’s time to go hiking!”

“Why?” Jordon sounded distraught. “Just… why?”

It was the question we were all asking.

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The Senior Games

She doesn’t dare move to wipe the sweat from her brow as she grips her racket, bracing herself for her opponent’s hit. Her knuckles are white, pale skin stretched over fragile, tired bones. Her knees are slightly bent at the ready, her back hunched noticeably. The woman’s stance is strong, yet cautious. She bounces on the balls of her feet momentarily and hesitates before repositioning herself a little to the left.

The yellow ball bounds over the net and she lunges with the speed only a woman in her sixties or seventies can manage. The whoosh! of the racket flying through the air and the connection of ball on nylon synthetic reverberates from where I sit on the cold, metal bleachers. But the hit is a little too hard, a little too off course, and the ball is no longer in play.

“Well, that right there sure was a homerun!” The baseball terminology feels out of place on the tennis courts.

It’s the Cleveland County Senior Games. Men and women – ages ranging from sixties to nineties – compete in events throughout the county, whether they be track and field, basketball, badmitton, the infamous shuffleboard, or in this case, tennis. There are five competitors today: two women and three men. The women, Beth “Pro” Tamara and Beth “Sunshine” Clare, are competing in doubles while the three men have chosen to take on the daunting task of singles tennis. The women are up first.

Pro pulls at the hem of her white tee. Sporadically sewn on sequins glisten in the sun around her neckline. Her shorts are also non-athletic, but the brown corduroy compliments her outfit sufficiently. Dirt ridden tennis shoes, complete with fraying laces, look out of place on her feet in comparison. One of her crew cut socks has become bunched down on her leg in all of the commotion. She pops her gum like a teenager and moves back into place. The wrinkles on her forehead are twice as noticeable as her eyebrows angle downward in frustration.

Sunshine, noticing the glare Pro has shot in her direction, ammends, “Well, it was a homerun, Bethy. Hold back a little bit next time… di’you have too many Cheerios this mornin’?”

Pro cordially chooses not to answer her teammate’s witty response. Sunshine shrugs it off and begins smiling and humming softly to herself. If her personality doesn’t reflect her nickname, her yellow tee certainly does. Black sweatpants contrast the bright color, but it returns in the lime green shade of her stylized tennis shoes. Glasses perch on the bridge of her nose, and her grey-streaked blonde hair frames her full face.

Their opponents have retrieved the ball, and all eyes shift from the elderly women to the other end of the court. Two male college students retake their positions. One is tall and lanky with a beard adorning his face while the other is shorter and stocky, heavy set with a thick build. It’s an interesting match-up to say the least, but these are only the preliminary rounds, and according to the competition’s guidelines, the senior citizens can play against anybody. If anything, it certainly makes for a good spectator game.

“Don’t choke!” Sure enough, Pro has taken up trash talking.

“Take it easy on us,” Stocky shoots back.

Lanky tosses up the ball for his serve, swings, and connects with the net. The ball rebounds and rolls back across the court as Stocky lets a colorful four-letter word escape under his breath.

The one-on-one tennis matches won’t begin until after the women finish up their double, so the three elderly men stand on the sidelines inside the courts. One looks significantly younger than the others, and he acts it too as he blows off the game to talk with a few of the college students assisting with the competition. He wears a plain red tee and sunglasses, despite the overcast skies.

The second is in his mid-eighties and portrays a slight resemblance to a turtle. Baggy athletic clothes hang from his wiry frame, but he’s ornamented them with a tattered blue plaid vest. His back is curved, yet his neck sticks out from his body even further, giving the appearance of a turtle poking its head from its shell. A well-worn blue ball cap rests atop his head and brittle, silver hair pokes out from underneath. He pays little attention to the action as he swings his arms around his body, lost in his own little world. It takes me a minute to make the connection that he’s warming up for his game by practicing his swing… despite the fact he isn’t holding a racket. To anybody else, it’d look as though he were swatting at bees.

The last man, though, leans against the back of the bench between the two courts, his cane resting beside him. His eyes are fixated on the match laid out in front of him. An oversized cowboy hat sits low on his head and a sweatshirt depicting the American flag and a grand eagle encompasses his upper body, a picture perfect representation of the U.S.A. at its finest.

“I thought the object was to git the ball over the net!” He has chosen to join in on Pro’s trash talk, and he chuckles loudly at his own commentary.

“Oh, please,” Stocky mutters as Lanky retrieves the ball and prepares for his second serve.

It’s a clean hit, and the ball flies over the net into Pro’s box. She backhands it effortlessly to Stocky, and it remains in bounds this time. He returns the ball in Sunshine’s direction, but before she can reach it, Pro comes up from behind and snaps it over the net directly in front of her face. Sunshine lets out a high-pitched squeal and ducks as the racket narrowly misses her. Distracted by the chaos, the ball bounces twice in the boys’ court, and the winning game point is awarded to the women.

Cheers fill the air as they celebrate their victory. Stocky drops his racket to the ground and falls to his knees, his face buried in the palms of his hands. Lanky shamefully drags his feet as he exits the court.

The gentleman in the cowboy hat, on the other hand, picks up his cane and maneuvers to the edge of the court. He sets it on the sidelines, grasps onto the handle of a racket, and proceeds to take his turn in the spotlight.

The Art & Science of Happiness

A branch of psychology known as Positive Psychology suggests that there’s more to being happy than just making more money than the week before – instead, it proposes that “Happiness is both an art and a science. All can benefit from having a greater appreciation of what’s right within them and building on those strengths.”

Dr. James P. Morgan, who has been a Gardner-Webb University psychology professor for the last seven years, originally created the Positive Psychology course as a seminar two years ago. This spring, it has been offered for the first time as free-standing course and will continue to be offered every spring in the years to come.

“Positive Psychology focuses on what’s right with us,” Morgan says. He explains that it compliments Gardner-Webb’s fall course of Psychopathology which reflects Clinical Psychology and the question of what’s wrong with us.

“It’s the scientific study of a life well lived,” Morgan quotes Christopher Peterson’s definition of Positive Psychology. Peterson was the leader in the field of Positive Psychology and died last year.

Morgan says that Positive Psychology “helps one learn how to lead a more meaningful life, enhancing your strengths and being more mindful of resources within yourself and in your relationships.”

The science of happiness can be broken down into three components: positive emotion, human virtues, and positive institutions. Of these, Morgan explains that “when you grow up in a family where you feel loved and accepted, when you can understand positive emotions and expand on those in your life, when you can appreciate virtues such as  love, wisdom, justice, temperance, and transcendence manifested in your life… those are the kinds of things that can lead to a life well lived.”

The art of happiness involves learning how to live a life that is pleasant, engaged, and meaningful. “A pleasant life has more positive than negative emotion in it,” Morgan says. “An engaged life consists of having purpose, of doing something purposeful. A meaningful life involves the first two but has more of a focus on service to others and making a difference in the world.”

Morgan discusses different exercises he has his students do in his Positive Psychology course. In the beginning, students participate in a “serious introduction” where they talk about and reflect on a time they were at their best.

Students also partake in an online survey which reveals their strongest virtues and character strengths. “For the rest of the semester, they find ways to give expressions to those character strengths. They write about what they’re learning about themselves and the difference it’s making in their lives and the lives of others.”

Another exercise includes writing and sharing a letter of gratitude with someone important in each student’s life. Morgan also has his students keep “gratitude journals.” They write down three good things that happen every day and then reflect on these over a period of time.

Through “Active Constructive Responding,” students pick a relationship in their life that they have difficulty dealing with. They intentionally find constructive ways of relating to that person for a week. Afterwards, they reflect on how their relationship with that person was impacted.

Morgan’s “Being a Good Team Member” exercise challenges students to pick a group that they’re a functioning team member in and look at their role in-depth and how they can give positive feedback and encouragement to others.

“If people practice some of these exercises consistently,” Morgan says, “it’s shown through research that it makes a difference in the quality of their mood and happiness as an individual.” 

WGWG

Gardner-Webb’s radio station, 88.3 WGWG, which has been broadcasting on the air for the last four decades, will be selling its license and shutting down “within months” because it’s too expensive to stay on the air.

Jeff Powell, a graduate of Gardner-Webb and current manager of WGWG, has announced that the station will transition to an online operation, which is a much less expensive endeavor. The staff will shrink to one full-time employee (Powell) and become student-run. “We rely on our community volunteers as well as our students,” Powell says.

In part of becoming strictly online, Powell has ideas of turning WGWG into block programming. “For example,” he says, “we can record the five o’clock news, and if you miss five o’clock, well, you can listen to it anytime!” Music, sports, news, and weather will be accessible through archived audio and podcasts.

WGWG, which stands for “Watch Gardner-Webb Grow,” existed on campus as a “radio club” prior to going on air in 1974. They went from broadcasting through an electrical system to a 5,000 watt tower which permitted them to reach all of Cleveland County. In 1998, WGWG increased its wattage to 50,000, allowing the station to reach sixteen counties in the Carolinas.

Powell explains that the prospect of selling the station license and frequency has been talked about for years. He explains that “it’s harder for a standalone station to afford to operate in this environment.” He began working at WGWG as a student work-study employee in 1984. After graduation, he was promoted to a part-time employee and later became a full-time employee in 1999. Powell left WGWG in 2002 but returned in 2005 and has been working full-time since.

Many colleges have shut down and sold radio stations due to the change in the economy while others have transitioned to being strictly online. “This is what we’re looking to do,” Powell says. “The costs and regulatory burden is much less. Just as newspapers have transitioned online, radio must do the same.”

WGWG has been streaming on the internet for fifteen years through an accessible “Listen Live” link. Powell clarifies that “being online is nothing new for us, but we’re going to beef it up and make it our only means of broadcasting. It takes us from a sixteen county broadcast to literally worldwide.”

Powell acknowledges that it will probably only be a matter of months before a sale is completed. Until then, he explains that “we’ve been working to retool our broadcast to make it more of a laboratory and hands-on experience for students.” They will gain public speaking training along with audio editing, voiceovers, and board operational skills.

WGWG currently has sixteen students actively involved at the station, including two who have designed and launched their own specialty shows. With the changes going on at WGWG, Powell can only see these numbers expanding.

“We grow from where we are now,” he says. “We’re open to everyone helping out. All students are welcome, regardless of major.” Options available to students include volunteer work, a one-hour Applied Radio course, work-study positions, and internships.

When reflecting on how far WGWG has come in the last forty years, Powell announces, “We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.” WGWG has raised a considerable amount of its operational expenses through underwritings. They’ve been part of events from Nashville to Merlefest and have been compared to well-recognized radio stations.

“I think we’ve reflected very well on Gardner-Webb University,” Powell says. “I’m proud of what we’ve done – I’m going to miss some of it – but I’m eager to get onto this next phase. I’m looking forward to working with the students and getting more involvement, gaining that hands-on experience that we can offer.”

Car Wash

A man was shot and killed by a Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputy yesterday around 7:15 p.m. at New Look Car Wash on Old Lynnwood Drive in Clinton, North Carolina.

Henry H. Feldon, 47, 246 W. Grover, Clinton, North Carolina, was taken to Memorial Hospital in Charlotte where he was pronounced dead.

According to a reporter for WCNC-TV, a Rock Hill television station, Ken Montgomery, the owner of New Look Car Wash, received a phone call from a passerby who informed him that a man’s pickup truck was stuck in a drain at the car wash. Montgomery proceeded to call an employee, Devarious Hughes, who arrived at the car wash to help.

Upon arrival, something looked suspicious so Hughes called the sheriff’s office. After the sheriff showed up, Hughes said, “He [the man with the truck] walked back to the truck and pulled out his weapon. I heard the officer say, ‘Sir, please drop the gun. Drop the gun.’ That’s when the shots were fired by the deputy.”

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has said that one of its deputies was involved in a shooting but has released no further details since the case is under investigation by county and state officials. The unidentified sheriff’s deputy is on administrative leave during this time.

It is the second time in a week that someone has been killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Mecklenburg County.

Bank Robbery

A white man who said he had a gun robbed People’s Bank, First Street West in Conover, North Carolina, around 9:45 a.m. on Monday.

The man walked into the bank, handed the teller a note, and claimed to have a gun in his pocket. The teller gave him the money, the amount undisclosed. He is described as about six feet tall and was reported wearing a long-sleeved black shirt with a yellow reflective vest, black pants, and a black ball cap.

If you have any information regarding this crime, please call the Conover police at 898-464-3112.

Four Teens

Four teens, ages 11 to 17, were arrested and charged yesterday with felony conspiracy under 18 counts of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle and 13 counts of larceny in Mint Hill, North Carolina.

After receiving a call two weeks ago around 5 a.m. about a car break-in on Windom Road, police began their investigation. Quaran Thomas, 17, Garrett Duncan, 16, and two unidentified others, ages 11 and 14, were found in a golf cart when police arrived on the scene. Once detained, police determined they had been breaking into vehicles.

Investigation still continues, although about 50 pieces of property have been recovered. Police have identified a theft ring of youths who ride golf carts through parking lots stealing valuables from cars as the mastermind behind the crime.

Sexual Misconduct

A 47-year-old man is charged with first and second degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and committing a lewd act upon a child under 16 after appearing in court on Tuesday where his bond was denied.

Ricky Wayne Rogers, 398 Fog Street in Fort Mill, South Carolina, was arrested on September 16 and booked into the York County Detention Center. He will be incarcerated until his trial after the first of the year.

According to a police report from the Fort Mill Police Department, Rogers’ charges stem from an incident on June 29. After reporting the incident to authorities on September 15, a police interview was conducted with the victim and her mother. Following the interview, three warrants for Rogers’ arrest were issued.

The victim’s identity and age has not been released at this time.

Hunting Island

A man was reported missing at 7:30 p.m. by his family after he vanished while swimming off Hunting Island just before dark on Saturday.

Joseph Scott, 31, of Allendale, SC was with his friends about 200 yards offshore when he went under the water and did not resurface. The search for Scott lasted until 9:30 p.m. and was resumed at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday. He has yet to be found.

Five others – including a small boy and his father, a couple and a woman who had gone looking for them – had to be rescued from the water off Hunting Island on Saturday.

Due to its geography, the island always has strong currents according to Sgt. Michael Paul Thomas of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Dump Truck

A woman was killed after hitting a parked dump truck with her ’98 Oldsmobile on Fairbluff Road at 3:15 a.m. on Monday.

Cynthia Melton Marlik, 2478 Golf Ball Circle in Charlotte, failed to make a sharp left while driving 35 mph on Fairbluff Road just two blocks from where she lived. The dump truck was unoccupied and parked off to the side of the road. Marlik was transported by Brooks Ambulance to Cleveland Regional Medical Center where she died at 5 a.m.

Police were suspicious alcohol had been involved, so toxicology tests were performed. Results have yet to be determined.