Several years ago we had a fun weekend visiting with good friends from college days. While we girls went shopping, and as I recall, bought the exact same pair of shoes, the guys went to a very special place – hard to find but known to many. They came home as happy as pigs in mud – with big grins from ear to ear. They’d been to a place that’s been in business for about 40 years and it only sells one kind of meat.
You won’t find beef, you won’t find lamb, and you sure won’t find any chicken. No, the meat found here is what they refer to as King Pork. And every little bitty piece of the pig can be found here. Truly! If you have a hankering for lots of pork, then you can purchase an entire hog. Not quite ready for the whole hog? Then fill your buggy with pork chops, country cured hams, links of country sausages, baby back ribs, tenderloins, hot dogs and bacon. Smaller appetite? You’ll want to try the trotters, (the feet!),souse meat, liver pudding, puff skins, tongues, ears or chitterlings (don’t ask) – this place has it all. They even have free samples – thankfully it wasn’t the fresh pig tails! It was a pork BBQ sandwich – nice and spicy! The name is Nahunta and it’s the largest “displayer” of pork products in the eastern United States. That saying, “if you build it, they will come” really is true for this store, because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhereville. We were mighty thankful for very large billboards along the road pointing out the way. It’s 30 miles from Goldsboro or Smithfield, NC and you can bet that the many barbecue restaurants in the area, get their product right here. We got to eat some of that wood smoked product at one of our favorite BBQ restaurants – Wilbur’s – and picked up 10 pounds to bring home. And if you look below you see a room cooler full of very large dressed hogs – all from Nahunta. They’re just waiting for the coals to be ready! On the first page below, you can see the man who prepares those coals, and keeps them burning steadily through the night, so scores of people can enjoy fresh barbecue the next day.
My husband and I have been known to drive several hours to eat barbecue and so we leapt at the nice invitation from our son-in-law to go down to eastern Carolina for the weekend. His Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, William H. Noah, from the Michigan 21st had marched with General Wm. Sherman and had been wounded at Bentonville, North Carolina 150 years minus one day ago. It was one of the last battles of the Civil War and a very important one. This was to be a very large reenactment and we decided that it was something not to be missed. “Large” meaning 50,000 attendees with three thousand soldiers participating in the battle. Even the governor was there to watch the battle. Originally there were 60,000 Union troops to the 20,000 of the Confederate army. And incidentally, it was just a few miles from some really good ‘cue.
We arrived early and first visited the Union encampment which was stretched out under the pines. If someone had been dropped in to this site by spaceship, surely they would have thought they were in another century because of the authentic wool uniforms, the white canvas tents, the rifles stacked into pyramids, and the pots of stew cooking over open campfires. Some soldier was strumming a banjo with a few men singing along just a few tents away. Only the line of aqua Porta-johns took away from the authentic setting.
The Confederate forces were camped up a slight rise near the old Harper house. Just before the battle in 1865, this home had been commandeered by the Union forces and then turned into a hospital for wounded men of both the Blue and the Gray. The Harper family was allowed to stay in the house during this time, although, as each room had been turned into a surgery, it’s hard to imagine where they found room to sleep. The house is still standing and the rooms kept to look as though the surgeons and patients have just slipped away for a moment.
On the day of the reenactment, there were lectures from Civil War experts, guided tours of the house, exhibits showing plants that were grown and used during that time, chair caning, and wool dyeing over an open fire in a huge pot of Indigo. Everyone was dressed in the period – women in shawls and long dresses, little girls in big bonnets, and boys in knee pants. Two of our grandchildren picked up some toys from the period – duplicates of the rifles carried by both armies – plus hats to match so we had our own small battles of the North and South a hundred and fifty years later. The real fighting commenced at three in the afternoon in the exact same place as the original battle. Soon the air was filled with the sound of cannon fire from the Union troops and musket fire from the Confederates. The thunder of the artillery echoed off the trees surrounding the battlefield, and it was exciting to watch men from both sides march out to meet on the battlefield with flags waving and bugles blaring. But as the sounds of artillery got louder and the smoke drifted over the field, the excitement began to fade, and it seemed to dawn on each of us that this was something to remember but it was not a celebration. So many of these young boys, would be wounded or die on this battlefield, so far from home and loved ones. One of the soldiers that participated in the 2015 battle said, “There is a moment when we reenactors get to see across the veil of time to what life may have been like. To us the soldier’s story must be retold. We do the best we can to teach a new generation about this most important time in our nation’s history.” We left there in a much quieter and more reflective mood imagining the troops marching across this beautiful land that was just beginning to show the blossoms of spring.
After a quick trip to Chapel Hill, where my Fitbit started vibrating like mad, (and where we hope our grandchildren will attend in future years), we headed home – exhausted but happy to spend such an interesting and informative weekend. And all that good barbecue is tucked away in our freezer to enjoy and share. Come see us!
Happy memory making, Anne
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