Saving Aria: Finding Sanctuary at the Carolina Tiger Rescue


The call came in on a Monday.

Animal Control folks in Orangeburg, South Carolina had been alerted  – via an anonymous tip – that a female tiger was in distress. They were requesting assistance in the confiscation of the big cat from a private owner in their community.

Kathryn Bertok, Curator of Animals at the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, North Carolina, told the caller a team could be on site for pick-up as early as Wednesday. In the interim, a local veterinarian was summoned to the home. The animal was found to be emaciated and dehydrated. She was listless, underweight and vomiting.

A seizure warrant was issued and Kathryn, along with Staff Veterinarian Dr. Angela Lassiter and two others from the Carolina Tiger Rescue, made the four and a half hour trip down to the tiny town of Orangeburg.

The man who owned the tiger and his family were initially very upset and angry about the confiscation but, Kathryn said, they ended up being fairly reasonable when made to understand extraordinary measures would have to be taken to save the tiger.

The animal was darted and loaded into a crate in the rescue unit’s box truck.

Kathryn recalled: “She weighed only 200 pounds (a healthy female should weigh closer to 360), was suffering from diarrhea, had no muscle mass and no fat coverage on her ribs. You could feel every rib – it was like running your fingers over fingers – and we had difficulty getting a heart rate. I have no doubt the man loved this cat and had tried to care for her . . . [Nevertheless] in my fourteen years [with the Carolina Tiger Rescue] this is by far the worst condition in which I’ve ever seen a rescued animal arrive.”

Four and a half hours later, the tiger was in Pittsboro where she was placed in thirty-day quarantine and run through a battery of medical checks. She was started on anti-diarrheal medications, Pepcid, and antibiotics and, as she wasn’t eating, an appetite stimulant. “You can’t force-feed a tiger,” Kathryn noted. “The first day, we weren’t sure she’d survive. Then she started to eat a little and became more active.”

Bloodwork revealed a pancreatic insufficiency so the staff started feeding her beef pancreas, the enzymes from which worked to break down the food she was eating so it could be digested. The enzymes were powerful enough to eat through the latex gloves of the individual handling the beef pancreas but they were exactly what the tiger needed to jump start her system.

The Carolina Tiger Rescue staff renamed the big cat Aria as the facility already had another animal with the tiger’s prior name. Aria is now doing very well; she’s gained weight and she’s regained muscle mass. She also chuffling (speaking “Tiger”). The family will be coming to visit her this week.

Kathryn reiterated, “I have no doubt they love this tiger; they had her for ten years. But, one of the many issues in private ownership of the big cats is that you have responsibility for providing adequate veterinary care. They said they hadn’t been able to get a vet out to look at her and the tiger was starving to death no matter how much food she was getting.”

I was astonished to learn that seven states –  Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina – have no license or permit requirements regulating ownership of exotic animals beyond entry permits or veterinary certificates. Two states – West Virginia and Wisconsin – have no state laws at all governing exotic animal ownership.

Only twenty states have a ban on the private ownership of large cats, wolves, bears, reptiles, and most non-human primates: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. Other states have either partial bans of certain species or require a license and permit. It should be noted, however, that some counties and municipalities within all of these may have established their own local laws regarding exotic animals.

That said, in the majority of states in the US, you could have a big cat or bear living – legally – next door to you and be completely unaware of the fact until the animal got loose and/or injured someone.

While it is estimated that little more than 3,000 tigers remain in the wild, upwards of 12,000 are kept in captivity in the US with 5,000 of these in the state of Texas. Most of these are hybrids, the result of mating between different subspecies or even with lions.

According to an article in Southwest magazine, white tiger cubs go for $5,000 and many of these are sold to small businesses that travel around the country displaying them as props and charging tourists to take pictures with them. Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, told Southwest: “Traveling petting zoos that feature baby lions and tigers are a huge source of exotic animals. Since the animals are only suitable for petting between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, the operators of these attractions must keep breeding them to stay in business. When they can’t use them anymore, they become this $10,000 a year liability. They will give them away, sell them, no paperwork. Then (the buyers) call us and say, ‘I can’t deal with this carnivore.’”

The 55-acre Carolina Tiger Rescue has more than 70 animals in its care. Along with tigers, binturongs, lions, cougars, bobcats, caracals, kinkajous, ocelots and servals have found sanctuary there. The organization is working toward the day when “wildcats are not owned by individuals as pets; wildcats are not used for entertainment purposes; no trade exists for wildcats or their parts; and all wildcats prosper in sustainable, native habitats.”

In working toward these goals, “Carolina Tiger Rescue rescues wildcats; provides lifelong sanctuary for wildcats; educates the public about the plight of wildcats in captivity and in the wild; conducts non-invasive research to further understand and aid wildcats; advocates for action to maintain wildcats in sustainable native habitats, or when that is not a viable option, for the respectful, humane treatment of them in captivity.”

My interview with Kathryn Bertok about the Carolina Tiger Rescue and the exotic pet trade will soon air on my program, On the Road with Mac and Molly, on Pet Life Radio ( A chapter in my book, Rubber Hobos, will also be centered on the Carolina Tiger Rescue facility, habitat concerns, the exotic pet trade, conservation education, and rescue efforts.

Regular updates on Aria’s condition will be posted on Carolina Tiger’s Facebook page. While the sanctuary had some funds remaining from prior rescues, it is expected that Aria’s medical care will exceed the balance. If Aria survives, all funds raised in excess of her medical care will cover the cost of outfitting her new habitat with a water tub, tiger toys, and enriching items. Any funds raised above the cost of this rescue will be put toward future rescues.

Donations toward Aria’s care may be made online at Checks may also be mailed to Carolina Tiger Rescue, 1940 Hanks Chapel Road, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312. Designate your gift to “Bring Them Home” for this rescue, or leave the gift undesignated for the care of all of the animals at Carolina Tiger Rescue. For more information, call 919-542-4684 or visit

You can tour the facility with a guide who will take you on a half-mile walk to meet some of the world’s most endangered species. You’ll hear the rescue stories that brought the animals to the Carolina Tiger Rescue and the issues that their kind face in the wild. The tour will last about 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on the group’s involvement. Twilight tours are also offered seasonally (April-October) on Saturday and Sunday evenings at sunset. These special walks are during the most active part of the predators’ days. All tours are rain or shine.

The featured image and the two photographs accompanying the article by the Carolina Tiger Rescue. All photos in the following gallery by Donna Hailson.

Carolina Tiger Rescue

Guide Mark Zeringue feeding Roman
Guide Mark Zeringue feeding Roman

Visited the Carolina Tiger Rescue today for my On the Road with Mac and Molly radio show, this blog and the Rubber Hobos book. Lots of stories to share in the coming days!

The sanctuary, in Pittsboro, North Carolina, is a true sanctuary not only for tigers but also for binturongs, lions, cougars, bobcats, caracals, kinkajous, ocelots and servals.

Carolina Tiger Rescue is working toward the day when “wildcats are not owned by individuals as pets; wildcats are not used for entertainment purposes; no trade exists for wildcats or their parts; and all wildcats prosper in sustainable, native habitats.”

In working toward these goals, “Carolina Tiger Rescue rescues wildcats; provides lifelong sanctuary for wildcats; educates the public about the plight of wildcats in captivity and in the wild; conducts non-invasive research to further understand and aid wildcats; advocates for action to maintain wildcats in sustainable native habitats, or when that is not a viable option, for the respectful, humane treatment of them in captivity.”

Photos by Donna Hailson.

The Great Animal Orchestra

Interior, SD. Photo: DFG Hailson

Years ago, when my husband Gene and I made our first trek across the country in an RV, we were amused and captivated by the antics of the very social, black-tailed prairie dogs whose communities we encountered while hiking near Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. It broke my heart to hear that these little creatures have now contracted the bubonic plague. Plague has been especially active in their populations in the northern Great Plains only within the last decade but the plague was actually discovered among them as far back as 40 or more years ago. The disease appears to be spreading to encompass the entire range of the species. Some environmentalists – and the National Wildlife Federation in particular – are convinced the prairie dog has become an endangered species even though millions still roam the Great Plains.

Black-tailed prairie dog photo by Joe Ravi CC-By-SA 3.0
Black-tailed prairie dog
Photo: Joe Ravi CC-By-SA 3.
Burrowing owl Photo by Alan D. Wilson,
Burrowing owl
Photo: Alan D. Wilson,

Some of the research suggests that the numbers of prairie dogs have been reduced by 98% since 1900 (reduced through plague, hunting and other factors). And there are concerns about protecting the prairie dogs that go beyond their numbers. The wellbeing and the very survival of other species – perhaps, most notably, burrowing owls – appear to be dependent on prairie dogs. More attention is now being paid to what can be done to keep the prairie dogs from vanishing.

As I recall – all these years later – the comical squeaks of the prairie dogs, I think how sad it would be to hear those voices silenced. When Gene and I were camping in Death Valley, California, I realized one night that I was hearing not one sound. Not an insect. Not a bit of running water. Not a single creature stirring. Not an engine purring, not a cell phone ringing. Dead silence. I looked up to find a night sky – unblemished by light pollution – and awestruck I stood – beneath the most spectacular stellar display it has ever been my privilege to behold. As I strove to take it in, I found myself weeping.

I was profoundly moved in that silence, under that star-spangled sky, and, as I recall those moments now, I seek the lessons in them.

It was eye-opening, it was instructive, to hear the soundlessness. I was led to think of the sounds of nature I would miss if I could never hear them again: the chirp of a robin; the chatter of a monkey; the rustle of the pronghorn moving through the grassland; the powerful clambering of the bighorn as it makes its way up a stony hillside; the trumpet of an elephant; the call of a humpback whale; the groan of a walrus; the whinny of a horse; the bray of a burro; the clicks of a dolphin; the barks of a prairie dog, the barks of our own Old English Sheepdogs, Mac and Molly.

How precious is this world which we call home and how blessed we are to share that home with creatures that crawl and swim and fly, creatures that amble and arc and strut and slither.

As I was working on a chapter about the wildlife we have encountered in our travels, I came across a book that “resonated” with my great appreciation for the sounds of nature: The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause.

imagesIn these pages, we travel along with Krause as he collects the choruses found in rainforests, coral reefs, and glaciers – the soundscapes of the wild. Throughout the book, wherever you find a music symbol, you have the option of going to to listen to the sounds the author is describing. You can also visit to listen to more recordings and to learn more about his continuing work, speaking engagements and programs on offer.

Krause laments that just as streetlights drown out the stars, human noise is making the sounds of nature vanish. His hypothesis is that every piece of music we enjoy and every word we speak comes, at some point, from the acoustic inspiration of the collective voice of nature.

He shares a moment at Lake Wallowa in northeastern Oregon when he receives what he identifies as his “most memorable music lesson.” As the wind begins to funnel down a high southern pass through a narrow gorge, sounds that seem to come from a giant pipe organ suddenly engulf him and his companions. His guide in this experience is a Nez Perce elder who directs his attention to a cluster of different-length reeds broken by the force of the wind. As the air flows past the reeds, those with open holes at the top are excited into oscillation and create “a great sound – a cross between a church organ and a colossal pan flute…If it hadn’t been for this moment [Krause writes], we would never have given a collection of reeds growing in a remote area by an Oregon lake a second thought.”

I am thoroughly enjoying this book and the story I just shared is one of my favorite from these pages. Krause started off as a musician and was in the Weavers for a time (replacing Pete Seeger). He did the music and effects for movies like “Apocalypse Now” but, when his collaborator died of a brain aneurysm, he realized he’d had enough of Hollywood, rethought his career direction, and enrolled in a doctoral program in creative arts with an internship in marine bioacoustics.

Over the ensuing 40 years, he’s recorded more than 15,000 animal species and more than 4,500 hours of natural ambience…Have you ever stopped to think that a beaver might cry when its dam is destroyed? Do you know that you can tell the temperature by counting the number of chirps made by certain crickets? Ants sing. The movement of viruses can be recorded as can the grunts of an anemone. The loudest creature in the animal kingdom, pound for pound, is the inch and a half long snapping shrimp; it generates a signal with its large claw that can meet or exceed 200 dB underwater, outdoing the Grateful Dead (the group topped out at 130 dB). I never knew you could measure the extent of habitat alteration – due to everything from logging to fire, floods, or insect infestation – by looking at the spectrograms (visual depictions) of changes in the soundscape.

Fully half of these natural soundscapes, recorded by Krause, exist now only in his library because they are from habitats that no longer exist or habitats that have been radically altered because of human endeavors, or habitats that have gone altogether silent. This is an important book, based on a lifetime of study, and it will truly leave you hearing – and seeing – nature as never before.

The North Carolina Blueberry Festival

Blueberry Festival signEach June, the North Carolina Blueberry Festival is held in the tiny town of Burgaw and, each year, the event’s organizers estimate the community’s population jumps from 4,000 to upwards of 30,000. Now I’m no expert at judging crowd sizes but, given the packed in shoulder-to-shoulder nature of yesterday’s fair, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this year’s numbers set at closer to 100,000. Folks crammed in to Courthouse Square to celebrate all things blueberry and, if one looked closely, one could see lots of fingers, tongues and teeth stained blue.

Smoothies and Lemonade
Smoothies and Lemonade

The first cultivated blueberry production began in Burgaw’s Pender County in the 1930s and today, the county ranks second in blueberry production for the state. On offer at the festival were flats of blueberries ($20 for non-organic, $25 for organic); blueberry lemonade; blueberry wine; blueberry fritters; blueberry shortcake; blueberry ice cream; blueberry preserves; and blueberry bread. If there was a recipe that could be converted to use blueberries, I have no doubt that some vendor on site was offering the resulting delectable for sale. Just in case any option was missed, there was also a recipe contest where folks could submit yet another idea.

The day also featured a 5K Run/Walk and the Tour de Blueberry Ride, hosted by the Cape Fear Cyclists. In the latter event, experienced riders were offered routes of 33 and 63 miles while newbies could have their fun along shorter routes of 9, 13 and 21 miles.

Vintage cars
Vintage cars

Vintage cars and trucks were lined up along the streets of the downtown where they were judged by an independent panel of experts. Once one moved past these, it was on to the booths of fine – and not so fine crafters – who were selling wares such as pine needle baskets, ceramic spoon rests, tie-dyed shirts, blown-glass bowls, and wooden pull toys. Food vendors were hawking fried seafood to fried dough. Dozens upon dozens of non-profits, civic groups and sundry other organizations were also in place including the Red Cross and Master Gardeners; a beekeepers’ association; a bow hunters’ association; a group focused on women’s health and another group working to save the rain forests.

Steve Owens and Summertime
Steve Owens and Summertime

The entertainment stage was set adjacent to the beer and wine tents and lots of folks copped a squat to listen to the Gospel Lites; Steve Owens and Summertime; Spare Change; and the Band of Oz. Older folks also wandered the aisles at the antique show and sale while tots rode a kid-sized train, bounced in the bouncy tents, and tried their best to ring the bell with the strongman hammer.

Temps were in the high 80s/low 90s so the shade provided by the square’s trees was much appreciated. A delight-filled day!

Click on the first image below to enter the gallery and view enlargements. All photos by Donna Hailson.

“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way

To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day;

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,

Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum

In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!”

– From Robert Frost’s “Blueberries”

Provocative and Evocative Words

James 1:26; 3:1-12

In the early 1970s, comedian George Carlin made headlines across the world with his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”

He began the routine by saying, “There are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is: 399,993 to seven! They must really be bad.”

And then he – famously – proceeded to say them.

On July 21, 1972, he was arrested after performing the routine at Milwaukee’s Summerfest. The charge: violating obscenity laws. The case, which prompted Carlin to refer to the words for a time as “The Milwaukee Seven,” was dismissed in December of that year. The judge declared that the words were indecent but Carlin had the freedom to say them as long as he caused no disturbance. He was arrested several more times after that for performing the routine, but he refused to drop the bit from his act.

In 1978, the “seven dirty words” riff eventually ended up as the focal point of a Supreme Court ruling: New York radio station WBAI had played a recording of Carlin’s routine – without bleeps – and caught the ire of the Federal Communications Commission. A 5-4 decision reaffirmed the government’s right to regulate speech that the FCC deems offensive.

Carlin, now deceased, once said, “I love words. I thank you for hearing my words. I want to tell you something about words that I think is important. Words are my work, they’re my play. They’re my passion. Words are all we have really. We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid. And, then we assign a word to a thought and we’re stuck with that word for that thought. So be careful with words. The same words that hurt can heal.”

Some years ago, in the midst of a sermon series on words, I used a word from the pulpit that probably came as a great surprise to some. It was a four-letter word starting with the letter f but it wasn’t the great big f-word. It was the one about passing gas.

One person emailed me after the service – absolutely furious – telling me that she had been hurt because I had used that word. She said she had been so enjoying the service – everything was so lovely, all was well — and then I shared a story that had that word in it.

The story was about a couple of employees in a pizza shop in North Carolina who did some nasty things to pies before delivering them to customers. They dropped pizza toppings on the floor, mashed them around, scraped them up, and daintily arranged them on the pie. They stuck cheese strands up their noses, extracted them, and giddily sprinkled them over the sauce. They spit the condiments over the top of the pizza and did to the pie the word I used. Then, they uploaded a video of their creative efforts onto the Internet for all to see.

The woman who was offended by the offensive f-word didn’t care to hear my reasons for sharing this story. She couldn’t get past the word. Words can hurt.

On the other end of the spectrum, another person gave me a great big hug after worship and said, with great delight, how much she had absolutely loved the sermon! She insisted it was exactly what she had needed to hear that morning. It seems Carlin was right: words that hurt can also heal.

Words. Words can provoke: incite to anger or resentment OR stir to action or feeling. Words can evoke: summon or call forth emotions, bring back memories or create something new by means of the imagination.

Was the word I used unsuitable for a formal occasion, especially a worship service, because of its vulgar nature? Perhaps. But it was precisely because of its power to offend that I used it. I wanted my listeners to hear a graphic description of a provocative action and I wanted them to feel disgust and anger over it. What these employees did was a clear example of the betrayal of trust. The execs of the national pizza chain who employed these two fools had to do major damage control. It took the company a good bit of time to recoup.

I used the incident in setting the stage for a message on how we trust, who we trust, what we trust…trust as a journey. From this tale of betrayal and the stories of clay-footed others, I moved on to explore how the first disciples came to trust Jesus; why we can trust Jesus; and why, since we can trust Jesus; we also have the freedom to obey Jesus.

I was stunned to be asked by the angry woman if I was amused by the pizza story. I was not at all amused; I was appalled and I wanted the congregation to be appalled. I wanted them to feel what I felt when I read that story: repulsion, betrayal, dismay. I wanted them to feel those emotions so we could explore together the power of shattered trust and the contrasting power of secured trust. As I reflect, I wonder if the angry woman wasn’t so offended because I’d shattered her trust in me by using a word from the pulpit that she never, in a million years, would have believed I would ever have used.

Now, for certain, certain words offend some people and not others.

The same pizza story reached a man at a breakfast the church offered each Saturday for the homeless and at risk in our community. Because of the startling pizza images, one man especially paid attention to the message and was moved closer in relationship with the Lord. He made a point of coming to me to let me know the impact for healing that my words had made on him.

Now there are stories and images and ideas and words in scripture that anger, incite, excoriate, amuse, edify and transform. The Bible is filled with stories about lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. The Bible is also filled with stories about chastity, abstinence, generosity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. There are passages that deal with rape, adultery, promiscuity, prostitution, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality. There are passages that speak to friendship, courtship, love, marriage, sexual relations within marriage, and fidelity. There are stories of war, abandonment, thievery, idolatry, accidents, injuries, tragedies, murder, treachery, mayhem, torture, and assassinations. There are also stories of peacemaking, faithfulness, healing, joys, and miraculous rescues. There are images that horrify, frighten and offend, images that edify, calm, and restore.

There are passages that focus on a woman’s monthly cycle, a man’s bodily discharge, childbirth, sores, burns, infections, leprosy, insect infestations and mold. The Word speaks to us about fashion, cooking, construction, the arts, agriculture, parties, mountain climbing, the materially rich, the materially poor, the spiritually rich, and the spiritually poor.

And there is a reference in the Bible that many commentators assert is speaking about the f-word I employed. It’s in the book of Isaiah and is used in comparing the suffering of judgment and war with the pain and physical eruptions that frequently accompany childbirth. I’ll help you out here in finding it: the euphemism that’s used is “giving birth to the wind.”

The Bible is filled with words that speak to our everyday lives in our totality as human beings. It is filled with real-time, relevant to all-time stories that teach us how to live. In these stories, we see ourselves and our world; the Bible is an absolutely timeless and always contemporary book. Often employed therein are provocative words written to evoke a response.

All these stories, images and words find touch points and echoes in our world today. I listen to the threats emanating from North Korea and recall the same kinds of taunts and saber-rattling from the Philistines or the Ammonites or the Edomites in the Old Testament.

I read a story about a woman in Oregon who killed another woman and cut out her baby and I am reminded of the passage in 1st Kings, chapter 3, of the two women who came to Solomon both claiming they were the mother of one child. Both had delivered children but one had smothered her son by lying on top of him. When she saw he was dead, she stole the other woman’s child while she slept.

The two stood before King Solomon asking him to make a judgment. He ordered a sword be brought and then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

The woman whose son was alive was filled with love and compassion for her child and begged Solomon to give the baby to the other woman. But the other said, “Neither you nor I shall have him. Cut him in two.”

Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

What a horrifying, sickening, outrageous story but also — what a lesson about wisdom and discernment! Throughout scripture, we find similarly provocative stories that are written to evoke an understanding of truth and to work in us an appropriate response for application to our daily lives.

I read articles today about corruption in government and think of the parade of rulers we find in books like 2nd Chronicles where we see a just ruler like Jehoshaphat contrasted with his son, the corrupt Jehoram, and how one, for the most part, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and received honor and how the other did not do what was right and, as a result, suffered great agony.

I drive by a police station and see a sign lifted in memory of a fallen officer, killed in the line of duty, and I am reminded of the scriptures that call upon us to respect those who are in authority over us. In a newspaper article about the death, I come across a photograph of the officer’s grieving wife and read how a comrade , in recalling the state trooper’s actions said that, on that day, “there would be no compromise of duty. Evil was met with bold courage and an unrelenting will to do what must be done.”

I’m led to wonder if the man who shot the police officer believed he was doing the right thing when he kidnapped his own son, led police on a 40-mile chase and opened fire on troopers as they rushed his car. Then I’m led to Proverbs 14, verse 12: “There is a way that seems right to a man but, in the end, it leads to death.”

All of the foregoing are matters about which we need to be concerned, matters we need to address as the church, matters against which we must not insulate ourselves, matters about which we should have an opinion, matters that call us to action.

I’ve been struck in scripture by the chastisements of preachers and congregations who moved, as if by rote, through the motions of worship. What is worship, the scriptures ask?

Worship is not just ritual activity but the involvement of the heart, mind and will. The test of true worship is not just what we do during an hour of worship each Sunday; it’s about what we do 24-7.

Religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Did I use a polluted word that Sunday? Perhaps. A pastor’s responsibility is to preach the Word, to reprove, rebuke and exhort, with great patience and instruction. A pastor must seek to discern each week how to make the connections between the written Word and the contemporary world.

Now it may not be acceptable  in some social circles to talk about a bodily function such as the one I mentioned that day but that bodily function is natural to us all, a common connector, and of enough interest to be the subject of at least two dozen books for children and of enough interest to warrant 49,800,000 references on Google.

Some years ago, I had a very heated conversation – in the presence of my doctoral students — with a pastor in New York City who is known most especially for his powerful, life-changing ministry with men on the street. He uses the most foul language imaginable from the pulpit – the seven words you can’t use on TV and more. He communicates in the language of the streets.

In our very animated debate that day, I chastised him for his language via Ephesians 4, verse 29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I followed up with Ephesians 5:3-4 (which I paraphrase here): Among us there is to be not even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any other kind of impurity or greed nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking. But my man in NYC still insisted he needed to use the seven words you can’t use on TV in order to reach those who are often otherwise unreachable.

Not easy this word stuff. The same word that can hurt one may heal another.

The bottom line is this: may it be impressed upon us again the power that is found in words. We speak casually; we speak seriously. We joke with others and we bring challenges. Yet, in all that we say, there is a need to think seriously about what we say before we say it.

We must follow the lead of Jesus and use words in ways that instruct, praise, forgive, and when necessary, challenge and admonish. Let us do our best to really listen to what others are saying and try to hear the intent behind what they are saying. Let us seek to live in biblical ways, looking to the Word to inform our daily lives and our speech. Let us tame our tongues. Let us be patient with one another but also encourage one another to use our words wisely. May we each rededicate ourselves to being used of God to build up others in the walk of faith. Let us invite the Holy Spirit to guide us and to inform and form our words.

“The swan, like the soul of the poet, by the dull world is ill understood.”

“The swan, like the soul of the poet, by the dull world is ill understood.” — Heinrich Heine


“There’s a double beauty whenever a swan swims on a lake with her double thereon.” — Thomas Hood

“The stately-sailing swan,

Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale;

And arching proud his neck, with oary feet

Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier isle,

Protective of his young.” – James Thomson, The Seasons, Spring

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry,

Under the October twilight the water

Mirrors a still sky;

Upon the brimming water among the stones

Are nine-and-fifty swans.

Adult swan with two cygnets

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me

Since I first made my count;

I saw, before I had well finished,

All suddenly mount

And scatter wheeling in great broken rings

Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,

And now my heart is sore.

All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,

The first time on this shore,

The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,

They paddle in the cold

Companionable streams or climb the air;

Their hearts have not grown old;

Passion or conquest, wander where they will,

Attend upon them still.


But now they drift on the still water,

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake’s edge or pool

Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day

To find they have flown away? — William Butler Yeats


All photos by Donna Hailson.

The Battleship North Carolina

The battleship has about 15,000 tons of steel armor plate that makes up about 42 percent of her weight. The ship could carry almost two million gallons of fuel oil and averaged 166 gallons per mile. The ship moved 32 feet per gallon.
The battleship has about 15,000 tons of steel armor plate that makes up about 42 percent of her weight. The ship could carry almost two million gallons of fuel oil and averaged 166 gallons per mile. The ship moved 32 feet per gallon.

As we are visiting family in North Carolina and had friends visiting from up north, we decided to take a day to tour the battleship that carries our host state’s name. It took us more than three hours to cover the 729 ft. long, 108 ft. beam, six deck vessel that was built at the New York Navy Yard, launched in 1940 and commissioned in 1941.

According to a pamphlet given to visitors on arrival at the ship: “NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific during World War II, earning 15 battle stars. She established the role of battleships as protectors of aircraft carriers when she defended carrier ENTERPRISE against air attacks during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24 August 1942.

This Kingfisher Scout Plane would be catapulted from the deck. On its return, the plane would land in the water alongside the battleship and a crane would lift the plane out of the water.
This Kingfisher Scout Plane would be catapulted from the deck. On its return, the plane would land in the water alongside the battleship and a crane would lift the plane out of the water.

“NORTH CAROLINA carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft and assisted in shooting down many more. Her anti-aircraft guns helped halt or frustrate scores of attacks on aircraft carriers. One of her Kingfisher pilots performed heroically during the strike on Truk when he rescued ten downed Navy aviators on 30 April 1944.

“She steamed over 300,000 miles. Although Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that NORTH CAROLINA had been sunk, she survived many close calls, near misses and one hit when a Japanese torpedo slammed into the battleship’s hull on 15 September 1942.


By war’s end, she lost only ten men in action and had 67 wounded. After the war, the ship served as a training vessel for midshipmen. She was decommissioned 27 June 1947 and placed in the Inactive Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, New Jersey.

When the US Navy announced its intentions to scrap NORTH CAROLINA in 1960, the state’s citizens mounted a brief successful campaign to bring the battleship to North Carolina to preserve her as the state’s premier war memorial and a tourist destination. The ship opened to the public in 1961. NORTH CAROLINA is an authentically restored World War II battleship, a National Historic Landmark and a memorial honoring the 10,000 North Carolinians of all branches of the service who gave their lives in World War II.”

Temperatures in the Engine Room could reach 135 degrees and men would serve here for up to 72 hours at a time. Their shoes would fill with water (sweat) and some would be overcome by the heat.
Temperatures in the Engine Room could reach 135 degrees and men would serve here for up to 72 hours at a time. Their shoes would fill with sweat and some would be overcome by the heat.

More than 2,300 men served on board the NORTH CAROLINA at any given time. In all, more than 7,000 men served aboard the ship from April 1941 to June 1947. The vessel had a wartime complement of 141 officers, 2,115 enlisted and 85 Marines.

In a room carrying the photos and memories shared by those who served on the battleship, is a Roll of Honor that: “perpetuates the memory of the ten thousand North Carolinians of all the United States Military Services who died in World War II. Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

Chapel in the Mess Hall

Church services were usually held in the mess hall, but they could also be set in any other available compartment or on the main deck. The congregation often included crews from smaller ships, such as destroyers, that did not have a chaplain. During a Christian service, a church pennant (with a blue cross) flew above the American flag. It was the only flag authorized to do so. On Sundays, Protestant services were at 10 AM. Communion was held quarterly. In the spring of 1944, a Catholic priest was assigned to the battleship. Before then, mass was held when a visiting priest came aboard. Mass was held at 8:30 AM with confessions heard at 7:30 AM.

The USS NORTH CAROLINA had nine captains in six years. They all graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Commanding the NORTH CAROLINA was a prestigious position and a steppingstone to admiral for all of her captains. All but one was promoted to admiral immediately upon leaving the ship; the last was promoted later.

The many items for personal use placed alongside postings of crew memories help visitors imagine the daily life of the ship’s crew in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

The Dentist's Office
The Dentist’s Office

The Dentist’s Office, with x-rays, cotton balls, tongue depressors, medicine vials, dental instruments and clipboards with notes in view appear to be awaiting the arrival of a patient. The Operating Room – complete with autoclave, linens and surgical instruments – stands waiting as well. In the Cobbler’s Shop, we find shoes on a shelf perhaps ready to be resoled. In the Tailor’s Shop, we learn that most services – alterations, repairs, pressing and cleaning – were free and that any money collected went to the ship’s welfare and recreation fund.

In the Ship's Store
In the Ship’s Store

We come upon the laboratory equipped with a microscope and find a ship’s store stocked with toiletries (Dr. Lyon’s Tooth Powder, Lifebuoy Soap, Listerine Mouthwash) and smokes (Bull Durham and Velvet Tobacco, Chesterfield and Lucky Strike Cigarettes, Tampa Nuggets Cigars). Mail is in the slots ready for pick up at the Post Office. The altar and pulpit in the Mess Hall are dressed and ready for use.

Berthing Quarters
Berthing Quarters

Mattresses are placed on the cots in the berthing quarters and one begins to ponder what a task it must have been to get to the uppermost bunk scrambling over the guys in the three bunks below you. More cots are found in many of the shops indicating that some crewmembers slept in the areas to which they were assigned. A guide informs us that a man in one of these shops might also have had duty as a lookout several decks above.

On the ship’s new online Sea Stories blog (, I read that, when it was time for a trim, “each guy carried a round disk to the barber shop which meant he was authorized by the division to get a haircut. When he came back he was told to hand it to somebody else the division Petty Officer thought needed a haircut.”

On that blog as well, I learned that chaplains were among the first to introduce libraries to ships.

I enjoyed the education I received in the origins of Navy terminology. Two of my favorites: “scuttlebutt” and “old goat.”


Drinking fountains on board ship are called “scuttlebutts,” Navy parlance for gossip or rumors. I did some further research and discovered the term comes from a combination of “scuttle” – to make a hole in the ship’s hull thereby causing her to sink – and “butt” – a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water. The cask from which the ship’s crew took their drinking water – like a water fountain – was the “scuttlebutt”. Even in today’s Navy a drinking fountain is referred to as such. Since the crew would congregate around the scuttlebutt, that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are talk from the scuttlebutt or just scuttlebutt. Visit to learn more about the origins of expressions such as “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” “chewing the fat,” “cup of joe,” “feeling blue,” “taken aback,” “giving no quarter,” “three sheets to the wind,” “hunky-dory” and “wallop.”

On a visit to the Chief Petty Officers’ Quarters – the “Goat Locker” – I learned that Chiefs are referred to as “goats” or “old goats.” The origins of the nickname are fuzzy but one story shared by Daniel D. Smith, Chief Petty Officer, USNR (Ret.) goes like this: “In the days of sailing ships, ships carried livestock to provide the crew with fresh milk, meat and eggs. These animals would also serve as pets and mascots. The USS New York had a goat as a mascot and his name was El Cid, meaning, “The Chief.” They took El Cid to the fourth Army-Navy football game in 1893 in Philadelphia. When Navy defeated Army, the Navy decided that El Cid brought good luck. They offered the goat shore duty at Annapolis and he became the Navy’s official mascot. Since El Cid, “The Chief,” was a goat, then chiefs became known as goats.”

General Bathroom
General Bathroom with trough

A visit to the “head” brought home the expression “rank has its privileges.” “Head”, by the way, is Navy parlance for the bathroom. The term comes from the days of sailing ships when the place for the crew to relieve themselves was all the way forward on either side of the bowsprit, the integral part of the hull to which the figurehead was fastened. On board, the NORTH CAROLINA, enlisted men used the “General Bathroom”, with its trough, while the Chief Petty Officers had private stalls with flush toilets.

On the day of our visit, a crew was resurfacing the ship’s main deck. Everywhere we looked, from the head to the bridge, from the engine room to the Kingfisher and its crane, the loving, meticulous attention to detail of those who are curating and caring for this magnificent treasure is evident. The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is a must-see in Wilmington.

The featured image at the top of this page is of the Battleship North Carolina as seen from across the Cape Fear River at the Wilmington Riverwalk. Click on the first photo below to enter the gallery and view the enlargements. All photos by Donna Hailson.