The only tavern in Poplar Branch is called the Poplar Place. When Hiram Mayo saw the sign he asked his fishing guide, John Dennis, what kind of establishment it was.
"Being as it's only place in town," said Dennis, "it's right Poplar."
"Are there a lot of wild women in there at night?"
"I imagine if you could find a woman in there at night, she'd be wild."
Every once in a while the outdoor editor is cornered by his superiors and given the word that he is being called back from the land of the criminally lucky and required to work for a few days.
So it was that last week he found himself in Detroit covering a heavyweight championship fight, elbowing his way around the biggest hotel in the universe and asking people he'd never seen before questions they at first found amusing, but finally found annoying for their naivete.
In the moring he would pull back the curtain in his 47th floor hotel room and stare down from that dizzy height at. . .
Yes, he could barely see them there, working little boats against the ripping current of the Detroit River, one man on each side of the boat jigging deep trolling lines. Fishermen!
"Walleyes," said Mike O'Hara, a sportswriter for one of the local papers.
"They are catching walleyes. The reason I know, when I was a kid I was out there every day from April to October. My father made me go every evening when he got back from work, and every weekend. It was fun for about the first month.
"If I never fish again it'll be too soon."
During the day the outdoor editor would take a half-hour to walk along the asphalt banks of the Detroit River and watch the fishermen fishing.
"Come on," said the man from the Sunday Times. "You don't expect me to stand here and look at boats all day, do you? Let's get to the gym. We've work to do."
After five days of that it was time to decompress.
Caroland Farm at Poplar Branch is an old farmhouse converted into perhaps the most decompressed fishing camp in fish camphappy North Carolina.
Dorothy and Colon Grandy, the proprietors, don't greet you, they make you feel as though they'd been waiting all day for you.
Across the two-lane blacktop and out back are farm fields that smell of fresh manure, just spread on the dark earth. The corn Shoulder-high already.
There's no air conditioning downstairs at Caroland Farms. It's 95 outside today and only slightly cooler inside.
Last night there was a party with air-dried, sugar-cured North Carolina country ham, strawberry shortcake, tuna salad from tunas caught fresh down the road off the Outer Banks. People stood around mopping their brows, eating, mopping their brows, talking.
At 6 this morning Colon Grandy knocked on the door to say breakfast was ready.
There were homemade biscuits, coffee, grits, sausages, orange juice, eggs and ice water. Strangers sat chattering like family at the long table, set with fresh linen. On the mantel were duck decoys and old fishing lures.
Mostly older men come to Caroland Farms. They come in the summer to fish huge, grassy expanses of Currituck Sound for largemouth bass, in the fall and winter to hunt the same waters for duck and geese. Many have been coming for 25 years or more. It's a page from a history book, a chapter from a sweeter, slower time.
At 7 Colon Grandy said, "Your guide is ready" and handed me a lunchbox.
With Dennis the guide, Mayo and I rode to the shimmering, steamy, flat-clam sound and set off in a 15-foot wooden skiff, plodding along to the purr of an old Evinrude.
Dennis was delighted to see us. "I've been two days with two kids fishing minnows," he said."I had a headache by 9 o'clock each morning."
The engine coughed and sputtered as it ate through mile-wide beds of milfoil and eel grass. These submerged aquatic grasses are signs of a healthy waterway. The bass lurk in the cover and water fowl feed on the grasses in the winter.
The fishing had been good but it had tapered off in the heat wave. Dennis stopped the boat by a tumbledown duck blind, pointed along the edge of a grass bed and wagered that a big bass lay in the weeds.
Mayo flung a Johnson spoon along the edge and jerked out a pound-size largemouth, then cast in again and caught another that might have been born the same day.
Then Currituck Sound went dead.
We couldn't find even a minnow or a perch as the searing sun climbed over the lighthouse at Corolla, on the sea side. It got hot. It got hotter.There was nary a breath of air under the scorching mid-day sun.
By noon we'd managed to wrest five small ones from this freshwater lake behind the dunes, but couldn't see to cast another time for the sweat in our eyes.
Dennis allowed he'd rather head in and come back for the lunkers in the evening.
He left me here sipping tea in the shade, smelling the sweet Carolina farm country summer, waiting for evening, 800 miles an about a half-century from the 47th floor in Detroit.