A day in the life of Laurinburg
An early morning mist lifts from a soccer field at St. Andrews Presbyterian College as the women's soccer team practices its drills.
While the rest of the campus is still, the soccer team bats soccer balls off the sides and tops of their feet and knees.
Coach Jennifer Montgomery stands about 4 feet away, watching as the players kick and twist to keep the balls in play.
The only sounds, besides Montgomery's occasional shouts of encouragement or instruction, are heavy breaths and the noise of balls hitting feet, knees and toes.
"I usually have them focus on things I think they need to work on from the last game," Montgomery says, keeping her eyes trained on the players.
The team has been there since 6:30 a.m., the regular practice start time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, says Montgomery.
At 25, Montgomery isn't much older than the players themselves. But her age is forgotten when she confidently signals the players to the field.
"Ladies, it's five and five," she shouts, handing every other player a green mesh top, signifying a makeshift team for a game of five-on-five.
It's a normal practice, says Montgomery, who is gearing the team for an upcoming game against Converse College.
"I just want you to keep balls going as long as possible," she shouts to the players.
In another hour, the rest of the campus will be awake, and the team will head off to classes.
Four white ducks waddle, quacking loudly, from the lake on the campus of St. Andrews Presbyterian College. They look hungry and fearless as they make their way, tails shaking, toward the two people watching the mist come off the lake.
A crane perched at the lake's edge hears the disruption and takes flight over the lake.
The ducks, realizing the people have no food, waddle back toward the pond and settle on the grass.
As the people leave, the crane flies back to its perch overlooking the lake.
Todd Wilkerson stares at a checklist, then pulls a pack of plastic-wrapped bagels from a bread tray.
Wilkerson, a bread delivery man for Waters Distribution, is standing in the back of a truck behind Harris Teeter grocery store, surrounded by loaves of bread, pita, pastries and bagels.
After he breaks down the order, Wilkerson will cart the large blue trays into the store and put the products on the shelves.
He's been working for Waters about two months. Most days, Wilkerson runs into Brandon Tucker, who does the same job for Sara Lee products. The two don't really know each other and, until today, they haven't exchanged names, although both are friendly.
It's just that the job is busy, and sometimes, like today, Tucker has been in the store, while Wilkerson's out on the truck.
Besides, there's always another time to chat.
In a few minutes, they'll see each other again at a Food Lion in town, where they'll both repeat the process.
It's quiet inside Lloyd's Barbershop. But it's still early.
The only sound is coming from a TV. The station is set to "Good Morning America," but no one is listening.
Two customers sit in chairs lined up on different walls. One is reading a newspaper. The other looks like he'd rather be back in bed.
Lloyd the barber, whose first name is Henry, is working on his second customer in the last 20 minutes.
"This is called a fade," Lloyd explains to visitors as he buzzes an electric shaver across the gray hair of Wash Lindsey.
The two work stations next to Lloyd's are vacant. Lloyd says his son, Jeffery Lloyd, also a barber, will be in around 9.
Lloyd opened the business in 1990, when there were only about two barbershops in town. The modest-looking building on the north end of Main Street was vacant at the time.
Now, he says, there are seven or eight barbershops around town.
The overstuffed couches in the front of Daily Grind are unoccupied.
The relaxed setting mimics the look made popular on the TV show "Friends."
"The morning crowd has left," says Amanda Faulk, 35, who quickly appears from the back of the building.
Faulk, who opened the shop nine years ago, says her busy time is from 8 to 8:45 a.m.
The next rush will be around noon, when people stop in for Faulk's homemade sandwiches and other offerings.
"Laurinburg needed another business to secure the lunch crowd," Faulk says.
Friday nights also bring in business, as people gather in the wine bar that's set up in the back of the shop.
But for now, only Faulk's father, Richard Faulk, is in the store. He sits behind the counter contently reading Nicholas Sparks' novel "The Last Song."
The cake platters are displayed on the counter, covered with glass domes. Only a few chocolate-chip cookies and a maple-colored layer cake remain.
"I make all the desserts," Amanda Faulk says.
A group of helmeted riders circles the white picketed riding ring inside the Lesson Barn at St. Andrews' Equestrian Center.
Heather Wile, an instructor at the college, is helping the riders improve their non-jumping, or flat skills, says Ashley Duda, another instructor-coach at the school.
To the inexperienced onlooker, it just looks like a bunch of girls riding horses.
But there's a lot more to it, Duda says.
"They're working on using their legs to make the walk a stronger walk," she says. "If you don't know much about the sport, it's hard to understand what they're doing. It's all supposed to look like you're doing nothing."
As the class moves outside to continue the lesson, freshman Connor Atkins finishes up her early morning ride on a 22-year-old horse named Fritz.
Atkins leads Fritz into an empty stable and removes the saddle and the pads underneath it.
Fritz, who is four years older than Atkins, is a retired show horse, Duda says.
"He's a fabulous guy," she says of the horse. "The horses are very lucky, very spoiled."
Todd Jacobs patiently waits for his wife's prescription to be filled at Scotland Drug.
He could have gone to one of the big drugstore chains around town to get medicine that will ease his wife's pain after her tooth extraction. But Jacobs chooses the small shop on South Main Street.
"My mother-in-law done business with this drugstore," Jacobs says. "That's why I come here."
Indeed. Scotland Drug has been part of the Laurinburg landscape since it opened more than a century ago.
When Ed and Carla Herring, a husband-and-wife pharmacist team, bought the shop two years ago, they restored it to its original charm - and added some modern amenities.
Lamps made to look old hang from the high ceiling. They are lit with energy efficient bulbs.
The black-and-white hexagon-shaped tile floor is new, but it's the same design as the old floor.
The ceiling is the original, a detailed pattern made from tin and painted white.
Several pictures of the pharmacy over the years hang on a wall. Photos of the old soda counter bring back memories to many customers. But Carla Herring says there are no plans to construct a new soda counter.
"They made the best sandwiches in town," says Becky Laviner, a Scotland County native, who overhears the talk.
There's a good number of people at Gospel Music & Christian bookstore for a weekday morning.
But that's not unusual for the only store of its kind in Laurinburg.
And there's not a lot of browsing going on either. Most customers look like they are on a mission, shopping for something specific.
A woman wearing a T-shirt that reads, "Prove to me how money can't make me happy," is looking for gifts to give singers in a church choir.
She's intrigued by a tire gauge tool that comes with a laminated spiritual card set. The product is called "Strength for the journey" and it sells for $2.99.
She passes on it in favor of lapel pins that are designed as a cross and music note. At $1.50 each, she buys them all.
The store is bigger than most others on Main Street. About a half-dozen women are working, greeting the steady flow of customers.
Lori Goins, a McColl, S.C., resident who has worked at the gospel store for three years, works in the gift wrapping and shipping department. She says she ships all over the country .
"Customers tell their relatives and friends who call us and get our number," Goins says. "We shipped to Knightdale last week."
Randy Stewart carries a trumpet in his hand, as he walks into the Music Master, a vast music store on U.S. 401 South.
His 11-year-old son is in a band and has a performance coming up. But the mouthpiece on his trumpet is stuck, and it needs to be fixed quickly.
Catching the eye of one of the employees, Stewart hold his trumpet up and starts to speak.
Before he can say anything, however, the employee says, "Stuck mouthpiece?"
Stewart smiles and cocks his head, "Yeah. How did you know?"
The employee smiles back. It's a common problem, and one that doesn't take long to correct.
In minutes, the horn is fixed, and Stewart leaves, passing a UPS driver carrying boxes.
Within a few minutes, other customers filter in and out of the store, most looking for small items or quick repairs.
Bonnie Clark, one of the employees who usually works in the back, said business is sometimes brisk in the store. A week earlier, customers were packed in, some waiting in lines 10-people long.
"This is nothing," she says.''
In the darkened dining room of MiCasita restaurant, a television silently announces the latest national news through headlines that scroll across the screen. Right now, the news is about Kate and Jon Gosselin, the people who became famous for having eight children, showing their lives in a reality show, then breaking up.
Patrons lean over plates piled with cheese and beans and tortillas and talk quietly as servers scurry, bringing refills of drinks and chips.
Suddenly, a sound emerges from the kitchen that makes everyone smile and turn their heads toward it.
It's singing. The loud, beautiful, joyous kind.
The singer, Jose Antonio Burgos del Cid, said he likes to sing while he washes dishes. It makes him happy.
Today, the tune is the Spanish version of "Hero," an Enrique Iglesias song.
Del Cid's voice carries pleasantly as he scrubs a plate and rinses it with water. His co-workers shake their heads, but smiles lift their faces.
When asked why he likes to sing, a co-worker translates Burgos del Cid's words:
"He says he just does," the co-worker says. "He loves it. He said he's never sad. He is always happy."
Two officers from the Scotland County Sheriff's Office have their plates piled with salad, both burying the raw vegetables in creamy dressings.
The investigators, James Pegues and Scottie Jacobs, know where to go to get a big salad for lunch.
But so does everyone who passes Subs-N-Cream, Etc. on South Main Street.
"Largest salad bar in town," screams the words painted on the side of the restaurant.
The salad bar at the simply decorated restaurant is about 10 feet long. It has the usual fixings, along with soups and a soda machine.
"There's just so many different varieties of stuff," says employee Christina Webb, attesting to the restaurant's claim.
Subs-N-Cream has a wide variety of ice creams too, but today the customers are sticking to salads.
Webb, 20, says she started working here when Mary and Michael Annarinos bought the business about two years ago.
The couple moved down from outside Columbus, Ohio, when Michael Annarino got a job in the area.
Soon after, Mary Annarino began running the restaurant.
"I had no idea; my husband just sprung it on me," Mary Annarino says.
Brian and Jamie Thomas are out for an afternoon walk.
Actually, it's Brian who's walking while his son rests in his stroller, sucking on a Cheeto that's longer than his fingers.
Today, like many days, Brian's destination is downtown. He say it takes about 40 minutes to get there from their home in Highland Village.
"I always get him out of the house for a while," says Brian, who has worked up a sweat on his forehead.
Brian, 24, say he and his 1-year-old son are alone today because Jamie's mom is with the couple's little girl. They've gone to a Chapel Hill to see a doctor because of the child's health problems, Brian says.
Brian, who's out of work, says he likes his role as a stay-at-home dad.
"It's cool. You get to spend time with your child. If you're going to lay down and have a baby with somebody, you need to be there for them," he says, while wiping Cheeto dust off his son's face with a wet wipe.
The women at Caledonia United Methodist Church are excited, and a little apprehensive.
The most historic United Methodist Church in Scotland County is taking a step into the 21st century. Michelle Skipper is explaining to Melba Sims and Shirley Wiles how to use the church's new laptop computer for PowerPoint presentations.
"I was appointed the computer guru," Skipper says. "But it's really not that difficult. We're just upgrading the equipment."
The technology seems a little out of place at Caledonia. It's a beautiful old country church with generations of members resting in peace on one side of the building and horses grazing on the other. You can see both through the tall, golden stained glass windows.
But, Skipper notes, times change. Besides, technology and history can help one another.
"What we've found is the PowerPoint helps some of the older church members, too," she says. "They can read the words up on the screen if the print in the hymnal is too small.
"We've got a real sense of community in the country churches like this," adds Sims. "Anything we can do to help keep them going is good for the community.
"Besides, most people have computers in their homes. Why not in the church?"
State Rep. Garland Pierce, N.C. Dept. of Correction Secretary Alvin W. Keller and Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones ponder the future amidst dark economic times.
The trio of well-dressed figures met for lunch - although they'd already eaten by the time they started talking - at the Subs - N - Cream Etc. eatery on Main Street.
"We're trying to deal with the closing of McCain Prison," says Pierce, who represents Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties.
"We're trying to reassure folks ... we're trying to find positions for them at Scotland County (prison)," says Pierce.
"Scotland's going through some difficult times with jobs," Keller added. "We're going to see what we can do, what we can offer people."
The overcast sky and gloomy topic of discussion does little to dampen the trio's spirits; they exchange laughs, smiles and stories like old friends.
The talk of politics turns to other topics soon enough, including food.
Their plates clean, their appetites satiated, the triumvirate exchanges handshakes, parts ways and hopes to can devour the challenges ahead as easily as the salad bar.
Larry Lanier has just finished repairing a stack of chairs in the back room at ReStore, a thrift store benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Scotland County.
Lanier, store manager, calls the back room his shipping and receiving department, where donated items are wiped down, repaired and assessed a value before hitting the showroom floor.
Unlike many thrift stores, ReStore has an almost elegant appeal, and looks more like a furniture store, with shelves neatly stocked and organized - a function of Lanier's military background, he says, smiling.
During a tour of the store, he points to a gate-leg mahogany table and boxes of brand new foam underlay for laminate floors, while shoppers looking for bargains wander the aisles.
Many of the donated items are used, but some are brand new, given to ReStore by stores or manufacturing companies, Lanier says.
"You'd be shocked at what comes through this store," he says. "We have things from antiques to brand new hardware. Some people come by every day to see what's new."
Ben Dial turns off the big TV in the Laurinburg City Fire Department's living room. Lunchtime is over.
Without the chatter of the Fox News anchors, the station on North Main Street is dead silent.
A group of about 15 men and women are in a classroom in the back of the building. The door is shut. A man dressed in a tie and jacket is teaching a training class.
Dial explains the group is with the Police Department.
Melaine Laviner is the only other person in the building and works as the dispatcher.
Her shift is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. four days a week. So far, there have only been two calls. Both were false fire alarms.
The last excitement, Dial and Laviner say, was in August when there were fires on Sky and Purcell roads within four days of each other.
The Purcell Road fire gutted a brick house, Dial says.
The phone rings again.
A street sign is down at the intersection of McGurts and Highland roads. The dispatcher writes the information on a paper napkin.
The universal aroma of a spa permeates Bella Aqua Spa. It's the clean scent of lemon grass.
The instrumental music is equally soothing, coming from a CD called "Tranquility."
Everything inside the four-year-old shop on South Main Street reminds people to relax. The colors are muted, shades of cream and sage. The furniture is cushy.
Beads in the shape of shiny silver discs hang from the ceiling. They are made to resemble a waterfall and owner Lynne Driggers has done a good job creating the look.
"Little kids are amazed by this (beads)," says Terri Knight, who works the front desk.
Knight is one of three people at the spa. The two others are Driggers, who is a licensed medical aesthetician, and her client. Driggers is giving the woman a facial.
The door is closed so no one will disturb them.
The lunch rush has dwindled to a trickle at General McArthur's Original Pig Pickin' restaurant. That gives owner Colin McArthur a chance to relax.
Relaxing, in his case, means helping stock the silverware for the upcoming dinner rush.
"We've always got something to do here," he says. "We're closed Monday and Tuesday, but on weekends, they line up out the door."
The restaurant has drawn faithful customers since it opened in October 1987. Built from two abandoned sharecropped cabins and a tobacco barn, the walls reflect a rustic, down-home charm.
But folks don't come for looks. They come for food.
"This is our favorite place," says Martha Strickland. She and her husband, Jerry, drive over from Lumberton regularly for lunch. "You can't beat the variety and quality," she says.
"In the summer, we get a lot of folks either going to the beach or coming back on 501," McArthur said. "Word of mouth brings folks from all over."
The restaurant's mascot doesn't hurt, either. The hog, a major general sporting a corn cob pipe, flyer's scarf and aviator glasses, has more than a casual connection in both name and appearance to a certain showy American general.
"We wondered if we were going to hear from anyone's lawyers about that when we started," McArthur said. "But we checked, and since the original general spelled his name MacArthur, and my family name is McArthur, we're good to go.
"But a lot of folks who drop by from Fort Bragg get a charge out of him."
Cha-Cha, a black Jack Russell terrier, has just sold another carpet.
"He's my best salesman," jokes Cha-Cha's owner Debbie Howell, who also owns Carolina Home Appliance on Main Street.
Howell says Cha-Cha's a people person, though he has illusions of grandeur.
"He thinks he's a big hound dog," says Howell. "He's a big, friendly dog in a small, friendly dog's body."
Howell says people who frequent her business - which sells all kinds of appliances in addition to carpet - quickly discover she's a dog lover. It's not unusual for her to bring a few of her other dogs from home to work with her.
"I've rescued about a dozen or more over the years," says Howell, who also rescued Cha-Cha. "It just breaks my heart to see what people do to dogs."
When she's not worrying over the dogs she's rescued, Howell says, she worries about the economy.
"It's hit us hard here," says Howell, while expertly using a box cutter to nimbly slice a section of carpet for a customer.
She says she's lived in Laurinburg her entire life - been in business since 1984 - and never seen it this bad.
"The specialty shops are almost all gone," says Howell. "Hopefully things will turn around ... and turn this town around, too."
Chad Hicks holds out a basket of tomatoes for a woman's inspection.
Hicks, a Hartsville, S.C. resident, has been manning his family's fruit stand in the parking lot of the College Plaza shopping center since a little before 8 a.m.
If he's lucky, and the baskets of muscadine grapes, peaches and sweet potatoes move, he can leave early today. Otherwise, he'll probably stick around until 6:30 p.m.
Hicks says he and his family have been buying the produce from farmers in South Carolina and selling them in Laurinburg for years.
"They just seem to sell good up here," he says.
But not lately, he says. These days, sales haven't been as good.
"It's been awhile since I left empty," he says.
It is cool and quiet at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church after-school care as Kathy Smith sorts some odds and ends.
She knows the peaceful break is short-lived.
"Come back in about 10 minutes," she says with a grin. "We'll have a cabin full of kids."
The cabin, a distinctive brown-and-white log structure across the street from the stately church, holds about 30 kids every afternoon. They range in age from kindergarten to fifth grade.
"And they love to unleash the energy from a day of sitting in class," she says.
For the moment, though, all is quiet. The swing sets tucked just outside are empty, the snack packages sorted and waiting on an activity table.
The cabin has been in use for youth meetings since at least the mid-1930s, when Gertie McNair donated it to the church for Boy Scout meetings. Scouts still gather there.
"It's really a nice old building," Smith says. "A lot of people wonder why there's a log cabin sitting in downtown Laurinburg. "It's sort of a local landmark."
A local landmark waiting to fill with the squeals of children once more.
It is a waiting game over in the parking horseshoe on the south side of Scotland High School as well. Parents line up well before the final bell, then begin claiming spots along the roadside.
It's a tradition at the school. With one road leading in, you either arrive early, or you get stuck in a traffic jam.
The early arrivers have different ways to pass the time. Some bring books, others begin helping their younger kids with homework. A couple climbs out of a car, stretches and begins chatting with neighbors.
One dad has the best idea. He pushes the seat back in his Ford 150, rolls down the windows and takes a nap.
It is a serene sight in the warm afternoon. Dozens of engines humming to keep the AC running, with a couple of cars letting their windows down in the hopes of an afternoon breeze. Someone has a radio cranked up. Craig Morgan's "Bonfire" floats toward the traffic barreling down the bypass.
Then, on cue, the school doors open. Students begin wandering through the traffic jam, looking for their rides.
Ed Ford and Thomas "Red" Johnson are trying to figure out the secret identity of the "Red Hulk."
"Marvel's being very careful, very secretive about this," says Ford, owner of Korner Comics on Main Street.
"There're some hints, I think, but still nobody seems to know who it really is," adds Johnson, a longtime customer and comic collector.
Johnson lives just over the South Carolina border and says he makes at least one trip a week to Ford's comic store, not just to pick up his subscriptions, but to talk shop and generally geek out.
Johnson flies his comic geek flag high; he's got tattoos of Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man on his right arm.
Just don't ask him to pick which character would win in a fight.
"I'm so glad this place is here," says Johnson. "I love to discover new stories and new characters and talk to Ed about them."
The pair is deep in discussion about Red Hulk - or "Rulk" as he's known - as well as DC Comic's "Blackest Night" series and the Disney acquisition of Marvel Comics when a mother and son enter the store and buy a Superman comic.
Ford thanks them for their business and smiles at seeing a member of the younger generation getting into comics.
"It's good to see kids getting into comics," says Ford. "Kids today mostly want to play video games. They don't do well with comics because they don't have the patience to let a story unfold over time."
The band is a little late getting started.
But the gnats are right on time.
As the 78-member Fighting Scots Marching Band begins warming up, band director Mark Doerffel is having some problems with a computer program that holds the bands marching instructions.
"That wouldn't be good at all," he muses. He and assistant director Justin Hammonds are tucked in the band room's office. Stacks of paper, music and half a roast beef sandwich rest on top of Doerffel's desk.
"I never got a chance to eat lunch today," he shrugs.
A few more clicks on the computer, a couple of grumbles and the printer springs to life.
"Much better," Doerffel says, snatching the printouts.
Outside, the horns huddle in the center of the band's practice field, practicing scales. The drums are nearby, rattling off their warmups with staccato precision.
Until recently, the band's practice field was also a parking area, meaning by the end of football season, there was little left to march on. This year, plastic pipes and rope keep it safe.
"It's made a world of difference," Doerffel says. "These kids work so hard, it's nice to have a first-class place to practice."
A dozen pairs of feet thunder in varying degrees of synchronicity against hardwood floors. A boombox bellows a bombastic remix of "Lollipop" - The Chordettes' original, not the Lil' Wayne tune.
Karen Jenkins, owner of the Karen Gibson School of Dance, calls out instructions to the 11 energetic and fidgety young girls in front of her.
"Left foot, right foot, ball change, shuffle, step," Jenkins says with a wide smile, eyes flitting from one girl to the next checking for proper technique. "Now three shuffles and then a step-change. Right foot. Ready? Now, one, two, three..."
This is Jenkins' tap class for 7 to 8-year-olds, but it's just one class among many, and only one school of three that Jenkins teaches.
Which makes her quite busy. When tap ends for these girls, ballet begins, but Jenkins has a pair of assistants to help with that.
Assistant director Jessica Barnes and Amanda Chevalier, a student teacher, take over.
The girls are slightly more silly and fidgety with Barnes, but they still follow her instruction - complicated footwork paired with giggles and smiles.
"Point and lift, back side, front, back side, front," Barnes calls out. "Now back side, close and sus-sous! Very good!"
The praise is but a brief reprieve.
"Now let's do it again - all together this time."
Ellsworth Stubbs left this world five years ago.
But his shop never closed.
The cozy shop, nestled between McNair's Town & Country store and what used to be the Dixie Guano Co. on the corner of Fairley and Atkinson Street still opens briefly each weekday afternoon.
During his 74 years of working Stubbs spent as much time chatting with friends as he did bringing dead appliances back to life. Now his friends still gather, discussing old times and new situations.
Welcome to the remaining members of the "Stubbs Club."
"Some days, there aren't but a couple of us here," says Billy Ray. He has the key to the shop, which has remained virtually unchanged since Stubbs passed away in September of 2004.
"We took a picture of his headstone, so we wouldn't argue about when it was," adds Jack Cousins. At age 76, he's one of the youngsters in the group.
They sit on plastic patio chairs, chatting under the watchful eyes of hundreds of snapshots along the walls.
"Ellsworth had this thing about taking pictures," Ray says. "If you came in here, you'd get your picture taken. He had a Polaroid camera and would just snap away."
Many of the pictures are faded, like the memories that accompany them. They're stuck to the wall with red thumbtacks, or black if the person has passed away.
"A lot more of these folks are probably gone," Ray says. "But we don't know who they are, so we can't say if they're still around."
Stereos, TVs and an occasional eight-track are perched like buzzards around the ceiling of the shop. Boxes of tubes dating back to the '60s wait to be used.
"There's probably a lot of good stuff here, but nobody knows what's what," Cousins says.
After a while, the group breaks up to head home. It was a fairly quiet day.
"Sometimes, it gets a little heated," Ray says. "When we get to talking about religion or politics, we'll have a few disagreements."
"But we haven't had any fistfights," Cousins adds. "At least so far."
The Mighty Bucks of Sycamore Lane Middle School football team are trailing the Hamlet Middle School Red Rams deep in the fourth quarter.
There's no scoreboard to show how much time is left or what, exactly, the score is. But to hear the cheers of sideline-bound parents, family and friends, one would think this game - the season's first - had playoff implications.
Lillie Douglas is here to see her son, Avery Simmons, play. Avery is tall for a 14-year-old, which is most likely why he wears No. 60 on his jersey and plays on both offensive and defensive lines.
"I like coming to the games because the crowds are nice," said Douglas. "They really support the kids."
With the Mighty Bucks beginning what would be their final drive of the game, Billy Thomas shouts encouragement to his son, Tre Thomas, the team's quarterback.
"Let's go, Tre! Let's make something happen," shouts Thomas, whose 4-year-old daughter, Sonyla, also shouts while riding on her father's shoulders.
"I love the atmosphere here of a small, tight-knit community, and what that does to a football game like this," says Thomas. "It's an awesome experience."
It'll have to be a learning one as well; the Mighty Bucks' drive stalls near midfield, ending on an incomplete pass.
"Too much air, son!" Thomas points out. "But good try, good game."
You can hear the St. Andrews Presbyterian College Pipe Band long before you see them.
A cluster of seven pipers is tucked behind the Scottish Heritage Center on the far side of campus, unseen by passersby.
But unheard? That's another story.
As they first warm up, the bags unleash an unearthly sort of wail, like trying to make an alley cat yodel. Then, rising from the din, is ... music.
Dressed in sandals and T-shirts, tennis shoes and polo shirts, the group of college kids begins to make the southern side of the college campus ring with the sound of pipes and drums.
Alas, every so often, the ringing tones of "Scotland The Brave" are undone as a piper inhales a gnat.
"They can be a problem," says band director Bill Caudill. "But when we're performing, you have to just let them go."
It's Thursday night at the Martin Bowling Center in the College Plaza Shopping Center. And for Carol Moffitt and her trio of friends, the Ladies Night Out League awaits.
"The title says it all," says Moffitt. "It's a good time; an evening we can have with the girls to share something just for us."
Moffitt is joined by teammates Dinah Veler, Gaye McCormick and Maxine White. Their team name: "9 and a Wiggle."
A 5-10 split threatens to wreck McCormick's mood, but she doesn't let it. She picks up the spare amidst a flurry of high-fives and cheers.
Veler is the team's power bowler, while McCormick and White - both of whom will bowl at the upcoming Senior Games competition - throw more surgical, soft-touch strikes. Moffitt's approach is a blend of all three.
The foursome is joined by another dozen or so league bowlers - all women - who take up a third or so of the lanes. The other lanes remain empty. All the action tonight is centered on the women of the ladies' league - who aren't that different from their male counterparts.
"Oh, don't let us fool you; we can get serious about our bowling," says Veler, whose first-game score of 192 is an "off game" for her. "But really, it's all about the interaction. We like the fun and just relaxing together."
"All right now! Tell the Lord you need some help! And you need it now!"
The plea brings smiles and a couple of chuckles from the faithful following the Spring Branch Missionary Baptist Church softball team. That's because this night, there isn't much else to smile about.
The team is facing a Goliath-like smiting at the hands of Praise and Worship on Field 1 of the James L. Morgan Recreation Complex. The score is 9-2 after one inning, then Praise and Worship plants another nine runs in the top of the second.
Nearby some kids, who have long lost interest in the mismatch, play a game of freeze tag in the darkening evening.
Hey, at least the breeze is blowing the gnats away. It is also blowing out, meaning any ball hit high enough is landing in the parking lot.
One ball manages to roll all the way across the lot, reaching a group of teenaged girls in cheerleading practice.
Another batter. Another shot lifted high into the evening sky. Another trot around the bases.
"Lord, call for some help!" the voice implores again.
With the help of a few volunteers, Shannon Newton is getting ready for "Movie in the Park" night at the Morgan Soccer Complex.
Tonight's selection is "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D," but the questionable weather and darkening skies may dampen turnout, Newton fears.
"I'm worried about the weather; I think that may keep a lot of folks away," said Newton, who works as the director of Scotland County Parks and Recreation. "We've even got the 3-D glasses."
Tonight's film is the final installment of the movie series, which has included other such family-friendly films as "Kung-Fu Panda" and "Madagascar 2."
"It would be sad if it gets rained out," says Newton, adding that attendance for the free outdoor movie night has numbered in the hundreds.
Newton says movie night was modeled after similar efforts she discovered in Fayetteville.
"A great idea is a great idea," says Newton. "And we've got a high demand for activities, so we'll look for inspiration wherever we can."
As the evening darkens, a few cars pull into one of the complex's parking lots - the one adjacent to the large, verdant field where the film is being shown.
Two families pour out, kids scrambling for the grass.
"Looks like we'll have some customers after all," says Newton.
Friends Elmo McRae, Anthony Jones and Everette Locklear cut imposing figures inside Champs Fine Foods & Spirits restaurant and bar.
But bodybuilders need to eat, too. And tonight's menu calls for plenty of steak and potatoes - protein and carbs.
The trio has just finished working out at Family Fitness Center, less than two miles from Champs, and have appetites that match their impressive physiques.
"You've got to have a nutritious meal," said McRae, who's known as "Big Mo" at the gym. "The right diet is just as important as lifting weights when you work out."
"Oh yeah, you've gotta have the right fuel," adds Jones, whose unexplained nickname is "Steep."
"But don't let him fool you," quips Locklear, whose nickname is "Pap," pointing to Jones' plate of chicken wings. "He's cheating on his diet tonight."
Jones and Locklear have been friends since childhood. The pair met McRae through work acquaintances and discovered they all shared interests of an iron-pumping nature.
They began working out together (five days a week) and have been thick as thieves - or a stack of 50-pound plates - ever since.
While waiting for their food, the trio talks about college football and the current season of "The Ultimate Fighter." Jones and McRae wonder how well Internet fighting sensation Kimbo Slice will fair.
They also, when asked, speak about life in Laurinburg.
"Living here is like working out," Jones offered. "Someone's always got your back. Everyone looks out for one another."
And for these three, that's saying a lot.