Coach Ken Cross knows a lot about basketball, learned from more than 50 years as a player and coach. He now knows a lot about pine cones, learned from 30 days of wandering the pines in White Lake.
Recently, I challenged area residents to find me the largest pine cone in Bladen County — and there was a prize attached, which probably didn’t entice anyone at all.
From the start, Coach Cross was on a mission. Five visits to my office later, he had delivered 17 pine cones, each group bigger than the last. For most of the month, I was concerned there would be no other entries.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
A few others brought one or two pine cones and, when the deadline arrived, my table was covered with a total of 27 entries — some perfectly shaped, some as beat up as could be.
Now it was time to get the ruler and start measuring. Ever try to measure a pine cone? It’s an effort that will test your patience and eyeballs. I don’t think I was able to measure a single height AND circumference just one time. Those were the two measurements I added together to produce a winner.
Anyway, in the end, the numbers didn’t lie.
Two of the largest pine cones — and perhaps the prettiest two in the bunch — were found and delivered by Winston Martin of Tar Heel. The two measured 22.5 inches and 21.25 inches, respectively.
But THE largest pine cone was entered by Coach Cross, measuring at 24 inches even. For his winning entry, he will receive a special-designed Mason jar and a $10 gift certificate to No. 1 Chinese (I’m fairly certain he’d find no use for the bowling coupons, so I’ll save those for Winston IF he comes by to get them).
Cross won’t be breaking into any happy dance over this victory, mostly because of a recent knee surgery, but if I know him, he’ll be giving his two dogs — Big and Little — an assist in finding the pine cone. It’s while walking them each day that he spotted the winner.
Thanks to anyone who brought me a pine cone. My grandchildren from up north will be amazed.
W. Curt Vincent can be reach at 910-862-4163 and firstname.lastname@example.org.