Buzzworm news briefs

Me … ow!

HENDERSONVILLE — I’ll never be able to look at my cats in the same way again.

I’ve always mistaken that long, unblinking stare for a sign of affection. Now, however, I see that it’s anything but — cuddly Bean and sweet Bug are actually sizing me up.

We could take him, they’re thinking. We could eat for weeks — if only, they lament, we had bigger teeth.

And I defy fellow feline fanciers to arrive at any other conclusion after paying a visit to the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County. Last week, the small downtown-Hendersonville museum began displaying a newly acquired, full-skeleton cast of a saber-toothed cat, a prehistoric forerunner of our darling Morrises that made impending meals say, “Me-ow!

Hoplophoneus, as he’s known to learned fans, is one of the first in the saber-tooth line, dating to about 36 million years ago. Although he wasn’t even the size of gentle Lassie, Hoplo’s aptly named sabers — his canines, that is — were about as fat and long as the average human index finger.

Those prominent, curved prongs were not for chewing, explained Alan Borg, executive director of the 6-year-old museum. They were for incapacitating prey.

Friskies, it seems, was not on this big kitty’s menu.

And the same glass display case that’s now home to faux-Hoplophoneus also holds, for comparison, a slightly cruder mock-up skull of Smilodon, the largest of the saber-toothed cats (sometimes erroneously called a tiger). Judging by the size of this model cranium, it’s safe to say that Smiley (extinct for some 10,000 years) would have made a happy little snack out of dear Lassie.

“He was a pretty good-sized guy,” Borg agreed.

Picture front teeth that run from, say, the tip of the index finger on the average man’s hand to just above where his watch would be. And at gum line, those fearsome fangs were about as fat as a child’s wrist.

“One of those could go right through your arm,” mused Borg.

The little mineral museum with the big yen for fossilized remains, located downstairs in the Henderson County Geological and Historical Society building on Main Street, aims to add at least one significant display a year, Borg revealed.

This year’s acquisition, which cost about $4,000, is the work of noted South Dakota fossil collector and cast-maker Japheth B. Boyce. (The original set of bones was unearthed in that state’s White River Badlands.) Last year, the Hendersonville museum bought a set of fossilized dinosaur eggs from China.

“The real things,” stressed Borg, adding, “China doesn’t allow them out anymore.”

The cozy museum operates mostly on donations and gift-shop proceeds; many of the volunteer employees are members of the Henderson County Gem & Mineral Society.

In addition to big-cat casts, the museum regularly features gemstones, jewelry and minerals from across the state and around the world (one collection even glows in otherworldly colors when hit with a burst of short-wave ultraviolet light); corals; arrowheads and replicas of Native American artifacts; gorgeous fossils (several set in relief on their original stone beds); and even a pair of petrified logs from Indonesia, one of which weighs almost 1,250 pounds.

The museum’s small gift shop sells items you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. How about a $35 rock that looks like a burnt hard roll? Geodes, as they’re called, hide crystalline cores, often of sublime beauty.

Got a solid geode that’s just lying around the house? The museum will crack it for free.

The Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County is at 400 N. Main St. in downtown Hendersonville. Operating hours (1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays) will be extended during the upcoming Apple Festival (Friday, Aug. 29 through Monday, Sept. 1). Call (828) 698-1977 for times and other info.

— Frank Rabey

Service = scholarship

It sometimes seems as though scholarships reward only two types of students: academic whizzes and ace athletes.

But a new scholarship offered by the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council stresses selflessness, giving great weight to an applicant’s history of community service and volunteerism, says Executive Director Bob Smith.

The Sherrill/Forney Memorial Scholarship provides $500 for a graduating Buncombe County high-school senior or a previous graduate to continue his or her education, whether in a trade school, community college or university. The scholarship honors the memory of Phyllis Sherrill and Gladys Forney, who devoted themselves both to the community and to the Community Relations Council.

Both women were more concerned with students’ overall contribution to their home, church and community than strictly with their academic performance, Smith explains. Often, students who aren’t doing particularly well academically don’t qualify for a scholarship that would enable them to continue their education.

“We’re emphasizing those other qualities — if you’re involved in the community and doing some good work, then that’s one of the criteria for the award,” notes Smith.

Along with the application, students must submit an essay and two letters of recommendation. The deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 17.

For an application or more info, call the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council at 252-4713.

— Tracy Rose

Grin and bear it

Perhaps there’s a diminutive member of your household who’s likely to squeal with delight at the thought of lunching with teddy bears?

The third annual Teddy Bear Picnic happens 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6 at the WNC Nature Center. Kids with teddies get in free.

“It’s just a lot of fun, and folks love being out here,” enthuses Education Director Keith Mastin.

Teddies will be judged in various categories, including “most grizzlied look,” “most huggable” and being the recipient of the “most tough love.” All entrants go home with a ribbon.

The Nature Center encourages kids to prepare an exhibit to accompany their teddy bears, Mastin explains. Nature Center staffers make a special effort to reach out to home-schooled children, who can use their exhibit as a school project, he notes.

Besides the teddy-centered fun, the event will feature games as well as arts-related and wildlife activities.

There’ll even be an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog, and members of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department will offer free child-identification photography and fingerprinting. Health-care workers will also be on hand to answer parents’ questions about child and family health issues.

Ready, teddy?

For more info or to register your teddy bear, call the Nature Center at 298-5600, ext. 305.

— Tracy Rose

Women’s work: saving the planet

In our prepackaged, consumer-oriented society, it’s easy to lose touch with the natural world. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

An upcoming workshop is aimed at women who want to reawaken their connection with nature and forge a more harmonious way of life.

“Women’s Work: Creating Sustainable Futures” introduces permaculture as a tool for “envisioning and creating joyful, harmonious futures that are economically, ecologically and spiritually viable.” By working with nature –rather than against it — organizers view permaculture as the path toward global transformation.

The weekend workshop will be held Aug. 29-31 at Earthaven, an intentional community near Black Mountain. The sessions are open to women only (although other workshops throughout the year welcome both men and women).

Permaculture experts Patricia Allison and Mollie Curry will lead the sessions. The weekend will include a tour of Earthaven, an introduction to permaculture ethics and principles, hands-on gardening or building projects, a showing of the Global Gardener permaculture video, an observation exercise, “prayer lodge/heart share” and more. Lectures, discussions and practice will be interwoven with song, chant, dance and prayer.

The $175 fee includes vegetarian meals and camping facilities. For more info or to register, call 669-3937 or contact

— Tracy Rose

Study war no more

“Having served the nation in the U.S. military and seen the horrors and evils of war, we believe that we now have a greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace by engaging conflict peacefully, without violence.” So says Asheville resident, retired Army Lt. Col. Paul Mitchell, who’s a member of the newly formed Asheville chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Veterans from the five branches of the U.S. military banded together to establish Veterans for Peace in 1985. Today there are more than 100 chapters nationwide, and the organization reports that membership has doubled in the past year.

VFP’s objectives, said Mitchell, are to work to restrain our government from intervening, overtly or covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations; to end the arms race and reduce (and, eventually, eliminate) nuclear weapons; and to abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy.

Every Friday evening between 6 and 7 p.m., members of the Asheville chapter stand vigil at Pack Square, holding their banner along with posters bearing messages such as “Peace is Patriotic,” “Wage Peace” and “Bush Lied – Good Men Died.” The chapter is also organizing a speakers bureau, and members are available to give talks to civic and other groups on topics such as conscientious objection, personal experiences of war and military life, the changing role of the military chaplain, and use of depleted-uranium munitions by U.S. forces.

VFP also gives veterans — including those of the current war in Iraq — a chance to tell their stories in a supportive setting, develop friendships with others who’ve had similar experiences, and seek assistance.

The Asheville VFP meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month at the Asheville Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood Road. For more information, contact Tim Pluta (689-8463), Ken Ashe (680-9387) or Paul Mitchell (281-9674). Information about the national VFP organization is available on the Web at:

— Cecil Bothwell

Look who’s talking

Ever feel like everybody talks about problems but no one does anything to solve them? Griping can feel like a waste of the speaker’s breath — and the listener’s time. On the other hand, if we don’t talk about the things that really matter to us, hash out differences, and then work for change, how can we hope to progress?

Each year, Asheville-Buncombe VISION sponsors dialogues on critical issues with the goal of airing a wide diversity of voices and encouraging collaboration on efforts that benefit everyone in the community. The topic for this year is “How do we create housing that matches our community needs?”

Participants in the VISION program will attend a kickoff meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 2 featuring a diverse panel of experts on the current local housing situation. Over the following four weeks, small groups will convene for discussions at various locations, followed by a final summit in which each group will present its ideas to the whole assembly. Action groups will then form to tackle the likeliest projects and carry the work and spirit of the dialogues into the wider community.

For more information, phone Barbara Davis (254-0333) or e-mail

— Cecil Bothwell

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