Rather Outspoken News
The Joys of North Carolina
posted on September 10, 2013 by Dan
Finished a reporting and interviewing trip to Charlotte, Asheville, Franklin and a few other places in North Carolina. Is there a friendlier place in the country than the Smoky Mountain area? Doubt it. Texas is the only place I can think of that might--just might--edge it. But if so, only by a tad. The Smoky Mountain region is well known for its beauty, and rightly so. But anyone who goes there and doesn't recognize the just plain decency and exceptionally warm friendliness of the folks has to be either not paying attention or brain-dead.
Barbeque? Not much of a chance on this trip. Had just a smidgen on the run. Liked it. Always have. North Carolina 'que, of course, runs strong toward pork and vinegar. If it ain't pig, it ain't traditional North Carolina barbeque. And just the right amount of vinegar is key. They also tend to serve things like potato salad, coleslaw, beans, pickles and sauces of various descriptions with the meat. They are heavy into sides. Not my favorite way; not the Texas way, but, hey, it's their way. And it's not bad; it's just different.
I swapped some yarns about beer joints and honkytonks long since forgotten with Frank Mull, Merle Haggard's tour manager as we hung around waiting for Merle to play in Franklin. The local sheriff, Robert Holland, was also there. Very personable, capable and experienced young career law enforcement man. Got into some story-telling about my early reporting days in Houston covering the police beat and the sheriff's office (Buster Kern was the long time and legendary sheriff of Harris County when I was there. He took me to school on frontier justice, Texas-style, which at the time was still pretty much in vogue. Wasn't always pretty but was effective).
Two other people we worked with were Paul Garner and Ron Simpson. Garner is general manager of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. Simpson helps run the production company that brings in performers and arts. If there is any city or town anywhere near the size of Franklin (population about 25,000) that has anything near so fine as their performing arts center I'd be surprised. The center is a little (actually, not so little) gem tucked away there in the mountains. Ron Simpson was so hospitable we were almost tempted to move there.
I’ve been coming to North Carolina on reporting trips since the very early 1960's. Covered everything from civil rights and the struggle for racial justice to hurricanes to political campaigns, business and technological breakthroughs, basketball tournaments and human interest stories. Like just about every part of it, but hard not to like the Smokys best.