Saturday, October 31, 2015

Story Ideas

Most of my published work has been in nonfiction, and don't get me wrong, I love writing nonfiction. I love the research and exposing the connections that are hidden to the world.

But there's something to be said about my swapping comfort zones and delving into fiction.

Yesterday I swapped, for a moment, if only in my mulling mind. I was on an adventure in the western part of North Carolina, the second Friday in a row, researching a prospective nonfiction by touring with the locals. Once again there was no cloud in the sky. Once again the trees were alive with color.

But this time my muse was sitting on my shoulder, enjoying the ride as much as I. There was a tap on my mind and my muse pointed to this.

Go closer, the muse whispered.

I did.

Get details, the muse whispered.

I did.

The late fall colors. The abandoned school. My mind went where no mind of mine had been before. 

That is how writing works.

At least for me.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trout Unlimited

One of the bonuses of writing in the memoir genre for me has been meeting fascinating people that I would otherwise never have crossed paths with. Through my fly fishing writing and research, I've been introduced to a whole new subculture that existed parallel to mine, one that I never knew, but one that I have learned to appreciate.

This past Tuesday my husband and I enjoyed an evening at the monthly meeting of the local Trout Unlimited organization. Ron Beane, co-compiler of our Fly Fishermen of Caldwell County book, and I spoke about our process and what the book has to offer to them.

As I listened to the dinner conversation I came to a deeper realization of the passion these men felt not only for the sport of fly fishing, but also for the preservation of the streams in our region. Of special concern at this meeting was the severe drought that impacted the trout habitat this past summer. The men rejoiced together when they discussed the recent historic rain that filled the streams to overflowing. They talked about restocking. They talked about catch and release and losing respect for those who chose not to follow the law.

All this reminded me of pictures the men submitted that didn't make the final cut for the book. Ones like this taken on Wilson's Creek by Gene Swanson. It did not translate well to black and white that we ended up using.

Or this other one by Gene.

Neither did this one submitted by Alen Baker.

Trout Unlimited is an organization that fights for trout like those photographed above. If not for the club's dedication, these very trout might not be in existence. The members work tirelessly to maintain natural habitat and push for regulations to protect the waters that offer life to the trout. Conservation is their way of life, not just a good idea. 

I don't plan to go fly fishing any time soon. I tend to agree with one of the fishermen in the book, Randy Benfield, when he explains why he fishes less than before:
  • My main hobby is, of course, fishing, but not as much trout fishing as in the past since they moved the creeks so far from the roads and made the rocks larger and slicker. 
He's joking, of course, although I've learned through all this experience, with a true fly fisherman, the line between jokes and reality blurs a bit. Life on the creek, however, is an experience not to miss. As for me I'll just sit on the side and appreciate the beauty.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Jury Duty

The letter arrived weeks ago. Rather than a friendly correspondence from a long lost acquaintance, it was an order from the court. I was to appear at District Court, Room 6 at the Caldwell County Courthouse on October 6, because my name had been selected at random for that great American process called jury duty. My third time, by the way.

I appeared as instructed, after going through a security check at the entrance. No, my cell phone was not with me, per their instructions. No I have no firearms or other weapons, nor do I ever.

With the other fifty or sixty potential jurors, I waited on the hard courtroom benches (at church we call them pews) for proceedings to begin. We watched a training video about the court system that I found fascinating. This was jury service, not jury duty, and by the end, when we were all sworn in, I was even more proud to be an American. After a roll call with far too many citizens being AWOL, we sat and waited for the bailiff to escort us to the main courtroom.

We filed into a larger room where the benches were now rows of ancient (maybe from the fifties) wooden individual seats. Picture Perry Mason courtroom. No, picture To Kill a Mockingbird courtroom.

The judge's first order of business was to select a replacement juror to sit on the Grand Jury and fill out a term for a juror who could no longer serve due to health reasons. A name was chosen at random from our pool of names. The person next to me was the lottery winner.

"Step forward." Ominous words in a courtroom.

She placed her left hand on a Bible and raised her right hand and again swore to uphold the constitution of the United States and of the great state of North Carolina. The judge then instructed her on her duties. Service. And we all listened. And learned. And realized how involved and intricate our system really is.

The rest of us were dismissed and told to call back for further instructions later in the day. In the end we were not needed, as the cases up for trial had all been settled. Thus ended my service.

But it didn't end my interest in the Grand Jury proceedings. Instead it reminded me of one part of my Lessons Learned book, the part where the Grand Jury inspected the county schools. One of the responsibilities, the judge pointed out in his lecture this week to us all, was to inspect public properties and report on their conditions. Yes, the Grand Jury does more than make indictments for prosecution (or not). Twice I discussed it in my book:
  • One of the duties defined in the handbook of the Grand Jury of the North Carolina Superior Court is to inspect state and county owned buildings and agencies to “determine the manner in which individuals in charge have carried out their duties to the state.” A Grand Jury that convened in the fall of 1954 inspected each school facility throughout the county and found only two substandard situations. One was at the black school in the Glen Alpine city system, the other at Pilot Mountain. (page 109)

We, the Grand Jury, have visited all schools in the county systems and found in most instances the buildings and grounds to be well kept, alleviating minor repairs except for the following schools: Pilot Mountain School—lighting facilities very inadequate and find that there is no heat in the auditorium. Also window shades are needed throughout the building...

—Judge J. A. Rousseau, 16th Judicial District of the Superior Court. “Report of the Grand Jury, December 15, 1954”  (page 109-110)

  • A Burke County Grand Jury convened in March 1968 to survey the county public facilities, including the courthouse, jail, and schools. It recommended replacing old dangerous school buildings immediately. To accomplish this, the county commissioners proposed an educational bond issue for the November election. (page 198)

When I wrote those words in the book, I didn't think about the reality that one day I would be a bit closer to the process. A bit, but enough to remind me that the system still goes on.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Rain and Rain and More Rain

Rain, rain, go away.
Come again some other day.

This youtube video is of Wilson Creek, the same creek that is pictured above in my heading. Big difference a few million drops of rain make. I've been wondering one thing. Who over-prayed for the end of this summer's drought? Enough already.

Floods and drought; Feast and famine. Taking the bad with the good. That's how life in the western North Carolina foothills goes. The dog days of summer didn't give us late afternoon humid subtropic rains this year. The grass withered and crunched beneath our footsteps. The creeks dried into trickles. The rivers shriveled so much that even the smallest power boats could no longer pass.

When the rains finally came, we were blessed beyond our needs to the tune of a foot in the last few days. The water from the Blue Ridge Mountains flows through our foothills on the way to the Atlantic, funneling into narrow streams that can't support it. So we get the brunt of it.

It's been this way forever.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been able to make some headway into stemming the disasters. I've had a little experience with them when the church I attend restored a chapel in our park and I was on the restoration committee. In order to acquire the correct permits, the engineers had to certify that the building site was in a safe location. I learned about hundred year flood classification, and five hundred year flood classification. They pointed out issues that I never considered, namely what we did on our property had a direct impact on every land downstream from us. What floated away in a five hundred year flood had to end up somewhere. Complain all we want, this flood plain designation meant salvation for someone in the future, maybe not this week, maybe not this century.
Courtney Chapel
In this picture of the chapel, notice it's located on a slight incline. That would be Army Corps of Engineers imprint. Because of their diligence, the two century old logs are not floating downstream today.

This would be a case of when government intervention works!

Catch of the day,