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Farm, Family, and Cotton

Houck Family Plot

When my mother passed away in 2012, she wanted to be “taken home” and buried in the Houck Family plot of the Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Cameron, S.C.

Mildred “Mib” Houck – age 12, from a cotton bale

The cemetery is on the edge of a field, and depending on the year of crop rotation, the field could either be in cotton, peanuts, or soy beans.  This year it was cotton.  It was also cotton a few years ago when we first began to photograph and collect images for what became our book “Going Home to Cotton” and our documentary, “Cotton Tale”.

My mom, “Mildred ‘Mib’ Houck” was raised on the Houck Farm when the predominant crop WAS cotton.

When I visited her grave last month and took this photograph, I for the first time indeed felt that she “was home”.  Rest In Peace, Mother.  I love you.

-Houck Medford

 

A Real Newspaper Man – Craddock Morris

E. Craddock Morris, Sr.

Craddock Morris, Sr. has always been a newspaper man; he has known no other life since he joined his father’s Calhoun Times (St. Matthews, South Carolina,  Calhoun County) at the age of 23 in 1955 to make it a two man paper.  Morris graduated from Citadel College in 1950 and fulfilled his obligatory military service in Japan with the U.S. Army.  He joined his dad at the Times the day after he was discharged.

Craddock, Sr. enjoyed a rich life with a lovely and devoted wife – Trisha – for 63 years who passed away at the age of 84 in January, 2015.  His life is still rich – he is still writing for the paper because the community deserves such, and he believes, as I do, that there is third necessity for life beyond food and shelter, and that is a good story.

Edwin C. Morris, Jr.

Like grandfather, like father, like son – Ed Morris, Jr.  joined the paper in 1996 and has been there ever since.  The Calhoun Times – is still a two man paper “with a paid circulation of a little over a thousand and a handful extra for local businesses.”

– Houck Medford

The Jelly Lady on 221

“With Floyd gone, this feels more like home than anywhere I could be.”

This November, Barbara Gragg will have run the jelly stand for 59 years.  Fifty-five of those years were with her husband, Floyd, whom I first became acquainted with years ago when I would see him playing his banjo at the jelly stand to draw in and entertain tourists.  “Floyd passed away 4 years ago,” Barbara says. “I used to play the guitar.  But since Floyd died, I don’t anymore.”

Floyd Gragg

“Mr. (Hugh)  Morton (owner of Grandfather Mountain) would come by almost every day to check on us.”  And with reason, as there has been a long-standing relationship between the Gragg  and Morton families.  Floyd’s granddad ran the toll booth on the Yonahlossee Turnpike, which is the present-day U.S. 221.  The Turnpike, connecting Blowing Rock with the Linville, was built and owned by Mr. Morton’s granddad, Mr. Hugh McRae.

From the “Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films, UNC University Libraries”

The Gift of the Unexpected Gift

“Base Camp” Meadow Garden

One afternoon this week, I opened the front door of our 1800’s log home (our previous full time residence) in Old Salem and to my surprise found an arranged bouquet of freshly cut zinnia’s on our granite front steps.

Totally unexpected, no predisposing circumstances or situation to our knowledge which would have precipitated such a generous act.

There was no note. We were saturated with a sense of wonder as to who may have left them.

But hey, I have seen such a signature before – depicted in a photograph – which with God’s hand had produced such perfect flowers.

Thank you, Cynthia Glasscoe.  Your bouquet is now the frontispiece of our wild meadow garden for our new permanent home in Watauga County.

I have a love affair with country ham and the guy who wraps it

Roy Anders, Ham Handler

I have a love affair with country ham and THE guy who wraps it.

It is no secret that one of my favorite destinations of all times is Ronnie’s Country Store in Winston-Salem, N.C.  When I moved to town in the late 70’s, the store was known as “W.G. White and Company” – founded in 1925.  In 1994,  Ronnie Horton bought the store from the White family; but the county health department came down hard … “Sorry, son,  but you need to bring the store up to code”.  And thanks for the outpouring affection of Winston-Salem residents and one local Senator Ham Horton (no relationship to Ronnie), Senator Horton introduced and passed a special bill in the North Carolina legislature to allow Ronnie’s to remain as it always was.  The law became known as “Ham’s Law.”

For your approval …

Now with THE guy, there are rituals which go with the purchase.  First, THE guy will always perfunctorily hold up the first slice for the customer’s approval (usually just a nod is needed) before he would cut the next.  Next would come the weighing; and then the magic would start –  the wrapping.

What makes it magical for me, are THE guy’s hands – hands that one would expect to be those of a venerable farmer who has spent his life outside.  His bent fingers have never been very nimble but there is a calculated movement in each meticulous and intentional fold of the butcher paper that keeps the flavors safe inside until the customer gets home.

After 38 years of being a loyal customer and never hearing anyone address another by their first name, I finally introduced myself to Ronnie Horton, the proprietor.  I asked him, who is THE guy that cuts your ham.  His name is “Roy Anders and he has been working for me for more than 20 years; and every Sunday you can find him leading the choir at Freedom Baptist Church in Rural Hall.

I think now that I might have a church.

“And over there” …. Successful Farmers are Entrepreneurs

Cheryl Ferguson Plum Granny Farm

Since I have been documenting organic farmers and farming, I have been searching for and cataloguing common denominators that characterize this special breed of growers.

I had the opportunity this week to visit with Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel, owners of Plum Granny Farm. In only a moment of a conversation, Cheryl exclaimed “And over there ….     ” Who but an entrepreneur would be excited about “over there” and how it would fulfill a vision for what will happen later in the season. Farmers find strange things to bring personal joy.

I became immediately excited too about what Cheryl was excited about!

Thank you, Cheryl!

I couldn’t pay my Duke Energy bill with these. What would they care?

Deconstructing a childhood stamp collection … An emotional journey to the past

When my mom and dad passed away in 2012 and 2013 respectfully, the task of “cleaning out” and “settling up” HOME in Waynesville, NC became forefront in my and my sister’s lives.’ My tangible personal connections to HOME changed when I moved out of the house in 1978 as a young adult to become a permanent resident of Winston-Salem, NC.

While I took on the task of settling my parents’ estates, my sister took on the challenge of “mucking out” as she referred to it, everything else since she continued to live in the HOME until she could design and build her own.

Reuter, San Martin, Paderewski, Garabaldi (the 4c and 8c versions), Bolivar, and Mahatma Gandhi

In one of our “check in calls” she asked me, “what do you want me to do with your stamp collection?”

Uh, oh …. I had completely forgotten that one. So, on a visit back to Waynesville, I loaded the boxes, brought them to Winston-Salem, and stored them away until a time that I could go through them. They couldn’t be worth much, I thought, even though the collection was all mint (uncancelled) stamps. They sat again in the corner of our living room.

This winter, someone wrote the Ask SAM column in the Winston-Salem Journal asking about stamp collection values and appraisals recommendations. His answer was succinct:

“It is not an investment possibility, as it was once considered to be,” he said. “Very few stamps have increased in value over the years. And what increase there was, was wiped out a few years ago, when the market went into decline at the same time the antique market and stock prices went south.”

Boy Scouts, NATO, Project Mercury, Kansas Statehood, and Range Conservation

This was just the permission that I needed to cannibalize the collection for the postage value only. Feeling rich, I without guilt started removing the mints stamps from their protective glassine envelopes. Then something happened. The emotional flood gates opened. I nearly drowned. There is Reuter, San Martin, Paderewski, Garabaldi (the 4c and 8c versions), Bolivar, and Mahatma Gandhi. And then there is Boy Scouts, NATO, Project Mercury, Kansas Statehood, and Range Conservation. And my favorite stamp ever of all time, John James Audubon (I bought an entire sheet).

I knew that I couldn’t pay my Duke Energy bill with these. What would they care?

My intimacy with American history and with these commemorative three and four cent stamps issued between 1963 and 1980 matured. Grandmother Houck (my mother’s mother) started me at the age of 13 collecting, bought me my first album, and helped me mount them precisely so they could be “preserved”.

The old Waynesville post office

My backed-up emotions rolled over me like a California mudslide. It felt as if it were only yesterday buying those stamps, and with my own money. There was a ritual in the process, too. I bicycled to the old post office downtown (now repurposed as the Waynesville City Hall) to find Mr. J.T. Russell looming large in the stamp window, my laying out my hard-earned cash on the cold marble counter window, and exchanging for a “block of four with serial number”. He was my stamp guardian; I was sure he had a special recess in his stamp drawer just for me. The relationship was that special. And another bonus, he saved all the new issue announcements which showcased the image of newly issued stamps, documented their history, and cited their date of issue. These were always thumb tacked to the lobby bulletin board right next to the wanted posters.

My favorite stamp of all time, John James Audubon

So …. Duke Energy will not get my stamps.

Instead, I will be using them as postage for our Christmas cards that we send to our friends this year along with the link to this story informing and reminding them where all these old beautiful quaint stamps came from.

“Merry Christmas,” already.  Maybe you will be the lucky one to get my favorite stamp of all time.

The Elusive Artist Statement

For the convenience of those readers who struggle with the metaphorical language of other artists when they write statements requiring a close-read i.e word-for-word’, then pause, then again, read word-for-word; I have tried to make it easy. Simply, this is “Who I Am”.

Enjoy!

Here is another great example, one for Mary Presson Roberts, an emerging fine art photographer, educator, and published author.

The Organics: Heart and Hands – “MicroPRESS – Volume I”

The new hand sewn  “MicroPRESS – Volume I” of The Organics: Heart and Hands has just been published! Printed with archival inks on archival paper, this signed, and numbered, limited edition of 50  photo books is now available.

The Organics is a long-term project designed to capture the living spirit of sustainable agriculture growers’ hearts and of their connected hands which serve as instruments of cultivation and harvest.

“MicroPRESS Volume I” is a smaller representation of a much larger body of work being presented as a photography exhibition.

Featured farmers and farms in this volume are Kyle Montgomery, Ashley Pully, Jeff Seibel, Isaac Oliver, Brandon McGinnity, Kevin Oliver, Cynthia Glasscoe, Kate Schumacher, Jennifer Matler, Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel.  Farms represented are Harmony Ridge Farms, Plum Granny Farm, and The Billy Place Farm.

The book is available for purchase.

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Would You Believe that this was a Bicycle Event?

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Superchef Chris Smith (front center) leads his success team for this event

Cycling and food have always had a connection. Food is what cyclists devour after a long ride.

Now in a unique arrangement,  a new reason to ride is to dine at a one-of-a-kind of bicycle event created by a one-of-a-kind cyclist and chef, Keith Gardiner.  Keith is an instructor / chef in the Culinary Arts Program at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC.  “I have always wanted to do this – where cyclists sit down and ARE SERVED a prepared meal by some of North Carolina’s greatest chefs.

The inaugural event raised over $4, 000 to:

-help educate children and families in understanding proper nutrition (Chef and Child – a program of the American Culinary Foundation)

– stock a food pantry, a flagship beneficiary of the Popular Ridge Friends Meeting, to support a backpack program that enables them to send a backpack filled with food home for children over the weekend.
Tour de Chef

-utilize the creativity and culinary expertise of chefs to help schools to ensure that America’s youngest generation grows up healthy (Chefs Move to Schools – a special initiative of the American Culinary Foundation)

-to support culinary scholarships for students in the Culinary Arts Program at Guildford Technician Community College

David Mercadante, senior pastor of the Popular Ridge Friends Meeting, whose church was the host for the the venue, had this to say:  “This is one of the best events we have ever participated in.”

The Tour de Chef is always the 4th Saturday in September.

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