What qualifies a person as a die-hard fan? For some of us in Chapel Hill, it’s hanging in with our team for what looks to be a disappointing ACC basketball season. But we have nothing on Jack Hege, who is profiled in an article in yesterday’s New York Times. Mr. Hege, 83, has been at all of the Daytona 500 races. That’s 51 races and counting. He’s seen it all–the racing on the sand that preceded the 500, aggressive bumping, flying fenders, and a few bad crashes. It sounds like he’s had fun. Mr. Hege’s story is included in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans, just published by Motorbooks.

First in Flight, Now First in Cats

Workman Publishing has published Page-A-Day® calendars since the 1980s, and their cat calendars have been under my Christmas tree for many years. Imagine my delight when I opened the 2010 calendar on New Year’s Day and saw that the winning cat for this year is Camper, who lives with Lynne Townsend in Todd, North Carolina. If you follow the link below, you’ll see that Camper is (in cat show lingo) a white domestic short-hair with an alert but soulful expression. North Carolina has an official state dog (the Plott hound); is it time for an official state cat?

It’s Not Just Basketball


What is it with this North Carolina-Kansas connection? We all know that “our” Dean Smith was actually born in Emporia, Kansas, and played basketball at the University of Kansas. KU also gave Smith his first coaching job as an assistant to Phog Allen. Roy Williams’ Carolina-Kansas peregrinations occupy a central part of his autobiography, Hard Work. Well, this Carolina-Kansas connection started way before Ol’ Roy was born. While reading the University Librarian’s report for 1927-1928 I came across this: “Mr. Charles M. Baker, assistant librarian and professor of library administration since 1919, resigned in August to become director of libraries of the University of Kansas.” Mr. Baker had a long tenure at KU, serving as director of the university library until 1952. He then served an additional five years as a bibliographer, retiring in 1957.

I wonder how many other examples of this career path exist? I’m sure that readers of this blog know of others.

Spiritual Power in Our Own Backyard

An article in today’s New York Times on deaths in a sweat lodge in Arizona quotes Page Bryant, described as a “psychic in Waynesville, N.C.” Ms. Bryant herself had once been in Arizona, but left because the New Age craziness there was too much for her. She came to the mountains of western North Carolina where she taps into the ancient powers within the Great Smoky Mountains. Her experiences, and guidance for other seekers, can be found in The Spiritual Reawakening of the Great Smoky Mountains, a book that adds depth to the North Carolina Collection.

Robert Ruark’s Africa Adventure


We’ve bagged our latest big game. The North Carolina Collection now has the DVD of Robert’s Ruark’s 1954 movie, Africa Adventure. We obtained it from Safari Press which has also reissued several of Ruark’s books. Ruark himself narrates the film, and this brings us about as close to the man as we can get. The running time is just over an hour.

Were-cheetahs in Charlotte!

Shape-shifters in Durham. Mobsters in Wilmington. Biker gangs in Wake County. Women on the run in North Carolina mountains. Lots of romance on the coast. Readers of our sister blog, Read North Carolina Novels, know that North Carolina has been the setting for all kinds of fictional tales. Just as the themes and subject matter of these novels have been all over the map, so have the locations-almost. Try as we might, we have not found a novel for each of our 100 counties. Gentle readers, can you help us? Take a look at this list, and let us know if you’re aware of a novel set in any of these counties:
Alexander, Alleghany, Beaufort, Camden, Cherokee, Columbus
Franklin, Gates, Greene, Harnett, Lee, Lenoir, Lincoln
Mitchell, Perquimans, Pitt, Stokes, Union, Vance, Washington, Yadkin.

Dancing with the Tar Heels

Most people know that sometime North Carolina resident (but always fabulous) Kristi Yamaguchi won the 2008 Dancing with the Stars competition. Will lightning strike twice for the Tar Heel state? We’ve got a good shot because the always competitive Lawrence Taylor (UNC ’81) is one of the contestants this year. In his college and pro career LT was known as speedy, aggressive, and tenacious. How will those characteristics enhance the foxtrot, rumba, and the nine other dances in the competition? I wondered if LT was a dancer earlier in life, so I consulted his two autobiographies, LT: Living on the Edge and LT Over the Edge. Neither mentions dancing, but he did form a casual singing group, D’Fellas, with some high school buddies. If LT needs guidance for his transformation from athlete to dancer, he can check out Kristi’s 2008 blog entries. The rest of us can mark our calendars for March 9th, the start of the new season.

Jesse Can’t Shag

This fall the Collection received two cartons of miscellaneous printed materials–tourist brochures, political flyers, and the like. In among the brochures was a 45 rpm record entitled “Jesse Can’t Shag.” It was made for the 1984 Helms-Hunt U.S. Senate race. Given the passions that Senator Helms evoked, it’s a surprisingly gentle song. The gist of the song is that the vocalist is leaning toward Hunt because “Jimmy” likes beach music. On the other hand, Jesse “has two right feet” and has never learned to shag. The singer thinks it’s time for Jesse to “shag or get off the floor.”

The music is country. It’s a polished mix, with a honky-tonk piano, a horn section, and backup singers. Click here for an excerpt.

We’d love to know more about this record. Does anyone remember this—how it originated, where it was played, who the performers were and what they’ve done since? Do you have any stories about this recording?

Here’s what we know from the label:

Produced by Jack Dillard and Craig Fulton
Performed by The Filibusters (1984)
Mixed by David Floyd
Charlotte: Bull Moose, 1984
Side A: Jesse Can’t Shag 3:00
Side B: Jesse Can’t Shag (Equal Time) 3:00

And the Winner Is …

Something tells me that the new president will not be wearing this outfit at any of the events next Tuesday. Flyers for this fundraiser were posted around Carrboro and Chapel Hill in October. The image is eye-catching and humorous, a nice light touch that contrasted with the many heavy, negative messages that bombarded us at that time. The event is a good example of the grassroots organizing that marked the Obama campaign. And the folks who put this flyer together knew their audience. Hope! Change! Beer! Food! Raffle! Bands!—these are words that bring smiles to the faces of the many young voters who populate these parts.

Election Ephemera Runner-Up

In an earlier posting on political ephemera, I mentioned my preference for homegrown materials. This seed packet fills the bill. It was distributed by the Ronnie Ansley campaign. A co-worker picked this one up at the state fair. Ansley, a Democrat, ran for Commissioner of Agriculture, attempting to unseat the Republican incumbent Steve Troxler.

It’s a beautiful image, tied to a slogan that is appropriate for the office Ansley sought. The slogan also evokes the theme of change that both parties used in the national campaign as the election drew closer. The packet contained seeds for these flowers: bachelor buttons, baby’s breath, annual blue flax, scarlet flax, Shirley poppies, and candytuft. We’ve removed the seeds and will be saving just the packet.

Ronnie Ansley did not beat Steve Troxler. (The voters went for Troxler, 52.05% vs. 47.95% for Ansley.) If Mr. Ansley runs again in four years and if the economy is still in the tank, maybe he can hand out packets of vegetable seeds—something that voters might find very useful.