Accessibility Navigation:

Balls Creek Camp Meeting

Balls Creek Camp Meeting
Harbinson, Bill; Harbinson, Sandy; Harbinson, George; Harbinson, Sam; Harbinson, Glennie; Ewing, Todd; Ewing, Michelle; Ewing, Jeremiah
Cumming, Gabriel
Date of Interview: 
National Public Radio; Mott's Grove; Catawba County, NC- History; Appalachian State University; Hurricane Hugo; Hurricane Floyd; Fellowship; Family life; Family history; Community life; Polio epidemic; Wildlife Resource Commission; Balls Creek School; Division of Conservative Education; Caldwell Family; Drum Family; Bandy Family; Mt. Ruhama Baptist Church; Methodist campground; Old Soldiers Reunion; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Flood plains; Lenoir-Rhyne College; Topography; Land use; Environmental consciousness; Greenpeace; Trailer parks; Murray's Mill Pond; Moonshine; Carolina Panthers; Hunting; Uwharrie Mountains; NASCAR; All-terrain vehicles; The Nature Conservancy; Bandys High School; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Lincoln County; Beatties Ford
The interview is with members of two extended families, the Harbinsons and the Ewings, at the Balls Creek Camp Ground, where generations have met to attend worship services, visit neighbors in their community, and relax with their families. The speakers discuss specifics and logistics of the campsite, such as ownership of the land, set-up and clean-up, schedule of events, cost and tax on tents. The camp meeting is important to these people at each stage of their lives. As young children they 'ran around', many couples met at camp meeting, and returning with children and grandchildren each year is a family tradition as people age. The topography of the area is also discussed, in particular a spring, which the group speculates may have been the reason the camp site was chosen initially. Changes in the area such as new neighborhoods, schools, major employers and land use are discussed. Most camp meeting attendees in the early years were farmers, so farm life is also discussed.
Balls Creek; 1853-2003
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed in the Harbinson tent and the Ewing tent at the Balls Creek Camp Ground
Catawba Lands Conservancy, Balls Creek Series
Collection Description: 
Gabriel Cumming conducted a series of interviews about values and land use with residents of rural communities in North Carolina's Southern Piedmont. The goals of the project were 1) to stimulate discussion of land use and values, 2) to increase region-wide awareness of rural attitudes toward land, 3) to enable the sponsoring conservancies to reach the region's diverse rural populations and 4) to challenge conservation and environmental groups to consider the cultural dimension of conservation issues.
Interview Audio: 
UN1 (Unknown Speaker 1): How old are you?
UN2 (Unknown Speaker 2: Eight.
GC (Gabriel Cumming): You've been coming for all, all eight?
UN2: Yeah.
GC: Have you ever missed one?
UN2: Huh-uh.
GC: How long has your family been coming here? [laughter] Don't just point, ask.
UN2: Mama.
UN1: Amanda's been coming since she was a teenager.
UN2: So when would that be?
UN1: Probably about 50 years.
UN2: Fifty years
GC: Fifty years. That's a long time.
UN2: My daddy's grandmother has been coming for longer than that though. Haven't they?
UN1: Yeah. I don't know.
GC: What do you like best about coming down to camp meeting? [pause] What do you like to do when you're here?
UN2: Running around the--.
GC: Run around.
UN2: Run around with my friends.
GC: Yeah, talk to me.
UN2: Run around with my friends.
GC: Do you have a lot of friends here?
UN2: Some.
GC: Some?
UN2: Uh-huh.
GC: You go to school with them?
UN2: Yeah. Except for my sa--, except for my cousins.
GC: Oh, OK. Do you have a lot of relatives here?
UN2: Well, mostly this tent. Then I have the Harbinsons, then I have the Holmes, then I have the Beattys. That's basically it.
GC: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you.
UN2: You're welcome. Now we'll get to listen to it. RECORDING INTERUPTED RECORDING RESUMED [Harbinson family interview begins]
GC: It's on. So if you can just say your name.
BH (Bill Harbinson): Hello, my name's Bill Harbinson.
GC: And how long have you been coming to the camp meeting?
BH: Well, this--. I'm 49 years old. I've been coming since I was an infant.
GC: Oh wow. Have you ever missed a year?
BH: I missed one year. We were in Tallahassee, Florida when I was doing doctoral study one year and we didn't make it back that year. Other than that, we've been back every year.
GC: And can you introduce yourself for me?
SH1 (Sandy Harbinson): Sandy Harbinson.
GC: And where are you from originally?
BH: Well I was born in Newton, but when I was five years old my family moved to Mooresville and I grew up in Mooresville. Sandy is from Mooresville as well.
GC: And has your family been coming to this meeting--? How long has it been?
BH: Well, my family has been coming since my parents were very young children. As a matter of fact, my parents met out here as really young children and started walking around the camp ground together as twelve, thirteen years old so they've been coming for almost seventy-five years.
GC: Do you find that there are a lot of camp meeting couples? I know another.
BH: Yeah, I think there are. I think there really are. A lot of people can meet out here, particularly if they live in this area so they see each other throughout the year as well.
GC: And where do you live now?
BH: I live in Boone. I work at Appalachian State University.
GC: What do you teach up there?
BH: I'm the Dean of the Music School. Sandy's a first grade teacher.
GC: And what, what would you say is your favorite thing about coming to meeting or what do you get out of it?
BH: Oh, besides the fact that it's one of the few times the whole family gets together, the tent next to here is my father's sister and his fam--, their family are all over there so it's really one the few times, it's the only time during the year that the extended family gets together with my, my uncle and aunts and their children. And that's good. And our family, it's one of the times we get together every year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, sometimes birthdays, and sometimes Easter but always camp meeting.
GC: And so what, what do you spend most of your time doing?
BH: [laughter]
SH1: Exactly what we're doing right now. Sitting in this swing in front of that fan.
BH: Sitting in the swing in front of the fan. And then we make, we make a pilgrimage every year. We walk around at least one time every year [laughter] and we go to the shack and buy ice cream. That's what we do here. We eat and sit in the swing.
GC: Great. Do you, do you enjoy getting back to the area where you grew up and had memories from your childhood?
BH: I do, I do enjoy being here. Sandy started coming here when we started dating in high school. And she started coming so her memories don't go back quite as far as mine but I remember I have lots of good stories from playing out here with my cousins and friends that we made. Yeah, it's nice to come back every year. I'm sure I would feel empty if I didn't get back.
GC: And is it, is it something about the people or place or both?
BH: I think it's the people. It's not so much the place. [laughter] The place can be very uncomfortable like it is today, you know, really hot and dusty. But no, it's the people. It's coming back and seeing the same people year after year and doing the same things which is really nothing, just relaxing and being with family.
GC: Five question or so little interview. So, if you can say your name please.
GH (George Harbinson): George Harbinson. [hammering in the background]
GC: OK. And Mr. Harbinson, how long have you been coming to camp meeting here?
GH1: Seventy-seven years.
GC: And is that all the years?
GH1: I'm seventy-seven years old.
GC: [laughter] So did your parents come before you?
GH1: Yes.
GC: Were they the first generation to come? Or did it go back--?
GH1: No, it goes a hundred and fifty years.
GC: Oh wow. OK.
GH1: This is a hundred and fifty three or, OK, next year is a hundred and fifty she says so it's close to it.
GC: OK. And has the family always been in this, in this location. Is this the same tent or has the family moved around some over there?
GH1: This is the same tent for my wife
GC: Oh OK.
GH1: and her grandmother owned it.
GC: Oh OK.
GH1: She tented with her grandmother and my father was up on the corner. I tented with him.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: We don't remember when we met each other.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: Was four or five years old, whatever it was.
GC: Oh OK.
GH1: You know. Walked around holding hands.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: And so then, when her mother--, grandmother died, they willed her this tent. And whenever my father died, I sold that tent and bought this next one. My two sisters that were surviving tented beside me so we'd be together.
GC: Oh great. OK. And what's your name? I'm sorry.
SH2: I'm Sam Harbinson.
GH1: My older son.
GC: Oh OK. And so your, it's the whole, the whole family. Does the whole family usually come?
SH2: [laughter] Yes.
GH1: On the weekends--, it's two weeks, three weekends, you understand? On all three weekends, my two sons and their families and my wife and I come out here.
SH2: And my two sons and their wives.
GH1: And their two sons and their wives.
GC: Great.
GH1: But they're working now so they can't come during--,
GC: During the day. During the week.
GH1: But when school's out, they came and stayed.
GC: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. So what do you, what do you enjoy most about--?
GH1: Fellowship.
GC: The fellowship.
GH1: We see people we haven't seen since last August.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: And that's it. And being with your family.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: You know, for two weeks.
GC: Uh-huh.
GH1: And so forth. And the food. Everybody eats and you can smell all of it.
SH2: Right.
GC: [laughter] And what, what do you spend most of your time doing when you're out here, besides working on the door--.
GH1: Well there's always little things that have to be done to keep the shack, the tents up. So we repair them or sit around and talk and just visit with friends and so forth.
GC: Do you--?
GH1: Walk around the camp ground. They walk around.
GC: Do you find that you come out here at other times during the year for maintenance or anything like that?
GH1: No. We come about two weeks before camp meeting starts and start cleaning up the tents.
GH1: Things like that, but then that's just daily things that come out and clean up the tent and get it ready for camp meeting.
GC: Uh-huh. And where do you live the rest of--.
GH1: Mooresville.
GC: Oh OK in Mooresville. Right, he told me that. And, but when you were children you weren't living in Mooresville or were you?
GH1: No, I lived, born and raised in High Point. She was born and raised in Maiden, North Carolina over here.
GC: Sure, just over there.
GH1: Yeah.
GC: OK. So was the family originally from the Balls Creek area or how did the family start going to this meeting?
GH1: My father and mother both was born and raised in Maiden. He went to work with Duke Power. Went to work in Hickory, transferred into Lexington, then to High Point. Left them and went with Southern Railway and so forth and so they got to High Point that way.
GC: Great. Well sounds good. I appreciate it.
GH1: OK. You're welcome.
GC: Anything else you'd like to say?
GH1: No.
SH2: Go Heels.
GH1: Go Heels, go Heels.
GC: Let me get ya'--.
SH2: ( ) Tar Heel fan.
GC: Good, good. Glad to hear it. Let me get your voice on there too. If you could just say your name.
GH2: OK, my name is Glenny Harbinson.
GC: And is, this is your tent, your family tent that we're in right now?
GH2: Yes. It goes back as far as my great grandfather. He was some of the original people who came and according to Catawba County history, he was the first to have a covered cook shed, which was limbs and so forth. So that's how far we go back.
GC: Oh wow. So that's just about to the start of the meeting.
GH2: Uh-huh.
GC: Now why did they choose this place to have the meeting? Do you know?
GH2: I really am not sure why they chose this location.
GC: I mean Paul was showing me the spring back there. Do you think it had something to do with that?
GH2: Well, it could have. This seemed to be a location for people in this area to come and the spring, in my childhood, was open and quite a beautiful place but now I think the spring's about dried up.
GC: Yep.
GH2: And we get water from Newton.
GC: Oh OK. You get the water piped in now. Now is--, I heard that during, was it Hurricane Hugo or Floyd or something, they opened the spring back up. Is that, is that right? Do you remember?
GH2: I don't know about that.
GC: OK. I wonder if it would run if it had to. I guess, nothing, hardly anything is running now we're in such a drought.
GH2: Well, it's, it was dangerous because children could fall in it and then they had closed it because, I think, of that reason. You know if a child fell in, they would drown.
GC: So it was just an open hole?
GH2: Yes. Uh-huh. Con--, concreted hole there. Uh-huh.
GC: And this is, this is also located near the creek itself. Is that right?
GH2: Well, the reason it was now, I think, named Balls Creek, there was--, seemed to be a horse that got in the creek and drowned or something and they named it Balls Creek. [laughter]
GC: It's funny they named it after the horse. [laughter] Well how do you think that the meeting has changed over the time that you've been coming to it? Has it changed?
GH2: Oh yes. When I first came we didn't have electric lights. We didn't have a floor. It was straw or shavings. We didn't have water. We carried it all from the spring. So you see the advancements we've had in those years.
GC: Uh-huh. And have--, are most of the people who are coming now in the same families that have been coming or are there a lot of new people who are coming in?
GH2: Well I, since I don't know everybody, the people around here are the same ones who come every year. And lots of them are relatives of my husbands, the Harbinsons. [laugher]
GC: Oh OK. And relatives of yours? Do you have those?
GH2: I don't have many on the camp ground now. They--, I did have a great uncle who had a cabin next door but then after he died, their family got--, sold it and now it belongs to my husband and his sister. They inherited it, down the line.
GC: And what's your, so what's your favorite thing about coming out here? What do you like the most?
GH2: Well, family and also we try to attend services as much as we can. It's nothing like good old camp meeting singing. Preacher.
GC: OK. All right. Well thank you very much.
GH2: That's the whole thing. If we didn't have the services, we wouldn't have camp meeting.
SH2: That's right. Right.
GC: That's really how it got all started. That's the center of it. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
GH2: Uh-huh. Well, the only year I missed was in '53. They had a polio epidemic in Catawba County and we were living at the time, though, in Fayetteville and they asked us not to come back in the county with small children. However they did not cancel camp meeting but they, a lot of people did come. But that's the reason we missed that year, was because of we had a little baby.
GC: Well, that's a pretty good record. [laughter]
GH2: It is. [laughter]
GC: Well thank you very much. [Harbinson Interview ends] RECORDING INTERUPTED RECODING RESUMED [Todd Ewing and family Interview begins]
GC: And I've been--. Have you ever used this kind of equipment?
TE (Todd Ewing): No, I've not even seen that before.
GC: This is a mini disk.
GC: It's got a mini disk in there and it's a whole new world because before I used to use tapes and the quality was so poor you could barely even hear the person, let alone like the environment. But this thing picks up almost too much. I mean, it'll pick up you, the rain, those kids, you know the wind. [laughter]. Everything but it's good for getting a feel for like the environment.
TE: It'll get that na--, nice NPR quality.
GC: The NPR, right, exactly. This American life, you know, that kind of stuff.
TE: Yeah. OK
GC: So, that's what we're going for. So anyways, so I'm Gabriel Cumming and it is August 24, 2002 and if you could introduce yourself.
TE: I'm Todd Ewing.
GC: And spell, spell the name.
TE: E-W-I-N-G for the record.
GC: And the first name with two Ds?
TE: Two Ds, that's correct.
GC: And your age.
TE: I'm thirty-three.
GC: And, your family status, I suppose. You're married with--?
TE: Married with three children. We are currently, just moved away, we're living in Brevard right now, but I've lived here pretty much all my life so. My family, if you want to say, I'm related to about everybody out here, so--. [laughter]
GC: That's the impression I get from most people.
TE: Yeah. Very extend family out here.
GC: Yeah. And what's your, what's your work now, if you could just describe what that is.
TE: Yeah I'm the--, I work with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. I'm in the Division of Conservation Education. And in that division, I run one of the education centers for the Wildlife Commission. What we do is focus on educating the public about the wildlife resources and other natural resources that we have here in the state.
GC: OK. So for our NPR listeners [laughter] can you tell them, can you sort of describe where we are, as we're doing this interview, can you describe the camp meeting a little bit?
TE: Yeah. We're sitting here on what we call the inner circle of camp meeting. This is the hot spot to be. This is where you get to see all the people. For the people who don't know what camp meeting are, which there are many out there.
GC: There are many out there.
TE: This started out as a religious event back in the days when everybody around were small farmers and before the harvest was to be brought in. In that little dead time, they would come out here for religious and social purposes. It would be a mainly camp-in event, where now it has turned into, mainly, a big social event where people come out at night and dump out the kids and let them play for a while. [laughter]
GC: But would you say that it's still mostly the same families, I mean, and decedents of, in-laws of?
TE: Oh yeah. If you walk around camp meeting, you're going to see the descendants of the same thirty or forty original people that came out here. You'll have a lot of young people, that come out here that in a few years time won't be back, but you'll have a core group that stay. And it's the same people whose families were here before and their families stayed before them so. It changes, but it stays the same.
GC: Uh-huh. And does--, do you think that when the kids, you know, get older and have families of their own, do you think they will come back? I mean is there kind of a generational return? Or is it going to sort of trail off?
TE: The people who have a tent here, their kids will keep coming back. The people who come out here just for the social aspect on weekends, they're not going to come back fifteen years from now. But the people whose families come out here, spend the time and own the tents, they'll be back for the next several generations.
GC: What, what do you think, what's the percentage of people who come out who actually have tents as opposed to people who just sort of walking around?
TE: There's no scientific basis for my thinking but I'm saying around fifty percent.
GC: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And of course people invite their friends out and stuff.
TE: Yeah.
GC: Yeah. So you said this is the inner circle. Is there an outer circle?
TE: They're what I call the fringes. I don't know what other people call them but if you're going to have a tent, it pays to be on the inner loop here. This is where everybody is.
GC: Pedestrian traffic.
TE: Yeah, when you hear, hear people say they're going to walk around the camp ground, this is where they're going to go. The people who have the tents out back or on some of the fringe areas, they don't get the social aspect. We've got several brooms in there if you need it Ethel.
UN3 (Unknown Speaker 3): I just bought this thing and here the thing come off.
TE: Do you need some more? We've got three or four more brooms in there.
UN3: I can squeeze that.
TE: I just swept this today, if you can believe it.
UN3: Well, I know, I can see the wind blew, blew these leaves back up on--.
TE: Sorry about that.
GC: No problem. That's the way all of my, all of my interviews are kind of ramshackle. You know, something happens, you know, 'cause I like to do them out in the, in the open air as it were--.
TE: You're fine. [laughter]
GC: Oh yeah. You're on--, you're famous now. You're on my interview.
TE: Well Trish could probably tell you a whole lot more about the, the returnees from generation to genera-.
PH (Patricia Hovis): ( ) a whole lot.
GC: Yeah.
PH: She's ninety.
GC: Oh yeah.
TE: Are you talking about Lida?
PH: So you want to talk to her?
GC: Sure.
PH: Memaw come over and talk to this man.
GC: [laughter]
PH: She can tell you way back.
TE: Yeah, you're interview list may grow dramatically up on this end.
PH: Where are you from?
GC: I'm from, I live down in Davidson, but I go to Carolina.
PH: Uh-huh. So you're not just doing it for the paper, you're just doing it out of your--.
GC: I'm not doing it for the paper but I, this project is sponsored by the local land conservancy, so, so it's sort of, it's a community project.
PH: Uh-huh. Well she can tell you a lot. She's going to be ninety Wednesday. She's come a long time.
TE: We just came from her birthday party.
GC: Oh really? Well maybe we should take a little excursion over there while she's out. I don't want to cause any trouble. Hi there.
LH (Lida Hovis): Hey.
GC: I'm Gabriel Cumming.
LH: I'm Lida Hovis.
GC: Nice to meet you. Your pants match this bench real well. I mean did you plan that?
LH: No. [laughter]
GC: Don't you think? It's just the same color. I tell you, have you been going to this tent, using this tent so long, just all your, your whole wardrobe just matches the tent? [laughter]
LH: Yeah, we built it--. What year did we build it? Sixty--?
PH: Well, it's thirty-four years old.
LH: Sixty--?
TE: It was built the year before I was born.
PH: Yeah, so what year was you born?
TE: '69.
PH: '69.
LH: '69.
PH: But these tents were built in '68.
LH: We had an old tent before then.
GC: OK. And was that in this same location?
LH: Yes, it was here.
GC: So your family just tore down the old one and built the new one?
LH: Yes. My husband did.
GC: OK. And so how old are you now?
LH: Ninety. I'll be ninety Wednesday.
GC: Ninety Wednesday. Well congratulations.
LH: Yeah, and as far as I know, I've never missed coming to camp meeting.
GC: Really.
LH: There was a couple of years they didn't have any.
GC: Oh, they didn't? Is that because of the fire?
LH: No, they had the year of the fire didn't they? But one year is polio. I believe it, one year, service maybe when the war was going on.
GC: Oh, OK. Yeah I heard that mentioned. Was that '43 or something like that?
LH: Probably, probably.
GC: Anyway, it doesn't matter. So when you started coming as a child, was the tent, were the tents like this, or were they?
LH: Oh no.
GC: How were, can you describe them for me? What were they like back then?
LH: Well, they were more like this tent than this old tent down here, but they cook shed built out the back, separate from the tents.
LH: And they cooked in those sheds. And a lot of people had colored people that come and did the cooking for them.
GC: Uh-huh. And were most people who came here people who lived right around in the immediate area?
LH: Well, no. I think they came from all other places. But a lot of people, you know, lived in the area around here.
GC: Uh-huh. And where is your home?
LH: I live on Little Mountain Road.
PH: Two miles from here.
LH: Yeah, below Balls Creek School.
GC: Oh, OK. OK. So, did--, when, earlier, did you, did you get the water from Balls Creek or from the--.
LH: From the spring, the spring.
GC: Which feeds into Balls Creek too right. Does it?
LH: I think it does. As far as I know.
GC: And what, what work did you or your family do?
LH: We farmed.
GC: You farmed. OK. And, and, is there anyone still farming in the family, or?
LH: I rent my farm.
GC: Oh, OK.
LH: Well, I got it from my dad. Part of his estate and I rent it.
GC: So, what, what are they growing on the land now?
LH: Soybean and wheat.
GC: And is that mostly what you worked when you were on the farm?
LH: No, we had wheat, soybeans, cotton, corn and peanuts and all that stuff.
GC: And so when people were cooking out here in the old days, were they mostly cooking the local stuff that they had raised themselves?
LH: Mostly yes.
GC: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Now, do you feel like peoples' attitudes toward coming out to camp meeting has changed since--?
LH: Oh yeah.
GC: In what way?
LH: Well, I don't know hardly, but seem like people used to come, you know, to go to church and visit. It's not like it used to be. The tents are not like they used to be and--.
TE: They're not as good as we were, are they Lida?
LH: No. [laughter]
GC: But there are still plenty of people.
LH: Yeah.
GC: Do you feel like people have gotten used to more comfort and like air conditioning and everything?
LH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I don't know whether they have much air conditioning out here but--.
PH: Just a few. A few have it.
LH: Yeah.
GC: OK. I haven't seen any but.
PH: Right here.
LH: Let's see, right there.
PH: See that one.
GC: Oh yeah. Wow, that's a fancy one. Uh-huh.
TE: Seem like there's maybe two or three of those around.
PH: You see we used to come and bring iceboxes and wood stoves.
GC: Uh-huh.
PH: Because that's what you have at home, was a wood stove. When my mother and daddy came and I've come all my life, they had--, we brought the mattresses off the bed at home, just like we stayed at home. So, we brought the baking powder, the soda, the flour, the milk, the whole nine yards and came to camp meeting. And then we couldn't get back home and spend the night like we do now. If I take a notion to go home, I just go home and spend the night over there.
GC: Uh-huh. Right.
PH: But--. And I've got refrigerators now and a hot water heater where [laughter] back in those days you use to have to carry the water from spring and you had the iceboxes and the cook stoves.
GC: Yeah.
LH: People used to bring their chickens out here and kill 'em out here, cook 'em.
GC: Oh yeah?
PH: I remember that.
GC: So you'd have the chickens running around for the first part of the meeting.
LH: No.
PH: Well no. They'd be in a coop behind the tent, you'd have like in a box.
LH: Yeah.
PH: In a crate, I guess they called it instead of a box.
LH: Yeah, yeah.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: That's before my time. [laughter]
PH: Yeah, that's before your time Todd. Long before your time.
PW (Pam Wilkinson): Used to have the outside toilet.
LH: Yeah. And I remember when tent tax was 50 cents for the tent.
GC: What's tent tax now?
LH: What is it Ester?
PH: Let's see. It was a hundred, was it a hundred and five or was it a hundred and ten. I forget which one I wrote the check for. But that's for the water and the tent tax. See, that goes to pay the preachers and the law and all that stuff.
LH: No, no I believe the tent tax was a dollar because, see my daddy had a, they had a half tent and it was fifty cents for the half tent but it's a, it was a dollar.
GC: Well, that's certainly changed. [laughter]
LH: And they slept on straw. Had wooden beds built
GC: Oh wow.
LH: in a tent and they put straw on them and step on the straw.
GC: Well was that comfortable?
LH: No it wasn't comfortable. [laughter]
PH: That's what they slept on at home.
GC: Yes, that's true enough.
LH: And they had--,
TE: See all that's changed in one generation. She'd fall asleep on the straw and your generation brought the mattresses out.
PH: Yeah, and you've got air mattresses.
TE: Yeah, and we have air mattresses and stuff upstairs.
TE: And they used to put, have straw in the tents.
PH: For the floor.
TE: And some people put shavings in their tents. Now, I guess about all of them's cement.
GC: Oh, OK. Yeah. Some of them are still shavings. I see some down here.
PH: Yeah. There's a few of the older tents. See the lower half burned. You knew about that?
GC: Yeah, well, I've heard that.
PH: I think that was in '56, I believe in the spring of '56. About May, June. But by the time July, I mean August came, for the most part, most of them was built back, wasn't they. There was a few holes left, but that was a devastating thing to think that the whole thing was going to burn down.
GC: Uh-huh. Right, it's all wood.
TE: Wood and shavings.
GC: And still is.
PH: See, last Saturday, they evacuated it and that's never happened.
GC: Oh really.
PH: This is the a hundred and forty-ninth camp meeting and nobody ever remembers with the big singing being called off and them evacuating the camp ground.
GC: Is the big singing on Saturday Nights?
PH: It's last Saturday night.
GC: Last Saturday night.
PH: Supposed to have been but they canceled it because of the weather.
GC: Well, they going to have it tonight? No.
PH: No, they won't have it. They won't have it at all.
GC: Oh, well that's too bad.
PH: They did have some singers to come in there early last night. But it wasn't all the ones that was supposed to have come the week before.
GC: Right.
PH: But no, there's four generations stayed in this tent, haven't they? Which is you and papaw and my husband and my kids and now the grandkids.
GC: And how many generations stayed here before you started?
LH: I don't know. We, we bought this tent from Avery Huffman, and I don't know--. And we bought it. We paid seventy-five dollars for the tent when we bought, bought the old tent.
GC: Wow, now it's some--, what twenty thousand? Or something like that.
PW: I would say at least ten or twelve or more.
LH: Fifteen.
PH: Well, I wouldn't take that much.
TE: Five digit prices. Yeah.
GC: Yeah, well, so when you came, when you were younger, you usually stayed here the whole time or did you ever go back home?
LH: Well, see we didn't come out until about Thursday and camp meeting ended on Monday nights.
GC: Oh, OK, so it didn't all through the week.
LH: No, not back then. Didn't stay but a couple of days. Yeah, we'd go back home and do the work. You know, feed the cows, do the--.
GC: Take care of the animals. Exactly. Right. Well, but you slept here, on the straw?
LH: Oh Yeah. Yeah.
GC: Yeah, so, talking about the Balls Creek area in general, do you see a lot of change in, in the, in this area?
LH: Oh yeah!
GC: Like, like what?
LH: So many more buildings. On the road that we lived on, I don't think there was but three houses and now oh I don't know what the houses that is on that road now.
GC: And is it, is it changing in terms of what kinds of jobs people have?
LH: Oh yeah. People, about everybody farmed back then.
GC: Uh-huh.
LH: Not a lot of people farm now, only big farmers.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: Moses is about the only one on the road that still does. Randy and really one family on the area farm on the roads here.
LH: Yeah, they rent a lot of land.
GC: And people who still have land lease it out to the farmers to farm.
PH: A lot of them sold it and people built houses on it.
GC: Oh OK. Uh-huh.
TE: ( )
GC: So, do you feel like the area is changing for the better or is it--, are things getting better or things getting worse around here? In your opinion now.
LH: I don't know. [laughter]
PH: Well, it's really not any worse, I don't guess.
LH: It just more people I think.
PH: It's just more people and really, where we live, which is like two miles, there's not a lot of trouble that goes on over there.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: Except for the other end down there near the old elementary school, it's pretty much all relatives on that road.
PW: 'cause on the road we live on there's three main families that live on that road. I mean, we're just mostly family. There's a few that move in every year.
PH: She lives in this house, I live in this house, my baby daughter lives in this house and she lives on the end house. We're with all in a--.
TE: A hundred yards
PW: Yeah.
GC: So basically it's just the same families multiplying. [laughter]
PW: And her brothers and sisters live around us and a lot of their children. So we're mostly just family.
PH: Well, it used to be that everybody on that road was either kin to your daddy or me.
PW: Yeah, 'cause it's the Caldwells, the Drums, or the, lets see, Bandys. Bandys, Caldwells and Drums is the only people who live on that road. Or you was related to them.
GC: Uh-huh. Wow.
TE: There's a lot of interrelations.
GC: So it's not--.
TE: It's not really--.
PW: Well, I am too. [laughter]
PH: That's exactly right.
GC: So it's not like it's people you don't know moving in, it's mostly people you do know.
PH: Well, in some areas where the development is, we do have people that move in.
TE: At the other end of the road.
GC: Oh OK.
TE: Right near the elementary school, there's a lot of people we're not related to.
GC: And do you feel like the new people coming in who aren't related, do they pretty quickly get to know people and, and understand the way things work here?
LH: No.
PH: We don't know them and they don't know us.
GC: So they don't, they don't understand about the history of the community so much or--?
PW: I really don't think 'cause a lot of thems ha--, a lot of thems are not even originally from Catawba County. You know, you know, some just moved in and our church has tried to do some visitation though the area and, you know, get them involved in our church and sometimes they just kind of stay to their selves.
GC: What church do you all go to?
PW: Mt Ruhama Baptist.
GC: OK. So you're Baptist but that, everybody can come to this camp meeting whether you're Baptist or Methodist or whatever.
PW: Yeah. It's a Methodist camp ground. Methodist own the land but each person owns their own tent.
PH: So you don't actually own the land your tent's on.
GC: You own the tent but not the land?
LH: You don't have, own the land, no.
GC: Do you own the tent, or do you just kind of--?
PW: You own the tent.
GC: But you'd have to sell it back to the--, if you sold it, you'd have to sell it back to someone else who wanted to tent, right?
PH: As an individual, you can sell the tent. Right. Yeah.
GC: Could you sell it back to the camp ground as a whole?
PH: In other words, if Todd come by and I'm going to sell my tent, he could buy it from me. There's no paper work, no nothing that I know anything about. Do you Todd?
PW: I guess it's just between the word of mouth.
PH: Just handshake, you know.
TE: The camp ground has to know who the tax is charged to, and other than that, there's not title or anything.
GC: Now who owns the, I mean who is the owner of the land?
PH: The Methodist.
GC: Like a specific church or is it--?
PH: No, I don't know to tell you the truth.
PW: I really don't know this.
GC: It's kind of collectively owned by the Methodist, isn't it?
PH: The Methodist, see as a Baptist, we are an individual church. We do our own thing in our own way. We hire our own pastor. We fire our own pastor or we do ever what. But now, the Methodist is not like that. They have--, what do they call it? I forget what they call it? I forget what they call it but anyway, they, a charge, they have charge. I think that's what they call it. And they have these conferences, and their preachers are sent to them. They don't have a choice of who they get.
GC: That's why they change every two years, two right?
PH: Two of four, or whatever it is. But see, now we're known for having longevity preachers.
GC: Right.
PH: The one that was there when I was born was there for thirty-two years and he married me, to my husband. And the one that's there now, or was there, up until a year and a half ago or two years, he was there twenty-eight years.
GC: Oh wow. So you keep them around. You wear them out.
PW: I guess so. [laughter]
PH: They just like us and like to stay. And see as long as they behave themselves, they can stay.
PW: We're a hundred and eight--, eighty couple years old.
PH: Do you remember memaw? I don't remember.
GC: What's the--.
PW: Before we ( ) I think our hundred and eightieth year. So we're really older than the camp ground.
GC: Oh OK. Now how did the camp ground start? Do you all know?
LH: I don't know, don't know.
PH: Well the reason they have it this time of year, if I'm not right, that they, the farmers laid their crops bye.
GC: Is that right?
LH: I think so.
PH: Yeah. And there was some men who came through here and started, but I don't know who they were. They send that little book. There is a book that the Caldwell boy wrote, you know, about the campground.
GC: Oh really, yeah.
PH: I don't know if you'd be interested-.
GC: Yeah, I would be interested to see that.
PH: Or how you'd get a hold of that.
LH: And he's got the preachers, you know, that preach here but I don't.
PW: His mother and daddy had a tent on that corner.
GC: OK. He's not related to the Caldwells over here? Ray Von?
PW: No, it's a different set of Caldwells.
LH: And Ray Von's my nephew.
GC: Oh really. OK. Well, I'm going to go talk to him at some point.
LH: He can tell you.
GC: Yeah, he seems, seems like a nice, nice man. Well.
PW: Is this your first time to the campground?
GC: Well I came out on Thursday but not before this year. No. So, just learnin'. But I think the camp grounds are real interesting 'cause I'm doing a study of the, sort of, the land in this, this area, the history of the land. And this is a part of a land, you know, and it's owned collectively and shared by the people in the community, so I think that's really interesting. I've been down to some of the black camp grounds too. Like last week I went to Mott's Grove down there and I'm going to go to McKenzie's.
PH: Now I think McKenzie's is when? Is it this week or the next.
PW: It's after--.
GC: I was told it's the first week in September. That's my understanding.
PW: It's after ours.
PH: I know it's after ours always.
GC: I believe that that's when it is.
PH: But now we used to have outside johns out here. Up until--.
GC: And you don't now? You got one in here?
PH: Oh no, no, no, no. Huh-huh.
PW: So there used to be a line across the road. Everybody--.
PH: Everybody had to have their own private toilet.
PW: And you locked them. That's what was so funny. You had to lock them. You had your number, your number, just like you had your tent number, was on your toilet. And you had to take the key to unlock it. And that's just been within, probably, the last twenty--.
PH: Bathhouses has been built. All the toilets were all away.
PW: Well I was probably still high school when we all did that. You know, it's probably been less than twenty years.
PH: Todd do you remember the outside toilets?
TE: No.
PH: So, that's been at least thirty-four or thirty-three.
TE: You know, I can remember probably back 'till I was five years old or so. You're looking twenty-nine years.
PW: I'm forty-four. I'm ten years older, but I can remember we had the, had the each person had the ice box and there was an ice truck came around every day and you bought a block of ice to put in your ice box. And we didn't even have--. Did we even have electricity?
PH: Yeah, we had electricity then but you just had, like one light bulb or two. You didn't have much.
PW: Yeah, you didn't have much. It was always a man, used to come around and spray for bugs once during camp meeting.
GC: Oh really?
PW: Yeah. And everybody had their outside toilet. And then back then, like in the daytime, we used to stay out her like in the daytime
GC: sure
PW: 'cause school wasn't going on.
GC: Now they've got school.
PW: And a lot of mothers didn't work.
PH: This tree up here at the corner, it was just all kind of kids gather in that tree every day and play.
GC: That's nice. [pause]
PW: It's changing a lot 'cause right now, when school's going on, you can almost set your watch at nine o'clock. If you're coming this way, all the cars are heading that way going home at nine o'clock. 'cause the kids are going back to school.
GC: Oh OK. It's a school night. Uh-huh.
PW: It used to be, it was just the circle would be full every night until eleven o'clock when the bell rang. You know, we didn't have to go to school.
GC: Well, it seems like they should let, have, have it off just like they used to have. [laughter] Then they could come out here and do it.
PW: Yeah, 'cause I think that--, well, I don't know who's in charge of when they start, whether it's the school board or who but-.
GC: Yeah, I guess it's state.
PW: It's like, you know, to me this is history. You know, and they're making the kids go to school during part of history and plus
GC: They're learning from this aren't they?
PW: this Old Soldiers Reunion that we have in Newton, you know, the days of the parade and all the festivities in the square of Newton, all these kids are in school. They don't get to participate. You know, and I said that's part of our Catawba County history. And then they made the children go to school early. So.
GC: Well they certainly seem to enjoy it when they do come out.
PH: Oh they love it. They love it. And the dirtier we get, the better they like it. [laughter] [kids playing in background]
PW: And even on a rainy night, I mean, they love to walk in the rain. [pause] And so when it's raining like this and you're sleeping out here, it's good sleeping weather.
PH: Has anybody ever told about the old jailhouse over there?
GC: No.
PH: Which way did you come in?
GC: I came from that direction.
PH: OK. If you come in off of 16, just before you camp--, well there tent's already started there but there's just a litty bitty black old
PW: Wooden, wooden building.
PH: old wooden building that's never been painted. That's probably about this square from here over to that. ( ). Anyway, that's where they used to take people and lock them up. They'd actually lock them up.
GC: Oh.
PH: Now they take them to jail if they have to.
GC: People from where? Just--?
PH: From here.
PW: Like, 'cause you have a set of rules that you had to go by and if, you know, you was fighting or doing something you weren't supposed to they'd lock you up in the.
GC: Well did they have much problems?
PH: Well, over the years they have had.
GC: Really?
PW: Well, usually maybe like, you might have a fight once a year and it's usually just teenagers, different schools, or boyfriend girlfriend problems, or you know, like the other night they about to have one out here. But that was something they would start at school and they just kind of extended it out on here. But now, you know, you have deputies. Four or five, six deputies.
GC: I know. I saw all kinds of policemen walking around the other night.
PW: For the most part, I mean, especially when you get this many people together, I mean there's very little trouble. You know, we have neighbors across the street we only see one time a year. They live in South Carolina so--. Yeah Baltimore
PH: This lady beside us is from Salisbury and her sister is from Florida.
GC: Oh wow.
PH: She's come here for this week. She's been here all week.
PW: So, for us it's just you get to see people once a year that you don't see, you know for the two weeks.
PH: Even Todd's from out of town. Where'd you come from?
TE: I hardly call my self an out-of-towner. [laughter]
PH: Well you moved away last year.
TE: Well, I live in a barn now. I guess I am an out-of-towner now. [laughter]
PW: Yeah you're tw--, three hours away where we're just two miles.
GC: Yeah, why do you think they put the camp meeting right here? Do you know?
PH: I have no idea.
GC: Did it have to do with the spring?
PH: I don't know.
PW: I don't know.
PW: There is several Methodist churches in the area. I don't know whether that's--. I don't know how they started it. I just, I'm forty--.
PH: I didn't know how they'd get this much land.
PW: I'm just forty-four. I've come forty-four years. That's all I know.
PH: ( ) this much land.
LH: No, I have read that he got some but I don't know.
PH: See there's five in my family. My oldest sister was born in July and she came to camp meeting. As each one was born we just came to camp meeting. That's all we know, is coming to camp meeting.
GC: Sure. Sure. And what's your favorite thing about it? I mean why do you, what do you enjoy most?
PH: Getting together with the family.
GC: Oh OK.
PH: It's a family thing. And like she said, seeing the people that you don't see once a year, you know, 'cause these people are here across the street at this gray tent. And one brother lives on the Georgia/South Carolina line and the other one lives in Baltimore. So the one that lives in Baltimore, him and his two daughters came down this week and they've been together all week.
GC: Oh wow. That's nice.
PW: To me it's kind of relaxing 'cause at home we don't have time to sit on our porches and swing.
GC: Right.
PW: I mean you're just--.
GC: You're away from.
PW: You're, and so out here you just kind of come and sit. 'cause if you're at home you're always working.
LH: Now I've not always tented out here. I hadn't tented since '55 wasn't it.
PH: Well we got married in '55 and y'all didn't--, that was in December of '55.
LH: And we hadn't tented, we hadn't tented since. But I come.
PW: She come every year.
GC: Oh OK. You just didn't have your own tent since then?
LH: Well we had, we had the tent.
GC: Well formerly, right. Right.
PH: This is the family tent. END TAPE ONE, SIDE A START TAPE ONE, SIDE B
GC: Right. Sure. But you passed it, I mean, you passed the responsibility on to the next generation. Right.
PH: I can remember when you had a light bulb. You had one in the kitchen and one up in the sitting room. Where you used to tent most of them had a petition in the middle of it, didn't they memaw, but I remember anything about. But you could drop a light bulb in the kitchen, drop one in the other room and it was like fifty cent a light bulb. And then if you, after you McChristy got out here, if you had a refrigerator, well they charge you so much for a refrigerator. But now we have our meters
GC: Oh OK.
PH: and we pay our light bills like that.
GC: Separately. Uh-huh.
PW: See I have four places that I could stay. This tent, my other grandmother grandfather had a tent, my great grandmother has a tent, plus my husband's grandmother has a tent. So, I mean, I could--. [laughter]
PH: She's got connections four ways.
GC: Wow. That's amazing.
PW: And this used to be like our vacation. I mean, we didn't really go off anywhere and vacation. This was just kind of like our vacation.
GC: Yeah. Yeah because you didn't necessarily have the opportunity to go further away every time for vacation.
PW: Right, so this, this has always been our vacation.
GC: Do, do y'all enjoy the opportunity to sort of be more out doors than you usually are, 'cause you're certainly spending more time outside? Is it like more natural or out, out, out in the outdoors?
PW: Yeah, I guess it's as close to camping as I come. [laughter] But, yeah, 'cause like I say at home, you know, you just don't, I guess take the time just to sit and talk and visit. Right here it's just so peaceful. You can just sit in your swing and like at home you'd be working or doing laundry or something.
GC: It is kind of like camping isn't it. I mean all of these things are called tents still aren't they?
PW: Yeah.
TE: My son calls it camping out. As opposed to camping.
PW: Yeah. Yeah they do.
GC: I mean, so it sort of started as getting out on the land, getting out in the open and just putting up a tent and stuff like that.
PW: I don't know, but I wonder if they first started, I guess was they like in the tents or--.
LH: I really don't know.
PW: Or are they just all wooden, always wooden shacks.
GC: Well I've got to ask Todd some more environment questions, but thank you all for talking to me. What's your name?
PW: He knows all about that. I'm Pam Wilkinson.
PH: Patricia Hovis.
UN3: I'm Pam's mother. I'm Lida's daughter in law.
GC: Right. Right. We've got three generations just all.
PH: She's getting ready to celebrate her ninetieth birthday.
GC: I heard. I heard. That's just great. What are y'all going to do, for your birthday?
LH: Oh, we've already done.
GC: Oh, you've already did it.
PW: And we went to eat.
GC: Oh OK.
PH: We took forty-two for supper at the fish camp tonight.
GC: What fish camp did you go?
PH: Jones' Fish Camp down on Highway 16.
GC: Oh OK. That's another piece of local, that's another local institution is fish camps, isn't it?
PH: I know, yes. Pearl's brothers and sisters are all are up in their eighties except Hazel and what--.
LH: Harvey's seventy-nine now.
PH: OK. They're all in their eighties except two and they're just about ready to hit eighty. And she's the oldest one.
GC: Yeah, you're keeping ahead of them. [laughter] Well thanks for talking to me. Todd.
TE: Yeah, I'm setting here since well these young'ins are, it's going to get loud.
GC: OK. [laughter] Well I'll see y'all later.
GC: Thank you.
TE: You can just grab your stuff and just.
GC: OK. [End Todd Ewing and Family] RECORDING INTERUPTED RECORDING RESUMED [Start Todd Ewing]
TE: It's all basically one big family.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: You can trace the genealogy of most of the people here back to the mid 1700s in this area.
GC: That's interesting. I mean, you know, I come from down around Beatties Ford area in Mecklenburg
TE: Right.
GC: and it's similar, I mean, people to that area just goes back so far.
TE: Yeah that area has a pretty good history too.
GC: Yeah. People are still feuding, feuding about the things they were feuding about, about 1800. You know. [laughter]
TE: Oh yeah, I understand that. Ray Von, the guy you interviewed, he wrote a genealogy of Caldwell plan
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: and of course was a lot of families that go in and out of the genealogy but they've been in this area, easily, since 1750, 1760.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: I've got three lines in my family that are all from about the time period, so.
GC: Wow. Yeah.
TE: [laughter]
GC: I don't know. What?
TE: You could have stayed out there another two hours.
GC: Yeah I know. [laughter] Well we've already answered some of these questions. How long has your family been coming to Balls Creek? Well, I mean what's your impressions of that? The family. Well, I mean you've got three different lines that have been coming here right.
TE: Well--.
GC: When did the meetings start? Eighteen, mid eighteen, mid nineteenth century.
TE: Yes, somewhere, somewhere in the eighteen, mid eighteen hundreds. Like last night there were four generations of my family here in this tent. And, I know, it goes back several generations for my family coming out here and camping so.
GC: Hi.
TE: This is my wife Michelle.
ME (Michelle Ewing): Hello.
GC: Hi Michelle.
TE: She is not from this here neighborhood. You're hearing everybody else--.
GC: You're on, you're on. But you're--, everybody in this tent has been on this recording already. You're in good company.
TE: They've even got Jeremiah and the kids are running in the background slamming the door several times.
ME: That's great. Get something to listen to later.
TE: I joke about my family. Michelle, she's from Ohio. She kids me that I had to marry somebody from out of state just so they wouldn't be a relative. [laughter]
ME: Whenever I first met him, everywhere we'd go, that's my cousin, that's my cousin.
GC: Right, right.
ME: I'll let ya'll talk.
GC: Well I reckon a bunch of people have probably married people who are distant relatives of theirs. Just far enough apart and go ahead.
TE: Yeah, you can go back just three generations and you'll have people marrying other people with the same last name, second first cousins.
GC: Sure, sure.
TE: You want something to drink? You like Sun Drop or anything like that?
GC: Well, are, only if you're having something. Well, just to finish on the camp meeting though.
GC: What is the, what is the value of it to you? I mean, the coming back every year. I know you're out of town now but you plan to keep on coming back right?
TE: Oh yeah.
GC: Is it the people, the place? Is it some combination of those?
TE: The people. I've got three kids out there running around. Just to keep them in the family tradition. I took a week off from work so I could come down here this week. [sound of a can being opened]
GC: Uh-huh. I mean.
TE: It's invaluable. It ties you. Even though I live two and a half hours away, I still have a strong connection to this place.
GC: Right. And I mean I guess one thing I was asking them about but--. As I understand the location of this meeting is tied closely to the local environment and the stream, the spring. Do you think that's true?
TE: Yeah. They had to have a reliable water source. And the spring is, as far as I know, it has been fairly consistent. They have not had a lot of problems with it going dry so. As far as the actual technicalities and how they got the land and who owned it, I couldn't tell you. But it wouldn't be here if it weren't for the spring.
GC: Uh-huh. And it's closely tied to the creek, in name at least.
TE: Yeah.
GC: Doesn't the creek run right back there?
TE: The creek runs several hundred yards. Right here, you can't really tell it. I know you're from the Piedmont so maybe you're used to it. But you're on a ridge line right here. This road--.
GC: No, I'm used to Piedmont ridges.
TE: This road right here is a ridge line. It separates two watersheds. So if you keep going this way, you're going to keep going down hill until you get to Balls Creek. It's that a way.
GC: And what's, what's the watershed over here?
TE: [sigh] That might be--. If you wouldn't have asked me, I could tell you.
GC: Well, we'll come back to that.
TE: Yeah, give me--, ask me that later. That's my nephew.
GC: Hi there. Bye. So, tell me a little bit about the place where the land where you grew up, like in terms of terrain and what you sort of grew up in and around.
TE: The land, I grew up in the same area that Lida and Patricia were just telling you about. We're all on the same road. We're right at the head waters of Balls Creek. That's where it starts.
TE: The land is basically flat. It's all been farmed, plowed field for so many years that there's not a lot of features to the land. It is in a slight swampy area. There's, the only woods around are in swamp. If you go back into any of the wooded areas, there's going to be swamps. That's why they're not farm. But other than that, everything is farm land where I'm from.
GC: So basically if you see, if you see forest that looks like it's been around for a while, that's probably why.
TE: Yep.
GC: 'cause it's a wetland basically.
TE: Oh, and this is my brother and since you're at Chapel Hill, he's a Chapel Hill grad himself.
GC: Hi.
TE: Mark, Gabriel.
GC: Hey, nice to meet you.
TE: Starting to rain.
GC: Yeah, I hear it.
TE: He did his undergrad in Chapel Hill in the late 80s.
GC: OK. OK. And how about the head waters of the creek. What's that, if it's like where the creek is starting up. Is that, is that--?
TE: All farm lands. All fields. In some ways that's really, really good for the area because the fact that it's being farmed right now and it's not being developed. At the same time, I'm an aquatic ecologist by training, and the agriculture also has a pretty negative impact on the stream. You don't see it because it's always been that way. You don't see the condition the stream is now as being changed or degraded because it's always been that way. It's probably been that way for a hundred and fifty years.
GC: But there's never been much in the way of buffer for the, for the water?
TE: No. A few areas have a small buffer area where the trees are fifty, a hundred years old but those are few and far between. You can tell by looking at the stream bed that there's been a lot of, don't want to say poor or unwise land use 'cause nobody knew better at the time.
GC: So you don't think there was any sort of, local knowledge about, you know like controlling runoff and erosion and stuff like that in your field or anything like contouring or anything like that?
TE: That's still not real big in this area to be honest. You'll see some areas now where people leave buffers, but by in large, if you can get to it and plow it, it's going to be cultivated.
GC: And I bet the flood plain was probably desirable because it was probably fertile.
TE: Yeah. In fact, the streams, Balls Creek up where I'm at is very, in size, meaning over time during high flow events the stream has not been able to get into the flood plains so it just gets cut deeper and deeper so there really isn't a flood plain.
GC: It's not really a flood plain. Further down maybe.
TE: Yeah, there are some areas where it still looks pretty good but there's areas I can think of right now where I grew up where the stream bank is over my head height. Which, that's not natural.
GC: Oh wow. [laughter]
TE: And that's because of land use.
GC: Right. Sure. Well there's not buffering there. It's just cutting into the fields. Basically.
TE: Right. Cutting back.
GC: So, I mean, what would you say is the state of Balls Creek now? In your sort of estimation of it's health or the health of the watershed and other things.
TE: That's a really, really good question. I wish I could answer it for you. I've, for lack of a better term, I've piddled with it for a little bit. I've not actually started looking at it to see what the condition of the stream is. There's a student up at Lenoir-Rhyne College who was going to start doing some survey work. This past year I gave him some maps of the area and told them where they could study but I've never heard about what they're doing.
GC: That'd be interesting to find out.
TE: Yeah, just in general for my very unscientific observations, on a one to ten, ten being pristine and one being a sewer, I'd give it about a five, maybe a six. Somewhere in that area.
GC: I mean still, the land use is still pretty diffuse, right. I mean there's not--, are there, there really aren't intense, much intense development
TE: No.
GC: close by the stream part.
TE: Well yeah. When you start seeing a lot of impervious structure in the area: roofs, parking lots; that's when the stream really goes to pot. And that's not been--, that's been the saving grace of this area. Even though it's so heavily cultivated but the fact that there's not a lot of that urbanization in this watershed. The only thing that's safe is hopefully there will be enough people farming it for a while where that doesn't happen.
GC: Do you think that--? I mean I know there's been some small area planning and stuff like that. I mean do you think that there's going to be more control over, over what exactly is put next to the creek, as, as land changes hands or do you think it's gonna not really improve?
TE: No, I don't see it improving. I think the major trend in this area right now is somebody sells of land or sells a farm it becomes a subdivision. And that's--, any of the people cultivating the Balls Creek area sell it'll probably become a subdivision. Nobody's going into farming anymore. Nobody buys two or three hundred acres in this area just to own it. It's either develop or farm. And unfortunately there's not much in farming anymore, so. And I don't see any strong land use regulations protecting the creek. I mean there's some state regulations, but I don't see the county doing anything to increase the requirements for stream or spring protection.
GC: Is there--, so there is a good deal of development pressure? I mean--.
TE: Yeah. A hundred yards up the road from us there's two hundred and fifty three hundred acres for sale. I'm sure in a year that'll either be a trailer park or a subdivision.
GC: Trailer parks. Now tell me about trailer parks. Are there getting to be a lot of trailer parks?
TE: Yeah, this area's a--. It's probably one of the, probably the trailer park capitals of the state. [laughter]
GC: Really? I'm surprised at that.
TE: Yeah. You don't notice because a lot of them are double-wide trailer parks around here so they look like homes.
GC: Uh-huh.
TE: Just up from where I'm at, there's a--, well it's the area where we were talking about out there where there's a lot of people from out of state moving in. It's a manufactured home doublewide area. It's called the old home place or something cute like that, but--.
GC: [laughter] Which, of course, in fact, it's the opposite but--.
TE: Yeah, the thing--, the irony.
GC: Yeah. I love, I love the names of subdivision because they're usually the opposite. [laughter] You know Woody Glenn or something. And it used to be but now it's not. [laughter]
TE: But, yeah this particular area, this small Balls Creek watershed, has been fairly well protected because there are so many farmers still in the area.
GC: So the land use has been pretty stable so far.
TE: Yeah. Yeah. What you do have is like we said out there, it's mostly relatives building in the area but, like I say, you get one big farm--, land owner sell off and that could change quickly in a year. Yeah. Our road has a lot of elderly people on it. One of those will pass it on and a family can't divide up the land then it's going to get sold and it'll be a subdivision or a trailer park.
GC: Well that just brings to mind--, I mean you think that there would--, this is kind ( ). For the sake of the conservancy, I'll ask this question. Do you think that there would be people who would be interested in putting conservation easements on their land?
TE: I don't know.
GC: I mean I'm thinking in particular because you mentioned the thing about inheritance and you can get this estate tax break if you put easement, if you put an easement on a piece of property
TE: Right.
GC: and it'll bring the property value to the point that they'll avoid an estate tax burden. I just don't know people who might want to be holding on to land but financially can't swing it with the interest.
TE: Yeah, that's, that would be hard to answer that question 'cause I guarantee you no one in that area has ever even heard of one.
GC: Heard of one. Right. Public education, in a sense, is the first step. But I mean, I know that at least I've sort of picked up on a good bit of, you know, suspicion about regulation, I mean, which doesn't surprise me at all. I mean what rural area in North Carolina are people into regulation? No where. But I mean the good thing about conservation easements is that they are voluntary. So it's like if someone, or a family wants to do it. I mean that's you know, we've done--, Catawba Land Conversancy's done one property in Catawba County. Just one and that's (Art Viles) over on the South Fork of Catawba River in Maiden.
TE: Right.
GC: I mean 'cause our focus has been on the South Fork just because that was a really bad--.
TE: It's a bad area!
GC: Yeah. It needed some help. [laughter]
TE: And it maybe an exercise in futility but at least somebody's trying.
GC: Yeah. Right. Well we've got fifteen miles of river bank.
TE: That's great.
GC: So, so we're doing pretty well. Just in term, I mean, you know there's inputs that obviously we can't control but we're getting, we're making some progress.
TE: Good deal.
GC: But I mean, you know there maybe, like I say, Paul is talked to Ron Altman our director about possibly doing some stuff up in this area but I'm sort of curious about it.
GC: I mean 'cause it seems like it's a prime area for it in that there's large--, there's folks who still have large holdings and there's a long history in the area which means that people may have strong feelings about their land and their place and not want to loose it but I don't know to what extent that's true or not.
TE: Yeah, I think you'd probably get, you'd have some success finding people like that. If I still owned it I'd probably want to do that but it's purely hypothetical since I don't own it. [laughter]
GC: Right. You don't own it. I know.
TE: My great grandpaw owned several hundred acres in this area and back then it was when you had a kid and they got married, you'd give him twenty or thirty acres.
GC: Right so it just breaks down.
TE: Yeah. It's been broken up. And if you had a doctor's bill, instead of paying the doctor money, you gave him a couple acres of land and so there are a lot of my relatives who own five or ten acres as oppose to one owning six or seven hundred acres, so.
GC: Right.
TE: It would be nice if some of the large farmers would be approached with that, with that idea.
GC: Well maybe I should talk to Ray Von about it and people like that.
TE: Yeah Ray Von--.
GC: I mean he's obviously savvy on the biological front.
TE: Yeah and he, he'd also be good to tell you from the point of view of the farmer 'cause he himself is a pretty good size--, he's a land owner. He owns quite a bit, yeah. So, yeah, he could give you several different perspectives on it I'm sure.
GC: Well I look forward to talking to him about it. So, right, so you grew up at the head of the watershed. I mean what's the soil like. I mean, if it's not flood plain, is it clay? I mean are we talking clay or-?
TE: Yeah, it's a sandy clay and the quality of the soil is poor. It's been farmed.
GC: But it's been worked for a long time.
TE: Yeah it's been worked. There's--, to farm it you have to put a lot into it. You have to really invest in the fertilizers and stuff like that. There's an area right behind my grandparents that's just been farmed so much that broom straw hardly, I mean broom sage could hardly grow on it. Pine's had a hard time growing.
GC: Yeah. [laughter]. So, so you do think that people who are farming are probably putting a good bit of inputs into the soil and stream. I mean fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides.
TE: Yeah, it would be interesting to see, to do a study to see what's actually ending up in the stream.
GC: I think Paul, Paul is put some kind of monitoring setup down at the Murray's Mill pond.
GC: I haven't really talked to him in depth about what he's found. I think he's doing something with school kids on it. Because there has been a lot of nutrient buildup there and you know lily pads going crazy and stuff like that. And he said that some of that had to do with the school. They are I guess a newer school, one of the newer schools.
TE: Yeah. There's a middle school just up the road.
GC: Middle school. Drained in there. I mean, you know, their discharge is directly into Balls Creek, so.
TE: That would be so new, I would think their septic system wouldn't, wouldn't do that. That school's not five years old.
GC: Funny he said he noticed a difference when they started doing it though. So I don't know. I know, you would think that would not be a big issue because they would have modern treatment.
TE: Yeah.
GC: Whatever. So if you were, if you were to describe the Balls Creek area to someone from outside what, what, what do you see as special or distinct about this area, either from a natural or a cultural point of view? I mean, what, what makes it--? And this is personal. I mean, you know, from the perspective of someone who grew up here, what's special about it, makes it different?
TE: For me, and this is something nobody else can appreciate but, it's my area. And like we were telling you out there, what makes it special to me is the fact that you're related to everybody. You're grandpaw or your great grandpaaw or your great great great grandpaw lived there, farmed there, whatever. That's what makes it special to me. There's, you know, from an outside perspective, there's probably not a lot spectacular about this area. I guess a developer would look at it and see a lot of undeveloped land. [laughter] And that would be very nice. You know, it's a very unassuming area. You've got a lot of people living here that's lived here all their life. I guess in a lot of ways we're living in the 1950s here.
GC: You'd say 1950s? Yeah.
TE: The only trouble you hear about in this area you hear about is people from, you know, if there's a robbery or a break in, it's not from anybody local. It's from somebody driving through from Hickory or wherever. You don't have people causing problems in this area. It's 'cause you'd be doing something to your first or second or third cousin.
GC: Right. There's kind of a social pressure not to do that. Right.
TE: If you did something to your cousin, I guess your grandmaw wouldn't be, be on you in a heartbeat. [laughter][bell ringing in background]
GC: What's this bell?
TE: Church is getting ready to start.
GC: OK that's starting. And, oh so are you going over there? OK. But in terms of the landscape, I mean again from your perspective, did you, did you like grow up pretty familiar with it? I mean did you sort of roam around?
TE: Oh yeah. I grew up, I split my time growing up between the other, the southeastern part of the county down around the mountain and this area. Around the mountain was a whole lot more interesting; a lot more topography, a lot more wildlife, a lot more forest. And to me, that was a great area to get out and explore up here. Another wheat field, another soybean field [laughter], which I didn't find compelling growing up, but now I like it.
GC: Yeah. I mean, was there any sort of feature or place or location in this area that was of special importance to you?
TE: The creek itself. If I'm going to do anything, I used to disappear for hours and go out and walk back in the fields and through the few forests left and usually I'd spend ninety percent of that time right around the creek or in the creek. Take my dogs down and play with them in the creek. Do some mucking around, as I call it. Looking for critters in the creek, that sort of thing.
GC: What did you find?
TE: Not a lot. Typical, it's what you would expect in this area for a stream--,
GC: Crawdads?
TE: Yeah, you find a few crayfish, a few salamanders. There's a small fishing area that's typical of headwater streams in this area. It's called a rosasidays. Three inches long, a beautiful little fish. Nobody ever sees them but they're there. Dragonfly larva. A few may flies. That's about it. And that's just because there's so much silt in the stream from the land use. I wouldn't expect to find anything different just you know one glance at the creek tells you're not going to find a whole lot.
GC: Did you find it--? I mean did you feel comfortable going up and down the creek? I mean on the other people's property that's not a big--?
TE: That's not an issue. If you cross a property line, you're going from one relative's to the next. Even the people on the back side of the, if you walk far enough you're going to get off your relative's property. I've always felt comfortable walking in other areas, where I didn't know the people. Walk far enough, you still don't feel like you're going to get arrested for trespassing or somebody's going to come out and shoot you for coming up on their marijuana patch or anything. [laughter]
GC: This isn't the mountains. [laughter]
TE: In other areas I have come across stills and other things but you're not going to find that in this area, I don't think. I haven't found it yet. [laughter]
GC: Yeah, the only steel I heard about was a molasses still. They had, they had some molasses--. Someone was talking about some molasses production down by the creek, a while back in the old days.
TE: I haven't found any of that. There's some rumors about some moonshiners down there around Murray's Mill, but Paul can tell you a lot more about that than I could.
GC: Well I'm sure there must have been some moonshine. I mean where wasn't there moonshine? But I mean, not to an extreme.
TE: Yeah ask Paul about that. He can tell you a lot more about that matter than I can. He's very interested in the old moonshine days around the mill.
GC: [laughter] Takes a personal interest.
TE: You better ask him. I'm not going to say anything.
GC: I'm just kidding. Yeah. Well, so you don't find that over the years people have gotten more protective of property lines or anything like that? Have there been any more sort of property defensiveness building up with like new people coming in and stuff like that?
TE: No, there really hadn't. And I can contrast it to the area I was telling you about earlier where I spent a lot of my childhood. In that area now it's almost all posted signs around there. And you don't see any of that in this area.
GC: What's the difference? More, more influx?
TE: There's a lot more people moving in down there.
GC: I mean it's the lake and stuff.
TE: No, it's near the mountain. It's not really at the lake. It's just it was like this area in a sense that you had several families that owned most of the land and it has been sold off in that area now and you have new buyers and as soon as they buy it they get protective of it. Where as the old land owners don't care. I've not even heard about anybody getting upset about hunting on their property around here. Usually that's one of the first things that people get mad about if they want to get upset with something. And as far as I know, you're pretty much free to walk out and hunt. You may want to do the courtesy of talking to the land owner first but, you know, I've seen people hunting that I didn't know so I'm assuming that they're just walk-ons, as you'd call it.
GC: I mean is there a good bit of hunting in the area?
TE: There's some. I've found some evidence of some people deer hunting before. Me and my dad used to quail hunt the area quite a bit. But with some of the farming practice changes, the quail population has plummeted to where it's not really worth the effort anymore, but deer population and turkey population has exploded in the last two years.
GC: Yeah right.
TE: And so there is quite a bit of deer hunting I'm pretty sure. I've found some evidence and I'm sure there's more than I could see. I've found a couple tree stands. I found where people have cleaned their deer, that sort of thing.
GC: OK. But for the most part, people aren't making money off of hunting for like setting their land up as a game preserve or something like that?
TE: No. Nobody has anything leased out as a hunt club or any of that, so.
GC: That's when you start not being able to walk on
TE: Yeah.
GC: because when someone else is paying to hunt there, then they don't want you there, but you know.
TE: Right.
GC: I've been doing interviews out in the Uwharries and that's really happened over there
TE: Yeah.
GC: you know, you can't go anywhere and hunt 'cause that's how they're making their money off the land at this point.
TE: From what I've heard, as soon as the Carolina Panthers came to Charlotte that's when all that land in that area got real pricey. Because all the Panthers that like to hunt can afford to pay more for the land.
GC: Oh, that's interesting. I hadn't heard that.
TE: Apparently Wesley Walls and a few of the other country boys paid good money for the land in the Uwharries for their hunt clubs, so. I don't know who told me that but it makes sense.
GC: Oh that makes sense. I mean it's interesting pro athletes own land. A lot of folks that, a number of the folks that we deal with in the land conservancy are NASCAR drivers. That's another people, that's another group that can afford some big property tracks.
TE: Just drive around Lake Norman and see evidence of that.
GC: Exactly. Well, I mean it's not far from Lake Norman that we're dealing with.
TE: Right.
GC: I mean, like a driver will come and get a big house on the lake and the fans will figure out where they live and chase them down and then they'll want a place where the fans can't find them which will be fifty acres of, you know, forest and farm land where they'll put their house back in it somewhere. Seclusion is the goal.
TE: ( ).
GC: Yeah really, I know. Now, you find that people in general in the community are spending less time out on the land. I mean, they're farming less, right, so in that way.
TE: I don't know. There's a lot of people in the area who like to ride ATVs now and they'll cross property lines on the ATVs and I can think of four or five relatives in the area that do that and they'll drive all over the area. So--.
GC: So people--, outdoors maybe recreationally?
TE: Yeah, there's not a lot of people--, there's only three or four farmers left in the area, if that many. But you will have the people who use it recreationally. I hike it. Several people, like I said, ride ATVs or motorcycles.
GC: Is that doing much damage or are they pretty sensitive?
TE: No more damage than agriculture. I mean it's already damaged, so. And we've had old road beds in the past so one more road bed's really not going to hurt anything. So, if it were a pristine area I'd say it would be doing some damage, but here it's negligible.
GC: Right. This is kind of a funny question but it's one I like to ask. Are there any particular sounds or smells that you associate with being outdoors in the area because we tend to focus on the visual
TE: Right
GC: in describing the area and so forth?
TE: There's one sound, no smell, but the sound is when the soybeans or the wheat are at full height and you're back there during the breeze and you get that rush of wind. And you get the [whooshing sound]. That's kind of relaxing.
GC: Is that, is that like when they're ripe, when there's actually stuff on the end of the stalk there?
TE: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. That kind of swaying motion. That sounds through the, as the wind goes through and rustles the leaves and.
GC: Soybeans, how high do those grow?
TE: Somewhere about mid-thigh would be a good height. And wheat would get up to waist high so you get some, some good wind sounds through them. But as far as smell I can't think of anything. Well, there are some, there used to be some pigs raised in the area and then you would detect a smell on occasion. But nobody's raised those for a decade or so. That's not really an issue now. That was kind of a--, after a while you didn't even notice it, kind of [laughter]
GC: Yeah, you got used to it.
TE: gratifying to know they're still there. [laughter]
GC: Right.
TE: And there was a chicken farm in the area that had an odor to it but that's not in operation anymore, just the sound of the wind now.
GC: Uh-huh. That's nice, yeah. So tell me a little bit about how you decided to do the work that you're, you're doing now and how you sort of got the track that got you there.
TE: I've al--, my family is all professional educators. My brother, my mom, my dad they've all been in education, so I naturally went into education. But pop was a biology major so he has a masters in biology from Carolina. Taught high school biology for years and he had me reciting the scientific names of the plants around here when I was five, so I've always been a science-oriented person. I went into education. I often self-taught, right out here at Bandys High School I taught high school science. And I used my biology background to get in with the Wildlife Commission. And it's been a natural progression of teaching science education in public schools to teaching science and wildlife education for the state.
GC: And who do you--, I mean who's the audience for you now? I mean who are you working with?
TE: Originally I was teacher educator. We have certain environment programs that we wanted to be utilized in the schools and the best way to do that, since there are only nine of us across the state doing it, we'd train the teachers. I mean we couldn't go into the classrooms and do it ourselves. So we'd put on these workshops and teach the teachers what we wanted, what we thought they should know about the wildlife. Since then I've kind of got promoted. I'm now at an education center and we have kids that come directly to us so. We're supposed to serve the whole western third of the state. We're starting to achieve that goal. And we have several thousand kids a year come to us.
GC: Wow. So, they, they come to the Brevard area?
TE: Uh-huh.
GC: You work with them up there?
TE: Yeah. Obviously most of our kids are from that area but we're getting as far away as Raleigh
GC: Oh wow.
TE: and other areas now. And we have a lot--, we have a visitors' center there too where we also have some general interpretive stations and stuff. And we get about a hundred and fifteen, a hundred and twenty thousand visitors a year for that.
GC: Wow. Wow, that's a lot.
TE: We're getting used.
GC: Yeah. Good. [laughter] Well, do you, I mean did you mind having to move away from--, I mean if you're basically being here except for education?
TE: Yeah, when I first took the job with the Wildlife Commission I covered a district, which is district eight, which is this area, areas west. Basically it's a thin strip of counties in this area from the Tennessee line down to the South Carolina. I know you don't have much time on that thing over there. And they made me move one county away for what reasons I don't know. But after a year of begging they let me, agreed to let me move back, and right when we're getting ready to build a house in this area they made me move to Brevard. [laughter]
GC: Well, I mean, that's not so great. How did, how do you like it up there as compared to up here?
TE: It's got a nice small town feel to it as, as far as the people go it's a very similar community. You've got a lot of old families in the area, people who've been there for a while. Of course you're starting to get a lot of retirees and stuff like that in the area but it's still a very tight knit community. In that sense it's very similar, but in the sense that I'm not related to a third of the county, it's kind of depressing.
GC: [laughter] Right. I mean it's not home, right?
TE: That's exactly the way I tell people when I was explaining it, it's not home. [long pause] It's a good area, but exactly like you said, it's not home. And there are times where I consider going back into the classroom, into the public schools just so I can move back to the area.
GC: Uh-huh. Now did, do you expect to come back if you get the chance? I mean, or further down the road? You probably like the position.
TE: Yeah, eventually I'll get back here. It may be not until I retire, but eventually I'll get back to this area.
GC: Yeah. I mean so, it sounds like your dad raised you with some local knowl--, scientific knowledge to begin with. Is that right?
TE: Yes.
GC: At least species and all that.
TE: Yep. He, he had me. It was pretty much predetermined that I was going to be a biologist. Not because he forced me in that direction, just because I spent so much time with him growing up, it rubbed off from him to me so.
GC: And that, that cultivated your interest in that kind of stuff.
TE: Oh yes. It's funny how that works though because my brother had the same exposure but he went just the opposite. He's a social science person.
GC: Oh really. Yeah. Well, I'm kind of on the borderline.
TE: He majored in political science and history at Carolina so he has no interest in nature or the outdoors or anything.
GC: Well what do you know? I guess it gets past on in some and not in others.
TE: There's one of those psychological theories that say at some point in your adolescence you're going to look at your parents and either totally agree with what they do or totally disagree. And I guess I agreed and he disagreed.
GC: Now did your dad teach at your local school too?
TE: He taught out at Bandys High School, at the local high school.
GC: And you did too.
TE: Yep.
GC: Now did you, when you were teaching there, did you teach--, did the curriculum allow you to do any local based stuff or was it kind of general science? I mean did like you do any field work with the kids or anything?
TE: Yeah. The first year or two I taught general biology, which is more of a, it's a state dictated curriculum. Can't do a lot of localized, personalized stuff, or customized for your area. You can do some. But then I was able to initiate an environmental science class, which, then, I was able to do a whole lot of local stuff.
GC: That's nice.
TE: In fact, since I left it's grown dramatically. You're talking about Paul Beatty doing some school work out there. That's in all been a progression of the class I started. The lady that took it over from me has done wonders with it.
GC: Oh good. Well that's good to hear.
TE: She's done a lot. I wish I could have some of the resources she has at her disposal now.
GC: Well that's good. Is the state providing resources?
TE: Mainly Paul.
GC: Oh right.
TE: The mill. I would have killed for an outdoor classroom, an outdoor study area. Which I was limited to what was on the school grounds. Murray's Mill was not available when I taught out there. Thanks to Paul, they've got a great outdoor classroom now where they can do stream, pond studies, forest studies, whatever. I would have given an eyetooth for that.
GC: Yeah, what a resource. That was great.
TE: I think you're able to do a lot more concrete activities with the kids when you can get them out and see what's in their area. That's a very good option for them now. And they're taking advantage of it.
GC: Would you describe yourself as, as an environmentalist?
TE: [sigh] That's a loaded question.
GC: Well, right.
TE: Yeah. It's a--.
GC: I mean how do you position yourself on that?
TE: I'm probably more on the environmentalist side than all that other. I grew up--.
GC: I mean maybe there's a word that you prefer.
TE: It's I think some environmental groups I don't agree with. Like Greenpeace and some of those organizations I think, for lack of a better word, are idiots. [laughter] But then there's people like the group you're with, the conservancies. Basically any group with the name conservancy is going to be good.
GC: That's sort of a conservationist in a sense.
TE: Yeah, if there was a--, if I had a million dollars, I'd donate seven hundred thousand of it to The Nature Conservancy and groups like that. And that's the way, that's the proper way to do it I think. Protect the land and everything else will fall into place after it. As far as being a strong environmentalist, I don't know if I describe myself that way but I am a conservationist. That's probably a better term for it.
GC: Right. It's just a non--, it's a less confrontational approach. It's more of with people.
TE: I also try--, my formal education was in biology and--.
GC: Now where did you go to school?
TE: Undergrad at UNC Charlotte, graduate school at Appalachian State. And theoretically when you're a biologist or any other type of scientist you're supposed to not place value judgments on things. You're supposed to look at things from a clearly objective--.
GC: Objective.
TE: Objectivity, just the empirical evidence. END TAPE 1, SIDE B START TAPE 2, SIDE A
TE: which that in it's self would rule out the environmentalist, but of course you're human, you're not a machine so you're obviously going to have opinions about what you work with, so. They're not as strong as they may be if I weren't a trained biologist I guess.
GC: But you're also from somewhere. I mean you have, you have feelings about this place that aren't necessarily entirely rational and objective right?
TE: Right. If you're asking my druthers, I'd love to see this area stay like it is. If it, somebody came up to me and said I'm going to make you king of Catawba County, I probably wouldn't zone the area and say, "No you can't do that." I'd like to see it stay that way but I'm not going to say--. You know, it's hard to tell somebody they can't do something with their land. Even though I'd like to see it done, I'm not going to tell 'em they can't do it.
GC: Right. Well if you were king, maybe you could give them money so they wouldn't have to do it. [laughter] Well, do you, do you see any connection between your religious background and your interest in the, in, in doing land, the, the, the environmental education stuff? Is there, or is there any connection with like, you know, interest in nature, natural world? I don't know how strong of a religious background you all had, but I mean you came to the camp meeting and so forth.
TE: Right. Yeah, I grew up a Southern Baptist just like the relatives out there you were talking to. That really hadn't contributed one way or another to it.
GC: Does it contribute in any sense to your feelings about community or, you know like, doing something for the common good or anything like that? The sort of charitable aspect of it.
TE: Not really, no.
GC: Not really. It's just more cultural. It's like your cultural background.
TE: Yeah. I grew up hiking around and spending time in these creeks and finding critters and whatever and I'd like for my kids and my grandkids to be able to do it.
GC: It's more of an independent naturalist kind of bent.
TE: Yep. It really is. I had fun doing it and maybe why shouldn't they have the opportunity to have fun and enjoy it.
GC: Yeah.
TE: My little boy's right now, early education, he's going to be like me. He likes getting out and doing the same things I did as a kid, so. Strong traditional point of view or slant to it, more than anything else.
GC: Yes, yes. Well, I imagine that the whole background places emphasis on the family and on tradition and so forth.
TE: Yeah you won't hear people just come out and say that this is a very traditional area. People don't use the term, but people are proud of the fact that their church is a hundred--Yes you did--People are proud they go to the church that their great grand parents founded and people are proud of the fact that they live in the same house that their great grandparents built and all that stuff.
GC: Yeah really. Heritage.
TE: Yep, roots run deep. It's hard to pull them up.
GC: Yeah right. So, if you were to describe what your home community is what would you name as your home community? I mean what's the term for the place, the community that--?
TE: We call it, it's Balls Creek.
GC: It's Balls Creek. Now it's--, now it's what's Band--, Bandys like how does that name fit into the whole thing. [kids talking in the background]
TE: I'm not a hundred percent sure how the high school out here got it's name. Bandy, OK hold on, Bandy is a family name in the area now. How the high school and this area got it's name, I don't know.
GC: But the community, but if like you pass through the community where the glove factory is and everything that's what you would call Balls Creek?
TE: No, the area I call Balls Creek is just a few miles from here. It's the back towards where the elementary school is, Balls Creek Elementary. There's a road called Little Mountain Road that goes from the elementary school up to Oliver's Crossroads--, not Oliver's Crossroads, Buffalo Shoals Road. And that area is what we call Balls Creek area.
GC: So it's more, it's like an area that the people in it know they're in it.
TE: Yeah.
GC: And outside of that, people would identify it as something else?
TE: Yeah, I've never really asked anybody what they would call their area.
GC: Presumably. It's the area that people call Balls Creek is not the whole Balls Creek watershed then?
TE: No, Balls Creek proper, the stream, the creek starts over here just off Highway 16 and goes all the way to Lake Norman. It flows into the Catawba River just above Lake Norman. If you asked, well to be honest if you asked most of the people in this area where Balls Creek is, even though they've lived here all their lives, they couldn't tell you what the stream was called that flowed right behind their house. They just know that the area they live in is Balls Creek.
GC: I bet they probably figured there was a creek around here somewhere.
TE: But, you know you go to Balls Creek Elementary School and of course as a kindergartener, one of the first things you ask is where is Balls Creek. And I bet there might be one teacher in that school that can tell them where the Balls Creek is. [laughter]
GC: That's funny.
TE: You know I didn't know it until I looked on a USGS quadrangle map a couple years ago where Balls Creek was.
GC: You knew the creek. You knew the name of it?
TE: I knew the creek. Yeah. Right. But I knew I lived in Balls Creek area but there are a lot of creeks around and you just don't know which one is Balls Creek. [laughter] And it just so happened like hey, I lived near Balls Creek.
GC: Well what do you know.
TE: USGS can't be wrong. But yeah, I mean, when you get over on the down side of Murray's Mill, downstream end of Murray's Mill, nobody in that area will tell you they live in Balls Creek. They would tell you they live in Catawba or some other community.
GC: Oh OK.
TE: Balls Creek is a little area right here around the school.
GC: Uh-huh. Now, is this in Balls, is this in it?
TE: Yeah, I'd probably call this Balls Creek.
GC: I mean it's Balls Creek Camp Meeting.
TE: Yeah I'd call this Balls Creek
GC: Is the community with this high school and everything, is that Balls Creek?
TE: No, I wouldn't call that Balls Creek. They may call it Balls Creek, I wouldn't.
GC: So Balls Creek goes this way from here?
TE: Yeah.
GC: OK. Interesting.
TE: You're probably looking at a ten square mile area that people would call Balls Creek.
GC: See now that's the kind of thing you just wouldn't know.
TE: I mean, if you ask ten different people you'll get ten different answers.
GC: Right, but if they probably overlap though.
TE: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
GC: They'd probably be pretty close. The Balls Creek Area.
TE: That may be a dissertation in itself right there. Delineate the boundaries of Balls Creek.
GC: Right, well you have to survey everybody right? And then take some kind of community composite.
TE: Yeah, you'll get some outliers, somebody that lives up in Hickory that thinks they live in Balls Creek. [laughter]
GC: That'll just throw it all off. Yeah. Well yeah, I mean I grew up outside of a town in Green, in South Carolina, Greenwood.
GC: I mean my family is from the Beatties Ford area, but I grew up down there. And we lived in this area that, I don't know, there was the name Phoenix and then there was the name Kirksey and there was you know. And it was this similar kind of fuzzy thing, like who lived where. Kind of these little, little areas.
JE (Jeremiah Ewing): Daddy, Daddy.
TE: Yes Jeremiah.
JE: We need them, that ( ) 'cause we're going to play with the airplane.
TE: Go ask Uncle Mark to bring the fan downstairs.
TE: That's my little boy right there, one of them.
GC: Now, when we are talking about people in the Balls Creek area, do you think that, I mean that people who would identify as being from Balls Creek, are there certain sort of values or yeah like values that people in that community share? Is there, are there, could you generalize those people in that, in that community?
TE: A very strong sense of extended family.
GC: That's really what it is.
TE: Yeah, this area stays together. And it's mainly because if you grow up here you settle down close to your relatives. And that's probably the single biggest characteristic of this area is the extended family concept. There's a pretty good religious undercurrent to it all. But there's not all the same religion. You'll have in one family Southern Baptist, Pentecostals, and Methodist.
GC: Interesting.
TE: But they're all religious. As long as, you know if you don't go to a church people look at your funny but if you go to one of those churches they're like yeah, they're OK.
GC: Yeah, as long as, as long as you're in somewhere, somewhere on Sunday morning.
TE: Yeah.
GC: But do you feel like in a way religion is sort of an extension of family for a lot of people around here? I mean is family the core value and religion is kind of an institution for perpetuating?
TE: They're so closely intertwined it's hard to say which is. Yeah family is probably the stronger of the two and religion is tied to it. But in the churches around here, if you just get right down to, all the churches are just several extended families as well. So, yeah it's, they're very intimately related.
GC: Right sure. Now do you find that, what are sort of the activities that people in the community do together? I mean they come to camp meeting, they go to church. Are there other things like community activities or other things like that?
TE: [laughter] It used to be, you know two generations or last generation everybody was farmers and there would be a lot of cooperation doing the farming.
GC: Like working on harvest or something.
TE: Up until recently my grandpaw would go up and help the local pig farmer slaughter pigs. He wouldn't get payment for it. He would just go up and help him because that's what they always did. They did that until they were too old to do it. That historically has been the big thing. Family dinners are still real big. That's a very frequent thing. We have a Fourth of July family dinner. We have one at Christmas.
GC: Now what does that mean, just extended family?
TE: Yeah, you'll have four generations and you'll probably have fifty or sixty people at the things. It's that way for Fourth of July, it's that way at Christmas. Oh other than that, there's a strong tie to the local schools. 'cause everybody's got relatives. I mean you constantly have some cousin or somebody in one of the local public schools, so there's a strong sense of support for those. People are very proud of Balls Creek Elementary and Bandys High School because they've been here. The elementary school has been here since just after the turn of the century.
GC: Oh wow.
TE: So, people were very upset when they tore down the original building a couple of years ago to redo it. There was a lot of people not really happy about that, so.
GC: Now did people come together for milling? I mean did people take the stuff to mill at Murray's Mill?
TE: Yeah, Murray's was the local mill.
JE: Daddy, can you open this?
TE: And a lot of people also came together for sawmills. There was a couple of sawmills in the area that were kind of for the community. None of them still stand now. The only remnants are some old saw dust piles that you find now but.
GC: Oh yeah.
TE: Yeah so, that was before my time though so I can't tell you a whole lot about all that.
GC: Now's there's a pretty significant industrial, sort of small industrial history in the area isn't there? I mean when you get to the mills and the saw mills and then like lime concrete, something like that.
TE: My family mostly, excuse me, is associated with the textile and furniture industry in the area.
GC: Oh, OK.
TE: In this area once you got off the farm you either went to a textile mill or one of the furniture plants. That's what enabled most of the people around here to get off the farm.
GC: And that's still basically derived from the land right? I mean you get, they're cutting the wood from somewhere and getting the cotton from somewhere.
TE: Right.
GC: But was it local, local inputs do you think, or were they?
TE: I'm sure it started out that way. It probably didn't take too long to deplete the area because there was not a lot. I mean this area has been farmed for a couple hundred years so there weren't a whole lot of other resources to go around. Well the cotton would have been here but as far as lumber for the furniture, that would have had to come from the mountains or somewhere else.
GC: Right.
TE: It was probably--, I think most of the industry in the area is tied to the Catawba River, the electricity that they've been able to generate because of that. If it weren't for the Catawba, we wouldn't have any of the major factories here in the region that you do.
GC: I mean some small operations are actually using the Balls Creek itself, or I mean like Murray's Mill was.
TE: Yeah. You'll have some of that, but Murray's Mill so--, or Balls Creek is such a low graded stream you're not going to be able to generate a whole lot of power off that without some major renovation or construction in the area. The river, the Catawba itself is the main power source as you would expect.
GC: Is there industry in the watershed that's tied to the Catawba now? Like down further toward the river there?
TE: No, in the Balls Creek watershed, in a strict sense of the terms and the watershed proper, there's almost no industry. There's Balls Creek Glove out here, and that's one of the few plants I can think of. And it's not in any way associated with the creek.
GC: Yeah.
TE: And I can't think of any other industry right off the top of my head. Commscope's not, Commoscope may be close, but-.
GC: Yeah, Paul said that was on the border or something.
TE: Yeah, it's yeah, I think it sits right on the ridgeline. I'd have to look at a topo map.
GC: What do they do?
TE: They make coaxial cable.
GC: Oh yeah.
TE: They're not--, it's not because of the creek, it's that they're there. They do need a water supply but it comes from a pond which is fed by a single spring in the area, so. There's really not anything tied to the creek like there may have been three hundred years ago or two hundred years ago or whatever. It's kind of nice. That may be what keeps the creek in fairly pristine shape. [laughter]
GC: Yeah right, right.
TE: I'd like to see some biotic surveys done on that watershed--.
GC: Yeah right.
TE: To see what's actually here. [pause]
GC: Do you think, I know we've talked about your perspective on it, but do you think that people in the area would, would say that they valued the land in the area and if so, in what way?
TE: It's valued in the fact that it's a resource that they can use. You know, farmers look at the land differently than a, from a different perspective than a conservationist would. And most of the people still probably, if they're not farmers, they still have that farm mentality, the land's their ( ), for a purpose to get a tangible service like money or food off of. There, I could be way off base but I don't think there's a big aesthetic appreciation for the land or anything like that.
GC: Anything like sentimental sort of--?
TE: Oh yeah, there's a lot of sentimental attachment to the land but I don't think that would stop people from selling it. [laughter]
GC: It's not that strong.
TE: It's not that strong, you're right.
GC: Right. [laughter]
TE: Like I had a house in the Balls Creek community and when I had to move I had to sell it and nobody in the family rushed to buy it just so it wouldn't be sold to somebody outside the family. I ended up selling it to a friend and not a relative type deal, so.
GC: You feel like people from outside this area, I mean not far, but I mean outside here do they know much about this area? Do they understand the stuff that people who are local understand about the area and the character of the area?
TE: Probably not. It's a very unassuming area. It's nothing, except for the elementary school being there, there's really nothing in the area that people would take notice of, even think twice about. Other than the fact that they might drive through and say, "oh pretty area." [laughter]
GC: What about the, like the historical association in Murray's Mill?
TE: No, it's not much. You learn about in fourth grade and you forget about it three weeks later. And somebody might drive through and see the brown sign that says Murray's Mill and they may ask a local what it is and they say, "oh it's just a mill down there," [laughter] and not be able to tell you much about it.
GC: So it's not real high profile?
TE: No, Murray's Mill has a little day festival once a year and that, some people go out to that have fun but other than that they don't think twice about it, to be honest.
GC: Do you think that as there's more pressure on the area for growth and stuff that that identi--, people are going to, the identity, the self identity of the area's going to build or is it just going to fade out?
TE: I think it'd fade out. If this area become highly developed, you're going to lose that sense of family in the area and it's so intrinsic to the area or to the people of the area that somebody outside is not going to come in with an appreciation of it and it'll fade away.
GC: So you don't think there's enough of a groundswell of, sort of will, community will power to, to sort of build an identity for the community?
TE: No.
GC: Not much.
TE: No. There really isn't.
GC: It's more internal, it's not articulated.
TE: It's just yeah. When you go to these family dinners nobody gets up and makes a speech about the history of the area or the fact that your relatives were here for three hundred years. It's known but it's, nobody makes a big deal of it. It means a lot to each individual person but it doesn't form a rally point for the community.
GC: Interesting.
TE: And it really, it would be interesting to see if it becomes a strong issue. There's really not been anything to press the community to see if they would react to it.
GC: Right, I guess that's what I'm wondering.
TE: You really don't know how people will react until something happens.
GC: Do you think that there's going to be a lot of pressure? I mean you say people are, subdivisions are springing up now.
TE: It, if you see one or two subdivisions pop up in the area and it really changes the quality of life then you'd probably see a lot of pressure on those few land owners left not to sell or to do the easements or whatever, but that's purely hypothetical right now.
GC: Right. Sure. I mean, where are most people, if they're moving in here, where are they working? Hickory?
TE: Uh-huh. Yep. Commscope was a major employer. I think they still have a lot of people move in for that. There's lots of plants in Hickory and people just don't want to live in Hickory so they live down here, so.
GC: It's more of that than Charlotte? I mean Charlotte's far.
TE: Yeah, you don't have--. This isn't like where you're from, Davidson or Beatties Ford
GC: Yeah right, I know. That is all Charlotte.
TE: or even Lincoln County, which is a suburb of Charlotte for the most part now. You still don't have that here yet. I mean it takes an hour to get from here to Charlotte on a good day, so.
GC: I guess Ray Von was an early pioneer but atypical in terms of working in Charlotte.
TE: Yeah, yeah. It's kind of surprised me that he's did that this long. It really has.
GC: It's a long way to go.
TE: You came prepared didn't you?
GC: Yeah. [laughter] Well, I think we've done a pretty good job so far. Sorry to tape so much of it.
TE: That's fine. I just finished my masters. I know what these research projects are like.
GC: I love it actually. I mean this is what I like to do. If I can find an excuse to keep on doing it, I'll do it.
GC: You know, I mean I like to get local perspectives on communities, so forth.
TE: Yeah, if you could place this community in a bottle and not change it for a hundred years that would be great. I don't know if that would happen, but it'd be nice.
GC: I mean do you think that change can bring anything positive? Or is it mostly just going to be a sort of destructive process?
TE: Well, the change I see happening is more and more people and just from my point of view that's always negative. I don't see a lot of positive to it.
GC: I mean is the, is the diversity of the area increasing? Not really. I mean there's a black population that's been around for a long time and a white population.
TE: Yep. And to be honest, the black, areas where the black population are that's been a black population area for a hundred years. It really hadn't grown or expanded. You do have a few Hispanics moving into the area but that's mainly up in the Hickory area, not settling in this part of the county. It really hasn't changed that much.
GC: Yeah. So it's not becoming cosmopolitan?
TE: By no means. [laughter] By no means.
GC: OK. Well good. Thanks Todd. I appreciate it. Anything else you'd like to add?
TE: Not that I can think of. It is hard to diversify when all the people are all related. You're not going to get--.
GC: Right, I know you aren't even diversifying the last names, let alone the demographics.
TE: [laughter] Yes, the old joke goes the family tree doesn't branch at all, so. [laughter]
GC: Right.
TE: Don't include that to your report. [laughter]
GC: Oh that's the quote right there. That's going up there. Alright good. Well I'm--.