Tar Heels Are Everywhere

I mentioned in a previous article that my former boss and I take day trips every other week to various locations in Virginia and beyond. It is really a strange set up we have but it works so we have continued with it for over 6 years. During that time we have pursued such interests as civil war battlegrounds, the Kanawa Canal and probably the most lasting subject, old country stores. We use a book published several years ago by a gentleman in Waynesboro entitled "A Quiet Passing" which contains photographs of over 150 country stores in Virginia taken in the last 25 years. We have adopted as a goal, locating as many of these stores as we can and we are now near the 100 mark.

That being said, I always try to find a UNC angle to each trip we take, searching for a new country store "find." I never know how it might happen or if it will happen and I don't push to bring it about. My van which is appropriately decorated with Carolina blue graphics and the words Tar Heels written in shadow script in three locations gets its share of attention, so it helps in this regard. Sometimes the attention is pro-UNC and sometimes it is playfully anti-UNC. I have never had anyone say or do anything that was mean spirited. Coach Guthridge told me once that someone was going to "key" my van because I had UNC Va. license plates but, for once, I was able to think on my feet and replied to him that "life was full of risks and I would deal with the situation if and when it occurred." I won't comment on what possible hidden indicator was contained in Coach Guthridge's comment as it might relate to coaching but I thought it was a rather strange comment for him to make when all I expected was a positive reaction to the plates. Oh well.

Last week, my boss and I decided that we wanted to try and locate a store in Grassland, Va. near the town of Orange. The author of the book only provides the county the store is/was located in and after that, we are on our own. We usually go first to the County Sheriff's Office and if they can't help, we go to the Country Clerk's Office. It really is interesting dealing with these offices because not only are they the most likely people to recognize a structure in their country, they have, almost without exception, welcomed us and joined forces with us in our attempts to locate one of "their" old country stores. It's almost like a community pride sort of thing. We have located stores still operating that were built as far back as 1790.

Back to Grassland. We were not successful at the Sheriff's Office so we went by the Fire Department, another excellent source of information. As we approached the building I noticed three gentlemen working on a mobile home type vehicle in a lot adjoining the parking lot. I approached them, introduced myself and my traveling companion and asked if they knew where the store in Grassland was located. Immediately one of the gentlemen started rattling off information which told me immediately that we had encountered a gold mine of historical information. He told us exactly where the store was, when it was built, when it closed and even when the small gauge train tracks were removed from in front of the store. I couldn't believe what we were hearing. My friend asked him his name and he gave it and immediately they started some serious "down home" talk regarding mutual acquaintances even though they had never met before. They did what I used to get teased about a lot in the service when I would meet a person from North Carolina for the first time. I would immediately ask them where in North Carolina they were from and eventually I was usually successful in naming a person that the newly met person knew or knew of. My yankee buddies never did understand this. They would ask me why in the world I went through this exercise and I never really tried to explain i. If you understand it, you don't need an explanation and if you don't understand it, a explanation will do no good.

Anyhow, after a few minutes the gentleman asked me where I was from and I said "Richmond" but originally from N.C. He then asked what town in N.C. and I said I was born in Rocky Mount but raised in Raleigh. I couldn't figure out where the conversation was going but I was game to continue.

He then asked if knew the name John Motley Morehead. I couldn't believe what I was hearing but I tried to be cool and said that I was familiar with the name. I then told him that I had attended UNC and then the rest of the story started to unfold.

It turns out that the gentleman was the retired owner and editor of the newspaper in Orange and he said that his two daughters had intended to attend Princeton but he didn't know how he was going to finance their educations at the same time at an institution as expensive as Princeton. He said the cost now at Princeton is $35,000 a year. He then explained that one of his daughters learned of the Morehead scholarships and I finally got the drift of where the conversation was going. He explained that his daughter was successful in getting the Morehead and had attended UNC. He spoke very highly of all things related to UNC and Mr. Morehead and told me of another UNC related fact that involved his Tar Heel daughter. He said that the first night she was in Chapel Hill she attended a dinner given for the Morehead scholars and sat across the table from a male Morehead from Winston-Salem. I had wised up by now and figured this one out before he finished. I asked if I could try and finish the story and he agreed. I speculated that his daughter and that WS Morehead later got married and I was on the money. He said they are now married and living in the D.C. area where he is practicing law with one of the most prestigious law firms in Washington. He said the marriage was delayed for two years because the son-in-law got a Rhodes scholarship and later attended Yale Law School.

By this time, my new friend and I were hitting it off to the dismay of my traveling buddy who teases me good naturedly about being so pro-North Carolina. He doesn't do it maliciously. In fact, he has a great deal of affection for the state of North Carolina and he likes North Carolinians a lot. It just gets his goat when something happens like this that provides me with fodder for arguing that N.C. is superior to the Commonwealth of Virginia or that other Virginians might have admiration for and possible allegiance to N.C. It never gets out of hand but he knew he was in trouble as the conversation with my new friend progressed.

So there you have an example of how I blend my love for UNC with my many other interests and how spontaneously it can occur. Some things can't be pushed. You just have to be prepared for them and if and when they occur, seize the moment.

We found the store, ate a hot dog in the local Dairy Queen ( chilli was 75 cents extra ) and ambled on back to Richmond. It was hot yesterday and I felt for anybody who had to work outside. We were inside with air conditioning and James Taylor on the sound system never sounded better with his "In My Mind I'm Going To Carolina."

I knew and my friend knew that I was playing it in celebration of another Carolina victory.