Advantages and disadvantages of the I-26 highway running through Madison County
In this excerpt, Parker speaks broadly about the advantages and disadvantages of the I-26 highway running through Madison County. He thinks that it will accelerate the dissolution of the county's rural community, but is not sure whether or not that is a bad thing.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
ROB AMBERG:What was your sense about the new highway-about I-26-and what that was going to mean for the county. How did that strike you?
SAM PARKER:I had the same feeling, Rob, after I'd gone to work for Wolf Laurel. We had been there probably a year, year and a half. Nothing much happening at all. Oh, you'd build a house occasionally, but it was a kindred spirit. They'd invite you in, you'd stay with them. We had some people from Kingsport, where Bud was from. Wonderful people, who built fairly expensive housing in Wolf Laurel early on just to get Bud kind of started. But they were kindred spirit type of folks. Interested in the country, not living here permanently. But you got the same kind of feeling when you saw the thing commence to take hold. When you saw more people coming in. When you saw water lines going in. When you saw roads being paved. When you saw lots beginning to sell. You had the same kind of feeling that you were losing something here. You were gaining something, there's no question. But you were losing that natural-[Pause.]-I'd guess you'd call it soma, almost, of being out maybe in 200 acres and not another human around. Now, a lot of people can't handle that, but by gosh, a lot of people can. And it's a cleansing kind of thing, with a soma that somehow nature-and you felt it leaving. You felt it going, and you could see it. Now, there are those who say, "Hey, that's what it should be. We should be in this process." And maybe there's no stopping; maybe there's nothing we can do about this. But yeah, you can feel it going. I could feel the same thing. When I go down and see the high bridge, I've got the same feeling. I used to know Jack Jenkins there very well. I used to go in and eat at Edna's. I used to know Edna's husband. I knew all the stories of Edna's husband. Shelby-just a wonderful guy. But I know all the stories on him and what he's done and what he hadn't done. I knew Edna back thirty years ago, when "Edna's" was a four-star restaurant. Shelby grew the stuff, raised the hogs, did that. She cooked it. Just four-star! And you see the high bridge now, and you think people will go over the high bridge and "Hey, it's the high bridge." Again, it's that filtering process. It's thinner and thinner as you go away from it. And the same thing with the highways. Certainly there are advantages to the highway. There are disadvantages. But if you're looking for that bucolia. If you're looking for that dense woods feeling. If you're looking for that "back to the earth" independence kind of thing, certainly it's on the way out. Now, it may take some time to do that, but it's out. It's got its advantages and disadvantages.
ROB AMBERG:Yeah, and the highway by itself is not the cause of those things.
ROB AMBERG:I think it certainly will accelerate the problem.
SAM PARKER:[Pause.]. I really don't know. I don't have anything bad to say about the highway. I suspect it's probably there whether we like it or whether we don't. What I do hate to see, though-it essentially funnels what little we have left of what I really enjoyed about the county. It put those people into a different medium-into a different place-so that they bring back more change than they take out. They bring back things that I think help accelerate the loss of that innate mountain society. And that's good or bad? Lord, I don't know.
ROB AMBERG:Yeah, I'm not sure either. I had a sense, too, of-again, I've been here twenty-eight years. Not quite as long as you have, but there was a different-the people who were moving in here twenty-eight, twenty-five, even twenty years ago-there was a different sense of who they were. Thirty years ago, you really had to want to live here. You really had to be willing to plug into at least some of those-.
SAM PARKER:Yeah, I don't think you would have made it, Rob, had you not plugged into it. I don't think you would have made it very well had you not plugged into the old time. That made that spirit strong. You know what I mean? It was as if the second generation from the real "no electricity, down to earth" folks-that second generation hadn't filtered out enough. They still couldn't remember what you were doing. There was some sort of respect for that, that you weren't in trying to make major changes. And I don't think they wanted to be at that point in time. I think there was some respect for that, and help those that came in to make it. We had a lot of help from locals. "Hey, let me show you how to do that."
ROB AMBERG:Right. Let me show you what wood to cut.
SAM PARKER:"Now, don't cut that; that won't burn. You couldn't light that. Don't cut that water oak!"
ROB AMBERG:Black gum. [Laughs.].
SAM PARKER:Black gum won't split. I've got a big black gum by my place as you start in, and Van said, "Let me tell you what's very good for that tree right there." And I said, "What is it?" He said, "Take a limb about the size of a grapefruit." And he said, "If you cut off sections of that limb and drill a hole in it," he said, "it'll make the best wagon-wheels you've ever had!" You know, for a kid's wagon? It won't split!