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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
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Jan 9
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Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
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Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1
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Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

Olive Tilford Dargan, great writer, took refuge in Almond

Literature survived loss for a great mountain writer

by Rob Neufeld

 

            In the late 1930s, children in the Swain County town of Almond saw an old bag lady walking around, muttering to herself.

            The woman was the celebrated playwright, poet, and novelist Olive Tilford Dargan.  The bag contained gifts she gave out to local kids.  The muttering was poems she recited in the act of composition.

            Perhaps one of the poems she was turning in her head was “Annie’s Garden,” which appeared in “The Spotted Hawk” years later.  It expressed the solace Dargan had taken in her West Asheville refuge, Bluebonnet Lodge (located at the end of Balsam Avenue, since razed) before having to leave it for a while because of dark clouds of suspicion.

 

The rain it raineth every day

From skies of wrath and rue,

But I’ve a garden where I play

Whatever skies may do.

 

            While living in West Asheville, Dargan had published the novel “Call Home the Heart,” and its sequel, “A Stone Came Rolling,” in which the author had followed her beloved mountain characters to the mills in Gastonia, wrote about it, and gotten labeled a proletarian writer.

            She used a pseudonym, Fielding Burke, but a New York reviewer blabbed her identity.

            The folks in Almond saw Dargan as a person, and not as a public figure.  They loved her short stories about them, published first as “Highland Annals” and republished with Bayard Wootten photos as “From my Highest Hill.”

            “Nobody knew anything about it and no one cared,” Almond resident Sylvia Latshaw recollected about Dargan’s blacklisting.  “We weren’t even reading the daily papers.  We don’t get them out there.  And we didn’t have time to read them if we did.  There she (Dargan) stayed until the hue and cry died down.”

            Eventually, Dargan returned to Bluebonnet Lodge.   She lived there for thirty more years, dying in 1968 at age ninety-nine.

            In 1944, Dargan sold her Almond land, and loggers stripped it of trees.   At the same time, the Tennessee Valley Authority was flooding much of low-lying Almond to construct Fontana Dam.

            At age 87, Dargan published two more books, including the award-winning volume, “The Spotted Hawk.”

            In her last years, Dargan sold a couple her Bluebonnet House with the stipulation that she could continue to live on the top floor.  Though she willed her papers and library to the University of Kentucky at Lexington, her native home, her death was followed by the accidental disposal of her material.

            Dargan is buried in Green Hills Cemetery in West Asheville.  A state highway historical marker was erected in front of the West Asheville Library in 2000.

            Her legacy is her published work.  One poem in “The Spotted Hawk,” titled, “Vain Rescue,” imagines her death amid woodland wonders:

 

But rising now no inner fires outflow,

No gleam around me save a pale moon’s haze.

I know a wood of beech and birch and snow

That waits my step.  And come the June-warm days,

Where two brooks wed I’ll find a lulling seat,

And stir white pebbles with my slow, bare feet.

 

BOX

A thirty-page account of Dargan’s life and career by Neufeld appeared in “May We All Remember Well, Vol. II,” with twenty photographs.

 

PHOTO CAPTION

Olive Tilford Dargan’s grave in Green Hills Cemetery

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Rob --As a native of Swain County, I've always been fascinated by Olive Tilford Dargan.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about this unusual woman--local folks described her, accurately, as "quair"--was the manner in which she managed to become close with folks living in the Round Top area.  Her political and social views were in many ways about as far removed from those of the local folks as one could imagine, yet she got on quite well with her neighbors.  I've got a world of Dargan lore stored away in my feeble mind and have writte about her a bit, but sharing one anecdote will give a good indication of her scatterbrained nature.  It was passed on to me by my good fishing buddy, Marty Maxwell, who is also a fine source of Graham County history and lore as well as an authority on Horace Kephart.  His mother grew up at Almond and knew Dargan quite well.

One morning Dargan stopped by the house where Maxwell's mother lived (this was when she was a child and long before she married) and asked if the young girl wanted to go to town (Bryson City) with her.  Amazingly, she was adamant about not wanting to go, never mind that a trip to town was usually considered a great treat.  Finally her mother took her in another room and asked her what in the world was wrong with her.  "Momma," the young girl said, "I don't want to go with her because she has her dress on backwards."  Such was indeed the case.

On a different note, Rob, thanks for sharing my tribute to Dad.  His 101 years were full and for the most part joyful ones, and except for the first five of them (he was born in Clay County) and two short spates of work away from the mountains before he married, he spent all of them in Swain County.  That included a boyhood growing up truly "back of beyond" in what is now the Park.

Jim Casada 

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