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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.



Latest Activity

Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
Jun 10
Caroline McIntyre posted events
Apr 29
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8
George Ellison left a comment for Renea Winchester
"luv ya Renea ... Kephart bio finally done after 40 years ... free at last ... free at last... great god almighty ... free a last!"
Apr 5
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake Storytelling at Hendersonville Public Library at Henderson County Public Library - Main Branch

June 13, 2019 from 6pm to 7pm
Join Connie Regan-Blake for a family oriented evening of stories at the Hendersonville Library.See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Please join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” Here are the tellers for our April 6th “Slice of Life” performance.  Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Kyra Freeman, Steve Tate, Alberta Hipps and more! The event is hosted by the …See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive,…See More
Apr 1
Rap Monster posted a blog post

Stealth Hazy - 'Gun Clap'

Stealth Hazy - Gun ClapI got 80 rounds with a beam on it riding dirty I'm smoking chronic top off hear that system pound 808 thats subsonicI double down quadruple upstraight droppin with no cutwilt chamberlain on the reboundand you a fan just starstruckI…See More
Mar 26
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
Sue Diehl shared their event on Facebook
Feb 8
Sue Diehl posted an event

Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion


I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Main Show

The Main Show: a story-poem stage presentation(part of  Living Poem)See video of Act 1, Scene 1: The SettingPrologue Narrator:   Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our…See More
Jan 26
Don Talley posted a discussion

Hollywood Pictures Inc in Fairview

In the 1920's it seemed the whole country was caught up in excitement about films and Hollywood.    Asheville and Western North Carolina were well aware of the hoopla of Hollywood.   In fact, Hollywood (or at least filmmaking) was already beginning to come to Western NC.I recently stumble across an article from the Jun 6 1926 issue of The Asheville Citizen Times which mentions that Hollywood Pictures Inc, was planning to film just south of Asheville, near Fairview.  But....was this really…See More
Jan 23

Here is an excerpt from my soon to be self-published book having to do with WNC culture and heritage: Billy Ray's Chevrolet - and Other Writings and Photographs from a Southern Appalachian Valley.

Billy Ray's Chevrolet

The 1953 Chevrolet truck had been parked in the same place for many years in a yard just past Lower Grassy Branch beside Riceville Road. I had seen it countless times on my trips in and out of the valley. This trip I pulled into the yard and stepped out into snow flurries and a cold February wind. A closer examination of the truck revealed much more of its history than a passing glance allowed. The fenders and running boards were black, while the rest of the body was red, and I wondered how many trucks had come together over the years as one. A bulldog ornament from an old Mack semi stood atop the hood in a frozen leap forward. The aged glass in the driver’s door was cracked, and it was glazed around the edges. The weathered wooden bed bore the marks left behind by payloads long forgotten.

A small brown house stood a few feet away. It looked as if no one was home, except for smoke billowing out of a grey cinder-block chimney. An accordion-style gate was latched at the entrance to the porch. I unlatched it, walked to the front door and knocked. After a few moments I heard the door separate from the weather stripping. My friend Jonathan had told me earlier on the telephone that his uncle Billy—Bill Ray—would answer.

“Mr. Ray?”

“Yes, come in,” said the tall and thin old man, with no hesitation. He seemed pleased to have a visitor.

I introduced myself as I entered. For a moment or two I basked in the waves of wood-stove heat, but quickly it became too warm for me. The stove sat in a nook at the front of the house, a little box of a room with old family photographs encircling it, displayed on shelves mounted to the wall about six feet up. The pictures reached far back into the 20th Century, at least to the 1930s. An electric fan, new by comparison, sat by the stove blowing the hot air into the sitting room.

I remained standing, but Bill sat in one of a pair of chairs that had stout pine frames and arms, and plaid cushions. The walls were yellowy. A walker stood before his chair and a cane leaned against the wall. A small desk averted my eyes for a moment. The incandescent light filtered by old lampshades made the room look like a grainy, faded color photograph.

The reason I stopped by, I explained, was that I’d often seen his truck sitting there and would like to photograph it, if he wouldn’t mind.

He told me I was welcome, said his wife loved that old truck and he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it. She’d passed away eight years earlier.

“I put Christmas lights on it again this year. The neighbors love that,” he said. I wished to myself that I’d seen it.

He told me to stop by and take photographs any time. “If I’m not home, that’s alright,” he said. “Take as many as you want.”

I thanked him and turned toward the door. He gripped the arms of his chair and labored to stand in a way that made me mindful of mobility, age and what I take for granted. Bill had risen to see me out and to check the mail.

“He was late today,” he said.

I told him I’d seen the mail carrier’s white jeep a few curves up Riceville Road just before I stopped.

The arriving mail seemed to be a welcome diversion for Bill. He took his cane from the corner and walked outside with me. I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure meeting him, then approached the truck and began taking the photographs. I noticed him in my viewfinder as he returned from his mailbox. He re-latched his porch gate.

“Thanks again,” I said, pausing and looking up at Bill.

“Any time,” he replied before stepping inside.

His front door made a quiet thud. My Nikon clicked and whirred its way through a roll of film, my last. I climbed in my Honda and began the drive back to town. My car seemed so uninteresting and store-bought compared to the curves, texture and history of the old truck.

Wait, I thought. I should have photographed Bill.

“Maybe next time,” I said to myself as I shifted gears and accelerated around the curves of Riceville Road.

But with a feeling that I was missing an opportunity, I braked and turned around in a dirt drive. It was in a banked curve not far from the big Baptist church, a couple of turns before the straightaway that goes through the little tunnel where the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses. To the left, a developer had made a muddy mess of one of my favorite of the gentle and now disappearing fields overlooking the big mountains to the east. Soon, I imagined, there will be blacktop and mailboxes, square little green lawns and energy-efficient houses with thermal windows that have false panes so they look traditional. Suburban driveways and two-car garages will hold aerodynamic new cars, pickups and SUVs that look like the artists’ renderings of futuristic cars in back issues of the Popular Science magazines my dad subscribed to in the 1960s. Plastic toys will add splashes of synthetic reds, blues and yellows to fenced-in backyards. The future is now.

I began driving back, wondering if the digital camera I had would do the job or if I should first drive back into town for some film for my Nikon. No time.

Back at Bill’s house I retraced my footsteps, walked up to the porch and unlatched its gate. I knocked, and he opened his door to me for the second time.

“I am sorry to disturb you again,” I said, and I asked to photograph him.

“Alright,” he said. He returned to his chair, assuming a rigid posture and a smile. I clicked off four shots. We talked a little more.

Bill had seen so much change in the valley. Houses had sprouted on pastures and ridges the way mushrooms grow on rotting logs.

“Everybody has to live somewhere, I guess,” said Bill. “I liked it the way it was.”

As he spoke I noticed the way he talked, especially with the word ‘was.’ He gave it an ‘ah’ sound instead of ‘uh.’ It is a distinctive and disappearing dialect that traces back to early English settlers.

Before I left, Bill volunteered that he’d been having chemotherapy, that he’d been diagnosed at the VA hospital with cancer of the larynx. Cancer had taken his wife.

The specialist he was seeing in Asheville had given him good progress reports. Bill said the chemo technology must be better today because he hadn’t lost his hair or felt sick or suffered pain like his wife did eight years ago. He recounted his surprise that men outnumbered women in the patient waiting room at his doctor’s office. I said maybe men can’t take stress as well as women, but I thought it sounded anachronistic as I spoke it and I didn’t know what else to say, except to wish him luck beating the disease.

“I just trust in the Lord, whatever his will,” he replied.

Bill dates back to a time when life in the valleys and coves of western North Carolina was different, much simpler and much harder. He grew up dirt poor. He spent his working life moving gravel for the Grove Stone quarry in Swannanoa. He kept more than one old truck running on second-hand parts and the ingenuity that used to be key to survival around here.

The way folks once lived along Riceville Road and throughout the nooks and crannies throughout the Southern Appalachians is slowly fading. New folks and new ways are moving in, along with big new houses, high-speed Internet and satellite television.

The world has become smaller and more accessible. Of Bill’s three daughters, one joined the Navy and married a doctor. Another lives in Colorado. The third married a police officer who went on to serve as Asheville’s chief of police. Fewer and fewer people who live in this valley are natives.

I set out to photograph Bill’s truck because I love old trucks. As it turns out, the truck I captured on film wasn’t about classic Detroit aesthetics or shabby chic. It is a form of inadvertent folk art, I suppose, but that is also beside the point. Bill Ray’s 1953 Chevrolet stands for much more than I had realized. It is a symbol of human dignity and mountain nobility.

Bill Ray died of cancer on March 10, 2005.


Billy Ray’s Chevrolet

Lyric to the song written and recorded by Dave Turner on his album Could Have Talked All Night.


There was a man in the valley, name of Billy Ray.
He had a flat-bed truck, it was a Chevrolet,
Made in 1953.
Billy kept it running half a century.

There was a man at the quarry, name of Billy Ray,
And Billy hauled rock eight hours a day,
Working like a horse, he was a sight to see.
Billy kept working half a century.

The time a met a man named Billy Ray,
Billy was thin, he was old and grey.
He let me take a picture of the ‘53
That Billy kept running half a century.

I hung out some with Billy Ray,
Learned a little bit more about the Chevrolet,
And how living and working used to be.
Billy took me back half a century.

Well, they had a visitation for Billy Ray.
I walked into the room that day,
And by his coffin was a picture of the ‘53
That Billy kept running half a century.


Song © 2007 David Dwight Turner (BMI)

Book Excerpt © 2011 by Dave Turner

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