Brown ribbon, its shiny surface spinning, a neon crimson bead the size of an insect eye

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supposed to be able to turn around and see her somewhere.
“A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:

It was an Abyssianian maid

And on her dulcimer she played.”

Got the poet Blake right at least. “It shows the relationship of experience and
innocence in a light that the reader can see the troubles of love, mortal and divine, and
how reality and fantasy are both examples in which man works out his follies.” You can
only spread crap so far and so thin before there is the foul stench of bad writing and lies.
Burns' “To A Mouse” - But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
My turn - “The similarities between men and mice go far beyond mere comparison. The
strife, fear and hard work of the mouse invested in his “house” can be destroyed easily just
as the schemes of men can.” Boy, you learn about this in journalism like hell.
Snorts of heroin and several beers and joints later, I'm listening to Lew Soloff, the
trumpet player from Blood, Sweat & Tears, down at the music building that night.
Summer 1973: Blurred gases rise from the shiny railroad track. Water's pouring down
my face, and it's 101. I'm halfway between Laurinburg and Wagram on a tamping machine
with hydraulic arms, leveling the track. It's a loud machine. It was a loud machine.
Moments before the train struck the tamper I leaped into a bank of briars in a ditch, and
the black guys on my crew always kidded me that I grabbed my lunch pail before exiting
the driver's seat. It was a lack of communication. A six-pack later I called my parents at
the beach and told them. That was one of about 10 occasions when I took our station
wagon out to Turnpike Road, which meandered into Hoke County near the Fort Bragg
Reserve and buried the needle. Driving at 100 mph was a rush. Once after shuttling across
the railroad track on Turnpike Road, I glanced in the rear view window of the station
wagon and saw what seemed like a solid blur of railroad cars rushing by, and I had to pull
off the road to catch my breath. It was the closest to death I ever came.


“The Crapalachian” was the name of the April 1 issue of the Appalachian State
University student newspaper every year. I started hanging out in the paper’s office
around 1977. My first article was about two guys who cooked at a restaurant.
The second story was “Good service would suffice: Neon-mania afflicts 321.” When I
saw it hanging on the bulletin board of the English building’s hallway one day, I realized
the first rush of pride in seeing your work on display, and it dawned on me what a
tremendous responsibility it was to write for a newspaper.
U.S. Highway 321 burrows its way through the south end of Boone and leads directly
to ASU. Along this road are at least 200 billboards and signs set there for the purpose of
advertisement. Some are electric, some are neon-lighted and too few are portable.
Why are such commercial slurs along the roadside necessary? For money and
competition, most establishments' owners say. Patronization is the number one reason that
businesses give. Colors, strobes, images and words are supposed to catch the eyes of
passing drivers to lure them inside. But does it work?
Food service outlets could advertise more effectively with the compelling odor of food
rather than a bright sign. Gas stations these days need only display an agreeable octane
price outside instead of flashing corporate insignia.
Residents of Boone desire only good service and reasonable prices instead of
commercial lingo on billboards. Not many people just zip into a building to purchase only
because the sign outside is “out-of-sight.” Word-of-mouth is the most effective
advertisement which stems from plain good service.
The cost of electricity and the construction of most large electric signs is enormous.
Such signs as the Holiday Inn, Lowe's and Greene's Motel cost companies a good deal of
money to manufacture. Lights in most electric signs stay on up to 14 hours during the
winter months at all-night businesses.
Non-electric signs are an alternative to the neon signs. They are not as much of a
driving hazard and distraction at night. Also, they do not rob the pleasure of evening
beauty from the Boone skyline, known for its “mountain moonlight,” in the twilight hours.
Just go to the top of Howard's Knob one clear night at dusk and you can see what a
mesmerizing mess the busy twinkling lights on 321 make.
Alas! Another country setting in its serene mountain cove has succumbed to the
tempting lure of those city lights. It won't be the first or last time that nature has been
raped by the greed and relentlessness of man.
Look around Boone today and view the green matting of trees against the blue sky.
Look outside as the sun sets. Now look at this next word and think about your response.
MONEY. Which is more beautiful?
The average American citizen is in contact with at least 500 commercial
advertisements every single day. With this amount of psychological manipulation going
on, there is opportunity for subversion. Don't let someone else manage your mind.”
After three beers, the pain eased somewhat, enough to allow me to sneak in a
long-distance call to a friend in Room 305 of Eggars Dorm behind Faculty Hill. There was
a long rope attached to a tree on a mountainside behind the dorm in the woods, and we’d
party back there and swing like apes. I’d get lonesome at college, even though several
high school pals had come 200 miles from Laurinburg with me to escape the Piedmont, so
after college I’d punch up an old friend and treat them to after-midnight conferences to
reward them for non-compliance in the friendship game.
We had drug dealers in our dorm, no more or no less than in the other dorms, and they
were doing their best to keep our college’s reputation as a chemical refuge protected. One
guy, Ron Lipe, was a big Grateful Dead fan, probably not the biggest, but in 1974 I had
never heard much of the band, and the fact that this fellow from Lenior, N.C. 25 miles
away had a skeleton in his room kept us aware of the band’s influence.
“Can you feel it yet?”
“Not yet. Oh...wait a minute....”
The snort had erased the brown pile of powder in my hand, and a Hardee’s straw had
never been more helpful. We called it “T,” but there must have been heroin in the chemical
that made the rounds in the dorms. The feeling immobilized me, making me stumble into
the hallway wall. I could see how someone would become addicted quickly. The dorm
rooms were heated by steam, piped in from underground tunnels, and they became quite
chilly if you kept it as cold as Ron did in his room. A pile of wadded pieces of paper filled
the trashcan which I spat into, cursing mid-terms.
“That’s mighty fine stuff.”
Our rooms smelled of the stench of stiff, hard socks, week-old stained underwear and
jasmine incense. The RA would pull his hair out when he’d knock on doors at 10, and
under door was a wet towel. I still sit down to take a shower, and our bathroom shower
stall would have a row of chairs, which everyone kidded me over.
On Thursday, Oct. 26, 1978 in The Appalachian: “Today's apathy contrasts with
ASTC's energetic spirit of past” was the headline. I wrote about the woman who brought
me into the world.
“As the years rush by, change affects everyone and everything. The current changing
times at ASU left its mark on the lives of two people. One teaches school now, and the
other still attends classes here. Uniquely enough, they both carry the same name.
Beatrice Sanford Bullard, “Bee,” became an elementary school teacher in Laurinburg,
N.C. She and her husband Bill reared their oldest child, Tim, and two other sons, Gray and
Dan. Mrs. Bullard attended Appalachian State Teacher's College where she majored in
education. She trudged through the grind of student teaching in Gastonia after which she
returned home to Laurinburg to teach fourth and fifth grade students at Covington Street
In the Scotland County School System, she was transferred to North Laurinburg
School and finally to I. Ellis Johnson School. There, she presently works as an ESEA
reading instructor.
In 1949, Miss Sanford enrolled at ASTC at a time when many veterans returned to
academics after the war. Lifestyles emerged then which were as outrageous as the world's
fashions. Women wore longer skirts, men sported team sweaters and the administration
carried a bigger stick.
Mrs. Bullard reports, “Girls had to be in by 8 p.m. Freshmen could only go to the
movies once a week only if they had a C average. Women and men had to get permission
from home to even ride in an automobile. Most of us rode the bus home though.
If a student provoked enough friction, he or she would probably receive “shipping
papers.” One could be shipped for drinking, smoking or other serious offenses.
Mrs. Bullard served as an officer in the Venetian Literary Society which was the only
real sorority on campus. The Venetians tapped young Christian women for membership.
She also joined the Future Teachers of America.
Students received a chance to don those ragged blue jeans as Homecoming week rolled
around. Excitement brewed all week long as Mrs. Bullard and her classmates worked on
decorative floats for the parade. The climax of week-long activities was the Homecoming
dance. The old gym would roar as the high-stepping of shy girls dancing with their dates
complimented the “jitterbug” beat of the dance band.
Homecoming festivities at ASU in 1978 seem outrageous in contrast to the fifties'
celebrations. The generation that holds Tim Bullard in its embrace however calls for
revelry of contrariety.
Mrs. Bullard's son, Tim, an English major, wishes to become a journalist.
“My freshman year probably turned out to be the most exciting and innocent,” he says.
“America played for the concert at Homecoming and several great parties cropped up.
(Elvin Bishop was great, plus Gregg Allman. My first concert was Elton John after “Jesus
Christ Superstar) New friendships flourished during that first Fall spent in Boone which
were very memorable.”
Tim declares, “Apathy has plagued ASU for some time now. Homecoming is not as
vibrant. Men and women do as they please and do not seem to care as much about
anything.” Old friends from all parts of the state will make a trek back to old ASU to try
to rejuvenate feelings from years past.
Fewer rules regulate moral codes, personal tastes and universal attitudes. Possibly the
current apathy at ASU on Homecoming weekend drives the caravans of “suitcase
students” home. “A person experiences the strong spirit of Appalachia at ASU from the
fall weather, colored leaves and priceless friendships that can never be erased. That kind of
spirit flows from students of any year, from any alma mater,” Tim says.
Mrs. Bullard, along with other alumni, will recapture the past this weekend at their
25th class reunion at ASU. Tim plans to celebrate Homecoming with his girlfriend and old
cronies after he gets off work. The family will get together, go out and commemorate the
time-honored reunion at Homecoming. This weekend is a special time for young and old
to unite and say “thanks for the memories.”
Hopefully, Homecoming will grow into a memorable season for you also.
“Hang gliders fly in championship” - The Appalachian, Thursday, Sept. 28, 1978.
“To fly, one of Man's highest forms of celestial fantasy, has become a reality for 27
contestants in the 1978 Masters of Hang Gliding Championship at Grandfather Mountain.
Never has Avery County seen so many featherless aerialists.
“Since last Thursday, over 3,500 spectators have gathered to witness one of the most
breathtaking hobbies ever attempted. Hang gliding is a sport marveled at. There is
definitely something in a person that makes him jump off a cliff three miles high.
“Hang gliding has been around for a long time. One of the most famous pioneers was a
German named Otto Lilienthal. Back in the 1800s, he was sure that flight was feasible and
worthy of trial. In 1896, he fell 100 feet to his death. His pre-flight last words were:
“There must be sacrifices.”
“The first N.C. hang gliding death occurred Tuesday on Jockey's Ridge when 33-year-
old James Richard Spencer of Durham crashed into a cliff at Manteo. He was and
instructor and a friend of John Harriss, the Meet Director of this year's third annual
“The statistics in hang gliding casualties prove that this risky sport is very dangerous.
In 1977, over 49 people were killed in glider-related deaths.
“No one can even go on top of Grandfather with glider equipment without being
identified as a professional pilot.
“Upon takeoff from a wood plank platform, the pilot drives into the vast, windy, gulf
of air. He is, of course, secure in his harness and timed by a clock. The glider and its
operator streak across the blue background giving the appearance of a bird soaring.
Limited movement and mechanical devices, however, do not strip the pilot of his total
freedom of the air. In 1948 Francis Rogallo, with NASA, designed the patented foldable
wing flyer from which most hang gliders evolved.
Tom Peghiny, a 22-year-old native of Newton, Mass., is the defending champion of the
Masters. With nine years of experience, he says, “The Grandfather Mountain Masters
offers you a great field of the skilled flyers in the world. It's a pretty professional run
Peghiny and his Sports Sirocco II failed to make the finals.
Another flyer who missed the finals was 23-year-old Rob Kells from Santa Anna,
California. Kells said of his first flight here at the Masters, “It went O.K. It's a pretty area
and I sure don't miss the 107-degree temperatures back home. “The pilots follow a path
across pylon lines at Cliffside and at the lake dam. The goal is to achieve minimum flight
time, execute a number of 360 degree turns enroute to the lake and land on an area the
size of a Frisbee. One flyer got above 2,000 feet after takeoff Monday in a sheer line.
Another was photographed, of course, landing in the pond.
Mark never would make too many changes in my copy at The Appalachian. Then there
was the time we were in an elevator in the Communications Department building where
WASU was located, riding with a celebrity who was here for an art department weekend
with artist Bill Dunlap, who later went to Washington, D.C. Kentucky Gentleman bottle in
hand, Bill Murray played softball with us the next day.
“What’s that on your jacket?” he asked me. Mark looked at me puzzled. Murray was
fiddling with my lapel. As his finger thumped my nose the second time, he acted
disappointed over my stupidity. He sang a perfect version of “Star Wars” on the air. Mark
and I kept the photographs a girl took of us with Murray on the ASU softball field that
day. I lost mine during my Perksinville eviction, and Mark never could find his.

The grief that you get from living in the South is enough to make you sick.

Guilt and anger couldn't be smoothed over with as much hospitality any better than
right down here. The best thing to do would be to move, but I imagined that moving to
New York would be like starting to go out with a girl that you knew would smother
you and screw your best friend at first chance.
The suburban gang I hung out with had ushered me into the outskirts of Laurinburg,
N.C. in style. This greeting calmed my fears of moving with my family so far away across
Midnight prowls were awesome on those sultry summer nights in 1970 as we stalked
the neighborhoods under the bug-filled street lights. Intelligent input and musical integrity
were our mottos. We peeped in windows, and one night we pasted candles on a square
piece of cardboard and attached strings to the corners, tying them to the ends of a
cellophane bag from One Hour Martinizing. The hot air inflated the bag, and our craft rose
hundreds of feet into that July air until an orange glow burst in the sky, sending sparkling
fragments falling halfway to the ground. During the day, I'd spend around four hours
bashing in my friends' heads at football practice for junior high school and practice
trombone when I got the chance.
About the only thing that could boost this 15-year-old's morale besides Latin and math
homework would be to soak up the Boy Scout meetings, Baptist Church stuff and stiff
collar functions.
Getting mature began to suck right after I found out that 15 wasn't the worst age to
pass through. While I was walking through the smelly junior high hall one day I passed
Elliot. He played trombone right beside me in our glorious slide section in band.
“If I don't see you again, Tim, God bless you,” he said as he usually did in his Red
Skelton mimic.
My kindergarten buddy Mac called my mamma and daddy's house one night later
while I was doing my homework. Mamma had finished teaching school and washing
supper dishes, and daddy was watching the network news. Mac simply said, “Elliot's
dead.” I had known Mac since kindergarten, and I just knew he wouldn't like about this. I
cried for a few and decided then that I'd raise the hell that my friend wouldn't be able to.
From then on I went through high school playing other people's petty games. I learned
how to drink like hell and how you're supposed to fornicate.
Well, durn I did right up until I messed myself into college too. It didn't take two years
for Appalachian State University to bite my head off, chew it a little and spit me back in a
whirlwind of computer reports. The only difference in 1974 was that when I went up into
the N.C. mountains to Boone, the establishment that I hated so much had already stamped
“FAILURE” on my ticket.
I did learn how to ski and find out how to do quality drugs at ASU, however. My hall
buddies and I would truck eight miles through snow and ice in the winter to hustle a beer
and check out country-rock bands at a pub called P.B. Scott's. English was the only
department that I could manage to make my A's in, so I stuck with the honors program
and flunked the crap out of everything else.
Behind the dorm one night I camped out by myself on a wooded hill and tripped my ass
off on a two-way hit of orange microdot. A wolf slyly sneaked up from behind and bit my
nose as I jumped up in a cold sweat. I reached for my mustache, and my nose was the
size of a grapefruit. For my first and only tangle with acid I found out that things were
beginning to get just as weird in my life also.
Four months later I got the flu, dropped out of school and ended up having to spend
eight weeks in the Sandhills Mental Health In-Patient Unit in Pinehurst. It was the most
frightening but entertaining experience I'd had since leaving home for camp for the first
Seeing the nation celebrate its 200th birthday from a hospital T.V. room was
depressing. It was a most educational bicentennial breakdown though; kind of like
sleeping through Christmas Day. Psychiatry and journalism are two professions that seem
to bestow a strong dose of pride and a nerve-racking deadline.
I made some dear friends before I left that womb.
Working in steamy textile and industrial factories booted enough courage into me to
move out of my folks' home back to my Blue Ridge base. Wouldn't it feel so good to write
on my own without a bloody diploma?
Mark, my editor at the ASU newspaper, gave me enough confidence to break loose. I
couldn't get a job hitchhiking and with a pierced ear, for sure. Sometimes I wonder what
kind of beast I have become at 25 by becoming a news reporter at the Boone newspaper.
James Dickey said that a writer's biggest threat is drinking and suicide. I think that
antiquity and change has threatened me and my generation the most.
I'm using the pressurized air canister to spray a jet of cold canned air in a successful
effort at jettisoning the ant on my scrapbook off the table.
Ernie had just died. Ernie worked at the Watauga Democrat newspaper, and everyone
would be at his funeral over the weekend - except me. Seven tiny ants crawl out of my
terminal as I remembered Ernie's everlasting quote to me before he referred me to my
landlord on Clint Norris Road: “Fly straight, now Tim.” I was late on the rent all the time.
No overnight pussy.
Crackling with inter-county and bleedover radio transmissions from beyond the Blue
Ridge, the scanner on the file cabinet chirped, low on batteries because I had forgotten to
recharge them the night before. Having plugged the recharging plug into the wrong hole in
the unit, it just played without recharging and turning off without juice.
“10-22 that ... (indistinguishable)... off U.S. 321...”
Barney, the friendly constable, a local police beat cop, stuck his head in to say hello,
but I ignored him as the office kidded with him.
“Officer down...prisoners sighted off .... (crackling) meztirbat sinzkinling.... shotgun
They had them pinned in. A few days before at the Watauga County Jail two or three
prisoners had played a trick on a jailer who was overcome in a daring escape from the
cellblock where they were being held. Two men and a woman had been on the run,
breaking into mountain retreats, local residences and other lairs to hide from the law.
“Tell Terry to meet me out there!”
“Which way ya heading?” Tim asked.
“I'll be going out 321 toward the Tennessee state line, but I don't know where after
“Remember the scanner! How are you going to cash your....”
Gunning the Comet, it got the first legal wheel in its illustrious career as a journalism
buggymobile. On my desk was my notebook and pen, so I turned the radio up full blast
and rolled the window down as my incisors nibbled on the wood and chips of black chalky
lead splintered on my tongue in the search for a point.
Before I reached the summit of U.S. 321 Business at the city limits, the blue lights
twinkled down the long hill John and I used to coast down on the way back from the bars
in Blowing Rock, cutting off the motor and seeing how badly we could undercut the last
record for longest coast toward our place in Vilas. It was the fastest my car had ever taken
me down this road, which ices up in the winter so badly, traveling from hilltop to
valleyfloor can sometimes take 30-45 minutes in the intestines of a snow and ice storm.
“A deputy has been shot in the face,” the female dispatcher said.
Faces flashed through my mind like a personnel Rolodex. Who was it? Would they
Bottoming out was a rush as rhododendrons rushed by in a green stream. At the Vilas
store one has to slow down to 45 to make the turn safely without jeopardy and the

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