Pickin’ and playing on the porch as old as this Western North Carolina county
Note: This is the first installment in “The Hillbilly Highway, Volume 2: Seeds, Songs and Streams.” I’m beginning as about to close as home as I can get – a neighbor of our daughter. Caldwell County is full of fascinating people and wondrous beauty, so many of our first installments will be from here, but I’m working my way up to at least the Mason-Dixon line over the next few weeks and months. Learn more here.
By Michel M. Barrick
LENOIR, N.C. – Since the first European pioneers explored the Yadkin Valley and settled Tucker’s Barn – our modern day Lenoir – music has been central to our heritage.
Above, my buddy Andrew Massey takes a few minutes to pick on his guitar on his back deck. Constantly writing, he played two new tunes. Pickin’ and singing on your porch is nothing new in Lenoir or anywhere in Caldwell County. It’s a way of life. Musicians thrive off of each other and the heritage is continued!
It’s always a joy to enjoy the creative offerings of Andrew and his many friends. Indeed, he is part of Sycamore Bones, a local band that plays regionally and played an electrifying set in the 19th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase.
One thing I concluded for certain from listening to Andrew offer his latest creations on an unseasonably warm and beautifully sunny February afternoon – the arts community truly is the shining light of Lenoir. Lenoir, in turn, continues to play a vital role in the preservation of traditional Appalachian music. It is a must stop along the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. If interested, learn more here.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018.
Holding on to one another is essential along the Hillbilly Highway
Note: Though originally published as a stand-alone essay, I am re-posting it as the third installment from “The Hillbilly Highway, Volume 2: Seeds, Songs and Streams.” Learn more here.
By Michael M. Barrick
LENOIR, N.C. – On June 20, 1952, Minetta Flint married William Barrick in Morgantown, W.Va. A year later, on June 12, their first child, Michelle, was born to the newlyweds, who were known among their friends by their nicknames – “Mike” and “Sparky.”
Michelle, who eventually earned the nickname “Mickey,” was followed by yours truly just under three years later, on April 22, 1956. Nearly six years later, our family was completed, as our little sister, April, was born on January 10, 1962. All three of us were born in St. Mary’s Hospital across from our garage apartment in Clarksburg, W.Va.
As Catholics, we were a relatively small family. Yet, with our grandmothers, aunts, uncles and great aunts and uncles, we had plenty of family close by and others scattered across West Virginia.
Then, the three of us grew up, moved away and started our own families. Every year we would take our two children to West Virginia and enjoy a freeloading vacation of great food, great company and never enough time to visit all the family and friends we wanted to see. And each Christmas was the family reunion.
But alas, a visit to West Virginia now is nothing more than a visit to four cemeteries in three counties to place flowers at the graves of all those people we used to share meals and laughs with.
There’s nothing unusual about that. However, that doesn’t change the tinges of emotions I feel as I consider those souls who have slipped away – including our little sister April, who died of cancer last August. The Barrick family that started out at 483½ Washington Ave. in Clarksburg 66 years ago is now reduced to Mickey, who turned 65 this week (she doesn’t look it, but life isn’t fair) and me.
She and her husband David were in town visiting this week. She and I are both cancer survivors, against the odds. Why we live, and April does not, we do not know. Nor shall we drive ourselves crazy pondering it. It is what it is. How that huge family we were born into is now down to just the two of us is also something not healthy to spend a whole lot of time pondering. Again, it just is.
Yet, through the loss and sadness, our love for one another has grown beyond description, largely due to Mickey’s unconditional love for her quite curmudgeonly brother. We understand that we are indeed an endangered species. So, we do what Sparky, Mike and April taught us – We hold on to each other for dear life and laugh at life’s challenges and absurdities.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Photography by Rick Carter.
Topics include information about current judges, selection of judges, and threats to the court system’s impartiality
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections and the West Virginia Association for Justice are hosting a free workshop on the role of the courts in protecting the state’s democracy and citizens’ fundamental rights.
Through a series of interactive discussions and presentations, participants will leave with knowledge about who sits on the bench in West Virginia, how judges are selected/elected, threats to judicial independence, and actions to strengthen and protect the courts impartiality of our courts. An experienced judge, other legal experts, and facilitators from Wellstone Action will be in attendance to help community members learn more about this important and often overlooked branch of government.
“With civil rights and democracy increasingly under attack, the strength and impartiality of our courts may be the last mainstay for achieving justice on a broad range of issues,” said Julie Archer, Coordinator for West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections. “Our rights as voters, parents, workers, and community members depend on the decisions of our elected judges, so it’s imperative that we take steps to ensure that our courts are fair and impartial.”
The workshop will be held Monday, June 18 in Charleston at the Four Points Sheraton and participants have their choice of attending either an afternoon session starting at 1 p.m., or an evening session starting at 5:30 p.m. The workshop is free and includes an appetizer buffet reception from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., however, attendees are asked to register in advance at faircourts101.eventbrite.com.
CIMA calls for gathering to send message of disapproval
Matthew 25:31-46 – “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Zechariah 7:8-10 – Do not oppress the alien.
Editor’s note: This is published so close to the event because the news release was just received this morning.
FLAT ROCK, N.C. – Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Acción (CIMA) is calling on residents of Western North Carolina to peacefully gather at an outdoor celebration today at 11 a.m. that is being hosted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at The Park at Flat Rock at 55 Highland Golf Drive.
According to a news release from CIMA, “The community plans to gather to express their deep disapproval of this celebration after a week of devastating detentions and deportations led by the federal agency. Since this past Saturday morning, ICE agents stormed Latinx communities across Western North Carolina, leaving people traumatized and an estimated 25 people taken into custody.”
The statement added, “We are appalled that anyone would celebrate this recent ICE raid and the hundreds of people left reeling from this week,” said local organizer, Jay. “They have taken our community members, devastated families, and caused hundreds of people to stay locked inside their houses for days on end out of fear. We are grieving and they are celebrating.”
Bruno Hinojosa, CIMA Coordinator said, “This is such an insensitive and inhumane expression of celebration in the face of such deep community trauma. Witnessing this event is not meant to be a confrontation or direct action, but an opportunity to peacefully gather and demonstrate WNC’s collective pain and organized resistance. We will not confront or attack these people but merely show them there are real people on the other side of their actions. We do not find this horrific week worth celebrating.”
CIMA’s statement continued, “ICE agents have been detaining people driving through their neighborhoods; while visiting community health centers; and simply leaving for work in the morning. Organizers throughout the area have been working since the launch of this week’s ICE operation to ensure that people are aware of their rights; to connect families with legal representation; to provide support for their basic needs; and to quell reports and rumors of ICE activity. Still, the terror instilled by this latest wave of immigration detentions has left many families in hiding and classrooms full of empty seats.”
Want to know more?
According to the statement, “CIMA connects, strengthens and organizes communities to take action for immigrants’ rights in Western North Carolina. CIMA strives for inclusive communities with justice, freedom, and equality for all.” Additional information about today’s event can be found here .
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018
Don’t bitch; vote instead, then toast to your freedom
LENOIR, N.C. — Early (One-stop) voting started today in North Carolina. When I voted at about 2 in the afternoon in Lenoir at one of our county’s two early voting locations, about 75 people had voted. Two hours later when I went back to check the count, is was only about 85. While I await official numbers from the local Board of Elections office, it was reported to me that only about two dozen people had voted at the other early voting location in Granite Falls, in the densely populated southern end of the county.
These numbers are pathetic!
I have heard every excuse from people — still, after 2016 — in the last weeks as why they are not going to vote in the primary. I have yet to hear a good excuse. It’s simply a cop out. A lack of followership. Yes, that’s my new word. Not only do we suffer from a horrendous lack of political leadership, we have a lack of followership. Far too many people are still apathetic about a human right few have enjoyed throughout history.
But they don’t mind bitching. Allow me a quick digression to address that.
In the photo above where I am cheering my right to vote, I am also saluting my father, who would have been 92 today. He would have been the first in line to vote today. That’s only one of a million reasons I miss him. The other is what a friend had to say when I texted the photo to her: “He always told things as he saw them.”
So, true to his legacy, I have three words for the non-voters: Don’t bitch, vote! That’s what Dad would have said. So, cheers to him, and cheers to our right to vote!
Party of Lincoln forgets that the VA was inspired by the 16th president
By Art Sherwood
LENOIR, N.C. – David Shulkin, who was fired by President Trump last week as head of the Veterans Administration (VA), told several national news outlets that he was fired because he stood in the way of efforts by Trump and the GOP to privatize the VA (read more at NPR and CBS).
While the VA was not established until 1930, it seems that the GOP has forgotten that the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, provided the foundational spirit of the VA as noted in the Mission Statement on the VA’s website: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.”
While Trump’s removal of Shulkin is not surprising from the “You’re Fired!” president, privatization would be disastrous for the men and women served by the VA. Yet, it is consistent with the goals of the Republican Party. This is not a new agenda item. It’s been going on a long time. It is the “Starve the Beast” mentality. To ensure its failure, the GOP-led Congress intentionally underfunds the VA so performance is not where it should be. Then the agency and those running it – rather than Congress – are blamed for failures due to inadequate funding.
While the GOP may have forgotten Lincoln’s intentions, I have not. I worked with and for the VA for more than a decade. It was an honor to serve those who gave all for our country.
We have a sacred obligation to honor the mission of the VA and should not farm it out to profiteers who will put making money ahead of caring for our veterans. There are nearly one million veterans in North Carolina, making up over nine percent of our population. They deserve better than having their treatment transferred to a private provider looking to cut corners to increase profits.
The VA system is clearly better equipped and more knowledgeable about the needs and care of veterans than private providers scattered across the nation that have little or no experience dealing with the specialized care veterans need – and deserve. My experience in the largest VA hospital in the system in Houston showed me that the variety of comprehensive services that veterans get through the system could in no way be provided by private providers. The VA provides mental care and physical, comprehensive treatment of complex injuries such as those to the spinal cord. The VA’s knowledge and treatment of these injuries is among the best in the world.
To ensure its failure, the GOP-led Congress intentionally underfunds the VA so performance is not where it should be. Then the agency and those running it – rather than Congress – are blamed for failures due to inadequate funding.
Is the VA perfect? Of course not. But it does provide quality care. When the VA has appropriate stable leadership at the top that is committed to the mission of the VA, it succeeds. The employees are loyal civil servants who will follow leadership dedicated to the mission of the VA as articulated by President Lincoln following the Civil War. My personal experience is that when civil servants are given a fair chance to compete against the private sector, they win. They provide better, more efficient care. Still, we must remain vigilant. We should fix any problems that occur. It’s a large system, so of course it has potential for problems.
Additionally, let us not forget that the VA’s case load has increased dramatically in the last few decades because of the wars we are fighting around the world. It is now commonly agreed that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was precipitated on lies. We would have far less veterans to care for if we quit fighting unnecessary wars.
Also, the military deserves credit for improving its trauma care in battle zones. There are many more soldiers coming home alive than in previous wars. In addition, many veterans return home with the invisible wound of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This puts additional stress on already underfunded social and mental health services for our veterans. The VA is uniquely qualified to provide the required care – again, assuming it is properly funded.
Only the VA can provide the specialized, seamless care that these veterans deserve. In the rare cases where a veteran may live far away from the nearest VA hospital, a referral to a local provider might be necessary, but those are rare instances.
It is noteworthy, that as I talk to veterans in Caldwell County, that they’ve told me of the excellent care they have received at VA hospitals in the area, whether in Asheville, Salisbury or over the mountain in Tennessee. Their testimonies are encouraging. (There are also VA hospitals in Durham and Fayetteville, as well as Outpatient Clinics scattered across the state).
So, as a North Carolina State Senator, I will vigorously defend the VA and work closely with our congressional delegation to protect it and challenge them to properly fund the system. I will also challenge the GOP to quit the saber-rattling than can lead to only more young Americans dying and being maimed on foreign soil.
It is clear, that when it comes to waging wars and caring for those who do the actual fighting, the GOP’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.
We can do better. I will do better, given the opportunity. So, I would appreciate your vote in November. There are nearly a million veterans in North Carolina counting on the VA. Let’s not let them down.
Note: Art Sherwood is the Democratic candidate for North Carolina Senate District 46, which includes 3 Appalachian counties – Avery, Burke and Caldwell. I am serving as Campaign / Communications Director for him. Impartiality is no longer an option for me. While it’s not news, 2016 reminded us that elections matter. How we care for the poor and vulnerable, how we protect the sacred earth which sustains us, how we protect human rights, how we care for the alien among us, how we defend voting rights, and how we treat each other in the body politic and the “public square” of social media, requires that I choose a side. – MB
‘What is Truth?’
By Michael M. Barrick
As I read scripture this morning, this passage from the Gospel of John led me to conclude that my primary daily challenge is answering this question asked by Pilate of Jesus: “What is truth?”
This is a question that I am forced to consider every day, not just on Good Friday. Whether reading scripture, writings from other faith traditions, a book, or simply trying to live by the Golden Rule, I find this question is one that is consistently spinning around in my head.
I do not intend to claim that, because I am a Christian, I hold all truths simply because I own a Bible. What I do mean is that we must learn from this question. We must acknowledge that this is the question at the root of most of our debates in our nation and world today.
It is good, I think, to acknowledge that my faith confuses and challenges me. It is necessary because I know I am not alone.
As for the conundrum Pilate faced – what to do with Jesus – I come across people daily who are asking that question. Heck, I ask it every day and I was immersed in religious instruction as a child attending Catholic school. I continue to learn all that I can about every Christian denomination and all other non-Christian faith traditions. Regardless of the tradition, answering the question, “What is truth,” is always the fundamental quest.
I’ve forgotten most of what the nuns taught me in the 1960s. But I have learned through experience that it is my actions, not my words, which will help others understand how I struggle with the challenge Pilate faced. It is good, I think, to acknowledge that my faith confuses and challenges me. It is necessary because I know I am not alone.
Indeed, how we answer that question just might decide the fate of all of humanity. People have been known to blow each other up quite regularly because they have come up with different answers to the question, “What is truth?”
I can speak only for myself, but it seems that killing one another over that question is exactly what Jesus was opposed to.
Our youth have put the gun lobby on its heels
LENOIR, N.C. – Saturday’s March For Our Lives in Lenoir – and beyond – was inspiring to the point of tears. And I wasn’t even there.
I was bummed about that, but I had a good reason – I was with Art Sherwood in Morganton at the Burke County Democratic Party County Convention. Art is running for the North Carolina State Senate and I’m honored to guide his campaign.
So, while I would have been thrilled to join our county’s youth yesterday, I know the best thing I can do to help them achieve their objective of putting an end to mass murder in our public schools (and elsewhere) is work to elect the type of people who will pass legislation banning assault weapons, putting much greater restrictions on gun shows and other measures. Art is such a man.
Still, it is not lost on me who the true leaders in our nation are now. Most of them look to be under 19-years-old. They have done something that no politician has had the courage to do. They have declared war on the gun lobby and put it on the defensive.
We must heed their pleas.
Schools were not designed with urban combat in mind; they were designed for teaching and learning.
I know they are right. I have the experience to make that claim.
I am a retired classroom teacher who also holds a post-graduate certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. I have written, led and participated in more than one Active Shooter Exercise (for schools and hospitals). There is one thing I can tell you for certain: Our children are vulnerable as hell.
The open classroom design that some schools have make children sitting ducks. There is no place to shelter-in-place. Even schools with traditional classrooms, no matter how well secured, are easy targets for a determined individual.
Schools were not designed with urban combat in mind; they were designed for teaching and learning.
The students know this. Therefore, they are in the streets. They know that school systems cannot – and should not – be expected to provide them the level of safety required. Those in the public schools, after all, are trained to teach children. They are not trained in urban warfare.
In short, the shootings can’t really be mitigated on the school end. Yes, having a police officer on campus is common now, and as we’ve seen recently, a potentially effective way to reduce the number of deaths.
But it isn’t enough. We must eliminate them.
We must address the root cause before it enters the schoolhouse doorway. That’s what the students are demanding. They just want what all of us want – to live as long as possible, and certainly not to be cut down in their youth.
While they’ve got the gun lobby on its heels, let’s join them and help finish the job. It is time for a reckoning. The gun lobby has blood on its hands and it knows it. Unlike Pontius Pilate though, they cannot wash their hands clean.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018
20th Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase a tribute to its roots
By Michael M. Barrick
LENOIR, N.C. – More than 20 years ago, at a Christmas party at the home of Kay and Patrick Crouch, a typically spontaneous jam session broke out – not unlike the ones that have occurred in homes and on porches in Caldwell County for generations. Present that night was David Briggs, who was then the executive director of the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center.
Recalling that moment recently, Patrick revealed, “He turned to me and said, ‘Patty, why do we not have this on stage?’”
That simple question led to the first annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase at the Civic Center. The show was titled “It Must Be Something in the Water,” a tip to the long, seemingly unending population of musicians living among the hills and hollows of Caldwell County. Now, the 20th Annual Caldwell County Traditional Musicians Showcase is scheduled for March 10, featuring a few of the musicians from that first Showcase and others since, several new performers, and Briggs making an appearance.
“The Showcase was David’s idea,” shared Patrick. “This is a tribute to the original show. This is a tribute to the longevity of the series. I’ll be delighted to have David on stage. Also, Donna Minton, who has helped so much from the beginning.”
Patrick and Kay are teamed up with Ron Shuffler as Strictly Clean and Decent; they will serve as the host band as they have each year since 1998. Also, Roger Hicks and Lyndy Johnson, who performed in the 2001 Showcase, will have a set. “Roger Hicks and Lyndy Johnson are finger-style guitarists who are listed in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area roster of traditional musicians,” said Patrick.
Patrick also noted that the artwork from the original Showcase was designed by David Courtner, and also expressed deep gratitude to Jeff Bentley, the current executive director of the Civic Center. Bentley, Patrick pointed out, has been there for every show, having been promoted from sound technician to executive director since Briggs left. “We are on solid ground due to the fact that he works hard to promote the show.”
It (the Showcase) has created a greater awareness of music and the folk arts. Folks have embraced that. It’s not only an American music we embrace. It’s Southern music. It’s Southern Appalachian music.” – Patrick Crouch
Despite having familiar faces this year, Patrick said that the fresh faces are just as exciting to him. “It makes me step back and take a reflective look. We have 12 people who have never been in the Showcase. Over 20 years we’ve had more than 200 musicians, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. We have an unlimited supply of talent. That’s beautiful.”
Patrick sang high praises for Conrad Boudreau who is recognized in the Unifour area as a mandolin teacher of young musicians. “He has come into our community with such energy and enthusiasm that he is influencing and encouraging other musicians.” Joining Boudreau will be Minton, whose popularity is evident by the number of times she has performed in the Showcase – in 1998, 2001, and 2007.
A previous performer, Charlie Carpenter (2005) will be joined by first-timer Todd McCloud. “They are known for their unique and powerful duet vocals,” said Patrick.
A couple typically associated with Lenoir’s furniture industry, Alex and Anne Bernhardt will play Cajun music on their first showcase appearance.
Red Rocking Chair, consisting of Jack Lawrence, Tom Kuhn, and Dale Meyer, who have been playing together 12 years, play Bluegrass music, but other genres as well.
Sarah Seymour and Nick Seymour, both of whom performed in 2010 as part of Sweetbriar Jam, will appear as members of Rooted, an acoustic band that plays Americana and roots music in an acoustic setting. Band members with Rooted making their first showcase appearance are Jimmy Atkins, Drew Gray, Seath Gray, and Morgan Smith.
Audience members will be also treated to the excellence of the Caldwell Junior Appalachian Musicians and the wit of Nancy Posey, taking her third turn as emcee.
Patrick notes that the Showcase is an important contribution to the rich arts tradition of Caldwell County. “It has created a greater awareness of music and the folk arts,” he said. “Folks have embraced that. It’s not only an American music we embrace. It’s Southern music. It’s Southern Appalachian music.
“It makes us a special place.”
The Showcase will be presented on Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 pm at the J. E. Broyhill Civic Center. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Civic Center or by calling the box office at 828-726-2401.
© Michael M. Barrick, 2018.