Wednesday, October 09, 2002

This is the closest site I can find for Crossnore, North Carolina, where I used to live. My late father preached at the Baptist Church here in the late 1970s; the only church where he ever had a problem. The people were -- how do I put it? -- sheer evil. After hiring him they took a dislike to him and wanted him to go. Why? I think because he was an outsider, and attendance wasn't where they wanted it to be; the usual church matters. Anyway, he wanted to stay, wanted to hold the little church together as well as possible -- at which point his enemies basically invented new reasons for him to go. An ugly scene all round, and hands down the worst disaster of Dad's career.

Many years later, the terrors of Crossnose would occasionally cross my mind and I would write about the place in my newspaper column at the Camden Chronicle-Independent. I started referring to it as a "nasty little Nothingville." Someone eventually noticed one such column and sent it to the Avery County Journal, which reprinted it, thereby earning me the ire of everyone in town, some 35 of whom sent complaining letters to my editor. This was around the time of the Gulf War, and at least one person referred to me as Saddam Hussein. Actually, I felt more like Salman Rushdie.

My editor had approved the offending column but, like newspaper editors everywhere, he occasionally played the role of Captain Renault in Casablanca -- he was "shocked, shocked" to find such scurrilous trash in his paper and went out of his way to placate all the Avery County troglodytes back into their caves. I even felt somewhat compelled to write an apologetic letter myself, which I've always regretted, since I didn't mean a single word.

I still hate driving through Crossnore whenever we visit the family in East Tennessee; I have this general fear of the car breaking down, whereupon I'll be taken to the local hospital and used for all manner of medical experiments. Instead, I try to just put the accelerator down and play a Mojo Nixon song which I prefer to think of as the Crossnore Anthem: You Can Dress `Em Up But You Can't Take `Em Out.

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