Commentary

Snow: First in flight, moonshine and foolishness

November 9, 2013 

The gall! The nerve! The audacity!

How dare the state of Connecticut seek to rewrite history by claiming it was the site of the first flight by aircraft! Isn’t it enough that Tar Heels have had to put up with Ohio’s longtime attempts to usurp this state’s sacred claim, staked out in 1903 by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.

To many Tar Heels, Connecticut’s claim is as ridiculous as insisting that Ponce de Leon discovered America!

First thing you know a Yankee-dominated Congress will be trying to replace “First in Flight” on our license plates with something like “First in Hogs” or “Chicken Country.”

And then there are those who, watching our political shenanigans from afar, might even suggest “First in Foolishness” for our state plate.

Incidentally, a Raleigh resident visiting the Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawk was tailing along behind a family with a little boy in tow.

His parents noted the points where the first flight took off and landed, explaining that the aircraft actually flew only 120 feet.

The little fellow, putting the historic aerial accomplishment in perspective, said, “Well, why didn’t they just walk?”

First in moonshine

Now there was a time when North Carolina could have sported “First in Moonshine” on its license plates.

No, I’m not referring to the nighttime glow in which you held hands with and kissed some pretty lass. I’m thinking of illicit liquid “white lightning” once produced in our state, Wilkes County in particular.

I once rode with my nephew through the back roads of Wilkes County where he grew up. He reminded me that during Prohibition some of America’s greatest race car drivers perfected their racing skills outrunning revenuers on those same winding roads.

He recounted the legend of one Skinny Halburten, who one night ran into a roadblock north of Winston-Salem on his way to Greensboro with a load of moonshine.

A revenue agent approached Skinny’s car with drawn gun and found himself looking down the barrel of Skinny’s own .45 glinting in the moonlight.

“Mister,” Skinny is reported to have said, “my mama’s in Heaven. My daddy’s in Hell. My sister’s in Greensboro, and I’m gonna see one of ’em before daylight.”

The agent backed off, and Skinny kept his rendezvous with his sister and his thirsty clients.

Name dropping

Pity the poor postman. I can hardly see him for the junk mail stacked beside him. The pre-Christmas deluge of gift catalogs and solicitations is underway.

Merchandising these days leaves no stone unturned in trying to separate us from our money.

A fruitcake catalog not only features its cakes, but also includes a long list of “celebrities” who regularly have sampled them.

Tell me, friends, would you pay $28 plus shipping for one cake just because the likes of Vanna White, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ringling North II and Mrs. Frank Stam, to mention a few, have bought them?

Our good neighbor

A good conduct medal and congratulations are due Cary for being named the most crime-free city in America among the 100,000 to 500,000 population group.

When I came to Raleigh in the late 1950s, Cary was little more than a wide place in the road compared to today’s bustling burg of almost 150,000 residents.

“Cary ought to be a ‘goody-goody city,’” a Raleigh cynic observed. “Most of the residents, from up North and other foreign places, are so happy to be down here, they’re on their best conduct. And since they have money to buy anything they want, why shouldn’t they be happy, peaceable and law-abiding?”

He jests, of course, although the citizenry is uniquely prosperous, smart and, yes, rightfully proud of itself.

The latest U.S. Census figures, for 2007-2011, show 61.6 percent of Cary residents over age 25 are college graduates, compared with 26.5 percent statewide, and the city’s median household income was $91,997 compared with $46,291 statewide and $52,819 in Raleigh.

Tattoos a mental lapse?

Responding to the commentary on tattoos, reader John Adams recalled that singer Jimmy Buffett said his grandmother once defined a tattoo as “a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

After a brief inventory of friends, I don’t believe there’s a single tattoo among ’em. So they can’t enlighten me on the reasons for the increasing popularity of tattoos.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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