The human being is an unpredictable creature.
If some judge sent you to prison for 25 years and you later learned that judge was sick would you think about sending him a sympathy card?
Charles Alston, 62, serving time for armed robbery, did more than that. He recently offered his own bone marrow to help Superior Judge Carl Fox fight cancer.
The case brings to mind an incident related to me by the late Mrs. Jeanelle Moore, wife of N.C. Gov. Dan Moore of Sylva.
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When Moore was a Superior Court judge holding court in Asheville, he sentenced a mountaineer to seven years in prison for fatally knifing a fellow in a fight.
On the day the man was released from Central Prison in Raleigh, he read in the newspaper that Judge Moore was in town for a judicial meeting at the old Sir Walter Hotel.
He hiked downtown, planted himself at the hotel entrance until he spotted Moore. Pointing out that he was just out of prison and totally broke and that Sylva was 300 miles away, he asked the judge if he could ride home with him.
Moore consented without consulting his wife, who, when told, was terrified by the prospect of riding home with a murderer.
“We got ready to go. He got in the back seat and I got in front with Dan,” Mrs. Moore said. “I sat at an angle, and didn’t take my eyes off him. I had a crick in my neck for a week afterwards.”
Near the end of the long ride, as the trio started down the Balsam Mountains, the ex-con said, “All right, Judge, now pull over.”
“And I thought, ‘Here it is. It’s coming now,’” Mrs. Moore recalled.
But all the man did was get out, stretch and walk around the car. He then said, “Well, Judge, you can let me out here. I can cut right across the mountains and I’ll be home with my family before you can be in Sylva.
“I appreciate what you’ve done for me so much. You know I don’t have any money, but I just want you to know one thing. If there’s any time you want somebody whupped or killed, you just let me know.”
Now, folks, that’s gratitude.
Dinner vs. supper
“I wish you would do a story about when and why people started saying “lunch” instead of “dinner” and “ dinner” instead of “supper,” writes A.G. Wright of Whiteville. “I am 73 years old, raised in N.C. and I don’t remember people saying this when I was growing up. I ask people if they have ever heard of the Lord’s last ‘dinner.’ It seems like all this started when all those Yankees wised up and moved down here.”
Many of you were fans of “The Waltons,” a TV classic set in the Virginia mountains during the Great Depression.
In one segment, John Boy’s father referred to the evening meal as “dinner.” I wrote Earl Hamner Jr., the show’s creator, reminding him that in the ’30s, no mountain-bred boy would be going in to “dinner” after dark.
Hamner wrote to apologize for the oversight.
What’s a Southern accent worth these days on the open market?
During her college days, my daughter waited tables in Nantucket, Mass. Her Southern accent frequently earned her unusually generous tips.
Reader Jim Richmond recalls when, upon his graduation from high school, his mother took him and his brother to New York.
“The taxi driver was enthralled by our Southern accents,” Jim recalls. “He kidnapped us, cut off his meter and gave us a free tour of Central Park. Of course we had to keep talking to him and asking him questions the whole time.”
On a trip to England, my wife and I ate at a luncheonette in England’s Salisbury Cathedral.
As they were leaving, diners from an adjoining table walked over to tell us how much they had enjoyed overhearing our Southern accents.
I assured them that we had equally enjoyed their British “brogue.”