Long Silence

We have been silent here for some months, so here are some updates. The Yadkin River Story exhibit traveled to the Sawtooth Center in downtown Winston-Salem in January. And then in April, the North Carolina Humanities Council published excerpts from the project in the spring issue of North Carolina Conversations. Here’s the link: http://www.nchumanities.org/publications/north-carolina-conversations.

A few weeks after the magazine was published I received a lovely email from a man who had grown up by the Yadkin in the 1960s and 70s. He said he’d be honored if I shared his recollections with you. Enjoy.

Ms. Zerwick,

I read with great interest your Yadkin River story in NC Conversations because I grew up believing that that river was my river.  My Dad worked at the North Carolina Finishing Company which was on the Rowan County side of river where US 29 and I-85 cross it, just north of Salisbury.  My brother and I grew up in Yadkin, the mill village there.  This was in the late 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  I was probably 30+ when one day it dawned on me that perhaps my classmates and friends made fun of me living in a mill village, but I tell you what, I cannot recall a single one of them turning down an invitation to come to my house to play or spend the night.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was rich…as a young boy, I had a bike, a dog, and the Yadkin River!  I don’t recall when we were able to go down there by ourselves.  My brother is about 2 years older than me, so I would tag along with him and some of the older guys in the neighborhood. I guess everybody was looking out for everybody else, so I don’t recall it being any big thing.

Our kingdom was the woods along the river bank!  We had landmarks, such as the PL (this was where the rainwater from probably the whole village drained into the river and, over time, had carved a pool that then emptied into the Yadkin…somehow the “Little Pool” became the “PL”) and the Devil’s Highchair, which was a rock formation with a rock wall on one side, then perhaps a 2’ opening where there was another rock sticking up.  The well worn path went between the two. Big Rock, which was just that, a big rock on the water’s edge, then, upstream maybe 400’, Little Rock…same sort of thing but, you guessed it, smaller than Big Rock!

The hours we spent on that river.  Swimming in the water, no matter what it looked like; fishing for any/every thing;  camping; hunting; trapping; just sitting there watching it go by; it didn’t matter as long as we were on the river! The memories are great…using a Little Cleo (lure), I caught a 4 pound, 12 ounce white bass on my 13th, I believe it was, birthday.   We would go several days/nights, it seems, camping out and “bottom fishing,” with one of the most often muttered phrases being “I must be in a fruit jar,” meaning we’d gone a while without a bite.  One time, my brother was on the water all day long without a shirt on and I swear his blisters had blisters.  My Dad had always claimed to be “the slingshot champion” of the county where he grew up in SW Georgia and we became firm believers one day when we were down there and he used my slingshot to cut a snake that happened to be swimming up river right near Little Rock in two.  I was on the bank one day when there was quite a racket in the water, headed my way.  It turned out to be a rabbit swimming across the river.   My high school girl friend and I were in a boat anchored in the middle of the river…she was sunbathing, I was doing my best to stay out of the sun, when the game warden rode up and tried his best to figure out what we were doing that was illegal…he didn’t seem to believe we weren’t fishing, drinking, or something!  Once, when the water was real low on one of the sandbars, my brother got out of his jon boat and started walking around and some elderly women fishing on the other bank started shouting, “It’s Jesus, it’s Jesus!”  How I do go on, how I could go on.

Until recently relocating to Pamlico County (I saw this publication as Pamlico CC’s PIO, Ben Casey, wrote the article following yours on the Neuse River), I worked in SC for a bit more than 5 years and every time I crossed the Pee Dee River, I took great delight in 1) knowing the real name of that river and 2) knowing it was “my” river.  Just a couple of weeks ago, on a trip to Charlotte, my family and I were headed south on I-85 and I glanced over at where the plant my Dad worked 48 years was, where one of the houses we lived used to be, and down at the Yadkin and had quite a nostalgic moment as the memories flashed through my mind.  What a difference that river made in my life as it did, does, and will continue to do in the lives of so, so many people.

Thank you for capturing how special it is.

Cleve H. Cox
Arapahoe, NC


Phoebe Zerwick, June 2011


~ by yadkinriverstory on June 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “Long Silence”

  1. I would like to thank you Mr Cox for sharing your story of the Yadkin river .It is clear to me that we are brothers of the same mother river .You have touch my heart as nothing but stories of the river can .Thank you again for sharing

  2. I feel like North Carolina is part of my dna. My family has been here since the late 1600’s. It is really nice to see this project and read experiences shared by others who love my NC too. I have roots that go deep along the Yadkin and you are really making me proud. Keep up the good work.

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