“Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys across North Carolina”: by Scott Mason. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, Copyright 2019. 210 pages, $26.95 hardback, $16.80 Kindle.
Raleigh, NC television journalist Scott Mason shares personality profiles aired on WRAL TV’s “Tar Heel Traveler” during the last 10 years. Profiles include folksy interviews from across the state with ordinary North Carolinians embodying out-of-the-ordinary lifestyles. Included are a chain-smoking 91-year-old general practitioner who once delivered 22 babies in one weekend. This GP still sees patients several times a week and remembers his first rural patient encounter because the man insisted that he wouldn’t be treated until his mule was treated first and showed improvement.
Another colorful chapter introduces a two-foot tall attorney who was born with a rare form of dwarfism and attended Elon University Law School. Her hobby is painting in vibrant colors on canvas despite her extremely short limbs and difficulty with manual dexterity. When asked if she would like to be a more average height, she told Mr. Mason, “Why fit in, if you can stand out?”
Other profiles include a man who was once dubbed the “B-movie” king and filmed more than 45 movies in Shelby, NC and a chat with Betty Lynn, one of the last surviving major cast members from “The Andy Griffith Show”. Lynn now calls Mt. Airy home and has made commemorating the fictional town of Mayberry one of her life’s passions.
Mason doesn’t stop at interviewing the living, some of the more compelling biographical tidbits concern historical figures. One story found in “Tar Heel Traveler” is an old rumor about the possible illegitimacy of President Abraham Lincoln. Several armchair historians have tried to link his paternity to a man named Abraham Enloe, who once ran a farm in Rutherford County, NC and employed Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, when she was a young girl prior to her marriage to Tom Lincoln. Enloe’s grave in Murphy, NC is a local curiosity because of Enloe’s purported physical resemblance to Lincoln, but the claim lacks much in the way of compelling evidence.
Some profiles celebrate fascinating minor tourist destinations in North Carolina rather than people. Two examples are a nostalgic restaurant that straddles 3 counties (Avery, Burke, and McDowell) and a huge granite quarry that covers so much area that it’s clearly visible from outer space. Even the smallest places in NC have something unique to recommend them, and Scott Mason asks the right questions to capture the flavor of them all. These quirky vignettes of state history are recommended for all those who find perusing “Our State” Magazine a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Lisa Kobrin is the Reference Manager and Genealogy Librarian at the May Memorial Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 229-3588.