The price of freedom

There’s certainly no shortage of fascinating stories about Western North Carolina — or, for that matter, of local writers capable of relating them. One of the more interesting such scribes is Charles F. Price, author of Hiwassee (John F. Blair, 1996) and its sequel, the newly released Freedom’s Altar (also published by Blair). Price will discuss and read from his books on Tuesday, May 11 at the West Asheville Branch Library. A book signing will follow.

Freedom’s Altar, which is set in the WNC mountains at the end of the Civil War (but, significantly, before Reconstruction was imposed on the South), considers how racial reconciliation might have been achieved, had the hearts of men and women at the time been gentler. Like Hiwassee, the book chronicles the impacts of the war on the N.C. highlands, while tracing the story of Price’s Civil War forebears, the Prices and the Curtises of Clay County.

Price, who lives in Cattail Creek and is a member of the Civil War Trust, has fashioned a tale that’s part history, part map of the human heart: “My aim was to tell a simple story of how human beings, black and white, formerly mired in an inhuman dilemma, sought to win their humanity back,” he explains.

The program is free and open to the public.

For more information, call the West Asheville Branch Library at 251-4990.

Putting the “festive” in “fiesta”

Given WNC’s growing Latino population, it’s particularly appropriate that Asheville will soon ring with the convivial sounds of mariachi horns, guitarrons, bajo sextos and huapangueras as the second annual Fiesta Latina celebration gets into gear. The alcohol-free gala, which celebrates Latin American culture, will include music, dancing, native foods, arts and crafts, performers, children’s activities and more. It will take place in Asheville on Saturday, June 5, from 1 to 9 p.m.

But to make it all happen, the event’s sponsors — the Asheville Art Museum, Catholic Social Services and others — are looking for some help. Interested vendors, community agencies, volunteers, financial donors, performers, musicians, dancers and anyone else who can assist in making the Fiesta a reality should call either the museum or Catholic Social Services. They’re also encouraging everyone to help spread the word about the festive event.

The museum’s number is 253-3277; Catholic Social Services can be reached at 258-2617.

Apple-pickin’ blues

Tobacco’s not the only crop North Carolina is known for — the state is a noted producer of fine apples, too. But last year’s drought yielded a disappointing crop — leaving many N.C. apple growers crying out for relief. Now, however, Rep. Charles Taylor has announced that he has secured some federal crop-loss assistance to offset the losses of apple growers in Henderson, Polk and other WNC counties. As of this writing, the amount has not yet been disclosed.

In 1999, Congress appropriated $5.9 billion in aid to American farmers who suffered losses because of bad weather or low crop prices. But Taylor, a Republican, is quick to point out that those low prices are due, at least in part, to the Democratic administration’s trade policies. “Faced with an unusually poor crop of apples last year,” Taylor said in a recent press release, “[WNC] growers had their problems compounded when many U.S. apple-juice manufacturers turned to juice-concentrate imports from China for their supplies. This crop-loss assistance will, to some degree, help WNC’s apple growers get their legs back under them.

“We may not have any control over the weather and growing conditions,” continued Taylor, “but we can certainly do something about unfair competition from overseas. I have put the secretary of commerce and the U.S. trade representative on notice that this administration’s trade policies are being borne on the backs of WNC’s farmers. The president needs to realize the effects of his policies on America’s working families.”

To learn more, contact Roger France at (202) 225-6401.

Better safe than sorry

When a pet gets rabies, it’s really a double tragedy: Not only will the animal either be euthanized or eventually succumb to the disease, but the situation was decidedly preventable, to begin with. Rabies is a fatal viral disease that attacks the central nervous system through the infected animal’s saliva. If a pet that isn’t current with its rabies shots is exposed to a rabid animal, it must either be put down or quarantined for six months, at the pet owner’s expense.

In North Carolina, raccoons are the animals most commonly diagnosed with the disease, but skunks, foxes and bats also account for a significant number of cases. What’s more, the disease has been on the rise in this state since the early 1990s, prompting Gov. Jim Hunt to proclaim May 8 — the last day of National Pet Week — as Rabies Day.

The only way to ensure that you won’t lose a pet to rabies is to have it inoculated against the disease. But pets aren’t the only ones at risk: People can also contract the disease. “If bitten or otherwise exposed to a rabid animal,” cautions N.C.Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Lee Hunter, “vigorously scrub the wound, seek medical attention, and call Animal Control to capture the animal for testing. Since rabies is incurable and almost always fatal once signs appear, any exposure to rabies should be acted upon quickly.”

To learn more, call (919) 557-9385.

Dollars for dreams

Everybody knows that pro athletes can rake in the bucks. But sometimes, local, amateur athletes can get a little help in the dollar department, as well. During its most recent grant period, for example, the North Carolina Amateur Sports Endowment Fund lent a helping hand to 17 applicants across the state.

Two of them were from Asheville: The Asheville Track Club received $1,000, and the Xpress’ own reporter extraordinaire, Margaret Williams, was awarded $1,000 to help her compete in national karate events (she finished in the top three at last year’s National Karate Federation championship in New Orleans).

Besides handing out nearly $300,000 over the last 11 years (and helping tens of thousands of North Carolina athletes, in the process), the fund has also paid special attention to helping minorities and traditionally overlooked groups.

As any athlete knows, it’s expensive to compete: there are uniforms and equipment to buy, memberships and fees to pay, travel expenses and other costs — not to mention the sheer amount of time it takes to chase such a dream, which can interfere with little things like earning a living. The NCAS fund is helping dedicated amateurs gain a priceless gift — the opportunity to fully realize their potential.

For more information, call Mick Kulikowski at (800) 277-8763.

— convivially compiled by Paul Schattel

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