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Welcome back, Margaret

The Carolina Mountains

Writer Margaret W. Worley (1858-1923) roamed North Carolina’s mountains with a pen in one pocket and a squirrel in another. The squirrel became the star of a children’s book she wrote in 1904 called Little Mitchell: The Story of a Mountain Squirrel.

The pen she used to write The Carolina Mountains, a lengthy, loving portrait of our region that was packed with both up-close anecdotes of mountain life and her poignant photos. Published in 1913, the travelogue helped introduce the nation to the natural wonders and unique culture of Western North Carolina.

The book became something of a regional treasure, so much so that in the 1920s, the Grove Park Inn produced a special souvenir copy complete with a blue-knit cover by local weavers. It’s the kind of book you’d expect to find squirreled away in some library’s special collection’s department, and until now, that’d likely be that case. The book has been reborn, thanks to Fairview-based Bright Mountain Books, which has published a reprint.

The new version has several additions, yet is earnestly faithful to the original. There’s an introduction explaining that while Morley’s work has been panned by some later-day critics for its “frequently stereotypical treatment” of mountain dwellers, it remains “enthusiastic and realistic” in most places.”

The introduction also notes that “little is known about Margaret Warner Morley beyond the books and articles which have survived her.” But she left quite a body of work behind — some 20 books, most of them for children, that gave smart, fun instruction on topics ranging from botany to insects to the proverbial birds and bees.

And while little may be known of Morley today, The Carolina Mountains was clearly penned by someone who came to know and love turn-of-the-century WNC, which was even then hosting a mounting number of visitors. “The world may be coming,” she allowed, “but the colors and the fragrances, the wonderful air and ardent sun remain the same, and ever will.”

The new, expanded edition of The Carolina Mountains is available for $24 from Bright Mountain Books. Find it at your local bookseller or get it straight from the publisher by calling (800) 628-1768 or visiting If you find yourself in Raleigh between now and next July, the North Carolina Museum of History recently opened a year-long exhibit of Morley’s mountain photographs.

— Jon Elliston

The drug report

Despite increased crackdowns on illicit labs, the Asheville-Buncombe Drug Commission is bracing for an influx of methamphetamine in Western North Carolina.

“Meth is coming,” warned Buncombe District Attorney Ron Moore. “[The influx is] still not here, but it’s coming, and it’s going to be a disaster.”

The problem will not be local production, but meth shipped north from “super labs” in Mexico, Moore told the commission at its Aug. 15 meeting in a conference room at the Buncombe County Department of Social Services.

Moore’s comments echoed concerns by White House “Drug Czar” John Walters at an Aug. 1 meeting at City Hall attended by Rep. Charles Taylor and city leaders in which Walters called for tightening the security on U.S. borders.

Moore said that, though meth has a reputation as a “redneck” drug, its highly addictive qualities means it could easily cross over into all social circles.

And though North Carolina legislators last year passed a law that put cold medicines used for meth production behind pharmacists’ counters, neighboring states have not yet followed suit, leading Moore to encourage federal legislation to remove such medicines from shelves.

The commission is planning an extended meeting to analyze meth’s particular threat to the area.

But not all was gloom and doom. Eight months after announcing cash rewards for information on drug dealers, the commission was prepared to announce the program’s first results — sort of.

A recent arrest, said Lt. Daryl Fisher of the Asheville Police Department’s Drug Suppression Unit, involved a half-pound of cocaine, an alleged dealer and an informant. But despite the obvious desire to bring good press to the initiative, possible danger to the informant kept police tightlipped about the details.

The informant’s name, Fisher said, will not be released, and he stopped short of naming the suspect in the case as well. Nor would Fisher or the programs’ initiator, City Council member Carl Mumpower, disclose how much money the informant would receive. The only information Fisher would give was that the amount of drugs seized indicated that the suspect is a “top-level dealer.”

The need to ensure an informant’s safety sparked some discussion about how to achieve that goal while still taking advantage of the local media’s sounding board.

“I think we need to be careful what we say,” said Police Chief Bill Hogan, “But at the appropriate time, we should beat the drum.”

When first announced, the “Dealer Down” reward program offered $1,000 for information leading to an arrest involving more than a pound of hard drugs. That amount was later raised — and backed by Mumpower’s City Council salary — to $2,000 maximum, with a reward of $500 for two ounces or more of hard drugs.

The Asheville-Buncombe Drug Commission was formed a year ago by then-Vice Mayor Mumpower. Unlike most boards and commissions, membership was not determined by City Council or the Buncombe Board of Commissioners, but both bodies endorsed the group. The commission is made up of representatives from city and county governemnt, the court system and members and leaders from local churches and healthcare and social institutions.

In the past year, the commission has introduced not only the “Dealer Down” program, but also a poster campaign that has recently drawn some local fire. More posters are on the way, Mumpower said, and several members of the commission volunteered to put them up around the city.

The commission meets once a month, and plans to hold its next meeting at Pisgah View Apartments, which was recently designated for state and federal attention as part of the “Weed and Seed” anti-drug initiative.

— Brian Postelle

Back To The Future

Design Magazine

Ahead of their time: The April 1946 issue of Design magazine presented a special feature on the influence of Black Mountain College.

If the Nazis hadn’t been such overwhelming jerks, we wouldn’t have such cool-looking furniture. Really. The modernist-design and conceptual-art philosophy developed by the Bauhaus school wasn’t too welcome in Hitler’s totalitarian Germany, causing many extremely creative students and teachers to look for new places to pursue their passions. One such place — arguably one of the most important in America — was Black Mountain College.

It was here that teachers and students like Josef and Anni Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, John Cage and M.C. Richards began work that would help define art and design — the whole modernist look, really — of the 20th century. (It didn’t hurt to have the likes of William Carlos Williams and Albert Einstein on the college’s board of directors, either.)

Even though the school is long gone (it failed for financial reasons in the mid-1950s), the free-thinking and experimental vision it left behind is still very much alive in 21st century art and design. In recognition of that legacy, the Black Mountain College + Arts Center has created Thinking Ahead: Progressive Design + Black Mountain College, a series that will run from this weekend through the end of the year.

“The show is a collection of pieces that all relate to Black Mountain College artists and designers,” says BMC+AC’s Alice Sebrell. “All the work wasn’t done at the college — some of it was done post-Black Mountain College — but the idea is to bring all this work together to show what a significant force in modernist design Black Mountain College was.”

Sebrell says that many of the items on display may not seem like fine art, but rather are “everyday objects designed well,” such as a collection of book covers by concept artist Ray Johnson and an elegantly simple student desk designed by Josef Albers.

Ideas incubated at Black Mountain College are still highly relevant to artists and creators today, which is one reason why BMC+AC has created series of workshops and lectures to help keep the college’s message alive.

One such example is a Sept. 16 “Do-It-Yourself Jewelry” workshop inspired by the work of Anni Albers. Sebrell explains that “Albers created this incredible jewelry made with things you could pick up at a hardware store, the idea being that the nature of the materials is not as important as the idea of the artist or designer. Materials are not a limitation.”

Thinking Ahead opens at the BMC+AC (56 Broadway in Asheville) on Friday, Aug. 25, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is free for BMC+AC members and $3 for nonmembers. For more information, visit or call 350-8484.

— Steve Shanafelt

Freedom from the gas pump

On the morning that Asheville Transit Services launched its Ride-for-Free promotional campaign, City Council member Brownie Newman was gripped with that jittery feeling a party planner gets just before the guests arrive.

“I woke up that morning and thought, ‘No one is going to do this,'” says Newman, who had put forth the free-fare idea. But within a few hours, new passengers were flocking to seldom-used bus stops, causing some routes to become so jam-packed that there was standing-room only. In fact, Asheville buses saw a ridership increase of 59 percent that first day. “All of the evening routes had over a 100 percent increase,” Newman reports, “and even the routes with the least growth had a 35 percent increase.”

According to Newman, it’s common to see a major initial spike with the introduction of a free-fare initiative, and it’s still too early in the game to analyze the results of the program. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether ridership will stay strong or plummet at the end of the promotional campaign in mid-November, when the fare will be raised to $1 per ride.

Diane Humphrey, who works six days a week at the Patton Avenue Kentucky Fried Chicken, says she takes the bus to work every day. The ride Ride-for-Free campaign is helping her save $120 a month on transportation costs, she told Xpress, but she won’t mind the fare increase when it comes. “That’s OK,” she says. “It’s still cheaper than driving.”

— Rebecca Bowe


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