Here’s a look at some of what’s happening around the mountains:
• The Morganton News-Herald reports that a 30-year-old hiker from Asheville spent 20 hours crawling in the Linville Gorge before a hiking Eagle Scout happened upon him. Jakob Holly fell from a rock and fractured both of his lower legs. Emergency workers summoned a N.C. National Guard helicopter to fly him out.
• The town of Dillsboro is still reeling after the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, the backbone of the tiny Jackson County town’s tourism industry, announced it was stopping operations there, reports the Smoky Mountain News. The news that Thomas the Tank Engine and the railroad’s other events were leaving town stunned town and county officials, according to the newspaper.
• The Smoky Mountain News also reports that in Swain County, Sheriff Curtis Cochran has filed a lawsuit against county commissioners in an action that could be a first of its kind in the state. From the story: “Cochran is suing the county commissioners for allegedly reducing his salary in the name of partisan retribution. In a major upset, Cochran narrowly beat the former sheriff Bob Ogle in 2006. Days after the election but before Cochran took office, the board of commissioners voted 3 to 1 to take away part of the sheriff’s pay allowance in a roundabout way. … Cochran is a Republican in a county long controlled by the Democratic Party.”
• Harrah’s Entertainment officially broke ground recently on its $655 million expansion planned at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel. President, CEO and Chairman of Harrah’s Entertainment Gary Loveman took part in the ceremony, according to the Sylva Herald.
• The new Volkswagen plant planned for Chattanooga, Tenn., could be an economic boon to folks in Cherokee County, according to The Cherokee Scout. County economic-development leaders are considering competing for automotive-supply plants, and some residents might consider traveling to Chattanooga to work at the plant, which is expected to bring about 2,000 jobs and build mid-size sedans starting in 2011.
• In dumb-criminal news, the McDowell News reports that deputies followed wheelbarrow tracks from a home in Marion to a nearby home, where they found the stolen goods, which included firearms, coins and frozen and canned foods, and promptly charged the alleged burglar.
• Also in McDowell County, deputies are investigating a foul-smelling act of vandalism: Somebody spread animal feces throughout a home in the upscale development called Gateway Mountain in Old Fort. The McDowell News reports that residents are offering an $11,000 reward for information about the culprits.
• The Highlander newspaper ran a version of a story that caught a lot of attention when it first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on July 20. The story detailed a high-end development being built on Jackson County’s Big Ridge by a man with a shady past, despite a down real-estate economy and the man’s guilty plea in a mortgage-fraud scheme.
It turns out that the reporter on the story, Lucy Morgan, a semi-retired Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the St. Petersburg paper, is a part-time resident of the Cashiers Valley area.
• The state’s sales-tax holiday is this weekend, reports the Watauga Democrat. From the story: “The ‘sales tax holiday’ was established by state statute and provides an exemption for certain items of tangible personal property sold between 12:01 a.m. on the first Friday in August and 11:59 p.m. the following Sunday. … Clothing, footwear and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials and textbooks of $300 or less per item; sports and recreation equipment of $50 or less per item, computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item will be exempt.” Go to the N.C. Department of Revenue’s Web site for a full list of exempt items. By the way, school starts back next week in Watauga County.
• Haywood County News writer Edie Burnette has a nice column on the pleasures of a Southern staple — cornbread. “Fatback is considered a no-no in today’s diets, but my grandmother used a slab of the pork in her skillet to obtain the right amount of oil, a bit of which was poured into the cornbread batter. When the skillet was judged to be of the right temperature, the mixture was added to the pan, and it went immediately into the oven. She believed, as do many, that the best bread included buttermilk. The egg, more often than not, was fresh from the nest, washed, of course. Milk was added slowly so the batter would be thick, not thin and runny. If she wanted an entire cake for the coming meal, she quickly hid it.”
• Haywood Regional Medical Center officials are still looking to team up with another company to ensure survival of the region’s third-largest hospital, which has been in financial dire straits after its Medicare funding was pulled earlier this year, then later restored. The Mountaineer reports that officials recently voted unanimously to continue examining the issue, and have been in talks with Mission Hospitals, WestCare, Carolinas Medical Center, Novant Health and Adventist Health System about possible affiliations.
• The Madison County News Record & Sentinel reports that deputies recently raided a “sophisticated marijuana farm” off of Walnut Creek Road south of the Big Laurel community. Sheriff John Ledford’s deputies seized approximately 5,000 plants in the county’s largest such bust in more than a decade. “This was somebody’s prize patch,” the sheriff told the newspaper.
• And it’s Mineral and Gem Week in Mitchell County, according to the Mitchell News. There’s an indoor and an outdoor show, which both run through Aug. 3. There will be an estimated 65 dealers at one of the shows. “It is the biggest fundraiser for the Parkway Fire Department. It brings in anywhere from $18,000 to $20,000,” according to the newspaper.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor