The New Road


JD Thomas Walking Away from his Burning Home Place, Sprinkle Creek, Madison County, NC 1997

I know while JD's momma was still at home, after his dad died, I said, 'Momma, what if that road comes through your land?' And she said, 'Aw, woman. It'll never change. It'll never happen. We'll never have a road like that; it'll never be. I'm not worried about it.' It's just unreal. We used to walk over all those hills. We used to go after school and on the weekends, and we'd walk all the way to Big Knob. We'd play, and we'd go up in the fields and pick apples and grapes and all that stuff off the farm. It never even dawned on me that this was going to happen to that place. He won't admit this, but I knew that night they burned the house I could see tears. It hurt him. It really did.
                                                              Lela Thomas, Sprinkle Creek
                                                              - from The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia 


The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia will soon be out of print. This is Book Two of my proposed trilogy of books from Madison County. The book uses photographs, oral histories and narrative writing to tell the detailed story of the largest earth-moving project in North Carolina history. If you have yet to add this book to your collection, now is the time to do so. I will gladly sign and inscribe as you wish. Go to for information.


Supervisors Inspecting


Supervisors Inspecting site of a recent blast, Buckner Gap, Madison County, NC 1997
- from The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia

A worker stops, surprised to see me photographing among the just shattered rock. He warns me to watch out for unexploded blasting caps that could still detonate, if I were to step on them. 


Unidentified Infant Graves


Unidentified Infant Graves, Woody Cemetery, Mars Hill, NC 1996
- from The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia


I've thought often of these two children
In the twenty years since I pictured their graves.
One boxed. One shrouded.
Shrouded -
It's how I want to be laid to rest. 

But what of these two?
Born, lived, and died
At a time when this place was raw.
Probably the mid 1800s. But who knows?
No markers.
We don't know their names,
If even they had names.
Much less their ages.
Or cause of death. 

They weren't on this earth long,
judging by the size of the holes.
Maybe they died in childbirth.
Many did back then.
We can figure something of their lives,
a close proximation, at least.
From history, and stories, and
The shape of this place.

Birthed in a small cabin made of chestnut logs,
Perhaps with a midwife, but probably not.
Likely, their parents were farmers, subsistence, poor,
growing enough to survive, little more.
Maybe new immigrants, from Scotland or Ireland.
About to be caught up in the Civil War,
Or already lived through it.

The exhuming crew probes and prods and soon
uncovers the graves.
There's little evidence but for the shape of the holes.
A button, a remaining sliver of wood.
No bones or cloth. 
They box what they find with
a few shovels of dirt, to be
moved to a new unmarked grave. 
Away from the new road that's taking their resting place.



Dad and Me


Dad and Me, Washington, DC, 1948

My Dad loved his Desotos.
I think this is his first one. 
I was his first child. A son.
I would've been a year old in this picture.
He would've been 30.
People called him "Bud." His name was Robert.
He was a good guy, a better than good father.
I couldn't have asked for more.
I know this from my face - secure, ecstatic, bright-eyed.
He has a concerned look.
Why? I wonder.


Thank You


PawPaw, 2012.

Yesterday, April 30, marked the end of the most successful month in my website's brief history with over 2,400 unique visits and 4,200 page views. When I first started blogging on this site about 20 months ago, I intended to give it a year and at that time evaluate if it was worth continuing. I wondered if I would be able to sustain the volume of words and pictures and if anyone would choose to read them. That first year is now closing in on year 2 and the words seem to keep flowing. It's been fun for me and I continue to love the process. I've come to believe this is the perfect medium for me. Of course, it wouldn't be possible without you readers and I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of you for your support, comments, and timely corrections. 


Thank You


I want to thank everyone for your support of my work. I am touched and humbled. We reached a new milestone in March with 1,290 unique visitors to my blog and website with almost 5,000 page views. The number of subscribers has also been increasing at a steady clip. 

I also want to thank Jamie Paul for his editing skill, tech savviness, ideas, and mostly for being the nag that he is in terms of keeping me moving forward with the blog postings.

I've come to thoroughly love blogging and have said often over the last few months that it could be the perfect medium of expression for me. It allows me the opportunity to combine my lifelong love of writing with my photography in short vignettes that are both fun and challenging to work with.

So, again, thank you for all your support. Tell your friends and neighbors. And I'll try to keep them coming.