Table of Contents July 2013
The flat country road disappears into the night. Even in daylight, it’s hard to tell distance in the coastal plain, leveled by eons of rising and receding water until sky and horizon appear seamless. Vivian Chamblee’s round face and horn-rimmed glasses reflect the dashboard glow as she stares into the dark. Debris litters the pavement. Are those flickers of red and blue in the distance? A lump grows in her throat.
She’s as much Bertie County as if she took root when born here 67 years ago, a sharecropper’s daughter reared in a four-room house without electricity. She drove a mule and squashed thumb-sized hornworms that ate her daddy’s tobacco crops. “I got married and left home when I was 16. My first public job was housecleaning. I didn’t know how to clean a bathroom because I’d never had one.” She earned a high-school equivalency, went to night school for a nursing-assistant’s certificate and eventually became a dental assistant. In 1986, she and her husband built a frame rest home on the outskirts of Colerain, a town of about 200 just west of the Chowan River. It was smart business. Bertie and surrounding counties have some of the most elderly populations in the state. In 1990, they added a second one next door, for a total of 11 residents. Her husband died in 1993. Even after she remarried, Moore’s Family Care Home was her nest egg.
The writhing, sickish-green cloud sprang up about sundown on an April Saturday. Tearing across Snakebite Township, nothing stood between it and her rest home but farm fields and the feeble steeples of a few country churches. By the time word reached her in Ahoskie, 15 miles up the road on the Hertford County line, night was falling. When she arrives, the front-step railing still stands, illuminated by red and blue lights flashing on ambulances and sheriff’s cars. Beyond lie ruins. Broken, twisted bathroom pipes entangle an old man’s body. A dead woman’s leg protrudes from under a fallen wall. An ambulance whisks away another person, who will die the next day. That night, though, will live on. “It’ll never leave my head,” Chamblee says.
Hard times and bad luck are no strangers here. In a year’s span, northeastern North Carolina suffered three federally declared disasters: the tornadoes in 2011 that killed 24, including three people at Chamblee’s rest home, and flooding from Tropical Storm Nicole and Hurricane Irene. Between the floods, drought stunted crops. Nature shapes life here. So does location. North Carolina’s Northeast, as the region is marketed by economic developers, is officially 16 counties tucked into that corner of the state, between the ocean and Virginia state line. Currituck, the farthest away, is 190 miles from Raleigh, but miles don’t measure how remote the region is from the state’s urban centers. “People pretty much forget about us up here,” Charlie Knauss says. He’s a plant manager in Elizabeth City. With fewer than 19,000 people, it’s the region’s biggest town.
One of the world's leading manufacturers of kayaks returns to the river that inspired its launching.
He shared a love of kayaking with its founders, but Boyce Greer’s role in the creation of Liquidlogic went beyond the Green River of western North Carolina. He often paddled its waters with Shane Benedict and Woody Callaway, kayak-makers who wanted to start their own company. One night, Callaway asked Greer, a banker, where they could find investors. “Boyce said, ‘Well, what are you thinking?’” Benedict recalls. “We told him, and he said, ‘I’m in. I’m your financing.’” Greer pumped several hundred thousand dollars into the startup, which is now part of Fletcher-based Legacy Paddlesports LLC and one of the most prominent brands in the world.
How the economy turns.
John Hood — Free & Clear
Expirations on regulations.
Scott Mooneyham — Capital Goods