“My Love Song To Orange County”
ORANGE COUNTY – Local author Barbara Claypole White is winning accolades for her second novel, “The In-Between Hour”—a story about a pair of families that come together in rural Orange County as one struggles with clinical depression and the other struggles with Alzheimer’s disease.
Released earlier this month, “The In-Between Hour” has already been named the Winter 2014 Okra pick by the Southern Indie Bookstores.
A 19-year resident of Orange County, White says Orange County provides more than just the setting—it also serves as the inspiration for the mood and the characters of the novel as well.
“You know, Orange County–it just speaks to me,” White says. “I feel this strong connection to the land, I love the forest, I’m a woodland gardener, I’m obsessed with beauty and dark hidden niches and light through the trees, and so this novel really is sort of–I know it sounds a little kooky–but it’s kind of my love letter, my love song to Orange County.”
White will be reading from “The In-Between Hour” at McIntyre’s Books at Fearrington Village on Saturday, January 25, at 11:00 a.m.
Basketball and the small cracks in the wall of segregation
The best thing about the new movie and best-selling book, “The Help,” may be something other than the compelling story and the view into the relationships between white women and their black servants.
So what is this “best thing?”
“The Help” has us talking, thinking, remembering, reflecting, and reconsidering. It reminds us of friendships between some whites and some blacks that were making small cracks in that great wall of segregation.
Like “The Help,” a new North Carolina novel pushes us back to 1963 and requires us to re-experience relationships between whites and blacks during those times.
Clyde Edgerton’s “Night Train” is set in a small North Carolina town, where two teenaged aspiring musicians, one black, the other white, struggle to build a friendship over and around the walls of segregation.
When he talks about his new book, Edgerton shares a poignant back-story. The fictional black teenager is modeled on a real person named Larry Lime Holman. Holman, like Edgerton, grew up in Bethesda, a small town near Durham.
Although they lived in the same town, Larry Lime’s black school and Clyde’s white school never competed against each other in athletics. But both the white and black athletes hung around Clyde’s uncle’s grocery store. One day they started arguing about which group had the best basketball players.
Larry Lime, Clyde and the other boys decided to do something that broke the rules of their segregated town. They decided to break into the small Old Bethesda School gym and play a game of basketball, whites against blacks.
“They had nine guys and we just had five,” Edgerton remembers. “And those who weren’t on the court just stood in line waiting to replace a player who got tired.”
Larry Lime’s team “just wore us down,” Clyde says.
From that report, I assume that Larry Lime’s team won. But Clyde says he does not remember for sure.
Clyde and Larry Lime got away with their secret basketball game. But a few days later, when the two boys were shooting baskets at a goal in Clyde’s backyard, Clyde’s dad came out of the house and told the boys that Larry Lime would have to leave. The neighbors might complain.
Clyde fictionalized this real story in an earlier novel, “The Floatplane Notebooks.”
Retired Chapel Hill pharmacist Cliff Butler remembers a similar story from 1963 when his Dunn High School basketball team coached by Dick Knox (later deputy executive director and supervisor of officials for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association) won its league championship.
That same year, Harnett High, the black school, also had a great team.
The white players and the black players hung around Cliff’s dad’s drugstore. There was some friendly bantering about which team was better, and they decided to settle the question.
So they agreed to meet in the gym at Harnett High, everybody knowing that it would be too dangerous to bring black players to the white high school gym. The black team won a close game, Cliff remembers, thanks in part to “a little guy on their team who shot the lights out that day.”
The next day, word got out in the community about the game. Mr. Hutaff, who ran an insurance agency next door to Cliff’s dad’s drugstore, pulled Cliff aside and told him that he had heard about the game. “It had better not happen again or there will be hell to pay.”
A more secret and more illegal interracial basketball game took place in 1944 between the Duke Medical School team and the North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University).
These basketball stories were tiny cracks in the wall of segregation. But it was the accumulation of many tiny cracks that helped bring down that wall. So, every one of those little cracks in is worth remembering and celebrating today.
In the shadow of Cold Mountain, a real Inman
Driving south on Lake Logan Road, in the Pigeon River Valley and the shadow of Cold Mountain, headed towards Inman’s Chapel the other day, I could not help wondering whether or not the Inman in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” was a real person.
The dedication of a highway marker at Inman’s Chapel that day gave me some idea that somebody named Inman was important enough to have a chapel named after him.
As I neared the chapel, I passed Inman Branch Road and then Frazier Road. Good evidence that Inmans and Fraziers lived close by—and that they were real.
Other “Cold Mountain” readers and moviegoers may also wonder about the lead character, W.P. Inman, that strong-willed, determined, and principled North Carolina Civil War soldier and his odyssey from battlefield, to a hospital, and a long walk across the state towards his mountain home.
But was he a real person?
Charles Frazier insists that his Inman was a fictional character. But he concedes that family stories about his great-great-grandfather and his ancestor’s brothers inspired the novel.
At the highway marker ceremony, I met two Inman family historians, Cheryl Inman Haney and Phyllis Inman Barnett. Both have written books about the Inman family. I learned from their books that W.P. Inman was indeed a real person. Like the fictional Inman, he fought in the “Battle of the Crater,” was wounded, deserted from a hospital in Raleigh, and made his way back to his mountains.
According to the family historians, in December 1864, the real William Pinkney Inman went to Tennessee, where he signed an oath of allegiance to the United States. On his way back home, he was killed by the Home Guard at a place called “Big Stomp.”
Someone complained to Charles Frazier that the title of his book should have been “Big Stomp,” not “Cold Mountain.”
The family histories report that a few months before his death, W.P. Inman and Margaret Henson had a daughter, Willie Ida Inman. She grew up, married, and had five children and a host of descendants. Thus, the real W.P. Inman’s descendants are scatted across North Carolina and the rest of the world.
W.P. Inman and five of his brothers went to war. Only two survived.
Although W.P. Inman is, thanks to Charles Frazier’s book, by far the best known of the brothers, the attention at the dedication of the historic marker at the chapel was focused on his oldest brother, James Anderson Inman.
James Anderson and two other Inman brothers were captured early in the war and sent to a prison at Camp Douglas in Chicago. Conditions were harsh. Although James Anderson survived, the other brothers died in prison.
When he returned to the Pigeon River Valley, James Anderson became a minister in the Universalist church. Universalism was a form of Christianity that emphasized a God of mercy, rejecting the idea that God would condemn any soul to an eternity of suffering in Hell. This and other liberal Universalist beliefs were foreign to the fire and brimstone image of the Bible belt and conservative mountain religion.
Like Cold Mountain’s fictional Inman, James Anderson Inman was ready to stand up against cultural norms if he did not think they were right. Over time he built a loyal congregation, had the chapel constructed, and won the respect of the people of the valley. His successor in the pulpit, a woman named Hannah Powell, carried on and expanded programs of education and social service that people in the valley still remember.
Inman’s Chapel no longer hosts an active congregation, but it can still inspire and remind us that there was indeed a very real Inman.
In fact, more than one.