Remote communities are in decline
People who live their lives "the old way"—simply, self-sufficiently, off the grid—are dwindling, Parker notes in this excerpt. Parker says the county's lack of developable land is partly to blame, but also cites road-building as a culprit. Instead of bringing people into the county, it funneled Madison's residents out.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
ROB AMBERG:And I'm not asking you to judge good or bad, right or wrong. It seems to me that the whole county has made this transition. There's certainly individuals in the county that-well, you know, Lionel comes to mind in many respects. And he's a newcomer. There's still people who were born here, who live very much in an old fashioned way.
SAM PARKER:Yeah, there are. Now, those are dwindling, too. It's interesting, I've been noticing that some of the-and I'm not sure what television genre it's called-some of the exposés have been addressing themselves to the very kind of people we're talking about, who still live, if you will, the old way. They're so few now, that they focus in on these few. And these folks are still holding on. I noticed a story on a storyteller the other night who is still living the old way, if you will. It's an interesting story. Still interesting to me. But there are fewer and fewer and fewer of those, and I guess it's simply because that they're dying out. Face it, I've been here over thirty some-odd years, and the people that I've known who have been directly involved with that directly-most of them no longer exist. I mean, they're dead.
ROB AMBERG:That's certainly my experience also. And it's almost like when you start doing TV exposés on them, it's a sure sign that it's dying.
SAM PARKER:It's almost a historical notice. This is it. We want this recorded.
ROB AMBERG:"Let's put them in a museum now, because they have basically no real usefulness in our society." And I wonder how a place like Madison County, that really has had that history and had that kind of lifestyle probably longer than most any other place on the east coast-.
SAM PARKER:It's true, and it's because there's been no major development here. And one of the reasons, too, I think, is there's no flat land. There's no place to put Acme Sock Company. There's no place to put these other things.
ROB AMBERG:But access, also, in and out of it has really changed it, where it's been a major thing, too. As you were talking about, getting electricity felt like a personal change for you all. It seems to me that getting the Weaverville/Marshall highway-it's really changed things. It's allowed people in; it's allowed people out.
SAM PARKER:You know, speaking of roads, Rob, once upon a time, Zeno Ponder and some other-James Ledford and the other folks in this county who were in leadership positions at that point in time-some still are. We were involved with the road-the new 19-23- from essentially the high school into Weaverville. And so there were board meetings, and there were meetings on that road, and it was going to bring major changes to Madison County. It's interesting, and I don't remember who had the analogy. What they said it was going to be like a funnel that was going to funnel all this economic development into Madison County. And what happened was that the funnel was turned end-to-end the other direction, so that essentially Madison County funneled out into Buncombe, Yancey, wherever these businesses were. Interestingly enough, that helped somehow preserve Madison County independence. It didn't demand that there'd be jobs here. It simply provided a way for those people who could and would to go into those other areas.