Six months in my new home

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

This week marks my six-month anniversary living in Rutherford County and working at The Daily Courier. And what a quick six months it has been.

I thought this would be an ideal time in which to reflect on some of my favorite events I have attended, people I have met and stories I have written.

One of the most enjoyable events I have been to in Rutherford County was the all-American, old-fashioned Fourth of July Festival in Rutherfordton.

The streets of downtown were full of watermelon, soapbox cars and fireworks during the small-town celebration with family and friends. I even volunteered to help judge the watermelon eating contests, which turned out to be some of the most popular (and messiest) events of the day.

Another memorable event I attended was the inaugural ‘Thunder in the Gorge’ DWI campaign in the Lake Lure area of Hickory Nut Gorge in May.

I watched as the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), in conjunction with Lake Lure Fire Department and officers from Lake Lure, Forest City, Rutherfordton, Spindale, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina Department of Corrections, set up three DWI checkpoints that evening to zero in on drunk drivers.

I also got to climb aboard and tour BATMobile Unit 3, a 32-foot mobile breath-alcohol testing unit used to increase the efficiency of on-site DWI processing. The BATMobile is equipped with three workstations for Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test instruments, computers, printers, cellular phones, screening test devices, magistrates’ work area and all other necessary equipment and supplies for processing DWI suspects.

Perhaps one of the most moving events I attended was yesterday’s Patriot Day ceremony at the Forest City Fire Department.

Local firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and members of the community took time to honor and remember those heroes who died in the line of duty and the brave civilians who lost their lives on Sept. 11. Hearing the emotion in the voices of survivors who witnessed the tragedy first-hand and seeing the tears shed from the eyes of several listeners truly touched my heart.

It was very touching when the ceremony concluded with the iconic tolling of the bell as a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on that day twelve years ago.

During my six months in Rutherford County, I have also met numerous people who embody the true meaning of hospitality and who are just as unique as the stories they have to tell.

One of those people is Rachel Harrill, founder of the Chrissy G Foundation in Rutherfordton and a woman who I have mentioned before.

Rachel’s organization seeks to provide new hope for pet owners and second chances for dogs by supporting the research and treatment of canine cancer. Rachel not only opens her heart to sick pets to help fund cancer treatments, but also takes the time to support grieving owners in the event their pet passes away.

Her love for animals and determination to fight canine cancer continue to inspire me.

Another individual I will never forget meeting is Jackson Corbin, a beekeeper in Rutherfordton.

Jackson has been beekeeping for more than 10 years and first started the profession by keeping hives at his Rutherfordton home. When his bees reached a healthy threshold with a certain amount in one area, he began creating localized strains of bees in various locations.

What really stands out about Jackson’s beekeeping is his partnership with Rich Davis, the owner and operator of Earthperks Farm. Rich has hosted Jackson’s hives for years at his organic farm where the bees have plentiful sources of pollen.

Jackson knows an organic farm is important for bees, as is the “sweet” relationship between a beekeeper and a farmer.

Another person I had the pleasure of meeting is Leroy Palmer, who drives his 1931 Model-A Ford from his hometown of San Angelo, Tex. to Rutherfordton to discover his ancestry.

Every year Leroy looks for places to drive his car and each spring he takes a cross-country trip in his Model-A. To his car he attaches a small pop-up camper that he designed himself, complete with a bed, fold out tables, small portable stove and enough dry food to last him for weeks.

What Leroy enjoys most about driving and making his trips are the people he meets along the way, especially those when he arrives in Rutherfordton. He has even encouraged and inspired others to drive their antique cars and camp along the way to their destinations.

While I have written countless news stories during the past six months, a select few really stand out for me.

One such story featured firefighter training props built by the Forest City Fire Department using lumber and supplies donated by Lowe’s Home Improvement.

The department has completed two of their four props, including a wall prop and a ventilation prop. Both props provide a safe, controlled environment for firefighters to properly train, versus a smoke-filled or hazardous environment.

The props attempt to simulate real conditions and train firefighters how to use roof ladders, practice cutting a hole into a roof, enter and exit windows as well as additional skills necessary during a fire. Watching the firefighters train with the props one afternoon, it truly amazed me just how hard firefighting is — physically, mentally and emotionally.

Another story I enjoyed reporting was the re-election filing of five Rutherford County mayors during the opening of candidate filing for municipal elections at the Board of Elections.

Mayors Don Baynard (Ruth), Mickey Bland (Spindale), Jimmy Dancy (Rutherfordton), Bob Keith (Lake Lure) and Dennis Tarlton (Forest City) collectively met to file for re-election together, the first time in the county’s history that five mayors have all filed at the same time.

I found the shared camaraderie among these mayors and the bolstering of positive, working relationships to be quite admirable.

Without a doubt one of my favorite stories written was a feature on local ice cream makers and shops.

I researched intriguing frozen concoction facts, visited various shops serving up the sweet treat and admittedly tasted lots of homemade ice cream. And along the way, I met Larry Crowe and Jane Bell who each have a passion extending far beyond their ice cream churning and scooping.

Reflecting on the past six months, I have been blessed with opportunities to attend significant events, meet inspiring people and write some pretty amazing stories in Rutherford County.