A Little Bit of Mayberry in North Carolina

Traveling is a great way to meet interesting people. John, for example, I met at the NFAA Sectional hosted by Big Buck Archery in Stoneville, NC. John is a 75-year-old retired Marine. Aside from being a chef in the military for six year he was a member of the Marine rifle team.

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John making ready for a long shot

There are all sorts of characters in archery. But, not all of the unique individuals found along the way to shoot are found on an archery range.

Before heading back from Stoneville to Hertford I wanted to do a quick inspection of a back road I’d planned to try. Because I was pulling my camper, a Winnebago Micro Minnie, it seemed a good idea to preview an area of construction on the way to US-158.

A short drive provided assurance the path was manageable. Another good idea was to fill up with gas before the planned early morning departure on the following day.

The gas station, grocery/hardware store where I pulled in to fill up was a slice of the old South. In North Carolina, the place reminded me of a store one might have found in Mayberry.

Gomer wasn’t inside, but Andy was on duty. Andy was a retired sheriff. After his retirement he used to walk down to the store to sit out front and smoke his pipe. His wife disallows smoking at their home.

The gas station, grocery/hardware store, McCollums, is where the old men gather to smoke, chew and spit. Andy, actually Mr. Lambert, would join the tobacco team and enjoy his pipe and the local conversation.  This is North Carolina and here tobacco is a staple.

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Anyway, the “Old Man” that owned the store went into the hospital and “…never came out.”

The “Old Man’s” son was working his career job and trying to run the store.  One evening, while smoking, Mr. Lambert said to the son, “You look beat.  I know how to close up. Why don’t you go home and leave it to me.” A month later, Mr. Lambert was the new store Manager.  That was ten years ago.

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What was typical of the people in rural NC is that Mr. Lambert had stories to share. We talked for over an hour.  He told me about his farm, his career in law enforcement, and how to get around the traffic.  Most of all, he made me feel welcome and at home. A Southern Tradition.

I travel about 20,000 miles a year shooting in archery tournaments. Most of them, thus far, have been the local or regional events with a few National and World Championships thrown in for good measure.  Aside from the enjoyment of the competition a main highlight is the unique people I meet along the way.

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