North Carolina Literary Trails


Barbara Presnell reads from Piece Work

Asheboro, Randleman, Lexington, Thomasville

This tour is pure nostalgia: for the cotton mill culture that bonded workers and families in a common pursuit, for the amenities of small-town life in the Piedmont of the last century and for a few of the indigenous treats of the region — barbecue, penny candy and fried okra.

Writers with a connection to this area: Jerry Bledsoe, Braxton Craven, Sue Farlow, Charles Frazier, Holly George-Warren, Gerald White Johnson, Barbara Presnell, Margaret Rabb, Sandra Redding, Dale Volberg Reed, John Shelton Reed, Jack Riggs, Chris Costner Sizemore and Richard Walser.

Poet Barbara Presnell provides the following personal introduction to the place where she was raised:

I grew up in the late 1950s and 60s in Asheboro, the third
child of a high school educator/counselor and the production
superintendent at a small textile mill. Both sides
of the family settled in the county over 200 years ago, on
sprawling farms with many children. My grandfather
operated a blacksmith shop and buggy repair business in
town. On the other side of the family were farmers and
Quakers—industrious, devout people.
I spent Saturdays traipsing around after my father at
the mill or riding along the county roads looking for farms
or fishing holes somebody at work had told him about. I
knew the sewing ladies and the plant owners by name—
and they knew me. We’d visit my grandmother, a snuff-dipping mother
of ten, who lived in a house on Main Street heated by a pot-bellied stove.
Every month or so, we’d have to cut her a fresh toothbrush from a sweet
gum branch. Sundays we’d head to the other end of the county where my
mother’s people lived, in Randleman, or Worthville, along the Deep River.
Even though they were country raised, they were proper, bridge-playing
people who kept a neat house on one of Randleman’s downtown streets.
I’m still meeting cousins I never knew existed. Most of the time we only
have to trace back a generation or two before we find the link.
These are the people I write about, sometimes real and sometimes
imagined. They cane chairs like my father did, and grow cucumbers and
tomatoes in their side gardens, even though they have good jobs in town.
They love their families and church. They struggle with a North Carolina
that is changing too quickly, and sometimes they feel like they’re being left
behind. Sometimes they don’t want to go.

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North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
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Susan Kluttz, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor