Friday, July 26, 2013



There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are simple things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.
Ernest Hemingway

By Doc Lawrence

NORTH WILKESBORO, NC-This in bedrock America, a Deep South counterpart to the landing long ago by Pilgrims in New England. Early settlers here were independent-minded, hardy men and women who loved land and the fruits of the soil. They remain today “God-fearin’” people, as my ancestors would say, and what they believed and built had permanence. Their progeny is all over this region of North Carolina and no person embodies all that makes North Carolina so special than TV’s Carl White who celebrates his birthday this weekend.

“Life in the Carolinas,” Mr. White’s highly popular brainchild is syndicated throughout North and South Carolina, reaching millions of homes, delivering a light-hearted, high-quality program that showcases everything from the arts and folkways to Yadkin Valley wines and Bluegrass music. Not since Charles Karult’s CBS program,  “On the Road," has there been a television series that honors the grassroots culture of a region. Karault, also a Tar Heel, had an eye for humor and poignancy, gifts skillfully employed by Carl White.

While quite contemporary, White’s “Life in the Carolinas,” has spiritual roots in Karult’s. "On the Road" which became a regular CBS News feature. Karult wore out six motor homes during his tenure, but Mr. White’s Lincoln Town Car is holding steady after five years. Much like Karult, the show is produced by a small, albeit gifted crew and where possible, Interstates are avoided (they “allow you to drive coast to coast, without seeing anything" Karult said), in favor of back roads, in search of Carolina’s people and their way of living.

My first encounter with Carl White was in the deep and dangerous waters of the mighty Tuckasegee River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina near Sylva. I was trout fishing in icy waters when I met the host standing in the stream, holding his microphone. With a cameraman positioned on a nearby rock like a sniper, he inquired if I was having any luck and where I was from. Although the current was swift, and the rocks needed for balance were slippery, the interview remained light-hearted and at times funny.

We never fell in the river. A friendship began.

After many bottles of what Carl White calls “good Carolina wine,” and all night story telling occasionally with strangers is such places like the Outer Banks, downtown Charlotte, Lake Oconee south of Atlanta and points in between, I’ve yet to hear him speak one mean-spirited word or make a cruel reference to anyone, a pretty high claim to clean living in a media culture dominated by empty talking heads. White is a composite of what makes North Carolina such a special place: Classic old school media and celebrity in the tradition of Andy Griffith, James Taylor, Doc Watson, Thomas Wolfe, Earl Scruggs, Ava Gardner, David Brinkley, Charlie Rose and Mr. Karult.

A few days during production at Merrily Teasley’s gorgeous Balsam Mountain Inn near Western Carolina University included mountain dancing, sing-alongs, food and wines and an opportunity to give and receive, the secret ingredient for making new friends. True to Carl White’s formula, the mixture was balanced: Families, technicians, Native-Americans, actors, cooks, musicians and one genuine celebrity, Grammy-Award winner David Holt, the talented host of Public Radio’s “Riverwalk Jazz.”

At dinner, a toast was proposed, observing that life was a wonderful interaction between “good hopes and precious memories.”

Carl White’s “Life in the Carolinas” could be the biggest tourism bargain not just in the two states but also anywhere in the country. Each show reaches the
multitudes with a message that something wonderful is going on by the hour in these nooks and crannies of America’s heartland, beckoning us to come visit and stay awhile.

I join Carl White’s many friends in celebrating. Time and distance mean nothing this weekend. I have a bottle of delicious RagApple Lassie wine from the Yadkin Valley and every sip pairs perfectly with a toast to North Carolina’s extraordinary messenger to the world. He gives his time and resources and this weekend we give our gratitude.

Happy Birthday, Carl!

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