The Naturalist's Corner: 20 years are in the can; as they say in the biz

I can’t, thinking back now, remember what the two floors below us were at 9 Main Street, in 1999 when this adventure known as The Smoky Mountain News took flight. I can, however, testify those five or six of us stuck around in the nooks and crannies of that third floor, all with electric heaters under our desks during the winter of 1999 were not thinking about where or what The Smoky Mountain News would be in 20 years.

Loving every word of it, all 630,000

Let’s start with some basic mathematics.

For 20 years, I have reviewed books for The Smoky Mountain News. For some of those years, I shared the position of reviewer with that fine storyteller and playwright, Gary Carden. Occasionally, too, others like writer and poet Thomas Rain Crowe have published reviews in this space.

This must be the place: No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language and knowledge

The first week I lived and worked in Western North Carolina, I slept underneath my desk in the old newsroom of The Smoky Mountain News on Church Street in downtown Waynesville.

Twenty years later, another edition done

In the beginning, one doesn’t even think about the long run. When you’re fighting every day to survive, there’s no time to look over your shoulder. Slow down long enough to take in what’s in the rearview mirror, and you’re all too likely to get eaten alive by those who would love nothing better than to chew up and spit out the upstart.

1999: Smokies works to overcome hurdles

It’s no coincidence that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the subject of The Smoky Mountain News’ first-ever front-page story in the paper’s inaugural issue June 2, 1999.

2001: Elk return to Western North Carolina

“A large herd gathered last week on a remote, historical farmstead maintained by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Cataloochee Valley,” Don Hendershot wrote for The Smoky Mountain News on Feb. 7, 2001. “The herd, however, were bipeds — nearly 900 people were in attendance for the first of three scheduled elk releases.”

2003: The end of Eric Rudolph’s run

He was a seasoned dumpster diver by now. For the last three summers, he’d regularly swoop down in the dead of night to go “shopping,” collecting fruits and veggies to preserve for the winter. 

2004: Floods ravage Western North Carolina

The tiny central Haywood County town of Clyde lies more than 270 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, more than 400 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and more than 2,500 feet above both of them, so it must have seemed like a cruel joke when back-to-back hurricanes over the course of about a week caused unprecedented regional flooding. 

2005: State passes education lottery system

Nearly 15 years after the North Carolina General Assembly narrowly passed a bill establishing an education lottery system, state legislators and local school districts are still arguing over how the revenue should be spent. 

2007: Journey from the Road to Nowhere

If you can’t understand why people in Swain County are distrustful of the federal government, then you are among those unfamiliar with the history of the infamous Road to Nowhere. 

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