Water witching reunion
Say the word "dowsing" to most people, and if you aren't met with a blank stare of incomprehension, chances are they'll say something like, "You mean that thing where you look for water with forked stick, right?"
Dowsing (or, more colorfully, "water witching") has been used for thousands of years to aid in finding good locations for wells. And modern-day dowser Richard Crutchfield of Asheville says that's just the tip of the metaphysical iceberg.
"Dowsing is a way of tapping into your subconscious ability to get information that you can't normally get through your logical mind," he asserts.
As an active dowser since the late 1970s, Crutchfield has seen any number of applications. "It's good for looking for different energy fields, such as a good place to put a house or a garden. You can also use it for medical purposes [and] finding lost objects or structures."
Of course, one thing dowsing has never been good at finding is scientific proof that the technique works. A brief Internet search reveals that you don't exactly need a forked stick to find skeptics.
"The general public is pretty skeptical," Crutchfield admits. "I suspect that if you tried to sell dowsing to the state officials that are in charge of water resources, they'd just sort of shake their heads at you. But, people who call me up are willing to trust me, and word gets around."
Like so many folks who practice fringe arts, dowsers look forward to the handful of public events that allow them to, well, find each other. On Saturday, Feb. 24, the Appalachian Chapter of the American Society of Dowsers will hold their quarterly meeting at the Leicester Community Center from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Professional dowser Raymon Grace will be the guest speaker, and a class in basic dowsing will be offered from 3 to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit wncdowsers.org.
— Steve Shanafelt
On Haywood: Failure is not an option
Haywood Road Market, in West Asheville, started the New Year with something like a hangover. Sales were down; a cooler was broken; the grocery owed its suppliers some $25,000. By mid-January the store was without a manager.
Clearly, it was a time for action.
On Feb. 11 the co-op board of directors called a meeting to see where member sentiment lay. Seventy members voted during the meeting, with 54 of them opting to keep the store open.
"A lot of people feel like this is our last chance," says board member and interim manager Sage Turner. "If we can't fix it this time, we'll have to close."
Accordingly, the store's board has put together a "West Asheville All-Star Task Force" -- a consort of local-business leaders, accountants and the like that is drafting a business plan to save the store. In addition, the co-op is getting friendly, pro bono help during its transition from folks who know co-ops: Steve Watts, manager of the French Broad Food Co-op, and others from the Biltmore Avenue landmark.
The market opened five years ago with an eye to becoming a commercial-and-social center for West Asheville. Its member/owners, who currently number 570, get store discounts in exchange for a modest member's fee. Yet the co-op is open to everyone. And everyone, Turner insists, should consider paying the place a visit.
"If we did $200 more a day -- 10 people spending $20 -- that would completely change our outlook. That's all it would take for us."
In their bid to keep the store afloat, co-op members are beautifying the store, redoing the interior, expanding seating for the three-month-old Roots Cafe, doubling the store's beer-and-wine section and hoping to do the same, eventually, for its other merchandise, which ranges from fresh local produce to cruelty-free cosmetics.
Success won't come easy, Turner concedes. The co-op, which has never been flush, faces tough competition from regional juggernauts like Earth Fare and Greenlife. And more recently, organic foods have blossomed at Ingles and even Wal-Mart with all the force and abundance of a summer squash patch.
"It's a matter of buying power," says Turner. "When it comes to prices, we just can't compete."
Rather, what the co-op offers, Turner insists, is the increasingly rare chance for members to build a community -- a true neighborhood venture -- with their shopping dollars, and, if they wish, the sweat of their brow.
"There's a lot of community spirit here," she says. "We're the hub of the West Asheville neighborhood. We've got to make it work."
The Haywood Road Market is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store's number is 225-4445.
— Kent Priestley
The saga of the stolen scooter
Word on the street has it that: 1) Scooters almost inevitably get stolen; and 2) When they do, wave goodbye. For good.
Public Relations Officer John Dankel of the Asheville Police Department says that perception has some basis in fact. "In the past 12 months, there have been 53 incident reports concerning stolen motorbikes," he reports.
In the summer of 2004, the cherry-red Aprilla scooter owned by Asheville videographer Rebecca MacNeice served as her primary transportation. "I hardly ever used my car that summer," she remembers. "[Scooters] go forever on a gallon of gas."
Not long after, though, MacNeice spied a "large, mean" thief tossing her ride into a truck. She charged into the street and confronted the man, but he didn't back down, so she ran inside and phoned the police. By the time the cops responded, the culprit had sped away.
More than two-and-a-half years later, on Feb. 13, the phone at MacNeice Films rang. It was the APD: The stolen scooter had been found parked in Deaverview Apartments. Sgt. Faye Harper had run the Aprilla's vehicle identification number, and the bike popped up on the list of pilfered property.
According to Sgt. Ernie Wellborn, who reported the discovery to MacNeice, the scooter was purchased by Alan's Jewelry & Pawn last September and subsequently sold at Westside Pawn (which is owned by Alan's) to a woman in Deaverview.
MacNeice was concerned about the buyer. "There's a woman now, stuck without transportation, who bought it from a store," she says. "She paid money and I'm afraid she won't get it back."
However, Tanya Sheppard, manager at Alan's, tells Xpress that the store makes a point of refunding whatever money customers spend on stolen goods. "We do everything we can not to take in stolen merchandise, but when it happens, we turn around and prosecute the person who sold us the item," she says.
Furthermore, she says, "Alan's has been the leader in trying to get local law enforcement to implement a new system that will let us enter data directly when we purchase items. They can be automatically checked against a national database of stolen merchandise."
Wellborn confirmed that Sheppard brought the idea to the APD and that the department has been working on implementing the program for more than a year. Called "LeadsOnline," the system has been in use in other states for some time, and Sheppard even brought experts here from Texas to explain it to local authorities. The police department has encouraged Asheville City Council to fund implementation. Wellborn said he believes it will improve recovery rates for stolen goods, and actually save money for the department since pawn dealers will input the information directly instead of turning in paper records.
In the meantime, Dankel has a practical recommendation for scooter owners: "These things get stolen all the time. People need to be more careful and put 'em in a garage or use a lock and chain."
Flat tire, missing tool/helmet box, broken turn signal and all, MacNeice is more than happy about the end of her scooter saga. As she told Xpress, "The APD has been great!"
— Cecil Bothwell
"Caravan to Raleigh" seeks increased judicial-system funds
When Mayor Terry Bellamy arrived several hours late to the Feb. 13 Asheville City Council meeting, it wasn't because she was slacking. Far from it.
Bellamy and Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan spent their day (beginning at 3 a.m.) traveling with a cadre of North Carolina mayors, law officers and crime victims to bend the ears of state legislators.
The "Caravan to Raleigh," organized by Charlotte Mayor Pat McCory, was intended to highlight the need for funding the state's judicial system, Bellamy told Xpress. In her term as mayor, Bellamy has emphasized the need for a stricter -- and better funded -- judicial process rather than the increased police presence championed by Council member Carl Mumpower.
"We have to arrest people several times before the length of the conviction is substantial," she said. "[It becomes] what people perceive as us not responding."
A major step in fixing the system, she argued, is to provide more money for district attorneys so they can better prosecute criminals. Less than 2 percent of the state budget, she points out, goes to the judicial system.
The caravan included mayors from around the state, and Bellamy said that the others are facing "the exact same thing."
Meetings with a representative from the governor's office, Reps. Bruce Goforth and Charles Thomas, and State Sen. Marc Basnight were held in ad hoc sessions, often in the halls of the State Capitol between sessions or in unscheduled visits to legislators' offices.
"It's clear that the impact [of judicial-system funding] needs to be articulated," Bellamy said after the trip. "The more our legislators hear that and understand, the more they can help."
— Brian Postelle
Meet The Stackhouses of Appalachia: A "Grateful Step" for startup Asheville publisher
How much can you tell about a place from the history of one family? Quite a lot, if that family is the Stackhouses of the Marshall area, whose ancestor Amos Stackhouse helped build communities there in the 19th century.
A Quaker from Pennsylvania, Stackhouse chose the banks of the French Broad River for a spot to make a settlement, and generations of his family have carved out a legacy there over the past 135 years. So influential was their work and presence, it's hard to imagine how the towns of Hot Springs, Marshall, Runion and Stackhouse would have evolved without the enterprising family, which made important contributions to the region's commerce, education, transportation and cultural life.
In her new book, The Stackhouses of Appalachia: Even to Our Own Times (Grateful Steps, 2007), Hot Springs native Jacqueline Burgin Painter tells how the region entered the modern era, using the family's story as a window into the wider community history. The book will debut at a special event in Marshall this Sunday (see details below).
In The Stackhouses, Painter, the author of several regional history books, makes extensive use of family records to tell how each generation helped shaped the area. Still, "the emphasis isn't on the family," notes Grateful Steps Publisher Micki Cabaniss Eutsler, a retired physician who founded the Asheville-based company last year. "The emphasis is on the in-depth history of the Appalachian area encompassing Hot Springs and Marshall." Outdoors enthusiasts, she advises, will find much of interest in the book, given its detailed discussions of natural areas now frequented by hikers and paddlers.
This is Grateful Steps' first book; Eutsler says she plans to publish between six and 10 more titles in the coming year, and that some 20 are in the works. She describes Grateful Steps as a "full-service" publisher that will produce everything from memoirs and novels to poetry and children's books. "It's a joy to be publishing," she says, noting that it's part of her family's tradition: One of her grandfathers was a publisher, and her daughter and son-in-law, Michele and Tom Scheve, publish the local-news satire that appears in Xpress, the Asheville Disclaimer.
The Stackhouses debut takes place from 3 to 4:30 at the Arts Sanctuary in Marshall (56 North Main St.) on Sunday, Feb. 25. Painter will speak and sign books, and a number of local specialists will discuss topics ranging from geology to recreation; in addition, Stackhouse family members will be on hand with family artifacts and stories. After the main event, there will be music and refreshments. Call the Sanctuary at 649-1301. For more information on Grateful Steps, visit www.gratefulsteps.com or call 277-0998.
— Jon Elliston