Contributing Works Stories

Icing on the Cake of Life

Everyone knows that family is important. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today, no matter the situation. We each have our differences, hardships, and struggles. We also have the good times, lessons that last with us for a lifetime, and things that connect us, even when we’re apart. Below is a letter from Teresa Canoy, proprietor of Harvest House in Ramseur, NC, to her late father, James “Boot” York, who was a fireman for Franklinville Fire Department.

Dear Dad,

Thirty years ago, November 10th was our last conversation about Christmas lights for the fire department. I wrote to you 19 years ago, that letter printed after 9/11. It being about your grandson, J.R. and him remembering you being a fireman, with his hopes of maybe one day becoming a fireman.

Dad, I tried so hard to be a son, always trying to prove myself of being tough, not just on the farm, but with many other life duties. When you became a grandfather, I saw the softer side. The overwhelming love you had for my son, and then my daughter, Jessica. You would be proud, Jessica has been a Jr. Fireman. J.R. now has a son of his own. Now I know how deeply grandparenting love runs. 

Dad, I was very wrong in my dislike of you and your involvement with the fire department. I know that you being a fireman and a grandparent was your Icing on your Cake of Life. Those were some of your best years. 

Dad, sitting here this morning, having just returned from a fire alarm and taking off turn-out gear, I’m understanding even more of the importance of all fire departments and what they do for the communities. Even though you are not here, I feel closer to you than I ever have. You leaving this earth at 46 years old was too soon. I’m proud to tell you at 56 years old, I’m working to have a brother-sister hood. I’m just a probie right now, but hope to honor what you started.

P.S. Hope I never forget the fire truck…I want to honor all of those who have given their time, talent, and their lives. When I look at the Senior Fireman, I’m humbled of all they have given. I look to the young fireman and feel so proud of them. I feel hope and pray not only for their dedication, but for their lives and all that they are giving. 

Dada, you taught me to be tough and to fight. I will not give up, I will stumble and I will fall. It will take me longer to stand back up than those younger ones, but I will stand and keep fighting. Thank you Daddy.

I want special thanks to all my loved ones that will be here to cover my ass and support me. I want to thank J.R. and Cortney for making me a grandparent. My cup runneth over. Thank you and love to Jessica and Josh for always being here for me. Josh, thanks for knowing how stubborn I can be, and talking to me about knowing my limits, so I don’t fall out and cause hardships on the team.

Thanks to the Ramseur Fire Department for making me feel safe, welcome, and allowing me a chance to be a part of your vital organization, that voluntarily helps others in time of need. I’ve been told there is always something anyone can do. 

I challenge everyone to check in with a local fire department. Volunteers are needed. 

P.S. I’m beginning to put the Icing on My Cake.



Contributing Works Stories

Lessons from Miss Lou’s

by Debra Vernon

Today, it seems as if there is a Dollar General on every corner.  Little islands of retail pop up in the most rural of areas.  It’s a place where you can run in and grab most necessities, and then quickly beat a retreat to the car and on back to your house.  But in the not too distant past, the local “country store” was a big part of any community, and it was no different at Browns Crossroads. 

The neighborhood of Browns Crossroads still exists among the gently rolling foothills of eastern Randolph County.  It is the type of place where anyone that lives within a 5-mile radius is considered your neighbor, and that’s a good thing.  Back in the day, there at the crossroads was Langley’s store, affectionately known by anyone in the neighborhood simply as “Miss Lou’s”.   

This was a place which was not designed for the quick stop.  This was a place where you were encouraged to stick around and find out the comings and goings of your neighbors.  The parking lot was composed of a little bit of gravel and a whole lot of bottle caps, which gave a distinct sound when you walked on them.  A Sunbeam screen door would slam shut behind you as you entered the sanctuary of the neighborhood retail chapel.  A long counter that ran along the back, with an assortment of items for display: ‘nab crackers, Vienna sausages, potted meat, saltine crackers, sardines and for the high-end diners, cans of beanie weenies. The coke machine was the chest type, and you could reach in and find the coldest coca cola ever, chilled just right and waiting for you to add salted peanuts.  Coble Dairy ice cream cups with the little wooden spoons occupied my childhood desires while there, but they were not housed in a fancy freezer like frozen items are nowadays.  Nope, there was an old white Kelvinator fridge that sat back in the corner, where milk and cheese occupied the cooling section, and ice cream cups and sandwiches occupied the freezer portion.  Loaves of bread sat out on a metal rack, and a few cookies and sweet things occupied another shelf.  There was not a lot of variety, and that was okay, as it was a simpler time and a simpler place, when just the basics was quite enough.  Red Man chewing tobacco, as well as Camels with no filter were available by the pack.  Chatham Dog Food was stacked in 50-lb bags over against the wall, and I spent many Saturday nights sitting on those, watching my mom and dad and our neighbors playing games of Canasta or Rook at the table in the corner.   I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye right now.  

Miss Lou was queen in that realm and ruled it accordingly.  I do not believe I ever saw her in anything but her “house dress”, standing behind the counter while ringing up purchases on that big old metal cash register with the bell on it, and dispensing the latest news of the neighborhood.  She was a fount of knowledge; and knew everyone near and far.  It was in this small space I learned some valuable life lessons.

If someone in the community was sick, the ladies would map out who would provide meals during the week.  On your assigned day, you cooked up a big meal and took it to them.  And it was an entire meal, complete with meat, a few vegetables, homemade biscuits, sweet tea and a dessert of some kind.  And it was all made from scratch.  None of that store-bought stuff.  You marked your dishes with your initials, and you were sure them get them back.  If it was an extended illness, house cleaning, as well as clothes washing, and ironing would be taken care of.  Men folk would take care of items such as planting or harvesting (depending on the time of the year), moving stock from one pasture to the next, or gathering/splitting wood.  

If the doors to the church were open, you were there.  You served whenever and wherever needed and did so with a glad heart.  Bible school was held each summer, revival services in the spring and fall, and the Christmas program with the kids was always a big hit.  You may not attend the same churches as some of your neighbors, but you supported their fund-raising dinners and gave generously to their projects.  It was just the Christian thing to do.  Some of those dinners were held at the Grange Hall across from Miss Lou’s store.  Fried chicken, green beans seasoned with fatback, homemade biscuits, sweet tea and some of the best desserts to ever hit your taste buds flourished at those dinners.  

You went to school with your friends at one school for all grades, and you were subject to the expectations of your teachers and the principal while there.  If you were not on your best behavior, discipline would be dispensed quickly and efficiently at school, and a note sent home to ensure another dose would be administered by mom or dad.  Even if you were not on the school sports team, you were still at any of the games you could get to.  School spirit was infused into everything you did, and it was contagious!  The smell of freshly popped popcorn still takes me back to the gymnasium at Ramseur Elementary school, and I am so tickled the gym I remember is still there and in use!

You also learned to respect your elders.  This was not just the older folk in the family, but anyone in the community older than you.  You respectfully listened to what they had to say and did not interrupt or argue.  And for those who were authority figures, such as police officers and firemen, a special measure of respect was due, as you knew they put themselves in harms way to protect and serve others.  

This was also during the time of the draft, so every red-blooded and physically able young man gave a minimum of 2-4 years of service to the armed forces.  And every mother gave a piece of her heart.  Because of this, it was instilled in you at a young age to stand for the national anthem with your hand over your heart, say the pledge of allegiance every day in the classroom while facing Old Glory, and always put God and country first.  It was the least you could do to signify how much you loved your neighbor and your nation.

Today, Miss Lou’s store no longer stands at Browns Crossroads, and the Grange building is long gone too.  Highway 64 is no longer a two-lane highway, but a divided highway with a convoluted intersection which now requires a trip either east or west just to go straight across (government intervention at its finest).  But you know what?  Even though time has marched on, this neighborhood still embraces the lessons I learned while sitting atop the dog food sacks.  Taking care of your neighbor, being at church worshipping God, doing your best in school, respecting your elders and showing compassion and concern for all people.  All of that still runs deep here.  So, I would say Miss Lou’s store provided the basics in more ways than one.  And no Dollar General can improve upon that. 

Uncategorized Yesteryear

McAlisters, Asheboro, The Lost Colony, Grandfather Mountain, What Do They Have In Common?

The “Outlander” Series has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions and fueled interest in Scottish History and intrigue.  However, if you have roots in Randolph County you don’t have to travel through the stones……..look no further than your own backyard. 

I first attended “The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games” in 2006.  The Clan McAlister Society welcomed us into the McAlister Tent, signed us up as members and kindled flames that quickly grew into a passion for Highland Games, Scottish History and McAlister genealogy.  The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, or the Loch Norman Highland Games, both here in North Carolina are excellent places to explore your Scottish roots.  Check their sites for updates on 2021 events. and

McAlisters come from the Kintyre Peninsular and Southern Isles of Scotland.  Alisdair Mor, 2nd son of Donald of Islay, was the progenitor of the McAlisters. They descended from Somerled, King of the Isles in the 13th. Century. They were the senior branch of the Powerful Clan Donald until about 600 years ago when the Lord Lyon of Scotland recognized McAlisters as a “Clan” in their own right.  Our Chief today is William St. John Somerville McAlester of Loup and Kennox.  Having pledged my service to the McAlister Clan I proudly wear or display the “Clan Badge” at Scottish Games and Events.  The Motto “Fortiter” means Boldly! 

But what about the McAlister Family Crest? There are often questions about Family Crests Vs Clan Badges.  In English Heraldry there are Family Crests that are displayed by any member of the family, but in Scotland a Crest belongs not to a family, but to an individual.  It is illegal in Scotland to display a Crest that is not your own. 

My own line of McAlisters came directly into North Carolina.  In 1736, Coll McAlister and his son Col. Alexander McAlister sailed on an exploratory mission to visit the settlements in the North Carolina.  Landing at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, they liked what they found. Returning to Scotland they told family and friends of the beautiful land that in many ways seemed familiar to the hills of Kintyre.  Selling their possessions, and in concert with MacNeils and Campbells, they bought a ship called “the Thistle” and in 1739 sailed again bringing over 350 family’s to North Carolina. 

Col. Alexander McAlister had 16 children in North Carolina. He served during the Revolutionary War as a Patriot with the Cumberland County militia, in the provincial congress and state senate. His grandson Alexander Cary McAlister made his home in Asheboro and served with the 46th North Carolina Regiment during the Civil War.  If you’re a civil war buff, I recommend the book “Letters Home” by Brad Foley, a collection of letters between Col. A.C. McAlister and his wife, Adelaide Worth McAlister. Check out and 

So perhaps you’re still wondering about that “Lost Colony” connection?  Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green born in Lillington, NC , descendant of Coll McAlister wrote the play “The Lost Colony” and another of historical interest for McAlisters, “The Highland Call”.  

Stewart “McAlister” Flora


Clan MacAlister Society

McAlister Clan Badge

Ramseur Public Library – Then and Now (1936-2020)

by Sandy Jarrell

The Ramseur Book Club had a vision to see a public library in Ramseur. A committee was formed with the name Ramseur Public Library being chosen for the town’s library.  It was especially hard for the committee to collect funds during the depression.  Sacrifices were made as donations of books, material and labor were offered. The Library Association was formed, the constitution was written, and advisory board members were chosen.  A room in the Carter Mercantile was donated. Opening Day ceremonies were held on Nov.10, 1936. The library was manned by volunteers and opened with 340 books.  Mrs. Ida West and later Miss Edith Siler were employed as librarians.  The library was open a few hours a day. Miss Hattie Burgess was the first librarian paid by the Association and served as librarian from 1941-1956.   She and people like her set the tone and raised a standard for the library.  Other librarians to date have been Ruth Moffitt, Anna Leonard, Ruth Newell, Crandall Ellison, Stacey Curtis, Sandra Livingston and Sandy Jarrell.  In 1951, the library was moved to a building that was once Columbia Manufacturing’s main office. 

In July 1957, Ramseur passed a library ordinance, appointed the first Library Board of Trustees and appropriated funding to operate the library. As time passed space was needed.  A new building seemed impossible. Mr. M.E. Johnson provided a sum of $50,000 in his will to construct a library as a memorial to his wife. On January 7, 1962 the Blanche C. Johnson Memorial building was dedicated and opened its doors to the public on January 8, 1962. The building has seen upgrades and many advances as time has passed. With the continued funding by the town, the Library Board of Trustees and with the help of the Randolph County Public Library and that long ago vision the Ramseur Public Library exists today. It is a welcoming place where people of all ages can read, access the Internet, and enjoy programming offered by staff. It serves as beacon in the community and is a legacy to all the people who worked so diligently to bring the world to Ramseur through reading.

Ramseur Public Library started with a vision. It exists today because of that vision. COVID has not squelched that vision. Storytimes are virtual and books are being distributed curbside but yet library services continue. Today the library has 6,791 registered users with a collection that numbers 33,295.

The first Librarian, Hattie Burgess, with the President of the Library Board of Trustees – Mr. Allen H. Leonard
Wealth of Our Community

Jones Howell

By WT Cox,

Ramseur is located in the Heart Of North Carolina, but it dwells in the hearts of people who have called this town Home.  So many of my childhood friends who grew up in this town have since moved away,  some really far away.  I have wondered what happened to them.  Where did they go? What have they accomplished in their lives since leaving Ramseur? One friend I remember was a freckle faced red headed kid who lived in one of the Mill Houses across town. He grew up here in Ramseur just like me, but his experiences were a lot different than mine.  A few years ago I discovered he had written a book about his time here growing up. His name is Jones Lamar Howell.  

Jones is a writer, philosopher, poet and a man of faith. I asked him what he considered his accomplishments since moving away.  Here is part of his reply:

“After graduating in Eastern Randolph’s class of ’72, I moved to Asheboro, worked for a year, and then joined the Navy.  While stationed in Norfolk, Virginia I visited Rock Church. I stood in the balcony where my mockery gave way to doubts, which turned into a risky prayer.  I gave my life to Christ, was baptized, and then sailed the world for nearly four years on an aircraft carrier.  

After the Navy, I enrolled in Randolph Technical College.  I studied English under Dorothy Snyder.  She changed my life by gifting me with a love for poetry.  At that time, I heard a worship album made by a Bible college in Dallas, Texas – Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI).  I was so taken by it.  So, at Christmas in 1980 I arrived at CFNI and began two of the greatest years of my life.  I worked part-time in a fish market in the black district of the city and it was there that I started an outreach called Fishnet and chartered it through CFNI.  The children would gather from all over the neighborhood and many gave their lives to Christ.    I met my wife-to-be Cindi at CFNI.  I drafted her into the Fishnet ministry team.  Before we were married, I told her I was called to do missionary work and she said she was willing to do the same.  So, we were married in December of ’82.

Soon afterwards, at a mission’s conference at CFNI, I came upon a missionary who needed a teacher.  So we bought a VW van and moved to Manzanillo , Mexico.  There, I taught the missionary’s kids, and traveled some around Mexico doing child evangelism seminars. After a year we returned to Texas where I finished my degree at the University of Texas at Arlington. While teaching Spanish in Texas, we made a trip to Poland and then moved there in 1993.  Besides our service in the church, Cindi started a daily breakfast program for poor children of the city called Seven Loaves.  We also organized summer English language evangelism camps.  While in Poland, we took two trips into Ukraine, bringing in $600 worth of needed meds and about 100 packets of school supplies.  

In Poland, I started Support English School. I taught there four years and in my last year doubled as a teacher in Foreign Languages College. I had my poem The Song of Mephibosheth published in their college journal.  It is available on Amazon Kindle. 

We returned to the US and I taught at a school for immigrants for thirteen years.  While there, I chartered and led a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group.  We again did several language/evangelism camps.  During this time I wrote two books- Deep River:The Little League Years  and Quos Eqo.  In 2016 I took a job at a school in NC teaching boys sent from the Juvenile Justice System.  I also ran a wood shop club there.”

*Special Thanks to Jones Howell 

Jones and Cindi are now back in Texas and involved in Gateway Church.  He has described his time in Ramseur and an “oil painting in a water color world”.  Jones has literally  touched thousands of lives.  His story is a small part of what makes Ramseur a “Wealthy Community”.