Chowan Round-up: Ayers, Spruill's and a garter snake

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Brave boy, who is afraid of heights, is deep in thought after confronting his fears since climbing the Currituck Beach Lighthouse nearby.


By Miles Layton

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A round-up of all things Chowan County ...

Mayor Roland Vaughan and Destination Downtown Edenton Director Jennifer Harriss were invited to a national conference held in Seattle between March 25-27 to give a speech about the community rescue and save of the historic Taylor Theater. We hope and pray they have safe travels. Though there is good coffee in Seattle, beware of the Antifa beatniks!

Spruill's Business Machines of East Church Street is celebrating 50 years of being in business. That's quite a run. Congrats. To celebrate, there will be an after hours party with the Edenton Chowan Chamber of Commerce between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, at Spruill's, which is located 421 E. Church St.

Edenton Lion Club's pancake breakfast was by all accounts a success. Many familiar faces stopped by to have a hearty breakfast. If I had grits in the past, I don't recall. Thus on Saturday I can truly say I may have had grits for the first time, probably. They were prepared by EC Schools Superintendent Rob Jackson and Jack Parker. And they were pretty good and very memorable. 

Speaking of pancake breakfast, mark you calendar's for Edenton Rotary's pancake breakfast that takes place between 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m Saturday, April 27, at the high school's cafeteria. Scrambled eggs were awesome and if I remember correctly, there were “real” sausages – the type you need a knife to cut. See a Rotarian for more information.

A couple of people have passed away recently, so maybe they are eating the best breakfast of all as this column is being written. Pansy Elliott died March 15 and Bob Harrell died March 17. Both folks were pillars of the community. Sue Bunch and Rebecca Bunch (RIP) knew Pansy well. I met her through her involvement with the Edenton Tea Party Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Sue said the choir sang the hymn “Be Still and Know that I am God” in honor of Elliott during Sunday's memorial service at Edenton Baptist Church.

Per Harrell, I interviewed him about a year ago about his military service and life as a pastor. Amazing story.

Next up, my family traveled to Currituck to climb the lighthouse Saturday. Thank God the climb was free because we spent $35 freaking dollars for dinner at Taco Bell in Elizabeth City.  

As is becoming more and more customary, I see folks from Chowan County in many places we travel throughout the region, be it the YMCA at Nags Head or the Chinese buffet that recently reopened in Elizabeth City.  

While we were waiting in line at the lighthouse, Carolyn Ayers came up and talked to me. A seventh grade student at Chowan Middle School, Ayers is one of the friendliest and welcoming people I've ever met – and that's saying something in this area which places a strong value on Southern hospitality.

I knew Ayers as the mouse “Gus” from last season's CMS Drama Club's performance of “Cinderella” – a Carolynn O'Kelley production. Also, Ayers is a top student and one of my daughter Samantha's friends who we see at school happenings.

Anyway, I had to do interviews for a story about the lighthouse and the climb for the our paper and the Daily Advance, maybe other newspapers across the region. I'll admit that due to shyness, I find it hard to talk to strangers and even people I know.

That said, I breathed a sigh of relief when Ayers talked to me at the lighthouse before and after the climb so that I wouldn't have to break out of my shell to talk to strangers waiting in line.

Prior to our ascent, Ayers said she was unafraid to climb the spiral staircase leading to the top of the 11-story lighthouse. I was less certain about my abilities. I'm not afraid of heights, just skeptical as to the federal government's ability to build anything, especially a spiral staircase.

As soon as Ayers came down from the wall, she reassured me that it was a very doable exercise up 220 steps. Ayers' 4-year-old friend Mara was able to make the climb too.

My son Robert, a fifth-grader at D.F. Walker, is legitimately afraid of heights and not because he's skeptical of low bid quality from government contractors. Upon hearing Ayers' testimony, Robert bravely decided to take the challenge.

Going up that spiral staircase was not easy for Robert or I, but he was able to battle his fears and I was able to convince myself that my death would be newsworthy if I died in a lighthouse mishap. We climbed together rung by rung and made it to the top. The view was truly breathtaking. You could see the beach, the sound and that lesser state, Virginia – not to be confused with the great state of West Virginia.

Looking back, I think a word of praise should be offered to Ayers for inspiring us to greater heights.

I put this tidbit last so as not to make a mountain out of mole hill.  

A garter snake traveling the Bulldogs’ halls bit an eighth grader Friday after the student inexplicably tried to pick up the snake — twice. An ambulance was called to the scene at Chowan Middle School. No serious injuries.

School personnel removed the snake from the building. Saturday, maintenance department had the school inspected and treated.  

Long sigh. After hearing this story from my daughter, I posted this news item with a picture of a cartoon snake on our Facebook site because I didn’t think the story quite achieved a level of importance beyond reporting it on social media, the bottom rung of journalism.

Though the tip was interesting when compared to the broadband story I was writing, it’s a harmless garter snake, not a king cobra. Who would’ve thought the tidbit/cartoon would reach more than 2,600 people, be shared 21 times and generate 20 comments. Two TV stations, Cox Communications, the News and Observer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution picked up the story I posted on Facebook!? God help us if the mainstream media — the drive—bys — ever start sniffing around for a story about how an unlucky squirrel met his untimely end on Granville Street.    

I had no idea this news was going to go the distance.

Thus I apologize to my wife for ignoring her protests before I posted it to Facebook. And I apologize to the school system for not giving them a “heads-up” before posting a reliable rumor about a common garter snake.