Behold: North Carolina's most average county
A journey toward the place that's most like the rest of the places, sort of. Also: A town named Locust, armadillo repellent, and more in this week's Tiny Rabbit Holes.
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North Carolina’s Greatest Place™ Is (Checks Notes) Not Charlotte!
A few weeks ago, I came up with the least scientific method to determine the most wonderful place in this state. If you missed it, here’s how it works: I took each individual paid subscription to this newsletter and assigned it to a county, based on the billing ZIP code. Finally, I weighted each county based on population. A subscription in Mecklenburg or Wake County earns one point, since they’re the most populous. Tyrrell County, which has approximately 1/348th the population, gets 348 points per subscriber. Every other county is somewhere in between. Out-of-state supporters got to assign their points to the county where they last lived, or if they’ve never lived here, where they last visited.
I tallied up all of the signups and… guess what? Charlotte did not win.
Mecklenburg County, by far, had the most signups: 41. But! They were no match for Kevin Park, a Rabbit Hole reader from Burnsville who is the only subscriber from Yancey County. That one subscription earned 61 points. So guess what? Burnsville is North Carolina’s Greatest Place™. ELECT KEVIN PARK MAYOR.
And as such, Burnsville wins this month’s prize: A bespoke local meme.
Congrats on the beer, Burnsville. Buy one for Kevin if you see him.
What County Most Resembles The Rest Of The State?
Enough about the state’s greatest place. How about the state’s most basic place?
The folks at Carolina Demography got to wondering: What county most resembles the rest of North Carolina? This is not, like, the county that drinks the most sweet tea or has the most barbecue joints or whatever folksy, stereotype that you can use to measure North Carolina-ness, but rather the place where the demographics actually resemble the state at large. Demographers looked at five categories: demographic composition, median age, median home value, median household income, and the percent of residents 25 and older who hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
The answer: Forsyth County. That’s where Winston-Salem is. BASIC AS HELL.
Franklin, Gaston, Johnston, and Alamance Counties make up the rest of the top five. The counties that least resemble the state as a whole? Edgecombe, Halifax, Washington, Bertie, and, in last place, Northampton County.
Here’s the whole list, for your perusal. Is this wholly arbitrary? Isn’t everything? You could change the parameters to get a completely different answer, which is sort of the point. Still though, congrats to Forsyth County, the khaki slacks of North Carolina.
Sofa, So Good
You know what’s making a comeback? North Carolina-built furniture! The New York Times visited Hickory to have a look at a story that explains the ups and downs of our broader economy:
Even if there were enough workers, said Alex Shuford, the chief executive of the company that owns Rock House Farm furniture brands, “the surge isn’t going to last as long as it would take to go to a completely trained work force and get them up to speed.” The current moment, he added, “is abnormal in every way, and not sustainable in any way.”
For now, companies in Hickory are seeing a huge upswing thanks to strong demand and limited supply. Prices for couches, beds, kitchen tables and bedding have shot up this year, climbing by 12 percent nationally through October. Furniture and bedding make up a small slice of the basket of goods and services that the inflation measure tracks — right around 1 percent — so that increase has not been enough to drive overall prices to uncomfortable levels on its own. But the rise has come alongside a bump in car, fuel, food and rent costs that have driven inflation to 6.2 percent, the highest level in 31 years.
Bonus: Charlotte’s own Travis Dove took the pictures.
Why the hell would someone name a town “Locust?”
Here’s a question from Rabbit Hole reader Kathleen Purvis: “Why is Locust, NC, named that? Who names a town for a Biblical plague?”
Well, they didn’t! From the town’s website:
In 1869 population in the “Crossroads” community had increased enough to warrant an application for the establishment of a post office. There was a meeting held to decide on a new name and a young girl in the community, Miss Maggie Howell, was present at a meeting to decide a proper name. Maggie happened to look out at a wooded plot where a large locust tree was in full bloom. Beyond the locust tree, plowed fields laid flat and the reddish clay dirt of the Charlotte Road stretched out level. Miss Howell suggested the name “Locust Level”. And so it was called until May 29, 1894. The Level was dropped and it was simply called Locust.
Kathleen also asked if I’d ever heard of a town called Red Cross, North Carolina. Nope! A quick search reveals that it’s located right next to Locust. Is it named for a local chapter of the Red Cross? OF COURSE NOT!
The name “Red Cross” came from the slick and red clay making it hard to travel during wet weather.
Looking at the map here… the next town down the road is named: FROG POND. Oh come on.
Other Tiny Rabbit Holes
Thank goodness that the wildfire that burned more than a thousand acres of Pilot Mountain is now 100-percent contained. This time-lapse video of the wildfire is both mesmerizing and sad:
Kind of obsessed with this UNC Media Hub story about two students who got married for the sole purpose of saving thousands of dollars on tuition.
My daughter, age 5, saw a truck loaded up with so much stuff that its rear bumper was nearly touching the ground and asked me if it was doing the “Carolina Squat.” First off, great powers of observation! Second, if it was, it was now breaking a brand new state law that went into effect last week.
Y’all liked the armadillos, eh:
Also, a guy from Raleigh makes Armadillo repellent:@deftlyinane @jasondebruyn The primary active ingredient in our Armadillo Repellent is Castor Oil - which is irritating to many burrowing animals (it is also the backbone of our Mole & Vole Repellent). We add additional botanical oils, like Mint & Cedar, which both irritate senses and help control grubs.
It’s 2021, and Skylight Inn, one of North Carolina’s OG barbecue joints, now takes credit cards.
Thank you all for your support of this newsletter, and have a great week!
To the west of Locust is Midland, which many old timers still call Hell’s Half Acre due to their penchant for booze, music, and card-playing.
As always, enjoyable quirky nuanced writing. Love it!!