JP column

Anyone ever heard of Bladenboro?

My sophomore year of college at UNC Wilmington, I visited Bladenboro. Found an article on-line after a Google search that went something like “small towns NC” and came across a legend that sent me on an hour’s drive for no good reason.

According to this legend, back in the 50s, a monster of some sort was terrorizing the locals of this small town a couple thousand strong. The media, since the media is responsible for everything no one knows the source of, allegedly dubbed this creature “the Beast of Bladenboro.”

Those poor farm animals who were mauled by the beast.

Regardless of how true the story was or my personal opinion of the fact people believe this could have been true, I decided the day of this trip that Bladenboro had to be seen. It was the “small town NC” I was looking to visit.

I did not see the Beast of Bladenboro that day – but I did see a lot of Bladenboro. I stopped by the eatery that looked to be the most inviting place for the flogging and eventual murder of me, who was probably the only out-of-towner residents had seen that month.

The diner had a scoreboard-looking menu near the front with the names of dishes that should have had italicized descriptions written beneath them. I cannot retell what was served in this place, nor the name of the establishment, because it was so long ago and there’s nothing in this world I’ve seen since that reminds me of it.

At this point, you probably think I’m rambling. I am. So here’s the method to my madness.

I read an article in Greenville’s Daily Reflector over the weekend that reminded me of Bladenboro and places in Jones County. This article was on Bethel – and how it’s declined into almost ghost town-like status since the writer, a Bethel native, was a child.

I’m not sure what the writer wanted: Bethel to regain and retain the charm he remembered from childhood or for Bethel to explode into a plastic subdivision that is the apple of all predatory developers from Florida’s collective eye.

Reminded me of a lot of towns in N.C. … Jones County included.

For certainly there is a happy medium between the two classifications, right? A small town can make it without losing itself; a little community can survive; Florida can stay next to Cuba; Wilmington can continue down its path of becoming known as “Whispering Pines” and “Shady Meadows” without influencing other towns in N.C.

Right?

It’s a struggle I believe your government officials and county administrators are faced with regularly, and are addressing with excellence. Sure, everyone needs jobs, hospitals and restaurants with bright signs out front. But everyone also needs a home – and that’s a lot closer to the bottom of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs pyramid than these other things.

If it means much to you, this out-of-towner thinks an awful lot of places like Trenton, Maysville and Comfort (these are only examples and certainly aren‘t the only Jones County towns I like). More often than not, I’ve got no clue what the locals are talking about when I stop by for a bite of whatever concoction might be the special at a tiny diner, but I’d consider it a shame if I ever found a McDonalds to go to instead.

Don’t let outside influences or what the rest of the state’s succumbing to fool you, Jones County. You’ve got a pretty good thing going.

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