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A Chosen Few

Bandeaux Creek
Between the Rivers,
Book II

Aunt Mag's
Recipe Book
Heritage Cooking
from a Carolina Kitchen

Between the Rivers


A Chosen Few: Between the Rivers, Book III

Q. A Chosen Few is your third book about the Ryans and the McBrydes. What compelled you to continue the story?

A. There was more to it, as my grandmother used to say. That was my working title, by the way. But it was really my fascination with eastern North Carolina, the region where I was born that made me want to continue. The case histories of these two families-how they lived their lives, the changes brought on by the growth of our region, state, and country, by our government, represent the history of many, many people just like them.. These things were not particular to my family alone, but to most North Carolinians. While writing Bandeaux Creek, when I got to the effects of the Depression on the lives of my characters, I realized how much my own life had been shaped by the historical events that had taken place in the early thirties. I felt that the story of Penderlea would ring true to a lot of my readers.

Q. Did your parents actually apply to Penderlea the way you tell it in the book?

A. Yes, they did. But remember: although my parents are the skeletons upon which I hang my story, this book is not about me or them.

Q. What is it about?

A. Like my other two books, A Chosen Few is a history lesson. The changes in our culture and the growth of our country in this time period are reflected in the everyday lives of my characters. Len Ryan is a young man who seizes an opportunity. He chooses the new government owned and operated farm city in Pender County over the land his ancestors settled in the early 1700's. It is not an easy choice, his parents are old, in failing health. They may not be able to pay the taxes.

Q. Sons leave home all the time to seek their fortune elsewhere. What is unique about Len Ryan leaving home?

A. His destination. Penderlea was futuristic, part of the New Deal, a resettlement farming community. A young farm family would start out with 20 acres of land, a house, barn, chicken coop, combination wash house/smokehouse, even a hog house. Animals would be provided-hogs, chickens, mules. A community center with a school, auditorium and a teacherage would stand in the center; a furniture workshop and vegetable storage house would provide industry for farm families. Eventually, cooperatives would be formed, and within a few years, a hosiery mill built to provide work for dependents.

Q. It sounds utopian.

A. Yes, it was. From the very beginning, Hugh MacRae described it in that manner. He painted a beautiful picture of life in his farm city. Unfortunately, Mr. MacRae was unable to convince the Department of the Interior that his vision of a new south was practical. MacRae was soon out of the picture and Len and many others found themselves in a quagmire of government red tape.

Q. Was the Penderlea Homesteads Farms project a failure?

A. Absolutely not! But it was riddled with problems brought about by a bureaucracy who had no experience in building a farm city. Hugh MacRae would have done a much better job if he'd been able to stay in charge.

Q. But MacRae was a white supremist, wasn't he? How did that play out?

A. It didn't. Blacks were not allowed to apply, before or after he left the project. It was one of the rules.

Q. Were there other rules?

A. Yes, you had to be married with children. You had to have a letter of recommendation from your pastor and the county agent conveying your honesty and reliability. You had to be a farmer. The government sent investigators out to look you over. Some told tales of government men coming into their houses and looking through their personal things. Some families couldn't handle it, but I think there were more who were willing to suffer the indignity because these were desperate times.

Q. What promises did Penderlea hold for them?

A. Early on, the promise was of a job. Men had work for the first time since the Depression began. They cleared the fields of stumps, built the roads, constructed the administration buildings and shops to maintain equipment. Then, they built the houses, barns, chicken coops and the hog houses, the school and a hosiery mill.

Q. So, did they live happily ever after in this utopian farm city called Penderlea?

A. My goodness, that would be boring, wouldn't it? This is not a fairy tale. Besides, there are other elements to the story such as the emergence of women into the work force; education, aviation, eugenics, politics to mention a few. There is a bit of mystery, too.

Q. Oh, yes. They found the little boy. Davey's boy?

A. Actually, Colin found them.

Q. And, Jean McAllister?

A. Yes, Emily McAllister and her daughter Jean are part of the Penderlea story. I had no idea they would be, but they appeared before me and wanted in. I couldn't say no.

Q. That's funny. Don't you outline your books? Don't you know where the story is going?

A. No, it is much more fun writing when you discover things along the way. It happens, you know. It's like-all of a sudden-the picture becomes clearer, more logical, and you realize that the story is right there before you. You can't ignore certain facts. One can't just "make up" something. It's more of a discovery process.

Q. Do you have another story in mind, possibly a 4th in the Between the Rivers series?

A. Yes, I do. It will cover the World War II years. Those were interesting years, and there is certainly more to my story about the McBrydes and the Ryans.




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