It's not that far, a couple hours' drive, from Person County N.C. to Patrick County, Va. But Barnie Day's journey to published author has been going on nearly four decades now. Along the way he has been a reporter, editor and newspaper publisher; retail merchant and health clinic administrator; political commentator and sage of the Blue Ridge, business executive and farmer; banker and county manager; county supervisor and state legislator. A couple of people who should know have called him "Virginia's Mark Twain."
And as many who live around Belcher Mountain's Meadows of Dan already know, he has fought through Parkinson's disease while producing some crackerjack writing in his novel "The Last Pahvant," available on amazon.com and elsewhere, and in a new work about life in Oxford, N.C. during the Civil Rights era.
Now there's a 3,000 word story on Barnie Day in the July-August issue of Carolina Alumni Review, published by the General Alumni Association at UNC Chapel Hill. Here's a link to that story:
If that doesn't work, copy and paste this into your whatchamacallit:
That story began 10 months ago after I read a version of "Pahvant" and told Barnie what everyone who reads the book also tells him: It ought to be in print. I sent a copy to my friend Regina Oliver last October and suggested the Review write about Barnie, who graduated from UNC in 1975. She immediately agreed, enthusiastically so, and asked me to write the piece. So last November, Barnie and I started meeting early mornings for about an hour -- the length of time it takes for my arthritic hands to go from useful to seized up -- and we talked and talked on chilly mornings, and sometimes in the evenings over some Irish whiskey -- well into the new year.
We talked about life in the 1950s and 60s when he was growing up in Roxboro, about working in factories and at little newspapers, about scrabbling his way through Chapel Hill with the help of a athletic meal ticket his roommate had ("I tell people I went through Carolina on a football scholarship, it just won't mine," he likes to say), starting up a newspaper that folded not because it wasn't good, but because it was undercapitalized, and moving through a variety of jobs over the years, all the while thinking about writing the long form and telling stories people will want to read.
The editors at the Alumni Review liked the story of Barnie's career so much that they hired one of the best photographers anywhere: Steve Exum. He came up to Meadows of Dan shortly after Spring arrived and shot wonderful photos of Barnie and Debbie Day, the restored farmhouse where they live (with secret rooms below ground where, the story goes, a moonshiner and bootlegger hid his illicit wares long ago) and the writing room where Barnie turns on the lamp many mornings hours before the sun starts to brighten the rural countryside.
Oh, meant to add this one, too, of Barnie and Debbie, with Yip.