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Monday, September 23, 2013

The Giant Crosses of James Potter

Here at the Carpetbagger we have talked of several men who have traveled the roads of this country planting crosses as a display of their beliefs.

Perhaps the most prolific of these was Rev. Bernard Coffindaffer, who is known for planting groups of three crosses: one gold and two blue.  They can be found all over the country.

The second man, Harrison Mayes, was a Kentucky coal miner who was injured in a mining accident and promised God that he would spread his word if he spared him.  Harrison would construct concrete crosses and plant them on other people's property without permission.  He was quite eccentric, living in a giant cross himself, and leaving instructions after his death to plant the crosses on other planets.

This man may not be as eccentric as Mr. Mayes or as prolific as Mr. Coffindaffer, but he makes up for it a very important way:  Size.

Not my Photo
This is James Potter, not to be confused with Harry Potter's dad.

Not my Photo
If you have done a bit of traveling across the bible belt or Midwest you have likely seen his work.

Royal Blue, TN
Potter, who owns his own lucrative construction business, has created nearly thirty of these massive monuments along the highways.  They range from 100 feet to the largest: The 198 foot World's Largest Cross in Effingham, IL.  The cost ranges from $500,000 to over a Million.  The price is usually covered by local churches.  There is something to be said about spending this level of money on constructing religious imagery, but let's not get into that right now.  Let's just enjoy the sheer massiveness of these crosses.

Somewhere in VA

The sheer size of these crosses grab your attention as they plunge forth above the horizon.

Crossville, TN
Of note is the towering cross hovering over the Southern City of Sin Pigeon Forge, TN.  Gazing down at the miniature golf stores and beef jerky outlets.

Pigeon Forge, TN
Perhaps most notorious is the cross he had erected along I-75 near Royal Blue, TN.  This giant cross just so happens to fall next to a giant pornography store named adult world, disrupting weary truckers.

James Potter shows no signs of slowing down as these crosses continue to pop up.  James Potter also pops up in Alexandra Pelosi's "Friends of God" documentary.

The Carpetbagger

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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Single Wide Trailer

Is there a more poignant symbol of white southern poverty than the single wide trailer?  Down here wherever there are low incomes there are clusters of trailers.  The single-wide trailer is a direct descendant of the RV, which ironically enough is used by the more well off to go on vacation.  At some point someone decided that if they made them just a little bit bigger they could get people to live in them year round.  Traditionally the single wide trailers were made out of shoddy materials.  They are packed with formaldehyde.  There floors were made of press board that would collapse when made wet.  Trailer life ain't an easy life.

I don't want anyone to think for one minute that I am looking down my nose at the trailer dwellers.  I have lived in several single wide trailers in my life, some in fairly sketchy trailer parks.  For example I used to live in the trailer in the upper right hand corner.

So, my trailer cred is firmly intact.

Decaying trailers are a common site along southern backroads.  Their poor construction and the expense it takes to dismantle them leads to being left to rot.  These rotten trailers, occupied and unoccupied have always been something I have photographed.  Here are some I have come across.

Part of an old Arby's sign used to board in the door of an abandoned trailer.....

Single-wide truck stop......

Taken on the Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC, this trailer has a matching Teepee.....

Single-wide church.....

Something bad happened here.........

Trailer park to close to the river......

Part of a series of hatefully vandalized trailers at a local park......

Yes, that is a single wide trailer next to a giant set of concrete woman's legs.......

Here is "The Graduate" view......

The Carpetbagger

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Here in the Carolina Mountains we have one iconic image: The Hillbilly.

On the Carolina Coast, they don't have hillbillies, so they must find an alternate mascot.  

Pirates!  In some ways pirates are the Hillbillies of the Seas.  Like Hillbillies, Pirates live in areas inhospitable to normal people.  They don't ask for anything from of the government, they simply take what they need.  They don't shave and they don't baths.

Pirates are awesome, there is no arguing that fact.  Here in the Carolinas the pirate is Blackbeard. 

Not my woodcut

I like to think of Blackbeard as the original Pro Wrestler.   Blackbeard wasn't the most viscous pirate, he wasn't the most equipped pirate, he was simply the scariest pirate.   Blackbeard was a big fan of theatrics and made himself out to be the most over the top super villain.  He would literally light his beard on fire as he approached ships as a way to convince people he was Satan.  His pirate flag, was a subtle image of the Devil driving a spear through a heart.

Blackbeard did everything in his power to perpetuate the myths that surrounded him, so much so that they exist to this day.   As Blackbeard's piratey career was winding down he settled down in North Carolina, where the governor was known to be pirate friendly.  This didn't sit well with the no good scoundrel, Governor Spotswood of Virginia, which sent a fleet to take out Blackbeard and his drunken pirate brethren.  

Blackbeard's epic last stand actually lends some credence to his frightening reputation.  He was stabbed 20 times and shot 5 before finally dieing.  They finally chopped his head off and threw his body into the ocean, where legend has it his body swam an entire lap around the ship.  His head was brought back to Spotswood as a gruesome trophy.

Not my woodcut

Next we take a look at one of Blackbeards partners, Stede Bonnett, the Gentleman pirate.

Not my woodcut

Stede was unlike any other pirate.  While most pirates were poor men that set out to make a living, Stede was already a very wealthy plantation owner.   Stede however had a midlife crisis and grew sick of his nagging wife.  Stede went and bought a pirate ship and a crew and set off to go pirating.  I imagine a lot of us have this same dream, but only Stede had the guts to go out and do it.

The thing was that the pirates life wasn't as easy as the foppish landowner had imagined.  He knew absolutely nothing about pirating or sailing and was soon seriously injured.  He would wind up meeting with Blackbeard and giving control of his crew and ship over to the more experienced pirate.  The two would become pirating partners.   I have to imagine that if reality shows were around in the 1700s, the odd couple pairing of the prim and proper Stede Bonnet with the grizzled and surly Blackbeard would be pure comic gold.

Even after receiving a royal pardon Stede could not give up the pirates life and ended up getting hung in Charleston, SC for his crimes.

Of course no discussion on pirates would be complete without the tale of Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Not my woodcut

Anne Bonny was a plantation owner's daughter with a thing for bad boys.  She disgraced her family when she ran off and married notorious pirate "Calico" Jack Ratham.  Anne was one tough woman and essentially served as co-captain of Calico Jack's ship.  Ann's life would change as another female pirate entered her life: Mary Read.   Mary had been a cross dresser all her life.  Her mother had raised her as a male in a scheme to trick her grandfather into giving  them an inheritance.  Mary had fought in the navy as a male.  When he ship was captured by Calico Jack she became a member of his crew, still in the guise of a man.  Anne took quite a shine to young Mary and attempted to seduce her/him.  Mary revealed to Anne that she was a woman.   It is unknown if their relationship continued after Mary's true gender was revealed, but you can come to your own conclusion (or write your own creepy pirate fan fiction).   Calico Jack found out about Anne's fondness for Mary and threatened to kill her until she revealed herself as a woman.  Mary and Anne become close friends and operated the ship by the side of Jack, which was surely one of the most unusual pirate bands of the time.

All things were going well with this pirate love triangle until one fateful night when they were attacked by a British naval ship.  Jack and the male members of the crew were all passed out drunk.  When he was awoken by Anne and Mary he was against fighting as he felt that they had no chance of defeating the British ship.  Anne and Mary tried to defend the ship, but apparently two girls couldn't stand up to the British Navy and they were captured.

Calico Jack was put to death.  When he was allowed a final meeting with his wife, Anne said to him "If you would have fought like a man, you wouldn't be hanging like a dog."  Youch!

Anne and Mary were both sentenced to death, but revealed to the authorities that they were both pregnant.  It was against the law to hang a pregnant woman and they were both pardoned.  As a side note, it was likely that Calico Jack was the father of both babies.   Sadly, Mary died during child birth.  Anne quietly vanished and it is believed that her father bought her freedom and she returned home.

Here is me with Anne Bonny and Mary Read.....

I have come across other pirates in my travels, such as this creepy anamatronic pirate seen at "The Pirate House" restaurant in Savannah, GA.

Complete with his own sneeze guard.  When you hit a button he would jerk around and roll his eyes back and forth as a disembodied voice talked about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the restaurant.  Sadly, the next time I visited the restaurant he was gone.

Years later in Ft. Meyers, FL at The Shell Factory tourist attraction I ran into a familiar animatron

He looked suspiciously like my old friend from Savannah.  I hit his button and he launched into his diatribe about the Pirate House Restaurant.  It turns out he was the same figure with a bit of a makeover.  They hadn't bothered to change his spiel.

I would like to wish everyone a happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day from the Carpetbagger.

The Carpetbagger

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sam, the Original Carolina Hillbilly

When traveling, I am always using like using Roadside America's iphone app to scan for unusual things to check out.  One attraction struck me as odd, but definitely something right up my ally.

It is the rare attraction that is itself a  human being:  Sam, the Original Carolina Hillbilly.  The title is strikingly self-explanatory.  Sam, is a hillbilly, who markets himself as a roadside tourist attraction.  This was something I had to see for myself.

I rolled up into a spot on the map known as Gertin, NC. 

As I a side note, while looking for Gertin, I found a tractor shaped crop circle on google earth.

I came across this sign on the side of the road.

I walked over to Sam's porch and there was a sign that said "No Trespassing".  I was getting a mixed messaged and was a little confused on what to do.  Then I saw a lawn mower heading my way from down the road.

I asked if he was Sam and he replied "All day" and shook my hand.  It seems as though Sam had quite a few beers on this date.  He was happy to pose for pictures, but spent the entire time grumbling about how his lawnmower was broken.  The man is definitely photogenic.

Sam told me that he gets a lot of visitors from all over the world including Belgium and Germany.

The marketing here is genius.  What tourist to our area does not want to meet a real live Hillbilly?   Hillbilly imagery is constantly being used in drawing in tourists in this area.

His self promotion reminds me a great deal of Popcorn Sutton.  Its genius, really.  He sees people making money of the Hillbilly image and decides he wants a piece of the pie.  All he had to do was paint a plywood sign and BAM he is a tourist attraction.

I think the most remarkeable thing here is the lack of back story.  He obviously isn't the first Hillbilly and certainly not the only one, but he is the one making a living off of it.  In some ways he is the Paris Hilton of Hillbillies:  He is famous for being famous.

It works for me though.  For his simple marketing genius in selling himself as a Hillbilly I am giving Sam entrance into The Hillbilly Hall of Fame.

The Carpetbagger

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