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PAGE 4 -A, THURSDAY. APRIL 23. 1992
Just Give Us
The Facts, Ma'am
The ordeal Donna Baxter has survived points up some ap
parent injustices in our law enforcement system. This candi
date for the Brunswick County Board of Education, and pre
sent chairperson of that board, was found guilty of improper
passing in a March 16 traffic accident, in which she suffered
minor injuries and was also charged with driving while im
Here's the nib. Baxter's injuries prevented administration of
the standard breathalyzer test, but because she admitted to a
beer-and-a-half with dinner before the accident, she was
charged with driving drunk, pending the outcome of a blood
Now the results of that test tell us she was nowhere near im
paired by alcohol at the time of the accident. Relieved, she in
tends continuing her re-election campaign leading to the May 5
But what does John Q. Public really think about Candidate
Baxter now? Can the stigma of a DWI charge be erased simply
Maybe not. Given our attraction for what is spectacular and
what goes wrong around us, rather than the ordinary and the
good, we tend to remember about someone their appearance of
wrongdoing much longer than their concrete good deeds.
This being true, it seems patently unjust for police officers
to have the prerogative to charge something prior to documen
tation, putting on public record for media distribution the mere
possibility that a violation has occurred. Any citizen so
charged could lose stature in the eyes of friends and co-work
ers, could even lose his/her job; but a public official or candi
date for office stands to lose even more. The newspaper head
lines would be bigger; the alleged "crime" would loom larger
in the public mind. Also, the stakes are higher.
There was nothing incorrect about the actions of Officer
Timberlake, who made his DWI charge on the evidence of
careless driving and Mrs. Baxter's admission of having con
sumed one-and-a-half beers. He did his job. The media did it's
job, too, in reporting the charge, even giving it front page play.
Baxter played her role with extreme propriety as well, promis
ing to withdraw from office should her blood test reveal a state
Of course, some will react with horror to the notion of ANY
alcohol consumption, but let the stones be thrown only by
those sufficiently pure to do so. Get real. How would we run
our government, including school boards, if everyone who had
a beer with dinner were excluded from office?
The problem occurs when such a "tentative" charge as this
is made at all and consequently becomes part of public record.
That record is open not only to the media but to the general
public as well.
It seems we should consider tinkering with the laws, per
haps having officers delay filing a charge such as DWI-for
which breathalyzer and/or lab test results are routinely a major
element of the evidence-until that documentation is available.
Another possibility might be taking a second look at whether
tentative charges should be among the records so readily avail
able. With either alternative, of course, there is a potential for
abuse that must be addressed; however, we need to protect the
dignity of our "innocent till proven guilty" neighbors, not flash
across the sky every suspicion of their misbehavior.
Till that enlightened day arrives, it's up to each of us to curb
our tendency to let sensationalism mold our attitudes. What
should be remembered about Donna Baxter is not that erro
neous charge, but the quality of leadership and service she has
given to the school board.
Let's avoid attaching stigma by suggestion and stick to facts
we know to be true.
Here's To Outside
1 visited the museum at Ocean Isle Beach the other
clay, for the first lime since before it opened. It is, of
course, a fascinating, stimulating reflection of coastal
North Carolina. All the creativity and planning that went
into it show clearly in every room.
What was even elearer to me as I talked with its
founder, Stuart Ingram, was the inestimable value to any
community of outsiders like him who come in and stir
Wiiiniugiuii, whcic I live, wuuld ikH have classical
music on the airwaves today, nor, in fact, would
Brunswick County, if it were not for a handful of
Yankees who migrated there. They couldn't imagine a
place without good music and just waded in and started
a public radio station. I understand the University of
North Carolina at Wilmington originated in a similar
fashion, the brainchild of someone passing through.
Now Stuart Ingram is no Yankee, but he is no
Brunswick Countian either. Like a huge percentage of
the bcach population, he was lured from the big city into
buying property on the beautiful isknd where now a
Discover Brunswick's 'Other1 Fragile Treasure
it always amazes mc how much
we uikc for granicd m Brunswick
The Green Swamp is a good ex
Knowledgeable visitors from
across the globe tramp through its
savannahs and pocosins, oohing anil
ahing in excitement at the incredible
diversity of plant and animal found
within its borders. 1 know; I've had
occasion to accompany several of
them. Those who have studied the
roles of wedands bemoan the steady
loss of the swamp.
But few of the people I know who
live here or visit here on a regular
basis, other than a few hunters and
birdwatchers, have taken time out to
visit the Green Swamp Nature Pre
serve, which is managed by the N.C.
Nature Conservancy. Though it's
been written about many, many
times, some claim not to even know
it exists, much less how to get there.
It is, one must admit, not featured
prominently in tourist guides. The
Conservancy is probably happy
about that, since conserving the area
is its main goal, and public educa
tion important, but essentially a side
While 1 appreciate its scientific
value, that's not why I go to the
Green Swamp Nature Preserve near
Supply. And it's certainly not lie
cause of the ticks, red bugs, mosqui
tos and snakes sometimes encoun
tered, though ihey may help explain
why so few people lake in the glo
ries of the swamp. And if 1 venture
out during hunting season, it's with
plenty of company and safety or
When we think "swamp," most of
us think of canoeing something like
the Okcfenokcc, straddling the Flori
da-Georgia lines: dark, murky, mys
terious, even threatening, mainly wa
ter with a few islands of vegetation
here and there with enough high
ground to pitch a tent if the raccoons
and other critters let you. Thai's one
kind and one part of a "swamp."
While it's better to form your own
composite picture of what a swamp
really is, I'd like to intrixluce you to
at least one other image, the swamp
as Mother Nature's own temple, a
place suitable for contemplation and
even worship, if you will.
You've tiptoed along a boardwalk
through and over standing, tea-col
orcd water, entangling vines and
thick briars cf the pccosin.
You're sweating, starting to itch
and your tennis shoes and pants legs
got soaked when you stumbled into
a pothole that no one else seemed to
That funny plant growing in the
path that the tour guide made such a
fuss over didn't really make much of
an impression; it wasn't even bloom
Without your reading glasscs-on
the table at home, you couldn't even
see those you-know-what sundews
everybody was talking about; they
were entirely too small.
"Why," you ask yourself for the
umpteenth time, "did 1 ever agree to
come on this junket? 1 should be
home playing bridge or maybe can
ning tomatoes. Anything but this."
After all, everybody knows the
only thing swamps and wetlands arc
good for is to be drained and turned
into farms and pine plantations, and
then later, subdivisions and golf
courscs. Just look around!
An eager "birder" up ahead points
upward at an old, longlcaf pine with
a small hole and sap running down
the side: the home of the elegant and
endangered rcd-cockaded wood
Closer by it seems like you're
suddenly surrounded by pitcher
plants of all shapes and sizes, pok
Ill? iiiv.il uuuvu uiwuun up iiiiuugn
And is that a gentian of some
kind? Oh, and what kind of orchid is
that? Where's that field guide when
you need it most.
Then, you pause, breath catching
tn your throat ami wonuCuug if
there's film in the camera.
Just ahead, sunlight filters
through rows of leggy, green-topped
pines in long swathes of gold, set
ting aglow a meadow of tall grasses
burgeoning with more blooming
wildllowcrs than you could have
The pine savannah, welcoming,
teeming with life. Not Monet's flow
er garden, but then. Mother Nature
wields her own distinct paintbrush.
In the distance, ihc indistinct hum
of traffic rumbling up and down
N.C. 21 1. Visitors scurrying to the
seashore, or back home again.
Delivcrymcn in their trucks.
Little do they realize they arc
rushing through and past Brunswick
County's "other" and equally fragile
treasure: the Green Swamp.
Check it out for yourself. The
North Carolina Nature Conservancy
will Ik* conducting free field trips
May 9 as part of its 1 5th anniversary
celebration at Brunswick Commun
Driving along N.C. 21 1 will never
be the same. I promise.
??in ? " f nirnm ? ? m? |
We Set Some Higher Goals In Adulthood
A friend in Chapel Hill has set a
high goal for himself this year. He's
working on a private pilot's license.
He says it's tough finding the time
to practice, but we're all pulling for
He flies around the state in one of
those two-seater airplanes with a
flight instructor who knows where
the airports arc that arc close to great
restaurants. Last week he flew to
Lynchburg, Va., and back, all in an
afternoon. He has flown solo already,
and as tradition would have it, his
shirttail hangs in the clubhouse at
Horace Williams Airport, along with
others who have made that brave step
into the wild, blue yonder.
Flying buddies talk about a place
in western North Carolina where
there is this terrific restaurant that sits
right next to a runway. They fly there
for lunch and then fly back home, to
return to their jobs or families.
It all has the convenience of just
taking a ride down the street to the
local waffle house. But this story
isn't just about flying or down home
cooking, it's about goals and
Every time we see or call one an
Terry f 't
other, our conversation eventually
focuses on our goals. Me? I'm
working on my college thesis, hop
ing to complete it this year, which is
when Russell would also like to ob
tain his license. We both hold full
Goals seem harder to achieve
when you become an adult. Maybe
we just start setting higher goals for
ourselves? Or can't seem to find the
time to reach them.
We kid one another about how
we'll be old men one day and we'll
still be talking about getting that de
gree or pilot's license. It's funny, yet
it's also scary. To me it is. We have
been friends since the fifth grade.
When I do things, I want to do
things right. Here's an example.
I took my camera lo Chapel Hill
on a visit rcccntly and used the
largest zoom lens I own, a 200 mm,
to try to get shots of Russell landing
the plane. He was practicing touch
and go landings. I still don't know
why pilots do that. Maybe it has
something to do with what would
happen if they are forced to pull out
of a landing at the last second.
He wanted to do his best for the
pictures, and 1 wanted to do my best
work behind the camera. It was a
bright, sunny day and the only loca
tion safe near the runway had me
staring into the sun. The plane
would come out blackened by shad
ows in the shots.
Even though I got as close to the
runway as safety would allow, it
wasn't close enough.
Also, 1 forgo; to set the film
speed. 1 shot a roll of 100 speed film
at 400 speed, which means the roll
would come out underdeveloped
with the pictures looking fuzzy. 1
didn't realize what I had done until I
was taking the film out of the cam
era. Not only did the pictures have
terrible shadows, but they were
Oh well, I incsscd up. There will
be another time. But I'm always
thinking about tilings that I want to
do today, not years from now. I'm
already starting to think about things
1 should have done in college 10
We assure one another that we'll
reach our goals. That's what friends
are for, reassurance. He asks, "When
1 get my liccnsc and fly down to
Wilmington, will you tly back to
Chapel Hill with me?"
1 hesitate slightly, but then I say 1
will. It's something that will mean a
lot to both of us, if we're not loo old
to enjoy it. I'll stiil have to work on
getting over my fear of Hying
And 1 add, "If the FAA says you
arc a pilot, then I'll hop in the plane
"You'll trust my Hying?" he asks.
Well, reassurance is most important
It would thrill me if we both
achieve those goals at once ? he get
his pilot's liccnsc and I finish my
thesis right on time.
I'll take my carnera-and get better
shots the next time.
Agitators In Every
County And State
museum stands as
have ever built it?
raised and die in
the same place and
why anyone _____
would want to travel, visit or live anywhere else. In the
tiny Texas town where I spent 18 years, a community
leader proudly declared he would never go so far away
he couldn't sec his town's water tower. My own father
in-law, permanenUy settled in a little corner of Missouri,
always had the same response when someone suggested
he visit a particular city. "Why? I didn't lose anything
there," he would say.
Now, "outsiders," on the other hand, arc often gad
abouts; otherwise they'd never become outsiders in
some new and strange environment. Unless uprooted by
necessity of job changes, marriage or natural disaster,
they probably have a curiosity about other places and
people. Generally they have experienced a variety of
communities and ways of doing tilings and they enjoy
That's why they come up with good ideas for the
"insiders" when they become acquainted with their new
home town. They see the place with fresh eyes and if
there's a problem or need, they have a background of
soluuons that have worked somewhere else. Whether
it's school improvements, a new way to handle traffic,
or schemes to fill the cultural gaps, these upstart "fur
rincrs" very often put new life in staid old societies.
This is not to denigrate "insiders." Many of them arc
willing to go along and when ideas begin to flow, they
find they have some to contribute. If they arc not stub
bornly hidebound against the intervention of newcom
ers, they can be invaluable in helping the implementa
tion of those innovative suggestions. In fact, their
- ? ?? ?* h
knowledge of pilfalls anil procedures can be vital, as
long as they don't pull out the old chestnut, "But we've
always done it THIS way!"
Every county, every town needs outsiders and
should cncouragc their participation. Ocean Isle Beach
was fortunate and smart enough to welcome the likes of
Stuart Ingram into their community some time ago. He,
in turn, was fortunate and smart enough to ally himself
with local talent and brains in the birthing of his brain
child museum. Certainly he could not have accom
plished it alone and the folks on his board of directors,
he insists, rule the operation.
When everything that's best about a settled commu
nity is married to the best of the immigrant crowd flow
ing into it, some high-powered parenting takes place.
Born of this merger arc better schools, town govern
ment, artistic endeavors and social life.
And in the South Brunswick Islands, the "outsider"
influence has brought us a museum in which every in
sider can take great pride.