A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

OS: Let’s start at the beginning! What drew you to writing? Eddie: I got into writing because I had a complete lack of ability in any and all other categories

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

OS: Let’s start at the beginning! What drew you to writing? Eddie: I got into writing because I had a complete lack of ability in any and all other categories

A Q&A with Our Ramblin’ Man

OS: Let’s start at the beginning! What drew you to writing?

Eddie: I got into writing because I had a complete lack of ability in any and all other categories — and that’s the truth! I went to school at UNC Chapel Hill for journalism and graduated with degrees in journalism and English. But even before then, it wasn’t the writing so much that I pursued as much as my love of the outdoors. That, more than anything, led me to writing. I graduated in ’83 and by then I knew I wanted to be a writer — but what in the world does that mean? I was working at Sutton’s Drug Store on Franklin Street and literally wrote behind the cash register before I got my first “real” writing job. I was terrified to move. Back then, if you wanted to be somebody in the magazine world, you needed to be in New York or D.C. So, it was a slower burn in terms of a career path for me to stay in North Carolina, but I did find out that being from the South was a real asset. I’ve done work for a lot of magazines — from Our State to Smithsonian to National Geographic — and kind of got my name as a writer because I was a guy from the South.

OS: You write predominantly about the outdoors — in what ways do North Carolina’s natural spaces inspire you?

Eddie: You know, North Carolina is a pretty easy place to fall in love with the natural world. Whenever I give talks, there’s always one question that comes up: “what’s your dream destination?” I always say that my answer is going to disappoint many — but the honest answer is that I want the month of November in North Carolina. For people who love to hunt and fish, November is everything, all the time, all at once. In my mind, we need three Novembers. The ducks are migrating, the red drum and albacore are active, and the seasons are changing — deer are out and running — the world is alive. I’ve traveled a lot over the years, and I could live anywhere I want, but I choose to live in North Carolina.

OS: What’s your favorite natural space in North Carolina, and why?

Eddie: A former friend once said that I love a swamp like Peter loved the Lord! I’ve always enjoyed time spent in the swamp — give me a big beaver pond or a marsh — a place where the water is everywhere and nowhere. A good beaver swamp at sunrise is one of my favorite places to be. Fishing around Cape Lookout during the fall is a pretty good place to be, as well.

OS: What are three words that you would use to describe a swamp?

Eddie: 1) Primeval. 2) Gothic. 3) Alive. The silhouettes of the cypress trees and every noise and plop and croak and creak boast of something that’s breathing. There’s so much life in a place that people think is a wasteland. I could give you a name of a specific swamp to visit, but that feels meaningless. The point is that a swamp is an everyman pleasure — the fact that the swamp even exists is what makes it unique. You don’t have to have a million-dollar beachfront house or big boat, you just need the gumption to get out there. When I think about it, that’s what has defined so much of my exploration. I don’t like ATVs — I’ve got the two feet that God gave me and that’s how I like getting places. Moving physically with my own steam from civilized place to uncivilized place feels very honest to me.

OS: When you sit down to write a Ramblin’ Man column, how do you decide what to write?

Eddie: I want to give a shout out to Editor in Chief Elizabeth Hudson here, because when we started talking about my column, she knew the sorts of things that I liked to write about. I really appreciated the freedom. As far as deciding what to write, we do sit down to plan my columns, and I’ll try to think up a year’s worth of possibilities. But I think that some of the best work I’ve done for Ramblin’ Man has been when I’ve had literally no clue what to write, and I just sit down with a blank sheet of paper. Ramblin’ Man works because of the freedom and trust that Our State has given to me. And I’m so lucky. Who else is going to pay me to write about the stuff that I write about? Like the chigger story back in June — I’ve gotten so many emails and phone calls about that story! I don’t want to be too saccharine about this, but writing for the magazine really is a gift. Writing is hard, even for very good writers. But bricks and stones weigh the same. We’ve all got to pick them up and put them in place — and it’s hard for all of us. Being able to just sit down and open that vein of my own work is a treasure.

OS: You write often about your childhood — do you enjoy writing about your early years or your current life, more? Do you like both for different reasons?

Eddie: I don’t know that I say that I enjoy writing about one or the other more, but there is something special about looking back and acknowledging the past. The recent piece I wrote about keeping all the snakes and critters in my bedroom — and my science teacher, Mrs. Lomax — was special. You know, I do feel a little bit that I’ve been entrusted with something of a voice, and when I can use that to let people in my life know what they meant to me, then that is very meaningful to me. And I hope that when people read those stories, that all the Mrs. Lomaxes of the world realize what they’ve given to their students. I hope that it acknowledges all the gifts that we give to each other without ever even realizing it. I do love that kind of reaching back and knitting something from my past into my present.

OS: What’s your favorite Ramblin’ Man column that you’ve written?

Eddie: I’ve had a ball writing some of my Christmas stories. I honestly find a few of them just hilarious, like the time that I hid the deer antlers under my son’s bushes because he was on the fence about Santa Clause. Those stick out — but I have to say, to no one’s surprise, my favorite piece is my recent garden box story about my daughter, Markie. How I didn’t fry my laptop when I was writing that with tears running down my arms is a miracle. I’ve heard from a lot of readers about that story, but the most important piece of feedback that I got was when my daughter said that she wanted to get the piece framed for herself.

This story was published on Aug 16, 2022

Anna Grace Thrailkill

Anna Grace Thrailkill is Our State’s Newsletter and Social Media Producer.