It appears Elkin is taking over in Wilkes County.
I say that because in December Rudy Holbrook, who grew up just over on the other side of Big Elkin Creek, was elected chairman of the Wilkes County Board of Education.
Meanwhile, Eddie Settle, who now lives just over on the other side of Big Elkin Creek, joined the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners after being the top vote-getter in the November general election and before that in the May primary.
I knew both growing up here in the hometown. I went to school with both. I have their school yearbook photos here. Enjoy.
And I can honestly say that if you had asked me as a kid back then which of my schoolmates would grow up to be the leaders of the county, I would not have suggested Holbrook and Settle.
You just never know about these things, do you?
I find the fact that two Elkin area men are now leading Wilkes so unusual because we Elkin area folks who live just over the Wilkes line so rarely get involved voluntarily with things upriver at the county seat. Good for Holbrook and Settle.
During a time when I worked in Wilkesboro I found the natives there only vaguely aware of Elkin, even though it is Wilkes’ fourth municipality - a bit of West End bleeds over the Wilkes line. And the natives there didn’t seem to even know about State Road, half of which is in Wilkes.
Holbrook is a former classmate and softball teammate. We played for the Benham entry in the Austin adult slow-pitch league in 1971.
The one thing I remember about Holbrook as a ballplayer that summer was the time he complained about our tight, polyester uniform pants being a little too, er, revealing.
The small of my back has always been sensitive due to spinal bifida repair surgery when I was nine days old. Mom and Dad had a fit whenever I wanted to play contact sports because of my back.
One day in physical education class Holbrook came up behind me and kneed me right in the sensitive spot in the small of my back. A direct blow makes my knees buckle, and in an act of horseplay the future leader of Wilkes schools sent me reeling to the floor.
He had no idea about my back and profusely apologized.
Back in my day elementary and high school kids rode the same Wilkes school buses. I rode the bus with Settle, who lived just a mile up the road. But as a cool upperclassman I don’t think I ever said a word to the future county commissioner.
But back when I was a first-grader riding the school bus there was a high school kid who saw an opportunity one day with my jacket that had a hood with a zipper right up the middle. The high school kid found out he could zip up my hood and catch my stubby hair in it. He thought that was a hoot.
It hurt, but at least I had the attention of a high schooler. Bad attention was better than no attention at all.
I did admire Settle’s dad as he used to join us teenaged boys for pickup basketball games at night at the neighborhood gym.
Wow, I thought at the time. That’s amazing. Mr. Settle’s still playing basketball, and he must be over 30. That’s old.
Oddly enough, as I was playing pickup ball into my early 30s, I found I wasn’t old at all.
One time I had my two Dalmatians down at Carter Falls on Big Elkin Creek, and the alpha dog started chasing a moth and led the other dog off down the creekside and out of sight. They didn’t come back.
I searched for hours up and down the creek, and the dogs were nowhere to be found.
My dogs had run down toward Settle’s house, so after dark and after I had returned home I called down to his house. I’d never called down there before.
Mrs. Settle answered, and I breathlessly asked her to be on the lookout for my lost dogs. Call me if you see them, I said.
“OK,” she said rather quietly. As I hung up I wondered whether she was wondering if I had been drinking on that Saturday night. Heavily.
After returning to the hometown I was tickled to meet up with my old Benham softball teammate again at a high school football game. Holbrook’s kid played quarterback, and on that Friday night as I reporting on a game for “The Tribune” I was having trouble getting around to collect all the post-game comments I wanted.
No sweat. The next morning I called up my old teammate and asked Holbrook to put his boy on the phone. “Sure,” Holbrook said. I didn’t have connections like that when I reported in the big city.
We were visiting a church one Sunday morning, and I found Holbrook there. He spotted us, came over and was the first to welcome us. Even with the horseplay, I always thought Holbrook a good kid.
Settle and I attend the same church, and I asked Settle one Sunday morning what he thought of my Oct. 1 “Tribune” column about his run for commissioner.
“What column?” Settle asked. Oh well, he must have been busy campaigning or something.
Despite our mutual humble beginnings I feel good about Elkin’s contributions to the leadership of Wilkes County. And I’m sure the school board chairman and the county commissioner will love this good-natured ribbing.
Now, what’s this letter in my mailbox from Wilkesboro. Why, I didn’t know Wilkes County could revoke my school diploma AND audit my taxes!?
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.