THE LUNAR REPORT – “FORTY DOLLARS” July 16, 2017

Twice a year, as a child and a teen, I would wake up and find at least forty dollars on the kitchen counter. The man who left it there, before he went to work, used that cash to encourage his wife and children to buy shirts, underwear and other things for him on his birthday and Father’s Day. I thought that to be a selfish notion.

At least I did for a while.

The man had quite a few faults. So did his wife. So did his oldest son, middle daughter and youngest son. Unlike the rest of his family, I think he confronted those faults. In bold and honest and loving ways. That was the very real value of his life.

I have never doubted the man’s words. Or actions, for that matter. Well, maybe I did. For a while.

One time, his youngest son, who had recently become a legal driver, drove the man’s new Chevy Impala to a friend’s nearby house. The next door neighbor of that kid’s friend chose to back into the left side of that brand new Chevy. The kid was afraid to tell his dad. But the kid’s mom encouraged him to confront the man, and to be honest.

It was the very first new car the man ever bought. The news his son was about to deliver would have angered even a saint. So, he timidly approached his dad and said, “Daddy. My friend’s next door neighbor backed into the new Impala and damaged the left side.”

The man should have gone into an uncontrollable rage. Instead, he gave a simple and brief look at the kid and boldly said, “Damn! I thought I would be the first one to wreck that car.”

At some point, his youngest son was attending, as a freshman, The University Of North Carolina. The young guy was missing his home, five-hundred miles away. And the high school sweetheart he left there. The kid told the man that he was ready to come back home. The man’s reply? “Stay one full semester, and I promise you that you will never want to leave Chapel Hill.” The kid didn’t trust his advice. He thought the man was lying. But he stayed anyway. And, damn. The man was right.

I could go on and on about this man. But one sort of final thing about him is this. One day on his birthday, a day when he knew none of his young kids could provide a gift to him, he knew what to expect – a couple of disappointed children. So he did what he had to do. On that day, he bought and installed for his kids a backyard swing set. He gave his kids a gift on HIS birthday! And this may not be true, but I believe he lovingly wished the kids a happy birthday on that day. At least that’s what I believe and feel.

I will be honest with you. Until tonight, I never understood what that kitchen counter cash was all about. Now I know. If that man could leave forty dollars for his family to spend on him, then, certainly, he could afford a trip to Lebo’s Big Man Clothing store himself. Any time he wanted to. He didn’t need shirts and underwear from his wife and kids.

All he needed on those days was to show his love. He left that cash to make his wife and kids feel good about themselves and about giving to the man he knew we all loved. I am convinced of that now.

The man I am talking about is my dad.

Look, my brother’s birth year is 1945. My sister’s is 1952. Mine is 1954. And the birth year of the last of the man’s 17 children, grandchildren and greats was just five years ago. My life and those of the others are defined by that kitchen counter forty dollars. The lives of each of us began long before any of us actually reached our place on earth.

All of us were born on July 16, 1921.

So was my dad.

Happy Birthday, Joe! Thank you for giving our lives real value.

Click HERE for “Pie Safe. on Lunacy”

THE LUNAR REPORT – “FEARS AND ADIDAS” July 1, 2017

Call me weird. Call me a wimp. But I fear severe weather. I guess my mom had something to do with that, although watching, annually, “Wizard Of Oz” tornadoes for the first twenty years of my life didn’t help!

King James Bible

When I was young and when a thunderstorm hit, my mom made us unplug everything electrical in the house. Even lamps! Then we sat toward the middle of the house and away from windows while Mama read Bible verses to us. I do not recall nighttime thunderstorms, so reading the Bible at night and in the dark has never been an issue within my memory.

But, dang it, I think I came up with this OCD thing on my own!

Just an hour or so ago, a severe storm passed over my Charlotte home. I unplugged nothing, and I sat in my favorite chair next to a window, watching television. I did ask God to protect us all from the severe weather, but I didn’t read verses. No. All I did was put my shoes on.

Look, it’s summertime. I love being barefoot. So, when that storm ended safely, I took the shoes off and opened every window in the house.

Well, just now, yet another “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” came across the television screen. So, yeah. I closed the windows and put my shoes back on!

Here’s my weird and wimpy fear. It’s not that I will be struck by lighting. It’s not that watching television with the lights on will attract deadly bolts that invade my living room. I don’t even fear the house being destroyed by the wind or fallen trees or spinning uncontrollably to Oz!

All I fear is walking barefoot through all the rubble and debris to a safe place!

Seriously, y’all!

Click HERE for the companion piece on LUNACY, “Hurricane Fran.”

THE LUNAR REPORT – “DISAPPEARING DADS” June 18, 2017

I know what it’s like to be without a father on Father’s Day. In this regard, I have been alone for almost twenty-five years. But before the most important man in my life died, he was there for me. In his own bizarre and fun and wonderfully generous ways. Frankly, I blame that man for much of my bizarre behavior the past sixty-three years. There are certainly others to blame – mostly my own twisted self – but this is about Father’s Day.

And. This is not about my dad. It’s not about any dad, really.

 It’s about the kids of dads who disappeared.

It struck me tonight that many of my friends, family, and kids I have known and loved for decades are mostly – or always – without their dads.   And have been since their youth or forever. Well, this is my possibly bizarre attempt to ease the pain of those folks who often need the love of a rarely or never found dad.

Look, I think I know how men can be. I mean, I am a man myself.

I am well aware of a man’s urge to simply walk away from everything. When I was a young man, all I wanted to do was to walk away from real life.  All I wanted was to live alone on a farm somewhere. Just me.

And my dog, McFee. At that time, all other possibilities scared the hell out of me.

I somehow overcame that fear. For a time, anyway. So I took a job, got married and had a child myself. But, as my wife was suffering through the labor that brought my son to life, my very first “man” reaction was to get the hell out of that room and take McFee to the farm!

Seriously.

I feel like I was privileged back then. My own dad gave me a college education, I was given a great job and a wife that I loved dearly. Still, when my very own son was being born, I wanted to run like hell!

My dad and young son

I guess I stayed around for the very same reason my dad never permanently left me or my siblings. But the man left us plenty of times. I have very few memories of my dad being around when I was young. I think he tried his damnedest to find his own farm. But he always came back. And I think I know why.

Men are strong. In many ways. But when it comes to our children and to the mothers of our children, well there is a weakness many of the strongest men cannot overcome. And my dad was weak. Very weak in this regard.

I guess what I am saying here is that men who want to be or believe that they are strong enough to overcome the weakness of love find themselves in uncontrollably awkward situations. So they leave. For a while or forever.

Look, the ultimate weakness in men who totally leave their children in favor of their devotion to their own strength, is no excuse for neglecting the children that define the man. But to those kids who feel totally neglected, here are my thoughts.

My dad left me, plenty of times. But I forgave him. And he knew that. If he had been as strong as your dad, he would have never returned. And if he had never returned, well – again, I was privileged. I knew the man well enough to know that, without any doubts, the man – my dad – loved me.

And would forever.

My son and his dad

I also know that if I had run away from my child’s birth, like I wanted to, I may not even know the kid right now.   But I am certain that I would love him just as much as my dad loved me.

My guess is that your dads feel the very same about their love for you.

THE LUNAR REPORT – “BIZARRE TELEVISION” June 5, 2017

Look, I am a sucker for DVRing bizarre television series and watching other bizarre ones on Netflix.  

But when I watch one of those shows, I mostly begin the viewing by fast forwarding past the opening credits.

You know, like everyone else, I am in a hurry to get to the main story!

Well, let me tell you about “House Of Cards,” a Netflix show.

First of all, as soon as the new second, third, fourth and fifth season’s began, I was lost! Totally lost! So each time a new season has begun, I am forced to watch ALL the episodes from the previous season! That’s a wonderful indication of just how twisted and bizarre is this show! Currently, I am only five episodes into last year’s shows!

But here is the most twisted part of this post. I really do not care how much of a rush I am in when I begin to watch a “House Of Cards” episode. I might be hungry and anxious to eat my lunch or dinner while watching. I might be late for a doctor’s appointment or work meeting. I may even really be dying to use the bathroom at the moment! But, damn it, I cannot fast forward through the opening music of that show!

Seriously! I am mesmerized by the opening theme. I researched my mesmerization tonight. The guy who composed that music is Jeff Beal.

JEFF BEAL

Below are two links. One is Beal explaining the creation of the theme. The other link is the theme itself.

Thanks for putting up with my twisted nonsense here. But Jeff Beal’s sound really is fantastic!

 

THE LUNAR REPORT – “ALWAYS DREAMING” May 6, 2017

 

Always Dreaming was today’s Kentucky Derby winner. But as long as the poor young nag keeps racing, his dreams of running without being brutally whipped are futile.

 

I watched today’s Derby. That’s something I rarely do. Now I remember why I have avoided this spectacle.

 

As the race was ending, here is what I saw: 20 three-year-old colts and mares, running as fast as they could, while their, what I call “drivers-” not “riders”- were beating the hell out of them.

 

 

Meanwhile, the cameras covering the event showed multi-million dollar “owners,” cheering the beatings of their very own living property! All the while, sipping Kentucky mint juleps!

 

Look, I am a NASCAR fan. And those drivers beat the hell out of their modes of speedy transportation as well. But those beatings are mostly accidental. And when their modes can no longer perform, changes are made. They use duct tape. They change tires. They repair twisted metal. They add fuel!  And – they drink beer!

 

But what NASCAR owners never do is send their useless and beaten living vehicles to a deserted pasture to merely bide time until the glue factory sends a pick-up truck – while it’s wealthy owner sips more juleps, buys more young living things whose whippings will one day create even more self-serving smiles and cheers!

If I were a young and fast horse, I would treasure the name of “Always Dreaming.”

Let’s face it. Dreams are all that young thoroughbreds have!

THE LUNAR REPORT – “HOW TO BE FIDO” April 20, 2017

I taught the youngest guy how to be a dog. I sat mostly in silence with the middle guy for a good while before convincing him what a dweeb I was. I warned the oldest guy about where to not put his head. And I told the oldest of them all that my legs had never felt smoother.

This is my life as a granddad. At least it was during a recent six-day Easter trip to Texas with the bunch. “The Bunch” is what I call my son and his wife and her daughter and sister and mother and my son’s children and a couple of nephews. “The Bunch!” I really want nothing but the best for The Bunch. My hope is that my behavior around each of them didn’t dash their hopes of me!

I think I treated the nephews and the sister and the mother with fun but with respect as well. My son and his wife, though? Well, that’s up to interpretation. Whatever I said to those two, I hope they accept my apologies or appreciate my understanding of them both. Those are important notions to an old dad of a long-time and loving son and a relatively new but wonderful daughter. But the notions are pretty much unimportant ones.  At least they are when it comes to the meat of “The Bunch!”

The most beautiful of The Bunch is the oldest child. A young woman who is close to being as wonderful as her mom. They both posses the ultimate beauty. Inside and out. But I am such a dork. I mean, I appreciate their beauty, but what drives me is being able to make them both laugh! And I made the mom laugh a few times – at her own expense. I apologize for those times. But the daughter, my granddaughter, set me up for the following punch line.

As we were preparing to leave the hotel to return to North Carolina, the granddaughter, a 14-year-old, asked me to give the shaving cream and razor she left in my room to my son to pack and bring back home. I assured her that I would and then said, “Oh, crap! I saw that in the shower and I used it! Man, my legs have never been smoother!” I am not sure if she and her mom were embarrassed by my comments. But, damn it, they both laughed!

The oldest grandson is a wonderful kid. He’s only around ten years old. But just like the oldest nephew, a seventeen-year-old, he so readily offers and delivers the help anyone around him needs. I asked the nephew for help a couple of times, and he obliged. In his natural ways. But just as natural were the ways my grandson helped. Without having been asked. Look, there were eleven of us traveling in a van from North Carolina to Texas. Five adults, two young teens, and four young-ins. Most of my time was spent on the far back bench seat. Underneath that seat was my luggage. At some point during the trip, I needed something from my luggage. So I struggled, trying to pull my bag from underneath my seat. And suddenly, without my request for help, the oldest grandson appeared and crawled on the floor of the van to pull out what I needed. He assured me he would take care of it. So, I raised and spread my legs to give him access to the luggage. Well, the kid would have succeeded, I think. But the closer he got to me, the more I understood his sense of humor. So I said to him, as his head approached my crotch, “Dude! Watch where you put your head!” Once the kid stopped laughing, he said to the nephew, “Man – did you hear what Paw Paw said?” And – I never retrieved my luggage.

I think I identify mostly with my “middle grandson.” While he is not even close to being as insecure as I was a kid, he is much closer than the others. Like I always was as a kid, this one seems to feel guilty about minor things, is way too apologetic about stuff, and is not afraid to shed a tear or two. Well, I am not at all sure how he feels about me right now. During an Easter egg hunt at a park in Dallas on Easter day, I noticed that he was sitting alone on some cement steps with his head down. I walked away from all the others and sat down next to him. We said very little at first. He just needed someone next to him for a while. Then, we began to talk. He told me what was on his mind. Then I told him what a dweeb his granddad was as a child. About how my older brother used to pick on me. About how my brother and sister used to call me dumb and stupid. About how I reacted when I lost at Monopoly! I said to him, “Man – I never won at Monopoly! And my brother and sister would just gloat and laugh and I always ended up throwing the Monopoly board off the table in anger! I was such a jerk back then.” That kid wiped away a couple of tears and said, “Paw Paw, you are not a jerk.” And then he smiled! Finally he smiled.

Then – there’s “Sweet-P!” That’s what I call the youngest. The spelling of his name begins with a “p.” And he is a very sweet kid. But I will be honest with you. I have never known a child like this one. When I see and hear things from Sweet-P,      I see the next Robin Williams or John Belushi or Chevy Chase or Johnny Carson on the horizon. This kid is a bit gullible as well. Or. Maybe the kid just actually understands the value of becoming a dog right now in his life. The kid is five years old. A couple of years ago, he asked to have a bite of the food I was eating. I told him that he would have to beg for it. Like a dog. I said, “Speak!” He very quickly caught on and responded with a dog bark! At that point, I labeled Sweet-P as “Fido!” A couple of mornings ago, at the free breakfast at the Dallas hotel where we were staying, Fido began eating his Fruit Loops without a human inspired spoon. And each time I told him to speak, the kid would bark. Later in the trip, we were eating lunch outside somewhere, and he began to bark and pant like a dog. And God forgive me for this, but I asked Fido to show me how he scratches his ear. Naturally, the kid used his right hand to show me. That’s when I said, “No! Dogs use their feet to scratch their ears!” The kid took off one of his flip-flops and began to scratch his right ear with his right foot! And he did it many times during the following few days! After our last meal together, during some times when Sweet-P seemed to get out of control a bit, all I had to say was, “Fido! Sit!” Man! The kid would sit! And bark! And, again, would scratch his ear with his foot!

Look, here is my message to my son and his wife and others: For the love of God, at some point do your best to protect your children from such a demented granddad!

In the meantime, thank you and your young-ins for giving an old man such joy!

THE LUNAR REPORT – “SHORT LIVES” February 25, 2017

Last night, I asked this question on Facebook:

“What goes through the minds of lifelong and dear friends when their lifelong and dear friends simply oppose the political beliefs of those they love dearly?”

 

The responses I got were actually all wonderful ones. And I heard from three really beautiful and longtime friends and loved ones. Friends who disagree somewhat with my simple political views.  But then, today, things happened. Serious things.

So, I thanked all my friends for responding to that rather nebulous question. Below is my response to them all. I wouldn’t post this on The Lunar Report if I did not think it was important. So thank you guys for bearing with me!

“Thank you all for replying and helping here. And to Gary and Preston, I totally understand you both. Gary, I am sorry for what you guys have been going through, but I am very happy about the remission. And, Preston! Hearing from you made my day! Knowing you is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me. It is! And I miss your smile, your eyes and your beautiful kindness. The healthcare issue you both mentioned is a more specific issue than what my original post is about. But, damn it! Your responses helped me in the most perfect ways.

Do y’all mind if I tell you about my day? Please bear with me here.

This morning, shortly after reading the posts from you, Gary, and you, Preston, I drove 30-minutes to watch my youngest grandson play basketball. He’s only five, so, at this point, his strongest skill is to charm the three little girls on his team. And he really gets into that!

 

After that game, I had some time to kill before my oldest grandson played in a tournament game. So, I was able to go to lunch with my son, his wife, all four of my grandchildren, and my daughter-in-law’s mother. Man! I had one grandchild on my left, another on my right and their parents sat directly across from me. There were laughs, there were smiles, there was nonsense, and there was some serious love.

 

My talented nine-year-old grandson played his heart out. Still, his team lost that later game. But his team won, too. Before the game, his dad, one of the coaches, organized, again, a pre-game center court prayer circle that included the other team, all coaches and even the two referees. It was quite a moving moment.

So much so, that I had to look away to keep my emotions controlled a bit as my son delivered that prayer. So, I looked up, through the skylights in the gym. There I saw a clear blue sky with fast moving and wonderful white clouds drifting by. That’s when I thought of my mother. She would have been so damned proud of her grandson, her great grandson and all of their Saturday afternoon associates at that moment.

 

We all parted ways after the game. After that, I returned home, and I met two new young friends. Marcellus and Desmond. They are neighbors that I had never met until late this afternoon. They are both around nine or ten years old. I was on my porch when I first saw them. They were walking down my walkway. And Marcellus was carrying a small box – one that I readily recognized. It was the same shaped box of the medication that I need daily and had been expecting. It hat been delivered to my neighbor’s house by mistake. Marcellus handed me the box. Offered his name and extended his hand for a kind and gentle shake. Desmond stayed back a bit, but presented such a warm and friendly smile when I asked his name and thanked them both.

Shortly after meeting my two young friends, I heard some disturbing news about a guy I also call my friend. We really weren’t pals. We were co-workers who enjoyed each others’ company during and after work for a few years. But this man made everyone he ever met feel like his best friend. He did! Well, my friend died suddenly today, doing some volunteer firefighting training in Michigan.  His name is Ron Savage.

Look, I am not looking for pity or sympathy or anything like that. But my family and their love of God and of each other and their laughter and successes and failures, Marcellus’ and Desmond’s lives and my long-time friend’s death kind of brought this day and my original post full circle. And it kind of forces me to use a cliché. Life really is way too damned short. It is way too short to ever allow a simple vote for a man we have never known alter in any way the love we have for those we do know and meet and cherish. It really is, y’all!

Forgive me for becoming so emotional here. But true emotions really should be reserved for those we have grown to cherish during each moment of our damned short and loving lives!”

THE LUNAR REPORT – “I AM BENATRIPPEN!” February 21, 2017

Discussing body rashes on The Lunar Report is really something that turns me off.   But, dang!   I have had a rather itchy rash for days.

So, today, I went to Walgreens. I told the pharmacist there about the rash and that I thought it was shingles. I asked for some over the counter recommendations I could use until I see a doctor in a couple of days.

 

The Walgreens’ guy was very helpful. He showed me an ointment that would relieve the itching. Then he said, “And I recommend also taking Benadryl. Now, it might make you a little drowsy, but it may help.”

 

I took the man’s advice. About fifteen minutes after taking a couple of doses of the drug, the itching just stopped. And, naturally, I said to myself, “Damn! That Walgreens’ guy knows his stuff!” Then, the Benadryl really kicked in.

That’s when I read the fine print on the package. I think. My vision was terribly blurred by that time. “There will be marked drowsiness. Do not use alcohol when taking this drug. Excitability may occur.”

A mistake or two was made. And the printed warnings came way too late to correct them.

The pharmacist used the words, “… a little drowsy.” And never mentioned the alcohol or excitability things. So, I had a couple of drinks after the itching was relieved. You know. To celebrate. But “a LITTLE drowsy?”

Man! Just a few minutes ago, I tried to go to the bathroom and fell down like five times! I kept falling asleep on the way to the john! But I was so excited, I just picked myself up, had another drink and laughed.

So, look. Once the rash clears, I am having a “BYOB Party” at my place! You are all invited, especially the Walgreen’s guy. And I will provide all the alcohol!

But you MUST Bring Your Own Benadryl!  I promise you, I will run out of mine long before the party!  Help me out and share yours, though.  I promise, also, that I will crunch it up and share the straw!

In the words of Tony “Scarface” Montana: “This is paradise, I’m tellin’ ya.”

 Man! I love this stuff!!!!

THE LUNAR REPORT – “LIGHT WEIGHT PROTESTS” February 17, 2017

See, by now, you guys must think I am just a crusty, hard-headed and conservative old Southern man who has never fought for justice and civil liberties. Well, in the words of our president, “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”

Just today, in light of some student protests here in Charlotte, I have been pondering my past. Today, some local students walked out of school to protest the interactions between ICE and immigrants. Well, I am here to tell you that those students are light weight.

 

Walking out of school? Just walking out? They used today as the perfect opportunity to ditch school for the day. This day also happened to be a “make up “ day for bad weather that happened a while back. So, of course they walked out! I mean, come on! Even a crusty, hard-headed and conservative old Southern man like me would have done the same thing.

 

I organized my first protest fifty-one years ago. And at the time, I , too, was a young public school student. At Fishweir Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida. Back then, kids had what they called, “play periods.” That’s when the teacher would take us outside to “play!”

 

 

 

 

As a sixth grader in 1966, “play period” meant “kickball!” And kickball during play period was the most fun kids my age had back then. And Fishweir had some pretty good and new kickballs that were full of air and quite kickable!

 

 

Well, late one morning, as our play period began, we went outside to enjoy some kicking and the beautiful day. The very first kicker that day pounded the ball, as hard as he could, toward the sideline and the top of the chain link fence. It really was a powerful kick. But the damned ball wedged between the spikes on top of the fence and an old and hard oak tree.

 

 

 

 

The ball deflated. Immediately.

 

 

 

Well, that seemed to baffle, what I call our “play period guy.” I really don’t know what the hell the guy did, but he was about sixty years younger than our teacher, so he watched us play every day.

 

 

 

And he really did garner more respect from the twenty-five or so twelve year olds than did our ninety-five year old teacher. But on this day, he decided to, instead of finding another ball, make us clean up the playground. Seriously.

 

Well, that disturbed us all terribly. So, I organized all of us kids to have a sit down strike. We formed a semi-circle, sat side by side, clapping our hands, swaying left and right and chanting, “We shall overcome.” Again, I am being very serious here. The poor play period guy was baffled. He had a dirty playground, a busted ball and twenty-five twelve year olds swaying and chanting. He did all that he could do at the time. He let us protest!

 

Eventually, a real teacher or someone came out to break up the discourse. Our teacher never showed. I think she was getting an oxygen treatment or something. But whoever it was made us go inside. And, we did not have to clean the damned playground! We won! Play period guy lost!

Because of what happened in Charlotte today, and because of my twisted memories and thoughts, I just had to contact my daughter-in-law and son. They have four children who are home schooled. I really did have to ask this question and make this statement:

“Did your kids walk out of school today as a protest like some kid’s in Charlotte did? If not, then I need to have a heart-to-heart talk with each of them. They blew a perfect opportunity to spend a beautiful day AWAY from schooling!”

Neither of them have responded, yet! They must be as baffled as I am about a crusty, hard-headed and conservative old Southern man suggesting such a thing!

CLASSIC LUNAR – “MANGUM REPORT – REVISED” February 6, 2017

SPECIAL “BEAT DOOK” EDITION OF THE LUNAR REPORT.  FROM NOVEMBER 6, 2009

 

(The original was written and posted about eight years ago, during football season.  Well,this is hoops time!  My revisions only deleted references to that strange oblong leather ball!)

Granddaddy Mangum and Dickie.

Just a couple of side bars here. When my brother, Dickie, was a toddler, he lived with my parents in Victory Village, the married student housing on the UNC campus at the time. Word has it that his first words were, “Beat Dook.”

 

Dean Dome!

 

Two days after my son was born, the wife and I drove him through the UNC campus and past the Dean Dome.  We told him that if he decided to attend NC State, we would disown him. But that if he chose Dook, we would shoot him.

 

Now to the meat of all this. The UNC-Dook rivalry actually began way before either school had a basketball team. It began with a major dispute that involved land and bastard children between the Duke family and my family, the Mangums. (My Mom is a Mangum.) There are details in an article written in the Raleigh News and Observer about 23 years ago. The entire article is below.

Mangum Dormitory

At any rate, the Duke family money went to Trinity College (now Duke University), and the Mangum money went to UNC. And the rivalry began. And it all started with MY family and that miserable Duke family.

One more thing. As they say around here, “Go to hell, Dook!”

The News & Observer (includes Chapel Hill News) (Raleigh, NC)

The News & ObserverMarch 5, 1994

The UNC-Duke rivalry’s hidden side.  Leading families feuded for years
Author: CRAIG WHITLOCK; STAFF WRITER
Edition: FINALSection: NEWSPage: B1Index
Terms:UNC-CH; Duke;

Washington Duke, Willie P. Mangum HISTORY

Article Text:

It happened long ago, in the year 1794, but just as lustful folks are prone to do these days, Taylor Duke ignored the risks and seduced a local gal by the name of Chaney Mangum.  Duke, a weather-beaten Orange County farmer, figured nobody would learn about the indiscretion, least of all his wife. But when Mangum bore his bastard son nine months later, it blew his cover.

It also ignited one of the most enduring blood feuds ever seen in these parts.  The Dukes, for whom the university is named, and the Mangums, some of the University of North Carolina’s biggest benefactors, have been at loggerheads ever since, with the vendetta spreading to the worlds of business and politics.  And more recently, basketball.  

Tonight, the feud resumes in all its glory when the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils take the court in Durham.  The winner not only will claim basketball supremacy, but will momentarily gain the upper hand in a family feud that has boiled for 200 years.  

Both clans are rooted in the rural villages of Red Mountain and Bahama, in what is now northern Durham County.  On the surface, the backgrounds are similar.  Both families grew tobacco.  Both thrived in business and influenced politics.But family members, particularly during the 19th century, shuddered at the thought that the Dukes or Mangums had anything in common.   Over the years, they’ve battled over politics, competed for higher social standing and, on occasion, lusted after one another.  

William Preston Mangum II, a family historian, says the two sides don’t fuss as viciously as, say, the gunslinging Hatfields and McCoys.   But they don’t exactly get together for Sunday dinner either.”  I don’t want to say hatred, but underlying these two families is a desire to get the better of each other,” he said in a recent interview at, appropriately, the Washington Duke Inn in Durham.   “There definitely are ill feelings.”

Especially noteworthy is how the families took their rivalry to the rarefied arena of higher education.  The Dukes nurtured fledgling Trinity College in Durham, pumping so much tobacco money into the school that its trustees renamed it Duke University in 1929.  Less publicized is how the Mangums directed their generosity to the state university nine miles away in Chapel Hill.  The Mangums were crucial in helping the university survive its first century.   Willie P. Mangum served on the board of trustees for 43 years.   Adolphus Mangum, a professor, helped reopen the school after the Civil War.   Charles Staples Mangum founded the UNC School of Public Health.   Countless other Mangums graduated from UNC.   A dormitory and several academic awards are named after the family.

The campus connection is where the basketball game fits in.  Both teams have jockeyed all season for the country’s top ranking.   Between them, they’ve won the last three national championships and are two of the most successful programs of all time.  All told, it’s one of the most deep-seated and unforgiving rivalries in the nation.

Taylor Duke couldn’t have known at the time that his amorous urges would cause such a long-lasting fuss.   All he knew was that a comely maiden, Chaney Mangum, had caught his eye.  As can happen when such desires manifest themselves, Chaney Mangum bore a son.   At first, the father’s identity was kept quiet and the adulterous Duke was spared any public shame.   But the secret didn’t last long.  The couple had difficulty containing their affection.   One thing led to another, and the still-unmarried Chaney Mangum had another child.  This time, the Mangums identified Duke as the suspected father in both cases.  Angered by his cavalier attitude, they took him to court and forced him to pay $5 a year in child support.   The judgment was no small debt for the prolific Duke, who had 10 other children.

In the 1800s, the feud extended beyond the bedroom and into the! politic al realm.   For a time, the Mangums reigned supreme, although the Dukes did their best to discredit their neighbors.  Willie P. Mangum was the most famous of the bunch.   An 1815 UNC graduate, he served 23 years in Congress.   He was also a founder of the Whig party and ran for president in 1836.   He carried South Carolina in the election, but not his home state — thanks to opposition from people like the Dukes.  The Dukes were fervent Democratic Republicans and were vocal about it, something that caused Willie Mangum no small amount of consternation.

In the 1830s, a supporter wrote Mangum in Washington to report on the political troublemakers back home.   The writer singled out the Dukes, calling them, with uncanny foresight, part of “a Devilish clan.”  The Mangums weren’t above making fun of the Dukes, either.   One 19th century Mangum noted in his will that he owned a horse named Duke.

After the Civil War, the families’ fortunes changed. The Mangums, part of the Old South’s aristocracy, lost virtually everything. The Dukes, on the other hand, made the most of Reconstruction, thanks to tobacco.  Washington Duke, a legitimate son of Taylor Duke, raised bright leaf tobacco and entered the manufacturing side of the business.   Soon he and his three sons had created a fabulously profitable enterprise.  

Suddenly flush with money, the Dukes didn’t hesitate to throw their weight around.  In 1881, for example, residents of eastern Orange County wanted to split off and form a new county.   The leading proposal was to name it after Willie P. Mangum, the former lawmaker.  But Washington Duke nixed the idea.   He vowed to yank the Dukes’ considerable assets from the area if he had to live in Mangum County.   The threat worked: The jurisdiction became known as Durham County.  

The mostly forgotten conflict is detailed in Willie Mangum’s papers, stored at the Southern Histo! rical Collection in Chapel Hill.  “A lot of people have never heard that before,” says William Preston Mangum, the family historian. “But it’s a true story.”

After two centuries, the feud has cooled somewhat, no longer colored by nasty court battles or political fights.   But the two families remain ever loyal to their respective schools.   The Duke kids still go to their university.   And virtually all the Mangums go to UNC.  The bumper sticker on William P. Mangum’s Oldsmobile reveals as much: “Tar Heel by birth, Carolinian by the grace of God.”

Copyright 1994 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.Record Number: RNOB172307