If a tree falls during a bad storm and no TV crews show up, did that family of woodchucks die in vain? A stupid question, certainly, but when you’ve been tasked with turning three day old weather damage into fresh television, you take your conundrums where you find them. Just ask Charles Ewing. The weekend meteorologist slash weekday reporter was just walking by this morning when my vacation came to a crashing halt. Storm damage. Randolph County. Charles and I took turn rolling our eyes as we saddled up in Unit 4 and punched an address into the GPS. For fifteen miles we wallowed the inanity of it all. Surely whatever destruction Friday night’s windstorm has left had long since been cleaned up. Most likely we would only find tidy tree stumps, empty neighborhoods and few other elements from which to craft ninety seconds of newscast. Still, we made a beeline to the scene in question with the steadfast knowledge that no matter how lame the assignment, we had to flesh it out or find better. And get lunch. Lunch is very important.
A few minutes later we arrived in Worthville - a tiny community outside the mean streets of Randleman that neither Charles or I had ever head of. Well, perhaps Charles had. Dude does point at maps of the Piedmont for a living. But the electronic squiggle that signifies this old mill village couldn’t possible do it justice, for the pastoral splendor of inner Worthvillle is - ahem - well worth your time (Sorry!). Best of all, when Charles and I rolled into town (or lack thereof), the place was draped in broken tree limbs. Sure, a stretch of bent twigs is no Sasquatch footprint, but when you’re resigned to shooting everything out of focus in hopes it looks more devastating, actual damage is heaven sent. But ninety seconds of news story isn’t built on broken lumber alone. We needed sound. To do that we needed to knock on a few doors and as Charles picked a porch to climb, I once again implored him to tell whoever answered the door that he was there to deliver their personal forecast, then launch into some nonsense about low pressure systems. As usual Charles declined, but I’m always hoping he’ll surprise me.
Instead, Charles protected his AMS seal by playing it straight with the grandmother behind door number three. That however didn’t stop her from joining us out on her back lawn, where a Walnut tree estimated to be three hundred years old had given its life for the sake of better television. Charles and I exchanged knowing looks as Granny described to our microphone how the massive hardwood came crashing down a few night before. Despite her freewheeling soliloquy, I was skeptical. Could we wrap an entire news story around a single fallen tree? You’re damn skippy we could, but does that make it right? I never really had to decide, for five minutes into our visit Granny invoked the Deity. For years she and her family had feared the old Walnut would topple any storm now; the only question being whose home would it crush on the way down. As luck (or the Lord) would have it, the old tree spared every domicile as it fell to the Earth without so much as scratching a single structure. Okay, so a few sections of a neighbor’s fence disappeared, but these kind of details hardly matter when you’re spotlighting a case of divine intervention - which is exactly what Charles and I did.
Then we got lunch. Very important.