The dumpster behind Abundant Life Outreach Church in Spruce Pine overflowed with trash, and two separate gallons of milk would have teetered and fell off the dumpster’s edge in the wind if they were empty.
South on 226, at the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Matt Housley told me how his great-grandfather Luther Thomas had a customer who played golf with the Secretary of the Interior, and how a round of golf was likely the catalyst for the construction of the Museum of North Carolina Minerals across the road.
Some mountains surrounding Spruce Pine are owned by foreign companies and mined for feldspar and quartz. In autumn, they look like a white sand deserts turned on end, in the middle of colorful oases. Toilets and sinks are made from these mountains. Computer chips also.
"You’d think we’d all be rich. But we sold out — selling the land. This isn’t like oil in Saudi Arabia and we’re all billionaires. We were stupid,” Housley told me. “You and I don’t play golf with the right people.”