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Wally Avett is a semi-retired Realtor in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. He lives in the same little town, sometimes compared to Mayberry, where he was editor and chief writer all though the 70’s for the weekly newspaper.
“My father was a preacher,” he says. “And I grew up with good storytellers all around me, both friends and family.” He met many colorful characters over the years and they inspire and infuse his writing today.
“For me, good writing has to be based on truth. I write like an Appalachian granny makes quilts, producing fiction that is actually fashioned from bits and pieces of raw truth.”
Some of the truth, of course, comes from actual experiences. “My bear-hunting friends are appalled that I can actually write and my literary friends are shocked that I sometimes hunt bears.”
Wally is an avid reader and a gardener, a Sunday School teacher and bluegrass gospel singer, hunter, fisherman and reluctant handyman. He likes history, sometimes sells mountain cabins to retirees fleeing the heat of flatland Florida and frequently tells funny stories.
Author of four novels: Murder in Caney Fork, Last Bigfoot in Dixie, Rebel Bushwhacker and Coosa Flyer.
Murder in Caney Fork
Published by BelleBooks
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Dodging hostile gunfire with dozens of other young Marines, Wesley Ross hits a remote Pacific island as one of Carlson’s Raiders in the first commando-style attack of World War II.
Taught to shoot in the rough logging camps of the Eastern Carolina swamps, Wes remembers his lessons well. He blasts several Japanese snipers from their palm-tree hideouts with buckshot before an enemy bullet sends him home.
The Carolina home front includes a new girl-friend and a new occupation, learning to be a rural lawyer in his uncle’s law office. And learning a lot about courtroom intrigue and what goes on behind the scenes.
Frog Cutshaw is the bully storekeeper in the Caney Fork backwoods, a swaggering ex-moonshiner who is deadly with his ever present .45 auto pistol. Frog’s daylight rape of a married woman and the brutal killing of her husband bring on Bible Belt vigilante justice, an eye for an eye, life for a life.
Wes is caught in the middle as a participant in the killing of Frog Cutshaw. Soon one uncle is being tried for a murder he planned but did not commit and another uncle defends him, circumstances and witnesses threatening to convict the wrong man. Wes knows all too well who pulled the trigger of the 12-gauge pumpgun and fears the woman who could put him on Death Row.
Last Bigfoot In Dixie
Published by BelleBooks
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Deep in the peaceful, Smoky Mountains of North Georgia, a huge black bear kills a child in a campground and the hunt begins. Wade, an outdoors-man and backwoods columnist, is quickly deputized to find and slay the massive beast terrorizing tourists and locals alike.
A giant Cherokee, wannabe-writer whose gifts are enhanced by mushroom trances and a Minnesota Vikings horn-helmet, offers to help and proves a modern Sasquatch when he tracks the mythic, killer bear Ol’ Nathan.
But that is the least of the small town’s worries.
In their pursuit, they encounter a cannabis compound, an authentic Appalachian psychopath, an albino savant called White Willie and rumors of buried Yankee gold surface turning the quiet hamlet into a cauldron of death and fear.
Tobe Kirkwood, notorious Bushwhacker
Published by Argus Publishing
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Fast and lively and very bloody, Rebel Bushwhacker hits hard and aims for the head, like a smoking revolver in the hands of the wild-eyed bushwhacker chieftain…
Based on true local incidents during the War Between the States, its takes place in the rugged Southern Appalachians where a classic civil war raged between Rebel partisans and Union loyalists.
It’s the story of a survivor, a sturdy mountain girl named Hattie June Rose, who found herself in desperate times during the last year of the War in the remote Smoky Mountain backwoods.
There was no plantation economy in the highlands, where support for the North and the South existed side-by-side. Fierce Scotch-Irish settlers engaged in a lethal struggle, with no law and no order left for the population.
Guerrillas fought a grim and shadowy war, with brazen raiding, murders, kidnapping and looting quite common. Major incidents are all based on truth, documented in the oral and written history of the region.
It’s a tangled story of love and hate, of vengeance sought, of a clever country girl who uses her brains and her body to bend two different men to her will.
She loses her innocence and her baby along the way, and is forced at a tender age to bury both her father and her brother. She trades sex and her native intelligence to the most notorious bushwhacker of them all, the “red-headed butcher”, for his help in tracking down the Yankees who killed her father.
And it’s the awesome story of Big Tobe Kirkwood, who led a ragged band of outlaws across the wilderness of the Carolina-Tennessee border country. Together, the girl and the bushwhacker bring down the wrath of the South on Union soldiers and sympathizers alike, leaving a trail of blood and terror behind them.
Betrayed by her murderous lover, Hattie June Rose sets him up for an ambush that goes badly. He flees to Texas and, after recovering from her wounds, she follows. She becomes the mistress of the city marshal of Waco and together they finally bring down the bearded giant in a hail of gunfire.
Published by Argus Publishing
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A True Mountain Story…
In the remote wilderness of North Georgia during the late 1800’s, just a few miles from the state’s highest peak, a backwoods inventor flew a primitive aircraft repeatedly from his fence-rail launching ramp.
No photos or drawings exist, only word-of-mouth accounts and they are sketchy. Micajah Clark Dyer had obtained an official U. S. Patent for drawings of a wing-flapping attachment for a balloon in 1874, a device he would never build or fly.
But for the remaining years of his life, he experimented tirelessly and became increasingly secretive about his work, amazing neighbors by flying some sort of glider across his meadow lands.
His mind perhaps on a more practical patent, Dyer kept his workshop off limits. But visitors peeped through the cracks to see what one described as a “dragonfly.”
His amazing true-life story inspired COOSA FLYER.
In a remote graveyard, half-mile back in the woods from the pavement, there is a new monument. It’s in Union County, the Georgia County which borders North Carolina on the south, and it marks the final resting place of Micajah Clark Dyer and wife Morena.
His name now also appears on the paved road, GA-180, which serves his native settlement of Choestoe, supposedly an Indian word for “place of the dancing rabbits” or something similar.
New highway marker recognizes local man who was early flyer.
Dyer got an official U. S. Patent in 1874 for his design of a Rube Goldberg mechanical contraption slung beneath a balloon. Flapping paddles on either side of a streamlined hull would supposedly move the balloon forward.
“The paddles could be powered by steam,” he said in his patent description, “or some other suitable drive mechanism.” They were meant to mimic a bird’s wings.
MARBLE MONUMENT — Old Choestoe Cemetery; fine new memorial marks graves of pioneer Georgia aviator and wife.
Dyer died in 1891 with only two small modest stones marking his and his wife’s graves. In the last few years, however, his descendants have sparked a large interest in the man and his works and provided a handsome memorial.
Done by WNC Marble near Murphy, North Carolina, it has the original small tombstones embedded in the big stone as well as text describing his work and the two drawings featured in his original patent application.
Family members also have a website now, which you can see — www.micajahclarkdyer.org and a descendant, Sylvia Turnage, has written a book about Dyer. Both the title and the road sign describe him as “Georgia’s Pioneer Aviator.”
He obviously flew. Observed by many word-of-mouth witnesses. But what did he fly?
PATENT DESIGN UNWORKABLE
His new patent design — titled by the Patent Office as “Apparatus for Navigating the Air” — brought him both fame and ridicule. Newspapers printed the story, other newspapers, then as now, saw it and reprinted in their newspapers. It was printed in the Gainesville and Atlanta papers and spread from there, reaching papers across the nation.
The Macon newspaper carried a straight story about the new airship patent, but in the final paragraphs of the story suggested that Mr. Dyer should have a room reserved for him at the state mental asylum in Milledgeville!
The design he had presented so well on paper was apparently never built or flown, proving too expensive even to construct. Detailed mechanical drawings accompanied patent application in 1874, for a wing-flapping apparatus beneath a balloon which probably never flew.
Along with the various news stories, there exists today a Letter to the Editor written by one of Dyer’s supporters, asking for money to pay for construction. The writer said he felt Dyer’s design would prove itself if only it could be built.
LAUNCHING RAMP FOR FLIGHT
During the seventeen years he lived and experimented after the patent, Dyer continued to work long and hard on the awesome idea of human flight.
Contemporaries said he was a tinkerer, a natural mechanic who built little toys and wind-powered whirligigs for children, and little airplanes that flew with spring motors salvaged from clocks, with bodies made from dried corn stalks.
That is amazing, and very revealing. If you were an early thinker and you were focused on lightweight, super lightweight building materials and you had no balsa wood…just consider. In the mountains, far from any city, self-educated, you could not do better for a fuselage than a joint of dried cornstalk. Its strength-to-weight ratio is fantastic.
Dyer really raised eyebrows when he built his launching ramp on Rattlesnake Mountain overlooking his meadow. One of his descendants told me the neighbors could hardly believe that a man “would put all that labor and logs and fence rails into a foolish thing like that.”
The greased wooden ramp, looking something like an Olympic ski-jump, would put his craft into the air numerous times. Hunters who prowl the mountain in winter tell me traces of the ramp were still visible just a few years ago.
‘THOUGHT HE WAS CRAZY’
During the past week I sat down several times with Dyer descendants and Union County seniors and talked of Micajah Dyer and what they remembered old-timers telling them.
“Well, to tell the truth, lots of folks sorta thought he was crazy,” one said, “to build such a thing and then risk his life flying.”
“It was a novelty,” one ninety-three-year-old said. “People were curious and would come to the Dyer home place to watch.”
They saw him fly, coming off the ramp and sailing over the meadow, but there were no cameras and no newspapers — no coverage of the flights; no details of what his “flyer” craft looked like.
“I think it was probably a glider,” one relative told me. “I don’t think it had a motor at all.”
Tired of critics, or perhaps with his eye on another patent, Dyer kept his workshop locked tight except for one male assistant who was allowed access. Visitors, which were plentiful, peeped freely through the cracks.
One young girl’s comment on what she saw tells the tale. “I looked though the slats into the workshop,” she told years later. “And I saw something that looked like a dragonfly.”
After Dyer died his wife sold his drawings and models to a pair of wealthy brothers, the Redwines from Atlanta, and Dyer’s work was never seen again.
Some loving, loyal supporters say Dyer’s work helped the Wright brothers make the famous First Flight on the sands at Kitty Hawk. I doubt it.
The Wright brothers’ father was a bishop in a small obscure Protestant denomination. They were educated, and they subscribed to a lot of newspapers, magazines and scientific journals. Skilled bicycle mechanics, they experimented with gliders and knew about propellers, but lacked a lightweight power plant. When they got their hands on a small gasoline engine, they wisely built a little wind tunnel and learned which airfoil shape could produce lift…then made history.
Micajah Clark Dyer was not educated, lived in the isolation of these ancient mountains and found things out by himself, but he managed to build some sort of glider and flew it repeatedly off the ramp he devised. He survived the flights and the landings and died of natural causes.
If he’d just had a gasoline engine…maybe an early air-cooled motorcycle motor…?
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