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he recreates the Boston of the early years of the century for
the readers of his books. Proust summons back the Paris
of the Third Republic quite as vividly as Scott Fitzgerald
records the Paris of the twenties. By hot or cool means we
can experience the uniqueness of cities.
Speaking of Paris, it provided one of our first contacts
with North Carolina people. In 1958, we were traveling
independently, but we decided to avail ourselves of a sight-
seeing bus in the City of Light. I remember that I dressed
as the compleat boulevardier so as not to be mistaken for a
tourist. Unerringly, we chose our bus. Every other passenger
aboard it turned out to be a member of a tour from the
Southeastern Baptist Theological seminary in Wake Forest,
North Carolina. Even in Paris we could not escape the 100
per cent Baptist influence.
The uniqueness which characterizes the cities applies
to regions also. As a traveler recently arrived from the
West, I am tremendously aware of the regional differences
between North Carolina and Oklahoma, and before I become
a complete Tar Heel, I was to record my Western reactions
to this gentler Eastern culture.
A large part of the pleasure in any change of scene is
the anticipation, the mental preparation that precedes the
journey. It seemed natural last spring, when Wake Forest
indicated that there might be a place here for me, to turn to
some statistics. The cool medium of encyclopedia and al-
manac furnished evidence of certain regional differences.
Oklahoma and North Carolina lie roughly within the same
latitude, with Oklahoma’s boundaries extending part of a
degree farther south and part of a degree farther north.
Longitudinally, each covers roughly the same land area—
something less than nine degrees. Nor do the similarities
end there.
Of North Carolina’s over 52,000 square miles, 3615 are
lakes, swamps and rivers. Of Oklahoma’s almost 70,000
square miles, nearly 6,000 are wet by creeks and streams
and lakes, 94 per cent of them man-made. While North
Carolina has land rising from sea level to 6,684 feet,
Oklahoma has an elevation range of 350 feet to something
less than 5,000.
Both North Carolina and Oklahoma achieved statehood
in the month of November, but their entrance into the Union
was 118 years apart.
The differences in North Carolina and Oklahoma are
reflected, I found, in their choices of state birds and state
flowers. North Carolina’s cardinal contrasts sharply with
Oklahoma’s scissor-tailed flycatcher. The notched dogwood
here is very different from the mistletoe state flower of
Oklahoma—which I believe is classified as a parasite. But
it is the motto of each of these states which points most
strikingly to the differences between them. Oklahoma, its
burgeoning welfare list notwithstanding, proclaims “Labor
omnia Vincit” on its state seal (Labor conquers all things).
North Carolina’s motto, “Esse quam videri”(To be rather
than to seem), struck me immediately as a more reflective,
a more classical sentiment.
With the guidebook differences out of the way, I the
prospective traveler dealt next with clichés about the two
states. If Oklahoma calls up visions of Indians and oil wells
for you, North Carolina for me meant tobacco. I remembered
certain other things: cloth was manufactured in North
Carolina; I had read about furniture production here; I
knew about Chapel Hill and Duke and perhaps a dozen other
schools as well as Wake Forest.
Thomas Wolfe and Paul Green, O. Henry, Harry Golden,
and the Siamese Twins were all pegged in my mind as
native or adopted sons of North Carolina. I weighed them
against Oklahoma’s ballerinas Maria Tallchief and Rosella
Hightower, against Van Heflin, Douglas Edwards, Walter
Cronkite; against Lynn Riggs and Will Rogers.
Our heroes are different. Here I find monuments to
the Confederate dead; there is the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Along with its cowboys, Oklahoma honors its Indians
too. In Statuary Hall in the nation’s capitol, for instance,
the two representatives are both Cherokees, Will Rogers
and Sequoyah, who invented syllabary that had an entire
nation reading and writing within six months. Rogers, both
cowboy and Indians, embodies the Oklahoma ideal.
All my reading of encyclopedias and almanacs did not
prepare me for certain other differences between the two
states, a distance both physical and psychological.
This country is immense. And although I covered only
half of it in late June, some 1300 miles from Stillwater to
Winston-Salem, I began to sense the vastness during my
three-day automobile journey. My wise wife and older
daughter preceded me, my wife to superintend the paint-
ers and paper hangers, and the daughter to enroll in the
summer term at Wake Forest. With an overweight dog and
an underweight teenager, with a car full of oddments—a
potted plant, assorted books, and clothes on racks enough
to stock a dress shop, I began the transition from being
a Sooner to becoming a Tar Heel. I had plenty of time for
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