Springtime in North Carolina feels more like summer. Not just because of the weather, though, although I think today topped out at about 80-degrees. When I’m home, like I am now for only a week, I find myself photographing like a fiend, albeit an inspired one. I’ve had this idea for a while, an idea for a photo book about the legend of Tom Dooley whose story is the epitome of Southern mythology. The short version of the legend of Tom Dula says that the man killed a woman named Laura Foster shortly after returning back to the foothills of North Carolina after the Civil War and buried her in a shallow grave. He was hanged a couple years later, but the story lives on in song, thanks to everyone from such music acts as The Kingston Trio in the 1950′s to, more recently, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Dula’s innocence is still disputed today in North Carolina. In 2009, several members of the city where Dula was raised and later convicted of murder, pleaded to then-governor Mike Easely to Dula’s pardon.
Much like family history, tales from the past revolving around a pair of jilted lovers, become taller with age. And this particular piece of folklore is quite old. I have a book project currently in the works that I hope will tell all the sides of Tom Dula’s story: his jealous lover who supposedly killed his girlfriend, Dula allegedly taking the raft, and how it keeps getting told over and over in a variety of ways. In Appalachian culture, songs and stories of jealous lovers are commonplace, i.e. “Banks of the Ohio” — they’re murder ballads. And such is the working title for the book called: “Sweet Heart Murder Ballad”
Here’s some images I made the other day in Wilkesboro, NC where the Tom Dula story first unfolded.