Tar Heel Trek – Sampson County

image from Sampson County Register of Deeds (sampsonrod.org)

This week’s installment of Tar Heel Trek visit the county of Sampson, located in the coast plain of North Carolina. Formed in 1784, Sampson County is largely rural county that produces as many hogs as almost anywhere else in the country – the roughly 2 million hogs there outnumber their human neighbors 33 to one. There’s plenty of room for all of them though, since Sampson is one of the largest North Carolina counties, the population density comes in at a very low 65/square mile (for humans, that is).

image from edgeoftheroad.typepad.com

With “neighbor” being a relative term, Sampson County residents who came up in the pre-telephone age had to be creative with their means of communication. Their solution? Hollerin’.

Confused? The linked video is from a recent gathering in Spivey’s Corner (population 448), a Sampson County town along U.S. HWY 421 where the tradition of the holler is continued every year at the National Hollerin’ Contest, the Olympic Games of long-distance vocalization. Contestants show off their calls, a surprisingly wide-ranging set of yells and whoops that mean everything from “Dinner’s ready” to “Good morning, how are you?” and “I need some help, please.” A recent article on Boing Boing highlights an outsider’s (and Yankee at that) trip to Spivey’s Corner for the 2009 contest. With each year the NHC gets more and more coverage and interest from media and curious watchers outside of North Carolina. For those interested in a more nautical form of communication, they also feature a conch shell blowing competition each year. The next Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest? One hopes so.

image from blacktable.com

Next time you’re thinking about heading down to Wilmington or anywhere along the southern part of North Carolina’s coast, stay away from the monotony of I-40 and take U.S.-421 through some of the best farmland in the state. You won’t find watermelon and peach stands on the side of the interstate. Most of all, if you go on the third Saturday in June, make sure to stop in Spivey’s Corner for a good time. If you can’t find the event site, just give them a holler.

– Matt