I grew up in the little house you see when you turn off Paint Fork Road to get to The Barn. My family farmed, and still do a little, so I learned early making a living meant hard work. We raised tobacco, corn, beans, and essentially whatever it took to survive. Instead of playing sports, my brother and I lettered in cropping tobacco.
When I turned 18, I told my Daddy, “I’m done farming.” It taught me so much about the value of hard work; never be afraid to get my hands dirty; and do whatever it takes to survive. Being an independent type, I needed to spread my wings. With love from family and friends, good fortune, and never quitting, I have been able to find more than I thought possible.
When my brother joined the Barnardsville Fire Department’s junior fireman program, I wanted to do it too. I joined when was just 12 years old. Very quickly, firefighting became my life. Even at this young age, I wanted to make this passion my profession. I have always had a heart for service and the idea of saving people in peril appealed to me on many levels. Even now I seem to be the first person to come up on a really bad accident. Somehow, we find ourselves where we should be.
Asheville was one of only a few paid fire departments and it was extremely competitive. When I applied, I did so along with 1,500 others. At that time, they could only hire 21 applicants. I was so grateful to be one of the 21 hired. There I was, finally living my dream. It didn’t take me long to realize how hard it was to earn a living as a fireman/paramedic. It wasn’t farming hard, but it was pretty darn close.
Because of the 24-hour shifts, I found another job to supplement firefighter pay. I learned I had found a second career – playing with Big Tonka Toys – yep playing in the dirt and building things! I bought my first big truck at the age of 20 and started doing small things like digging foundation footings. I worked hard and this work rapidly grew into the complex directional boring I do today. No one could believe how young I was and how quickly I earned the respect of much older, and more experienced, contractors. Heck, I had been schooled by the best – My Daddy!! I researched everything I could about the utility business and to this day search for ways to do things better. I was one of the first to have a directional borer in Western North Carolina. Today, I am one of the last standing who started out in this business.
Around 2015, a very thorough doctor discovered lumps in my neck. Yes, it was CANCER!!
I have never been afraid of a challenge, but this one threw me into a tailspin of emotions. I had always seen myself as invincible, like Superman. I was still the same ole Eddie, but now with cancer, and no longer indestructible. People talk about how getting “the diagnosis” changes your life and how you see yourself in it, and man is it ever true.
Some days I still felt good, like myself. But there were days that weren’t so good. I needed something to take my mind off being sick. I need to build something. I needed a project!
The idea of The Barn was born. “The Barn at Paint Fork” has been a labor of love. Even after three surgeries for recurrent cancer, I come back to The Barn. When I got down or didn’t feel well, I’d just start a new phase – another reason to get better and see this through. I enjoyed planning and buying things. No matter what diagnosis I got, I kept rolling with the project. It kept me moving. It sustained me with the type of purpose I needed to face the unknown. Friends said, “Don’t let this shit beat you, Eddie.” I didn’t.
Last year, I went to Sturgis for what I thought might be the last time. We started looking at some of the “shitholes” they had for entertainment and I thought, “Man, I have better than this already!” That is when the wheels were put into motion to establish an entertainment venue. My goal is to make this place memorable, and I hope I’ve accomplished that. Now that we’ve secured a permit to sell beer and wine, it’s all coming together.
People want to hear good music. My friends know Confederate Railroad is one of my favorite bands. I know there are other artists who will come through here, but this was the group I had in mind when I built the stage, and I wanted them to be the first to kick it off. Somehow, we really do find ourselves where we should be.
I decided to build the stage out of locust wood, something that would last forever. Having a cancer diagnosis helps define what forever means. The concept of this venue is to be a place where people can relax and share good times with friends. Life is short. I hope good bands and musicians want to come here. More than anything, I want this to be as special a place for you as it has been for me. Forget about problems for a little while, have some laughs, and enjoy the things that make life worth living.
Donations from each show will go to a nonprofit organization for the prevention of suicide and bullying awareness called Stop the Pain. This is an issue near and dear to my heart. When I was young, my Daddy got hurt and my Mama had to literally make my pants. I had this pair of green pants she made that I wore to school. One day this boy started making fun of them. This resulted in quite a disagreement, let me tell you. He and I got into a fist fight. I was mad but I was hurt too. Growing up is hard enough. Kids face all kinds of hardships over which they have no control. I want to help.
That’s a little about “The Barn at Paint Fork” conception. Planning and making it happen was healing and fun. The hard part is trying to figure out this life and where you fit into it. I hope you never give up and always realize your dreams.
I hope you have a great time here.