From a January 6, 1946 Greensboro(NC) Daily News article written by noted local author W. Kays Gary –
“Over in Cherryville, Gaston County, they have a method of celebrating the arrival of the new year that is probably the oldest and certainly the most unique in the country. They call it “The New Year’s Shoot,” when all the descendants of this German settlements oldest families get together with the ‘muzzle loaders’ over 100 years old and for 18 continuous hours blast out explosive greetings to the new year. This tradition is known to be 150 years old and perhaps older. No one knows. It was going on when the grandfather’s of Cherryville’s oldest citizens were in knee pants.”
Sixty years later, today’s “Weekend Escapes” section of the Charlotte Observer highlights the annual event held about 40 miles west of here. The tradition dates back to the 1600s/1700s in Germany where “farmers would shoot black powder into fruit trees to ward off evil spirits and ensure a bountiful harvest”. German immigrants to the United States brought the practice with them but Cherryville (pronounced Churvil – rhymes with gerbil- if you are a local) is the only location where it survives.
After moving to NC back in 1988 I quickly realized nearby Gaston County residents had an affinity for explosives. I’ve often joked that many Gastonians(usually young white males) meet an early demise that is usually preceded by the phrase-“Hey! Betcha never seen anyone do this before!”- usually followed by a loud boom. So it goes.
My year will end with more of a whimper. After 22+ years working on the vendor side of the telecommunications fence (AT&T, Lucent, etc.) I start a new position next week as a Telecom Manager on the customer side. Instead of receiving the evil eye from customers I get to give it for a change. Actually I was a customer for over five years immediately after college. Choosing the week after xmas as my last, things couldn’t be more dead. Working virtual from my home only increases the awareness of how isolated I am. Commuting into Charlotte where I will actually work in an office with other people will hopefully help. Until then I sit and think about the changes in the industry and realize that knowing the day would eventually come still hasn’t prepared me for it. After I power down my work laptop PC and IP Phone for the last time tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be the only person (unless my wife joins in) raising my early evening glass of red wine to say goodbye to a (large)part of my work career which treated me very well but ultimately left me wondering what it was all about.