By John Hassell Yeatts © 1983
Issue: October, 1983
Hardly anybody around Mayberry, Laurel Fork, Meadows of Dan or Vesta knows Cornelius Columbus Stanley. But mention the name C.C. or Neil Stanley to almost everybody and you’re likely to see their faces light up, “Oh yeah, sure I know Neil” or maybe you're going to hear him called “Stan.”
There are a number of words which might be used to describe his character or personality, integrity, ambition, thrift, cordiality, skillfulness, tenacity, etc. But the single word that best describes his productive career is perhaps, illumination. It was by the dim illumination of a carbide head lamp more than 65 years ago in the dark coal mines of Kentucky that Neil earned his first real money; money that was later to pay for his high school and college education at Berea and Roanoke and send him onto a greater role in illumination. Since those days when he was a 16 year old kid from the outskirts of Bankstown he’s had a major management hand in the construction of enough electric power plants to illuminate, perhaps, ten cities the size of New York. And now if the Blessed rains will only return and replenish the tumbling waters of Mayberry Creek which sings just back of his home, sometime in late 1983, he will open a flood gate and direct its waters through his own little power plant and generate enough electricity to illuminate some ten or twelve 100 watt light bulbs. And if that sounds like a come down for Neil, it isn’t at all. It’s just the way he’s planned it and it’s just as big as he wants it.
His varied career, however, has also included other kinds of illumination. Such as he jokes about the time in 1923-24 when he was a teacher at Little Valley in Carroll County and the school house burned. “The students thought I burned it to get rid of them and I thought they burned it to get rid of me,” he explains with a big laugh. Then he worked at illumination of the law in Rockingham County, NC, where he served as Justice of the Peace in Madison during the depth of the depression when power plant construction had ground to a halt. It was during this period of his career that he expressed confidence in the future by marrying school teacher Vera Yeatts, of Mayberry; a marriage which has survived 49 years and a dozen or so major moves from “here to yon” as he assisted with the illumination of the northeastern United States.
The in 1959 he was selected for the important position of Office Manager of the huge Appalachian, Smith Mountain project at Rocky Mount, Va., a position he held until 1966.
After retiring, he returned to his rural home at Mayberry to raise prize winning Herford Cattle. Farming had changed since he plowed the rocky slopes of Carroll as a boy, and he studied far into the night to learn new methods and procedures. And he made them work. Numerous herds throughout the Tri-County area have been improved through the purchase of his young registered bulls.
Time and toil began to take their toll from C.C. during the early seventies, and his physician discovered that arthritis was robbing him of his hip sockets. Many people with such a prognosis would have taken to their rocking and wheel chairs; but not Neil. He merely planned a six months recovery program and allowed his orthopedic surgeon to replace his sockets and hip bones with man made ones. And soon thereafter he was driving tractors and wrestling bulls again.
During one of his better moods, he’ll still talk about the time one of his prize bulls borrowed his best lawnmower. Stan was moving the gentle fellow from one pasture to another when the aroma of Vera’s cooking called him to lunch. He simply attached the bull’s halter to a new lawnmower standing in the shade in front of the house. Perhaps a bee sting or a bovine loneliness for his heifer playmates motivated the bull to hurriedly continue his trip to the new pasture. Anyway, when Neil emerged from the house, he noted the bull and the mower gone and a wide swath cut through Vera’s prize flower garden. The bull wasn’t hard to trace. Tell-tale bits and pieces of the mower clearly marked the way to the pasture gate where he found the bull contentedly gazing at the cows with only the mower handle still attached to his halter. But being the good natured fellow Neil is, he took all the kidding in stride. And he flatly denied that he was actually trying to train the bull to mow his lawn. Finding the bull unharmed meant much more to Stan than the loss of a lawnmower.
Today, one watches this somewhat remarkable man, undoubtedly in the twilight of his productivity, as he rises early, works late, and gives freely of his time and talent to civic endeavors and they gain an empathetic impression, the impression that he has been a man with a mission since he first sank his pick into a bituminous coal seam when other lads his age were tracking rabbits in the snow in old Mayberry. As the poet Rudyard Kipling said, “He has given each unforgiving minute sixty seconds worth of distance run.” It isn’t difficult to believe that Stan has found the race rewarding.