High Rock man fascinated by items that are atmospheric, extraterrestrial

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012

HIGH ROCK — James Morgan wanted to show me something.
A long-distance truck driver for most of his life, Morgan said he had noticed pieces of a meteorite near the intersection of High Rock and Goodman roads.
He first came upon the heavenly debris maybe five days earlier and assumed it was asphalt or remnants of a retread.
But the more he had passed the spot on his way to Richfield, the more he decided those black pieces along the edge of the road were different — they had to have come from a meteorite.
While driving his truck, Morgan said he had seen debris on the road from meteorites before. The 400-mile-wide expanse of Kansas especially seemed to be a routine landing zone, he claims.
The most damage from a meteorite Morgan had witnessed himself involved a sizable chunk of rock that had landed 200 feet from his truck on the interstate going through Morgantown, West Va.
“It set the asphalt on fire it was so hot,” he said.
Morgan recently called the Post, looking to track down Mack Williams, who had just written a column about meteorites.
Before I knew it, I was scribbling down directions to Morgan’s double-wide home, which sits along Bringle Ferry Road on the Davidson County side of the High Rock dam.
Photographer Jon Lakey and I arrived the next morning and weren’t out of the truck before Morgan was telling us stories about a ferocious tornado’s rampage through this area several years back.
He asked whether we had breakfast, and I complained that Jon had not come through in that regard. When he went inside to retrieve his car keys, Morgan also returned with an open box of “Wildberry” toaster pastries for us to share.
As we spoke through my driver’s side window, it was obvious Morgan wanted to show us several other things on our cross-country trip to see his meteorite.
Our first stop — he drove his own car while we followed in my truck — proved to be nearby. Where a contractor had been digging at an old High Rock community well along Lick Creek Road, the backhoe unearthed a couple of rounded stones that Morgan was sure were pieces of an ancient meteorite.
He warned that, from his readings, the stones could be full of bacteria and microbes. “Those things are heavy, too,” he announced.
My scientific knowledge is quite limited. I noted the rocks, and Jon took a few pictures before we were back in our vehicles and heading for the more recent meteorite.
I can’t describe how beautiful and isolated the landscape was as we crossed back into Rowan County and followed River Road for many miles.
It’s a beautiful area.
We took a detour onto Flat Rock Church Road and stopped next to the cemetery at Flat Rock Primitive Baptist. A lot of Morgans are buried here, which led to James’ story about a grandfather who had left him thousands of acres in Alabama, he said.
Back in our vehicles, Morgan stopped now and then along the road, ran back to the truck and pointed out spots where that long-ago tornado had come through, picking up trailers and setting them down again.
Morgan holds a grand fascination for things atmospheric or even extraterrestrial — but that’s a story for another day.
He was born in a holy year — 1933, Morgan said. There just happened to be more hurricanes that year than were ever recorded before, he added.
The other topics he touched on that morning ranged from earthquakes and the Bermuda Triangle to Daniel Boone and Harry Truman.
Morgan proved to be a great companion and tour guide for Jon and me.
We eventually reached our destination at High Rock and Goodman roads. I could tell immediately that Morgan was concerned.
Too many cars had rumbled through here over recent days, scattering his meteorite pieces. We really weren’t seeing much.
“Does that look like it there?” he asked, going over to a side of Goodman Road and picking up some black spongy pieces.
He placed the material in my hand. It crumbled between my fingers, and the stuff seemed more like fabric from a tire than a mass of metal or stone from outer space.
Morgan searched longer near the spot where he had seen the debris earlier and noticed some blacker-than-usual rocks.
“Here’s another piece,” Morgan said, a little happier now. “Mack needs to see that.”
These rocks were indeed darkened, as if burned by passing through the atmosphere, and much blacker than the nearby pavement.
But not one among us could say for sure it wasn’t just broken asphalt.
No bother, the morning was full of good company, a lovely ride and Wildberry toaster pastries.
We brought the rocks home in our pockets.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@ salisburypost.com.