Family stories provided the bridge to success for writer Ron Rash. Rash was raised in Chester, where his family lived to take advantage of working opportunities at the Eureka Mill. Rash lived in Chester until he was eight years old and said some of his earliest inspiration came during his time at Chester Elementary School.
“The teachers helped get me interested in reading,” he said. “They had an (affect) on me becoming a writer later.” Rash said many of his books were inspired by the N.C. Mountains, where some of his family came from. He said his books were also inspired by family stories of their time in Chester. Rash’s parents and grandparents worked at the Eureka Mill, which inspired his novel named for the cotton mill. He said he used his family’s stories, research on the mill and the setting around the mill for inspiration. “It all came together in the book,” he said.
Rash said he has received good feedback on the book from former mill workers. “They thought it was a fair depiction of the textile mill world,” he said. Rash said he gained some fame as a child. The Chester Reporter wrote an article on Rash, then 7, and his snake collection. Rash said his father would bring him to farms and he’d collect both live and embalmed snakes.
“I was well-known as a collector of reptiles in the area,” he said. “That was my claim to fame back then.” Though Rash left Chester as a boy, he continued to visit family in the area. Rash’s father also taught at Chester Elementary School. Following his parents footsteps, Rash now serves as the Parris
Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University (WCU). He teaches creative writing.
“I think it is a good profession,” he said. “I enjoy teaching. I pick better writers than myself.” Rash said his family pushed him to attend college after he graduated high school, according to a WCU article. “They tried to do better for the next generation,” Rash said. “I think one of the reasons I write is that it’s an act of gratitude that the people who came before me sacrificed so much.” Rash said he plans to continue writing and has recently published The Cove, a fiction novel based on a German internment camp in the N.C. Mountains. He is also releasing another book next year. “I hope I’m not done yet,” he said.