Morganton, NC
Vance: In 1989 me and my brother stayed in this trailer. I was in my early twenties. There weren’t any real good ways to make a living or anything up here in the mountains. We was selling drugs and moonshine and stuff. It was always a dangerous game. That’s when the Reagan drug laws came into effect. 

A cop I knew that worked with detectives in Morganton, kept telling me, “They’re watching you. You need to get out of here and go do something with your life. They’re gonna bust you.”

I passed the word on to my brother, Johnny. He didn’t believe it much. But I decided that I would take his advice and, if an opportunity came up, I’d move away from here and disappear for a while. 

There was this guy named Dallas who bought this land across the street. He was a home builder in Wilmington, NC. I went to work for him over here and he seen that I was a pretty good builder so he asked me if I wanted a job in Wilmington. He said he was about to start a large project with 400 homes in February. I accepted but it was eight months prior to when I was supposed to move.

During that time, we kept doing our thing. Doing what we could to make a living. February came along and I moved to Wilmington and started earning an honest living. One morning I got a phone call and it was my mother on the phone. She said, “They got Johnny.” They busted him for delivering a schedule two narcotics, cocaine. 

They’d been watching my brother and 65 other people in Burke county here. Fortunately I heeded that warning to get out of town and start a new life. My brother went and did four years in federal prison. For a couple of years down there I was always looking over my shoulder. Every time I’d see a cop, I thought maybe they were coming for me. 

I always wanted to be a builder. My grandfather was a carpenter. So, I learned a trade but it was more about the guy that gave me a break. Dallas seen potential. He believed in me when nobody else would give me a chance. Once I was out there for a while he bought me the tools I needed to start my own business. 

When we were dealing drugs and moonshine, I don’t know how many times I had a gun pulled on me or a knife held to my throat. It was a terrible life. Dallas saved my life. He really did.