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Big Brother’s Big Plans

Some people have no sense of humor.

In the summer of 1998, Eric Rudolph, bomber of two abortion clinics, a lesbian bar, and the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, was on the run from the law in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Scores of FBI agents and other officials, trailed by reporters and television crews, swarmed the little town of Murphy and the surrounding hills, looking for clues to the whereabouts of the region’s most infamous citizen.

The response of many locals to this manhunt baffled these investigators.  Some of them flatly refused to cooperate with the investigation.  Some told reporters that if Eric Rudolph came to their door hungry and looking for food, they would feed him without uttering a word of reproach.  Some made a joke of the $25 million dollar chase, printing Rudolph T-shirts and bumper stickers.  One restaurant put out a sign: “Rudolph eats here.”

My wife and I operated a bookshop and a bed and breakfast in Waynesville, a town about 80 miles northeast of Murphy.  Sometimes that summer, when the search for Rudolph was at its peak, I would call Kris from the store, which was on Waynesville’s main street, to see how her day was going or to ask about supper.  On a few occasions, having read about the Murphy manhunt in that morning’s paper, I would add with a laugh, “Don’t forget to ask Eric what he’d like...

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