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Feature
Mount Airy, North Carolina
JUNE 2006
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In some cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
Photograph by Rebecca Hale



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On Assignment
Mount Airy, North Carolina

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    The best part of a story is always about the people you get to meet, and Mount Airy was no exception. Tanya Bunker Jones and her family took me under their collective wings and were generous with their time and knowledge. They carefully steered me in the right direction and smoothed the way for me with the sometimes-reticent Bunker clan. A writer is always dependent on the kindness of strangers (who often turn into friends by the time the coverage is over), and I felt privileged to connect with the folks in Mount Airy.     This turned out to be the last Zip USA article in the series. The magazine published its first Zip USA story in September 2000 (Mentone, Texas); ironically, I wrote that one too. I enjoyed writing Zips because they were invariably a hoot, and they allowed the reader access to a small slice of Americana that might otherwise remain hidden from view. A wonderful team consisting of text editors Jennifer Reek and Barbara Paulsen, photo editor Susan Welchman, and research editor Mary McPeak put Zips together. The feature was also a laboratory for trying the different, offbeat idea. For example, Susan commissioned an artist to do a series of pop-up illustrations for a Zip USA on Glen Echo, Maryland (July 2005). Sadly, the editors decided that reader interest had flagged, and it was time to move on to something else.     The history of Chang and Eng is about as quirky as you can get—Siamese, or conjoined, twins who married twins and had 21 children. The challenge was in taking the reader beyond the obvious quirkiness of the story and helping them understand that despite the oddity, this is a narrative about a family with the same tensions, joys, and sorrows as any other.
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