“Do you think people in Durham take their city pride for granted,” I asked my friend before taking a sip of my Bull Durham Beer Co. amber beer and watching the Durham Bulls take the field.
She sat there thinking for a quick minute before answering, “Yeah. The funny thing is I’ve never even thought about it. It’s Durham.”
Having lived in the area for roughly 18 years, she has seen Durham go through many changes, but one thing has always remained the same; the good people of the Bull City. This is the same friend that inadvertently convinced me to move here a year ago when she flew me out to see what this North Carolina living was all about.
That’s the thing about Durham — it’s a city unlike any other, one that is truly loved by its citizens. I’ve never been to nor heard of any other city with an official mascot, let alone a mascot that perfectly embodies the spirit of the city. Sure, the neighbor to the east is all about being the Oak City, and that’s swell and all, but it’s not the same. Our neighbors to the west will always have Michael Jordan (swoon) to claim, which is amazing, but again, not the same.
The people here are real and so is their love for their city. Bull City pride is entrenched in their person and their way of being, it’s not something they’re actively trying to do, put out there or realize that they’re doing it.
Each Durhamite has their own unique story and connection to the city, but across the board they all love their city and genuinely want the best for it. While there’s a giant hole on Main Street that has become symbolic with how starkly different “the best” is seen for the city, it’s clear this is a city on the rise because of proud Bull City residents putting in the work both for themselves and for the city as a whole.
My friend’s few words were still on my mind as my new friend to my left started showing me pictures of his two adorable pit bulls Mojo and Deuce. (Typical dog mom, I remember his dogs’ names and not his. Sorry.) The three of us talked about dogs, life and baseball as the game went on and Wool E. Bull made his rounds.
My new friend had come here 4 years ago to finish college and stayed. When asked by his family if he was going to return ‘home,’ his answer to them was that he is home here in Durham. That struck a cord with me as only two days prior my mother asked me if I wanted to come ‘home’ to Wyoming for a visit and I told her the exact same thing. Durham is home.
While we talked, my phone lit up again and again with more likes, comments and follows from Durham locals on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for The Bulls of Durham project. More suggestions for interviews and places to spot bulls came in as one of the Bulls took a huge leap into the dirt to catch a freshly batted ball. The crowd cheered and the game rolled on. The weather was perfect, the crowd was happy and all was well in The Bull City. It was a good night to be Durham.
I started The Bulls of Durham project with 3 thoughts in mind:
1.) The intention of creating a book telling the history of Durham, North Carolina through the bulls that line our streets, decorate our buildings and dominate the names of our businesses. Our city’s mascot that defines our spirit. A coffee table book that would be a pride point for every business, resident and person who has passed through The Bull City with a bit of Durham forever in their heart wherever they roam. No small feat.
2.) Hope that no one had done the project before me and used the name on social media.
3.) Worry. Worry that people would be upset a newbie to the city was on a mission to write this book and had the audacity to want to speak on behalf of Durham. Fretting that I would irk the natives, annoy the long-timers and be told to mosey on when I asked for interviews.
Here’s what has happened since I announced the Bulls of Durham project on August 2nd, 2016 on this new-fangled thing called Instagram: a downright downpour of support, encouragement and help.
Instead of wondering how I will come up with another interview, I wonder how I will find the time to meet all these amazing people and see every last inch of Durham. Loving this city and writing its story is a full time job and you best bring your stretchy pants because the eats are good and never ending.
I have been welcomed with open arms and given direction to one resource after another. Never has the expression, ‘ask and you shall receive’ been truer than in the case of this project. Bull City Tees started it off with sending me a free t-shirt with their signature design — the official hand sign for The Bull City. They have followed up by sending me resource after resource after resource on a nearly daily basis.
Anne Niemann of the unbelievably amazing Bull Street Gourmet and Market gave me a laundry list of incredible resources to hit up for my next interviews and research. Nick Bavin, who works for The Durham Bulls, made sure I had amazing seats for my very first game and my dear friend brought me along to another game because one game just wasn’t enough. The list goes on and on and on.
I enjoyed my second Durham Bulls game and while we never did find our seats, we did meet new people and learn a bit more about the city. I shot the bull with the locals at Pompieri Pizza, where they serve wine in mason jars and have the option of gluten free pizza. No sooner had I finished my first slice than the makers of the one-and-only Major (our primary city bull) reach out through Instagram to offer up an interview. Thanks in advance Michael and Leah Waller. A dear friend must have heard the squeal of elation because he popped out back from his job at Bull City Burgers and Brewery to say hello and give out a warm Durham hug.
The next evening my barber David stayed a few minutes late at Rock’s Bar and Barber to make sure my lady fade was on point and to hear all about The Bulls of Durham project. He too was full of insight for the project and gave me a few leads to follow. Labor Day weekend started with a quick stop at The Duck Shop to pick up official Blue Devil attire before rolling out to my first ever Duke football game.
Saturday dreams came true as I went to a FOOD TRUCK RODEO and got to enjoy vegetarian, gluten-free enchiladas while meeting new friends, listening to live music and sneaking some dog snuggles. I darn near passed out with a joy overdose when I was told that food truck rodeos happen quarterly in The Bull City at Durham Central Park. Labor Day started with meeting yet another new friend at Cocoa Cinnamon enjoying an Americano while getting local’s view of the changes the city has undergone, the collective vibe and yet more leads to follow. Not sure a gal can get more local!
Some of the next steps for The Bulls of Durham Project:
1.) Get a digital map of the streets of Durham to use in the book… and to make a giant canvas for my home. All Bull City love all the time. Imagine the City of Durham is the place I can most likely get the digital map. Finding a place that prints canvas larger than 4’ x 4’ may be a bit more of a challenge.
2.) Reach out to the management of The Old Bull Building for an interview and tour. Always one for interesting shenanigans and adventure, I’m ever hopeful I can talk them into letting me help replace the lights that have recently gone out in the Big Bull’s rear, as well as the D and B. Talk about a fun picture op! A waiver, safety gear and top-notch photographer may be needed for the occasion.
3.) The Bulls of Durham website to keep all the work of the project in one central local and feature an interactive map for everyone to go on their own bull spotting adventures! Taking volunteers on this one for sure!
4.) Meet up with the owner of Durham Toffee over coffee to shoot the bull.
5.) Find a bull figurine to take along for the adventure and feature in pictures that may not have a bull physically there. Morgan Imports is probably a great place to look.
6.) Meet the makers of Major — Michael and Leah Waller.
7.) Stop by Bull City Dental to meet the staff, interview the owner, find out who made their sign and skedaddle before any drill can sound.
8.) Stop by all the amazing restaurants in The Bull City and enjoy the eats, the treats and the drinks.
9.) Drop in at every Bull City yoga studio and gym because see above.
10.) Uncover every bull in The Bull City and the story behind it.
One month into the project and I am already filled with gratitude to the city and learning a lot about Durham. Thank you to everyone who has helped thus far.
To follow The Bulls of Durham book project email TheBullsOfDurham at gmail.com and say, “Yo Sheila. Please put me on the mailing list.” Also follow the project on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Oh! And now that this website is a thing, you can check back here. Make it your homepage. Tell all your friends. Write home to your mom about it. :::Flashes Bull City hand sign.:::
Oh and treat yourself, your mom and everyone you love to the best coffee mug of all time, which happens to support this here book project. No big deal. But very big deal. Click HERE.
Sheila Amir is a health & nutrition writer who fell in love with Durham, North Carolina and starting writing a book about it.