When I was a boy growing up in south-central Virginia during the early 1950s, my home was situated near a wooded area, one side of which was traversed by a narrow dirt road beyond which there was a natural spring.
Let’s talk some sports radio. I began thinking about this piece the afternoon before the Super Bowl. The Panthers were out of it … but I still listened. I’d listen to the play-by-play of a ping-pong match, so long as it’s broadcast on the radio.
Some musings on the New Year, from one who never cared much for noisy midnight celebrations of any sort, but I have always enjoyed New Year’s ceremonials.
The walnut family is relatively small, but it contains some of the more interesting and valuable tree species found in Western North Carolina. In WNC there are only two genera, the walnuts (Juglans) and the hickories (Carya).
“Two or more Families join together in building a hot-house, about 30 feet Diameter, and 15 feet high, in form of a Cone, with Poles and thatched, without any air-hole, except a small door about 3 feet high and 18 Inches wide. In the Center of the hot-house they burn fire of well-seasoned dry-wood; round the inside are bedsteads sized to the studs, which support the middle of each post; these Houses they resort to with their children in the Winter Nights.”
Some steam and water-powered sawmills were established in the Smokies region during the 1870s and 1880s. But full-fledged industrialized logging didn’t commence until after the construction of the major railroads was finalized in the 1890s. This opened the region for profitable use by big time interests like Champion Fiber Company, Ritter Lumber Company, and others. These companies hired local men by the hundreds to fell, move, and process timber.
Jack Coburn was a regional entrepreneur who had come to the Smokies in the 1890s. Jack liked to laugh, drink, tell stories, and fight. He was an expert boxer. With an unlit cigar stub clinched between his teeth, Jack rode around on a horse named Button looking after his many interests and most everyone else’s, too.
Some of my happiest times here in the Blue Ridge have been those hours spent locating grassy balds, gorges, sinkholes, boulderfields, wind forests, beech gaps, cove hardwoods, bogs, and the like. I have discovered that the things you truly find — those that mean the most in retrospect — are quite often not what you set out to discover in the first place.
It’s early October as I write this column. The first frost hasn’t, as yet, arrived. But it won’t be long coming.
I’ve never seen a timber wolf, even though they no doubt once roamed — from time to time — across the little valley west of Bryson City where I reside.
Elk have been reintroduced in the Smokies. Based upon the numerous reported sightings, it’s likely that a few cougars still reside in the Blue Ridge. One can easily imagine a scenario whereby wood bison might be reintroduced in Cades Cove. But I really can’t contemplate any scenario whereby timber wolves might be reintroduced.