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Wednesday, 10 August 2011 14:03

Late summer is an awesome time to botanize

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Spring is the appointed time for the various wildflower pilgrimages and outings that attract thousands of visitors to the mountains…
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 13:45

Add acreage to your spiritual landscape

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Lots of folks like to study those molded relief maps of the region, the ones that show the upraised contours…
(Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in July 2005.) Are you by chance looking for…
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 14:37

Constructing your own coffin

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A portion of this Back Then column appeared in SMN in August 2004 as “A Box to Call Your Own.”…
When walking a trail in the Smokies (or Nantahalas or Great Balsams or wherever) here in the southern Blue Ridge,…
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 11:37

The mystery of mountain ferns

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Identifying ferns is an entirely different process than, say, identifying wildflowers or trees. They don't display flowers, showy fruits, or…
Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:57

Plant life distinct to the southern Blue Ridge

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The elevations of the southern Blue Ridge province above 4,000 feet can be thought of as a peninsula of northern…
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:15

Blundering upon a Smokies icon

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I’ve always been interested in the processes by which we discover things. Being a naturalist, I’m most interested in the…
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 13:26

Common ash tree deserves more attention

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“How many thousand-thousand of untold white ash trees are the respected companions of our doorways, kindliest trees in the clearing…
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 20:41

Tasty right off the shrub

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ELDERBERRY WINE There’s a fly in the window A dog in the yard And a year since I saw you…
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 20:15

A voice heard in the distance

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Rural residents know the yellow-billed cuckoo as the “rain crow” or “storm crow” because its guttural “ka-ka-kow-kow-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp” seems to be…
Serpents are among the world’s most storied creatures. We are at once attracted to and repelled by them. Many view…
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 20:50

Magnolias not just a Deep South species

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Mention magnolias and images of plantations and mint juleps come to mind. But here in Western North Carolina we have…
More than a few readers of this column collect books associated with the Smokies region. A friend who spends most…
Have you ever seen a mountain lion here in the Smokies region? I haven’t. In fact, the only one I’ve…
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 20:23

A look back at Kephart’s cabin

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As part of this coming weekend’s third annual Horace Kephart Day, a group of 20 or so participants will visit…
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 12:33

New GSMNP visitor center is worth a trip

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This past Friday (April 15) I attended the dedication ceremony for the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina…
Wednesday, 13 April 2011 19:59

Book captures the essence of waterfalls

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Flowing water was the primary agent that sculpted the mountains as we know them today. Long before the first Europeans…
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 19:58

In the beginning… some very eloquent sentences

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As I begin writing this it’s midnight, April 4-5, 2011. When insomnia strikes I always look for something to read.…
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 19:46

A blemish by any other name

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Systems of mature trees and shrubs are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks,…
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 20:08

The rushing of wind through a hemlock

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From my window, as I write this, I can see across the creek and down into a pasture where my…
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 19:50

Cherokee’s own big fish legend

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Editor’s note: This George Ellison column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in March 2005. “Then Jonah prayed unto…
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 21:24

Archery lessons with James Dickey

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During the course of a recent interview for a literary magazine, I was asked: While in grad school at the…
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 21:16

Walking a mountain gives it life

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Hiking a designated trail involves prescribed origins and destinations, whether it be a four-mile jaunt from Clingman’s Dome to Siler’s…
Wednesday, 23 February 2011 21:11

A first-hand account of the Indian wars

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I spent some time last week reading about the 18th-century Indian wars in Western North Carolina. These were the Cherokee…
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 21:02

Tragedy and the Ghost Dance’s demise

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(Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series regarding the Cherokee Ghost Dance.) A recent column focused on…
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 20:47

Oil lamps are useful… and nostalgic

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Editor’s note: The second installment in George Ellison’s research into the Ghost Dance has been delayed due to the inability…
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 21:22

Ghost Dance has a long history in Cherokee

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(Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding the Cherokee Ghost Dance. Part two will present Michelene Ethe…
Wednesday, 26 January 2011 21:25

Dogs that make our lives whole

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If you don’t like dogs, come back next week. Dogs have been an integral part of my life since I…
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 20:11

Nothing like old-time boardinghouses

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Are there boardinghouses still operating here in the Smokies region? There are, of course, hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and motels galore.…
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 13:38

Coming across words to remember

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Editor’s note: George Ellison is snowed in without an Internet connection. This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News…
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 21:02

A special place in the heart of arborists

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Winter is the season for thinking about pines. For the ancient Orientals, pines signified dignity and vitality, especially in old…
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 20:45

A family full of marriage, but not quite bliss

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Editor’s note: This George Ellison column was first published in December 2004. Most everyone agrees that marriage is a noble…
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 20:54

Big fish of the Smokies

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Each of us inhabits several landscapes. On the one hand, there is our everyday exterior topographic landscape. We call it…
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 21:34

Noticing the little things of winter

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Editor’s note: George Ellison, like many in the mountains, was snowed in and unable to get an internet connection. This…
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 21:09

Images etched in memory for a lifetime

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I am fascinated by those images from the natural world that remain with us for a lifetime — almost as…
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 21:30

The creek outside my window

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I write this from my “office” (a spare room) at home. Looking out the window, I can see the creek…
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 19:51

A story about darkness, light and the red bird

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Ho down down … Ho down dee Red bird dancin in custody Way down in New Orleans. Ho down down…
Wednesday, 17 November 2010 20:43

A father’s influence

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Horace Kephart (1862-1931) was the author of Our Southern Highlanders, Camp Cookery, Sporting Firearms, Camping and Woodcraft, Smoky Mountain Magic,…
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 21:14

Where the buffalo roam

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Buffalo Branch ... Buffalo Creek ... Buffalo Cove ... all are common place names that indicate the prior residence of…
Thursday, 04 November 2010 01:10

One fine mountain poet

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Allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Han Shan. He is among the finest…
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 20:53

Witch-hazel’s name — A botanical mystery

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The unusually dry, warm days this month have resulted in a delayed color season as well as an abundance of…
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 20:34

Region’s kaolin history is nearly forgotten

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One of the more interesting stories concerning this region is that of the kaolin mining industry. It began more than…
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 20:35

The smells of autumn

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Fall is the odiferous time of the year. I don’t possess a very discriminating sense of smell, but certain fragrances…
Wednesday, 06 October 2010 20:37

Dialect of the southern highlands

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I’m no expert on regional linguistics, but through the years I have delighted in the dialect English still spoken here…
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 12:57

‘Jack of all trades’ common in Appalachia

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Here in the Smokies region “making do” isn’t a lost art. Most “country” men and women can still “get along”…
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 20:01

Mica — from art to technology

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“Oh, what is that shiny stuff in the rocks?” someone will ask during any sort of outing. And invariably, someone…
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 20:41

From the composition book…

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Saturday morning … sitting alone at the kitchen table … nothing much going on … looking out the window ……
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 20:31

A coyote in the yard

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Monday morning … 9:15 or so … suddenly the coyote was there … as if from out of nowhere ……