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Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

Are the ‘possums adapting to headlight glare

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Where have all the opossums gone? People worry about cerulean warblers and frogs and honeybees and ash trees and hemlocks…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 04:11

Indian words add color to our language

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Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja, Hiwassee, Coweeta, Stecoah, Steestachee, Skeenah, Nantahala, Aquone, Katuwah, and on and on. Our place names…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 15:01

The spirituality of mountain graveyards

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“I am developing a taste for walking in cemeteries.” – Jules Renard, “Journals” (December 1909) Like Jules Renard, a turn-of-the-century…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Winter mushrooms a welcome find

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Most people who hunt mushrooms do so in late summer and fall when an array of choice edibles are abundant…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:13

Memories of the lost village of Needmore

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Is there another region in the United States that has had more flourishing towns and villages disappear than the one…
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 15:02

The appropriately named 'blue darter'

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When I was a boy my favorite sport was baseball. I was a pitcher. I didn’t have any idea where…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:16

Birds of a feather stay warm in bad weather

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Because they seem so delicate and vulnerable, we go out of our way to feed birds that overwinter here in…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:18

Byer’s book brings us a sense of place

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Kathryn Stripling Byer lives in Cullowhee. Poet Laureate Emeritas of North Carolina for a number of years, she was this…
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:00

New book celebrates diversity and Biological Station

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In regard to floral diversity, the Southern Appalachian region is unsurpassed by any other temperate region in the world. Whenever…
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:52

A short bout with Victor the Bear

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This is a bear story. Unlike many bear stories, this one is true. Tourism started in Western North Carolina during…
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 00:00

For the love of local bookstores

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When I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into…
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 01:38

Beauty, form and function go hand in hand

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All too often, we tend to think of flowering plants as something beautiful put on this earth to stimulate human…
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 12:50

Waterfalls have a near mystical attraction

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We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water ... down to springs, creeks and rivers. Water…
Migrating rose-breasted grosbeaks have been appearing at feeders throughout the Smokies region in recent weeks. Those birds that migrate hundreds…
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 13:44

First frost ushers in winter

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It’s Oct. 7 as I write this. The first hard frost hasn’t as yet arrived. But it won’t be long…
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 20:18

If you suffer from hay fever, blame the ragweed

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Allergies are a type of immune reaction. Normally, the immune system responds to foreign microorganisms, or particles, like pollen or…
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 14:24

Let the fall wildflower fruit displays begin

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Most wildflower enthusiasts quite naturally hone in on the showy flowering phase of a plant’s life cycle for observation, identification…
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 14:21

Southern mountains a peninsula of northern climes

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Geographically speaking, where are the Great Smoky Mountains in regard to the other mountain ranges in the southern Appalachians. Where…
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 13:10

Kudzu’s unstoppable march across the South

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Few people want to get close enough to observe the attractive flowers that kudzu produces. The plant probably won’t actually…
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 03:06

Dueling was a common way to right a wrong

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Let’s suppose that you intentionally or unintentionally insult someone; after all, that’s something that does happen from time to time.…
Numerous geologists have visited the Smokies region. None was more observant than Arthur Keith. The Murphy Marble Belt is an…
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 13:42

The unique habitat of mountain streams

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The creeks and streams of the Southern Highlands are one of the most exciting natural areas we have. Unlike most…
Samuel J. Hunnicutt was one of the original characters of the Smokies region before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 14:04

Cardinal flower among the most popular in U.S.

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The late summer wildflower season has arrived. Along roadsides and woodland edges some of our more robust native plants are…
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 14:19

Zeke was a friend I won’t forget

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Dogs have been a part of my life since I was a boy. My first dog — part one thing,…
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:04

The evocative power of the color blue

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Green used to be the color that caught my eye. Now it’s blue. So much so that I wrote an…
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 13:41

Looking for carnivorous plants in WNC

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Some plants like Jack-in-the-pulpit and Dutchman’s-pipe have evolved methods of entrapping insects in their flowers so as to assure pollination.…
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:29

Random thoughts and voices

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Here I sit by my window watching the creek go by with nothing in particular to write about except the…
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 00:00

Lesser known plants after more tangible awards

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For me, those plants found here in the Smokies region that have verified practical human uses are, in the long…
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:13

Combating things that sting and itch

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This is about critters and plants that sting and itch. There are lots of things out there in the woods…
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 19:12

The feisty, showy and talented grosbeak

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about scarlet tanagers, a showy rather common species I assumed most were familiar…
Season in and season out, one of the more interesting common plants in our woodlands is sassafras, which may be…
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 14:01

Its a scarlet tanager kind of year

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“The scarlet tanager flies through the green foliage as if it would ignite the leaves. You can hardly believe that…
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 13:28

The allure of Panthertown Valley is timeless

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The announcement in November 1989 that the remote 6,300-acre Panthertown Valley tract in Jackson County had passed into the public…
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 13:28

The beetles beneath the ground

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“Ere the bat hath flown His cloister’d flight … to black Hecate’s summons The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums…
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 13:37

Intricate flora sometimes defy description

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Through the years I have attempted to describe the flora of the Smokies region for newspaper, magazine and book readers.…
Thursday, 03 May 2012 02:12

Twice sold lands now part of Bryson City

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This is the peculiar story of the land transactions, disputes, and incidents that led to the establishment of Bryson City…
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 13:39

Black locust a favorite for its strength

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All of the spring flowering plants are early this year by as much as two to three weeks. Black locust…
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 12:53

Cherokee masks come in many guises

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A mask is a mechanism employed to cover the face as a protective screen or disguise. For protection, they have…
Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in April 2002. Have you ever looked at a…
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:05

When the kingfishers return

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Belted kingfishers are one of my favorite birds, so much so that I wrote a poem years ago about anticipating…
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 12:52

Nomenclature has meaning when it comes to plants

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What’s in a name? Well, sometimes a lot, especially when you’re considering the names we assign plants. The striking little…
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 14:15

Learning and writing haiku

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Lots of people write haikus or haiku-like verse. This past year we had several haiku-writing fests at our house. House…
When I started writing features for a newspaper in the late 1980s, I didn’t have much of a clue as…
As indicated in recent Back Then columns, I've been of late walking some of the old trails along creeks in…
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 22:28

Different tribes treated captives differently

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I conduct workshops on Southeastern Indian history and culture at the John C. Campbell Folk School for two full weeks…
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 21:27

Pileated woodpeckers a mainstay in the mountains

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The tapping of pileateds ... means attachment to a nest site and attachment of the members of a pair to…
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:05

One of the Smokies’ finest poets

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Olive Tilford Dargan is fairly well known in literary circles as the author of  From My Highest Hill (1941), a…
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 21:54

Geronimo’s brush with Western North Carolina

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The names Geronimo and Gen. George Cook are interwoven in the lore of northern Mexico, southeastern Arizona, western New Mexico…