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Malcolm’s swan song

fr malcolmMalcolm graced the waters of Lake Junaluska for only a little while. He will be on its shore for much longer. 

“I think it’s gorgeous, I think it’s simply gorgeous,” said Diane Nabors, of the sculpture of Malcolm the swan. “I stop and look at it all the time.”


Placed lakeside on a pedestal, the sculpture of Malcolm is frozen in perpetual motion — wings expanded, feet flapping, bill letting out an inaudible honk. To Diane and Daryl Nabors, who donated the art installation, it is a fitting tribute to a special swan that snagged their hearts. 

“He was just an unusual guy,” recalled Diane.

“He was goofy,” agreed Darryl.

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“He was just not your normal swan,” said Diane.

Malcolm was the first swan introduced to Lake Junaluska. The Nabors brought him here years ago. 

“I’ve always had an interest in swans. I think they’re just an elegant bird,” said Darryl. “It’s just such a beautiful lake, I thought we needed some swans on it.”

Soon, Malcolm was joined by Margot. And the Nabors were joined by other Lake Junaluska residents, who brought more swans to the lake. 

The lake’s initial swans were black swans. But that type of swan wasn’t destined or designed to last at the lake.

“These little black swans are very sweet, but they have a very thin neck,” explained Darryl, “which is their downfall because we have snapping turtles at the lake.”

When swans eat, they dip their head and neck under the water. Because of the black swans’ thin necks and the lake’s snapping turtle population, they risked decapitation when feeding. 

Malcolm was not decapitated by a turtle. He was run over by a truck.

“He survived the snapping turtles,” said Diane. 

“But didn’t survive that truck,” said Darryl. 

But for the few years Malcolm lived at Lake Junaluska, he seemed to enjoy himself. The swan was often out of the water, socializing with people on the shore. He even went to church.

“I heard stories,” Darryl laughed. “He came walking down the aisle while they were having a service over there.”

Black swans don’t live at Lake Junaluska anymore. The lake is now home to white swans — known as mute swans because they don’t honk — that originated from swans owned by England’s royal family. 

But the Nabors never forgot about Malcolm the black swan, the lake’s first swan. And so they decided to share Malcolm with visitors to the lake, commissioning local artist Grace Cathey to sculpt his likeness. 

Stationed on the shore, a short distance from the lake’s dam, the sculpture of Malcolm is larger than life. Literally.

“Just a little bit bigger than a swan — exaggerated,” Cathey explained, pointing out the size of the enlarged feet.

The sculpture is made out of mild steel. The essence of a swan — the wings, the neck, the flippers fixed flapping in mid-air — proved more difficult to capture than the artist anticipated. 

“It took me five months,” said Cathey, looking up at her sculpture of Malcolm. “Much more intensive than I thought.”

The Nabors hope that Malcolm does not sit alone along the lakeside for too long. They envision others also donating art installations, with the shore of Lake Junaluska eventually becoming home to an outdoor gallery.

“It’d just be great to have an art-walk there, it’s the perfect place,” said Diane. “So many people come and walk that lake.”

Until then, Malcolm will wait on the shore. He will watch the passersby watching him. Just as he did during his years at the lake.

“He was out of the water a lot,” smiled Darryl. “He was very friendly, almost like a pet.”

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