Twice sold lands now part of Bryson City
 

Twice sold lands now part of Bryson City

This is the peculiar story of the land transactions, disputes, and incidents that led to the establishment of Bryson City…
Read More

Comment

Black locust a favorite for its strength
 

Black locust a favorite for its strength

All of the spring flowering plants are early this year by as much as two to three weeks. Black locust…
Read More

Comment

Cherokee masks come in many guises
 

Cherokee masks come in many guises

A mask is a mechanism employed to cover the face as a protective screen or disguise. For protection, they have…
Read More

Comment

WNC border may have been drawn “under the influence”
 

WNC border may have been drawn “under the influence”

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in April 2002. Have you ever looked at a…
Read More

Comment

When the kingfishers return
 

When the kingfishers return

Belted kingfishers are one of my favorite birds, so much so that I wrote a poem years ago about anticipating…
Read More

Comment

Nomenclature has meaning when it comes to plants
 

Nomenclature has meaning when it comes to plants

What’s in a name? Well, sometimes a lot, especially when you’re considering the names we assign plants. The striking little…
Read More

Comment

Learning and writing haiku
 

Learning and writing haiku

Lots of people write haikus or haiku-like verse. This past year we had several haiku-writing fests at our house. House…
Read More

Comment

The art of interviewing — let’em do the talking
 

The art of interviewing — let’em do the talking

When I started writing features for a newspaper in the late 1980s, I didn’t have much of a clue as…
Read More

Comment

Flowers are beautiful reminder of early settlements
 

Flowers are beautiful reminder of early settlements

As indicated in recent Back Then columns, I've been of late walking some of the old trails along creeks in…
Read More

Comment

Different tribes treated captives differently
 

Different tribes treated captives differently

I conduct workshops on Southeastern Indian history and culture at the John C. Campbell Folk School for two full weeks…
Read More

Comment

Pileated woodpeckers a mainstay in the mountains
 

Pileated woodpeckers a mainstay in the mountains

The tapping of pileateds ... means attachment to a nest site and attachment of the members of a pair to…
Read More

Comment

One of the Smokies’ finest poets
 

One of the Smokies’ finest poets

Olive Tilford Dargan is fairly well known in literary circles as the author of  From My Highest Hill (1941), a…
Read More

Comment

Geronimo’s brush with Western North Carolina
 

Geronimo’s brush with Western North Carolina

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

Comment

Poetic writing by a true mountain woman
 

Poetic writing by a true mountain woman

I am the summer … I am the firefly and the moon … the rain on the leaves the swamp…
Read More

Comment

The fascinating story of the Plott hound
 

The fascinating story of the Plott hound

A new book has been published that will be of particular interest to area hunters, outdoorsmen, and dog lovers. It…
Read More

Comment

Beech tree retains its tropical bark characteristics
 

Beech tree retains its tropical bark characteristics

A concept among biologists is that of “keystone species:” plants or animals with a pervasive influence on community composition and…
Read More

Comment

Holing up is common for poisonous snakes in winter
 

Holing up is common for poisonous snakes in winter

Where do the poisonous snakes go in winter? In the Smokies region we have two poisonous species: timber rattlesnakes and…
Read More

Comment

The playful raven is a Smoky Mountain favorite
 

The playful raven is a Smoky Mountain favorite

Along with plants like red spruce, Fraser fir, yellow birch, mountain maple, mountain ash, Canada Mayflower, witch-hobble, and bluebead lily,…
Read More

Comment

The poetry in a weather’s sharp vision
 

The poetry in a weather’s sharp vision

Note: This essay was originally written for The Smoky Mountain News. It was subsequently revised and collected in Mountain Passages,…
Read More

Comment

Navigating the waterways of WNC
 

Navigating the waterways of WNC

When one thinks about navigation in regard to the rivers here in the Smokies region, it’s old-time ferries and modern-day…
Read More

Comment

The light of winter is ‘tricky business’
 

The light of winter is ‘tricky business’

Winter Light So much light in what we call the dark of the year, a flashing and glittering of light…
Read More

Comment

Going back to explain ‘back of beyond’
 

Going back to explain ‘back of beyond’

Most of us at one time or another hanker for a place where we can get away from it all…
Read More

Comment

Feeling sprightlier on an early winter day
 

Feeling sprightlier on an early winter day

Sometimes I find myself walking without having made a conscious decision to do so. My body seems to feel the…
Read More

Comment

Thanksgiving and lungwort bread
 

Thanksgiving and lungwort bread

I have perused Kephart’s Camping and Woodcraft many times, but somehow or other had consistently overlooked his entry on lungwort…
Read More

Comment

A poetic tribute from a son of the Smokies
 

A poetic tribute from a son of the Smokies

The second volume of an anthology of nature writing from Western North Carolina and the Great Smokies that I edited…
Read More

Comment

Ginseng, ferns and an ancient dialect
 

Ginseng, ferns and an ancient dialect

“Sang” redux. Several weeks ago I wrote about ginseng. I have, in fact, been writing about ginseng for years. There…
Read More

Comment

Masks are mirrors looking back at us
 

Masks are mirrors looking back at us

A mask is a mechanism employed to cover the face as a protective screen or disguise. For protection, they have…
Read More

Comment

Casual, unplanned — and heavenly
 

Casual, unplanned — and heavenly

You don’t have to live in a cabin to get cabin fever. You can come down with a bad case…
Read More

Comment

An early description of Haywood’s vegetation
 

An early description of Haywood’s vegetation

Roland M. Harper was born in Maine but spent practically his entire professional life in the South, where his work…
Read More

Comment

Civil War crossing of Smokies was memorable feat
 

Civil War crossing of Smokies was memorable feat

The war in the Smokies proved to be … a curious conjunction of terrain, history, politics, and culture ... a…
Read More

Comment

Old-timers and their colorful plant names
 

Old-timers and their colorful plant names

It’s that time of the year, and the hills are alive not with music but “sang” hunters. As of now…
Read More

Comment

An Appalachian ‘original genius’
 

An Appalachian ‘original genius’

(Note: Since its publication several years ago, this column about Evan O. Hall has sparked a number of comments. Something…
Read More

Comment

Shooting frogs through the car window
 

Shooting frogs through the car window

This is about frogs. Of late, I’ve been thinking about them … especially the frog that snores. As I recently…
Read More

Comment

Otters are what beautiful aspires to be
 

Otters are what beautiful aspires to be

Earlier this week about nine in the morning, I was standing on the Everett Street bridge in the heart of…
Read More

Comment

Monkshood — both beautiful and deadly
 

Monkshood — both beautiful and deadly

Usually I locate rare plants by visualizing them and visiting likely habitats. It’s as if I can will them into…
Read More

Comment

Screech owls don’t really screech
 

Screech owls don’t really screech

The Eastern Screech Owl has the broadest ecological niche of any owl in its range. It occurs east of the…
Read More

Comment

Oliver deserves more credit for his writing skills
 

Oliver deserves more credit for his writing skills

I started to write this column about Duane Oliver before I discovered that he has just published what he tells…
Read More

Comment

Our unique geography leads to unusual names
 

Our unique geography leads to unusual names

About a year and a half ago I wrote a column titled “Mountain Topography and Language Lend Themselves to Colorful…
Read More

Comment

Late summer is an awesome time to botanize
 

Late summer is an awesome time to botanize

Spring is the appointed time for the various wildflower pilgrimages and outings that attract thousands of visitors to the mountains…
Read More

Comment

Add acreage to your spiritual landscape
 

Add acreage to your spiritual landscape

Lots of folks like to study those molded relief maps of the region, the ones that show the upraised contours…
Read More

Comment

Charlie’s Bunion and early history of the park
 

Charlie’s Bunion and early history of the park

(Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in July 2005.) Are you by chance looking for…
Read More

Comment

Constructing your own coffin
 

Constructing your own coffin

A portion of this Back Then column appeared in SMN in August 2004 as “A Box to Call Your Own.”…
Read More

Comment

‘Big Ice’ links flora and fauna here and in Asia
 

‘Big Ice’ links flora and fauna here and in Asia

When walking a trail in the Smokies (or Nantahalas or Great Balsams or wherever) here in the southern Blue Ridge,…
Read More

Comment

The mystery of mountain ferns
 

The mystery of mountain ferns

Identifying ferns is an entirely different process than, say, identifying wildflowers or trees. They don't display flowers, showy fruits, or…
Read More

Comment

Plant life distinct to the southern Blue Ridge
 

Plant life distinct to the southern Blue Ridge

The elevations of the southern Blue Ridge province above 4,000 feet can be thought of as a peninsula of northern…
Read More

Comment

Blundering upon a Smokies icon
 

Blundering upon a Smokies icon

I’ve always been interested in the processes by which we discover things. Being a naturalist, I’m most interested in the…
Read More

Comment

Common ash tree deserves more attention
 

Common ash tree deserves more attention

“How many thousand-thousand of untold white ash trees are the respected companions of our doorways, kindliest trees in the clearing…
Read More

Comment

Tasty right off the shrub
 

Tasty right off the shrub

ELDERBERRY WINE There’s a fly in the window A dog in the yard And a year since I saw you…
Read More

Comment

A voice heard in the distance
 

A voice heard in the distance

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…
Read More

Comment

Serpents elicit mixed responses among humankind
 

Serpents elicit mixed responses among humankind

Serpents are among the world’s most storied creatures. We are at once attracted to and repelled by them. Many view…
Read More

Comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.