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…
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Magnolias not just a Deep South species
 

Magnolias not just a Deep South species

Mention magnolias and images of plantations and mint juleps come to mind. But here in Western North Carolina we have…
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A treasure that deserves reprinted in 1933 ‘Guide’
 

A treasure that deserves reprinted in 1933 ‘Guide’

More than a few readers of this column collect books associated with the Smokies region. A friend who spends most…
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Native cougars no longer grace these mountains
 

Native cougars no longer grace these mountains

Have you ever seen a mountain lion here in the Smokies region? I haven’t. In fact, the only one I’ve…
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A look back at Kephart’s cabin
 

A look back at Kephart’s cabin

As part of this coming weekend’s third annual Horace Kephart Day, a group of 20 or so participants will visit…
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New GSMNP visitor center is worth a trip
 

New GSMNP visitor center is worth a trip

This past Friday (April 15) I attended the dedication ceremony for the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina…
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Book captures the essence of waterfalls
 

Book captures the essence of waterfalls

Flowing water was the primary agent that sculpted the mountains as we know them today. Long before the first Europeans…
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In the beginning… some very eloquent sentences
 

In the beginning… some very eloquent sentences

As I begin writing this it’s midnight, April 4-5, 2011. When insomnia strikes I always look for something to read.…
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A blemish by any other name
 

A blemish by any other name

Systems of mature trees and shrubs are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks,…
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The rushing of wind through a hemlock
 

The rushing of wind through a hemlock

From my window, as I write this, I can see across the creek and down into a pasture where my…
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Cherokee’s own big fish legend
 

Cherokee’s own big fish legend

Editor’s note: This George Ellison column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in March 2005. “Then Jonah prayed unto…
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Archery lessons with James Dickey
 

Archery lessons with James Dickey

During the course of a recent interview for a literary magazine, I was asked: While in grad school at the…
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Walking a mountain gives it life
 

Walking a mountain gives it life

Hiking a designated trail involves prescribed origins and destinations, whether it be a four-mile jaunt from Clingman’s Dome to Siler’s…
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A first-hand account of the Indian wars
 

A first-hand account of the Indian wars

I spent some time last week reading about the 18th-century Indian wars in Western North Carolina. These were the Cherokee…
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Tragedy and the Ghost Dance’s demise
 

Tragedy and the Ghost Dance’s demise

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series regarding the Cherokee Ghost Dance.) A recent column focused on…
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Oil lamps are useful… and nostalgic
 

Oil lamps are useful… and nostalgic

Editor’s note: The second installment in George Ellison’s research into the Ghost Dance has been delayed due to the inability…
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Ghost Dance has a long history in Cherokee
 

Ghost Dance has a long history in Cherokee

(Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding the Cherokee Ghost Dance. Part two will present Michelene Ethe…
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Dogs that make our lives whole
 

Dogs that make our lives whole

If you don’t like dogs, come back next week. Dogs have been an integral part of my life since I…
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Nothing like old-time boardinghouses
 

Nothing like old-time boardinghouses

Are there boardinghouses still operating here in the Smokies region? There are, of course, hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and motels galore.…
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Coming across words to remember
 

Coming across words to remember

Editor’s note: George Ellison is snowed in without an Internet connection. This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News…
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A special place in the heart of arborists
 

A special place in the heart of arborists

Winter is the season for thinking about pines. For the ancient Orientals, pines signified dignity and vitality, especially in old…
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A family full of marriage, but not quite bliss
 

A family full of marriage, but not quite bliss

Editor’s note: This George Ellison column was first published in December 2004. Most everyone agrees that marriage is a noble…
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Big fish of the Smokies
 

Big fish of the Smokies

Each of us inhabits several landscapes. On the one hand, there is our everyday exterior topographic landscape. We call it…
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Noticing the little things of winter
 

Noticing the little things of winter

Editor’s note: George Ellison, like many in the mountains, was snowed in and unable to get an internet connection. This…
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Images etched in memory for a lifetime
 

Images etched in memory for a lifetime

I am fascinated by those images from the natural world that remain with us for a lifetime — almost as…
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The creek outside my window
 

The creek outside my window

I write this from my “office” (a spare room) at home. Looking out the window, I can see the creek…
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A story about darkness, light and the red bird
 

A story about darkness, light and the red bird

Ho down down … Ho down dee Red bird dancin in custody Way down in New Orleans. Ho down down…
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A father’s influence
 

A father’s influence

Horace Kephart (1862-1931) was the author of Our Southern Highlanders, Camp Cookery, Sporting Firearms, Camping and Woodcraft, Smoky Mountain Magic,…
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Where the buffalo roam
 

Where the buffalo roam

Buffalo Branch ... Buffalo Creek ... Buffalo Cove ... all are common place names that indicate the prior residence of…
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One fine mountain poet
 

One fine mountain poet

Allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Han Shan. He is among the finest…
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Witch-hazel’s name — A botanical mystery
 

Witch-hazel’s name — A botanical mystery

The unusually dry, warm days this month have resulted in a delayed color season as well as an abundance of…
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Region’s kaolin history is nearly forgotten
 

Region’s kaolin history is nearly forgotten

One of the more interesting stories concerning this region is that of the kaolin mining industry. It began more than…
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The smells of autumn
 

The smells of autumn

Fall is the odiferous time of the year. I don’t possess a very discriminating sense of smell, but certain fragrances…
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Dialect of the southern highlands
 

Dialect of the southern highlands

I’m no expert on regional linguistics, but through the years I have delighted in the dialect English still spoken here…
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‘Jack of all trades’ common in Appalachia
 

‘Jack of all trades’ common in Appalachia

Here in the Smokies region “making do” isn’t a lost art. Most “country” men and women can still “get along”…
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Mica — from art to technology
 

Mica — from art to technology

“Oh, what is that shiny stuff in the rocks?” someone will ask during any sort of outing. And invariably, someone…
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From the composition book…
 

From the composition book…

Saturday morning … sitting alone at the kitchen table … nothing much going on … looking out the window ……
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A coyote in the yard
 

A coyote in the yard

Monday morning … 9:15 or so … suddenly the coyote was there … as if from out of nowhere ……
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It’s hot, and the lizards are in heaven
 

It’s hot, and the lizards are in heaven

The sweltering heat this summer is restricting some outdoor activities, but it’s a prime time for lizard watching. Lizards don’t…
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Overlooks are special places in the southern mountains

High-elevation overlooks are one of our finest natural resources. These vantage points allow us to rise above our everyday humdrum…
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The comeback of the turkey a real success

The come back of the wild turkey in the southern mountains in recent years is one of the notable success…
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Charlies Bunion one of best views in Smokies

Are you by chance looking for a high-elevation day-hike that embodies quite a bit of the region’s human history? If…
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Scarlet tanagers spar in song

This seems to be a scarlet tanager kind of year. I’ve been seeing and hearing them at my house, along…
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The secretive, intelligent and prolific crow

Like most commonly observed objects, crows flit across our field of vision unheeded. Caw-caw-cawing unmusically … flap-flap-flapping over the fields…
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Box turtles can live 120 years

Five turtle species reside in Western North Carolina: snapping, musk, and painted turtles are primarily found in streams, lakes, and…
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Dragging Canoe was Cherokee’s greatest military leader

Historian E. Raymond Adams has maintained that the warrior with the curious name of Dragging Canoe was “the greatest military…
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Toxic plants of Appalachia

From time to time, I’ve discussed in this space various plants the Cherokees and early settlers utilized for medicinal, edible…
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The peculiar weather of the Smokies

Weather continues to be the enduring topic for conversation here in the Smokies region. Long after the Eric Rudolph furor…
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European boar proliferated in WNC

Numerous non-native plants have been introduced into the southern mountains during the last century or so. Many are now classified…
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Birch stills were once common in the hills

All this spring, golden birch catkins were dangling throughout the woodlands of the Smokies region. These are the male, pollen-carrying…
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