A fox sighting is always a delight

In the natural world here in the Blue Ridge, there are certain visual images that rivet the attention of human beholders. One such is a timber rattlesnake suddenly encountered in the wild. That sight literally galvanizes the senses. The vibrating rattle-tipped tail sounds its uncanny almost-musical warning … you freeze in mid-step, holding your breath but unaware that you are doing so … the hair on the back of your neck stands on end … the event remains imprinted in your memory bank.

Special places define us

One never tires of discovering special places here in the southern mountains. Through the years, such places readily become old and reliable friends.

‘Doc’ Bennett was truly a man of the mountains

I have files in my computer containing articles I’ve forgotten that I wrote until, by chance, I run across them while looking for something else. This one appeared in the Smoky Mountain Neighbors, a weekly tabloid  published in the late 1980s into the 1990s by the Asheville Citizen-Times in the counties west of Asheville. It will interest those old enough to remember when Bennett’s Drug Store in Bryson City was the place you went to for drugs and just about anything else you might require.

Old-time surveyors used some interesting tools, markers

“The line runs down the meander of the ridge to where Bossy dropped her first calf.”

 “The line runs to where a block of ice stood in the road.”

“Proceed for about the distance it takes to smoke two cigarettes.”  

The copper run in the Great Smokies

The worldwide annual production of “high conductivity copper” had by 1899 risen to 470,000 tons, of which 300,000 tons were used in the burgeoning electrical industry to produce various types and gages of copper wire.

A search for Horace Kephart’s alcove

The setting for Horace Kephart’s posthumous novel Smoky Mountain Magic (2009) is the Cherokee Indian Reservation, Bryson City and Deep Creek — places familiar to most readers of this column. The main character, John Carrabus, spends much of his time camped in a hideaway named Nick’s Nest (a real place adjacent to the well-know Bryson Pace) where there’s a rock overhang he calls “The Alcove” and an immense cavern in which he becomes trapped.

Nothing like old-time boardinghouses

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in January 2011.

Are there boardinghouses still operating here in the Smokies region? There are, of course, hotels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and motels galore. But I’m wondering about the true, old-fashioned boardinghouse, which flourished throughout the region until the middle of the 20th century.

Delving into the origin of Native American words

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Smoky Mountain News in December 2003.

Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja, Hiwassee, Coweeta, Stecoah, Steestachee, Skeenah, Nantahala, Aquone, Katuwah, and on and on. Our place names here in the Smokies region are graced throughout with evidence of the Cherokee culture that prevailed for over 700 years. Wouldn’t it be nice if Clingmans Dome was correctly designated as Mount Yonah (high place of the bears)?

A new, excitable girl in our quiet cove

Essays and columns are difficult to categorize. Dividing them into the formal and informal is about all anyone can agree upon, if that. In retrospect, I can see that this one is a fine example of a type within the informal category I think of as the “ramblin’ disquisition;” in other words, it doesn’t  have a central theme (except that, for the most part, it’s about birds); and it wanders around … here and there … getting nowhere much until it ends of its own volition. You’ll see what I mean.

When frost comes, we know winter has arrived

The first frost serves as a given year’s most distinctive dividing line. It’s hard to pinpoint just when winter becomes spring, when spring become summer, or when summer becomes fall. But the winter season has arrived when the first frost occurs.

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