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 leader ever produced by the Cherokee people.”  A review of Dragging Canoe’s military career doesn’t reveal many great victories that he led, but it does indicate that he was a clever and resourceful military leader who was able to sustain significant “dark and bloody” opposition to white settlement for many years. 

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 and utilitarian purposes. The reverse side of that topic would be those plants that were dangerous to use.

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 has died down, folks will still be thinking, wondering and talking about the weather. The best weather discussions are about strange weather … the stranger the better. 

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 by wildlife biologists as “exotic pests.” Few would argue that kudzu does not fall into this category. And without doubt, the most notable alien mammal ever introduced into this immediate region was the European wild boar.

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 part of the sweet birch (Betula lenta), also known as black, cherry, or mahogany birch. 

Remembering one of WNC’s biggest melees

In 1913, Western North Carolina historian John Preston Arthur described John Denton of Graham County as “the most picturesque mountaineer in this section.” The description is inadequate. The record indicates that Denton was also one of the most ferocious men who ever got into a take-no-prisoners brawl. We'll revisit the epic donnybrook in which he whipped 20 other men using his fists, scale weights, stove wood, and rocks. First, however, let's quickly review his life — the sort of story from which mythic legends are fabricated.   

Stone walls symbolize a delicate balance


“An entire book might be written about the natural history of an old stone wall.”

— Edwin Way Teale, A Naturalist Buys An Old Farm (1974) 

Panther sightings persist in the Smokies

Have you ever seen a mountain lion here in the Smokies region? I haven’t. In fact, the only one I’ve ever viewed outside of a zoo was somewhere near Crystal River, Florida, back in the early 1990s. It bounded out of the scrub in front of my truck and passed quickly across the highway. Even now, I can vividly recall the combined grace and power of that animal.

Observing birds is a habit that never grows old

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about birds. I guess I have them on my mind, in part, because the spring migration season is underway. I heard my first Louisiana waterthrush (a warbler) of the year this past Sunday morning. But then again, birds are always on my mind summer, fall, and winter, too. And I’m not alone. Each week that I write about birds, I receive at least 10 emails from readers who share their bird observations and insights with me. Here we go again.     

Geronimo’s brush with WNC

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in a February 2012 edition of The Smoky Mountain News | The names Geronimo and Gen. George Crook are interwoven in the lore of northern Mexico, southeastern Arizona, western New Mexico and the Indian territories in Oklahoma. An association with the Smokies region and the remnant Eastern Band of Cherokees in Western North Carolina is less well known. 

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