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Wednesday, 25 October 2006 00:00

Ancient animals of the Blue Ridge

Names of places throughout the Blue Ridge country pay tribute to the familiar wildlife of the region: Bear Wallow Stand Ridge, Beaverdam Creek, Buck Knob, Fox Gap, Wild Boar Creek, Coon Branch, Wildcat Cliffs, Possum Hollow, Polecat Ridge, Raven Rocks,…
Wednesday, 18 October 2006 00:00

Cold weather and deep sleepers

This past weekend’s sudden drop in overnight temperatures into the high 20s (26 degrees and 28 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, at our place near Bryson City) was unprecedented in our experience. That is, during the 33 years my wife, Elizabeth, and…
Wednesday, 11 October 2006 00:00

A beech for winter

“... the mellowing year marks its periods of decline with a pageantry
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 14:27

Water has a magical draw on us

We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water — springs, branches, creeks and rivers. Water is the essence of our very being here in the mountains.   
Wednesday, 04 October 2006 00:00

The peculiar grace of the mink

“On a morning in October, when a light mist hung over the pond, a mink appeared following this path beside the water’s edge. It ran in little spurts this way and that, alert, intense, tracing a weaving trail, turning aside,…
Wednesday, 27 September 2006 00:00

Nuts about acorns

Acorns are elegant. They are one of our most beautiful fruits, sometimes produced in such numbers by the varied oak species here in the Smokies region that we tend to take them for granted. This year, however, may be a…
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 14:31

Another eventful day in Bryson City

The whistle of the excursion train on the far side of the river shrieked three times. From where I sat in the graveyard on the knoll overlooking Bryson City, I could see tourists waving from their windows the way travelers…
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 13:28

The ultimate revenge: yellow jacket soup

The yellow jackets are back. They inundated my home office this morning. First they gnawed through the ceiling from a nest site that allows access under the eaves. 
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 14:09

Rabbit gums and cold, windy mornings

While perusing the shelves in a used bookstore recently, I spotted a title that was irresistible: From the Banks of the Oklawaha — Facts and Legends of the North Carolina Mountains. Pulling it out for further examination, I discovered that…
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 14:14

A favorite time to watch the home garden

This time of the year is perhaps the best time to enjoy flowering plants in a home garden. Many of the larger and showier species are just now coming into full bloom and will remain so into fall.    Several…
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:55

Deep Creek offers a great taste of the Smokies

We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water — springs, branches, creeks and rivers. Water is the essence of our very being here in the mountains.    Deep Creek on the North Carolina side of the…
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 15:46

Liverworts — a unique bridge in the plant world

Some years ago, when I first became interested in plant identification, I became curious about liverworts. They are one of the distinctive plant groups (like fungi, lichens, mushrooms, etc.) without advanced vascular systems.
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 14:41

Buckeyes still beguile nature lovers

A large yellow buckeye tree overhangs and supports the swinging gate that accesses our property. The tree has started to drop the unique fruiting structures for which it is named. Year around, it always has something interesting going on.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 14:44

Kephart's life after Hazel Creek

Horace Kephart left the cabin site on the Little Fork in the fall of 1907, spending considerable time in other areas of the Southern Appalachians, comparing life there with what he had observed here in the mountains of Western North…
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:39

The crossroads of humanity and nature

I like visiting those sites here in the Smokies region where there is what I think of as an “overlay;” that is, places where both natural and human history commingle. At such places, one encounters the confluence of all or…
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 03:06

The secret ministry of frost

It’s early October as I write this column. The first frost hasn’t, as yet, arrived. But it won’t be long coming.
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 15:07

Strawberry wine and its place in Smokies lore

Jack Coburn was a regional entrepreneur who had come to the Smokies in the 1890s. Jack liked to laugh, drink, tell stories, and fight. He was an expert boxer. With an unlit cigar stub clinched between his teeth, Jack rode…
Some steam and water-powered sawmills were established in the Smokies region during the 1870s and 1880s. But full-fledged industrialized logging didn’t commence until after the construction of the major railroads was finalized in the 1890s. This opened the region for…
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:41

Cherokee homes were warm and smoky in winter

“Two or more Families join together in building a hot-house, about 30 feet Diameter, and 15 feet high, in form of a Cone, with Poles and thatched, without any air-hole, except a small door about 3 feet high and 18…
The walnut family is relatively small, but it contains some of the more interesting and valuable tree species found in Western North Carolina. In WNC there are only two genera, the walnuts (Juglans) and the hickories (Carya).
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 15:07

Bringing in the new year naturally

Some musings on the New Year, from one who never cared much for noisy midnight celebrations of any sort, but I have always enjoyed New Year’s ceremonials. 
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:25

Remembering the glory of sports radio

Let’s talk some sports radio. I began thinking about this piece the afternoon before the Super Bowl. The Panthers were out of it … but I still listened. I’d listen to the play-by-play of a ping-pong match, so long as…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:11

Gypsies conjure memories of the past

When I was a boy growing up in south-central Virginia during the early 1950s, my home was situated near a wooded area, one side of which was traversed by a narrow dirt road beyond which there was a natural spring.
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 13:37

A bear hunter for the ages

John Baker (Little John) Cable Jr. is one of the prominent figures in Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders (1913; revised and expanded in 1922). He steals the show in Chapter 4 (“A Bear Hunt in the Smokies”), which most everybody…
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 14:43

Another storyteller to add to the list

For years I’ve been enjoying and sometimes writing about a group of old-time Western North Carolina storytellers I think of collectively as “The Mountain Humorists.” These weren’t professional storytellers in the sense that they made formal appearances for pay or…
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