When I was a very young boy growing up in Virginia, there was a very old man in our neighborhood who was was eccentric. He almost never spoke to anyone, except to scold them in a cackling tone. He was said to be very wealthy but scarcely ever spent so much as a dime. What’s more, he was reputed to have built his own coffin in the work shed behind his house.  

mtn voicesI had my first introduction to the showy and curious hibiscus flowers when I was a boy. Rose-of-Sharon was a common where I grew up, just as it is here in Western North Carolina.

Note: Every July 4th from 1973 through 1990, I used to go in Bennett’s Drug Store here in Bryson City and order my yearly “banana split” … two scoops of strawberry ice cream on sliced bananas with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry (or two) on top. One a year was enough. I still can’t walk by the old storefront without smelling the maraschino cherries. 

mtn voicesPerhaps you’re looking for a new site to visit this summer?  If so, consider making a visit to Black Rock State Mountain Park, which is situated in Rabun County, Ga., just off U.S. 441 several miles south of where Macon County adjoins Georgia. It’s about a half-hour drive from Franklin. The 1,500-acre park is the highest in the Georgia system of state parks and is one of the most interesting to visit. Named for the numerous dark granite outcrops, it stretches for more than three miles along the Eastern Continental Divide. 

back thenA plant that always gets me to thinking with my stomach is common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), which is just now coming into bloom along roadsides in the lower elevations throughout Western North Carolina. 

mtn voicesI wrote first by hand and then with a manual typewriter. Starting about 1990, I moved “up” to a Tandy writing machine generated by an IBM “Writing Assistant” program diskette that stored information on floppy discs. No hard drive. During the last decade of the 20th century (before I moved “up” again to a “real” computer), I generated a lot of floppy discs. 

We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water. Water is the essence of our very being ... especially here in the mountains.   

backthenLeading a field trip isn’t complicated. But there may be more to it than you suppose. It helps if you know ahead of time where you’re going to make stops; where to eat lunch; and where the bathrooms are situated.

backthenA book I read about the Suwannee River featured numerous photographs of trees overhanging the waterway festooned with Spanish moss. Spanish moss isn’t, by the way, a true moss at all but a vascular plant that reproduces via tiny flowers. But it is an epiphytic plant; that is, a plant which grows upon another plant or object for support. 

backthenAlthough bird identification can be perplexing — baffling at times for even the most accomplished birders — the principles of identification are relatively simple. We recognize birds by their visual appearances and by their vocalizations.

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