Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27, 1873

From Appleton’s Journal, December 27, 1873

The Devil's Old Field is an opening of several hundred acres on the top of the Balsam range. The Cherokees regard the treeless tracts, at various points on the mountains, as the footprints of Satan, as he stepped from mountain to mountain. This old field, however, being his favorite resting - place, was more extensive than were his mere footprints. In fact, this was his chosen sleeping-place.

Once, on a hot summer day, a party of irreverent Indians, rambling through the dense forests of balsam and rhododendrons, suddenly came into the edge of the open ground, and, with their unseemly chattering, woke his majesty from his siesta. Being irritated, as people often are when disturbed before their nap is out, he suddenly, in the form of an immense serpent, swallowed fifty of them before they could get back into the thicket. Ever after this sad occurrence, the Cherokees, as the sailors say, gave this locality a wide berth.

After the whites got into the country, a set of hunters, known by the name of Queen, either by daring or diplomacy got on better terms with the old fellow. As their reputation was any thing but good, envious people used to say that they escaped injury at the hands of Satan upon the same principle that prevents a sow from eating her own pigs. These Queens spoke in favorable terms of the personal cleanliness of his majesty, and his regard for comfort, asserting that they had often gone to the large, overhanging rock, in the centre of the field, where he slept, and, out of mischief, in the evening had thrown rocks and brushwood on his bed, and that next morning the place was invariably as clean as if it had been brushed with a bunch of feathers.

Of late years no one has seen him in those parts, and it is believed that, either tired of the loneliness of the place, or because he could do better elsewhere, he has emigrated.
-Thomas Lanier Clingman

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