Wednesday, January 31, 2007
We don't have much wilderness to be afraid of anymore. But just to keep our adrenalin flowing, the sky provides plenty to worry about. If it's not flying raptors or radioactive fallout, then it's ultraviolet radiation and ice balls.
Last Sunday morning a hundred pound chunk of ice fell from the sky and crushed a Ford Mustang in Hillsborough County, Florida. OK, first thing you think is airlines, but the airlines say "no, wasn't ours...we dye our water blue...ice wasn't blue.
Maybe the airlines can duck out this time,. After all, it might have been a megacryometeor. Think hail on steroids.
The weather guessers are calling for "wintry mix" tomorrow. Wonder what the odds are for parhelia and megacryometeors.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I can't leave Chimney Rock without a side trip to the Bottomless Pools, as described by John P. Arthur:
The Pools, just above the old Logan hotel or tavern in the same picturesque locality [Chimney Rock] are three circular holes from eight to fifteen feet in diameter, in the rock bed of the creek, all of which are said to be bottomless. It is evident that they were made by the revolution of small stones on the softer surface of the creek bed, kept in constant motion by the continual flow of the creek; but they are not bottomless, nor is there any danger of suction, as swimmers disport themselves in their cool depths every summer.
-John P. Arthur, Western North Carolina, A History, 1914.
In 1878, Silas McDowell, the Macon County farmer and all-around-sage dictated his account of the Spectre Cavalry Fight that occurred near Chimney Rock in early September 1811.
In the long ago, the Titans built a wall of rock, varying in height from one thousand to fifteen hundred feet, with an open space at its east entrance. And at that opening stands a rough column-shaped rock, three hundred feet high, crowned with a coronet of pine trees. This is Chimney Rock.
According to McDowell, an old man and his wife living near Chimney Rock were seated in their yard at sunset, watching the shadows spread across the walls of the ravine:
When their attention was arrested by the astounding spectacle – to wit – two opposing armies of horsemen, high up in the air, all mounted on winged horses and preparing for combat. At length the old woman heard the word, "Charge" when the two armies dashed into each other, cutting, thrusting, and hacking, and she distinctly heard the ring of their swords and saw the glitter of their blades flashing in the Sun’s rays. Thus they fought for about ten minutes, when one army was routed and left the field, and then she plainly heard the shouts of the victors and the wails of the defeated, soon after which darkness hid both armies from their view.
The couple saw the troopers on subsequent evenings. News of their sightings quickly spread and became a local legend.
...the most sensational falsehood I ever read, [that] in my opinion it was the old woman who concocted and managed the whole affair. " She must have been an old hag – a devil in petticoats." The youth at this suddenly became transformed; his keen gray eyes glowed like coals of fire, while his breast heaved with the fury of a tiger. He sprang at me. I was as powerless as a child in his powerful arms, and, holding me at arms length over the yawning abyss of one thousand four hundred feet, he exclaimed, "Villian! You shall take back or qualify your utterances against my Grandmother, or I’ll hurl you to the bottom of this cliff."
McDowell, we'll note, did live to tell the tale.
The Chimney Rock region has long been known for geological and meteorological mischief. They didn’t call it "Rumbling" Bald Mountain for nothing. April 22, 1875, Asheville’s Citizen newspaper published a correspondent’s account of one recent tremor:
Having often experienced the mutterings and shakings of BALD MOUNTAIN, which are apparently produced by the detachment and falling of large bodies of rock in some subterranean cavern, we are ready to pronounce this last earthly agitation as not of the same class, nor from the same source, but A VERITABLE EARTHQUAKE.
Reporting with vivid detail, the correspondent told of sleepers awakened by a sound like distant thunder from the south:
Nearer it came, until it was discovered to be IN THE EARTH instead of in the atmosphere, and when immediately beneath our feet, the ground on which we stood was palpably elevated as by a wave underneath. The direction of this subterranean wave was due north and south, and it traveled with immense rapidity. The sound produced by it when immediately underneath us was a compound of the heavy rumbling of thunder and THE SHARP RINGING CLASH as of the crushing or breaking of some metalic or brittle substance in the earth.
While the agitations of Bald Mountain have never been felt or heard but a few miles from its base, this earthquake shock traversed the whole of the mountain region of North Carolina as far as heard from.
Good news on a Monday morning! I was about half awake when I heard one sentence on the radio, "Governor Easley is travelling to Chimney Rock for an announcement today." That meant only one thing: the state is buying Chimney Rock. Last I’d heard, the Chimney Rock Park people and the State were about $20 million dollars apart. But private donors came through to make the deal happen. So we have the 1000 acre landmark becoming part of a new state park near Hickory Nut Gap.
I’ve pulled out some vintage postcards to upload here…over the next few days Most of the cards are from the 1920s to 1940s.
Blame Interstate 40 for taking Chimney Rock down a notch or two in the travel and tourism pecking order. Without I-40 in place, a lot of us Piedmonters found our way to the mountains, past Charlotte, past Shelby, on toward Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, and over Hickory Nut Gap to reach Asheville. There’s sure no shortage of mid-century postcards from the glory days of that corner of the mountains.
Our townsman, Mr. O. B. Coward has shown us a pair of Berkshire pigs brought from Columbia, S.C. by Mr. T. B. Coward.
We enjoyed the pleasure this week of a visit to our sister town of Dillsboro. The trade in locust pins and railroad crossties has assumed quite large proportions, and Dillsboro may justly claim to be headquarters for crossties. ...
We learned from some of the leading citizens that the Democrat had failed to receive as hearty a support as we could wish because of the existence of a real or imaginary feeling of rivalry between their town and ours. If any feeling, looking to the advancement of Sylva's interest by pulling down those of Dillsboro, exists among our people we are not aware of it and must protest that the Democrat does not share it. Our efforts are now and will continue to be directed to the upbuilding of the whole county, and we shall rejoice in the continued growth and prosperity of all her towns. In fact we would be glad to see the time when Dillsboro and Sylva shall grow into each other and be governed by one corporation. In the meantime we desire to foster and encourage the kindest relations between the two places. Let us all work together for our common good.
Highway 74 skirts the edge of Sylva as you drive toward the Smokies and Bryson City. You could zip right past the Jackson County Justice Center without a hint of what was sacrificed to build the four-lane bypass. Construction of the road in the early 1970s spelled the end for Dills Cove Falls.
No other town in North Carolina had a comparable waterfall within its city limits…the total height of Dills Cove Falls was said to be 249 feet. But it was standing in the way of progress. It had to go.
You have to wonder what the job was like, demolishing Dills Cove Falls. Who would want to show up for work that day? Do visions of the Falls ever come back in nightmares?
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
Letterboxing is not the subject of this post, but is as good a place to start as any. I’d not heard of it until a couple of months ago, and this description from Atlas Quest does sound appealing:
Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by following clues, and then record their discovery in their personal journal with the help of a rubber stamp that's part of the letterbox. In addition, letterboxers have their own personal stamps they use to stamp into the letterbox's logbook.
Judaculla Rock is the largest and best-known example of rock art in North Carolina. It is located in Jackson County on Caney Fork. According to legend, the Cherokees named the rock after "Tsul kalu," a mythical giant hunter whose feet and hands scratched the rock as he leapt from the top of his mountain home and landed on the rock in the valley below.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
I have seldom seen such scenes in a Court-house as I have seen today. Only two or three cases have been disposed of and they have been handled in the rudest manner. The more I see of the County Courts, the more I wish to see them abolished. Drunkenness has reigned today. A portion of the Court has been drunk all day. How shameful! A portion of the time, while suits were trying the whole court were off of the bench.
At different times I noticed groups about over the Court Yard and in the center stood a large gauky looking fellow with a fiddle and he would saw off some silly ditty two or three drunken fools would dance to the same. The populace have been unusually noisy today. The day has been dark and cloudy and this evening and tonight, it is raining. I have conversed tonight. One can learn little by conversation here, save how depraved men are.
-Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
This is huge. After years of work and planning, the Great Eastern Trail will be ready for the first through-hikers this spring. The trail passes through Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. The GET is 1600 miles long, but with its links to the Florida, North Country, Potomac Heritage and Appalachian National Scenic Trails, this major new trail system connects more than 10,000 miles of eastern footpaths. Read all about it!
I feel confident in saying that I have never seen a court behave so badly and keep such confusion. There is during the Session of the court a continual fuss, a continual talking, so that the Court, the Council nor the jury cannot hear the testimony. It is disgraceful, that in a country like our own, distinguished for its freedom and equality, justice is permitted to be trampled upon.
There has been a crowd in attendance today and they have tried to see how badly they could behave themselves. Scores were drunk and tonight are snoring away over the drunkenness of today. I saw two women drunk and one cursed and swore desperately and proposed to whip some of the male friends that did not please her.
-Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
New Harmony, one of the most memorable places I’ve ever visited, was a great utopian experiment, TWICE, and some of that spirit lives on. A likely setting for Dougherty’s art. After its completion in 2003, Common Ground became a New Harmony landmark.
My affinity for trees as a material seems to come from a childhood spent wandering the forest around Southern Pines, North Carolina – a place with thick underbrush and many intersecting lines evident in the bare winter branches of trees. When I turned to sculpture as an adult, I was drawn to sticks as a plentiful and renewable resource. I realized that saplings have an inherent method of joining – that is, sticks entangle easily. This snagging property is the key to working material into a variety of large forms. -Patrick Dougherty, Sculptor
Sunday, January 21, 2007
"Other ecological designers exploring the self-growing treehouse include Richard Reames and Konstantin Kirsch of the Treedome project, who’ve designed latticeworks of tree branches and grown them into cylindrical, multi-room dwellings which become fully-enclosed botanical domes. Fruit and other foods grow on the roof and walls, and the waste generated by the inhabitants becomes nourishment for the structure (a closed-loop system in which, as Bill McDonough says, waste=food)."
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Yesterday morning marked the return of Centurus Carolinus. It used to be that the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers were regulars at the feeder. But they were absent last winter, so I was very glad to see another one.
Last night, after dark, the motion light kept coming on. Eventually, I saw a bushy tail disappear around the corner. And the next time the light came on, a raccoon poked his bandit face around the corner of the house. Without intending to, I made enough commotion to set the coon on his way, and he waddled back to the edge of the woods.
I thought about trapping the raccoon and relocating him. Maybe I don't need to. I do have a couple of concerns, though. Rabies is extremely common in raccoons, and the door handles of my house are the lever type. I can imagine what might happen one night if I fail to lock my doors. Will I wake up to find a slightly rabid, fairly hungry and very confused raccoon in my kitchen? That could be exciting.
So with that thought in mind while I was grinding coffee this morning, I considered too the return of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. At that very moment I looked out at the feeder and saw....not a chickadee or nuthatch, but one Red-Bellied Centurus Carolinus snacking away.
It's already a good day.
Friday, January 19, 2007
It is unfortunate that there is no Appalachian Photography Hall of Fame. It would showcase some superb, and largely unknown, work from the past century and a half. Certainly, Mary Bayard Morgan Wootten (1875-1959) would deserve to be one of the first inductees. Born in New Bern, North Carolina, she overcame economic hardship, gender discrimination, and the obscurity of a small-town upbringing to become the state's most significant early female photographer. I'd call her a hero. Her father, Rufus Morgan, was one of the earliest photographers to work in Western North Carolina and many of his stereoscopic images survive.
During her lifetime, Wootten provided the photographs for several books, including Muriel Earley Sheppard’s Cabins in the Laurel, a 1935 account of mountain people. The photograph displayed above, "Horse Traders, Bryson City, NC", is from that decade.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
This just scratches the surface of the Priber saga. You’d like to imagine that those books survived and are stored away in a trunk somewhere. But the books, and Priber’s dream, are as long gone as the temperance colony on the Tuckasegee and the vineyards of Vineland.
-Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
This morning it is raining, last night it rained heavily and the road from here to the place where we hold Court is all mud. How unpleasant such a day at such a place.
The day has been verry unpleasant and the drinking population seemed to enjoy it to the fill. Drinking has increased about 20 pr. centum today over yesterday.
-Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Madison County, Monday January 16th. 1854.
As is usual for this place, drunkenness is carried to an incredible extent.
A crowd of filthy whisky drinkers collects around a wagon and drink and curse and blackguard beyond description, women and men, and women sell themselves to prostitution of the basest character not infrequently for whisky.
Monday, January 15, 2007
The next several days (and a few more later this month) will feature the blog of Asheville attorney Augustus Summerfield Merrimon (1830-1892). His 1850s diary of sojourns to the Western North Carolina courts and county seats is one my favorites from that grand decade.
Sunday January 15th. 1854.
Today I left home at noon for Madison Court.—I had a cool ride down, that romantic river, the French Broad. Rode 22 miles this evening. Stopped on the river at the house of Smith & Baird, a comfortable place. Quiet a crowd of Lawyers, travelers &c. sojourn here tonight. Tonight I have been greatly amused at the conversation of different ones of our party. The conversation has not been instructive, save in one way, that is we learn from it the nature, that is often hiden of a certain class of men. The river roars tonight, the moon shines beautifully and the rugged hills around awake one to contemplation when he walks alone. I love to be alone in an hour like this. All is silent save the continual roar of the river, and the moon shine comes down so softly.—The night is cool, not cold. It is late at night.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
How the President of the U States can reconcile it to his feelings to withdraw from us the protection pledged by treaty, and to allow the state of Georgia to usurp from us the rights and liberties of freemen and to keep up a standing military force in our country and in time of profound peace too, I cannot understand. . . . his policy towards the aborigines, in my opinion, has been unrelenting and in effect ruinous to their best interests and happiness. And whatever may be the result of our present difficulties and troubles, we are prepared to meet it - but never to remove West of the Mississippi upon lands within the limits of the U States.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The French scientist and naturalist, Rene de Reaumur, two centuries ago reported the amazing results he obtained in experiments with the strength and grinding ability of the gizzard of a domestic turkey. He found that a small tube of sheet iron, which could be dented only when subjected to a pressure of eighty pounds, was flattened and partially rolled up after only twenty-four hours in the gizzard of this bird. Another scientist, in a more recent test, showed that in the space of four hours a turkey’s gizzard can grind up as many as twenty-four English walnuts within their shells. Again it has been demonstrated that such a gizzard is able to crush nuts so hard their shells resist pressures of from 124 to 336 pounds before they crack.
-Edwin Way Teale
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
To watch the scene below -
The creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
As we used to, long ago.
If you can’t trust the Daughters of the American Revolution and an Eagle Scout then who can you trust?
I even found a picture of the dapper songwriter:
But the song lives on, recorded by everyone from John McCormack to Benny Goodman to Fats Waller to Mac Wiseman.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Do we really know more than we ever have? Researchers can wade through the Tuckasegee River and come out with one report after another, but looking back I see that our knowledge of that river is dwindling. What about those who built the fish weirs in the river, centuries ago, who could answer questions we would not even think to ask? What about those who performed ablutions to wash away their sins and could see a river that our eyes see only dimly, if at all? What about those who were alert to the tiny turns of weather and the blooming of plants alongside the river from year to year? What about those who sat by the ancient fire under the new moon and the hunter and spoke of the uktena, swimming beneath the waters of the Tuckasegee?
I wonder what stories of the river are told anymore. Legends so well known, they could be shared with a glance and a nod? Is folklore like some extinct bird, that used to be alive, but now is just some dusty curiosity in the corner of a research lab? Stories fade, the knowledge is lost, and measurements captured by every scientific instrument available won’t be enough to bring it back.
"Terra preta (the black earth) is new to Western science, but it is an old technology from the Amazon that disappeared when the native populations were wiped out by European diseases after Columbus."
"The technology of black earth is simple: Instead of slashing and burning the rainforest to make way for agriculture, long lost Amazonian civilizations burned forest slash in smoldering piles to make charcoal, and then buried the charcoal in the soil. This produces an astounding increase in soil fertility. The charcoal itself adds nutrients to soil, but it also acts as a sponge to absorb and retain any manures or other added fertilizers for very long periods of time. Some of the terra preta soils created more than 500 years ago are still highly fertile today."
“Two years before his death, my father gave me a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts and notebooks. Assuming his usual joking, mocking air, he told me he wanted me to read them after he was gone, by which he meant after he died.”
Thursday, January 4, 2007
-Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)