Thou knowest that the ancient trees seen by thine eyes have fruit; But knowest thou that trees and fruits flourish upon the earth To gratify senses unknown? trees beasts and birds unknown: Unknown, not unpercievd, spread in the infinite microscope, In places yet unvisited by the voyager. and in worlds Over another kind of seas, and in atmospheres unknown Ah! are there other wars, beside the wars of sword and fire! And are there other sorrows, beside the sorrows of poverty? And are there other joys, beside the joys of riches and ease? And is there not one law for both the lion and the ox? And is there not eternal fire, and eternal chains? To bind the phantoms of existence from eternal life?
William Blake, from Visions of the Daughters of Albion, 1793
February 23, 1812 . . . toward evening the wife of Mr. Charles Hicks brought us a very pleasing letter from him in which he wrote among other things: "The present is a very strange point in time. May God in his great mercy prepare us for the life to come. The people in my neighborhood are deeply disturbed because of the earthquakes, and I believe that fear and terror have spread through the whole Nation. How else could it be? Do not these belong to the signs which are to come to pass before the [last] great day? . . . "
Mr. [David] McNair [a white man living in Tennessee, married to a Cherokee] came in the evening and spent the night here. Again we heard much about dreams and false prophets. May God have mercy. There is at the present time a real tumult in the Nation and a dark, heavy feeling. . . . It is unbelievable to what kind of foolish fables the blinded heathen will give hearing.
During these days the residents of one town fled into the hills and tried to crawl into hiding in the holes of the rocks in order to escape the danger of the hail stones the size of half bushels, which were to fall on a certain day. As the stated terrible day passed without hail, they came back to their dwelling places, ready and willing to believe every new deceiver.
February 23, 1863 Dear Father and Mother, I can inform you that I am in reasonable health, for which I feel very thankful to the "great perserver." I am very desirous to hear from you. I have not had a letter from home for these two months. I’d think you might write to me oftener than you have done. Wrote you by Capt. Teague and have received no answer. The Capt. has not yet returned. It seems that when any of our men or officers get off home, that they take care not to return. Neither do as the law and general orders direct, consequently I have had to drop twenty enlisted men from our company, from the roll in disgrace and I am ordered to have these names published as deserters, how mortifing this is to me.
I hear that brother Robert has deserted his command. If he but knew how little every true patriot think of such conduct, he would return immediately and try and reprieve his character by future mysterious conduct for his country’s sake for his own and for heavens sake and for the sake of his friends. Have him return at once.
No one is more ancious to visit him and friends than I. But before I would dishonor myself and family and kin by deserting my colors, comrades and country’s cause, I would suffer even death before dishonor. How acceptable due leave of absence from camp would be, that I might visit you my kind and bereft parents. My great desire is and has been to live and see the present national difficulties over and peace and prosperity prevail throughout the whole land, so I can enjoy home and friends no one to disturb my quietetude.
God has been merciful to our family. But how great the wickedness of soldiers. How sinful I have been due to my soldier life. It mortifies me to think of my profanity and wickedness, such as the evils and temptations that I do wrong, while conscience thunderous remorse. Oh how I crave the congenial influence of home and friends that nurture a better feeling than that which naturally prevades the soldier’s heart. There is nothing in the profession of arms but what is revolting to the noble heart and mind.
But they would have it so. The North has forced this war upon us. Now we drink the bitter drugs of revelation, starving for National peace, may it soon be won. May the time hasten when we strike our tents, deposit our arms and return home to enjoy the book of liberty. - W.B. Ferguson
The Cherokees seem peculiarly partial to Guess's plan of writing [Sequoyah's syllabary]. They can generally learn it in one day and in a week become writing masters and transact their business and communicate their thoughts freely and fully on religious and political subjects by writing. They will doubtless be generally acquainted with this plan of reading and writing in the course of one year. - Journal of Rev. Daniel S. Butrick, February 22,1825
The citizens have been very much enraged at [H. W. Nolen, a Massachusetts native living in Franklin, NC] having completely monopolized the shoe business, he bought up all the leather he could, made it into shoes & sold it to the citizens and soldiers at high figures—they being compelled to buy. He has been speculating in Brandy, and in fact in everything he has been engaged in, extortioning upon the poor wives of soldiers by selling them shoes at astonishing rates. . . . It does not look right that this Yankee pet should be permitted to extortion and amass a fortune off those who are defending our rights, when the Country is demanding and entitled to his services it should have them. - Mrs. H. T. McLelland to Gov. Zebulon Vance, February 22, 1863
The convergence of biological diversity and artistic talent is to be celebrated. That is to say - TAXA, the work of Isabella Kirkland. A fantastic creation. (Click any of the images on the opening page to navigate the lavish paintings in more detail.)
From the site- So far there are six paintings in this cycle depicting nearly 400 species. Almost every plant or animal is measured, photographed, drawn, and observed first hand. All are painted at life-size to ensure accuracy of scale. Each picture in this series has taken a year or more to complete. The paintings explore how current biodiversity science can inform art-making and how art objects contribute to both political and scientific dialogues.
It is misleading to say we give names to places. Giving suggests a generous act. In fact, the naming of place is more a matter of taking control. And there’s always somebody who wants to call the shots. Inspecting my old map of the Smokies I find Wahhiya, Yalaka Creek, Una Mountain and Ugly Fork. But that map’s eighty years old, and those names are gone now, overtaken, pushed away.
Just last year, a helicopter full of investors flew over a few thousand prime acres of Jackson County and said, "Yes, we’ll buy it." With the amount of money they’re dropping, they expect to rewrite the map. And they will. Times change. And names change with them.
I moved to Cullowhee in the seventies, and remember being taken aback, browsing the local paper and seeing news of the Niggerskull 4-H Club. The Heritage-Not-Hate-Confederate-Flag sticker guys might have said, "Niggerskull Mountain, Niggerskull Creek, that’s what we’ve always called it and we don’t mean any harm. So why change it?"
Thirty years later, I’d guess a few old-timers still call it Niggerskull, and that a lot more newcomers have never heard its old name. Just because we [almost] all speak English doesn’t mean we’re talking the same language.
You probably won’t read about Niggerskull, Jackson County, NC in the newspaper any more. You won’t see it on the TV news. Impolite at best, the name is destined to fade into obscurity faster than most. It’s a matter of local usage, but also a matter of legal authority. After all, he who calls the shots… Sometimes, the problem is who calls the shots?
Until January 12, 2006. That was when the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names convened in Washington for their 675th meeting. At long last, the committee considered a motion to change the name of Negroskull Creek to Cedar Valley Creek, Negroskull Mountain to Cedar Valley Knob, and Negro Spring to Cedar Valley Spring. The motion passed, by a vote of nine in favor and two opposed.
Quoting from the minutes of that meeting, "The negative votes were cast in the belief that there is no evidence that the term ‘Negro’ is offensive to a large segment of the population. The members suggested that the State Legislature, in submitting these names, was operating under the misconception that the official names were still in the pejorative form when in fact all Federal products were directed to be corrected in 1963. If the pejorative form still exists on State or county products, it is incumbent upon the State to correct those, not necessarily to seek a change at the Federal level."
Next on the docket, the committee voted on name changes to two places in Clay County, NC. This time, by a vote of seven to four, the committee renamed Negro Head and Little Negro Head as Clay Knob and Little Clay Knob. "The negative votes were cast in the belief that there is no evidence that the term ‘Negro’ is universally offensive and that the proposed names were unimaginative."
Well, there you have it. Not a story about how a place received its name, but a story about how it lost its name. Good riddance.
February 17, 1812: The Shoeboot [Chulioa], confessed his perplexity in regard to the unusual earthquakes here in the land and said in a very emphatic way that many Indians believe that the white people were responsible because they had already taken possession of so much of the Indian land and wanted still more. God was angry because of that and He wanted to put an end to it through the earthquakes. This much was believed by all the Indians that God was causing the earthquakes. We then let our understanding be told and asked them to pray very diligently the publican’s prayer, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
In reply, the other one, called Big Bear, said, "I should also like to tell something as I should like to know what you think about it. Soon after the earth had trembled so for the first time, an Indian was sitting in his house in deep thought, and his children were lying sick in front of the fire. At that point a tall man, clothed entirely in the foliage of the trees, with a wreath of the same foliage on his head, who was carrying a small child in his arm and had a larger child by the hand, said to him, ‘The small child on his [my] arm is God. I am not able to tell you now whether God will soon destroy the earth or not. But God is not pleased that the Indians have sold so much land to the white people. Tugalo, which is now possessed by white people, is the first place which God created. There in a hill he placed the first fire, for all fire comes from God.
Now the white people have built a house on that hill. They should abandon the place; on that hill there should be grass growing, only then will there be peace. And the Indians no longer thank God before they enjoy first fruits of the land. They are no longer organizing, as was formerly the custom, dances in his honor before they eat the first pumpkins, etc. Furthermore,’ the messenger said to the Indian, ‘You are sad because you think your children are ill; they are really not ill, but have only taken in a little dust.’ Thereupon he gave him two small pieces of bark from a certain tree, which he also named, and told him to cook them and to give the drink to his children, and from that they became well right then. He then also told him about other remedies for use during illnesses and at the end he said he would now take God back home."
During this silly narration, the Indian looked so solemn as if he were really proclaiming God’s will and word. We told him that we are no judges of such visions nor do we get involved in such things. We adhere to God’s word and in that his will is clear. It is good to thank God for his gifts, but we wish with all our hearts that the poor Indians might really learn to know Him in his great love and might honor and love Him truly. "That is well said," said Big Bear. "Yes," said Shoeboot, "The white people know God from the Book and we, from other things." He said further, "I love you; I have never heard anything bad about you. But there are also very bad white people." In which we agreed with him.
John Szarkowski says of him, "One of nature’s noble men, and a legitimate American genius and nut."
No photographer’s work has reached out and grabbed me like the work of O. Winston Link. To say that he took nighttime photographs of the last Norfolk and Western steam locomotives doesn’t do him justice. He takes you to a primal familiar spiritual landscape with his 1950s work in the Southern Appalachians.
With the owl as his emblem, O. Winston Link was a unique character…tireless and innovative in finding and lighting and photographing the trains streaking through the night. And at the same time, his human subjects were depicted with a remarkable degree of wistful intimacy.
One of his best known works, Hotshot Eastbound, shows the patrons of a drive-in theatre, huddled in their chrome-festooned automobiles, watching a jet plane on the movie screen while a locomotive speeds past. It is such a distinct image that the creators of the Simpsons recreated the scene, as David Bryant explains in a great story about an unusual tribute.
The Winston Link photography collected in Steam Steel & Stars is astounding, the story behind it equally so. One-time Link assistant, Thomas Garver, concludes the collection with this:
As we can now see, the romantic documentation of the vanishing machinery I thought was our sole purpose was only a fragment of his project’s final meaning. For what Winston has preserved may now be seen as a wonderful and much more complex vignette of the individual lives of small-town America, and that, too, has all but vanished.
In 1937, the young linguist Joseph Sargent Hall was hired to document the lives of older mountain residents allowed to remain in the Great Smoky Mountains after the land was purchased for a national park. He met many unique people.
It was said of Mrs. Clem Enloe, from Tight Run Branch, NC, that she was "an awful hand to fish." People would slyly suggest, "have Mrs. Enloe tell about her fishing rights." She would snap at the interviewer, "Are you a little Park man or a big Park man?" Without waiting for an answer, she’d continue, "big Park man or little Park man, you son of a bitch, I fish when I please, winter or summer. See that can of worms?" (which were then forbidden in the park)
Understandably, many of the displaced residents resented the national park, saying things like "It’s the worst thing that ever ruint this country." Or as a man from Hartford, TN, said, "Before the park came in, I could shoot a rabbit or a possum whenever I wanted to. Now I don’t stand no more show than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking!"
Hall and his associates collected unforgettable stories and memorable expressions, such as:
It began to come down dusky; the sun was a-settin'. We ought to do plenty of fishing against the season closes. It's not generated in me to steal. Hit'll kill ye or cure ye, one.
I didn't want to be catched in the rain and no shelter. Dad gone it, there weren't even a sprig of fire in his place! Hit was thick of houses, thick of people up thar then. I had a good barn until come a wind storm and blowed it down.
I would rather surround (avoid) a snake than kill it. I let drive (shot) at him. The bear broke to run and ran yan way up the mountain. The day before the hunt we usually go and find where the bears are usin'. There's a heap more hard work and slavish runnin' and trampin' in bear huntin' than in 'coon huntin'.
Pictured is a CCC enrollee interviewing Steve Woody.
To sum up the feeling of injustice, Kasra Anghai, an Iranian poet, shares what it means to be in prison:
In the bewilderment of the forest we had found a hut with white walls but later we found out that the hut was the crows’ dream and we had been lost in the labyrinths of a melody played by an old musician beyond the river.
What a medium, concrete! So much good to say about its fluidity, strength and endurance. Build it better with concrete, I do believe….
We’d talked for months about a kitchen island countertop - thinking concrete would be an interesting roll of the dice. It’s a very simple and basic process, in case you want to do it yourself. I didn’t say easy.
A couple of weeks ago, we started with a 1 ½ inch deep mold lined with melamine. Installed rebar and wire, covered that with high-strength concrete. Troweled it smooth, allowed to dry gradually, then removed from the mold. The 52 by 38 inch slab weighed in at 225 pounds.
From that point on... grinding, sanding, sanding and more sanding, polishing, sealing, waxing. Fu-Tung Cheng, the guru of the concrete countertop movement, sells a non-toxic water-based sealer, and a wax for the final finish.
So far so good on this experiment, but plenty of sanding still to go. Then, the heavy lifting.
One of my neighbors insists he saw a panther scoot past the old barn a couple of months ago. I have no reason to question his veracity. Invariably, I have two responses to these sightings. A voice whispers in one ear, "Man, that’s so cool, maybe you’ll see it some day." And in the other ear, "He’s mistaken somehow. If there were panthers around here, how come you never find a carcass...or...something?" The debate is reignited with every new report.
In the past thirty years of kicking around these hills, I have caught a fleeting glimpse of a bobcat on only two occasions. No doubt there are a goodly many of those cats roaming about, and they manage to remain almost invisible. So why doubt the ability of an even smaller number of panthers to evade detection.
At least most of the time. This week in the Cashiers newspaper, the Crossroads Chronicle, Nathaniel Axtell writes of a big cat spotted on Chattooga: "A U.S. Forest Service worker claims he dove into the Chattooga River last month to escape a black panther that was coming at him, less than two miles below the Burrell's Ford bridge."
Georgia wildlife officials thought it might have been a river otter. And despite numerous reports of black panthers spotted locally, an equally skeptical biologist in Highlands declared, "There is no such thing as a black panther." He added that if you let your imagination wander, even the tracks of a wild turkey will resemble those of a black panther. Well, what does that biologist think we are…stupid?
I agree with the reasoning of the forest service staffer’s co-worker, who concluded, "It had to be pretty scary to make him want to jump in the river that day." [More coverage of this story here.]
Back in 2002, biologist Donald Linzey went cougar hunting in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and nailed a few sticky pads to a few trees, in an attempt to collect some cat hair. He never collected enough to do a DNA test, found no scat, no prints. Even so, he was convinced by the number of reported sightings that a few panthers still prowl the remote regions of the park.
If speculation about mountain lions in Cullowhee and the Western North Carolina mountains isn’t enough for you, then Cryptozoology.com has a running list of strange sightings…not just cougars and black panthers, but an albatross in the Niagara, a small animal mummy, a bushy tailed possum, and a skunk ape in Tennessee, to name just a few. Mighty good stuff. The biologist from Highlands would just shake his head in disgust, but there are some intriguing tales told of unusual critters seen where you’d least expect them. What’s wrong with a wandering imagination, anyhow?
The estimated capital cost for a large-scale facility processing approximately 10 tons/day (2,500 to 3,000 tons/yr) of food and yard waste is approximately $30,000 to $40,000 for a basic reactor system, not including land costs. Alternatively, a 200-ton/day facility using the Vermiconversion System (thermophilic composting followed by vermicomposting) was recently implemented for capital cost of approximately $2,000,000.
I know it sounds pricey, but we're talking about a worm farm that replaces a landfill. Frankly, I am glad to see that this is part of the defense budget...MAKE WORMS, NOT WAR!
More mouths to feed around here. One pound of Einsenia fetida – red wiggler earthworms munching on kitchen scraps.
David Suzuki said, "What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet." Their impact might be hard to recognize right now, but when the petroleum runs out, some folks will be glad the permaculturalists explored a realm of useful knowledge.
I figured one small permacultural step would be to let the worms turn coffee grounds into premium fertilizer. And, it’s low maintenance.
A day or so after the worms crawled in from New Jersey, appeared an earthworm posting from Scott Meister and Permaculture Relections: "We can make our waste work for us instead of against us. We can profit from it, instead of paying to have it hurt us." The site has plenty of detailed information on raising red wigglers. For mine, I found an old freestanding laundry sink.
Cleopatra declared that earthworms were sacred. Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms because, he said, "It may be doubted whether there are many other animals in the world which have played so important a part in the history of the world."
In just one acre there can be a million or more earthworms, eating 10 tons of leaves, stems, and dead roots a year and turning over 40 tons of soil.
Healthy soil = healthy crops = healthy people. Good equation to remember. And the Jersey red wigglers are doing their part make the equation work.
You don’t have to go far to find stories of hidden treasure. Right here in Oscar, NC the legends live on. Had you talked to those students lined up in front of the Oscar schoolhouse, I’m sure they could have told you about the gold buried near Tilley Creek.
I hope the folklorists are earning their keep by cataloging the stories of buried treasure all through North Carolina and the Southern Appalachians. In his 1941 book, Western North Carolina Sketches, Clarence Griffin retells the tale of a lost fortune near Chimney Rock, specifically on Round Top Mountain.
A half dozen Englishmen, who owned a mine farther north, were on their way to the coast with a large load of gold. While traveling through Hickory Nut Gap they relaxed their vigilance and were ambushed by Indians. A battle ensued and the Englishmen, not faring well, sought shelter in a cave. To protect themselves, they built a stone wall at the mouth of the cave. It was of no avail as the Indians killed the entire party, with the exception of one Englishman who escaped into the night.
After an arduous week, the sole survivor reached the coast, boarded a ship and returned to his homeland. He intended to organize a party to return to the mountains and recover the gold hidden away inside the cave on Round Top. On the eve of his return, though, he lost his eyesight and had to dictate a map showing where the gold was hidden.
For whatever reason, the treasure hunters that came back from England were unsuccessful. In later years, General Collett Leventhorpe brought fifty of his slaves and spent two months searching, but went away empty handed.
One persistent claim held that the map dictated by the blind Englishman was on file at the Library of Congress. Responding to an inquiry in the 1930s, a library official acknowledged receiving numerous requests for a map to the cave "where gold is said to have been hidden by a party of Englishmen in the 18th century, but we have never located such a map."
And if they had located such a map, I think you might have seen that library official and his friends hiking up Round Top Mountain. As far as I know, the gold remains hidden away…on Round Top…and right here in Oscar.
Edwin Way Teale, February 1 entry from A Walk Through the Year:
Now, toward noon, as I am beating my way into the wind across the Starfield, the snow begins. At first it streams out of the north in small hard pellets. I feel the sting as they are hurled against my face. Through slitted eyes, I see them racing by. Within the shelter of the woods, I stop to catch my breath.
Where only yesterday we walked in mild and sunny weather, the trails lie in dim, murky light. Overhead the treetops wail in a rising and falling tumult, swept by uneven gusts. As I plod on deeper into the interior of the woods, I am accompanied by a kind of faint shimmer where the reduced light catches the snow filtering down along the dark tree trunks.
During short-lived lulls, I pick out the low sifting or sibilant hissing sound of the flakes striking twigs and small objects around me. Not once in my hour in the woods do I hear the voice of a living creature. Everything has taken shelter. Everything is lying low.