Monday, March 30, 2009

All for One and One for All


8/3/08

Following is a recent posting by Lynne McTaggart, author of The Intention Experiment:

This week, I read about a fascinating study about bumblebees carried out by Dr. Andy Gardner of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Gardner studies Darwinian adaptation, which to date has been believed to occur at the level of the individual organism.

Gardner, on the other hand, has been studying whether there is such a thing as group adaptation and ‘super organisms’ — where a particular species of animals operates only as a collective — so much so it can be seen to exist as a single organism in its own right.

Recently, Gardiner and his colleagues from Edinburgh and also Oxford University, put together the first theory of group adaptation after using mathematical models to examine what is known as ‘swarm behavior’ to see how individual animals act in relation to the group.

A model community

With some animals, they believe, what appears to be swarming is simply each individual jostling to get to the middle of the group to evade predators.

Bees and ants, on the other hand, are different. Both operate what could be considered a model community. In this instance, individuals continuously act selflessly and are willing to sacrifice and even die if necessary to protect the colony.

One example, he says, is the policing that goes on in hives. Any egg not laid by the queen is destroyed by worker bees, to ensure that only the queen’s offspring survive. In that sense, the entire community is united in a common purpose. In countless other ways, bees will happily die in order to aid the community in some way.

Gardner’s view is that the group dynamic carries on because the bees within any particular colony are mostly relatives of each other and so are simply hardwired by a biological evolutionary imperative – to ensure that queen survives in order to pass on their genes.

But is that the only reason?

Smart machines?

To the scientific community, an animal is still perceived as nothing much more than a robot with an array of chemical processes, without the ability to register much more than the crudest pain or fear—certainly none of the more complicated human cognition or feelings such as excitement, boredom, annoyance, anger or suspicion.

A variation of this theme is the suggestion that animals have a kind of ‘animal consciousness’ that is far less sophisticated than ours.

As one beekeeper put it recently, summing up the prevailing view: “I have found the bee to be a charming, complex but not terribly smart little machine.”

Only Charles Darwin, ironically, maintained that animals have sophisticated emotions — a theory that, unlike his views on evolution, never caught fire. Mark S. Blumberg, of the University of Iowa, and Greta Sokoloff, of Indiana University in Bloomington, number among the most vocal proponents of the behaviorist view, claiming that the idea that animals process emotion is pure fiction and ‘anthropomorphic’.

Smart bees

However, a recent study of insect intelligence being carried out by Dr. Nigel Raine at Queen Mary, University of London, shows that bees are highly intelligent – as intelligent as rats and pigeons, for instance - capable of extraordinary feats of navigation, making use of trigonometry and landmark recognition.

In fact, the London research now shows a hierarchy of intelligence, with some bees innately more clever than others, and able to learn memory tasks and retain information far more quickly.

Dr. Raine’s research conclusively demonstrates that bees show the ability to learn with great nuance, discerning complex patterns, shapes, colors, textures and scents. Raine has also discovered that they can even recognize human faces and make complex calculations about food supplies.

Random acts of self-sacrifice

Although bees may have evolved to be unselfish in the extreme, this may be less of an anomaly than we think. Copious evidence in neuroscience and biology demonstrates that a drive for cooperation and partnership, even sacrifice, rather than selfishness and naked survival, is fundamental to the biological makeup of all living things. Far from being born to be “robot survival machines” shaped by the survival imperative of their genes, both animals and human beings are hardwired for empathy and altruism.

Animal champions such as Jeffrey Masson have amassed hundreds of astonishing cases demonstrating that animals routinely engage in what Gloria Steinem once referred to as ‘random acts’ of self-sacrifice, compassion, courage and generosity toward members of their own species, members of other species and even toward humans, often to their own detriment.

Although Masson’s work has been discounted as anecdotal, the hundreds of individual case studies from him and other scientists compound into a convincing argument that animals are capable of extraordinary self-sacrifice.

Animals routinely evidence moments in which they put aside the most fundamental drive of all: the need to eat. In innumerable instances, Masson and McCarthy have discovered instances where animals have shared food or ensured that weaker individuals in a pack or herd be fed, even if it means giving up their own food. This occurs even in species like red foxes, known for jealously guarding their own catch.

Evolved beyond conflict

Rather than mindless drones, following in step, it could be that bees are highly intelligent creatures that have somehow evolved to avoid conflict for the sake of the whole.

Nevertheless, a ‘superorganism’ —with as advanced a social organization as bees or ants — is quite rare, and can only exist when the international conflict within a social group has been eliminated or suppressed.

That is why, says Dr. Gardner, “we cannot use this term, for example, to describe human societies.”

This evidence about bee intelligence and behavior particularly interests me because bees, as you may know, are disappearing in great numbers. All over the developed world, honey bees are disappearing, suffering from what scientists term Colony Collapse Disorder, where the entire community mysteriously just disappears.

There is no evidence of dead bodies lying around – just an inexplicably empty hive that has been left behind.

Can it be that bees collectively decide that it is wise to up sticks and go because they are smart enough to figure out that their environment is electrically and chemically polluted?

So tell me that’s the decision of a dumb animal.


8/3/08

More at http://www.theintentionexperiment.com/all-for-one-and-one-for-all-2.htm

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Bridge



Smokies Bridge, 3/29/09

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Changing Landscapes


From Eric Sloane’s Our Vanishing Landscape

We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.
--Lawrence Durrell

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.
--Andrew Wyeth

This book which is the sort of thing referred to as a "mirror of the past," will have done its job only if it first reflects the present, as a mirror really does. When a man has lost sight of his past, he loses his ability to look forward intelligently. With this thought in mind, I hope that my sketches in word and drawing will amount to more than drippy nostalgia.
--Eric Sloane, author’s note to Our Vanishing Landscape


One of my heroes is Eric Sloane, the artist, cultural historian and writer. His manner of looking at, and responding to, the landscape is something that's inspired me for years. In exploring multiple ways to view and understand the landscape around me I find not just someone else’s past but my own present.

Recently, a friend reminded me that much of North Carolina is more heavily forested now than it was eighty or a hundred years ago. Rusty strands of barbed wire, deep in the woods, are one reminder of that. Many times, these traces of long fallen fences have caused me to pause and consider that tree-covered hills had been open pasture not so long ago.

As people have abandoned farming, many of the old meadows and fields have been overtaken by trees. One of the most dramatic illustrations of the treeless mountain landscape is the photograph [below] from North Carolina and Its Resources, issued by the state board of agriculture in 1896. It shows the Barnard Farm in the Iotla Valley of Macon County, near the Little Tennessee River. If not for the mountains rising in the distance, you might think you’re looking at Kansas.



Blue Eyes and Petroglyphs



Oconostota

I’ve had a story that I’ve been wanting to tell. It concerns a petroglyph, not far from here, that you probably don’t know about. And I don’t want to tell you much about it. Least of all, where it is.

That petroglyph fits into a bigger story, or actually, into a whole web of stories. So many that I couldn’t decide where to begin. Then, after reading a bit about John Sevier lately, I finally decided he could kick this off.

In 1782, the notorious Indian fighter of Tennessee fell into a conversation with the Cherokee chief Oconostota about mysterious ancient fortifications along the Hiwassee River. Oconostota repeated a story that has been told by many – that an ancient race of white people had inhabited the region, and built the forts, long before the Cherokees moved in.

Oconostota explained to Sevier that those white people had descended from Welsh travellers who had crossed the mighty ocean several centuries before and landed near Mobile Bay. The story of those immigrants will eventually take us to quite a few places, including that petroglyph. But not today. For today, John Sevier's letter about his meeting with Oconostota is enough.


John Sevier
Knoxville, Tennessee,
October 9th, 1810

To Amos Stoddard

I shall with pleasure, give you the information required, so far as my memory will now serve me, and the help of a memorandum I hastily took on the subject, of a nation of people called the Welsh Indians. In the year 1782, I was on a campaign against the Cherokees, and during my route, discovered traces of very ancient fortifications. Some time after the expedition, I had occasion to enter into a negotiation with the Cherokee Chiefs, for the purpose of exchanging prisoners. After the exchange had been settled, I took an opportunity of enquiring of a venerable old chief, named Oconostota, (then, and for nearly sixty years had been, a ruling chief of the Cherokee nation,) if he could inform me of the people that had left such signs of fortifications in their country and particularly the one on the bank of the Highwassee river? The old warrior briefly answered me as follows;

It is handed down by our forefather, that the works were made by white people, who had formerly inhabited the country, while the Cherokees lived low down in the country, now called South Carolina, and that a war existed between the two nations for many years. At length, it was discovered, that the whites were making a number of large boats, which induced the Cherokees to suppose, that they intended to descend the Tennessee river. They then collected their whole band of warriors, and took the shortest and most convenient route to the muscle shoals in order to intercept them down the river. In a few days, the boats hove in sight, and a warm combat ensued, with various success for several days.

At length the whites proposed to the Indians, that if they would exchange prisoners, and cease hostilities, they would leave the country, and never more return; which was acceded to, and, after the exchange, parted in friendship. The whites then descended the Tennessee to the Ohio, and then down to the big river, (Mississippi) then up it to the muddy river, (Missouri) then up that river to a very great distance. They are now on some of it's branches; But they are no longer a white people; they are now all become Indians; and look like the other red people of the country:"

I then asked him, if he had ever heard any of his ancestors say what nation of people those white people belonged to? He answered; "I have heard my grandfather and other old people say, that they were a people called, Welsh; that they had crossed the great water, and landed near the mouth of Alabama river, and were finally driven to the heads of its water, and even to Highwassee river, by the Mexican Indians, who had been driven out to their own country by the Spaniards."

Many years past I happened in company with a Frenchman, who lived with the Cherokees, and had been a great explorer of the country west of the Mississippi. He informed me, "that he had been high up the Missouri, and traded several months with the Welsh tribe; that they spoke much of the Welsh dialect, and although their customs were savage and wild, yet many of them, particularly the females were very fair and white, and frequently told him, they had sprung from a white nation of people; also stated they had yet some small scraps of books remaining among them, but in such tattered and destructive order, that nothing intelligible remained." He observed that their settlement was in a very obscure part of the Missouri, surrounded with innumerable lofty mountains. The Frenchman's name has escaped my memory, but I believe it was something like Duroque.

In my conversation with the old chief Oconostota, he informed me, that an old woman in his nation named Peg, had some part of an old book given her by an Indian living high up the Missouri, and thought he was one of the Welsh tribe. Unfortunately before I had an opportunity of seeing the book, the old woman's house, and its contents, were consumed by fire. I have conversed with several persons, who saw and examined the book, but it was so worn and disfigured, that nothing intelligible remained; neither did any one of them understand any language but their own, and even that, very imperfectly.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Battling Rattlers



I’ve been reading the journals of John Lyon, an early botanist of the Southern Appalachians, who crossed Balsam Gap, traveled down Scott’s Creek and went across to Cullasaja in 1808. From his base in Asheville, Lyon wandered in all directions to collect unusual plants.

On one such trip to Knoxville, Lyon encountered a Colonel McClelan who told him a story - and what a preposterous story it was:

The same gentleman informs me that he very lately was an eye witness of a most severe battle between two large Rattlesnakes. One of them having been bitten by the other retired from the conflict a little distance and ate 2 or 3 leaves of a plant which the Colonel showed me and which proves to be the Coreopsis senafolia [Coreopsis major] of Mich. and immediately returned to the contest, and after continuing it with great fury for some time one of them wase again bitten and immediately disentangled himself and repaired to the same plant and eate some of it as before, and again renewed the contest.

The Colonel then stepped up quietly without disturbing the combatants and pulled up the plant, and again took a convenient station to see the issue; when after some time one of them was again bitten and immediately retired in search of the plant as before but not finding it immediately turned over on his back and died in 2 or 3 minuts. Whither it was the same individual snake that was bitten each time he could not ascertain from their writhing and twisting together during their conflict.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, this is the only reference to coreopsis as a remedy for snakebite. Coreopsis major belongs to the Aster or Sunflower Family. It grows to the height of two to three feet and has a slender stem. Its leaves are two to four inches long and one quarter of an inch to an inch wide. It is common in the Little River Gorge of the Great Smokies, flowering from June through August.





Perhaps coreopsis does hold promise as a snakebite remedy…

…but I would like to hear something more convincing than the Colonel’s vivid account of the battling rattlers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Acony Bell








discovered by a man who didn't name it,

named for a man who didn't see it,

by someone who didn't know where it was































Monday, March 9, 2009

In the Hothouse with Cahookie


Geese on the Tuckasegee River

When I was a kid growing up near Charlotte I would often hear the name of a thoroughfare in the Queen City, Tuckaseegee Road. And even though I’ve been crossing the Tuckasegee River every day for the past thirty years, I never attempted to make the connection.

Until now.

The Tuckaseegee Trail was an ancient path between present-day Charlotte and Lincolnton. Where that trail crossed the Catawba River, the spot was known as the Tuckaseegee Ford. As early as 1794, the botanist Andre Michaux referred to that location by name. Today, the US National Whitewater Center is situated there.

By some accounts, the origin of the name “Tuckasegee” (Tsiksitsi) has been elusive. Hiram Wilburn did translate the name as "traveling terrapin," possibly referring to the slow movement of the river at the forks near the old village of Tuckasegee. And this figures into an interesting reference in an 1845 article from Southern and Western Magazine and Review, “Naming of Places in the Carolinas.”

It’s an amazing article, one of the two or three most exciting finds I’ve made in my research over the past few years. But due to a number of inconsistencies in the article, I wouldn’t vouch for any of the details it relates. Nevertheless, it is some mighty interesting stuff, including stories told by the 110-year-old Cherokee elder, Chiule.

The portion of the article, though, that relates to the Tuckasegee is attributed to a manuscript from an unnamed “old and worthy citizen of North-Carolina.” According to that manuscript, as quoted in the 1845 article:

In the winter of 1795, I was in company with Felix Walker, at an Indian hot house, on Tuckasidga river, and through Archy, an interpreter, I inquired of an old Indian woman, said to be upwards of one hundred years, called Cahookie, who informed me that the Tuckasidga ford, on the Catawba river, took its name from the Indians on that river, where we then were, crossing the Catawba at that place, to fight the Catawba Indians. She described the ford and Indian path correctly, according to my own knowledge of the places.

It was from this use of it that it was called Tucksidgee. I asked her the meaning of the word.—She said it was “Upland Terrapin"—that a Terrapin, because it closed itself up, and was "locked" as it were, was called from Tucasee,—to lock.—that Tuckasidga river was, in other words, Terrapin river. She informed me that the Cherokee ford on Broad river, also took its name from the use made of it by the Cherokees crossing to fight the Catawbas. She described truly the ford and the islands below, and said that the Cherokees formerly lived west of that river.


I will interject here that I’ve not been able to gather many helpful clues to identify the narrator of this tale. Felix Walker (1752-1828) did spend some time as a trader and land speculator in Haywood County, he was a friend of Daniel Boone and he served in the U. S. Congress. A young Will Thomas worked as an apprentice in Felix Walker’s store.

An Indian hot house is what we might call a sweat lodge, and according to Mooney was a place where old people would sleep, which might explain the odd assembly of characters in the winter of 1795.

The interpreter, “Archy” was likely Arthur Archibald 'Archy' Coody, Jr. (1760-1809) who served as interpreter during the negotiation of several peace treaties with the Cherokee. Regarding old Cahookie, I can find no other references.

However, the narrator went on to ask her about another place name in the area:

I inquired the meaning of Cataloochy. She said, that long ago, an Indian had got some whiskey, and was encamped there—that another Indian wanted to share his liquor, but the owner insisted that all was gone. The other, however, taking up the bottle, and shaking it, said "Cataloochy"—that is, "there is something in the bottle." Hence the stream is 'Cataloochy, or something in the bottle.'

She said that Occoneluptee means red or yellow hills or banks. This river falls into the Tuckasidga on the north side."


Great Blue Heron on the Tuckasegee River

The 1845 article commented on the preceding passage from the old manuscript:

Cahookie, was doubtless a Cherokee woman. None but a Cherokee would ever insist upon the fighting propensities of that people, which were greatly ridiculed among the other Indians—by the Catawbas in particular, who would never have dreamed of the former seeking them out for fighting. The latter, indeed, may have given the name of Tuckasidga, or Terrapin ford, to a route pursued by the others, signifying thus, the slowness and reluctance with which they advanced to war, and how closely they kept themselves housed and locked up at the approach of an enemy.

Mystery solved (maybe)! The aboriginal residents of the Tuckasegee Valley went east to fight the Catawbas and were memorialized in the name of the trail they followed to pursue their enemies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

R. I. P. Macho B




Ordinarily I would welcome an occasion to post some big cat pictures.

But not this time.

Oh, I’m posting the pictures. It’s just that I don’t welcome the circumstances.

On Thursday, mourners gathered in Tucson, Arizona to hold a memorial service for Macho B.

The male jaguar was first spotted in southeastern Arizona in 1996 when he was about age 2 or 3. Prior to his appearance, people believed that jaguars had been absent from the area for decades.

From his obituary:

Macho B was very rarely seen, but was often caught by researchers’ remote cameras. He had his haunts, his habits, and his many fans. Macho B had been inadvertently captured in a snare trap on February 18th, and so was fitted with a satellite collar to track his movements. On March 2nd, he was recaptured when he was observed to be in poor condition and to have trouble walking. Veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo diagnosed the kidney failure.

Because of his precarious condition, Macho B was euthanized.

A year ago, a recovery plan for jaguars in southern Arizona was abandoned because it conflicted with the Bush administration’s intentions to install a fence along the Mexican border. The status of that fence, and implementation of a recovery plan for the jaguar, are still being litigated under the terms of the Endangered Species Act.



Thursday, March 5, 2009

Season Change

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3/5/09

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There seems to be a kind of order in the universe, in the movement of the stars and the turning of the earth and the changing of the seasons, and even in the cycle of human life. But human life itself is almost pure chaos. Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own rights and feelings, mistaking the motives of others, and his own.
-Katherine Anne Porter


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To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
-George Santayana
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For him in vain the envious seasons roll, Who bears eternal summer in his soul.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Like a God Above the Mountain Landscape

This guy's such a king here nowadays that the people crave even his dirt.
- Los Angeles Times, discussing Phil Mickelson


I'd like to thank my sponsors, including KPMG.

My commitment to golf is to creating the highest quality courses that are challenging, engaging and always provide a truly enjoyable experience each time they are played. To do that, you need to find the most beautiful landscapes available, and develop dream destinations for golfers from around the world. We've done that in the mountains of North Carolina.
- Phil Mickelson


I don’t keep up with Phil Mickelson, the golfer.

But once in a while, I check in on Phil Mickelson, the golf course designer. As we all know, he is eager to take credit for carving his massive initials into the Tuckasegee River valley.

Well, guess what? I have a video message from Phil, welcoming us to his new course at River Rock. Very impressive. And the fly-over footage in the video is thrilling.

Fore!

http://www.revstudio.net/priver.html

The Legasus guys fudge a little and say the golf course is near Cashiers, NC on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. The rest of us would say it’s near East Laporte, NC on Moody Bridge Road. But that doesn’t have the same allure. And it's all about allure.

An optimistic press release informs us:

The River Rock clubhouse is slated to open in fall 2009 along with a unique, 22-hole instructional short course, called King's Grant, designed by Mickelson's long-time swing consultant Rick Smith.

This press release at http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/mickelson_finalizing_design_for_river_rock_in_north_carolina was full of facts and figures:

The par-72 River Rock will measure approximately 7,100 yards at its maximum, with the yardage mitigated by downhill drops to several fairways and greens. Just six of the 18 holes will play uphill on a site that ranges from 2,250 to 4,250 feet above sea level. Among the more dramatic topographical features are a 114-foot descent on the fourth hole and an uphill of climb of 74 feet on the 11th.

I had to stop and re-read those last few sentences to picture the design. All I could envision was something that looked like an M. C. Escher print.



This Mickelson course at River Rock will be a real humdinger. Dig this:

* The second hole is a 305-yard, par-3 from the tips, with a 65-foot drop to a green that sits on a knoll with 180-degree views of the nearby mountains.
* The 343-yard third hole is a drivable par-4. The 270-yard carry over a stream and ravine is helped considerably by the 104-foot drop from tee to green.
* The 15th and fourth fairways cross one another, a rarity in American golf.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Phil Mickelson website - http://www.philmickelson.com/index.php - had a message board.

The word "slavish" comes to mind when describing the goofy fanatics posting on the forums. One wanted to know Phil’s blood type. Another wanted to know his shoe size. Bizarre stuff like that. Mostly, these were extended discussions about what a great guy Phil is and how he will beat Tiger again. Some day.

Occasionally, a thread would begin with the breathless announcement that Mickelson’s course was underway near Cashiers and it would be just swell. Hurray for Phil!

Doubters and skeptics commenting on such threads were likely to get banished from the message board. And now, at least for the moment, it seems that the official Phil Mickelson message board has folded up shop.

Or maybe the moderator just got tired of deleting impertinent questions about the River Rock project.

You’d think Phil Mickelson would enjoy getting to know his Jackson County neighbors, so maybe the message board will reappear.



Until then, we can catch up on the news we would have already known if we had been regular readers of Golf Community Reviews - http://www.golfcommunityreviews.com/north-carolina/phil-mickelson-to-design-nc-mountain-course.html

Phil Mickelson to design NC mountain course

Saturday, 28 April 2007

We learned about Phil's new venture in an advertisement for a new community, River Rock, near Cashiers, NC, way up in the mountains. What especially caught our eye in the double-page ad was the photo of a smiling Phil, rising like a god above the mountain landscape, his head literally in the clouds. He looks like a giant billboard. On his head is the ubiquitous golf cap bearing the unfortunately horsey Bearing Point logo, and on the left breast area of his shirt the Callaway Golf logo. Near his right sleeve is the River Rock logo, larger than the others but almost a half page below Bearing Point, which is the first thing you see on the page. Bearing Point's lawyers must have done a great job of the fine print when they signed Phil to the contract.

River Rock is Mickelson's first project since announcing formation of his design company in January. His only other golf course design was for Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, AZ, which opened in 2001. Mickelson Design also has other projects on the drawing board in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. No scheduled opening date for the course at River Rock is listed. We've visited the area and know that the landscape is breathtaking. River Rock will be composed of five separate villages within a short drive of each other and near Lake Glenville, the most elevated lake east of the Mississippi River. The planned $100 million in amenities will rival the Cliffs Communities which are about an hour away. Home sites are offered at prices up to $1.5 million.

One final note: The logo for Phil Mickelson Design is clever and cute. Between the words Phil and Mickelson is a graphic icon of a golfer, arms raised with putter extended from one of them, feet slightly off the ground. Anyone who watched the end of the Masters tournament three years ago will recognize it as Phil's magical levitation after his clutch winning putt at the 18th.


There you have it. The ability to defy gravity is a distinct advantage for anyone who would design and build a golf course in these mountains.


So I'd say Phil Mickelson is the right guy for the job. Not only that...


...he looks like a giant billboard.


[Addendum - This commentary from the LA Times appeared on Mickelson's website.]

About an hour after he'd quelled the tempest that can rage between his temples and birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and won, Phil Mickelson stood Sunday on a veranda at Riviera Country Club, grinning and signing serially for a throng that kept blurting its adoration.


As the golf freaks and beer nuts and other fanatics walked away sated and the crowd thinned out, a young man held up toward Mickelson a paper plate covered with an upside-down paper plate. Mickelson opened the contraption, and for a moment it seemed someone had brought him maybe a hot dog and some potato salad.

After Mickelson signed the cover plate and handed it back, though, the contents turned out to be his divot from No. 8 in the fourth round of the Northern Trust Open, which just went to show a fresh reality around Hogan's Alley.

This guy's such a king here nowadays that the people crave even his dirt.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Illustrating the Mountains, IV

It overlooks a country of peaks and projections, of frightful precipices, often of naked rock, but generally fringed with delicate foliage; a country dotted with fertile clearings set down in the midst of forests; of valleys inaccessible save by narrow passes; of curious caves and tangled trails; of buttes and knobs, reached only by dangerous passes, where one finds the bluff's base thousands of feet down in some nook, and as he looks up sees the wall towering far above him.
-Edward King, 1875



I opened up the Heart of the Alleghenies and saw this mountain with the curious name, "UNAKA-KANOOS."

The authors (Zeigler and Grosscup) of the 1883 book on Western North Carolina explained:

… we came out before the massive front of a peculiar mountain. Whiteside, or in literal translation of the Cherokee title, Unaka-kanoos, White-mountain, is the largest exposure of perpendicular, bare rock east of the Rockies. It is connected, without deeply-marked intervening gaps, with its neighboring peaks of the Blue Ridge; but from some points of observation it appears isolated—a majestic, solitary, dome-shaped monument, differing from all other mountains of the Alleghanies in its aspect and form.




I don't know much about the artists who created these illustrations of Whiteside Mountain. James Wells Champney did much of the art for The Great South (1875), where the pictures of Devil’s Courthouse and the edge of the abyss appeared. The page with two views of the mountain was from the Harper’s article, By-paths in the Mountains, by Rebecca Harding Davis (1880).





In The Great South, Edward King shares a story told while he was atop Whiteside Mountain:

"One day," said the Surveyor, seating himself with admirable carelessness on the dreadful slope of a rock overhanging the awful depths, "I was taking some levels below, and at last thought I would climb Whiteside. While I was coming up a storm passed over the mountains, and when I reached the top everything was hidden in such a dense mist, fog, or cloud, that one could hardly see his hand before his face. I strolled on until I reached a spot which I thought I recognized, and sat down, stretching my feet carelessly.

"Luckily enough, I didn't move; I was mighty still, for I was tired, and the fog was solemn-like; but pretty soon it blew away right smart, and dog my skin if I wasn't perched on the very outer edge of this line of rock, and about two inches between me and twelve hundred feet of sheer fall.

"I saw the trees in Cashier's valley, and the clearings, and then the sky, for I didn't look twice at the fall below me; but I flattened myself against the rock, and turned over; and I never want to come up here in a fog again."

Imagine a waterfall 2,000 feet high suddenly turned to stone, and you have the general effect of the Whiteside precipice as seen in the single, terrified, reluctant glance which you give from the top. There is the curve and the grand, dizzy bend downward; were it not for occasional clumps of foliage down the sides, the resemblance would be absolute.

The mountain itself lies rooted in the western slope of the Blue Ridge. [Silas] McDowell has compared it to the carcass of some great monster, upon whose head you climb, and along whose mammoth spine you wander, giddy with terror each time you gaze over the skeleton sides.




Edward King imagined the future of the Cashiers Valley and Whiteside Mountain:

The wealthy citizens of South Carolina have long known of the charms of this section, and many of them annually visit it. In a few years its wildness will be tamed; a summer hotel will doubtless stand on the site of "Wright's" farm-house, and the lovely forests will be penetrated by carriage roads; steps will be cut along the ribs of Whiteside; and a shelter will be erected on the very summit. A storm on the vast rock, with the lightning playing hide and seek in the crevices of the precipice, is an experience which gives one an enlarged idea of the powers of Heaven.




For good measure I’ve included a few postcards showing how the portrayal of the Unaka-kanoos has changed over time. The first color postcard of Whiteside (with the river in the foreground) was published before 1908.