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Daniel was frustrated in his efforts to locate the archaeological sites listed in the Cyrus Thomas report. He did know of one mound that had been destroyed: the one on the campus of Owassee State University, the one excavated by the mustachioed man whose photograph was at the library.
During a time of expansion in the 1920s, the college planned to build dormitories on the ancient site. But after the devastating flood, the plans changed and the area was graded for athletic fields. Questions still nagged at Daniel, “What happened to the inscribed stone in the photograph? Had it been washed away by the floodwaters? Did the archaeologist haul it away in the middle of the night?”
The Mulberry Creek mound had been a more promising possibility, if only he had been out to explore before the dozers scalped the area for a racetrack. Now it was probably too late. And the mound was a small concern compared with what Lola and Winona stood to lose from a race track across the road. He wondered how people like Pam Jackson and Dewaine Dewitt could sleep at night.
Daniel had a detailed topo map of the Owassee Valley and studied how Cyrus Thomas’s descriptions corresponded to features on the modern map. He knew that some of the place names had changed. Besides that, some of the listings were too vague to be of much help. A few were relatively easy to pinpoint. For instance:
Mound on south bank of Mill Creek one mile above junction with Cockrills Creek
He found it on the map, but he knew he couldn’t go there. Several hundred acres deep in the hills east of town were enclosed by a ten-foot-tall razor wire fence, securing a facility developed during the Cold War. The satellite tracking station was a world unto itself, surrounded by national forest. For Congressman Ray Quigley, Sr. (Big Ray) this was a pork project during the glory years of NASA in the 1960s. Later it was transferred to the National Security Agency for reasons never disclosed, but easily surmised.
Although several rows of enormous satellite dishes were the most visible feature of the tracking station, the primary operational center extended at least seven stories underground. A series of tunnels connected the operational center with other auxiliary units underground. Onsite housing and a small commissary and recreation centers served the technicians and researchers at the facility.
The only reason Daniel knew this much was because his uncle was employed during the construction of the station. Since it had opened, people needed proper security clearance to get waved through the gate without proper security clearance. Hospitality was not a hallmark of the station. Hunters who had lingered too close to the fences reported that armed security guards would appear out of nowhere and tell them to move on.
The Mill Creek vicinity had achieved some notoriety long before the tracking station was constructed there. For many years, people had reported hearing a buzzing or humming sound, similar to the sound heard near high-voltage power lines. However, the noise was present long before rural electrification reached Owassee County. In fact, mysterious low-frequency hums have been reported at many locations around the world. The seaside town of Puponga on the northwest tip of New Zealand's south island is one example. Closer to Owasse County, strange buzzing sounds have been heard in Rabun County, Georgia and Roan Mountain, Tennessee.
Travel writer Henry Colton wrote about his investigation of the Roan Mountain hum in 1878:
Several of the cattle tenders on the mountain and also General Wilder had spoken to us about what they called Mountain Music. One evening they said it was sounding loud, and Dr. D. P. Boynton, of Knoxville, Hon. J. M. Thornburg, and myself accompanied General Wilder to the glen to hear it. The sound was very plain to the ear, and was not at all as described – like the humming of thousands of bees – but like the incessant, continuous and combined snap of two Leyden jars positively and negatively charged.
I tried to account for it on the theory of bees or flies but the mountain people said it frequently occurred after the bees or flies had gone to their winter homes or before they came out. It was always loudest and most prolonged just before there would be a thunderstorm in either valley, or one passing over the mountain.
I used every argument I could to persuade myself that it was simply a result of some common cause and to shake the faith of the country people in its mysterious origin but I only convinced myself that it was the result from two currents of air meeting each other in the suck between the two peaks where there was no obstruction of trees, once containing a greater, the other a less amount of electricity, or that the two currents coming together in the open plateau on the high elevation, by their friction and being of different temperatures, generated electricity.
The ‘mountain music’ was simply the snapping caused by this friction and this generation of electricity. Many have noted the peculiar snapping hum to be observed in great auroral displays, particularly those of September, 1859 and February, 1872.
As the amount of electricity in the air currents became equalized or surcharged, they, descending to the other side caused the thunder storm daily in the valleys near the mountain and sometimes immediately on the edge of the timber surrounding the great bald top. The air currents of the Western North Carolina mountains and the East Tennessee valley form an aerial tide, ebbing and flowing.
The heated air of the valley rises from nine in the morning until three or four in the afternoon, making a slight easterly wind up and over Roan Mountain. As night comes on the current turns back into the valley, almost invariably producing a very brisk gale by three or four o’clock in the morning which, in its turn, dies down to a calm by seven and commences to reverse by nine o’clock. This continual change of currents of air makes it an impossibility for any great malarial scourge to exist in the East Tennessee valley, especially its northeastern end.
And with that definitive answer from Henry Colton, the people of East Tennessee could rest easy in knowing they had nothing to fear from low-frequency humming sounds…or malaria.
In the 1990s, the feds prepared to abandon the tracking station. By then, Ray Quigley, Jr. (Little Ray) was serving in Congress, having inherited the seat once held by Big Ray. Thanks to Little Ray, a private consortium took possession of the facility and continued to operate it under the strictest security. Local folks still had no idea what sort of research was being conducted there.
Daniel wondered if the Mill Creek mound remained intact, but he knew there was no chance of his hiking around to investigate. So far, he wasn’t having much luck finding traces of the archaeological sites cataloged by Cyrus Thomas.