From Little Panthertail Mountain:

PCard View of L.T.I looked up the lyrics of that wonderful African American folk song Go Tell It On The Mountain. Though no author was given I found the compiler was John Wesley Work, Jr. who died in 1925. Mr. Work was a collector of folk songs, and a professor of music, Latin, and history at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Go Tell It On The Mountain is primarily a Christmas song as the first three verses, the ones we are familiar with, speak of the birth of Jesus.

Here are two more. These two verses comprised the Plantation Christmas Song.

     When I am a seeker…..I seek both night and day…..I ask the Lord to help me….And he shows me the way.

     He made me a watchman…..Upon the city wall…..And if I am a Christian…..I am the least of all.

I always loved Go Tell It On The Mountain; it’s lively and fun to sing, and what a strong imperative: Go! Tell it! Isn’t that what Jesus said?

St. Peter, preaching the gospel

St. Peter, preaching the gospel

From Little Panthertail Mountain: I have found there are various interpretations of Acts Chapter 2, which is surprising to me, for the narrative of this Chapter seems pretty plain. For that reason I am setting down what the English words as recorded in the King James version of the Bible actually say to me. And, if it counts for anything, I pursued an English major my first year in college.

For background, the first chapter of Acts tells us that after Jesus ascended to heaven there were about 120 of his followers  based at an “upper room.”  These people included Jesus’ disciples (except for Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and later committed suicide,) Jesus’ mother and other women, and his “brethren.”  These individuals “continued” with prayer and supplication, eventually selecting Matthias as a replacement for Judas. fireThey were all together on the day of the Jewish Pentecost (a festival that Jews from near and far attend each year,)  when something supernatural happened. “…suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it (the SOUND like the wind) filled all the house…And there appeared unto them cloven (split) tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:2-3) These 120 people heard a loud sound like a fierce wind and they saw what looked like a burning flame sitting on each of  their companions that were  in the room with them. The next verse says “…they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues,…” They, the 120 people, were ALL  (not just Peter who later preached, but ALL)  filled  and ALL began to speak in other tongues. That is 120 people convened in an upper room, all speaking in other languages. Some were speaking in Greek, some in Italian, some in an Egyptian tongue, as well as many other languages as indicated in Verses 9-11.

There were quite a number of Jews from out of town present in Jerusalem that day who had come to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. We will call them tourists.  Many Jews were scattered far and wide then even as they are today. Verse 5 says that devout Jews from every nation under heaven were dwelling at Jerusalem. Verses 9, 10, and 11 list the nationalities of these Jews. They were: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians..” (Acts 2:9-11) You can imagine the uproar produced by 120 people all speaking in different languages at once. Of course that caused quite a stir and as it continued it attracted the attention of the other residents of Jerusalem. It is no wonder some folks thought these people were drunk.

Pretty soon people began coming to see what was going on. Verse 6 says the happening was “noised abroad” and “the multitude came together.” The multitude  included the Jewish tourists attending the festival of Pentecost. The verse says they were confounded because “every man heard them speak in HIS  OWN language.” Each of the tourists heard them speak in the language of HIS country instead of the Hebrew tongue. They were “all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, are not all these (who) speak Galileans?” Jesus was a Galilean, and his disciples were local people, at least in part, for some of them were  fishermen who worked the sea of Galilee. The Galilean language was the same as the Hebrew language, which  all Jews spoke and recognized, regardless of where they lived; however, the Galilean dialect was not “pure” or “strict” Hebrew. ( In similar fashion, a Southern drawl is not exactly the King’s English.) However, these 120 Galileans were NOT speaking the Jewish or Hebrew language of the Galileans. They were speaking languages from other countries.

Verse 8 asks the question posed by the Jewish tourists: ‘How hear we…in our own tongue, wherein we were born?”  The tourists hailed from as many as thirteen areas or countries round about Jerusalem and Judea. To repeat the list already given, they were: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phyrgia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the Libyans about Cyrene, Romans, Cretes and Arabians. They said, “We do hear THEM (the 120) speak in OUR TONGUES the wonderful works of God.” They spoke in the tongues of the tourists. The tourists asked each other “What meaneth this?” (Verse 12) But others said they (the 120) were drunk. However, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, rose up and began to preach, telling the crowd that those who spoke in tongues were not drunk. Rather, this phenomenon was the fulfillment of prophecy given by Joel. Peter would have spoken in Hebrew, the one language which everyone present could understand, since they all were Jews. If he had spoken in the Egyptian language, would the Greeks have been able to understand him? No. The gift of interpretation of tongues, like the gift of speaking in tongues, is given only to born again believers.  The multitude (as mentioned in Verse 6) were not born again or saved when they came to find out what was going on at the upper room. Those present who got saved did so AFTER Peter preached the gospel of Christ to them. Verse 41 says “…the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

For folks who don’t see it as I do, we must agree to disagree. Our salvation does not depend on our viewpoint on this matter, but on our relationship to Jesus.

Red magnolia blossom Variety unknown

Red magnolia blossom
Variety unknown

About a year ago I discovered a very large tree bearing orangey red blossoms. Everything about this tree, including the flowers, said “magnolia.” For a year I have been trying to get a precise identity of it. And now (Feb. 2015) I have. It is a Bombax ceiba, of the mallow family. It is from Asia. It is gorgeous, but it is not a magnolia.

I am not going to change much about this post, not even the date. Just keep in mind the copy was written a year ago, before I learned this tree is not a magnolia. Also note, the information toward the end of the article concerning the Fraser magnolia is correct.

Yesterday  (in 2014) I happened to be driving up Main Street in Avon Park, a nearby town not much larger than Frostproof (where I am right now 2014) and I spied bright red blossoms in the distance.

We were in the historic section, off the main highway. There are wide park like medians between the two lanes of traffic, and the trees that were planted there so many years ago have grown quite large. As I drew nearer I could determine the red blossoms belonged to a very large deciduous magnolia, I suppose 50 feet high or better, whose drooping lower  limbs spread gracefully over the median in front of the old Jacaranda Hotel. I knew there were red magnolia species, but I had never seen one. What a treat!

I went back today with my camera. These flowers are a gorgeous orangey-red color, much like the fiery red variety of flame azalea. This magnolia blossom has not the common cup shape, nor even the drooping feathery shape. It favors a lily in this respect with a blossom resembling a star when the petals are fully unfurled.  I have been unable to identify the variety of this tree, but I am certain it is a magnolia due partly to its growth habit. In this old tree, it is pretty unmistakable. Also the flower buds (you can see one in the top left of the photo) are clearly magnolia buds. This is such a wonderful find I wanted anyone who might be interested to see it.

There are many magnolia species. In the South we are perhaps most familiar with the evergreen magnolias with their large cup shaped flowers and heady scent. But we have our share of deciduous magnolias that typically bloom before the tree puts on its leaves. There are some beautiful pink and purple ones blooming here now. On the way into Brevard from Lake Toxaway there used to be one on the right hand side of the highway. Most years the cold would get it and you’d never get to see its blossoms, but once in a while it would get by, and Oh! what beautiful orchid colored flowers they were! I’m not sure it is still there. Look for it on Highway 64 near Forest Hills Road.

Fraser magnolia

cucumber tree (Frazer magnolia)

No discussion of magnolias should exclude Transylvania County’s Frazer magnolia, or cucumber tree. Incidentally, this magnolia was first discovered by Bartram; however, credit for it eventually went to Frazer. These are fairly common in our area of the mountains. Note the super large leaves. This is a deciduous magnolia; however, this one blooms after the tree puts on its leaves.

The Old Jacaranda Hotel Avon Park, Florida

The Old Jacaranda Hotel
Avon Park, Florida

Here is the hotel. The magnolia tree is on the left. You can see the red blossoms if you look carefully.

credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

Bob white quail

Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain came to me first as a purchase on the recommendation of my uncle J.T. and then again, as a gift from my cousin Linda, who knew I would enjoy a book of local historical fiction. I kept one, and gave the other to my brother.

I remember when Uncle J.T. told me about Frazier’s book. J.T. had found himself in a conversation about Cold Mountain. “I said, Yeah, I know where Cold Mountain is. I was raised in the shadow of it at Toxaway.” Well, as often happens, there IS more than one Cold Mountain, just like there is more than one Toxaway. Frazier’s Cold Mountain is over in Haywood County and can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. And J.T.’s Cold Mountain is indeed at Toxaway.

Frazier has received considerable acclaim for Cold Mountain, and I am not saying it is undeserved. But one thing ruined Cold Mountain for me. At various places in the narrative Frazier has the unmistakable call of the little bob white quail ringing out AT NIGHT! Did not anyone in the whole process from manuscript to press know the difference between a bob white and a whippoorwill? Makes you want to whack your forehead in exasperation.

J.T. and Linda have both gone on to their reward now, but of course they knew, as I do, that no self respecting quail is going to be out after dark. That mistake just didn’t matter that much to J.T. and Linda, since it was such a good story otherwise.

Now, I have recently finished reading Wayne Caldwell’s two books Cataloochee and Requiem By Fire. I notice on the internet that Mr. Caldwell’s writings are considered to be somewhat akin, or shall we say, somewhat equivalent to Frazier’s. Of that I am no judge. I enjoyed Caldwell’s writings lots more than Frazier’s, but I noticed Caldwell has his plants a little out of order; for instance rhubarb in February. But as Linda and J.T. forgave Frazier about the whippoorwill, I am forgiving Caldwell also.

I have seen Frazier’s Cold Mountain from a distance, and of course my Uncle J.T.’s Cold Mountain is practically over the hill from here. And, I have actually been to Cataloochee, twice. Cataloochee intrigues me. It is not the animals, the elk, the bear, the turkeys or the deer. It is not even the old buildings, lovely as they are. It is the imprint of the past that remains on the land.

It has been nearly a hundred years since the National Park took over the valleys of Cataloochee. But an observant eye can still discern the old fields that today are grown over in pines and poplars. Nor is it hard to hunt out ruins of old stonework, and other evidence of human habitation. The hiking trails so popular now were not made by deer and bison, but by people, whose bones now mingle with the dust beneath the grave markers in the churchyard and cemeteries.

It was the intent of the founders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that the corridors of Cataloochee would revert to wilderness, and to that end nearly every house, barn, shed, and chicken coop was destroyed. Nevertheless, so thin is the veil between those days and these that even today one can almost hear the ringing of axe and anvil along Cataloochee Creek. The unfortunate residents of Cataloochee were long ago dispersed. But there’s something, what is it, that remains?

Mr. Caldwell answers that question in Cataloochee and Requiem By Fire. And for a short read, check out my article in Yahoo Voices entitled “Cataloochee — An American Treasure.”

The photo of the quail is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and is just one more great shot by Brian Stansberry.

Quebec Home

Quebec Home

This time of year I can not help remembering Christmas Past. There was a time when I was younger when I felt that life began after Christmas. The hard part of the year was the end, and once I got past that I could manage. I am not the only one for whom Christmas was (is) a wincing pain, to be endured until friends or family have had their little deal. Untold numbers of people today are only too glad for Christmas to be over.

I thank God that the pain of those years is now only a memory. And it’s not because I’m married now, and life is good.  It is because the Lord led me step by step, by little and by little, away from pain into peace, until finally the pain was gone. Today I can remember that pain, but I can not feel it any more.

It happened during the years I lived at Quebec, fifteen in all. I am brimful of stories from that time. So many astounding things took place. One of them was a real White Christmas.

In North Carolina, unless you live at the crest of the Smokies, it is rare to consistently experience snow at Christmastime. Here in the mountains we have snow fairly often, but not necessarily when we want it, such as December 24th after we have finished our shopping.

I don’t remember what year it was — some time in the late 90’s. Nor do I remember the exact day the snow began falling — maybe Christmas Eve, maybe the day before. I was off from my job for a few days, which was good, for I was never one to drive in new snow. It was beautiful, and I didn’t have to go anywhere so I sat beside the stove and watched it from the living room. It snowed and snowed and snowed until there were ten or twelve inches I guess.

Not enough to keep the four wheel drive trucks from rolling. My house was somewhat hidden, but near the road. I could always hear the traffic going by, and Christmas Eve was no exception, snow or not. But gradually their rumblings became farther and farther apart, and as night drew near an unusual stillness began to settle over the valley.  What was it?  Why had the vehicles stopped passing? And then I realized: It was Christmas Eve — the one night when all self respecting coon hunters, road runners, good old boys and girls, and their kids, stayed home and waited for Santa.

I eventually had to go out to get some firewood to feed my stove. The snow had stopped falling. A pale moon lit up the whole valley. There was no noise, no sound at all except the far away rushing of the creek. The stillness was almost tangible.

I took my wood back inside, chunked it into the stove, and went for my coat and cap. I stood in the snow for a long time that night, under the bare limbs of the big dogwood tree, looking at the white fields below me, and listening to the silence of Christmas Eve, savoring what I knew was a once in a lifetime experience.

witch hazel

witch hazel

I first saw them in the cold of winter, shivering on the banks of the West Fork of the French Broad River, their golden petals nevertheless unfurled, glowing in the thin rays of the December sun. I was amazed at their audacity. Nor were there merely one or two little flowers, struggling to put forth one last show before finally giving up the ghost. Oh,no! The whole bush was bursting with bloom. I didn’t know what they were, but I had heard of the winter flowering shrub, the witch hazel. And that is what it was – a native witch hazel.

After I married Jack and came up here I discovered we had a witch hazel above the spring, a small tree, really. I didn’t notice it until winter, when it bloomed. In the summer I was able to see the fruit and the leaf of this curious bush and I am now able to identify it by the fruit.

Yesterday I noticed a small one in full bloom in the campground and was able to get a good photo of the blossom.

Witch hazel is used as an astringent. It is a treatment for swellings and wounds, as well as  skin problems such as acne and psoriasis. The use of its twigs for divining rods led to its reputation as a witch.

Witch hazel is a plant of encouragement. When summer has passed, the sap has gone down and the world’s turned gray  the brave witch hazel puts forth its frostproof tentacles and toughs it out until spring.

I reckon we can do the same. 

Hickory King corn, a good variety for grits. A very tall corn.

Hickory King corn, a good variety for grits. A very tall corn.

When I was growing up here in Transylvania County we never ate grits. I was an adult before I ever tasted them. And I have to say I cared not for them then. I found them blah, bland and tasteless. But I learned to add salt; and with butter they got better. Now I have them two or three times a week or more. They grow on you.

And no, they don’t grow on bushes. I knew a man once who enjoyed spinning a yarn occasionally. He particularly delighted in telling Yankees how he harvested grits in the fall, shaking them off the grit bushes into a sheet!

There are two types of grits – hominy, and corn. However hominy is corn. So actually, all grits are corn. The difference is in the processing, or lack of it. To make hominy, corn must be soaked in lye or a similar agent until it swells and pops off its husk. The result is a softer grain that when cleaned and dried grinds easily into grits. Almost all grits sold in supermarkets and eaten by consumers today are hominy grits.

Hominy can be eaten as it is after processing. I remember hominy being served at meals from time to time when I was a child. A grain of corn having become hominy is quite a bit larger than its original size, and the taste is different from that of ordinary corn. My aunt Edna told a funny story about the time Grandma left her and my mother in charge. They decided to cook dried hominy. They built the fire in the stove, put on a pot of water, and poured in as much hominy as they thought they needed for supper. If you’ve ever cooked hominy grits you know how much water it takes, even for a small amount. Well, their hominy slurped up the water and was soon expanded to double its size or more and boiling out of the pot. Before their escapade was over, they were cooking hominy in the dishpan.

Corn grits are not as readily available as hominy grits. They are mostly found in specialty shops and farm markets. Grits are almost, but not quite, corn meal. They are prepared by simply grinding whole corn into the proper size and consistency – a little coarser than coarse corn meal. Corn grits take longer to cook; they are “grittier” than hominy grits and more flavorful.

If your ground corn is too coarse for grits, then it’s chicken feed — too fine, it’s corn meal. And you need to know also: corn meal is not just for corn bread. Old folks used to cook it with milk or water for “mush” that they ate with milk and sugar. That’s not my idea of tasty, but Jack says it was very good. I never ate mush, but I will swear by corn meal gravy. There’s just nothing better in the gravy line. Just use your regular recipe and substitute corn meal for flour. The flavor and texture is far better. And then there is Italian polenta, which is also ground corn, but about which I know practically nothing.

I learned to like hominy grits and I must confess to having learned also to enjoy non-hominy corn grits now that I have learned the proper way to cook them. I was using too much water and consequently they were thin and tasteless.  And bitter also. But the bitter taste I found is not typical of corn grits, but was due to the poor quality of that one particular batch of corn.

Like a lot of folks who are senior citizens now, we didn’t have a lot of anything when I was growing up, and that included food. When we had meat, which was not too often, it was squirrel, rabbit, or little fried fish my daddy caught. But we were well fed. Mama always managed to get milk for us. And we had those wonderful staples – pinto beans – and corn bread. We didn’t know the importance of that humble combination at the time, and I was amazed years later when my cousin pointed it out to me. The beans and the corn bread constituted a complete protein!

The Lord does provide!


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