April in Pigeon Roost

Pigeon roost

The 1974 Winter Edition of the Foxfire Magazine contains a compilation of newspaper articles written by Harvey Miller. At the time of the magazine’s publication Miller’s weekly column had been around for sixty years and was till being published in the Tri-County News located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Here are a few of Miller’s April articles. I enjoyed them and hope you do too.


Old-timers here contend that catbirds, which were heard chattering for the first time last week, signify that winter is over. Pigeon Roost farmers proclaim that they are again far behind with their essential needed farm work, the hindrance was so much rain, also needed, but it has been too wet to plow.



Current high coffee prices have the people of Pigeon Roost in a dilemma. Some residents have stopped buying coffee and turned to other beverages, mostly of the homemade variety. Others contend they will continue buying and drinking coffee even if it goes to $2 a pound. One oldtimer reported that he has reverted to drinks of yesteryear – spicewood and sassafras tea. Still others say they may roast rye and corn and make a hot drink before they will pay any higher coffee prices.



For the benefit of those who are collecting odd names of places, I will here give name of a hollow located near here and tell why it is called that. The little community is known as Battle Branch and why it is called that does not exactly fit in the real meaning of the name, as there never was a war in the area. It is said that every woman living on that branch had the same wash day and that was in the day when the women used the iron pots on the outside and had a wash bench and used a stick to battle out their clothes, by beating. On wash days their noise was heard so loud up and down the hollow that someone called the area Battle Branch.



Ethel Elaine Miller, 12 years old, reported that her cat name Flossie, who is 6 years old, brought in home April 11, a water snake. By the snake being out now surely must be a good sign that winter weather is over. The cat brings in home every summer alive different kinds of snakes. She said it seems the blacksnake is the hardest kind for the cat to handle. But she always holds the snake for someone to kill it.



At work, my walk from the parking lot leads me between several small buildings. During early summer the catbirds raise a fuss when I take my daily walk to and fro. I haven’t heard them this year so I don’t guess winter is over in my area yet.

Jump over to the Foxfire website and poke around. They are still publishing the magazine and those wonderful Foxfire Books too!



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 13, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    In reference to the use of the word “make” in Jan’s comment, I have heard and used it all my life. You don’t grow a garden you make it. If your peppers grow pretty plants, like mine did last year, but nothing grew on them, your peppers didn’t make. If your corn makes but the stink bugs get more than you do that’s a different story.
    The same usage applies in putting up food. If your jelly don’t set, you say it didn’t make. If your kraut smells like feet, it didn’t make. You have to shake the jar forever before the butter makes.
    “Ain’t you gonna make a garden this year?”
    “I tried last year but the only thing that made was the weeds.”
    “I know what you mean. I planted some late beans but the frost got them before they could make.”

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    April 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    I love the Foxfire books, and I got them for my mother as presents as she got very old. She enjoyed them also. Sassafras had to be had in early spring because it was a blood tonic to build up your blood for all the work to be done according to my grandmother. I also remember making lye soap and helping my grandmother wash clothes in a big iron pot in the back yard. Papa’s flannel’s in the spring turned the water all red. It was a hot job. We used a washboard, and carried water from a creek. Hard job then, but good memories now! The other day, at the doctor, I mentioned I was concerned with all the weather change, warm and then freeze, that my garden plants might not “make”. Then I had to explain what make meant to the doctor. Anyone else use that word. Everyone have a wonderful spring with all the birds, flowers, crops, kids, and families. Jan

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Donna Lynn is still playing the gospel songs by Merle Haggard. Today she played one of his Heart-felt tunes, “Mama’s prayers”. Then she played my favorite, “New Birth” by Paul and Pap. I do believe that’s the clearest singing I’ve ever heard…Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 13, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I enjoyed the 9 years of articles you shared. I was amazed at how people complained about prices, even then. At the Ingles grocery yesterday, I spoke to an older woman studying about the high prices of Chicken. When I told her that I use to get that stuff for $.29 cents a pound, she said she use to get it for $.20. Times and our financial arrangements really have changed…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 13, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Alarka Community in Swain County has a Battle Creek that empties into Alarka Creek just below where Alarka Elementary School used to be. There is a road that runs alongside it that is called Battle Branch Road. Why the stream is a Creek and the road is a Branch, I couldn’t even guess. I am fairly sure they were both named for people named Battle not women beating on wash pots.
    There is supposed to be a Battles Branch that empties into Noland Creek over on the Park but I haven’t found it on the map yet.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Not on topic–but I thought of a word my Mother in law used often. Wondered if it would be in the App. Dict. ” If I had my ‘druthers’, I’d take the pink one”.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    April 13, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I didn’t get in to read your blog til this morning so I am catching up on a few. Loved the picture of the Shape Note Singers. My grandmother loved to sing shape notes. My parents would take her to Hamilton, AL., which wasn’t that far from where she lived in MS to what they called Sacred Harp Singings. I have one of her old hymn books of shaped notes. They sang FA, SO, LA and ME to the shape of the note. No musical instruments. From what I see on Utube it is being sung again in major cities in the North. And I loved your picture of the mountain trail, I have the love of the outdoors that my daddy had. I could just meander down a trail through beautiful pines and a little creek to my heart;s delight. I remember my father saying that he helped his mother wash. She boiled the water in an old black iron pot they had sit by a little stream of water that flowed into a creek. He said, “she battled the clothes on an old board.” I had never heard that word used like that and really turned that over in my head before I asked how could you battle clothes. Seeing that she had five boys, I’m sure she had to battle a lot of overalls. I think about that a lot of times when I am using my electric washing machine and dryer, and I am thankful to have these machines battle it out.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 13, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Your picture gives me a heartache. For almost 24 years I have been missing the opportunity to just walk in the woods. Just too many folks too close together where I live.
    I have a resident mockingbird but no catbirds or brown thrashers. The mockingbird knows that everything I have is his and he shares only under protest. I have a pair of bluebirds returned to the box they used last year and are setting up housekeeping.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 13, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Our catbirds usually arrive in full territorial gear when the honeysuckle begins blooming and the intoxicating fragrance hits the airways. It must entice the breeding decision of the catbirds for their constant “mew” is heard while resting low in the honeysuckle covered shrubs, where a nest maybe started. Their singing repertoire has already attracted the female and marked the territory.
    I am surprised that Chicory coffee wasn’t mentioned. My Dad said that his family drank Chicory coffee, when coffee was scarce and high, probably during the depression. I also have seen Sassafras wrapped in a bundle tied with a rag to secure the roots on the shelf in my Grandmothers kitchen. Also in my Mother’s kitchen. She loved the stuff and would make it on occasion!
    Do you think that those women beating out their wash turned into “Battle Axes” while taking out their aggression on the “linsey-wooley’s”?
    My cat would never, ever in a million years pounce on a snake! No matter how small (worn snake) or how green (harmless) and heaven bar the door when he sees a big old black snake.
    The devil made me do this! One of the memories I have sitting with my son (that passed last summer) out in the yard just a’talking. When I spotted ole Fluffy tiptoeing across the lawn near the garden hose. I said to my son, “Watch Fluffy”! Confused he said, “I was!” I reached down by my chair and grabbed the hose and gave it a jerk! Fluffy, jumped so high, I’m sure his tail touched a low fluffy cloud. My son laughing so hard and scolding me for scaring the poor cat nearly to death…He loved animals and especially Fluffy…”That was funny though,” he said. “Bless his little heart, that would’ve scared me too”!
    What you have to watch out for Tipper is those pesky Mockingbirds that will dive bomb you if you dare walk by a large shrub with a nest, eggs or nestlings present…I have had one grasp the back of my hair before, trying to scare me away from a nest…but I love the Mockers…as well as their kin the Brown Thrashers (we have a nesting pair right now) other cousin the Catbird…all sing their hearts out…The Mockingbird sings high in the Leland Cypress whether nesting or not…Suddenly, flying straight up in the air and back down as if he is giving a shout out to God…”How’s that!” ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Weather report for East Tennessee: Cool but sunny with a chance the temperature will rise to 70 degrees today…Also a good planting day by the sign!

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    April 13, 2016 at 9:19 am

    A few Christmases ago, I asked for, and received, the full set of the “Foxfire” books. Up until now, I’ve kept them on a shelf at work. After Saturday’s shape-note-singing school, Lois asked me to bring the one with the information about Quay Smathers (volume 7) home for her to read. Glad she & I enjoy some of the same reading materials. 😉

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 13, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Wow, coffee up to $2 a pound and we’re doing twice that for a cup washing clothes in a tub on the porch. I just don’t have anything to say about that it’s just too far removed and too much effort.
    Times change and progress happens and some of it is even good!

  • Leave a Reply