Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

December in 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.


The Rev. and Mrs. J. H. Arrowood, an elderly Pigeon Roost couple, are probably the only family in the Carolina mountain country which will still buy roasted coffee beans and grind their own coffee. The Arrowoods grind their own Coffee as they use it on an old-time coffee mill. They claim the flavor is much better when its is fresh ground.

A peck size, hand-made split basket has been used in the family home of Harvey J. Miller for about fifty years to carry eggs to the country store. Miller says the basket was made by an uncle, Monroe Miller, who had a reputation as a basket maker. The rugged construction of the basket and the fine handiwork illustrates Miller’s skill. The basket has taken on a rich coloring like the close-grained bak of a growing tree. The handle of the basket is polished as smooth as though it had been carefully sandpapered and then hand-rubbed. It is made of white oak wood.

Pigeon Roost farmers report that pole cats damaged meadow land during the dry weather. The little fur bearing animals root so many holes in the ground searching for worms and bugs that they destroy, the growing grass. Hunters say pole cats have increased in numbers. This is because their pelts bring little money on the market and because they have to be shipped by express.



The small trees known locally in the Pigeon Roost section as “bead-bush” blooms in the late fall. It is said the tree is called “bead bush,” the presence of the seed pods which resembles beads in appearance gave it that name. The trees have a number of other names such as “wych-hazel” or “witch-hazel,” “snaping hazel,” more appropriate of them all, “winterbloom.” The forked twigs of the “bead-bush” trees are sometimes used as divining rods in efforts to locate buried treasure and underground water. The dried green leaves of “bead-bush” are sold on the local herb market.



If we have snow on the ground Christmas day, the mountain people say it is a good sign that it will be a good crop year the next following season.

The majority of the farmers here have sold their tobacco crops and some of them met with some great difficulty in getting their tobacco dried sufficiently. So on the warehouse floors and at the market sales, their tobacco was marked wet, which pulled the price of it down considerable.

Deer hunting and squirrel hunting is now over for this year. Several hunters report that it has been a very good hunting season for them.

So with the coming of Christmas and the New Year, I’m sure we all have many things to be thankful for. This writer wishes you  all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



I hope you enjoyed the peek into Pigeon Roost via Mr. Miller. It’s funny, I used to work with an Arrowood and he was totally crazy over coffee and did indeed grind his own coffee beans 🙂

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


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  • Reply
    December 6, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    There are skunks of three different color patterns around here. The Black with one white stripe down the back, Some black with white stripes top and sides and the spotted ones. A few years ago I caught one in my groundhog trap. I was handicapped after having shoulder surgery. It takes two hands to open those traps. I set the trap out in the sun for a few hours to let him (or her – I didn’t check – dry out good. I finally was able to open the trap and he or she only wanted to get to the nearest water. Friends asked how I knew he would leave and not spray me. I said, “Animals are notional.” He needed water more than he felt threatened. Then I had to explain “Notional”. None had ever heard of it.

    I have several stories involving skunks including the time a friend and I ate one.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    December 6, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    When I read about the basket I thought about my Father’s lunch basket I have in our kitchen. His father made chair bottoms and apparently baskets. My wife has wooden apples in it . It has the patina described of the peck sized basket.
    When I was a child I thought it strange that they did not carry their lunch in a paper sack like I did. My grandmother told me my grandfather caned the bottoms of chairs with strips of hickory. I looked up caned on the internet with no reference I could see other than caning. I use it because I was taught it about 70 years ago . My father was born in 1913 and walked to the one room school house as I did . When I was in the 2nd grade they started busing us and closed the 1-8 grade Rock Hill school in 1951 . Lots of pleasant memories. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 6, 2018 at 9:20 am

    The numbers of polecats here have begun to drop. It seems to be directly related to gas prices. As gas prices go down there are more cars on the road thus fewer skunks. You know we used to be troubled by our dogs coming home stinking to high heaven. Now it’s our cars.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 6, 2018 at 8:29 am

    It’s interesting to read these little snippets from the past, life was so different then and priorities were different. So much of life was centered in feeding the family and keeping them warm in the winter. Not a single mention of what kind of cell phone to buy next!
    Thanks Tip, and congratulations to the winners!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    December 6, 2018 at 7:55 am

    I have my Granddad Nick Byers’ old coffee grinder. My grt-gndpa “Cebe” Byers’ wagon seat and 1884 saddle. I used to play with the coffee grinder when I was a kid….maybe that is why the handle is broken. Might be a good weekend to fix it.!!!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 6, 2018 at 7:30 am

    My Granma had a white oak split basket she used all the time. I think her uncle made it. They wear like iron.

    The other critter that digs holes all over is the armadillo. Not sure how far north they have made it, or will, but I know they are in central Georgia.

    About the witch hazel, if you bring in a limb with seed capsules and let it dry in the house when it gets dry enough the seeds shoot out sorta explosively. I have been seeing witch hazel blooming all over last month (Nov) but they may be finished now. They would make a good landscaping tree.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    December 6, 2018 at 7:06 am

    I always enjoy when you do the Harvey Miller articles. I couldn’t help but notice he called skunks, pole cats. I don’t hear that as much as I used to.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 6, 2018 at 9:29 am

      When I was growing up skunks and polecats were different animals. Skunks wore the distinctive black and white formal attire. Polecats were a more mottled or stripedy like. We used to catch both in our rabbit boxes. Once you catch one it’s hard to let it go. You don’t want to get close enough.

      • Reply
        December 6, 2018 at 11:24 am

        Ed. My Father-In-Law grew up in the depression and told me he was always tickled to trap a skunk because it brought a big price.
        Out of curiosity I googled polecat and the polecat is a kissing cousin to the skunk that lives in Africa. Must be one of those names carried across the big pond.

        • Reply
          December 6, 2018 at 1:06 pm

          Larry-I remember my Papaw Wade telling a story about catching a skunk instead of what he’d hoped for when he was a boy. Even though it was a job, he skinned it out and then he got more money for it than he would have for what he set out to catch 🙂

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