Appalachia Pigeon Roost

March in Pigeon Roost 2

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.

March 1970

“It does not take a ventriloquist to throw their voice on Pigeon Roost Creek. Probably most everybody in this hilly country can do it. But voices will not echo at every place and weather conditions have something to do with it. At spring of the year and just after a rain shower when the sky gets clear is a good time for your voice to sound again. Away a very good distance from a barn or with a little low ridge in front of you are also favorite places for your voice to sound twice. Besides your voice echoing a sound again, any kind of a noise will do likewise. Like chopping wood with an axe or driving stakes with a heavy sledge hammer. The noise will roar loudly on a nearby mountainside, and then the noise will sound like is is coming back to you. It is said that many a person has become lost in the hilly country because of the echoing of too many voices. It is recalled by old timers that when people first called to each other in the wooded areas, they were only a short distance apart, but by their voices echoing they became farther apart.

We have passed from the day when grandmas smoked a corn cob or clay pipe and their smoking tobacco was home growed strong tobacco. In this hilly country we are also fastly fading from the time when you burnt wood in an open fireplace. Now, in the most modern homes the heat comes from the furnace located in the basement. In the long ago I had heat where I could always see the fire burning in the open fireplace. It may not have throwed off as much heat as the stoves do, but here is something funny that I have experienced myself. Now listen: I have sat for hours and looked into the glowing embers and viewed many pretty moving faces, as well as other kinds of objects, such as trees, etc. The pictures in the fire was my only TV in those days. It was not a silent picture, as the crackle and pop at intervals of the fire gave a more live touch to the subjects. If you have never seen the moving scenes in the fire I am sure you have really missed something.”

I’ve always been fascinated by how sound can travel in unexpected ways. As kids when we found a place that had an echo we took turns screaming silly things to hear them come back to us in a few seconds. I love to hear The Deer Hunter chop or beat on something outside and listen to the rhythm bounce back to us from the ridge across from the house.

I also love to look deep into the flames of a fire as Mr. Miller described. With Spring of the year just around the corner the time for fires is almost over until sometime next fall.

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
    Ed Ammons
    March 10, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    My late brother in law put in a Buck Stove that had double doors that came off in front to make a fireplace. He had one of his wife’s relatives from Alarka come and lay a rock hearth and cover the wall behind it with rock. He had a open fireplace and a woodstove all in one.
    When he got too old and feeble to cut wood he had to put in a heat pump. He kept the woodstove though. He had it refitted with gas logs.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    March 10, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I have noticed here in the mountains sounds change according to the seasons. Love the smells and sounds of each season. Always something to look forward too. Spring is in the air now. Can’t wait.

  • Reply
    Doug Bishop
    March 10, 2021 at 9:30 am

    Tipper, the phrase “Pictures in the Fire” sounds like a wonderful title for a poem or a song ! Now, who could we find to write it ?

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 9:12 am

    Sometimes I think a vehicle is roaring down my lane only to find out the sound is coming from a highway nearly a mile away. It’s especially hard to tell which direction a gunshot is coming from. I agree that seeing an image in a fire is exciting while a person is in deep thought.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 8:18 am

    I have a memory from my early childhood of a lady neighbor smoking a corncob pipe and dipping snuff. I thought that was something to see! Another precious memory of mine is laying in the floor at night with my daddy in front of a fireplace eating roasted or parched peanuts that we had grown. Like others I like to watch the flames. Now that I am older they make me think of how awful hell would be.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 10, 2021 at 8:16 am

    The echo part of your post reminds me of Talking Rock, Georgia. The name is said to be derived from Cherokee. Their name had the literal meaning “the rock that talks back”. I don’t have any specific memories of echoing-places myself. Curious. Wonder why not.

    I’ve never lived in a house with a fireplace unless our puny gas log counts. I have lived with a wood cook stove, a coal heating stove and lastly a wood heating stove. I do like a wood-burning fireplace the best. Over forty years ago my wife and I would go rent a cabin with a fireplace in a state park for the weekend. Ever since a cabin with a fireplace has been where we prefer to stay but they are much more expensive now. Can’t recall seeing pictures in the flames but they can make you kinda dazy.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 10, 2021 at 7:24 am

    I love to sit and listen to thunder and July 4 fireworks in these old mountains – rolling up the Tuckaseigee Valley, bouncing off the Alarka and Smoky Mountains, and coming right back down.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    March 10, 2021 at 7:19 am

    I went on a hot air balloon ride over pastures, homes, roads and forests. I was so fascinated that I could hear sounds way below very clearly. The running of horses in a pasture, the voices of a family on their deck, vehicles on the highway. Sound really does travel in a variety of ways. The balloon was very quiet with exception of the noisy whoosh when the flame was engaged. It was an amazing experience to brush the treetops, hover over the ground and rise to the sky. My hair didn’t blow either, as the balloon was going with the wind. How fortunate we are -those of us who have the blessing of hearing sounds.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    March 10, 2021 at 7:05 am

    Good Morning and thanks for the tip on Foxfire and Harvey Miller’s stories. We have to run down to Baltimore and when we get back, I plan to access some of them…And I have also witnessed the images from smoke, especially when burning green or wet wood.

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