March in Pigeon Roost


march in Appalachia

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.


I have just read the interesting article printed in the State magazine published in Raleigh about the great flood of 1916. Several old timers here said it was nothing compared to the flood of 1900.

F.M. Miller of this place reports that he was only about a month old when the great May flood of 1900 occurred and the recalls of his parents telling him that they had to flee to higher ground when their log cabin in the valley was being surrounded by water.

Another old timer reported that when Aunt Ellen Miller’s building that housed her old corn mill that was pulled by the water wheel went floating down the creek, the people who were watching the rising stream from the hillside saw a white cat that acted unconcerned setting on the roof of the building which rode on down the creek and the house stayed together for sure until it drifted out into the river. He said the cat went on down the Chucky River.

Every foot log that spanned the creeks went down the stream. There was not any bridges built over the creek anywhere at that time. Stock here such as horses and cattle was drowned in the full waters.

One good sign that spring of the year is just around the corner is that there is the odor of polecats in the air here in the hill country for the last few foggy mornings.

There is some people here, especially children, who keep lead bullets hanging around their necks, which they claim keeps their nose from bleeding. The bullets has been made flat and holes put in them made for a red string. But the bullets must be ones that has been shot and killed a hog.




I am going to tell about some of the wild plants that was used for food; also roots and herbs used as a medicine purpose, but I do not vouch for their curing ability. But that’s what the old people way back ‘yander’ had as a remedy for certain illness.

The wild plant as I have always known it by the name of Sheep Sorrel was not only used for food but for a medicine, too. It was eaten raw and is sour like pie plant but now called rhubarb. Sheep Sorrel was used as a poultice for skin diseases. The good recommendation that it had way back ‘yander’ that a skin sore would heal with one application. The Sheep Sorrel grows best in poor ground.

Pheasant craw plant I suppose has been eaten a lot for food and used as a medicine. Talk about being bitter! You find pheasant craw as bitter as bitter can be. But it is said to be a good stomach medicine and it can be chewed raw and the juice swallowed. I have always heard it said that a bitter herb or root is not poison.

Indian turnip can be eaten as a food. But I find it really strong. If I ever eat Indian turnip, it is only in little tastes and then I want some cornbread to eat with it.

Mountain tea is good to chew as well as there is not anything better than the little red berries that grows on the mountain tea. But you will find the herb more tender in the spring of the year  than it is during the winter time.

Lambs tongue is also good to eat. The bulb that grows on the root is what is eaten.

There is no sweeter odor than that of wild roots and herbs found used to at the country stores and the smell of the roots and herbs lasted all summer and fall long. Wild ginger is perhaps the loudest smelling of the all wild roots. Also sassafras and wild cherry is loud smellers.

I have been told that pennyroyal herb placed in barns where hogs roam and bed will keep away fleas. Pennyroyal is another herb that smells good.

I will be telling more about the roots and herbs that grows in this part of the country from time to time as space permits.

Mrs. Senia Ray of Pigeon Roost spent Sunday night at Brummetts Creek visiting Mrs. America Griffith.

We have had an awful bad winter here this year and at this writing, winter weather is still here.




Lester Miller of mouth of Rock Creek section reported to the writer that he went out of the sheep business last fall after keeping and raising sheep for more than twenty years. He said sheep-killing dogs got to be so bad that he decided to quit trying to raise sheep about three years ago.



Always interesting to pay a visit to Pigeon Roost. Lead bullets that stop nose bleeds and sheep-killing dogs are only a small example of the things Miller wrote about. I especially enjoyed his writings about mountain roots and herbs and I wish I knew more about both.

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
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    March 24, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Tipper: Judging how many times those beautiful daughters have performed over in the MOUNTAINS, I reckon it is about time they travel down to Nashville!
    After having lived for 15 years down in the Music City, I know THEY COULD MAKE IT BIG down there! But then again, they just might be happy playing and singing in the mountains!
    Wish I could make their event at Martin’s Creek!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Tell Miss Cindy my family tree has 12 women named America and 5 men named Americus. Also I think the mountain tea referred to in the article is what we call teaberry. You can chew the leaves for a minty flavor or rub it between your hands to excite the fragrance. The red berries have the same flavor as the leaves though not as strong. The berries are not sweet like other berries and are not juicy, more of crunchy texture.

  • Reply
    March 23, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Wow! I’ve always loved the Foxfire collections of older knowledge! Between my parents and the bookcases full of books and friends as I grew older, I’ve come to cherish my “old ways.”
    Oh my, the craving you flung on me – now I’ve got to find, or grow my own rhubarb. Mama had her own patch in the edge of the overgrowth all my life, up until she got to loving varmints more than yard work. One time, when first learning about ‘sang digging, many moons ago, my friend thought it would be funny to let me dig up a nice big patch of Indian turnip. Looked like ‘sang to my untrained eyes, anyway. Hard lesson learned; much fun made of, too!
    Do you reckon a hog killing bullet around my neck would help these allergies better than antihistamines? I’m willing to try at this point, haha!
    Love from the riverbank in Marshall!

  • Reply
    March 23, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I enjoy reading Miller’s tales of Pigeon Roost.
    I called our Christian Radio and requested Donna Lynn to play “Angels Rock Me to Sleep” by Chitter and Chatter. After that she played a favorite by Paul and Pap and just as soon as that went off, she
    announced Paul, Chitter and Chatter, and our favorite Base player would be at Martin’s Creek this
    Saturday at 6:00 pm. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 23, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I got a whiff of a pole cat early last night. A pole cat don’t smell all that bad if you are a good ways away when you smell it. I always say, “Smells like somebody burnt the cornbread!”
    We have another fire going here in Burke County. It is at the base of Shortoff Mountain. At last report it was nearing 3000 acres. It has survived two pretty good rains and is still growing. I live 25 miles east and can still smell the smoke when the wind is right. Last night in that little straight right before I got to Valdese (long about where Childers’ store used to be) I saw clouds back in the west. Nothing out of the ordinary but the color. These clouds were not sunset red like I usually see at that time of day. These clouds had a dark reddish hue to them. I am not much on colors but I’m guessing a burnt sienna. Maybe the color of a brick. Anyway it finally dawned on me that what I was seeing was smoke off that fire. I sat and watched it for a little bit and could actually see a glow from near the ground. There were columns of smoke rising straight up then drifting off to the south toward Nebo and maybe even reaching Rutherfordton and Spindale.
    There are no homes near this fire unless you count tents. It is in a popular spot for rock climbers and hikers. It’s near the Mountains to the Sea Trail. On the eastern side of Linville Gorge.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    March 23, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I like the term “loudest smelling”. (wild ginger–3/5/64)

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Tipper, Don’t eat jack in the pulpit ,Indian turnip, because it has oxalate acid in it. I think you can eat it when it is dryed, but haven’t tried it.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Tipper, Don’t eat jack in the pulpit ,Indian turnip, because it has oxalate acid in it. I think you can eat it when it is dryed, but haven’t tried it.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Tipper, Don’t eat jack in the pulpit ,Indian turnip, because it has oxalate acid in it. I think you can eat it when it is dryed, but haven’t tried it.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    March 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Tipper, Don’t eat jack in the pulpit ,Indian turnip, because it has oxalate acid in it. I think you can eat it when it is dryed, but haven’t tried it.

  • Reply
    Wesley Bossman
    March 23, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Good morning to everyone! I particularly enjoyed this post, due to the wild plant references, and to the observation that the smell of polecats floats in the early spring air. I have noticed that same sign of spring way up here in the western N.Y. countryside. It was 11 degrees for my morning walk today, but the sun is shining brightly and the birds are singing wildly. Very interesting post today. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 23, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Brings back memories. I’ve eaten lots of mountain tea (wintergreen), especially the new leaves of springtime. Us boys used to pick a pocketful before church.
    When my brother and I lived with our Grandma, we got into seed ticks one day. She had us go pick ‘pennyrile’ in the fencerow and rub it on our legs. It worked, not sure how but I guess they didn’t like breathing strong mint fumes.
    I have had pennyroyal show up here but it is not here consistently every year. I think it could make a good indoor plant, though it is not very showy.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 23, 2017 at 8:48 am

    How fascinating, especially the part on wild edibles

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 23, 2017 at 7:15 am

    I always find these snippets from the Fox Fire Magazine interesting. I never heard of a person named America, just our country. These always make me remember my grandmother. She was one of these country people that lived off the land. It was not an easy life.
    I wonder what mountain tea is and does it really make a tea that is drinkable.
    Those must have been really bad rains to cause flooding the washed buildings down the river!

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