Pigeon Roost

May in Pigeon Roost 3

Thoughts on a frosty morning

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 couple of Miller’s articles published during the month of May. I enjoyed them and hope you do too.


About everybody likes honey which is now not too far off for Honey-robbing time to start off with a roar of the bees and a baling of the top part of the gum being ripped off.

The lower end of Mitchell County section is now just sorter recovering from the hard freeze of last Thursday night. Yes, it was what the old folks called a black freeze and came in a time when it set back early crops considerably.

Some field tomato crops was wiped out as well as beans and potatoes was nipped which the ‘taters may all sprout out but will probably cut down on the yield.

The farmers knowed it was coming as they could tell it looked so cold in the shade. But there was nothing that they could do about it.

Arthur Frye, blind man senior citizen of Spruce Pine was invited to Tipton Hill last Tuesday, May 15, to speak to students at the grammer school. This was kids from 1st to 7th grade, also kindergarten kids.

Mr. Frye talked to about 200 kids and 8 teachers. His message was on how brief is life and body returns to dust but soul lives on eternally. Mr. Frye read from his Braille Bible.



Well, I’m glad to report that the Bob-white has come back in several places in this area after a complete absence of several years duration. After wheat was quit being growed in this area, the Bob-white population began to dwindle down and finally was all gone. Several folks believe the foxes, by killing them fastly, helped to put them out of business.

But last Friday I had the grand privilege of hearing the Bob-white’s call from a field where oats was growed last year. I believe it would be about right and not telling wrong that it was the second call that I had heard within last 20 years.

Park Hughes of Byrd Creek section of Pigeon Roost reports that he has several pieces of puncheons that was hewed out of yellow poplar wood by his great-grandfather, Charlie Byrd, about 75 years ago.


This line from the first article: “The farmers knowed it was coming as they could tell it looked so cold in the shade. But there was nothing that they could do about it” reminded me of The Deer Hunter. In the early fall when the temps are still hovering around summer time averages, he’ll tell me cooler weather will be coming soon because even though the sun is still as hot as it has been all summer, the shade is cooler than its been all summer.

I found the mention of growing wheat in relation to the decrease in Bob-whites interesting in the second entry and wonder if that actually played a role in the loss of Bob-whites.

Every time I hear or see the word hewed I think of the song about the stone that was hewed out of the mountainside and the people I’ve known who sung it.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Cheryl in Kentucky
    May 26, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Like the way Miss Cindy put it about the comfort of old ways of speaking and the memories they bring us. Great post.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    May 26, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    I have not heard a Bob White call in many years. When I was a child about everyone farmed or had a day job and farmed on the side. There were lots of them then. They would feed at the edges of the field. When people stopped farming as much the fields were planted in pine trees and you would hear a Bob White call only rarely. A Bob White call is a wonderful thing to hear.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Bird hunting to someone from the south meant one thing and one thing only, it was bobwhite quail. Bird hunting and a distant second was rabbit hunting were the only hunting I ever cared about. I dearly loved watching my dogs work. Many things have been blamed for the loss of the quail, I have everything from fire ants, habitant, pesticides on up through the things that Ed mentioned Not only are quail disappearing but rabbits are too. This is going on throughout their range. This goes along with Ed’s comment about cats, Georgia and some other states have done studies on tame house cats that were fed and being taking care by putting cameras on them each day and letting them stay outside during the day. All of the states determined that cats are the most destructive predator of all. Unlike the other predators that kill because of hunger a cat kills just to kill. They will kill and leave it laying there. These states have asked the hunters to kill every cat that see in the wild.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    May 26, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    I am an old woman , but I am praying to live long enough to again hear the call of Bob white and song of the whipporwill on my mountain in s.w. Virginia.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 26, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    There have been many theories advanced for the decline in quail populations. The Big 3 umbrella categories are habitat change, nest predation and weather cycles. Probably it is an interaction of several more-specific things qithin these big three categories and what those things are varies a bit by locatuon. I have no doubt wheat growing helped make excellent food and habitat for ground-feeding birds and was good for quail and dove as two examples.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 26, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I wonder how many of your readers knows what a puncheon actually is! Its a board made by splitting a tree and then smoothing one side with an axe and/or foot adze. A foot adze as opposed to a hand adze is meant to be used while standing on your work. The handle of the foot adze needs to be fitted to the user so that he can use it without bending or reaching excessively. Long handle for the tall man, short for a short man and all in between. A hand adze is for closer more detailed work.
    When the board is smooth enough it is notched on the other side to fit the stringer it will sit on leaving it in the same plane as the rest of the floor. That is a puncheon.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    May 26, 2021 at 10:18 am

    I just enjoyed reading this and the speculation of why the bob whites dwindled. The shade being cooler points to fall is a new one on me but every day I’m a Learnin’!!! I like the way we mountain folks talk. I love to read it! I hope everybody’s day goes smoothly.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2021 at 8:13 am

    This was interesting to me. I have read a book titled Rusty by Mr. A O Harrell of the Red Hill community at Bakersville, NC. In 1973, he was a teacher at Tipton Hill high school. The book was about his life in this area and named after one of his bird dogs. He loved to hunt grouse. The bob white quail is a thing of the past in my area. It has been years since I heard one call. I know the lack of farming is not an issue as a lot of it still goes on in my area with wheat and oats being some of the main crops. There are not many rabbits seen anymore either. Deer and turkey are everywhere making the SCDNR very happy.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 26, 2021 at 2:08 pm

      Lack of cover could be part of the problem. Bob whites run on the ground when startled. They fly but only for short distances. They also nest on the ground. Until the brood is successfully hatched and the chicks are able to run fast, they are vulnerable to possums, coons, cats, dogs, coyotes and birds of prey.
      In my area cats are the biggest problem. Not feral cats, these belong to somebody. But the somebodies don’t care what damage their cats do to wildlife. I threatened to dig a hole and bury all of them but I can’t work up the nerve. Cats become wild predators as soon as they step outside the door. People should be held responsible for the damage done to nature by their pets.
      The two things I hate most are cats and poison ivy. I attack every sprig of poison ivy I see with Kill-Zall. Like I said, I can’t work up the nerve to balance the cat population.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 26, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Tipper, I don’t know what a puncheon is but yellow poplar must be a hard wood for whatever it is to last for 75 years!
    I love these old posts, I find their language somehow comforting. I think it must be reminding me of being at my grandparents house. There is an ease about it that we don’t get from todays way of speaking or maybe it’s just familiar because I’m old enough to remember it.
    They were obviously more connected to the earth then than most folks are now!
    Thanks, I really enjoyed that little bit of the past!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 26, 2021 at 6:46 pm

      Yellow poplar is one of the softest woods but it is easily worked, accepts paint very and if kept dry will last for a long long time. It is 450 on the Janka scale while hickory is 4 times as hard at 1620. Yellow poplar is the same as tulip poplar and is common in Western North Carolina

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    May 26, 2021 at 7:44 am

    I always love bob white stories. My dad and to used to listen for the bob white about dusk when I was a child.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    May 26, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Love the old stories.

  • Leave a Reply