May in Pigeon Roost

Appalachia in may

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


I think the hills of Pigeon Roost is as good a place as any to be in the spring of the year.

I like to tap the sugar maple trees and get a good drink of maple sugar water, but people here no longer boil the maple sugar water and make sugar candy. A long time ago, people here even made maple sugar and sold it on the market.

I like to tap the wild grape vine water and use it for a hair tonic. You can keep the grape vine water three or four days without it souring. Grape vine water will make hair on your head grow real fast, they say. It will make it grow thicker, too, and it must be good for a bald spot.

I sure also like to break off the young growing, twisting twigs of the wild grape vines and chew them. They are real sour, but they make a good chew.

I like to gather sweet shrubs, called here “bubbies,” and carry them awhile in my hand. Talk about a sweet-smelling odor – the bubbies really are something. They smell better than most roses. In fact, the bubbies are like a perfume and the odor will linger for a while. What the sweet shrubs or bubbies are called away from this mountain country, I do not know.



Carmon Miller reported to the writer that he put a ten pound size lard bucket in a groundhog hole and he went back the next morning and found that the groundhog had cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket big enough to crawl through.



Through extensive correspondence with the news writer, the late James Taylor Adams of Big Laurel, Va., this writer learned the complete details of how a dead mule managed to kick and kill the man who owned it.

In the work of loading the dead mule onto a sled so it could be hauled away from the barn pulled by a team so it could be buried and in some way in putting it on the sled, they got one of the dead mule’s legs doubled up and got it in a twist. When the mule’s legs pulled away to get straight like its other legs, it swung around some way and struck the man slap dab in the burr of the ear (which is said to be an easy place to get badly hurt if not fatal) and the man died right on the spot.

Rev. Harris Street of Pigeon Roost told me a story not too long ago. He said his father, Clingman Street, lived far out on towering Rich Mountain on the waters of Pigeon Roost Creek and one morning in the winter time real early, his neighbor, Charles Webb, who lived not too far down the hollow below him, came to tell him that he wanted him to go down to his barn and help him and another one of his neighbors, Charlie Barnett, lay down his dead mule so he could bury it.

Well, Mr. Street first thought that his neighbor was trying to pull a joke on him but when they went down to the old log barn, they found the mule standing in a cold open log barn stall dead as a door nail.

It took the three men to throw the mule to the ground by putting a “prize” under it with two heavy ten feet chestnut fence rails.

Old timers remark about the words of an old song about the mule is a mule until he dies. Well, it seems that a mule is still a mule after he is dead.



This is the time of the year to see ground hogs. Granny and I saw one yesterday in a garden down the road. The little bugger was standing up on his hind legs going along the garden row like he was at a buffet feast made just for him.

To read more about sweet smelling bubbies go here.

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
    May 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Those were interesting snippets from the Foxfire Group. Our local radio man who had been with WKRK for over 50 years, Bill Younce use to tell stories of life when he was a boy. He said during the Great Depression men would go out for 5 miles or more, looking for Ground Hogs. It was a real treat if they caught one cause they became real scarce from everyone hunting them. Now you can see them in the grass alongside the roads, some killed on the highways. Me and my brother use to hunt them little boogers with our fiests. They’re very tasty baked…Ken

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I just got back from cutting several spice bushes growing on the ole home place road.It’s not the same bush as your pictures.We must not have them growing in my part of E.KY.Dad told me they used our native spice bush to flavor possum’s with, during the depression.The spice bush has a red aromatic berry in the fall,and the wild turkeys really love them.
    Speaking of groundhogs,I’ve seen two on my place already.They sure have come to the wrong place to feast.
    That was a funny but tragic story about the mule.I always had a respect for them when riding my papaw’s mule from his farm to ours to plow tobacco with.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Should have been “thunk” not “think”…… sometimes this thing corrects when you don’t want it to!
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 28, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    When I was a young girl visiting my grandmothers, I loved to go to the barn and visit the mule. He was just standing there twitching his ears, at times he would swish his tail. I had to climb up, sticking my feet in the open huge log rails and hang on with my arms to see his long face over the top rail. Now then, he was a gentle old soul. We had quite a few conversations over an ear or two of stolen corn that I managed to wiggle through a hole in the corn crib! My aunt didn’t want me feeding him, but my Dad said I could…and that his sister just wanted to save the corn when she was trying to hitch him up, instead of just talking kind to him. I asked that old mule if he ever got tired of just standing all the time!
    Well, he told me since he was related to the old Donkeys, he didn’t want to appear lazy and would just stand like the old Elephants, until he died….. this is a true story and that’s what he done!
    You may share my true story…. at such a young age I didn’t realize the political connection at that time. Who would’ve think? Not a young girl with an imagination!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 28, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve got a rifle that’s almost the same caliber as a .22LR, I think. It a .223. That’s .003 bigger than the .22. I wonder how Mr. Groundhog would stand up up against that extra 3 thousandths of an inch.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 28, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Tother day I was talking to my brother Stephen about the old days. We got to talking about flowers and bushes and stuff. He asked me did I know what the name of that sweet smelling purple flowered bush was. I told him it was a sweet bubbie. He didn’t recall it being called that but allowed it was about the best smelling thing he ever smelt. I says “Well you can have it all. Them things remind me of a sick room. Like a nursing home. They smell like little old ladies who are scared they might have little bit of an off smell and pour on enough perfume to make a dead skunk smell like a petunia.”
    If you are having a problem with groundhogs in your garden, plant some kudzu nearby. Groundhogs love kudzu better than anything. One note of caution though, if the groundhogs can’t keep up with the kudzu, you now have a kudzu problem too. I don’t have a cure for kudzu.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I need to try some of that grape vine juice for a thinning hair line..

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 28, 2016 at 10:06 am

    When sweetshrub was in bloom in the spring, high-country ladies would pluck a flower or two and tuck it in their bosom as a sort of nature’s perfume or deodorant. In other words, they put it between their “boobies,” and at that point it’s easy enough to see where “bubbies” originated.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Chuck Taylor
    May 28, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Never read any of the magazines but love my FoxFire books.

  • Reply
    Andy Casdy
    May 28, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Two years ago, I had a groundhog enjoy almost all of my okra plants in the little lower garden – until the pointy end of a 22LR punctured his appetite. Last summer, his nephew destroyed the crop, but similarly lost his appetite.
    This summer, the okra is in the upper garden.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I see groundhogs here almost daily. I shot one out of my plum tree and shot it two more times on the ground and it still made it to the den. (22 hollow points) I did kill one recently with seven rounds. The last one in the head. They are hard to kill without a bigger gun. They can destroy a tomato patch overnight as well as a melon patch.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    May 28, 2016 at 7:42 am

    That’s a good ‘ol mule story–one of many in the mountains. And there’s a lesson in it. The next time I try prize a dead mule out of a barn stall and load it onto a sled, I’ll mind the beast doesn’t kick me slap dab in the burr of my ear!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 28, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Oh, I know what bubbies are I just never heard them called that!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 28, 2016 at 7:16 am

    You do live in a beautiful place. May is the first summer-green month. I sure would like to have a view like in your picture. I miss the mountains.
    Mr. Miller’s stories are little gems of Appalachia. I expect there are others scattered throughout the region that are only known locally. I think I could paraphrase the dead mule proverb as ‘a dead privet is still a privet’; I.e. trouble. I think I have encountered other examples along life’s way as well.
    Hope each and all have a blessed day, especially your girls.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 28, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Tip, this is like 5 Things, it makes my head spin. It’s amazing that a dead mule can still kick, wonder if that has anything to do with them being called stubborn. It would have to be stubborn to refuse to lay down even when dead.
    I never heard of drinking maple water. I think you mentioned the grapevine water recently.
    I’ve seen several ground hogs recently, recon that was a metal bucket he chewed hole in?
    Never heard of bubbies. I’ll be checking out your link!

  • Reply
    May 28, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Treating my insomnia with The Blind Pig. The schedule for the Pressley girls made me tired….just means getting older. Great future for those talented young ladies.
    I loved the first picture and used to read Foxfire books. They disappeared mysteriously from my parents’ home when the house was vacant for a time. We have a Pigeon Roost here where a small Civil War battle was fought. Thanks, Tipper, for another interesting post, and please excuse my middle of night rambling thoughts.

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