September in Pigeon Roost 3


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.


Terrapins, once numerous in Pigeon roost area, are plentiful again this summer, both in the fields and along the highways. All seen so far this year are small, according to reports. For some reason, these little creatures were seldom seen the past few years.

Six bushels of prunes were gathered recently from a small tree growing on the S.D. Honeycutt farm on Rich Mountain. Honeycutt said the tree was not a planted one, but grew as a volunteer. It is the only known prune tree in this area.




This is the first time in many years the grape crop failed so bad. About every farmer here has a little grape arbor in his back yard or around his garden patch. But when he has a lot of grapes, he can sell those that he does not need.

One farmer said that he noticed it to be a certain sign that if it rained on the 8th day of June which he said it rained on that day this year, that there would be no grapes that year. The farmer explained that was one of the first of the three ember days of the month and on the 8th day of the month was the day before the full moon.

There was three other ember days before those in June of this year which were on the 9th, the 11th, and 12th of March. One of the old sayings is that you can kill a locust tree by peeling it during the ember days of June and it will rot out by the roots, that is if you will strip up on the bark when you are peeling it. 




Harrison McCoury reported to the writer that he probably has the oldest grade school card of anybody in this lower end of Mitchell County. The grade card was wrote out on tablet paper by teacher Maloye Griffith and got a 97 percent average when he was promoted from the 7th grade.

McCoury said this was school term of 1919 and Griffith’s assistant teacher was Miss Myra Webb, now Mrs. Javine Hughes and the school building stood about where Charlie Whitson’s barn is at on Raccoon Branch at Tipton Hill.

McCoury said the first dollar that he ever earned was at this same school house when he was about ten years old and Garfa Griffith was his teacher. He said that him and Frank Jones, who is now Mitchell County accountant was accounted among the best spellers in school and they had to split between them one dollar in prize money when they tied in a spelling match.

He said the boys sawed wood with a cross-cut saw and split it with an axe and done this work free after someone hauled the wood to the school house and the wood was burned in an Ironside stove and the children would all set around the stove during the cold weather time. He said there was about 45 or 50 children who attended the one room school building during the years of 1918 and 1919.

It is reported that the electric lights was extended last Friday to the home of William Honeycutt of Mitchell County who lives on the banks of Toe River near the village of Relief. Mr. and Mrs. Honeycutt has been married about 30 years but this is the first time they they have had electric lights in any of the homes that they ever have lived in.

It is reported that Ephlee Peterson has sold his farm on Pigeon Roost to a businessman in Johnson City who he and his family plan to spend weekends at his farm.

Tobacco crops in this area appears to be very good as a whole and some of the farmers say that they are expecting a very early cold spell.


I hope you enjoyed the peek into Pigeon Roost via Mr. Miller. I’ve never heard of ember days. Since my grapes didn’t make this year I’m wondering if it rained on the eighth day of June.

It was 1967 before the Honeycutts got power. I’d like to hear what they thought about it.

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
    September 4, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Tipper, I remember men telling about helping put up the power lines when they were teenage boys. They would use mules to drag the poles and maybe help dig the post holes. The thing I wanted to tell about was a contract the people could sign when they connected to the service. It was a lifetime agreement that their bill would never be more than 4 dollars a month. This was in the 1940’s. Latter on this was contested in court, but the court upheld the contract. Up to the year 2000, there was a boat landing on Lake Greenwood, SC that was still only paying 4 dollars for each meter. He rented some older mobile homes. The catch to this the power company (REA, now Laurens Electric) would never upgrade the service at the landing. The owner of this landing died in 2000 and his children did not want to continue operating this landing so everything was tore down and this contract no longer applies.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 3, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I might have told this story already, so if I did read it again. I was piling brush to burn and found a tarpin right where I wanted to burn. I carried it all the way to the far corner of my property. I went straight back to where I found him and there he was again. Thinking there was a pair of them I took him back to where I left him a few minutes before and I couldn’t find him. I searched for several minutes in a thirty foot circle before I set him down again. I hurried back to the brush pile and didn’t see him there. Am I that slow? If there were two, where did he go after I went back? He didn’t have time to leave the area. Maybe there was just one! Maybe tarpins are Ninjas too, just like turtles?

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    September 3, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    I recollect getting “power” to our humble house in 1947 or 1948 pretty soon after WWII. The lineman told daddy a power pole would have to be smack dab in the middle of mama’s garden. Daddy was so tickled to get power he agreed!! The lineman said he was joking and put it to the east side of mama’s enormous garden; there the pole stands to this day. We had a single light in the ceiling and we were amazed we could see all four corners of the room at once!!! Such is one of my memories of improvement after WWII.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I have heard about ember days, but did not realize they affected gardening.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 3, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Mr. Greene for the comment. I had never heard about people having to clear their own right of way and/or dig the holes. I did know about the lines run to fire towers. At least some of those were “tree” lines that used trees instead of poles. I worked with an old man who told me about walking one of those lines to splice breaks, keep limbs off, replace insulators, etc as part of the duties of being a lookout.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    September 3, 2020 at 11:25 am

    My Daddy in Wise Co. , Virginia knew the old ways and taught all his kids how to ring the bark of an unwanted tree to get it to die.

    On another.note, I can never look at the Foxfire books the same after Eliot Wiggington, their founder, plead guilty of child sexual molestation in 1992.
    For me, this wonderful project that so well documented our culture was written with the help of kids that paid way too much for their loyalty to this sexual preditor.
    I so believed in the Foxfire project ….bought the books as gifts to many …sent the books around the world as an example of what we hold dear in our mountains. …now I am so sad that I ever made money for Eloit Wiggington.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 3, 2020 at 11:09 am

    I love to read about 1967 cause that was the year I graduated and I always wondered what happened in the rest of the country. Seems like other Folks weren’t as lucky as I was, cause we got Power years before that. We put our old oil lamps down when I was about 2 years old.. That was over 70 years ago, time flies.

    We had a hugh Oak tree in front of our house, and most of the time Me and Harold would play there. Mama would chew yesterday’s cornbread and onions and feed it to us. I couldn’t wait till the next bite. Funny how you can remember things like that! …Ken

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    September 3, 2020 at 10:53 am

    Ron Stephens said “I have never understood the situation about people getting electricity.”

    Prehaps he never lived in an area without utility lines. My father and older brother had to clear the right of way from the end of the power line which was across the creek bottoms from the last farm on the line to our farm after Dad came home from service following WWII. That was the only way the local co-op would agree to run a line.

    A few years later we built a new house about a half mile closer to the highway, but still a half mile of private road to the house. Dad got the telephone company to agree to run a telephone line to the house if he cleared the right of way and dug the holes for the telephone line. I remember helping him did those holes. They had to be deeper than I was tall at the time!

    Now utilities are goverened by rules that require them to serve customers in their area of operation, even when it is not always profitable, in return for their permits to operate. That was not always the requirement back in the day! That made electricity and or telephone service a big deal in rural areas.

    Oh, and one of the first “assignments” Dad got when he was serving in the Smokemont CCC camp circa 1933 was to walk the power line from Smokemont to Cherokee to find where the power line was broken and repair it. They packed lunches for the boys they sent out and that was the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich my Dad ever had. He also found out that walking 7 miles in the Smokies took a lot longer than 7 miles in the Uwharries! Explaining why they packed lunches for what he thought would be an easy morning walk. (The line didn’t follow the roadway. It went straight up and over the mountain.)

  • Reply
    September 3, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I love the Foxfire books and magazines. It’s no wonder they have been around so many years. The Kentucky Explorer is a similar magazine that just announced they will stop publication after 35 year. That is sad news for folks all over the country. Some of the older readers don’t have access to a computer or they could find Appalachian stories right here on The Blind Pig and The Acorn every day instead of reading it in a magazine once a month.
    I have heard of ember days, but it’s been a long time ago.
    The terrapins enjoyed my garden this year. It’s amazing how many tomatoes and cantaloupes those little pest can destroy in one day. I was only able to catch one in the live trap while leaving several more to continue sampling the melons.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    September 3, 2020 at 9:07 am

    The gander to the past was quite refreshing. I will argue all the luxuries we now have (which are utilities) are not the great idea we were told. Perhaps there is free energy. Versailles Palace has huge fireplaces but what if I told you a single fire had not been built in one until the very late 1800’s? Could there have been free energy? What about AETHER? And aether rods???? Look at photos of tops of old buildings over NYC until early 1900’s. People were much more healthy and I will argue attractive as well! As we now see, dependence upon a GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN for food and everything else has turned out to be a real problem as has been proven through this uncertain time of epically stupid proportions to be a bad idea. We have a whole lot of people who will kill you because of a lack of perceived ideas unbiased in any truth but HATE and the belief everybody owes you something. I say this won’t stand but we will see. The FOXFIRE BOOKS CANNOT BE BEAT FOR SURVIVALIST INFO AND THEY WILL SET YOU BACK AROUND A QUARTER OF A GRAND. Well worth the cash so I’m getting them. Also got 15 pounds of rye from SOW TRUE- a pleasure of a company to deal with I must say!!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 3, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Ember days, makes me wonder if that was what Dad was talking about when he told me there was a certain day of the year to kill a tree, all you had to do was wound it with an axe.
    I saw a terrapin (tarpin) in the garden day before yesterday. There was nothing it could reach so I didn’t pack it off. This made me think of a tarpin story told to me by a friend. My friend’s Uncle ran over every tarpin on the road he could until he ran over one that totally destroyed his tire. Who in the world wants to kill a tarpin anyways?
    Wow, wouldn’t you love to have a prune tree like that?

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 3, 2020 at 7:51 am

    I thought prunes were simply dried plums? What is a prune tree?

    I have never understood the situation about people getting electricity. Stands to reason that at the end of the local distribution lines that to extend further to just a few houses costs more than will ever be returned. But I don’t think electric companies can refuse. I know of a case where an electric line was run for miles to reach the land of one family that was surrounded by national forest. It reportedly cost them $30,000 to do it.

    I had never heard of ember days. I followed the link and read what it said but am still a little fuzzy on what the days are.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      September 3, 2020 at 9:28 am

      Ron, I think all prune trees are plums but some are better for drying like the Stanley prune (plum) sold by many nurseries.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 3, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Wow, that’s quite a window in to the past. We have so much to be grateful for, like electric power, hot and cold running water, electric heat, grocery stores. That was truly another time. Make me wonder what thing will be like fifty years from now…that is if we haven’t destroyed ourselves by then!

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