September in Pigeon Roost

September in appalachia a poem

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.


“France Arrowood of Hampton, Tenn., who is visiting his parents, Rev. and Mrs. J.H. Arrowood, appears so far to be the champion wild bee tree finder here. Arrowood has located seven bee trees in just a little time in the wooded areas on his father’s farm. His father also has several stands of bees and a good many of the bee swarms have gone to the mountains this year, refusing to settle down near their former home to be placed in stands. Also what makes Arrowood to be called the champion bee-hunter is, he found a tree in two hours that others had been looking four years for.
Geter Peterson of Erwin, Tenn. who owns the Wallow mountain farm here, has been taking down a rail fence, hauling it away to ship to New York to sell. This chestnut rail fence was built on the old crooked style without using any nails, many years ago, by the late Cal Garland, who owned the farm at that time, but the fence was in good shape when torn down and removed. 9/13/51”


“It is reported that grasshoppers have done extensive damage to burley tobacco crops in local Carolina mountain area. It appeared the hordes of grasshoppers moved into the tobacco patches overnight eating all of the tobacco as they went leaving only the stalk and stems.
Aspie McCoury said he killed one old timey copperhead – the kind with the short, blunt tail.
The Hughes family in the Byrd Creek area of Pigeon Roost reported that they are yet observing deer both young and old. But a doe deer and her two fawns have had their attention more lately than any of the others. The doe deer brings the fawns to two apple trees located nearby across the creek from their home about every evening where she forages on apples. The deer prefer to reach up and pull apples off the lower part of the limbs of the trees instead of picking them up off the ground. For the last few days they said they had notice that the mother deer was bad crippled in her right hind leg. She was so lame that she could not put that foot to the ground. They said they could not imagine how she got crippled.
There was a gnat storm in this local Carolina area late in the evening of Saturday, August 20. The gnats began to arrive just after a little sprinkle of rain fell. The gnats went in droves like bee swarms and where they settled down, they was as thick as hop vines. The elder people said that the gnat swarms were a good sign of thunder storms. But since then there only has been some light rain showers. 9/1/60”


“Mrs. America Griffith of the Brumetts Creek section who is 84 years old, reported that she picked and canned a bushel of peaches that she gathered off of one tree at her home and picked all the peaches standing on the ground excepting 12 that she had to knock off with her walking cane. 9/3/64”


I hope you enjoyed the peek into Pigeon Roost via Mr. Miller. I’ve never heard of a storm of gnats, have you?

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
    Rev. RB
    September 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    So quaint it brought a smile to my face. Such lovely old times that I’m sure still occurs in many areas, yet it’s a shame the younger generation with their noses often poked into electronics don’t even notice.
    We’re awaiting Hermine here, but aren’t expecting more than a lot of rain and a little wind.
    Prayers for everyone in its path.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 1, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I see those gnat swarms all the time. Early in the spring to late into the fall. Even in winter if there is a couple of days of warm weather. I am used to getting gnats out of my eye, ears and nose as well as those of my kids. If you stick the corner of a dry paper towel to a gnat in someones eye it will stick to it and you’re done. If it is in an ear you might have to use some warm mineral oil or olive oil to float the sucker out. I guess if you ain’t never seen any better you accept most things as normal.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    I just love the image of Mrs. America Griffith raising her walking cane and knocking those last 12 peaches off the tree!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    For Maxine on yesterday’s Post:
    I’m so glad you’re going to get to see and hear Our Pressley Girls sing at Wofford College on Oct. 27th. They are the Real Deal and they harmonize like Angles. Paul and Tipper plays instruments with the Girls and I know you’re going to like them…Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Again today a very interesting picture. What I want to see is a Red-winged Blackbird in back portion of the weeds. A Indian Paintbrush in the foreground and some of those lovely Ragweed’s with their pollen poddy spikes along the backside of the fence pole. Did you purposely place the pole just in front of the milkweed to make it look like it was sprouting a young tree?
    I remember my parents and grandparents talking of people coming to the mountains and sometimes not paying for, but borrowing the old mountain split rail fences. Of course not all would just take them. There were many thief’s of old barns and home places as well. I remember well the man that come by my grandparents old home place begging for my Aunt to sell the big ornate oval glass door, even promising to make her safer by installing a solid door. He also was begging for the old turn style door bell. She held her ground and told him never to come back! She swore that some old cane chairs she stored in the barn when she closed in one end of the porch were taken by that feller?
    I saw a fairly large gnat storm out my kitchen window a few weeks ago on one of those hot humid days. I remember them as a child as well.
    Speaking of insect storms, we live a hop, jump and two skips from the lake. The football field is practically on the lake with only a dike and highway separating the school and field. Last week at the game there was a huge Mayfly hatch about midpoint of the game. They of course are attracted to lights and the football lights encouraged swarms. Since we were winning anyway most people decided to leave, they actually were covering the bleaches. Kids were catching them and scaring the ones that were afraid of them. They are harmless little critters and only live 24 hours, The fish go nuts feeding on them and a smart bass fisherman will cast at night during Mayfly seasonal hatch.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    September 1, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    You know the times were much slower then when a a lame deer and how many peaches came off a tree made the news.
    It’s sure different reading the news now.
    Between the crooked politicians, terrorist and making sure no one is offended I think I had rather read about wild bees, fences, peaches and lame deer!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Mr. Miller’s articles were an interesting read, especially the 1951 series, cause I wasn’t but 3 at that time. We had just got lights around that time and it brought back a lot of memories. I have seen swarms of gnats big as half a car and you could hardly see thru ’em. And I’ve found Bee Trees in the woods before. We had a favorite camping spot nearby and I use to watch them bees, wondering how they knew just which tree was their home…Ken

  • Reply
    Larry p.
    September 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I remember tracking bees with my grandpa. We would find them watering on a branch or stream then watch them fly away and pay attention which way they flew. At times even sprinkling them with flour so they would be marked. Then time them on how long it took them to come back for more water. He could tell how far away the bee tree was.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 1, 2016 at 11:38 am

    The picture looks like my garden except my weeds are so high you can’t see the trees on the other side. If I make it to next year, I’m going to do better.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 11:06 am

    I really love these articles from a time reaching back to an even earlier history.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2016 at 10:42 am

    We used the phrase “gnat swarm” or “gnat cloud” – they seem to gather out of nowhere when the air gets real still. It’s bad enough to have them gather ’round you if you’re just sitting or standing outside; but, if you are on a bicycle trying to get home before you get in trouble for being late and you encounter a gnat cloud you’d soon be taking in a little extra protein, pickin’ them out of your teeth, blowin’ them out of your nose, waterin’ them out of your eyes, and diggin’ them out of your ears! Miserable!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 1, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I guess we have too many insecticides around now to have the swarms of things like grasshoppers. Tip, I’ve never heard of a storm of gnats either.
    Times sure are different now, aren’t they. Except here we do still have the deer and fawns and the occasional black bear family.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 1, 2016 at 8:57 am

    I can make a guess as to why the bee tree had not been found in 4 years. They weren’t flying in a straight ‘beeline’.
    I’m intrigued about shipping chestnut rails to New York. Wish I knew that whole story; who wanted them in NY, how they were found in NC and how they were used in NY. I did not realize they had attained that kind of value by 1951. From the description, it sounds like it was a “snake” fence. I’ve never understood the ‘without nails’ part. There had to be a technique that put strength into the fence such that it couldn’t simply be pushed apart.
    I have thought before that if one looked at the arrangement of trees growing in an old fencerow – and if they understood what they were seeing – the old snake fencerow could be recognized by there being multiple trees in the width of the fencerow. I think the fencerow along the Oconnoluftee River at the GSMNP at the visitor center might be an example.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    September 1, 2016 at 8:17 am

    It is interesting and sometimes humorous the things they used to publish in the newspapers. I have found lots of interesting articles and tidbits of information in papers while searching around on the internet about the past. They have what they call black flies in southern West Virginia. Every time we’d go to the state parks in the summer, we’d be constantly batting them away from our face. They called them flies, but to me they were little black gnats and there were swarms of them.

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