Appalachia Appalachian Writers

The Last Tall White Pine From The Cross Tie Hollow

Today’s guest post was written by Eva Nell Mull, Ph.D.


To recall the visit of my mother and father, Martha and Joe Mull and their 11th child, David, to Tennessee in the month of July, 1961, brings back many precious memories for me. Never before had they been to the ‘secret city’ and they were there especially to visit us and ‘view’ our first newborn child, James Seymour Wike, Jr. You might be wondering, “What has Joe and Martha’s visit to see their new grandson got to do with tall white pines?”

Well Sir, I’ll tell you right now. It is quiet simple actually. If you knew my Daddy well, you would know that he knew all about ‘new ground’ and how to fix it. And that is exactly what our little acre needed-FIXEN! That being because it had been a cornfield before it became our very own ‘barren’ red clay yard.

After admiring our Jimmy and visiting a spell, Daddy was ready to ‘make tracks’ as he often described his departure. His parting advice was, “Honey, I do believe you need some white pines planted around your new house to kind of cool it.” Air conditioning was neither in his repertory nor in our budget. Having watched all the good red clay fast washing off our yard I knew my Daddy was right. He said “When you get able to travel, you come over and we’ll get a few white pines from the Cross Tie Hollow for you to plant.” Then they were gone.

In the winter time of ’61 we made our journey back to the Cove to visit Mamma and Daddy and show off our Jimmy to everybody. Just before we were getting ready to ‘make tracks’ back across the mountains, Daddy very carefully placed a big toe-sack filled with five saplings in the trunk of our car. Closing the lid carefully he said, “I do believe these white pines will all make it! Just don’t plant them too deep.” By golly they did! ALL FIVE! Just like my Daddy had predicted.

The years passed and Jimmy grew tall. But so did the white pines. Of course I had planted several of the pines too close to the house (to cool it) and in time we had to cut them down-one at a time over the fifty years-until now there is only one remaining. The last white pine left standing in our yard is scheduled to be cut down in the next few weeks. It will be a simple matter for the tree cutters. But the Lord only knows how precious those memories are regarding those white pines my Daddy dug so long ago.


When The Deer Hunter and I first moved into our house-surrounded by red clay just like Eva Nell’s house was-me and Pap walked way up the creek and came home with a bucket full of Hemlock saplings to plant in our yard. Some lived-some died-and over the years we’ve lived here a few had to be removed for one thing or another. There’s only one left now.

I hope you enjoyed Eva Nell’s post as much as I did-leave her a comment and I’ll make sure she reads it.



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  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    July 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I enjoyed Eva Nell Mull’s story. I think we underestimate the connection to the trees, plants and woods in our lives. I just returned from a trip back home to East Tennessee and loved the flood of memories the trees brought back…the large maple tree where my dad and uncles would sit for hours whittling and telling stories with sweet smelling cedar curly shavings mounding up around their feet…the “pop-gun-berry” tree where we gathered ammo for our river cane ram-rod guns…The deep shady woods where my grand fathers and their fathers before them hunted and rested in the cool while no doubt enjoying the beauty around them. I enjoy my mother-in-law telling how her Scottish Grandfather planted “tax trees” first thing at his home place in Virginia – a row of pecan trees that the family later gathered and sold the nuts from to pay the land taxes. Planting trees is one of the greatest gifts we can give to future generations.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Beautiful, Eva Nell certainly has a way with words. I always enjoy her posts.
    Yes, I have to agree with Bradly, Tipper, you have a gift not just with words but in perspective!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    July 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Majestic tree! Made me think of Joyce Kilmer-…”a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray”.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Reminds me of our dad and his Pennsylvania Chestnut Trees. They were killed in a blight maybe 50 years ago or so, but he found one struggling sapling when hunting in the woods and brought it home. It not only grew into the record trunk circumference and record drip line Pennsylvania Chestnut Tree in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it also sired possibly hundreds more that he gave to everyone who would take one, including the Boy Scouts who came every year for 50 saplings to plant in the woods.
    He was very proud of that tree, but interestingly, as his health declined, so did the tree’s, and a storm finally took it down around the time of his death.
    That wonderful man and that wonderful tree. I miss them both still.
    With love.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I’ll try to be brief as possible but, I feel I need to say something before it gets any later. When I read the posts that your readers write in to you and their wonderful thoughts, about subjects you always seem to give them I am amazed. There isn’t a large number of people that can capture the attention of others and cause them to want to elaborate on the subjects given. O.k. I’ll give some examples of people that can do this with ease. Oprah Winfrey could do this to the nth degree, Diane Sawyer can also do this. They could get people interested in a phone book if that’s all they happen to have. That is called talent, and a gift. There’s many more that have this gift but, I just wanted to mention a few. YOU do this with such ease.
    Well, If anyone needs proof, just go back and read what the readers have said about the subject you gave them.
    O.K., O.K., I’ll stop now, but I bet that nobody will have to pour this back in the jug!

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Tipper: I was swept away by all the heart-felt comments! The question of whether this is really a WHITE PINE maybe answered after some of the folks comments you posted!
    The cluster of needles are in FIVE smaller clusters! The cone is a skinny elongated shape about 3-4 inches long. So I do believe my daddy was right when he referred to the saplings as WHITE PINES!
    Cheers, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Yes, I did enjoy the guest post. There’s just a sort of pride in planting a tree and watching it grow. I have an oak from an acorn I planted and now it’s getting tall enough to make a much-needed shade.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Tipper: In response to Jim Casada’s inquiry regarding the CROSS TIE HOLLOW, I know very well the origin of that name! That was a hollow where Daddy would fell the ‘right size’ trees and we (the children) would do the shapeing to MAKE A CROSS TIE for the railroad. We got a DOLLAR a TIE! Our draw blade would get a little dull and Daddy would pull out the whitstone and sharpen it! In addition he kept a long hangled hoe handy to kill the Copperheads that came down into the hollow! We never got snake bit and every once in a while we would have earned enough dollars for a NEW PAIR OF SHOES!!!
    Regards, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    On Eva Nells repost about the pine tree….
    Since the pine is the NC state tree and there are at least 8 varieties of pines in NC..I would venture that it is some sort of White pine as stated by her Father…there is a short needle..white pine..with long cones…
    It sure looks like the ones that grew in my Aunts yard in Asheville
    and on my Grandparents farm in Madison County. They called them White pines back then about 55 years ago…If it has the long pine cones that is what they called a White pine..
    My Mother still had a few of these dried long white pine cones that were painted white and used as Christmas decorations…I always thought when I was a kid that the NC pine trees had prettier pine cones than the TN old black pine near our house….Ha We would also gather the cones of Hemlocks to bring back for crafts.. It is not a Loblolly like our stand we had cut here, they had very long needles…but do have long cones but thicker around than the white least from the picture the needles look shorter…
    I also thought cross-tie hollows were where they cut trees for cross ties back in the day when building the railroads thru NC…interesting…
    Thanks Tipper and Eva

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I always get a lot of pleasure
    reading Eva Nell’s life stories.
    Like her daily comments on the
    Blind Pig, this White Pine was
    another talented read.
    About 25 years ago I planted one
    of our Christmas trees, a Frazier
    Fur at the edge of our yard beside
    the driveway. Today its 50 feet
    tall, but has a bend in it where
    a slide once happened. And its the
    deepest green thing standing in our mountain hollar. Someday I hope my granddaughters will enjoy
    this “Touch of the Past”…Ken

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    July 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I love white pines but not to close to the house. Tell Eva Nell, I enjoyed this so much and I enjoy your posts as well.Thank you for posting stuff that I can relate to and love.. Susie

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    July 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Don’t know what kind of pine it is but it is magnificent….so sorry that it has to be cut. We left the secret city in 1959 — a great place to grow up in! (I would try to have some prim pine pieces out of the wood.) Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Tipper and Eva Nell–It sure looks like a white pine to me, although I’d be more comfortable in being emphatic if I could see the tree in person. The cones would provide a sure way to ascertain if that is indeed the case. Are they elongated and slender, rather than roundish?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Beautiful story. My aunt gave me a fir sapling when I got this place. Many years passed and”Dougie” the Douglas Fir got too large for the property. Still miss that tree.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Oh, how sad that the white pines and the hemlocks had to be cut down. I know the memories will live in your minds forever, but it’s just not the same. This makes me want to go plant a tree with my son in a spot that will never need cutting.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    July 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Tipper: Would it be fair to post on my own post? Hopefully! Yesterday my middle grandson, Jacob, read my ‘white pine’ story after dinner and celebration of our son’s birthday! He had ‘practiced’ earlier, while we were out on the lake! No one knew except him and his grandpa – that he had practiced! When he read it, he read it with such feeling, the story seemed to be his story! But then the shocking ‘fact’ was revealed, by one of the dinner guests, that the tree is NOT A WHITE PINE! Can someone out there please tell me what kind of pine it is???? Tipper, maybe your Pap could shed some light on the question.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    July 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

    The little memories that make a lifetime.
    Trees are significant because they are.
    They are significant as well in that they provide a slow calendar of one’s life.
    Where I live now, I’ve lived longer than in any single place in my life. Shortly, after moving here, I planted a Dawn Redwood, a Ginkgo and several Canadian Hemlocks, the latter as a privacy fence.
    Of course, living in the land of trees, they did very well. Watching them grow over time placed this place for me.
    Plant others.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Tipper and Eva Nell–This is a moving story, and so true to the ways of mountain folks. When we moved into the house where we live now, close to 40 years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long), Mom and Dad came to visit soon after we were settled. Daddy was like a worm in hot ashes just sitting around the house. As someone who had known work as a handmate all his life, he simply had to be doing something. We ventured outside and he cast an interested and knowing eye (he was in the furniture/timber/logging business all his life and knew the natural history of trees with an intimacy which would have been the envy of many botanists) on our three acres. Some suggestions about taking down some trees, adding some, and general landscaping followed. As a result we today have half a dozen or so Chinese chestnuts, direct descendants of ones which were on his property in Bryson City, day lilies from the same place, dogwoods, and more with a true, tangible link to someone who is gone.
    Those “plant memories” can be powerful and poignant ones.
    Eva Nell, when the last white pine is cut, I’d suggest you consider saving a log or two out of it and seeing if you can get them sawed and dry kilned somewhere. You could then turn (or have turned)the wood into picture frames, book ends, a magazine rack, a few turkey calls, a whimmydiddle, a fluttermill, or something which would give you lasting comfort and a tangible link to the last white pine from cross-tie hollow. White pine may not be an ideal type of lumber for woodworking, but in this case it will do quite nicely. Incidentally, as someone who is always intrigued by place names, I wonder about the origins of Cross-tie Hollow. Do you know?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

    This is such a heart warming story by Mrs Mull and, it hits close to home for me.
    It is amazing how we can become attached to things in our lives especially when they are entertwined with a fond memory of someone we love.
    Thanks Tipper for letting us know about Mrs Mull. The tree is beautiful.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Enjoyed Eva Nell’s story. I had alot of tall pines around my house but over time some died and had alot cut. They weren’t white pine. Now oaks have come up in their place and are getting so tall. Will make beautiful shades someday.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    July 10, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Eva’s picture brought back fond memories for me, in 1969 Dad and I dug up 2 white pines from the electric company’s right of way about a mile from our house and set them out in front of our house in the middle of July, we had to drive some tobacco sticks around them to hold them straight, it was so dry you couldn’t pack the dirt down until you soaked it with water. Funny thing is pine trees did not grow in the wild there do not know how they got their start, a friend dug up the rest of them I think there were 3-4 left after we got ours but his lived but refused to grow like ours, his are or were the last time I saw them still rather small compared to ours, I would guess ours to be between 75 and 100 feet tall today. Thanks Tipper I really enjoy your work, will send your onion sets as soon as possible. Bill

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 10, 2011 at 7:54 am

    My Dad came back to Sylva, NC from the Navy after WWII and crossed the mountain to the “Secret City” looking for work. I was born in Oak Ridge 2 years later and, like Eva Nell, we made many trips over the mountains to visit my grandparents until Granddad’s death in 1954.
    It is too bad the old white pine has to come down. Trees are one of our treasures.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I love Eva’s picture and her story. Chapters come and they end, leaving a beautiful memory in our minds eye.
    This is so timely, I am working on a post about my pines. We have many and our time has come to “cut” some down making way for fencing. My story will post soon, so come see.
    Blessings to you Eva and to you Tipper.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 10, 2011 at 5:50 am

    I love White Pines and enjoyed this post by Eva Nell…
    We have transplanted Dogwoods from our back woods to the yard..
    Most all lived..and now three are beginning to look like they never lived anywhere else…We of course planted one too close to the house and have to keep it trimmed away from the roof and side of the house…which it is in desperate need this fall…
    Thanks Tipper

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