National Geographic : 1962 Jul
The People of Cades Cove them. Unlike machine-made bells, each bell has a distinct personality and tone. The herders were sometimes outsiders, sometimes Cove people. They built log cab ins, planted turnips, potatoes, and cabbages, and hunted in their spare time. If wild turkey and deer were scarce, there were still-in John W. Oliver's words-"udlins of squirrels." IN APRIL the mountaintops are mostly bar ren. Spring creeps up the Smokies about a hundred feet a day. By the end of June, the laurel, rhododendron, and azalea form bril liant colonnades on the summits. Between April and June other flowering shrubs and trees bring life to the slopes: the flame azalea (known locally as "wild honeysuckle"), which shows red and yellow blooms from the same species; dogwood; silverbells; redbud; the mountain magnolia and the umbrella tree, with their large creamy petals. The cabin near Gregory Bald was called the Moore cabin. Nearby, a cold-water spring with a vigorous two-inch bubble carries the same name, for Frank Moore of Maryville, a Presbyterian preacher. The cabin was built for him by Julius Gregg and Carson Burch field of the Cove. Although the Reverend Moore spent a few vacations there, the cabin was primarily used by herders. There is a shel ter there now, built by the Park Service and adorned by flame azaleas. No signs of the old herder cabins remain, either at Gregory or at any of the other balds. In rounding up stock, the herders needed corrals in which to assemble the animals. They called these corrals "ga'nt lots," for when many cattle were penned, the forage went fast and the stock became gaunt. Dim outlines of the ga'nt lots can still be seen, though it takes a bit of imagination. One June day, Harvey and Anne Broome, Ernest Dickerman, a member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, Otis Imboden of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, Michael Oliver, and I hiked into Gregory Bald. It rained inces santly, and when we reached the top, fog rolled restlessly across the bald. The azaleas had watery growths on them, some of them half the size of a lemon. They are known as leaf galls, or "pinxter apples"; we used them to quench our thirst. Michael Oliver-son of Judge Wayne Oliver and great-great-great-grandson of the original John Oliver-and I explored the bald carefully. Michael, already six feet two at 16 years, has the stride of a mountain man; he travels uphill as fast as downhill. This day Michael and I learned that a new animal had come to Gregory Bald. Wild hogs had been rooting there, looking for grubs. They trace back to wild boars imported from Europe by a hunting club twenty miles distant and long since disbanded. The wild boars have crossed with native hogs, and the offspring range the hills. We mentioned the wild hogs to Randolph Shields. The Park Service has begun to re move the hogs, he explained. Until they are gone and can root up the ground no more, those who have ancestors in the graveyards in the Cove will be anxious. THERE ARE "RAMPS" in the Smokies, namely wild onions, scientifically called Allium tricoccum. The mountain people ate both the leaves and the bulbs in the spring time. The custom is so deep-seated that Cos by, Tennessee, has an annual Ramp Festival. John W. Oliver chuckled as he told me about them. "That's an onion that'll strong ye," he said. "One bite'll stay with a man fer days. The herders up Gregory Bald stunk up their cabin when they ate ramps. Sure is a survigrous plant. Only protection a man has is to eat some hisself." Harvey Broome, who is a Knoxville lawyer and president of the Wilderness Society, vis ited the herder cabin at Spence Field in 1926, shortly before grazing on the ridges ended. Tom Sparks of Cades Cove was in charge. A rock fireplace was at one end of the cabin and a partition divided it, setting apart a bunkroom. "We asked Tom if we could spend the night," Harvey told me, adding, "It was a mere formality, for a mountain man never refused lodging." Tom replied, "Pull up a cheer." Tom killed a sheep for supper. Steaks were fried over the open fire and bread baked in a Dutch oven. Some articles of food were re ferred to in the feminine. Bread or sheep was meant by the question, "Is she dun yet?" After supper Tom Sparks "biled" some sheep over the open fire, telling one of his as sistants, "Better give her some more water." As they cut mutton to put into the bucket for "bilin'," someone said to Tom Sparks, "You'll never get all thet sheep in thet bucket."