Smith potatoes

Mr. W.E. Smith shows of his prize kennibeck potatoes in the Sept. 24, 1970, edition of The Avery Journal.

From our newspaper archives:

50 years ago: The Sept. 24, 1970, edition of The AJT featured an article “Cranberry Gap News.” Mrs. Grace Ollis is sick at her home here. Also Miss Zona English is on the sick list. Mrs. Nina Ollis and Mrs. Beulah Caraway visited Mrs. Harston Ollis last week and visited Mrs. Nelia Sparks on Big Horse Creek. Mrs. Jack Anderson and Mr. and Mrs. Will Roach of Huntington, W. Va., returned home last week. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Roach attended church at Belview Sunday. We welcome Mrs. Dianne McCloude, who become the bride of Mr. Eugene McCloude, last week to the community. Visiting Mr. and Mrs. Clennie Ollis over the weekend were Mr. and Mrs. Bascum Ollis and children of Morganton, Phillip McCloud and Mr. and Mrs. Freddie Grindstaff and daughter, and Mr. Homer Turbyfill of Cranberry. Mrs. Horton Holtsclaw and Mrs. Beulah Caraway and Mrs. Nina Ollis was shopping in Spruce Pine last week.

40 years ago: The Sept. 25, 1980, edition of The AJT featured an article “OVT Marchers Reach Avery Sat. Sept. 27.” Marchers following the Overmountain Victory Trail will arrive at the top of Yellow Mountain about noon September 27 as did our forefathers 200 years ago en route to Kings Mountain. During the Bicentennial year we will have an opportunity to welcome the largest crowd of participants ever, including groups from Northern states, Boy Scouts and those on horseback. Festivities at Plumtree will be similarly to those for the past five years. On Saturday evening at 6 p.m. residents of Plumtree and the surrounding atea spearheaded by the ladies of Plumtree Presbyterian Church will serve the marchers supper at the Wilkins Cabin.

As in years past, families will bring stew, cornbread, desserts and all the fixins and will eat with the marchers and participate in the festivities. Those who have not yet participated in the annual shindig at Plumtree truly have something to look forward to, and this will be the last chance! Furthermore, it isn’t just food that makes it a great occasion. Rev. Wallace Wise will bring a message of special interest to the marchers in the Plumtree Presbyterian Church, after which Miss Kay’s Katydids and Avery County High School Cloggers, and the Bannerman String Band, Lula Belle and Scotty and other local musicians will entertain at the Old Burleson store or on the grounds of the Wilkins Cabin.

30 years ago: The Sept. 27, 1990, edition of The AJT featured the article entitled “Autumn Ushered In with Snow Flurries.” Autumn was ushered into Avery County with snow flurries on the higher elevations September 23. Sam Turbyfill, night watchman at Grandfather Mountain, reported flurries Sunday night and early Monday morning when the temperature dropped to 29 degrees. Unfortunately, the snow did not lay, therefore no snow scenes were photographed. Harris Prevost said the earliest snowfall measured on Grandfather occurred September 27, 1985. Asked if he thought the early snow flurries were a portent of a bad winter, Harris Prevost of Grandfather Mountain said, “Well, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a rough winter.”

20 years ago: The Sept. 28, 2000, edition of The AJT feature article entitled “A Sanger’s Search for Ginseng,” by Ray Dellinger. My father was 11 years old in May 1901 when the “May Fresh” hit the Toe River Valley. It was the area’s worst storm in recorded history. There was so much water entering the ground that air became trapped between it and the rising water table. Sometimes enough pressure would envelop to cause a “pop-up” or as some call it a “bust-out.” Large areas would literally rise up and slide down the mountain.

Several years after the flood, Dad was in the mountain ‘sanging,’ and as he dug the roots he saved the berries from the ginseng in a large tin snuff can. He knew of a particular “pop-up,” knew that no ginseng grew anywhere near it and the other ‘sangers’ would not bother to look for it there. He went there on purpose to sow the berries he had collected.

Recently, I made the journey to the same “pop-up.” It has been more than 30 years since Dad had taken me to this place. He explained that when ginseng initially comes up, it has only one composite leaf, or “prong” and that it usually takes from three to five years for a plant to mature to the stage where it can produce seed and replenish itself. At that stage, the plant has three or more prongs.

Over the years, I would occasionally go to see if ginseng was still there. Sometimes others would have been there before me. One year, I found little one-prong tops discarded where someone had dug even that, and I feared that by diggin’ such small plants they would destroy the patch. Climbing up the ridge below the pop-up, I watched for ginseng as I went, not really expecting to see any because it had never spread very far from where Dad had sown the berries.

About 20 feet below the lower end of the pop-up, I saw the first “three-prong” buch of ginseng. Dad had always told me not to dig the first plant I found until I looked around to see if there were any more. He instructed me to look both up and down the hill because sometimes a large bunch of berries would roll down a steep place and scatter, making new plants.

Sure enough, there was another plant behind a fallen tree. I walked back and forth across the pop-up finding a few plants mature enough to dig. I pinched the tops from the small immature plants and buried them under the leaves to keep anyone from finding them.

As I stood there on the pop-up, my mind was filled with memories of my dad, how he had loved the mountains and loved to get out in the woods this time of year to hunt ginseng. When I was growing up Dad never had a regular job away from this little hillside farm. Sometimes loggers would hire him to cut timber. He usually made the log trails used for the horses to pull the logs out of the mountain. He worked at whatever he could to make a dollar. I don’t ever remember him turning down a job and whatever he did he gave it his best.

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