History of the Grassy Balds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Lawrence Crisp

Lawrence Crisp interviewed by Mary Lindsay, January 28, 1976. Bryson City, North Carolina

LC: That was about herdin' the cattle up there.

ML: Yeah. Okay, so you grew up on Forney Creek?

LC: That's right.

ML: 'Bout when were you born?

LC: Born?

ML: Yeah.

LC: Oh, I wasn't born at Forney Creek. I was born down over here at what they call (unintelligible) at Patterson's Springs, and it's covered up with Fontana water now, as far as I know. Oh, I was born in 1891.

ML: Okay, so, did your family run cattle up on the mountain?

LC: Yeah, yeah. We herded cattle up on the head of Forney Creek there.

ML: 'Bout how many did you have?

LC: Well, we never would, never did have very many. We had three and four most of the time.

ML: Did a lot of other families have them up there, too?

LC: Yep. All of them.

ML: How many do you think there'd be all together.

LC: Countin' up in there all the people that ever lived up there, on the . . . I'd say it'd be, I guess there'd be somethin' like a hundred on, on Forneys Creek, somethin' like that.

ML: And did they have one place for the herder to look after them, or did people just take care of their own herd?

LC: No, they just drive 'em up there and leave 'em and then go back about every two weeks and salt 'em. Nobody stayed with 'em. Of course the other people, whenever we might go and salt 'em, salt 'em this week what was our'n and around with 'em, then maybe two or three days from now there'd be somebody else in there. And it'd be like that all the time long. Maybe it'd be a week before there'd be anybody in there. Everybody had cattle up there would go look about them, 'bout every two weeks and see their 'uns.

ML: Did the cattle, did you call the cattle to the salt, or did they just find it?

LC: No, we'd know wherever we found 'em, you know, why, we'd call 'em up, and put down a little salt for 'em. That's the way we'd do it.

ML: How did you call them?

LC: Well, we would call 'em once in a while.

Mrs. LC: How did you call 'em?

LC: We'd call 'em like: Sooooo calf! Sooooo calf, like that. And they'd go, some of 'em would go to the boys, them that had bells on, you'd hear 'em and they'd come up to us sometimes. And we was off a little distance; we didn't go down to 'em wherever they was at. That's the way that was.

ML: Did they ever wander up on Silers Meadows and Andrews?

LC: Oh yeah.

ML: Or Andrews Bald?

LC: Yeah, yeah. They would go up there once in a great while, but they wouldn't stay up there, though. No, we didn't take 'em up there. When we take 'em out, we take 'em towards the heads of them creeks and places, leave 'em in them coves because the grass and weeds and stuff all like that would come up down in them coves before it come up there on the mountain.

ML: Did anyone specifically herd cattle on Andrews?

LC: No. You mean stay up with 'em and watch 'em?

ML: Yeah.

LC: No.

ML: Well, did any people take their cattle up there and leave 'em?

LC: Andrews Bald? No, they hardly ever took 'em up there to Andrews Bald. They meant to leave 'em down below, and then they would probably go up to Andrews Bald and the same to Silers Meadows once in a great while. But they didn't stay up there at all, the cattle didn't. They didn't stay up there. They would stay down in the coves, places like that, heads of creeks and branches.

ML: There were generally not many animals on Andrews then?

LC: Animals?

ML: Well, livestock.

LC: No, no. They wasn't, they wasn't any cattle much on top of the mountain, along the tops. None of the time on the tops of those leadin' ridges that run off from the main top of the Smokies. They didn't stay up on top of the Smokies much 'cause there wasn't much up there for them to eat. Well, there was some grass, but now winter grass, down in below Siler Meaders in there, next to the top of Smoky Mountain. They'd stay down in there quite a bit in that winter range of grass.

ML: Did anyone have any sheep up there?

LC: Not that I'd know of.

ML: They kept 'em down low?

LC: Now, I don't know if anybody did. I don't know nothin' bout anybody havin' sheep up at Silers Meaders or Andrews Bald.

ML: Did they keep them near their houses?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did they keep them lower down?

LC: Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah, they'd just turn the sheep out at home and let them go up the mountain just wherever they wanted to go. But they wouldn't go very far most of the time. They—I don't know. I don't think I'd know of anybody puttin' any of their sheep up there on them balds.

ML: Did you have to have a big roundup of cattle in the fall, or did people just go up and find their own?

LC: Well, they just most of the time go out and sometimes they would go and all of 'em go out there and gather up all their cattle when they got ready to bring 'em in, oh, when it'd get bad weather, snowin' and things like that, and get cold. But most of the time they just went out and got their own.

ML: Did people ever steal anybody else's?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did people steal other people's cattle?

LC: No, not that I know of. No. Don't do that. That wouldn't have worked. That wouldn't have worked, now. You see, they marked 'em. The cattle, all the cattle like that except the horses and mules and stuff like that stayed up there, they were all marked on their ears. And every man that knowed his own mark, and the most of the people knowed your mark, they all knowed their mark 'cause you could ask 'em if they had seen any cattle, found any up there. They'd say, "Yeah, well I found your'n too; your'n was with mine," like that, you see. That's the way they did.

ML: Did you ever lose any to bears or panthers?

LC: Do what?

ML: Did you ever lose them to bears or panthers?

LC: No. We killed bears. They tried to. . . . Yes, it was pretty bad to kill our hogs, and the bears, it'd . . . One bad thing to kill the sheep if they could find 'em. They're bad to kill sheep.

ML: Sheep are easier to kill.

LC: Yeah, they were bad to kill sheep, but not so bad to kill the hogs. But they would kill 'em. But we didn't have very many hogs to get killed, just once in a while. Find one that killed one like last one or night before, bunch of us get out dogs and get after 'em and kill 'em if we could.

ML: Did you ever lose any to lightning?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did you ever lose them to lightning?

LC: No.

ML: Didn't have any milk sickness?

LC: No. Nope. Do you mean milk sick?

ML: Yeah.

LC: No, no I don't think there's any up there in them mountains.

ML: Was there any lower down?

LC: No, not down in there anywhere that I'd ever knowed of. Now, I'd heard of being milk sick some parts of the county, but I don't know where's at not. Used to say that they had milk sick. But none of us never did have it, nor never knew of anybody on Forneys Creek or down in there anywhere havin' it.

ML: Did they ever eat rhododendron and get sick that way?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did they ever eat rhododendrons?

LC: Eat rhododendrons?

ML: Yeah.

LC: What's that?

ML: Well, I guess laurel.

LC: The cattle?

ML: Yeah.

LC: Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, they'd eat the leaves off that thing if they got hungry and didn't have any food of any kind, why they would eat the leaves off of that.

ML: But if they had grass, they wouldn't touch that?

LC: No, they would not want that. Uh-uh. They wouldn't bother that. The only time they would eat leaves off of that would be whenever they were hungry and didn't have any food or anything to eat. Then they would eat it.

ML: Did it make 'em sick?

LC: Yeah, make 'em sick, sure would.

ML: Did you ever have any caught in a late snow?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did you ever have any get caught in a snow in late spring and get frozen?

LC: We did. Dad did. He had, well, he had two young steers, two-year-olds, and a dry milk cow in nineteen and two, I believe it was. They come that big snow and froze the two yearlings but the old milk cow was standing in the branch, I believe he said. Two yearlings was laying dead on the hill there, and they was dead. There was lots of 'em frozen then, they was on Hazel Creek. That's where ours was too. They went across over Hazel Creek side of the mountain when that big snow come. They was over there. There was lots of 'em froze to death.

ML: When did you first go up to Andrews Bald? About when did you see that?

LC: When I first went to Andrews Bald?

ML: Yeah.

LC: I don't know.

ML: It was well before the Park was founded, though.

LC: Oh, Lord have mercy, yes. I'd, I was just a small boy, I guess. Why, oh, I was up there to Andrews Bald, I guess I was just about ten years old, somethin' like that, I guess.

ML: Were there any trees on it then?

LC: No. No more. . . . No, there wasn't no trees. All there was was just around the edge there were a few little around the edge of the laurel.

ML: Sarvises?

LC: And bushes like that and a few little ivy, course in the field. That was all that was in it then.

ML: No spruce or fir trees?

LC: Huh?

ML: No spruce trees or fir trees?

LC: No, no spruce trees in it. There were spruce trees on the outside of it around.

ML: Did anyone ever have a cabin up there on Andrews?

LC: Andrews Bald . . . well, no, not that I know of. Nobody except the Norwood Lumber Company. They had a, they built them a, a kind of an office, I think it was, a house of some kind back around from Andrews Bald back in kinda under Clingman's Dome, back in there. They had a. . . . It wasn't but a little piece from Andrews Bald where they had their house.

ML: So people from Hazel Creek and Forney Creek ran their cattle up those creeks and on to Silers Bald?

LC: No, they didn't run 'em.

ML: Well, the cattle got up there.

LC: Yeah, they just. . . . They didn't drive none up there. That they were takin' to Tennessee, that they sold 'em to somebody in Tennessee, then they would drive 'em up there to Siler Meaders. They wouldn't drive 'em to Andrews Bald 'cause Andrews Bald was too far back over this way. Now over to Silers Meaders then they'd go down the Smoky Mountains, here down in Tennessee.

ML: How long was the grass on Andrews and Silers Bald?

LC: How long?

ML: Yeah. How high was it? I mean, did they keep it grazed down real close?

LC: Yeah. Whenever they was cattle up there, they kept it eat off pretty close just about like cattle and horses would out in the pasture now, but after they quit havin' cattle up there or anything, why, that grass grew up 'bout that high. I don't know what kind of grass it was, but it'd grow up knee high.

ML: Yeah. Did you ever hear any old people talking about how Andrews and Silers came to be cleared?

LC: No, I don't believe I ever did. Old man, heard Daddy and them old folks talk about Andrews Bald. Said Old Man Andrews, I don't know where he was from, was the one that cleaned up Andrews Bald and Old Man Silers cleaned up Silers Bald.

ML: When? Back in their parents' time?

LC: Way back, that was years, I don't know, probably before they was ever in these parts. I don't know. They heard it or somethin'. That's all. I don't know. I . . . Was that all you was wantin' to know was just about that, about Silers Meaders and Andrews Bald and them places like that?

ML: Yeah. Did you ever go to the Spence Place, Spence Field?

LC: Where?

ML: Spence Field. That's . . .

LC: Spence Place. Oh yes, I done that. I been there, been through there cleaning out the trail when I worked for the Park Service.

ML: Well, did you ever go up there before the Park was founded?

LC: No, I never was down there before the Park. I been down pretty close to it though. But I never was down there before that I know of. Then there was Hall Cabin back up this way where them people from Hazel Creek when they would go up there lots of times to hunt up their cattle and bear hunt. Why, they'd go to Hall Cabin, they had a cabin down there they'd call Hall Cabin. . . . And down under Silers Bald a little way, what the name of it is Mule Lot Gap, they had a mule lot, a lot there, they called it Mule Lot, in the Mule Lot down there and right down below that just a little ways down below that on the Forney Creek side, was a Monteigh Cabin. Monteiths built that and the other people there, was more Monteiths than there was any other name, so they named that the Monteith Cabin. And I reckon the Halls must have built the other cabin down on Smoky.

ML: People ever go setting fires up there for anything?

LC: Huh?

ML: Did people ever set fires up there?

LC: On top of the mountain?

ML: Yeah.

LC: No, not that I ever heard of.

ML: Not even to burn off the leaves to get the chestnuts?

LC: No, no, never. They didn't way back then, they wouldn't go out and burn them woods. They wouldn't go up there at all. They tried to keep that, all that far out, most of 'em could except in the, long in the fall of the year after the chestnuts come down in the settlement, down in there, why, then sometimes, why, some of 'em would set out fire and let it burn over little place to pick up chestnuts. That was all. Fires set to watch 'em burn they did not that I ever heard anything about.

ML: Let's see. . . . Your hogs just ran in the woods?

LC: Yeah, the hogs just run loose just like . . .

ML: Did they mix a lot with the wild ones?

LC: Oh, Lord, yeah. That crowd of mine before I left Forneys Creek was mixed with them Russians. Ah, we had wild hogs before them Russians ever come around. We didn't know anything about 'em then. After they got them, why, they got mixed up, you know. Now there's all mixed Russian hogs. That's the way mine was when I left Forneys Creek.

ML: Did that make them harder to manage?

LC: What?

ML: Did that make them harder to take care of?

LC: Oh, they're mean, mean hogs. Well, is that all?

ML: I don't know.

LC: You don't know nothin' about snakes I guess, do you?

ML: No, I don't know anything about snakes. Did you have to kill a lot of them?

LC: Uh-huh. Killed lots of rattlesnakes.

ML: Poor rattlesnakes, everybody's beating on them. What were the woods around Silers and Andrews like? Were they pretty open or . . . ?

LC: The woods?

ML: Yeah.

LC: Oh, yeah. They was just open woods, just like anywhere most in the mountains except out at Andrews Bald, there was spruce around its rim. It was at the edge of the spruce there, it was in the spruce belt, Andrews was, especially on the Forney Creek side.

ML: Were there any tall blueberry bushes out in the middle of Andrews or Silers?

LC: Blueberries? Oh yes.

ML: Were they out on top or down in the edge of the woods?

LC: Down in the edge of the woods, yeah. Now if they were, I never did see none of them in them naked places of the fields. Never did.

ML: Practically nothing except grass up there?

LC: Grass and weeds.

ML: Were there quite a lot of weeds?

LC: Huh?

ML: Were there a lot of weeds:

LC: No, because the cattle kept them eat down, you know, and the horses and everything that stayed up there kept them weeds eat down and tore down, and the grass. . . . They eat the grass. The grass just like there was out here in a pasture somewhere where there's cattle and horses and mules. It's all ever I ever seen of it. Now, there may have been somebody else seen more than I did about that. But that's all I ever seen up there.

ML: So, if anybody was up on Andrews, it was people from Noland Creek and thereabouts.

LC: Yeah. There's people from Nolands Creek come up Andrews Bald like that. I know some from Forney's Creek came up there too. They did. One time I remember had church down at Andrews Bald. People came from Nolands Creek and Forneys Creek too up there. Had church up there, a preacher, at Andrews Bald.

ML: Must have been quite a walk for some of them.

LC: Well, it was, but those people liked to get up there on the mountains and see it, so they come up there, went to come up there for church so they'd come hear his preachin'. Done that once or twice that I know of. But that was before the Park ever got here. I never have heard mention them doin' anything like that since.

ML: No, they just bring the tourists down from the Clingman's Dome parking lot and tell them about the flowers. Well, were the cattle, the animals really thick in these places or were they just . . . ?

LC: Sick?

ML: Thick. I mean, were there lots of them, or were they just scattered bands that would come for a few days.

LC: Oh, they was scattered out. They would live way up in the mountain. Now, there'd be a good herd of 'em right around here somewhere. They would move maybe on out a mile or so up here further or they'd move back down or over that way. They'd move around. They never did come back home. They always stayed back up there on the mountain where it's good and cool. See, the flies didn't bother 'em up there. I never knowed any flies to bother the horses and cattle on the mountain way up in there.

ML: That was the important reason for keeping them up there?

LC: Yeah, well, that was why they'd like to stay up there, the cattle did. They liked to stay up there; they liked that grass, the things in the mountains there. They liked it. Course, they would come out on the tops of the mountains up there every once in a while and stay around along the tops maybe for a day and then walk down in the coves. They come up a bad electric storm, they didn't stay up there. They went down in the coves. Everything in the mountains except on top.

End of interview.

Transcribed by Andrea Behrman.

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Last Updated: 07-Mar-2008