History of the Grassy Balds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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A. Randolph Shields

Interview with Randolph Shields, Professor of Botany at Maryville College
Interviewed by Susan Bratton, May 28, 1975

RS: . . . born in Cades Cove, 1913.

SB: Okay. This is on grassy balds on which you are probably much more of an expert than I am. I think the first question that we're interested in is what kinds of livestock were up on the ridge in the pre-park days and what sheep, cattle, what were the relative proportions, how many head, approximately, were there?

RS: I can't answer those questions as precisely as you would like. I do know that the sheep, cattle, and hogs, to a certain extent, plus other livestock such as the horses and mules were there. As far as the number of head is concerned, I have no idea how to try and relate things except that, of course, the horse and the mule population was much less than the others, and generally speaking they were from the Cove, more of those from the Cove, I suppose, than from outside the Cove. They usually did not put them up on the mountain until after the crops were laid by, about the middle of July. Then the mules and horses were taken up to the mountain tops and kept there until they were brought off in the fall, and they stayed, of course, pretty close around on the balds. The sheep also stayed on the crests. They didn't wander off. The cattle were the ones that were very bad to wander off, of course. Generally speaking, they would stay together in individual herds. Most owners would put a bell on one of their cows, and those that were associated with that particular cow would stay with her. This is the way, of course, the herders would locate them when they wandered off the mountain, was from the bell, and they would go off and drive them back up. They tended to wander very badly, cattle did. But as far as the balds are concerned, I suppose the biggest impact of course was from sheep and not so much from cattle, and this may have been why: Cattle tended to wander off a great deal because they don't like to graze around where there was sheep, or at least they don't seem to.

SB: Were there any differences from bald to bald in the types of animals that were brought up there or the way the herding was done?

RS: I don't think so, as far as I know. Of course the ones I'm familiar with are those around Cades Cove, and from what I hear about Silers Bald and Andrews and the others, they were pretty much the same.

SB: Do you know what breeds of cattle were most commonly used:

RS: Well, ah, back in those days most of them, I suppose, were general mixtures. Of course some dairy people out here in the valley would bring their dairy herd up that were dry, of course, during the summer months and put them out, but mostly they were beef cattle, the Angus and Herefords, general mixtures.

The concept of raising purebred cattle did not come. into vogue in this general area until, well, about the time or after they started driving them to the mountains. The herds I remember seeing as a boy in the Cove were just mixed herds. And the people in the Cove didn't go in for pure breed stuff until the 1930's which was about the time when they couldn't herd them on the mountain anymore.

SB: When did they take them up to the mountain, and when did they bring them down?

RS: The cattle went to mountains usually early in April. One of the signs that they used to go by was when what they call the lamb's tongue was, got a good crop of that, then there was something for them to graze.

SB: What is lamb's tongue? Do you know what the. scientific name is?

RS: Erythronium americanum.

SB: Oh, really? Several people have mentioned that to me and I didn't . . .

RS: Yeah, that's trout lily.

SB: So the cattle eat lamb's tongue, then?

RS: Yes, oh yes.

SB: What else do they graze of those vernal plants? Do they graze Claytonia and ah . . .

RS: I wouldn't know about that. Of course Claytonia is not Clintonia at least . . . prevalent in the higher altitude beech forest of course, . . . but I just don't know.


SB: Back to food items.

RS: Most of the. . . . Well the cress and stuff that grows along in the wetter areas, you see, and the saxifrage too, the brook lettuce, and those types of things were grazed, at the lower altitudes and earlier. Of course the big cattle drive didn't get started to the top of the mountains until May when the grasses and everything came out, and then of course the gathering of cattle started usually around the first of September, the first week of September, and the general rule of thumb was to bring them off the mountain by the first of October.

SB: Did they have to bring them down that early because of the weather, or was the grass just finished?

RS: No, it wasn't the weather as much as. . . . Well, maybe it was the weather to a degree, because the frost up there of course is early and a lot of frost-killed plants are not palatable, and some of them even are poisonous to cattle, and there's one plant particularly that they wanted to avoid their cattle eating as much as possible and this was the black snakeroot.

SB: Black snakeroot rather than white snakeroot?

RS: Well, probably both of them. Black snakeroot is the one that they worried more about than any of the others, ah, which produce milk sickness.

SB: Now it's black snakeroot rather than white snakeroot? It is not Eupatorium rugosum, it's . . . what is it?

RS: Cimicufuga racemosa.

SB: Oh, I usually call that black cohosh.

RS: Oh, black cohosh, well . . .

SB: Joint weed, ah . . .

RS: Cimicifuga and the Euatorium both of course don't frost kill as quick as the others and after frost kill would be the only green stuff, herbage, down in the forest particularly, and the cattle seem to really go for it when it is the only green stuff around.

SB: Did you ever hear of any poisoning problems with Dicentra in early spring?

RS: Yes, oh yes. Not in the Smokies because I don't think you have enough of Dicentra concentrated enough for the cattle to eat it, in those areas particularly. Out in southwest Virginia when I taught up there, it was a very common spring thing down on the limestone bluffs. They were kind of pastures and the bluffs were not fenced out, and sometimes you'd get acres and acres of Dicentra on those limestone bluffs. Of course, the Dicentra never killed any cattle, but it would give them the staggers. A common name for it was staggerweed. That is what the farmers called it.

SB: Do you remember incidents of milk sickness in the Cove?

RS: Oh, yes, yes.

SB: Do you remember any cattle going down or any people having that?

RS: I have heard of people when I was a kid. At least they got sick, and it was called milk sickness. Cattle, yes. Fact is the last cattle that was herded on the Gregory Bald area was in 1935. They was supposed to have kept them off the bald, but they didn't. . . . And it was John W. Oliver's cattle. He insisted on running his cattle up there until the last minute and one of his cousins herded the cattle , and one of his sons herded there. They had a cabin at Doe Knob and they were running them there up Ekaneetlee and that area, and they were supposed to keep them away from the bald. 1934 was the last season that was herded, herded on the bald legally, that is.

But John Oliver run his up there, he had about 25 or 30 head and had those boys up there taking care of them, and he didn't get them off until about the middle of October and he lost over half of them to milk sickness.

SB: Really. The Eupatorium is much worse at certain times of year. I was discussing that with Boney Myers and he couldn't remember very many cows getting milk sickness. He could remember driving a few, one had dropped dead, it was beginning to tremble. And he said to the fellows that were driving it that they'd better let it cool down and they didn't allow it to. . . . But he said he didn't think it was that common, and he didn't know why it was caused, and I suggested it was white snakeroot, and he said well if it was white snakeroot every cow on that mountain should have had it, had the milk sickness. So you think it was a seasonal thing?

RS: I think it was a seasonal thing because they didn't . . the cattle that I am familiar with up there and I worked with, ah, wouldn't eat the stuff in the summertime, at least there was no evidence of any browsing of it at all, and until the frost killed everything else, they would eat everything else and leave it standing there green, and it is one of the last things to frostkill.

SB: Now, this is Cimiofuga.

RS: Cimicifuga.

SB: What about the Eupatorium?

RS: Oh, the Eupatorium. Most of those are usually mixed in this forest. They were probably eating both of them, I don't know, because usually they are found pretty well together. Another thing they worried about with the cattle getting off low in the coves because that is where more of those things were of course.

SB: Yeah, this is the black cohosh again and not the Eupatorium so much down there.

(Following section of tape between parentheses was removed to repair tape).

(SB: Because 'there is a lot of it down there.

RS: A great fear late in the fall particularly in September if they didn't get 'em rounded up (unintelligible) did everything they possibly could to keep the cows from going low.

SB: Was there grass up there at that time? Could they have left them up there longer?

RS: Oh, yes. The grass (unintelligible) short and, ah, I don't know whether it would have enough forage or not for them.

SB: How low down did they graze that grass?

RS: Well, out on the bald, well again it was sheep that controlled that more than anything else, those balds looked like they'd been mowed by a lawnmower.

SB: So the grass is probably, what, an inch, two inches high?

RS: An inch, inch and a half, sometimes like that, yes.

SB: It was matted pretty much?

RS: Yeah. It was beautiful. And actually it was a park, an open tree park between the balds and down the ridges from the balds.

SB: Did the sheep and cattle nip off seedlings and shoots of woody plants out along those edges?

RS: Oh, no doubt they would have. No doubt that's what kept them, of course, I think that was shown pretty well by the work that was done up on Roan Mountain in the early fifties by Brown from East Tennesee State—do you have his work? He started the study there and no one's followed through for very long, but it was far enough to know. He fenced off an area there in the middle of the bald to keep grazing off of it, and in a couple of years the stuff was covered.

SB: Thinking again of the flora, was there much Potentilla or Rumex, out on those areas, the sheep sorrel, at that time? Some of those low matty plants that are very common up there. now?

RS: I wouldn't have any memory about that but (unintelligible) service weren't conspicuous as far as I was concerned.

SB: What about blueberries and blackberries? Gregory right now is for picking blueberries. What was the situation back when you were a boy? You must remember about blueberries.

RS: Why yes, there were practically no blueberries on those open balds. Again, I think grazing kept them out, grazing stock. We did all our blueberry picking on the pine slopes.

SB: And I would say that blueberries on Gregory are much better than the blueberries on piney slopes.

RS: Well, many piney slopes where the blueberries they're practically gone because of a lack of fire. Oh, I think the deer, I don't know exactly how much they browse, but there's probably some indication they help, at least keep blueberries cropped back up there to new sprouts. The blueberry productivity depends on the growth of these sprouts. This is why the natives used fire, on those south slopes was used to produce blueberry crops. They didn't burn naturally as they used to say. Every third year somebody came along and set a fire to produce a good blueberry crop for next year.

SB: Do you remember any blooming serviceberries out on the open balds from some of your early trips up there or picking the blueberries ever?

RS: No, no.

SB: Not at Spence even?

RS: Well now, Spence I'm not too familiar with. I wasn't up there much when I was a kid.

SB: But none on Andrews?

RS: Well, on the other balds like Gregory there were serviceberries when I was growing up. They were all down on the lower slopes. There was just nothing growing out on those open balds.

SB: What about service around the edges? The edges at all. Was that oak?

RS: Mostly what was around the edges was oak and chestnut, a lot of chestnuts, big chestnut trees around. We used to go up there at night in Sheep Pen Gap and pick up 100 bushels of chestnuts between the balds and around the balds.

SB: How much of that was open? Now Sheep Pen Gap has, right at the areas where the trails intersect, there is mostly small pole yellow birch at the moment. Was that completely open?

RS: That was completely open. That was an open park and of course the large oak trees standing there now and the remnants of chestnut trees, some of them are still around, that were in that area and it was open park.

SB: How far, to Parson's?

RS: Oh, all the way to Parson's. Of course you could just see it was open park. Do you know where the cache is out there?

SB: The fire cache?

RS: Well, it's a camping cache, really. The Park Service maintained it for quite a while at a spring which was between the balds about a quarter of a . . .

SB: When you come up to the intersection and drop over ridge?

RS: No, there's no drop over at all, or you when you're coming up Sheep Pen Gap, you're coming up that way, Sheep Pen Gap, turn right towards Parson's and a quarter mile out there a trail goes back to the right and leads to the cache. They used to have a tent and camping equipment, cooking equipment, canned goods, and everything like that. Emergency cache was what it probably was when the crew got called in after some activity . . . manage to use—I don't know where they maintained the other or not. What they did was to, well, one was a confiscated bear trap, which they used and another one which they made, they just took big drums and rolled them and welded the ends, made a door . . . pretty well mouse proof, rat proof and so forth, but I used it in summer of '62 I guess when I worked for the Park Service, I used it, and I don't know how long they maintained it. —Well, anyhow there was a cabin there, Nate Burchfield had a cabin in that spot and a clearing in that area and some gardening, and you could stand at the crest going toward Parson's where the present trail is, and see his cabin over there about three, four hundred yards, but now you can't see anything. And down the ridge if you recall, with the area coming up the Hannah Mountain Trail from Panther Gap, by the time you reach Panther Creek Gap, pretty well from there all the way to the top is open park type grove, and grass all underneath. Some patches of that grass are still pretty extensive there. That whole area in the spring of '61, or '62, I've got some pictures of it, they had an ice storm up there, just a belt up there around under those balds, between the balds that looked like a mortar barrage had hit that area. Now the tree tops all that was broken fell off and, of course that is what has happened repeatedly over the last several hundred years, but this also was an explanation of the bizarre growth of some of those trees up there. And at that time, before that ice storm, that was still fairly open forest, but then all those tops, tree limbs falling in there which have just made it almost impossible to get through and that seemed to accentuate it to a degree . . . probably opening up the undergrowth, particularly the shrubby undergrowth, the Viburnum, things like that, but that used to be just parkland over the whole top.

SB: How tall were the trees, say at the edge of the bald at that time?

RS: Well, they were, um, not much different from what the full mature trees are now. If you are very careful you can walk there on the edge of the bald, that is, what used to be the edge, all the way around by following the big trees. Everything up in front of those, that are up above those, have come onto the bald in the last forty years.

SB: I think I know . . . little ones; the larger ones are usually oaks, in between that are usually different species, yellow birch, service berry, etc. You could see the Cove from the eastern end of Gregory. Could you see the Cove from the western end?

RS: No, not back on the western slope; it'd be impossible to see from the bald, the Cove goes in the other direction. But down on the eastern slope, yes, you could see, the fact is as I was talking to one of my cousins, not long ago, talking about how that had grown up, because he said he hadn't been to the bald, oh, since 1940, until you couldn't recognize it now, if he went up there. He said they used to stand on the bald there and look through the driveway and their barn in Cades Cove which. . . . But I know standing in my backyard when I was a kid growing up, you could see the bald, the grassy bald. You can't see any grass on the bald from the Cove as far as I know.

SB: Where were there structures like fences, cabins, gardens?

RS: Well, in the Gregory Bald area one of the original cabins supposedly dates back to the 1850's; well, I don't know if it could have prior to that. It was then on the North Carolina side of the Rich Gap area which was commonly known as the gant lot, where you top out going over the Gregory Ridge, and it was down on the North Carolina side, there was a spring near Moore Spring. But on the gap you're talking about where you top out, Russell Gregory was supposed to have built a cabin, garden, and he set out fruit trees but he didn't live there very long. There also was houses up Twenty-Mile Branch, down below that hollow on the south facing slope of Twenty-Mile there was a place cleared out and was cropped and known and the Rye Patch. And down below that was a herder's cabin that existed for several years. And I used to go there as a lad and I have some pictures out here of people at that cabin. And then of course the gant lot was fenced—that't where they gathered the cattle and rounded them up in the fall, sorted them out to various owners. And the sheep pen was also fenced.

SB: Was the sheep pen at Sheep Pen Gap?

RS: Yes, right.

SB: Sheep Pen Gap—was it closer to the camp or right at the ridgetop? Was that right where the campsite is now near the intersection of the trails or was it closer to the spring down below there?

RS: Well, it was right there in the Gap.

SB: It was right at the ridgetop.

RS: Right.

SB: How big was that sheep pen?

RS: Oh, probably half an acre. (Inaudible mumbles). The herder's cabin in the late 20's and early '30's, up to 1934, was on the Tennessee side of Gregory Bald. That was accessible from two areas, from what we called the Fork Ridge Trail which is now the Gregory Ridge Trail, and as you're ascending the crest and then you start around the slope in the gap, you turn to the right there and went back about a quarter of a mile, there's a trail and there's a cabin there. From Panther Creek Gap from the other side, the trail was half way between Panther Gap and the bald, to go from the crest of the mountain down to that cabin site we used to would as you come up from Moore Cabin Spring and reach the crest of the ridge you just cross over there and drop off there to that cabin site which was maintained. And they had a big garden there, potatoes and cabbage mostly. These things would do very well and they had to fence those of course, to keep the cattle out . . .

SB: Just split rail?

RS: Yeah, they didn't split rails, they cut poles. The Rye Patch was fenced, I can remember when it was fenced and it was cropped. Wheat and rye was both raised there. People tried to raise corn, corn didn't do very well up at those altitudes, I suppose because of the cold nights, but vegetable crops, cabbages, potatoes, things like that, did very well. They'd usually grow enough to, the herders would in their gardens, to give their own food late in the summer and . . . (unintelligible) . . .

SB: Was any food brought up to them from the Cove?

RS: Oh, yes.

SB: What supplies were brought up and who brought them?

RS: Well, the herder himself probably would come off, maybe on weekends or sometimes every other weekend or something and haul back his, whatever food he needed. All crops weren't raised there—had to be hauled up. Their diet was not the most variable in the world, but consisted mostly of corn bread, fatback, and beans and potatoes, things like that that were easy to cook when men had to do their own cooking. And of course they did kill animals for meat through the summer, squirrels and there was always a big red squirrel crop along that mountain, up there, of course, they called them boomers, and the summer that I spent on the mountain, the summer of 1934, Kermit Caughron at that time was herding up there, and mostly his cattle, very few people from outside were bringing their cattle up. I graduated from college about the last week in May and I just put a pack of grits on my back and let out—I lived in Walland at the time, and walked through the mountains and on up to there and stayed up there pretty much all summer. I still had folks living in Cades Cove; my grandmother and aunt were there and I'd go off to the Cove and get food from time to time. At least, my share of the food, and Kermit would go off and bring up food too. But we killed, we never went out in the day without taking a rifle with us and any game we saw was fair game. Turkeys, by the middle of July, the turkeys was good eating size and they'd come out on the bald late in the evening to chase grasshoppers and various insects that lived in the grass.

SB: There were still lots of turkeys around in the thirties?

RS: Oh yes. I don't think Kermit or I, either one, will ever forget the time we went off down Twenty-Mile looking for some cattle that strayed off, and we were coming back up what's now call Long Hungry Ridge . . . used to be a nice trail up there, pretty steep and we met a big gobbler coming down the trail. Turkeys are sort of like DC-3's or something, they got to have a pretty long runway before they can take off. Well, we surprised him, of course he was coming down, coming around a bend in the trail, and we just met. Well, it was a little brushy along the side of the trail so he didn't attempt to take off, he just decided he had to turn around and head back up the trail, you see, to get up enough speed so he could take off. And we just almost caught that old gobbler, until he hit a cleared space along the side of the trail where he took off to the side. We chased him, I guess, for a hundred yards up that trail trying to catch him. But we did get young turkeys. We'd have to slip out, of course, around the edge of the bald and come right up from the cabin late in the evening and get ourselves a young turkey for supper.

SB: Were there any problems with bears bothering the cattle or sheep at that time? Were they too afraid of people?

RS: No. Well, the bear population was, of course. pretty sparse. Particularly, well, I suppose anywhere in the Park it was sparse, but particularly in the western end of the Park, it was just a very rare occasion that a bear would show up in that area. Most of the bear hunting was done by the people in Cade's Cove went back to Thunderhead and back that area and beyond there. There's where the bear hunting was done, back when I was growing up at least. But in there, every once in a while the herder would report a bear-killed sheep or something like that, but it was very rare.

SB: Do you ever recall any stories about panthers or wolves bothering sheep or cattle that people were keeping up high or down low?

RS: No, the panther story, at least that was told was at the Spence Field. And one of the Sparkses was herding cattle up there at the time and there was, he was supposed to have had an encounter, an encounter with a female, had some pups, cubs and he slashed, he supposedly slashed it with a knife, and then somebody, a couple of years later, killed one quite a distance from there that had a cut in the same general region. And that was about the last, and that was around 1902, something like that. And in this century at least, I doubt if there's been any panthers at all in the mountains.

SB: Do you remember any older stories going back about panthers on the balds or wolves on the balds?

RS: Oh, no, not wolves, I never heard any stories of wolves. However, some records which you've run across in the county courthouse there were bounties being paid by the state and in the 1830's and 1840's wolf scalps were turned in from the Cade's Cove, but not very many. So I'd say about 1840 saw the last of the wolves in the area. The state was paying three dollars a scalp for wolf scalps in those days. My grandfather, my great-grandfather, I guess it was, had an encounter with a mountain lion, rather as he called it "painter," that raided his barn and tried to carry off a newborn calf. But—which he killed with a knife. That was probably in the 1870's.

SB: So there were never any real predator problems on the balds?

RS: No, no.

SB: What about lightning kills?

RS: Now lightning kills was something else, now every once in a while they would kill whole herds of sheep. When I was a small lad, I guess seven or eight years old, we had some sheep on the mountain and a lot of other people did, too. And at Ekaneetlee Gap—now that whole area back through there, too, was park, along the top as well, the whole area was grazing, and we would simply take our sheep up Ekaneetlee Creek and just leave them up there in the gap, and they would just graze back and forth along the crest.

SB: Did anyone tend them at all?

RS: Oh yes, they were under supervision of the herder, the Gregory Bald herder in that area. He ranged out as far as Ekaneetlee Gap and then the Lawsons usually maintained their own herder at their area up there. Actually, I don't know if the Lawsons ever had anyone living up there or not looking after their cattle, but they had the area, from Ekaneetlee Gap back to Russell Field pretty well was Lawsons' territory, Lawson family's, and they used it for their own cattle.

But one summer they, word got off to us, at least a herder came off and told my grandmother that lightning had killed most of our sheep and some others too, at Ekaneetlee Gap. This was probably late in the summer. So my grandmother took all of us kids and my aunt and started early one morning, and we went up to Ekaneetlee Gap and pulled the wool off all those dead sheep. They'd been dead long enough until the hair had loosened up very well. Of course they didn't smell very well either, but she salvaged the wool from the sheep.

SB: Were the sheep kept primarily for wool, or did you ever eat mutton?

RS: Oh yes, primarily for wool, but we ate it. Usually lambs in the summertime, part of the so-called summer meat. You see we only ate mutton and beef in the summertime. It was very seldom, we practically never killed beef or sheep in the wintertime. That was all hog meat in the wintertime.

SB: Was any of the wool ever sold, or was it all used locally?

RS: Well, all that I can recall, well, of course our family we just used it. We never had enough. My grandmother just had enough sheep to provide her with the wool that was necessary for her own use.

SB: How many head was that?

RS: Oh, I don't think it ever exceeded fifteen.

SB: Did many other families in the Cove sort of come up with about ten or fifteen?

RS: Yes, they just ah . . . as far as sheep was concerned and cattle the majority of families in Cades Cove, they maintained only that which was necessary for their own use. Now a few of the larger landowners like the Myers brothers . . . at least in this country still growing up and prior to that there were still a few families that had large acreage and could maintain cattle herds for the market.

SB: So, say your family didn't drive, didn't keep cattle for the market?

RS: No.

SB: And when did they do the sheep shearing?

RS: Early in the spring, before they went to the mountains.

SB: Before they were taken up, and left to develop a full coat through the winter, and they were brought down again the same time as the cattle and put on pasture down in the Cove. And the families would just maintain a certain amount of sheep and . . .

RS: Yes, yes, that's all. You see, the amount of land owned by individual farmers in there was relatively small and the acreage wasn't such that it would support large herds of animals. And so they just maintained just what was essential for their own use as far as food and the wool and other parts were concerned.

SB: Did many families send cattle to Knoxville for sale? Did everybody participate in drives?

RS: No, I think only those that had, that raised for, the market: Caughrons, and the Myers Brothers, Charlie and Goldman, and coming up, Andrew Shields, George Shields and Dave Sparks. These were the principal large farmers that had enough acreage that would support a herd of cattle for the market. Those were the big farmers, at least in this country.

SB: What did the herders do? What were their responsibilities?

RS: Their responsibilities were to see that the cattle were kept together, within the range, and kept salted. Salt was the important thing, and salt was also used to at least entice the cattle to stay along the crest of the mountain; they salted them mainly on the crest.

SB: Where were the salt blocks placed relative to the balds?

RS: Well, they weren't blocks, they didn't use blocks. Loose salt was used and it was put on rocks and logs and the salting rocks and salting logs. . . . On Gregory Bald, for example, on the southwest slope, I guess I could take you to it, was the main salting rock in that area. It was a great big flat rock, just about that high, and over the decades of salting there was scooped out areas around that rock. Now whether— it was probably partly from the chemical action of the salt on the rock plus the action of the cattle licking it out. And wore out scooped out places. Last time I saw that rock was in the early fifties, and at that time the deer had actually excavated that rock practically, getting the salt out of the soil. I haven't seen it since the early fifties. I'd like to go back there and see exactly what had happened to it.

SB: I'd like to find that rock. That was down in the woods off the bald?

RS: Just within the edge of the woods off the bald.

SB: Oh, yes. That should be easy to find if it hasn't rolled.

RS: Wouldn't be too hard to find at all I don't think.

SB: How many salting sites were there? Say, around Gregory Bald?

RS: Well, I wouldn't know just exactly how many. The only one we used that summer we were up there was just that one rock. And then back over in that gap just above Moore Spring there was another flat rock that was used and along the crest right on Parson's, we had one on there and then back towards Ekaneetlee, practically every gap would have a log or a rock.

SB: How many pounds of salt did they put out each summer or, say on a per cow basis?

RS: Well, it varied. The summer that we were up there we'd always carry in a knapsack, we'd put about twenty pounds of salt in a knapsack each morning as we started out, visiting the various areas, and if there was no salt there we'd put out a handful or two, you see, and over the period of the summer there'd probably be as much as—, I know we probably put out three hundred pounds of salt that summer. Once back when I was a smaller kid we used to haul the salt up to the herder and one of my uncles, Joe McCall herded up there for quite a while and we had an old mule that was very docile, and so they let us kids, my brother and I, we put two hundred pounds of salt on the old mule and take the salt up to Uncle Joe, and I don't know how many times in the summer time we'd make that trip but we made a few. We'd go to spend the night and come back the next day. We'd walk up and lead the old mule carrying the salt and drive him back home.

SB: So you'd just have the salt tied on to a saddle?

RS: Yeah—well it wouldn't be a saddle. It was just . . .

SB: Slung over his back?

RS: Slung over his back.

SB: What did the herder do first thing in the morning, just go out and . . .

RS: Well, the herder got up in the morning, prepared breakfast, and usually have a work plan worked out, know where he'd got cattle to look for, something, just make a sometime check of the range and in particular areas where he wanted to spend the day and observe and listen for cowbells, and things like that, see if they'd wandered off and he'd usually pack a lunch which would be, he'd usually bake big old biscuits in the Dutch oven for breakfast, fireplace cooking all the time and then he'd take a slab of meat or something and just stick it in his pocket for lunch, and then he simply went out there and worked the area of the range, and then, as I said, practically every herder I knew out there carried a .22 rifle hung over a shoulder or something or other, and along in the afternoon sometime he'd try to spend a little time looking for a squirrel or something or other to kill for supper, and he'd try to get back into the cabin an hour or so before dark time to cook up a meal and eat supper, and by dark you were in the sack.

SB: So in the summer essentially the herder was out all day checking the cows and seeing where they were.

RS: Yes, yes.

SB: Did the herders stay out if there were heavy storms or did he have problems with the . . .

RS: Well, a heavy storm would run the cattle off, so after a heavy storm you'd have two or three days rounding them up. Because cattle head for low country in a heavy storm and this the . . . as they used to say the sheep didn't have any sense when a storm came up they just haddled together.

SB: And got struck by lightning.

RS: That's right and get killed when lightning hit 'em, right out in the open. They never bothered to go under trees or anything else, but cattle would scatter in a storm and usually after a big storm, a thunderstorm on the mountain, it took two or three days to get them rounded back up, get them back up toward the top. Now many times of course the ability to call cattle was a criterion; I suppose that "eliminated" some cattle herders. They'd stand up on that ridge and call and after a while you'd hear an answer way down in there some place or another back there and in another hour here they come up the ridge towards you.

SB: What kind of calls did they use?

RS: Well, ah-oooooo-cah! Something like that, you see and sort of long loud "who-cow" is what you usually say or "sue-cow" or something of that nature. Depends on the individual as to what you wanted to use, and your cattle were used to it. They'll answer and usually come in; don't have to go looking after them, but if they don't and you know they're down there . . .

End of tape-side.

They seemed to want to go off Twenty-Mile more than they did anywhere else, and there were long distances down there sometimes. You'd get two or three cattle to wander off and have to spend. . . . Well, Kermit and I spent three days looking for three cows that wandered off. And we finally found them way down on Twenty-Mile, found their track and tracked them down . . .

SB: And then you just cut off a switch or something and drove them back on to the top?

RS: Well, you don't have to cut off a switch. All you have to do is get behind them and start hollerin' at 'em and they'd take off. They seem to, it's a kind of interesting thing, they seem to . . . you run over a bunch like that, they tend to look at you suspicious-like and like they got a guilty feeling, you know, and yell at 'em a time or two and they head right back toward the top of the mountain, it's no trouble to get 'em going back. They seem to know that they've done something wrong and head back up the mountain. You get that feelin', you know, working with them. Some of them, some cattle herders, for example, Herbert Hodge, about the best there was. He had, I guess, what musicians would call true pitch. He could differentiate cowbells for miles and know exactly what group of cattle that particular bell was with. And all cowbells sound alike to me. I just can't differentiate between pitch at all hardly, but every cowbell is different. There's no two cowbells exactly alike, as far as the sound they make is concerned. And they're made so if the cow that is wearing the bell is feeding, why then of course there's a continual clank, clank, clank. But if they're standing chewing cud, they can do that for hours, and they weren't making a sound, and every once in a while they'd shake their head or something or other or shake the flies off or something and you'd know that was happening by the sound they made with the bell if in the middle of the day and they're standing in a creek or something somewhere, close to a creek chewing, why there's not a sound made for hours. That's when you sit kind of disgusted and start looking for them if they don't answer your call or something like that.

SB: How frequently did that happen, that you had to spend three days looking for three cows?

RS: Well, it just happened to us once that summer, but we, you know how many cows you got and who they belong to, at least the herder does, and he must keep track of them. He makes his count, in other words, and if he finds there are two missing of Joe Blow's herd out there, he's got to find those two cows.

SB: Did they count all the cows every day?

RS: Well, not every day, no, but every time you run into a bunch you counted them and as I said the herds tend to stay together within the general area, since they're acquainted with each other they tend to flock and you always make an effort, in other words, to count. They carried a little pocket notebook which had got the number and who every cow belonged to and if there's some sort of earmark or something like that you've got to get that recorded so you can identify them but after a month of looking at all the cattle and identifying them, you can see an old cow along the edge, you know that it belongs ato John Smith or something. You recognize them even if you've got two or three hundred of them.

SB: Do you remember the names of the families that were . . . were they just Cove families up on Gregory Bald or were there other families? Were there any from the Carolina side at all?

RS: No, all that in the history of herding, as far as I know, in that area, unless in the early days some of the Gregory's or somebody could have come from the N. C. side. But starting back in the 1880's particularly from them on it was all Cove families as far as I know. And I have a pretty good list of those.

SB: Oh we haven't talked about azaleas yet. We should probably talk about azaleas and where they were on the bald. Do you ever remember any azaleas flowering on Gregory at all?

RS: Not in the . . .

End of Tape 1. Following is beginning of Tape 2.

(Note: the first 3/4 of this tape is barely intelligible because the tape dragged during recording and hence sounds abnormally fast when played back at normal speed. The transscript is a reasonably accurate paraphrase.)

RS: In the pre-Park days, the azaleas were not on the open bald, only the tall true form back under the forests off the balds was quite extensive of course on the ridges leading off the bald. The azaleas on the open bald, Gregory, at least, came in after grazing stopped and reached by the early '50's. Grazing on the bald stopped in 1934 and by twenty years they had reached their peak. And of course it was that time that forest succession was also, as far as the speed with which it was coming in peaked the same time. It's progressed, of course, and has progressed rapidly ever since. The understuff back off the bald seemed to fill in first, that is, the understory developed under the forest before it worked out on the bald. The azaleas in pre-Park days were under the forest cover and were tall, tall plants and probably were not available for cattle and particularly sheep for grazing. There is a possibility, at least a theory of mine is that particularly, well I'd say, on a rim around the margin of the bald, probably out about as much as 100 or 200 feet there were probably azaleas, but the sheep kept them browsed back but they grew enough annually to maintain a root system, and then as soon as they stopped grazing or when we saw the blooms come in first in any quantity, in that marginal area and then they seemed to spread out along the bald, however there some areas of the bald never seemed to have azaleas on them. They seemed to be more or less in patches and since the early 1950's I would pinpoint the peak population of azaleas around 1952, in that area, the first five years of that decade. Since then going downhill, is they're being eliminated by the ingrowth of the forest species. The Crataegus, of course has been one of the weed species that came into the bald and there's pretty good patches of that place to place then a few pines and a few of the Kalmia had come in in various places. But the blueberries invaded the bald fairly early and by the late 40's particularly they were being noticed by an awful lot of visitors and people began to go to the balds to pick blueberries.

SB: But you don't ever remember picking blueberries as a boy before?

RS: No, there never were many blueberries picked in pre-Park days on the balds. All the blueberry picking when I was growing up in the Cove was on the south slopes, pine slopes and lower ridges. The large bush, the tall bush blueberry that has grown on the margins, I've never seen on Gregory to any extent, but at Spence field, especially on margins and particularly Silers Bald there they were quite prominent. Just exactly how long they have been there I don't know. I've never observed the highbush blueberry—I believe that's erythrum, Vaccinium erythronium.

SB: There is one that Camp called catawbiense, a highbush. There is an erythrocarpum—that's really a spruce-fir blueberry.

RS: It's quite common up in the spruce-fir areas on the Mt. Rogers area that I worked on in southwest Virginia. It was a quite common one.

SB: That one I don't like the flavor as much.

RS: It's a bit tart. The thing that's been so remarkable to me in observing that whole area up there is how the undergrowth has filled in all the park area around the bald and particularly between the balds. That tremendous park, it would be typical, when I first started studying ecology and patterns of distribution and so forth of cover types it reminded me more of your typical description of a savanna than anything else.

SB: Do you feel that that was maintained by grazing?

RS: Definitely was maintained by grazing.

SB: How much cutting was there up around those on the bald edges?

RS: I don't know the extent of cutting at all in the Gregory area but I do know the Spence Field area was cleared completely and the Russell Field, and they're not natural balds at all. Now, how much was cleared then back towards Rocky Top and Thunderhead I don't know. Probably some. But I do know Spence Field was cleared because I found records of that in my research on the history of the Cove.

SB: Now, how much cutting—for instance firewood cutting or cutting to make cabins, animal pens when that was done?

RS: That was done in the immediate vicinity of course and did not make any great impact. It—logs for building the cabin, and the cabins had to be rebuilt. Oh, I'd say you were lucky if the cabin lasted ten years. Most of them five years about the life of one because usually hunters or somebody in the winter would let fires get out. They built big fires when it was cold and those fireplaces couldn't take big fires, they were made primarily for cooking and small fire type things. The people using the cabins in the wintertime built big fires and that was the end of them, they usually burned down. The chimneys themselves were just rock; they usually picked big flat rocks and daubed them with mud. They wouldn't last an awful long time, and they had hole(s), and you get a big fire in there and it would reach the logs.

SB: What kind of furnishings did the cabins have?

RS: Mostly built in. One big bed built out of poles and usually with boards with straw mattresses thrown on them. Most of the cabins had a lean-to which also had a big bed in it. I've seen as many as eight people sleeping or so in one of those beds. It reminds you a great deal of overnight shelters along the trails as far as the sleeping is concerned except the construction is a little bit different. But the cabin was probably maybe twenty feet long and eight to ten feet wide. The one door went in toward the front where the fireplace was and then from about four or five feet from the side of the door all the way in was the built-in bunk sort of thing, straw mattresses on top of it and sleep quite a few people on it.

SB: Any tables and chairs?

RS: Ah, yes, a table usually again a structure built against one wall, usually over the side of the fireplace and sort of oddly constructed chairs. In some cases they would take chairs from their homes in the Cove.

SB: Dirt floor?

RS: No, it was puncheon floor. They may have had dirt floors earlier but it seemed to be desirable to use a split log puncheon type floor—split the log once and lay it flat, flat surface up. All the cooking of course was done at the fireplace, and they usually had an iron structure for hanging pots over the fire as well as the so called Dutch ovens for cooking bread and other things in and covered kettles also for putting into the fire for cooking.

SB: Were there that many visitors?

RS: Oh, yes. They seldom were lonesome, particularly in the summer. One of the biggest problems was sometimes whole families showing up there or groups of people showing up to spend the night. Of course most of them brought their own food and didn't have to worry about it. Of course, the biggest problem was sleeping everybody. Sometimes fifteen to twenty people would be sleeping in the cabin at night. Created quite a problem.

SB: These are just families from the Cove?

RS: Yes. Herders, too. I have one very interesting photograph of a whole family, a very, very large family that was visiting a herder and the cabin was down on Clairmont Creek, below the Rye Patch. They stayed a week as sort of a family vacation. Crops laid by, not much to do, so they went up the mountain to spend a week with their cousin who was herding cattle up there at the time and they picture out in front of the cabin and the papa and mama at this end and it looked like a staircase going all the way down to a little three year old on this end after about eleven of the kids, and it's really a fascinating picture.

SB: Do you have a copy of that?

RS: Yes.

SB: Were there many guests from say outside that area up there? Were there many people on the ridge that were not local people in those days?

RS: Occasionally people from local areas out in the country around Maryville would come up for a day or two, ride horseback or something of that nature and stay up with a herder. Usually from the north or some would have cattle up there come up in the summer and visit, take a look at their cattle to see how it was coming along.

SB: So actually he was pretty active up there.

RS: Oh yes, there was activity going on.

SB: What do you think would happen if the larger trees or the larger shrubs were removed?

RS: They would grow right back, but if they removed . . .

SB: Assuming you got rid of the roots, too.

RS: Assuming you got rid of everything, the grass would probably go in if you could keep, of course the first thing would probably be coming in very thick around . . . (unintelligible) . . . brackens, things of that nature, around the marginal forest, forbs of various and sundry types. Gradually if they're kept open then that mountain oat grass would probably take over.

That is what came in . . . (unintelligible). . . . But I think to maintain it would require grazing animals.

SB: Do you think that would be more effective than just cutting?

RS: Oh, yes, much more effective than cutting because the effectiveness of cutting is just like the effectiveness of grazing in Cades Cove. The only reason in the world they're permitting that is to keep those areas open. It's very expensive to maintain those open areas.

SB: How many animals, would you say it would take, say you clip the edges back?

RS: If you clip the edges back and let your grassy area get reestablished I'd say 50 head of sheep for the grazing season.

SB: That could be taken care of by one herder?

RS: Oh, yes, very easily. And you wouldn't have to fence for sheep. If you put cattle up there you'd have to fence them. But sheep will stay in the open area without fencing, particularly if they're looked after by a herder.

SB: Do you think that the sheep if you were careful enough about sort of instituting your grazing and cutting back a little at a time the areas would withdraw back to the forest edge?

RS: Yes, I'm convinced they would. Of course those large bushes of . . . (unintelligible) . . . that developed were one and open area probably should be maintained but the smalller ones should be brought back, I'm sure.

SB: Do you think that for instance if all the shrubs are removed at once, that is if all the hawthorns and pines were cut back off do you think the azaleas and blueberries would stand the removal of the canopy over nearby them for the first few years? Most of them are still growing.

RS: Yes, and the thing that has given this kind of growth has been the competition of growing those kinds of plants. Those that grow out in the open and have grown out in the open without that have made sort of a closed cluster.

SB: Could they bloom any better if they are in the open?

RS: Yes, they produce much better.

SB: So the best thing to do is completely clip away the shrubs?

RS: Yes, I'd say clip them back, even the taller shrubs, if they're pruned back they will branch and bush and have more bloom. I do that with azaleas on our own lawns, keep them clipped so they branch more.

SB: Do you think a minor bit of sheep browsing might do the same thing?

RS: Well, possibly; it may completely prevent the growth of the small plants.

SB: What about sheep grazing on some other pattern, not annually? Every third year or . . . (unintelligible). . . . For instance., if there were to be grazing on Gregory, I don't think it could be done commercially; I think the Park would have to pay for it. By the animal grazing . . . (unintelligible) . . . and if you broke even, you'd be doing very well.

RS: Of course I'm sure you can find sheep growers in the area if you look to put the sheep up there in the summer. But I'm pretty sure you would have to have expensive equipment.

SB: Yes, I've heard it is more expensive to . . . (unintelligible) . . . Well, for instance, if you were going to keep Gregory open, what would you do?

RS: If I were going to keep Gregory open first thing I would do I'd go in there and cut all the woody stuff back. The lower story I would cut all the way back to the margin.

SB: Would you cut some of these small poles out from under the larger oaks? Under the margins, that is your . . . (unintelligible) . . .

RS: Well it wouldn't hurt at all to go back into the margin and get your grass back in that margin once you got it that way. Now I think to do it effectively and as quickly as possible, I would go with the recommendations of using herbicides on the stumps. There is a herbicide that is very effective on the stumps. Get your herbicide, apply it to the stumps, and within a year it obliterates everything. And it also speeds up the decay, and it kills and prevents sprouts, which is the important thing, and I would figure on a minimum of five years in the removal of those woody species and then another five years for a general recovery of the grass. You may have to reseed the area.

SB: Do you think a little light grazing pressure may speed up the recovery?

RS: Oh, yes, definitely.

SB: Putting some grazing pressure on it would probably take care of some sprouts too.

RS: Yes, I'm pretty sure they would and I don't know how effectively sheep graze on sprouts. I've observed in southwest Virginia they graze effectively to keep the beech back. Areas up there that have been fenced, that is grazed areas have been fenced and the beech don't go down the fence, and they eat sprouts more than anything else. I just assumed as the grazing has been removed from the area up there the beech sprouts have just gone up jump and run as soon as they were released .

SB: How would you protect the sheep from lightning and bears?

RS: Bears are probably the worst problem and I think the only way to protect them you would have to worry about at night, would be if a marauding bear got into them and you would take steps to remove that bear from the area, but you would have to remove him. But you'd have to remove him one way or the other. But the lightning, I think you'd just have to take your chance on that.

SB: What would you figure, you'd probably lose a herd every five years?

RS: Five or ten years; it's not that common.

SB: But you could allow the sheep to herd together in the middle of August standing in a storm?

RS: If you saw a storm coming, you could scatter them.

SB: That wouldn't be a natural thing for sheep to do. You could move your herd probably, but I don't think you could scatter them. They wouldn't move back under the trees, would they?

RS: They don't tend to.

SB: The herders never move them back?

RS: No. They weren't there at the time in the first place. The herders themselves aren't going to be caught out in that open bald during a thunderstorm, regardless of how many sheep that might be killed. You're a prime target up in the open on the bald during a thunderstorm. They're the highest thing there, and the closest way to the ground in lightning. When the thunderstorm started they did just like the cattle do—going off those ridge crests . . . (unintelligible, 2 sentences).

SB: (unintelligible).

RS: (unintelligible).

SB: Do you know any good stories concerning things that happened on the balds? Interesting events up there? Do you know how Tom Sparks got shot on Spence Field?

RS: I know exactly how Tom Sparks got shot in Spence Field. Tom Sparks, they were making whiskey up there and . . . (unintelligible). . . . He was a what they call a simpleton and he wasn't as bright as he should be and he couldn't take teasing very well and in fact what was happening they were drinking and I don't know whether he was or not, but a lot of people were involved and Tom Sparks went riding by and . . . "You don't have to take that, shoot him," so he shot him.

SB: Just picked up a rifle.

RS: Shotgun, yeah, leaning against the wall in the cabin.

SB: What happened to the boy who did that?

RS: I think he got a couple of years, something like that.

SB: Was there any whiskey-making on Gregory Bald?

RS: Oh, yeah. There was whiskey-making. Not right up on the bald, but back in the hollows off the bald . . . (unintelligible) . . . Right down in Chestnut Flats and in the (unintelligible) back up on the stream somewhere at one time you find a (unintelligible) as you go up the Gregory Ridge Trail before you leave the creek and start back on the ridge. You're going up the creek some three hundred yards of open area and that was occupied by a Burchfield family for a good many years. Nobody ever visited it very much except the Burchfields, and they had a big still up there. Made whiskey there for years. I had a conference with one of the sons who was raised up there. Still alive, and he said he grew up there as a boy they were making whiskey there practically all the time.

SB: (unintelligible). Chestnut Flats?

RS: Stillhouse branches all over the place. The Stillhouse Branch, that branch that used to come by where I was raised, there was a stillhouse branch, too comes (unintelligible) that hollow back up a ways and used to be stills along that and particularly up around that hollow on Railroad Branch. Back when I was a boy there was stills in that whole area.

SB: Was there ever drinking at roundup time? Let's talk about roundup time, I think that's a worthy topic.

RS: Oh, yes, definitely. Of course the cattle owners that went up and helped with the roundup in the evenings they always brought out their demijohns, the fruit jars and other things with the white lightning and stuff in it and they had their drinking parties in the evenings.. Usually at the beginning of the roundup thing somebody would kill a steer, butcher it, and it was used to feed the people up there rounding up. There'd usually be one person the party designated as cook and he'd prepare at least one big meal a day at suppertime and that was usually followed by drinking. It was hard work during the days so they just didn't have a sort of party where they'd drink themselves into a stupor, they just simply enjoyed their whiskey and had their parties. The type of party that was associated with whiskey making was called a backin's party. This usually followed a big runoff. It takes a while you know for the mash to ferment and then to run the thing off. A batch about every six weeks or so is about all they could afford. At the end of a runoff they would usually bring the backin's in out of the stillhouse to someone's house and have a backin's party. Now the backin's is that last part of the fluid that come over and condensed from the still. It's usually fairly low in alcohol, but yet it's got enough in it to make a difference if you drink enough of it. It's used for proofing the earlier runoff of whiskey, bringing it to proof, diluting it or whatever is necessary to get it to proof. Most of the old whiskey makers proofed simply by sight. That is they put it in a bottle or fruit jar after it was cold or cooled off and then they would shake it, the head as they called the bubbles that foamed on the top, the length of time it took the head to hold gave them a pretty good idea of what proof alcohol it was. An expert could proof it almost within four or five percent. Then the backin's was brought in, usually a gallon or so of it, and this was heated up and spiced, not boiled, just heated and spiced, still had its alcohol content.

SB: Spiced with what?

RS: Well, all sorts of spices, ginger and all that sort of stuff, you see and then they would drink it hot.

SB: That sounds really good.

RS: It would be and they'd sit around and drink, usually have a big chicken fry or something to go along with it—chicken and dumplings or something.

SB: This is both men and women at these parties?

RS: Oh yeah, people of the families that were involved.

SB: Kids, everybody?

RS: Oh, yeah. And at one of the backin's parties was when Chicken Eater John Tipton was killed by Smoke Sam Burchfield. They were having a backin's party at Ike Tipton's place and several men were there that were relatives, neighbors. It was right at election time, right after election time in August, and the Republicans hadn't done too well. This was in 1902. And Smoke Sam was the only Republican in the bunch and Tipton was a Democrat and they were riding Smoke Sam with a little alcohol and they giving him a pretty hard time. Smoke Sam wasn't the type of fellow who could be kidded too much and he kind of smoldered underneath and so about an hour or so before dark, this was in the summertime so it didn't get dark till late, he just wandered off and nobody knew where he went. And just before dark, right at early dusk you might say, Sandra Tipton, who was a deaf mute, but she could make a sound, and so she said "Ah, ah" and pointed out as Smoke Sam was coming in the gate and Chicken Eater John simply said, "Well, I'll go out and see what Smoke wants: and thought he'd just gone home and come back. So he went out to see what Smoke Sam wanted and Smoke Sam shot him. He'd gone home and got his pistol and come back to get his revenge I suppose over the ridin' he'd been getting and he would have shot anyone who'd come out there, it just couldn't have been Chicken Eater that he'd come back to shoot. He just shot the first man that came out.

SB: What happened to him?

RS: He got three years in the pen but he only served less than a year of it; he was a very old man at the time. He got sick and they sent him back home and he died within a few months after they sent him back home.

SB: What about the parties up on the ridge, they were mostly men, weren't they?

RS: Oh yeah, that was all men, no women were involved in those. Never. They were all male chauvinists, I suppose.

SB: How long did it take to round up those animals?

RS: Oh, usually about a week. They got them all in and sorted out.

SB: So people would come in for what, a couple of days?

RS: They usually held them there in the lot and while they were being held there they became fairly gant, that's why it's called a gant lot. They had plenty of water, they would get all the water they wanted, but no food. No grass or anything on those lots. They were tramped down and muddy places by the time they got through rounding them up. Then they wanted that because they didn't want to drive off there and all the way back out to Maryville on full stomachs. You see, they wanted their guts pretty well empty. That way they wouldn't lose as many of them. At least that's what they thought. I suppose in the big western drives they'd stop occasionally and feed a day or two. But they were driving hundreds of miles then but they started out on the gant. They wouldn't let them eat too much on the trail. But the farthest drive they had coming, from the mountains was of course right in the back county, Maryville area, and usually one day's drive was all they had. They usually would start early morning and back as a kid they'd usually make it in around three or four o'clock in the afternoon driving in from out here. And they'd go through the flats of the mountains and they'd try to make it up on into the mountains by dark. Early in spring, sometimes they wouldn't and they'd simply get permission to drive 'em in somebody's fields down there to hold them overnight and go on the next morning. But most of the time they could make it through in a day.

SB: Did they ever have any disease or parasite problems that you could remember, like did they have outbreaks of disease?

RS: Not among cattle as I can recall as much. Of course there was always outbreak of cholera among hogs. Sometimes all the hogs would be wiped out at one time with cholera.

SB: No problems with sheep?

RS: Not that I can recall, no.

SB: No hoof and mouth, no anthrax, no nothing?

RS: No, not at all. I don't recall any trouble at all.

SB: You weren't afraid of parasites or anything?

RS: Well, of course, the type of parasites kids had in 'em, everybody had in them. They thought at one time it was probably hookworms. Now right after World War I the public health people made a big drive through the southern Appalachians to eliminate all those sorts of things. The first job was of course to build outhouses, nobody had outdoor toilets or anything, before that time, and the health people, I don't know whether it was a state or national program appropriated money at least, and they hired in every community two carpenters to make the rounds building out- houses and you had to furnish the lumber. And I can remember it was a big fuss made when guys came to build our two sheds across the creek, and we had to round up all the lumber and dig the hole; men just built the houses, it used to take them about two days. The other drive was they sent public health people into the area collecting samples of feces and other things to make a survey of what sort of parasites might be present, and of course we all had ascaris; everybody knew that. You didn't have ascaris without knowing it. And that killed an awful lot of young kids. If you go into the graveyards over there, all over the southern Appalachians, you see a lot of kids. An they died in the summertime, and nine times out of ten it was ascaris that killed them. But castor oil was given to cure the bellyache you see.

It was usually associated with green apples because just about the time green apples got big enough to eat kids always ate green apples and they got bellyaches . . so the association. And to cure the bellyache they'd give castor oil.

SB: That is pretty strong stuff.

RS: Well, that's the worse thing in the world you can take for ascaris because that cures it to form a ball in the intestine. . . .

End of Tape.

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Last Updated: 07-Mar-2008