The following essays explore the history, nature, and culture of the Southern Appalachian region.

Cougar from sacandagalife.jpg

Do Panthers Scream?  Coming Face to Face with the Eastern Cougar Phenomenon

I remember well the noise that I heard that summer day in 2003 as I hiked down the Jacks River trail in north-central Georgia.  It sounded like a cat’s scream, like a Bengal tiger’s scream straight from a David Attenborough nature special.  There was a loud, hissing roar that quickly turned into a snarling growl...


Do Mandrakes Scream? Exploring the cross-cultural work of plant mythology in Appalachia

In 1903, Clifford Smyth, a correspondent for the Atlanta Constitution, ventured deep into the mountains of eastern Kentucky to find and interview some of the “sang diggers” that supposedly lived in isolated communities and exhibited peculiar habits and customs.  He was not disappointed.  He found an old woman named Aunt Marthy who lived at the head of a creek and dug ginseng for a living...


The wild man of the woods

In 1877, a party of gold miners traveling through the Globe Valley in Caldwell County, North Carolina encountered what they described as a “Wild Man”. Although they only got within 40 yards of the man, one miner claimed that this “peculiar specimen of humanity” appeared to be a “giant”—six-foot, five inches—with a funnel-shaped head and two-inch- long dark hair covering his body...


"galackin" in Western North Carolina

We could smell them before we saw them.  A pungent, skunky odor engulfed us as we neared the top of the ridge.  “Must be galax,” my brother Daniel remarked.  Sure enough, as we ambled around a bend in the trail, we found a virtual carpet of galax, the low-growing evergreen perennial that turns a purplish bronze in the winter...