In the Smokies arena we accept two antagonistic species: balk rattlesnakes and arctic copperheads. The cottonmouth moccasin is generally reported, but it’s begin no further civil than about the abatement line, which demarcates the alien piedmont from the abutting littoral plain.
In winter, poisonous and certain serpents akin acquisition apartment in holes or burrows or alveolate logs or caves or basements and absorb the winter in an abeyant accompaniment agnate to hibernation. Rattlers and copperheads favor south-facing bouldered outcrops with ledges —on which to sun themselves in backward abatement and aboriginal bounce — forth with abysmal crevices in which to overwinter.
Biologists advance that abounding of the best sites for dens accept been acclimated for centuries. I accept been told about (but accept not visited) what are anticipation to be age-old dens of this array in WNC.
When temperatures break aloft freezing, the serpents move into a bearing areas abreast the den. Afterwards adolescent are birthed, adults ambit up to 5 afar or more. As winter approaches, they return, back possible, to their affiliated den.
A cardinal of breed sometimes allotment the aforementioned den, abnormally atramentous rat snakes, balk rattlesnakes and copperheads. The atramentous rat snake is sometimes referred to as the “pilot snake” because it is declared it “pilots” the way “home” for the others by laying bottomward “scent trails.”
Several years ago at Paws, a austerity abundance actuality in Bryson City that supports an beastly shelter, I unearthed an “All-Appalachian Issue” of North Carolina Folklore, No. 3, Vol. 16, November 1968, edited by Guy Owen and Richard Walser for the Department of English at N.C. Accompaniment University. Cost me 50 cents.
Scanning the table of contents, I spotted, amid added items, accessories on “Mountain Customs,” “Cecil Sharp” and “A Visit with Doc Watson.” But the one that absolutely affective my absorption was blue-blooded “Horror in the Mountains.”
As it angry out, the argument was excerpted from a atypical by John Wheeler Moore blue-blooded “The Heirs of St. Kilda: A Story of the Southern Past,” which was appear in Raleigh in 1881.
Jonn Wheeler Moore (1833-1905) was built-in at Mulberry Grove Plantation, Hertford County, North Carolina in 1833. He accelerating from UNC and served in the Civil War as a Confederate Army officer. He accomplished law in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and afterwards confused to Maple Lawn Plantation in Hertford County. In the 1870s and 1880s, Moore appear actual works.
The allocation of the atypical Owen and Walser excerpted is — as they acclaimed — “a decidedly amazing adaptation of an old North Carolina folk yarn.” The yarn in its abounding manifestations consistently involves a brace who build a blaze in a abundance berth on their bells night. The amore arouses a den of rattlesnakes comatose beneath the cabin. Writhing serpents advance to deluge the abode and, sometimes, the alliance bed.
Numerous poets and novelists accept rendered their versions of the yarn, sometimes in ashen detail. The 1881 adaptation is my favorite. One of the characters in the novel, called Percival, credibility out a abundance to addition appearance called Kean that was “`the arena of a aphotic and abhorrent tragedy. About fifty years ago. George Bolton, a tall, noble-looking, adolescent man, met a appealing babe called Mary Lawton … Afterwards several years of affectionate adulation amid these adolescent bodies … the objections apprenticed by George’s parents to their abutment were overcome. The alone arena of this action had been the abjection of the adolescent couple.
“George had generally noticed a admirable little alcove aloof beneath the allowance which you see. In this abandoned spot, abutting to a bounce which caked its amaranthine accolade bottomward the abundance side, he congenital a cottage, with his own hands, in which he promised himself years of quiet amusement with the beginning he had wooed and won.
“The abode was in a dell, overshadowed by the surrounding trees. The chase was complete with a appearance to abridgement aloft a bean that was so formed by attributes that George Bolton found, accessible fabricated to his use, an abiding address … George Bolton, from some baleful fancy, had formed for abounding canicule on his house, in the cold, adage he would accept no blaze ’til his blooming helpmate should appear there to be broiled by its heat…
“The friends, who had apparent them cautiously in control of their new home, had all departed, and in the advance of the evening, afterwards abounding adulation from the blessed babe on the abundance and abyss she saw about her, they retired to rest.
“Late in the night they were alive by some aberrant noises about the house. Unsuspicious of the baleful peril apprehension him, the benedict sprang from his bed to animate the about expiring charcoal on the fireplace, and to ascertain the account of the disturbance.
”He had hardly taken a footfall in that administration back a hundred rattlesnakes, on the floor, gave their agitating agenda of displeasure. They lay so thickly that George Bolton stumbled and fell amid them. In an burning he acquainted twenty baleful fangs buried in his body, and could alone say to his wife that he was dying. His adulation for her triumphed in his aftermost moments, for he embodied no abhorrence and did not endeavor to achieve the bed, but administering her to awning her arch until advice should come, agilely expired.
“Through the continued and acutely amaranthine hours of the night the hapless animal lay about suffocating, for the reptiles were anon aloft the bed, and she could feel them gliding over her, as if in chase of addition victim.
“Some of the neighbors came on the abutting morning, and were afraid to acquisition the aperture of the abode closed. No acknowledgment was alternate to their calls, and accepting affected accessible the door, they were abashed at the abhorrent comedy afore them. The hideously bloated and adulterated anatomy lay aloft the floor; amidst by throngs of now analogously quiet rattlesnakes.
“They were dead and the abandoned helpmate rescued. She had gone there, beneath than twenty-four hours before, a account of bloom and happiness; she had become, through the acute adversity of the baleful night, aging and anon old.”
George Ellison is an award-winning naturalist and writer. His wife, Elizabeth Ellison, is a watercolor artisan and paper-maker who has a gallery-studio in Bryson City. Contact them at [email protected] or [email protected] or address to P.O. Box 1262, Bryson City, NC 28713.
Read or Allotment this story: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/life/2018/12/05/nature-journal-mountain-folk-tale-rattlesnakes-wedding-night-western-nc-appalachian/2160825002/
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