A Glimpse From the Past

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(I hope you enjoy Olivia?s tale. I had an overwhelming urge to create, even though as in all fiction there is a lot of truth here. Forgive the grammar; it?s old mountain dialect and the way Olivia talks.)

Well this is it, the day I dread all year. It?s hog killin? day. My name is Olivia Oliver. The year is 1928. I was born here in this place called Cades Cove almost thirteen years ago. Some white folk changed its name way back when. The real name is Kate?s Cove. Named for a Cherokee chief?s wife. Never could figure out why Kate?s Cove wasn?t a good enough name.

We live down toward Parson?s branch. Just me and my mama and papa. Mama took sick after I was born and the doc told her she wouldn?t be having no more babies. Papa says it?s probably for the best since I?m such a handful. Can?t nobody keep up with me. Some days I take off this way or that and won?t come home till dark. I love this land, the valleys and the hills. I wake up every morning and watch the fog lift. Starting from the ground and slowly rising to the tops of the mountains, cloaking the fall colors in mist then disappearing into the clouds.

This is my favorite time of year, fall, but not my favorite day remember? First real cold spell in November brings slaughter day. Maybe if I wouldn?t put names to the darn things it wouldn?t bother me so much. Henry?s the unlucky one this year. We got two other boar hogs named of Harley and Horace. Papa says Henry?s the fattest so he?s the first to go. Of course he?s my favorite.

I heard papa?s pistol fire a few minutes ago. I?ve just got to sit here on this stump and cry. I won?t let nobody see me though. I ain?t made that way. I glance up as a crow flies overhead. Reckon? he?s a leaving cause he don?t want to watch the hog killin? neither. Oh Lordy papa?s a callin?. It?s times like this I?m a wishin? I had me a bunch of brothers and sisters and then maybe I could just slip off and nobody would notice or maybe I?d just disappear amongst the others. There he goes again callin? my name. Just got to buck up and face it.

First thing I see when I walk up is old Henry hanging there by his hind feet. Papa?s ready to winch him down into the boiling water. Mama started that pot to heating two hours before daylight. There he goes. No wonder I hate bacon. What kind of person could eat something with the name of Henry? Every year I tell myself, Olivia you ain?t going to like them there hogs. Just slop them and be on your way. But every time one of them big ole nasty things catches my eye and there I go again. Love done struck me.

I just have to turn my back when old Henry?s head disappears into the boiling vapors. Won?t take long before papa will be winching him back up and then I?ll have to help scrape the hair off his hide. That?s when I have to take my mind somewhere?s else. Maybe I?ll go up the side of Rich Mountain. Up where them black bears like to go and eat huckleberries. Them bears don?t skear me none. They just look at me and I look at them. They can get real mean sometimes though. I seen where one ripped up a baby dear one time when the snow was about a foot deep. Blood looks real bright red on pearly white snow. An old Cherokee tale says bears are transformed people. I don?t rightly know or understand that. But I guess I understand the killin?. Any of us would ’bout do anything if we?s hungry enough. Man or bear. Maybe I?d even eat a portion of old Henry if I was a starvin?. It?s best to never say never, if you know what I mean.

Scrape?scrape? scrape. The stink of scorched hog hide will stick with you for days, sometimes even a week or two. I just have to take myself away. Maybe over to the gristmill and watch the wheel turn or to the sorghum mill. It?s too late to be making molasses but you can still smell that sweet scent long after the harvest. Anything smells better than singed hog hide.

Talk has it that the National Government is going to buy up all our land here in the cove. Going to call it the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I don?t know what no park is but I don?t like it. This is my home and I ain?t a goin? no wheres. I ain?t leavin? my trails and secret hiding places. And then there?s all these mountain animals. Is that federal government going to make them leave too? Somebody said they would get to stay here in this sanctuary. Don?t know what no sanctuary is neither.

I look around me. The mountains rise up above in every direction. I can hear the creeks a ripplin? and the turkey?s a squawkin?. On a cold winter?s night I hear the gray wolf a callin? his mate and them winds start a talkin? to me. They?s telling me all kinds of things. Matters I keep to myself. Some stuff just can?t be deciphered. One thing for sure is I can?t explain how much I love these mountains of old Tennessee. How they?s a part of me and I?m a part of them.

I hope you enjoyed Olivia?s story and traveled back a bit in time to Cades Cove. A real place where people lived off the land, or died by it. Back to my remembrances of hog killing day. If you haven?t been to Cades Cove, Tennessee you have missed a chance to go back in time. There is so much history there. Stories of pioneers and Cherokee Indians. If you want to touch and smell nature at its most fragrant moment you must visit the cove.

And if you enjoy your stay at the cove, you?ll also have to visit Cataloochee, North Carolina. There you?ll also experience a flash from the past as well as peeks of real live elk as they graze in the open meadows. Think I?m kidding? Go see for yourself. But wait until January. It?s very crowded there this time of year. Enjoy.

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