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Title: Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies
Author: Pyle, Ernie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           THE GREAT SMOKIES
                              Ernie Pyle_

                              _Ernie Pyle_
                       ONE OF HIS FAVORITE PHOTOS

                           PRICE—FIFTY CENTS

                      Printed In The Great Smokies
                           THE MOUNTAIN PRESS
                         Gatlinburg, Tennessee


In the Fall of 1940, Ernie Pyle and “that girl” who rode with him (his
wife, “Jerry”) came to Gatlinburg and Ernie wrote eleven columns for the
Scripps-Howard Newspapers about the village of Gatlinburg, the native
people and a trip he took to LeConte.

With permission of the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance and Wm. Sloane
Associates Inc., Publishers, these columns are reproduced in this little

They are good reading—by one of the truly great writers of our time.
They are about things close to the heart of all who love the Smokies.
They are simple (as is all great writing) sincere and touched by a
quaint and whimsical humor.

I wish to thank Loye W. Miller, Editor of the Knoxville (Tennessee)
News-Sentinel, and Bert Vincent, Strolling Reporter, for their kind help
and cooperation in re-printing these columns.

  _C.C. Callaway_
  Gatlinburg, Tenn.—1951
  All Rights Reserved

                   GATLINBURG, Tenn., Oct. 24, 1940—

For four years I’ve been trying to get to the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park and to write some masterful columns about the astounding
manner in which Nature splattered her contours and evolutions over this
part of the globe.

But I monkeyed around and monkeyed around, and the first thing I knew
here was President Roosevelt down here dedicating the thing, and
stealing all my glory.

But I just figured, well, the mountains are still here and the words are
still in the dictionary, so I might as well come on anyway and compose a
little deathless literature on the Smokies, even if Mr. Roosevelt did
beat me to the draw.

So here we are in Gatlinburg, the north entrance to the great park.
Gatlinburg once consisted of five families. But today, thanks to tourist
money, it is an amazingly charming little city, oozing with handicraft
shops and tasteful inns and lovely stone houses and saddle horses and
pretty girls in jodhpurs.

Gatlinburg lies in a cup, and low wooded mountains rise on every side,
and a little river runs behind the town, and the main street goes a
little uphill and around a couple of bends, and it is all just like
you’d want a mountain resort to be.

Right now is the peak of the fall color season, and the mountains are
aflame with red and yellow and green, and anybody who can see them
without some kind of a gladness at being alive must be a dull soul

                             PASSED BY TIME

Centuries ago, white pioneers from England and Scotland came into these
mountains and set up their homes. They were so isolated that our
so-called progress largely passed them by.

They grew up to be a little race distinct. There is no denying that a
mountain man is different from a plains or city man. I can’t exactly
tell you the difference, but there is something basically rugged in his
character that would be nice to have within yourself.

There are old men in these mountains who would feel embarrassed and
naked if the long rifle did not rest on its nails in the wall. You can
walk into the hills right behind Gatlinburg and still hear even the
children saying “hit” for “it,” and “heerd” for “heard.”

You can still find leather tanning in the homes, and weaving and
spinning, and people who make their own furniture, and think it a sin to
tend garden on Sundays.

It was to preserve a little of this for posterity, and also to open up
the magnificent scenery of the Smokies to the great taxpaying public,
that the Great Smokies National Park was created.

It started in 1923, when the states of Tennessee and North Carolina
began buying mountain land from the big timber companies. John D.
Rockefeller Jr. played an important part. He matched, dollar for dollar,
every cent put up by the two states.

In 1926, Congress authorized the establishment of a Park. The land
already bought was turned over to the Federal Government, and the
Government itself bought more.

The National Park Service actually moved in and took charge about 10
years ago. Today the park is well up among the older western parks in
the facilities it has created for the public, such as roads, camp
grounds, hiking and horse trails. As far as I can see, every thing has
been tastefully done. You have a feeling that the park is “right.”

This year visitors to the park will run more than 800,000. It is open
all year, but summer and fall are the big seasons. In June, July and
August you can’t even find a place to sleep in Gatlinburg if you arrive

                           PARK IS OVAL SHAPE

The Great Smokies Park is roughly 54 miles long and 19 miles wide at the
widest point. It is oval shaped. Except for a few high, level pastures,
it is tremendously rugged throughout its entirety. It has 16 peaks more
than 6000 feet high.

Vegetation is lush, clear to the top of the highest peak. There is no
timberline in these mountains. Balsam and spruce grow thick in the upper
regions. In summer the rainfall is almost tropical, and in winter heavy
snows blanket the trees and slopes into a fairyland.

Almost constantly a gray haze hangs like a thin veil over the pile after
pile of far, high, ridges. That is why these mountains are called The
Smokies. They say that no one knows for sure what causes this haze, but
one explanation credits it to tiny particles of moisture rising from the
heavily-soaked vegetation.

The park is half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina. The high,
sharp backbone of the Smokies cuts the park in two, and along this
backbone runs the state line. A horse trail follows this backbone the
length of the Park, but there is no motor road up there.

A fine macadam highway crosses the Park, from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, on
the Carolina side. And a few gravel roads stab short distances into the
hills from several entrances.

Aside from that, the public must take to foot or horseback to see the
vast, beckoning interior of the Park. And since taking to foot is one of
life’s accomplishments which I am most prodigious at, to coin a phrase,
we shall take to foot in a Herculean way about tomorrow.

         MT. LE CONTE LODGE, Great Smokies Park, Oct. 25, 1940—

When I go to see a National Park, I like to walk in it.

I don’t want to mope along with a tourist party behind a naturalist, and
I don’t want to ride no damned horse. I just want to get out all by
myself like a hermit and square off my shoulders and head uphill.

There is plenty of walking for a fellow like me in the Great Smokies. In
fact there are 675 miles of trails that meander all over this vast park.

But the main trails patronized by tourists are the five different routes
which lead up to the top of Mt. Le Conte, nearly 6600 feet high. Many
people make it up and back in one day. But others, like myself add 95
per cent to the pleasure by staying on top all night.

People had told me the Alum Cave trail was the prettiest and most
spectacular. So, the day before starting, I went over to Park
Headquarters to inquire and get my bearings.

I wound up talking to Assistant Chief Ranger Harold Edwards. He wears a
uniform and has a desk and lots of papers on it, so I believed every
word he said.

He said it would take me five hours to climb the Alum Cave trail. He
said it would be the longest five and a half miles I ever walked. He
said it was very steep, and footing irregular.

Well, it is possible I misunderstood Ranger Edwards, but I doubt it.
Also it is possible that I’m a better man than I thought. But that seems
somewhat fantastic, since I think I’m practically perfect to start with.
So I can only deduce that Ranger Edwards, in spite of being a nice
fellow, simply has days when he isn’t all there.

For, instead of five hours, I was on top of Mt. Le Conte in two hours
and 50 minutes. And since I had prepared myself for a terrible ordeal,
it seemed like the shortest five and a half miles I ever walked. It was,
in fact, smooth and nice all the way up.

Poor Mr. Edwards. I guess he meant well, but he just didn’t realize he
was talking with one of the mountain-climbingest goats this side of

                             BACK TO SLEEP

In preparation for this historic stroll I awoke at 7 a.m., yawned a
couple of times, and went back to sleep for half an hour. Then I ate
breakfast, read the morning paper, got those old gray pants out of the
back of the car and, as a final gesture, put them on.

Also I filled up the little chamois pack sack which That Girl made for
my gallant walk through the Rockies last year from the United States to

In this pack sack I put an extra sweater, four hankerchiefs (because I
still have a cold), an extra pair of socks, two Hershey bars, two
oranges, an old ham sandwich, and an extra pack of cigarettes, in case
my wind gave out.

I did not take my sun glasses, nor a camera, nor a bottle of water, nor
a ten-pound toilet kit, nor my new tuxedo, since past experience as an
Alpinist has shown that such things are all a lot of nonsense.

It was 9:20 a.m. when I stepped out of Ranger Edwards’ car, shook hands,
and, without once looking back, plunged into the jungle. Exciting
experiences were not long in coming.

I hadn’t gone 200 yards when I came upon two couples standing in the
trail, talking. They didn’t see me coming, so I had to walk around them.
As I did so one woman said, “Oh excuse me,” and I said, “That’s all

Fifty yards farther on I came upon a man with a cane, sitting against a
tree. He said, “Are those people still gabbing back there?” and I said,
“Yes,” and he said, “I thought so.”

When I had been walking an hour and a half, I met two young men coming
down the trail like rockets. We stopped and smoked a cigarette together.
They had walked clear to the top already this morning, and were well on
their way back down, and it was now only 10:45. It was then I began to
smell a mouse in Mr. Edwards’ sinister warnings about the trail.

“How far along am I?” I asked. It was my impression I was barely getting

“Oh, you’re half way there,” they said.

“And the trail ahead, how is it?” I asked.

“No steeper than you’ve come over,” they said. By that time Mr. Edwards’
mouse smelled real bad. But I was glad, too, for if there’s one thing I
like about a mountain trail it’s for there not to be much more of it. I
lunged on, and disappeared around a bend.

                          DISTANCES DECEPTIVE

At 12 o’clock sharp, I came around another bend and there ahead, across
a valley stood a sharp precipice. They had told me that right behind
this precipice lay the Le Conte Lodge.

I stood a minute, and tried to judge how long it would take to get
there. Distances in the mountains are very deceptive. Out West you can
see a long way, hence an actual distance is much farther than it looks.
I remember once, in the high Rockies, figuring it would take an hour to
get to a certain ridge, but it actually took three hours.

So with this in mind, I estimated one hour to get to this precipice. And
shiver these old timbers, if I wasn’t there in 10 minutes. The climb was
over, and I hadn’t even eaten my sandwich.

Just as I topped the ridge, I turned around in the direction of Park
Headquarters, and looked far down toward where Ranger Edwards was
probably nestling behind his desk, and I puckered up my mouth and said,
“Five hours Pvvvvvvtt.”

                            * * * * * * * *

P. S.—And now that I’ve used up this whole column bragging on myself, I
suppose I’ll have to get to work tomorrow and tell you what I saw on the
trip. Hope I can think of something good.

         MT. LE CONTE LODGE, Great Smokies Park, Oct. 26, 1940—

This Le Conte Lodge, they say, is the highest mountain lodge east of the
Rockies. It stands at 6400 feet. With one exception, it is the only
place within the boundaries of the Great Smokies National Park where you
can stay all night. And the only way to get up here is to walk or ride a

The Lodge is open about seven months of the year. In winter it gets to
40 below up here, and the buildings lie deep in snow. The hottest they
remember it being in summertime is 68, and the people who work here get
so used to cool summers that they almost die when they go down to the
valley heat of Gatlinburg, a mile below.

The lodge can put up 44 people. They charge $4 a day for room and two
meals. In the three mid-summer months the place is full every night. But
right now there aren’t so many. Unless somebody shows up late, I will be
the lone guest tonight.

In the old days up here, all the beds were of balsam boughs. City
fellers who walked up the mountain could go back home and tell of
sleeping on a bed of brush and limbs.

But now this is a National Park, and you can’t even cut a twig from a
tree. So visitors have to be content with nice modern mattresses and
Hudson’s Bay blankets.

Some amazing people have walked into Le Conte Lodge. One 94-year-old man
climbed the mountain on foot. An 83-year-old woman came up under her own
steam. And another man past 80 walked up alone, got caught by darkness
within 200 yards of the Lodge but didn’t know where he was, so lay down
on the ground and slept all night. He walked on in after daylight,
feeling fine.

                            BEARS DON’T HIDE

But let me tell you about my walk up the mountain. On the Alum Cave
trail, by which I came, there is no place where you walk along an actual
precipice that drops off straight down for thousands of feet. But I can
say that if you are up here, and should suddenly find yourself in
desperate need of a precipice, there are some places that would serve as
excellent substitutes.

The first part of the trip, in the lower altitudes, is deep in a forest
of trees and bushes. Rhododendron roots make a tangle that is absolutely
tropical. You can’t see 10 feet into it, and this is where the bears
used to hide when hunters got after them.

Of course, there is no hunting in the park now, so the bears don’t have
to hide any more. The bears in the Smokies are black bears, a little
smaller and a little faster on the bite than the Yellowstone bears.

The favorite bear story around here is about the woman tourist who got
bit on her behind. She was just getting into her car after taking
pictures of some cubs, when Mama Bear ran up and bit the lady right
where she sits down. It made a gash three inches long and an inch and a
half deep. The doctor who tended it said it was a good thing the lady
was fat.

They say there are at least 600 black bears in the park. But hikers on
the trails needn’t worry about them. They’re not like the Yellowstone
bears. They’ll run as soon as they see you. And if they don’t, I will.

                            STARES AT BEAUTY

After an hour and a half of walking, I had risen above the matted
rhododendron vines, risen away from the bounding little rock-bedded
mountain stream, risen to heights where the trail came out from among
the trees and one could stand and look forever.

And it was then I realized for the first time in my life, that there can
be as much majesty and stirring beauty in Eastern mountains as in the

Many times on the trail I just stopped and stared and stared. I don’t
know that I have ever seen a lovelier sight than the onward-stretching
undulations of the haze-softened and color-splashed immensities of the
Great Smoky Mountains.

                           WATCHED SQUIRRELS

Once, deep in the woods, I sat down on a rock to rest. It was quiet as
the grave, and I had the feeling that I might almost have been the first
man here.

Suddenly I heard a rattling in the trees. It startled me at first, and
then I saw a flash of movement, and realized it was a squirrel running
down a tree trunk.

I sat there real still. Soon there was another squirrel. And then
another. They were odd little fellows—only half as big as the ordinary
squirrel. Later I learned the mountain people call them “boomers.”

One of them walked a fallen log right up to within six feet of me, and
sat there on his haunches, eating and staring.

I gave a little whistle. He stared harder. Then I whistled again. And
several more times. And maybe you think I didn’t feel silly, and a
little thrilled, too, when a bird started answering me. Yessir. I’d
whistle, and the bird would whistle right back. It made me feel like
Audubon or Thoreau or somebody.

That went on for five minutes. But finally I had to go. So I got up and
said, “To hell with you, you lousy little squirrels and birds, you’d
probably eat me up if you had a chance.”

Any savage squirrel that attacks me will get the toe of my boot right
where he sits down, that’s what he’ll get. No squirrel is going to eat
me up. I got up to the top of the mountain without anything else

           LE CONTE LODGE, Great Smokies Park, Oct. 28, 1940—

Jack Huff is a mountain man. All of his 30-odd years have been spent
here in the Smokies. And for 17 of those years he has been the
entrepreneur at the top of Mt. Le Conte.

He owns the Le Conte Lodge. Seven months of the year he feeds and beds
and maybe entertains the hikers and horsemen who come up the trail.

Jack Huff was just out of high school when he first came to the top of
Mt. Le Conte, and he had visions of building a mountaintop tent camp for
hiking vacationers. That was long before there was even a horse trail up
here. Everything that came up had to come on men’s backs.

Today three pack horses arrive every afternoon loaded with supplies, and
the lodge consists of a whole row of cabins, and two small log lodges,
and a big house for the Huffs’ own living quarters. And Jack is still

Jack Huff seems timid at first, but he really enjoys talking to people
if he likes them. They say he can size up a new arrival in ten seconds.
If the new arrival is a heel, Jack Huff is polite but his conversation
becomes a minimum.

Few vacationers can out-think this product of the Smokies. He listens
nightly to the radio news; he absorbs scores of passionate orations on
world affairs from his guests before the big fireplace; he reads the
papers and magazines.

He is a man of many abilities, too. He builds his own cabins, he has a
flair for architecture; construction is his hobby. And he weaves. On the
big loom in the dining room he has woven all the lovely curtains for the
lodge windows.

He got his weaving, among other things, from the Pi Phi Settlement
School down in Gatlinburg. That is a school founded 28 years ago by the
college sorority, to bring a better education to the mountaineers.
Pretty Pi Phis come from all over to teach there.

A girl named Pauline Whaling came down from the north, to teach the
mountaineers. She was out of Monmouth College in Illinois, and
Northwestern University.

But whether she taught, or got taught, I can’t quite decide. For she
married Jack Huff, and came to the mountain with him. And when their
little boy was born, he came to the mountain too—a husky, tow headed
example of a good life.

For seven years Pauline Whaling has been on the mountain, working with
her own hands, helping run things. She is beautiful in her heavy boots
and leather jacket.

She leaps around the terrace of the lodge like a gazelle. She was up at
4 this morning to see Jack off on an early trip down the mountain. She
herself has hiked the tough eight-mile Newfound Gap trail in two hours
flat. She is bountifully happy. “Up here is peace,” she says.

A mountaineer’s strength is in his heart, and not necessarily in a big
body. Jack Huff weighs only 150 pounds, and stands sort of folded up
with his hands in his pockets. But his walking feats are astounding.

He has walked 15,000 miles up and down this mountainside. He kept count
of his round trips until three years ago, and at that time they had
passed 1000. It is seven miles each way, and exactly a mile gained in

He has often made two round trips in one day, packing great loads up the
trail on his back. There are some mighty men in these mountains. Listen
to this story:

Andy Huff is Jack’s father. He owns the big Mountain View Hotel down in
Gatlinburg. He has lived down there for 40 years, but he has never seen
his son’s lodge up here, although it’s only two hours by horseback. “I
just haven’t got time to go,” says Andy Huff.

But Jack’s mother saw Le Conte Lodge before she died. She made one trip.
Just one. That trip sounds like a legend, but it’s true. She came up on
her son’s back.

It was 14 years ago. Mrs. Huff was a semi-invalid. She wanted to see the
sunset from the peak before she died.

So Jack made a light wooden chair. He put arms on it for her, and a
board rest for her feet. He put her in it; they lifted her onto his
back, and ran the straps over his shoulders. Mrs. Huff weighed 90
pounds. In her lap she carried a kitten.

Jack Huff, packing his mother on his back, made those seven miles to the
top of Mt. Le Conte in exactly five hours. He stopped only a few times,
and that was for his mother to rest, rather than him. “She’s the only
person who ever came up the mountain backwards,” he says. They still
talk about it with awe around Gatlinburg.

Mrs. Huff stayed a week on the mountain, in a tent. But it rained all
the time. She never saw the sunset. Finally the dampness became too much
for her. One afternoon Jack wrapped her in a raincoat, put her into her
chair, and packed her back down the mountain.

Soon after that he started building a log cabin for her, so she would
have a drier place to stay the next time. But she didn’t live to see it.

That old cabin is the original house of today’s Le Conte Lodge. Jack
would like to keep it, for sentiment. But he says it isn’t built right,
and soon it will have to come down.

                   GATLINBURG, Tenn., Oct. 29, 1940—

Yesterday afternoon, while Jack Huff and I were sitting in front of the
fireplace at the top of Mt. Le Conte, a couple of weary strangers came
around the corner of the lodge.

They asked for succor—for a night’s lodging and a spot of food and a
touch of bandage for sore heels—and they got it, in good Smoky Mountain

They turned out to be two of the nicest strangers who ever came to a
mountaintop. They were Cleveland business men, out on a vacation trip.
One was John F. Wilson, white-haired general manager of the Equity
Savings & Loan Co. The other was Carr Liggett, who has his own
advertising agency.

A man who has just climbed a mountain feels a wonderful sense of
accomplishment. He takes off his shoes and sprawls out with a feeling of
honestly earned repose. The thin air and the great height and the
unbridgeable gap in character between us and all those soft souls down
below gives you a puffy pride, and you expand and expound at great
length. We all did that.

The afternoon wore on into early mountain darkness, and after supper we
felt like purring. Then Jack Huff came with more great logs. And we sat
warm before the fireplace and under the hanging gasoline lantern and we
all waxed, you might say, a little philosophic.

We finished the war (England won); we finished the election (we’re
keeping the result secret); we wrapped up and shipped off the WPA; we
scouted the Andes and climbed a bit around the Alps; we discussed the
proper way to drive an automobile; we went through the entire curriculum
of sectional dialects in America; we achieved a new definition of
civilization as meaning the advance of human kindness, and decided
civilization is going ahead despite everything; we told stories of bears
and prodigious feats of walking; we decided how a fireplace should be
built; we took up the Negro question and we talked of bank loans; we
poured some steel and we figured out the best way to build an air force.
It’s astounding what a half-dozen people can talk about in one evening
on a mountaintop.

And then, as sort of dessert for our ruminations, Mr. Wilson carried us
back to pioneer days, when our hardy ancestors first came to this

And so soothing were the bandages on Mr. Wilson’s feet, and so heady the
wine of warmth upon Mr. Wilson’s brow, that he condemned all modern
conveniences as a lot of nonsense. As for him, he’d take the pioneer way
of cold bedrooms and candlelight and straw ticks. Those were the days,
and those were the men, said Mr. Wilson.

And in climactic conclusion, Mr. Wilson declaimed that of all the
abominations upon this earth the most despicable in his life was steam

Whereupon we all retired to our cold bedrooms. If Mr. Wilson had got up
this morning swearing he had slept like a baby, I think I would have
kicked his sore heel. But he didn’t. He damn near froze to death, just
as I did. Pioneers—Bah.

                          BREAKFAST EXCELLENT

But the morning sun can do much for a man. Today was clear, and our
breakfast was excellent, and we faced the prospect of our seven-mile
return hike almost with eagerness.

Since I like to walk alone, I started out ahead of my new friends. Twice
during the first half of the downhill journey I stopped to rest. But
after the second sitting, I never stopped again.

The truth is, I was afraid to stop. That rheumatic knee of mine got
worse and worse. Every downward step plunged it into a kettle of hot
agony. It creaked so loud I couldn’t hear the birds sing. It went back
and forth through sheer force of habit, and I knew that if ever I
interrupted its rhythmic routine to rest, I’d never get it started

So on and on I walked, through an eternity, and it was close to noon
when suddenly the forest-roofed trail broke out into the open, and some
cars were sitting around, and I knew here was the end of the rainbow.
The Great Walker had made it home. He collapsed on a rock.

Now my Cleveland friends should have been no more than five minutes
behind. But time passed. And more time. And they didn’t come. Finally I
got to worrying, and thinking of bears or snakes or broken legs.

At last—three-quarters of an hour behind me—they came, limping and halt.

Mr. Wilson’s toes somehow had got all mixed up with each other, and
wound up a mass of blood inside his boots. And Mr. Liggett discovered he
had some muscles that hadn’t been used since he was marching down roads
in France in 1918. We were, as they say in the South, a “sorry” trio.

It is with a breaking heart that I recount this, for I believe Mr.
Wilson intends to tell some heroic story about it around Cleveland. But
I say this is a democracy, and if my own frail knee must suffer the
cruel scrutiny of the public spotlight, then Mr. Wilson’s torn toes
shall not hide in privacy.

                               BID ADIEU

We bid each other a hikers’ adieu. My Cleveland friends started right
home. Personally I’m not at all sure of them, even though Mr. Wilson is
a rugged pioneer. If they do not return soon, I hope The Cleveland Press
will send out an expedition.

As for me—well, don’t you worry about me, folks, I’m safe and happy
right here in bed with a hot pad around my knee. If anybody should care
to hire me to pack something back up the mountain tomorrow, I’ll
consider it for a million dollars. Not very seriously, though.

                   GATLINBURG, Tenn., Oct. 30, 1940—

Nearly a million tourists a year are now coming to see the wonders of
the Great Smoky Mountains. But I’ll bet not one in 1000 ever finds out
anything about the greatest wonder of all—and that is the people of

Gatlinburg is unique, there’s no question about it. Ten years ago it had
a population of 75, and the mountain people just scraped along from one
meal to the next.

Today Gatlinburg, thanks to tourists, has a population of 1300 and is
rolling in wealth. And what is unique about it—and delightful too—is
that the money is going into the pockets of the old original families
here, who for so long had almost nothing.

There are now approximately 40 business establishments in town. At least
half of them are owned within four families. They are families that have
been here for generations. And of the other half, not more than half a
dozen are owned by outsiders.

Many a slick fellow has arrived here, expecting to buy out these easy
marks for nothing or sign them up on a trick lease. But in every case,
they say, the smart fellow has left town without his own shirt.

The surprising thing about this whole evolution is two-fold:

1—That the local people had the shrewdness to hold on to things.

2—That they had the ability themselves, with almost no experience, to do
the necessary job of building for and satisfactorily serving a million
tourists a year.

The answer to the first is fundamental. It lies in the mountain man’s
absolute refusal to give up his land. Money as such doesn’t mean much to
a mountain man. It is land that he values, and craves. Once he has land,
he won’t give it up.

As a consequence, outsiders can’t buy land in Gatlinburg. No matter what
they offer, the mountain man says, “I don’t want to sell. I wouldn’t
have no place to pasture my cow.”

The answer to the second is simply that the mountain men of Tennessee
are smart. You can’t make anything else out of it. They’re just natively
smart, that’s all.

                         FIVE FAMILIES DOMINATE

If you go up into the old graveyard on the hillside just back of town,
you’ll find at least half the names on the gravestones divided among
five families. Those families are—Ogle, Whaley, Maples, Reagan and Huff.
The first four have been here for generations. The Huffs came 40 years

Four of these five families control Gatlinburg. They reap most of the
profit, and they likewise take the responsibility and do the good deeds.

There are four key business establishments in Gatlinburg. They are the
three big hotels and the huge general store. The Ogles own the store.
And the Huffs, Whaleys and Maples each own a hotel. And every one of the
four, in addition owns numerous tourist courts, filling stations, gift
shops, saddle-horse concessions, restaurants.

These four families, working together, competing but friendly, have been
almost super-wise in their development of Gatlinburg.

Their building has been tasteful. Largely inexperienced in running
hotels, they have created three delightful places.

And wisest of all, they haven’t taken unfair advantage of the flood of
tourist gold which has descended upon them. They aren’t killing their
golden geese. They have deliberately agreed among themselves to keep
prices down.

Hotel rates in Gatlinburg are amazingly low. At such prices you’d expect
shoddy service and poor rooms. But everything is modern, clean and

                         HAVE SENSE OF HONESTY

The hotels are staffed by local mountain people, and they have pride and
friendliness, clear down to the lowliest charwoman, that wouldn’t permit
them to do a shoddy job.

Tourists support almost every one of the 1300 people in Gatlinburg.
Nobody is out of work who wants to work. Even the people out in the
hills live off the tourists, through their weaving, basketry and

We have been in most of the “faddy” places and big tourist centers in
America. In not one of them have we seen the plums fall into the laps of
the old-time residents of the place. Gatlinburg is the only exception.

Why, it’s just as though fame and millions of people were suddenly to
descend upon our crossroads in Indiana. And instead of financiers from
Chicago grabbing everything, my Dad would put up a fine hotel, and Harry
Bales would build a three-story gift shoppe, and Doc Sturm would create
six big tourist courts, and Claud Lockeridge would own all restaurants,
filling stations and sight-seeing busses. And we’d all get richer than

Fame, please come to Indiana and make us farmers rich.

                   GATLINBURG, Tenn., Oct. 31, 1940—

Everyone who has been to Hawaii knows about “The Big Five.” How these
five old families control most everything in Hawaii. It is one of the
tightest, and also in my opinion one of the best monopolies in the

Well, Gatlinburg is just like Hawaii in that respect. There are five
leading families here. Four of these families hold the reins. The fifth,
although old and numerous and doing all right, could not be considered a
member of the “control.”

In Gatlinburg it could be called “The Big Four.” Let me tell you about
these families.

                            OGLES ARE OLDEST

Ogle—They, I think, are probably the oldest. An Ogle started the first
store here, back before the Civil War. The Ogles have ways been the
merchants of the Smokies.

Charlie Ogle is the head Ogle today, and he runs the general store that
is one of the sights of Gatlinburg.

As business grew they kept building on more additions. The store rambles
and juts around all over the place. It has separate grocery, shoe,
hardware, women’s-wear departments.

You can buy things here you can’t get even in Knoxville—provided
Charlie, or his son, Earl, can locate them. They say you can get
anything here from a hairpin to a threshing machine.

So I put them to the test. I asked if they had “G. Washington” coffee,
which is the powdered kind you just stir into a cup of hot water. That
Girl carries it so she can have her morning coffee in hotel rooms. Not
one grocery in ten has it, we’ve found.

But Ogle’s came through. They had it all right.

                           WHALEYS OWN PLENTY

Whaley—The Whaleys too have been here a long time. Steve Whaley is the
head man of the family. One son manages the hotel. Another son manages
the tourist court. There is also a filling station in the family, and a
saddle-horse concession, and they rent out nearly half a block of
business buildings.

I was talking to one of the Whaley boys of my pleasure in seeing the
rich harvestings from the tourist crop kept in local hands.

“Yes,” he said, “and I think we deserve it. We’ve always been poor and
had to scratch. It wasn’t many years ago that I was hoeing corn right
where the hotel stands now. We always had enough to eat, like most
farmers do, but we never had any money to get any of the things we
wanted. I think it’s right that we have some of it now.”

                           THE MAPLES FAMILY

Maples—There are two brothers of the older Maples generation. One is
Squire I. L. Maples, who once owned a store (I don’t know how the Ogles
allowed that) and was once postmaster. The other brother is David
Crockett Maples. They are direct descendants of the famous Davy
Crockett, who died a hero in the Texas Alamo.

Davy Crockett Maples was a rural mail carrier. He carried the mail up
into the higher Smokies, to Sugarlands, and the little way-back

He is retired now. He hasn’t much to do with his time. So he uses it up
milking a cow. He has one cow, and they say she gives about a pint of
milk. But neither hail nor sleet nor dark of night stays Davy Crockett
on his daily rounds to milk that beloved cow.

Rel Maple is Davy Crockett’s son. He owns the Gatlinburg Inn, the newest
of the town’s hotels. He also owns the Log Cabin Cafe, and a gift shop,
and there is a tourist court in the family. The Maples are doing real

                               ANDY HUFF

Huff—Andy Huff is Gatlinburg’s most prominent man. He is the civic
leader. He starts things, and finishes them. What he suggests, the other
three usually do.

Andy Huff came to Gatlinburg 39 years ago from Greene County, in
Tennessee. He was a lumber man. He owned big saw-mills and cut timber.

In the old days there wasn’t any place around here for a stranger to
stay, so Andy Huff put up wayfarers at his house. But the lumber men who
stayed with the Huffs liked it so well they’d bring friends. That got to
the point where they couldn’t all get in the Huff house.

So in 1916 Andy Huff built a frame hotel, which looked like a house,
just to accommodate the lumber men. He has been in the hotel business
ever since.

The old-time visitors to Gatlinburg always stayed with Andy Huff at his
Mountain View Hotel. But it is no longer an amateur affair. It is a huge
place, sitting on a hillside, and they have served as many as 900 meals
in a day there.

These four families are numerous with children, as mountain families
usually are. As each family’s wealth grows, it is invested in some new
business for one of the children.

Mountain children do go away, but somehow they always come back. The
Huffs, the Ogles, the Whaleys, the Maples—each one has a generation in
its 20s and 30s, and they are all in the family business up to their

Almost without exception, they carry in their hearts the mountain man’s
love of the land. And as long as that lasts, the “Big Four” of
Gatlinburg will endure.

                    GATLINBURG, Tenn., Nov. 1, 1940—

Uncle Steve Whaley is probably the most engaging man in Gatlinburg. He
has always lived here; always been a farmer and a trader.

He raised a big family here on the Little Pigeon River, in good mountain
fashion. And then, in his middle years, the irresistible flood of human
events rolled through the Great Smoky Mountains and tinged everybody’s
life with change and Uncle Steve’s life changed too.

Today he is a power in these parts. He owns a big hotel, and lots of
other things. He is a business magnate. He is the elder Morgan of his
clan. His children are at the steering wheel, but I suspect that Uncle
Steve drives relentlessly from the back seat.

We are staying in Uncle Steve’s hotel—the Riverside. It is managed by
his son Dick. Uncle Steve just wanders around and about. Sometimes
tourists stop out front and ask him if this is a good hotel. He’ll say,
“Well, I’ve been staying here for quite a spell, and I like it all
right.” He never tells them he owns it.

When Uncle Steve first was badgered into setting up a tourist camp, he
swore to all the family that it would be the end of the Whaleys and all
they’d slaved for and saved.

But in the first year it made so much money that Uncle Steve built a
frame hotel, and this made so much money he built a big modern hotel,
and it’s making so much money they’re putting on an addition this
winter. It’s hard telling where the thing will stop.

                       UNCLE STEVE DRY AND DROLL

Uncle Steve is dry and droll. He’s dumb like a fox, and old fashioned
like fluid drive. He’s about as skinny as I am, and his nose hangs over
at the end like Puck’s. He sort of halfway grins when he talks, and his
humor is so left-handed you don’t know half the time whether he’s joking
or not.

He loves to talk about being an ignorant hillbilly. It gets funnier and
funnier as it gradually dawns on you how all-fired smart Uncle Steve
really is.

“I was educated at Bear Pen Holler University,” he says. That is his
name for the School of Experience. “I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’,
very much.”

If a local townsman asks him the population of Gatlinburg, or the number
of tourist cabins here, or who plans to do what, Uncle Steve always says
“I don’t know.” And he says it in a tone which implies, “Why you askin’
me, you know I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’.”

But I’ll bet there isn’t a minor item about anything that is or ever was
in Gatlinburg that Uncle Steve doesn’t know.

“I don’t know no more about runnin’ a hotel now than when I started, and
I didn’t know nothin’ then,” says Uncle Steve. “All I know is you cook
and make the beds—and charge ’em a little.” That seems to me a pretty
good basis to start on.

“I never kept a book in my life,” Uncle Steve says. “I never kept no
track of how much I spent or how much I took in.” He apparently has
stopped talking. You’re just ready to reply, or change the subject. And
then finally, as a small afterthought, Uncle Steve looks over at you
slantlike and says in a low voice, “I always come out a little ahead

                              POCKETS TIPS

Uncle Steve still is known to carry up a tourist’s bag occasionally, and
pocket the tip. He doesn’t do it for a joke either. When the tourists
later find out who he is, they’re rattled about having tipped him. It
doesn’t rattle Uncle Steve though.

They tell how he got appendicitis a few years ago and went to Knoxville
to be operated on. At the hospital, they took down his financial history
before operating. They asked what he did, and he said he worked for an
old widow woman over at Gatlinburg who ran a boarding house. Didn’t get
nothin’ for it, just worked for his room and board. A price, in
accordance, was agreed upon for the operation.

But when Uncle Steve began to convalesce, the doctors began to be
flabbergasted. For here came a stream of the most astounding visitors to
see this old man—Knoxville hotel managers, bank presidents, big
politicians, land owners, Government officials. The doctors began to
smell a mouse, and then they really investigated. But it was too late.
He had already paid his bill.

Often older people bore you to death. But when we’re downstairs we kind
of keep peeking around hoping Uncle Steve will come and sit with us. And
very often he does.

                         WENT TO SEE ANDY HUFF

One night he and I went up to see Andy Huff, who owns the big Mountain
View Hotel. They are direct competitors, but they’re old friends too. We
sat and gabbed with Andy for an hour or so, and then Andy drove us home.

“How you standing the cooking down at the Riverside?” Andy Huff asked

“Well the cooking’s all right,” I said, “but the owner kind of gets on
my nerves.”

“I don’t wonder,” said Andy Huff. “When you get all you can stand of it,
check out and come down to my hotel.”

So I said I guess we’d stick it out this time, but I’d stay with Andy
the next trip.

But next morning Uncle Steve had another solution figured out. He said:

“If you stay at the Mountain View next time, Rel Maples and me will be
sore. If you stay at the Gatlinburg Inn, me and Andy Huff will be sore.
If you stay here again, the other two will be sore. So I guess I’ll just
have to build a fourth hotel before you get back, so you can have a
place to stay.”

I think it would be nice if Uncle Steve built a hotel and gave it to me
to run. I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ either, very much. So I’d be
bound to make a success.

                    GATLINBURG, Tenn., Nov. 2, 1940—

                               CADES COVE

In a desperate effort, I presume, to make up for his outrageous
misjudgment of my walking prowess, Assistant Chief Ranger Harold Edwards
devoted his weekly day of rest to showing me some of the interior of the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We drove over to Cade’s Cove in the far western end of the park. Cade’s
Cove is several thousand acres of flat farm land set right down in the
middle of the Smoky Mountain chain. Its floor is at 1800 feet elevation,
and mountains ring it on every side.

In the old days, the people of Cade’s Cove lived in a Shangri La almost
as isolated as a Tibetan monastery. They sent almost nothing to market.
They made their own clothes, ground their own meal, butchered their own

Only one road ran into Cade’s Cove, and it was a pretty bad road until
the park and the CCC got hold of it. Even today it winds and twists down
over the pass to the tune of 200 hairpin turns. It isn’t a scary road at
all, just a crooked one.

Some families left the Cove when the Government took over, but 19
families remain. They have cars and trucks and tractors, and a school
and a store and even a post office with an R. F. D. carrier. They are
still pretty much their own world.

But Mr. Edwards comes from the Montana mountains, and he is nuts about
flat land.

You know those little two-pronged stickers that come off onto your
clothes by the hundreds when you walk through the weeds in the fall. In
Indiana we always called them Spanish needles. Here in the mountains
they call them “beggar’s lice.”

                      ‘HEARTS-A-BUSTIN’ WITH LOVE’

Miss Laura Thornburgh lives in Gatlinburg and loves the Smokies so much
she’s written a book about them. One evening she sent us over a
beautiful bouquet of Hearts-a-Bustin’-with-Love.

I’ll bet that one stops you. It is a local shrub, or hedge, or flower,
or tree. I don’t know what you call it. Anyway it looks like Christmas
holly at first glance. But when you get up close, you see it has been a
round pod, and then it has broken open and out have come four red
berries, just like lights on a chandelier. It is lovely.

The real name of it is Wahoo, but around here it is always called

On the day that America registered for conscription, the Park Service
set up its counter and registered all travelers and wayfarers and
residents of the Park.

One Ranger had to hike five miles back into the mountain wilderness to
register a boy who had been crippled since childhood with infantile
paralysis. There is no road back there, only a foot trail.

I have a sneaking feeling that if this young man had never been
registered at all, nobody would have gone to the penitentiary over it.

I can’t be as astonished by some of the local expressions as the
discoverers would like you to be. The mountaineers say “shoe lastes” for
“shoe last,” and they say “you’uns,” and “heerd,” and “poke” for sack,
and “whistle pig” for groundhog, and “ketched” for caught, and so on.

Yet when I was a boy in Indiana there were people within three miles of
us who talked that way. And I have cousins back home (nice people too)
who say “you-uns” and “we’uns” and “ketched.” I don’t have to go out of
the family to dig up a little picturesque grammar. In fact, I don’t even
have to go out of the room.

                    GATLINBURG, Tenn., Nov. 4, 1940—

                           A GOOD BEAR STORY

             Copyright 1947 by Wm. Sloane Associates, Inc.

  Special permission to re-print this bear story was granted by Wm.
  Sloane Associates, Inc., of New York City, Publishers of “Home
  Country”, by Ernie Pyle, which book contains this story.

Uncle Steve Cole lives on at his old home place, right in the park. He
is a typical mountain man of the old school—a good mountain man, the
kind who lives right and does right.

I dropped in one afternoon to talk to him. Uncle Steve lit a fire, and
sat down beside it and began spitting in the fireplace. He wasn’t
chewing tobacco, but he spit in the fireplace all the time anyhow.

Uncle Steve had killed more bears than any man in these mountains. He
says so himself, and others say so too. He hasn’t the remotest idea how
many he has killed. But he has killed bears with muzzle-loaders, modern
rifles, deadfalls, clubs, axes, and he even choked one to death with his
bare hands.

I got him to tell me that story. He and a neighbor went out one night.
The dogs treed a bear. The way Uncle Steve tells it would take half an
hour, and that’s too long for us. But the essence of it was that they
built a fire, the bear finally came down the tree. Uncle Steve stood
there until the bear’s body was pressing on the muzzle of the gun, and
then he pulled the trigger. “I figured I couldn’t miss that way,” Uncle
Steve laughs.

He didn’t miss, but the shot didn’t kill the bear. He ran 50 yards or
so, and then the dogs were on him. And the first thing Uncle Steve knew
the bear had clenched his great jaws right down on a dog’s snoot, and
was just crushing it to pieces.

Now Uncle Steve’s gun was an old-fashioned, sawed-off muzzle-loading hog
rifle, and he didn’t have time to reload it. So to save the dog, he just
rushed up to the bear from behind, put his legs around the bear, and
started prying the dog’s snoot out of the bear’s mouth.

“And before I knew what happened,” says Uncle Steve, “the bear let go of
the dog, and got my right hand in his mouth, and began a-crunchin’ and
a-growlin’ and a-eating on my hand.

“One long tooth went right through the palm of my hand, and another went
through the back of my hand. There wasn’t nothin’ for me to do but reach
around with my left hand for the bear’s throat. I got him by the goozle
and started clampin’ down. Pretty soon he let go. Then I just choked him
till he was deader’n 4 o’clock.” Uncle Steve spit in the fireplace.

Mrs. Cole was sitting on the bed, listening. Nobody said anything for a
minute. Then Mrs. Cole chuckled and said, “Four o’clock ain’t dead.”

Uncle Steve didn’t dignify her quibble with an answer. He just spit in
the fireplace again.

                              WILEY OAKLEY

The most famous man in the Smokies, as far as visitors are concerned, is
Wiley Oakley. He is called “The Roamin’ Man of the Mountains.” He is 55,
and all his life he has just wandered around through the Smokies.

He is a natural woodsman, with a soul that sings in harmony with the
birds and the trees and the trees and the clouds. His English is
spectacular, and on many things he is as naive as a baby. But on other
things he almost shocks you with his meticulous knowledge.

He has a house in the hills, and a rustic-craft shop in Gatlinburg. Most
of his life he has made a living as guide to hunters, and later to
tourists. There are industrialists by the score in America who worship
at Wiley Oakley’s feet after a few days in the mountains with him.

He is a famous teller of tall tales (but he won’t tell one on Sunday).
He has been on the radio, and on one trip to New York was offered a
contract. It scared him so badly he took the train home without saying

Throughout his wandering, Wiley has dropped past home often enough to
raise a dozen children. They are all grown now, except one.

Wiley himself has run the same cycle as his beloved mountains. In the
beginning they were virginal, untouched, natural. But now they have
become public characters—both the mountains and Wiley—before the curious
eyes of a million people a year.

Maybe they have both been changed a little by it; a little
professionalism has come to them both. But that’s all right. For what
good would the Smokies be, or Wiley Oakley either, if they remained
under a bushel?

                              SEES MUSEUM

One of the places a visitor to Gatlinburg must see is the Mountaineer
Museum. This is a collection of some 2000 old-fashioned mountain
articles, gathered by Edna Lynn Simms.

Mrs. Simms came from Knoxville 24 years ago. She herself roamed the
mountains long before the tourists came. She picked up articles, and
lore, and the language of the hills. She has a bubbling enthusiasm for
everything she sees or hears, an enthusiasm that has not begun to simmer
down even after 24 years of mountain discovery.

Mrs. Simms’ museum is the best collection of mountain stuff in the
Smokies. And in her own head is one of the finest collections of
mountain speech and legend. Why, she has quoted so long that she talks
like a mountain woman herself.

                    GATLINBURG, Tenn., Nov. 5, 1940—

This, I’m sure you will be relieved to know, is the last of the columns
on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This is the biggest and best known National Park east of the
Mississippi. Its mountain mass is the highest in the East; its people
are as picturesque as any left in America.

And yet friends here say that on their trips out West, and even down
below in their own deep South, they frequently talk with people who have
never heard of the Smokies.

But that can never happen again. After the current mass of words which
this column has fired into the air, anybody who never heard of the
Smokies will have to be jailed as a fifth-columnist. This is the final

                                HEAD MAN

The head man of the Great Smokies Park is Ross Eakin. His men say he has
one of the smoothest-working organizations in the Park Service. He has
been in charge here from the start. Before that he was superintendent at
Glacier, and at Grand Canyon.

The Smokies have been fortunate in having the CCC and the WPA. Without
them to do the work and do it cheaply, the Park Service would have been
decades reaching its present advanced stage of improvements.

They have built hundreds of miles of trail, and fire roads for trucks,
and camping grounds and bridges and even beautiful stone buildings for
Park Headquarters, at one time there were 17 CCC camps in the park, and
even now there are seven.

The park does have, it seems to me, one definite lack. And that is
enough Rangers for direct contact with the public. The park charges no
admission, so you are not stopped or given information when you drive

The public’s hunger for authentic information is expressed in the
experience of one of the Rangers. When he first came here, he took a
rustic cottage in a tourist court, right in town, but every evening the
tourists would see him come home from work in his uniform, and from then
till bed time there was a line at his door. He finally had to move.

                             DRIVEN AROUND

Both Assistant Chief Ranger Harold Edwards, on the Tennessee side, and
Assistant Chief Ranger James Light, on the Carolina side, have driven us
all around through the interior of the park on fire roads—gravel truck
trails not open to the public.

We enjoyed these trips, yet as far as I can see, the most spectacular
views in the Park are available right from the cross-park highway, or
from the trails out of Gatlinburg.

A horse trail follows the backbone of the high mountain ridge from one
end of the park to the other. This is a part of the Appalachian Trail
which runs from Maine to Georgia. Each summer large groups come and ride
the whole 71 miles of this trail, camping out at night, taking a week or
more for the journey.

There is one place on this trail, called Charlie’s Bunion, which I have
not yet seen. It is a place where you ride or walk (or crawl if you’re
like me) across a narrow, wind-swept ledge where it drops straight off
for 1500 feet. There aren’t many such places in the Smokies, but this
one is a lulu.

Charlie’s Bunion is only a four-mile hike from the main paved highway
that crosses the Park. Some day, if my game knee ever gets fully
recovered, I’ll have to hike up there and peek over the edge. I hope my
knee never gets better.

                               MANY MOVED

When the Smokies became Government land, a great many people were moved
out. But also a great many were left in. Today there are around 400
native mountain people still living in the Tennessee half of the park,
probably an equal number on the Carolina side.

But it is hard for them. They are no longer masters of their own souls.
His independence is a mountain man’s staff of life, and the reason he
was here in the first place.

Today a mountain man in the park dare not go hunting. He can’t even have
a gun, unless he’s a trusted old-timer allowed to keep it for
sentimental reasons.

He cannot trap. He cannot cut down a tree. He dare not cut balsam boughs
for an outdoor bed. When a mountain schoolteacher wants to give some of
the boys a whuppin’, he has to get a Park Warden to cut the switches for

The mountain people live within the shell of their traditional
existence, but it is an empty shell. The spirit has gone out of the old
log house; an unseen guard stands watch at the door over their
liberties. They are gradually leaving.

It is impossible both to retain, and to exhibit publicly, a natural way
of living. Two more generations, and the old mountain culture of the
Smokies will live only in the museums and the empty log cabins with
Government signs on them, and in the schools that teach the newly
educated youngsters how to weave and spin and hew as their forefathers
did. That’s all that will be left.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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