If you take a hike or a horseback ride or a drive up one of the many hollows in Knox County, you would probably pass several houses grouped around the mouth of the branch in the first mile. Then the road winds on up into a mile or two of wilderness, narrow road, steep cliffs up the mountain side and sharp cliff down to the branch. You might experience a Daniel Boone feeling in the wilderness especially if there are lots of big trees like hemlocks and rhododendron.
Just when you begin to wonder if this road does go somewhere, (when you are not familiar with the hollow, you will think you have gone several miles), there is a curve and the branch widens. Ah, there is evidence that at one time people lived here in former days. You might see the remains of rock chimneys; one here and one there or even several.
Then if you are like me, you would probably begin to wonder: Who lived here? Were there several families maybe even a clan of families? Maybe several generations as children married and had grandchildren and built a home nearby? But how could they live and feed their families in such small places; so little tillable land especially when there seemed to be so many children. I do know that often in early time the bottom land was fenced off for gardens and corn land while the livestock was turned out to forage on the hillside. The pigs were often branded with notches cut into their ears. Chestnuts and other nuts made for fat pigs for meat for the table. A cow bell was a must have on the milk cow enabling family members to locate her. Cow hunting in the mountains was part of the farm work. I don’t know how many times Sue would think we were clear out of the county even though we were walking back on the same path. One of the rocks in my recent book is one of those rocks found in Bell County by one of our exchange students on a cow hunting jaunt. Lennart thought he just had to add that rock to our collection.
Now much of those spaces have returned to wilderness again. Was all lost? No, there were some rock chimneys still standing to tickle our imaginations. But wait, there is something else; something more enduring than even the rock chimneys. If you are there in early spring, you would probably see some gold, a bright yellow patch; the daffodil struggling to show through the dead grass and brambles. It does tell that human life had been there. It provides a bit of color in a drab February and March. It has a story to tell.