Category Archives: Appalachia (Miscellaneous)

Anything relevant to life in Appalachia from customs, superstitions, weather, dreams, advice, and images of the region

Progress on Panther Tales 2, Wildlife Encounters

The second collection of stories and eyewitness accounts of mountain lions, panthers, bobcats, and other animals is coming along nicely.  Stories continue to come in at a steady rate.  I hope to have this book in print in time for Christmas.  Anyone who has a story to share is welcome to contact me on my Facebook page:  Judith Victoria Hensley, Author

I have personally seen black panther in Appalachia beyond any doubt in my mind.  I have perhaps seen the tawny colored mountain lion one two occasions, but am not as sure because of the distance.  I’ve also seen bobcats.

I’m sure there are many more people who have seen big cats in the Appalachian Region who have not come forward because of the scoffing they may have experienced in the past.  I’m a story gatherer.  I want to provide a safe place for people to share their experiences and realize there are hundreds of others who have had similar encounters.


Listening to the Plants Grow

One of the great joys of my parents’ summer was raising a garden behind the house.  Due to age and failing health, they have not had a garden for the last couple of years.  Up until a couple of years ago, my mom and dad could both be found outside during spring and summer days working in flower beds or in the garden, mowing the lawn, or sitting on the porch, “Listening to the plants grow.”

In the summer rain and run, I believe they have actually been attuned to the sound of growing things.  I’m not sure if what I hear are the same sounds they listen for, but the rustle of corn in the wind, the sound of buzzing bees, and the breeze itself carries a different sound in the summer than in the dead of winter when nothing is growing.

They miss their freshly grown produce and I miss the canning and enjoying the fruits of their labor.  There is nothing more flavorful than fresh food from the garden.  Neighbors have been kind enough to share with them, as they shared with others in the past from their bounty.

I’d love to have a day near someone’s garden when I could be still enough to sit and listen for the sound of plants growing.



Spring “Winters” in Appalachia

Traditionally, people in this area look for the progression of spring by the “winters” or cold snaps that happen regularly each year.  There are several.

First comes sarvis (sarvice) winter.  These trees bloom with little white flowers higher in the mountains, but can be seen from the road scattered across the landscape.

Next comes redbud winter when the redbud trees put out their purple flowers.

Then comes dogwood winter, when dogwoods come into full bloom.

Finally there is blackberry winter when all of the blackberry vines are heavy with flowers. I have no early photos of the blossoms, but when the berries are at this stage, summer is at hands.

Some people include other smaller “winters” in the process.  The good news is, after blackberry winter, summer is usually home free with steadily warming temperatures.


Black Panther Surprises

Of the many stories told by eyewitnesses in this book, there were a few things that surprised me.   Most of all, it was surprising that so many have seen black panther near settled neighborhoods, or even on their private property.  Since this creature is known to be an elusive one, it seems like most sightings would be found in wilderness areas.  This did not seem to be the case.

Another surprise was how often the person reporting the encounter noted that the big cats were peaceful, meant them no harm, or were even curious about the human activity going on.  Long regarded as a scary, ominous creature from folklore, I had not imagined that they are curious enough to watch US.

Stories have already begun to come in for Panther Tales II.  I wonder if there will be more surprises in the next batch of stories.


Does Bigfoot Live in Your Back Yard?

The people who were interviewed for this book have one thing in common. They all had an encounter with Bigfoot.  Even when they weren’t looking for him, and weren’t expecting anything at all, there were those who saw the creature clearly and have little doubt about what they saw.

I have not seen this elusive creature.  However, that in no way diminishes the possibility of its existence in my mind.  There are too many people around the world who have made the same reports.  To me, the most startling sightings are those which take place in someone’s back yard or very near their dwelling place.  In our region with so many living near the woods or wilderness areas, it probably should not be such a surprise when someone has an encounter.

I wonder how many people have seen Bigfoot on their own property?  How many have Bigfoot living in their back yard?


Fall Comes to the Mountains

dscf0876_editedLittle Shepherd Trail in Harlan County, KY

I wait each year for the burst of color that comes to the mountains of Appalachia.  Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and George are resplendent with natural beauty and colorful leaves.  This photo was taken in the past, but I will be updating this website with new fall photos this year.



As a child growing up near Chicago, I heard my parents speak of “Home” with such love and affection it seemed like paradise to me.  As part of the great northern migration from the coalfields, hills, and hollows to factory jobs and city life, my parents were always looking back and thinking about their family and place in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky.  Like so many others, they let go of familiar things and comfortable ways in order to try and make a better living or create a more secure future in the industrialized population centers of the country.

My family was only one of thousands that pulled up Appalachian roots and moved them to new soil across the country.  No matter how successful they found themselves in their new locations, they never ceased to take a romantic view of the place where they began.

At a time when industry was quickly expanding, the coalfields of Appalachia provided the coal and the manpower to make it possible.  Strong, independent, patriotic, hard working, and loyal were the Appalachian pioneers who left home to follow the American dream in whatever direction it lead.  Those men, women, and children were forever changed by the new lives they embraced when they left the mountains, but for most of them memories and people they left behind in Appalachia were always beloved.