I first heard of the rendezvous between journalists from North Carolina and Tennessee at Clingmans Dome from Bernard Elias, photographer and hiker extraordinare.
I had the good fortune to interview Bernard for the Carolina Mountain Club eNewletter when he was in his eighties . He recalled that when he was ten years old, the Asheville Times (the precursor of the Asheville Citizen-Times) organized a ten-day expedition into the Smokies. They took homing pigeons with them to bring back the news of their progress.
“I couldn’t wait for the paper to be delivered,” Bernard said. He followed this expedition daily.
In the book that bears its name, Marci Spencer tells the story of Potluck, the youngest and least experienced of the pigeons.
It seems that J.R. Horne, a local farmer, loaned his homing pigeon, Potluck, for the expedition. After the journalists shook hands across the stateline on Clingmans Dome, they released Potluck to carry their goodwill message home. Both states had come together in a spirit of friendship to protect their precious forests.
On the surface, the book looks like a children’t book. It has full color pictures and block writing, which should appeal to kids. But it’s also a book that adults will love, with historical information, including letters from the current Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Asheville Citizen-Times about the hiking journalists of 1929.
The pictures are more accurate and less fanciful than a traditional children’s book. It’s historical accurate. Memories from old timers and old photographs add a lot to the story. And as far as I know, it’s the only modern retelling of this event.
Marci Spencer is a retired nurse practitioner. As a certified NC Environmental Educator, she offers presentations in natural history for classrooms and community events. Raising ceremonial white doves (homing pigeons) to release at special events is a favorite hobby. Marci is author of Clingmans Dome: Highest Mountain in the Great Smokies and Pisgah National Forest: A History, both published by History Press.
The book is published by Grateful Steps and is $14.95.