Traditions: Part 1

GON’s Fall Fiction Series: Part 1 of 5

Reader Contributed | August 3, 2020

By Brandon Adams and John Seginak


August 1933

“Where ya figger we oughta look?” Junior asked.

“Let’s try up around Bear Knob, thar’s lots of water up there,” Buttermilk said.

Buttermilk Johnson and Junior Lanier were cruising the Fannin County mountains, looking for a jam up location to make some white corn liquor. They were both good, God fearing men, but times were tough, and both work and money were short. Being a good man meant providing for their families, first and foremost, the best they could.

“I found a place when I was huntin ’seng that might suit us. It winds behind Bear Knob, and runs up a holler. Thar’s lots of locust trees up there. It don’t put off much smoke when burning, and thar’s creek lilies on the banks. Ya can count on sweet water whar there’s them lilies,” Buttermilk said.

The ’31 Dodge truck rambled over the country road until the men came to the creek.

“Pull off here Junior, and we’ll see what’s up the holler, high off the road.”

“Aw right, let’s get to walkin.”

The creek wound up a very steep hollow that ran between the backside of Bear Knob and a stringer that came off Chestnut Mountain, and it was thick.

“Good gracious! I figger you could’n find a steeper place in the county, could ya Buttermilk?”

“Quit your whinin’ Junior. Grab’em shoots of the dendrons and dog hobble, and pull yerself up.”

“Well there’s plenty of that. Thick as bear’s hair. Would be good beddin cover for deer, if’n  thar was any left in these parts.”

Junior and Buttermilk had become best friends, ever since they had a double wedding down in Blue Ridge. They had married twin sisters, the Ragland girls, Claire and Loretta. Claire and Buttermilk had five children, and Loretta and Junior had seven. Both had big families and lots of mouths to feed.

“How far up the holler have ya been, Buttermilk?”

“Not that far, it’s steep,” he chuckled.

Three hundred yards later the men came to a small waterfall with a small flat bench above it, and then another waterfall.

“Ol’ hoss, I think we reached the promised land. Whar behind the knob, good runnin water, locust wood, and a flat for our operations. Whadya think? Thar is also good rocks to build the firebox, and nobody will even hear the thumb keg with that thar waterfall making all that noise runnin down the mountain.”

“Amen to that! We can git what we need from J.C.’s Mercantile and Feed Store tomorrow, and commence to buildin.”

August 2020

“Hey, Todd, guess who just called me?”

“Don’t know buddy, talk to me Chris.”

“Mr. Taylor called and said the masked bandits are in his cornfield.  He’d appreciate it if we brought our hounds and ran ’em out. I have a young dog that can use some hot cornfield races, how bout we go tomorrow night?”

“Sounds good… I’ll meet ya at his farm about dark thirty. Nine-thirty sound good?

“Let’s give them raccoons time to get down the hollow, how about 10:15?”

“Ok, see ya then Buddy.”

Mr. John Taylor was the largest private land owner in the valley, and he farmed corn, soybeans, clover, winter wheat and bermuda grass hay. The land was nestled at the base of the thousands of acres of government national forest.

“Hey Mr. Taylor, it is Chris Walker. Todd Barrett and me were gonna come run them raccoons out tonight, if that is ok?”

“Man yes! Help yourself and thanks. You are doing me a big favor. Between the raccoons, bears and deer, I’ll be lucky to get any crop at all this year. Thanks for calling. If I see light I’ll know it is you two, and not someone trying to poach a deer or bear. I might even sit out on the porch and listen to them coondawgs run.”

“Thanks again Mr. Taylor, you are helping us out, too. Nothing like some red hot chases to get young dogs going. We will be there around 10:15.”

Todd and Chris met at the pull in tractor access to the field only minutes apart. It was a beautiful cloudless night and cool for August in Georgia. The wind was very still, and a barred owl could be heard along the creek bottom in the field out for its evening hunt.

“Which ones of those boo-hooing Blueticks did ya tote, Todd?”

“I brought Hoss and Blue. Whatchya got in the dog box for blank treeing Walker dogs? Ha!”

“I brought Lawman and little Faith, my pup, are in there. That is why I like summer hunting… plenty of leaves on the trees so ya can’t call ‘em liars,” Chris said with a grin on his face.

The good-natured joking was always happening when the two friends hunted together. In fact, hunting and baseball is what brought the two friends together. In actuality, Lawman and ol’ Blue were two of the best hounds in north Georgia and had won at many local, state and national level events.

“Let’s walk em up the edge of the field to the high side and cut ’em loose. They strike one he might tree downhill, with any luck,” Chris said.

“Man, this ragweed is going to be absolutely nasty when it pollens out in a couple of weeks. I’m glad I don’t get the hay fever, Chris.”

“Me too, bud. Ya ready to cut ’em loose?”

“Let’s get it going! I think our excitement is rubbing off on the hounds.”

All four dogs left like they were shot out of a cannon. They piled into the corn and angled down toward the creek. Ol’ Blue, almost immediately, gave a large deep throated bawl, and the race was on. All four dogs were now pushing the coon down the branch toward the dirt farm road.

“Dang. I am glad my Faith pup is in the race! This is just what she needed.”

“In the race? Good gracious Chris, that pup is in the lead! It sounds like they are cutting back left handed. Them hounds are making him check his oil! They will tree soon I guarantee it,” Todd said with the excitement of the hunt feeling his voice.

“Tree Lawman!”

The big Walker male had let out his huge locating bawl, telling the world that the raccoon was up the tree. The other three hounds joined in quickly, and the friends started walking along the edge of the field. All of a sudden it sounded like a horse was breaking through the tall corn.

“It is coming right at us. The dogs when they tree’d must have spooked a bear!” Chris exclaimed.

But it was a huge buck, now only 20 yards from the hunters, breaking out of the corn and running up the mountain side.

“Good gracious! That was the biggest buck I have ever seen, or heard about anybody seeing in Fannin County! We’ve gotta hunt him, man.He looked like a typical 10, with G2s and 3s at least 12 inches in the quick glimpse I got of him, Chris.”

“Heck man, the G4s looked at least 9 inches. There’s not much of an acorn crop this year in the mountains… He is gonna be coming down to feed on soybeans and clover.”

“Yep. The only problem is Mr. Taylor does not ever allow deer hunting, at all. We are gonna have to find a way into the national forest land above the farm to hunt him.”

The friends leashed their hounds, petted them up for a good job done and headed home. Neither of them slept at all that night, thinking of the huge mature mountain buck.


Buttermilk and Junior strolled into J.C. Bates’ store right about closing time.

“How ‘bout it, J.C.?” Buttermilk asked as he walked in.

“Right as rain, boys. What can I do ya fer?”

The mercantile and feed store had been in business since 1920, owned and operated by the Bates family. If they didn’t have it, you really didn’t need it.

“Heck I don’t know, how about some yeast, sugar, corn and maybe some copper line. How much would ya think we need Buttermilk?”

“Ah, 50 pounds of each should do, and about 30 feet of that copper.”

Mr. J.C. Bates grinned a shy smile.

“Dang, the women folk gonna do some serious baking and cookin ain’t they?”

“Yeah. Apple pie mostly. Dang I almost forgot… we will need a few cases of them thar mason jars, too. Ya know for canning meat, apples and stuff.”

Junior chimed in, “What is the damage gonna be J.C.? Times are kinda tough right now.”

“Tell ya what boys, times are indeed tough nowadays. Just take the merchandise, and in payment you can bring me the dollar amount of those baked goods in the mason jars, and we can call it even,” J.C. said with a grin on his face.

“Done deal,” they said in unison.

They sat around the pickle barrels till it was way past dark. After the sunset, the men loaded the goods into the old Dodge.

“That is a heck of an arrangement that Ol’ J.C. gave us today, he is definitely mountain folk. Let’s take this up first thing in the morning and get to constructin.”

“Yes sir, I’ll pick ya up around 6 in the mornin. We should git thar right at daybreak, Junior.”

The next morning was clear and calm as the two set out for the flat by the waterfall on the knob. They both knew the job that was in front of them, but hard time had created tough people.

“It don’t look like a soul’s been drivin on this old two track since we was here, Buttermilk.”

The old road was originally an old wagon road that the timber company had used to get to what timber they were able to harvest in the steep mountain terrain.

“Yes sir, and that is a good thang. Hardly anybody ever comes up here since the deer got shot out and the timber companies pulled out. A few ’seng hunters, that is about it, and all of them knows that this is my ’seng ground, so they let it be.”

They pulled off and somewhat hid the truck in the dog hobble beside the old road.

“Well, let’s git to totin Junior. Grab that corn and sugar.”

“Shoot, Buttermilk, that’s most of the heavy stuff.”

“You are younger and a bigger boy. And heck, it is not like this yeast, tubing and tin are feather light. It’ll all even out. Now let’s git goin.”

By the time they made several trips for all the necessaries, both men were exhausted. The sun was getting high in the sky. After relaxing by the waterfall for a bit, they began constructing the still.

“You work on the fire box Junior. Thars plenty of rocks on that ledge over yonder, I’ll start hookin up tubing, and such. Ya did bring that coon bone didn’t ya? The shine will flow smooth out of the drip tube with it in thar.”

“Yeah, I got it right here in my bibs.”

“Hey, I gotta see a man about a horse, Buttermilk.”

“Well, see him downstream from our water supply. We don’t need any extra flavor or color in our product,” laughed Buttermilk.

“Yeah, yeah I hear ya. I ain’t stupid ya know.”

Junior worked his way off the flat to go pee, and began to do what nature allows for. He looked around and couldn’t believe his eyes. Scurrying back up the hill, out of breath, he gets back to Buttermilk.

“You won’t believe what I just seen!”

August, September 2020

Chris had been up for a while, and he waited as long as could to call Todd, hoping it wasn’t too early in the morning to call.

“Let’s go scout after work, man. I think our best bet is to try to find a trail with huge, high rubs going up to where we think he is bedding in one of those thickets up on the mountain. Odds are he’s fed in Mr. Taylor’s fields since he was born.”

“Sounds good, Chris. I should be out of the office by 4:30. Will you call Mr. Taylor and see if it will be alright with him for us to scout, and that we know we can’t hunt but would appreciate it?”

“I will, and I’ll get back with ya if it is a go.”

• • •

Chris waited a bit longer and made the call.

“Hello Mr. Taylor, this is Chris Walker. Todd and I would really appreciate it if you would let us scout for deer up the mountain behind your fields. We are not asking for hunting permission, just to scout some trails going up into the national forest land. We would hunt way up the mountain, and come in from the ridges.”

“Well Chris, y’all helped me out with the raccoons so much, I hate that I can’t allow you two to hunt. If I did I would have to let a lot of other friends and kin folks hunt. I can’t trust them to follow my management plan, so I keep the deer hunting for myself. I work too hard to have my young bucks killed. But, if you boys wanna scout and have the guts to battle that mountain, help yourselves. Again, I am sorry about the deer hunting, but scout all you want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Taylor.”

• • •

They arrived about 5:15 that afternoon, and got on their snake boots. The mountain ridges were known for rattlesnakes and the occasional copperhead.

“They’ll be crawlin’ now just before they den up soon. Where ya wanna start, Todd?”

“How about we each take a well-defined trail up the mountain from the cornfield. We’ve got phone service, so text if ya find anything.”

Todd went up a trail near where the buck almost ran them over while walking to their treed hounds, and Chris scouted one that ran along the small creek in the hollow. Several hundred yards up the mountain, neither men had found anything that would lead them to believe the mountain buck used the trails in the past.

“Found anything yet, Todd?”

“No, and I’m losing phone service. I am down to one bar. Ya know, in hindsight we should have done this in the morning versus heading up when the deer are coming down.”

“I here that, but we’re here now, let’s keep going.”


Another hundred yards, and the trail Chris was on split. The smaller one followed the small branch, while the other trail angled up a steep, open stringer ridge. He followed the small trail. Finally, on the side of a dog hobblel thicket, Chris found some huge old rubs. HUGE!!

“Todd, can ya get this?” Chris texted.

“Yeah man, just some small rubs on this trail.”

“Well come on over here, I found what we have been looking for. Huge rubs from last year. Got to be that buck.”

Todd arrived through the thicket above the roadbed, and the rub line stopped just before a huge rhododendron thicket on a little flat.

“I’ll bet he beds here where he can cut over the saddle into the next hollow if jumped, and he can smell anything the thermals carry on the wind coming up the hollow in the morning.”

“Ha. Yeah, he’s probably in that opposite hollow now,” Chris laughed. “Hey, look there. Some old boards… and what is that?”

Todd picked up a piece of broken glass. It had the number 13 on it.

“Looks like the piece of an old jar, the bottom of an old mason jar…”


Read Part 2 of “Traditions”

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