Sunday, November 04, 2007

Foxfire: Eyes in the Night

One of my first grand memories of the mountains was the sound of a hissing and spitting cat and the sight of two slanted, glimmering eyes, green-yellow in the dark of a camp tent.

I was about twelve, and it was my first away-from-home experience with a battalion of boys bound for any prank, messy, squirmy or spooky.

This spinechulling experience was acted out by a boy from Mannassas, VA named Pat Bradley, with two fragments of luminescent rotting wood fungus: foxfire !

I hadn’t roamed the Appalachians so many miles, then, though I preferred everything about them—especially the trout fishing–to my foothills home on the clay-laden Chattahoochee River where Lake Lanier is situated today.

Many hours were spent by my sons and me in the mountain woods looking for foxfire. The most satisfying advent of the radiance was one evening in February when we had been tracking squirrels in eight inch snow, marveling at. The way they were able to go from the roots of a tree trunk in a beeline to their acorn cache without rummaging around mindlessly as we did for a pair of gloves or socks. How did they know EXACTLY where the larder was under seven or wight inches of ice and sleet?

As we were leaving the mountainside at the gap where the pickup awaited, Mike gripped my wrist and said: “Look, Daddy...FOXFIRE !” And, sure enough, in the gloom, there was barely visible, a remnant of rotted, fungus infected wood, just inside a log mouth.

T would have thought it was too cold. But there had been repeated thaws and snows for nearly two weeks.

In Rabun County, a veritable library of Mountain Craft and Legend was collected in the Foxfire books, unique in their encyclopedic sprawl of information.

It was very exciting, also, to find that there was a Foxfire, NC. But the hamlet is 300-plus miles from Hendersonville...close to the field trial grounds I used to frequent near Pinehurst and Hoffmann.

If you favorite pre adolescent has not had the treat, hunting for foxfire may be a family treat.

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