Maggie Valley, September 4, 2014, #1348
In 1986, Jean, Greg, and I went on vacation to the Smoky Mountains. After visiting Gatlinburg we crossed south over the mountains and spent the night in Cherokee, North Carolina then moved on to Maggie Valley for a $1.89, all you can eat breakfast. This little town of 1150 was named after Maggie Mae Setzer, daughter of the town’s first postmaster, Jack Sidney Setzer. His descendants have scattered but return to Maggie Valley each summer for a reunion. As I began writing this week about our 1986 vacation I remembered seeing Raymond Fairchild, a famous bluegrass banjo player from Maggie Valley when he would come to Bill Grant’s annual bluegrass festival in Hugo. Raymond played with The Crowe Brothers who wrote a song, The Wind is Blowing in Maggie Valley. Instead of continuing down the 1986 highway I yielded to searching for more information about this little historic town, including events after 1986.
Probably the most famous person from Maggie Valley is Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, 1946-2009. You may remember seeing this renowned moonshiner on television documentaries. He’s the little slim guy with the hat and bib overalls on The History Channel and others. Popcorn got his nickname in a bar in the Sixties when he put some money in a popcorn machine and it wouldn’t work. He beat the machine to pieces with a pool cue. (Do any of you remember the popcorn machine in Sparks’ Theater? You put in a dime and popcorn would roll out into a small sack.) Popcorn was caught in the Seventies and again in the Nineties for making moonshine, both times receiving probation. In 1999 he wrote a book called Me and my Likker which told about his life and how to make moonshine. That did not make the ATF very happy. In 2009 they raided him again and he was sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison. Since he had been diagnosed with cancer the year before, he begged the judge to let him serve the term at home under house arrest. The judge refused and a few days before he was to report to prison Popcorn committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
More fame came to this tiny town but was a little more on the sinister side. Peter Lundlin was born in Denmark in 1971 and his family came to North Carolina when he was seven. In 1991, with the help of his father, he murdered his mother in Maggie Valley. The body was buried at Cape Hatteras and found eight months later. Sentenced to fifteen years in prison he was released and deported back to Denmark in 1999 due to overcrowding. Lundlin married and soon killed his wife and two stepsons. When people asked about them he said they had gone on vacation. Police finally searched the house and found blood and over a hundred ax marks on the basement floor. Although the bodies (or parts) were never found, Lundlin received life in prison. That’s a lot of “fame” for tiny Maggie Valley. More on the 1986 vacation later.
Thomas Peters called Saturday to report a roadrunner chasing grasshoppers in his back yard. These birds of cartoon fame are fairly gentle, killing lizards and snakes as well as insects. The roadrunner will fly when chased if it gets up to seventeen miles an hour. This unusual bird can be trained and some people keep them in their house to perform the cat duty of killing mice. The roadrunner is a cousin of our common summer visitor, the yellow billed cuckoo, also known as rain crow. They both have two toes forward and two toes back whereas most birds have three forward and one back. Their tracks are distinctive in mud or sand. The two birds also share the characteristic of “stair step” or graduated tail feathers. When viewed from the bottom each tail feather is lightly longer than the one next to it. The longest feathers are on the top side with the bird in normal position.
Since the roadrunner covers so much of the U.S. there are plenty of opportunities for different communities to apply their own name to this bird. I know of no other that has so many local, or common, names. Paisano is one its names and is Spanish for pal, friend, acquaintance, fellow countryman, or ally. Other names for the roadrunner, according to where you live, are medicine bird, rattlesnake killer, war bird, chachalaca, lizard bird, California cuckoo, ground cuckoo, chaparral bird, fly catcher (Not to be confused with another group of birds like the scissortail flycatcher.), clown of the desert, and Texas bird of paradise. We see these birds often on FM 895, the Charleston Highway. Sunday, a roadrunner chased a snake across 895 near L.C. Hill’s place just west of McGuyer Branch.
Floyd McMillan called Labor Day. His granddaughters from west Texas were visiting and found a box turtle. I drove over to mark it. The half grown turtle received tiny hacksaw marks on scales BCI and will now be one of over two hundred marked south of Charleston since 1989.
September 8 there will be a full Moon, the closest one to the first day of fall and is called the Harvest Moon. September 14 find Aldebaron, bright star in Taurus the Bull, to the left of the Moon at first light. The Pleiades or Seven Sisters, wrongly called The Little Dipper, is a little blurry group of stars near the upper right of the Moon.
Bill was really tired of work and needed a short vacation but the boss wouldn’t let him leave. He decided to act crazy then maybe the boss would let him go home. Bill found a strong chandelier and hung on with his feet, pretending to be a light bulb. The boss came by and asked Bill what he was doing. He explained he was a light bulb. The boss told him to go home for a few days. As Bob walked out another man followed him. The boss asked him where he was going. He said, “I’m going home too. I can’t work in the dark.”