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Saturday, May 15, 2010

TALK ABOUT BEAR DOGS

bob plott at front porch gallery, woodlawn, 14may10




Another Friday night at Woodlawn at the Front Porch Gallery to hear Willard Gayheart and Scott Freeman pick and sing, and to hear Bob Plott, who has written 3 books on these mountains, hunting stories, dog stories, mountain stories. One of them tells the stories of Plott bear hounds his great-great-great grandfather brought over here from Germany when he was 16, in 1750 or so. Bob is in the family line of keepers of the Plott hounds, raises them, loves them. He sat in the chair and talked to us about bear hunting in the old days, stories of old-timers. Hearing him talk was like listening to old men of these mountains talk of people that used to be. He has listened to many old-timers talk. He's evidently been spending his adult life collecting photographs of bear hunting and Plott hounds. Three books are loaded with old b&w pictures from the old days in these mountains. Bob has the same love for the mountains and mountain people and mountain ways as I do. We kind of recognized in each other lovers of these mountains almost like members of a small spiritual group that worships the god of the mountains. The stories he told of some the old-timers and their stories, took me to all the older mountain people I've known.


Bob recorded them and took a lot of pictures, collected pictures, wrote about them in books. I was never able to allow myself to record different people I listened to frequently. Several people taped Elder Millard Pruitt's sermons, but I couldn't do it. It's common practice to tape about any preacher's sermons, but I've never been able to do it. In Mediterranean Europe, I could never allow myself to walk into a cathedral while people, a half dozen or so, are kneeling in various areas in prayer. I can't walk in and take pictures of stained glass windows, anything. I can only stand at the door and look in. I don't like to walk on graves either. I know it doesn't matter, but it's a matter of respect. That's just my own particular way. It's why I've never put a book together. Visiting with Tom Pruitt, listening to him talk about people from the past with a cassette recorder going, just that makes it artificial for me. I've never recorded any visits with anyone I've known. Once, I asked Jr if I could tape him talking about Art Wooten. No.


I admire Bob for what he's done. I'm glad he recorded people, made notes and collected pictures. I bought one of his books, Legendary Hunters, hunters of the Smoky Mountain region, largely who hunted bear. I've known men who were good hunters, Jr for certain. A lot of men in these mountains are good hunters. There is something about a hunter that's unique to hunters alone. For one thing, it takes a very sharp intelligence, like learning an instrument and making music takes a sharp intelligence. I was thinking a collection of Bob's stories about hunters in the mountains could only be interesing, like John Long's stories of Xtreme encounters with nature. Long's book, Gorilla Monsoon, is wild as wild gets. Stories about mountain bear hunters seem like something that could pull me out of reading about China for a while. Hunters I've known have held my interest talking about it. I remember attorney Lorne Campbell of Independence telling that he felled every sapling in SW Virginia before he learned to hit a grouse.




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