Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fightingtown Creek

When I got to Northcroft after Christmas, the creek was swollen with five inches of rain brought in by the New Year. It was loud and swift, and I could tell how high the water had gotten from the sides of the bank where it had been scoured leafless. It always amazes me, how powerful that little Fightingtown Creek can be as it flows NORTH to the Ocoee River.

My friend Charles Oliver and I talked of our fast-running little creek in the mountains, and he sent me information about its history. I've learned a lot of things about the valley from Charles' mother, and now that he has come back to the North Georgia mountains, we are both enjoying learning together...

"A few miles north of Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fightingtown Creek arises and snakes its way through the woods to the Ocoee River just above McCaysville. The creek’s English name came from an incomplete translation of the name of a Cherokee town near its banks. Let’s trace it, with some meanderings.

The word “wa-lo-si” (usually pronounced “wa-lawsh”) meant “frog.” Not a bullfrog or a toad, but quite specifically the green frog that my herpetologist friends would call Rana clamitans melanota.

In our North Georgia mountains grows a little plant of the lily family known commonly as the yellow mandarin; botanists call it Disporum lanuginosum, and it reminds one of a very downy Solomon’s seal. I think its red berries are likely to be poisonous. There is an ancient Cherokee story about a couple of green frogs who got into a fight using the flimsy stalks of the plant as weapons, so the old-time Cherokee called the plant “wa-lo-si u-nu-li-sdi” which means “frogs use it to fight with.” Near a big patch of these plants was the Indian town “Wa-lo-si-u-ni-li-sdi-yi” (”Place where the frogs-fight-with-it plants grow”). The name of the town, as often happened, became the name of the creek, but, untranslated, it proved too much of a mouthful for English speakers. To keep things simple, they just translated it as Fightingtown, choosing to ignore most of the story. And that was that."

Anyway, Fightingtown Creek is one of the most enchanting things about our little place in North Georgia. I love how it flows every day, hour after hour, and because man hasn't built much on it above our place, it is clear and stays within its banks, even with great amounts of rain. We are worried because we see fewer frogs, salamanders and hellbenders in the creek these days, but I was encouraged that the recent large amounts of water coming down from the mountains washed out much of the silt that had built up from road construction a few years back. The rocky bottom is sparkling once again like it should be.
It's always hard for me to leave such a peaceful place. From the beautiful sunset I experienced on my way to the valley, to the little Pine Siskins I stopped and watched for a while at Mrs. Oliver's on the way out, there are always amazing things to behold and enjoy - but the creek provides a world of cool refreshing wonder to those who simply sit and watch as the water falls north.


juju said...

A true piece of Heaven!

tschafee said...

i do enjoy hearing you relay your love of northcroft. a special place, indeed.

Don Bennett Jr. said...

I grew up on Fightingtown Creek, fishing from the headwaters in Cashes Valley to the mouth where it runs into the river and swimming in the Seven Ft. Hole and the Bends.