Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 19
For the Love of the
rowing up in Ellijay, on the outskirts of Franklin,
North Carolina, Paula Corbin Kahn loved to play
with chinquapins. She acquired that love from her father, Wilford Corbin, a schoolteacher
and Christmas tree farmer.
"He had an interest in the American chestnut. Then he got interested
in bringing chinquapins out of the
woods and into the edge of the pasture," Kahn says. "He found that they
did well and were less susceptible to
Today, Kahn makes jewelry from
chinquapins "to raise awareness," she
says. "There was a lot being done for
the chestnut. It's smaller than the
chestnut, but it's in the same family as
the American chestnut."
Yet, as Kahn puts it, younger generations do not have an "inkling" of
how popular the chinquapin nut once
was: "When I was a little, we used to
string them and wear them to school as necklaces,"
says Kahn, 60. "I always strung them with a thread and
needle. Then I just started making earrings and wearing
them and then giving them as gifts."
Today, Kahn fashions her chinquapin creations with
help from her husband, Rob, and her 90-year-old father,
who relocated near the Kahns' farm, just south of Abingdon, Virginia. There, the Kahns grow several chinquapin trees, stretching about 20 feet tall. All stem from the
roots of her father's former farm near
Wilford Corbin says he took an interest in wild-grown chinquapins as
early as the 1960s in North Carolina. "I
gathered those nuts, and I took them
to town like old-timers used to do,"
he says. "The nuts were what I was after. The chinquapins really are sweeter
nuts than the American chestnuts."
The Kahns use a bead-sized nut-or chinquapin-in
a prickly burr. "Then you boil the Chinquapins to kill
any worms that may exist," Paula Kahn says. "You dry
them in an attic under a screen. Then you drill them
one at a time to make a bead."
Kahn sells her jewelry at Franklin's Mossy Rock;
Heartwood in Abingdon; and at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.
The Chinquapin tree
nut that can
be made into
left, nuts are
Eastern Cougar is Extinct. But Wait . . .
fficially, the Eastern Cougar was
declared extinct by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service in 2018. But tell
that to the people who say they are
seeing what wildlife biologist Bill Stiver calls "mountain lions" in the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park.
As many as 10 reports a year come
in, saying cougars-or "mountain lions," as Stiver puts it-are roaming the
mountain range along the TennesseeNorth Carolina border.
"We do get reports of mountain lions every year," says Stiver, 53, who is
based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
"To my knowledge, we have never
had any physical evidence that we
have had mountain lions here in the
duration of my career," says Stiver, who
has worked in the Smokies since 1988.
"But there have been park employees
who say they have seen lions."
For years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials had been reviewing the Eastern
Cougar subspecies, which was officially removed from the endangered species list in February.
"While many suspected cougar
sightings are probably mistakenly
identified bobcats or other animals,
cougars do occasionally occur in eastern North America," the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service says in a release, "but
they are cougars of other subspecies:
either Florida panthers, animals dispersing from western populations, or
animals that have been released or escaped from captivity."
Reports of cougar sightings in the
Great Smokies are reviewed, Stiver
says. And, while "there hasn't been any
physical evidence" of such cats in the
Smokies, Stiver adds, "I would never
question what somebody has seen."
May/June 2018 19