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How's Bayou? Sharin' Sharia

The Saucy Housedogs of Pisgah (photo by Keith Marshall)

The Saucy Housedogs of Pisgah (photo by Keith Marshall)

Thanks to the North Carolina state legislature's recent passage of a bill banning the use of Sharia law in the settlement of family disputes, I felt more at ease as Clio, Pandora and I set out last week to hike the two trails at The Cradle of Forestry (www.cradleofforestry.com), a natural monument to the beginnings of the science and practice of forestry in this country, located in Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard.

The 6,500-acre preserve owes its existence to George Vanderbilt, industrialist and mastermind of Asheville's Biltmore Estate, whose grounds were laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect of both New York's Central Park and New Orleans' Audubon Park.

From 1889 onward, Vanderbilt acquired vast swaths of forest land, much of it denuded by over-logging, and hired a young nature enthusiast, Gifford Pinchot, to manage and restore these lands to their former natural grandeur and productivity.

In Germany, the concept of reforestation and land management was well-established; and, in 1895, Vanderbilt imported Dr. Carl A. Schenck, who replaced Pinchot and for the next 14 years implemented a program, of Prussian severity and abstinence, to train young men in the new concept of maintaining our native lands through rigid practices of forestry.

While Millie attended a family reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia, the girls and I marked the beginning of our venture with a picnic lunch centered on an Arby's BLT -- bits of bacon being the bribe for their sitting still for a commencement photo -- in the shadow of the towering Cantrell Creek Lodge, built in 1890 and moved to the intersection of the two trails in 1970 to protect it from vandalism.

The girls, apparently great train buffs, voted by pulls on their leashes to first tackle the Forest Festival Trail, with its steam locomotive and steam-engine-powered sawmill.

Warily approaching the parked train, Clio spotted the writhing, harmless black snake just under the engine's boiler, and, like Patty Page's "Doggy in the Window," she "scared him away with one bark" -- clearing the way for Pandora to nervously ascend the ladder to the engine house, where she marveled at the gear lever that was just too high to reach.

They napped a bit at the sawmill, gazed longingly at the spawn in the primitive trout hatchery, and christened the ground around the Moon Sycamore, grown from a seed taken to the moon by astronaut and former Forest Service smoke jumper Stuart Roosa on the 1971 Apollo XIV mission, as we returned to the intersection of the two paths and started down the Biltmore Campus Trail, which chronicles in original wooden buildings the lives of the young foresters under Schenck's supervision.

Under the firm guiding hand of Schenck, the young men lived in supervised lodges, attended morning lectures in a barn-like schoolhouse (where Clio and Pandora made themselves right 't home) and spent afternoons implementing their revered leader's plans for reforestation and conservation of the area. Among the preserved buildings are Schenck's spartan office and lodge, a commissary, and student lodgings with pet names like Hell's Hole. There's a reason that Smokey the Bear is the face of forestry in America, rather than Schenck; but the founder of the then-new science was respected and admired by his students and Vanderbilt alike.

I think it was when we reached the wildflower meadow that the girls decided it was time to establish their own version of family law to deal with the transgressions of their guardians. As far as I can determine, these are the rules and punishments:

  • Tugging too hard on leash: Refusal to sit when commanded to do so.
  • Failure to produce bacon, roast beef or Brie on demand: A wet spot on their favorite carpet.
  • Negligence in not rolling down car window to allow breeze to flow over ears: Hide behind sofa so Dad will think you've gotten loose and drive around at midnight, headlights on bright, searching for you.
  • And the most severe punishment, for failing to stop the frightening thunder and lightening after the terribly-funny car search: Hitch right rear leg over sleeping Dad's shoulder and rub rump into his left cheek until he reacts (see evidence).

Oh, Al Qaeda! Oh, Arab Spring! Had you availed yourselves of the services of Mesdames Clio and Pandora, things might have turned out differently.

But North Carolina will never know.

The photo gallery below chronicles the author's adventure in the woods of North Carolina:

 

How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.