“Raise your hand if you’ve never been to Shakerag Hollow,” I said, expecting at least a couple of hands to go up. Imagine my surprise when every single man in the group raised his hand. Luckily, we changed that right away, as I led 10 members of the University grounds crew on their first hike into Shakerag Hollow. Supervisor William Shealy and I dreamed up this idea months ago, and with the students on spring break and the wildflowers just beginning to pop up, late March turned out to be a good time for what we dubbed our “Shakerag Saunter.”
As with many of these outings, we had a terrific conversation, the mens’ traditional native plant recipes and old wives’ tales interspersed with my stories of Shakerag and the plants that live there. “Split a persimmon seed, and you can tell how much snow or ice you’ll get that winter,” one man told me with a twinkle in his eye. “Ever heard of ‘kilt greens’?” another asked. That latter, I learned, is boiled toothwort plants fried in bacon grease. “Bitter, but good,” he pronounced it. Although still early, we did see a number of wildflowers in bloom, including my first trout lilies of the season. It was a wonderful afternoon. With William’s help, I may be able to get more University staffers out on the trails to enjoy some of the best of what Sewanee has to offer.