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August 14, 2017

Buckhorn Neighbors: The Brown Farm and Its Bison Herd

I first became fascinated by bison when, as a child, I read Robert McClung’s 1960 book Shag, Last of the Plains Buffalo.  The story of the magnificent beast’s struggle against drought, famine, and hunters made a lasting impact on me.  Imagine my delight to realize that a herd resides only a little more than a mile from the Buckhorn Inn!

Bison are being brought back from the edge of extinction.

The bison herd now numbers seven.

Locals know Benny Hammonds as the longtime Gatlinburg-Pittman high school football coach.  In 2013 he purchased 3 bison cows and one bull.  A recent birth puts the size of the herd at seven now.   To visit The Brown Farm, turn right onto Buckhorn Road from Tudor Mountain Road.  Drive a little more than a mile (the road turns into #454) and you will see the farm on the left.  There is no admission charge and there is parking.  Be careful–the fence is electrified.

Status of American Bison

The American Bison (also sometimes called American Buffalo) is the largest surviving land animal in North America.  During the 19th and 20th centuries the creatures were hunted nearly to extinction.  An estimated 50 million bison were slaughtered for sport.   They are no longer listed as endangered, but their future is not assured.  According to the National Bison Association, http://www.bisoncentral.com, it is mainly through the efforts of small farmers, like Mr. Hammonds, that the animals are being preserved.

The bison may be seen through an electrified fence.

This baby bison came right up to the fence to greet me.

They may appear peaceful and nonchalant, but bison can charge without warning.  Both males and females have horns and can use their massive heads as battering rams.  They can gallop at speeds near 35 mph and typically weigh around 2,000 pounds, so you can imagine the momentum they can establish.

They are herbivores and prefer to eat grass and sometimes sedges.  Early mornings and evenings are often the best times to see them be active.  They rest during the day and graze during the morning and evening hours.

They like to roll in depressions in the dirt–a behavior called “wallowing”.  Wallowing may help them cope with biting insects and to self-regulate their body temperatures.

We hope you get a chance to visit these magnificent creatures.

August 6, 2017

Pitching Horseshoes at Buckhorn Inn

The Buckhorn Inn’s pits for pitching horseshoes are located near stop 18 on our Nature Trail.  This is the stop near the glider and St. Cordelia’s Garden.  What a great way to while away an afternoon!

Pits for playing horsehoes are located near #18.

The Nature Trail begins at the Buckhorn Inn.

History of Horseshoes

Many experts believe that the origins of the game lie in ancient Greece.  Citizens of less affluence could not afford a discus for sport.  Therefore they used horseshoes, sometimes weighing up to four pounds.  At this point, this was a distance game.  Players competed to see how far they could throw.  At some point, perhaps several centuries AD, the game evolved into one of accuracy.  The use of poles or spikes as targets

The NHPA has been the governing body of horsehoes since 1926.

Horseshoes are a game of accuracy.

became popular and the game spread around the world.  Pitching shoes was a favorite pastime of soldiers and when they returned home they introduced the activity to their communities.  Following the Revolutionary War, England’s Duke of Wellington said “The War was won by pitchers of horse hardware.”  In 1869 England created very exacting rules for the game.  The first worldwide horseshoe tournament was held in 1910 in Kansas.  The winner received a belt with horseshoes affixed to it.  Let’s hope he didn’t tumble into a large body of water wearing such a heavy trophy!  In 1914, the game became more formalized.   The “Horseshoe Guide” provided rules on scoring, stake height, shoe weight, size of pitchers’ box, and the distance between stakes.

Horseshoes Today

Since 1926 the governing body of the sport has been the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America http://www.horseshoepitching.com.  It is estimated that there are more than 15 million horseshoe enthusiasts in the United States and Canada.  To score in this game, you either must throw the shoe around the stake, or throw the shoe closer to the stake than does your opponent.  This scoring system led to the saying “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”!  

We hope to see you trying your pitching the next time you visit us at the Buckhorn Inn!