Most area folks are probably unaware that a record was made in New York City on Oct. 21, 1926 that told of an alleged fox chase on beautiful Buffalo Mountain. Jointly owned Vocalion and Brunswick record company released the classic song, “Governor Alf Taylor’s Fox Chase,” by the Hill Billies (a.k.a. Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters).
The humorous tale on a 78-rpm breakable disc begins with these words: “Gov. Alf Taylor of Tennessee and his sons, Alf, Nat, Dave and Blaine, own a kennel of foxhounds, from 50 to 100 famous dogs.”
On the recording, Alf, his boys and their favorite Walker hound dog, Old Limber, join Gray Station resident, Ben Jenkins, and his canine buddy, Old Zeke, for a hunting expedition on Buffalo Mountain.
Alf first turns Old Limber, “the best foxhound that ever went in the woods,” loose to see what he can do. Soon thereafter, Ben releases Old Zeke.
The song flip-flops between Al’s narrative of the hunting event and my great uncle, Charlie Bowman, imitating the dogs on his fiddle cleverly giving each dog a different sounding “bark.” Whenever the animals go out of hearing range, Al asks his fiddler to “play a little tune.”
The record concludes with Old Limber snagging a red fox and Old Zeke grabbing a rabbit. Such comedic routines were very popular in the 1920s.
Mack Houston of Piney Flats recalls when his father, John, took his nine-year-old son on hunting trips to Buffalo Mountain. The year was 1934, just five years after the road from Johnson City to Erwin was paved.
According to Mack, these events usually centered on a nearby popular attraction along the Johnson City side of the mountain, a little over halfway below the top and west of White Rock:
“There was a tap on the main water supply line from Limestone Cove to Johnson City on property owned by the Gifford family. This arrangement provided them with a free water source. These nice folks allowed people to freely access their waterspout.”
John Houston remembered occasionally talking with Bob and Alf Taylor and members of their family as they embarked on hunting expeditions. Their outings usually transcended two or three nights.
The elder Houston said that the Taylor family employed a man by the name of Andy Trent as caretaker of the dogs. If one got lost during the hunt and couldn’t be located, the family offered a reward for its return.
“The waterspout area became a popular hangout for people of all ages.” said Mack. “They brought guitars, fiddles and mandolins with them to sing and play music.
“Some folks rode horses there and set up camp, staying for several days. Hunters brought their dogs with them and tied them nearby.
“When the dogs were eventually turned loose (like in the song), they made the awfulest noise you ever heard. Those critters ran wildly all over the mountain, sometimes lasting into the wee hours of the morning. This was music to our ears.”
Mack recalled that people filled glass jugs with water before returning home and used it for washing, bathing, drinking and occasionally pouring into a cistern.
Mack concluded: “Another favorite sport on Buffalo Mountain was hunting chestnuts, usually done on Sunday afternoons. This occurred before the terrible blight destroyed all the chestnut trees.”
If anyone has memories or photographs of the Buffalo Mountain waterspout area, I would love to hear from you.