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Old 08-13-2012, 07:14 PM
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Cane Pole Cane Pole is offline
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Default Cousin Lem

I know this isn't about fly fishing, but it is about the Smokies.

Many of you may know of Lem Ownby, who was the last person who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He lived in an old cabin up on Jakes Creek (above Elkmont). Lem was my grandmother's cousin. My grandfather and I visited him all the time when I was a kid - they were big buddies. I didn't know it at the time, but most everybody affectionately called him "Uncle" Lem. I called him that too, but it was because I really thought he was my great-uncle. I guess it was easier to explain "great uncle" to a young boy rather than "first-cousin-twice-removed" (I had to look it up).

When the National Park was established, Lem decided to take a lifetime lease, which meant that he could live there for the rest of his life. Lem was quite a character and he raised bees. As you can imagine, it was undoubtedly some of the best honey in these parts. Papaw liked the Linn honey, but I was partial to the Sourwood.

Lem was all but blind, and he could only make out shapes. One day while he was showing us his bee hives (for the umpteen hundredth time), he told my granddad and me that just a few evenings ago he heard a commotion when a bear was getting into his hives. I perked up when he said that he went out and ran it off. I immediately asked him how he was able to do that (being blind and all). He said he grabbed his shotgun and shot at it. I couldn't help but laugh having the visual of some old blind guy shooting aimlessly at a bear. I asked him how he could tell where the bear was to shoot at it, and he said he could hear it snorting. I told Papaw on the way home that I didn’t think I ever wanted to go hunting with Uncle Lem and we had a good laugh over it.

These are the only pictures I can find of Lem, and to my knowledge could very well be the last taken of him alive. He was somewhere around 93 years old, but nobody knows for sure. It had been quite a few years since I had been to see him, but I wanted to go because he was getting up in years. When I walked up, he was out milling around and I hollered at him from a distance so I wouldn't startle him, and l told him who I was. We sat on the porch of his cabin in a couple of old rocking chairs. When we sat down, he just rocked and didn’t say a word for what must’ve been at least 20 minutes. (That wasn’t too uncommon, but it was definitely a long time). I didn’t say anything either, and just thought that he didn’t realize who I was. Finally, I was about ready to leave, when he looked up in my direction and said, “How’s Doc?” (my dad) and “How’s Wilford?” (my granddad). He knew exactly who I was, he just wasn’t in any hurry. We talked for a while and he told a few jokes. That was the last time I saw him.

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Old 08-13-2012, 07:31 PM
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Breck Breck is offline
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Excellent story Cane Pole. When were these pics taken and the last time you visited.

Breck
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Old 08-13-2012, 08:32 PM
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these stories are the reasons I check this site everyday.thanks for sharing a peice of your family history.
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Old 08-13-2012, 09:35 PM
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Cool Story.
Are you by chance the guy at the little outdoor store in west knoxville?
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Old 08-13-2012, 09:36 PM
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ifish4wildtrout ifish4wildtrout is offline
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A great read. I think it would suite me fine to have lived a life like that.
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Old 08-13-2012, 10:27 PM
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Very, very cool.
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Old 08-14-2012, 02:15 AM
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Default Thanx

Excellent story. Trying to figure out where I have heard about bthis blind guy on Jake's creek before? He may be famous.
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Old 08-14-2012, 06:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Breck View Post
Excellent story Cane Pole. When were these pics taken and the last time you visited.

Breck
You know, I just don't recall exactly, but I think it was around Dec of 81 or 82 (I want to say '82). My recollection is that it wasn't too long before he died which I think was sometime around 1984. So it was probably a year or 2 before that. But, I simply don't remember - that was half a lifetime ago

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grannyknot View Post
Cool Story.
Are you by chance the guy at the little outdoor store in west knoxville?
Nope
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cane Pole View Post
Nope
You should look these guys up then. They claim Lem was their great great uncle. Possibly a different side of the family from you?

http://unclelems.com/Lem_s_Tales.html
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grannyknot View Post
You should look these guys up then. They claim Lem was their great great uncle. Possibly a different side of the family from you?

http://unclelems.com/Lem_s_Tales.html
I remember him telling my granddad and me about the Supreme Court Justices. We must've been up there relatively soon after that happened because it was fresh on his mind and he told his version of that story to us as if it was just "matter-of-fact" - he was quite adamant that he didn't want to talk to them. That was funny!

That was a long time ago and I remember that he just said it was some guys from Washington - didn't mention who it was. I know my granddad got a big kick out of it when he found out who they were. My grandfather was a real history buff -- (if you wanted to know anything about American history, the fall of the Roman Empire, or the Queen of Sheba then he was your man)

Not sure who owns that store. I'd say ol' Lem's got quite a few descendants. I know my great-great-grandmother died just before she turned 113 and had literally hundreds!

Right after I graduated highschool back in 1975, I was talking to a buddy of mine one day about the Smokies and hiking and hunting/fishing etc like we always did. Now we had been friends for a long, long time and had hiked all over the Smokies together and hunted together quite a bit. For some reason I started telling him about Lem and the fact that he still lived in the Park and all that. My friend stopped me and said, "Yeah, I know, he's my great uncle." I looked at him like he had two heads and said, "No, he's my great uncle." Turned out that he and I were 3rd cousins and didn't even know it. His grandmother was Lem's sister. Small World, huh?
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