A few minutes with Google Earth and the Mascot, Tenn. topographical map indicate how badly Dr. Knox flubbed this answer. ["Cowan's Cottage," Ask Doc Knox, May 19, 2011] If you google Flat Creek and Mascot you'll hit on the McClung Digital collection and you see a whole series of pictures showing construction of a substantial water control structure. In one picture you see the zinc mine in the background. The zinc mine's fingerprints are all over this. In fact, the structures may still be in place for diverting the creek's water to be used at the zinc mine. If you home in on the satellite photo in Google Earth you see that a section of Flat Creek is a straight as a ruler. I would guess that someone who worked at the mines will write in to tell us exactly what the channel was constructed to do and whether or not the structures are still in place and possibly functional.
Dr. Knox did a really good response about the Cowan Cottage, so I guess the old fellow was all tuckered out when he got to the one about the Flat Creek channel construction. Or maybe just a deadline to meet.
Ed. Note: We appreciate this further speculation. For all we know, a zinc-industry association is plausible and perhaps correct. But we dearly hope that the phrase "badly flubbed" overstates the matter.
For the purposes of self-preservation, we do advertise, and strictly observe, a one-question-per-writer limit. The writer's first question concerned the Cowan Cottage at 16th Street and White Avenue, and after some hours of meticulous research, Dr. Knox addressed it earnestly and at length.
The question concerning the creek was the illegal second question. Dr. Knox perhaps should have ignored it; he did not even pretend to answer it.
However, he chose to use it to offer his indulgent readers a brief bit of speculative whimsy. What he presented, perhaps too obscurely, was only a bit of a paradox: That there are multiple bodies of water known as "Flat Creek" in the region, in spite of the fact that a perfectly flat creek, unlikely to begin with in our region's topography, would not be a creek at all. A creek requires at least a bit of a slope to avoid becoming a pond, or perhaps a swamp. A flat creek is therefore something like a Zen koan, impossible to understand through mere reason.