Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Five for Wednesday

I'm sick. I'm tired. I have to teach tomorrow. I'm high on Stephen Colbert and Theraflu. All I have to eat are soy substitute "chicken." I was hoping to be done with a book I'm reading on native Americans from Tennessee by today so I could review it, but I'm not. I want to write, but I don't want to have to burn neurons late into the evening. Outcome?

Links. An entry on links. Why? Cause I'm gonna' let other folks do the thinkin' tonight.

The Mountain View Motel, South of Maryville
(Image courtesy of Swankpad)

Title: Highway 411, Tennessee
Description: Photos of Maryville, Etowah, and glorious Athens, Tennessee from the good people at Swankpad.
Quote: Swanky grew up a few miles from Etowah. Etowah is on Highway 411. There is an old theater here built in 1907, that they are still using. There was a play there at the time. Several nice antique stores. One that specialized in very old cash registers.

Title: "Fiddling Around in Asheville" in Salon - by Burt Wolf
Description: A simple, pleasant, heartening description of some of Asheville's finer points. Like bean soup - filling.
Quote: The Civil War devastated Appalachia. Many people ended up poor, isolated and uneducated, and they became the subjects of these magazine stories. They were presented as "backward mountaineers living in a region within, but not part of, modern American life." Of course, there were thousands of people in the Northeast who were also poor, isolated and uneducated, but readers preferred imported stories of poverty rather than hearing of their own domestic problems. The stories about Appalachia were distorted. They focused on the peculiar and the outrageous. They ignored the natural beauty of the area, and the skilled, intelligent and responsible people who lived there. I recently traveled through the Appalachian districts surrounding Asheville, N.C., to see what this part of the world is really like.

Title: Summersville Community Television
Description: Television clips about Summersville, West Virginia. Pretty high quality stuff - I recommend in particular "The Dam Flood of '66."
Quote: Our goal is to provide outstanding quality video content which will educate, inform and entertain the great people of Summersville, WV... and now with our NEW website, the entire World!

Postcard of a Stripmining Operation in Madison, Kentucky
(Courtesy Kentucky Coal Education)

Title: Kentucky Coal Education Web Site (to get into the site, you might need to click here)
Description: A whole slew of intriguing links, images, and so forth on, as you might suspect from the title, coal-mining in Kentucky.
Quote: Coal, 14 Cents

The Sweet Banner from hburgnews
Title: hburgnews
Description: Essentially, this is an "online community," combination blog, links, and happenings page. Completely groovy - like a window into the local political and economic universe that is Harrisonvegas.
Quote: It certainly seems that the city, Ritchie, and See are no closer to resolving the issue than they were three months ago. In the meantime, I’m sure drunken people will continue jumping the fence onto the faulty bridge.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Responding to Ms. Smiley

This morning we here at HS received an e-mail from a friend of ours, Mr. Rodger Cunningham. The byline was, “I swear this woman is serious. . . .” I clicked on the link and found this article on the site of The Huffington Post, and I have rarely been more insulted than when I read this article, and not just for Appalachians.

Smiley’s article reviewed a work entitled Albion’s Seed which attempted to elucidate the contributions, good and bad, of four of the original immigrant movements to the future United States political culture. The book explained, according to Ms. Smiley, that the primogenitors of our nation had for distinct perspectives on the nature of freedom. The “New England” perspective conceived of liberty as couched in communal interests, defined and limited by said community’s evolving mores. The “Cavalier” perspective (present, apparently, only in Virginia) conceived of liberty as a right exclusive only to a particular social class and gender. The “Pennsylvanian Quaker” perspective conceived of liberty as social and political tolerance. Interesting, if not entirely correct to anyone who understands the complexity of these cultures, even in their first two centuries and even if one forgets that numerous other cultural experiences are being completely excluded (for instance the influence of Iroquois constitutionalism, early Marylander and Carolina Jewish and French Huguenot contributions to religious tolerance and early Virginian conceptions of secularism that led it to be the first secular government ever – oh, and New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and the Carolinas apparently contributed, well, nothing) . What makes me grit my teeth, however, is the portrayal of the “Appalachian/Borderlands” perspective. Apparently, Appalachia, Scotland, North England, and Northern Ireland gave nothing to modern culture beyond violence and superstition.

Actually, let me quote Ms. Smiley. Because I can’t insult my own people well enough to get across her point. Ahem.

. . . the Borders/Appalachian culture of hot-blooded and violent populism that is xenophobic, religiously aggressive, fundamentalist, and sectarian, that is supicious (sic) of learning, antagonistic towards "elites", and antipathetic to women's autonomy. It defines itself by masculinity and arms-bearing, is belligerent by nature and quick to take offense. Its natural (and historic) enemy is the outgrowth of Quaker culture, liberalism.

You see, Appalachians (and apparently Scots and Irish, check that, Protestant Irish) and their cultural descendants (genetic or otherwise) hate people who are different from themselves, desire to assimilate all other religions, are fundamentalist (whatever that means), and sexist. Uniformly. We tote guns and think of ourselves as (I’m guessing this is the phrase Ms. Smiley really wanted to use) “bad @$$”. We like to fight and are easily insulted and are “natural enemies” of “liberalism,” which I can only take to be a veiled allusion to the democratic party.

I want to pause here and reiterate - I haven't read Albion's Seed yet, and from what I've read online by other writers, Fischer's work does not paint as generalized or insulting a picture as does Ms. Smiley - indeed, one of my earliest searches turned up this site on the University of Virginia's website (minor point - UVA's two campuses, Mr. Jefferson's in Charlottesville and its younger sibling in Wise, are both Appalachian, the former in the Blue Ridge and the latter in the highlands of the Appalachians main strand, near the Cumberland Gap).

The one part she did get right is that we, famously, are antagonistic towards elites – we are obsessed with, and this is insane, “individual freedom!” (please, insert scary ghost noise here)

Ms. Smiley goes on to point out how Appalachians were natural allies of the “Cavaliers” and that Appalachian culture is one far more obsessed with avenging affronts to culture, rather than dealing with issues according to conscience through rational action or conversation. She also points out that Gore was saved from his Appalachian-ness by being Washington bred, while Bush is a great example of Appalachia-via-Texas. Smiley even dismisses any influence Bush’s education at Yale might have had, while Gore’s Harvard education was apparently was a defining moment. EVERYTHING bad in America, from racism to the contemporary war in Iraq is the fault of Appalachian culture, and ultimately, Scottish culture.

Let me read you Ms. Smiley’s next to last paragraph before I conclude:

I do think that the rise of culture #4 puts our democracy in danger, simply because it is an uncompromising culture that has been reluctant to assimilate itself into the larger society for a thousand years, both in Britain and in America. It is a culture that is passionately intense about weapons, social hierarchy, and religion, three things that are in and of themselves threatening to the broader social compact. Perhaps culture #4 cannot be, or won't be assimilated, but can only be reduced, subdued, or dominated.

I can barely respond. Apparently the Cavalier culture has, by this point in the article, become completely immersed in the Appalachian culture (specifically, I refer here to the “social hierarchy” element), and the fact that Appalachians are (apparently) all fundamentalist Christians and violent monstrosities necessitates an internal crusade, the kind of wonderful social engineering that upperclass English (of centuries ago, not today - I'll not make the mistake of confusing the 17th and 18th centuries with the 21st) practiced against the Scots – you know, when they drove my ancestors off their farms and tried to destroy their traditions by suppressing their religion, their right to bear arms (oh, crazy me – I’m living up to Ms. Smiley’s stereotypes – I guess the Scots were horrible folk), and, heck, even they way they dressed. Gee – sounds great.

I want to respond to the historical inaccuracies of Ms. Smiley. I beg your indulgence.

First, Appalachia has never been a cultural ally of “Cavaliers” – the English aristocracy (and some members of the co-opted Scottish aristocracy) that planted itself throughout the Eastern Seaboard was universally antithetical towards socially and economically inferior groups. Does this still exist in the states it is most commonly identified with (specifically, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina)? Surely it does. Do those persons who constitute this class, and it is a class, constitute more than five percent of any of these states? By no means – they are merely handy caricatures, you know like those constantly bandied about by, well, everyone, caricatures like – dramatic pause – like those levied against hillbillies. Oh, and before we assert that American aristocracy is a unique product of Virginia, one must ask, are wealth and entitlement that area’s exclusive progeny? From my reading of history, it seems clear that entitled merchant and banking classes had evolved in every single colony well before the American Revolution – New Englander “Mayflower” elites, for instance, are no more or less significant than Virginia’s “First Families” in the modern world.

Second, Appalachia, like the other frontier regions of the United States, was marked by higher levels of sexual egalitarianism than the Eastern Seaboard in the pre-modern era, not less. There is a reason that frontier states were sexually progressive well before the Twentieth Century – there, 19th Century liberal ideals blended with the pragmatic truths of frontier life – women had to share the frontier’s difficulties, and so knew they were men’s equals. English and Eastern Seaboard Victorianism was probably the largest deterrent to sexual egalitarianism coming earlier, rather than later Appalachian (or any other regions’) gender-bias.

By the way, I use feminist theory constantly in my research, and am married to a woman who kept her maiden name – a woman who was raised in the hills of western South Carolina. Golly garsh.

Third, Ms. Smiley asserts that Appalachians, not to mention their Scottish cultural kin, are culturally biased towards resolving their problems with violence. Thus we not only tend to be liberal (ahem) with our interpretation of the second amendment, but furthermore we have high levels of violence and support war in every instance. Wow. Painting with a wide brush, eh? How to begin. Let’s talk about some basic truths. Appalachia, and by that I mean the Appalachian Mountains, is marked by higher than average levels of economic underdevelopment (relative to the rest of our nation). I’m sure Ms. Smiley has heard of structural violence, but I want to bring it up for other folks. Structural violence is when a political-economic system preys on certain groups of people or confines them to limited political-economic opportunities. Structural violence, assert most social and political scientists, breeds structural violence – desperation results in desperation. The ghettos of cities like New York, Richmond, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and dare I say it, Ms. Smiley’s beloved Philadelphia, exhibit this, for instance, but I daresay that Ms. Smiley would, wisely, be unlikely to assert that the impoverished of those areas (a veritable rainbow of ethnicities) are somehow culturally inferior to the rest of America in general, or her romantic image of Pennsylvania in particular. Similarly, Appalachia, bankrupted not by our own doing as much as by the machinations of coal companies from outside the region (particularly Virginia and the various and several Northern states), exhibits these traits. Perhaps the reason Ms. Smiley does not fear the violence of other types of ghettos is that they are, what were her words again? Oh yes, “reduced, subdued, or dominated.” Sounds like a cycle of violence perpetuated by a variant of colonialism, to me. It also sounds like puritanical pseudo-Calvinism, disgusting and arrogant, the kind of talk that justified Manifest Destiny and slavery. But that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? But then again, maybe this is just a case of blaming the victims, employed against the only group of Americans it remains politically acceptable to do so against. Who can say.

And do Appalachians “support” wars? Well, if by that you mean they volunteer for positions national defense at an incredibly high rate, despite living in what is one of the most secure regions of the nation, than yes. If by that you mean that, in the post-9/11 world they originally made the mistake of believing false or incorrect intelligent reports at a lower level than, I don’t know, CONGRESS (where virtually no members voted against the invasion of Iraq, including a great many folks who you’d be hard-pressed to argue are Appalachian or even “Appalachian-esque”) well, yeah. There is that.

Oh, and by the way, any amateur historian can tell you that Appalachia was not a Southern ally in the American civil war. Mentioning West Virginia in the Deep South once should eliminate any illusions to the contrary. Kentucky (birthplace of the good Mr. Lincoln), for instance, declared itself neutral, West Virginia experienced a sort of unique internal coup by which a huge chunk of the Commonwealth found itself torn asunder. East Tennessee had to be occupied by Confederate troops to prevent its rebellion. Appalachia, with its minimal dependence on the institution of slavery, can best be described as a region which described as a deeply split region – many folks supported the North and its ideals, many supported the South and its ideals of localism and regionalism, and many, probably most, were entirely ambivalent, more concerned with avoiding involvement in a war they had no strong feelings about either way.

Fifth, it should be said that Puritanical, fundamentalist religion is not a creation of Appalachia, especially as defined by Ms. Smiley, in the first order. Rather, it arrived in the future United States in 1620, with the Pilgrims, a people who came to American to establish, that’s right, theocracy. Appalachia and the South didn’t experience a rise in religiosity until New England-style revivals began penetrating the region en masse in the early 19th Century when the Second Great Awaking, coming to completion with the Third Great Awakening after the American civil war, a movement which also yielded the rise of high religiosity in large chunks of the American west. And, even now, religiosity is a mixed bag in Appalachia - the diversity of denominations is tremendous, particularly across the region as a whole. Trying to pigeonhole our religious identity is sort of like trying to pigeonhole the religious identity of any region or, their equivalent, major city in our United States - unwise.

As to why the cultural descendants of Appalachia fled the territory of Ms. Smiley’s idealized Quakers, well, let’s consider the foundation of Liberia. Liberia was, of course, founded in on the coast of west Africa, the settled by freed American slaves. The state was founded by two key groups – American slaveholders and Quakers. There were, of course, some idealistic motivations for this foundation – many white Americans, be they slaveholders or otherwise, felt that enslavement was horrible and immoral (which it was) and sought a viable solution. Other reasons were more pragmatic – fear among slaveholders, for instance, of violent slave uprisings. Or, in the case of many Quakers, a desire that everyone be free – as long as it wasn’t in their neighborhood. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to stereotype and argue that this was the perspective of all Quakers, nor that it is an ideal present in contemporary Quakers of all genre – I respect a great many Quakers and their religion myself (theologically I'm what may be called a rationalist Methodist). But the Quakers were people who had founded a place and wanted it to remain the way they founded it, without freed slaves or Scots-Irish, for instance. I guess it comes down to my reminiscence of how Scots-Irish, like many of my ancestors, often recount their story of coming to America. They lived in Scotland till they fled seeking individual freedom, economic improvement, and religious freedom. They settled in Ireland, not out of any particular antipathy to the Irish (a culture very similar to their own), but because it was offered to them by the Crown. Ultimately, as English and Scottish aristocrats once again clenched down on the Scots-Irish, many of them fled to other corners of the world, seeking still freedom and economic independence. Some of these fled to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, while others fled to the Pennsylvania colony, where they were originally welcomed with open arms. Once there, however, the, ahem, aristocrats who made executive decisions in the Pennsylvania colony soon found that with numbers came power, and began "encouraging" the Scots-Irish to settle other territories - too many refugees, essentially, for comfort (we might call them illegal immigrants today). They soon found themselves in moving up and down the Appalachian Mountains, filling valleys and setting up on mountaintops from Newfoundland to Alabama. There they hid, because their history, from the beginning of their cultural memory, was one of exploitation. And it worked – they became yeomen farmers, by and large, save those who stayed in the mountains and found themselves coerced or tricked out of their lands by coal companies, who doubled the sin by trapping them in a cycle of debt.

Earlier I referred to Ms. Smiley’s romanticism. This is the pervading theme of her diatribe. Appalachia, and Appalachia’s culture, is her real-life Heart of Darkness or Dracula’s Transylvania, while wealthy, Democratic-party dominated America is her Victorian London – proper and modern and forward-thinking. Appalachia is to be feared as a virus – we are an internal “Yellow Peril,” defined primarily not by race, though genetic heritage is obviously part her construct, but by her own stereotypes. Appalachians are universally white, fundamentalist (read as politically active social conservative), violent, undereducated, racist, sexist, and uncultured, according to Ms. Smiley. This is a grotesque caricature, as grotesque as those which portray us as barefoot, stupid, cousin-marrying, slackjawed, fools. The argument carries no more water than those who argue that secularism is a Northern/West Coast conspiracy, or those who argue that crime is essentially nothing more than a product of some inherent element of African American culture. It is disgusting, it is prejudiced, and it is offensive.

I could go on, bring up points like our role in the American Civil Rights Movement, the role of the Scotsmen in the Enlightenment, or even the simple truth of the fact that Appalachians are a minority in every state we’re found in, except West Virginia. Not to dismiss Ms. Smiley’s fears – I too detest unnecessary violence and efforts to restrict religious freedom/undermine secularity, and I know Appalachia is a place with tremendous room for political and economic improvement. But I suggest that the situation is far more complex than she thinks. I’d recommend, in particular, that she reads Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy or Daniel Boorstin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Americans trilogy. . . . perhaps then she'll learn that elegant explanations of the world's problems are usually based as much in fantasy as in fact.

Apologies for the rant.

Friday, January 26, 2007

West Virginia Capital

Recently, I found myself in Charleston, West Virginia, on a Sunday afternoon. It had been a long while since I visited the state capital and decided that this would be the day. Below are the results from my trip.

The capital was not always in Charleston. But, it has been there a long time.
For a state that is portrayed as a poor, backward, hick state that is occupied by a bunch of illiterate "Deliverance-type", hillbillies, Charleston has a very nice capital building and capital complex. Below is a statue of Stonewall Jackson on the capital lawn. He was born in what would later become West Virginia. Check out the dome...its gold!
The capital and dome look great in the afternoon sun. Did I mention, its gold!
What a nice dome. See the gold!
Abe Lincoln get a statue at the capital. He signed the papers that let West Virginia officially become a state on June 20, 1863. Smack-dab in the middle of the Civil War. The dome shines because...its gold!
From the capital, you can see the mighty Kanawha River.
Little known, but important fact...wild animals are running around in the capital. Watch out for these fellers. And please "Don't feed the bears."
If you poke fun of West Virginia, or especially, Robert C. Byrd (West Virginian of the 20th century by resolution of the West Virginia legislature), there is a huge figure of Byrd that will track you down and zap you where you stand. Be careful what you say. The walls have ears.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Falling Spring Falls, Bath County, Virginia

I've always been enamored by flowing water. As a child, my brothers and I would wait patiently for the heavy rains of summer to give us "rivers" to play in. These rivers were just the waters flowing from one pond to the next through the fields. Thinking back on this, we probably ingested a lot of cattle byproducts. That part of the fun is something I don't spend too much time reminiscing about. Later in my youth, the channels carved by the rain led exploring teenagers to the wide New River. These headwaters took me to the place I've called my home away from the house ever since. Back tracking rivers has been a hobby of mine for quite a while. Living in the mountains, it's easy to do. My neighboring county of Floyd is the only county in Virginia in which all water flows out of and none in, down the hills and into the Little (Gulf of Mexico) and South Fork Roanoke (Atlantic) Rivers. My other neighbor of Giles County has 37 miles of the New River as it's tourism claim to fame but waterways like the Little and Big Walker Rivers, Big Stoney, Little Stoney, Wolf and Dismal Creek (my favorite mountain stream) offer some of the most serene scenery in the New River Valley. Down the interstate in Wythe County, near the community of Rural Retreat, you transition from the Ohio Valley Watershed into the Tennessee. In 1996 I reached the pinnacle of tracing back waters up their valleys. In fact, I started an event that effected the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. I poured water over the ridge of the Continental Divide in Colorado. Isn't that about the time El Nino was discovered? Oops.

So, as you can read, I'm a holler nut (a holler is a "hollow" or "steep valley" for our non-Appalachian readers). That is the reason that I loved this article from Blue Ridge Country by Bruce Ingram. It's the first I had heard of this man-made watershed divider.

What is this: Mule Skinner

Image from Hazel Holley Crabtree c 1920's
Mule Skinner

A muleskinner is a professional mule driver whose sole purpose was to keep the mules moving. The term “skinner” is slang for someone who might “skin” or outsmart a mule. Mules have a characteristic of being very stubborn so outsmarting them to make them move used skill, wit, and a type of determination. Depending on the amount of cargo attached to the load the muleskinner could be in charge of one mule or a team of mules. The driver in most cases rode on the back of one mule and used a attached whip like leather line called a "jerk line" to steer and control the movements of the mule(s). A leaned and experienced skinner knew every characteristic of the mule team and could use this knowledge to understand how to make a productive driving machine.
The height of the mule driven freight industry hit the American frontier right before the introduction of the steam driven engine. During this time muleskinners worked every sort of terrain ranging from the freight docks of the eastern U.S. all the way to the western outskirts of the American frontier. The muleskinner main purpose was to move materials in and out of towns, farms, and stores. Mule Skinners could drive their cargo 2 to 2 ½ miles an hour across the prairie but the more prosperous muleskinners worked in and around the communities of the Appalachian and Rocky mountain ranges. In these areas mules had better footing than horses and trains could not reach the outskirts of the land. The mule skinnner became a sort of a "traveling man." These colorful characters became folk icons when Jimmy Rogers recorded a song called Blue Yodel #8 in 1931. Since then many bluegrass, folk, and old time musicians covered the song. Bill Monroe’s 1939 version of Mule Skinner Blues became a sudden hit.

Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughn

Good mornin', foreman good mornin', boss
Do you need another mule skinner
With a blacksnake whip to toss.
Yodel lay, ee ee, yodel ay ee ee.
Lord, I been workin' hard
An' ah feel so bad!
I've got a good woman
An' I want to keep 'er glad.
I'm an ol' mule skinner from down Kentucky way
I can make any mule listen
Or I won't accept no pay.


Mule Skinner Blues Bill Monroe

Good morning captain good morning son
Do you need another mule skinner
Out on your new road line
Well I like to work I'm rolling all the time
Lord I like to work boy I'm rolling all the time
I can pop my initials Right on a mule's behind
Well it's hey little water boy bring your water 'round
Lord it's hey little water boy bring your water 'round
And if you don't like your job just set that water bucket down
I work out on the new road from a dollar and a dime a day
Lord I work out on the new road I make a dollar and a dime a day
I've got three women on Saturday night Waiting to draw my pay
Well I'm going to town honey what can I bring you back
Well I'm going to town baby what can I bring you back
Just bring a pint of good rye And a John B.Stetson hat
Lord it's raining here and it's storming on the deep blue sea
Lord it's raining here and it's storming on the deep blue sea
Can't no blonde headed woman make a monkey out for me
If your house catches fire and there ain't no water 'round
If your house catches fire and there ain't no water 'round
Just throw your good gal out the window let your house just burn on down
Well I'm leaving here and I ain't gonna take no clothes
I'm leaving here and I ain't gonna take no clothes
There may be good times in this old town but it's better on down the road

Lyrics Link

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

10 Grand

It is like a birthday. For words. And photographs. And HTML.

Today we broke 10,000 visits, with just under 19,000 page views, all since April of 2006 - pretty decent for a 10-month old.

Thanks for your attention - you keep watching, linking, and telling your friends, and we'll keep writing.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weekend Five: Appalachian Photography

Visual iconography - delicious.

Appalachia A-La-Carte: 1-21-2007

Some clips from the past couple of weeks:

Into the Darkness
Deep in the dangerous mines of West Virginia, thousands willingly risk their lives -- for coal, a good paycheck and each other
By Joby Warrick, The Washington Post
January 21, 2007

UD professor urges public support for wind farm
By Rachel Swick, The Cape Gazette
January 9, 2007

Chopping Down The Mountains Of Appalachia

Commentary by WILLIAM MAJOR, The Hartford Courant
January 7, 2007

A good book:

Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Appalachian Studies Conference: March 23-25

Thaw Hall, on the campus of Maryville College,
host of this year's Apppalachian Studies Conference

(from the Maryville College website)
One of the major categories of posts here at the HS, if you were writing up a taxonomy, would be "festivals." We're quite fond of them, because they represent those moments when communities come together to celebrate, to reiterate their group identity, to show themselves off to the world, and so forth. Well, there are other events that accomplish similar ends - included among them? Academic conferences.

Okay, you-all with graduate and professional degrees are laughing a little. I know. But it is true, at least in the case of the Appalachian Studies Conference (ASC), sponsored of course by the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA).

I could go into substantial detail on this event - but most of the data I have came straight form your friend and mine, the magical, mystical internet. I do want to say a couple of things, however. First, this academic conference is by no means limited to academics - there are tons of activities for people in the community - tours, cultural events, and so on, and community members are welcome to participate . . . heck, I do go on . . . how about a quote from the preliminary program:

- Session tracks—we’re calling them threads—to echo our theme;
- Two preconference activities;
- A Chestnut Symposium and Field Trip, with some of the country’s most
renowned natural scientists;
- Special entertainment throughout the conference;
- An honoring of Guy and Candie Carawan, Friday evening;
- Keynote address by Pam McMichael, Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center

That's just the basics - if you want more details, and there are a virtual plethora available here (the preliminary program for the event . . . subject to change, of course). The document, I should add, is in Adobe PDF format - if you don't have the means to download it, I suggest that you download Adobe Reader.

Moving on to the links. First, you're gonna' want to hit the conference homepage - that much is a given. That data is available here, on the Maryville College (where this year's conference is going to be hosted) website. For those of you who don't know where MC is, it is the centerpiece of Maryville, Tennessee, a fairly large town (or small city, depending on your perspective) just south of Knoxville. Of course, after you survey the data on the homepage, you may ask yourself just what the ASA as a body is - good questions deserve good answers, so you might want to check out their homepage (which we're proud to have been a long-time linker of) here. Nifty, eh?

So you're thinking about going now. Naturally. But some things are still troubling you. For instance, how do I know what this thing is really like? Sure, that's problematic. I suggest you hit up the ASA's homepage and consider this overview of last year's conference - you can even hear the speech of last year's keynote speaker, Bill Turner.

Now, it is too late to present at the conference - that ship has sailed - but just remember that pretty much anyone can submit for future reference. But if you're interested, well, let me drop some knowledge. First, registration for attendance is $125 ($75 for college and high school students), due by February 28th. Of course, if you don't register till you're on-site, just plan on bringing an additional $5 to cover for your tardiness. The price is a little steep for you? Trust me, I understand. Luckily you can apply for financial assistance from the ASA here. If you're interested in this option, though, you need to jump on it - applications for scholarships are due by February 12th. With these fees, it should be said, come some little pleasures that continue well past the last fair ado after the conference. It includes membership in the Appalachian Studies Association, a subscription to the Journal of Appalachian Studies, two issues of Appalink, and of course participation in conference activities (including dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday).

Well, you've got the information you need to start thinking about whether you want to attend - I can tell you that, as long as another commitment I have in March doesn't prevent me from doing so, I plan on going, and I know at least one other contributor here is as well. We'll keep you updated on that. In the mean time, I just want to throw out one more list of links - Lead Sponsors and Sponsors of the conference. Why? Because when you do good things, you deserve some kudos.

Lead Sponsors

- Marshall University
- Maryville College
- Tennessee Arts Commission
- Oak Ridge Associated Universities
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- University of Tennessee
- University of Tennessee Press


- Appalachian Center, Berea College
- Pellissippi State Technical Community College
- Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, East Tennessee State University
- Appalachian Regional Studies Center, Radford University
- Appalachian Center, University of Kentucky
- Appalachian Outreach Studies Center, Sinclair Community College
- Regional Research Institute, West Virginia University
- Center for Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University
- Institute for Regional Analysis and Public Policy, Morehead State University
- Arcade Publishing
- Ohio University Press
- Appalachian Center for Community Service, Emory & Henry College
- Edward & Virginia Stuckey
- Kathleen Janke

Kudos, folks.

Finally, in case you're wondering, well, if I go all the way to Maryville College, what can I do in my off-hours? Good question, but one that doesn't warrant many sleepless nights. Maryville is a short jaunt from Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge - not to mention the Smokies. So, whether you're interested in hitting historical sites, a theme park, science museums, art shows, some fine music (Knoxville is a fantastic music city), or just some decent bars, well, you're set. Don't believe me? Well, that's your right. But just in case, I'm adding some links to convince you otherwise. Consider:

- Downtown Knoxville
- East Tennessee Vactions
- Knoxville Tourism Alliance
- Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation
- Gateway to the Smokies: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
- Gatlinburg Department of Tourism
- Pigeon Forge Tourism
- State of Tennessee - Tourism Web Sites

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Folk Hero (Part One)

Image by Hazel Holley Crabtree c. 1920's

The Appalachian Mountains are filled with stories. They are the building blocks and food for thought in an enriched hard working spiritual people. Many of these stories comment on the actions of one man or woman who do extraordinary things up against the odds of life and come away knowing they did well. Even if the end turns sour the moral of the story remains uplifting. In all of these stories the bottom line is the human connection to either the land or others around them. The stories transfer a normal mountain folk into a hero. Some stories we have heard come directly from the actions of a relative, a friend, and a community member while other heros are integrated into the fibers of a culture. These giants of the story may have lived at some point or may actually be refinements to dreamed scenarios. Either way the story becomes history, a type of fact, no matter if the history is completely right. I think in many ways most of us can overlook the factual discrepancies if the story grips us just right. Over the past 40 years our new “folk heroes” seem to be few and far between. Most of our new heroes are rebels against the man, the one individual who uses their voice to scream out against injustice. The physical feet of holding a hammer in one hand and outlasting a steam engine is no more. Out physical endurance has now become sport instead of story. The folk hero remains one who uses their energy to go further than the normal person does. These heroes may use their superhuman powers to tame wildcats on the slopes of the Cumberland or they may speak out against the coal industry in Kentucky or they may even just single-handedly lay track for the West Virginia Railroad. The hero is now not only a story but also a way of life for those of us who grew up sitting around a coal fire winter. On that note I think we need more heroes. We need new people that stand out for doing something important no matter how small. I am asking you for your stories. Let’s make new legends for our children.

For example, my story comes with Papaw. Trying to save our own Christmas several years ago the two of us hiked for days in the cold cold wind torn hills of Clinchburg VA to carry a magical tree back to the house. Our hands and feet burned bloody by the bitterness and those razorblade spikes of the tree. We didn’t eat of sleep and came across the most disagreeable creatures I know. (The rest is for Sean to write.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Appalachian Railroads: Part 2 - The Virginia Creeper

The Virginia Creeper

This is the second installment in a series of posts on Appalachian Railroads.

The Virginia Creeper ran from 1907 to 1977 from Abingdon, Virginia to Elkland, North Carolina. Originally established in the 1880's by the Abingdon Coal and Iron Railroad Company and later organized into an operational railroad by Virginia-Carolina Railroad Company and the Norfolk and Western Railway, the route first ran from Abingdon through Damascus, Virginia to Whitetop Mountain near the North Carolina line, and in 1915 was extended into North Carolina.

The railway was first used to haul natural resources from the surrounding area, primarily iron ore, coal and timber. By the 1930's, passenger service was also offered along the rail line. Several of the passenger stations remain today and continue to be icons of the railroad's history. Some of the communities served by the Virginia Creeper included Abingdon, Alvarado, Damascus, Taylors Valley, Green Cove, Whitetop, Konnarock, West Jefferson and Elkland.

By the mid 1950's, the steam locomotives were replaced by diesel engines and by 1977, the Virginia Creeper had ceased operation and the removal of the tracks began. Today, the corridor is used as a popular recreational trail that stretches over 30 miles between Abingdon, Damascus, and Whitetop. An original steam engine is still on display at the trail's western terminus in Abingdon.

More on the Virginia Creeper's History:

The Virginia Creeper Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail Guide

Mountain Railroad Memories

More on the Virginia Creeper Trail:

Virginia Creeper Trail Club

Yard Dogs

A patient of mine once referred to her husband's collection of "yard dogs" and the expression has stuck with me. Parked behind the garage, left out in a field, or sitting with its fellows in a junkyard, you see these rusting metal and glass corpses everywhere. All these lie at rest in my county. Once again, nature has a way of reclaiming what was once taken from her.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Googling Appalachia - We're Number 152!!!!

Coal Camp, near Grundy, Virginia (Circa 1970)
(Image from "Revisiting the Appalachian Coalfield", from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, an organization that supports something rare and valuable - high-quality journalism)
This blog is about, you guessed it, Appalachia. If you’re a frequent reader, you know this definitively – if you’re a new reader, well, you probably guessed it from the name of the blog. Or that little doohickey up at the top. Whatever.

Well, if you know much about blogs, you know that most blog operators/writers/administrators are obsessed with knowing their work is 1) being consumed (read/seen) and 2) being linked. I know, I know, it is petty, but ask any serious blogger about their philosophies on pinging, Technorati,, and so on, and you’re in for an hour long rant, almost universally. I myself have, occasionally been addicted in just such a way.

That is how I found myself on Google, doing searches for our blog. Sure, I did the normal bit – I typed in “Hillbilly Savants” and, unsurprisingly, found, well, us. But then I was like, hell, I wonder how deep into the search term “Appalachia” I’d have to get to find the ol’ HS.

Fifteen pages in, at the 152nd entry, there we were.

At first, I’ll admit, I was a little sad. Sure, we’re young, but hot dog if we don’t write a lot about Appalachia. Then I remembered that key point – we are young, and we aren’t linked remotely as much as many of those sites which have preceded us. Humbled, I declared “kudos” to the television and took a sip of diet, caffeine-free soda (brown, bubbly water).

Time passes, leaves fall, the ages of humanity slip away like water through a sieve. Nearly half an hour passed as I watched that episode of Scrubs, but I hardly felt any older at all. Why? Because an idea had begun to dawn on me – something simple, elegant, and nifty. What if I cruised through the 151 sites which appeared prior to our own and picked out a few that warrant consideration? Then my time on Google wouldn’t have been entirely a failed narcissistic absurdity. Er. Yeah.

Thus, without further ado – a selection of sites that show up when you type “Appalachia” into Google. Go crazy.

1. Wikipedia: “Appalachia – This one is hardly surprising. The all pervasive Wikipedia’s influence on the Google engine is both undeniable and indisputable – and this article, while not perfect, is gradually shaping into something pretty solidly decent.

2. Appalachian State University – Yosef rules.

3. National Geographic: “Discover Appalachia” – Arguably the most influential pro-Appalachian tourism advertising supplement on the web ever. Ever.

5. The Appalachian Regional Commission – The Feds do Appalachia. And no one in Appalachia ever hears anything about it (as opposed to the TVA).

11. Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: “Appalachia in Children’s Literature” – Worth a look, even if it makes your back prickle.

15. H-Appalachia: Appalachian History and Studies – A message board on the social sciences and humanities in and of the mountains. I might have to subscribe.

22. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Appalachia’s War” – A three-part series on the history of the “war on poverty” in Appalachia.

33. The Celtic Republic of Appalachia – A site about folks of Gaelic persuasions in Appalachia. Huzzah!

42. Wired News: “The ‘Lost Tribe’ of Appalachia – A major tech magazine tackles the genetic code of one of our original folk, the Melungeons.

45. Appalachia Reads - An NGO doing good things. Hell yes.

85. The Mountain Institute: Appalachian Program – An over three-decade old program emphasizing education. Neat.

86. Alicia Patterson Foundation: “Revisiting the Appalachian Coalfield” – A photoessay on, well, coalfields.

104. Anarkismo: “An Anarchist Communist Strategy for Rural, Southern Appalachia” – Flying the black or red flag is still illegal in West Virginia – unconstitutional? Sure. Telling? Definitely.

110. Righteous Remnant: “Jewish Survival in Appalachia – A brief, but quality consideration. Worth a look-see.

112. McClung Musuem: Textile Art in Appalachia – One of my favorite museum exhibits at the McClung ever. . . wish it was still available. Ah well, thank the Deity for the net.

115. Technorati: Appalachia – Blogs talking about Appalachia. Watch this space for this entry.

124. Appalachia High School – You’ll never, ever, ever guess where this is.

125. Wired News: “Appalachia: Where Net Trails Off” – Yet another Wired article. Intriguing – I didn’t know they loved us so much.

131. The Town of Appalachia – The New Orleans of deep southwest Virginia.


Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

….Why we should acknowledge the sins of our fathers

by April A. Cain copyright 2007

Author's note...Portions of this essay without references to Appalachian Virginia were first published at

On January 10, 2007, Delegate A. Donald McEachin and State Senator Henry L. Marsh offered a resolution in the Virginia General Assembly which would constitute the General Assembly’s atonement, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the slavery of Africans. The resolution also calls for healing and reconciliation which the bill’s summary states “are possible with the acknowledgement of past grievous indignities and injustices”. The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Rules. If you want to read the full text of the resolution, here is one link:

The introduction of this resolution has caused quite a stir, particularly in the Commonwealth’s capital city of Richmond, which of course also once served as the capital of the Confederacy. While Yom Kippur, the Jewish observation of the Day of Atonement, happens in September or October each year, I am not Jewish. But as a Christian, with Lent right around the corner (the nearest Christian observation I can think of that roughly equates to a season of atonement), I thought I would reflect upon the proposed resolution and make some confessions of my own.

You see, I am a Daughter of the Confederacy. It’s not a phrase which I have ever used to describe myself, and I have never even considered belonging to any formal organization which might seek to bestow that title upon me. But by the definition which has evolved in the post-Civil War South, I am one. My Great Grandfather, whose first and middle names were “George Washington”, left his home in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky when the war began and joined the fight for the cause. If you are a student of Civil War history, you might wisely ask “which cause”? Kentucky never actually left the Union. It was officially “neutral”, which did not make the Bluegrass State a part of the Confederacy. But Great Grandpa left Kentucky and joined the Confederate Army to fight for the side he thought of as morally and politically right.

“G.W.” was also a slaveholder, which in the limited research I’ve done over the years on the subject, made him quite unusual in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I know that at least in far Southwest Virginia where I grew up, people hadn’t gotten as riled up about the cause of the Old South as elsewhere. They were too busy just trying to survive and didn’t have a lot of wealth or property (human or otherwise) to defend. I know the Civil War was more than just about slavery, but slavery was a significant part of the struggle to retain “state’s rights”. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Students of Virginia history tell me that in Virginia we stubborn mountaineers west of the Blue Ridge were always viewed with suspicion by the other seceders,. They weren’t sure how loyal we were, particularly after our friends in adjacent counties split off and formed West Virginia or “seceded from the Confederacy” (A joke my dad used to make). We Southwest Virginians were culturally and genetically descended from the same stock as our West Virginia brethren, so I’m sure a lot of folks wished they could stay with the Union, too. I don’t ever remember my parents speaking much of G.W.’s actions during the Civil War. I was never encouraged to take pride that he had once fought for the South. The first time, perhaps the only time, I ever heard my mother make mention of it to me was a tongue in cheek remark she made when I was I was a very young adult. I called her when I was applying for a position with a government agency, to read her a statement which I was required to sign to the effect that neither I, nor any member of my family, had ever been part of an organization whose purpose it was to overthrow the United States Government by unconstitutional means.

She laughed and replied, “Well, you’d better tell them about your daddy’s grandaddy”. . .

When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky a couple of years later I was excited to meet lots of cousins I only barely knew, or whom I had not known at all. I learned that some of them took our Great Grandaddy's participation in the Civil War quite seriously as a matter of pride and heritage. I’ve never been able to relate to those feelings. It’s certainly not how I was raised. I don’t revere the cause of the South, which would have resulted in the continuation, at least in part of North America, of a system in which human beings were bought and sold as chattel.

And I have never been able to separate G.W.’s participation in the war, for a side which did not conscript him, from his role as slaveholder. I will never be convinced that his roles as Confederate soldier and as slaveholder were unrelated, and I would imagine that if the South had won the war he would have gathered up his belongings, including the people he “owned” and headed straight for the Virginia border at Pound Gap. Why else would he have risked his life unless it was to defend the manner in which he lived?

That brings us to what I’ve heard as the most common argument made against passage of the current resolution, that being that the people involved in the Civil War are all dead and we don’t have nuthin’ to apologize to nobody about…..

I for one am quite sure that my father’s family benefited economically from slave labor, which has ultimately benefited me. And yes, I realize that there are immigrants in this Commonwealth, from other countries and other regions of this country, whose ancestors didn’t give a hoot about, or didn’t even know about, the slave based economic system that helped build the infrastructure of this state. But no one is being asked to make a personal apology. This is a resolution simply asking our Commonwealth, this beautiful and living, breathing, growing entity where we live and work (and where some of us were born), to acknowledge some painful things that it did. And our Commonwealth should atone. It’s a gesture that could bring comfort to many whose forebears paid a grim price for what was done in our state’s name.

The death of a participant (either human or political) in history had never stopped anyone from giving credit where credit is due, or seeking credit where credit is due. For example, when our family visited France a couple of years ago, my husband raised his eyebrows as he and my son read the translation of the inscription on a World War II monument. “Look at this…. ” He motioned for me to come over and look. “They talk about how they defeated the Nazis but they don’t seem to think it’s important to mention the role of the Allies in the victory. Hah!” Yes, everyone, or most everyone is dead, but he and I both felt they should have given tribute where tribute was due.

Another time someone actually gave me such a tribute. I was with a group, and an extremely tall man in high boots came up to us and took his hat off to us. He was Russian and he told us he was 93 years old. In a dramatic voice and with tears in his eyes he told of the terrific battles he had fought during World War II. Our translator was almost crying, too, as he conveyed to us how much this gentleman loved Americans for having helped saved Russia from Hitler. I cannot remember ever feeling prouder of my country.

While my (deceased) dad hadn’t been starving at the Siege of Leningrad of course, he had spent most of the war at a submarine base in Key West, Florida doing his own part to save the world. I felt as puffed up as a peacock. Like Sally Field at the Academy Awards. “They like me”. I thought. “They really like me”. I felt entitled to take credit for the good things my country had done, and I challenge anyone, whether or not they are a son or daughter of the Confederacy, to say they wouldn’t have reacted with the same smug pride as I did on that day. So if we feel we can take credit for what dead people do, why do we feel we shouldn’t make atonement for what dead people have done?

Whether or not we were personally involved, shouldn’t those of us who live here be sorry that this Commonwealth once endorsed a cruel and morally indefensible system? I’d guess that the majority of people living in Virginia whose families were lucky enough to have avoided the holocaust at least have World War II veterans in their families. And if the Chancellor of Germany wanted to offer an acknowledgment of and atonement for all the misery the German government unleashed on this sorry world during the 1930’s and 40’s, causing suffering in some way to our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, none of us would say, “Oh no. It’s o.k. Those people are all dead now. Nobody living in Germany needs to feel the least bit bad about it”. No, we’d accept the gesture without hesitation. Arguing that everyone involved is dead or that a corporate expression of atonement is somehow a personal apology just doesn’t make any sense. And it’s ironic to me that the people who are saying African Americans need to move on are likely the same people who objected to the placement of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in downtown Richmond because they themselves weren’t ready to put the past behind them.

We can’t put the past behind us until we acknowledge the past for what it was. For the life of me I can’t understand what it would hurt to do just that.

April A. Cain is an attorney, writer and mother who lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a native of Saint Paul (Wise County) Virginia.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Appalachian Football: Au Revoir, Not Goodbye. . .

Appalachian State University Mountaineers Celebrate After Their Div. I-AA National Championship Win in Chattanooga, Tennessee Against UMass
(Image by Mike Rominger, an Alum of Appy State - from ASU's Road to a Repeat site - a must see)
College football is, until the latter half of the eighth month of this year, over. The Byzantine bowl system has concluded, the rank-calculating cyborgs have returned to their cyborg-nests, and the college fans have either begun settling for professional violence or started dreaming of future collegiate battles. Before I joined the ranks of these good folks, though, I wanted to reflect on college football in Appalachia this year, cause frankly, it was a doozy. There are a whole lot of good things to say – Washington & Lee’s program is way up (not to mention the gradual return to the old winning ways of my alma mater, Emory & Henry), Bridgewater has posted a tremendous record over the last several years (72-13!). East Tennessee University decided to restart their squad and Marshall became the focus of a feature film. In Division I football Kentucky, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Wake Forest all made bowls, with Kentucky and West Virginia pulling out W’s. And Wake? Hell, their coach, Grope, won D-I coach of the year after leading WFU to their best football season ever in their 105, that’s one-oh-five, seasons.

But the biggie, the super biggie, maybe the ultra biggie, was that Appalachian State University won the D-I-AA national championship for the second year in a row – and, on top of that, the Mountaineers’ coach, Jerry Moore, won his division’s Coach of the Year Award as well.

Well, all that said, I want to throw out some ASU links to ya’ll. Am I inspired by their victory? Nah, that isn’t it, really. Rather, it’s the level of support that has poured out of every corner of the hills for this unsung university, words and images that have really moved me, frankly. I dunno’. I just felt like sharing.

From Appalachian Sports Information

From the Battlefield to the Ball Field

Moore Wins Second-Straight AFCA National Coach of the Year Award

National Champs Place Six on The Sports Network’s All-America Teams

From the Appalachian State Alumni Association

Coaching Moves

The Day After 2

Into the Congressional Record

More Appalachian News

One Day Until Chattanooga

Road to a Repeat: Appalachian State University

From the Blue Ridge Blog

Appalachian State v. UMass Index

Appalachian Fan Photo Album

File This Post Under: The Little Things I Don’t Want to Forget . . .

Just a Few Images From Last Night

Words Can’t Describe. . . Or Maybe They Can

Sports Illustrated

Superfans 1, 2, & 3

This Old State

Economist: How ‘bout Those Apps!

Congrats, sons and daughters of Yosef.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Weekend Five: Saint Paul, Virginia

St. Paul, Virginia's (Old) Railroad Station
(Image from one of Appalachia's greatest cultural resources, the Virginia Tech Imagebase - donate money and visit often)

Well, I'm back. After the most insane couple months of my life (my wedding, my brother's wedding, at least five days in four states, creating a new class and dare we forget it, the dissertation), some regularity is beginning to dawn on me. Crossing fingers, knocking on wood, and so forth, forever. Combine that with my work to switch us here at the ol' HS over to Blogger 2.0 and throw up our third redesign (pretty good for being around since last spring) and I have been AWOL. Apologies and no more excuses.

Well, over my interminable insanity a self-described "Appalachian ex-pat," currently living in the capital of the Old Dominion has been writing me, sending me posts that warrant real attention here. So, after only a month of hemming and hawing, well, I'm gonna' post 'm. Her name is April Cain, she's originally from one of my favorite little towns (St. Paul, Virginia) and we've invited her to be a contributor, though she is a busy woman - she already posts regularly at two other interesting blogs - Mothers With Attitude and The Women's Post. Regardless, April, keep sending the links - for all our procrastination, we really are listing.

Clinch River Festival
: This is one of those sites which describes itself better than I ever could. . . and so, the quote:

Every year on the first Saturday in June, the town of St. Paul, Virginia comes alive with the flavors of the region during Clinch River Days.

The ninth annual Clinch River Days Festival will be held on June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 2007.

Located along the scenic Clinch River, St. Paul shows off its uniqueness, blending River and Railroad Lore and History, Art and Photography, Carnival Rides and Games, Symphony and Bluegrass, Samplings from Local Vineyards, and Regional Appalachian Cuisine.

Most of all, Clinch River Days is a weekend of fun in the mountains, celebrating a Scenic River that is home to rare and endangered fresh water mussels, more varieties of fish than any river in Virginia, and miles of free-flowing canoeing.

And on the first Saturday in June, St. Paul is home to festival-goers who come to celebrate the Clinch River!
I think I'm free that weekend. . . hmmm.

Wetlands Estonoa: Appalachian wetlands, like wetlands everywhere, are, to be frank, under siege. They're difficult territories to manage properly, in part because even slight imbalances in their ecosystems leads to the profusion of life forms hazardous to humans (e.g. mosquitos), not to mention the fact that they are highly dependent on the quality of their surrounding biomes. Without them, however, water quality drops radically, not to mention issues of biodiversity as both a practical concern and a moral issue. Thus, I take my hat off to anyone who's willing to take on the often dirty and difficult jobs of helping maintain our wetlands. One such group of folks are the people over at Wetlands Estonoa. I want to quote you their history . . . consider:
During spring 1999, Appalachian Ecology student, Stevie Sabo chose to investigate a forgotten lake, Lake Estonoa. His project encompassed the lake’s history, present condition, and his desire to return it to its pristine self. During the fall of 1999, Nikki Buffalow adopted the project and identified the lake as a wetlands through the process of the Corps of Engineers. Based upon these findings Estonoa could not be returned to the pristine lake of the past. Nikki’s quest to restore the newly named wetlands began to gain interest and soon became a project undertaken by the entire Appalachian Ecology and Physics class. Our goal as a team is to enhance our little corner of the world.
Cool enough, right? Well, perusing the grants and awards these folks have garnered, well, your eyebrows raise a little more - not bad for for a teeny town in the hills. If you're in the area and looking to volunteer, I say give 'm a holler.

St. Paul, Virginia
: St. Paul is tiny and it is fantastic. . . . some of the nicest people I ever met (including one of my roommates in college) are from there. If you're headed to deep southwestern Virginia (Lebanon, Big Stone Gap, Wise, or Norton, for instance), it is definitely worth an hour of your time for a drive or a walk. All that said, this site drops serious knowledge about St. Paul - specifically it has a series of links to government, religious, business, educational, and NGO sites

"Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word": An essay The Women's Post on the issue of formal racial reconciliation in the South . . . food for thought and particularly interesting to me, having read quite a bit lately on the effectiveness of formal reconciliation efforts in former British and German colonies of southern Africa.

I wanted to add one more site to April's suggestions. . . it's a doozy.

A River Runs Through It: St. Paul, Virginia: Revitalizing a small community through economic development and environmental awareness: This review of St. Paul (provided by the Urban Affairs & Planning program at Virginia Tech) is specifically a brief examination of St. Paul's efforts to renew its local environment while economically developing, specifically as an example for other communities.