Friday, April 27, 2007

We all have pictures, we immigrants
"I had lived all my life an American away from America. Then I returned, a sort of immigrant among immigrants, except that I came to my native land. But it was as new to me as though I came from Sweden or from Italy or Greece. I knew almost as little what to expect before I landed.

"But we all have pictures, we immigrants, of what the America is to which we come. They must be pleasant pictures, or we would not have come. People do not easily leave all they know unless they hope for something much better. Now I had my picture of America, too. It was made up of visual images of my mother's much loved country home, of which she told me many stories, of a land of great plenty and ease, from which came money for the poor Chinese, because all Americans were rich and Christian.

"It would not have occurred to me that there were illiterate Americans, or unwashed or poor Americans, or criminals. As I grew older and understood better inevitable human nature this picture was modified and reason did indeed compel me to understand that heaven existed nowhere.

"But still something of this early picture persisted. Believed, for instance, that in leaving China I was leaving forever the sight of hungry people whom I was powerless to feed. I thought I was leaving behind the sight of wasting floods and dried and sun-baked, treeless lands, swept by dusty winds. I thought I was coming to a country which had organized itself into economic plenty and moral clarity. I had heard all my life that America was rich, and I did not think of these riches as being selfishly gained or used.

"Money was poured generously out of America into China for famine relief, for Christian propaganda, for many and endless causes. Americans, then, though they were rich were generous, interested in a world culture, international-minded. I longed to meet my countrymen, whose idealism seemed almost fantastic to the materialistic philosophy of China."

On Discovering America
Pearl S. Buck
June 1937
Nobel-prize winning author
born Hillsboro, WV


Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Saturday visit to Virginia Tech

On Saturday, 4/21, I made a visit to Virginia Tech. There was plenty going on at the Drill Field. Check out my visit at:

A.L. Mitchell Competition for Short Fiction

Hillbilly Savants
A.L. Mitchell Competition for Short Fiction

Hillbilly Savants strives to encourage new Appalachian artists/writers to produce and share ideas within the internet blog community. This year we at HS hope to encourage even more participation with the 1st Hillbilly Savants A.L. Mitchell Composition for Short Fiction. Please submit an unpublished story of no more than 3,000 words. Applicants must reside within the Appalachian Mountains for at least three consecutive years prior to the deadline. Send an SASE along with a bio and the selected entry to by August 20, 2007. Notification of the 2007 recipient of the A.L. Mitchell Composition for Short Fiction takes place on November 5th on the HS website. The winning work will be featured on Hillbilly Savants.

Mr. Arthur L. “Al” Mitchell, 1927- 2007,

A graduate of Richlands High School, Al Mitchell graduated with a BA degree from Emory & Henry in 1946. While a student at E&H, his activities and honors were numerous; he was President of the student body, Editor of the campus newspaper, a member of the Calliopian Literary Society, and a member of Beta Lambda Zeta Fraternity.

In 1950, he received his Master’s degree from Columbia University, and went on to teach in public schools in Charlottesville, Bristol, and Marion. In 1958 he joined the Emory & Henry College staff, and served there until his retirement in 1992. During his tenure he held positions of Director of Admissions, Director of Publicity, Sports Information Director, Financial Aid Officer, English Professor, and Registrar. He was a mentor and sponsor for the brothers of Beta Lambda Zeta Fraternity.

A faithful community servant, Al was a volunteer for United Way and a Trustee for the Washington County Public Library from 1966-1978; he served as their treasurer from 1974-1978. He was active in the Washington County Democratic Party in the 1970s, also serving as their treasurer. In the 1950s, he was president of the Smyth County Young Democrats. He was a former member of the Marion Lions Club and the Marion Rotary Club. He was an active member of Emory United Methodist Church, where he served as a Sunday School teacher for more than 30 years.

He won numerous awards from Emory & Henry College including the Earnest E. and Elizabeth C. Maiden Award in 1990 and The DeFriece Award in 1996, and he was the first person to ever receive the E&H Alumni Association Distinctive Service to Emory & Henry Award, 1993. In 2005, the Alumni Association honored him by naming one of their awards for him, the A.L. Mitchell Young Alumnus of the Year Award.

Known for his avid enthusiasm for E&H athletics, he was inducted into the E&H Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. In 1994, the college celebrated “Al Mitchell Day” during basketball season and gave Al his own referee’s jersey and whistle. In 1987, the football program at E&H named him their “Twelfth Man” for devotion to the team.

He was a prolific writer, with a published book of poetry and several entries in magazines, journals, and The Upper Room devotional.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Family Estate

This is the house that my grandfather grew up in. Born Loyes Edgar Smith, 1906, in Greene County, Tennessee he was the youngest of twelve children. Fourteen people lived in this house, which is smaller than the room I’m sitting in right now. It is no longer standing and only of few of my family members can remember where it was located.
I think its pretty cool.

The Grandfather of Bluegrass

That would be Wade Mainer, not Bill Monroe. A popular recording and radio personality, Mainer influenced generations of great musicians, including Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson. With his singing and banjo style, Wade and his band created a distinct sound that bridged the gap between old-time mountain music and bluegrass. Among his innovations was a distinctive two-finger banjo picking style crossing the traditional clawhammer with the modern three-finger picking style used by performers such as Earl Scruggs.
Born April 21, 1907, Mainer grew up on a tiny mountain farm near Weaverville, North Carolina. Old mountain songs were part and parcel of his upbringing and he was greatly influenced by the fiddling of Roscoe Banks, his brother-in-law.

“I was raised in the mountains back then and didn’t go out too much…but what there were of musicians, I would pay attention to them,” says Mainer. “I was interested in the sound of the banjo and when they’d lay there banjos down at the square dance…I’d go over and pick it up and play.”

As a young man, he moved to Concord to work in a cotton mill. Later he joined his brother J.E.'s Mainer Mountaineers, and began performing on radio in 1934. North Carolina was a hotbed of early country musicians during the Depression, and Wade Mainer stood out above the rest. The decade was a great time for brother acts, mostly duets, and mostly featuring close harmony singing with guitars or guitar and mandolin. These duos tended to supplant the larger string bands from the 1920s – traveling was easier, and there were less ways that gig money had to be split up during those hard depression days.

Along with his popular recordings Wade and his brother J.E. reached a wide audience with live radio programs sponsored by a patent medicine laxative called “Crazy Water Crystals.” Wade performed at Radio Stations WBT in Charlotte; WPTF in Raleigh; WNOX in Knoxville; and WPAQ in Mount Airy, among others. The sponsor kept him working but was notoriously stingy with pay causing Wade to part ways with both the sponsor and the Mainer Mountaineers in 1936.<br />“I didn’t think they was paying me enough at $5 per week…I left them and got me a job at the yarn mill at $12 to $15 per week…and that was gold back then!”
Mainer and fellow bandmate Zeke Morris decided to work as a duet. They split up when Morris' younger brother Wiley joined to form the Morris Brothers. Mainer's new band was named the Sons of the Mountaineers; its first members included guitarists Jay Hugh Hall and Clyde Moody and fiddler Steve Ledford. They performed on the radio and also recorded many songs for Bluebird. In 1939, they had a good-sized hit with "Sparkling Blue Eyes."

Wade married singer/guitarist Julia Brown in 1937. Known as "Hillbilly Lilly," Julia performed from 1935-37 at WSJS RADIO in Winston–Salem, NC. A pioneering female vocalist, Julia would later join her husband for performances on the road.


Originally blogged at Appalachian History

We are all Virginia Tech today

From Richmond Virginia

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Colleges & Universities of Appalachia: Mourning with Virginia Tech

I have collected below those responses of different colleges and universities in the Appalachian region which are accessible via permanent links - I do this to illustrate two things - first, the heartfelt emotional response of the folk at these institutions and second, the practical reaction of administrations to the spiking fears of students and parents with regards to security. To quote the sentiment offered by so many of these institutions:

We are all Virginia Tech today.

Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Bluefield College
Bluefield, Virginia
Bridgewater College
Bridgewater, Virginia
Concord University
Athens, West Virginia
Cumberland University
Lebanon, Tennessee
Eastern Mennonite University
Harrisonburg, Virginia
Emory & Henry College
Emory, Virginia
Ferrum College
Ferrum, Virginia
High Point University
High Point, North Carolina
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, Virginia
Kentucky State University
Frankfort, Kentucky
Lenoir-Rhyne College
Hickory, North Carolina
Lynchburg College
Lynchburg, Virginia
Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, Virginia
Radford University
Radford, Virginia
Roanoke College
Roanoke, Virginia
Salem College
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Sewanee - The University of the South
Sewanee, Tennessee
Shepherd College
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Tusculum College
Greeneville, Tennessee
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
University of North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
University of Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia
University of Virginia
Wise, Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, Virginia
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, North Carolina
Wheeling Jesuit University
Wheeling, West Virginia

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Virginia Tech Massacre: News Update

Below I've gathered more recent news releases on the recent tragedy at VPI, both from major news sources and from the university's own website. I want to take this moment not only to again extend our thoughts and prayers to the people of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg and to the families of the victims, but to thank the university, the staff of The Collegiate Times, and the staffs of all the region's professional news organizations for your hard work. You're professionalism and your elegant balance of necessary fact and personal images and words have been a pleasant contrast to some (though by no means all) of the national coverage, the aim of which seems to be merely to squeeze the surviving victims - I personally have stopped watching the national news, for the time being, taking up the internet as the source of my information - because unnecessary repetition and fear-mongering do nothing for my sleep. Regardless, if you any of you have information, stories, thoughts, or images you want to share with the world, please let us know - we're trying to collect whatever we can here, at least for the next several days.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Tragedy in Blacksburg
Collective Site of the Richmond Times-Dispatch,
The News & Advance
, WSLS, and the Bristol Herald Courier

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bristol Herald Courier
(All coverage, collected)

Collegiate Times

New York Times
The News & Advance
New York Times
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Roanoke Times
(All coverage, collected)


Monday, April 16, 2007

Bloggers and the Virginia Tech Massacre

Since Yesterday I have been going through an extensive list of Appalachian blogs (by which I mean blogs written either by folk from Appalachia or about folk from Appalachia, specifically West Virginia, western Virginia, eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, and western North Carolina), looking for reactions to the shootings yesterday in Blacksburg. My goal has been to sketch out our reactions, some immediate, some considered, to the tragedy that has fallen in amongst us. The list isn't comprehensive - though I'll be glad to add links if you can recommend them. It is, however, something. I hope that it matters.

American Legends

American Twentysomething 3.0

Appalachian Greens

Appalachian History

Appalachian Scribe (1, 2)


Balloon Juice (1, 2, & 3)

Bastard Sons of Pinfall Marks


Blue Ridge Blog

Blue Ridge Muse

Botetourt County

Brian Patton

brian's blog

Bristol Views

Change West Virginia

Cup of Joe Powell


Domestic Psychology

Don Surber (1, 2, 3, & 4)

Don't print this.

Feedback with Steve Adams


Fifth Column

Frankly Speaking

From on High

Front Porch Blog

FunditPundit (1, 2)

The Goat Rope (1, 2)

Health Care Law Blog

Hot Topics

Huntington West Virginia Blog

It's a Blog Eat Blog World

Just Another Day in Roanoke (1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)


Larry Jones doesn't like your news organization (1, 2)

The Laughing Gypsy


Left of the Dial (1, 2)


Life in West Virginia

Lincoln Walks at Midnight

Living in a Media World

Mountain 'publican

parasol party


New River Oasis (1, 2, & 3)

No Silence Here (Survey of Several Blogs)

Random Mumblings


Ron's Thots

Shuck and Jive

There's Nothing to do Here

Thistle Cove Farm

traces of me (1, 2, & 3)

The Upfront Page

The View From the Sidelines

West Virginia Blue (1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)
Thanks Clem G.

WV Girl's Blog

Also, I want to recommend these blogs which aren't written by Appalachians, nor are they written specifically for or about Appalachia, but which have caught my eye.

BoingBoing (1, 2, & 3)

Tuned In (1, 2)

The Virginia Tech Massacre: News

Mike has already written on this subject from an angle far more intimate than I possibly could, with tremendous eloquence. But I decided to contribute what I could to those seeking information - specifically, access points to as much official information as possible. I hope it is useful - look for updates throughout the next few days here at HS.

Virginia Tech Campus Alert

Local Press

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bristol Herald Courier
Collegiate Times (Virginia Tech's student newspaper - right now is providing their coverage - once the articles are given permanent sites, we'll re-link - ultimately, this will probably be the site of first concern)
The Roanoke Times (Probably the best, most up-to-day coverage of the events in Blacksburg from the professional press corps is available here; both local and AP reports)
Richmond Times-Dispatch
WUVT (Virginia Tech's student radio station with available webcasts; I'm not sure if there will be permanent coverage or not - we'll have to wait and see)
National Press

New York Times
Washington Post
More Will Come Later - if you have found particularly good new stories, blog entries, press releases, photographs, anything to help us help the Appalachian people and their friends comprehend and come to grips with today's events, please let us know - you can comment or e-mail us, your choice. Our prayers and thoughts are with you, Hokies.

UPDATES: One more . . . if you're looking for someone or know the status of someone that was in Norris Hall at the time, check here. It's a blog / message board for those seeking information.

. . . and a couple of message boards, normally based on VT athletics, that are full of first hand accounts from students and faculty. TechSideLine Lounge and T.S.L. Political Board

. . . To add to the list of resources, there is a Wikipedia page collecting facts and links: Virginia Tech Shootings . . . It should, at the least, serve as a unified source for the myriad facts coalescing on the internet.

. . . The Town of Blacksburg has released several statements/stories in its "e-News" site:
. . . Hokies United is organizing a candlelight vigil and building a wall for students to write on.

Ruination Day

“There’s been a shooting on campus. You all get the hell out of here! Go home!”

Those were the words of my boss as he broke the news to me and my coworker that a gunman was on the loose at Virginia Tech, a couple of blocks away from our office. At about that time, we received a call from a friend that works within the local police department, “…reports are there is an Asian kid wearing a bulletproof vest, carrying multiple guns. Eight people are dead and 24 injured”.

By now, we know that those number of individuals shot dead in cold blood stands at an official 31. ABC News is reporting 32 dead. It’s the second worst school fatality event since 1927 when bombings killed 45 in Michigan. Local hospitals are overrun with injuries. To complicate medical logistics, wind gust of up to 60 mph kept the med-evac helicopters grounded. Besides the shooting victims, scores of students leaped from second and third story windows to escape the classrooms that they were trapped in. One bus driver for Blacksburg Transit was making his rounds this morning when he reported, on local television, that he saw people running toward the bus, others carrying students with their legs dangling, broken from the jump. To his credit, the bus became a makeshift triage as it sped toward the hospital. It appears that most of the student casualties in one particular engineering computer lab were the target of this sick individual’s rage. Police reports refer to the lab as a bloodbath.

As a personal note, when I was informed about the shooting, I grabbed my phone. My wife and brother were in class at the time. My wife, as I would later find out, left her phone at the house. She made it off campus before buildings were locked down. My brother was on his way home after being told to leave campus during class. I just found out from a phone call that a friend of a friend was shot. His status was not known, other than he was transported to a hospital [as of 9:00pm, was pronounced dead]. Not all victims were students. The town is in a state of shock, disbelief, anger and grief. For those that don’t know, Blacksburg is a small town with a big college. I’m sure over the next few days I’ll learn of more people I know that knew someone injured, shot or killed. Until last summer, when an escaped prisoner shot and killed two law officers, the largest crimes that took place were mainly drunken student fights and vandalism. Who knows if I ever made eye contact with any of the victims on my walks around campus and downtown?

Today, the Appalachian spirit of semper liberi, living free, has been shattered for our community and region. Sure, we’ll have certain civil liberties under scrutiny for the coming weeks but I’m thinking more of our quality of life. Students, faculty and staff at Virginia Tech lost a piece of their freedom from fear today. They lost their, albeit false, sense of security in small town America. Events that we think only take place in large cities and overseas war zones have found their way to our mountains.

Two poetic writings have been rolling through my head this afternoon as the death toll has risen:

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were:
any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, no. 17
1624 (published)

And Don McLean’s ending of innocence epic, American Pie…

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.


Some of you have probably noticed that I've been adding a plethora of Appalachinistas to our Kith & Kin section - all part of our effort to connect to the greater Appalachian society (and to keep up with the folks at Lincoln Walks at Midnight). That said, I have a few that you just can't miss, cause if you do, well, you'll both rue and lament it. Consider:

On the Sunsphere:
As my dad always said, 'Make yourself useful instead of ornamental.'

On an anniversary:
This month marks my 10th year as East Tennessean. In December 1996 I landed, "fresh off the boat", from the proximity of the Arctic Circle to the backwoods of Kingston. The ramshackle cabin my then-fiancee and I were leasing had no heating, scant insulation, broken windows and yard littered with rifle shells. We were so broke that a can of Laura Lynn refried beans was a feast. With only one vehicle, I spent endless months at the cabin, emailing resumes with a 9600 baud dialup connection, watching Geraldo on TV and trying to stay warm while she was at work. Those were trying times, but also magic, once-in-a-lifetime times. It was a great adventure.
I often wonder if folks around here realize how fortunate they are to be living here. There is so much beauty in these ancient mountains and valleys. The volunteer spirit springs from the land around, from close-knit communities forged by hardship and common faith. As our country is being ravaged by avarice and callousness, here between the Cumberlands and the Smokies the true American spirit of unity and caring for fellow countrymen still lives. This is my home, and I'm proud to be from around here.
Birds, Etcetera

On ramps:
I have a well-aged bottle of ramp wine that should compliment Charles’s recipe nicely. We bought it as a joke, but have never had the nerve to give it to anyone as a gift, nor the bravery to open it for own enjoyment. Having eaten ramps in many different ways, it’s hard to imagine what ramp wine might taste like. Oh, . . . it says here that ramp wine is 'great for cooking.'
Carpe You Some Diem

On ghost signs in Charleston:

Change West Virginia

On partisan campaign signs:
They are the 'poor man’s' version of a real media campaign. If you see an absolute boatload of signs for a candidate on right-of-ways, etc. you can pretty much guess that candidate isn’t going to win and doesn’t have much money.
Cup of Joe Powell

On improving ethics among state legislators in the good state of Tennessee:
1.) One committee recommendation that should be made law is plain: elected officials (state and I would also add local officeholders, too) should not be receiving or accepting gifts, travel, free meals and entertainment. If a paid lobbyist or party official cannot use the power of logical or sound business ideas to urge support for an issue before the state, then tough. This would not prevent an elected official from speaking to a Kiwanis Club or other group, as long as no pay and yes, no meal, is a part of their appearance.

2.) All votes in the state legislative meetings and committees must be recorded and votes posted for public view. How can any resident of the state expect honesty and accountability when committees can meet in secret sessions where no vote is officially recorded? As Sen. Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville said, 'I was disappointed that they [the ethics committee] did not address secret meetings or the legislative work schedule. And we need online access for all votes. The panel did some good work, but I believe Tennessee deserves better.'

Republican Hamblen County Commissioner Linda Noe, and a few other commissioners, has kept up a steady drumbeat on the issue of Openness and Accountability in her commission votes and on her web log, and the public response has been quite positive.

State Representative Frank Buck echoes those very sentiments, noting in his essay printed in
The Tennessean : AccountabilityA record of legislative votes should be readily available to all voters. On voice votes in committees, legislators have the choice of voting contrary to the call of the chair.

3.) End the special privileges and secrecy surrounding lobbyists. There are a few simple rules that would bring major changes. While the current Ethic Committee suggestions call for a one-year ban on moving from elected office to a lobbyist job, I say say make it longer. Make it a four-year ban, which would prevent them from having access to the legislature and their business until at least the end of one gubernatorial term. The committee also had two other suggestions that would aid in making the lobbyist influence transparent to voters and the press alike.
First, Require lobbyists to disclose any family members in state government.
And Second, Require lobbyists and their employers to disclose payments for lobbying and money spent on lobbying.

The residents of this state, whether in a business organization, a political party organization, or just a private citizen would then know how many untold thousands and thousands of dollars are being heaped upon lawmakers to influence legislation.

4.) The Ethics Committee still has much work to do, but I think they are missing a golden opportunity to enact changes that include the participation of the public in general -- a committee to review any questions of ethics violations seems appropriate, HOWEVER, this panel needs to also include two or more average residents -- not a CEO, not a state employee, not another private business club member and not someone who has already served in some elected office. A private citizen is a must, someone who would bring eyes to this process not already tinted by the view of 'that's just how we have been doing business.'
Gene Patterson

On theft at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville:
Tune in tonight at 6 pm for a story about a former UT employee who admits to stealing $20,000 from the University over a 3 year period. And he did it, literally a quarter at a time.

How many quarters is that?

(Answer - 80,000)

The Lone Meth Ranger

On himself and his blog/newsletter:
Hello, my name is John Manis Richards, (Johnny). I am the Editor of The Lone Meth Ranger Newsletter. I am also a Core Member of the Meth Eradication Team (M.E.T.) that served Calhoun and Gilmer Counties for over two years. M.E.T. was a stealth group of friends working undercover to eradicate Methamphetamine from the reach of our friends in and around our communities. In August 2005, a local News Organization blew the cover off The Meth Eradication Teams undercover operation. In November 2005 an emergency meeting was assembled with Core Members of M.E.T and other allies. The topic of the emergency meeting was the explosion of meth related activity in and around our community during the past few months. At that point we all knew that M.E.T. must not die. After further discussion, The Lone Methranger Newsletter was born. Like M.E.T. it is not the purpose of The Lone Methranger to send Meth Cookers to jail. Therefore, we will utilize The Lone Methranger Newsletter to provide information to educate our friends concerning the harm meth causes, where to seek help for addictions to meth and the new laws on meth manufacturing etc. Thereby keeping our friends healthy, safe and keeping the police from kicking in their doors and hauling them off to jail.
Huntington West Virginia

On wrought iron:
I have noticed a lot of high quality security fencing and wrought iron fence going up around Huntington WV in the last 2 years. I think it has a lot to do with crime increases due to the fact that there are too many crackheads running loose. I recently discovered that there is a wrought iron fence and wrought iron gates factory right here in Huntington WV. I am pleasantly surprised to know that some degree of manufacturing still goes on in Huntington in spite of the long term economic troubles. The business I am speaking of is Mountain State Metal Works at 625 8th. Avenue that is owned by Carrie and Doug Wallace. . One of the purposes of this blog is to promote local businesses.
Mountaintop Removal Clearinghouse

A poem by Wanda:

Firefly evenings
in mountain shadows,
water sung music
from scyamore choirs
on quiet mist mornings,
even Kudzu our savage

views of legends,
breaths of greatness,
creations of heaven,


Pictures From West Virginia

On Blackwater Falls:

The Question

On being an 'Eer and being tired of burning couch jokes:

Can one be a die hard Mountaineer fan and a die hard opponent of some well-known fan shenanigans? (You know what I’m talking about! SHHHHHHHHHHH!)


On Creech Holler:
This is the music of funeral processions and dirge-filled bereavements. Of sin. Of salvation. Of old termite infested boards standing stoically side-by-side for impromptu juke houses in the way back of hazy mountain hills, brimming with fresh shine. But be weary of mistakes because while this music embraces you lovingly with a cupped drone it also hits with a barrage of reckless abandon and whup ass; Hill Country Stomping Hell Fire and Blues for those who like there heaven with a bit of hell.
Many of the songs here are of traditional origin and the fact that they are here at all illustrate that the boys from Creech Holler know their shit – but rather than bow silently to whatever expectations may creep, they punch and jab at the songs with an audacious fervor and wear them like well worn string ties.

This is good. Real good.

So. From here forth, let it be known, there’s a trio of hell-raisers in Roots Music right now and they’re taking up serpents, their name? Creech Holler
The War in Appalachia

On mountaintop removal:

West Virginia Sock Monkey

On the Sock Monkey's friend Barkley and his "employee," Dave Peyton:
Barkley is my good friend. He is my dog though I trust his safety and upkeep to my employee, Dave Peyton. We like to be convivial. We do not discuss politics, however, since he leans to the left and I lean toward Don Blankenship and other rich people who might someday give me money. I like Barkley because he knows how to relax. He does it extremely well.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

In Search of Truth

I'm not much of a story teller, so please forgive me.

Being a fan of natural landforms, I revel at the chance to see these wonders of nature in person. This website has been very helpful in locating landforms in my area. When I first discovered the website, I was amazed to find out that there was a waterfall very near here that measures an astonishing 475 feet. For comparison, the famous Fall Creek Falls measure in around 250 feet. Intrigued, I set out to find this legendary Buckeye Falls.

After and aborted attempt during the winter of 2003, we set out in the Spring fully loaded for an overnight trip. A black bear sighting left us a little shaky, but fortunately the bear ran away when it sighted us. A dirt road gave way to a horse trail that grave way to a foot trail. We set up camp near the creek right before the trail ended and we had to bushwhack. Now, with only my camera, two bottles of water and a limb saw, we were ready to tackle the rough part of the trail. Wear neared where we stopped the past winter and noticed a tree with a "B" and an arrow carved into it. My limb saw came in handy as we had to climb up a steep creek bed that was covered in thick brush and tree branches. Finally, we reached the top and this was our reward.

Buckeye Falls is not a roaring waterfall, but a nice cascade down the steep side of a mountain. It's hard to tell how high it is, but using points of reference in the photos, you can see it is quite the drop.

Ramps a la Charlestonian Blog

Deliciousness from Charles' Charlestonian Blog.

I just wanted to shoot you a link to a great blog entry on ramps - - - mmmmmmmmmm, ramplicious.

Thanks Charles.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Moonshine and NASCAR

Before there was NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing), there were ‘moonrunners.’ A guy with a souped up car with a 200-gallon moonshine tank, driving his coupe at breakneck speeds through the twisty mountain roads to deliver the ‘shine. Usually at night, and usually with police or revenuers waiting for him. Evading the roadblocks and outrunning the chase was all part of a day’s work to a moonshine runner.

Some accounts say that all early race drivers were involved in bootlegging. That is how at least most of them afforded the fastest and therefore most expensive machines--with their moonshine profits. They ran moonshine down the twisty mountain roads to people during Prohibition. The runners would modify their cars in order to create a faster, more maneuverable vehicle to evade the police. They’d remove the rear and passenger seats to make more room for moonshine, add heavy duty suspensions to the rear of the car to handle the extra weight and add a steel plate in front of the radiator. Many of these changes have influenced the design of the modern stock car.

One of the main 'strips' in Knoxville, TN had its beginning as a mecca for aspiring bootlegging drivers. When Prohibition was lifted in 1933, the owners of these first "racecars" watched their profitable businesses dry up. Since they had no reason to use them for "runnin' shine" anymore and found themselves with time on their hands and a lot of money, many wanted to race their cars for pride and money.

These races were popular entertainment in the rural South, and they are most closely associated with the Wilkes County region of North Carolina. Writer Vance Packard called Wilkes County the "the bootleg capital of America" -- in 1935, a raid on one house yielded 7,100 gallons of white whiskey, the largest inland seizure of moonshine ever made in the United States.

Wilkes County products were delivered throughout the area by such driving daredevils as Junior Johnson, the famous moonshiner turned champion NASCAR driver. Junior's father Robert Johnson was one of the biggest copper still operators in the area. The older men did the distilling, the younger ones transported the moonshine, and the women "called the cows" if the U.S. alcohol and tobacco tax agents appeared.

The North Wilkesboro Speedway, opened in 1947, was the first NASCAR track.


Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In the Time of Festivals

Hot damn, if there is anything we here at HS love, it is festivals. Beer festivals, food festivals, wine festivals, jazz festivals, opera festivals, bluegrass festivals, cultural festivals, historic festivals, it doesn't matter - they rule, and you know they rule. Well, I thought I'd drop you some knowledge on a few coming up in the next couple weeks here in the hills - nothing fancy, just stuff you should get in the car and rock with.

1. The 14th Loch Norman Highland Games in Huntersville, North Carolina
April 20-22

This Guy Will Be There
(Image from the Loch Norman Highland Games homepage)

Okay, at this one the attendance is usually around 10,000 folks and, well, okay, here is the website’s summary:

The Loch Norman Highland Games celebrates the heritage and culture of the Scottish immigrants who built Mecklenburg County and the Carolinas. It is one of the largest weekend events in the Lake Norman area attracting some 10-15,000 visitors and participants each year. People have come from all over the United States, Canada, and as far away as Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and even South Africa to enjoy the festivities and the athletic competitions.

At the 2006 Loch Norman Highland Games Eric Frasure set the Amateur World Record in the 22lb Hammer Throw at 122 feet and 10 inches. He just missed the United States Professional record by 2 inches! Begun in 1994, The Loch Norman Highland Games hosted by the Catawba Valley Scottish Society has always held a deep admiration in the hearts of Scots and supporters of the event. It is a special gathering where strangers become friends over the weekend. It is also a place where World Class athletes come to compete in various competitions which include Heavy Athletics both professionally and amateurs, bag-piping, fiddle and harp, and Scottish Dance. Not only are there highly competitive events, but more than 90 Scottish and Scots-Irish Clans and organizations bring their banners to demonstrate their support and share family genealogy and heritage exhibits with visitors. Along with this family fun and educational atmosphere you can enjoy world renowned Celtic and Scottish bands while getting a taste of Scottish cuisine (Scotch Eggs and Meat Pies) along with other local delicacies like Carolina BBQ, Smoked Turkey Legs, and even Whiskey Tasting Seminars that are held by expert whiskey demonstrators.

2. The 31st Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, Kentucky
April 20-22

The 2001 Hillbilly Days parade
(Image from the Hillbilly Days website)

This event, run by Pikeville’s (Kentucky) Shriners, is one of the most legendary in the hills, though I don’t know how wild it gets, it does have a hillbilly-themed parade, which is got to be worth something, not to mention tons of music and vendors. I haven't been but be damned and be-boggled I will within the next couple of years.

3. The 21st Yadkinville Bluegrass Contest & Fiddlers' Convention in Yadkinville, North Carolina
April 20-22

The Yadkinville Bluegrass Contest & Fiddlers' Convention

That’s right, this one isn’t fancy, but it looks pretty great. To quote:

This annual event, held on the third Saturday night in April, features some of the best in local and regional bluegrass talent from northwest North Carolina, southwest Virginia, northeast Tennesee, and beyond. The goal of this site is to provide you with any information you may
need concerning this event. Visit the links to get the latest update and other information such as driving directions, contest rules, and even a brief history.

4. The Dogwood Arts Festival in Knoxville, Tennesseee
April 10-29

(header from the Dogwood Arts Festival homepage)

The Dogwood Arts Festival isn't so much one discrete event as a whole slew of somewhat related events - a garden show, walking tours, a cardboard regatta, parade, arts, crafts, and photo shows, driving and garden tours, and a whole passel of live performances. If you're within a few hours of Knoxville, it is completely worth attending (it has already started, by the by). Check out the site - it is tough to explain just how huge the whole thing is.

Okay, here is the thing. I want to start a comprehensive list of regional festivals and, ideally, of regional recurring events (soon I'll be writing about Knoxville's own Sundown in the City, for instance). But that takes a helluva' lot of footwork and expertise about local such-have-yous. Let us know what you know - we'll drop them in here as soon as possible. Rock on.

UPDATE: Okay, I have found a couple more events of note in the very, berry near future. The first of these our own Vaughn Garland posted here as a comment, specifically:
Hey, You! You forgot about the Appalachian Roots Revival in Boone N.C. on April 21st. Finish up that book you have been working on for five years and come meet me in the hills.
Groovy, groovy, but I wanted to add the ARR's own description of the event - voila:
The Mountain Times Appalachian Roots Revival will be a day filled with terrific live entertainment, outsider art, mouth-watering food selections, talented crafters, a classic car exhibition, fun competitions and a lively public pickin. area. The stage sets will run from indie rock to bluegrass, outlaw twang to folk, and alt-country to psychedelic slamgrass. A portion of the day's receipts will go to support Boone's Habitat for Humanity ReStore facility.
Dude, I have to admit, that does sound awesome, I mean, "psychedelic slamgrass?" Damn me. Oh, and even if you can't attend this year, the site has a plethora of links to bands you should know about. Oo-la-la.

Secondly, I was perusing a favorite blog of ours here at the HS, Ashvegas, this morning and found an entry on the Flat Rock Music Festival's Spring Benefit. Now, while the FRMF itself is in the Autumn, the event organization has decided to throw an additional hoot'n'nanny this very weekend. Note:
Join us for a night of music and fun Featuring:
Ras Alan & the Lions
The Smokey Joe Show
The Hipneks
  • This event will benefit Camp Merry Times and The Flat Rock Music Festival.

  • Festivities will start at 5:00 PM and continue until midnight.

  • Admission will be $40.00 at the event. This admission will include a $5.00 donation to Camp Merry Times, admission, dinner, and tent camping in the meadow.

  • All major credit cards, cash, and checks will be accepted.

  • Discounted earlybird tickets for The Flat Rock Music Festival will be available.

  • BBQ Dinner served from 5:00 - 8:00 PM

  • Beer and Wine will be available for purchase.
Looks pretty awesome, eh? And it is awfully tough to beat any event where the green goes to a good cause. Regardless, thanks for the info Ashvegas - you continue to rule.