Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Hillbilly Savant

Eric D. Smith pondering his next entry on Hillbilly Savants while fishing the New River, near Radford, VA.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

This is a little post on a little play in a little town in Southwest Virginia. It's actually a good-sized production, with a big status--the official Outdoor Drama for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The theatrical treat I'm referring to is "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" in Big Stone Gap, VA.

The Post newspaper in Big Stone Gap puts it nicely, it is "John Fox Jr.’s enduring love story of the dashing mining engineer, Jack Hale, and the demure and lovely mountain lass, June Tolliver." No, this one has never featured Henry Fonda or Fred MacMurray; that's the 1936 movie by the same name. But the same story and author, and with local talent to boot.

"The Trail" begins its 44th season this evening in Big Stone Gap. If you've never seen it...well then...shame on you! Some nice evening this summer, get over to Big Stone and enjoy theater under the stars.

And if you're not already reaching for your keys, here are a few links to whet your appetite:

Official Site of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

Official Drama Program, courtesy the Coalfield Progress

Resource Guide by Judy Teaford, Mountain State University Article

And some links on John Fox, Jr.

John Fox, Jr. Museum

Bio from the Kentucky DAR

Flattered? Yes...

Once again, we here at Hillbilly Savants have been honored with another Thinking Blog Award. In a virtual game of "gotcha-last", the Weenie Wonks (their name, not mine) over at The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog have reciprocated some high praise on us. Thanks folks, for reading and spreading the word about Hillbilly Savants! We hope we'll continue to cut the mustard for you.

Playing within the rules of a Thinking Blog Award, it's now our turn to nominate five more blogs for the same award (you can read all about our first award and nominees here). It's not an easy task to choose just five blogs. As you can see under our Kith & Kin section in the left sidebar, we like blogs. A lot of blogs. In a long, excruciating process that involved a little Scotch and a fair amount of reading, here are my nominees:

1) Living Green: As a home designer professionally and as someone planning my own home construction, Aaron Doyle's real estate blog focusing on sustainable living is a great resource. It's a subject that all of us face as urban sprawl creeps deeper into Appalachia and energy consumption becomes more of a conscious decision.

2) BLDG BLOG: It's not based in or on Appalachia but this blog is probably the best blog I have ever read. If you are a fan of art and architecture, click the link.

3) Squirrel Meat's Journal: Techically not a blog, but Squirrel Meat is friend of HS and to us contributors that attended Emory & Henry College. The journal is his way of telling us what is happening as he hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. S'meat completed a southbound hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2003 and is tackling the Canada to Mexico trail on the west coast as I type.

4) Blue Ridge Muse: Just down Route 8 from me, in Floyd, Virginia, Blue Ridge Muse is full of wonderful photography and writing. I like it because Floyd is kind of like Las Vegas, word of what goes on there doesn't reach us on the main drag via the mainstream media until we find it on the blogs. Blue Ridge Muse is just one of many great bloggers from Floyd County, the arts center of the New River Valley.

5) Fretboard Journal Blog: Anyone with a slight interest in music and instruments will find this writing worthwhile.

And again, the rules from the thinking blog:

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

That was that! Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking! It is the first time I am starting something with my blog so I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me.

An Appalachian Eden

Pictures from Roan Mountain near the end of the Rhododendron bloom.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Arts in Public Places

Link to the July article in "A" Magazine for the Art in Public Places
Exhibition of Outdoor Sculpture in Bristol VA/TN.

Arts in Public Places falls under the
Arts Alliance Mountain Empire

Art in Public Places Juror Discusses the Process

Also an article by Barbara-lyn Morris
Arts All Around: Art in Public Places

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins in hillbilly country

Billy Corgan sees the music
If you haven't heard by now, the Smashing Pumpkins are their third show into a nine-show stand at the Orange Peel in Asheville. Yes, little ol' Ashvegas. Billy Corgan doesn't really seem to us to be a hillbilly, but anyone who's dated Courtney Love could probably qualify as a redneck. Party on.

Our First Award

The blog is doing pretty darn good here lately - really solid recent posts, some complimentary links, over 42,000 visits in just over a year, and now, (throwing confetti) we have received our first award - - - the Thinking Blogger Award!


I am freaking ultra-cited about this, but before I get carried away in my own giddiness (dance party, Old Crow Medicine Show, and RC Cola anyone?), let me make some key statements.

First, we here at HS want to thank the folks over at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi for nominating us. It means a heckuva' lot, guys - for ya'll who haven't checked out HCMCM do so - - - it is an damned excellent read.

Second, the Thinking Blogger Award is a nifty sorta' thing - it works on the principle that good bloggers know other good bloggers when they see'm. Makes sense, eh? Sure enough. So every blogger who receives the award is obliged to nominate five other "thinking blogs" who, in turn, do the same. I know, I know. It is brilliant. Of course blogs that have already been nominated can be renominated, but (as far as I can tell) not by their previous nominator. Regardless, it is a really interesting system creating networks of linked, high quality blogs that, I'd imagine, gradually become more and more diverse. Really interesting stuff.

Well, here at HS we're always interested in other blogs anyway - it is sort of an obsession for a few of us (when we're not distracted by our "jobs" or our "spouses" or our "responsibilities"). So we feel pretty darned qualified to nominate a few outstanding sites. And stuff. I dug through our links and found some doozies who 1) aren't contributors here at Hillbilly Savants (yet) and 2) absolutely deserve some national attention (Let me just say that I narrowed it down from our extensive link list to almost 30 sites from which I winnowed further - - - what does that mean? Our peer Appalachian sites are so good its like trying to choose a valedictorian from the Children of the Corn. Keep it up everyone. ). Consider:

1) The Bluegrass Blog: A great blog for anyone interested in virtually any topic or sub-topic having to do with Bluegrass. Listenlicious.

2) Lincoln Walks At Midnight: West Virginia politics and government covered in a clear, straightforward, easy to digest way. Politicalrific.

3) North Carolina Mountain Dreams: A tremendous read - the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains as seen by a Texan. Immigrationdacious.

4) The War in Appalachia: A blog obsessed with the politics and economics of coal mining and use - the sort of blog that makes you remember to turn off the light. Environmentalismo.

5) The West Virginia Hot Dog Blog: A blog about an incredibly narrow subject - hot dog culture in the Mountain State. How? Why? No one knows. And yet you will read. You will read.

For you guys nominated by us humble hillfolk, well, let me quote you the rules from the thinking blog that started this whole mess - ahem:
The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

That was that! Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking! It is the first time I am starting something with my blog so I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me.
Awesome. And Ilker Yoldas, thanks for putting this whole crazy mess together in the first place.

A Bird's Eye View of the Proposed Dominion Power Plant

As a follow up to the essay I wrote this weekend about the so-called "clean coal" power plant proposed for Wise County, Virginia, I received this extremely insightful message (sent to me as a WORD document due to its length) from one of my oldest friends. As an "insider" to the whole tortured debate, I felt this person's views were worthy to be published in their entirety. The only thing I have removed from the document is the person's name and identifying comments. Lots of food for thought here, and more than enough to give this tree hugger pause about whether this is a good idea (I'd always considered this person to be poltically conservative by the way)...


Read your article concerning the proposed power plant coming to Virginia City. You made several great points and asked important questions with regard to Dominion's plant. Many here in Southwest Va have lived with the Carbo power plant since before you and I were born. We have lived with coal production and railroads since the turn of the century. My family is supported mostly by the coal business here, as most everyone else is. Yes, economy is important to all of us who live in these mountains; however, for many of us, we can’t make sense of the proposed plant, as Southwest Virginia is still one of the most beautiful unspoiled spots in the great Commonwealth, even with the ill practices of strip mining and mountain top removal.

Ask the questions, "Why the Virginia City site?" "Why not the Carbo site?" Why not substitute one of the dirtiest plants in the nation, and replace it with this "newer, cleaner burning plant?" Placing a high-tech coal burning plant at Carbo would do us all a favor, as that particular area is already black with dust, soot, smoke and heavy pollution. Speaking of AEP's Carbo Plant, each year they have what they call an outage. They bring in boiler-makers, crane operators, and all kinds of specialty get the picture; however, each year the number of outage workers usually reaches 600 - 700. Has St. Paul, or the Castlewood end of Russell County seen the economic boom of these outages? I know that the Inn of Castlewood is booked up for 3 - 6 months during an outage, but you can ask anyone else and they don't have a clue that the area has that many extra people living and working in it. Most of these guys come with their own campers, live on site, work long hours, bank their per deim, and go home to their families when they can. They mostly eat, drink and sleep. Southwest Virginia does get some of their money, but nothing like our starry eyed politicians want us to believe. They probably will not move their family here, so that means the schools will not see any extra enrollment to make a difference in the school system.

The Virginia City plant is expected to consume millions of tons of coal--good coal, bad coal, used coal, bio-mass and yes....even trash. In order to feed that plant to produce power, it will take approximately 700 coal trucks per day (24 hours / 7 days a week), by the way....that equates to one coal truck every 2.057 minutes. If only half of those trucks come through St. Paul, that equates to 350 per day, which means a coal truck through the middle of St. Paul every 4.114 minutes. St. Paul will look like Carbo....the wonderful aroma of money now smells like diesel fuel with a dusting of coal dust..... What will happen at the school entrance, not to mention the library crossing, the churches, and the people who want to sit on their front porches?

The proposed "stack" is to be 500 ft in the air. That means the folks on Gray Hill might even see the top. So whatever comes out of the "stack" could blow straight into their homes, settle into the St. Paul valley or rain out of the sky into the water that we drink. I certainly don't have the answers to the air quality and water quality that will affect this area for the rest of our lives. I'm just hoping that someone does.

More coal mining jobs for Southwest Virginia? That coal is probably being mined already......I'm afraid this plant will be burning the used coal, which is the worst. By the way, Dominion officials were asked in a public meeting the question, "What is the percentage of recovery from the burning of waste coal?" Their reply was 15 percent. That means that 85 % will go back into the "landfill” area in Virginia City. That area is now tree covered and looks fairly good; however, the trees will be timbered and the top soil will be dozed away to make room for the fly ash to start filling the valleys and hollows, after that a liner will be put on the ground to keep the toxins from seeping into our ground water. This liner only has a life of 20 years. What will happen after that? What have we left for our children and grand children?

Out migration is already a huge problem in our area, even the folks who mine coal, and make big bucks don't want to live here anymore. They have all moved to finer places in Washington County or out by South Holston Lake. So why would anyone remotely believe that we will have people scrambling to live in St. Paul beside a power plant? I truly don't have the answers; however, I am convinced that neither does anyone else who has the power to make better decisions for their constituents.

Revitalization coming to St. Paul, and any other small town in this region should not depend on Dominion's plant. We should be looking for other avenues for economic support other than the coal business. Look at the example of The Appalachian School of Law or Appalachian School of Pharmacy, and we won’t forget University of Virginia’s College at Wise, which is now bringing in medical Doctors to intern in rural areas, with hopes that they will want to stay in our rural area, or at least practice in another rural area somewhere in America. I was stopped at my mail box by a gentleman who was just hired by UVA. He was looking for a home to buy; however, he was very concerned about the power plant, and the property values going into decline, and the possible effects he could suffer: health or wealth. He made a statement to me about the area. He said that it was like driving through a park: Beautiful, lush and green.

Small downtown areas will never be the same as you and I remember. Wal-Mart has made sure of that, and I happen to visit the Wal-Mart on occasion. However, we need to look within ourselves for the vision of our neighborhoods, communities and towns. The model town that St. Paul Tomorrow often looks to is Abingdon. Abingdon thrives from tourism…..and not from the businesses of 30 years ago. There was a time when the Town of Abingdon’s storefronts were almost empty and their streets were nearly void of customers, “The Martha” was almost closed and the Barter Theater’s seats were appalling, also while attending the Barter Play House with my children, we sat on slabs of wood for benches; that was 1980. The forest service was creating The Creeper Trail, and many property owners were grumbling at the prospect of strangers having access to their property. The sleepy little town awakened once a year when the Highlands Festival would take place. Over the past 15-20 years, as thinking changed, so did the town. More and more affluent folks want to live there; however, it’s the tourists who spend their money there. These are the folks who don’t want a Wal-Mart in their backyard.

We all like to flip the switch and have light, and yes it is 91 degrees today; however, my house is quite comfortable at 72 constant degrees. I do love the amenities that electricity brings, and I am well aware of the price we must pay to have these amenities; however, I personally don’t want economic help in the form of another power plant.
A Dominion official is quoted in the Coalfield Progress as saying, “I wouldn’t want it in my backyard.” Well, I ask…. “Why do we want it in ours”…..?

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and love to you and your family.

The above information concerning the power plant has been obtained by:
Attending several public meetings which was hosted by Dominion (the 700 coal trucks info, valley fill, fly ash percentage, stack height, is from Dominion officials)
The Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, Clinch Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, Black Diamond RC & D.
Open forum with Dominion representatives and Virginia Tech professor –Dr. Richard Neves.
Much of the information concerning tourism and sustainable growth is in part my opinion and information gathered from sustainable development workshops supported in part by TNC and St. Paul Tomorrow’s strategic plan.
The AEP outage information came from the men working at the Carbo plant, and an AEP employee confirming the approximate number of outage workers.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

On Being A Rebel

Proud to be a rebel

Being born and raised in southern West Virginia was a good experience. People were friendly in my small town. I knew almost everyone. But my parents did know everyone. And people knew my mom’s car. Therefore, I could not even park outside a yellow line without my mom knowing about it before I even got home. I had enough to eat and a good place to sleep. Life was good and simple.

My first job and relocation was to Bristol, Tennessee. Another fine town. No language barrier because most people spoke in the same accent as me and my wife. Even now, I tell my wife I would not mind at all to move back to the Bristol area.

Then came our relocation to New York State, the Binghamton area. And things were different. People seemed less friendly; we knew no one, there was no eye contact when people passed on the street, no one spoke, and more hustle and bustle. Not all bad, we did make some good friends while in New York and #2 son was born there.

One of my favorite memories is of a lady from work. After hearing me talk in a southern drawl, she gave me the nickname of “Rebel”. I promptly gave her the name of “Yank”. We addressed each other by those names all the time I was there. When she gave me that name, I took it as a compliment, and I still would today.

Rebel, or Johnny Reb, refers to Confederate soldiers, or southerners in general. But it also can mean “insurrectionist, mutineer, traitor”, which could be considered bad. But it also means ‘someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action, or maverick”, which I would consider a good thing.

However this lady meant it, I took it as a compliment. A song by Confederate Railroad called “I Am Just a Rebel” puts it into words. It goes something like this…

…being a hillbilly don’t get down,
I like it like that, in fact
You know it makes me proud.

I’m American made by my Ma and Pa,
Southern born by the grace of God.
Proud to be a rebel
Till they put me in the ground…

………Confederate Railroad

Proposed Dominion Power Plant: Economic Boon or Polluting Menace?

The first lesson I ever remember getting in economics and politics came from my Dad, whose Eastern Kentucky family had suffered greatly during The Great Depression. He was a big fan of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he never pretended to be objective about things when it came to his views on politcs (or anything else for that matter). When I was in elementary school in the 1960's and Lyndon Johnson was running for president, I asked my dad what the difference was between a Republican and a Democrat. Without hesitation, he replied something to the effect that Democrats wanted to help the regular people and Republicans wanted to only help rich people, while letting small remnants of that help "trickle down" to all the rest of us. I must admit this shaped my political views in large part during my growing up years, and I resented any notion that "trickle down" economics was a good thing. As I grew up I learned it was more complicated than that.

In my adulthood I moved to the city and joined the real world of Corporate America for a time. As part of the corporate world I saw first hand that job creation could be a good thing for regular people even if corporations were only operating in their own self interest. So I must admit that when I heard a couple of years ago that Dominion Power was considering spending millions or even billions of dollars on a "clean coal" burning power plant in Wise County, Virginia my first reaction was utter excitement and enthusiasm. I have watched with dismay over the past 30 years the degradation that comes from a struggling economy in the little town of Saint Paul where I grew up many years ago. I haven't lived there since 1975, but I like to visit when I can. It is sad to see that the storefronts that in my childhood held displays of silver tea services and fancy ladies silk scarves are now all boarded over, or convey an invitation to the pool hall or second hand store within. Communities that are dependent on the coal industry are like that, with their fortunes waxing and waning depending upon the plans and successes of their benefactors. It's an unhealthy symbiotic arrangement for a community's long term growth and well being.

The local folks are working on revitalizing downtown Saint Paul, but I think that everyone would admit that without a sustainable source of jobs creating ongoing revenue for the area, revitalization will not last. Supposedly the power plant will not only provide needed jobs at the plant itself, it will also help the coal industry because according to what I've been told, Virginia coal is required to be used as its fuel source. But I also heard some grumblings last year that while hundreds of workers will be needed to build the plant, the number of jobs that the plant will provide long term is a fraction of the number of workers needed for its construction. Hmmmm . . . There will be lots of factors to digest it would seem to develop a conclusive opinion.

Adopting a firm opinion is also complicated by the fact that I'm also one of the biggest tree huggers you'll ever meet, and have been a card carrying member of the Sierra Club for decades. I've dragged my children all over this country to visit America's amazing National Parks system, and I can attest that until you've sat on the banks of Jenny Lake and looked up at the snow capped tops of the Grand Teton Mountains, you haven't really lived at all. So I am torn, especially when I received an email yesterday authored by an Appalachian ex-pat like myself, who lives in Mill Valley, California. This California man is a cousin of one of my dearest friends (who still lives in St. Paul) and is an Episcopal priest. From his home on the West Coast, it seems that he's gone on a one man crusade against the power plant, and what it might do to spoil the natural beauty and environmental soundness of his native Southwest Virginia. I've gotten emails from him about the plant before, but this email announced that a group calling itself the Energy Justice Network plans to hold a protest on Monday at Dominion Power here in Richmond in opposition to the proposed plant.

The message about the protest was addressed to "all mountain lovers, energy activists, students, electricity consumers, and caring people!" While I consider myself to be part of most of those groups, I'm not convinced that a protest is an effective or wise tool to use at this point. The message also states that "[t]here is no such thing as 'clean' coal. Coal's dirty when you dig it, dirty when you prep it for and haul it to market, dirty when you burn it, dirty when you dispose of the ash, and it sure dirties up politics!" I guess my gut feeling is that it would be of no use to protest at Dominion even if I decided I was against the plant. It seems to me that if the group wants to be heard they should have contacted their elected officials to express their concerns. But I can relate to their feelings of frustration and maybe they just want to protest to make themselves feel better, and that's o.k. I guess. I share many of their concerns, and I wonder if as a matter of policy we want to continue our reliance on fossil fuels in general. I'm also very, very troubled about the pollution that will be caused by the plant. But I want to support efforts to jump start the economy of Appalachian Virginia.

When I was practicing law in Kentucky, I once represented one of the nation's largest manufacturers of baseball bats. I loved visiting their factory. It was squeaky clean and brightly lit and the workers were all fiercely proud of the product they were producing. Even though many were assisted by machinery, they were all highly skilled craftspeople who loved what they did. The only byproduct of their work were piles of extremely fragrant shavings of Northern White Ash, which caused no harm to the environment upon disposal. So I found myself thinking today about the baseball bat industry, and how nice it would be if we could find a nice nonpolluting industry to help Southwest Virginia. I'd love it if my native region could get a permanent divorce from the coal industry, as it has been a battered spouse in its marriage with Big Coal for generations.

But I'd also like to see the store fronts of Saint Paul bustling again. In my dreams I can walk along its main street on the sidewalk and look at all the pretty things that are in the windows, just like in my childhood. In these visions, its main business district will always have a Western Auto, a Norton Floral Shop, a Woolworth's and a Willis Department Store instead of empty storefronts. I wish someone could find a way to make this happen without also making a big ugly mess. In my dreams someone besides Big Power and Big Coal will come a courtin' the Perty Miss Southwest Virginia. But if no one else comes, perhaps a less than perfect marriage might be better than her continuing to be an economic spinster.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The shack out back

Tennesseans called it the “la-la.” Elsewhere known as the john, the shanty, the shack, the throne, the shed, the relief office—it was the humble outhouse. The little buildings "out back" were as important as any building built before indoor plumbing. This was the building you located as soon as possible when you came to visit, and if your guest was the preacher, you invited him outside on some pretext so he could spot "the necessary room" without asking.

During the 1930s the WPA built thousands of outhouses across America. Three-man teams would spend an average of twenty hours on the construction of each one. Where possible the farm family receiving the new outhouse would pay for the materials (about $17 per outhouse), while the WPA supplied the labor free.

These were outhouses like America had never seen before. The American Red Cross developed the basic design. This design featured an enclosed, vented pit for the waste, was fly and vermin proof, and afforded a standard of cleanliness and sanitation that earlier generations would have considered effete. building had a concrete floor and a carefully carpentered seat with a close fitting lid to exclude flies. Although many design variations existed, the two basic designs were single seater and two seater.

The two seater was preferred by large families---the second seat had a smaller hole to prevent children from falling through---by those who liked company, and by those who needed a place to set their lantern at night.

“To the right of the narrow entrance was a complete collection of fishing equipment ranging from rods and reels to every size, shape and color of lure imaginable. Directly above these hung an array of ingenious traps which proved to be the scourge of every muskrat and mink for five miles up or down river. In the rear of the little edifice stood two tall bushel baskets containing an endless conglomeration of treasures ranging from outdated articles of clothing to ancient magazines.

“The latter provided amusement and literary driblets for the perusal of the lackadaisical visitor who wished to bide his time informatively. And we must not overlook that standard piece of equipment without which the outhouse would not have been an outhouse--that savior of the toilet-paper-destitute family--the good old catalog. Where would we have been without it? Why do you think the mail-order house was such a thriving success?”

Robert E. Dalton
born Robert E. Lee Dalton, 1938,
in Itman, Wyoming County, WV

And those crescent moon cutouts on the door? That goes back to Colonial times. In a time when few people could read, the crescent moon was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men.


Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Appalachian Art Form: Acid Mine Drainage Tie-Dying

The ninth annual Clinch River Days Festival was held the first weekend in June in Saint Paul, Virginia and according to all reports it was a rousing success. There were juried art and photography exhibitions, singing competitions, canoe rides on the Clinch River, and according to the CRDF website there were wine tastings, games, amusements and food vendors among many other activities.

But this week's Clinch Valley Times has an interesting report by Chris Green of the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable about a new activity which took place this year: tie dying t-shirts with Acid Mine Drainage (AMD). Mr. Green reports that the "craft" of AMD tie dying was used to raise awareness of the serious threat to water quality presented by AMD emanating from abandoned coal mine sites, and the need for AMD treatments to improve water quality in affected waterways. Some readers might already be aware that the Clinch River is one of the most unique bodies of water in North America, being home to mussels found no where else in the world.

Although the creation of tie dyed shirts with AMD is a unique and clever "craft", let's hope that ways are found to render this art form, and the poison which is used in the process of its creation, things of the past. If you'd like to learn more about the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, visit them at

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blog-of-Note: Orlando, West Virginia

Orlando, West Virginia Circa 1918

Hyper-local blogs are all the rage right now, and few of them are as hyper (um, local) as the Orlando, West Virginia blog. Worth at least an hour or two of your time.

Oh, and say hello to Uncle Zeke for me.

And Now, Something a Little Different . . .

So I'm looking for local music for my iPod on the not-yet legendary (but soon to be) Podbop and an idea hits me - see if you (being me, of course, as I was talking to myself) can't find some West Virginia bands that are still pupating in their pre-national stage. Simple enough, right? But I put one restriction on myself - no mountain music, bluegrass, or country bands. Why, you're (being you, since now I'm writing for and to you) asking, would you be fool enough to do that? Simply put, cause its time for something a little different.

Ohhhhh, and before I leave you alone, a couple points. First, these bands come from several different genre - if one style doesn't appeal to you, no tear - try out a couple others. I have a feeling there is something for everyone here - we're in the Trust Tree, you know, the nest. Second, these aren't bands with national contracts guaranteeing them an income at least three times that of the average American for two months of touring and a month in the studio (ahem). These are real musicians, folks who have to tour to make a living. If you like their stuff, buy the CDs and hit up their shows. Support live music.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Music in the Highlands

What's better than a drive into the mountains when your end destination is Virginia's Grayson Highlands State Park? How about an afternoon of sitting in the sun listening to new and old musical legends. Yesterday was the 13th annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition. I was joined by hundreds of spectators for a day of listening to twenty young and old musicians step onto the stage and burn up their strings, trying to impress the judges with their flatting pickin', to win the covenanted first place trophy, a Henderson Guitar. In the end, the judges narrowed the contestants down to five and final round commenced. All sounded like they played guitar for a living but none have a recording contract, yet. Past winners like Tyler Grant and Scott Fore have gone on to record albums and play with some of Nashville's top bands. This year's winner is Allen Shadd from Fort Mill, SC. While his performance was good, I thought second place winner Aaron Williams, who is still a teenager, was the best. Keep your eyes and ears open for those names in the future.After the competition, a couple of bands took the stage, including Doc Watson. Ever since I saw Watson live last year, a song of his is always loaded on one of my mix CDs or iPod. If you have to chance to see him in a town near yours, take advantage of the appearance. The highlight of this show was his version of Ella Fitzgerald's Summertime. He was joined by his blues pickin' grandson, Richard, and Wayne Henderson for this tune. The first verse wrapped up my thoughts for the day: "Summertime, and the living is easy."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Did the early polio vaccine cause cancer??

In October 1960, Dr. Bernice Eddy gave a talk to the Cancer Society in New York without warning her employer, the National Institutes of Health, in advance. She startled the attendees by announcing that she had examined cells from monkey’s kidneys in which the polio virus to be used in polio vaccines was grown, and had found they were infected with cancer causing viruses. Dr. Bernice Eddy

She had decided on her own initiative to test extracts by innoculating newborn hamsters, since these animals developed tumors with a type of virus she and Dr. Sarah Stewart had previously discovered in mice and named polyoma virus (one of the early known cancer-causing viruses, it was later named the SE (Stewart-Eddy) Polyoma Virus in their honor.)

The inoculated hamsters developed tumors similar to those induced with polyoma virus. Her inference was clear: There were cancer-causing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine. She warned an epidemic of cancer in America was in the making. When the word got back to her NIH bosses, they exploded in anger.

Polio vaccineWhen the cussing stopped, her superiors crushed Bernice Eddy career wise. Any mention of cancer causing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine was not welcomed by NIH. They took away her lab, destroyed her animals, put her under a gag order, prevented her from attending professional meetings, and delayed publication of her scientific paper. In the words of Edward Shorter, author of The Health Century, ‘Her treatment became a scandal within the scientific community.’

Later, it became the subject of a congressional inquiry. In the words of Dr. Lawrence Kilham, a fellow NIH researcher who wrote a latter of protest to the Surgeon General’s office, ‘the presence of a cancer virus in the polio virus vaccine is the matter demanding full investigation.’ Her discovery was in fact subsequently validated by Drs. Maurice Hilliman and Benjamin Sweet of Merck. After additional studies, the vaccine was found to not cause tumors in humans, but Dr. Eddy was still restricted by the government from publishing anything about her work.

The work of Dr. Eddy and others led to safe polio vaccines through thorough testing, and provided a major impetus for further research on cancer viruses. The United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare awarded her a Superior Service Medal in 1967.

Bernice Eddy Wooley, Ph.D
born Glendale, WV

originally blogged at Appalachian History

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fast Mail 1102

Fast Mail 1102
The Ballad of The Old 97

The Southern Railway train from Monroe, VA to Spencer, N.C., derailed at Stillhouse Trestle near Danville, Virginia, in Pittsylvania Co on September 27, 1903, killing 11. The train, driven by Joseph A. ("Steve") Broadey consisted of four cars and the No. 1102 locomotive. At the time engineers were harshly penalized steep fines for each minute late at the Spencer stop and since the engine was running late Mr. Broadey launched down the hills at break neck speeds to make up time. “At Monroe, Broadey was instructed to get the Fast Mail to Spencer, 166 miles distant, on time. The scheduled running time from Monroe to Spencer was four hours, fifteen minutes, an average speed of approximately 39 MPH (62.4 KM/H). In order to make up the one-hour delay, the train's average speed would have to be at least 51 MPH (82 KM/H). Broadey was ordered to maintain speed through Franklin Junction, an intermediate stop normally made during the run.” (Wikipedia)
In haste to stay on time the train rolled down the hillside before a sharp curve leading onto Stillhouse Trestle, which spanned Cherrystone Creek, at a supposed 70 MPH. Steve saw the curve and locked the breaks causing the train to jump off its tracks and plunge from the trestle.
The story made it’s way into folk ballads as a horrific documentation of the train lifestyle. Furthermore, this ballad became to be known as the first copyright lawsuit in the music business. The confusion began when a slew of people were recognized as the author of the song; Henry Whitter, Fred Jackson, Charles Noel, Vernon Dalhart, and David G. George. “Originally, the ballad was attributed to Fred Jackson Lewey and co-author Charles Noel. Lewey claimed to have written the song the day after the accident, in which his cousin Albion Clapp was one of the two firemen aboard the ill-fated train. Lewey worked in a cotton mill that was at the base of the trestle, and also claimed to be on the scene of the accident pulling the victims from the wreckage. Musician Henry Whitter subsequently polished the original, altering the lyrics, resulting in the version performed by Dalhart. (Wikipedia) In 1933 the courts ruled that David G. George was the song's original author.

Tarheel Press

Blueridge Institute

The Origins of a Modern Traditional Ballad, "Wreck of the Old 97" at

"History of the Wreck of the Old 97" by G. Howard Gregory.

"The Wreck of the Old 97"

On one cloudless morning I stood on the mountain,
Just watching the smoke from below,
It was coming from a tall, slim smokestack
Way down on the Southern railroad.

It was 97, the fastest train
Ever ran the Southern line,
All the freight trains and passengers take the side for 97,
For she's bound to be at stations on time.

They gave him his orders at Monroe, Virginia,
Saying, "Stevie, you're way behind time.
This is not 38, but it's Old 97,
You must put her into Spencer on time."

He looked 'round and said to his black greasy fireman,
"Just shovel in a little more coal,
And when I cross that old White Oak Mountain
You can just watch Old 97 roll."

It's a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And the lie was a three-mile grade,
It was on that grade that he lost his air brakes,
And you see what a jump that she made.

He was going down the grade making 90 miles an hour,
When his whistle began to scream,
He was found in that wreck with his hand on the throttle,
He was scalded to death by the steam.

Did she ever pull in? No, she never pulled in,
And at 1:45 he was due,
For hours and hours has the switchman been waiting
For that fast mail that never pulled through.

Did she ever pull in? No, she never pulled in,
And that poor boy must be dead.
Oh, yonder he lays on the railroad track
With the cart wheels over his head.

97, she was the fastest train
That the South had ever seen,
But she run so fast on that Sunday morning
That the death score was numbered 14.

Now, ladies, you must take warning,
From this time now and on.
Never speak harsh words to your true loving husband.
He may leave you and never return.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summer Readin'

This entry started on an entirely different subject, but forces from the vast reaches of cyberspace pulled it in a new direction. After an undetermined amount of time clicking through page after page, I emerged from the rabbit hole that is the internet and found myself with a handsome list of Appalachian reading materials(Amazon and their endless suggestions had much to do with this). I thought to myself, 'Why not just blog some of these books that keep catching my attention?'

My summers have always been filled with reading, even in my early days earning a penny per page from my mom. Since we already have our 'ritin' assignment, I thought a readin' list might be good, too. Now we just need a mathematician among us to provide our 'rithmetic!!

Here are several books that I've added to my reading list:

Encyclopedia of Appalachia
edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell
(I just received a copy for my birthday from my sister who works at ETSU's CASS. At 1864 pages, this one might take until next summer!)

Appalachian Folkways (Creating the North American Landscape)
by John B. Rehder

Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia
by Anthony Cavender

African American Miners and Migrants: THE EASTERN KENTUCKY SOCIAL CLUB
by Thomas E. Wagner and Philip J. Obermiller

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians
as sung by Jean Ritchie

Got any other good finds in your stack of books? Tag them on in your comments!!

Language with gumption

When you’re talking with family, are you liable to let down your guard a little and use a bit more Appalachian English and a bit less Standard American English?

For example, the Standard American English word might be faucet, but the Appalachian English version would be spigot. If somebody looks sick, we might say, "he's peaked" (that's peek-ed). Did you hurt your finger? Then we might say you "stoved it up." Some people say "knowed" rather than "knew." We're famous for our double negatives. "I don't have none of that." Our present perfect tense has raised some eyebrows, too. "He's done done it now!" While we’re at it, here’s a little mini-dictionary to amuse the lexicographers:

A little past plumb-----not right in the head
Atter wile-----------------after a while
Back door trots-------------diarreah
Beer Eats-----fastfood joint
Can't put an old head on young shoulders--intelligence differences
Dead dog tired--------- weary
Don't swing so big----don't swing so high
Dreckly-----directly, in a short while
Fast as greased lightning------------speedy
Fixing to-----getting ready to
Full of spunk------------ spirited
Gittin too big for his britches-----conceited
Gommin' up the table------making a mess
Gumption-- drive or spirit
Jerk a knot in your tail-----parent to unruly kid
Juberous----- leery
Made the riffle------ completed a business deal
Nary a one----don't have any at all
Ninny----short for nincompoop
Nussing----- nursing
Peep-Eye-----same as peek-a-boo
Pime blank---exactly
Play purties-----toys
Poor as Job's turkey----------without funds
Reach me that-----give me that
Shirky--------doing a job poorly
Shite poke-----skinny, sickly looking
Slop jar-----a chamber pot
Sober as a judge-------sobriety
Spoondiken------also known as 'courting'
This milk's blinky-------spoiled milk
Three sheets in the wind----------intoxicated
Too slow to stop quick---------- pokey
Weed monkey----a loose woman
With-----tree branch, used for punishment
Woods colt-----child born out of wedlock

Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Stories from an Appalachian Market

Red and the Missus'

I saw her across the crowded dirt track that was the thoroughfare of Morristown, Tennessee's First Monday Market.

I had just had to convince my friend to NOT buy me a trio of ducklings. I was disarmed by the little bundles of fuzz as always, but remembering how taxing it is to brood waterfowl, I didn't want to bring them home with me. Plus, they needed special un-medicated feed and I didn't have a brooder set up. So I left the three baby Muscovy's there with some reluctance.

I turned and saw her. Her carriage was part of what drew my eye to her. She was thin like a reed with narrow shoulders and seemed to sway with a wind that only she could feel. Her smile was soft and sweet. She stood behind a booth fashioned from two card tables stuck together and planks that rested on the bed of the farm-weathered pick-up truck. She had a pile of T-shirts and some dolls laying out on the table. Some of the dolls were complete and some were just bodies and heads laying about like infants at a crime scene.

You know the sort of doll. It's a plastic doll with an over-sized head that has been lovingly dressed up in doilies and crocheted bits of garb. You don't play with these dolls. I'm never quite sure what you really are supposed to do with them other than show them off at the craft section of the county fair. I've seen their lower bodies removed so the bell-shaped skirt can be a tea cozy or hide a tissue box.

I smiled shyly at her and asked, "Did you make these?"

She looked very closely at my mouth as I spoke and I realized she was nearly deaf.

She brushed her wispy hair from the side of her face. "No, I jess picked them up at auction."

I knew what she was talking about. I liked to attend the auctions too. They will sell stuff in lots and one lot might have one thing that you are highly desirous of and everything else is just junk. I once picked up a bronze Chinese gui vase that someone had mistaken for a tractor part at auction but had to buy quite possibly the ugliest hand crocheted afghan in the world along with it. I sold it on EBay, labeling it, "Ugliest Afghan I've Ever Seen." I couldn't believe someone bought it.

She had a darkening bruise on the side of her chin that she reached up and stroked self-consciously. She felt compelled to explain it to me. I think she knew what it must look like.

"Well, I was chasing the great grandchild an' trying to keep up with him and I slipped on the wet grass. It could have been worse, I might have broken something."

I agreed with her and I did believe she has slipped and fallen. I couldn't imagine anyone striking such a delicate and lovely old woman.

As if he had heard, a jovial male voice boomed from the side of the old pick-up.

"She showing you where I clocked her one?"

He was like a trim, jolly, Appalachian Santa with his snow white beard and rosy complexion. He was 78 by his own admission. He still had some of his own teeth left though they weren't in the greatest of shape. But there was nothing sinister in the grin he seemed to perpetually wear. He wears the new, pressed Liberty overalls that seem to be the trademark of so many older Appalachian country gentlemen. A watch fob dangles out of the bib pocket.

As a couple, the two made perfect sense. She was the shy and sweet one and he was the gregarious one. They came here to the market every First Monday from their farm below Sevierville. They didn't seem to have much to sell, but I suspect this is more of a social outing than anything else for them.

She sits with the stand while he wanders about socializing. Neither of them can hear so good anymore. She is very quiet while he can chatter on a mile a minute.

He tells me that he and his wife like "old-timey" things. They like to live that way as well. This is a matter of familiarity and comfort for them. She still cans. He still makes a garden. They keep goats and birds. He shows off the set of ring-tailed doves he bought today to add to their dove cote.

He used to work with mules. He actually worked at Dollywood for a time and some TV commercials hired him and his mules. I could see how he would appear to be straight out of Central Casting to the outside world. Here, at Morristown's First Monday Market, he blends into the crowd.

They didn't ask him to talk much, he said. "Some of those fellers could talk more plainly, but I couldn't. I don't just look like the real thing, I told them, I am the real thing."

He had a stroke some years back and can no longer work the mules. He apologizes several times and says that since the stroke he "don't string together his words so good anymores".

I tell him that I hadn't noticed.

"So, how did you two meet?" I ask. It's my favorite question.

He looks at her with unbridled affection. She looks back and smiles.

"Well, we been married fifty-eight years." He says.

She smiles slyly and says, "My, has it been that long?"

He chuckles.

The first time he saw her he was at a church social. The point of the social was for each girl to bake a pie and then the boys would bid on the pies. The boy with the winning bid would then have the pleasure of sitting with the baker and sharing her pie with her for the evening.

"I didn't have no money so I didn't get a pie." He said. "But that was the first time I saw her and she was just a skinny little slip of a thing! Her arms weren't no bigger'n this!"

He demonstrates the thinness of her arms using his thumb and forefinger.

"She were only 13 at the time though. We didn't get married though until she were 17."

It took a while to disentangle myself from the threads of their conversation. I was happy that they were living their traditional Appalachian life on their own terms. But I can't help but wonder what is going to happen when all of them are gone. All of the ones like Red and the Missus'. I know they are disappearing, even though I live so firmly in their midst that the outside is what now seems strange to me.

In my mind's eye, I don't see them dying out. I just see them disappearing into the blue mist.

I guess I'll join them there some day.

Postcards from the Mountains: Post-Script

Earlier this evening, I posted a blog entry of random postcards - soon there after, however, friend of us here at HS Tim "the Flannel Enigma" Truxell commented, noting the absence of a college near his hometown, a certain Washington and Lee University. Now, I didn't intend to try to hit a ton of colleges, but I did (unconscious desires manifesting themselves in HTML) and I recognized that I should defer to his request. A quick search of yielded immediate results - if you please:

Great, eh? I love W&L's campus, always have. But I did go to Emory & Henry and I just can't let this opportunity go by without responding to the Enigma's request without shouting out to the Wasps. Blue and Gold, baby.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Postcards from the Mountains

King College
Bristol, Tennessee
(Penny Postcards from Bristol and
Kingsport, Tennessee - USGenWeb Archives)

Johnson City, Tennessee
(Johnson's Depot)

Chattanooga, Tennessee
(University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; Lupton Library -
"Early 20th Century Chattanooga Postcards)

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia
(Penny Postcards from Charlottesville, Virginia - USGenWeb Archives)

Franklin, North Carolina
(Postcards of Western North Carolina)

Wheeling, West Virginia
(Wheeling National Heritage Area)

Blowing Rock
Avery County, North Carolina
(Boone Historic Archives)

Grandfather Mountain
Avery County, North Carolina
(Penny Postcards from North Carolina - USGenWeb Archives)

Hollins University
Roanoke, Virginia
(Penny Postcards from Virginia - USGenWeb Archives)

The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

Johnson City, Tennessee
(Vintage East Tennessee Postcards)

Knoxville, Tennessee
(Penny Postcards from Tennessee - USGenWeb Archives)

Ashland, Kentucky

West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia


Charleston, West Virginia
(Penny Postcards from West Virginia; USGenWeb Archives)

Davis & Elkins College
Elkins, West Virginia

Note: Many, though not all, of the websites on this page have original postcards for sale - this is their operator's livelihood. I recommend that, if you enjoy the cards on display here it is worth considering a purchase. Thanks for your services, folks.