We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:
We open today’s show with guest author Adam Booth’s essay on Preserving the Appalachian Way. “Good storytelling isn’t just about telling a good story,” says Booth, a winner of the Northeast Storytelling Festival Liars’ Contest. “Storytelling is a preservation of community, heritage, history and folk life. I see the traditional Appalachian as an endangered species—particularly now with the rapid industrial destruction of those natural features that compose the habitat of so many things Appalachian.”
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
Irish monks in North America, centuries before Columbus? So claimed Dr. Barry Fell (1917-1994), a professor of invertebrate zoology at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, and a president of the Epigraphic Society. Fell’s claims were based on his controversial work in New World epigraphy (the study of inscriptions or epigraphs engraved into stone or other durable materials, or cast in metal, the science of classifying them as to cultural context and date, elucidating them and assessing what conclusions can be deduced from them.)
“I would like to go back and carry a few lap-links in my pocket, just in case the hoss busts a trace chain,” says Roy L. Sturgill in his 1978 memoir of life in SW Virginia, Too Late for Flowers, Never too Late for Tears. “I want to tie the rawhide ham-string once more and adjust the back-band til it is just behind the hoss’s withers. I want to tie my shoes again with laces made of groundhog hide.”
Store-bought Christmas tree ornaments don’t carry nearly the same emotional weight as ornaments that we’ve been given as a gift. “This truly bright spot in Mamma’s life now brightened far more than the corner of her little home with the low ceiling and the unlevel floor,” says West Virginian Foster Mullenax in a Christmas tree-decorating vignette from a 1980 family memoir. “This was what home should be for her children and her man. As she opened the shoebox, the eager kids were almost uncontrollable with excitement over the dazzling tree ornaments for their very own tree.”
We’ll wrap things up with an appreciation for the coming of the winter season in the countryside, by Eric Sloane. “ Just over sixty years ago there were real sounds to winter,” he says. “Steel-shod runners squeaked over the packed snow and the almost constant music of sleigh bells filled the crisp air everywhere. Winter was a season of bells.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Appalachian Center Collection at Berea College’s Southern Appalachian Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by the McLain Family Band in a 1976 recording of Beaumont Rag.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.