W.Va. Coal Miner, Ky Distiller, Former NASA Astronaut, Mill Operator, Chef and more

Oct 17, 2014


In this episode, we hear from Larry Mustain, who grinds heirloom corn at his family’s mill in West Virginia.

And we'll learn more about traveling along the Bourbon Whiskey Trail in Kentucky?

We'll also talk with, Jordan Bridges, a coal miner in southern West Virginia who is worried as more and more mines are laying off workers.


Stone-Grinding West Virginia Cornmeal Since 1791: Roxy Todd of West Virginia Public Radio found one of the few gristmills that has been in continual operation in this country, and it grinds a local heirloom corn that has been passed down for generations.

Bloody Butcher Corn at Reed's Mill
Credit Allender Stewart

Following the Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Alan Lytle of WUKY of Lexington takes us along to some of the distilleries along the trail.  

Checking in with Appalachian Native and Former Astronaut Homer Hickam: Every October, author and West Virginia native, Homer Hickam, makes a trip home for the annual Rocket Boys festival in Beckley. Hickam also makes a point to stop in on his hometown of Coalwood in McDowell County during his visit. Liz McCormick with West Virginia Public Radio got the chance to sit down with Hickam and hear about his hometown, current work, and of course Appalachia.

Yellow-rumped warbler
Credit Alan D. Wilson, naturespicsonline.com

Yellow-rumped warbler: If someone calls you a butter-butt, that may sound like an insult...But it turns out that the butter-butt, the colloquial name for the yellow-rumped warbler, is one smart cookie. The Allegheny Front’s Aidan Place, the show’s resident teenage birder, lets us in on the strategic eating habits of this warbler.

The Climber: For years, Michael Barrick lived in a cabin near Blowing Rock, North Carolilna, which is in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Listen to hear a story about accepting a challenge, and finding the inspiration to climb a mountain thanks to a four-year-old girl.

Looking to try Pawpaws (the fruit)? We checked in with Author Andy Moore, who’s writing a books about pawpaws. He shares how to grow the fruit in your own yard. Moore also says the following nurseries carry pawpaw trees:

One Green World

Edible Landscaping

England's Orchard

Nolin River

Third Generation Coal Miner:

Jordan Bridges is a 26-year-old coal miner in Logan County, in the heart of West Virginia’s southern coal fields and the mountainous green landscape of Appalachia. Jordan and his 21-year-old wife Erica Bridges are both worried about what it would mean for them and their 2-year-old daughter if Jordan loses his job. They don’t want to move away from family and friends and the place they grew up, but they don’t see any other good jobs or industries in this area, apart from coal. Reporter, Rachel Rohr, of NPR and WBUR's Here & Now series Alternative Routes, recently talked with Jordan about his job, and why he wants to continue working as a coal miner. Update from Jordan: "Well as of this past week I started a new job at a different surface mine for a different company so hopefully this works out so far it has. I have been looking around and talking to people and went for a job interview and got the job.  More money but I work night shift now (5:30pm-4:30am)."
After Coal: Students, local officials and candidates for office, community organizers, and residents from across Appalachia packed into the Appalshop theater in downtown Whitesburg, Kentucky to participate in a public forum. WMMT’s Sylvia Ryerson reports on the possibilities for economic transition in the coalfields, but looking far beyond our own mountains for inspiration and ideas.

West Virginia Students Work with NASA: As the coal industry declines, some educators are exploring how to encourage their students to pursue STEM fields, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students at that very small school are wrapping up a very big science project…with help from NASA. They’re building a full scale model of a satellite. It’s something you might not expect to see at the second-smallest school in the state, but as Liz McCormick of West Virginia Public Radio reports, one teacher had the ambition and enthusiasm to make it happen.

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

What’s in a Name? Pawpaw, WV Did somebody’s grandfather inspire them to name a West Virginia town Pawpaw? Listen to the show to find out.