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Wildflowers, Turkey Calls and Cuckoo Clocks — And More Inside Appalachia

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Clara Haizlett
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Jon Rugh paddles on the New River near Blacksburg, VA with a handmade paddle.

In the latest episode of Inside Appalachia, we meet a man who makes wooden turkey calls. However, these aren’t ordinary turkey calls — they’re hand-crafted and feature intricate paintings.

“Truthfully, I never called myself an artist, ever,” said Brian Aliff. But now, through a twist of fate, his turkey calls have become collector’s items.

Also on this week’s show, if you’ve spent any time floating on rivers, have you ever come across someone using a handmade wooden paddle? Some paddlers, like Christine Vogler, swear by them.

“For some reason it feels like you're more part of the water,” said Vogler. “Working with the water moving with it. It… feels more spiritual somehow.”

We also travel to some of the most beautiful spots in Appalachia to find wildflowers — Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley of West Virginia. But are these places becoming too popular?

We hear those stories and more in this week’s episode.

In This Episode:

Dolly Sods Hosts Wildflower Pilgrimage

Dolly Sods is federally protected public land — full of rocky ridges, soggy bogs and beautiful views. It’s also the site of an annual nature walk called the West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage. This year was the 59th time that wildflower and birding experts descended on the area for the event.

Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams made the pilgrimage from his home in Floyd County, Virginia to Dolly Sods for the annual event and brings us this story.

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Courtesy Christine Vogler
Christine Vogler paddles over a waterfall with her Jim Snyder paddle.

Paddlers Design Their Own Gear

Appalachia has several huge rivers: the Gauley, the Youghiogheny and the New River, just to name a few. Whitewater paddling is popular in the region, but it wasn’t that long ago modern paddlers first started exploring these rivers, designing their own gear and even building their own paddles. Some of those DIY paddle makers are now master crafters and their work is in high demand.

As part of our Inside Appalachia Folkways Project, Clara Haizlett has more.

Handmade Turkey Calls

Like many Appalachian traditions, turkey calls go way back. Historically, they’ve been used as a hunting tool, but one West Virginia artist has taken it to the next level. Brian Aliff makes hand-crafted, prize-winning decorative turkey calls. These pieces are functional and they’re becoming collector's items, but it took a while for Aliff to think of himself as an artist.

Folkways reporter Connie Kitts talks with Aliff on this week’s episode.

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Connie Kitts
Brian Aliff demonstrates a “lost yelp” on one of his hand-painted “Purr D Calls.”

Ramps Increase In Popularity

As with turkey hunting, people look forward all year long to the spring ramp collecting season. These days, chefs all over the country use ramps — and experts worry the plants could get over-harvested. For many years, ramps were a hidden gem. What do local communities think? Folkways reporter Laura Harbert Allen brings us this story on this popular — and pungent — food.

 

Increase In Tourism Puts Strain On Local Infrastructure

Tucker County, West Virginia, has seen a surge of new visitors in the years since U.S. 48 opened from Washington, D.C. The growing number of visitors is good for business, but it’s also straining the resources of a county with just one stoplight and 7,000 year-round residents. Mason Adams visited the towns of Thomas and Davis in Tucker County, West Virginia and has this story about managing growth and resources against the backdrop of expansive natural beauty.

Keeping The Clocks Ticking

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Zack Harold
Carl Witt in his shop in Fairview, West Virginia.

When you need to check the time, where do you look? Most people turn to their phones or digital watches. These days, it seems like every electronic device has a clock function in addition to whatever it’s supposed to do, but it hasn’t always been this way. Not all that long ago, marking the passage of time was the job of one device — a clock.

Folkways reporter Zack Harold recently spent some time with Carl Witt, a man in Fairview, West Virginia who learned how to repair clocks after crossing paths with the late Charles Decker. Witt, a welder at the time, decided to retire and went on to start his own clock repair business — Curiosity Clockworks.

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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, The Chamber Brothers, and Wes Swing.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.