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A Forest Of Mythical Giants, An Heirloom Apple 'Detective,' And Why Some Of The World's Best Steel Drums Are Made In W.Va.

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Cheri Lawson/WEKU
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The pregnant Forest Giant, Mama Loumari lounges at Bernheim Forest.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear the story of a world-renowned steelpan drum maker from Trinidad who built instruments in a former coal mining town in West Virginia, and inspired others to learn his craft.

We'll also talk with a man who treks hundreds of miles to seek out long-lost varieties of heirloom apples.

“West Virginia, I call it my wild-goose-chase state because I’ve gone to so many places where people told me about apple trees used to be - they’re not there," said Tom Brown, who calls himself an "apple detective."

And we’ll visit a park in Kentucky where mythical giants attract visitors from far and wide.

In This Episode:

Forest Giants Delight Visitors

The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has gigantic sculptures installed throughout the park. The wooden giants lounge among the trees and crouch at the water’s edge. They look straight out of a fairy tale. As Cheri Lawson of WEKU reports, adults and children alike come to see the forest giants.

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Cheri Lawson/WEKU
A close-up of the face of Forest Giant, Little Elina, shows detail.

Steel Drums Made In Appalachia

The steel drum is considered a quintessential Caribbean instrument. It’s often featured in both Calypso and Reggae music. It also shows up in all kinds of pop music.But here’s a surprise: Some of the best steel drums in the world are made in West Virginia. People call them the Stradivarius of the steel drum. This week on Inside Appalachia, Folkways reporter Zack Harold brings us the story of the steel drum.

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Jesse Wright
Chanler Bailey works on a steel drum Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at the Manette Musical Instruments workshop in Osage, W.Va.

Man Dedicates Time To “Lost” Heirloom Apples

We are nearing peak fall season in Appalachia. The colors are popping throughout the region and apples are ripening. There’s nothing like the first crisp bite of an apple picked right off a wild tree. This week on the show, Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan talks with Tom Brown. Brown is based in North Carolina and is somewhat of an “apple legend.” He dedicated his retirement years to finding and cultivating “lost” heirloom apple varieties across Appalachia.

So far, Brown has found more than 1,200 apple varieties. But he says there are easily 7,000 in the U.S. If you know where to find a rare apple, let Brown know at his website.

 

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Jessica Lilly
The Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, W.Va. moved to a new location on the same street in 2020.

Mine Wars Museum Expands

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain. In recent episodes, we’ve talked a lot about our region’s history of labor struggles. There’s no better place to experience that history than the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. As Jessica Lilley reports, the newly expanded museum teaches about this often discarded chapter in U.S. history.

Locals Band Together To Clean Up Dump Sites

Also in this episode, we travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to meet the DumpBusters, volunteers who clean up illegal dumpsites in the area. The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple tagged along one Saturday as they tackled mounds of trash on a steep, wooded hillside.

Pittsburgh isn’t alone in its battle against illegal dumping and littering. Over the border in Morgantown, West Virginia, there are a lot of abandoned campsites along the river and in them are people’s left-behind belongings and trash. Rain washes the items into the waterways which can contaminate river ecosystems. Two years ago, co-host Caitlin Tan reported this story about a man who’s taken it upon himself to clean up the trash using unconventional methods.

Since this story originally aired in 2019, Zoma Archambault says there hasn’t been as much trash clean up lately due to the pandemic. But he is still riding ‘Big Red’ — his bicycle — all around Morgantown.

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Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Jake Xerxes Fussell, Saro Lynch-Thomason, Ryan Roberts and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. We had editing assistance this week from Liz Reid and the PMJA Editor Corps. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

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.