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Exploring Unique Connections — Both To And In — Appalachia

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Heather Niday
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For Inside Appalachia
Trevor Hammons and his mother Teresa. Hammons is carrying on his family's music legacy.

There is a deep connection among generations that holds steady for many families across central Appalachia. Perhaps it’s a combination of shared struggles and enduring repeated cycles of economic boom and bust. Maybe it’s our deep ties to the land that help bind so many of us to our past — after all, these mountains are among the oldest on the planet. While many Appalachians have fled the region in search of better opportunities, many of them we interview on Inside Appalachia tell us about the pull to return, even after many years. 

What happens to these bonds, even if we can’t meet face to face? 

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is about family. Though many of us are physically separated, there are ways we can remain connected. 

This time apart may have taught us the importance, and provided a means, of recording the stories of our relatives to be preserved for future generations. 

We’ll hear how a teenager in Pocahontas County was inspired when he heard the recordings of his musical ancestors from decades earlier. 

Trevor Hammons was just a young kid when he first listened to his ancestor Lee Hammons, on an album that was recorded by the Library of Congress in the 1970s. Through those recordings, and his music teacher Pam Lund, Trevor was able to pick up his family’s musical legacy. Members of The Hammons Family are known across the world for their distinct style of old-time mountain music.

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During the pandemic, most of us have been spending more time at home. For many of us, it’s allowed more time for bonding, and perhaps reconnecting with our families, including our furry friends. Maybe you’ve been spending more time at home and wondering, is this a good time to adopt a pet? We’ll share advice to help you weigh the realities of adopting a pet during the pandemic.

In This Episode

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Credit Trey Kay / WVPB
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WVPB
Trey Kay's family chats by video to keep in touch.

Remaining Connected Even When Apart

Us & Them host Trey Kay lives in New York, but he often travels to West Virginia for work. He also grew up here and remains close to his family in Charleston, W.Va. 

Just as the coronavirus lockdown began, Kay arrived in Charleston and has been living here ever since. In this episode we listen to an excerpt of a recent episode of Us & Them where he explores what it means to feel like a stranger in your hometown. We also hear from a researcher who wrote a book about the lessons we can learn from past pandemics, and some of the recurring psychological responses to such outbreaks. Turns out, there are Us and Them themes to pandemics from our history, as well as the one we’re currently experiencing.

Preserving Our Loved Ones’ Stories

If you’re using online video chat systems to keep in touch with your family, you can use that time to record your family stories for the benefit of future generations. 

With just a click of a button, you can record your family’s oral histories. Inside Appalachia associate producer Eric Douglas offers some tips. 

Send Us Your Story

If you record an oral history during this pandemic, let us know how it goes. If you and your family are comfortable, you can even send it to us, and we may feature it on an upcoming episode. Email us at insideappalachia@wvpublic.org.

Going To The Dogs

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Credit Courtesy: Huntington Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter
The Huntington Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter

If you’ve been spending your extra time at home thinking about bringing a new pet into your life, it may actually be difficult to adopt at the moment because some shelters have closed their doors and stopped in-person adoptions during the pandemic. 

Adoptions across the country have decreased, according to Pet Point, an online resource for animal shelters. Though when we called animal shelters here in West Virginia, those that remain open say they’ve seen an increase in adoptions, and more people are stepping up to foster animals, here and across the nation.

The future for many animal rescue charities and nonprofits is more unstable. They face funding shortages due to the economic slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some managers worry there will be an increase in people abandoning their pets after they go back to work. So what will happen to these rescue organizations, and all these animals, as states and economies begin to open up?  Reporter Kyle Vass has this story.

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Credit Kara Lofton/ WVPB
Tucker the dog, one of WVPB's 'news hounds'.

Extra Time

If you’ve decided to adopt, all that extra time at home may help you bond with a new furry addition to your family. A student producer at West Virginia University, Maxwell Shavers, brings us the story of what the pandemic has meant for some people wanting to adopt a new dog. 

Finding A New Home

We have one more story about an animal finding his forever home. Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd reported this story last year about a dog who became famous for being impossible to catch. His name is Miller

Miller’s foster mom, Crystal York, has since adopted him and he is doing great. She says he enjoys outrunning all the dogs at the dog park.

Handing The Music Down

In the 1800s, the Hammons Family migrated from Kentucky to what would become Pocahontas and Randolph Counties in West Virginia. Several members of the family became well known for their unique songs and storytelling and will be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Class of 2020. 

Trevor Hammons is the great-grandson of inductee Lee Hammons. Trevor never met his great-grandfather, or any of the other inductees, but their old-time music and love of the mountains lives on in his determination to carry their legacy forward. Folkways reporter Heather Niday has more.

This story is part of our Folkways Reporting Project.

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We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from Us & Them. Special thanks to the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. 

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps and The Hammons Family. 

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Glynis Board. Brittany Patterson edited our show this week. 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 dot org.

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Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program.
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. Her stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for Best Use of Sound and Best Writing for her stories about Appalachian food and culture.
Eric is a native of Kanawha County and graduated from Marshall University with a degree in Journalism. He has written for newspapers and magazines throughout his career. After completing the certificate program with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, he began producing documentaries including Russia: Coming of Age, For Cheap Lobster and West Virginia Voices of War.