Love For Mountains And Each Other, Inside Appalachia

Feb 14, 2020

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about love. Not the florist and jewelry store version of love, but love for something deeper: love for home, family, for the mountains. 

We also have a variety of personal love letters from listeners, and we'll talk a little bit about being in love, too.


In This Episode: 

Home and Change

Jeff Kanode is a pastor at the Alderson United Methodist Church and a nonfiction author. He sent us an audio essay about home and what it means for him, offering his own love letter to the Greenbrier Valley. We included an excerpt in the show, but you can listen to the full essay below. 

Love/Hate With Winter 

This time of year the darkness, and the cold, can become exhausting. And driving in the winter can be treacherous — especially in remote, high-altitude regions. But sometimes, in rural communities, help is there, when you need it the most. Glynis Board experienced that a few years ago when she was traveling in Preston County. 

Eagle Love

Credit Three Rivers Avian Center

Humans aren't the only animals who have long term monogamous relationships. In 2015, Roxy Todd visited the Three Rivers Avian Center to hear the story of a couple of "married" eagles who made the New River Gorge their home. This is a story about love, tragedy, and new beginnings.

According to Wendy Perrone with the Three Rivers Avian Center, they are seeing a new pair of eagles around the nest that Streaky and Whitey once called home. But Wendy says all the eagles are slower to nest this year and she isn’t sure if there will be a young eagle hatchling at the Brooks River nest. Still, the eagle numbers so far have continued to rise across the New River Gorge the past couple of years, according to the wildlife experts who conduct the yearly eagle survey each fall.

Love Letters to Appalachia

A few weeks ago, we put out a call to our listeners through our newsletter and on Twitter to send us audio love letters. We used a couple new ones and a couple older ones in this week’s show. 

  • Rance Garrison is a singer/songwriter and graduate student who currently lives in Norton, Virginia with his wife, Andrea.  
  • Betty Rivard is a community organizer and a transplant to Appalachia who fell in love with the mountains and never left. 
  • Alan “Cathead” Johnston is a musician who lives in McDowell County, West Virginia.
  • Willa Johnson is the director of the Appalachian Media Institute at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky. 

For Love of Earth

Mel pours clay soil onto a window screen. He uses it to filter the soil into a five gallon bucket.
Credit Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Most ceramics are made in factories these days, but many of our Appalachian ancestors made their pottery by hand. It was something often done out of necessity and love - creating utensils, plates and bowls for their family to eat with. Today, a lot of artists still make pottery, but it’s rare to find someone who sources their own clay. Our folkways reporter Caitlin Tan visited with potter Mel Sword in Preston County, West Virginia, who puts his own twist on a traditional Appalachian craft. 

Love Letters From Thomas

For a lot of people Valentine's Day is difficult, especially when they aren't in a romantic relationship. But what if it could still be something special? A few years ago, we learned of a project one small West Virginia town did to exchange hundreds of love letters with strangers from across the country. A few years ago we reported on a project folks in Thomas, West Virginia launched where they sent hundreds of love letters to people across the country, in another small town in New Mexico that was selected, basically at random. 

Love Ballads

There are so many lovely songs about love, murder, love lost, and longing across the Appalachian mountains. One example is "The Soldier and the Lady," performed by Tab Ward in the 1960s. It's a true "love song", and is about a soldier who comes back from the war in a disguise and stops to talk with his lover in her garden. 

Thanks to the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection in Beech Mountain North Carolina in for this recording. The song was recorded by a North Carolina toy maker and song collector named Jack Guy. 

Couple Who’s Been Married 67 Years 

Credit Courtesy Frank and Emita Stowers

There is a man who works at West Virginia Public Broadcasting who is something of a legend. Frank Stowers is a part-time host of our classical music programming. Roxy Todd sat down with Frank and his wife of 67 years, Emita Stowers, to hear their story.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Alan Cathead Johnston, Marteka and William, Andrea Tomasi and special thanks to our friends at Mountain Stage who helped gather songs from their archives by Tyler Childers and Mandolin Orange. Also thanks again to the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection in Beech Mountain North Carolina for their help finding old time music for this episode.

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Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Glynis Board. Kara Lofton edited our show this week. Zander Aloi helps promote our show. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to Inside Appalachia@wvpublic.org.