Arts & Culture


This episode of Inside Appalachia is about returning home. For some people, timing and circumstance force you back. It is only then that you realize how much you missed home. Others spend decades longing to return.

There are many songs about that longing. One of the most famous is “Take Me Home, County Roads,” a song that has come to represent the feeling of homesickness that many Appalachians know so well.

Nicole Musgrave, West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Over the past several months, people have turned to traditional skills and practices as one way of coping with the challenges created by the Coronavirus pandemic. Many have baked bread or started a garden, while others have returned to community traditions of raising and butchering animals at home.

In a special report as part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Project, Nicole Musgrave spoke with several people in Floyd County, Kentucky who have used the pandemic as an opportunity to teach others how to process meat at home.

Connie Kitts / For Inside Appalachia

Known for its distinct sour taste when it first ripens, and its creamy applesauce when it matures, an heirloom apple with Russian roots still grows in Appalachia. Generations of southwest Virginians and West Virginians have kept these trees alive for more than a century. The growing season, flavor and versatility of this fruit set it apart. 

“I think this is an apple that has sour powder in it,” said five-year-old Renee Halsey when she took her first bite of an Early June Transparent Apple from a neighbor’s tree in Bluefield, Virginia.

On this West Virginia Morning, we unpack the iconic song, “Country Roads.” Also, in this show, we bring you this week’s Mountain Stage Song of the Week from Canadian indie-folk rockers Cowboy Junkies.

Courtesy Bill Danoff

One night in 1970, Bill Danoff and his then-girlfriend Taffy Nivert were hanging out with John Denver, and they played a few verses from a song they’d been working on. Denver immediately said he wanted to record it.

“It was sort of like an old movie,” Danoff recalled in a 2010 interview with the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. “You know, ‘why don't we all do it together?’ And I said, ‘okay, well, we got to finish it.’ He said, ‘well, let's finish it.’”

In a new book titled, The Southern Wildlife Watcher: Notes of a Naturalist, author Rob Simbeck explores the wonders and curiosities of wild animals you might be taking for granted, like coyotes, American Robins, or even often underappreciated earthworms. 

The book features essays on 36 animals — 12 each that inhabit land, water and air -- alongside humans throughout the southeastern United States. 

Eric Douglas spoke with him to learn more. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

On this West Virginia Morning, the National Park Service has a new person in charge, and she’s from West Virginia. We have a conversation with Margaret Everson, the organization’s new leader. Also, in this show, we hear about a new book titled “The Southern Wildlife Watcher: Notes of a Naturalist” written by author Rob Simbek.

In the 1950s, U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy became one of the most infamous public figures in American history and he had a unique connection to West Virginia. 

After World War II, as the Soviet Union and communist China expanded, McCarthy led what’s now known as the “Red Scare,” using unsubstantiated claims and slander to accuse U.S. government officials, and private citizens, of being traitors and spies. Many lives and careers were destroyed. 

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear how schools are using federal and state dollars to cope with COVID-19. Also, in this show, we hear about a housing complex in southern West Virginia built for teachers, a Black Lives Matter march in Kingwood, and we hear about author Larry Tye’s new biography, “Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.”

On this West Virginia Morning, we remember two people who strove to make a difference in Appalachia – musician Elaine Purkey and former coal miner Charles Wayne Stanley. Purkey died in September after contracting COVID-19. Stanley passed in August after battling black lung disease.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear about the reopening of the Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, which includes newly researched history about the labor strikes. Also, in this show, we have an update on the trial between Gov. Jim Justice and a Pennsylvania coal exporter. We also have this week’s Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

Cody Veto / Shutterstock

Updated at 7:15 p.m.

This year marks the 19th anniversary of the terror attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

To remember the day, communities in Nicholas, Putnam, Kanawha and Raleigh counties are having live events despite concerns about the coronavirus. 

Kevin Price, the fire department coordinator for Raleigh County and a city councilman for Beckley, said they never considered not having a memorial of some sort. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

National stories about Appalachia sometimes overlook the people who are working on the ground to solve problems in their communities. This episode of Inside Appalachia highlights the work of several people who are thinking outside the box to find solutions.

On this West Virginia Morning, we talk about pictures — and who takes them and what that means in Appalachia. Also, in this show, we hear about a county court in Kentucky that passed a resolution for a Confederate monument to remain on the grounds there, and we bring you this week’s Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

You may have heard of the Paw Paw, but how much do you really know about this mysterious Appalachian fruit? Learn about the Paw Paw from WVU Core Arboretum Director Zack Fowler!

On this West Virginia Morning, we check in with teams distributing anti-overdose drugs to some communities in West Virginia. Also, in this show, West Virginia isn’t the only state grappling with coal industry challenges. We explore how declines in the industry have affected Colorado.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear from a nurse who is taking care of COVID-19 patients. Also, in this show, we listen back to an interview with Jeanette Walls, author of “The Glass Castle.”

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear an excerpt from a recent episode of Us & Them that explores how the coronavirus pandemic exploded telehealth use in the state. Also, in this show, we hear about the sport of Falconry.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcast

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we are listening back to a show that originally aired in 2018. It’s about poverty. Appalachia is not the only place in America where some people live in extreme poverty. But several communities here are among the poorest.

Poverty is an issue that we’re sure to hear even more about in the coming months, perhaps years, as our country grapples with the effects of the recession we’re currently facing as a result of COVID-19.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra has announced it is canceling the first half of its season this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The cancellation affects the concerts scheduled for October through January. The organization hopes to resume with programs scheduled for February through May if possible.

President Joe Tackett said in a news release the orchestra has received support from patrons, donors and corporate, foundation and community partners for 81 years but expects the cancellations will have “a tremendous impact on the finances of the orchestra.”

Courtesy photo

David Joy is an award-winning author from the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. His latest novel, “When These Mountains Burn,” is set against the backdrop of the 2016 forest fires that tore through the region, as well as the opioid epidemic that is still destroying communities around him. 

In the book, Joy looks at how different communities are responding to the epidemic, from the white mountain community where his characters live, to the nearby Eastern Band of Cherokee tribal community that takes a more supportive approach. 

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear from artists working hard every day to bring us beauty and perspective here in Appalachia.

Reenactors in period costume at the recent Suffrage Centennial event at the West Virginia Culture Center
Janet Kunicki / WVPB

The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, is Wednesday, Aug. 26. Across the state, in-person and virtual commemorations will honor the day.

Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919, with West Virginia becoming the 34th state to ratify it. It was added to the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920.


Human beings are social creatures, but the pandemic is making it difficult to interact with one another. It is also bringing to light just how important human connection is in our lives.

The West Virginia Mountaineers take the field during the NCAA college football game between West Virginia University and University of Maryland in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
Brian Ach / AP Photo

West Virginia's season opener next month will be held without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university announced Thursday.

The Mountaineers will face Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12.

On this West Virginia Morning, we visit a hollow in Keyser where one family is investing in the health of local forests and reaping some surprising benefits. We also explore what virtual school could look like this fall.

Courtesy photo

A 1969 federal law, following the Farmington Mine Disaster, was supposed to improve working conditions in the coal mines, which have long been connected to black lung disease. But, 51 years later, the rate of those with black lung is higher than ever.

On this West Virginia Morning, we focus on one of the scourges of Appalachia: black lung disease. We hear from some miners coping with this disease amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Also, in this show, we speak with author Chris Hamby about his new book that explores the challenges of getting black lung benefits.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear about an ongoing project at West Virginia Public Broadcasting called Edible Mountain, which is highlighting the wild edible foods that grow in abundance throughout Appalachia. Also, in this show, we hear from a group advocating for public schooling in West Virginia to start out virtually this fall.

“Hello,” the call began. “This is a prepaid debit call from an inmate at the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

Madison Buchanan, a 19-year-old college student, pressed 0 to accept the call and was connected to Jacob Alan Shouse, Offender Number 1101441.

“I want to thank you so much for helping me out with this,” Buchanan said.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine,” Shouse replied. “I’m all about new friends, new advocates, activists, anything positive.”

Shouse, 37, had his own agenda in speaking to the student journalist. He asked if he could read Buchanan a letter he had recently written.

“Yes, please, absolutely,” she said.

“Living through this coronavirus pandemic inside the prison walls ⁠— razor wire plantations ⁠— reestablishes helplessness in an exacerbated form,” Shouse read. “One’s life takes an obvious backseat to prison bureaucracy, modern-day slavery. They’re misleading the general public into a false sense of security, that incarcerated loved ones are safe.”