The Curse of The Coffin

The Curse of The Coffin

Appalachian Folk Magic The Celtic roots of the Appalachian people run deep. Appalachian folk magic practitioners regarded natural openings like caves, lakes, graves, or a coffin as “thin spots” or portals between heaven and earth, where one can glimpse the spiritual world. In these places, lost spirits might be seen lingering near their graves. Of course, we don’t believe that. […]

Cooking Leather Britches Beans

Cooking Leather Britches Beans

Electricity didn’t reach most parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains until the 1930s. No electricity meant no modern conveniences for food storage, such as refrigerators and freezers. So until a couple of generations ago, food was preserved the old-fashioned way: drying and canning. Drying fruits and vegetables didn’t require canning jars, and drying was a lot less work than canning. […]

Damascus, VA: Trail Town, USA

Damascus, VA: Trail Town, USA

In ancient times, it was said that “all roads led to Rome.” Today, the same might be said of Damascus, VA. Damascus is the Blue Ridge Mountain town where seven recreational trails converge: the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, […]

Recipes for Great Hominy Grits

Recipes for Great Hominy Grits

Nothing says “Southern cooking” like a big bowl of hominy grits. Most Americans have never eaten grits; some confuse “grit” with “dirt.” To those folks, I say: thanks! More grits for me. To the uninitiated, let me say: grits are just corn. In gourmet circles, it’s known as polenta. It’s not new, and it’s not just Southern: this food was […]

Mabry Mill: A Blue Ridge Parkway Delight

Mabry Mill: A Blue Ridge Parkway Delight

The moonshine still’s cook pot sits down the hill by the creek, mounted atop a stone furnace. The copper tubing leading to the cooling barrel is green with verdigris. The wooden chute that carried water to cool the steaming moonshine is green with moss, but the mash barrels look almost new. The U.S. government once went to great lengths to […]

Floyd Allen And The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre

Floyd Allen And The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre

It started with a kiss and ended with a courtroom shootout. Five people died, and seven were wounded. A year and two weeks later, Floyd Allen and his son Claude were executed in Virginia’s electric chair for the courthouse murders. The kiss lit the fuse on a pre-existing political powder keg. Two of Floyd’s nephews, Wesley and Sidna Edwards, were […]

Ramp It Up in Whitetop, VA

Ramp It Up in Whitetop, VA

In England, ramps are known as ramson; in France, they are ail sauvage. Native Americans in the Great Lakes area called the plants Chicagou, for which the city of Chicago is named. Elsewhere in the world, they are known as wild leeks, wild garlic, and spring onions. In the Blue Ridge Mountains and throughout Appalachia, the plants with the pungent […]

Flatfoot Dancing: Too Much Fun?

Flatfoot Dancing: Too Much Fun?

Bluegrass music and flatfoot dancing go together like bread and butter. Go to any event with live bluegrass music, and someone will set up a dancing platform or throw a piece of plywood on the ground and start flatfooting. Flatfooting, also known as clogging, foot-stomping, or buck-dancing, consists of dancing alone or in groups to up-tempo music, using enthusiastic footwork […]

Outhouse On The Run

Outhouse On The Run

Porta-Potty, Johnny-on-the-Spot, Outhouse, Portable toilet. Whatever you call them, they all have one thing in common: they stay put once you set them up. They don’t go anywhere. Unless you are in Independence, VA, on the second Sunday in October, when you will see outhouses running down the main street. The running outhouses are part of the Grand Privy Race […]

King Kudzu

King Kudzu

King Kudzu is on the move. A Kudzu vine can grow a foot a day, sixty feet a season. Residents of Georgia have been warned to close their windows at night to keep the dastardly weed out of their houses. Left uncontrolled, it will grow over any fixed object, including cars, houses, equipment, and your lazy brother-in-law. The Japanese introduced […]

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