appalachian people

Episode 0
The Crow's Holler
Episode 0

Episode 0 - Intro/Interest Check

Seeing as this is our first post, we wanted to note a couple of things in text (not just audio):
The disclaimer at the beginning of this episode is just to cover our asses - There isn’t an overly excessive amount of swearing in this episode.
We’ll try to get better equipment if we move forward with the podcast. We’re currently using  a cheap mic that was in storage and it’s about the best we’ve got. Some of the interference you’ll hear comes from fans running in the background (forgive us, it was extremely hot despite it being 4am). 
Also, Will is too quiet. It’s a flaw of accents here and something that’ll get worked on (I’m so sorry).

If you think you’d be interested in the topics and nonsense we laid out in this episode - and can tolerate our voices enough that you’d be willing to listen to further episodes - please let us know! 

-Tina & Will

Character Study

For @allyinthekeyofx and her headcanon:  Season 11 Scully moves back in to the unremarkable house and William snaps an unexpected photo of them when he walks in to Mulder’s home office.

The last time she was in this room the floor was a mess of papers, scraps of notes, complex codes scrawled diagonally, grotesque drawings, random lines of poetry, photos ripped or curled or burnt, maps with dotted lines or flags or circles scrawled around anonymous towns, letters, some of them love letters, some the desperate ramblings of a brilliant mind lost to the cause or losing the battle. Mulder’s office. His place of refuge had become a sort of no-man’s-land where neither of them gave an inch and there could be no armistice.

           Now, she found herself stepping over a threshold once more. She seemed to have history in this department. She was always walking through doorways, either after him or away from him. This time she was determined that the doorway would lead to a life spent right by his side. Seeing his office uncluttered – neither by the gatherings of a quest indomitable, nor by the detritus of brilliance declining – was the best of starts.

People talk about a clean break, but that was not what happened here. It was dirty, the edges of things lost in the wake of two lives no longer in parallel. It was splintered and uneven and shredded. There was nothing clean about leaving Mulder. She had felt sullied for years. Maybe she always would. But the office, his nucleus, the heart and soul of him, there was a clarity here now, beyond the clean surfaces and shiny new laptop.

When Mulder made a commitment, he really dug in. He’d repainted the weatherboards. Fixed the flyscreens. Changed the curtains and blinds. He’d even rolled up the faded old carpet runner in the hall, she’d found it in the shed out the back, and in its place was a bright rug in a contemporary print. It was remarkable what a little love and attention could do.

And what having William home could do.

It was still new, this being a family.

The virus had left Mulder a breath away from death. How often had she wondered, if that breath had been stolen from him, would she have been as stoic without him for a second time? With no life growing in her, there was little to be stoic for. But when Mulder made a commitment, he really dug in. He came back to her breath by painful breath; he was all fluttering eyelids and trembling fingers and code blues. She was all hand squeezing and mattress thumping and midnight tears. Drama at hospital bedsides had become their bizarre theatre over the years.

And William. His tentative presence through their unfolding narrative was at once a comfort and a tragedy. What demons would he bear? He was the knight in shining armour, the hero of the hour, the literal life-donor for his father. How would he carry that burden? It was a question she asked daily and now she would be able to find out the answer. He was living with them. He was living with them. It was such an odd sensation to think it, to say, that it was worth mentioning twice.

It hardly seemed real when Mulder carried his backpack through the door. He’d looked around, shaken his head and said, ‘so this is home’.

Mulder had grinned and countered with an in-joke, ‘is it better than you expected, or better than you hoped?’

William shrugged and Scully shook her head at her feet and so it began.

She was researching an old case, something about spirit beings and ghost-eyed peoples, when Mulder came in.

           ‘I remember that case, Scully. The Appalachians, people freezing to death. Ciladaids.’

           She flipped the laptop shut. ‘I remember you being a self-absorbed jerk on that case. In fact, for that entire year, Mulder.’

           ‘Your inability to see the forest for the trees was staggering, as I recall. You took skepticism to code-red level.’

           She chuffed. ‘You certainly knew how to push my buttons.’

           He walked behind her and his hands kneaded the gristle in her shoulders. ‘You always were easy to ruffle if you weren’t sure of your status.’

           ‘My status was your partner, but you seemed to forget that.’

           His hands slipped lower, caressing her breasts through her shirt. She turned to kiss his stubbled cheek. ‘Now that I have been without you too many times, I can see that I was about to make the first biggest mistake of my life. But you saved me.’

           She stood up and leant in to him for a kiss. ‘Again.’

           He pulled her in for a deeper kiss. ‘Why are you wearing a suit, Scully?’

           ‘I thought you loved me in a suit?’

           He chuckled. ‘I’d love you in a butcher’s apron with desert boots, but you’re wearing too many clothes.’

           ‘Mulder, we have a child in the house now. We can’t just fuck in the study when we want.’

           ‘He won’t know.’

           ‘That’s not the point.’

           He nuzzled her neck and her nipples tightened. It really wasn’t the point. But she couldn’t remember what the point was because he was rubbing himself against her ass and it felt like heaven.

           The door opened and a flash of light exploded around them. William held the camera in front of him, wearing a grin that was a mixture of delight and horror.

           ‘Sorry! I thought I was going to catch Mulder hunched over the desk researching. I’m doing a project where we have to provide a single photo that summarises our parents’ lives. A sort of character study.’ He looked at the camera then swung it round to show them the screen.

           His arms were around her chest, her hands over his forearms. She was formal. He was casual. She was buttoned up. He was open. She was leaning at an awkward angle. He looked like he’d been interrupted. Like he was about to tell someone to fuck off. But the way he was holding her. The setting. Their one-ness.

           ‘Sorry,’ William said again. ‘I’ll delete it.’

           ‘No,’ she said. ‘Use it. It’s perfect.’

Proposed: Thedas is not a ‘medieval’ setting

I don’t know about you, but when I was first considering the overall state of Thedas, mostly for worldbuilding purposes, I was semi-consciously thinking of it as a fairly typical pseudo-medieval-Europe.  And that’s natural enough, because in Origins, Ferelden really did look like that.  Thatching, half-timbering, nobles in fortified castles, a fairly monolithic church around which much of society was built.

The further you go into the franchise, though, the more problems you encounter with this.  Kirkwall as a city doesn’t give off a particularly medieval vibe, nor does its government.  You have sailing ships that are more advanced than Europe saw in the middle ages, you have the Qunari with their mind-altering drugs and poison gases and explosives, you have a popular novelist.  A popular novelist requires printing presses, paper manufacture, relatively widespread literacy, and fairly complex shipping systems to exist.  The first European novels were published after the medieval period.  Come Inquisition, we have the almost Baroque Orlesians, broadsheet newspapers, and a lot of things most people probably didn’t notice, like cast iron cookstoves and Bianca Davri’s steam-powered thresher.

Here’s the thing.  Okay here’s a lot of things.  I once had pages of notes trying to work this out, and I’ve tried a dozen times to make a post about it, but it’s too much.  I give up being organized.  So here’s some of the things:

  • Ferelden is a poor backwater.  I know, I’m a rabid Fereldan too, but to the rest of Thedas, it is canonically the arse end of nowhere.  It is no more a good example of the overall technological state of Thedas than the hills of my Appalachian home (where people lived without power or indoor plumbing well into the 20th century) in the 19th century were a good indication of the state of things in 19th century Boston, even though they were only a few days’ ride apart.
  • Thedas’ history and development is in no way like the real world.  It’s a place where the world faces a potentially fatal apocalypse ever few hundred years.  Again, the first game is pretty misleading in this regard, because we neatly wrapped up that Blight in, supposedly, a year, without it ever escaping the borders of one country.  The First Blight lasted over a hundred years and ranged across all of Thedas.  Far and away the shortest Blight besides the fifth still lasted 12 years and destroyed entire kingdoms.  That’s five huge periods of world war and cultural destruction.
  • Magic.  I mean, obviously.  Now, the tangible existence of magic and demons in the Dragon Age arguably has a lot to do with the strength of the Chantry, which has set itself up as a protector from these evils, thus providing an excellent excuse to accumulate military power and suppress dissent.  It doesn’t really effect everyday life much for anyone but mages in the Dragon Age–most people have never seen a mage, and only the wealthy can afford enchanted items.  But of the five empires Thedas has seen, only two (dwarves and Qunari) put any emphasis on technology, and the earliest two (Elvhenan and Tevinter) relied very heavily on magic, and thus presumably had very little incentive to develop technology.
  • The Qunari deliberately suppress at least some technological innovations in the south.  Remember your friendly neighborhood dwarf who liked to blow shit up from Awakening?  His name is Dworkin Glavonak.  You meet his cousin Temmerin in DA2 during the Finding Nathaniel questline, and he tells you that Dworkin’s been driven into hiding by the Qunari. (video)  Certainly sheds new light on why no one outside of dwarves seems to have explosives or gunpowder in the south.  Orzammar dwarves may be the exception here because a) they use lyrium in their explosives, thus making them self-limiting due to the restricted access to lyrium, and b) since Orzammar is a closed society and you cannot come in from the outside, the Qun could not easily place spies in Orzammar society anyway.

So let’s look again, not starting from Origins but look back from Inquisition.  And this time when we look, we find a world that

  • has steam technology, albeit very new–steam-powered threshers were invented around the 1850′s
  • has cast iron stoves such as were not invented in our world until the 1850′s
  • has a canonical reason for lacking gunpowder–which, in turn, completely changes the nature of warfare (or more accurately, doesn’t change it, since it’s guns and cannons that put an end to armor and swords and siege weapons)
  • clearly has printing presses, even if we don’t see them, because there are popular, cheaply printed novels and broadsheet publications and banned book lists

And it’s not quite all from later games, either.  Branka was made a paragon for the invention of ‘smokeless coal’–which isn’t actually a thing in itself but rather a process which removes the impurities from the coal so that it then burns cleaner.  Which, as far as I can ascertain, is a process that was developed during, you guessed it, the 1800′s.

Now, I’m not trying to excuse all the inconsistencies in technology or claim that the devs did a good job of following through on all the implications of things they stuck into Thedas.  Frankly, I think it’s a weak point in their worldbuilding.  BUT it’s really going to keep not making any sense if you try to insist that the setting is more-or-less-medieval-Europe.  In fact, I think it’s futile to try to match Thedas up to any period of real-world development, partly because Thedas’ history is just too wildly different, and partly because a lot of the worldbuilding is done by sticking a bunch of cultures into a blender and picking out what they like.  But if you start thinking about it as a place where technology has continued to develop in places to something roughly congruent to the western world in the 1850′s, but with none of the socioeconomic conditions that created the Industrial Revolution, you might be a bit closer.

fun fact about the state I live in:

in west virginia (probably virginia & a few other bordering states too) we have pepperoni rolls. I went most of my life thinking that everyone everywhere knew about these delightful little things. turns out, they don’t! they are pretty simple to make as long as you know how to cook/make your own dough. just put some pepperoni in that roll and your eating like my fine appalachian people.

anonymous asked:

Your Appalachian monsters piece, at the bottom of the post you say Happy Hillbilly Halloween and I think a lot of Appalachian people take insult at the use if the word hillbilly. I don't personally care, I just thought you should know. Thanks!

I’m in greater Appalachia (my family has had a large chunk of land in the Smokies for the better part of a century and I’ve lived in Kentucky for around twenty of my years).  The closest thing to a department store near me is the Rural King (we used to have a Wal-Mart, but it sank into the old mine). I’ve helped build cabins and bridges.  I smoke a corncob pipe and have made moonshine.  I’ve herded cows through a mountain pass.  I wear overalls almost every day and grumble when I have to wear shoes.  I’ve played at many a barn dance.  My wife’s family has lived in this county for the last two hundred years or thereabouts.

I may not be a full hillbilly myself (I’m currently on a flat patch, with the rolling land about five, ten miles north of me, and I’m about to move into town, with no more woods behind us like they are now), but I know plenty of them.  Most folks I know, while they might bristle at being called redneck, take pride in “hillbilly” if it isn’t meant pejoratively (except a county south of me, where it was exclusively meant as someone who wouldn’t unionize during the tobacco wars, and in that instance it meant the difference over whether or not blood would be spilled or barns burned). 

That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the word of warning. It’s darn easy for me to overstep, and I don’t want to dissuade you or anyone else from putting my attention to it when I do, which I’m sure to do, because I’m a very, very fallible human being. But in this particular instance I feel comfortable with it, particularly because I mean it with wholehearted love, respect, and enthusiasm.

Mass media representations of poor folk in general convey to the public the notion that poor people are in dire straits because of the bad choices they have made. It pushes images that suggest that the poor suffer because of innate weaknesses of character. When mass media offers representations of poor mountain folk, all the negative assumptions are intensified and the projections exaggerated.
—  bell hooks, Belonging
Appalachian Subculture: On being gay and Appalachian, by Jeff Mann

Jeff Mann is a widely published essayist and poet from West Virginia. This piece was published in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, September/October 2003, Vol. 10 Issue 5, page 19. 

Appalachia has a bad reputation, especially West Virginia, the only state whose borders lie entirely within anyone’s definition of the Appalachian Mountains. Moonshine swillers and feuding hicks—these are the images that most people hold. “Hillbillies,” despite today’s politically correct climate, are still regular objects of mockery. City dwellers have been alternately romanticizing and demonizing country dwellers since Greek and Roman times, and American popular culture’s relation to Appalachia is our version of it.
    Several summers ago, some friends and I walked into a Mexican restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The young man who escorted us to our table, noticing my West Virginia Writer’s Workshop T-shirt, asked if we still slept with our siblings back in the hollers. My Appalachian Studies students have heard many a thoughtless comment, to wit: “You’re from West Virginia? But you have teeth! You wear shoes?!” One young woman told me that an acquaintance had been so amazed by her accent that he asked permission to audiotape her speech for the amusement of friends!
    Queer folk and mountain folk have something very important in common: both are frequent objects of satire, hostility, and contempt. Both feel the pressure to assimilate, to blend in “for their own well-being.” Voices from the Hills: Selected Readings of Southern Appalachia (1975), edited by Robert Higgs and Ambrose Manning, is a seminal work in the field of Appalachian Studies, and a quick browse through that volume provides a neat historical overview of attitudes toward the region. The early travel narratives depict violence and hospitality, laziness and industriousness—but it’s the negative qualities that outsiders tend to linger over. From the “local color” writers of the late 19th century to the well-intentioned “War on Poverty” literature of the 1960’s, all the observers have emphasized the exoticism, the otherness of the Appalachian people, as if the region were almost a foreign country or some remnant of frontier society frozen in time. Today’s attitudes continue to be shaped by such media depictions as The Beverly Hillbillies or the infamous film Deliverance, with its inbred banjo-player and toothless rapists.
    ”Hillbilly” and “queer” are two words that oppressed groups have tried to reclaim. They are words that I may apply to myself but that outsiders had better not use to refer to me unless they want an argument. Being a member of both subcultures is often a double burden, one that many mountain people are eager to escape. Gay culture is still primarily an urban phenomenon, while Appalachia, despite its many cities, is primarily a rural region. Making a life as a gay man or lesbian in the countryside or in a small town can be tough; not surprisingly, many young Appalachian gays and lesbians hightail it to the nearest city as soon as possible.
    I certainly did. It was in 1976, when I was sixteen, that I read Patricia Nell Warren’s novel The Front Runner and realized that I was gay. Unlike gay and lesbian youths of today, who have the Internet with its many resources to inform them that they’re not the only ones with same-sex desires, my generation had books, and I devoured them during my high school days in the small town of Hinton, West Virginia, and later at West Virginia University, where I read novels by the Violet Quill writers and relished the luxury of college-town gay life. Appalachia was, at that point in my development, a place from which to flee. With delicious images of Greenwich Village and Fire Island in my head (but not ready for New York), I found part-time work in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1985 and prepared myself for a new life filled with romantic and erotic adventure.
    Misery is often the stimulus to self-awareness, and I was miserable during that long autumn in Washington. A polite Southerner who hadn’t mastered the fine arts of cruising, anonymous sex, and emotional manipulation, I found myself as unhappy and celibate in the big city as I’d been in West Virginia. I felt like Tantalus, surrounded by inaccessible savories. On top of that, I missed the mountains and my family, and I began to realize how many of my values were thoroughly shaped by rural living and out of step with urban life. For someone accustomed to forests, pastures, and vegetable gardens, D.C.’s traffic, noise, and urban pace were abrasive and often maddening. In the midst of the city I came to realize that I was, inescapably, a country boy.
    Proximity to gay bars and bookstores was not worth the price, I decided, and by year’s end I returned to West Virginia, filled with a new appreciation for my native region. By the time I began teaching Appalachian Studies at Virginia Tech in the early 1990’s, I had changed from a young gay man eager to escape the mountains to a not-so-young gay man proud to be a member of both the Appalachian and gay subcultures. Living in a liberal university town in the hills of southwest Virginia allowed me the best of both worlds.
    For many people, however, claiming and retaining both identities is almost impossible. It’s so much easier to choose one subculture over the other than to deal with the confusions and complexities of balancing both. Those who remain in the mountains often feel compelled to hide or minimize their gayness, while those who leave for the cities try to erase their accents and assimilate into urban culture. The latter escapees face a particular difficulty. In an essay in his book, Appalachian Values, Loyal Jones discusses mountain people’s fervent attachment to place and to family. Gay hill folk are like their straight brethren: they display an inordinate affection for their native places, and they often suffer a bitter homesickness when they flee to big cities.
    Rob is a good example. A bear buddy of mine who had spent all of his life in West Virginia, he recently moved to Washington for the same reasons that I did over fifteen years ago, yearning for a rich and varied gay culture that was hard to find in the mountains. He’s had better luck on the romantic front—his handsome face, friendly smile, and well-built body are useful currency—but whenever I talk to him, whenever he returns to the mountains for holidays, I can hear the wistfulness in his voice. Everything’s so expensive in D.C., he complains. The commutes are long, the apartments small, the sound of traffic ceaseless. Maybe he’ll return to West Virginia and enter a graduate school program.
    I understand. As much as I love to visit D.C.—the Lambda Rising bookstore, the leather and bear bars, the innumerable gayfriendly restaurants along 17th Street—I’m always glad to escape the Beltway chaos and begin my retreat down the Shenandoah Valley. When I exit truck-crowded Interstate 81 at Ironto, Virginia, and wend my way along the tortuous back roads between hillsides of redbud, tulip tree, and sugar maple, I’m always gripped by the peace and beauty of the landscape. It is a loveliness I never take for granted. Perhaps it’s because my father (another literate West Virginian) raised me to be a romantic in the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my mid-forties, happily coupled, and no longer delighted by late-night gay bar culture. Whatever the reason, these days the company of trees, creeks, and hills feels just as necessary for my spiritual health as relationships with other human beings.
    Many gay people continue to migrate out of Appalachia, but more and more I meet gay men and lesbians who are determined to remain in the mountains. Some are natives, while some are urbanites who’ve had more than enough stress and have decided to try something new. Harry is an example of the latter phenomenon. Originally from Staten Island, he’s lived in my little hometown of Hinton for twenty years. How does he manage to live a full gay life in an isolated town of 3,500? He does occasionally make the hour-and-a-half drive to the bear bar in Charleston, and he also attends Radical Faerie gatherings several times a year in Virginia and Tennessee. He always talks up Hinton to the people he meets, telling them of its beautiful mountains and river, its incredibly cheap property. And his strategy has worked. At this point, so many gay men, both Appalachians and outsiders, have bought property in Harry’s neighborhood that it has come to be known as “Harry’s Heights.” I’ve met more gay men in Harry’s kitchen—smack dab in the middle of Summers County, West Virginia, an area rife with religious fundamentalism—than I have in any gay bar.
    One reason that gay mountaineers flee to cities is, of course, to avoid homophobia. Though hatred of homosexuals is found everywhere, it’s sometimes more vocal here in Appalachia, where fundamentalist Christians usually assume that they’re the majority. In the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s most prestigious newspaper, the letters to the editor are often lousy with biblical quotations. One Kanawha Valley minister regularly harps on the sinfulness of gays and their supposed predatory pedophilia.
    However, despite this hostility, gay life in West Virginia has expanded and deepened in the last two decades. I imagine many citizens of Greenwich Village, Dupont Circle, or the Castro would be surprised to hear that Charleston, West Virginia, hosts four gay bars, a Mountain State Bear Contest, a Pride Parade, a Mr. Leather Contest, and an assortment of political and social organizations for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. For those who live in the many tiny towns of Appalachia, fear and isolation are still likely to warp their lives, but in West Virginia cities like Charleston, Morgantown, and Huntington—and their equivalents in other Appalachian states—living a gay or lesbian existence is becoming in many cases much more comfortable than I could ever have imagined during my lonely high school days in Hinton in the mid-1970’s.
    My friendship with Alan reminds me, however, of the restrictions that can still make Appalachian gay and lesbian lives lonely and unfulfilling. Alan is very handsome, lean and muscular, sweet-tempered, intelligent, and gainfully employed. Despite this, he is unhappily single. Yes, Charleston has a gay community, but it’s too small. Only a few weeks in the bar scene and you know everyone, he complains. Disillusioned and bored by the social opportunities the Kanawha Valley offers, he spends his evenings renovating his house or going to the gym. He dreams of better romantic opportunities in Washington or New York or San Francisco, but he never quite seems to go. He reminds me of the many poverty-stricken inhabitants of the central Appalachian coalfields, whose attachment to place keeps them in a region where economic possibilities have dwindled along with the coal industry itself. (Alan also reminds me of how lucky I am to have my lover John. After years of romantic debacles, I’ve been in a healthy relationship for six years, and I’m no longer prowling for erotic outlets or looking for love. It’s easy for me, a homebody who can take or leave gay society, not to resent Appalachia’s restrictions.)
    Loneliness is everywhere, of course, from the Castro to the most isolated hillside hamlet. Much to my surprise, my D.C. friends sometimes register the same complaints that Alan does about Charleston: the gay social world is too hermetic; it’s hard to find someone interested in more than an overnight frolic. But for mountain gays and lesbians who are comfortably coupled, for those who have come to terms with solitude, or those who’ve resisted the media stereotypes that encourage “hillbillies” to hold their own heritage in contempt, Appalachia possesses a rich regional culture that remains distinctive even as many other sections of America have become blandly homogenized.
    The scholar Helen Lewis once claimed that most Appalachians are bicultural, able to operate in both mainstream American culture and their own mountain subculture. That would make “mountaineer queers” tricultural, I suppose, if they are strong enough to wrestle with the apparent contradictions in their identity. That there are tensions and contradictions I was reminded a few years ago when teaching courses on gay and lesbian literature and Appalachian Studies in the same semester. The gay and lesbian students at first regarded me as a “Bubba” or redneck (I drive a pickup truck, have a mountain accent, sport a beard, wear cowboy boots and jeans, and listen to country music), while the locals in my Appalachian Studies class regarded me as one of them until I came out as gay near semester’s end, giving rise to a good deal of cognitive dissonance. I was tempted to quote Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/ (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
    The longer I live in the mountains and the more Appalachian gays and lesbians I meet, the more I realize how fortunate are those who master the complex art of balancing several subcultures. I’m also beginning to believe that future generations will more easily work their way through the stigmas and contradictions and will not feel the need to renounce one identity in favor of another.
    My ex-student Kaye is a fine example of the new breed of queer youth. She was raised in a coal-mining family in the small town of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Entirely comfortable with her lesbian identity, she is happily coupled and has little interest in leaving the region. “I like Appalachian gay bars,” Kaye admits. “Folk are pretty friendly around here, and, unlike the bars in cities, which often cater to a specific group of queers, West Virginia’s gay bars, since they’re so few, combine all the gay subcultures: men and women, younger and older, leather guys, dykes-on-bikes, and drag queens. It’s a rich mix.” Kaye also tells an unforgettable story about her years living outside the region. When she and her girlfriend moved to Florida and began socializing in a nearby lesbian bar, they were shunned as soon as the locals found out that they were from West Virginia. It turns out the other patrons took mountain incest jokes very seriously. Since Kaye and her lover were both tall and dark-haired, it was assumed that they were sisters as well as lovers! Unlike many gay people of my generation, Kaye is deeply interested in the traditions of mountain culture. As a student in my Appalachian Studies class, she recognized a kindred soul and gave me such local treats as home-canned corn relish, wild ramps, and creecy greens. Kaye is also passionately involved in such Appalachian controversies as the environmental effects of mountaintop mining and acid mine drainage.
    Everett and Glenn also come to mind. This spring John and I visited the young couple in their log cabin in southwest Virginia, which is set so high on a mountain that it’s only accessible via four-wheel-drive vehicles. Everett grilled steaks, Glenn poured iced tea, and the four of us shared a late lunch on the front porch of the cabin. Far below, the north fork of the Roanoke River rushed along. Across the valley, the fog that forms after a spring rain rubbed its belly along the ridges. Just over the fence, a neighbor’s herd of fat cattle grazed amidst buttercups. A mockingbird chattered somewhere, the porch wind chimes sounded. The rest was countryside silence.
    Everett and Glenn are both Southwest Virginia locals, one from Patrick County, the other from Alleghany County. They like their native mountains, and they intend to stay. They’re part of a widely scattered circle of bear buddies who’ve met on the Internet, friends with whom they exchange infrequent visits. Their families have adopted a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and officially regard them as roommates. What cravings they have for big-city gay adventure they defuse with several yearly trips to bear or leather busts in Orlando, Atlanta, and New Orleans. In between those jaunts, they have that quiet mountainside to come home to. “One colleague says I have two lives,” joked Everett as he doled out slices of his homemade pie. “I’m equally comfortable at wine tastings and Wal-Mart.”
    It’s that juxtaposition of the popular and the sophisticated, the wild and the groomed, the country and the queer, that gives one the sense of living between two worlds. John is due home soon, and I’m about to mix martinis. Some collard greens have been simmering most of the afternoon, and the barbecued ribs are almost done. Tonight we’re going to check our calendar—we have trips to San Francisco, Key West, and Lost River to plan—then watch a DVD of Puccini’s Tosca. Right now, however, I’m peeved, because the radio has just announced that the country music star Tim McGraw is performing at the nearby civic center this coming Saturday, but the event is sold out. The mountaineer in me loves McGraw’s music; the gay man loves his broad shoulders, furry cleavage, and handsome goatee. This double vision is the greatest gift of straddling two subcultures: the world shimmers with twice the meaning, twice the beauty.

Day 212: Healing with Stumpwater

Stumpwater, that is water that has collected in the hollow bowl of a tree stump, is an interesting part of folk materia medica. Its use can be found throughout the Ozarks and the Appalachians, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other cultures were to use the mystical substance as well. Stumpwater is mostly connected to the healing of certain dermatological issues like warts, rashes, and sometimes even freckles. But the water has also been used in the making of herbal infusions. The idea being that the stumpwater has more power than regular water because it is elevated above the rest of the land.

Vance Randolph mentions stumpwater several times in his “Ozark Magic and Folklore,” here are a few quotes:

“The skin disease called tetter is treated with spunk water or stump water simply rain water which happens to be retained in a hollow stump.”

“When a hillman tries to remove warts by applying stump water he repeats this formula: Stump water, stump water, Kill these — warts! The dash represents the number of warts that the patient has, and it is essential to state this number correctly. If a man says six when he has only five warts, the warts will not be cured, and another one will appear in a few days.”

“Most of the old-timers believe that a woman should never be bathed ‘all over,’ or her bedding completely changed, for nine days after the child is born. Some say that the palms of a child’s hands should not be washed until the child is three days old to do so washes away the infant’s luck, particularly in financial matters. It is always best to bathe a new baby’s head with stump water; if ordinary water is used, the child is likely to be prematurely bald when it grows up.”

One can say that most of the lore behind stumpwater likely came into the Ozarks from the Appalachian people. A similar wart-cure can be found in the book “A Tennessee Folklore Sampler” by Ted Olson and Anthony P. Cavender:

“To remove a wart go to an old hollow stump that contains water and wash the hands or warts in the stump water. After doing this, walk home without looking back and the wart will go away.”

A few more Appalachian uses of stumpwater come from the wonderful book “Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia” by Anthony Cavender:

“To treat and prevent pimples and blackheads, the face was washed with buttermilk, a solution of Epsom salts or soda, human urine, stumpwater (water collected in a tree cavity or stump, also called ‘spunkwater’), a decoction made from witch hazel or ratsbane leaves, or dew of the first day in May.”

“Stumpwater, buttermilk, dew of the first fay in May, and a cow manure facial also were used to remove freckles.”

“Southern Appalachian folk medicine is abundant with beliefs about contracting and removing warts. Some of the more frequently mentioned naturalistic remedies were rubbing warts with castor oil, a chicken gizzard, a slice of Irish potato, bean leaves, or stumpwater and inserting a hot needle into the warts.”

In my last post on the interactions between white and Native medicines I mentioned the use of stumpwater as a practice shared by both the white and Cherokee communities. Who gave the practice to whom is still debatable, but the fact remains that both communities considered stumpwater as an important part of the materia medica. Frans M. Olbrechts, in “The Swimmer Manuscript” mentions a Cherokee medicine man who only used water in healing:

“Spencer Bird, an old medicine man, now dead, used to rely on the sole purifying power of water. The informant who told me this vaguely hinted at the probability of the water being some ‘special water,’ such as that scooped out of a stump (‘stump water’) or even out of the stump of a lightning-struck tree.”

The use of stumpwater bears some semblance to other folk medicines such as the use of certain “flying” plants, meaning plants that are growing out of trees, or rock faces, that have never touched the ground. The power here is that the “flying” plant has some mystical connection to the sky, and is therefore given an added potency as a medicine or magical item. A common example of this idea is the mistletoe plant, which has been considered a mystical or magical plat partially because it hangs in the air without touching the ground. There’s a tradition throughout the Ozarks and Appalachians (and one can see the original belief throughout Europe) that the mistletoe will only be effective in protecting the home when it is cut and never allowed to touch the ground. We can see the same concept with the stumpwater, the idea here being that the water fell from the sky and hangs in the air, not touching the ground. The power of the stumpwater then isn’t in the chemical makeup of the water itself, but in the fact that it has been given a magical quality by being set apart from other puddles, creeks, and water sources.


If your family has been in the Appalachian region for any long amount of time (like mine), you probably have some Melungeon in you. If you’re not sure what that is, let me explain.

Melungeons were originally of the Cumberland Gap area (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia tri-state area). These people were tri-racial, usually being a mixture of European white, Native American, and sub-Saharan African. The mixture came into being when free people of color and Native Americans mixed with colonial Virginia settlers in the Cumberland area. It is estimated that some 200 Melungeon families were dispersed from this original group across Appalachia.

This racial group did not represent a phenotype of (that is, they didn’t LOOK like) any particular race. Today, most modern-day descendants of Appalachian families traditionally regarded as Melungeon are generally European American in appearance with dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion. Though this is most common, any appearance can result from a Melungeon heritage.

It is not known where the term Melungeon directly came from, but it is a popular theory that the French settlers in Virginia gave the name from the french word mélange, or mixture. The original Melungeon families did face some discrimination in the Cumberland region, though most were able to assimilate easily into early American culture and “marry white” to dilute appearances further.

The drawing pictured is courtesy of Will Allen Dromgoole, circa 1890.

I’ve noticed that impoverished Appalachian people are one of the few remaining marginalized groups that smug white liberals will readily make fun of without feeling guilty. This is frustrating because poor Appalachians are in this position thanks to corporatism. They were left without opportunities for gainful employment and with wrecked environments after the big companies packed up and shipped out and those companies were often exploitative as well to begin with. So think about this next time you feel the need to make fun of Appalachian people, especially if you like to tout your own progressiveness in the same breath. Classism isn’t cool, tumblr.

Watch on

Excellent View of Dry Falls in western North Carolina (Appalachians), note the people staying dry on the path behind the falls

anonymous asked:

Please do not fetishize Appalachia or its people. The last thing we need is more people thinking Appalachians need saving like abandoned animals. Appalachia needs opportunity to help itself. The drug abuse is an expression of hopelessness, government thought thought setting up a welfare state in a mountainous backwater was the simplest solution for a wasted piece of flyover country. We need to prevent people from magnifying this destructive idea. Do not talk about us in the third person.

You haven’t been around long, have you?

Hi. I am a substance abuse social worker in Appalachia. Welcome to this several year old blog through which I, as an Appalachian from eastern Kentucky for all of my life, have spent years encouraging people to never do what you have accused me of doing. But I want to take this opportunity to talk about advocacy for Appalachians, something not well understood when it comes to the drug problem.

Denying our problems and what needs work is helpful to no one. Appalachia (in the we/us sense, btw–never third person), is a highly impoverished region. This is due to both internal and external factors which have been discussed often here. The substance abuse is highly linked to poverty. It’s also largely due to the pharmaceutical industry overprescribing in Appalachian states. We have more pain pill prescriptions per capita than anywhere else in the nation.

The drug problem is not an “expression of hopelessness.” It is the result of cyclic poverty, unemployment, and being medically underserved. The destructive train of thought is that Appalachians do not need intervention services, or outside resources. There is a difference between outsiders coming in and using our stereotypes to justify our poverty, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse working with Appalachians to come in and research the drug problem to figure out where to fund treatment centers. Do not mix up funding and charity. Every region in the US needs federal and state funding for substance abuse services. We have consistently received less, and changing that is progress that benefits Appalachia.

One last thing – I hate to break it to you, but most of the country is a welfare state. Welfare, despite its reputation, is the difference between the majority of Appalachians toeing the poverty line and falling into extreme poverty. Without being allotted a certain budget federally, and without advocating for proper allocation of these resources, we cannot fully address the substance abuse problem. I am an Appalachian to my core. Appreciating my home and fighting against its struggles are no fetishization. How are Appalachians to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when many don’t have bootstraps?

The problem is both internal and external, therefore it takes both internal and external measures to address it.

Unrelated, but I have to say: though we may disagree about how to address Appalachian issues, I 100% respect that you care enough to bring it up and discuss it.

anonymous asked:

What does an 'anti coal activist' do? I've never heard of such a thing

You see all these beautiful places I share with you guys all the time? Places like that are being destroyed everyday here in Appalachia. I’m literally watching my home, and the mountains I love being blasted away for coal. Coal is not a “forever” energy source… obviously, it is going to run out. We need to be moving in a new direction, towards clean and renewable energy! It’s not worth leveling an entire mountain range, for a few years worth of electric. It is an industry based off of greed. Not to mention the Appalachian people are not the ones profiting from this business. 

“anti coal activist” is not a legit term… it’s just my own jumble of words. Not sure how else to say it. And it’s not really correct anyway, because I’m not against coal itself. Fire runs in my veins because of the corrupted industry that controls it. 

Even the Appalachian people usually don’t see the full picture. It’s a touchy subject around here… but if you walk atop a “mountain” that has been stripped, it’s obvious we have a SERIOUS problem. Our air is toxic, and our water is contaminated… and the majority of people here don’t even realize. I feel it’s my duty to share my knowledge with others, so that they too can become aware of the horrifying state our region is in. 

If you want to know more about mountaintop removal, you can check out my website:

anonymous asked:

So, just out of curiosity, in regards to someone else's asks about aces/aros, what's your opinion on their position in the LGBT community?

I use LGBT for a reason, so no I don’t think aces and aros are inherently LGBT because LGBT isn’t a term for a fun club, but a term for a group of people marginalized in similar ways for similar reasons. That doesn’t mean aces aren’t marginalized in any way at all and I think making fun of them for no reason is mean- cishet aces and aros are cishet (cishets is the same) but some aces aren’t cishet so it makes no sense to poke fun at all of them.

Comparisons are tough and suck by nature, but I wouldn’t say “White Appalachians are people of color” because they are literally not members of that group. But that doesn’t mean they’re not marginalized, and I’d go so far as to say the way they’re marginalized is racialized. That doesn’t mean they are not white. But it does mean they don’t get a pass into the fun cpoc (colored people of color) club.