Issue 6: December 2006



From Appalachia to Asia, ginseng is deeply rooted in the culture

Ginseng Dreams: The Secret World of America’s Most Valuable Plant. By Kristin Johannsen. 2006. University Press of Kentucky. 224 pages. $ 24.95 The rich, humus-laden hardwood forests of southern Appalachia are home to American ginseng, a bright-leaved, red-berried plant that grows wild throughout the mountains. Valued in Asia for the various health-promoting qualities of […]


Coal country needs santa more than ever

The Santa Train rolls through three of Virginia’s “coal counties”: Dickenson, Russell and Wise. Along with neighboring Buchanan, Tazewell and Lee counties, the coal counties of southwest. Appalachian Virginia, are among the most distinctive in the Commonwealth. They often feature the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the state, and are the target of government […]


Donetta’s Christmas cheer

From there, Donetta Blankenship kicks back at life. At 39, her failing liver struggles to eliminate the toxic levels of heavy metals in her system. Courage, John Wayne said, is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway. This Christmas, that’s exactly what Blankenship is doing. “With my liver problem, I just wonder if […]


All in favor of cranberry bogs, please raise your forks

The cranberry sauce on your holiday table is probably from somewhere along the low-lying New England coast, brought to you courtesy of Ocean Spray. Chances are good it was shipped along with millions of other supermarket cans to travel across the nation, to be opened and dumped onto fine china dishes, and to be set […]


Appalachian Classics -- Books page

Appalachia: A History. By John Alexander Williams. 2002, University of North Carolina Press. While certainly a scholarly book, Williams’ readable style makes this an ideal source for the casual reader. His narrative begins with the earliest European explorers and concludes with the current state of Appalachia, including the crisis of mountaintop removal. He examines and […]


Ten Years of Appalachian Voice

Anyone who has been paying any attention to the news lately knows that the planet is getting warmer and environmentalism is getting cooler. Magazine covers with people dressed in shades of green have been popping up like kudzu. Newsweek put this headline on its cover: “The New Greening of America: From Politics to Lifestyle, Why […]


It takes a universe: An interview with Thomas Berry

Last year, Southern nature writers John Lane and Thomas Rain Crowe traveled together to the home of ecologian Thomas Berry, in Greensboro, North Carolina. At 91 years of age, Father Thomas Berry is one of the most profound, if not most celebrated, spokespersons for the preservation of the environment in the English-speaking world. His books […]


Caring for Creation: Seeing God's fingerprints in nature.

We love wilderness. We love it for its beauty, power and majesty. Others can stand at the foot of a great sculpture, near a painting or hear a sonata and find the results of God at work through the efforts of humans. We rest between the gunwales of our canoe at a quiet bay on […]


Does the Bible justify mountaintop removal coal mining?

Does this mean that the Bible justifies mountaintop removal mining? Not at all. Most translations of the Bible, including the the New American Standard and the King James Version, say “Every valley shall be exalted…” or “raised” — and not “filled in.” This is because the NAS and KJV Bibles are translated from the […]


Santa train rides again through Appalachia

The crowd started to trickle in by nine, watching the volunteers of “Dante Lives On” set up their bake sale on the concrete slab that marks the site of the former theatre. By ten, children were playing on the grassy lot that once housed the company store. The Santa Train used to stop at […]


NC's Mountain Bogs Show Amazing Diversity

It’s been a long day in the field, but sitting around a kitchen table strewn with plants, bags of soil and books, N.C. State researcher Brenda Wichmann and Misty Franklin, botanist with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, still have a few bags of specimens to work through. This is the end of the […]


In Memoriam, Charles Kennedy -- Defender of Brumley Mountain

I only met Charles Kennedy a grand total of three times, but his recent death has shaken me as deeply as if I had known him all of my life. The first time I met him, ironically enough, was on assignment from this very newspaper. I was writing an article about Charles’ work to help […]


Two decades after “Dirty Dancing”

Early travelers once believed Virginia’s Mountain Lake was bottomless – or, at least, up to 300 feet deep. In reality, the mountaintop pond extends about 100 feet from the surface. And there’s a hole in it. Water comes into the natural 55-acre basin from a 500-acre watershed, but it escapes at a rate of 600 […]