Part One: Tracing my roots

rootsI’ve been quiet here on the Appalachian Chained blog for about a month now.  I’ve actually been doing a little soul searching as to where to go with the blog and other endeavors that I am part of.

Besides my co-hosting duties on various podcasts, I have had the opportunity this year to get back to my roots in covering motorsports and more, thanks to Chris Graham and the Augusta Free Press.

Still I have felt empty.

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Saving the mountain and preserving history

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Today is the deadline for comments to be heard concerning Blair Mountain in West Virginia, being set aside as a historical landmark or whether the coal operators will level Blair Mountain.

It’s a fight that has gone on for a long time, even after the initial battle there in 1921. If you are not familiar with Blair Mountain, here is a synopsis.

According to the opening paragraph of the account in Wikipedia, Blair Mountain was the site of one of the “largest labor uprisings in United States history and one of the largest, best-organized, and most well-armed uprisings since the American Civil War.”

Back in 2016, my friend Steve Gilly, the co-host of “Stories: A History of Appalachia”, and I recorded a podcast about Blair Mountain and the history of this significant event.

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Leaving our mark like the Russell Fork in Appalachia

Breaks Interstate Park

Photo: virginia.org

After spending part of the weekend at the Breaks Interstate Park for the “Tales of the Cumberlands” event,  I came away with an even greater love for my roots in Appalachia.

I got to spend Friday with my wife for nearly the entire day and then on Saturday, I made the return trip to the Breaks by myself but taking a different route than the traditional Wise to Clintwood to Haysi to the Breaks route.  I decided to take the Kentucky route this time.

The Kentucky route is scenic, eye opening, depressing and forces you to be reflective, all in the same journey.

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Finding my direction and charting a new journey in Appalachia

CaptureThis past weekend, I participated in the fourth “Tales of the Cumberlands” event held at Breaks Interstate Park in Dickenson County, VA and on the Kentucky border.

I was asked last year to participate but had to pull out due to other obligations but this year, the event organizer, Stevie Conley asked me to try again and present a informational session on my direct line, great-great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Mullins or better known as “Brandy Jack”, a famed counterfeiter from the late 19th Century from Appalachia.

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Roots in Appalachia

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My Mullins family connection from L-R: Andrew Jackson Mullins, my great-great grandfather, David A.J. Mullins, my great grandfather, James Russell Mullins, my grandfather and Roscoe Mullins, my father.

When I started “Appalachian Chained”, I stepped outside my comfort zone.

I internalized a lot of issues, many of them dealing with Appalachia and life until after encouragement from friends and family, I decided to start putting them down online in the blog.

It hasn’t been easy writing the blog.  I’ve had to carefully choose subjects, sometimes I have ranted, other times, I have tried to combine my love for history, Appalachia and other interests together into the blog.

But this weekend, I’m getting ready to step outside my comfort zone once again, this time to speak on the life and times of my great-great grandfather and his place in Appalachian/Cumberland culture along with such names as “Devil John Wright, Doc Taylor, “The Red Fox of the Cumberlands”, The Melungeons, and much more.

And once again, I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew on these roots in Appalachia.

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Appalachia needs an attitude adjustment

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“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill

Appalachia has a problem and if you haven’t already thought it or said it, change is needed for the area to prosper and get back on its feet. 

Winston Churchill once said that attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Here in Appalachia, you could say that we have an attitude and that little thing called attitude makes a big difference. You can also add that some people need an attitude adjustment in Appalachia. 

The thing is, I didn’t use those words “attitude adjustment” nor have I been listening to Hank Williams, Jr.’s Greatest Hits.  The words “attitude adjustment” were words used by business owners in Martinsville and Henry County, VA recently at a community forum focusing on getting their region to thrive again.

Sadly their region is facing the same obstacles and attitudes that we are in Appalachia.

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Chained to Appalachia, we all have a story to tell

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Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse

Recently, my thoughts focused back to an Appalachian whose roots were firmly planted in Appalachia despite being born in Northern Virginia and how he came to “embrace” Appalachia in his music and his roots.

His journey brought him, his mother and brother back to far Southwestern Virginia for a time then back to Northern Virginia. Eventually, his love for music led to success locally, then regionally and he traveled outside Appalachia before coming back to settle in the western North Carolina mountains, eventually moving across the mountains to East Tennessee, battling personal demons and then leaving us by taking his own life in an alley in Knoxville, TN on March 6, 2010.

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