This is a collection of some of my favorite stories.
“If you build it, they will play“ (published by NPR Music)
Inspired by a trip to Branson, a carpenter clears some land and builds a world-class concert hall in middle-of-nowhere West Virginia.
“America has a new national park but not all the locals are happy about it“ (published by The Guardian)
The New River Gorge in West Virginia offers stunning views, rock climbing and rafting but some worry it is unprepared for an influx of visitors
“How West Virginia’s decade of bad luck steeled it to fight Covid“ (published by The Guardian)
(West Virginia’s) path to success started long before there was a thing called Covid-19, much less a vaccine to fight it, and was grounded in the state’s unique response to a series of tragic disasters. One that may be hard to replicate.
“Getting Over: The Disgraced W.Va. Gospel Music Promoter Who Found Redemption in Indie Wrestling” (published by 100 Days in Appalachia)
I spent more than a year following Gary Damron, a reformed felon who is now West Virginia’s top independent wrestling promoter. This story not only provides a look at Damron’s dramatic backstory, but also a peek into the secretive world of pro wrestling.
“The Greatest’s First Foe” (published in the Spring 2019 issue of WV Living)
After boxing nearly killed him, Muhammad Ali’s first professional opponent left the ring to become Fayetteville, W.Va.’s version of Andy Griffith.
“Coach Kellie” (published by 100 Days in Appalachia)
It took a few weeks for Hannan High School principal Karen Oldham to realize her school might have made history. She had hired the first female head football coach in West Virginia history.
“Jackie Mitchell Couldn’t Win” (published by Lapham’s Quarterly)
Skepticism followed baseball’s most famous female pitcher until the day she died.
“Paradise Lost” (published by Lapham’s Quarterly)
Aaron Burr spoke of far-flung fortune, and then the Blennerhassetts’ West Virginia Eden went up in flames.
“How Gillian Welch Created an Americana Touchstone in ‘Revival'” (published by Rolling Stone Country)
This is a longform story about the creation of Gillian Welch’s album, Revival, featuring interviews with Welch, her partner David Rawlings, producer T Bone Burnett, and other people instrumental in launching this landmark debut.
“Live from Oak Hill” (published in the spring 2017 issue of WV Living)
A brief history of professional wrestling on WOAY-TV.
“A Creek Runs Through It” (published in the September 2016 issue of Wonderful West Virginia)
“The brothers rounded a bend. They found the stream. And then they saw the ground open up and swallow the creek whole.”
“At River’s Bottom” (published in the August 2016 issue of Wonderful West Virginia)
“At first, no one knew exactly what was happening, or why. But one fact was clear—lots of things were dying in Dunkard Creek.”
“In Search of the Stone Man” (published in the Fall 2016 issue of WV Living)
Russ Jones, West Virginia’s leading Bigfoot researcher, is a passionate man. And it doesn’t take long for that passion to rub off.
“A Job You Wear” (published in the Spring 2016 issue of WV Living)
Danny Jones has worked as a bartender, bouncer, cook, waiter, gravedigger, bottled water salesman, restaurant owner, public relations man, county sheriff, state delegate, radio talk show host, and, most importantly, Charleston, West Virginia’s longest-serving mayor.
“Dogs by Design” (published in the February 2017 issue of Wonderful West Virginia)
“Evans was a designer, by trade and by nature. When he decided to be a magazine illustrator, he spent years crafting a portfolio that would appeal to Cosmopolitan magazine and landed a job the day he dropped it off.
When he saw magazines transitioning from illustrations to photography, he designed a life for himself and Kay at Old Hemlock, where he drew on a lifetime of hunting experience and fashioned a new career as an outdoors writer.
When he couldn’t find a bird dog that suited his tastes, he decided to design one of those, too.”
“High Hopes for a New Cash Crop” (published in August/September ’16 issue of Morgantown Magazine)
Could the humble hemp plant—banned by the federal government and given a bad rap because of its psychedelic cousin—become the next big thing for West Virginia’s agriculture industry?
“Casts of Character” (published in the Summer 2016 issue of WV Living)
“The Native American hunter, all bulging muscle and sinew, lies close to his horse’s neck as the beast reaches full gallop. He clutches a flint-tipped spear in his right hand. With his left he holds a buffalo hide, draping the skin over himself and his pony.”
“The Polecat Rampage” (published in the fall 2015 issue of WV Living)
Each spring, a diverse fraternity gathers in the West Virginia woods to eat ramps, drink, and tell stories.
“Late Edition” (published in the September/October 2015 issue of West Virginia Focus)
“When everyone was assembled, recently named Gazette publisher Susan Chilton Shumate spoke up with an announcement: Effective immediately, everyone worked for the same publication, the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The brand-new publication would go to press in just a few hours. After more than 100 years as fierce competitors, the Gazette and Daily Mail were no more.”
“The Flip” (published in the March/April 2015 issue of West Virginia Focus)
My first cover feature as managing editor of West Virginia Focus, “The Flip” details how Republicans took over the West Virginia Legislature for the first time in more than 80 years.
“Zac Jones to fight in Rough ‘n’ Rowdy Brawl” (published Jan. 9, 2014)
When I found out Zac Jones, son of Charleston mayor Danny Jones, was fighting in an amateur boxing contest, I immediately called him up. I never expected to get the interview. He’d had his share of trouble with the law, as well as the media. But as you can see in the story, I got far more than I expected.
“The curious case of Sherlock Holmes and the Norwood Building Inspectors” (published Jan. 3, 2013)
This story explores the history of literature’s greatest detective through our local Sherlock Holmes society.
“Miseries now preoccupy city protesters” (published Nov. 29, 2011)
It was still summer when Occupy Charleston, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, set up camp in a Charleston city park. But once the weather turned cold, the group’s Twitter account began sending out distress signals.