317 Steak House, Alec Soth, Anthony Adams, Appalachia, Brandon Kirk, cemeteries, Chapmanville, culture, Ferrellsburg, Galen Fletcher, Harts Creek, history, In the Heart of Trump Country, John Hartford, Larissa MacFarquhar, Lincoln County, Logan, Logan County, politics, Squire Sol Adams, West Virginia
John Hartford introduced me to The New Yorker magazine in the mid-1990s. “I need to get you a subscription to The New Yorker,” he told me several times. John had become familiar with the magazine as a youth. His parents were regular subscribers to the magazine; they encouraged him to read it because, they said, it contained the absolute best writing available. John told this story several times and I could tell by the way he retold it that he believed it to be true. In fact, after reading multiple issues (mostly John’s issues at the house, but also complimentary issues I spotted in medical offices), I agreed that, yes, The New Yorker did in fact contain the best writing available. Once I discovered Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, unquestionably the greatest true crime book ever written, and learned The New Yorker had frequently printed Capote’s writing, my love for the magazine became unshakable. For these reasons, and others, I am delighted to have made a small contribution to Larissa MacFarquhar’s story, “In the Heart of Trump Country,” published by The New Yorker on October 10, 2016. The opportunity to contribute to a New Yorker story, much less to appear in The New Yorker, is an honor.
You can read Larissa’s exceptionally well-composed piece by following this link:
Prior to the story, Larissa approached me (and other locals) about her desire to write a piece at least partly involving recent political developments in Logan County, West Virginia. I agreed to assist Larissa in whatever way I could for several reasons: I wanted to welcome her to my section of Appalachia, I wanted to be helpful, I wanted her story to succeed, I wanted her readers to better understand my region, I’m always anxious to discuss my region’s rich history… Larissa and I corresponded via email about general political history in Logan County, then enjoyed a memorable two-and-a-half-hour conversation at 317 Steak House in Logan. I liked her right away. I like her more after reading her story.
Larissa is an accomplished professional writer. You can read more about her impressive credentials by following these links:
It was likewise pleasurable to meet photographer Alec Soth and his assistant, Galen Fletcher, who visited Logan, Chapmanville, Ferrellsburg, and Harts Creek, in order to capture images pertinent to Larissa’s story. Alec took a few photos of me in Ferrellsburg, one of which ultimately appeared in the story, then spent a hot evening taking a ton of photos at one of my favorite Harts Creek cemeteries (the Anthony Adams Family Cemetery) and a nearby historic log cabin (Squire Sol Adams residence).
You can find out more about Alec by following these links:
He even has a Wikipedia entry!
These were nice folks. If they ever visit your part of the world, welcome them.
Appalachia, Ashland, Ashland Daily Independent, Blood in West Virginia, books, Brandon Kirk, Dave Lavender, Ed Haley, Ed Haley Memorial Fiddle Contest, Empire Books, fiddlers, fiddling, Goldenseal, Greenup, Hannibal H. Holbrook, Harts Creek, Herald-Dispatch, history, Huntington, John Hartford, Kentucky, music, Poage Landing Days, Steve Haley, The Kentucky Explorer, U.S. South, West Virginia, writing
The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, WV, and the Ashland (KY) Daily Independent have recently provided great coverage of the book and related research projects. Many thanks to these newspapers for supporting regional history. Here are the links to the stories:
I am honored that some of my writing will appear in forthcoming issues of Goldenseal and The Kentucky Explorer, two of my absolute favorite magazines. The Winter issue of Goldenseal will feature a story about Ed Haley’s background on Harts Creek and his later visits to the community. A smaller story details John Hartford’s search for Ed Haley in the Harts Creek area. The December issue of The Kentucky Explorer will feature a story about Ed Haley’s friendship with Dr. H.H. Holbrook of Ashland and Greenup.
Let me try to describe John’s hands. They were very small in every way. He had frail hands as a gentleman might have, with little hair on them. I don’t recall that his fingers were unusually long. His knuckles were slightly larger than his actual fingers, maybe because his fingers were so thin. He kept his fingernails clean and filed smooth with a file. I remember he often filed his nails while on the bus during road trips; sometimes he filed his nails when conversations barely held his interest, half-listening. He absolutely never bit his fingernails. He seldom used his hands for any type of physical work because he didn’t want to risk hurting them; they were, he said, what paid the bills. The skin on his hands was somewhat loose and pale. When you shook his hand, it was very soft, although I’m sure he had slight callouses on the ends of his left hand fingers from playing the fiddle nearly every waking minute of the day. When I first met John at Morrow Library, he shook my hand and insisted that I call him John, not Mr. Hartford. When I later visited his home in Nashville during the summer for weeks or a month, before I had moved to Nashville, he would always shake my hand before I left for West Virginia. I recall at the end of my first trip how he stood in his driveway between his house and the guest house and remarked that we shouldn’t say goodbye because we would see each other again. John did not particularly like goodbyes; he preferred until next times. At the end of his life, upon commencement of his chemotherapy, he would shake very few people’s hand. Due to the chemotherapy, he was particularly concerned about germs. At that time, we shared a laptop and I always took care to clean the keys with alcohol before passing the laptop to him for manuscript review. I did this because I did not want to pass germs and make him ill; he never asked me to do it. Actually, I recall times he told me that it wasn’t necessary, but I did it anyway. Almost always, if he met someone at an event, they would greet him with a handshake, which he had to decline. It was awkward and in a peculiar way I think he enjoyed it. I may be mistaken, but it seems as if he contemplated or did in fact wear gloves for a short time just for handshakes. On a few occasions, he complained about having shaken hands with stout men who nearly crushed his hand; he detested an unnecessarily firm handshake because he said it might affect his ability to play. Later, after I moved to Nashville and visited and stayed many days and nights in his home I observed and he said that one of his favorite things to do was to sit with Marie on the bedroom couch at night and hold her hand while the two of them watched television. These were, of course, private moments and I only intruded if I had a question about the manuscript or a related matter. John’s wrists were small. He never wore a watch on his wrist, preferring instead to keep a pocket watch – usually tucked in his overalls front pocket or in the pocket of his vest, which he nearly always wore. If I remember correctly, his watch was colored gold, not silver. When I think of his hands, I see them holding a fiddle and bow at the dining room table and on stage, I see them moving across a banjo, I see them holding a fork and knife at dinner, I see them placing tiles on a Scrabble board during our games together, I see them holding a glass of red wine late at night during our conversations, I see them holding a book or a magazine at the couch by the fireplace, I see them gripping the wheel of his Cadillac on our way to Piccadilly Cafeteria, I see them pushing PLAY and turning up the volume on his car stereo…