[A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to read snippets of the following address on Facebook.  I am a West Virginian, so, quite naturally, it caught my attention.  Although much of the speech is obviously dated, the speaker addressed much that continues to be true of West Virginia today. So, I wrote to the author and asked his permission to re-print his speech here.  He graciously consented.]

I come here today not as a messenger of despair, despondency nor defeat. My message today is one of peace, prosperity and hope. Most of all, though, I come here to day to shout out four more years for Barack Obama! In the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things as they could be and ask, why not? Why not four more years for Barack Obama!

Those who know me see me as the proud son of West Virginia, born and reared in Appalachia and instructed in the lore of the southern coalfields. Mine is an all-American story of a lad born in poverty, enriched in a world-wide experience who comes back to rediscover his roots on Rabel Mountain. For those who do not know me, I introduce myself simply as a fellow Democrat, a member of the biggest disorganized political party man has ever known. (laughter)

John F. Kennedy said this: “The sun down not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.” Kennedy said those words standing in a pouring rain on the statehouse steps in Charleston, West Virginia in 1963.


I was there, too, on the 100th birthday of our illustrious state. Kennedy became President in large part because West Virginia democrats voted for him in the primary to show the nation that a Catholic could win even among a population in which religious fundamentalism was rampant. That may have been West Virginia’s finest hour.

Since then many democrats in West Virginia have changed. No longer are they the honored captains of the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton and, yes, Barack Hussein Obama. No longer do they represent the party of ferocity in war, compassion in peace and hope for the future. At the forefront of crusades to grant women the right to vote, on the front lines for civil rights and as the pioneers to reach for the stars by putting a man on the moon, democrats always led the way. Today we democrats are losing ground in the ageless struggle to do what is right.


If our history is any guide, we should be trumpeting the rights of the working man, promoting diversity both in human rights and in the economy and jumping on the band wagon for an environment free of pollution and the cancer it causes. If we would be true to ourselves, we should be forestalling the endless theft of our patrimony by those outside our state who bear us nothing but ill will. If we truly pay homage to our founding as “Mountaineers Always Free,” we would be about the business of freedom–freedom from a one dimensional economy, freedom from the tyranny of political corruption in state and local government and freedom to choose progressive leaders to spur us on in the 21st century.

Instead, we are falling victim, once again to antiquated shibboleths predicated on fear and hopelessness promoted mainly by fossil fuel lobbyists whose only interest is that of their corporate bosses. If they tell you they have your interest at heart, best you head for the hills. If their message is one of hatred and racism, best tell them to get lost. For you and I know that we are better than that.

Our state and our people are known not for intolerance. West Virginia is known not for laziness.


Its workers are some of the best and most productive in the world. When called to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we know how to do that. We can produce energy for the world better and faster than anyone else. We can produce talent that we can be proud of: Chuck Yeager, Robert Byrd, Pearl Buck, Don Knotts, Jerry West, Walter Reuther and Mary Lou Retton just to name a few. And we owe it to them and to ourselves not to dishonor them by allowing ourselves to become pedestrian, mere followers of the commonplace.

I come not today to try to change political minds. For, if I am not mistaken, many democrats in the state already have their minds made up. That, of course, is their right and their privilege. If the polls are correct, in three days most of them, as crypto-Republicans, will vote for Mitt Romney in the belief that he will champion their cause by turning back the tide of environmental protection if he becomes president. In their view, global warming is a myth to be discredited at least, destroyed completely at best. To have that view is their right and their privilege. Never mind that at least six-thousand scientists avow that the earth is heating up and the oceans are rising up. No one should dismiss their belief that it is not so. No one, after all, would want his child to grow up in a world covered by the oceans.

Nor in a world choking on carbon dioxide. The scientists tell us that for every pound of coal that is burned; two-and-a-half pounds of carbon dioxide are produced. That fact is indisputable. The answer, the scientists say, is to capture the CO2 and force it deep underground. The problem is, nobody can figure out how to do it. The devil is always in the details. If global warming is a myth, so is clean coal. Which myth are you to believe?

The truth is, we are living in a season of myths. Myth–I say–Myth Romney is one of them. (laughter/maybe) That the national budget can be balanced by giving tax breaks to the rich is a myth. That the female body has a way of shutting down conception in what the mythmakers call a “legitimate rape” is a myth. That Israel can avoid global war by attacking Iran is a myth. Because no rational person believes the mythmakers, why should anyone believe they are telling the truth about the future of fossil fuels and the jobs that might be produced if only the so-called war on coal can be ended? In the words of President Obama, “That’s the biggest whopper of them all.”

Here are the facts:

Employment in West Virginia coal mines is down from 126,000 in 1948 to fewer than 25,000 today.

The biggest private employer in West Virginia is Wal-Mart, not coal.

Natural gas production in West Virginia is competing with coal in the production of energy.


Mechanization and modernization in coal mining through mountain top removal, in part, means fewer miners are required to do the job. Hence layoffs occur because coal companies do not need as many miners as before to dig the coal out of the mountains.

Since 1950, West Virginia has lost 40% of its population.

Instead of five Congressional districts, we’re down to three.

The Kanawha Valley lost its chemical company dynamism long ago.

A modern, international airport to provide thousands of jobs was nixed by local politicians fearful of losing their fiefdoms.

I could go on, but why should I? You know the facts. You have the ability to separate fact from fiction. West Virginians, traditionally, have resisted being buffaloed. We are a proud people who do not like to have the wool pulled over our eyes. Too often, in the past, big shots and crooked politicians and religious fanatics have tried. But failed. We sent them to jail for their lies. We did not tolerate them then. And we, as good democrats, should not tolerate them now.

Now we have work to do. If we, as democrats, return to our revered foundation forged in the annals of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy we can make something of ourselves and of our state. If we put our shoulders to the task we can be magnificent. If we demand that our leaders get off their comfort zones and lure new, diverse industries to our state, we can be proud once again. If we can sweep aside those who get in the way of advancements like city-county metro governments and new businesses and an infrastructure second to none, we can be rich again. And if we can stop putting all our eggs in one, tired and frayed basket, we can be sure again. And the way to start is to give Barack Obama four more years!

Certain that we and our children can live in a state that ranks at the top instead of at the bottom, that offers opportunity to outlanders and insiders alike and is a beacon to those seeking truth, knowledge and freedom of expression. All these things we can achieve and more. This cannot be accomplished today or next week or next year or even in our lifetime. But let us begin by giving Barack Obama four more years!

[Ed Rabel is a now-retired, local and national broadcasting reporter.  The speech reprinted here was delivered to a gathering of Kanawha County Democrats at the Teamsters Hall in South Charleston, West Virginia on November 4, 2012.]

WHO DO YOU KNOW? by Beth Rankin

WHO DO YOU KNOW? by Beth Rankin

When you go to your farmer’s market you will see four or five or more fruit and vegetable stands as well as other specialties with meat, bread, wine, beer, candy, and preserved items (yeah, CAN-DO REAL FOOD!).  Speak to the person at the booth. Ask about how they produce their food. They will be happy to speak with you! They are proud of what they do and love it when people show interest.

Some farmers offer a CSA. That stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture. This is an easy way to get more bang for your buck (more food for your dollar), but there is a catch, maybe two. First, you pay ahead, either by the month or the season or the partial season. This permits the farmer to have working capital during the growing season. Second, you will get some produce you may have never eaten before. That can be a hard hurdle to overcome, but ask the farmer for a recipe or use your internet skills to search for one. Make exploring new foods a regular family adventure. (When Graham and I first got together we did a cuisine of the week for a few months and learned new ethnic recipes. Now our exploration usually is a new veggie our farmers suggest.)

Look, some people (you?) have a close reliance on a hair dresser, a nail person, a massage therapist. We want what makes us feel/look/move healthy to be a regular, reliable part of our routine. Where is your decision about the source of your food in that list of important people? Where is the consideration of how you CAN influence your health with what you eat?

It’s easier than you think. There are many ways to find local information, but an easy place to start is Local Harvest. Stick in your zip code and hit the search button. You will then see a list of farms and more that are near you. Have fun exploring…and share your stories!

THAT amazing explosion in your mouth is the humongous difference in eating something picked green and something vine ripened. ALL fruits and veggies are that way.

Not only that, but if you were brought up with canned vegetables, try all those that you decided you would avoid as an adult one more time, fixed with locally-grown fresh produce. If you’re like me, you will be surprised. Those cans of spinach that Popeye crammed down his throat to get strong never convinced me…until I ate fresh spinach in a salad and then braved up and cooked some. Spinach is not longer on my “hate it” list. [Editor’s note:  fresh, raw spinach or kale are fantastic, healthy vegetable additions to homemade fresh fruit smoothies!]

Secondly, and this is a bit concerning to me, we know our infrastructure (bridges and highways) have not been getting the maintenance they should have been getting over the past few decades. If there is a problem, as there was with the blizzard here in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge blocking I-84 and the railroad, the transportation of goods (including food) may be slowed. If I can get most of my food from local sources, I can manage quite well. Now the Williamette Valley is an amazing garden and so much grows here that we could get by with only a few things missing from our diet, but not all areas are this fertile. Nevertheless, there is food near you. Find out what it is and learn how to prepare it for your meals.

Third, while the economic indicators show that the recession is over, it just doesn’t feel that healthy yet. One way to have a tremendous impact on your local economy is to spend more of your money IN it. In other words, use local shops and farms and services instead of the large corporate entities as much as possible. I, for one, discovered that printing my labels for my canned products cost more at Staples than at a small locally-owned print shop. A lot less at Copy Cabana! So, when I go in weekly during my processing season and pay for printing, I know that money will mostly stay right here in my town. The food I buy from local farmers helps the local economy the same way.

So how do you build a relationship with a farmer? One easy way is to identify where and when your local farmers’ markets are. Many market managers make an effort to plan to plan the hours so consumers can stop during lunch hour or after work on their way home. Here in McMinnville, our planned market hours are expanding to noon to 6 pm on Thursdays from mid-May to mid-October. There are markets every day of the week within 30 minutes of here! Maybe in your area too.

Why am I belaboring this point? Because it is time, past time, for you to know your farmer.

I’ve been using that phrase for years and it seems more and more I am posting it almost weekly as new disgusting things about our food becomes known. But what does it really mean?

It means that it is once again time for you to understand that what you put in your body does make a difference. It means your food is even more important than who won March Madness. It means that it is time to understand the difference in your food can make a difference in your life. I’m not talking any special diet here. I am talking knowing the source of what YOU chose to eat.

First of all, and maybe this is all you need to appreciate, it will TASTE BETTER! Why? Well, most of the fruits and veggies at the supermarket come long distances, flown in or by train or by truck. In order to be transported without spoilage, those fruits and veggies are picked green–not ripe. Almost everyone has eaten tomatoes in the winter and then a fresh tomato off someone’s backyard plant in the summer.

My mom was a nurse and so make sure we ate healthy meals. Each nigh we’d all sit down together as soon as the parents were home from work and we’d have a meat and two veggies. Usually a home based dessert afterwards. Sometimes it was delicious and sometimes I would have preferred to have a “no, thank you” helping (i.e. liver).

As I struck out on my own I usually made a meat (never liver) and veggie, trying to skip desserts. Anyone who knows me personally knows I lost that attempt.

And once the kids were on the scene the effort improved and more veggies entered the picture (but never any liver). Most meals were made form scratch in those days but I had my shortcuts, like boboli or frozen bread dough to make pizzas and Betty Crocker brownie mix for the chocolate fix.

About seven years ago I started learning more about how the food we were eating was considerably different from the same food of my childhood. Concerns about pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified foods were one thing. But then I learned about how fish like tilapia was a farm fish which meant it was raised in man-made ponds that were often pretty polluted. And now, to complicate things more, Congress permitted country of origin information to no longer be on labels. So, really, where DOES that chicken come from?

Around the same time I began to get involved in the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia. To say I knew nothing is not an understatement. I grew up in the New York metropolitan area, and while New Jersey’s nickname may be the Garden State, I lived in the paved part. But I enjoyed visiting farms and asking questions and I learned.

I learned a lot and I learned only a smidgen of what they know. They, the magic makers who take a tiny little speck of stuff, a seed, and manage to make that turn into tomatoes or squash or spinach. Amazing magic! They know how to do it and it definitely takes a lot of skill.

Right now here in the Williamette Valley some farmers are finding some fields are drying out enough from the winter rains to get started, but others will have to wait for more sun…or at least more non-rain days. And then, later, they will deal with the vagaries of the weather, with heat and sunshine and lack of rain. And then, here in Oregon, the rains will start again, maybe in October, maybe in November, maybe with climate change whenever it does.

Those vagaries can make or break a financial year for our local farmers…and your local farmers, too. I don’t care where you are when you read this, you may have some small farms nearby. About a hundred years ago there were farms all over. The Garden State, for example, had earned its nickname because it was the vegetable garden for New York City.

So, accept this piece: there are farmers near you, raising food you can eat.

Before I started working with the farmers I met in West Virginia and here in Oregon, they used to be invisible. Either I never went down back roads or the roads I drove were not rural enough. But they were there, all along. Maybe just tucked back off a long driveway, or around the hill on the other sides. They are there!

[Graham and Beth Rankin live in the Williamette Valley of Oregon.  Beth is a strong advocate for farm-to-table eating.  She is the chief executive of CAN-DO FOODS.  The story of Can-Do Foods is an exciting one in itself.  Before moving to Oregon, the Rankins lived in Huntington, WV where Graham was a professor at Marshall University and Beth was instrumental in founding and developing The Wild Ramp, a cooperative with local farmers.]






Time and again we see hints that many people have lost…or perhaps never developed….critical thinking skills. We can blame schools or families, but once a person reaches adulthood, the choice is theirs.

If you don’t know how to cook, watch some cooking videos or read a cookbook. If you don’t know how to put together that IKEA desk, go to YouTube. If you don’t know how to research something, there are plenty of instructions available.

Yes, it is easier to learn something when you are young. But if you want to improve the way you present yourself to the world, you can learn new tricks. Unless you prefer to be stuck in place.

Example: one of my friends on Facebook has a family member who often joins in the conversation. I have been warned time and again not to bother interacting with him; that he is a troll. However, I come from a long line of do-gooders and I am pretty stubborn. I think almost anyone is redeemable….if they show willingness to learn.

The thread got into Trump’s promise to bring back coal. No one contributing to the conversation had lived in West Virginia but since I had, and because I had had a meaningful conversation about coal with a mining engineer at one of my son’s cross country meets, I shared that exchange.

The information I shared is easily verified by countless articles posted to the Internet. However, the troll chose to tell me what I said was hearsay and he would just wait and see what Trump does to help the coal miners.

The legal definition of hearsay fits, but the common definition does not.

Since we were not in court, why the hesitation to accept what I offered? It took me less than three minutes to find and read an article from a reliable source about the causes of the decline in the coal industry in West Virginia.

He either had no interest in agreeing with anything anyone says or he has no desire to do research.

Either he enjoys his role of being a dissenter in the context of the Facebook discussion or he is unable to learn anything new.

He is only one of many many people who exhibit similar behavior. Think of your own habits. Do you agree or disagree with something based on the information presented or do you bother to take a few minutes to research independently?

I consider my time on Facebook to be “free time.” In other words, I CAN step away from the conversation to actually verify facts. This is NOT work! This is not something that is particularly time sensitive.

But what you say and do is your face to the world. Why be a troll?

From Wikipedia: In internet slang, a troll (/’trool/,/’troll/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. If a person chooses this behavior willingly, he or she certainly is not worth my effort to “teach.”

[Beth Rankin is an amazing person, a personal friend, a dedicated wife and mother, and a gifted entrepreneur, writer and researcher.  Beth lives with her husband in McMinnville, Oregon.  She is the developer and founder of Can-Do Foods and was a major force in the very early development of The Wild Ramp in Huntington, WV. Readers are encouraged to check out Beth’s blog at https://goingplaceslivinglife.wordpress.com.  Many thanks to Beth for the privilege of sharing her writing with our readers, too.] 


WHAT WILL I DO? by Deborah G. Hankins

WHAT WILL I DO? by Deborah G. Hankins


It’s pretty certain that Donald Trump will be our next president, as embarrassing and horrifying as that is.  Although I hold a glimmer of hope there will be a miracle, such as electors coming to their senses based on his horrifying decisions since the election, that seems about as likely as a big lottery win.  I’m left with the question of what I will do to ensure this tragic choice does not ruin our country for the foreseeable future.



For the first time in my life, it seems I’ve become an activist.  I breezed through the Vietnam War protests cocooned in a small public university tucked into a rural corner of Virginia, and did my civic duty by dating and corresponding with various young men fighting that war. 



Now, I feel the necessity of making my voice heard in protest in whatever way possible.  Most of us will not be able to run for a public office but all of us can influence a small group of people right where we are.

While your choices may well be different from mine, I’d urge any reader of this piece to identify steps you can take to prevent the tragedy we fear.

A lot of my actions have taken very little effort on my part.  I’ve signed online petitions for issues which I support.  I called the offices of Senators in my state to express my opposition to Steve Bannon’s presence close to Donald Trump based on his past connections to Breitbart News.

I’ve chosen two national organizations to support financially based on my concerns.  The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law center seem to me to be at the forefront of opposing upcoming challenges to those personal freedoms we’ve come to take for granted.  Other friends have chosen Planned Parenthood or other organizations which support freedom of choice for women.  It’s not really as important which organization you choose as that you choose at least one to support.

I’m making plans with a group of friends to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21.  I’m never demonstrated before, and I probably should do so while I can physically manage it. If you’d like to participate in some way, I suggest you Google it and then follow the resulting links to see what events close to you are planned.



There are state and local events which will be easier and less expensive if you can’t invest the time and/or money to go to Washington D.C.  It’s important to know you can participate even if you aren’t female, also.  All you need to be is a supporter of sanity in this currently misguided country.

I’ve discovered a local service with serious shortcomings and contacted my representative on the local level to effect changes there.  After speaking to the director, with disappointing results, I’ve gone “higher” and I’ll be following up on that contact.  He was most responsive and seemed to welcome my ideas.

I’ve contacted our local Democratic Party chairman and asked for information on how we can make a difference in our corner of the country.  I’m disappointed in the lack of response after three days, but I won’t give up!

I sincerely hope every reader of this article will take similar actions. This is not a time to stand idly by and then complain about the outcome.



“TRIFLING” by Ernie Tucker

“TRIFLING” by Ernie Tucker

One of my mother’s favorite expressions was “trifling.” It undoubtedly came from her proper Virginia upbringing. She used it to describe people who did not care about how their actions affected other people or the community as a whole. We have that problem on Hall Ridge Road in Boyd County, Kentucky.



Someone dumped a large porch glider and chair into that beautiful little pond on the Summit side on Hall Ridge Road. Why? No reason, I suspect. My mother would have said, “they are trifling.” Someone (the same person?) dumped a pile of construction material there, too. Trifling? Are these the same people who toss trash out of their vehicles? My mother would have said they are trifling, too.

A former student of mine at Ashland Community College who heads the Boyd County Litter Abatement Office, came by, took a picture, and promised to have the Boyd County Road Department deal with the mess. Many thanks to him and those who assist him.

Of course, if we had no trifling people, we wouldn’t need these services. The truth is, we have many trifling people in this wonderful country, and we are as a nation, trashy. 



My daughter and I spent several days in Montreal, a large, busy, modern city with about two thirds the population of Kentucky. During our stay, we did not see one cigarette butt, pop can, or paper cup along the roadside or in the small city parks. Contrast that with where we live. We should be ashamed, but we aren’t because many of us are so used to the trash that we don’t notice it. 



And how about the people who think it is perfectly proper to empty their ash trays onto our shopping center parking lots? Trifling? And what about the well-dressed middle-aged woman who tossed her paper cup full of ice on the garden at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland? The grown man who heaved his leftover lunch and bag from his pickup truck on U.S. 60? The lovely blond girl in the red sports car who would rather have a trashy road than a trashy car? The people who deposit their litter every night on the Bob Evans Restaurant lawn?

The kids who after every Friday night game discharge their cans and wrappers on our streets? The local policeman who flipped his candy wrappers from his patrol car on Winchester Avenue–trifling? My mother would have said so, and I would agree.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Folks, I am guilty! Even though my mother brought me up to be clean and respectful, I occasionally will lapse into poor behavior.  My mom would have said “Trifling!” It was one of her special words, too. I think we can all learn an important lesson from Ernie’s piece, no matter where we live. When I belonged to the Rotary Club years ago, we adopted a section of highway and periodically walked it with trash bags and tongs. We picked up an amazing amount of trash. Yes, I’m afraid we are a “trashy” people.  Thanks to Ernie for calling this our attention.  Will it make a difference? I certainly hope so. I certainly want to be mindful of it the next time I’m tempted to throw a gum wrapper (after all, it’s so small!) from the window of my car. How about you? Let’s try not to be “TRIFLING.”]