A welcome rekindling of the Foxfire franchise of books on Southern folkways.
Journalist Hudgins and former Foxfire student Phillips continue the fine tradition of publishing collections of oral history around Southern Appalachian cultural mores begun by teacher Eliot Wigginton in the early 1970s. There are modern wrinkles: Whereas an old-timer in the first edition would have described a ginseng-gathering folk economy with few practitioners and consumers, today the old-timers—i.e., men and women mostly born in the 1950s—recount an industry fueling a large Chinese market, so that, says Georgia master Tommy Hayes, “Some people go through the mountains like a vacuum cleaner,” adding, “but what are you going to do the next year?” In keeping with Foxfire tradition, there’s a little bit of everything in this collection: There are stories about outrunning the revenuers and the well-documented subsequent birth of stock car racing and thence NASCAR, of a “quasi-hippie” Kentucky police officer who once pulled “Elvis duty” to guard Presley on a run to an ophthalmologist’s appointment: “He wanted to buy my revolver, but I didn’t sell it to him.” More to the point, that police officer has since become a man of parts befitting the Appalachians: He makes banjos, knives, rifles, and sculptures, talks philosophy and archaeology, and generally enjoys the self-sufficient life for which the high country is known. Hudgins and Phillips also profile a cook who won the James Beard Award for collecting recipes for smoked ham, buttermilk cornbread, and the like (with a few recipes included here for good measure); a native-daughter historian of the African-American presence in the Southern Appalachians; a game warden, a turkey hunter, a cave explorer, the list goes on. A bonus is a lightly learned but revealing history of the classic mountain song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” itself revived with the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?
A lively model of modern folklore and a must for fans of the original series.