Appalachian Armadillos, The Paw Paw Harvest And A Ride On The Cass Scenic Railroad


This week, we’re learning about an unexpected immigrant to central Appalachia — the armadillo.

We’ll also take a ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad and follow reporter Randy Yohe as he explores some one-of-a-kind getaways in West Virginia.

And, just in time for the paw paw harvest, we revisit one of our 2020 stories about this wild food delicacy.

That and more this week on Inside Appalachia. 

In This Episode:

  • Armadillos Emerging In Appalachia 
  • Cass Scenic Railroad
  • “Hillbilly Madonna”

Armadillos Emerging In Appalachia


Mason Adams
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Armadillos have been moving north for decades; in the last couple of years, they’ve been spotted in the mountains of western Virginia.

A lot of times when we talk about populations of animals, it’s in the context of disappearance. A species becomes endangered, or sometimes even extinct. But we start this show with a conversation about an animal that’s emerging in Appalachia: the armadillo. That’s right — the armored mammal more associated with the deep South and Texas.

Armadillos have been moving north for decades; in the last couple of years, they’ve been spotted in the mountains of western Virginia. Seth Thompson is a biologist with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and he was the officer who took the first reports of armadillos. Our host Mason Adams has the story.

Cass Scenic Railroad

Appalachia is full of odd, off-beat and cool places to rest for the night. West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Randy Yohe and his wife, Vickie, like to explore these kinds of places. They’ve done some traveling this summer, and Randy returned with a story about the Cass Scenic Railroad.

“Hillbilly Madonna”

As much as anything, words color what the world sees of Appalachia. Take “Hillbilly Elegy,” the book that springboarded author J.D. Vance into a campaign for U.S. Senate. But his view of Appalachia isn’t the only one. Ohio poet Sara Moore Wagner has released “Hillbilly Madonna,” a book of poetry that centers women’s experiences in Appalachia. Our producer Bill Lynch recently spoke with Wagner about her poetry.

Precious Paw Paw Season

It’s paw paw season here in central Appalachia; the paw paw is an indigenous American fruit that tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana. It’s got a tropical flavor, which is pretty unusual for Appalachia’s landlocked states.

Often you find them in the wild — paw paw trees haven’t really caught on with commercial farmers because the delicate fruit bruises easily, making them hard to transport. They also have a short shelf-life — just a couple of days once picked unless you freeze them. But pawpaws sometimes turn up at roadside stands or at farmers markets. In 2020, Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporter Brian Koscho reported a story we’re re-airing this week about the paw paw.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Chris Stapleton, Jake Schepps, Mary Hott and Del McCoury.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Alex Runyon is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

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