Roanoke's Lost Queer Scene, Rescuing Baby Animals And Sheep Shearing In Appalachia


The pandemic continues to inspire more people to go outside. One result? They’ve found more baby animals. This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear how everyday folks have helped rescue a record number of baby owls.

And we’ll meet a woman who moved from L.A. to rural West Virginia. “It’s very wild here. It’s like the Wild West except we’re east of the Mississippi,” said Margaret Bruning, who’s now learning to raise and shear sheep.

June is Pride month. We’ll listen back to a fabulous story from 2019 as With Good Reason producer Cass Adair takes us on an audio tour through the history of Roanoke’s Queer scene with those who lived it.

In This Episode:

The Lost Queer World Of Roanoke, Virginia

About 40 years ago, Roanoke, Virginia was home to six gay bars. Many LGBTQ+ people lived in the surrounding mountains and would gather at these nightclubs to unwind and feel like themselves. Roanoke was a hot spot for queer night life. However, these bars were against the law at the time in Virginia. Producer Cass Adair takes us on a tour through the history of Roanoke’s LGBTQ+ scene with those who lived it.

Lack Of LGBTQ+ Protections Has Some West Virginians Ready To Leave

While LGBTQ+ bars are no longer illegal, how far has the culture really shifted? After all, there are many places in Appalachia where queer people still face discrimination — and many say they don’t feel welcome.

Reporter Duncan Slade talks with people in West Virginia about whether they want to stay or leave their home state.


Casey Johnson, left, and David Laub, right, are both concerned with the lack of LGBTQ rights in West Virginia.

Gayle Manchin Named New Co-Chair Of Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian region is facing many challenges, ranging from environmental degradation to the sheer difficulty of accessing some of these communities. Would additional funding from the federal government help? Washington has been sending money into the region since the “War on Poverty” in the 1960s. The Appalachian Regional Commission came out of that effort — and it just named the first ever West Virginian to lead the agency.


Gayle Manchin is the new federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s energy and environment reporter Curtis Tate explains what Gayle Manchin’s new job could mean for West Virginians and for Appalachia.

Beef Industry Is Getting A Grilling

Kentucky has the most beef cattle of any state east of the Mississippi, but beef has been getting a grilling lately because of the industry’s environmental impact. As Lian Niemeyer reports, some Kentucky cattlemen are working to reduce their climate hoofprint. One well-known area company has even joined the plant-based meat business. This week on the show, we hear how companies are implementing these changes.

Working To Improve Farmers’ Mental Health

Growing food or producing milk can be a life-giving career, but farmers face unique challenges that can lead to anxiety and depression. While efforts to help are growing, there’s a push to get Pennsylvania to do more.

As The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant reports, farmers are calling on lawmakers to bring change to the industry.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.


Sheep Shearing Is A Family Tradition

sheep shearing

Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Folklife Program
Margaret Bruning, left, and Kathy Evans, right, in Kathy's studio.

Many families pass down traditions by working with livestock — and not just cattle either. Some families have built traditions around spinning and weaving, usually among women. But that wool doesn’t just magically appear. It’s part of a tradition that starts with raising the sheep.

As part of our Inside Appalachia Folkways project, reporter Heather Niday brings us the passing of that knowledge and about honoring a legacy.

Rescuing Baby Animals

One good thing to come out of the pandemic? Many folks have been spending more time outside. Last year, 3,700 animals were treated at the Wildlife Center of Virginia — a high tech veterinary hospital in Waynesboro, Virginia that cares for creatures brought in from all over the region.

As WVTF’s Sandy Hausman reports, baby animals are raised so they can return to the wild.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps and Dog and Gun.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.