This week Gina, Kelly, and Adjoa took a trip to Boone, North Carolina, a city in the southern Appalachian Mountains with its fair share of mythology and nostalgia from its namesake, Daniel Boone, to its contemporary tourist economy. Although Boone and Watauga County were largely spared from the ravages of mining and mountaintop removal, it is nevertheless a complicated space mired in controversies about gentrification that eerily echo Watauga County’s colonial history. As your About South team travels through the county, they visit the famous Mast General Store and end up in Meat Camp. All the while they try to pin down what’s real about southern Appalachia and the tourist economy and speculate about the future of a place with an apocryphal past.
On the way to Boone, the team talks about the history of the city and the history of Daniel Boone, the city’s namesake. Gina helps to clear up some of the confusion and differentiate Daniel Boone from other famous and infamous “frontiersman” such as Johnny Appleseed and Davy Crockett. Using the line “more room, Daniel Boone” from a poem, Gina explains how Daniel Boone took white settlers beyond the Yadkin Valley and across the Cumberland Gap, trespassing into Cherokee territory and then into Shawnee territory and violating treaties between the British and Native nations. Eventually, as Gina explains, Daniel Boone’s “exploration” and the land speculation that followed him became a factor in the American Revolution.
After arriving in Boone, the local hosts, Jessica Martell and Zackary Vernon, recommend taking a trip to Plan B in Meat Camp. Gina, Kelly and Adjoa are intrigued by the name of the place, so they decided to go. On the way, they stop at the Lucky Pickle in Valle Crucis for lunch and run into Cody Miller who tells them a little more about Meat Camp. Cody confirms that it was a place to hunt and process or dress meat, but he calls into question its affiliation with Daniel Boone.
Before arriving at Meat Camp, the team — accompanied by Zach — takes a quick detour to walk through the Mast General Store, a general store and post office built in 1882 and later purchased by the Mast family. On the road to Meat Camp, they discuss how the store trades in nostalgia for a time that never actually existed.
At Meat Camp, the About South team spends some time sitting on the stoop and talking with locals. They meet Samantha Bradshaw, a cashier at Plan B, who tells them about the history of the store and Meat Camp in general. They then meet up with Zackary’s coworkers, Jessie Blackburn and Billy Schumann who are kind enough to invite them into their yard to visit with their sheep and to learn more about Meat Camp. Billy, who is the Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, describes how gentrification has become a problem in Watauga County as houses in the county are purchased by vacationers looking for second homes, which, in turn, prices long-term residents out of the housing market. In parting, Billy offers some sage wisdom about Hillbilly Elegy, the recent controversial New York Times bestseller about the region:“Everyone is entitled to talk about their truth and their experience, but it’s never a good idea to extrapolate the whole of a region of 205,000 square miles and 25 million people out of that.”
We would like to thank Zack Vernon and Jessica Martell for their exceptional hospitality. We would also like to thank Cory Miller, Samantha Bradshaw, Wayne Pennington, Jessie Blackburn, and Billy Schumann for their contributions to this episode.