But our musical guests weren't content with being the only entertainment, and they convinced others gathered around to share their talents.
Granny Sue (Susanna Holstein) sang an old mountain ballad that sent chills down my spine in a voice that was meant to be heard on a West Virginia porch lit by the shine of the moon.
There was more music, then Kirk Judd recited one of his poems, "My people was music," with impromptu sound effects provided by a mufflerless truck and a bobwhite with impeccable timing. More music, then author Jim Minnick read from his memoir about hardscrabble life on a blueberry farm. More music, then Bluefield College professor Rob Merritt read a poem about Patsy Cline and what the land can do to a person.
A man, Ben LeRoy, who had been sitting on the wall not far behind me, had never been to West Virginia before. He'd made the most of his time in the state -- had visited The Greenbrier, done a good bit of sightseeing on his way to our conference. Even managed to sip his first 'shine with the Wild & Wonderful Whites, including Jesco himself. All that evening, he kept pulling out his camera to film bits of the various performances. He was so thoroughly enthralled with the talent.
"This is the Appalachia I'd always heard about," he said at one point.
Strange how sometimes a person needs someone else's eyes to see more clearly through their own.
To be Appalachian is high praise. It represents a connection between an area and a mindset and a way of living. It proudly carries its ties to the past, talks with a twang, appreciates sunsets and wildlife and all things that grow.
And a taste I shouldn't have waited so long to acquire.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.