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Field Notes
Strip Mining Farm
Photograph by Melissa Farlow
Melissa Farlow

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

Family reunions and church and company picnics throughout West Virginia were wonderful. I enjoyed red raspberry cake, fresh tomatoes, corn, and beans. But mostly, I loved the spirit of family and community.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

A mining company hired men to burn down some houses they owned in Logan County, West Virginia, but not all of the families renting the houses had moved from the block. I heard about one woman whose house was slated to be burned, so one of her friends took me to visit her. Initially, she was afraid to come to the door. She hadn't even packed her belongings.

As we spoke in her living room, she seemed panicked and nervous. I could see flames and smoke billowing up as the neighbor's house was being destroyed. Her house was next.

The workers clearly didn't want me there and tried to intimidate me as I photographed. I later heard they harassed the woman after I left.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

A mother bear came out of the woods and leaned over a guardrail as I was driving up a mountain road near Cabin Creek. She looked like a neighbor leaning over the fence to talk. I stopped, rolled down my window, and said, "Well, how are you?" Then I grabbed my camera as she jumped over the rail and stood in the road. A small cub followed her. Then another. Then another. Then another. The mother and four cubs stared at me for a brief moment. Then they scampered over the hill and disappeared. I never saw another bear the entire time I worked in West Virginia.