Excerpts from Sam’s Branch Essays, a book I am working on:

Progressland all looks alike. It is four lane highways that have destroyed small business in small-town America. There are trashy stretches of fast food joints and filling stations on all sides of every little town. The little main streets are boarded up and wasting away. People in the country are locking their houses now that the four-lanes bring criminals right to their doors—- A man drove on Interstate Highway 64 from Virginia almost all the way across West Virginia, took a random exit and drove into a random driveway, knocked on the door and shot the woman who answered the knock.

A campus guard at Emory and Henry University in western Virginia told me she was armed because Interstate 81 runs right past the campus. And an author and doctor in Johnstown, Tennessee writes that interstate highways are a conduit that brings AIDS from the metropolitan areas to more rural communities by way of truck drivers and local truck stop male and female prostitutes. The interstate highways are also conduits for invasive exotic plant species and plant diseases.


More on Progressland and development: When coming into West Virginia from Ohio on Interstate 77 cross the lovely Ohio River into Wild Wonderful West Virginia, do you see beautiful tree-filled mountains? Nope, you see giant billboards covering what are probably beautiful mountains. Of course they are notifications that can’t wait. Instead of looking at those pesky mountains, McDonalds and their ilk let you know immediately where you can find quaint Appalachian hamburgers. It is the same on the Virginia border coming into West Virginia from the south. McDonalds gets you on both ends. Who needs mountains when you can come to West Virginia for hamburgers? The song will have to be changed from “Those Beautiful West Virginia Hills” to “Those beautiful West Virginia hamburgers”, and don’t forget the cappuccino. Pretty soon all our mountains will be either strip-mined or covered with billboards or both.











About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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