Strumming Towards Sobriety –
January 3, 2020 – The heritage of handcrafted stringed instruments runs deep in this tiny Appalachian village (pop. 770) stretched along the banks of Troublesome Creek. The community has been known as the homeplace of the mountain dulcimer ever since a revered maker, James Edward (“Uncle Ed”) Thomas, pushed a cartload of angelic-sounding dulcimers up and down the creek roads, keeping a chair handy to play tunes for passers-by. Hindman is the seat of Knott County, one of the poorest regions in the United States and one that continues to grapple with overdose death rates that are twice the national average. It is also in the top 5 percent of counties most vulnerable to the rapid spread of H.I.V. and hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decline of the coal industry has brought even more economic hardship to these isolated hills and hollows — providing fertile ground for Appalachia’s signature epidemic.