Noah Adams | St. Louis Public Radio

Noah Adams

Thanksgiving feasts are always in need of something special.

Can a sprinkle of artisanal salt noticeably pump up the experience?

Let's meet a new Appalachian salt-maker in West Virginia and find out.

J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is nestled in the Kanawha River Valley, just southeast of the capital city of Charleston in the small town of Malden (not to be confused with Maldon, a sea salt brand from the U.K.). It's mostly pasture land, with cows nearby.

If you could make a lot of bourbon whiskey these days, you could be distilling real profits. Bourbon sales in this country are up 36 percent in the past five years.

But you'd need new wooden barrels for aging your new pristine product. Simple white oak barrels, charred on the inside to increase flavor and add color, are becoming more precious than the bourbon.

This story began in 2012 while I was working on a story in Iowa. I was taking pictures on a foggy afternoon and saw a young girl on a blue bicycle, a newspaper bag slung across her shoulder. She stopped and held up a copy of The Daily Times Herald.

These days, most newspapers are delivered by fast-moving adults driving vans and trucks. I guess I didn't know that kids still had paper routes, anywhere.

Saturday marks the 140th Run for the Roses: the Kentucky Derby. Great horses, great hats — but where's the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for the mint juleps?

Last October, more than 200 bottles of the prized spirit were stolen right out of the distillery in Frankfort, Ky. The county sheriff believes it was an inside job, and a $10,000 reward remains on offer.

In new installment of the Spring Break series, Noah Adams visits the Serpent Mound in southern Ohio. It's not a burial site; it's a massive, grass-covered effigy of a snake, created a thousand years ago.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In early January, West Virginia's Elk River was contaminated by a chemical spill near Charleston. NPR's Noah Adams returns to the Elk nearly two months later to follow the course of the river.

The Steinway piano company has a new owner. This fall, the investment firm Paulson & Co. — led by billionaire John Paulson — spent about $500 million and bought all of Steinway & Sons, the venerated piano maker.

The deal includes a foundry in Springfield, Ohio, where the Steinway pianos are born in fire.

The O.S. Kelly Foundry has been making Steinway's plates since 1938. The plate is the cast-iron heart of a piano: It holds the steel wire strings with 40,000 pounds of tension, the company says. It allows vibrations to arise in a concert hall as music.

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, All Things Considered concludes its series about the moments that defined the historic summer of 1963. Back in 1999, Noah Adams explored the history and legacy of the song "We Shall Overcome" for the NPR 100. The audio link contains a condensed version of that piece.

The writer Elmore Leonard has died. He was 87 years old and had recently suffered a stroke.

For decades, Leonard — working at the very top of his profession as a crime writer — had been widely acclaimed, and universally read. He published 46 novels, which resulted in countless movie and TV adaptations, including the movies Out of Sight and Get Shorty and the TV series Justified.

At 41, with long black hair, Stuart Neville looks more like the rock guitarist he used to be than the author he is now. He lives in a small town with his family — not in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the city that plays a central role in his thrillers, but just outside it.

When a tornado roars into a populated area, the change is often drastic and deadly, and it happens within minutes. As the people of Oklahoma struggle to look beyond this month's devastating storms, residents of Xenia, Ohio, are reflecting on the tornado of 1974.

Xenia, in southwest Ohio near Dayton, became well-known to the nation that year. "Everywhere I go, and I've been all over the U.S., if I say I'm from Xenia people say, 'tornado,' " says Catherine Wilson, who runs the historical society in Xenia. She still gets a lot of questions about the twister.

Last year, almost the entire Michigan apple crop was lost because of 80-degree days in March and then some freezing April nights. This year, the apples are back, but everything always depends on the weather. The state was under a freeze warning Sunday night — a scary prospect if you're an apple grower and your trees have just come into bloom.

Picture a tiny town set along a creek in West Virginia. A mountain rises from the town's eastern edge, overlooking the 1,400 people living below. Then, July comes — and 50,000 people arrive on that mountain for the National Scout Jamboree.

The town is called Mount Hope. I've heard some call it "Mount Hopeless." The town went through the long, downward slump from the boom days of deep-mine coal, when it was a grand, small-town capital of coal mining.

On the shores of Lake Michigan, the tiny town of Ludington, Mich., is home port to the last coal-fired ferry in the U.S. The SS Badger has been making trips across the lake to Manitowoc, Wis., during the good-weather months since 1953. And as it runs, the 411-foot ferry discharges coal ash slurry directly into the lake.

An Environmental Protection Agency permit allows the Badger to dump four tons of ash into the lake daily. But now, the agency has put the permit under review — and that means the Badger could stop sailing.

If the voters in Louisa, Ky., had their wish, Mitt Romney would have taken the oath of office Monday. Louisa is in eastern Kentucky, and "coal" was the one-word issue in the election. President Obama is seen as an enemy of coal mining and he got only 27 percent of the vote in the county.

And now comes word that Louisa is going to lose its biggest industry — a power generating plant that's been burning coal since 1962.

It used to be said that only old men drink rye, sitting alone down at the end of the bar, but that's no longer the case as bartenders and patrons set aside the gins and the vodkas and rediscover the pleasures of one of America's old-fashioned favorites.

Whiskey from rye grain was what most distilleries made before Prohibition. Then, after repeal in 1933, bourbon, made from corn, became more popular. Corn was easier to grow, and the taste was sweeter.