Noah Adams

A legendary airplane that helped America win World War II is being reborn at age 75. The B-17 bomber "Memphis Belle" flew 25 missions against Nazi Germany and then came home to help sell war bonds and raise spirits.

In recent years, the Belle has been undergoing a patient and precise restoration at the National Museum of the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. I went to see the work in progress and talk with some of the many technicians and volunteers.

The young women in this story have labels. Three labels: Single, mother, college student. They're raising a child and getting an education — three of the 2.6 million unmarried parents attending U.S. colleges and universities.

Getting a degree is hard enough for anyone, but these students face extra challenges. And when it comes to helping out with their needs, Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., is considered one of the best in the country.

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Summer is a season for festivals, and today, we're taking you to one in southern West Virginia. It's an annual festival of old-time music. People from around the country and world come to participate. NPR's Noah Adams takes us there.

"Knee-high by the Fourth of July" is an old favorite saying, when you'd drive past a field of corn out in the country. And many of the old favorite varieties, called heirloom corn, have lots of new friends.

In recent years, seed companies have been reporting big sales numbers for these varieties. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri says sales are "skyrocketing" — a fitting verb for the fireworks holiday.

A trusty Boeing 707 is inside a new home at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The plane has graceful lines of color: white, blues and gold. In large letters: "United States of America."

Nowhere does it say Air Force One — that call sign is only used when a president is actually on board. The permanent tail number is SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000. Historian Jeff Underwood used to pronounce the tail number, like you would say the number 26,000, but he was wrong.

Marietta College has earned a global reputation for its program in petroleum engineering, drawing students from as far away as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and China to this liberal arts school in southeast Ohio.

In the past, nearly every one of the program's graduates has scored a good job in the surging energy field. But not this year. As the price of oil has plummeted, companies are cutting back on production and expansion, and cutting into Marietta's placement rate.

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.

Here in Pall Mall, Tenn., you can walk up on the front porch of the Forbus General Store, est. 1892, and still hear Alvin C. York's rich Tennessee accent.

Every day, the older neighbors gather on the store's front porch.

"My grandfather used to cut Sgt. Alvin York's hair," Richard West recalls. "He would pay a quarter. He was a big man, redheaded."

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.

Here's what might have sounded like a pretty shaky business plan for a neighborhood pizza cafe: "We'll only be open one day a week. Won't do any advertising. No prices on the menus. We'll serve mostly what we grow in the garden – and no pepperoni. And we'll look on this work as an 'experiment of faith.'"

That's what Erin and Robert Lockridge said two years ago, when they decided to open a pizza place called Moriah Pie in Norwood, a small town part of greater Cincinnati.

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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.

When writer Julia Keller talks, you notice a touch of West Virginia — it is, after all, her home state. Her accent may have faded a bit during her newspaper career in Chicago, so she says when she started thinking about writing crime novels, she was happy to hear the Appalachian voices coming out of her memory.

"I was probably the most surprised person of all when I chose to set my fiction in West Virginia," she says. "[I] hadn't lived here in a long time, didn't really know that it moved in my blood — if it did."

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.

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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.

One year ago the Michigan apple harvest, hurt by a late winter warm-up and a spring freeze, was almost nonexistent at 3 million bushels. This fall, the crop is projected to yield a record-setting 30 million bushels, but now there's concern that not enough pickers will be in the orchards.

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.

Upon hearing news of the death of Elmore Leonard, NPR correspondent and former All Things Considered co-host Noah Adams recalls a day he spent with the crime writer in his hometown.

Three years ago, I rode with Elmore Leonard in the back of a rental car to see Detroit and remember what it once was. Much of it was sadly puzzling to him, especially the empty space where Tiger Stadium had been.

How do you fix a neighborhood? What do you do about crime and drugs and the once-lovely old houses that are falling down? The answer in Paducah, Ky., was to turn it into a special place for artists to live, work and sell.

Paducah, already home to the National Quilt Museum, is far west on the edge of Kentucky, on the Ohio River. Lowertown, so-named for being downriver from downtown Paducah, was once quite elegant — 25 square blocks. But in time it became a difficult place to admire.

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.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what do you do when there are no apples? It's a question western Michigan's apple growers are dealing with this season after strange weather earlier in the year decimated the state's apple cultivation.

Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state's apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop.

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