In this week’s episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we hear stories from people who, at first blush, you would likely judge to be rough and tough. But listen to their stories and you’ll soon realize that appearances are often deceiving.


Our first story comes from Lendall Hill (pictured above with his daughter Lori FitzGerald) of West Virginia whose father, Vaunia, was a logger. When Vaunia was younger, he lost a leg in a farming accident and was fitted with an artificial leg made from paper, paint, and cables.

One day while delivering mining materials with Lendall at his side, Vaunia’s artificial leg got caught and became twisted at a strange angle. Vaunia decided to have a little fun at the expense of a coworker who did not know about his accident, so he told him that he had just broken his foot and proceeded to twist it back into place right in front of the man. Years later, Lendall’s uncle, Lon, ran into the man and much to his amusement, learned that Vaunia’s joke had had a lasting impact.


Our next story, by Tanya James (pictured above with her daughters Trista James and Michelle Paugh), also comes from West Virginia, where three generations of her family have worked in coal mines. In 1979, Tanya herself went underground, and being a woman, encountered a number of difficult work situations. She remembers learning from her own mother, also a miner, how to handle men who treated her poorly on the job and how to command respect — skills she passed on to her own daughters.

Tanya spent more than 20 years in the mines and recently became he first woman in her union to hold a seat on the international executive board. She came to StoryCorps to talk with her daughters about her work.


Our next story is part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative, a platform for veterans, service members, and military families to share their stories. Daniel Hodd came to StoryCorps with his mother, Evelyn (pictured together above), to discuss a difficult choice he faced when he was 17 years old. An accomplished pianist, he found himself at a crossroads — to either accept a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School or enlist in the United States Marine Corps.

Much to his mother’s dismay, Daniel chose the Marines, and just prior to his second deployment, an accident forced him to make another difficult decision — one that would ultimately put an end to his piano playing.


In our final story, we hear from a couple of bikers, Happy Dodson and Taz Roman (pictured tigether above). They are both members of a group called Bikers Against Child Abuse, a nonprofit established to lend support — emotional and physical — to abused children.

Children in difficult situations are often referred to Bikers Against Child Abuse by police officers and social workers, and Happy, Taz, and other members of the group are quick to drop everything and ride straight to a child in need to ensure that no child is compelled to carry the burden of abuse alone.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
David Mumford – “Night Without Sleep (Instrumental)”
Nickel Creek – “Smoothie Song”
Vexed to Nightmare – “Cowboy”
“Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin played by Daniel Hodd
Vexed to Nightmare – “Missing”
Lover Lips – “Hot Foreign Pen Pal”