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Master craftsman preserves old art form while taking a swing at broom for golfers

Posted September 26

— A McDowell County apartment building might seem like an unlikely place for an Appalachian passion project. In his small apartment living room, James Vance has mastered a relic of our mountain past.

"Well, I enjoy it. I enjoy making things," he explained. "It's a heritage-type thing, and people like it. It's almost a dying art."

Vance, who carefully crafts brooms as folks have done for generations, wants to make sure an old art form isn't left in the dust.

"Not many people doing this by hand," the master broom maker said.

At 83, Vance has an appreciation for those roots.

"I do most of my work sitting down," Vance said with a laugh as he explained the process. "This is called broom corn."

He started making them eight years ago. Today, he has a wall full of Mountain State Fair ribbons to show for his fine work.

Vance has found away to reinvent the wheel with a curious broom made with a golf club as a handle. Some might say it's a plot to help frustrated wives.

"But they can't get them to do housework. And I said, 'well, I got you a broom your husband can practice his swing while he sweeps the kitchen,'" Vance said. "They really like it, but the men didn't go for it too well."

Who knows if the broom club will take off, but it's worth a shot.

"They say it must take a lot of patience to do that," Vance said of his craft. "I said only a doctor has patients."

He's not a doctor, but Vance might just help revive an old-fashioned pastime before it's completely swept under the rug.

"Because it's part of our national heritage, it's our way of life, the way it used to be years ago. They didn't have money to buy," he said. "I'm trying to help preserve more or less a dying art."


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