Nature’s Way with Catfish: Man of the Woods

Appalshop at 50
Nature’s Way
Directed by John Long and Elizabeth Barret
Catfish: Man of the Woods
Directed by Alan Bennett
Sunday, September 22, 1 pm

“Charmingly chronicles the use of old-time cures and remedies.”—Newsweek

Nature’s Way shows how most early mountain settlers did without professional medical help and learned to cure their own ailments using herbs, Native American folklore, and home remedies. The practice of folk medicine has not disappeared from Appalachia. M.D. Machen is shown selling his cures in the traditional style of the patent medicine man while Scoop and Willie Westbrook talk about their remedies for flu. Etta Banks takes the viewer through the preparation of her family’s special salve. Kern Kiser is seen preparing his cancer cure medicine and describes how it saved his wife’s life. Lena Stephens, a midwife who’s delivered more than 5,000 babies, chats about her work as she calmly delivers twins. The film was preserved by Appalshop Archive with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation. 1973, U.S., digital video, 22 minutes. Recommended for 12+.

Catfish: Man of the Woods features Clarence “Catfish” Gray, a fifth-generation herb doctor living near Glenwood, West Virginia. In this day-in-the-life visit, Catfish reads letters from around the world seeking health advice, gathers herbs and roots from the woods around his house, receives visitors, and; finally, relaxes by skinny-dipping in a nearby stream. Running throughout the film is Catfish’s constant discourse on his healing techniques and his personal philosophy of life. Fascinating as a character study, Catfish: Man of the Woods has also been used extensively in colleges of medicine and nursing, and among health care providers to explore alternative methods of healing and cultural assumptions about medicine and health care. 1974, U.S., digital video, 28 minutes. Recommended for 12+.