Category Archives: humor

A Poem for Bert

Our friend James watches the bookshop fairly often when we run about for this or that. James is a gifted poet and he sent us this in honor of our fuzzy guy. (His loss is why there have been no blogs this week. It’s just hard right now.)

So here, from James Ryan, is the poem

BERT

Bert the bookstore Terrier was really quite a guy

He did his job with great aplomb although he’d lost an eye

He inspected all the corners of the bookstore every day

Then he’d take the time to watch the kittens at their play

He greeted each customer as they came through the door

Unless, of course, he was asleep then you’d hear him snore

Watching the bookstore was a fun but never-ending task

The loving he received for this was all that he could ask

He knew his job and did it well whenever there was need

When there wasn’t he would sit and watch the kittens feed

To them he was their Uncle Bert a kind and gentle soul

Who watched them play and laughed when they’d trip and roll

He loved them all and treated them as if they were his own

And celebrated every time one got a furrever home

Now he’s crossed the rainbow bridge with a leap and run

Where his friend Zora is waiting to play and have some fun

He’s in a happy place now where he’ll never take a hurt

So, we celebrate the life of the Bookstore Terrier called BERTBert fostering

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized

This is your Brain on Blue Cheese

blue cheeseI’m not gonna say I’m stressed. No, I choose this life of writing and cat rescue and advocacy for Appalachia. When the writing leads to a whirlwind schedule of book promotion, this is definitely a first world problem. No complaints. When the cat rescue is super-busy with special opportunities to make a difference, that’s what we’re there for. When Appalachia takes center stage in a national debate, step up to the plate and swing hard.

If all three are happening at the same time, ride the wave, answer the e-mails, smile pretty when you feel like strangling someone, and get a little sleep and some fresh green veggies in there someplace.

That leads me to my current problem…..

Because it’s been a busy time, I have been eating lunch while driving or at my desk. This is not a bad thing, but my office at the hospital (whence most of the advocacy stuff is plotted) is so small I have to step outside to change my mind. No room for fridge or microwave, which means I mostly grab things in Tupperware and eat them cold, or bring things in bags from Trader Joe’s and munch them piece by piece.

One of my favorite comfort foods is those little round Tamarind crackers and a nice blue cheese. One morning about two weeks ago, knowing the day would be long and diverse, I grabbed the leftovers of a bag of crackers and a wedge of cheese and threw them in my office desk drawer. About 2 p.m. I hauled out these delectables, ravenous, and devoured half of each. I put the rest of the crackers back in the drawer and the cheese into my bag.

That’s the last I’ve seen of that blue cheese.

Believe me, I’ve looked for it. I figured at some point it would be more easily found through smell. But the stuff has disappeared. Is it in my bookstore where a customer has run screaming after discovering the elusive bag fallen behind a shelf? Is it in the basement flat I am rumored to share with my husband, that I haven’t seen for 8 days because of the traveling? Is it in my car, which has become a large purse that I drive? Is it somewhere in my hospital office, crushed under stacks of files yet to be filed, waiting its chance?

The cheese is gone. I mourn its loss because it was the good stuff. But more, I mourn the symbolism of losing it. Because I never really wanted blue cheese to become the metaphor for my brain. Swiss cheese, maybe, but not the blue stuff. The jokes are too cheap and easy.

So there it is. If you see my lost mind anywhere, please round it up and keep it safe until you can gently shepherd it back to me. It’s far too small and defenseless to be left out there on its own. As for the cheese, if you find it, please keep it. No, really. Please.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

BIRDIE SPEAKS HER MIND

birdie 2

I wasn’t feeling so great, had a kitty cold or something, so I went to get a drink from the puddle. It’s by the road and I’m drinking and WOOSH everything goes dark. I come to and this lady’s got me in her lap and she’s stroking me and crying, “It’s gonna be okay, sweetie, gonna be okay.”

The stroking was nice but the moving, I’d never been INSIDE a car before. The other cats always said to avoid them. But these nice people, they took me to this place full of white light and barking dogs and I thought, Nonono, but it was true. This was that VET CLINIC I’d heard about.

They’re poking and prodding and I’m still not feeling so great, but nothing hurts, the car went over me and I passed out. Gave me a fright. Don’t tell anyone.

And while that vet’s looking, I give a mighty sneeze an’ damn if she don’t start talking about Youth Nation Services. I don’t know what this is but the people what brung me, they start crying harder. And I’m racking my brains for what the other cats back there in the woods said about Youth Nation, and it hits me….

Oh Hell No, honey, not this little black cat. I start meowing and going crazy and one of ‘em from the clinic speaks Cat. Kendra’s her name, and I’m pleading with her and she says, let her take care of me for the weekend and come Monday they can “reassess.”birdie 1

Reassess my ass, kiddos. I’m getting outta here, but Kendra, she puts me in a cage and it’s got a soft bed and all I want to eat, and a private toilet, and, well, I get some shuteye and she’s standing there with some nasty stuff I gotta swallow. Bitter, ick, but she’s nice about it and you know after a day I’m feeling a little better. Kendra learns quickly how I like my food served and where to fluff my pillow so it’s working out.

Come Monday I’m showing ‘em every trick I got, the cute belly roll, the pathetic meow, the “PLEASE DON’T EUTH ME” big green eyes, and it works! The little one says to my new best friend Kendra, “Call Wendy.”

Great.  I gotta break in another human? But this chick comes and then I’m in a moving cage, and another car ride, but there’s no mention of Youth Nation, so I figure I got this.

BOY HOWDY do I! You shoulda seen the place we went to: ceilings to the sky, everywhere I looked a cat toy, and there were THREE places to eat and TWO toilets!

So I’m thinking I landed on all four paws when around the corner comes this tiny kitten. Really cute. Cuter than me. We can’t have that, so I go to take care of it, and this Wendy woman acts like I’m an ax murderer. What, this place doesn’t operate on the law of the jungle? Is there a sign anywhere that says, “Please do not take out the competition?” There is not.

But she explains it properly so I leave the little brat alone, and here come two more kittens! One’s got stitches in her neck and she’s real pretty, so I call her Frankenkitty. It’s hard on us black cats. The other one’s black like me, but turns out he’s the baby’s brother, so he’s kinda cautious about my motivations. He explains we’re all here to get dropped; we get a family that looks after us forever and a place to live like this one, and staff to do our bidding.

I cuff him once in thanks and we play a little. He’s a nice kid but he has to get dropped with his sister, so he’s still competition. Frankenkitty bursts into tears if I so much as look at her; she says her name is Andromeda and could I please call her that. As if. COMPETITION puddy tat, that’s what you are.

So now I’m waiting for the right sucker to walk through the door, someone who understands my sensibilities and special needs. I’m in charge. Don’t mind if it’s dogs or cats, don’t mind how many people live in the house, but if you got little kids who are scared of having their knuckles chewed, maybe I’m not the kitty for you. I never break skin, but chewing, it’s like my signature way of saying I love you. Some people use flowers, I’m told. That’s just weird.

Come visit me. I’ll bite your knuckle and see if you taste like forever. Pay no attention to the cute brats under the bed.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

“It was Twenty Years ago Today”

Jack’s post is a day early for once – –

Twenty years ago today Wendy and I tied the knot. We had known each other just two years and when I asked ‘the question’ I immediately said “take time to think about it’! After all, I was foreign and older and she wasn’t as impulsive as me. Actually that’s not true – time has proved that she’s the impulsive one and I’m much more resistant to change.

But when we were introduced by our mutual friends, Wayne and Jean Bean, in Greeneville Tennessee I was the impulsive one for once.

wedding

We were married in the beautiful old stone house of Aileen Carr in Auchtermuchty in Fife. August 14th 1998 was a Friday (you can check) and was the day before the annual traditional music festival. That was an incentive for our storytelling and singing friends to come from ‘a’ the airts’ and come they did. Some of them have passed on now, but most are still around and in particular – Aileen Carr who provided the house, George Haig who was best man, Donna-Marie Emert who was best maid and Linda Bandelier who officiated as well as Jean Lockhart who laid on the wonderful food.

invite

I marvel at the last twenty years, starting with Wendy’s ‘run of the arrow’ as an American interloper into the Scottish storytelling scene and then our move to Lancashire in England where we were both a bit out of place, then Florida where we were VERY out of place and finally here to Big Stone Gap where we’ve made our home for twelve years, running Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore and becoming part of a real community.

It’s sometimes been difficult and there have been times when she has had to ‘explain things to me properly’, but that’s probably true of every meaningful relationship. We’ve been lucky and fortunate to have each other and to have so many good friends to help us along the way.

biltmore

She watches after me and makes sure I’m OK in every way – –

I loved her the first minute I saw her and still do!

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler

contentYes, yes, I know it’s Tuesday. YOU try making the buses run on time the week after vacation. *grumps*

Sad thing is, although I really enjoyed reading it, this book didn’t cheer me up at all. I got it from Rachel, our shopsitter, when I went rushing through the bookstore the day before we left on holiday.

“Something to read, something to read,” I muttered, and Rachel almost without looking hauled this baby off the shelf.

“You’ll love it. It’s amazing,” she said, and I grabbed it from her hand and packed it.

And almost lost my mind night after night in the lodgings as I entered a world where chimp and human babies were raised side by side in an experiment that was subject the vagaries of funding, public pressure, and human fickleness. You can see from the beginning (and also the back blurbs) that this is a heartbreaking book. You know from the beginning what’s going to happen; in fact much of the book is tracing back from what happened. I like the way the author says, “I’m going to start my story in the middle, then go back and fill in, but on the way we’ll stop at the ending.” That’s not an exact quote but that’s what she does.

Her depictions of life through the eyes of a narrator you can’t quite trust, of events that seem surreal, among characters you feel you know (remember I’m a sucker for characters, and it is true they drive plot)… amazing work. I kept reading EVEN WHEN I KNEW A KITTEN WAS GOING TO DIE because Fowler writes so matter-of-factly about hearts and feelings and fear and hope. It’s just life, she seems to say. Get on with it.

My guess is that tender-hearted people and CEOs read this book on two different levels, which really interests me. It is hard to get a story going that holds humor and lessons that vary by reader, but Fowler has created a “He said/she said” that doesn’t answer questions so much as ask them: What does it mean to be human? What is our responsibility to each other? Who’s in charge here?

Two opposable thumbs up for We are all completely beside Ourselves.

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Filed under between books, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

Day whatever: Custer to Cody

We planned two days of beaches and buffaloes at Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park. And God laughed. The first peal of thunder as a black cloud appeared from the western side of the lake sent parents and children floundering toward shore in a rolling wave of  overweight humanity. It was kind of adorable to watch; it would have been sad had the temperature not dropped so fast that no one wanted to swim any more anyway.

Did you know it hails a lot in South Dakota in the summer? Tourists like us driven by rain toward doing the Wildlife Loop, in hopes of observing happy woodland creatures cavorting in the drizzle, were suddenly inundated with baseball-sized ice from heaven, some of it big enough to dent hoods and take out tail lights. People were startled but cheerful as they pulled off into park service areas, dashing in shorts and sandals to buy up the CUSTER STATE PARK hooded sweatshirts. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees in an hour; park restaurants began a brisk trade in hot coffees to go.

The park was eerie and beautiful because the narrow asphalt roads, hot from the sun an hour ago, steamed upward as the hail came down, creating a mist that rose from the ground and a fog that descended from the clouds. We started watching weather instead of buffalo–although we still saw several white-faced antelope with curly horns, who seemed to be enjoying the ice as they ate leaves. Perhaps hail turns salads into mojitos.

As evening turned to dusk, we decided to drive back “the shortest route” along the Needles Highway, eleven miles of mostly single track with four tunnels between us and the lodge. It was just after we’d committed to this that the heavens cracked open with pink-white lightning and rain came down in sheets of water rather than individual drops. Visibility at about four feet in front of us, we negotiated up the mountain switchbacks and hairpin curves to our hotel. Funnily enough, we were the only people on the Needles Highway that night. But it was all right; Jack and Barbara began to sing rousing campfire songs to keep our spirits up–which had the unfortunate element of backfiring when I laughed so hard the car jerked once. That shut them up for a bit.

Everyone got into clean underwear and gathered in B&O’s room, lights off, to watch the lightning–which was ever so much prettier now it wasn’t directly overhead as we passed through rocks. Really quite the show.

The next day we drove through Tensleeps Canyon, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and ensconced ourselves in Cody with time to spare for making the evening gunfight. As Quakers, Jack and I might not have done this, but it was cheesy and community and fun, and Oliver the dignified English gentleman with the handlebar mustache turned into a five-year-old fanboy with a beer, laughing and hooting as Butch and Sundance (who according to the town’s merchandising department did not die in Bolivia but returned and lived quiet lives into the 1920s just outside Cody) went up against Wyatt and Virgil Earp. A good time was had by all, including Butch, who delighted the children by giving them money he stole from the bank, and taking about ten minutes to “die” amid various leg kicks and one-liners.

All very incorrect for Quaker non-violence practices, but the Sangria was good and the town needs the money, so what the heck. B&O had the time of their lives. Nothing like a good gunfight before bed.

Once again, just stringing the photos here as you can tell which is what.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Day 5 and 6: Parade of Animals

Note: I skipped day four in Rapid City to go back later and hook it to some other cultural activities. Today let us tell you about the Badlands and the amazing wild(ish) animals we saw there. You may have to expand some pictures to see what we were seeing; I only had my phone for taking them.

Oh, the animals! Oliver and Barbara were mad keen to see a buffalo, and I am a prairie dog geek, so we took them around the Sage Rim Road (unpaved) of the Badlands, and saw four sets of buffalo. Jack sat in the back and clung to the armrest with white knuckles. My beloved does not care for “unimproved” roads, but he knew how badly the rest of us wanted to see Robert’s Prairie Dog town and the Buffalo Wallow.

We were not disappointed. The first buffalo was far distant, available only with the binoculars, and walking away from us. Still, B&O were happy: they had now seen one. We drove around a corner (note to self: do not let Oliver drive the wildlife loops because he turns into the guy who wants to Get There, even when there is no There to Get to) and nearly careened into a male and two females wandering aimlessly across the grasses.

Buffalo are majestic but when they’re walking, it’s like watching an animal cracker move. They’re such odd shapes as they amble, like a pushme-pullme of Dr. Doolitte fame. It takes a bit of practice to tell which end is front.

Replete with buffalo, we started up again and hadn’t gone a mile before I saw something in the grasses moving the opposite direction. It took a second to realize, but when I yelled “OMIGOSH a COYOTE!” Oliver threw us onto the roadside and was out of the car before the rest of us could get our seatbelts off.

The coyote, a very large male, walked along the side of the road less than a quarter mile from us for a few miles, so we started driving along, getting a bit ahead and watching him coming. So long as we didn’t get into the grass, he didn’t care. He was in fact much more interested in the prairie dogs who were very interested in what he decided to do next. He must not have been hungry, because he didn’t do much more than stare at one in a “do I want salad or protein” sort of way.

He finally ambled off into the morning rain (which is why we were seeing so many animals; the drizzle had cooled everything nicely in a pleasant blue half-daylight.

We figured it didn’t get any better than this until we climbed a peak and saw an enormous deer below. Mule deer it turned out, but I shouted Moose so Oliver would stop. I wasn’t sure “deer” would cut it.

And in reaching the top of the peak to watch the deer watch us, we discovered why the Badlands have so little water. The hard rock hills we’d climbed the day before were now so soft, we gained five pounds in shoe clay and had a nasty moment when we all thought we were sinking. Now I know why they warn through hikers in the Badlands that you’d better know what you’re doing, not just about the water, but about climbing the rocks. They’re not really rocks, but porous clay cliffs waiting for unsuspecting people to sink into them.

But we made it out, cameras full to the brim, went around the corner, and found a herd of long horn sheep resting, including one baby who wanted quite badly to cross the road and meet us. We had to shoo him back as the adults lay there, placidly chewing in the drizzle. It’s hard to get good child care these days, but he finally understood he should stay there.

A coyote in the wild, four herd of buffalo, a second mule deer when we reached Sylvan Lake, and all the prairie dogs in the world–it was a good two days.

I’m just going to string the pictures below here because the Internet is hard to use in the Lodge and it may go out again any moment.

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Filed under animal rescue, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch