Category Archives: small town USA

Tell me Story – –

 Jack’s Wednesday guest blog on Thursday –

One of my favorite bloggers is Andrew Tickell (Lallans Peat Worrier), who’s normal subject is the oddity of Scotland and the rest of the UK having completely separate and different legal systems. His posts are always interesting and frequently hilariously funny.

But a few days ago he wrote a guest column for The National – a Scottish daily newspaper, that was completely different. It was a tribute to his Great Grandfather who had been a family doctor on the West coast of Scotland and who had been diligent in making sure that little trace of his great humanity and service to his community would be recognized after his death (even insisting on being buried in an unmarked grave).

I was very moved by Andrew’s tribute and also by his plea for family stories to be guarded and passed on.

When Wendy and I first met she was working as a community storyteller in Kingsport TN with folk living in a housing project using the power of stories to help them deal with a range of personal issues. After we married she continued  with this use of storytelling, both in Scotland and England, and with groups as diverse as single mothers, school-kids, relatives of terminally ill children, refugees and asylum-seekers.

During that time I became more familiar with storytelling as a specific tool and also as a popular entertainment. That’s where I begin to have difficulties, though – –

My first experience of story as a ‘cousin’ of songs and music was in a domestic setting. The home of the famous ‘Stewarts of Blair’ was the place and the family were famous as tradition-bearers and much recorded by folklorists. Despite their popularity at festivals and concerts they were always at their best in small intimate settings. Much later I would accompany Wendy to storytelling festivals, in Ireland, England, Scotland and the US. The biggest, of course, is the famous one in Jonesborough TN, with lots of marquees and thousands of attendees.

What I take from this?

I definitely do believe that family stories should be preserved and passed on. I also believe that there’s a real skill in telling stories and that they can serve a powerful educational purpose. As entertainment on a big stage? Maybe not so much.

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

Ariel Chats with the Crowd

arielHi! I’m Ariel! I’m an Appalachian Feline Friends foster cat, which means I have a safe place to stay while my furrever family finds me.

I’m really glad to be an AFF cat, but I’m getting kinda bored, y’know? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know good and well what COULDA happened – don’t think I don’t. It’s just that I’ve been waiting about six weeks now and I only get out to play once a day and it’s just flat boring.

Peggotty, the cat in the pen next to mine, she’s a good conversationalist and sometimes we talk. About the places we’ve been, the hard times we’ve seen, the kinda homes we’re hoping to have. She wants a big place where she can run around up and down stairs, and a nice soft bed to sleep on indoors at night.

Come to think of it, so do I. I’m a real sporty girl, love to run and play, and when I do get my paws on that jingle ball, baby, it’s mine. But I also have a warm side. Shoulder rides are kinda… you know, nice.

What I really wish is I could be captain of a volleyball team, really a beach volleyball team, but the people who work here say they don’t give those jobs to cats. Which is a shame. We’d have won those Olympic thingees for y’all.

But okay, so I have to do cat jobs. I’ll take care of your mice, and I’ll keep my litter box and my bed neat as a pin, and if you have other cats around I’ll play nice with ’em. I’m not too familiar with dogs, but hey, they should be easy for me to train. Never had any trouble teaching the kittens right from wrong, and they’re smarter than dogs. No kittens for me, though. I’m spayed.

Not that I’m prejudiced, mind. Live and let live, that’s my motto. Except for mice. That’s different.

So if you’re looking for a sporty girl with some high energy love to give who would just love to curl up against your shoulder at night for some quality cuddle-n-purr time, look no further. Call AFF and ask for Ariel.

Oh, and yeah, Peggotty’s here too. She says hi.

 

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Hadley Marie Hemingway, Spooksfeline

Windsome hadleyHi everybody. You all know me. I’m Hadley Marie Hemingway. I’m famous.

sotto voice, offstage: Hadley, please….

Oh, right. I gotta job to do. A couple months ago Mom got with some friends and they started a cat rescue. Like they did for my brothers and me a couple years ago. They save kittens that are gonna get left alone or taken to the shelter. Big cats too. There’s been a lotta cats through this place. Some of ’em are nice, and some of ’em I’m glad they left. They were bigger’n me.

Mom and all the other people are working hard, and I guess that’s good, but sometimes the kittens come downstairs and sleep on the bed. With us. Near Mom’s face. Where I like to be.

whispers: Tell them about the fun you have playing, dear.

And sometimes they play with the dangly mouse on the cat tree. Which is mine. Or hog the sunbeam in the mystery room. If they do that I sit on them, though, so they usually move.

HADLEY! YOU PROMISED!

I mean, I like that mom an’ the lady who smells like bacon, an’ Fuzzy Daddy an’ the other people who work here – or maybe they live here, I don’t know – anyway, I like that they help the little kittens. I was a little kitten once.

Two of the kittens here now are really scared of everybody, so they’re hiding up under the bathroom sink. There’s a hole at the back of the cupboard that lets two or three cats get in there at once. Mom calls it “the Scaredy Cat Flat.” Sooner or later they all come out to play, though. There used to be three from this group, but Frosty – she’s a white cat like me with spots; we look so much alike people ask if we’re sisters. We’re not. I’m the only cat who’s like me.

*ahem*

Anyway, Frosty came out for wet breakfast after a couple of days, an’ now she’s my friend. We play jingle catch together with the feathery ball. That’s kinda fun, an’ I’m glad she’s safe an’ away from the shelter an’ all, but I’m not sharing my dangly mouse. That’s mine. We can share the sunbeam. It’s a big sunbeam.

Mom says I’m a good lil sister to the other cats, which is funny ’cause I’m older’n some of ’em, but that’s okay. An’ she says I get to be the spookycat. Um wait, the spookscat.

stage whispers: Spokescat, dear

Um yeah, you know, the cat who talks about the other cats. I get to have my picture on the FacePage an’ all.

FaceBoo-oh, never mind

So you can go look at me. I’m the cute one, above the blue button that says “donate.” Mom says that means “help us get the cats tutored.” I wasn’t gonna do it at first, but Mom says if Nate gets enough money, I can have my own sunbeam. That would be nice. Here’s where my spookscat picture is: https://www.facebook.com/appalachianfelinefriends/.

Mom says that spells “adorable photo of Hadley Marie Hemingway.”

Anyway, I’m Hadley an’ I improved this message.

Approved, dear

That’s what I said.

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing

A guest blog from TWO BEARS FARM

This blog is from Lisa, who blogs at twobearsfarm.com, about her visit to our bookshop. Thank you, Lisa!

A while ago my mom loaned me a book called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.  A memoir, it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I read it and discovered it was so much better than I ever expected.  I fell in love with the quirky used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, and suggested to my parents (who both enjoyed the book, too) that we go there.

Big Stone Gap is waaaaayyyy down in the deep southwest of the state.  It took us a while to get there.  On the way we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in Meadowview called Harvest Table where I got the best grilled chicken sandwich ever.  I never even knew chicken could taste like that. On homemade focaccia with a remoulade sauce, it was the most tender, most flavorful chicken in existence.  If you are ever out that way (and you probably won’t be), be sure to stop in.

Eventually, we made it to Big Stone Gap, deep in the Appalachian mountains.  The bookstore didn’t disappoint.   The boys had a blast exploring all the rooms and carrying around the six (!) foster kittens in residence.  We all found a few books we needed.

On the way home we took a little detour through Lebanon so I could see the area where my grandfather’s family lived.  I enjoyed seeing his old stomping ground, imagining him as a young boy there with his siblings.

It was a lot of driving for one day, but included unique experiences, and I got to see some beautiful areas of the state I had never seen before.  Plus, that chicken sandwich?  Totally worth seven hours of driving.

Readers – have you ever gone out of your way to see a place from a book or a movie?

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, YA fiction

Porter Sculpture Garden

porter sculpture garden 011Coming across South Dakota, we saved a couple of things to do on the way home so we’d enjoy the drive back as much as going out. Going out we did a lot of detouring and blue highway-ing, but coming back we went straight across I-90 in order to catch a few fun things.

We stopped at Wall Drug – AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! The only reason to stop at Wall Drug is to say you’ve stopped at Wall Drug. And to get donuts. Best donuts ever but we were so freaked at all those people after a week in the wildernesses of Wyoming, a sympathetic shop assistant took one look at us and asked what we wanted to buy. Then she led us through the whole place cutting a swathe through the bodies with her uniform and air of authority, until she found the buffalo jerky we’d stopped for. (To be hauled out at the next CAH game at the bookstore.) We thanked her profusely, purchased, and fled. (Please note Oxford comma.)

From there we stopped at Chamberlain for a picnic at the rest area and some photos of the gorgeous Missouri River. And then we went to Porter Sculpture Garden. This place is so much fun. From Bambino the Guard Dog to Charles P to the chocolate-spoiled gophers (they sit outside his hut during the day and he tosses them Hershey Kisses) we had a blast. Here’s a few of our favorites.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch

Unexpected pleasures

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

We continue to stumble across delightful jewels on each day of this road-trip. Today we re-visited Galesburg on our meandering way back home from Wyoming and South Dakota. This was the place where we stayed on the way out and where we visited Carl Sandburg’s birthplace.

This time we stayed in the same rather seedy downtown hotel and it was even seedier –cue dead cockroach in the bath. We vowed never to return!

However, Wendy had done some research and had discovered that there was a bakery nearby that opened early for breakfast (the seedy hotel didn’t offer breakfast at all). To our delight and surprise it was situated in a really lovely historic downtown and was attached to a wonderful grocery and health-food store.

Not only that but we were greeted by a couple of lovely old local geezers who were obviously regular members of the ‘breakfast club’ and were un-threateningly curious about us and where we had come from.

For a small main street store it had an amazing inventory of goods and when I say ‘goods’ I also mean very high quality. And the prices were equally amazing! We spent a happy hour and about a hundred bucks there before tearing off down the road to Cincinnati, our final stop. Wendy wanted to see the famous book fountain in front of the public library.

It’s much smaller in person, but we also ate Lebanese food (which is hard to come by in Southwest Virginia) and indulged in the hotels’ elegant outdoor pool.

In actual fact, everywhere we’ve stayed (including the tent) has been absolutely fine, with that one exception. We are determined to repeat this adventure, with friends next time, and we’ll have no hesitation in including Galesburg in the itinerary again – just a different hotel!

 

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Filed under Life reflections, small town USA, Wendy Welch

Where it Hurts and where it Heals

Medicine wheel 075The place where I made Jack sleep in a tent was about a mile and a half from a Japanese internment camp from World War II. Lightly advertised, the place, and if Rod our Air B&B host hadn’t said something about what it was, we might have misunderstood and dismissed the Heart Mountain Historic Site sign.

But he did, and we went. We are used to touring painful places in American history. We went to the Minuteman Missile site. I’ve backpacked through Dresden. Jack went to Vietnam. We get that the “never again” resolve coincides with tourism and there’s something a little too soothing, too white privilege in the mix. Sometimes I think that George Satanyana guy got it wrong. History doesn’t repeat itself when it’s forgotten, but when it’s spun into information overload that numbs and soothes. If you see it enough, you become inured.

photography was at first forbidden in the camp, but as the time stretched, the regulation went lax. Which is why some of what happened and how it looked is now documented. Fear the camera, fear the journalist. Good.

photography was at first forbidden in the camp, but as the time stretched, the regulation went lax. Which is why some of what happened and how it looked is now documented. Fear the camera, fear the journalist. Good.

I don’t do politics publicly, so I’m only going to say that reading the information, written by people who were in the camp, was surreal in today’s American political climate of economic fear hidden behind anything we can think of to hide it behind. Creepy is a childish word. The edge of terror? Sick to the stomach? Too much drama. Surreal will have to do.

After we toured the Camp, we drove on to the Medicine Wheel in the pass off Highway 14a. The Medicine Wheel is still used, and  several signs at the beginning of the mile-and-a-half hike to it said, in essence, if someone of indigenous heritage is using the site, you’re going to wait, respectfully, without taking pictures. Accept this before you walk up there, because some of the prayers and ceremonies may take awhile.Medicine wheel 125

Medicine wheel 132 Medicine wheel 127 Medicine wheel 139No one was, so we walked widdershins around the circle, looking at objects left.

One place where the world hurts, one where it heals. Neither about white people like me. Except maybe that white people could have stopped one, and can honor the other. “The Courts Failed Us” interpretive sign was one of the most moving at the Camp. Another was the unexpected Dr. Seuss cartoon, anti-Japanese people. And how very reminiscent it is of certain attitudes in America today. At another site we visited more than a week ago, the Laura Ingalls Wilder birthplace, I remembered “Ma” and her favorite saying “A body makes its own luck.” Do we make our own enemies? Or was that Pogo the cartoon possum comic strip right: the enemy is us.

 

Theodore Geisel's unexpected contribution to the cause

Theodore Geisel’s unexpected contribution to the cause

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One of several artworks on display in the textile storytelling exhibit, from local women who created story quilts based on the camp. All were from Wyoming. None of the camp residents were allowed to remain in Wyoming after the camp closed. Adults were given $25 (equals $330ish today) and a bus or train ticket to the destination of their choosing. Some went back to LA or the Pacific Northwest, where they found their stored items stolen or vandalized. Many went East for work. Medicine wheel 049

There was one white woman at Heart Mountain, Estelle. She was married to a man who had to report to the camp. Estelle made $19 per day sketching scenes for newspapers. After the camp closed the sketches that didn’t make the newspapers began to circulate.Medicine wheel 018

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The question of the century

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One of the stalls in the ladies’ bathroom was fitted with mirrors and a warning sign. It said this stall was set up so you could see what the camp bathrooms were like – the toilets and showers had no doors. Communal or not at all.

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One of the things the museum makes clear is that the Japanese Americans ordered to report were confused, angry, yet compliant. Among all the weird things – including that at least one person was shot and killed at Heart Mountain for getting too close to the barbed wire fence, and some children were arrested when their homemade sled went past it on a back road – were that boys who turned 18 in the camp were required to register for the draft. Some went into the Armed Forces. 68 refused unless granted their freedom first, and they went to federal prison for 3 years.

The camp organized things for the kids to do because family life was chaotic, family units not eating together in the mess halls, children running about bored getting into mischief. Community leaders set up Boy and Girl Scout troups, and every day the Boy Scouts raised and lowered the flag in the camp where they were held prisoner by order of the American government.

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Medicine wheel 114There were many prayers at the Medicine Wheel. I’m not a fey person, but you could feel some of them capturing bad, some of them releasing good. We’re all praying for something.

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