Category Archives: small town USA

Cat-mint Juleps on the Screened-in Veranda

Hazel House, the sojourning spot for rescued cats awaiting furrever homes, is getting its porch screened in this week. Yeah, I know, that sounds soooooo sexy and interesting, but this means the house will have three fully operational rooms for cats without the danger of them slipping out the door as we bring in fellow sojourners. And that the kitties can sip cat-mint juleps on the screened-in veranda.

Thanks to the kindness of friends (Jon and Beth and Cheryl, specifically) it is also beginning to look downright snazzy. The neighbors like the updo, and no one has complained about the hammering or creative swearing emanating from the property. We have a pileated woodpecker to the south and a retired miner to the north, both of whom have been very pleasant.

So here are the photos of the team, gettin’ er done, along with a few of the fuzzballs for whom we do  it.

Marla loads yard sale stuff. Come out to the Little Bookstore of Big Stone on March 31 and April 1 to snag some bargains!

I’ve always liked Jack’s bum.

Again, that bum thing…. oh, but doesn’t the porch look good?!

Maeve is adoptable, and has four equally adorable siblings also available.

Insert screwing joke here….

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

Nellie Flies Away

nellie-1When you start rescuing animals, you know the day is going to come when they break your heart by leaving you. It is a clock that ticks through the background of the 10 or so years you get, measuring sweetness.

Our friends Joe and Elissa are in mourning this week for the loss of Nellie, a dachshund of such meanness, elegance, and grace that to try and confine her with words is as difficult as holding her still in real life proved to be.

nellie-2Nellie had a spinal problem common to many dachshunds, resulting in paralysis of her back legs, but Joe and Elissa are not common dachshund parents. With years of fostering experience behind them, they never considered putting Nellie down. In fact, they adopted her a cart sister, a little girl named Hope.

Not that Nellie wanted company, or challenges for her preferential treatment. Queen of the realm, Nellie never let anybody forget she was not Crippled, but In Charge. Nor did she let them believe that inconvenience was reason enough to release a dog to the Rainbow Bridge. Passionate about her status as Poster Wiener for the disabled dog community, Nellie rode her little pink cart through the streets of many a town delivering her message: Live life to the fullest and if it’s on wheels instead of legs, go faster!nellie-4

My husband Jack painted her cart pink when the high tech metal version first delivered to Joe and Elissa didn’t suit The Nelligator’s sense of feminine command. He would have added flames if there had been enough space; Nellie was Hell on Wheels canine-ified.

Nellie crossed the Bridge due in part to a bad drug response, and it is fitting that her final days on Earth were yet more instruction to the rest of us on how to take care of ourselves. She was given Flagyl, a common antibiotic for “gut issues,” and had an adverse reaction. Turns out, many people and dogs have such complications, but it’s not widely recognized. Nellie’s story, posted by her faithful Mama online, helped other people on Flagyl recognize the symptoms and switch.nellie-3

Now it might be sweet to think of the Nelligator trundling her pink hotwheels across the Rainbow Bridge, but no, this never would be Queen Nellie’s style. Rather, she will unstrap her cart, adjust the butterfly wings she wore for her photo shoot on disabled dogs, and lift off. She will fly straight and true to the other side, notice the cats crossing, and turn back to dive bomb them. (Our sweet Nellie could be a real arsehole when she wanted to, and she wanted to pretty often.)

Then she will point her nose toward the sun, a doggy Icarus sans fall, gaining power with each flap. At full height, she will execute a corkscrew dive straight toward the nearest Great Dane. Size only matters to a dachshund when you’re measuring chutzpah.

nellie-5Once the Dane is cowering in terror, Nellie will be satisfied that her power has been recognized, her rule established, and she will flap off to the Dachshund Shoals in search of the Blue Bell Ice Cream Van. They will have added extra cups of her favorite flavor, vanilla bean, in anticipation of her arrival.

Joe and Elissa will miss their girl, but they will continue to show the same love and conscientious care to their herd of eleven other special needs babies. When they think of Nellie, they will accept the new normal of her departure, and smile at the image of her somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge, surveying her new kingdom from a benevolent six feet above. The animals there will also accept the new normal, and wave up to their Queen. They’ll have to. She won’t have it any other way.

nellie-6

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

Satsu Issues an Apology

satsuGood Morning Everyone! My name is Satsu and I’m temping here at The Little Bookstore until March 11. Then I’m moving to DC to pick up some more admin work there.

I’ve arrived in the nick of time here. They sure needed help. The fuzzy guy who runs the bookstore has been dealing with the loss of a personal friend, poor brave soul, plus he’s working three jobs – trying to get a class together for the College for Older Adults, run the bookshop, and renovate a room in Hazel House. (That’s the house he helps run for rescue cats, sweet boy.)

They tell me there’s a lady who works here with the fuzzy guy, but I’ve not seen her – unless she’s that flash of cotton fabrics and hair that whirls through the place about once a week. Someone came in the other day, dropped a suitcase, picked up a suitcase, and left again. That may have been her.

I’m told she just turned in a manuscript for her third book, which is about foster care and adoption. Naturally I assumed it was about cats, but no, it’s human children and social workers and foster care parents, all talking about their experiences. Whatever it was, getting it done on time kept her from putting up any other blogs this week. She left a phone message asking if I could write something, and I’m happy to earn my keep here.

There are just a few temps like me here right now. Four of us started together, but two of the younger girls went out the door a few days later, adopted to forever families. It’s always the cute young ones who go first.

But no worries. Me and this plump older tabby named Nancy Drew, we’re headed out next week, gonna go live in the Big City. I don’t know about Nancy – her goals in life seem to be “Move as little as possible, eat as much as possible” – but me I’m looking forward to life in the fast lane. Papers to pee on, files to eat, online documents to destroy with keyboard crossing – oh, I can’t wait to get started!

So if you were expecting to hear from Fuzzy Guy or Whirling Lady, please be assured they’ll get back in touch next week. I think. He’s up to his ears in faucets and pipes and she’s off someplace doing something for her parents. She’ll be back. Fuzzy Guy is expecting her to help him hold some pipes in place.

Hasta la vista, babes!

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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, VA, Wendy Welch

A Different Kind of Porn – Nope.

doily-coatJack and I did some shelf rearranging this week, to aid me in my final week of book edits avoidance therapy. The adjustments meant losing about half a bookshelf’s worth of space, so I started looking at our diet and exercise, aging, and women’s health books.

And got really, really angry. So many books about how women can keep themselves from looking older – not being older, not keeping themselves well, just not LOOKING older. So many books on what to wear after fifty. So many books on how to be skinny – not healthy, skinny.

When Jack and I opened our bookstore, we got some books in from Playboy. We discussed whether to sell “porn,” and decided we’d go with a simple definition: if we felt like the books would harm our friends Teri and Gary’s three daughters (at the time ages 4-12, more or less) we wouldn’t sell them. (Teri is the one who traded us photocopies for free books when we first opened, for those who have read Little Bookstore.) That made it fairly easy to know what we felt comfortable selling.

So I applied the same rule to these “women’s health” books, and threw away 200 of them. Because if the girls had lived by their rules, they would have been beat down, joyless consumerists. Peh.

Here are the rules, Mollie, Maeve, and Millie: wear what makes you feel comfortable, sexy, happy, or powerful–whatever your moment or mood calls for. Put on make-up or don’t – and if you want to make your own we kept a few books on natural cosmetics and color choices for hair and skin tones. Be healthy, be that plump, skinny, middle of the road, or whatever else you and your doctor agree is working for you. Look after yourself mentally – don’t read books that try to tell you  how many of anything you should own. Don’t fall for the sale of fear.

And, as one of my favorite snark signs says, “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. That’s expensive. Drag them down to your level. It will make them happier, too.”

Enjoy life, girls. We are enjoying the extra space in our bookstore – gained a whole shelf of space by tossing the porn.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, home improvements, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Some Things Just Suck!

Jack’s guest post is a farewell to a very close friend, co-written with two other very close friends.

Obituary – Michael (Mike/Mick) Ward

mike

Michael Joseph Ward was born in 1950, in West Lothian, though like his five siblings, he spent much of his life in Dunfermline.  A highly intelligent, well-read, erudite, individual, the educational institutions graced by his presence included Blairs College (near Aberdeen), The Scots College in Rome, and Glasgow University.  After graduating from there, he entered the teaching profession, and for many years was a teacher of modern languages at Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline.  As an avid reader, he never stopped learning, and, in adulthood, added the Gaelic language to his already impressive list of skills.

His teaching was of a piece with his approach to any task; professional, conscientious and thorough, which earned him the respect of the many pupils who came to understand with his help that learning can be much more than the mere acquisition of knowledge, important though that is.  His quirky sense of humour often caught them unawares, too, as did his occasional side-excursion into teaching them a French folk song, to remind them that language can be much more than utilitarian.  No-one knew better than him that innovations in education are not what makes the difference; that what counted was dedicated, effective teaching, and that was what his pupils got.

Mike was a long time member of the Fife based folk band Heritage, having joined them in 1978. In need of a solid keyboard player to master the group’s portable harmonium (pump organ), they found the ideal candidate in Mike. The group also discovered that he was not only an excellent keyboard player but also a wonderful penny-whistler and player of Northumbrian and Scottish smallpipes.  He had taken up the Northumbrian pipes in the late 70s, and attended the week-long courses, tutored by Joe Hutton, which were a feature of the Edinburgh Folk Festival at that time.  For a number of years he also attended annual residential weekend courses, also tutored by Joe Hutton, in Rothbury.  He met a number of kindred spirits at these courses, many of whom would become lifelong friends.

While Heritage members up to that point had learned and played mostly by ear, as a classically trained musician (he had been college organist during his time at Blairs), Mike could easily sight read. He had a respect for the folkies as well and used his skills to help the group develop and expand their music.

early-heritage

Mike on the extreme right behind the harmonium, playing the penny whistle

Over the following fifteen years or so he played with Heritage all over Scotland and around Europe, absorbing the music of other traditions and contributing to the repertoire and musical sophistication of the band. Another recruit around the same time was fiddler Pete Clark and he and Mike struck up a particularly creative partnership supporting and adding to the band’s trademark sound.

As a language teacher (before his retirement) and multi-linguist, Mike had a particular affinity for France and Italy, and this was of great help when the group traveled to these locations. Of course he had a much wider musical fraternity, extending to the English borders area of Northumbria as well as Brittany, the Occitan area of France and Friuli, in Italy. Only three years ago he spent almost a month in the Southern Appalachians with his old musical colleague Jack Beck where he made many new friends and expanded yet again his horizons.

He could be somewhat self-deprecating about his considerable musical skills.  If you gave Mike a piano, he could keep you entertained for hours with improvised arrangements of traditional music.  He was particularly masterful when it came to slow airs.  More than once it was suggested to him that he should really consider recording and/or publishing some of these gems, but, sadly, it never happened.

late-heritage

Later, in France – Mike on keyboard at the back

In 2015, along with his friends, Alistair and Brigitte Marshall, he visited the museum at Blairs, his first visit back there since he had left as a pupil.  The curator, upon learning that Mike was an alumnus,  escorted him into the college buildings which, though in a parlous state, awaiting redevelopment, looked in many respects as they must have done when the last pupil laid down his pen for the last time.  It was an experience which Mike admitted to finding somewhat spooky!  On that same visit, he was also reunited with the organ in the beautiful St Mary’s Chapel at Blairs.  He and Alistair had plans to return there, to rehearse some of the very atmospheric Breton music for bombarde and organ.

A great connoisseur of Indian cuisine, his curries were legendary and his advice on which restaurants to visit much sought after.

During the last few years he had faced a number of serious health issues with great dignity and acceptance, born of his deep Christian faith. A devout Roman Catholic, Mike was never narrow minded, was passionately interested in human beings, of whatever faith or hue, and accepted that everyone had their particular path to follow.

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

Peace, Love, Cat Videos

I’m working on my book about cat rescue, and one of the recurring themes is “Why do people rescue cats?” (Or dogs, but the undercurrent is, why do people “bother” to help animals at all?)15134332_1371938282817232_41046199_n-copy

And I guess there’s a cynical answer, and a real answer – I’m just not sure which is which.

On the one hand, Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” For those who reject Eastern wisdom, from the Bible it sounds like “What you do for the least of these my brethren you do for me” except some people will tell you Jesus was only talking about humans. You can also quote Martin Luther King, Jr: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” In other words, do it because the powerless need defending, and because in defending the powerless we become blessed/empowered/alive/real.

That’s one answer. The other is, when everything around you is sliding out of control, if you only have something small in front of you that you can do to alleviate suffering, you should do it. Whatever it is. I can call DC and register my concerns, but I can’t single-handedly stop anything. Most of any “social justice activism” lifestyle comes down to adding our voices to a larger pot, not being a soloist hero.

When a cat is in front of you, and it’s sick or pregnant or cold, you can pick it up and take it to the vet. (Yeah yeah, nobody has any money; there’s more than one way to pay for a cat.) And it won’t suffer needlessly.

The world is going crazy. Kids have cancer. People hate each other. So I’m rescuing cats while Rome burns. Yeah. Okay. I’ll take it. It’s what’s in front of me, and I know how to do it. It makes a difference to the cat and the cat’s new family; if that’s all the good that comes of this action, fair enough.

That said, petting a cat lowers your blood pressure (assuming you are not allergic, of course) so it’s not all about giving. Watching cats play is better than watching TV. Especially these days.

I’m not an ostrich with my head in the sand; nor am I numb. I’m making those phone calls and keeping up with relevant news. But the biggest small changes I can effect these days are fur-bearing. I’m downy with that.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized

Leveling with Friends

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

There’s a real satisfaction in taking part in a construction project being led by someone who really knows what they are doing. I had that experience last weekend and this is my report.

Wendy’s friend and colleague Beth, and her husband Jon live up in Blacksburg and last Friday Jon left home at 5:30 am to drive down here with a full load of lumber and a magnificent array of tools, ready to completely re-build the front deck of ‘Hazel’s House’ (our new cat rescue center).

house-aff-004

How she was before

Jon reckoned it could be done over three days, so Friday, Saturday and Sunday were set aside and he was down here and started by 9 o’clock on Friday morning. I had volunteered to help and Wendy and Beth came along later that day as well.

Just to set the scene – the house was built in 1917 (so exactly 100 years old) and is single storey, with a porch running the full width of the front. The porch has an overhanging roof with four pillars supporting it (all of them had shims underneath added at some point in the past).

The first job was to install temporary supports from the ground to the front of the roof beside each of the pillars to take the weight. Then we separated the pillars from the deck and began removing the old deck slats. Once they were removed we could see the state of the underpinning joists and foundations and that revealed some problems. The biggest one was that the front joist had rotted and split and had to be completely replaced. Jon built a 28 foot long, 12 inch wide and 4 inch thick joist by laminating six boards together and Saturday’s big job was four of us maneuvering that into place! To our utter delight it fitted perfectly, although it chose to rain just as we were committed to the task, so we all got soaked.

The center of the deck had gradually sunk by almost two inches over the years (hence the shims under the pillars), so the next job was to get that part raised back to the correct height again. Once that was done it was time to re-install the deck slats and we decided to fit new ones in the center section then use the old ones as much as possible for the outer areas. Poor Beth got the job of removing all the nails from the old boards! Finally it was time check all the levels, re-fix the pillars to the new deck and remove the temporary supports supporting the roof.

hazel-house-after

And how she is now

As I suggested at the start, what made the whole experience so satisfying was the way Jon had thought through the job very thoroughly beforehand, measured everything carefully ahead of time and brought lots of really useful tools and equipment. He had even thought to bring an additional power driver, knowing we’d both be re-fixing deck boards at the same time. We only had to make one run to Lowes over the whole weekend and that was just because we couldn’t reclaim as much of the old decking as we’d hoped.

Next month Jon will be back, when we will add partitioning to make the porch and deck ‘cat-proof’ so no kitties can make a break for it when we’re transferring newcomers into the house. I’m looking forward to once again being his laborer and apprentice!

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized