Category Archives: small town USA

Scots in Tents

Wyoming 048When Jack and I were courting he assured me he loved nothing more than to go for long hikes in the wilderness and view the charms o’ nature.

Men say all sorts of things while they’re courting.

He did take me on a nice trip to Skye where we slept in the car and dipped our toothbrushes in the nearby running burn (that’s a creek to you and me). Just above the fossilized sheep shit, that brush dipping. But still, it seemed very rustic and a fun portent of things to come.

After we were married, we slept in motels and hotels and the houses of friends. When I talked him into hiking the West Highland Way, we walked off the trail every night to stay in trailside hotels.

So when Jack said to me, “You plan the accommodations for our trip to Wyoming, and I’ll be happy,” I saw my chance.

camp 1I’d always wanted to do more with Air B&B in America, having had fun with it in Chile and Portugal. So I hopped on and discovered that Wyoming in July is a popular destination and people start planning early. Eventually I stumbled across a site in Powell that offered some unique alternatives. Permanent tents.

Jack has a sad history with tents. His last time was as a cub scout, when he got puked on by his tent mate who had discovered the joys of picking wild berries and eaten too many of them that day. Rather puts one off the experience. He never wanted to go tent camping again, and that was sixty-five years ago.

So I booked a tent with wifely sneakiness, but forgot that the confirmations went to Jack’s email. Half an hour later Jack phoned me. “There’s a picture of a Confederate encampment with teepees on my emails. It says we’re staying there?”

camp 2Well, Rod and Lynn Morrison’s Quiet Rest Campground features some teepees and some tents and a sheep herder wagon. And when we arrived, it featured two sweet Border Collies named Lily and Dragon, and a running creek behind the tent that lulled us to sleep.

Which Jack did pretty well with. We enjoyed a tour with Lynn and settled in with books to listen to the running stream and sip libations, cooked supper on the camp stove, and snuggled into the duvets we’d brought instead of sleeping bags. All quite comfy.

I got up in the middle of the night to view the stars, and they were glorious. The Big and Little Dippers, Draco, and Cassiopia I could spot quickly. I went back to bed thinking I’d get up and look again in an hour, but when I did the moon was so full and bright it cast shadows. I shook Jack awake to view the glories of the night sky with me. This did not go well.camp 3

The next morning, as the hosts served the camp community beer-batter pancakes and delicious camp stove coffee, I asked Jack what he thought of the experience, and whether we might look into similar ones for the future.

Jack looked me in the eye. “I’m very glad we did this, and I never want to do it again.”

Translation? My Scot-in-tent has no intent of repeating the intense experience of being a Scot in a tent.

1 Comment

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

Black Bears in the Black Hills

We’re traveling across Wyoming today. These bears were NOT traveling across Wyoming, but at Bear Country, back in South Dakota. It’s a glorified zoo, but the bears literally walk up to your car and stare at you. They’re swapping license plate sightings or something, probably steal hubcabs when the owners aren’t looking. I’ve rarely seen bears this close, except at that garbage dump in Appalachia. :]

Bear Country 082Think about itBear Country 084

Bear Country 092

Bear Country 094

Bear Country 108

Three feet from the car – check the video on my FB timeline for when he got two inches from the car.

Bear Country 112

 

Bear Country 113

 

Union says the bears get breaks. He wasn’t waving at nobody until he’d had his cigarette.

Bear Country 116

2 Comments

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

Hail the Mighty Buffalo Hunters

Jack and I adore watching the prairie dogs, of which there are many along the back highways of South Dakota. We pull over and sit a few minutes, and once they get used to us, the TV show starts right up. “Welcome to KDOG, the number one viewer choice for Black Hills entertainment!”

We got pretty good at spotting the little mounds and holes of earth among grasses that signals one of these encampments, and congratulated ourselves on being good hunters.

And then we passed the buffalo….

Three Wildlife loops and two hikes into our stay in Custer State Park, we’d seen neither hide nor horn of the great bison. Since Jack had never seen a buffalo in his entire life, I was beginning to feel a failure as a tour guide.

One night just about dusk we set out to do the Wildlife Road inside the park, confident that our ability to stay up past 9 pm would be rewarded.

And we saw white tailed deer, and we saw mule deer, and we saw long horned sheep, and we saw antelope, and we saw what we think was a black foot ferret. You know you’re jaded when you pass a herd of antelope, glance over and go, “Eh, just antelope” and accelerate. We were hunting buffalo, after all.

So when I came upon a man driving the other way, stopped in the middle of the road taking a picture to one side, I was mildly annoyed. “Outta my way, son, we’re huntin’ buffalo!”

As we accelerated past him, Jack looked back and said, “Oh, it’s one of those big black things.”

“A bear?!” I shrieked, driving faster. Our windows were down.

“Nah. You know.” He made gestures with his hands, describing something that could have been a VW bug or a breadbasket. “What do you call the things we’re looking for again?”

“Buffalo,” I said, already scanning the horizon. Then it dawned (or dusked) on me. “That was a buffalo?”
“Yeah,” said Jack. “Right next to the road.  Maybe ten feet away.”

So I’m sure there is a life lesson in here somewhere, kids. Don’t look too hard for something or you’ll miss the fact that it’s standing eight feet off your right shoulder as you scan the horizon. On a positive note, Jack said he could count its curls, and now he’d seen a buffalo that close, he never wanted to see another in such proximity again.

Wounded Knee 019

 

This guy was enjoying the sun a ways off the highway as we traveled route 2.

Wounded Knee 030

And this guy was at the entrance to the park when we came back.

Wounded Knee 034

 

with his family

Wounded Knee 041

 

Wounded Knee 047

 

They aren’t actually penned in. A stretch of road that must be near their rounds has a cattle crossing grid at each end of it, and this hog wire fencing on one side. I think the rangers must have gotten tired of cleaning up buffalo and tourist parts from close encounters.

Wounded Knee 012And in keeping with the spirit of the adventure, when I finished photographing the distant buffalo off highway 2, this prairie dog was about two feet from my feet, scolding me. “What am I, chopped liver?”

 

2 Comments

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

East, West – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

When I realized that Wendy had the bit between her teeth and was well down the road to organizing an extended road trip starting just a week after I got back from Scotland, I admit that my heart sank just a little.

What I hadn’t appreciated was that it had all started back in February with a comment from me: “I have always wanted to see the Mount Rushmore National Monument”. So Wendy set out to pull together a trip that would include that, as well as other sites I had mentioned in passing, such as the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. She added in places she knew I had to see along the way, including the South Dakota Badlands and the Black Hills.

sf3

The truth is that I shouldn’t have had any misgivings!

This has really been the trip of a lifetime and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. From the delights of downtown Sioux Falls, to the birthplace of Carl Sandburg, the home(s) of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the amazing Badlands (even more so in an evening violent thunderstorm), Mount Rushmore and the natural sculptures and wildlife of the Black Hills. The equally unforgettable Minuteman missile site – – –

Perhaps most memorable has been the wildlife – the delightfully domestic prairie dogs, ponderous bears, athletic deer and regally oblivious bison!

Wounded Knee 041

I had already experienced much of the eastern states and some of the west coast, but the mid-west is new to me.

East, west, hame’s best? Sometimes east and west can give hame a run for its money!

PS – I forgot to mention that my grandad saw Buffalo Bill’s wild west show, complete with the Deadwood stage, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull etc. back in my hometown of Dunfermline in 1903!

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, small town USA, Wendy Welch

It’s a Small World on Dachshund Legs

the hike 008In a move that surprised me after 18 years of marriage, Jack agreed to go on TWO hikes with me yesterday. First we did a gentle loop around Sylvan Lake, where I intend to swim tomorrow if the temperatures reach their predicted 100. The lake is gorgeous and you can swim out and touch these rocks.

But then he said yes to CATHEDRAL SPIRES, a trail marked as “strenuous but worth it” by most reviewers.

Off we set, me carrying the frozen bottle of water, camera, trail map, and Jack’s fortified cokes, Jack wearing his sunglasses and looking very much like a doomed man the night before his execution.

We hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile before we found that 1) we were in over our fitness level and 2) shady spots on the trail were prime real estate. People would stop and rest in these, and fairly often you’d find someone who had been abandoned by their walking comrades, who were headed up while the person waited patiently on a rock. Looking winded and somewhat crestfallen.the hike 023

At an early shade stop, we chanced upon a young couple with dachshunds. My friend Elissa is a dachshund rescuer and whenever we travel, I take photos of any we see and send them to her. I asked the couple of they’d mind me photographing their dogs, and they said no, but why?

When I told them about Elissa, the lady said, “These are rescue dachshunds. Bug is the spotted one and Penny is the black and tan. What’s your friend’s rescue’s name?”

I explained that Pam Lucas ran In His Hands Small Animal Rescue and Elissa was CEO of the Dachshund Division. The woman’s face crinkled.

“I’ve liked their rescue on Facebook,” she said. “I keep up with them.”

I laughed, then said I’d tell them so. “What’s your name?”

“Erica Spicer,” she replied with a friendly nod.

Well, Erica was the person who promoted my spay and neuter kitty afghans via her rescue, and the hike 033became my Facebook friend, more than a year ago. We shook hands and made remarks to the effect that it is a small world after all, and off Jack and I went. Little doxie legs need longer to climb a “strenuous but worth it” trail.

With many stops, Jack and I finally summited the Spires – but not before also meeting a woman from Dingwall, Scotland, and holding a brief Brexit argument with some folk at another shading hole. At the top we chatted with two people whose daughter had married a Scotsman from Aberdeen. And I took pictures of Jack enjoying his Coke. It’s amazing the places you can get a Coke these days.

the hike 037As we started back down, we met Team Erica just reaching the home stretch of the trail. I only snapped a picture of her back because by the time I thought to ask to take one, they were moving forward, and that part of the trail was not a psychologically good place to stop. The Catherdral Spires are about a mile and a half more or less straight up, then back down, with a few easier stretches along the way. The point where we met Erica was just after you have to basically hand over hand climb a stretch of rock, and the trail bends sharply. So you can’t see that you are in fact at the home stretch, the Spires are just in front of you up a gentle incline, and you’re there. On the way up, Jack had said to me in the very same spot, “If this isn’t the top, it’s the top for me. I’ll wait for you.”

Yeah yeah, insert life metaphor about not giving up two feet from gold. Anyway, Erica had just puffed her way through those rocks and I wasn’t about to stop her head of steam that close to the glorious view. So here’s her backside, and Penny and Bug’s and her husband’s. Penny was pretty much towing at this point, looking quite pleased with herself.the hike 042

We ambled back down. The road home is always shorter for some reason. On the way Jack said, “I feel like I’ve summited Mt. Everest.” Yep.

At the top you are sitting among the spires. Enjoy the scenery. We sure did! See if you see a Christmas tree and two chess pieces, like I did.

the hike 025 the hike 026 the hike 028 the hike 031 the hike 036 the hike 039

 

3 Comments

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

The Monday Book: OFF THE CHART by Molly O’Dell

OdellWe pause from Jack and Wendy’s adventures in South Dakota/Wyoming to bring you this week’s The Monday Book.

Poetry isn’t really my thing but about twice a year we have a poet’s event in the bookstore. Last year we had Molly O’Dell as one of the poets, and I really enjoyed her work. Accessible, rhythmic, cadenced like local chat, nuanced and perceptive.

Molly sent me a copy of her recently published book of poems Off the Chart. I love pun titles; Molly is a doctor and director of a local health district, so many of her poems are about patient encounters, and her own experience with a mastectomy.

My favorite might be “Appalachian Pearl” and I’m reproducing the first half of it here so you can see how Molly combines the everyday to make things more than the sum of their parts. Punctuation indicates a new line, and where there wasn’t any I’ve used a slash, since WordPress is not conducive to lining out poetry:

I knew her grandmother, first woman down here to run an agency, and her mother, first to divorce. She carries their grit inside/behind her teeth, between the creases. She cuddles her child/like a bag of canning salt pulled off the shelf between vinegar and sugar.

I also loved “After he walks in to make an appointment,” about a guy with a bad rep she treats for a saw wound, after calling her grandmother to see if he’s safe. And the three or four poems about human dignity, often having to do with substance abuse and prescription seeking.

I don’t think you can get Molly’s book too many places, but you can order it from us or from her directly via FB. You might ask your local library to get in a copy; it’s from WordTech Editions, so can be ordered via wordtechweb.com, poetry editor Kevin Walzer.

And the last one I’ll mention here, a story poem called “First ER Shift,” when the senior resident asks Molly to stitch up someone, and she discovers it’s a woman who’s been slashed by a bottle. She’s a prostitute and the bottle was wielded by an angry client. The poem is less poetry than anger broken into pieces, and yet it’s very gentle in its matter-of-factness. O’Dell demands a lot from her readers, and offers even more. These poems don’t tell you what to think, they tell you what happened and leave the rest for you to piece out between the lines.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

Losing it at Minuteman

This morning Jack and I went to the Minuteman Missile Site, where I distinguished myself by bursting into tears. Here’s a photo tour.

entering the site

Bear Country 014

 

there’s a video from the missileers (the people who staffed the silos and would have turned the keys) talking about what it was like to be there. Here’s a poem one wrote and posted in his locker.

Bear Country 015

The interesting thing about this chair is, no one old enough to understand it would sit in it. Little kids were hopping in and out, but adults were reading the exhibit, leaning against the back of it, and swallowing hard.

Bear Country 016

the unofficial motto of the missileers

Bear Country 017

the museum moved from there to the naivete of the early atomic tests and what people thought an atomic blast did and didn’t do, and the origins of the Cold War….

Bear Country 018

… which had a lot to do with the division of Berlin, of course…

Bear Country 019

…and which wasn’t all bad from everybody’s point of view. Full marks to the museum for bringing in some international perspective.

Bear Country 020

I didn’t know about this guy, who is truly an unsung hero.

Bear Country 022

but the exhibit that got to me the most, before the visitor’s book that  invited comments, was the museum’s interpretation of the Kruschev speech “We will bury you.”  The descriptive panel said Americans interpreted Kruschev as meaning they would push the button, when what he had meant was Communism would overtake Capitalism. And how useful that was for funding the Cold War’s stockpiling and everything that came with it. It made me think how that isn’t so different from now, when fear drives so much of how we view ourselves and the world, except instead of Communist it’s Muslim. Or any other villain du jour.  History recycles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be upcycling, just spiraling into repeating itself. When did we become so easy to manipulate?

 

Bear Country 024

And then I got to the end and read this in the book where visitors were invited to leave comments, and burst into tears. Jack had to hold my hand and take me out of the museum.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of the multiple adorable creatures we saw.

Bear Country 037

1 Comment

Filed under bookstore management, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch