Category Archives: Uncategorized

C’est La Vie NOT

Attending the Appalachian Regional Commission meeting on “Transforming Appalachia” was a mixed bag. More respectful than I remember urban do-gooder conferences being, it was still painful.

The chirpy moderator who opened the panel on opioids couldn’t pronounce Appalachia as natives do, nor understand why her question “how can we bring hope to such a despairing region” brought a hiss of breath intake from half the crowd.

But then at lunch Gerry Roll, a foundation director out of Hazard, KY, said that we own our problems without allowing them to define us. Some of the ARC staff looked startled.

This isn’t a rural-specific conference, but Gerry also said even at her most despairing and poor in Kentucky, she’d never felt as lonely as she did living in poverty in an urban center. And part of the new respect I’m seeing for Appalachia is recognizing that Central Appalachia in particular has social networks and pathways that create community cohesion in ways other places can only imagine. A lot of heads nodded.

One of the parts I loved/hated was the “Brights Spots in Health” segment. The ARC had put out a study call a couple of years ago, for places that defied the odds with better health outcomes than their social determinants suggested they should have. A big takeaway from this presentation is that ARC now recognizes and factors into its policies that Appalachia has at least three distinct cultural regions: Southern, Central Coalfields, and Northern.

Southern Appalachia tends to have a lot of bright spots, defying the odds more than Central or Northern. In fact, Mississippi is confounding everyone. While the rest of us might even count it good if we just don’t get worse at the same rate as last year, Ol’ Miss down there is getting BETTER. Not just getting worse slower: getting BETTER.

Is it the water? No one knows, but there’s a study headed to find out.

If I had to guess, they’re going to found that Southern Social Cohesion is a barrier to more than just people who don’t fit in. Maybe it keeps out germs. Yeah, no. But maybe it applies its forces for good as well as evil, encouraging church members to exercise together, teaching kids to plant gardens and eat the fruit thereof….

Whatever it is, I’ll all for it, because the hate part of that “Bright Spots” event was when I started crying as the project director outlined the stats for “diseases of despair”: alcoholism, drugs, and suicide. I pulled up a picture of our friend Jessee on my phone, and held it through the rest of the presentation. When the ARC presenter said “and we have to keep in mind these are people, not stats, and how do these surroundings affect the lives of those living in them” I thought about Jessee’s wife Destiny giving away a kidney, and cried quietly there in my seat, watching the stats roll by.

C’est la vie, as we say in Wise County. Except maybe not. The past doesn’t have to control the future. One of the points the presentation hammered was that all the bright spots had a few commonalities: someone who started an internal catalyst of organizations coming together; a coalition; resilience; and some recognition of/fighting against substance abuse issues. The internal part was key; they may have brought in experts, and they certainly brought in funding, but they started within the community and identified their own assets. jessee

This is different from other places I’ve heard do-gooders talk about Appalachia. They are listening. This is good. We were listening too. Working together is something we’re pretty good at, here in Wise County.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Contact – Chocks Away!

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is actually something of a book review –

The History of The Pound (Rhonda Robertson, Nancy Clark Brown)

Pound is a small town to the north of Big Stone Gap and is sometimes referred to as ‘The Pound’. It’s believed to have gotten its name from one of the surveyors who first mapped the area.

We often receive donations of books into Tales of the Lonesome Pine and this book came in one such box. As I gave it a cursory glance through I realized that it was not only very well written and researched for a privately published book, but it covered a wider area than just the town of Pound.

As I began to check it out more thoroughly I came to a section called ‘aviation in Wise County’. As many of you will know, I’m a sucker for anything to do with airplanes so I was mightily intrigued!

I already knew that one of the streets here in Big Stone Gap is called aviation road and had heard rumors of an airstrip out that way at one time. Here finally was the whole story, and it really is a fascinating one!

The first flight was on 4th July 1913 but the pilot failed to clear trees at the end of the ball park being used and the plane was damaged beyond repair. The first completely successful flight was on June 21st 1915 and was followed by more a week or so later. These also took place at the ball park. It was 1920 before there were more demonstration flights – first at the ball park and then from a farm near East Stone Gap.

jenny

Curtiss Jenny

It was in 1923 that a dedicated permanent airfield was finally established at Big Stone Gap across the river from the ball park, which is exactly where aviation road is today. Once the airfield was operational quite few local people purchased planes – mostly war-surplus ‘Curtiss Jennies’ and British ‘Avros’. Among these owners were some based in the town of Appalachia and they established ‘Cumberland Airways Inc’, buying and refurbishing Jennies and Avros and then re-selling them after testing at the Big Stone Gap airfield. It seems that following this burst of activity the use of the field tapered off and it fell into disrepair and finally was bought by a gentleman who lived close by and didn’t want planes near his house. He required anyone wishing to fly there to get permission from him and there’s no evidence he ever gave it.

In 1938 a completely new airfield called The Powell Valley Airport was built at Crackers Neck just outside Big Stone Gap and a flying school was established there, closing in 1942 and re-opening in 1945. Following a fire in 1948 it closed for good and flying in the area moved to the town of Wise with the establishment of Lonesome Pine Airport which continues to operate successfully up to the present day.

1972_LonePineAirport-550x331

I wonder if there any traces of the three Big Stone Gap airfields still to be found – – –

Leave a comment

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

The War is Aimed the Wrong Way!

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

There’s something really shocking and sad when someone you know takes his own life.

JB was a laid back friendly guy who was always ready to do a favor for anyone. The outpouring of messages about him on FaceBook all testify to that. Actually, around the time he took his life, he was meant to be meeting with us to discuss work he was going to do on our front yard. Only a few weeks ago he power-washed our front porch.

We did know something about the particular struggle he was waging–not an unusual one around here, either. It has been described as an epidemic and involves prescription drugs – opioids.

Just a few weeks ago Wendy’s annual medical conference focused on that very epidemic and the need for medical professionals to be much more aware of alternatives to highly addictive pain-killers. But there’s a very active economy around all this, and many people making a lucrative living from other folks’ misery.

I had a friend in Scotland many years ago who went to some considerable lengths to end his life because he decided his family would be better off without him. He was wrong about that, but I also believe it must have felt a courageous act from his point of view. I feel exactly the same way about JB – he felt he had slipped again and couldn’t in the moment of despair see any other way to free his family to get on with their lives.

What I can’t see is why the “War on drugs” is aimed at the wrong end of the telescope. Where is the accountability for the over-prescribing done in America, the pills that flow free and easy and the lack of accountability for the producers who marketed them, even tested them in some cases, on a population that tended to do hard labor jobs. Why is it now simpler to get pain meds than a job in this part of the world? And why is the War on Drugs blaming people like JB for being “losers” rather than the pharma executives who took advantage of us and then walked away, unaccountable?

Today is Mental Health Day and, clearly, anyone driven to suicide by a habit should have received more support by professionals, community and friends. Addiction is an illness, not something shameful and certainly not a crime. JB deserved better. The outpouring from his friends in this community stand as a living testament to how far his life reached.

Rest in peace Jessee; the rest of us will see that the people who did this to you, don’t.

4 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE DARK SIDE OF THE WOODS by Willie Dalton

darksidecoverMany thanks to Wendy for inviting me to guest blog and promote myself, well, my new book that is. I’ve been working on this book for about a year and a half, which seems crazy since I wrote my first book in three months
“The Dark Side of the Woods”, takes me a little step closer to writing the genre nearest to my heart, horror. I’ve always loved creepy books, much more so than creepy movies and at some point it might be the majority of the stories I tell. This book isn’t too scary, just enough to keep you wondering what’s coming next. Perfect for this time of year!
The inspiration came when my husband and I were hiking in Cumberland Gap, Tn. We walked by an unusual stretch of path that was a bright and sunny meadow on one side and a dark forest on the other with great rocks peeking through the trees. My imagination immediately jumped to shadows hiding behind the rocks and running through the woods. I knew the story I wanted to tell and even kept the setting in Cumberland Gap.
The story centers around a young woman named Sadie and her love interest, Rob. The closer they get, the more mysterious things start happening in town. Meanwhile, a small stretch of road that Sadie has always walked by becomes dark and menacing. No sunlight touches the dark side of the woods, no animals will pass through it and nothing that goes in there, comes back out.  Sadie learns she and Rob are both tied to the events going on through long forgotten family secrets that date back to the settlement of the town. It’s up to them to make things right, but that means going into the dark woods. 22281604_906572242823586_7535788090923277310_n
It was such a fun book to write and so far all the feedback I’ve gotten has been great. “The Dark Side of the Woods” is available in all the usual places (like that online company we don’t mention in front of Wendy)–or even better: request it in your local bookstore!
To keep up with my work you can follow me on Facebook or through my website.

And yes, I do love tattoos. Why do you ask?

authorwilliedalton.com
facebook.com/threewitchesinasmalltown

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing, YA fiction

King’s Mountain?

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is, OF COURSE, late again –

A Dance called America – James Hunter

This isn’t really a book review, but I thought I’d better head this post that way, as much of what will come next is from my reading of this excellent and informative book.

The Battle of King’s Mountain is seen in this area and taught in US schools as a pivotal event in the American War of Independence. While that is certainly true, there is another way of seeing it that has a lot to do with centuries of Scottish history.

Everyone is familiar with the story of the ‘Scotch Irish’ and their settling in Southern Appalachia. These were the children of lowland Scots who themselves had moved to the north of Ireland and established plantations there. These children grew up to find they were unpopular in Ireland and with little economic prospects. So they moved to the ‘New World’ and specifically to Appalachia.

However Gaelic speaking highlanders from Scotland had already emigrated to the coastal regions of the Carolinas and Georgia earlier. These were relatively wealthy ‘tack men’ very high in the clan pecking order and just below the level of clan chief. Once in the Americas they established cotton and tobacco plantations (which is why Glasgow and Paisley became the tobacco and cotton ‘capitals’ of Europe).

The forces that met at King’s Mountain in 1780 comprised a loyalist army led by a professional British soldier – Major Patrick Ferguson, who was a Scots highlander, and a contingent of patriots who were mostly drawn from the Scotch-Irish immigrant population. On the British side, apart from Ferguson, the army was all volunteer, and they were mainly Gaelic speaking highlanders from the coast. The patriots were all volunteers and their leaders included many with Scots names.

Patrick_Ferguson

Patrick Ferguson

It should be noted here that back in Scotland there had been centuries of clashes between the northern clans and the southern folk – a fault line between two distinctly different cultures!

I could never understand, however, why two lots of Scots that had been, effectively, forced out of Scotland would end up on opposing sides in what was at that time pretty much an English colony. It seemed odd to me.

But, as Hunter points out, the highlanders considered themselves ‘upper class’ and aristocratic before all else and saw the patriots as lower-class peasants who needed to be put in their place. So they aligned themselves with their ‘peers’ in London rather than their fellow countrymen. In doing so they inadvertently simply continued a long tradition of Scottish history – albeit in a foreign land.

Footnotes –

When the war ended with victory for the patriots, a great many of the highlanders who had been captured didn’t return to the Carolinas and Georgia. Instead they made new lives in Canada. At the present time there are more native Gaelic speakers in Canada than in Scotland.

The last native Gaelic speaker in North Carolina died in the late 1800s. He was a Presbyterian Pastor and an African-American!

Shortly after these events the highlands of Scotland suffered ‘The Clearances’, and this resulted in a much stronger feeling of solidarity between the Gaelic and Scots cultures, which has continued to strengthen down to the present.

2 Comments

Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Zip-line-pidedoodah

wendy zipZiplining wasn’t on my bucket list. When life presents you with an unexpected opportunity to do something you hadn’t planned for, I call it the Sieve List–those moments that demand “In or Out, you have five seconds to decide.”

My friend Susan is a master of seizing the moment. When my other friend Beth had talked me into The Zip, we agreed to meet at 2 pm outside our mountain lodge to drive down to the start point. Susan arrived to check in just as we were about to head out, and when I ran over to hug her hello, I joked, “I’m going on the new zip line in the park, so just wanted to hug you goodbye before I go.”

She said, “Wait a sec,” reached in and grabbed her purse, and climbed into Beth’s car. Susan doesn’t let any moments go by.

The first thing you need to know about ziplining is that the stool is scarier than the line. You go out on these tall platforms jutting off mountains, but not before the guides (in our case Tim the humorist and Dalton the straight man) hook you to a wire, to themselves, and at one point to a concrete block. You cannot fall off. It feels safe. But then they ask you to mount the stool (named for what it inspires people to do, joked Tim) and it’s high. Like two whole feet straight up. And you feel like you’re scraping the sky with your head, and there’s nothing to hold onto–unless you do like Beth and grab Dalton, but hey, he was cute. Then you’re standing on this tiny platform in the middle of the air–

–and catch your first full view of where you’re going. On the inaugural run, I was last. Just in case I wet myself, no one would see from behind, y’know? Once I got up on the stool and had a death grip on the tree behind me (Dalton having learned his lesson from Beth and keeping well back) I looked down into the gorge and thought, “Nope. Never mind. Changed mine.”

I looked back at Dalton, who was busy doing something with a big hook that looked all tangled in a rope. “Does anyone ever yell a terrible curse word as they launch?” I asked him.

He shook the hook and frowned at it, then glanced at me. “Haven’t seen that yet.”

“I’m surprised,” I muttered, staring at the canyon, and the thin, thin, wire spanning its deep, deep crevice.

“Well, it’s my first day, ” Dalton responded, and clicked the carabiner into place above my head. “You gonna jump or lean and slide?”

First day? 

He gave me a thumbs up. “You got this. When you’re ready to go….”

Bad word choice, kid. I checked that my conscience was clear with God, prayed for world peace, and jumped. Figured if it was my time, I should go big.

Here are some things you find out the first time you zippidedoodah. If you let go of the handles, you spin. If you stick your legs straight in front of you, you go faster. And if you keep your eyes open, you see the most amazing views. It was such fun, sliding over the water a few hundred feet below, watching it sparkle in the sunlight.

SusanWe got two more chances to practice the cannonball (tuck your knees to your chin) and starfish (let go and spread your arms and legs wide, screaming optional). It got easier with each jump–for the jumpers. Tim told us one of the things guides watch for is when people get cavalier or casual, and they don’t let anyone take anything for granted. It was Check One, Check Two, Zip Ready, Zip Go all the way down the lines.

If you get the chance to go zipping, I recommend it. And keeping your eyes open. You see the world in a whole new way.

 

3 Comments

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

Keeping on Keeping on

Jack’s guest post sneaks under the wire again –

What a week!

We just finished our annual Celtic festival which, while it’s a lot of fun and was very successful, is very tiring and draining. But Wendy had an away from home rural health conference immediately afterwards and I had the post-festival tidying and financial stuff to deal with.

Wendy got back last night and sets off for her own annual GMEC conference tomorrow and is away until Sunday.

Tomorrow evening the wonderful Scottish harper Billy Jackson (who headlined our festival) will be back for an overnight stay before we both head to the Lincoln theater in Marion for a concert on Friday night.

On Saturday night, a bunch of volunteers are coming to the bookstore for a get-together ahead of the November elections.

Meanwhile we have a menagerie of seven foster kittens plus our own three cats who all have various levels of need.

Alongside all that of course we also had –

  • Beautiful weather for the festival
  • Marvelous music from good friends
  • Wendy got a nice hotel with a tub in the bathroom
  • The kittens are delightful (and exasperating)
  • The weather forecast for Wendy’s conference is excellent

But, perhaps next week we’ll be able to draw breath!

Just before I got ready to post this I put a load into the washing machine and now it’s making beeping noises – – –

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch